Monday, June 19, 2017

Summer has arrived

It's amazing what a difference a week can make in the weather around here. Last Saturday (the 10th), I finished my 10 mile long run as the temp hit 73. Not exactly comfortable with the sun out, but it didn't feel unbearable at all. I had a pretty good negative split on my out-and-back route and my heartrate averaged 138. I was pleased with the effort. This week when I finished my 10.4 mile run, it had hit 83 degrees, and yet still kept my heartrate at 137 average with a negative split. But it was decidedly warmer out, that's for sure. The summer arrived!

Yay for patient running partners and metal dinosaurs
Not sad about my run or the fact that I cool down in my pool.
Sad about the weather!

What's weird for me right now is throwing pace out the window on these long, slow runs. For so many years I was obsessed with my pace and felt that I needed to be hitting certain long run paces while marathon training to convince myself I could finish a marathon and not embarrass myself. With the exception of one training cycle back in 2012, I never had a lofty time goal in a marathon. That marathon didn't go as planned, but that had to do with the 80 degree temps and not my fitness. Had it been 40 degrees out I actually do think I would have broken 4 hours like I had trained to do. My other time goals over the years have been much more conservative. Basically I was in it more for fun (yes, I called marathons fun). There's not really anything wrong with that, and many people enjoy the journey and don't give a crap about the time on the clock. This attitude usually translated to running my long runs faster than my marathons. By the time I got to the start line, I was in great shape, but held back time and time again. In some cases I think I had trained too hard and just wasn't ready for the 26.2 mile distance. I could overanalyze it to death if I wanted.

I will say that I did get my half marathon training right way more often than my marathon training. I could toe the line at a half marathon and hit my goals and run very well, and usually faster than my long runs were ever ran (this is the way it's supposed to be done).

Well, I don't want that kind of crap anymore. It's time to run a marathon like I can run a half marathon.

So last week my long run was at 10:08 pace average. I used to rarely run my long runs over 10 minute pace (and yet only two of my marathons have been run at under 10 min pace). That was pretty dumb. There's absolutely nothing wrong with running this pace when your Boston-qualifying marathon pace goal is 8:58. It's actually perfectly fine, especially since I kept my heartrate exactly where I needed it to be. As I get closer to my goal race in December, and the weather cools off, my long runs will speed up naturally. I'll be fitter, the weather will be more conducive to what is comfortable to me, and I can inch closer to a 9:30 pace without overtaxing my body. Right now? I'm doing what I'm supposed to be doing.

This week I ran 10:15 pace in 10.4 miles. It's not much slower than last week considering it was 10 degrees warmer. My heartrate tells the tale....I didn't push myself harder despite the heat, but I didn't lose too much pace. So just like with last week's long run, this week's makes me very pleased. But again, I can't lie when I say it's weird for me to be running over 10 minute pace on these long runs.

There's a time and place for race pace and faster runs. Long run weekend is not one of those, especially in this part of my training cycle and in the summer. I'm building up my base so my body is ready for more mileage. I added a fourth day to my running last week, and I have 4 weeks until the difficult training technically starts. As I get deep into training, some of my long runs will incorporate race pace miles, but usually no more than 30% of the run, and the rest of the miles will be at long run pace. Speed will happen during interval runs, tempo runs, races, track nights, and runs like those, but in order to properly prepare oneself for the rigors of the volume of marathon training, you have to allow yourself the luxury of recovery miles and long, slow miles. If I ran 8:58 pace day in and day out, at 40 or 50+ miles per week, I would be depleted on race day.

I have to be deliberate, I have to monitor my heart rate so I can track my effort and adjust as necessary, I have to respect the weather, and I have to take care of myself. I want this goal so badly and there's just no reason why I can't hit it (for the love of God, don't let it be hot on race day!).

I follow a lot of runners on Instagram (and check out a few popular ones) to see how they train. To be honest, so many of them make me CRINGE. Day in, day out they are running goal pace for every run, including long runs, and getting praised for being "so fast, so inspirational, so amazing." They complain about every run being "SO HARD." And then for many of them, they blow up on race day or (like me) their marathon times don't match up to their training. I know "slow" runs don't make you look as badass and that you want as many "likes" as you can get, but it's not worth it. If every run is done at race pace, and every run is hard, and there are no recovery miles in there, of course your body will blow up. Then I find the super fast runners who sometimes run their long runs at MY pace, yet hit super fast times in their marathons and I soak it all in. That's what I want. I want to be SMART about my training, I want to be done with my long runs and feel GREAT. I want to arrive at the start line in Pass Christian, Mississippi, and feel like I can fly because I threw down 50 mile running weeks exactly like I needed to to be successful.

