Thursday, November 30, 2017

CIM Training Journal #7: What's a taper without a crisis?!

This continues CIM Training Journals #1#2#3#4#5, and #6 -- and will be my final one!

November 15, 2017
I forgot about taper emotions!  I tend to stress more at the beginning of the taper.  It's not even mileage withdrawal at this point, since the only thing different right now (3 days in) is that I did not run a double yesterday.  I'm generally good about being calm, relaxed, and mostly confident on race day, but I think when the 3-week taper first starts I'm hit with the realization that the work is mostly done -- and the looming question of, "what if I didn't do enough?!"  There's not time to do more or to make many more gains!  There are no more really long runs left, there are no more weeks of mileage in the 70s, there are no more doubles.  But I'm not yet feeling good from the taper (in fact, I'm feeling really fatigued), so I don't feel ready AT ALL.

I heard the song lyrics "You are the one thing in my way" on the first day of my taper, and found it very fitting...I am the thing that's in my way right now!

Taper emotions feel like this
 November 16, 2017
How about the USATF Marathon Championship start list for CIM?!  It took a 2:46:00 full or 1:18:00 half to get into this field; I am in the sub-elite field so not on this list.  One thing is for sure -- I will have many women in front of and around me, and that can only help me.

Later note:  This list has since been updated, as a handful of these women have withdrawn, and I learned via Instagram that Sarah Hall has been added!  I also found out that I will be in the elite corral with these ladies (they do not have a separate sub-elite corral, we go right in the elite one!).

November 20, 2017
Taper week 2 started with a measly 3 mile run, so now I feel like I'm tapering, but I am still quite fatigued.  I almost always feel crappy during my taper -- it's both a physical and mental trip -- so I don't necessarily get discouraged by feeling crappy, but I don't look forward to it either!  I am also doing a caffeine taper; I haven't had coffee since Nov. 10.  I'm doing 2 weeks with only 1 cup of caffeinated tea each morning (after my run, which is always when I had coffee, because I only have caffeine before races and key workouts) and I'm still having 1-2 tabs of caffeinated nuun energy prior to workouts.  Beginning Nov. 26, I'll be off it completely!  It actually hasn't been difficult at all, which surprised me.  I've been drinking more decaf tea during the day and that seems to have a placebo effect, or maybe what I actually crave is warm drinks and not caffeine.  Caffeine is a performance enhancer, and this strategy is purported to make it even more effective come race day.  This is also one reason why I don't have it before most runs (the other is that I'm too lazy to get up any earlier) - because it can reduce effectiveness if over-used.

November 21, 2017
I've been floored by the support I've received from my friends and family recently, as I've been wallowing in self-doubt and revising my CIM goal to be slower.  I am so thankful that people believe in me.  I'm not to the point of believing in myself, but this is completely normal for me being 2 weeks out from a marathon...the next time I really truly believe I can do it will probably occur during the race.  In Phoenix I wore a pace band for 2:52 (after a couple of months of thinking maybe just maybe 2:49), and really didn't believe I could run a 2:49 until the 20 mile mark (at half way I felt good about a 2:51).  I've also made my CIM pace band targeting 2:46:55, because 6:22 pace seems reasonable but 6:17 too scary!

November 22, 2017
I've been training for this since June 20...June 19 was my last day off running; although I was already in good shape in June so was not starting from scratch or anything.  This is both confidence-inspiring (the most consistent mileage I've done, by far, week after week after week) and absolutely terrifying (week after week after week of training for one single race).  I have faith that God will bring me to where He wants me to be, so I'm working on trusting that, but it's been a lot of weeks!

In a timely fashion, this was my daily Bible verse email today:  "Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by pray and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God." - Philippians 4:6.  This applies to the marathon, the taper, and everything else in life!

November 23, 2017
There are disadvantages to tapering on Thanksgiving, that's for sure!  I am super routine-oriented, so being off every daily routine in addition to my normal running routines is a little crazy.  We are out of town, I'm off work, eating and sleeping are different, etc.  Not a great time for second-guessing!

November 24, 2017
I woke up very nauseous and dizzy several times overnight.  Did Thanksgiving dinner disagree with me?  Did I get minor food poisoning (after all, we ate dinner from food that had been sitting out for hours -- I should have known better!)?  Am I getting sick?

November 25, 2017
My last "long" run was horrible!  When I saw it on my schedule, I didn't think I'd want to stop at 11 miles, but when I ran it I wanted to stop at 3.  I am currently Googling, "feeling bad during marathon taper"...apparently this is normal.  I think it's happened to me before, but I tried to forget it.  I am also still feeling very nauseous and dizzy, which is not helping matters and was probably actually 100% of the problem.  Is this tapering?!

November 26, 2017
Well, in true taper nightmare fashion, I had my medical scare of this taper.  It wasn't as bad as this one, but I guess this is becoming another tapering tradition, much like bombing my Yasso workout.  I need to find some different traditions!

As I mentioned, starting on Thanksgiving night, I became very dizzy when laying down in bed, and was overcome with nausea.  I thought maybe I was just tired and had eaten foods I wasn't used to, but I kept waking up dizzy and on Friday it wasn't any better.  I had a dull nausea most of the time, and the dizziness was brought on by certain movements.  I had a horrible run on Saturday, along with continued symptoms, and ended up self-diagnosing myself Saturday night with benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV).  It has a pretty clear diagnostic test (involuntary eye twitching when you quickly lay back with your head tilted towards the affected side), so once I did that and it was positive I was 100% convinced that was my problem.

