Friday, November 10, 2017

Hello Hell Week

I haven't fallen apart yet.

My training volume is more than I have ever done and I can't deny that I was really worried when I wrote the plan. I knew I needed higher volume to do what I want to do, but it frightened me to think of doing midweek long runs in addition to the REALLY long runs over the weekend, to sometimes run 6 days per week...and even 6 days in a row.

But I'm still alive and I'm right smack dab in the middle of hell. Last week I ran 54 miles, this week is 49 and next week is 54. Then I get to taper. November 19 can't come soon enough!

I'm definitely feeling some fatigue, but it is not negatively impacting my workouts. I'm hitting my goals and feeling pretty decent when I'm done with my runs. This past Sunday was a 21 mile run and the last 3 miles felt fantastic, albeit I had run the previous 5 at a slower than normal pace because my running buddy wasn't feeling so great (it was a really humid 72 degree morning, because of course it was since I had a 3+ hour long run scheduled and Mother Nature hates me). But those last 3 miles told me everything I need to know about where I'm at physically. I started out that run feeling the fatigue of the week's workouts and was a little worried about how painful it might get in those later miles. My quads were sore and I hate starting a long run with sore quads. My worries were for nothing, however, because the soreness never got worse and I was able to complete those last 3 miles at a faster than usual clip without my heartrate skyrocketing. Total success and it made me thrilled.

This week (so far) called for a 7 mile interval workout Tuesday (2x2 mile repeats), 10 mile easy run Wednesday, and an 8 mile track workout Thursday. Because I couldn't make the team's track workout Thursday evening and needed to run solo that morning, I decided to change up the workout to a hard tempo run: two mile warm up, following by a progressive tempo pace starting at marathon race pace and speeding up about 10 seconds per mile for five miles, ending with a one mile cooldown. Even with the warmer and more humid weather Tuesday morning and it being only two days after my 21 miler, I still hit my goal paces on my two mile repeats (averaging 8:23). I took it extra slow on Wednesday, which was hard to do because it was in the 40s and started to rain on me. But I knew I couldn't do my Thursday workout well if I ran anything other than painfully slow on Wednesday.

Was hoping to beat the rain on this run, but NOPE. 

When I started out my Thursday run I was definitely feeling the culmination of miles on my legs, but was determined to have a successful tempo run. I started off very easy to loosen up and did some drills. The second mile I eased into a quicker pace, and then when mile three started I locked into my race pace and it felt very good, like something I could run forever and be okay. Considering it's a month from my marathon, I'd say that's a very good sign. As the miles progressed I tried not to focus on how much I had left, but rather just controlled the mile I was in, checking my pace and making sure I was dialed in correctly, not going too fast but not being sluggish about it. I actually was running a few seconds per mile faster that prescribed on miles 3-5, but it still felt doable so I hung with it. When that five miles was up and I saw I had hit each one at a great pace (8:45, 8:42, 8:26, 8:10, 8:03), I was so thrilled. My eighth mile, a cooldown, actually ended up at 9:08 and didn't feel hard at all....another really good sign! Best part was that my heart rate was very controlled as well and I still stayed in Zone 3 for a majority of the run.

Then my watch told me this:

I never race 10k's and it's been about five years since my last one. My PR is 53:12 and that was actually not an all-out race. During my half marathon PR race, I actually ran just under 51 minutes for the last 10K of that race, so it's debatable what my actual PR is. I'd love to race another stand alone 10K just to see what I could do, but seeing this on my watch was a big boost. It's the fastest I've run a 10K block using this watch, and only two seconds over my "official" 10K PR. Plus, I kept my overall pace under 9 min/mile. When I say I do my hard workouts HARD, this is a great example of that. I ran super easy pace Wednesday so I could then turn around and bust out a workout like this with great success.

Silly watch

Today is a rest day. Thank God it's a rest day. I'll do some bodyweight exercises and corework, foam roll my legs and make sure the fatigue is easing and I'm ready for 24 more miles this weekend (8 easy tomorrow, then 16 with 6 of those at race pace on Sunday). Then I dive right into Hell Week next week. My peak weak will consist of six days of running and 54 miles, culminating in a 22 mile run next weekend. Then taper and a full three weeks of freaking out.

