Sunday, January 28, 2018

Ozark Mountain Ridge Runners

My local running club is amazing!  I originally joined OMRR in 2010 when I first moved to Missouri.  Every year that I've been a member, I've won far more in gift cards, prize money, race entries, etc. than I've paid in dues.  We have a yearly competition and an awards banquet, both which Albani loves just as much as I do.  We also give back to the community by hosting four annual races that benefit charities, adopting a stretch of road for trash pick-up, volunteering at other running events that benefit non-profits, and by holding fundraisers throughout the year for causes such hurricane relief, local special education programs and autism centers, etc.
We both love to enter ROTY
In 2017 I was elected to the OMRR board, and it really made me appreciate how much the board does.  I felt like I did less than everyone else on the board, but I still did a lot.  I loved serving on the board, but I felt like I wasn't contributing enough because of my other life activities, so I did not accept my nomination to stay on the board for 2018.  I would love to serve again when Albani goes to college and definitely when I retire!  My favorite board duties were designing marathon and half marathon training schedules for members training for a local race, organizing race entry give-away contests, and helping design the new 417 Quad Series.

2017 awards
I missed the annual banquet this year because it was the same weekend as the Houston Marathon, but my mom and daughter attended.  One of my fellow club members was kind enough to pick them up and drive them so my mom didn't have to drive in an unfamiliar city in the winter darkness!  I asked Albani to go up and get my awards, but she got shy and made my mom do it.  She did go up to get our first place parent-child team award, though.  I also won $100 for my overall ROTY win!  Albani won drawings at the banquet for a $25 Bass Pro gift card and for a 5K race entry.  My mom even got a t-shirt.  I'd say our $30 dues were worth it (it's $20 per person and then $5 additional for each additional person in your household, and Jon, Albani, and I all sign up)!
She was more proud & excited than this photo
If you have a local running club that you haven't checked out yet, I encourage you too do so!  OMRR is welcoming to runners of all levels - from beginners who can't run a full mile to experienced marathoners - and offers something for everyone.  Runners are such positive and likeable people that you can't help but be blessed by all of those you meet!

Saturday, January 27, 2018

We can learn a lot from a child: Albani's first 5K!

Albani won a free entry to the Ozark Mountain Ridge Runners Resolution Run 5K.  She won the entry 2 weeks before the event, so had little time to prepare.  That little time yielded exactly one training run, a mile that I ran with her 6 days before the race.  Bad weather and busy work schedules kept us from getting any more in (when I drop her off at before school care before 7:30 a.m. and pick her up after 5:30 p.m., it's a long day for everyone and dark when we get home!).
She also looks gorgeous running!
She was confident that she wanted to run the race, and also that she didn't want me to run with her.  I tried to change her mind about me running with her multiple times, but in the end I promised to get great start and finish videos and sent her off!  I told her it was okay if she needed to take walking breaks.  I expected she would finish in 40-45 minutes.
I waited by the finish line, and saw her coming in much sooner than expected!  She finished in 34:42, and when I got to her in the finish chute she exclained, "I ran the whole way!"  It turned out she leap-frogged with a lady I know from OMRR throughout the race, which made me feel better about her being out there without me.  I was incredibly impressed that she ran the whole thing without walking after her non-training -- oh, to have youth on your side!  She decided she could do it, and she did!
Clock shot
She placed 2nd in the 19 and under age group, a hard age group when you're 10!  Results are here.  She really wanted a trophy or a "big fat check" (my husband's phrase!), but still wore her medal and bib number around all day after the race.  She told me that she kept saying positive things to herself during the race to keep herself going.  Oh, the lessons we can all learn from children!
Awards ceremony
She also told me, "It hurt but it was so worth it!" multiple times.  She was very proud.

I ran my first 5K when I was 11, so she has me beat on that.  I remember it seeming so long, and I was actually training (running 2 miles with my dad probably 5 times a week), which is why I was worried about her doing this.  In retrospect, my attitude was much like hers though:  it was so long but so worth it.  Now we know she can do it, and she enjoyed it, so it was winning all around!  She will have a lot more race options now that she's up for racing more than 1 mile.  I hope racing can be a family affair for us for many years to come!

The rest of her professional pics:

December's "What I'm Craving This Month" Post - just in time for the end of January!

Better late than never, right?

I didn't have crazy post-marathon cravings immediately after CIM (post-Houston has been a different story, but that's for January's post...maybe).  Training hard through the holidays reminded me of why it can be difficult to train hard through the holidays eating-wise.  I truly feel so much better when I'm fueling with nutrient-dense items and avoiding sugar, but wow is that difficult in December.  Thanksgiving meant having unhealthy options around for one day; Christmas meant having unhealthy options around for pretty much the whole month.

Here were my top December picks - I did not get many Christmas goodie photos, though.

My taste buds love Indian food, but my stomach and GI system often don't, so it is something I avoid for the most part during heavy training when I don't want to risk screwing up a run.  But I found an Indian restaurant within 0.25 mile of our hotel in San Francisco the day after the marathon, and it was amazing!  I cleaned my plate and then ate everything my mom and my dad couldn't finish from theirs, and had no digestive issues so this was a complete win.
Albani and I finished one container of these with one meal.  She also ate 4 kiwis with that meal, which made me proud!  This was also before her grandparents fed her a sugar IV over the holiday.
Frosting is my favorite sweet, but it oftentimes leaves me feeling icky, which didn't help my post-marathon slump...but I sure do crave it and homemade baked goods sometimes.  As my dear friend Missy said, "Sometimes I have to eat 4 sugar cookies to remember why I don't usually eat sugar cookies", and I could not have said that better myself!
I discovered coconut rolled dates this month, and wondered where they have been all my life?  They are simply dates rolled in shredded coconut, and you can make them with nuts included but I haven't tried those yet (I buy these already made so haven't actually made any).  These are healthy and delicious!
Peanut butter cravings are a constant in my life, but melty peanut butter on toast has especially hit the spot recently.  I've tried to love almond butter, but I just don't.
This is my favorite brand of protein powder, and I love sampling all of the flavors!  Orange dreamsicle here.
Cinnamon bun here.  I blend with almond milk and frozen fruit, and sometimes other add-ins such as spinach, flax seed, peanut butter, etc.  I have a smoothie nearly every night before bed when I'm at home; I believe it helps my recovery (several studies show that whey protein before sleeping helps build muscle, which was why I started this routine).

