How I Went Sub Two.

It’s been a goal of mine for awhile now to run a half marathon in under 2 hours. Almost month ago, I accomplished that goal – I ran one in 1:57:34. I know there are a quite a few people … Continue reading

My First Speed Session!

After two abysmal runs, I was a little nervous to tackle my first official speed work session, both for this training cycle and ever. Thankfully, I had nothing to worry about!

I had 5 miles on the schedule, with 4 x 800 meter repeats followed by 800s meters of recovery. I had a bit of trouble figuring out how my new Garmin worked, since it was my first time setting for an actual workout as opposed to just hitting start and stop and letting it autolap, but once I figured it out, I warmed up for one mile, being very careful to take it slooooow. Painfully slow.

I hit the first interval, and sent some good vibes out into the unviverse. One sweat hour later, I was done with my first speed work session, flushed and exhilerated!

Don't worry, cherry red is perfectly normal for me, I promise.

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m using paces based on a 4:30 marathon time from the MacMillan Training Calculator, so I was trying to hit between 8:28 and 8:50 paces for my intervals.

Interval 1:   8:52

Interval 2:   8:37

Interval 3:   8:46

Interval 4:  8:29

Other than the first interval, I was spot on with my paces, even hitting the very bottom of it on my last 800. Especially considering what a struggle my earlier workouts were, I’m pleased with how my first speed session worked out. I have to say, it was difficult but not “Omg, I’m gonna diiiiiieeee”, and switching from fast to recovery made my 5 miles fly by in no time.

Okay, fine, so it flew by in 52 minutes. Whatever.

Yesterday afternoon, my right IT band was definitely a little tight, so I made sure to stretch it out. My legs were noticeably tired, but today, I feel no worse for wear. I made the most of my rest day by enjoying my early morning coffee slooowly, pick up some new good reads at Half Price Books with my husband, getting Indian for lunch, and taking Moka for a w-a-l-k in the afternoon sun.

Tomorrow, it’s 14 miles. Let’s do this.

Training For A Marathon: The HIMYM Plan

Oh, Barney. You’re so funny. Also, here are some great training tips from Marshall. My personal favorites? Proper nutrition: Eat all of your breakfasts runner style. Positive reinforcement: You.are.a.robot.sent.from.the.future.to.win.the.marathon! In conclusion, if you haven’t seen How I Met Your Mother, … Continue reading

Marathon 2: Week 1 Training Recap

Week 1 is done! I had originally planned to start training in January, but in the spirit of #livewellNOW, I decided to officially start training during the last week of December. I did hold off on some of the more … Continue reading

Race Recap: Liberty Half Marathon

First, let’s talk numbers. Today, I ran my 1st race of 2012, the Liberty Half Marathon. It was also my 5th half marathon, 13th race overall and the 1st long run of training for Marathon #2.

In it’s 2nd year, the Liberty Half is a small, local race in western Ohio. Last year, the race consisted of about 12 people who said, “Hey! Let’s run a half marathon!” So, they threw a bag of food under a bridge, and set off. Turns out the course was more like 13.6 miles, and there was no medal at the finish, but it sure was a heck of a run, from the stories they tell.

This year, it was a little different. There were a little over 100 runners, the course was shortened appropriately, and instead of a bag of food under a bridge, there were donuts, bagels, bananas, and water in a warehouse about .3 miles from the “finish line,” which was little more than a cone and a guy with a stop watch.

This was the anti-Rock N Roll. If you’re into screaming crowds, a closed course controlled by sheriffs, music and aid stations at every mile, and fancy t-shirts and medals, the Liberty Half is not your race. There were no bib numbers, no chip timing, little fanfare, and minimal “crowd support.”

But, it had a few things that were better. Gumption. Spirit. Passion. Community.

the "start line" in West Liberty

The race began at a Subway in West Liberty, a small town in Western Ohio. From there, we ran up a country road that cuts through a valley carved out by the glacier millions of years ago. As you might imagine with a race this small, the crowd thinned out pretty quickly once the race got underway. I ran the entire 13.1 miles almost entirely alone. As a “lone wolf” sort of runner, I really enjoyed this. It was a unique experience for me to be able to feel the pressure of racing without being surrounded by tons of people. It was truly me and road, battling it out. No crowd support to lean on, no fellow runners to commiserate with… just me and my determination to continue onward despite it all.

The first half of the race was full of gently rolling hills that provided mini-challenges followed by nice easy downhills. I took the first couple miles a bit too fast, so miles 3-6 were a bit slower, but I also went into this race thinking of it as a training run, and fought the urge to push it hard and get a good race time.

