Tag Archives: long run

Never easy

“I just want one thing to be easy.”

I’ve been saying this a lot lately. In the last several weeks, a lot of Hard Things have piled up. Two deaths in March. Major work deadlines, for both Shannon and myself. Running and training rough patches – I’ve had this strange thing going on with my foot (which seems to be managed, though I fully plan on taking a month off post-marathon to let it get to 100%), and Shannon’s work-life balance has been so heavy on the “work” end that running has been a burden more than a release. And we bought our house, a weeks-long buildup of paperwork and endless emails and calls and panic right up until the very last moment: the lender only gave us the information to wire our downpayment to closing about two hours before our closing appointment. And then we didn’t have enough money for the wiring fee (oops). A co-worker saved me, and multiple Bank of America reps were incredibly kind and patient in the final days as we begged them to move money faster, even though they weren’t even our lender.

In the end, closing on the house was easy and relatively painless: the closing attorney was very kind and funny, and explained things to us first-time homeowners very well. And our realtor got us a cutting board as a gift. And, since we bought the house we’ve been renting the last 2+ years, we didn’t even have to move. We were pretty excited to have the whole process complete, to actually own our house.

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So excited that I didn’t notice until later that I had closing-appointment-chocolate-bowl-chocolate in my teeth for this photo.

The last few weeks of training, especially the taper, so often are rocky and fearful. You begin to second-guess everything you’ve been doing leading up to this point. Wondering if you are ready. Wondering if you are fit enough. Wondering if you could have done more, or should have done less. Wondering if that foot is going to behave, or blow up. Wondering if that missed 20-miler, that missed week of training, is going to be make-or-break. Even when you know, logically, that you’re as fit – more fit – than you’ve ever been.

Having a little extra down-time does not negate all the good work leading up to it, and the work after. Sure, things have felt harder, but that’s okay. The first several weeks of training felt so effortless, uncomplicated. Maybe this would have been detrimental. Maybe it would have had me go into the race with too much confidence and not enough respect. The marathon must always be respected. You have to be confident, but you also have to brace yourself. Prepare yourself for the fight.

I ran the Chick-fil-A half at the beginning of this month as part of a 16-mile day, mostly easy/by-feel, but with pace miles at hte end (either up to 5 miles @ MP or 3 miles @ HMP). It ended up being mostly the latter, primarily because the course is just rough. I did a good job really ignoring my watch, occasionally catching a split when I had a Pavlovian response to the sound of my watch beeping. I was mostly hanging in the 8:30s, slowing a bit later as the hills began to stack up. I saw so many friends volunteering and cheering, and it was fun to run an event without having to really suffer and push the whole time. It’s a hilly course, but it also goes through some of the prettiest parts of Athens.

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Around mile 8, during a very short respite from some of the worst hills, I found Margeaux, who had hoped to break 1:40 at this race, but who was having a rough day – similar to the day I had last AthHalf when I thought I could squeak a 1:40 half four weeks after Erie. We pulled each other along up East Campus and cutting through Five Points, and I tried to refocus her energy and thoughts on the pretty course and the gift of running. But it’s hard to pull yourself out of that dark place once you’re in it. I could hear her breathing beginning to relax when the course flattened on Milledge, and as I neared the 10-mile mark and had to pick it up, she told me to go. Shannon found me a few times, and I gave him a huge smile each time. I finished strong and with a big smile. My foot tightened up post-race but I got it to loosen up once more to run a couple cooldown miles with Chrissy (who beasted the course at marathon pace for a 1:38) and Justin (recently post-BQ-marathon and pacing 1:30).

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Probably the most encouraging moment of the last segment of htis training cycle was my last 18-miler, my last real long run. I ran the first 7ish solo and was hyper-focused on my foot: how it felt, whether it was hurting, whether I was altering my gait, how tight my left side felt overall. I linked up with friends for the next four and began to relax, and by the time we go to the Luv Run for Dustin and Catherine, who had just gotten married the night before, and whose marriage we’d be celebrating that night at their party/reception, I was having fun and feeling good. I just had a couple miles left at the very end of the group run to get to 18, and felt strong to the finish.

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Bride and her #BAMFL sisters! She looked so adorable in the Oiselle runaway bride dress! I love these ladies.
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Just a few of the friendly faces at the reception – we all clean up pretty good!

The weekend of this wedding was a whirlwind, since the very next morning, I was up at 6 am to catch a 10:30 flight home to Ohio for Passover. As it turned out, I woke up to a text message from Delta alerting me my flight had been cancelled in the wake of major service disruption from that Wednesday’s storm system. I rebooked on American, with a hop through Philly, had that flight delayed when I got to the gate, rebooked my Philly connection, and rebooked again when I found an earlier flight to a different airport. I was about 5 hours late to arrive in Cleveland based on my original itinerary, but I made it. I saw both of my parents, my 96-year-old grandfather (who still walks almost every morning – he’s my hero), and got in two runs, including a mile repeat workout on the roads and in the rain. I saw three deer during my warmup; they were maybe 10 feet from me, and when I paused my watch to look at them, they looked at me, regarded me a few seconds, then resumed eating, unafraid.

The marathon is never easy. There is no marathon without fear. But I am not doing something new, not doing anything I have not done before. I know what I am capable of. I am aiming for a BQ, but I am a BQ marathoner. That 3:34 was not a fluke, and it’s not gone and done. I need to improve my time, but I already have that capability inside me. I have to reach in and dig it out once more. I have to be ready to fight. I have to be prepared to walk across hot coals for as long as I think I can stand it–and then do it a little more. When workouts felt hard – a half-marathon pace workout a couple weeks ago that felt like hard work, and not the effortless floating of earlier HMP workouts this cycle – I remembered that I learned more from the experience of a workout that feels hard than one that feels easy. Nothing about that last 10K is going to feel easy. But I am ready for it.

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I’ve been lax overall lately about my “check in” entries in my training journal. Plane rides are a good time to write.

Work stress is still swallowing me whole. The Saturday of the Luv Run, I had a 90-minute appointment with my usual massage therapist (I’ve been getting weekly massages to keep my body happy these final weeks, a worthwhile “indulgence” to stay healthy), and two minutes into starting on my back, she remarked, “You are just a ball of stress.” We have a huge research symposium the Tuesday following the marathon. My race week distraction has to be set aside to get everything done that still has to be completed. I’m choosing to believe that focusing on work is helping me to maintain perspective. And I will have perspective on race weekend as well – set aside the work stuff, because it will be all-but-done at that point, and get in race mindset. We had a hectic, social activity filled Easter weekend, and now we’re spending this week as hermits, coming home from work, making and eating dinner, getting our to-do lists done, and relaxing. Quiet is a priority. Sleep is a priority. Wine and chocolate may be assisting a bit as well.

I streamed the Boston Marathon at work yesterday (very distractedly, since, yeah, very busy) and tracked my friends with the BAA app. I was over-the-moon thrilled for them, but my heart hurt. I was not there. I should be there. But the desire is greater. The fire burns hotter. I will be there.

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These ladies ran ridiculously impressive races. I know I can reach within myself to find some of that badassery and toughness.

I will make no excuses. This training cycle has been hard. Life never lets up – it never will. The marathon never lets up – that’s what makes it great. Racing the hot Erie Marathon branded me with a fire I will never lose. And this training cycle toughened me in still more ways. I have a couple more angels running with me this time.

Glass City Marathon: I’m coming for you.

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Race Report: Pittsburgh Great Race 2015

Last year at the Great Race, running on an injured knee 8 days post-marathon (I know, I’m dumb), I remember running along the brutal and exposed Boulevard of the Allies and feeling myself tear up as I looked at that view: when would I get to see it this way again?

Well, turns out, my streak would remain unbroken for at least one more year.

My awesome friend and Pittsburgh running pal and training partner Kim was getting hitched to her sweetie, Scott, the day before the Great Race. So, while we were in town for the big event, why not run the race? Coach Mark agreed, sliding the race into an 18-miler as marathon pace miles.

It was a sprint of a weekend from the get-go. I’m still hurting for time off (April vacations really set me back at the new job) so we flew in Friday evening after work, arriving pretty late. I woke up earlyish Saturday to drive up to North Park and ran four easy, beautiful, cool and crisp miles with Kim near her wedding site. I had taken three days off running – Wednesday was Yom Kippur so I fasted (full fast: no food or water for 24+ hours), then Thursday was scheduled off to rehydrate and refuel; I was initially scheduled to run 5 on Friday but Mark OK’d me switching with Saturday so I could run with the bride. #priorities So getting my legs moving again felt amazing, and they were super-fresh. Combine that with the joy of getting to run with a former training partner I used to get to run with on a weekly basis? Bliss.