On Sunday my awesome neuro-PT friend (who is also an awesome runner!) confirmed my self-diagnosis and treated me using the Epley Manuver, and then I had some relief.  The nausea hasn't completely subsided, but it has improved.  I have to sleep upright for a few nights, not sleep on my right side, and avoid certain movements, but the prognosis is that I'll be fine.  It's pretty much a random ailment -- not brought on by anything -- but the timing was tough!

I went through some time of thinking that I wouldn't even be able to start the marathon.  As with my last taper nightmare, I think this serves as a reminder to be thankful for my health, and thankful for the ability to run a marathon whether it takes me 2:45, 2:47, 3:15, or 4:00!  It is probably also God reminding me not to take this all too seriously, and not to judge myself by my ability to hit an arbitrary time standard -- and to remember that it's all in His hands.  It's hard to let go of what I want and what I've worked for, but I trust that His plans are better than anything I could dream up!

November 27, 2017
I'm not sure I'm out of the woods yet with the BPPV.  My dizziness has improved but it's not completely gone.  I felt it when I stretched my piriformis and IT bands this morning in a laying position after my little 20 minute shake-out run.  I'm questioning whether to wait it out, to try to get in to the doctor, or what.  It doesn't help that my doctor moved to South America to do mission work, and I have a physical with a new doctor in April (first available), so I actually don't have a PCP right now.  I'll just pray for guidance and wisdom on all of it.  It's hard to know if I'm being taper crazy or if something is really wrong...or both.  I have never been so glad to have Houston as a back-up, though.

November 28, 2017
I woke up this morning feeling very nauseous after waking up feeling dizzy throughout the night despite sleeping with my head elevated at a 45* angle.  I was unreasonably terrified to try my last little workout; what if I got out there and could only muster 6:30 pace?  But I decided to try because I wanted to gauge how this would effect my performance, in case it's still happening on race day.  And I am so glad I got out there and did it, because in spite of the symptoms I felt fresh and strong.  It was hard to hold back and I ran my tempos faster than prescribed (2 miles in 6:12/5:54; 0.5 in 2:51).  I wasn't supposed to dip under 6:00, but this morning there was nothing I needed more than to run sub-6:00 pace and have it feel relatively easy.  I kept telling myself that there is nothing physically wrong with me; it's just my inner ear playing tricks on me.

If I wasn't obsessing about the BPPV I'd be surely be obsessing about something else, so perhaps that's the gift in this.  I feel at peace and that whatever happens, it's going to be okay.  I think I can run a strong marathon on Sunday, but if I can't my worth is no less.  No matter what happens, this training cycle will help my next.

November 29, 2017
My legs and body are coming around!  I'm feeling fresh now, which typically happens a little sooner than this in my taper, but I suspect the higher mileage made it take a bit longer this time.  My BPPV symptoms are also lessening each day, today being more of a minor annoyance as opposed to a constant discomfort, so I am optimistic.  The Sacramento race day forecast looks perfect, and the work is done.  My worth is no more nor no less based on a good/bad marathon, and I am blessed to have a chance to give it a go either way!

November 30, 2017
And tomorrow, I'm flying to California!

You can sign up to track me here.  There are timing mats at the 10K, half, and 20 mile marks - if not more spots.  I've learned that you can't always trust timing mat placements and live results, but I'm hopeful this one will be accurate since it is the USATF Marathon Championships!

I am ready to go do my best and let God handle the rest!  Few things match the thrill of the marathon, and I am ready for this one!

Monday, November 27, 2017

What I'm craving this month, November edition

I had fun doing my October cravings post, so here is the November edition!  I had a difficult time remembering to take food photos throughout the month (it was a busy month!), so in full disclosure I took most of these photos at once. 
Spaghetti squash with peanut sauce
(melted peanut butter w/ a little soy sauce)

Lentils, brown rice, veggies, & spices prepared in the
slow cooker - I love lentils!

My husband found this & I drank most of it; it was amazing
(I added a splash of almond milk to it as I do w/ most teas)

Frozen grapes -- I shop the produce sales & freeze
them (they stay good for months frozen)!

Nuts are a frequent craving, so we buy economy size
(I easily go through one of these a week)

Roasted Brussels sprouts are amazing explanation needed.  I add a
little garlic salt & eat w/ a spoon from the shell.

I found these on clearance!

One variation of my pre-long run/pre-race dinner
A restaurant rendition of a safe pre-race dinner, but also what I was craving
on Black Friday after eating many Thanksgiving foods I'm not used to!
I forgot to take a photo of my Thanksgiving plate (sadness)!  What I remember of it included turkey, lots of sweet potatoes, stuffing, a pea/cheese salad, green bean casserole, a leafy salad w/ nuts, a cranberry dish, roll-ups (the tortilla/cream cheese thingies), and grapes.  I am sure I'm forgetting things!  I skipped Thanksgiving desserts for the sake of CIM.  I'm not someone who can take a bite or two and walk away (I have to sample every single one that looks good, usually multiple times!), so I decided it was better to abstain than to feel crappy afterward -- although I ended up feeling crappy afterwards anyway for other reasons (a post on that coming).