Goals for next cravings post:  on time and more extensive!

Thursday, January 25, 2018

On Marathon Recovery & Running vs. Not Running

Many people look forward to some down time after marathons, but I have never been one of those people.  If a marathon goes well, I'm on a runners high and anxious to jump back into training (also always thankful/never satisfied).  If a marathon doesn't go well, I'm ready to avenge it and put in work for the next one (big goals require big commitment).  I am very routine-oriented and running is part of my daily routine.  I also have quite the running endorphin addiction, which I am pretty sure means I am much less pleasant to be around if I'm not running (please tell me I'm not the only one with this issue!)!

Prior to Houston, I decided that I needed to take a week completely off running after the race.  I was feeling hot and cold about my running, and my performance between CIM and Houston was also up and down (the brutal winter did not help!).  I basically did a 30 week marathon training block, with a 24 week build for CIM then a 6 week addendum for Houston, which is a lot now that I think about it (perhaps part of the Houston problem was this being too long!).  My experience at Houston further confirmed that I needed some time off.  Plus, a week off is what you're "supposed" to do, right?

I'd inadvertently started a running streak on June 20, not because I ever planned to streak but because I was running 7 days a week for marathon training.  After CIM I continued the streak by running for 10 minutes and 20 minutes in the two days after the race, then I rolled into Houston training, making for almost 7 months with no days off.  This is nothing compared to most streakers out there, but I used to take a day off every week and had never come near this kind of running streak in my life!

Although I knew my body needed some down time, I had a hard time convincing myself not to run a mile the day after Houston.  My mind kept saying, "Keep the streak!" while my body said, "Break it!"  The snow on the ground and bitter wind chills on top of my post-marathon exhaustion (exacerbated by 11 hours in the car, an 11:00 p.m. return home, and minimal sleep after the race) helped me accomplish my streak-breaking goal!  After I didn't run that first day I suspected it would be easy to take off several more days.  I thought it would feel really good not to run and to eat all of the desserts that I'd avoided for months for the sake of best fueling my training.

On day 2 (Tuesday), I wanted to run, which surprised me!  I didn't, because I didn't want to badly enough to run on the treadmill (the roads were bad enough that schools were closed for 3 days), but the desire was back much sooner than I expected.  I made myself take a few more days off and continued to eat 7 months worth of sweets (eating crap food also helps you take more days off).  I figured I would run again on the weekend after 5 solid days of not running - but on Friday I was jumping out of my skin, the roads were clear enough, and it was warm out, so went out for 4 miles in a t-shirt and shorts at lunch.  I then ran with joy over the weekend.

When I'd asked my coach for no training schedule for 2 weeks after Houston, I fully believed that I wouldn't run at all for the first week and maybe not even for the whole 2 weeks.  I resumed running because I missed it and I wanted to, not because I felt like I had to train for something; in fact, I know that time off right now would certainly help me more than hurt me.  During my second week of "whatever", I've been running easy every day.  It's definitely a "want to" vs. a "have to".

It's also a good reminder that I simply love to run; even if I wasn't training for anything or racing, I would still run.  When I quit collegiate running due to repeated stress fractures, I didn't race again for nearly 3 years, but I consistently ran 4-5 days a week and even ran hard workouts when I felt like it.  The joy truly is in the process, but sometimes you need some time away - whether that is 4 days, 4 weeks, 4 months, of 4 years.  The thing about running is that it will always be there when you are ready to come back.

Everyone recovers in their own way, and I think it's smart to take time off after marathons.  A wise runner told me, "You never get that time back", which has me planning to be more strategic about this next time.  I don't think I did bad this round, but I can do better.  I've been reminded that I never want as much time off after a marathon as I think I will! 

I think it's healthy to want a break.  But I don't think it's unhealthy to not want one.  I realized that from following so many runners on social media, I was getting these thoughts planted in my head: that I should want a week to a month off, that I should be burned out on running, that I should be run down and sore, that I should want to eat crap food, etc., but those things weren't necessarily what I felt or wanted.  I need to recover but I always like to remember why I love to run and train in the first place!
Not really!