After the run, we ran over to Dunkin Donuts to get some coffee and donuts for the crew of family and friends who were joining to help tidy up the pavilion where the wedding was happening. I helped out in any way I could for a couple hours, sweeping away dust and leaves (spoiler alert: all the leaves blew back in during the day, but it gave the autumn wedding a lovely look), putting together paper lanterns, and arranging other items. Then I headed into the city to hit the Great Race expo. I grabbed my bib, swapped it for the seeded bib I was supposed to get (maiden name/married name confusion – I was invited under my maiden name and registered under married. Whoops), and got to hang out with my friend Kelly and her adorable kiddos for a bit, wandering the expo, buying shoes we totally didn’t need  really needed, and chatting it up. Then it was back to the hotel for a big lunch (my eating was all kinds of off) at Panera, then relaxing a bit, showering up, getting dressed, and heading to the wedding!

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It was a lovely, romantic, brief ceremony, followed by an equally lovely and relaxed night of eating BBQ and dancing the night away. The weather was perfect – breezy and cool but not cold, and the sky cleared for a smattering of stars that myself, Kim, and Danielle and I got to enjoy as we wandered over to the restrooms in the middle of the field nearby. I wasn’t sure how I’d do long running on a belly full of BBQ and cornbread, and my IT band began to object to the dancing late in the evening, but some things are just worth it.

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Of course we were at the designated runner table, and it was wonderful to be able to catch up with Danielle, my other best running partner in PGH, from whom I used to live only a half mile away. The three of us girls had a good time hamming it up.

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Shannon and I collapsed into bed late but not too late, and the 9:30 am race start was an asset. He headed out before I did to catch the earliest possible bus, and I hit the road at 7:45 to get in my early miles. I opted for my Oiselle singlet, arm warmers, and moto lesley tights, fearing the standing around pre-race would drop my body temperature – turned out I didn’t need any of this, and I shed the arm warmers a mile in and tied them to my fitletic belt, never putting them back on.

It took me a few miles to find a groove, partly because I frontloaded the hills a bit. I made my way from our Bakery Square hotel up to Highland Park, did a quick loop, then came down Negley to Friendship, waving in near-ish passing to both my old apartments. After a couple miles, I talked my brain into enjoying itself and soaking up the Pittsburgh love. I checked the time a few times and worried occasionally, but knew I was fine. It was hilarious to see other runners with bibs on walking or jogging to the start, and giving me strange looks as I passed them going the opposite direction of the starting line. Eventually, I was heading down Fifth and up Beechwood to wind my way to the start, all uphill the last 2 miles, but speeding up as I approached the chaos and noise and excitement. Almost 10 miles into my long run, I arrived at the start.

Shannon's photo - he was there for a whiiiiile
Shannon’s photo – he was there for a whiiiiile

If for no other reason, I was very happy to have a seeded bib when arriving only 20 minutes before the start. I slipped right into the corral, saw a bunch of friends, including a few other birdies (Jen and Carrie!), stayed out of the way for the hand cycle start, and then headed toward the corral. I shoved my way back to the 8:00 group, where Shannon and Jose were, knowing starting with the seeded runners would be The Dumbest. My goal pace was 8:07, so I was where I needed to be.

There were some apparent technical issues that prevented the traditional full playing of “Shout!” which I have to admit was a big disappointment for me. I went without music the entire run, and was able to soak it all up, but I really love starting the race to that song. Oh well. We shot down the first hill and tried to find our happy pace. Soon I realized I had to apply the same strategy I had long ago learned for this race: you can’t pace it evenly, you have to work the hills. My sixth year running it, I looked for that happy marathon pace on this tough but ultimately fast and fun course.

My pace precisely followed the hills – I say this every year, and it remains true: the Great Race is essentially (oversimplified) this – mile 1 up, mile 2 down, mile 3 up, mile 4 down, mile 5 up, mile 6(.2) down. My splits were 8:03, 7:44, 8:12, 7:45, 8:09, 7:35 (7:23 pace for last bit). I’ve found the hardest part of marathon pace miles is mental focus. My easy pace requires little to no focus on most days. When I was deep into half-marathon training, HMP miles became mentally easier because my legs learned how to dial into the correct pace. Even now, I find it’s “easier” to find that faster pace. There’s something about low 8:xx’s that don’t yet feel “natural.” Not unnatural, per se, but requiring more thought. It’s a generally fairly comfortable pace, but I do have to make sure my mind doesn’t wander – that’s when my pace drifts a little too fast or a little too slow.

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When we got to the last mile, when Boulevard of the Allies finally relents and gives way to a screaming downhill, I told Shannon to feel free to turn on the jets, that I would try to keep my pace in check. I sort of did – my effort definitely remained even, but the downhill, seeing friends and acquaintances cheering, and just the feeling of finishing a race amped up the adrenaline and my last mile – as you can tell – was pretty quick. But Coach Mark saw that my effort was even, so still a win. 🙂 …and I’ll admit that I was happy that I kept my time under 50 minutes, since am 8:07 pace would have put me over that.

The key to not-so-painful-looking 10K finish photos? Running for fun and as a workout:

After the race I got to grab a little more water and chat with Carrie (who CRUSHED it!) and get a photo with Danielle briefly before I had to head out on my cooldown, 2 miles along the river. I even high five’d another bib-wearing girl.

I can't run in Pittsburgh and not take a picture of a bridge and/or a river.
I can’t run in Pittsburgh and not take a picture of a bridge and/or a river.

Miles all done, I got to catch up a few minutes with my friend and former co-worker Lara, ran into Steff (cheer squad extraordinaire!), and grabbed a little food before hobbling to the car with Shannon on my sore but happy legs.

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Hat shadows ftw

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Post-race, we hurriedly packed, showered, and checked out of the hotel (I got an extra hour on checkout time, pleading my case as I was leaving to run. They were fine with it) and meeting friends and Shannon’s adviser for brunch at The Porch, at which I stuffed my face. After some time at Coffee Tree Roasters reading, and picking up pad Thai from Noodlehead, we headed to the airport and our weekend came to a close.

This long run and race were huge shots of confidence for me. It was great to see what my legs could do after a little extra rest, and even after a night of dancing and possibly less than ideal pre-long run fuel (whatever, I swear by cornbread now). Everything was starting to click. I felt strong and ready, and the feeling carried into last week, during which I nailed a 2 x 15K pace workout on the treadmill and pushed through 10 treadmill boredom miles that were only helped by strong strides at the end. (They really need fans in the cardio room – I say this all the time, and it never stops being true. ZERO air flow) I had everything I needed going into this past Sunday’s half-marathon tune-up, which I was to race. Strength. Maybe kind of sort of slightly more rested legs (maybe). Confidence.

So how did that go? You’ll have to wait for the next post to find out.

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Post-race photo with the hubby

Halfway dreams

So, I’m halfway through this marathon training cycle. I keep waffling between feeling strong and confident – on my way to being prepared – and being completely freaked out.

So, about normal.

Will I ever stop sweating, though?
Will I ever stop sweating, though?

As with any training cycle, there have been ups (great, great ups) and downs (deep, dark, basement downs). Within the last week, the race dreams (nightmares? Not true race nightmares – yet – but not great signs if I’m at all prescient) have started. Last week, I dreamt I ran a 3:50 and was royally pissed to have worked so hard and only PR’d by two minutes (bratty? Possibly), and then my coach was asking to see my data and I couldn’t find it.

This weekend, I dreamt that I was at the start line of my upcoming half-marathon – the one that I’m supposed to race rather than run as a workout – and realized I had never gotten to talk race plan/strategy with my coach, and was full on freaking. The race never occurred in the dream, at least I don’t remember it, but not a very comforting moment.

In real life, things have been going a lot better. A few weeks ago, I had one of the worst (if not The Worst) long runs I have ever had. 17 miles of pure torture. I woke up with a less-than-stellar attitude, feeling a wave of dread. It had been a brutal week, hot and with a tropical air mass sitting over the south. It was relentlessly humid. My workouts that week had been brutal. And now I had to run 17 and it wasn’t any better. It felt awful from the first step, and I had maybe a half mile here and there of feeling less than shitty, but the rest was terrible. When I was running the last 3 miles out-and-back, I got to mile 15 (half a mile from where I needed to get to before turning around), sat down on a wall, and cried. Pulling myself together, I finished the last bit of out and turned back, forcing myself to keep going to the end, even speeding up by about a minute in the last mile. When my watch beeped the last mile and I hit STOP, I folded over and cried. It probably took me a good 10 minutes to pull myself together again.