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Dreams & goals for a reason

I believe that God lays dreams and goals on our hearts for reasons.  The reasons are not always that we will accomplish the goals, but regardless of the outcome we will do things we are meant to do and learn things we are supposed to learn along the way.

It can be hard to reconcile working towards dreams that may seem like selfish pursuits, such as running goals, but I believe that if you can't get something out of your head or off of your heart, there is a reason for it, and that we should use the talents and passions we've been given.

I believe we can work towards our goals for His glory.  That certainly doesn't mean we are perfect and unselfish along the way, but we can try our best and receive forgiveness when we fail to be selfless -- and let's face it, that is probably daily when pursuing big personal goals; it is a hard balance.

Sometimes running feels like a selfish pursuit, and it also seems like if we really were truly doing everything for His glory, we wouldn't pursue hobbies or employment, or really much of the things in our current daily world.  I don't know exactly how to reconcile this, but we are also told we are given gifts and strengths for a reason, and we should refine what we've been given and use the gifts to serve others.  

With goals and everything else, He doesn't always give us what we want; he always gives us what we need.

"Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize?  Run in such a way as to get the prize." - 1 Corinthians 9:24 

"For it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill His good purpose." - Philippians 2:13

"But thanks be to God!  He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ." - 1 Corinthians 15:57


I was honored to be interviewed recently about my goals and dreams by Running Liz for the Minneapolis Running website; you can read the article here.  Liz is not only a talented runner and writer, but also a fantastic musician and one of the kindest people you'll ever meet.


Finally, happy Thanksgiving Eve and I hope everyone has a blessed holiday.  I don't plan on posting tomorrow, so wanted to share this website with great verses about thankfulness (still excellent even if you're reading this way after Thanksgiving!).

The look of someone focused on a goal!
Couldn't have said it better myself!

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Fill in the blank: "I was so tired at one point during marathon training that I ________."

I think my best answers are:

...worked late, completed my second run of the day, then helped my daughter with homework, prepared and ate dinner, and did other random things at home, then quickly it was 9:00 p.m.  I went to bed wearing the clothes I'd run in, and then the next morning I woke up and ran in them again!

...almost ran 3 times in a day.  I had a double, and ran my second run at lunch, but all of my days were running together and I forgot I'd run it.  I got dressed to run after work, and then saw my lunch run laundry and double checked Strava to ensure that I was in fact done for the day!  But in the end this was winning, because I just slept in my running clothing and ran in it the next morning (clean this time!).

Clearly I am most likely to make tired errors on double days that result in sleeping in running clothing!

What's your fill in the blank?

Disclaimer:  I actually felt really great throughout this marathon training cycle.  If you constantly feel fatigued and beat down, you're over-training -- which is something I've done many times.  Pride yourself in both training well and recovering well; don't pride yourself on constant dead legs from hard work.  It took me many years to learn that!

However, I was NEVER as tired during marathon training as I was on
this Disney vacation!  Legs up the wall at the Animal Kingdom bus stop.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Never Satisfied Syndrome

Do you, or does someone you love, suffer from Never Satisfied Syndrome?  The primary symptom is always wanting more.  This is often shown by accomplishing a goal and immediately setting a new one, and also by always finding at least one thing that could have been better about any performance.  It is quite common in Type A endurance athletes, and I definitely have a case of it.

I once read an article that said runners like this are hard to coach, so sometimes I feel bad when I send an email to my coach describing that I am thrilled with a PR, and then in subsequent paragraphs tell him what could have been better and what bigger thing I want to work towards next ("I'm so happy, BUT...").  The day after the BMO Mesa-Phoenix Marathon, I was celebrating my PR, but I was also planning bigger goals.  I rode the high of that race for weeks, but at the same time I was very clear on my next big dream goal of 2:44:59 even at the post-race celebration.  Before Phoenix, 2:49 was a pipe dream, but afterward, it wasn't good enough; I decided I could do better.

I know I'm not the only one who operates this way, so how can we strike a balance?!  I think I'm pretty good with being thankful and content, but never satisfied.  I'm pleased with how my training is going, but I know I can do more.  I'm happy with my current PRs, but I think I can go faster.  On one hand, this outlook can diminish accomplishments ("It's never enough!"), but on the other hand I think it's part of what keeps me approaching training with abandon day after day (the other part of that is simply because I love running).

I put 2:45 as the label on my morning alarm some time ago, so it was the first thing I saw when I woke up to run every morning (during my Phoenix build, I had 2:49:59 as the label, but never told anyone).  After showing the alarm to Jon, I changed it to 2:44:59, saying, "Who wants to run 2:45:00 when you could run just 1 second faster so you can say you've run a 2:44 marathon?"  Then we both laughed and he said, "I think you'll take a 2:45:00", followed by more laughter and "Yes, I will, but then I'll spend the subsequent months wondering why I couldn't have found just 1 more second."

It's a slippery slope!  Don't get me wrong -- I will be elated if I hit 2:45:00 on the nose at any point, because that's what it takes; I will also be proud even if 2:49 stand as my forever marathon PR.  But I want to try to do better!  When I started this "work my marathon time down" journey, I genuinely oh-so-naively believed that if I broke 3:00 I would be completely satisfied and wouldn't even need to run another marathon.  We all know how that turned out -- I was ecstatic, but I knew I had a faster one in me.  I became obsessed with 2:49, and was very blessed for that one to work out.  Then in true form, it's been onto the next obsession with 2:44:59!