That means that I'll see 10+ min pace on my watch and I can't bitch about it.


Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Progress

It's getting warmer out, folks. Summer in Texas is just around the corner. Oh, boy.

Tuesday morning interval workouts have been warm, but not unbearable. The humidity has been sky high (yesterday it was 98% at 5:30am), but I can't complain too much when the temp is hovering at 70 degrees instead of the usual summer 80 degree morning temp.

Can I just say the last two weeks' interval workouts have been FANTASTIC?! Neither have been easy...not at all in the least, no freaking way. But overall, I feel like I nailed the workouts and am seeing improvements.

Last week our workout was 6x5 minute intervals at mid-to-short progressive tempo pace with 1 minute recovery (oh that goes by so fast), with warm up and cool down of about 25 minutes total. With the exception of the uphill interval (I loathe that section of our trail), I ran each interval very strong and was faster than my goal pace. It got a bit warm but I never felt like my lungs were compromised during the intervals. My heartrate was getting pretty high, up to 169, and it didn't really go much below 150 during the short 1 minute recoveries, so it was an effort run for all 35 minutes of the intervals/rests.

This week we ran 3x9 minute intervals (progressive from long tempo to short tempo) with 3 minute recovery at easy pace, with about 25 minutes total of warm up and cool down. Again, I felt great during each interval and nailed my paces. Even the last interval didn't feel exceptionally difficult, and it was my fastest of the three.

Our coach Christine reminded us after the workout yesterday that if we are hitting our tempo/interval paces in these warmer, humid runs then we are definitely seeing fitness improvements. Normally we slow down a bit during the summer months, but I haven't slowed down yet. It's probably time for me to do another 5K time trial (although that's pretty painful during the summer).

I know this means that all the work I'm putting in with regards to my nutrition and consistency and effort is paying off. My head is telling me I can do it and my body is responding. Huge boost for my mental game, that's for sure. Knowing my body is stronger and my lungs are working better than usual tells me that no matter what crazy workout Christine gives us, I can do it. This also means she's probably getting wise to me and will make me run faster.

I'm going to need to add a fourth running day into my schedule soon. My marathon training technically starts mid-July and I want to build up more of a base. I'm only running about 20 miles per week right now and I need to increase that very soon. Before long I'll be running 45-50 miles per week and I need to be completely prepared for that nonsense!

I'm still the world's worst triathlete and haven't even given much thought to when I'll do another one, but I'm just having so much fun with this running thing and enjoying seeing my body transform into something I can truly be proud of.

Oh...and yes, I'm still doing an Ironman.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Gratitude

I often complain about the weather during the summer months here in Texas. It is pretty unbearable to train in, with high temps and high humidity pretty much every morning. Throw in asthma and it is a struggle to maintain decent fitness.

I need to work on my gratitude that I can even do what I do.

I have a friend who just got a double lung transplant after spending 103 days in the hospital because she had gotten too ill to leave without the transplant. She had interstitial lung disease, and to put it simply, she just could not breathe on her own anymore. The amount of oxygen it required to move at all was unbelievable and we were all very scared for her.

Thank God there was a selfless person out there who was a donor, and a family willing to honor that request. My friend got her lungs and life is full of optimism again.

She couldn't walk down the hallway without a massive amount of oxygen, and here I am complaining about the humidity while on a 2-hour training run. Perspective, right?

Since she received her lungs, my friend has been so positive about the little things in life. Her first time outside again, taking deep breaths without the aid of oxygen, hearing the silence around her instead of the constant hum of her oxygen tanks. Things you and I never had to worry about because we could live unencumbered without disease.

She would have given anything to just be able to run one mile. And soon, she will be able to do whatever she wants.

I want to be thankful for everything I'm able to do. It might hurt to do hill repeats in 93 degree weather (hello, last night's workout), but I can do it, week after week. I might have to slow down on my long runs because it's 97% humidity out at 6am, but I can still do it all summer long.



Every time I breathe in and my lungs have been taxed to capacity, I want to think of my friend and remember that I am so lucky to be healthy, even with the bouts of asthma I encounter. And I want her to be over the moon every time she breathes in with those wonderful, incredible, amazing new lungs.

Speaking of gratitude, have you made an effort to express your gratitude for the little (and sometimes big) things that your friends and family have done for you? There is so much negativity in our world, and people are so quick to complain about such insignificant things, that it's easy to forget the little things that make our lives better. I am really trying to make every effort I can to tell people thank you and to be positive and to be sure they know how much I appreciate them. I do hope it makes them smile and feel good about themselves. I know that when someone tells me thank you, I feel like I'm on top of the world.

Kindness goes a long way!




Monday, May 22, 2017

Tests+Trust+Time

So it's been a few days...