Monday, January 22, 2018

You never know your limits until you push yourself to them: More from Houston

I don't know if I can ever write only one post about any marathon I run!  My full Houston race report is here.
  • I liked the Houston course; it is certainly flat as advertised.  I'm so used to running on rolling terrain that flat terrain almost feels like decline!  I thought that after this race I'd know which type of course was best for me between a point-to-point net downhill with rolling terrain like CIM or a pancake flat loop like Houston, but because of how Houston went overall I am not sure.
  • Houston makes you earn the good shirt.  We received an average cotton t-shirt at packet pick up, followed by a tech shirt (along with a mug and finishers medal) after finishing.
  • Houston served a hot breakfast (eggs on an English muffin, with sausage also available) for runners after the race inside the convention center, which I really liked.  Eggs are my favorite post-long run meal!  There were also drinks available (water, coffee, chocolate milk), bananas, and ice cream.
  • The race was large but very well-organized, and you could tell they've done this before.  The expo overwhelmed me, as large ones always do, but it was well done.
  • I placed 30th female and 22nd American female, which I was happy about in this big of an event.
  • The elite field in the race was crazy inspiring; Molly Huddle set a new US record in the half!
  • My experience as a sub-elite was a little interesting.  We were given a specific location (intersection listed and marked on a map) to load into our corral, but we weren't let in at that spot.  I, along with several other ADP athletes, had to run around a bit frantically to get in the corral at a different location.  We were also told we could warm up in our corral, and while that was a little bit true, it required a lot of running back and forth over the same 50 meters.  A girl told me that the year before they had a few blocks to warm up, which is what it looked like on the map too.  Perhaps they forgot to update the map from the year before!  This all made me thankful I was running the full and not the half, because for a half I need a much better warm up. 
  • I learned that my strategy of always carrying one more gel than I plan to take is a good one, because I dropped half a gel during the race and it wasn't a problem.  In the end I ended up taking only 2.5ish gels instead of my usual 3 though:  one around the 10K, part of the dropped one around the 20K, and then the final one around 16.  I usually take my third around the 30K but took it early since I'd missed part of the second one.  I was planning to take the fourth, making it 3.5 total, around mile 20 but then I just forgot.  I don't think it would have made any difference.
  • Speaking of things I forgot, I made a pace band for the race but forgot it at the hotel!  I knew where I should be at given points well enough that I would have been fine without it even if I'd had a good race, and with how my race went I would not have used it.  I realized that I'd forgotten it during the first mile of the race.
  • Whenever I used to see people run huge positive splits in marathons, I used to wonder how that could possibly happen.  Now after splitting 1:23:27/1:30:39, I know it can happen even if you don't go out too fast -- clearly, I did go out too fast for what I had that day, but I ran my first half a touch slower than I did at CIM on a flatter course, so it was not beyond my capacity.  I also used to see splits like I ran and think, "that second half must have been so painful", but for some reason it wasn't for me; my body just wouldn't move any faster, but I was okay with continuing running.  I am not sure I'd have believed any of this had it not happened to me!
  • I have a difficult time running tangents on a curvy road.  My Gamin beeped right at the course mile markers through about mile 16.  As you can see on the course map below, the road became winding at about that point and then the final long stretch going east back to the finish was curvier.  After 16 my Garmin got farther off the course markers every mile.  If I run another marathon with a road like this I need to practice running the shortest route better!  In my post-race survey I noted that they should put a tangent line on the ground like I've seen on the marathon majors.
  • I learned that if I am really back and forth during the weeks leading up to a "maybe" race like this, it's possible I shouldn't run it even if I feel good about it at the last minute.  I second guessed this one a lot, and clearly my body wasn't ready for it.  I also already knew this, but the really good long runs I had kept me hanging on!
  • I also learned that the CIM + Houston double is not for me.  I will double dip off of a single marathon training cycle again, but one of the marathons will be a close to home race, and I will also not have a million life events between them.  Although I loved Houston, I don't know if I will run it again because of the timing with the holidays -- or if I did I would plan an easier holiday season, if that is even possible.  If I do run it again, I would probably fly instead of drive (it was a loooong car ride!), but the uncertainty of if we were going or not this year prohibited that.
  • However, I stand by being very glad and thankful I ran this race.  I learned some more about my limits, and with the fantastic race day weather I know if I hadn't gone I would have regretted it.  This was my sixth time running two marathons off of one cycle (I did multiple marathons close together on several other occasions too, but that was when I was just running a bunch of marathons while doing no actual structured training cycles, and was not surprisingly much slower -- stories for another post!).  It was the first time I haven't run faster in the second marathon.  I think it's clear that I had to chance it!
  • Sometimes you need a step back to fully appreciate how far you've come.  In retrospect, I didn't appreciate my 2:47:14 at CIM as much as I appreciated my 2:49:20 at Phoenix -- and I know that is because at CIM I did not accomplish my "big dream barely a possibility goal" of 2:44:59 for the race, but at Phoenix I exceeded my "big dream barely a possibility goal" of 2:49:59 for the race.  To steal a phrase I read here, I think the ignorant bliss of Phoenix was part of the magic!  Houston taught me to appreciate and be thankful for CIM more than I had been.  Instead of wondering why I couldn't have been one of 50 Olympic Trials Qualifiers at CIM, I'm going to be thankful that I have the opportunity to keep chasing a goal that sets my soul on fire.  Onto the next!

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Houston, we had a problem: Chevron Houston Marathon race report

The short:
My finishing time of 2:54:XX (I have a few different finishing times at this point, but they all begin with 2:54) was nearly 10 minutes slower than the big dream goal time I went to Houston to chase, but I finished the race at peace with that.  My attempt at double-peaking failed, which I knew was a risk, but I don't regret taking the chance; I had to try.  I executed my race plan well, but simply didn't have enough in reserves.  At mile 16 I knew that I could run 10 more miles, but I also knew it was going to be nowhere near 6:15 pace.  I then went on to provide a fantastic example of how NOT to pace a marathon!  With no chance at accomplishing my time goal, I ran those final 10 miles with all I had in me, with a big smile of my face, and thanking God that I was out there.  2:54 is still my third best marathon (behind 2:47:14 and 2:49:20), and my fifth consecutive sub-3:00, so I am proud that I accomplished that on a day that I didn't have gas in the tank, even though of course I wish my risk has paid a better reward.  Taking no chances means wasting your dreams, and I'm certainly not doing that!

