Monday, July 9, 2018

Go Time

This blog post has two parts to it - "Go Time" as it relates to my upcoming training, and "Go Time" regarding my husband's marathon journey and the start of his taper.

My marathon training technically starts today (with a rest day! Ha!). Twenty one weeks of intense training leading up to California International Marathon on December 2. The last few months I've been trying to maintain my fitness, gauge where I'm at, and prepare for the rigors of my most ambitious training cycle yet. These last two months have been especially great for me as I've been running purely for the love of it rather than because of some obligation I feel. Since May 1, I have run 300 miles.

Most of my miles have been easy pace, trying to build my base and my aerobic capacity, with a couple of days and a few miles per week of speed thrown in there to keep it interesting. With this summer being warmer than normal, being able to run easy without guilt has been vital to keep my head in the game. It's easy to feel overwhelmed by the heat and humidity and to dread each workout, but when you take the pressure of speed out of the equation and put the focus back on base building, that dread can virtually disappear. While it's certainly not as fun as running in cooler temps, I'm still finding a lot of joy in every mile that I'm out there. I honestly don't remember ever feeling this at ease during the summer months.

So what is my training going to look like? For Mississippi Gulf Coast and Louisiana last winter, I increased my volume and the percentage of easy miles run, while upping the intensity and pushing my limits during my hard effort runs. I religiously wore my heart rate monitor and tracked my improvement. I got my body into pretty darn good shape (for an almost-44 year old). The formula worked, and because I'm entering this training cycle ahead of where I was a year ago, I don't see any reason why I can't push my limits a bit more. More miles, longer tempo runs, more race pace simulation, while still taking rest and recovery very seriously and listening to my body and my head. I'm looking forward to honing in on more marathon specific training again. The last few months have been fun, but the focus will get tighter now.

But let's hear it for my husband! He just finished peak marathon training week with a 21 mile run yesterday and a 58 mile week. He's run over 270 miles since June 1! His race is on July 29 in Washington and he's as ready as he's ever going to be. He has done the work, shown me that the speed and endurance is there to meet his goal. This is his FIRST marathon, so he's entering uncharted territory on race day. I've run 14 marathons, some great ones and some truly horrendous ones so I know where his head will be on race day and throughout the marathon. I've tried to coach him to the best of my ability to not only prepare his body physically for the demands of 26.2 miles, but to prepare his head for the possibility of wanting to quit 20 miles into the race. He knows he's capable of completing the race in the time goal he's set for himself, and so hopefully with the mental training, his head won't sabotage him. The marathon can be a dirty beast sometimes, but it's not inevitable that one will hit the mental or physical wall. I have a lot of confidence my husband will become one hell of a marathoner on July 29.

I am so excited to go on this journey with him, and then to have him by my side cheering me on and supporting me as I begin my training for marathon #15.  Teamwork!!


Monday, June 18, 2018

Bring on the Heat

It's summer! This usually means misery for Central Texas runners and athletes. We don't get a break from warm and humid mornings and see pretty much nothing but 90s or 100s as the high temps day in and day out. There's really not any great time of day to exercise outdoors. This forces us to either acclimate to the heat or hate life for months and months.

Up until last year, I really despised running in the summer and refused to train for a marathon during these months. It was bad enough trying to train for January and February races since training would typically start in August when we would still have one or two months of heat. But last year I changed my attitude, changed my training, and sucked it up because I had a big goal and I didn't want anything to screw with that.

It worked! I actually had a great training cycle and the heat didn't screw with me nearly as bad as it has in previous years. I slowed it down, wore my heart rate monitor, mostly ran early in the morning before the sun would get too high in the sky, and added so much volume that my body had no choice but to get used to it.

My marathon training doesn't officially start until the middle of July, but I've been trying to maintain 4-5 days and 30 miles per week of running since May began. The temps before sunrise rarely dip below 75 and the humidity hovers over 80%. It's not exactly conducive to fast times and endurance training.