The only bit of comfort was that everyone else was dying out there, too. George cut his run short by 3 miles. Lindsay and I took a couple walk breaks in the middle (she gutted it out and finished her planned 11). Will cut his loop short. Everyone looked like they were in the middle of a death march. We had had it.

But since then – some days by degrees, and others by huge leaps – it got better. We got stronger. The tropical air mass moved away. The temperatures started to drop, and the humidity became less than crushing (after weeks and weeks and weeks of 95% humidity on a daily basis, 85% feels downright heavenly, I tell you what). The following week I aced an 800 repeat workout and bossed a 14-mile cutback long run on a beautiful day. True, I cut short my Friday run (did like 2.3ish when I had 4 planned) because it felt like garbage, but one bad run for the week, instead of only one good run the previous week? Definite win.

The following week…I may have gotten a little cocky. With an early morning meeting on Thursday, I flip-flopped my Tuesday/Thursday and did my long track workout Tuesday morning instead. There’s usually some group workout out at Spec Towns most early mornings, but on Tuesdays, apparently it’s the Shirtless Fasties (with Coach Al – this isn’t their official name, just what I call them. Also Dustin was wearing a shirt, so it’s not a firm rule). They were cruising 800s, one dude cranking out 2:20 splits (and making it look beautifully effortless), a second group was doing probably 2:50-3:00, and I think a third group was out there as well, probably just over 3:00. I had 1600s at 10K pace on tap.

Yeah, I fucked up. I hadn’t paced mile repeats in a while, and didn’t have a good feel for my 10K pace. I felt really good on the first one but apparently I was speeding up each quarter and wound up about 14 seconds fast. I tried to slow down on the next two, but was still about 8-10 seconds fast on each. I gave it all up on the last one (stupidly), and as the 3:00ish 800 group came roaring up beside me in the last 60 meters of both our intervals, I sped up and hung on the back of the pack to sprint in to the finish.

Well, my legs and feet were crampy as HELL for the cooldown (and my calves had been yelling at me earlier anyhow because I’d done calf raises Monday for the first time in many weeks). When I posted that workout, oh boy, my coach chewed. me. out. And rightfully. I was racing in that workout, especially that last one, which was foolish.

Spoiler alert: sleeping in calf sleeves doesn't actually fix everything
Spoiler alert: sleeping in calf sleeves doesn’t actually fix everything

I foam rolled and hydrated and stretched and rested, and then was ready to crush my next workout on Thursday. I was under strict instructions to bag it if I was struggling (which I defined as “more uncomfortable than comfortably hard,” and Coach Mark agreed to that definition). Despite humidity, janky sidewalks, and darkness (who turned off the lights? Oh yeah. It’s fall), I felt unstoppable for 7 miles with 5 at goal marathon pace, nailing each one a little faster than goal.

The runner's selfie.
The runner’s selfie.

I’m once again back to traveling too much – over Labor Day weekend that same week, I was in Cleveland to see my parents and a few friends, and had 17 miles on tap with 5 at race pace.

5 a.m., eating a bonk breaker, sitting on the floor of my former bedroom.
5 a.m., eating a bonk breaker, sitting on the floor of my former bedroom. #glam

My saintly mother got up at 5:30 am and drove me into the middle of nowhere Cleveland suburbs to drop me at my start point in pitch black darkness (I ran without headphones, and with headlamp and tail blinkie on a very, very quiet road). She met me at 9.5 for a water refill and towel off, and a half mile later, I pushed through 5 miles at race pace in rolling hills. I was grateful for the shade and for conditions that felt a little better than Georgia had felt all summer (though I know folks who live in Ohio were unhappy about the weather. Pittsburgh, too – sorry for bringing the heat and humidity up north with me, guys!).

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On Labor Day itself, I met up with running friend and former neighbor Liz for 9 beautiful miles full of chatting about life and work and school and BQs and triathlon and stories. And we only ran a hair too fast in places.

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I’ve started to break in my marathon shoes (or hopeful marathon shoes anyhow) – I at least upgraded to the Brooks Launch 2! Just a couple runs in, but I’m already in love. They’re smooth and springy and just cushy enough, with a perfect arch wrap. Plus, they’re pretty to boot.

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Boston Marathon registration opened last week, and I was once again infected by Boston Fever. I go back and forth between feeling confident that I’ll get there someday, and thinking that I’m kidding myself. Like that tempo run last week that I had to cut short because I couldn’t manage half-marathon pace on a crappy treadmill in the shitty med school campus gym after work (sleep won in the morning, and Ramsey at 5 pm is insanely crowded). Or that one crappy-feeling half-mile rep during 9×800 on the road (track was closed – it was annoying. And don’t even get me started on how my watch misbehaved halfway through. We’re just barely on speaking terms again). Or how it still feels hard to hold 9:00 during a 20-miler. But then I think of all the other miles I’m stacking up. Those effortless feeling marathon-pace tempo miles. I’m putting hay in the barn. I’ll keep working.

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Hay in the barn, or GU in the drawer?

Two months away from the race, I know I still have a ways to go, but I’ve already come so far. And in two weeks, I get my first real indicator: racing 13.1 at Michelob ULTRA Atlanta. I should probably make sure to carve out time with my coach to discuss race strategy. 😉

Air Force Marathon training: weeks 1-5

We’re already five weeks, two tempos, two track workouts, and five long runs (including a cutback) in.

Things that are hard:

-opening your handheld water bottle for a water fountain refill mid-long run with sweaty fingers

-melty summer long runs

 

Things that are awesome:

-Eating ALL the things!

I want a burger with EVERYTHING

-the beauty that is running in Pittsburgh

-pwning the #RWRunStreak (plus bonus days), completed officially on July 4th, despite Florida heat and humidity (we purposely scheduled our first cutback week – after four weeks of build – for this vacation week for obvious reasons. But damn was that a tough buildup. File that tidbit under “things that are hard,” I guess.)

-racing for fun and speedwork, and scoring some age group bling!

-logging a whole bunch of miles with friends: in addition to the hubs, I’ve been maintaining my weekly runs with Danielle, and Kim and I have also been meeting up when our schedules mesh to log some miles together, helping each other dial into marathon goal pace and chatting up a storm while doing it.

The breakdown

Week 1: few easy runs + 1 track workout (3×1600, totally nailed it despite not having done a mile repeat workout in AGES, which was freaking me out) + 5 miles @ MGP with Kim  (not scheduled, but I could not resist) + 12 mile long run with last 3 @ marathon goal pace.

Week 2: easy runs + 14 mile long run (all easy) + dead legs Man Up 10K (mini-race report below), spectated by my dad!

Week 3: easy runs + track workout (6×800, made all my paces despite wanting to quit so badly around the 4th repeat) + 15 mile long run (about half of which were on delicious trails) w/ last 3 @ MGP

Long run fuel/water/river re-group

Week 4: easy runs + 7 mi tempo (1-5-1, and made it semi-progressive as my legs tried to re-learn how to tempo) + 16 mile long run with middle 4 @ MGP. Majorly struggled the last few miles of the run due to full sun, heat, and humidity, and took quite a few walk breaks, but got it done.

Week 5: all easy runs, including a 4:20 am 3.3 miler before hopping a plane to go on vacation, and then super-sweaty runs Tuesday through Saturday, not once breaking the streak. 10 miles on Sunday, including Sweet Spring 3K (see below)

Race Reports! (yes, TWO)

Man Up 10-K

We’ve run this race the last few years, and like last year, my dad got up SUPER early to drive in from Cleveland to spectate. After our warmup (1 mile easy, then drills and striders), we met him near the starting line for pre-race hugs and well wishes. We both felt pretty shitty, having a rough week and 14 miles on our legs from the day before. But having my dad there made me want to still try to punch it. At the very least, I wanted a solid tempo effort. My legs couldn’t deliver a PR, but despite wanting to quit around halfway in, I never did, and walked away with 2nd in my AG and a time not too far off my PR of 44:02, finishing in 44:27. The girl who got first crushed me by like 5+ minutes, but I’ll take it. I gassed it at the end and was in tears, barely pulling myself together before my dad walked over to give me a hug.

Worth it.