The race crew had marked each mile the night before, but unfortunately experienced some vandalism, so the markers for miles 3 – 7 weren’t up anymore. My shiny new Garmin Forerunner 305, a Christmas gift from my in-laws, definitely came in handy during those miles. I cruised along during those miles, enjoying the perfect running weather – mid-40s and dry. I hit the second and last aid station at the end of mile 7, but I had my Honey Stinger Waffle and water bottle, so I cruised on by, turned a corner… and blurted out, “Oh, $h!t!”

an "oh, $h!t!" moment if I've ever seen one...

It may be a little hard to make out in this cell phone photo, but the behemoth hill I had heard so much made it’s appearance right at mile 8. 6-8% grade for 1.5 miles. Oh, $h!t indeed. This may make it a bit more clear…

ouch.

Umm, yeah. I braced myself for some hurt, and trudged onward. I made it up about half of the hill you see in that picture before walking. What that photo doesn’t show is that this massive hill levels off for a short distance before climbing upward yet again. I’d estimate that I ran 1/2 to 3/4 of it total, which I am more than pleased with.

speedbump my @$$...

Thankfully after climbing for almost 2 miles, the course then levels off for about a mile before plunging downhill for the final 2 miles.

I caught my breath after the hill, just in time for what seemed like freak monsoon-like weather to hit. Like I mentioned, I experienced perfect running conditions for the first 10 miles, but suddenly the wind kicked up to a fairly constant 20 mph with 40+ mph gusts, and a few minutes later, hard rain joined the party. Within 2 minutes, my right side was soaked, thanks to the wind driving the rain sideways.

A few times, the wind gusts were so strong, they blew me right off the side of the road and into the grass. At some point, they changed direction – I remember very clearly a wind gust coming from behind me, and it literally felt like someone was shoving me forward.

slightly bummed but also slightly glad that the rain had stopped...

I thanked my lucky stars that it was a tailwind and not a headwind, hunkered down, and soared down that 2 mile hill at an average pace of 9:12 min/mile for a finish time of 2:14:47, an average pace of 10:19/mile! Despite the uncomfortable combination of wet and wind, I’m pretty sure I was grinning from ear to ear during those last 2 miles. I felt completely alive, stripped bare to the elements, and I loved every miserable, cold, wet second of it.

This is adventure.

... and to be at the finish!

After I crossed the “finish line,” my time was written down on a piece of paper with my name and age on it, and handed over to the race volunteers to be tabulated. Ian & I made our way via shuttle to the post-race Par-Tay, and I shivered a lot until the overall winners and age group winners were announced, and they handed out our finishers beer steins. I suspected that I finished in the top of my age group – the winner finished in 2:05 and change, and I didn’t notice too many of my fellow 20-29ers ahead of me. I’ll have to double-check the results when they’re posted, but I think I may have been 2nd or 3rd! I have to say, it was a speedy group overall. The winners of the other age groups, male and female, smoked the 10-19 and 20-29ers!

you better believe i celebrated appropriately...

This was by far my favorite half marathon to date. I really loved the fact that my entry fee (only $15, by the way!) went to supporting a small, local running club that was clearly very passionate about the sport. I also thoroughly enjoyed the challenging course, and I loved the minimalist, grass roots approach to racing. After the race, I thought back to my bigger half marathons, and for me, they don’t hold a candle to this kind of intimate race, where everyone is there for the pure enjoyment of running. I will definitely be seeking out smaller races!

I have to give a HUGE thanks to all the volunteers who made the Liberty Half Marathon possible – what an awesome new tradition, and I can’t think of a more perfect way to ring 2012!

The Road to Athens…

The Athens Marathon, that is. The one in Ohio, not Greece. That’s right – in 14 weeks, I will run my second marathon… and I will ROCK it.

I’ve shared my first marathon experience, and although my performance in my first 26.2 was less than stellar, I walked away knowing so much more about the beast that is the marathon. My training plan for Marathon #2 reflects as many of those lessons learned as I could squeeze in there – speedwork, hills, cross training. It’s all there!

I created my own plan based loosely on a combo of Hal Higdon’s marathon plans, especially the Intermediate 1 plan, Runner’s World SmartCoach, the McMillan training calculator, and the lessons I’ve learned about how my body and mind react to training over the past year.

Build-Up & Step-Down Weeks: 3 weeks of build-up, 1 week of step-down

When I recommitted to training for Marathon #1 in June, I was running out of time to adequately train – there just weren’t enough weeks left for me to include step-down weeks in my training plan and still top out at a long run I was comfortable with. So, I skipped ’em. I made it out of the race alive, but after a few months of fairly intense training for 3 half marathons in the months after Marathon #1, I realized that I desperately needed some weeks of lower mileage and intensity. So, the plan is to build up weekly mileage for about 3 weeks, following the 10% rule, and then drop down the distance and intensity for a week before continuing to build. Step-down weeks have lower total weekly mileage and no intervals, tempos or other shenanigans – easy runs only to give my body the time it needs to adjust to higher miles and intensity.