I told Jon that if I get a qualifying time then I won't run another marathon between running it and the 2020 Trials.  Then we had another good laugh about that; he acknowledged, "If you run a 2:44, you'll then want a 2:42."  At least he knows what he could be in for!  I like to think at some point I will acknowledge I'm at my max, and right now I really do think I would feel that way about 2:44:59.

Thankful and content, but never satisfied -- it's not the worst way to operate, right?  Dream big and then dream bigger!

Sunday, November 12, 2017

CIM Training Journal #6: Hello self-doubt my old friend

This continues CIM Training Journals #1#2#3#4, and #5.

October 24, 2017
My friend Amy ran with me on my second run at lunch today.  When she was waiting by the door at work someone asked her who she was looking for, and when she replied "Sara", that person asked, "Marathon runner Sara?"  I work for a huge organization, and found it humorous and awesome that the person knew I was a marathon runner but didn't know my last name (I am sure it helped that Amy was dressed in running attire).

I'm still on a bit of a trip from the Kansas City half marathon, but I'm trying to remind myself that what it all boils down to is that I ran 12.9ish miles at an average pace of somewhere between 6:15-6:20 (which is marathon goal pace), with uneven workout pacing, on a course with nearly 800 ft of elevation gain, when it was 68* with 25+ mph wind, during a 71 mile week.  I think in the big picture this is promising, and prior to other marathons I'm not sure I could have done the equivalent (prior to Phoenix I averaged 6:35ish pace for the comparable part of a similar workout on a much easier course in cooler temps, then went on to average 6:27 pace for that marathon). Even though I don't have my workout splits I know the effort was there, but I'm just still upset about how it all played out.  In comparison, though, I ran a little faster than I did at Rock the Parkway in April, and at RtP the wind was comparable, the temperature better, the course easier (280ish ft of gain), I was a more rested, and I was racing I have made progress.  I just going to keep rationalizing away until I get over it!

Also, at least it wasn't a goal race and a situation in which I thought I broke 1:20 only to find out I ran 1:21!

October 25, 2017
Right now I'm stuck on 2:47 for CIM.  This feels like a realistic goal.  I just don't think I'm quite ready for 2:45 unless this course is just ridiculously fast and being at sea level makes a dramatic difference.  I'll see how my half goes at Bass Pro on November 5, but I also don't anticipate great things there because I expect to have no one around me and the course has a million turns (also I do not expect to be rested for it).  The upside is that Bass Pro nearly always has perfect weather, and I get to sleep in my own bed and eat at home pre-race!

October 26, 2017 (my birthday)
The most exciting thing about turning a year older is that the Missouri state half marathon record for age 37 is currently 1:23:11.  I told my husband that all I wanted to for our anniversary and my birthday this year was a trip to CIM, so guess what, I'm going to CIM!  :-)

October 28, 2017
During every long run I think about CIM, and today's 22.4 miler was no different.  I continue to feel really good about going for a 2:46-2:47, but to not feel so good about trying for a 2:45:00 or better!  I don't know why those extra couple of minutes feel so insurmountable, but I think it is because maintaining 6:20-6:24 pace seems do-able, but maintaining 6:17 pace or faster doesn't!  Those 3-7 seconds/mile make a huge difference in my head.  I wish the standard was 2:51:16 like it was in 1984, 2:50 like 1988 and 2000, 2:48 like 2004, or 2:47 like 2008 - but I am also thankful it is not 2:42 like in 1996!! What was going on in 1996?!

October 30, 2017
I did some math on my mileage today.  Details are coming, but what I found is that in the 24 weeks leading up to CIM, my average weekly mileage will be about 14 miles per week (mpw) more than I averaged in the 24 weeks leading up to Phoenix (65 mpw vs. 51 mpw).  I've done the math on the 12 week lead-ups and the 20 week lead-ups to marathons before, but I wanted to look at 24 weeks this time since the week of June 19 was really when I started running more mileage to prepare for this focused marathon build.  I feel like this is a substantial increase, while at the same time not being too risky.  But 65 still seems awfully low (how perspective changes!), so this math simultaneously made me feel like I am ready for a marathon PR and like this is not good enough.  Surprise!

November 1, 2017
Marathon training can feel like a silly pursuit of believing, doubting, wondering, and hungering.

November 3, 2017
The weather is forecasted to be horrible for the Bass Pro half on Sunday, so I am not going to better my half PR before CIM (I am actually not sure I can even hit my marathon goal pace in the conditions we are supposed to get).  This kind of terrifies me, because I definitely don't feel like I should try for a 2:45 having not yet run under 1:20, but I also believe I am in 1:18-1:19 shape under ideal conditions on a fast course.  I'm trying not to worry too much about those comparisons; after all, the time I ran for the second half of the BMO Phoenix marathon was also my third fastest lifetime half at that time, so trying for a similar result at CIM (given ideal conditions and peak) isn't completely unreasonable.  I just want to whine a little bit about Bass Pro's weather (more whining coming post-race) and then I'll move on!

Follow-up:  I did 6:20 pace at Bass Pro in the awful weather, which is about or slightly under realistic marathon goal pace, but not quite big dream goal pace of 6:17.  At this time I remain stuck on around 6:22 pace as my most likely target for CIM.