But I'm doing great! I can safely say that I haven't been horribly affected by the weather. Sure, it hurts more to hit my fast intervals and I haven't even tried to do a longer tempo run, and I slow it down during long runs, but I'm actually really enjoying running right now. Even after an hour or two out on my Sunday long runs, I'm finding myself still with energy and my breathing is totally under control. A couple weeks ago I planned to run 12 miles, but at my turnaround point I was feeling so good and was having a great run, so I decided to keep going and knocked out 14 miles instead. I'm pretty sure that's the longest June run I've ever had in my life and I finished it feeling accomplished and happy. I've also run a few 12 mile runs and am feeling great about those as well. Now, mind you, my pace is WAY over marathon pace, but I'm keeping my heart rate in the high 120s or low 130s, which is actually better than last year at this time. Solid Zone 1 and Zone 2 training, with Zone 3 typically only coming on uphill stretches. Not bad for 80 degrees and relentless sweating.




A part of me is definitely being inspired by my husband right now. He's smack in the middle of the hardest part of marathon training. It's his first marathon and he chose a July 29 race (don't worry, it's in Washington, NOT Texas!). He has two more 20+ mile training runs to complete and he's hanging in there, hitting paces on his hard effort days that I could only dream about. His strength and determination is definitely fueling my love of running and helping me to keep my volume base on a much higher summer level than normal. I'm enjoying sharing this time with him, that's for sure. I'm very thankful for this inspiration.

July 9 officially marks the start of my 21 week California International Marathon training plan. It's really not going to feel any different than how I'm running right now, at least in the first few weeks. I should be able to ease into the higher volume weeks without difficulty as long as I stay healthy. I'm on target to run 130 miles this month and I'm quite pleased with that number.

When you've found the winning formula, you've gotta stick with it!


Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Believe

Several months ago I used a quote in one of my blog posts about my training.

Be mindful of the deceptive paralysis that can take hold when you become intimidated by your increasingly faster paces.

If I had allowed myself to freak out over the pace I was running as I started my 5k on April 22, there's no way I would've ended up averaging 7:12 pace.

Okay, so it wasn't technically a 5K, because I am notorious for picking races that come up short. It's absolutely frustrating as I really have no idea what to call my PR. Most of my fastest "5Ks" have been on short courses. And some of them I didn't even wear my watch so I actually have no clue just how short they were. Going into yesterday's race I was calling my 5K PR 23:30 because that's how fast I ran a portion of my April 8 10K race and the fastest official 5K I have.

But I digress. I could've continued running 7 minute pace for 58 seconds to make it a full 5K. Maybe I should have after I collected my medal.

Back to my point.

In looking at last year's results, I saw that the winning female ran it in 23:27, so I had it in the back of my mind that perhaps I'd go for the win at this race. I forgot that half the race is run in a vineyard, weaving through several rows of vines. Probably not ideal for trying to win or to PR. But still, it depended on who showed up, but I knew based on this race's history that heck, maybe I could win it? It gave me something to shoot for. I also was hoping for a true legitimate 5K PR on a full 3.1 mile course.

Unfortunately, because apparently a full 3.1 mile course is just too much to ask for when I run 5K races, they had to change the course at the last minute. Heavy rain the night before caused the vines to become way too muddy, so they weren't going to let us run through them. They instead had the brilliant idea to have us do two loops of the road. Sounds ok, sure, but unfortunately it was pretty much a cluster.

On the positive side, I came in 3rd place female, 10th overall, and 1st in my age group. Freaking awesome run, that's for sure!

Before the race

Why does that dude have his hands in his pockets?

My plan was to stay as close to any female that was in front of me and hope that either I could overtake them or they'd bonk (I'm a horrible person). The leader got out in front quickly and was running exceptionally well. She also looked 16. There was also a lady right in front of me, probably about 10-15 seconds ahead, that I basically paced off of. I was running hard, and it was not at all comfortable, and my heartrate very quickly got up to 150. But I didn't want her to get too far ahead. So there I sat in 3rd place for that first loop. The first place girl looked to be getting at least a minute ahead of me.

My first mile came in at 7:16. I have never ever ever in my life ran a mile that fast to start a 5K race. It didn't feel like a 7:16. It felt like a 7:40. I did my absolute best to not completely freak myself out over this. Hence the importance of that quote above.

I'm so serious. This is the first loop.