My mind is still blown that I would so drastically change my mind about Ironman. I'm still weirded out by it. I lost count how many times the words "NEVER" came out of my mouth....for years...and I meant it.

In my last blog post, I went into some detail about where I thought this change of mind came from. My reasoning seems to be becoming clearer, especially after our church sermon on Sunday.

The new sermon series is called "Oh the Places You'll Go" based on Dr. Seuss, and the topic of Pastor John's sermon this week was "Tests + Trust + Time = Friendship with God." To be completely honest with you, my faith has been tested dramatically in the last few years. I have dealt with so much adversity and have questioned the Christian faith so many times. I have struggled to understand my relationship with God. But I've stuck with it, I've prayed, and I have continued to have faith.

But it's not enough. My relationship with God needs a big fat tune-up. The message behind the sermon centers around three tests we go through in order to have a friendship with God (or to rediscover and strengthen our friendship).

Test #1: Comfort Test - Will I step outside of my comfort zone?
Test #2: Patience Test - Will I wait on God's timing?
Test #3: Allegiance Test - Will I let go?

As is true for so many of the sermons, this spoke right to me. It brought tears to my eyes. It was guiding me to my next journey.

Okay, so you're thinking, what in the world does Ironman have to do with God?

For those of us with faith, we know that we can't do anything without God. Physical endurance goals are one of those things. If I take on this enormous challenge, it will require that I seek God's guidance, strength, and unending love. I will have hours of time to speak with God.

Could this be how I find my friendship with God? As I analyze the three tests, I can see myself being guided to this huge endeavour. First of all, the Comfort Test is clearly in play. I will be so far outside my comfort zone, I won't even be able to see it in the distance. The Patience Test is requiring me to wait nearly two years to embark on this journey. I could so easily just sign up for the race next year, but I know in my heart it is not the right timing. I have to believe that this delay is exactly what is supposed to happen. The Allegiance Test will require me trusting in the process and turning to God to allow Him guide me, and to believe that I can do it.

I have no regret for changing my mind about this race. It still feels right to me. But I'm going to further explore the lessons I learned on Sunday. There are a few circumstances outside of racing that these tests apply to as well, and I'm also seeking understanding in those. So much to think about.




Thursday, May 18, 2017

Ridiculously Huge Goals

I have a new list of goals. There was something about the last six weeks that has made me see my world in a completely different light.

In the beginning of April, I was in a very dark place. Certain circumstances in my personal life that I really couldn't process beat me down. I retreated, cried everyday, reassessed, got stronger, and took a good hard look at where I was vs. where I wanted to be.

Then I watched the Boston Marathon Documentary...

And then I went to Ironman Texas...

And then it just all came together.

I'm ready to talk about it.

I confided in a couple people what I had been thinking about, and because these people are freaking awesome, they were excited for me and ready to support me in whatever final decision I made. (Side note: everyone needs people like this in their life)

I've already made it very well known that I want to qualify for Boston. But here's the thing...I'm pretty far from that ability, although it's definitely not out of the realm of possibility. I would love to run this race in 2019 and I have my first shot at qualifying at Mississippi Gulf Coast Marathon. I don't want to sell myself short, but I also want to have realistic expectations. I need to run a 3:55, which is more in line with my half marathon pace. It's a stretch for me to improve to this ability by December 10...but it's still possible. 

However....we all know that merely qualifying is never enough to actually gain entry. In reality I need to shoot for a 3:52. That doesn't seem like a lot, but when you're already talking about a big drop in time, it seems like an overwhelming difference. I'm very pleased with the progress I've made in getting my body stronger and leaner so I can continue to get faster. I am going to continue to focus on all the things I can control...my nutrition, my sleep, my workouts, my mental strength. The improvement will happen as long as I keep my eye on all these factors. It just remains to be seen how much improvement it will entail.

If for some crazy reason I actually pull off this feat of crazy, I'll run Boston in 2019.

HOWEVER....and here's where my next goal comes in.

I have another idea for April of 2019. If Boston has to wait, I am most likely (I had to put in a little "maybe") going to sign up for a different kind of race.

I am going to do Ironman Texas.

2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, 26.2 mile run

An Ironman. You know, that thing I said I'd never do. Up until April 21, I absolutely positively was never going to do an Ironman. NEVER.

Something changed in the few days after volunteering at this year's race.

I honestly was totally shocked the thought even entered my mind. SHOCKED. I have never had any desire whatsoever to do this kind of race. A ridiculous entry fee, the travel costs, the training commitment....THE FREAKING TRAINING COMMITMENT OHMYGOD.

Yet, it suddenly made sense.

I was terrified of telling Greg how I felt, but after his initial "Oh F&*K" reaction, he was supportive. If I really wanted to do it, I could do it. I was so scared of telling him that I told him over text.