November 12, 2017
I was too busy running 80.7 miles (!!!) this week to add to this journal, but Lemony Snicket said it well below!  I'm not ready for a 2:45 attempt, but I probably never will be.  I'm going to go to California and begin the race aiming for a 2:47.  A 2:47 would be a great PR and a fantastic step for me.  Maybe I can get hit with the same magic I was in the marathons where I tried for a 2:52 and ran a 2:49, when I tried for a 3:05 and ran a 3:03, or when I tried for a 3:10 and ran 3:08.  The extra time is always in the second half and especially in the final 10K!  If I can't run a given time going out conservatively and then picking it up later, then I can't run that time that day.  No one ever says, "Man, I lost that marathon goal time by running too slow in the first 10K" (MANY lose it running too fast in the first 10K, whether they admit it or not).  All I know for sure is that even if I DNF CIM, this training cycle was great for my development and even in the worst case scenario would not be for naught...not to mention it's been a fun training cycle!
Also, I ran 24.5 miles today!  I did 21 relaxed (these were pretty much all 6:5X, except for a few 7:0X at the beginning and a couple 6:4X), then 3 progressive fast finish in 6:35, 6:16, 6:10 (grade adjusted paces were 6:27, 6:14, 6:08; I did not pick the easiest route, especially for the first of those 3 miles).  Then I ran to 2:48 so that ideally I will not be running for a longer duration this season!  Just need to fit 1.7 more miles into that duration, or in a perfect dream world 1.7 more miles into 3 minutes faster.  My average pace for the whole pop was 6:50, which I felt really good about.  I averaged 7:11 for this same run before my last marathon, so I hoped to be sub-7:00 to show that I'm possibly ready to take 10 seconds/mile off of my PR pace on race day.  I have only run 24.5 miles faster 3 times, in my 3 best marathons, and in 2 of those it wasn't much faster than this run but I was working much harder during those races (although I was working very hard in the last 2 miles today!).  The course I ran had 725 ft elevation gain, i.e. waaaay more than CIM (CIM has 350+ ft net elevation loss, also).

The miles went by really quickly and I'm not sure it could have gone any better really.  I did not stop my watch at any point during the run, meaning that I grabbed my fluid bottles from various random places, including the ditch, without stopping -- so I lost a little time each time I did that, but the clock doesn't stop on race day (however, I also do not plan to be bending down in a ditch to collect my race day fluids; if I am we have bigger problems!).  I didn't have to stop to pee, a change from my other 20+s but something I've always worked out for race day, and the key to that seems to be getting up earlier, because I got up an hour before starting this run instead of my usual 30 minutes.

I drank 4 tabs worth of nuun energy before and during the run, and took 2 gels (I will take 3-4 during the marathon), and also drank Ucan before the run.  On race day I will also eat a solid breakfast 3 hours before the race, but I didn't want to get up at 3:00 a.m. to do that for this one, but this just basically means I'll be better fueled on race day.  If you are trying a new pre-race meal or running a marathon for the first time, I highly recommend you don't be lazy like me and practice it beforehand, but this will be my fourth marathon with exactly the same pre-race and during-race nutrition so I feel really good about the combination that's worked for me previously.


I was going to post this in a separate post, but decided to include it here and get this puppy posted:

I did the math on my mileage this marathon build, because I knew it was more than I'd ever done before but I wasn't sure how much more...and as per usual, I have been feeling like I'm not doing enough!  Here it is:

24 weeks pre-race CIM:
  1. June 19 - 56.8
  2. June 26 - 58.2
  3. July 3 - 60.8
  4. July 10 - 62.4
  5. July 17 - 64
  6. July 24 - 65
  7. July 31 - 64.7
  8. Aug. 7 - 62.4
  9. Aug. 14 - 66.4
  10. Aug. 21 - 68.4 (should've gone the extra 1.6!)
  11. Aug. 28 - 62.5
  12. Sep. 4 - 63.7 (Plaza 10K race week + Run for a Child 10K tempo)
  13. Sep. 11 - 71.5
  14. Sep. 18 - 71.3
  15. Sep. 25 - 51.6 (Indy Half race week)
  16. Oct. 2 - 70.1
  17. Oct. 9 - 77.1
  18. Oct. 16 - 71.6
  19. Oct. 23 - 76.7
  20. Oct. 30 - 70.2 (Bass Pro Half race week)
  21. Nov. 6 -  80.7
  22. Nov. 13 - 64
  23. Nov. 20 - 53.3
  24. Nov. 27 - estimated at 50
  • Total miles run:  1563.2
  • Average miles per week:  65.1
  • Weeks in the 80s:  1
  • Weeks in the 70s: 7
  • Weeks in the 60s: 11

24 weeks pre-race BMO Mesa-Phoenix (I forgot to write down the dates when I went through Strava for this data and I was too lazy to go back and get them):
  1. 61.3 (Prairie Fire peak mileage week)
  2. 53.9
  3. 41.5 
  4. 45.7 (Prairie Fire Marathon race week)
  5. 33 (Prairie Fire recovery)
  6. 51.5
  7. 50
  8. 45.7 (Bass Pro Marathon race week)
  9. 29.1 (Bass Pro recovery)
  10. 43.5 (White River Half race week)
  11. 45.1
  12. 50.6
  13. 55.7
  14. 65
  15. 60.3
  16. 57.1
  17. 62
  18. 54.7 (Rock 'n' Roll Arizona race week)
  19. 64.2
  20. 61.3
  21. 67.6 (Phoenix peak mileage week)
  22. 56.7
  23. 48.2
  24. 48.2 (BMO Phoenix Marathon race week)
  • Total miles run: 1242.9
  • Average miles per week:  51.8
  • Weeks in the 60s: 7
I'm happy with my increase and I think it will pay off.  My CIM build was longer, since Phoenix was also my third marathon within 20 weeks.  The tapers and recoveries from Prairie Fire and Bass Pro reduced my pre-Phoenix average mileage some, but I also felt like I'd recently run a marathon, whereas now I feel like it's been ages since I've run one!

