Friday, May 26, 2017

Things I Learned this Training Cycle

This past training cycle was the first I've taken seriously since training for the Bemidji Marathon in 2014. I've created many training programs between now and then, but haven't bothered to follow them, and/or the act of creating one was fun and satisfied the itch of thinking about training for something, and then opting not to.

I wanted to take a minute to reflect back on this training cycle to jot down some things that I learned over the past 12 (or 20, if you include the base building session) week training cycle.
  1. Running buddies are the best. This is the first training cycle where I have embraced running with friends. I've always been a solo runner. Even when I started with the running group, I was the slow one who brought up the rear on my own. When I met Toni last summer, she was a LOT faster than me. She wanted to be my running buddy, but I didn't want to slow her down. After explaining to her just how slow I was for weeks and weeks, I finally agreed to run with her. Fully expecting her to ditch me as a running buddy after she realized just how slow I was running. But she didn't! She needed a buddy to get her out the door, and I just needed a buddy. The rest is history. From our running friendship, others were born. I met other runners near my pace, and did many long runs with a small group of ladies. If I wasn't feeling up for a run, I would reach out to someone to run with me to help hold me accountable. It made all the difference in the world.
  2. Base building works. I love speed work. I love running fast, and I love getting faster. During periods I wasn't training, I would create a plan and only be excited about the speed sessions during the week. Most of the training programs I followed previously included some easy miles, one interval or tempo session a week and one long run. The training plan I followed this time spent a lot of time creating a base of long slow miles, building up to mid-30s before adding in any legit speed work. There were some runs with portions at lactate threshold to get the legs moving, but most of the specific speed work that we did on a track didn't start until 4 weeks out from race day. And shocker: I didn't get injured at all, because I spent the time building my base. Who would've thought?! Also my legs recovered very well from the speed sessions, and the long runs for that matter.
  3. Mid-week long runs are my fave. Throughout training there would be 6 or 8 or 10 miles in the middle of the week. These would be at a general aerobic pace, again building up that endurance base (which is what I need as a runner with better faster running capabilities than endurance capabilities) and they were a blast. It felt so BA to be running 8-10 miles on a Monday or a Thursday throughout training. While there were a few long runs that got missed during this cycle for various reasons, I know these extra mini-long runs helped immensely.
  4. I loved the half marathon specific speed workouts of this cycle. In past cycles, training programs have had mile repeats and 800 meter repeats. I hated the mile repeats (so hard) and loved the 800 meter repeats, but I'm learning that repeats at that speed don't translate as well to specific half marathon training. This cycle had us doing 1000m repeats at 3k-5k pace, some ladders of 1200, 800, 600 x 2, and other workouts that shook things up a bit. It was a welcomed  change. They always felt challenging but doable. And I left the track feeling incredibly strong after each workout. 

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Long Run Pace

I confess: I used to run my long runs way too fast. I did every long run as hard/fast as I could with the thought process that running that pace during my long run meant I would be capable of running that pace for a race. I did this for several half marathons and even my first marathon (still my best marathon time, but let's ignore that for now).

This past training cycle, my long run pace ranged from 10:30-10:50. There was one magical unicorn long run day where our easy long run pace was 10:18, and one long run with a workout in it (a couple of miles at LT at the end of the run) that had us running right around a 10 minute pace. Yet my pace for the Brookings half marathon was a 9:33. 60-80 seconds per mile faster than my long run paces.

Since I started running distance back in 2005 (uff da, that's forever ago!) I've read a lot of books and articles about endurance training principles. What can I say, I'm a nerd and want to learn whatever I can about what I'm passionate about! One of the principles that resonated most with me is heart rate training, which is essentially training your heart to work more efficiently while you run. By running slower you are able to increase efficiency, so over time, you are capable of running faster without running harder. It's not any fun at ALL to start heart rating training, because you have to slow down. A LOT. To keep your heart rate in the correct zones for the various types of training runs. But once you dedicate some time and effort to it, it's awesome to see the benefits.

I think so many runners would benefit from slowing down their long runs, reaping the heart rate benefits and establishing time on their feet. An occasional faster finish, or a long run with a couple of minutes of pick ups throughout once a month is fine, but when we essentially "race" our long runs, not only are we not getting the endurance benefits from the training run, but we're also causing our legs to have to recover as if they've raced every weekend that we run long. And then we're also asking our legs to run hard and fast during a speed session during the week as well.