I'm fully aware that it may take several attempts to achieve my BQ goal, but I will say that I have certainly done everything I can to make this first attempt a real possibility. I put in the work, I've dialed in my nutrition, I've gotten down to a racing weight that makes me so happy, and I'm trying my hardest to get my mind right. Shalane Flanagan just won the New York City Marathon and during her press conference she mentioned that this was seven years in the making. She worked and worked and worked and knew that she needed to have patience and it would happen. And it did!

So I'd like to put in a request to Mother Nature to make it 45-50 degrees outside that day. Pretty please.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Words Matter

The older I get, the more important it becomes to surround myself with good people who believe in me and encourage me. I know my goals may be a bit unique, and not everyone personally understands my "why," but are supportive regardless because they respect me. I thank God everyday for the people He has put in my life who make me a better, more confident person, because trust me, I need all the kind and positive words I can get right now.

Thirty nine days until my "A" race, and while I feel things are coming along well, I still am having a lot of moments of anxiety and questioning myself. I've never been much of a data person with regards to my training, but in the last few months it's been incredibly valuable to be able to analyze the data from my training. All of it points to me being a Boston-qualifying-capable athlete. There's nothing to suggest, beyond my lame doubts, that it can't be done. But it will be the hardest marathon I've ever done, and I'll be in the suffer-zone for a good part of it. Nothing about a pace under 8:58 per mile for nearly four hours will be easy for me. 

While I was doing my tempo run yesterday, I was running with a friend who regularly runs 6-7 minute miles in training and has run a 3:20 marathon. He said something so simple to me during the run..."you're getting really fast." I know, it's not a big deal for someone to say something like that. But I don't think he realized that those few words boosted my confidence in that moment. I was only on mile 2 of 5 miles, trying to hit a pace I'd only held for 5 miles straight maybe two or three times in my entire running life. He doesn't know it but he helped me get even faster during that run and it was quite possibly my strongest run of this entire training cycle. Our team coach told me afterwards that my goal was entirely doable. Those people are exactly what I need!

Just a few kind words from a friends who are wildly talented and who I look up to.

Then this morning after my easy pace run, my Garmin told me I achieved a higher VO2 max, and it surprised me because I didn't expect it to go any higher. When I texted Greg about it, he responded, "You are amazing."

Be still my heart.

WORDS ARE POWERFUL. They have the ability to cut you down and make you feel insignificant. Or they can save you. The right ones can be exactly what you need to tackle the obstacles in your path. 

So, to the people who make it a point to be kind and encouraging, THANK YOU. And if you could look like Ryan Gosling while you're doing it, EVEN BETTER.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Niceness is Rare

Today has been so hard for me. It's not often that I have days this terrible. Did anything in particular happen that was so horrible I couldn't handle it? Not really.

Nevertheless, I had a panic attack. I simply could not handle everything that had irritated me over the last few days (irritable children, messy house, too many doctor appointments, stupid drivers, school demands, negativity everywhere you look, you name it), everything I still needed to do, and what everyone needed from me, and it completely derailed my sanity momentarily. I even broke out in hives, the stress level was so high.

That sense of being completely overwhelmed doesn't happen often, but when it does, it's debilitating. I absolutely loathe having an anxiety disorder. It makes me feel weak and worthless. I canceled the plans I had tonight, for no other reason than I just couldn't fake being okay around people. I feel terrible because it was going to be a fun evening. But I simply had to tap out for the night and be home where I feel safe (at least when the kids aren't being complete ogres). I did go for a run in the hopes of exhausting myself so much I stopped worrying about everything.

When I got home, I grabbed the Reader's Digest (don't laugh, I love that magazine), sat down on the couch, and became immersed. The Editor's note in the beginning was written for me, I swear. Mr. Kelley verbalized exactly how I've been feeling for the past few weeks regarding one of my bigger stressors, and that's the rampant negativity and meanness in the world right now. I seriously think it's been having more of a negative impact on my mental health than ever before. Here's what he said:

Reader's Digest has long been neutral about politics, but one thing we will never be neutral about is niceness. In a democracy where free expression is the rule--and where the internet, talk radio, and cable news provide enormous megaphones--niceness has never been more important. If we want to live in harmony along with our competing ideas, we need civility, empathy, and a sense that we have each other's backs. Niceness is the glue that will hold us together.
Yet it's not-niceness that's on the rise. The bitter call-and-response of our political exchanges has long pummeled the promise of "E pluribus unum." In a recent poll, 75% of Americans called incivility a "national crisis." It's no accident that Americans' faith in their institutions is scraping bottom. 