I am prepared to up to week after week of mileage into the 80s for the next one, provided I'm staying healthy.  Whatever it takes!  I'm not confident that CIM 2017 is going to earn me a spot on the Trials starting line in 2020, but I am going to keep pursuing a performance that does before the qualifying window closes in January 2020.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Bass Pro Half Marathon: Call it heat training!

The Short:
Based on the crap weather (72*, dew point of 70*, 15-25 mph south wind), my goal for this race shifted from aiming for a solid time to running it at goal marathon pace (6:17).  I also cut out the small taper for it, running 70 miles for the week instead of the planned 61, because there wasn't any reason to sacrifice marathon training volume when there was no chance at a fast half.  My goal that stayed constant was to get the overall female win, and I accomplished that one despite not being able to quite hit goal marathon pace (I averaged 6:20 pace...but let me tell you, 6:20 sure felt like 6:05 pace!).  However, I loved the hometown event and ran with a smile on my face the entire race!  God doesn't always give us what we want (such as nice race weather), but He always gives us what we need (perhaps the way things turned out will be more beneficial for The Big Goal).  The best part about the race was that two of the ladies I train with took the 2nd and 3rd overall spots, effectively giving our group the 1-2-3 sweep!  Oh, and Albani's shirt was also a hit, and she couldn't have worn it in cooler temperatures.
But her dad gives her junk food while her mom races!
All done = all smiles
The Long:
I included this half in my race schedule because it's local, the organizers do a fantastic job, and it was 4 weeks out from my goal marathon so I thought it would be a good checkpoint -- also because my coach recommended that I not run the Bass Pro full marathon as a B race like I usually do.  The course isn't fast because it has one million turns, the final 2 miles up inclines, and the field at my pace is always very thin/nonexistent, but those cons are usually balanced out by nearly perfect weather and by it being a hometown race (typical routines, no travel, sleeping in my own bed, eating at home).  But, alas, the 40*/sunny/light wind combination we usually get for this race was not to be in 2017!  Instead, it was 72* with a dew point of 70* (i.e., painfully humid) with 15-25 mph south winds.  Midwest weather is predictably unpredictable, but our high of 83* on this day set an all-time record, so it's usually not quite this extreme in November.

I knew I couldn't run a PR or anywhere near it in those conditions, because anytime the dew point is in the 70s my performance nosedives.  I've read that humidity that high reduces your VO2 max, and based on how my races go in those conditions I fully believe it (not where I originally read it, but it is mentioned here and here so I did not make this up!).  Pre-race my goals shifted from gunning for a fast time to mainly working for the win and running around goal marathon pace.  I also ran 70 miles during race week, so I figured to some degree this could simulate the second half of a marathon.

Race morning I woke up in my own bed after the time change (meaning an extra hour in bed!), headed to the race with my husband and daughter, and warmed up with my dear friend Missy.  It felt more like a workout day than a race, and I felt no pressure.  I hoped to keep my pace between 6:15-6:20, and I knew I shouldn't bank on a negative split because the course started off working its way north (tailwind) and finished working back south (headwind), plus the beginning has more decline and the end has more incline.

Ariel of the starting line
Ponytail flying at the start
About 100-200 m in
After the gun I found myself in first female position for the half (the first female in the full was just ahead of me, but I know her and knew she was running the full...she is also my coach's wife and he was running with her!).  This seemed like a great sign for me, because I was running around 6:20 pace.  There were a handful of men around too.  The half and full courses split just after the 1 mile mark, and I saw 3 men in front of me.  I also got a female lead cyclist at that point, and despite my experience with having a lead female cyclist without actually leading in Kansas City two weeks prior, I trusted that I was leading this time since it was a much easier gauge in less of a crowd and complete daylight.
Around 2.5
The race itself was pretty uneventful, while at the same time very enjoyable -- the awesome local race feeling!  I locked into the effort that felt sustainable for 13.1 and ran familiar streets.  I drove the course twice the week before this race to prevent any re-occurrences of The Bass Pro Wrong Turn Incident of 2016.  I thought driving the course beforehand helped me run the course tangents, but sometimes I couldn't run the tangents due to cars parked on the side of the road, aid stations, or huge mile marker signs blocking the path; however, I thought I did a much better job than my watch indicated.

I later learned that the current half course isn't certified anyway, so perhaps I did do a better job with tangents than my watch showed. There are two certifications on the USATF website for the event, but neither is the course we ran (see here and here for the certified ones), also making me not feel so bad about missing the Missouri State road racing record for age 37 (1:23:11), since it wouldn't have counted anyway.  Nor would a PR have really counted had I run one, so maybe I can even say I dodged a bullet there (just being optimistic)!