I spent a lot of time this winter base building aka a lot of slow mileage. Eight week of dedicated base building before I started a training plan and then an additional 4 weeks of base building within the training program. To say that I was ready to have some workouts when week one million hit, would be an understatement. But I found that the 12 weeks of base building really helped to lower my "easy" pace on runs, without doing anything but keeping my heart rate in the correct zone when I was running. And once our workouts started, I was continually surprised at how I was capable of hitting paces that were so much faster than what I was training at, and my legs were recovering well and quickly from the runs. It's almost... as if it's magic! Or science. Definitely one of the two.

If anyone wants some heart rate training reads, I would suggest either of Pete Pfitzinger's books. I also have an awesome 21 page document that someone sent me forever and ever ago, and it's super insightful and written in a very easy to digest way (despite it's length). I'm a convert, and I think others should be too!

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Brookings Half Recovery Week

Week of May 15-21

Monday: I was finally able to take a cycling class at the new yoga and cycling studio in town. I was super excited, but planned to take it fairly easy since I was recovering from the race. 45 minutes flew by.

Tuesday: 60 minutes of POWER. I had wanted to do another cycling class, but I was pooped after POWER so I didn't.

Wednesday: 4 miles at the group run. My left knee didn't feel good before the run, I had a lot of pressure behind my knee cap. It didn't bother me during the run, but teaching yoga after the run was a challenge. I realized on my drive home from yoga that I hadn't foam rolled since Sunday so I remedied that when I got home.

Thursday: Rest and more foam rolling + stick. Left knee was really sore, couldn't extend it all the way.

Friday: See above. Grrr.

Saturday: I taught a 60 minute yoga class at the brewery. My knee was feeling better, but still not 100%. When it hurts to kneel and do cat/cow, it's probably not a good sign. I foam rolled a LOT after class and took an epsom salt bath.

Sunday: Another cycling class. So much fun, and I felt recovered enough to push myself more than Monday's class.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Weekly Reads: Literally

I was really excited to pick up Literallyespecially after it was compared to the movie Stranger Than Fiction. It was a really fast read and I was excited to see how it would finish up, but I was slightly underwhelmed with the ending.

My rating: 3.5 stars

Goodreads Summary:

A girl realizes her life is being written for her in this unique, smart love story that is Stranger Than Fiction for fans of Stephanie Perkins.

Annabelle’s life has always been Perfect with a capital P. Then bestselling young adult author Lucy Keating announces that she’s writing a new novel—and Annabelle is the heroine. 

It turns out, Annabelle is a character that Lucy Keating created. And Lucy has a plan for her. 

But Annabelle doesn’t want to live a life where everything she does is already plotted out. Will she find a way to write her own story—or will Lucy Keating have the last word? 

The real Lucy Keating’s delightful contemporary romance blurs the line between reality and fiction, and is the perfect follow-up for readers who loved her debut Dreamology, which SLJ called, “a sweet, quirky romance with appealing characters.”

Monday, May 22, 2017

Grandmas Marathon

Last Wednesday, I may have temporarily lost my damn mind. I was feeling wistful about my winter/spring training cycle and feeling a little bummed with how my race turned out. That led to my brain thinking about 26.2 miles and considering Grandma's Marathon in 2018. I went on to the website to see when the race was in 2018, and realized that 2017 wasn't yet sold out.



[insert gears starting to turn here]

If my legs recovered from this half, asap, I could squeeze in two long-long runs and a taper to do Grandma's. My training for the Brookings Half was really strong, with consistent weekly mileage, and mid-week long runs. At one point, Toni and I were on a run and I told her the only difference between our training and marathon training was that our long runs were 2 hours on the weekend instead of three. Hmmm.....

I sent a text message to Toni expecting her to jump right in. AND SHE SAID NO.


This was unexpected. She's gone along with all of my crazy hair-brained ideas for the past six months, and is even on board with my insane 3 year running plan for us. No?! I'm sorry, I'm unsure what that word means.

[It should be noted that at mile 11 of Brookings, I thought, VERY LOUDLY, as thoughts often are during a run/race, that I was SO THANKFUL that I wasn't running 26.2 miles.]

We went for our run, my first since the half, and my left knee hurt. I mentioned to Kyle that I was considering running a marathon in a month, and he said no (to be clear, I never listen to him and his opinions, but it was worth noting, I suppose), and I'm scheduled to work that weekend. All signs point to no.... I think.

I think I'm just bummed that I didn't hit the time I feel like I was capable of for Brookings, and wanted to use my training for another goal. I should be (and am) excited about taking 11 minutes off of my time from 2016 to 2017 on the Brookings course, AND that's in 20 degrees warmer. It's also 4 minutes faster than my half in October on a much cooler day as well.