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." - Jeremiah 29:11
The actual finish wasn't quite like this
The details:
After running a 2:47:14 at the California International Marathon while on the tail-end of vertigo, I felt that 2:45:00 was within the realm of possibility off of my fitness if everything went perfectly, and decided to try another marathon mostly off of the same training cycle 6 weeks later.  I've had good luck running two marathons close together several times, and often run slightly better in the second.  Houston is known as a pancake flat fast course, and I was accepted into their Athlete Development Program way back in September when I decided that having a Plan B marathon would be nice.  Because the winter dealt very cold temperatures to most of the country, the Houston race day weather ended up being ideal for fast racing, with a start time temperature of 34 degrees.  Even though I had a lot of ups and downs (also detailed here and here) during the 6 weeks between my two marathons, I knew I'd always wonder "what if?" I didn't try Houston, so I went for it.
Such an amazing field and race ambassadors
I had a tentative pace plan for the race, but I also went into it with no expectations except to get the best 26.2 miles that I could get out of myself on that day.  After chatting with several friendly runners while waiting and warming up in the ADP corral, I took off from just behind the amazing elite field that included Molly Huddle and Jordan Hasay, among many others in both the half and full distances.  Unfortunately I could never see any of them, because my corral was brought up behind the invited elites at the last second before the gun.  My plan was to run a tad slower at the beginning of the race than I did at CIM, starting with a 6:30 mile, keeping the rest of the first 5K at 6:25 pace, then dropping to 6:20 through the half (targeting 1:23 or slightly over for the half).  For the second half I planned to target 6:15s.
It was still mostly dark at the start!
Jumping for joy (or to stay warm) pre-race
Everything went according to plan for the first 14 miles (except for dropping half of a gel, which didn't phase me because I carry an extra; I also dropped my headband and arm warmers, intentionally).  The course was very flat except for a few overpasses and underpasses, the pace felt easy, the miles clipped away, and I had people to run with.  The field was not nearly as thick as at CIM was at my pace, but I could always see others and ran with a few different groups.  My Garmin was beeping right at the course mile markers, which was nice because I'd been worried about the tall buildings messing with it.  There were also clocks at each mile marker, which I loved.

I came through the half at 1:23:27, exactly 30 seconds slower than my first half at CIM, but I wanted to err on the side of being a little more conservative early on to see if that helped me finish stronger, so I was happy with that.  However, unlike at CIM I did not feel confident about dropping to 6:15 pace, so I decided to stay at 6:20, figuring that it might not be my day for the 2:45 but maybe I could sit at 6:20 and come in for a PR of 2:46 (5 seconds/mile can make a huge difference!).  We also turned into the wind just after the half, and those next few miles were pretty windy ones.

At mile 15 I began feeling more unsure of myself, and by mile 16 I knew that it wasn't my day.  I knew I could run 10 more miles, but that it was not going to be at 6:15-6:20 pace or anywhere close to it.  My mile 15 split was the last one I looked at during the race, because I knew seeing my pace climb would hurt me more than it would help me.  With my big time goal out of reach, I set a new goal:  run the final 10 miles with joy and thankfulness, and with all my body could give.  I put a big smile on my face and thanked God for the opportunity to run another marathon.

After the race, several people commented that I was tough for sticking it out and that it must have been a rough final 8-10 miles.  The funny thing is though, it wasn't.  I was fine running 7:00ish pace for those final 8 miles.  I sure as heck couldn't move any faster, but I wasn't breathing hard or in oxygen debt, and I never thought I was going to need to drop out, nor did I want to stop running.  After I got to 7:00ish pace around mile 19, my pace did not show the progressive decline that I'd had before with a marathon bonk, and the miles still went by relatively quickly (unlike the final 3.5 miles of CIM, which seemed to take longer than the first 22.7 miles of it!).  The best way I can describe it is that I simply didn't have gas in the tank to finish it fast, but my endurance allowed me to finish it consistently at around my long run training pace.  Perhaps my glycogen stores weren't replenished fully, but I could operate in fat-burning mode?  I really have no idea, but it was just different.  I'm glad it wasn't a death march, but also perplexed as to why I couldn't for the life of me pick it up.

For the first 15 miles of the race, my Garmin was beeping pretty much right at the mile markers and I made a very strong effort to run the tangents, but during the final 8 miles especially, I had a difficult time figuring out the tangents because of how the road curved and weaved, and my Garmin's distance kept creeping further and further off the course markers -- not that it really mattered, but if I run this race again I need to know the last long stretch of the course better and make a better effort to run the shortest route.  A man around mile 24 even told me, "Run on the other side of the road, girl, it's shorter", which made me laugh.  Many spectators told me that I was looking strong, maybe because of the smile on my face instead of my pace.  It was a much different end compared to CIM.

Mile 25 was a little slower because I stopped for a bit to check on and encourage a girl who was walking and crying (to be completely honest, this is something I would not have done had I been on PR pace), but otherwise I hovered right around 7:00 pace and then mustered a 6:20 pace kick at the end.  The video my dad took of my finish is here.  I laughed at the announcer saying that I was coming in with a "strong finish", but I guess did get back on pace for the final bit!
Final stretch
Finishing on the right (half marathoners are on the left)
Finishers medal
Prior to the race, if someone had asked me how I would feel about running 2:54 in it, I would have said that I'd be terribly disappointed, but in the end I wasn't.  I was joyous to have run another marathon!  Of course I would rather have had everything go perfectly and have run the 2:45:00, but it wasn't in me in this race.  I didn't do anything wrong in regards to what I could control, and any day you can finish a marathon is a good one.  The event, course, and weather were ideal; I simply didn't have the gas in the tank, which was a risk I knew I was taking going in.  God is good all the time, and His plans are better than mine!  Plus, being mad at yourself when you gave your all doesn't make you any faster next time (it has taken me many years to learn this!).
Having my dad on the trip was a blessing
Meeting up with Halley after her big half PR was also a blessing!
In addition to providing a fantastic example of how NOT to pace a marathon, I learned several things.  I will run two marathons mostly off of one cycle again, but I won't do it with a power-packed vacation (which we took in conjunction with CIM) and the holidays between.  It was all just too much (not to mention all of the 10-12 hour work days I had between).  It is probably also preferable to run one of the marathons close to home, as I have always done before.  I liked the Houston course and if I run it again I'll be familiar with it and the area, which would reduce a lot of stress -- navigating the area in an unfamiliar huge city was no easy task in regards to parking, getting to the expo, finding restaurants, getting to the start, etc. (plus our map of and specified entrance for the ADP corral were not correct!).  The entire experience was full of lessons that will help me in the future.  This was also the first time I ran a marathon with an average pace in the 6:30s, as my other 4 sub-3:00's were average paces of 6:22, 6:27, 6:47, and 6:49.