It's a tough balance of wanting to be informed of what's going on globally, and yet being completely sick and tired of the rampant negativity, name calling, and ignorance. It's really screwed up my head in the past few weeks. I need positivity and feel good stories, but it seems those are few and far between, shunned in favor of shock value antagonistic stories. So sad. I'm enjoying the Reader's Digest piece regarding the Nicest Place in America contest, where citizens actually go out of their way to be generous and kind, not expecting anything in return. That type of attitude fosters a sense of belonging and contentment.

If only people (and the media!) could take two seconds to think, REALLY THINK, about what they are saying and how it can be received, not to necessarily censor themselves, but to understand whether or not their viewpoints in that moment are helpful or cause further division and incivility. Maybe they ought to go pet a puppy and then come back to their keyboard and see if they still feel like saying it.

Maybe if there was more of this, people like me with anxiety disorders might just be okay way more often than we are. Turn down the noise a little for us. Please.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

All the Colors

You know what? I am so tired of summer weather.

It's October, so you'd think I'd be in the clear, but nope. Texas hates me!

We got some great temps during the week last week, and the last two mornings have been spectacularly perfect running weather. But Sunday morning? 70s and 100% humidity with the threat of thunderstorms. Also? Race Day!

For crying out loud.

Of course, I conveniently forgot that on the same exact weekend last year, I ran a half marathon in Central Texas, in the same exact weather conditions. And it was my second worst road half marathon finish ever. Fun times.

But, being the badass that I believe myself to be this year, that wasn't going to stop me from running that damn race. Was I going for a PR? OH HELL NO. The race course was 900 feet of elevation gain over 20 different hills and inclines, so a PR was a long shot anyway, plus I had decided running that far under my marathon pace for nearly two hours probably wasn't a wise choice. The weather made that decision much much easier to take.

The plan, after careful consideration and lots of feedback from friends, became pretty comical actually.







That, my friends, is exactly what I did! I showed up to that miserable race in all the damn colors. Rainbow zebra sports bra, rainbow tutu, rainbow compression sleeves, rainbow kinesiology tape, bright shoes, bright hat, no worries.

I was a big fat rainbow about to run my very first tutu race. Luckily I had friendly faces all around me, as several friends were out there to run as well. Nobody was "racing" it, which made my decision even easier to take.

I was quite happy to see I wasn't the most ridiculous looking person there. Close, but not quite. After all, there were dudes dressed as unicorns. Winning!

Despite the fact that I knew I wasn't running super hard, I was nervous anyway. I wasn't wearing a watch, so my new fear became running slower than it felt and totally embarrassing myself with a slow time that would be online forever. To hopefully prevent this from happening, I positioned myself at the start with the 2:00 and 2:10 pacers (thank you, baby Jesus, for there being pacers to sort of help me keep track of my mediocrity). I wanted to be sure I didn't start out as fast as the 2:00 pacer, but never allowed the 2:10 pacer to pass me. A 2:05-ish time seemed reasonable to me. Faster than a usual long run, but not so hard that I couldn't recover quickly. Embarrassingly far off my PR pace, but it is what it is. Is "embarrassingly" even a word?

So it started off without much fanfare. I found a decent pace that wasn't hard, got into a bit of a groove for that first mile. A group of girls near me were talking about the course, and I made the mistake of mentioning hills. They actually asked, "there are lots of hills?" Oh, dear, were they in for a surprise.

By the time I saw Greg at the two mile mark I'd already run up three of the damn hills, but I still felt really good. Of course I did....I was only two miles into a 13.1 mile run. If you don't feel good then, you're really screwed. But in all seriousness, I felt just fine. This was pace I could keep doing, whatever pace it was....but I actually had no clue because I wasn't wearing a watch. A girl running with me for a few miles almost blurted out how long we'd been running, but I told her NOOOOOOO. I didn't want to freak myself out if I was running too fast or too slow. I had found my groove and I wanted to hold onto it for dear life.