As we came in to finish the first loop, we intersected with the rest of the runners and walkers (there were over 500 people so in the 10 minutes or so it took us to run that first loop they had barely gotten everyone through the start). It was an absolute shit show because nobody was telling us which side of the cones to run on, for the back of the pack to stay to one side, or anything. We were completely winging it. And even though there were about a dozen runners ahead of me flying past them, the majority of the walkers still took up the entire width of the road and were not moving an inch. The leaders were literally weaving through these participants. I actually got run off the road around a turn at one point because someone stepped directly in front of me. Once we got back into the neighborhood roads there was a bit more room to navigate but it was still a mess. Nobody was moving to one side. I had to yell "on your left" multiple times and hoped that these folks would understand that the runners on their second loop were coming through and we all needed to work together to make this a successful race.

In the meantime, the leading female seemed to possibly be slowing down, but the second place girl wasn't slowing down at all and I was still 10-15 seconds behind her. She was freaking killing it.

Mile 2 came in at 7:19, a little bit of a slowdown but not too bad considering the obstacle course.

The pain of the second loop

At this point I did realize the course would be short. We did the turnaround for loop 2 at just under 1.5 miles. I wasn't horribly bummed because I knew that although it wouldn't be an official 5K, I was still running my fastest 3-ish mile race I've ever run and it was a real kick to see if I could hold on for dear life or not. Chasing the second place girl was definitely pushing me to keep pace. She was not giving me an inch!

As we came in on the very last turn with about a 10th of a mile to go, and I continued to weave through people and run on the grass shoulder of the road (seriously, people still weren't moving to the right), I gave it everything I had to finish strong and maintain 3rd place female.

I crossed the line of my 2.96 mile race in 21:17 officially. 7:12 pace. My last mile was skirting sub-7 and I think I may have been able to dip below it had I been able to run for another .14 miles. But regardless I was pretty dang happy that I was 40 seconds per mile faster in this race than in my 10K from 2 weeks ago. Honestly didn't even think I'd run much faster than 7:30 pace. Didn't even think I could do that.

I may have been freaking out over my miles coming in so much faster than I thought they would, but somehow I was able to maintain it and even get faster during that last mile.

My ugly finish line face makes me laugh

So glad that is over

Ain't gonna lie, however, running zone 4 and 5 for all but 2 minutes of that run HURT LIKE A BITCH. Average heartrate was 160, just about the same as my 10K race on April 8. My Garmin was super happy with me because it added two points to my VO2 max, which had gone down a few points since my marathon. It's the little things that make me happy.


I love that they gave out bottles of wine to the age group winners

Greg took first in his half marathon (ahem...11.3 mile) race

April ended up being a really lazy month except for these races. I was in the gym strength training more consistently, but I was also sick for several days. I only ran 85 miles in April, my lowest mileage in a very long time. But in May, I have been able to run much more consistently. I should be well over 100 miles by the time June rolls around. This will set me up better when I start official marathon training in July. I'll be ready to up the intensity and volume safely. A part of me feels really guilty about this "laziness" but the smarter side of me knows that a break was good for me. It will help me be completely ready for the next marathon cycle. Going into it with these new PRs and newfound confidence in my speed is priceless to me. A year ago I couldn't even come close to running that pace.

However, I'm a little worried about a pain I've been having intermittently behind my right knee. I've never had pain there before, and I've been foam rolling, stretching, and doing trigger point above and below it in the hopes of finding the culprit, but no luck for the long term. Yesterday it didn't bug me, but today it did, so it's a little weird. I have an appointment with a doctor on Friday. I'm not messing with it and want it worked out.

I really am so ready to start official training!


Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Fix the Distance

I have a big frustration mounting and I'm trying to articulate my thoughts on it.

There's a disturbing trend in the racing world that is really hindering my desire to get back into triathlon and it's causing me to shy away from considering many running races.

RACE DISTANCE INACCURACY

Whatever happened to race distance accuracy? When I think about all the races I've run that have been inaccurate on the expected distance, it really surprises me. And it's mostly mistakes that cause the race to be short.



Frankly, if you post that your race is going to be a certain distance, I expect that race to be that distance. If you say it's a 5K, and it's really 2.9 miles but you charged me $35 to run this supposed 5K? Not cool. If you charge $120 for a half marathon but it ends up being 11.3 miles? That is REALLY not cool. If you put on an Ironman that can cost $800 to register for and the distance isn't 140.6 but more like 136? I can't even begin to describe the level of frustration that I feel on that one.