Best fan ever 🙂

 

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Sweet Sprint 3K

We ran this last year, too, and this year it came on the heels of our cutback week. We’d arrived home from our Florida vacation late Saturday night, getting to sleep a little after 1 a.m. (ugh) and getting right up at 7 a.m. for a quick breakfast and drive down to the finish/packet pickup area. We met up with our friends Mark and Shannon, and ran easy to the start. Then, after some drills and striders, and various delays, we entered the pain cave for the race. What hurts more than a 5K? Oh, buddy…

Stretching out my hips and waiting for the start
Stretching out my hips and waiting for the start
And.... go!!
And…. go!!
Moving so fast we're blurry! Mark in the foreground here.
Moving so fast we’re blurry! Mark in the foreground here.

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I started off at a sprint then reined it in…slightly. I found myself pacing with Keri, whom I’d met while running to the start with Shannon (girl Shannon – hee), and we were cooking along in the low 6’s, gradually easing back to around 6:30s. At the one mile mark, we went under the overpass and satellites went briefly haywire. I’d taken note of a sign that said “almost there!” on the way up, and noted it was about 2/3 mile from the finish, which was  a nice check point to have. I dropped Keri slowly and was reeling in a younger girl who I wasn’t sure whether she was in third or fourth perhaps. In the last half mile, as she faded, I passed her and tried to gas it hard to the finish, catching sight of Kim (who was meeting us for the rest of our 10 miles, having already done 8 of her planned 14), who snapped a couple shots of me (including this top one here – other one was taken by the organizers)

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me finish3I crossed the finish in 12:12 by my watch – 12:09 official. BIG improvement from last year’s 12:57. While it still hurt like the dickens, I thing I was more mentally prepared for it, not to mention was already in training and had a few speed sessions under my belt. We figured we nabbed some bling, but didn’t want to make Kim wait, nor postpone our last 10K of our long run as it was already getting pretty darn hot. We joined Kim for 6+ miles around the downtown area, crossing a couple bridges and seeing some of the “furries” from the annual convention.

Hubs’ shot from Fort Pitt

Turns out, my husband got 1st in his AG and I got 2nd woman overall! (it bears mention that this race only had like 75ish finishers). Mark grabbed our bling for us in our absence, having gotten 1st in his AG as well.

Now the real work begins: from here on out, we have two-week build cycles followed by cutbacks, so hopefully we can really push on the builds and then rest “aggressively” in between to reap the most benefits. I’m still treating the training plan like an overall guideline: any sign of trouble and it’s subject to change. But after the first couple weeks, first feeling strong and then feeling dead, we could feel that our bodies were already responding to the higher training load and adjusting to it. It can be demoralizing how rough the first couple weeks of marathon training are, but I always remind myself that those first weeks are roughly equivalent to peak half-marathon training. We will adjust, but it won’t be instantaneously.

 

 

Miles and miles and a return to racing

First off, thank you for the responses on my marathon predicament – it was helpful! In the end, though, a lot of it came down to logistics. We don’t know where we’re going to be after September. Not to mention that I’m familiar with this race, and have lots of friends running the half, and one running the full. Haven’t figured it out yet? Well, here it is… Yep. NF and I registered for AIr Force once more on January 1st – he registered for the half, ready to dominate. I registered for the full, and freaked out. But my friend and running buddy Danielle has run the full a few times and will be doing so again this year, so at least I won’t be alone at the start line with my nervous jitters! I did the math, and if I do a 16-week training plan, I’ll have three weeks “off” between the Pittsburgh half in early May and the start of training. With a 14-week plan – which should be plenty doable, given I’ll be starting with a strong base but would also like some more “training free” down time – I’d get five weeks off. I plan on picking the brains of some more experienced marathoners when figuring out how to handle it. In the meantime, I’m still in the off-season, at least for about another month, and enjoying it a ton. NF and I successfully completed the run streak – 35 days of running at least a mile a day! – and have kept it going. I’m still making use of the one-mile-minimum days as “rest” days or days to get in more cross-training. The streak also helped us get out the door when we were visiting my Grandmom over New Year’s up in Michigan with temperatures in the single digits to negatives, and wind chill frequently below zero. I have to say, neckwarmers are clutch in that kind of weather. Also, trail shoes on the snowy roads.

Post-5 miler on Jan. 1 – the last official day of the RW Run Streak. So bundled!
You can’t see it, but there was ice in my hair.
The only way I was able to get my hands warm without a painful, frozen first 1-1.5 miles: thumbhole + thin glove over + fleece glove over that. Chilly finger tips for about a half mile, then warm.

Some of the snowy runs were better than others – painfully cold hands made me cranky for the first bit of the Jan. 1 5-miler, and a snow-packed 3-miler was exhausting. But other times the beauty of it all was energizing.

This snowmobile path was tiring to run on, but man was it pretty.

When we got home,  the cold weather followed us with the polar vortex, so I did a lot of treadmilling – I bundled like I was going outside to run just to get in my car to drive to the gym! Hello -5* with -28* wind chill!

By the end of the week, though, the worst of the cold broke and I was back to running with pals! Danielle and I ran 6 hilly miles that Friday. The next day, I went to a Steel City Road Runners group run for the first time! And it poured. But I got to run 10 miles with Kim (first 5 with NF, too), and we chatted up the storm, almost not noticing that we were drowned rats – almost.

Soaked everything

Sunday morning was the annual Frigid Five Miler! (oh hey, look how I snuck in a race report!) After a false start leaving the apartment, having left our bibs at home (luckily we were only like 4 minutes from home), we got to the start in just enough time to park at the top of the hill.

Walking into the Lodge and just starting to get scan the crowd, I was immediately pounce-hugged by Kelly (birthday girl!), and a little bit later, found my my work pal Lara. I had emailed her earlier in the week about the race, and as she’s training for her first half-marathon, she was excited to check out another local Pittsburgh race.

Pre-race group shot, taken by my guy. As usual, I overdressed.

We chatted and waiting around until about 8:50 before stepping out to the start line (dumping off extra layers in the car, which was parked conveniently on the way. We didn’t have time for a warm-up and my Garmin barely found satellites in time. And I selected the wrong playlist on my iPod before tucking it in an inner pocket and then making it inaccessible with my bib pinned over it – oh well!

Before I knew it, we were off! I had no idea what I would have in me for this race, especially knowing full well how tough the course is. The first mile is rolling but a little uphill. The second mile is definitely downhill. Mile 3 starts as a screaming downhill, then levels off and heads to some more, tough rollers. Mile 4 gets hard, then kinda levels off. Mile 5? Oh… mile 5.

My playlist was still good, just a different one than what I’d originally wanted. Honestly though, I hardly listened to it. I spent the whole time just trying to pick people off as a way to stay focused. It had been sleeting/misting and some spots were icing – I never slipped, but could feel my feet skate out behind me a few times. I found if I stayed near the middle of the road (but off the painted line), it was better.

Mile 1 clicked off in 7:16. Mile 2, with a serious downhill, was 6:56. I tried to ride hard down the screamer at the start of mile 3, and didn’t have TOO much wind taken out of my sails after it leveled off, finishing that mile in 7:01. The pace was hard, and a few times I almost freaked out – I wasn’t fit enough for this – but I focused on my breath, the fact that it was very much in control, and told my brain to SHUT UP. And I kept pushing.

Mile 4 though, man, mile 4… there’s a cruel hill, that’s not even that bad in the scheme of things, but you can feel how dead your quads are already getting from all the pounding downhills, and you know what’s coming for you at the finish, so it’s just demoralizing. I got dropped by a few people I’d passed on the downhills and flats, but kept a woman in a neon yellow/green jacket in my sights, pulling ahead and falling behind at points.  7:44. Mile 5 starts out… almost relaxing. I was trying to focus on my breathing and maintaining the fast clip while I could. All too soon – almost precisely a third of a mile into that last mile – the hill started. The ridiculous, insane, crazy hill. Two-thirds of a mile climbing about 250 feet (according to my haven’t-taken-a-math-class-since-freshman-year-of-college calculations, it’s a 7% average grade). So I tried to relax my arms, keep my torso straight and leaned into the hill, picked up my knees and just trudged up it.

Every single year I have walked on this hill. Every single year I have tried to get to various checkpoints, but have always walked at least once (maybe at least twice, to be honest). This was the year I was going to do it. I wasn’t going to walk, not even once. Maybe I’d be going so slowly it may as well be considered walking. But dammit, I’d be lifting my feet high enough to consider it running! I ignored my pace. I tried to breathe. I saw people pass me and drop behind me as some people kept grinding it out and others felt the weight of the hill in their already tired legs. The woman in neon came up behind me, but we kept fairly even going into the steepest section – when I really really really wanted to quit. But I didn’t. I didn’t pass the woman in the end, and could barely push across the finish line, but I did it! 8:52 (6:52 sprint to the finish – so I guess I did sprint a little?). 38:03 chip time.

finish1
Could never get ahead of her, but shook her hand at the finish and thanked her for the motivation to keep trying!