I've had a few weeks to process why I suddenly had this desire. Like I said, the last six weeks were bad. Things are still bad, but I think my mind is processing it all very differently. I had been feeling like a huge failure as a parent. My daughter is especially struggling and I feel like it's partly my fault, that if I had just been able to be a better parent to her she'd be so much healthier.

In the last few weeks, that mindset has started to change. I feel stronger. I feel like I really am doing everything I can for her, everything in my power to make her better, and that I'm a damn good mom.

Do you have any idea how empowering this feeling is?



I've taken stock of just how destructive my mind was being, how I wasn't giving myself the respect I deserved, and how I was letting all this bullshit eat away at my self-worth. I was letting external bullshit cloud my judgement and rob me of the positivity I desperately needed.

Screw that crap.

I'm damn worthy of this goal.

If it weren't for the incredible team I am a part of, this goal wouldn't be feasible. But I know that everyday I'm out there training, I will have phenomenal people pushing me to be better, making sure I know that I can do it.

So there you have it. Will wonders never cease?







Tuesday, May 16, 2017

26.2 reasons for running a marathon

I saw a post recently on Facebook about our 26.2 reasons for running a marathon, and I thought "heck yeah, I need to list those out!"

So here we go....

Steph's 26.2 Reasons for Running a Marathon

1. My mental health
2. My heart is happy
3. For the challenge
4. To experience the outdoors
5. And get some much needed Vitamin D
6. Explore a city in a unique way...including exploring new places in your own city
7. The Runner's High is addictive
8. To honor my sister
9. Remind myself of my strength
10. Be a good example for my kids
11. Maintain a healthy weight for life
12. To defy my age
13. Stress relief for those extra tough times
14. Something to focus on
15. Spend time with like-minded friends
16. An excuse to travel
17. Those leg muscles
18. Forces me to treat my body like a temple
19. To be surrounded by inspirational people
20. For a good cry when I finish
21. To earn that post-race cheeseburger
22. Keep people guessing on the level of my sanity
23. It's a celebration of LIFE
24. To bring awareness to a cause
25. Good excuse to nap regularly
26. Because I can...
26.2 ...12 times and counting...




Thursday, May 11, 2017

What's your legacy?

There's nothing like attending a funeral to put your life in perspective.

My husband and I attended our good friend's father's funeral Tuesday morning. It was a wonderful remembrance of his life, and brought about some emotional self-reflection, as funerals often do. 

The pastor challenged each of us to look at our own lives and to think about what we thought might be remembered about ourselves at our own funerals. I didn't view this in any morbid way, but actually a very real need to do some reflecting inward. It's never a bad thing to step back and look with more objectivity at our lives, and the contributions we are making to society.

Hopefully it will be many decades before my own passing, but then again tomorrow is never promised. We do not know when it will be our last day in our earthly bodies. We can only hope for a long and healthy life.

How do I want to be remembered?

Because I chose to raise a family, they are of utmost importance to me above all other things. The very first thing I want my children to feel when they think about me is that I loved them, unconditionally and without fail, that I loved them no matter what, with grace and forgiveness. If that is what stands out to them, then I have succeeded as a parent. No matter the mistakes they might make in life, I always want them to know I am there for them, arms open. I should be their refuge when they are struggling, their support system, their guide through troubled times. They are at very difficult ages, but I do hope they feel this way right now. I have so many bad parenting moments, particularly in very stressful times. I need to check myself when I feel overwhelmed.

I want people to feel that I've made a positive impact on their lives. The non-tangible things that make up a person's life are so much more important than anything material. Love, compassion, grace, humility, fairness...so much more important than the size of your home or the price of your car. I am a woman with pretty strong convictions, as anyone close to me knows, and that's important to me as well, but I also like to view things with fairness. I don't always get it right, and I'm working on that. I would hope that the first things people would think when remembering me are positive things.

As I'm writing this, I'm finding it's really hard to articulate my thoughts. This is a tough subject to reflect upon. It's making me feel a little like I've failed up to this point in my life, and that I need to work harder on my relationships, both within my family and outside. Being a genuinely good person is not exactly easy, and the "genuine" part is, frankly, especially difficult nowadays. There are a lot of negatives thrown at us daily, a lot of stress we need to wade through, and it's difficult to come out on top with a positive and joyful attitude. Our good attributes can be buried under this negativity and stress, and I often allow this to happen (well, it's not always within my control...my brain doesn't exactly work in a normal way all the time). But overall, I will continue to do my best, in any circumstance, to reflect positively upon people's lives.

If today were my last day, I'm hopeful I've done enough for the legacy I wish to achieve.

How about you?