Yet this has been reality in countless races in the last few months.

With regards to a certified marathon, this is especially a huge deal. You simply CAN'T make a mistake on the distance of the race. In my case, it caused my Boston Qualifying time to be nullified and I had to try again. Considering I spent 8 months working towards that goal, making a mistake of a quarter mile was a big freaking deal.

Last weekend, several teammates and I ran in a half marathon and 5k race. My husband competed in the half marathon while I did the 5K. My goal was to PR this race and I knew I was totally capable of it. I have no idea what my 5K PR truly is because my three "fastest" times are on short courses. So while my results show me as having run a 22:40 and a 23:09, I know those were more around 3 miles and not 3.1 miles so I can't technically claim them. My fastest accurate 5K on record is 24:00, but I ran a 5K portion of my fastest 10K in 23:30. So basically it was time to erase all of that and bust out a true 5K PR on a 3.1 mile course.

Didn't happen. This race was at a winery and 1.6 miles of it was supposed to be in the vines. There was rain in the forecast for the 2 weeks leading up to the race, so the race organizers knew that there might be an issue with a the vines being too muddy to run. This isn't their first year....they know you can't run the vines if it's too muddy. They did not have a back up plan in place to get people a full 3.1 mile race. Instead, they had us double the road portion, which was only about 1.5 miles. In looking at the course and the road closures they had secured, having a backup plan to give runners a full 3.1 miles would not have been an issue. They chose to have us run the road portion twice, and don't even get me started on how much of a mess that ended up being. All those details will be in my race recap. I ended up running 7:12 pace for that ~3 mile race, which would have been a new PR by far. Yet, once again, my fastest 5K time is on another inaccurate course.



This, however, pales in comparison to the disaster of the half marathon course. Again, the last part of the course would have gone through the vines, but they had to cut that part out. There was no back up plan in place, even though having them run an out-and-back on the already closed roads would have been easy for them to do. They charged $120 for this half marathon. That is a whole lot of money for only running 11.3 miles. Three of my team members would have run huge PR's on this course, but they don't count. And they paid $120 to run this. Thankfully the pre- and post-race festivities were a lot of fun and we all really enjoyed ourselves. But still...

*sigh*

I'm frustrated. This frustration has been building all year, and these last two weeks have really brought it out in full force. All those thoughts have been mulling around in my mind and it was time to get it out.

Now let's talk about the disaster of Ironman Texas. They announced right before the race that for "athlete safety" the bike course would only be 110 miles instead of 112. This is the third year in a row the bike course has been short, plus there's all sorts of chatter that the run course is about 300 meters short. There was a world record time set on Saturday, but it doesn't count although it's possible had the course actually been 140.6 it still may have been a world record time. Three years in a row that they've messed up the distance of the course. This is not only a race that costs several hundred dollars just to register for, but it's also the North American championship. Plus, don't even get me started on the massive drafting that was allowed during the entire bike portion. Truly shameful.



I talked about doing Ironman Texas if I do a full iron distance triathlon. Now, that's off the table. I can't support a race that cares so little about integrity. An Ironman is 140.6 miles. Period. Just like a marathon is 26.2 miles. These athletes deserve so much better after pouring out their blood, sweat, tears, hearts....everything! And a substantial amount of money.

Fix the damn distance of your race courses.

So I'm frustrated. I was toying with returning to triathlon, for maybe a couple sprint races, maybe longer. I've missed it.

I'm disillusioned, however. I feel like so many of these races are so focused on profit that they miss those little (or not so little) details that the athletes find very important. When you're disillusioned, you're not motivated. When you're not motivated, training feels like a chore. When you show up to a race wondering what the actual distance might end up being, that's not exactly a good pre-race mindset.

I was very picky about the longer distance running races that I chose coming into this next marathon season. They are big city marathons and half marathons and have impeccable reputations, so anything that may go wrong would be a huge anomaly. They don't have a track record for screwing things up (hello, Ironman Texas) and the courses are tried and true and accurate and (hopefully) not changing. I'm doing a local 5K in June, but signed up before they published the course. Luckily it was really inexpensive so I'm not going to worry so much about accuracy. There's another local 5K that is put on monthly that I know is a perfectly measured course, and that one is always an option to run to get my legitimate PR.