A few minutes later, I hobbled a little ways before the finish line and watched Kelly and another woman encourage each other across the finish line, and I got to give her another birthday/yay-awesome-race! hug after she was done. And just a few minutes after that, Lara finished! She did kickass, finishing in about her usual 5-mile time, but on a MUCH tougher course.

Kelly had to take off shortly after and Lara, NF, and I stuffed our faces with pancakes and listened to the awards. I had only half an ear on it for a while, chatting with Lara, when Shannon started grabbing my arm, telling me to go up. “They’re on 20 to 24,” I said. But sure enough, they were calling my name. Whoops! I walked up and explained that I’d been called, and that I was actually 26. They rechecked the numbers, reissued the 3rd place 20-24 award to the right girl, and handed me a medal for 2nd place in 25-29! Well, okay!

I’ve got a few more weeks to goof off, and I’m trying to get in as much cross-training as I can, and the occasional speedwork/tempo workout, usually on the treadmill. I’d been doing 7:30 tempos but Sunday’s race showed me I haven’t lost all my speed, so I should probably push myself a bit more, little by little.  Thanks to Danielle the mileage enabler, I’ve already run 18 this week between Monday and today (and we won’t discuss how many miles I ran without a 1-miler “off” day from Thursday through Tuesday). NF and I are planning to do about 10 on Saturday, and I’ve got a trail run with Kelly and Kim on Sunday.

Weekend mornings packed with running? Yes, please.

MCM Training Week 14: New York, New York and marathon in jeopardy

I’m going to try not to talk about politics too much. All the people affected by the furloughs, and the specific parties and individuals who I think are the most worthless beings to breathe on this planet these last couple days.

Cough.

But seriously. I have a marathon to run.

Monday I began the taper with a day of easy lifting.

Tuesday the boy and I went for a 6-mile recovery run in the dark on our usual up-then-down route. It took a bit to find a rhythm, and I could definitely still feel the 20 in my legs, but by 4 miles in I felt much, much better. Nothing like an easy run to work out the kinks.

I also got to try out my new shoes! Breaking in the Brooks Ghost 6 – and am in love with the smooth, light ride already.

Hello my pretties…

That evening was Pilates, and Sabrina worked a lot of the basics since there were a lot of newbies in the class. Which of course meant it hurt, since we were really focused in on our cores.

Wednesday we ran 5ish easy. Only issue was that I seemed to be having ongoing GI issues this week. Not to get too into “TMI” territory (though among runners, is there such a thing?) but I apparently ate something last week that greatly angered my gut. Took the rest of the week to kick out whatever it was. Not sure what it was that I ate…

Thursday was 8 miles easy, and a little too fast at points. We also had to extend the route a it at the end, which is weird because I’ve run this loop twice before and had it land exactly at 8 miles when I got home, so I don’t know what I could have done differently this time around.

Friday I did nothing… except walk around New York! My mom and I had a girls’ weekend in one of my favorite cities, so instead of an easy 4 (which I ended up not doing at all – see below for more on that) we enjoyed tooling around some of our favorite areas, eating tons of great food, drinking way too much Starbucks, and seeing a couple of my close college friends and one of my younger cousins.

Saturday was long run day, since we had an early checkout Sunday morning. I woke at 6:30 and took the subway to Central Park to do two loops for 12 miles. And oh, what a morning.

Just stepping out of the subway.
Midtown, on my walk to my starting point

It was breezy and cool, and while it had been forecasting showers, I only got a brief sprinkling as I was into the first mile or so of the first loop. I looked up to see if more rain was coming, or if it was just a little cloudburst, and saw this:

It’s faint here, but you can see it on the right. It was much more dramatic in person.

As I continued on my run, the rainbow continued to spread across the cloud burst, eventually becoming a double-rainbow. It’s hard to tell in these photos, but it was very bright and distinct. I couldn’t stop staring at it and smiling.

I kept an eye on it as long as I could, losing it as I approached Harlem, though coming down the other side of the loop I could see it still hanging on as the clouds dissipated. I stopped a couple other times to soak in the views, but otherwise kept a really good pace. The run was scheduled to be 8 easy + 4 at marathon pace, but I knew that my giddiness at running in the Park would pretty much mean running at MP the whole time, so I just ran what felt good.

But seriously – the most perfect morning

I kicked in the last two miles in 8:09 and 7:40, respectively, averaging 8:32 over the entirety of the run. Beyond the delight of running in New Yrok and the perfect weather, the gentle rolling hills in the Park make for speedy runs, especially on my PIttsburgh-hill-weathered legs. I used to abhor any hill of any kind – now my legs kinda eat these hills up.

Sunday I was going to do my easy 4-miler originally scheduled for Friday, planning to do a little out-and-back down the East River. One Garmin that refused to find satellites, 20 minutes, and one temper tantrum (I’m not proud) later, I gave up and decided all the walking was plenty for my tired legs.

 

We’re already halfway through week two of the taper, but the marathon has been flashing before my eyes, thanks to politics. I’m not going to say ANYTHING about the current state of negotiations, as nothing makes a marathoner more superstitious than the taper (going outside, turning around three times, and spitting – and cursing – doing everything).

I don’t want to at all minimize the impact of the shutdown on all kinds of people in all kinds of walks of life (to avoid turning my running blog into a political rantfest, I’m not going to try to list any, but trust me – you can find them easily if you read the news). Way more important than me and my silly marathon. But my rage had been growing day-by-day, seeing the vast issues caused by the shutdown, and this was just the cherry on my furious sundae. (but seriously – runners are the shutdown’s hidden victims!)

I took a few minutes yesterday to line up a couple possible alternatives, in particular for that weekend so that I don’t have to 1.) re-taper, or 2.) change my PTO. But hopefully in a few days I’ll be posting again about week 15, and my race plan and goals.

Credit to Remy’s World

Eek.

 

MCM Training Week 12: Lots of miles and the Great Race 10K (race report)

This past week was the second to last hard week of the cycle – the one right before peak week. And I hit my highest weekly mileage, for a training week anyway (I did run 50 in a 7-day period because of my run-crazy trip to Seattle at the beginning of September. Oops?). I was pretty concerned how my body would respond, but man does it seem to love all those miles!

Monday

6 hilly, cool, early morning miles with my man. Autumn is really here! Still getting the hang of layering again but enjoying busting out the long sleeves (though still wearing shorts) for these chill mornings. We ran pretty easy, aiming for something like recovery pace – mostly ignoring our watches and going by feel.

Tuesday

Even more recovery pace than the previous day – did the first mile and change with the boy then wrapped up an easy 5-ish myself, trying to keep to a somewhat flat track to give my legs more rest.

Wednesday

We’ll call this the Monster Workout That Wasn’t. We had 12 miles scheduled with lots of intervals: some at speed, some at steady state. I won’t go into the breakdown because we hope to actually get to do this workout in the future, and I’d hate to spoil it. 😉 Anyway, it seemed like everything in the world was happening to prevent us from doing this work out. First off, we scheduled it for the evening since fitting in 12 miles  before work involves way too much pitch black and I wasn’t sure I was comfortable with that with this kind of interval work. Then, when we got there, we realized we had forgotten one crucial thing: fall sports. CMU’s track was littered with collegiate athletes. There was no way we could share the space. Even Schenley oval would be a challenge since the intervals were bookmarked by 2-mile steady state non-breaks.

So we thought, okay, we’ll do the two-mile loop and do something like: 1 mile at marathon goal pace, 1 at half, and repeat. Or something. We started our warm-up, already dreading running the same 2-mile loop a bazillion times, and the combination of rush hour traffic and sidewalk construction (I appreciate that you’re fixing janky sidewalks, Pittsburgh, but really? Now??). So after pausing at a stoplight we said: screw it. Let’s do and out-and-back on Three Rivers Heritage with some speed in the middle. So we ran out four easy, deciding to do the middle miles at (reach) marathon pace/half marathon pace/marathon pace/half marathon pace, then come back easy. We stuck together the first MP mile, trying to stay at 8:30 (a pace I cannot hold for 26.2 …  yet… but wanted to challenge myself a bit more, since it’s actually a nice cruising pace) but coming in about the middle 8:20s. We both felt pretty strong and really had to work to dial it back. Then we split up to hit our own HM intervals. I had just PR’d at Air Force averaging 7:56, so I figured 7:55-8:05 would be good.  Here’s what actually happened:

long run interval splits

I’ll take it!