Excuse the tangent - pun intended.  My pacing was very consistent when considered with the elevation and headwind/tailwind situation, so even though I wasn't running my fastest I thought I did really well at zeroing in on the effort I could sustain for a half in these conditions.  I got to see my husband and daughter around 2.5 and 9.5, something that I don't get to do in non-local halves.

I really enjoyed all of the amazing spectators and volunteers out on the course.  Many took the time to shout "First female!", "Girl power!", etc. as I passed.  I am so thankful for our amazing running community!  Around the 15K, I heard one spectator say to another, "Wow, she looks so strong and fast", and that made my day.  I ran with a smile plastered on my face the whole race.  It's such a fun race to win.  Even though I never felt stellar, I loved being out there and having the opportunity to race locally and see so many people I knew.  My lead cyclist was awesome, and I asked him to let me draft off him going south, but we could never quite work it out -- I think it's difficult to maintain consistent 6:20 pace on a bike, because that's very slow cycling.
Around 9.5 - running into the wind & trying to draft
I have often struggled with the last 2 miles on this course, but I got a boost from my friend Danielle cheering around mile 11 and a man passing me a bit before mile 12 (he went on to beat me but I hung with him until the last half mile or so).  It felt great to hear the race announcer mispronouncing my name as the overall female winner for the half
Running happy around 11.5!
I look like I'm haulin' here (although I was not!)
Sweet finish stretch
Clock shot
Finish line shot, but no tape to break
Finishing close up
The photographer grabbed me for this
one right after I crossed the line
 I then got to see two amazing ladies I train with come in 2nd and 3rd overall females!  I was so proud of them and that our group dominated this one.  I will also add that I know they are both in 1:25-1:26 shape and that this race did not show anyone's true fitness level (the overall male has run 1:12 recently).  Official results can be found here, and a news article about the race here.  After the race (and an I'm-dehydrated-and-starving cool down to make it an 18 mile day), I enjoyed socializing with our amazing running community.  Albani and I also volunteered at the expo the day before the race and enjoyed plenty of that there too.  Runners really are the best people!
Future marathon pacer
Missy's daughter Emma ran a 5K PR with Danielle's help!

Splits that reflect the headwind/tailwind miles well (7-10 headwind)
Although it would have been nice to have a confidence-boosting speedy half going into CIM, maybe I got more benefits from skipping tapering for this race and the heat training adaptations that I hope occurred from it (in a timely coincidence, I read this blog post regarding the benefits of heat training the day before the race).  On one hand, I think if I want to run a marathon at 6:17 pace, I ought to be able to hit a half at that pace under any circumstances, but on the other hand I averaged 6:10 pace for a 10K on Labor Day in similar weather, and then managed 6:07 pace for half a few weeks later with decent weather, so I haven't lost faith.  And, I ran far better at Bass Pro than I did at Dam to Dam, so I guess I can call this my 70* dew point PR!

Hopefully this also means that I'm due some really, really nice weather in 4 weeks!  I know that God will give me what I need, even if it isn't what I want, then too.
Professional picture of the awards

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Post-Race Insomnia: The Struggle is Real!

The night of the Bass Pro Marathon in 2016, I did not sleep a wink (and one year later I've decided to write about it).  I ended up learning a lot about post-race insomnia that night via Google!  I specifically recall reading this article, this blog, and this plea to Runners World, among other information that night.  It was comforting to know that it wasn't just me, but if you have to have a night of not sleeping, the night after a marathon is one of the worst times to have it!

I slept very little the night after every marathon I've run since 2015, averaging 2-3 hours a night even with taking Melatonin and trying other sleep aid medications.  It was the worst after Bass Pro 2016, probably because I was berating myself about my wrong turn the whole night, but I've never been able to sleep anywhere nearly enough after my past several marathons.  I did not run any marathons between 2012-2014, but back in 2011 and before this was not a problem!  About half the time I've had continued difficulties sleeping 2 nights afterward, and I've never been able to nap the next day despite the sleep deprivation.  After half marathons, it's been about 50/50 on whether or not I'll sleep alright (this season it's been 100% sleeping, though, possibly because I've taken Melatonin every time).  After shorter distances I'm typically fine, except for if a 10K starts after 9:30 p.m.  This never happens to me after long training runs or workouts, thank God.

Apparently being unable to sleep after intense efforts is related to adrenaline and cortisol, as explained here.  To me it also makes a lot of sense from an evolutionary perspective; surely no one would run that far at that intense of a pace unless her life was in grave danger, so surely sleep soon after would result in further risk to her life!  I go to a slightly higher level of exertion during racing than during training, as one should, so that explains why this only happens after races.  I am not the best sleeper in the world at anytime, but on a "normal" day if I take a Melatonin it will assuredly knock me out.  I only take it 1-2 times a month, though (after every half marathon these days!).  I rely on laying in bed reading to help me sleep -- and it does, provided that I have not raced a long race that day.

I'm not sure I'll find a solution to this, but I have certainly learned that I should always take the day after a marathon off work!

Have you had post-race insomnia?
The look of someone who does not suffer from insomnia

Friday, November 3, 2017

Prairie Fire & Bass Pro Marathon Thoughts 1 Year Later

Facebook has been reminding me recently that on October 9, 2016, I ran and PRed at the Prairie Fire Marathon.  It was the first time I broke the 3:00 barrier.  I ran the Bass Pro Marathon 4 weeks after that and managed my second sub-3:00.  I figured by the time I finished and proofread this post it would likely be the Bass Pro 1 year anniversary, so I decided to tackle reflections back on both races with this post.  (Note:  Bass Pro 2017 is coming up on Sunday, so I was correct!  I will be running the half this year).