I feel better getting it off my chest.



Monday, April 9, 2018

Awesome Race Day!

It's been 5 1/2 years since I ran a road 10K, and the last one I did, in October 2012, I had no intention of racing to a PR (although that's what I did, barely....apparently I was in better shape than I thought). I've run 10K portions of workouts and longer races faster than my actual PR (53:12), so it was well overdue for me to race again to see where I stood with my fitness.

In November, I raced a 5 miler at 7:45 pace, so I knew that I had built up some middle distance speed in the last few years. I figured I could probably run in the 48-49 minute range, and at least break 8 min pace if race day conditions were good (that 5 miler was in 32 degree temps). I decided to sign up for a 10K after my marathon season was done, and picked the Cap 10K. It's the biggest 10K in Texas and on a certified course. Sometimes it's hard to navigate the people, but if you position yourself close up in the corral, it's possible to do a minimal amount of swerving around people. I would have preferred a smaller race, but 10Ks are hard to come by and I wanted to be sure it was on an accurate course (not short!), something you can't always guarantee in smaller races. So the Cap 10K on April 8 it would be.

Leading up to the race, my speed workouts were going pretty well. I was feeling like I had maintained pretty good fitness at the shorter distances and was eager to see how it would translate in a race. I had hoped that the Texas Independence Relay at the end of March would allow me to see where I was at, but the hot weather and difficulty of my leg assignments kicked my butt. I still think I ran pretty well, but all my legs were far off my expected 10K pace.

As we got closer to race day, I started weather obsessing. Shockingly enough, the weather was going to be spectacular for April in Texas. The weather for the Cap 10K is usually warm and humid, but not this time! Still a bit of humidity, but a starting temp of 42 degrees was ideal! I couldn't have been happier. If there was ever a time I could bust out a good PR, it was going to be at this race.

The husband was also shooting for a new PR. He ran a 45:49 last time he raced the Cap 10K, and it was still his current PR. He was hoping to break 45 minutes today, and I had a lot of faith that he'd actually break 44 minutes. He's been training so well lately for his marathon, and his speed is pretty impressive. With the good weather, I figured he'd be so close to 7 min pace, if not actually break it.

I went back and forth of what I thought I was capable of, and finally settled on an A goal of breaking 49 minutes. On a less hilly course, perhaps I could be a bit faster, but there is over 300 feet of elevation gain in this 10K. It mostly all comes in the first half of the race, and there's a lot of downhill to take advantage of, so it's most definitely a PR course if you know how to approach the hills. But it's also possible for them to take a toll. It remained to be seen!


We positioned ourselves about 15-20 seconds back from the start. With 22,000 runners I was so glad we had the first corral. This race is just so packed, and many people position themselves wrong in the corrals so it's not uncommon to encounter walkers within a quarter mile or so (yes, seriously, even in the first corral). I wasn't taking any chances. It also meant I was going out at my race pace...no warm up mile... and I had to hold that pace. Balls to the wall with nothing to lose, right??

The first mile was actually pretty uneventful. I went out at a comfortably hard pace, but not too crazy considering the first mile is a gradual uphill with over 100 feet of elevation gain (ouch!). It doesn't feel horrible and you're running towards the Capitol, but it's still not so easy. I hit the first mile in 8:06. Not too bad. Still needed to speed up.

As soon as we got to a downhill at the beginning of mile 2, I sped up. I wanted to take advantage of every downhill I could and not worry about whether it was wrecking my legs. Miles 2 and 3 are a constant rolling hill section, and you don't really get any relief until the second half of the race. Mile 2 came in at 7:53, and with the biggest hills during mile 3, that one came in at 8:02. I was a little disappointed that I was over 8 minutes on mile 3, so I knew that I needed to have no more fear for the second half of the race. I was really looking forward to all the elevation loss coming up, that's for sure!