Years ago Greg ran a half marathon on this course, actually the only one he ran at race pace because all his other half marathons have been with me, a much slower runner. He still to this day is traumatized by the course, but I always rolled my eyes at him because I've run some pretty hard half marathons with just as much elevation gain. No way could this course be harder.

It's harder.

The damn hills WOULD NOT QUIT. See, I should know this because two of my triathlons were out here, and the bike portion was this exact course. I know the hills suck and they don't quit. But I always figured it would be easier to run on it than ride on it.

That's debatable.

It was right about the half way mark when I realized that this was getting a little difficult. My heart rate appeared to be under control, I wasn't breathing particularly heavy, my legs weren't fatigued, but I think my head was getting in the way of my badassery. When you start seeing practically every person walking up the hills, it starts to bug you (NO, I DID NOT WALK UP A SINGLE DAMN HILL). I think I was ready to be done. But I still had like six miles and eleventy billion hills to go. It was around this point that a tutu unicorn dude was leapfrogging with me, alternating running and walking. As I passed him during his walk break, I mentioned that it kinda sucked out there. His response was, "but at least we look good!" You know what? We did look good!

Greg always talked about the hill along the toll road as being particularly atrocious. I remember having an asthma attack on that hill during one of the triathlons, so the thought of this beast loomed over me as I approached it. But, I actually caught a break here. When I made the turn onto that road, I felt a breeze. It felt a little cooler out, and it made me so happy I got a second wind going up that hill. It really wasn't bad at all! I was badass again!

Until the next hill. Dammit.

I was being deliberately slow at the aid stations, taking a little bit of extra time to refill my water bottle. I didn't want to take too long and rack up too many extra seconds onto my finish time, but I also didn't want to run anymore, so it was a little bit of a mental battle.

Once I saw the 11 mile marker, I felt a little better (not physically, because give me a break, but mentally definitely better). My legs were now fatiguing and all the damn hills were catching up to me. That's actually probably really great that it took so long for my legs to start to feel the effects of the hills and it gave me a bit of a mental boost that technically I was holding up okay for it being the worst weather ever. I only had two miles to go and I thought I might even be able to speed up a little bit. Not that I would know, since I wasn't wearing a watch.

On one of the last turns, we got a headwind that was actually kind of strong. I had to hold onto my hat to keep it from flying off, and although the wind made it feel cooler and less humid, I wasn't particularly appreciative of it being in my face. I mean, seriously, can this race just be over now?

You have no idea how great it was to see the 12 mile marker and know that I actually really was ALMOST DONE. I was passing people! I was running faster! I wasn't having an asthma attack! And I was pretty sure I wasn't going to embarrass myself since the 2:10 pacer never caught me. I lost sight of the 2:00 pacer by mile 4 so I knew I was several minutes over that mark.

As I approached the finish line I caught sight of the clock and it said 2:05. THANK GOD. I was totally okay with a 2:05 on the books, especially since I actually, if I totally admitted it to myself, felt just fine. Ready to be done, but still very much in control of my run.

Still felt awfully refreshing to cross the finish line AND FINALLY BE DONE RUNNING. Then I drank all the water I could find and wanted to lay down in the grass and take a nap.

The morning, however, wasn't quite over. I discovered that I actually got 2nd place in my age group. Are you kidding me? I run a 2:05 half marathon and GET ON THE PODIUM? Were there like 3 people in my age group? (actually, there were 12 so I legit did well for my age in that particular race....go figure). Mediocre time or not, I was damn proud of that second place medal! First time ever that I have placed in a half marathon, and I was going to take it!

My two teammates who ran also got 2nd in their age groups, so it was a good day for Georgetown Triathletes and our "training runs."

The next morning it was 50 degrees out and 60% humidity. This morning? 46 degrees out. I ran a progressive tempo run this morning and totally killed it.

This coming weekend is my first of three 20-milers. The forecast? THUNDERSTORMS. Shoot me now.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Running is simple

People love to make things complicated.

You have to eat like this!

You have to take these supplements!

You have to lift weights like this!

You need to go to this gym!

You must get this treatment done!

You have to buy this for your bike!

You must sign up for this! And that! And this, too!

You have to believe this way is right!

Good grief. No I don't.

I long for the days of simplicity sometimes.