A year ago, my marathon PR was 2:58:53 and my big dream goal was to run under 2:55 (that was revised to 2:52 a few weeks before the Phoenix Marathon in February 2017 though).  At Houston, I ran a 2:54 on a day when I had no gas in the tank.  Maybe there is some chance that eventually I will be able to run 2:44:59 on a bad day.  However, right now I am going to keep chasing it on a perfect day!  Even if I never accomplish it, I will never regret trying.  I don't regret running Houston, and I know that the results were a step for me in one way or another.  Staying positive doesn't mean that things will always turn out alright; it's knowing that you will be alright no matter how things turn out.

Results can be found here, and mine are summarized below too.

How NOT to pace a marathon!

Additional details on how NOT to pace a marathon!

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Houston Training Journal #3: From Holiday Fatigue to Pre-Race Fantastic-ness!

This continues Houston Training Journal #1 and #2 -- and is the final edition because race day is coming on January 14!

December 24, 2017
Merry Christmas Eve!  Today I capped off a 71 mile week, and realized that as long as I run at least 22.1 miles next week I will be over 3,000 miles for 2017!  I have around 65 miles planned, so if I don't make it then something bad has occurred...  The running enthusiasm pendulum has swung in the opposite direction as last week when I was filled with doubt.  This morning on my solo super cold recovery run I listened to a podcast that included a discussion about marathon training and 100-120 mile weeks.  I started thinking, "Well, what if I did that?  I could work up to that.  Surely that would improve my marathon performance."  I'm not sure I actually could do that, but I can increase gradually from what I did this cycle, right?  Dream big!

December 27, 2017
This is the most bipolar training block I've ever had.  I think that several factors are contributing to this:  extra busy non-running life since my return from CIM until now, the changes in routines that accompany Christmas (particularly traveling, eating differently, and variations in sleep schedule), weather changes (i.e., it's freakin' cold!), and coming off of CIM being my big focus for so long.  I vacillate between "I'm going to run Houston and I'm going to kill it there","I'm not sure I can run well at Houston", and "I don't think I should even go to Houston".

December 29, 2017
I've recognized this for a couple of weeks now, but I haven't gotten around to full-blown admitting it, although my Houston Training Journal #2 came pretty close.  I fear I am on the brink of Not Good.  I'm worried that my body is just barely holding it together as far as not getting sick or injured, which is not how you want to feel a couple of weeks out from a marathon.  Some days have been fantastic, but overall it has been variable.  I felt similar before and for a couple of weeks after Dam to Dam, and look at how Not Good that race turned out (although the weather was a bigger factor there).  My mind is right there too: barely holding it together and feeling like there is no possibility of a solid performance in Houston.  And we all know that if we think we can't, we are probably right.

BUT the thing is, I'm also not at all ready to throw in the towel.  What if it turns around?  I'm going to run long tomorrow so the door is still open.  Frankly, as of today I don't want to run Houston.  I keep thinking that I should, because I've done two marathons off of one training cycle so many times before, and it would be foolish to waste my fitness and potential for a PR in Houston, right?  Plus I'll be taking down time afterward.  I should be able to run it and go try.  But I also know that forcing a race never ends well, so if I still feel like this in a week I think I need to put on the brakes.  Perhaps it's the holiday hustle that's got me down.

December 30, 2017
Well, today's long run was Really Good; the best 21 I've ever run in training, actually (at feels like 6 degrees!).  I will just keep praying for wisdom -- and maybe stop writing about my indecision all of the time, haha!

January 2, 2018
After my 21 miler on Saturday, it was like a switch flipped; I was suddenly all-in for Houston.  After my really good 18 miler the previous weekend, I thought, "Okay, maybe I can do this...", but this time it really felt right.

I think most of it was because the night before the 21 miler instead of getting nervous about nailing it, I just decided to get out there and let it happen.  I gave myself permission to stop the long run if I wanted to; if I wanted to quit it then the decision would be made not to run Houston, and I would be confident it was the right one, because when I'm feeling good I never want to quit long runs (they are my favorite!).

I got out there for the 21 miler and loved it.  I didn't stress about hitting pace or what mile I was on or anything, I just let it happen.  That's what I need to do in Houston: just let the marathon happen.  I guess the conundrum has been that I keep thinking I shouldn't go if I don't think I can run a 2:45, but instead I need to just let the best 26.2 I have in me that day happen.  There is more of a chance that I won't hit the 2:45 than that I will (I told Jon 80/20), but it's not completely outside the realm of possibility so why not put my training cycle's work to another try?

January 5, 2018
Well, I'm tapering again!  I'm feeling both ready and out of shape...typical taper.

January 7, 2018
I read a post about chasing goals that recommended asking yourself if you would be happy to put in all of the training if you ultimately fail.  If you do everything you can to work towards a big dream goal and never get it, can you be happy with that?  I can truthfully say yes in regards to my pursuit of 2:45.  I love the day-to-day training, the hard workouts, the early mornings, the miles with friends, and the long runs.  Clearly I also hope I get it, but if I never do, I will never regret chasing it and what I've gained along the way.

I don't feel like I'm sacrificing in my pursuit of it; I feel like I'm gaining.  I'm not losing out on staying out late with friends (which I probably wouldn't do anyway, haha!), I'm gaining early morning runs with friends.  I'm not missing out on junk food, I'm gaining health.  I might be missing out on sleep, but I'm gaining life.  There is so much to be gained by pursuing what sets your soul on fire, even if you never achieve it.

January 8, 2018
Lessons I've learned from pursuing this:

I do better running two marathons when one is a B race.  I kept asking myself why I was having trouble between CIM and Houston when I've done the 2 marathons off of 1 cycle thing more often than not, and always loved it and in fact salivated for it.  Today while on my run I finally figured it out:  I've always had a goal marathon and a B one that didn't matter that much (almost always Bass Pro).  This time both matter.  I've always run well at Bass Pro, but going into it I've always thought it really doesn't matter how I perform; even if I DNF it's no big deal that I drove 20 minutes to give it a go (no travel, no expenses, no days off work).  This time both marathons are A races that require big travel commitments.

Too bad you can't OTQ at Bass Pro.  Haha!