At the halfway point, I was at 24:59. If I wanted to break 49 minutes I would need to run a full minute faster during the second half. At this point I had run the tangents well and didn't have any extra distance added on, but this course will bite you in the butt on that in the second half. It's notorious for forcing extra steps and I really have no idea why if you run tangents well, but it is what it is. I knew that I would have at least an extra 30 seconds of running beyond what my watch says was a 10K distance, and I needed to pace myself like I was running longer than a 10K. This is pretty much how any race goes, I know that, and neither the husband nor I have been able to hit the 10K distance even close to perfectly in this race. So....first half in 24:59 and an 8:02 pace, with the second half needing to be closer to 7:30 pace.

I saw my teammate Drew right after the halfway point, and I'm glad I saw him during a downhill because I bet I looked much better than if he'd seen me on an uphill! A quick wave to Drew and now a new focus on finishing this thing out. I was steadily speeding up and hoping it wasn't going to make me blow up. But like I kept thinking...I had nothing to lose and everything to gain by being fearless.

Mile 4 came in at 7:42 and again my watch beeped right at the mile marker. I was hoping I could get even faster in those last 2 miles, but mile 6 would be unforgiving. It's pretty flat and feels harder than it is. So mile 5 needed to be totally awesome. I felt okay. It was most certainly hard, but I still thought I could keep running this pace for another 17 minutes. I was getting warm so I took my gloves off and rolled down my arm sleeves...I was surprised I was actually feeling warm! My watch beeped before the Mile 5 marker (just like I thought it would!) with a 7:37 mile, and I passed the mile marker at about 39:40. I need to run the last 1.2 miles in about 9 minutes...I definitely thought I could do this!

I somehow gave a little extra distance to the course during mile 6 (of course I did...ugh)....and oh my gosh mile 6 can totally suck! But I was almost done and just needed to suck it up. Making the turn from Cesar Chavez Ave to South 1st Street is one of the best moments of the race. There is less than a half mile to go and you can see the finish festival. I knew Greg would already be done and waiting for me and I wanted him to be proud of my finish. My watch beeped that I ran mile 6 in 7:35 and I was so thrilled with that! I was steadily improving my pace during the race and was about to finish strong. One more turn onto Riverside Drive and the finish line was in sight. I just gave it all I had at this point. That last 1/4 mile was at 6:45 pace! I don't think I've ever even seen that pace during a 5K race, much less a 10K.

Pain cave at the finish sprint. Photo cred: Nancy K


I finished the race in 48:54....barely making my goal. An official pace of 7:52 per mile. SO DAMN HAPPY.





MY HUSBAND WAS A TOTAL ROCKSTAR!!! He not only made his goal of breaking 45 minutes, but he made MY goal for him of breaking 44 minutes! He ran 43:33! He's pretty incredible and I'm so proud of him.



Free vodka is always appreciated
After the race, we found some awesome friends and spent some time hanging out. We were both pretty tired, but really pleased with our races.

Looking back at my splits and analyzing how I felt, I have to say that I don't think I could have run this race any better. I was in Zone 4 for over 42 minutes of the race, with a couple minutes in Zone 5, so I was in control and running at threshold just like I wanted to be. My average heartrate was 159 and it never went over 168. I almost negative split every mile and am okay with mile 3 being slower since it was the hilliest mile. My second half was 1:05 faster than the first half and I clocked my fastest 5K on this watch (23:29). Based on my January marathon time, I think this is right where I should be in my fitness. It gives me confidence going into the rest of the year and future 2018 marathon training.

Stats for me: 28/1232 F40-44, 225/10349 women, 1145/18752 overall
Stats for husband: 33/969 M40-44, 313/8403 males, 348/18752 overall (only 35 women beat him!)

On Monday morning, guess what was found on the Statesman's Instagram feed? A picture of me!! How cool is that??



And that husband of mine? He's well on his way to being able to BQ in his July marathon!

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Just gonna put this out there

In a couple of my previous blog posts, I alluded to a big marathon time goal I had in mind for the coming year. I am signed up for California International Marathon on December 2, which will then lead me to training (hopefully, if I make the cut off) for the Boston Marathon on April 15. I met my goals in my two marathons for this past season, qualifying for Boston with a pretty big cushion (5:07 under my qualifying time), and after experiencing that success and dialing in the training that seems to work for me, I am itching to see just how far I can take my running fitness.

I love having big goals. I love seeing success and knowing that when I put my mind to something and work hard, I can achieve my goals. It hasn't always been that way, but it was this year and I am still on a big time high from it. I want to keep going!