First rewind to summer 2015.  I had a marathon PR of 3:03:47 (set in 2010), and had strung together nearly a year of uninterrupted running.  This was big for me, because I'd had many injuries before that time.  I was working on improving my half marathon PR, and decided that I wanted to try to break 3:00 in the marathon, because, really, who is content to let their marathon PR stay at 3:03?!  I fully believed it when I told my husband that once I broke 3:00 I would retire from marathoning.  I think I'd forgotten exactly how much I loved marathons and marathon training, since in at that time in 2015 I hadn't run once since 2011 (and not one competitively since my 3:03 in 2010).

Through a random chain of events that I'm thankful for, I ended up working with my current coach for my 2015 marathon build.  I told him that I wanted to break 3:00 and that I wanted to peak at 50 miles a week; God bless him for not laughing in my face at that oxymoron request!  I ended that cycle with a 3:01 marathon in Dallas in December 2015, a PR that sure left me wanting more (and who is content to let their marathon PR stay at 3:01?!).  I then tried to train myself for the Phoenix marathon in February 2016, and low and behold I injured myself and missed the race.  After that, it was back to my coach for another sub-3:00 attempt at Prairie Fire in October 2016.  I still truly believed that I would be satisfied if I hit 2:59:59 and wouldn't feel the need to keep chasing marathon PRs, but I was also already registered for Bass Pro in November 2016 and Phoenix in February 2017 when I toed the line at Prairie Fire, so it was certainly not to be my last marathon!

Going into Prairie Fire, I felt very unsure of myself, mainly because I'd tried to break 3:00 and failed at Dallas.  Before Dallas, I'd felt sure that I was going to hit my goal time, but before Prairie Fire I did not feel confident and was probably the most nervous I'd been before any marathon.  Although neither my taper nor the race went off without a hitch, I broke 3:00 for the first time with a 2:58:53.  I was elated with the blessings of the day and with hitting this major goal, but I also had a very unexpected thought:  "I can do better."

Post-marathon emotion at Prairie Fire
I'd decided to run Bass Pro 2016 as a B race, mainly because it's my local marathon and I love it, but also because I like to get two marathons out of one training cycle.  It was 4 weeks after Prairie Fire, and I didn't intend to go for another sub-3:00 at it until my coach told me he thought I could try it.  So, I went for it and succeeded, actually running a bit faster pace and a stronger negative split than I had at Prairie Fire.  However, the difference wasn't reflected in my official finishing time of 2:59:04, because I took a wrong turn during the race and ran about 1:30 extra.  While I was extremely hard on myself about this error, it ended up again boiling down to the thought, "I can do better."  I would have run a 2:57 at Bass Pro without the wrong turn, so it was clear to me that I could hit at least a 2:57, and probably a 2:53-2:55 on a course without a million turns (Bass Pro is not a fast course).

In addition to the links above, I wrote even more about Prairie Fire here, here, and here, and about Bass Pro here.

I now find it pretty humorous that I actually said and believed that I'd be through with my marathon time goal pursuits once I broke 3:00!  At that time, I really thought that was my maximum potential, but once I did it I knew I had faster ones in me.  I am floored by what God has done with my running in the span of a year.  Last year, 6:51.9 pace for 26.2 miles was my major goal; this year, my 18-22 mile easy paced long runs have consistently been 6:49-6:52, and I've generally finished them feeling like I could continue for several more miles.  The amount of thankfulness I need to have for this is never lost on me; each time I cannot believe that I could go on to run a sub-3:00 in training on my hilly training routes (although I admittedly also tell myself, "well, that had better be easy since you're trying to run 15 minutes under 3:00!".  I feel so blessed to have made these gains, but I still think, "I can do better."

I will always treasure the experiences I had at these two races, and they were very important steps towards my 2:49:20 performance (and current PR) in Phoenix.  I love remembering all of the training miles I shared with friends, and I am so thankful for my family supporting me during my training endeavors and during the races themselves.  I think God uses those times during races to bring us closer to him; something about pushing through the long races and training runs simply makes me feel more alive and more faithful.  Something about it makes me better, even if I still think, "I can do better."  Perhaps He makes me think that so that He can make me better, in non-running ways too.

I think the take-away is that we should all challenge our limits and not accept that a big accomplishment is our max, even if at one point that accomplishment was a far-reaching dream.  Maybe it is our max, but why not try to shoot higher?  What's the saying -- if you shoot for the stars and fail, you may still land on the moon.

Maybe I can't do better; maybe my PR will always be 2:49.  But I think that not trying to improve it would be a greater failure than trying and not succeeding.  No matter what happens, I am never going to wonder what would have happened if I'd tried, because I am going to try and try again until I either hit that 2:45:00 or the qualifying window closes.

I am thankful, but not satisfied; I can do better.  I felt that way after Prairie Fire, I felt that way after Bass Pro, and honestly no matter how CIM goes I suspect that I will feel that way.  That may make me annoying, but it also keeps me hungry and striving, and isn't that what our passions are all about?

"Run in such a way as to get the prize." - 1 Corinthians 9:24