When there weren't countless tech gadgets out there. When there weren't eleventy billion fad diets out there. When everybody wasn't selling something that will "change your life." When we weren't so vain that we needed an expert to shape every aspect of our lives, and our appearances. When we could have an opinion that differed with someone else's....and it was okay and that someone else moved on instead of debated every detail. When you could read the news without having to see every single person's angry opinion about it. But I'm starting to digress...

People REALLY make things too complicated.

I am in agreement with Bill Rodgers that running is a simple sport. Put your shoes on, go outside, and run. But every single one of us runners likes to make it way too complicated sometimes.

Matt Fitzgerald summed up running in 14 words:

When we are in the midst of big goals and wanting improvement and wanting to be totally awesome, we forget about those last four words: Learn. Keep it fun.

Sunday is my half marathon. I've gone back and forth about how I want to approach this race. I've been frustrated and upset and confused and conflicted and all the emotions in between because the damn weather is going to be hot and humid. The race doesn't start until 8am, it's a very hilly course, and the sun will be out. It won't be PR conditions at all, even in the great running shape that I'm in right now. 

I guess I could've stayed mad, and scrapped running it at all like I had been thinking yesterday. Instead I asked for advice from my triathlon teammates. Have I mentioned lately that I love them? 

Leave your watch at home.

Run it as a training run.

Start off easy and then see if you can ease into marathon pace.

Wear a costume (it is a Halloween theme after all).

Forget about being upset about a slow half marathon being on the internet forever.

Have fun.

Their advice completely turned my attitude around. I'm not sure if I can keep myself from hating a permanent slow race result AGAIN, but I can do all of the other things.

I came up with a costume.

I'm not going to wear my watch.

I'm going to start easy and then see how my legs and lungs feel.

It will be a training run and I will get benefit from it. 

And then, 7 days later, I'll be ready for the first of three 20-mile training runs on my schedule.

Y'all, I'm going to wear a costume for the first time in a race ever.

Back to what Matt Fitzgerald said about running:

Build step by step. Push yourself, but not too hard. Learn. Keep it fun.

Isn't that perfect? You set a goal, you build methodically up to it, pushing yourself when you need to, holding back when you need to, learning what works and what doesn't and how you can keep improving, and when you do this you're able to keep the whole process fun and enjoyable. If that's not how you approach running, then it's time to embrace these fourteen words. 

Did I mention I'm running in a tutu? Oh, my....

Friday, October 6, 2017

9 more weeks

When I wrote my training plan months ago, and revised it a million times, and added volume, and questioned my sanity, I was mildly freaked out over the daunting task of running 800+ miles in 6 months. We are now 9 weeks out from race day and so far, so good.

Last night was our first track night of the season. I have a few track workouts I wrote up for the few weeks prior to race day, but I wanted to let Coach Christine ease us into track so I deferred to her last night, figuring she'll have us start with a few miles of 400s or 800s. Oh heck, no....we started right off the bat with 1600 meter repeats. And she told me I needed to run them in 7:40. With 1 minute rests (although she said it was okay to push to two minutes, and I did).

Well, crap. Last year I couldn't break 8:00 minutes for 1600 repeats (albeit, last year sucked).

Did I mention it was 85 degrees out?

Okay, fine, Coach, let's do this crap....

Because I'm constantly doubting my ability, of course I nailed the damn workout. My 1600s were 7:20, 7:33, and 7:38 (I suppose I was getting a wee bit tired). I honestly couldn't believe when the first one came in at 7:20 because no way did I feel like I was running that fast. It wasn't easy, my heartrate was inching up a lot, and I had to dig, but it was totally doable. I actually got to work out in Zone 5 heartrate for an extended period of time.

Continuing to see the tangible proof that my training is paying off is a huge motivation for me, no matter how much I tend to doubt myself.

Leading up to last night, I've been running pretty well. September had 163 miles, my second biggest volume month ever. My interval and tempo workouts are coming together, with Tuesday's workout producing 3 tempo miles at 8:08 average pace and 7 miles total. I'm up to 18 miles for long runs and can still keep my average heartrate under 140 while running under 10 minute pace average. We've had a return of summer temperatures and high humidity after being teased with some 50s and 60s in early September, so that part has been hard to deal with. I was looking forward to my "easy" pace quickening up more than it has, but I still have to be patient until these temperatures are gone for good.