But I was extremely hesitant to put it out there just what I came up with for a goal. Many people keep that to themselves, or are really vague about it for fear of failure. After the Louisiana Marathon, I gained a confidence I didn't think I possessed and I'm not fearful of failure. Sure, I could totally fail, but I'm actually okay with that. As long as I feel I did everything in my power to succeed, then I still find that to be a success much more than a failure. I'm ready to talk about what my time goals are.

Here's why.

I have been following professional athlete Gwen Jorgensen for awhile now. I first heard of her when she won the Olympic gold medal in the triathlon at the 2016 Rio Olympics. She was just absolutely fierce and dominating and I was totally drawn to her. To celebrate her victory, she ran the New York City Marathon....in 2:41!!! She wasn't even properly trained for it and still absolutely killed it. A new professional marathoner was born. She has since retired from pro triathlon and switched gears to the marathon, with the goal of winning gold in Tokyo in 2020. Freaking lofty-as-shit goals right there, and completely inspiring.

She was interviewed for Sports Illustrated recently. She's taken a bit of flack for her goal of not just making the Olympic team, or getting a medal, but actually saying she wants to win gold. After all, she's nowhere near ready. But she's working as hard and as smart as she can to make the qualifying standard, run the Trials, make the team, and win that Olympic marathon. HUGE FREAKING GOALS. A quote from the interview stands out to me:
That was a bold statement of mine. It’s not a statement to put down anyone else. It was a statement to hold me accountable. For me, when I say a big goal, it’s out there and it makes me get up every day. I’m reminded and confronted with that goal.
So I decided that perhaps to hold myself accountable to what is in store for me in the coming months, it's time for me to say what my goal is.

Let's backtrack a bit. Originally, my goal this past year was to qualify for Boston 2019. I needed to run 3:55 to do so, but in order to actually make the cutoff or have a remote shot at that, I needed to break 3:52. I ran 3:49:53 in Louisiana, giving me a 5:07 cushion, which should absolutely be enough to gain entry.

Goal accomplished.

But I have no plans to just show up at Boston and "run for fun." If I busted my butt to earn the right to start as a qualifier, you can be damn sure I'm going to put everything I have into that race and do my absolute best.

So then my goal began to take shape.

I went back and forth from just getting a PR and re-qualifying for 2020, to maybe running 3:45, to breaking 8:30 pace (3:42). Nothing seemed quite right to me.

Then I took another look at the qualifying standards for the New York City Marathon, which are notoriously brutal. You have to have some serious speed relative to your gender and age to gain a time qualifier spot.

Challenge accepted.

I need to run 3:38 as a 45 year old to qualify for New York. That's 8:19 pace and a nearly 12-minute PR.

I have seriously lost my mind.

But there you have it. A couple friends knew this was what I was planning, but now I put it out there for all to see. I'm not exactly sure what my CIM goal will be, but I know that I need to PR in that race on my way to 3:38 in Boston. I also have two half marathons in October and January that will serve as a test of my fitness. I need to work diligently in the gym on my strength, and be consistent out on the roads throughout the Texas summer. I need to get leaner (every pound makes a difference, but it must be done without muscle loss). I have my work cut out for me.

Gwen has also been quoted as saying, "I'm somebody who's motivated by big challenges, and I'm motivated when I put the goal out there...It holds me accountable."

Truth



Saturday, March 10, 2018

Excitement for 2018

I am equal parts TOTALLY EXCITED and TOTALLY TERRIFIED!

And I love to have that reaction when I finalize my race calendar.

I went back and forth on whether or not I want to do another marathon before Boston 2019, but truth be told, no way can I wait that long to toe the line at 26.2 again. Nope, can't do it.

Marathon #15 will be California International Marathon in Sacramento on December 2 and I couldn't be happier about choosing that race. I really feel like I can run another Boston Qualifier and an even better one than the one I turned out in Baton Rouge this year. I have a goal brewing in the back of my mind and I'm excited to get to work on it. I have to be patient...but the wheels are turning already!