Speedwork: 1-2 tempo runs/week, 800s every other week (during build-up weeks)

For Marathon #1, I focused on getting through the distance, regardless of speed. No speed work for me the first time around! I’ve discovered that I am most definitely a distance runner – my body handles new distances with ease, but speed tends to make me hurt. Now, I realize that this “hurt” is the good kind – my body is breaking down only to rebuild itself stronger and faster. My speed made a HUGE leap after Marathon #1 and a few other bigger races, without any speed work at all. I’m looking forward to adding in speed work in the form of Yasso 800s and tempo runs. As long as I give my body the time it needs to recover, I’m confident that speed work will give me some major rewards!

Hill Repeats: 1 every 2 weeks (during build-up weeks)

Although the Athens Marathon is relatively flat, I’m also planning on running the Flying Pig Marathon a month later. The Pig is notoriously hilly for the first half, and I take sick pleasure in running hills. Besides making me a stronger, and more well-rounded runner, I’ll get to brag on Twitter about how badass I am after intense hill training workouts…

Cross Training & Strength Training: 1-2 days/week

Although I did a pretty good job of cross and strength training while training for my first half, I didn’t do such a great job of it while training for Marathon #1. And by “not a great job” I mean that I did none. Nada. Zilch. Ummm, yeah. We’re gonna fix that this time around. I have two related mini-goals for January: One is to find an affordable yoga studio/class that I can enjoy once a week. Another is to reacquaint myself with the gym where I first learned to climb 8 years ago. Climbing is something that I’ve been yearning to get back into for awhile now, and I’m sure that I’ll see some amazing aerobic and strength benefits while reconnecting with a part of myself I’ve lost touch with.

a throwback from 2005 - leading 5.10 route in the Red River Gorge

Recovery Runs & Easy Days: 1 of each/week

Other crucial pieces of the puzzle are recovery and rest days, one of each per week during build-up weeks. Just like I’ll be running weeks of lower mileage and intensity every 4th week, each week of running will also have 2 days of less intense workouts – recovery runs, typically the day after a long run to shake out the legs, and an easy day in the middle of the week to allow for some easier running.

REST: 1-2 days of COMPLETE rest/week

I’ve noticed lately that my body recovers much more quickly than it did a year ago. Now, I can run back to back days, or even 3 in a row if I’m mindful of speed and distance – something I never thought I’d be able to do. That being said, I’ve also learned that the real magic happens while you rest.

THIS PLAN IS SUBJECT TO CHANGE.

This is quite possibly the most important element of all. As it stands, long runs top out at 22 miles – this may be bumped down to a 20, we’ll just wait and see. Weekly mileage tops out at 62. Again, this is subject to change… VERY subject to change! Being flexible is the key to staying healthy and injury-free – and although I have set a time goal for Marathon #2, ultimately my goal is to continue running for as long as possible, and that means listening to my body. Right now, this plan seems and sounds overwhelming, but that’s why it’s a plan, not set in stone. I’m entering entirely new territory in terms of intensity and weekly training load. While I’m cautiously optimistic that my body will be able to withstand this kind of training, I will be paying close attention to the signals my body sends me and adjusting accordingly.

So here it is, all put together…

I’m incredibly excited to see what training for Marathon #2 has in store for me! Any other sage advice?!

Recovery

Oh, man. Recovery is hard.

It’s been exactly one week since I last ran. After an entire year of training for one race or another, it’s a little weird not having a training schedule to follow, but it was time for a big break. Taking a zero week may have been a teensy extreme, but it’s all too easy for me say, “oh, it’s just one run.” And before I know it, I’ve run 4 or 5 days a week.

I guess the problem is that I just love running. It’s my go-to stress reliever, celebration, frustration outlet, cry-fest. Anytime something major happens, my first thought is usually, “I should go for a run!” That being said, running hadn’t been quite as much fun in the last month, so a break was necessary, physically and mentally. I was anticipating going stir crazy, but life kept me pretty busy and my body reconfirmed that I was doing the right thing by not running – I came down with a pretty nasty cold on Tuesday. No way would I have run in that condition anyway, and I’m hoping that getting this sickness out of my system will mean a healthy and happy training cycle in early 2012.

Now that I’m no longer hacking up a lung or blowing snot all over the place, I’m psyched for my first run tomorrow. I’m planning on taking it easy until the beginning of the year, with lots of watchless runs and nothing over 10 miles or so. The hope is that I feel refreshed and ready for marathon training come January 1st.

In the meantime, I plan on enjoying the evening in true recovery style… wine, pork chops, and cheesy Christmas movies.