Lesson 2 is that I don't do well with uncertainly with races.  I could have easily told you that before now, but it's been even more difficult than I expected thinking, "I'll run Houston as long as the weather cooperates."  Even when I told myself that if the Houston weather was crap and we didn't go, I'd run a 10 mile or half marathon time trial on my own on January 14 (so that I was guaranteed to be "racing" that day), it just didn't jive.  I tried to find a closer race that day as a plan B, but there are not many races at this time of year in the Midwest, for good reason!  I need to know that I'm running a specific event and to be able to focus on it.  For my next marathon I need to chose a race that I'll have a big time goal at if conditions cooperate, but that I am also content with running for place if they don't (spoiler:  I've already picked my next, though).

"Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer." -  Romans 12:12

January 9, 2018
Best case scenario:  I succeed.  Worst case scenario:  I learn.  There is no failing as long as you learn something, and I know that I will have many take-aways from this experience that will help my next marathon.  I think this will particularly inform me on what type of course is best for me - point-to-point on rolling hills with a net downhill like CIM, or a pancake flat loop like Houston.

January 10, 2018
Now I am getting excited for the race!  I am ready to go out there and get the best 26.2 miles out of myself that I can on Sunday.  Anyone who has ever run a marathon knows the risk of each race, and running two close together like this increases the risk, but I know that if I didn't try Houston I would always wonder "what if."  My confidence has been very up and down in the 6 weeks since CIM (as exhibited by this entire training journal series!), but I also think that no matter what the outcome is, I will be glad I tried.  Wondering "what if??" is always worse than failing!  Thinking about running 26.2 miles at 6:20 pace or faster is very intimidating and overwhelming, but big running goals always are.  I took chances at CIM and I am going to take chances again...because taking no chances means wasting your dreams!

January 11, 2018
I am feeling my taper and also increased positivity!  I think being tired makes me negative, haha!  I am blaming holiday fatigue for any and all negative comments I made about running this race.  I am excited to run another marathon!

It looks like marathon weekend will hold a lot of excitement.  Look at these stacked elite fields (elite entrants are by invitation only in this one)!  I am in the Athlete Development Program corral right behind these folks so I hope to get in some photos with them.  I really hope that Jordan Hasay and Molly Huddle racing yields a new American women's half marathon national record!

I don't know what Sunday will bring, but I'm going to go into it with no expectations, and just run smart and give it my all.  I am thankful for good cold racing weather (start temperature of around 32*) and 100% health.  I'm thankful for the opportunity to take a couple of days off work and travel to this race.  I'm thankful my husband and dad will be by my side!  This race will teach me something, so I am also prepared to be thankful for lessons learned.

"I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength." - Philippians 4:13

Addendum:  Travel snafu #1 has occurred, with freezing rain holding up my parents on their way to our house.  We may also encounter slick roads at the start of our journey tomorrow.  I'm glad the race is Sunday so we don't have time pressures tomorrow.

Friday, January 5, 2018

Winter Running Gear & Tips

Winter running can be hard.  It's frigid outside, the days are short (plus we all know any given temperature feels colder in the dark!), and races are far and few between.  Then there are also the ice and snow factors!  I run outdoors as long as the roads are safe, no matter how cold it is.  In Missouri we rarely get below -10* for our lows, so it's nowhere as extreme as Northerners have it, but it's still quite cold!  I start nearly all of my weekday runs at 5:30 a.m., so I am usually running in the coldest part of the day.  It's rare I can tell you the forecasted highs, but I always know what overnight lows to expect for the upcoming week (this is the case year-round though)!
Just -1*/feels like -8*
My biggest reason for staying outdoors is because I enjoy it much more than treadmill running, but I also got injured from running on the treadmill at the beginning of 2016, so I have since completely refused to run on it.  This winter if it becomes unsafe to run outdoors I will either run on my YMCA's indoor 1/7 mile track or cross-train instead of risking the treadmill.  Thus far I've been outside every day, and since I only have a week until the Houston Marathon I feel like I've pretty much made it, since the worst weather we get should fall within my marathon recovery phase.
My best cold weather attire
Out of necessity, I've learned a thing or two about cold weather running gear.  All tights are not created equal!  Glove and mittens - also not equal!  I could go on, but you get the picture.