My endurance running race calendar is complete (I think?):

October 28 - Houston Half Marathon
December 2 - California International Marathon
January 20 - Aramco Houston Half Marathon
April 15 - Boston Marathon (please please please let BQ-minus-5:07 be enough to get in)

I am traveling for every single one. Does traveling 3 hours away to Houston count as traveling? It's only one night away from home, so I'll consider that pseudo-travel. Hotels are booked for the first three races...all of them right by the start lines. I feel totally comfortable with how everything is panning out.

Seriously, I am SO EXCITED about racing CIM. It's a net downhill course (but not as much as Boston), the weather is typically pretty good, it attracts a lot of really fast runners, and it's a top Boston Qualifier. While I do love the appeal of small marathons, sometimes you need to throw yourself in amongst thousands upon thousands of runners. I have friends that live in the Sacramento area and I'm hoping for the chance to see them as well.

I also realized that this will be the 5th capital city I will have run in. I've run races in D.C., Baton Rouge, Austin, and Nashville so far. I think that's pretty cool.

If things go as I hope they will in Sacramento, then I have an even bigger goal for Boston. I feel like I need to take advantage of where my fitness is at right now, build upon it, and really see what I can do over the course of the year. My tempo runs and speedwork have been spectacular lately. I've been running my fastest tempos ever and I am getting more comfortable on the track. I feel like my "run slow to run faster" approach worked beautifully for me this last year, so I'll continue to train like that. I just bought two of Matt Fitzgerald's books so I can continue my quest to learn as much about effective marathon training as possible. The 80/20 training method is similar to how I approached training, but with what seems like even more easy running and even bigger volume. Matt Fitzgerald explains that we are no doubt running less than 80% of our volume at a truly easy pace and that if we shift that percentage to where it should be, we'll improve our speed significantly. This is a great thing, because like I said....I HAVE BIG GOALS! 



The other book discusses the mental training necessary to be a successful marathon runner. It's never a bad thing to get mentally tougher, and vital to what I want to do.


One of my friends sent me a link to a TED talk by Eduardo Briceno titled "How to get better at things you care about." IT WAS AWESOME. He explains the difference between the Learning Zone and the Performance Zone. The most successful people (no matter what it is that they're trying to get better at) spend a lot of time in the learning zone, "doing activities designed for improvement, concentrating on what we haven't mastered yet, which means we have to expect to make mistakes, knowing that we will learn from them." We break down our abilities into components, subskills, etc, going just beyond our comfort zone until we master it. Practicing in the learning zone leads to substantial improvement, but we can't get complacent or our performance will plateau. We build our skills in the learning zone, and then apply them in the performance zone. But in order to spend more time in the learning zone, we have to do a number of things....believe we can improve, have a purpose we care about, have an idea about how to improve (deliberate practice), and not be afraid to make mistakes. Our society cultivates an attitude that we must be in the performance zone constantly (think of how schools approach teaching with letter grades and a narrow focus on what the right answer should be....versus exploring a wider thought process and giving feedback for revision and improvement). If we are afraid to get outside our comfort zone and try new things, even if we fail, we struggled, plateau, or fall behind.

It really was fascinating to listen to. I really do want to spend a lot of this year learning as much as I can about how to improve, focus on those little subskills until I can master them, pushing myself just outside my comfort zone until it becomes comfortable, and then gauging my success in the performance zone at the races I've chosen. 


Until then, however, it's all about my husband. He has his first marathon coming up in less than 5 months and he's working hard already at getting fit enough to run fast enough for a BQ. His checkpoint half marathon is on April 22, and while it might be hideously warm since it's here in Central Texas, it will still be a great gauge of his fitness before embarking upon the final three months of marathon training. We have three other friends planning on running his pace at that race (including one of the official pacers) so he will be in good company. I think the two books I bought will also serve the husband well. He has seen me train hard and knows what it takes, but I'd like him to soak up all the knowledge he can. I have no doubt about his speed. I want to make sure his mind is as strong as his body is going to be. I'm also getting super jealous of how fast he can run.

In the next 6 weeks I have three races...Texas Independence Relay on March 24-25, Cap10K on April 8, and the Wine and Roses 5K on April 22. Then I can relax a bit before real training begins in July. But these races (provided the weather isn't horribly atrocious) should give me an idea on my fitness before the awful summer months. Seriously excited about what is in store!