Thursday I took off – luxurious sleep in, no running, no cross-training, nada. Fabulous feeling.

Friday

Tess and I joined up for an easy four mile (one mile for me to get to her place, three miles back to my place, then she ran home). We both had tired legs – me from the 12 miler two day prior and her from tons of squats and volleyball and hard running.  We took it nice and easy and enjoyed the morning.

Saturday

A little after 8, NF and I headed out for an easy 12-miler on a nice morning. He took me down Penn and then onto the northern portion of the Three Rivers Heritage Trail to go see the duck. Haven’t heard about this? Go check it out. When we arrived, right at the 5-mile mark, it wasn’t too crowded – mostly the early rising walkers, runners, and cyclists out to take photos. We got another couple to take our picture and they obliged them with the same.

For size comparison, my guy is 6’4″. The duck is 40 feet tall.
Being goofy

Together 🙂

We headed around Point State after a quick water refill and hopped on the Jail Trail to head home, spotting a familiar face along the way – a Twitter/Daily Mile pal, Kim! It perked me up from the doldrums of the middle miles – that, plus a good power song and a gel and I felt great the last few miles.

After a hearty brunch and getting cleaned up, it was time to head to the expo! I met up with friends Mark and Kelly, and signed up for Steel City Road Runners (finally) – and bought a pair of shoes on sale. Of course.

Sunday

Sunday was our fourth excursion at the Pittsburgh Great Race 10K – a fast course that boasts a net downhill but also enough hills to keep you on your toes. I’d PR’d every single time I had run it, but now was going in with not only dead legs but a rather dead mind. I woke up and told NF: “I don’t feel like racing today. I don’t feel like suffering.” So I figured we’d just have fun. We headed downtown a little after 7 a.m. to catch the first round of buses to the start line, blessing the port-o-potties first thing and then parking on a curb and waiting for familiar faces, including Ellen and Tess.

With a little too much start line announcer yammering, we got a late start and I was shot through with nerves. One of the issues with this race and that given the crowded, non-wave start, there is almost no way to get in a decent warm-up AND get a good starting spot. I like warming up for a 10K with about a mile of jogging with race pace pick-ups. But I just stood in the crowd, near-ish to the front, hopping around and doing careful butt kicks and hackysacks to keep lose without accidentally kicking anyone else around me. A few minutes after the 9:30 scheduled start, we were off!

NF and I quickly wove through the crowd, and I mostly kept up with him for the first mile. It’s an oversimplification, but the course is basically this, mile-by-mile: uphill, downhill, uphill, downhill, uphill, downhill. At this point, I knew how to work the course, but I still knew I was coming in with completely dead legs and didn’t expect much. So as I cruised up to the crest of mile 1, ready to shoot down Forbes, I blew off the fact that I clicked off the mile in 7:18. It won’t last, I thought. At the same time, having lost NF about a quarter mile before, I kept my sights on a woman who looked to be in her late 40s or early 50s who was cruising comfortably and evenly in the 7:10s. If I could just stick with her, what would happen?

I navigated the continuing crowd as we blasted down Forbes, unfortunately having to pull off to the side for 10 seconds to retie a shoelace (dangit) and nearly getting run down as I tried to jump back in – double oops. I quickly got my pace back up to where it had been, mile 2 hitting in 6:43. Crap, I’m going to blow up. Okay, time to rein it in.

We came through Oakland down Fifth, which is mostly flat with maybe a slight uphill grade, but is mostly just a long stretch of nothingness reaching out toward Boulevard of the Allies. It’s a mental gut-check, since you hit the halfway point and wonder if you can still hang on. Mile 3 hit in 7:09, and my race times say I passed through 3.1 in 22:15, a 5K PR (given that my “PR” was on a short course and had it been the correct length I think it would have been about 22:20, give or take a few seconds). It was definitely starting to really hurt, but I kept the cruising woman in my sights as we got a downhill mile before the worst part of it all: Boulevard of the Allies.

That mile is all a slow, long, exposed climb on an elevated highway. Last year, it was raining pretty hard at that point, which presents its own challenges. This year it was clear skies and full sun – not a hot day, but it was enough to make me feel the heat, and I was cooking a little. I’d been sipping water at each aid station and mostly just dumping it down my back, and I craved a spray from a hose somewhere on that stretch. Mile 5 ends as it’s starting to dip down. My slowest mile: 7:24 – way surpassing my expectations.

I came abreast of the woman I’d been yo-yo pacing off of as we screamed down the exit ramp and I gave her a smile. “You’re keeping me honest!” She replied, “That’s a nice thing to say!” We chatted a little and then fell into silence as the road flattened and the pace got harder again. I dropped her at some point, but it was only for her that I was able to go this fast. I told myself to be patient, praying I didn’t implode, as I hit mile 6 in 6:34 – the fastest mile I have ever clocked (I really need to do a mile time trial at some point).

The last 0.2 comes around a sharp curve and is deceptively long. I switched to a different power song as I noticed a blonde ponytail ahead of me that seemed familiar. I pulled it closer and closer until I was right next to Danielle, giving her a smile and a wave, her giving me a “get it, girl!” and a big grin of her own. I was sprinting. I was hurting.

finalpush1 finalpush2

I tried to find another gear, and just as I was clicking into it, I came up behind a couple of runners who weren’t sprinting as fast. I didn’t have it in me to go around them, instead adjusting course very slightly and pulling up a tiny bit, still cruising in hard at about  6:07 pace to the finish.

finish2 finish3 finish4 finish5

Chip time: 44:02 (7:05 pace) – new PR*** (21:52 second 5K)

Danielle and I found each other after the finish, congratulating each other and talking for a few minutes about our recent races and upcoming marathons. I also found the woman I’d been pacing off of and gave her a smile, handshake, and thank you. Really cool woman, and so friggin’ fast! We also bumped into Rachel and Tess’ friend Steven, and when Tess and Ellen also found us, filled up on water, Gatorade, bagels, bananas, and Smiley Cookies, we headed back to my car and NF, Tess, Steven, Ellen, and I drove back into Shadyside to get some snacks and libations at Mad Mex, before NF and I went to another friend’s place for pumpkin pancakes and candied bacon (seriously). So stuffed!

Now we’re in the middle of peak week – the most miles, the longest tempo (which may or may not be a tempo, tune in in a few days for more on that), and the second 20 miler. And of course, this was the perfect time for me to come down with a head cold. No matter – I’ve been working from home, and dosing myself up with copious fluids and lots of sleep (aided by Nyquil). I’ll kick this thing!

MCM Training Week 10: The Big 2-0 (part one)

The miles are really piling up now – and as is the rest of my life. In fact, I have a race this week, and a million billion things to do, so let’s make this short and sweet!

Last week called for a LOT of shuffling. Here was the original schedule:

Monday: cross-train

Tuesday: 7 miles easy

Wednesday: cross-train

Thursday: 9 miles speedwork

Friday: 4 miles easy

Saturday: rest

Sunday: 20 miles

But there was one MAJOR kink – Yom Kippur, a Jewish fast holiday, began Friday evening and lasted through Saturday night. So here’s how it all went down.

Monday

The boy and I went on a really beautiful, super-early 7-miler since he had an early morning commitment. We could definitely feel Saturday’s 18-miler in our legs, but it was a pretty great run: uphill first half, cruising downhill second half. I brought music along, but never turned it on, just enjoying early morning quiet and the great company.

Tuesday

We hit the track for a grueling mile repeat workout – 5×1600. And of course these were the days summer decided to rear its ugly head. It was in the low 70s and brutally humid, to the point that when I stopped after the third repeat to down a gel and get a few sips of water, I did want I detest (because it makes me self-conscious, I know people have strong feelings about this) – I stripped off my singlet and ran just in a sports bra. So worth it – cooled me a good couple degrees. I completely nailed this workout though, despite the conditions. My first for repeats all hovered around 7:13, and just a shade under 7 minutes for the fifth one. It felt really hard, but also manageable. The planned gel/water break after the third repeat helped me mentally break it up so I never quit.

After work I had my 5:30 Pilates class – with only three of us regulars there, so she took us through an advanced class. Obliques: shredded.

Wednesday

NF and I both headed to my gym – he lifted while I was at spin, and I later joined him and did a squat series and a few more leg exercises. We wrapped it up with a core workout and a quick coffee date before we started our work days.