The next time I toe the line for a 26.2 mile race, I will do so with the confidence and training to back up a PR marathon effort. So I just need to remember that every mile between now and then helps to work toward that goal.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Brookings Half Celebration

After the race, Toni and I stuck around to chat with other runners, cheer people on, and most importantly, get our free Nick's hamburgers. Little bite sized bits of heaven, those burgers are. And free to runners, but runners must wait until 10:30am to get said delicious bites of heaven. Thank goodness Toni had sunscreen or I'd be a lobster. We cheered on some fellow runners, I caught up with my friend Megan who was doing the marathon relay with her Crossfit friends and eventually we made lunch plans. Nick's burgers were just an appetizer if you will.

We went to Cubby's for our lunch (or would you consider it breakfast at 11:20am?). And I ordered a beer immediately. Also a lemon water, because I was still so. darn. thirsty. All the thirst lives inside of me. I took my obligatory post-race beer + medal picture and enjoyed the heck out of my Surly Furious. Mmmmm.

I couldn't decide what to order, so I ordered as if I had ran 26.2 miles instead of 13.1. Oops. Waffle fries + buffalo chicken nachos. Hello lovers. I ate and ate and ate and ate, and then I was full. And it looked like I hadn't eaten anything. I had so much leftovers, that I needed assistance carrying it to my car once we got to Toni's. Yay dinner!

After dinner, we made a quick stop at the delicious coffee shop in Brookings so I didn't fall asleep in the middle of the drive home (Toni was driving, so no worries about my GIANT surly beer consumption), no one likes a passed out co-pilot!

I quickly realized that Megan and I hadn't yet taken a photo! So we snapped one quickly before we said goodbye. I seriously have the best friends. :)

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Race Report: Brookings Half Marathon

The entire week (3 weeks, if we're being honest) leading up to the Brookings half, I was obsessively stalking the weather. It went from 40 at the start, to 42, to 45, to 50, finally landing on 59 degrees on race morning. Where is my crisp perfect spring morning? Why did summer come so abruptly?! Rude. I had a million race goal plans running through my head, but I was throwing any plans out the window. Including my warm up mile if my legs felt good. Why hold, back?! Let em fly. Spoiler alert: they didn't want to fly.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. I woke up at 3:30am because I can never sleep before races. I made myself close my eyes until 3:50 and then toodled around the interwebz until my alarm went off at 4:20. Ollie was very confused as to why she was being woken up so early, but then her early wake up time included BREAKFAST so she was pumped. And then sleepy. I met up with Toni at 4:50 and we were on our way north. We were in Brookings in no time, I swear the trip felt like it lasted 10 minutes. We made our way to packet pick up quickly, pinned on our bibs, did our glute activation drills (fun fact: my computer always wants to right flute activation which makes me giggle. I'm way better at the flute than my glutes, sadly), and then jumped in the bathroom line before we lined up for our SFWR race photo.

I had a dream a few weeks ago that we did a rainbow color coordinated race photo, so I threw the idea out on Facebook sometime this week, and it stuck. And everyone just lined up in perfect rainbow order. And my dreams came true. Literally. These girls are amazing. Seriously. I feel like the luckiest person in the world to have such an awesome running family and these are just a SMALL portion of the group. Insane.

I got in one more quick trip to the bathroom and it was time to start! I found my friend Sarah who had a similar time goal to me, and we were off. And we immediately lost each other. Because I always run way over in this race, I wanted to use my knowledge to the best of my ability and knew the first 3 turns were all to the left, so I found an opening and just went. Apparently I lost my buddy. And then she caught up and blew by me. Bye Buddy. :(

Right out of the gate, my legs felt like garbage. Super heavy and sluggish. I didn't get my shake out run in on Friday in favor of extra sleep because I knew Saturday morning would be an early one. I was maybe regretting that decision. My legs continued to feel really heavy with zero pep through mile 3. Uff. I kept telling myself that these heavy legs were still running a way faster pace than any half I've done recently, so if I was going to have a ho-hum day, we were still going to make the best of it! I took my first GU at mile 2 because my stomach kind of hated me (per usual) and I thought I could use some extra fuel sooner than normal.

Mile 1 9:47
Mile 2 9:37
Mile 3 9:44

During mile 3 there was a slow incline (that felt super hard, again super heavy legs) but when we were coming down the other side, my legs felt like brand new. WTH?! I'm not sure if they needed a warm up, or if the incline did something for my glutes but I was back in business. I had a lot of fun picking up my pace, and I ran by Kyle's mom so many times during this stretch! She seriously gets a gold star for spectating this race!