My half marathon is coming up next weekend. I've gone back and forth on how I want to approach this race. My first thought was to go balls to the wall and really race it, but with further thinking it makes more sense to try to do a race simulation at marathon pace instead. But then I noticed the forecast for that day get worse and worse. It will be in the 70s and high humidity at the start.

Forget that! So a progressive pace training run it will be. I guess. Whatever. I have the worst race day weather luck in the whole freaking world, I swear. It gets incredibly annoying, that's for sure. But I've been running in those temps for months now. I can push the pace a bit and see what happens, but a PR is absolutely out of the question.

The next few weeks will really see some serious commitment. 170 miles in October, 190 in November, and then tapering to December 10 race day. Tempos, long runs, track work, easy days, strength work, balance work....did I mention serious commitment?

This shit is so good for me. It's hard and I love it. I'm scared as hell of failing at my goals, but dammit I'm going to do everything I can to get myself to that starting line in the best shape of my life.

My friend (and badass Ironman) Troy of C4 Endurance recently explained what the 4 Cs of his business name mean: Courage, Commitment, Confidence, and Conviction. It's time for me to print that out and tape it to my bathroom mirror so I can remember that every single day before I hit the streets.

9 more weeks, y'all.

9 more weeks.

Friday, September 15, 2017

It's the strangest thing...

For this marathon training cycle, I've gone all in on being a very intentional with each and every run. I didn't always trust the process and thought my Garmin had gone absolutely nuts for analyzing the training data the way it does.

But then we had a couple weeks of cooler temps and my body was so happy and things just got EASIER. I ran faster, my heartrate stayed even lower than normal, and I wasn't totally exhausted. It's like all the experts were right or something.

My Garmin doubled down on its craziness the other day. I ran 16 miles this past Saturday at about 20-30 seconds per mile faster overall than what I'd been doing my long runs. It was the longest run I'd done since January, I had a 5 minute second half negative split, and it was right around the overall pace of the previous week's 14 mile run, a run which incorporated 4 race pace miles. It felt good. And my heartrate average was 5 beats per minute LOWER than the 14-miler. So then my Garmin tells me this:

Could it be? Am I officially in badass shape? Apparently my Garmin thinks so.

No way am I getting anywhere near a 3:27, but I don't think the analysis could be so far off that I can't run that 3:52.

I read an article titled "Change your mindset to improve your race times." It couldn't have come at a better time, right when I'm starting to incorporate race pace miles into my long run and I'm pushing myself harder during hard workouts now that the weather is better.

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

Basically this means that we allow the fear of the faster paces we are running, and the daunting thought of actually running that in a race, hold us back on race day. We are physiologically capable of our goal, but our minds work against us and we fail to truly believe in our ability. We fear going "balls to the wall" and then failing.

I need to go Balls-to-the-Wall no matter what and just hold on for dear life and not let my brain tell me otherwise and suck up the pain and just cross that finish line three minutes under my Boston qualifying time.

Maybe if I keep writing that down, it'll imbed itself in my brain and the deceptive mental paralysis won't happen to me in those later miles of the Mississippi Gulf Coast Marathon.

During our Tuesday interval run, the plan was to run 6 x 6 minute intervals at 8:15 pace with a 1 minute recovery. With warm up and cool down it would be a 7 mile workout.

The weather was nice out and I ended up running on average 7:53 pace for those 6 intervals. I could've run another one. I wasn't really all that spent during the cool down. Because of the warm up and cooldown miles and the recovery periods, my average overall pace for these Tuesday workouts is usually pretty high, but when we were done with the intervals this week I was under 9 minute pace. I don't ever remember that happening during an interval workout. When we do tempo runs, sure, but not intervals with recovery walk/jogs. I ran 7 miles at 9:10 average and it was fantastic. Over 4.5 miles of that was sub-8 pace.

My Garmin still thinks I'm a fast girl.

I'm running a very hilly half marathon in 4 weeks and I'm going to incorporate this "go all out" attitude. I think it'll be a good race tune up and will tell me where I'm at both physically and mentally 8 weeks out from the marathon. The difficulty of this course is intimidating, and it's not exactly normal to set a personal best on it. But what do I have to lose? Except my breakfast?

Shit is getting real, y'all.