And then I got to work and realized I had forgot my packed lunch and breakfast at home (but remembered to make sure the boy had his lunch). So I ran to the Starbucks at Target next door to the office and got a pumpkin cream cheese muffin. NECESSARY.

Thursday

Two days in a row of cross-training? Okay! I got a late start but got in almost an hour of lifting – all arms, and a little core, and ended on some stretching and foam rolling to try to loosen up my sore legs.

Friday

I had taken the day off of work for the long run. We woke up at 5, ate our oatmeal, and I ran around the apartment like a chicken with my had cut off, not sure where my armband was (found it hours later), or my handheld (found it), or my brain/sanity (still at-large).

Dark start, but the sky lightened up quickly when we got going.

We got started a little late, but drove out to Montour and were running by about 6:40 or so. It was cool but humid, and we were guzzling water pretty quickly. We did a 10 mile out-and-back that was about 8 miles of a long, slow climb, a little dip, and then turn around and do all that in reverse. We refilled our bottles twice, and NF went dry the last couple miles. He was struggling a bit – we think he may have something metabolic going on, possibly an iron deficiency – but we got through, and even made it the full 20 miles in under 3 hours! Not that you need time goals on long runs, but very encouraging for my sub-4 marathon goal.

We hurried home and got cleaned up, and then it was Mission: Eat All The Food, especially since I was staring down the barrel of a full day fast. I wasn’t dumb enough to think I could really manage it (a Jewish fast is hardcore – no eating or drinking, not even water, but I planned on drinking water and not being a moron about the fact that I just ran 20). Lucky for me, my appetite showed up right away! This NEVER HAPPENS with these high double-digit runs. Like a good Jew, I gobbled up a lox-and-bagel sandwich. And sweet potato fries, because reasons.

NF went off to start his day while I did laundry and packed and then made the drive to Cleveland to spend the holiday with my dad. I stopped at a service plaza and tried out a Panera “supersmoothie” (not bad) and for our last meal, we had steak, baked potatoes, grilled veggies, and salad. And a glass of wine (probably not the wisest).

Now, I do NOT recommend running 20 miles and trying to fast the next day. That being said, I was VERY hydrated – I drank a ton of fluids on Friday before, during, and after the run, and had no hydration issues early in the day. I downed 16 oz of water when I woke up Saturday morning. By 3 pm when we got home from 6 hours in services, I had a protein bar to try to relieve my splitting headache, and some more water. Then I napped for 2 hours. By 5:30 lights hurt my eyes and I just wanted food NOW. I probably should have eaten more, but it was manageable. We had classic breakfast foods (bagels and lox again!) for the break fast meal at a relative’s house, and I made sure to have a clif bar as well as a gel before I ran on Sunday – for easy miles that felt fine but I really just wanted to be done with.

Oh, um, and you know how I said I did laundry Friday before I left? I hang dry my running gear, so none of it was ready. So I was left with this outfit:

Bright yellow Pittsburgh half shirt, violet melange rogas, and purple ProCompression socks – COORDINATION.

Week 10 complete.

Now – cutback! It’s also a mini-taper, since the USAF Half is on Saturday! I have lots of plans for this week, but mostly it’s about 1.) eating clean, 2.) carbo-loading, 3.) sleeping a LOT, and 4.) stretching and foam rolling every night before bed.

And I have a buddy helping me out with the last one. 🙂

 

MCM Training Week 9: Monster Month Commence

This week was the start of the really high mileage. As if my legs hadn’t already been feeling it. Fortunately for me, my Seattle high seems to have bled into this week. I already talked about my run on Monday – technically part of this training week – but  we can skip ahead. I got back from Seattle late Tuesday night, and optimistically set my alarm for 5:30.

Hit snooze until 6 a.m. Reset it for 7:30 and curled back up with my man. Then after a couple more snoozes, awoke with start at 8:13. Oops. Had to leave for work in 17 minutes! Here comes the wash-face-throw-hair-in-French-braid-lots-of-deodorant runner bath comes in. Oh well! But when I got home from work, I decided to take advantage of the 75* and sunny weather and run wherever I felt like. In a shirt that may or may not have actually been clean. Whatever – Oiselle fly style never stinks! So far.

I ended up running up to Highland Park and zig-zagging back for a quite random 4.75 mile run (on the nose, too), which left me with 2.75 easy miles to tack on later on the week. No biggie! My main concern was the fact that I had a tempo run the next day – 8 miles with 6 at tempo pace – and the run to Highland had been a little speedy at points for an easy run (though still felt easy).

And then I rewarded myself with a little post-run treat that was leftover from NF’s bachelor party. Chocolate chip bacon muffin/cupcake-thing? YES PLEASE.

My runger never judges me for my post-run cravings.

NF has been dealing with some feelings of burnout, I think mostly related to his stress outside of running, so he decided to stick with me on the tempo. My goal paces this season have been 7:30-7:45, but my overly competitive self has been demanding the faster end of things, even when I try to ignore the watch, so I told him that I was going to aim for 7:40s and ignore the watch as much as possible, and just try to enjoy it.

Then this happened:

mcm-week-9-tempo

NF’s Garmin clocked faster splits – probably due to both our watches going Haywire in Oakland with all the buildings. Mine usually clocks fast around there, like his, but this time it clocked slow, so we were pretty far off each other near the end. No big, just interesting. Either way, I nailed this. I felt really relaxed and in control throughout most of the run. I didn’t even want to hit lights, which I usually do when I’m suffering – the only exception was in Bloomfield after climbing Millvale, cause it gets a little gnarly, but other than that I just wanted to keep on cruising. NF was starting to flag near the end, but punched it back up to the point that I was struggling to keep up with him in the last 1/3 of a mile or so of tempo. I think it was a little mental break he needed, and having him there to pace me and distract me was a huge help in getting me a successful, confidence-boosting tempo run: one without any quitting.

Friday I did a little out-and-back to wrap up my easy miles for the week. We had a new problem, too: I was about to run four days in a row. Not a huge deal, but not something my body always responds well to. The travel had messed with my schedule, and on Saturday it turned out we had two sets of plans: a wine tasting in Saxonburg in the early afternoon, and a friend’s birthday party in the evening – all with plenty of alcohol and junk food. So we moved the long run to Saturday morning, treating ourselves to a Friday night sushi date night (our other pre-long run favorite. The light fish and rice seem to serve us well).

We got up at 5:30 and had our oatmeal and last minute fluids and then took forever to get out the door – it was probably 6:50 when we were finally ready to run and outside (had been aiming for 6:30). Oh well.

Can we talk about the fact that it was an absolutely perfect morning?

Hello, autumn!

I had to stop and take a few shots from the 40th Street Bridge – with the fog rolling in and the regatta stating their morning early as well. Wonder why anyone would get up so darn early to run? Look no further.

The first six miles flew by – we ran on North Side and crossed at Roberto Clemente, passing through Point State Park for a water fill-up (though we hadn’t been drinking a ton since it was so darn cool out). Then across Fort Pitt to Southside. Things got a little bleh for a while – it’s that point where you feel just how many more miles you have to go. And while still pleasantly cool, we were running into the sun for several miles. Soon enough, we were near REI where we picked up Devin and slowed down to get him through a 7.3ish mile long run. I spent the whole run chatting with the guys, and didn’t turn on my music until the last mile.

We headed across Hot Metal after an out-and-back to get the right distance, and got more water at the trailhead for Eliza Furnace, and crossed the tracks. This time I DIDN’T fall on my ass. VICTORY.

We slogged up the hill and I decided to stick with them until the very last mile. We had originally planned to do the last two at half-marathon goal pace, but since NF was still recovering (and doing awesome) and this was my first 18 of the cycle after the stubbed toe incident, I decided to hold out a bit longer. Just as we were heading down Morewood, I kicked in and played a couple power songs, clicking off a 7:39 mile that felt – not easy – but cruising until maybe the last quarter mile (the downhill at the beginning of it may have helped just a tad).

And what did I come home to after the long run? A delivery from Brooks Running! An awesome Hanson singlet signed by Desiree Davila!

Thanks, Brooks!

A great end to a great training week! And the fun is just beginning. Last week was the definitive start of Monster Month – which is both revered and feared by marathoners for its weeks of high mileage, long tempos and speedwork sessions, and near constant fatigue. So far I feel pretty good – my recovery run today felt decent, even if I could feel the 18-miler in my legs. This week we run our first 20 miler, then it’s a cutback week/mini-taper before our tune-up, the Air Force Half-marathon. Then two more weeks of build (and oh, how gnarly those two weeks are…) and then the taper hits! It’s flying by, but I know in a couple weeks my legs will be begging for mercy.