My top winter weather gear picks are pictured above.  I have no affiliation with any of these companies, but am just trying to help out fellow winter weather warriors.  They include:
  • Nike Fit Dry fleece-line turtleneck.  Truth be told, I've been wearing this every single day since it's been single digits or below zero out!  I've had it since 2009, so it's clearly also very durable, considering I do the same thing every cold winter as far as wearing it every day.  Nike doesn't make this top anymore or I would buy another!  It's warm enough by itself down to about 5-10*, and colder than that I add a jacket.
  • Mizuno Breath Thermo tights.  These are the only tights that keep my legs warm enough when it's under about 20*.  I am comfortable in them alone down to about -5*, and colder than that I'll add a pair of long underwear under them or tapered warm-up pants on top of them.
  • Newzill compression socks.  These are thicker than any other sock brand I own, and I don't even have to double layer with them.
  • Mittens:  I have a pair of little girls XL Champion brand ski mittens from Target that I found on clearance, and my hands often even get hot in them.  This is major because in any other mittens I have, my hands freeze when it's under 10* or so (gloves are far worse!), and painfully cold hands used to be my limiting factor on running outside in the stupid cold.  You can add single use hand-warmers to gloves/mittens, but with these I haven't needed those yet (tested down to -8*)!
  • Balaclava.  I have two really good ones, but I don't know where I got either of them or what brands they are....but cover your face!
  • Screw shoes (for snow). Put several screws into the soles of an old pair of running shoes, and you have traction! There are also shoes made for snow running that I'm sure are worth the investment if you live somewhere that gets a lot of snow that sticks around (here in Missouri it typically doesn't because our weather is so bipolar).
My other winter running tips are:
  1. Use single use hand warmers and foot warmers if your extremities get cold, especially on long runs.
  2. Get dressed with a space heater in your bathroom.  It's really hard to get out on the cold if you're already cold in your house!  You can also toss your running clothes in the dryer for 5 minutes before putting them on so they are nice and toasty.
  3. Warm up before you got out.  I do some planks, glute activation, and/or plyometrics indoors before going out into the cold.  I get to the point where I am too hot (but not yet sweating) in all of my winter gear so I'm dying to get out of my heated house. 
  4. Run into the wind first and come back with it behind you.  There is nothing worse than getting several miles out and being nice and sweaty, then turning back into the bitter wind.
  5. Even better than #4, if it's windy and this is possible, have someone drive you out the distance you plan to run, then run back with the wind behind you.  This makes a HUGE difference on very windy days, when the windchill may be 20* colder than the air temperature.
  6. Wear fabrics that keep you warm with your own body heat and sweat.  I find that I'm either drenched in sweat under my gear or too cold; there is no in between.  I have no problem being drenched in sweat as long as I'm not cold from it, and the gear shown above does the trick for me on that.
  7. Change out of your sweaty gear as soon as possible when you finish - it gets cold quick!  A warm drink right after running is a great way to re-hydrate and warm back up.
  8. Don't be afraid to move workouts around.  I hate this just as much as (or more than!) anyone else, but it's worth it to do your tempo a day early or a day late if the temperature difference is going to be 20*!  I ran a key tempo a day early last winter because it was around 30* in the morning, and the day the tempo was actually scheduled was going to be around 5*.  Although my legs weren't quite as recovered from my long run as they ideally would have been, I still have no doubt I performed much better than I would have at 5*!  Switching long runs back and forth between Saturday and Sunday is also a possibility I leave open if one day is going to be a lot warmer.  Here is Missouri we have extreme weather changes often, so I try to arrange my runs accordingly.
  9. Run at lunch from work if you can.  I can usually get in 4-5 miles pretty easily at lunch if I plan ahead, and more than that is a trick but can be done occasionally if I really plan ahead.  I know that not everyone has this flexibility, but if you do, take advantage of it to run in the sunlight and warmer temps.
  10. Split up mileage into two runs.  It's not ideal to do this all of the time, but occasionally if it's just too cold to be out for more than a half hour or so, run two 4 milers instead of one 8 miler, for example.  If you're okay with the treadmill you can also do part of your run outside and the rest on the treadmill; I recommend starting outside and finishing on the treadmill due to the sweat factor if you do this.
  11. Don't stress about pace.  I run my easy runs by feel and have noticed that when it's very cold they are 20-30 seconds/mile slower.  When it's extremely cold our bodies make adjustments, and we won't run as fast because of this...not to mention we are wearing 15 lbs of clothing!  This is really hard for me to accept, but it's just like running in heat/humidity in that we won't be as fast, but the effort and benefit is there.
  12. Accept that something is better than nothing.  This is also hard for me, but if, for example, you're scheduled for 10 miles and only run 5 due to it being too cold to stay out for longer, you did 5 miles more than 0!  Give yourself grace on your training this time of year.
    Excellent reminder from MPR Coaching in Instagram
  14. Finally, if all else fails, move south!  My husband and I definitely plan on retiring south.  But seriously, remember that in just 6 months we will be complaining about the heat and least I know I will!
What did I miss?  What cold weather running tips do you have to share?

Monday, January 1, 2018

Non-Running Highlights of 2017

I didn't realize how much happened in 2017 until I wrote my family's summary for my mom's infamous Christmas letter.  Although these are non-running highlights, traveling was a major highlight and most of our trips also included races, so running events are listed (although I did not link them to race recaps)...running is certainly woven into our lives.  It was very difficult to narrow down the photos to include with this post!  Oh, and my top running highlights of 2017 can be found here.
With my husband, daughter, and parents
  • January 
    • We hosted my brother-in-law, sister-and-law, and their 3 children over New Years.  My sister-in-law ran a half marathon in Springfield on New Years Eve, we ate lots of good food and watched some movies, the kids played, and we all went to bed around 10:00 p.m. on New Years Eve!
    • I traveled to Phoenix/Tempe with my awesome father in the dead of the Midwest winter.  Highlights included the Barrett Jackson car show and auction, the Desert Botanical Gardens (it rained while we were there!), and the Rock 'n' Roll Arizona Half Marathon. 
    • My husband Jon, my daughter Albani, and I attended our running club's yearly banquet (Albani's bling pictured below).
      Desert Botanical Gardens
  • February 
    • I went back to Phoenix/Mesa with my awesome husband!  We explored various local establishments (restaurants, shops, antique malls, etc.) and I ran the BMO-Mesa Phoenix Marathon.
  • March 
    • Jon, Albani, and I spent a weekend in St. Louis, including the Zoo, the Arch, and a 10,000 m track PR for me. 
    • Albani designed a car for and competed in the Awana Grand Prix.  She named the car the Purple Beast.
    • We hosted several family members for a nearby family wedding, and also took in Pythian Castle.
    • We took a spring break weekend with my brother-in-law's family at Silver Dollar City, Top of the Rock, and other Branson fun.
Silver Dollar City is exhausting!
St. Louis Zoo
St. Louis Arch
Awana Grand Prix