I carried my handheld because I knew the temps were going to be roasty, and I thought I could save myself some time (and tangent overage) by carrying a bottle and skipping the water stops. This was really nice, and I'm glad I did. I took a salt tab around 45 minutes. Somewhere around mile 5 or 6 I started getting a weird pain in my neck on the left side, and I suspected that the handheld was to blame. I took my second GU at mile 6. I found my mother in law shortly after this and tossed the water bottle to her. Correction: I know her son's abilities to catch (abysmal) so I shouted that I was going to toss it in the grass next to her, I didn't want to injure her as her Mother's Day gift. :P

Mile 4 9:16
Mile 5 9:17
Mile 6 9:24

Right around the halfway point I glanced at my watch and I was around 1:01:47 which was pretty spot on for my 2:02. Wahoo! I knew that I could run faster than my first 3 miles so I had it in the bag! Lolz. I started to feel really tired during mile 8. The sun was beating down on me, and I knew we were running a slow long uphill, but it just felt super duper hard. I usually like to start my "kick" with five miles to go, so it was a little disheartening to post a slower mile. The next mile was a slight downhill so I enjoyed that one and my legs felt back to life. There was also a beautiful beautiful breeze. Ahhhh.
Mile 7 9:21
Mile 8 9:40
Mile 9 9:32

The "big" hill (read: only hill) of the race is during mile 10. As I was turning into the park with the hill, Miley Cyrus came on my playlist: Party in the USA. Backstory: in my yoga classes, we do navasana/boat pose in every class. Well like 97% of them. I like to crank up an obnoxious song and we hold boat post for 5 long slow breaths, and for 5 sets. Lately I've been sharing my mantra that has stemmed from something one of my teachers shared in a class which is that we are meant to do hard shit. Our bodies are BUILT to do hard things. So instead of being scared of that, or avoid hard things, DO them, knowing that that's what we're meant to do. So back to Miley. I am a shameless Miley fan, and one of her songs often ends up as our navasana song in class. So it was kismet that she came on at this part of the race. I'm not joking when I say the strength of my yogis launched me up that hill, but it truly felt like nbd. I was up and over before I knew it, and had to resist the urge to "throw my hands up, they're playing my song" as that portion of the song came on just as I crested the hill. Whoooo.

Alright, after that hill we had a little over 3.75 miles to go. I kept calculating my finishing pace based on a 9 minute mile, and hitting a 2:02. Perfect. But somehow that 9 minute pace failed to reach my legs. I reviewed my race reports from previous years of this race, and knew that miles 10 and 12 were slow uphills, and miles 11 and 13 were slow downhills. And none of the 4 miles were shaded. And the sun was beating down on us. As each remaining mile ticked down, I told myself that *this* would be the mile I would drop to a 9 pace, and it never happened. While this might come across as a failure, I don't think it is. Because a Jeri of a year and a half ago or even last year, would've started taking walk breaks knowing that the goal was slipping away. Why make it harder, right? Nope. We're meant to do hard shit, and it certainly felt hard, so I kept going. I took another salt tab around 90 minutes and my last GU at mile 10.

Mile 10 9:49
Mile 11 9:36

Mile 12 was the worst of the day, both in how it felt and my pace. I felt like we were running on the surface of the sun, I was so thirsty (whyyyyyy did I get rid of my handheld?!?! where are the water stops?!?). I knew we'd turn at some point and then the race would literally be "all down hill from here". I swear to god, I saw mirages of people turning left, and I would get up to that corner AND THE TURN WOULDN'T BE THERE. Gahhhh! There were so many people walking at this point but I just kept putting one foot in front of the other. I finally found a water stop by the volunteers seemed confused by my request for water, unclear if they only had Powerade, and my stomach was already on the verge of being unhappy so I figured I wouldn't risk it with a mile to go. So thirsty!

The last mile. Ahhh finally my downhill. I tried to pick it up the best I could. I kept trying to find that magical extra gear. The sun was still beating down on us, but it was at our backs, so it was doable. I set my sights on people in front of me, trying to will my feet to go faster to reel them in. At the 26 mile sign I looked down and saw I was close to running under 2:06 so I kicked it in to high gear. Or whatever high gear was left. Which according to my pace, was actually something. So yay.

Mile 12 9:55
Mile 13 9:18
.18 1:24 (7:51 pace, 6:57 max pace)

I finished 13.18 miles in 2:05:44 for a pace of 9:33.

My 30th half marathon, fastest half in 3 years and my 12th fastest overall!

So very thankful for my running buddy Toni, who I did 98% of my training with and has been a HUGE reason why running has been fun for me again. Seriously. I forgot that training for a race is the FUN PART. It's been awhile, since I've been able to say that. Years, probably.

And my other training partner Jordanne, who rocked her first EVER half despite not being sure if she could run it because her leg was being a jerk the week leading up to the race. Miles flyyyyy by with these ladies. Running therapy. Love them.