Until then, bring on the high mileage!

MCM Training Week 8(+): Hello, Seattle!

Last week was a recovery week, and it was a very good thing it was, since I was hardly at home at all. I did some run-juggling, and got some bonus miles in, and had a solid overall training week! The only thing missing was pretty much any cross-training. At all, whatsoever – womp womp. Win some, lose some.

As you may recall from last week’s post, I managed to slam my toe against the bed the evening before an 18-miler, and had to bag said 18-miler less than a mile in. Well, I made the right choice, and bounced back fast. Early last week, I was in my hometown in Cleveland, Ohio, so I could catch my brother, sister-in-law, and cute-as-a-button four-month-old nephew, who were passing through town after a wedding. I arrived Sunday evenign in advance of their Monday arrival. The 5 a.m. alarm was a bit cruel, but I knew I wanted to get started working as early as possible (I couldn’t afford the time off so I worked remotely) and get in as many hours as I could before their arrival. And 5:30 a.m. run start means one thing – visibility!

Be seen!

Yeah, I tend to wear it over a hat regardless, which – yeah – causes a shadow, but prevents annoying headlamp bouncing. I have another, better headlamp but have yet to find it since the move (it’s…somewhere. I swear it is). I was still a bit wary of my toe – which was still taped, and by Sunday night was visibly black and blue, but it felt fine to walk on and I figured I’d cancel the run a the first sign of trouble. Ran an old standby 3-mile route in my mom’s neighborhood, and had no issues! The dark had the added effect of slowing me down, since night vision always seems to make you go faster than you think you are, and I kept trying to slow down. Perfect for a recovery week.

Being in Ohio led to other temptations though, like craving my hometown(ish) pizza. Which I caved to. No picture – I wolfed it down. Worth it.

Tuesday morning I decided to squeeze in my 5 miler, a little less in the dark but still pretty dark – 5:30 wake-up. I ran past my old high school on a familiar route (gotta love being home and remembering your old loops) which was pretty quiet since it was maybe like 6:20ish when I passed it. Had a cop look at me funny as I ran past the front office on the sidewalk, but otherwise it was uneventful, and still at a perfect recovery pace.

Wednesday I thought about getting in another quick run, but sleep won out after two days of too much work, not enough sleep, and being wiped out from hanging with family (not complaining. I mean – THIS FACE). I headed back to the ‘Burgh that night, sleeping in the next morning but heading out for a 6 mile easy run on Friday on a really pretty morning. NF was rocking his 12 miler head of his bachelor weekend, so we got the first mile together before splitting off. I pretty much kicked this run’s ass, despite being all uphill the first half, and aided by the downhill second half. It was a good way to start my last real Friday of summer, working a half day before heading to the airport to journey to SEATTLE!!

Brooks and Oiselle – you guys are going to your homeland!

I wanted to pack light, so opted for just my Brooks Launch, which are still – far and away – my favorite shoe, especially for speedier stuff, but holding up great over distance, including 26.2 I got a long weekend’s worth of stuff – including 3 full running outfits – into an overnight case and a backpack. BAM.

Fuel for the weekend! Clif bars for snacking, Nuun for hydrating, Gu for pre- and mid-run fuel.

After my two-hop journey, I landed in Seattle around 11:30 and was picked up by my college bestie and run buddy, Abby, whom I had not seen since graduation (because I am the Worst Ever). We were instantly psyched to see each other but also pretty exhausted, so we crashed pretty hard that night, and were woken by the sun around 8ish. First item on the agenda – fun run! We did a 4ish mile loop of hers – nice and easy – through an arboretum near her Capital Hill digs. She’s bouncing back from a hip stress fracture and tendinitis, and these were bonus miles for me, so we were quite content to enjoy the sights and each other’s company and not give an ounce about our pace. It was an exquisite morning – sunny, breezy, and I think in the low 60s. Pretty typical Seattle summer weather, evidently. Zero complaints here!

Post-run selfie in Oiselle Winona tank and roga shorts!

We then walked our feet off all over Seattle to the point where I had to don compression sleeves to ease my cramping shins.  Phew! I unfortunately didn’t document all the legit post-run fueling we did (read: total food bombs) but we did have an awesome brunch at Skillet Diner – scarfed down the most amazing Breakfast sammies ever. And how cute is this joint?

I was generally impressed with this city’s ability to cater to restaurant patrons’ food needs. I’m sure it’s mostly catering the veg/vegan/gluten-free-diet-plzkthx folks, but Abby can’t eat lactose (gives her migraines) and not only were they thorough in making sure she didn’t have any, including swapping out the brioche on her sandwich, but gave stellar suggestions of good replacements. Two thumbs up.

We also got some ginger beer. Overly sweet so we should have shared, but still pretty great.

Sunday morning was long run day – I had a 12-mile run scheduled with 4 miles at half-marathon goal pace (8:00-8:15). Since Abby’s still ramping back up, we figured we’d run the start together, she would walk or hang out during my race pace miles, and we’d run back together (doing an out and back path, natch). I figured I’d bring my iPod for the race pace miles and just keep my headphones in my pocket til I needed them. Then I tried to turn my iPod on – “please connect to power.” D’OH. No music motivation. I was a little nervous at this point, but figured I’d get in the miles and have fun, regardless of whether I could nail race pace.

First off, Abby lives on a massive hill, so both our runs from her place started off running down this monster:

After that, we had a short but steep climb, followed by a long downhill along Madrona with a stunning view. I didn’t take any shots from up there, unfortunately, but trust me – it was gorgeous.

We did I think the first 3.6ish miles together before her hip started barking at her and she wisely backed off to a walk. We’d been going pretty easy and enjoying the views that I wondered at my ability to pick it up, especially without the aid of music. I figured I’d give it a shot, at least pick up the pace a tad, and just enjoy myself. I hit 4 miles and just eased into it. What happened next shocked me.

Talk about a Rave Run

I began the first race pace mile in the low 8:30s – not great, but not bad. I figured I’d just roll with it and enjoy myself. But as the views whizzed by, and other runners and walkers and cyclists passed by with waves and smiles, things started to click. I got through the first two miles in 8:13 and 8:11, respectively – it felt hard, but doable. I stopped at the turnaround to snap some photos and soak up the scenery, then eased back in… and threw down the hammer.

Just had to stop during one of the last race pace miles to get this shot.

I wrapped up the race pace miles in 7:57 and 7:54 and felt on top of the world. I waited for Abby at that point, but she told me to go ahead and I hopped back into easy pace, ending VERY easy getting up those gnarly hills. Here’s the elevation chart for an idea of what I was contending with. I kind of loved it though.

seattle LR elevation

Foam roll love – my IT bands were especially hankering for it!

Abby and I scarfed down a quick breakfast – peanut butter toast for both of us, bananas, apple slices, and Greek yogurt with honey between the two of us – showered up, and headed to the Honey Hole to pick up sandwiches and hang out at Green Lake for a picnic and a walk. My legs were getting some serious love! We also stopped by Super Jock ‘n Jill – where I drooled over some pretty new Oiselle threads, but resisted buying (for now).

Lots of SUP action on Green Lake

We also found some time later in the day – between exploring and taking in some gorgeous views – to refuel with some ice cream at Molly Moon’s.

Monday morning we headed to Seward Park, which I had fallen maybe like a half mile short at the long run turnaround. And MAN what views! It’s hard to tell where the clouds end and where Mt. Rainier begins!

We walked a loop of the park – a little shy of 2.5 miles – before I decided my legs felt good enough for a run, and I really wanted to cruise along and see the sights that way. It’s funny how different things can seem walking versus running, and it’s great to see it both ways.

Abby snuck this shot of me as I took off on my run loop 🙂
What did I say about those views? Mid-run shot.

Still in our semi-sweaty clothes, we caught some scrambles at Both Ways Cafe – a great, quirky little hole-in-the-wall type place, before we decided to crash for the afternoon and do things like laundry and pack before cooking a delectable and super-clean dinner. With, um, beer. Duh.

Baked yams, sauteed onions, red bell peppers, and garlic, quinoa, mixed greens, and harvest tomatoes (feta sprinkled on for me) – and Deschutes Twilight summer ale

So, yeah, this definitely bled into week 9, but it was necessary! My love affair with running got a major boost this weekend, and I fell completely head-over-heels in run-love (and everything else-love) for Seattle. May have to move there someday… just maybe…

Bye-bye Seattle – beautiful, rainy day departure. I’ll try not to stay away long.