  • April 
    • I took a solo trip to Kansas City (combined with a work trip) and watched my niece perform in a ballet.  I also ran the Rock the Parkway half.
    • We visited my parents in Benton, Kansas for a long weekend for Easter, also including the Easter Sun Run 10K and 2 mile races.  My sister's family visited too, enabling my mom to spoil all three of her grand kids simultaneously.
  • May
    • Jon, Albani, and I went to "Sucker Days", a local festival in nearby Nixa.
    • We spent Memorial Day at my in-laws' with my husband's huge family, including visiting Ibbetson grave sites in 4 different cemeteries and running the Iron Horse Kids K (Albani) and 5K (me).
  • June 
    • I traveled to Des Moines with my amazing friend Missy.  We walked all around downtown, taking in many neat shops, unique works of art, and city specific coolness.  We also ran the Dam to Dam Half Marathon and ate lots of good food!
    • My husband, daughter, and I traveled to Florida with my brother-in-law and his two children.  We visited Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, NASA's Kennedy Space Center, and Sea World.  I didn't race or even run much on this trip, but every day I felt like I'd run an ultra-marathon!
Animal Kingdom entrance
  • July 
    • We visited my husband's extended family in Southeast Kansas for their huge 4th of July celebration, which my parents also attended.
    • We visited my parents in Kansas for a long weekend and boating/tubing at El Dorado Lake.  Albani then spent a week staying with and being spoiled by my parents (I'm not sure she wanted to come home)!
    • Jon, Albani, and I spent a long weekend in Eureka Springs, Arkansas.  Highlights included Turpentine Wildlife Refuge, Quigley's Castle, an underground tour, walking around downtown, Cosmic Caverns, and Onyx Cave.
4th of July

Boating at El Dorado Lake
  • August 
    • Albani started 4th grade! 
    • We recovered from our summer of non-stop every weekend trips.  :-)
  • September 
    • We took short trips to Branson, Missouri and Bentonville, Arkansas over Labor Day weekend.  Highlights included the Brandon Landing, the Branson Scenic Railway, Crystal Bridges, and visiting my friend Mary in Arkansas (I also ran two races). 
    • We did a weekend trip to Kansas City to visit my sister's family, and I ran the Plaza 10K. Most of the time I go to Kansas City for races I go alone, because I plan my monthly-ish work trip there for the Fridays before Saturday races, but Albani loves visiting her cousins so I always feel bad she isn't with me!
    • I went to Indianapolis with my parents.  My dad was kind enough to drive nearly the whole way, and while we were there I met up with my friend Briony who was coincidentally there as well (she lives in Wichita).  I ran the Indy Womens Half on this trip.  When we returned home we all went to church and the Bass Pro Wonders of Wildlife museum together on Sunday.
    • We built a 4 car garage/workshop adjacent to our home to house Jon's truck, our boat, our UTV (also purchased this year), our lawnmower, etc.  We had the roof covered in solar panels and now our electric bill is nada!
Crystal Bridges in Bentonville, Arkansas
Cousin love in Kansas City
Jon convinced me we needed this
  • October
    • We did several fall-related activities close to home.
    • I did a solo Kansas City trip and ran the Kansas City Half as workout.
      Corn maze on an unseasonably warm day
  • November
    • Albani attended a USATF clinic hosted by Courtney Frerichs.
    • We spent Thanksgiving and the weekend after in Cherryvale, Kansas at my in-laws', along with Jon's siblings and their kids.  My parents also came for the day on Thursday.  It's always a full house there and Albani really enjoys her cousin-time!  We also cut our Christmas tree from the Ibbetson farm on this trip, and somehow I got talked into going Black Friday shopping in Bartlesville. 
Courtney was very sweet
Thanksgiving family photo
  •  December
    • Jon and I traveled to California along with my parents. After I ran the California International Marathon in Sacramento, we took in all that San Francisco had to offer, including Fisherman's Wharf, Muir Woods, the Golden Gate Bridge, Piers 31-39, Lands End Look-Out, Twin Peaks Look-Out, and Alcatraz.  Pictures from the trip are here.
    • We spent Dec. 22-24 at my parents' for Christmas, joined by my sister and her family.
    • We spent Dec. 24-26 at my in-laws' for Christmas, joined by all of Jon's siblings and their families.
    • We hosted a houseful of Ibbetsons Dec. 26-27, taking in the Bass Pro Aquarium and Wonders of Wildlife Museum, Lamberts restaurant (home of the "throwed rolls"!), and watching the new Star Wars movie.  I didn't participate in about half of this because I went back to work on Dec. 27.
This is Christmas
  • Closer to home throughout the year, we enjoyed the Springfield Zoo, Rutledge Wilson Farm, the Ozark Christmas Parade, Top of the Rock, Titanic in Branson, and Silver Dollar City (we always get season passes).  We also like to take in our local nature center and go fishing in nice weather.  Springfield has approximately 1 million good restaurants and we still have not tried them all, despite living here over 7 years.
  • We are active in our church, Union Hill.
  • Albani participated in the Awana program, our local library's summer reading program, and our running club's runner of the year competition (she was 2nd in the child category in 2016 and we won the parent-child category...2017 awards coming in a few weeks!).  She also enjoys swimming at the YMCA and has a crazy fondness of any and all hotel pools.  Her favorite subjects in school are science, math, and art, and right now she says she wants to work at NASA on computers when she grows up.  She is now 10 and growing up too quickly, and is absolutely a daddy's little girl.  She also loves all things Minecraft and Star Wars.
  • We purchased some investment land about 20 minutes east of our home, which was how Jon convinced me on the UTV!  Jon is self-employed and has undertaken several projects related to this land (Timber standard improvement, etc.), in addition to flipping properties, but the best thing about his job is that he can be home get Albani onto and off of the school bus every day!  He spends a lot of time being a stay-at-home dad too, which I am both thankful for and jealous of since I work an awful lot.
  • Jon expanded our garden, giving me lots of fresh organic produce during the growing season!  Beets were particularly a winner, but we had everything:  about 6 varieties of tomatoes, bell peppers, mini-sweet peppers, eggplant, summer squash, zucchini squash, butternut squash, spaghetti squash, jalapenos, blackberries, raspberries, strawberries, apples, pears, and probably things I am forgetting!  He has already plowed a larger plot for next year.
Bandit loves the garden too
We were and are very blessed - more than we ever deserve.  There were down times and struggles in 2017 as with every year, and sometimes it's easy to get caught up in them and what is wrong and what we don't have, but I try to stay positive.  It's better to focus on all that God has given us and not what I expect to have or what others have (the "don't let comparison steal your joy" thing!).  I am thankful.  2018, we are coming for you!
    Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; His love endures forever. - 1 Chronicles 16:34
    Top of the Rock