MIA

Wow – it’s been awhile since I’ve posted.  Time sure flies!  Things have been busy, but good (mostly).  Updates:

  • I’m super busy.  I’m in an intense graduate program, and adjusting to its pace (and a long commute) took awhile.  I finally feel like I have a handle on it, though I’m still swamped all the time!
  • I thought I had kind of figured out work-life balance when I was at my last job, but it turns out that I will have to keep working on that one.  I suppose a certain amount of it is the nature of the beast, but I have had to rely on Jeb like never before!
  • My strength workouts have been going well.  I hit some big PRs over the summer when I was getting good nutrition and sleep, but I backed off a bit once school started back up.  I hit 225# on both my squat and deadlift!
  • My running has not been going as well.  It did at first – I was in a good routine and enjoying my workouts.  But then, in early October, we lost our sweet Wendy.  It was devastating to both of us and, since she was my running partner, I kind of lost all the enjoyment I normally found with our runs together.  It seemed like every spot on every run holds some sort of memory after 3 years of running together, and I couldn’t seem to get through a workout without breaking down in tears.  I significantly backed off the running after that, but I’m starting to get into it again.
  • We have a new dog!  Fiona is a Sato (and some kind of Shepherd mix), and so sweet!  I’m hoping to get her out running with me this spring, though she is very timid so it will be slow and steady progress until she gets comfortable.
  • I’m running the Nike Half in DC (in April!).  I thought it would help me get on track with running.  It did, and then I got a raging bronchitis for 6 weeks and lost all my training.  Gulp.
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Iron

I’ve been hesitant to lift heavy since my injury. As I’ve mentioned, I still have some residual pain. Plus, I am terrified to get hurt again! But, I’ve started having some niggling pains in my joints and muscles and I know that lifting can help offset any muscle imbalances from running. SO, I started a new program. This lifting program focuses on glute and hamstring strength, which can only help my running!

Since I started lifting, the pain from my injury has gotten significantly better. Also, my running pace has increased significantly… and it feels effortless! This is nice – especially since the Nike half is coming up, and school is cutting into my training time.

Seems like a win-win to me. And lifting is so damn fun…

30 days to go!

Um – see that over there?  My countdown is truly on now – my goal race is only 30 days away!  Yikes.  To be honest, I am not feeling as ready as I expected when I signed up (though, does anyone ever feel REALLY ready for a race?).  There are a couple reasons for this:

  • My injury is not fully healed.  There are limits to how much I can train in certain ways.
  • I was rock solid about my training from November to February.  Unfortunately, I was also terrified that I would make my injury worse again or get reinjured.  This really affected my progress – although my endurance got better, and I REALLY enjoyed every workout, my pace did not increase.  I simply wasn’t pushing hard enough.  Lesson learned.
  • I’ve been feeling crazy swamped and overwhelmed for the last 4-6 weeks.  Sometimes, my workouts just haven’t happened.

Ah well.  No matter what, I know I have put in the time.  I just hope that my progress will be good enough.

 

In other news, Wendy and I are BOTH really enjoying the warmer weather. 🙂

Fear and Stride Rate

With the NWMDC Half coming up in just under two months, my focus has started shifting from building a base to building some speed. In order to finish that race, I need to meet a specific time goal – and it isn’t crazy fast or anything. In fact, before I got hurt last year, I could have easily met the time goal.

But I DID get hurt. I was in such a great training cycle, and something (or several somethings) just went wrong. I spent the entire summer nearly bedridden (I could get up for a couple minutes, but that was it – I couldn’t drive or sit long enough to even eat at the table). It was pretty horrible. Naturally, and unfortunately, memories of that time have been affecting my training. I have been VERY slowly building up my mileage – getting up to half-marathon endurance over 5ish months rather than the typical 2-3. I stretch all the time, and foam roll daily (sometimes more than once each day). I’m trying to train smarter, not harder. I pushed myself all winter, but not like I used to – I was so scared of getting hurt.

Now, I’m getting stronger. Also, I have a deadline. I have to let go of the fear, look at the numbers, and move toward my goal. So, since pace is my biggest issue, I am focusing on that. I will still do some long slow distance each week, but my other runs will focus on speed. This week, I started using a metronome to help with my stride rate. Lots of articles say that we can get the best running economy with a stride rate of roughly 180/minute, so I decided to work toward that. Knowing that I haven’t been working on speed at all (in about a year!), I set the metronome for 150 bpm and headed out for my 3.5 mile run. I kept everything pretty much the same as usual – followed my same route, kept my run-walk intervals the same, and just focused on staying on the beat. I found that the pace wasn’t too tough most of the time, but there were several times that I simply dropped off the pace. Maybe I was getting fatigued, or maybe I was just losing focus. Either way, I finished my run at roughly 20 seconds/mile faster than usual. Whoops – I guess I found my problem. So, on my shorter runs, I will work on keeping on pace and will also gradually increase it.

But, running with a metronome in my ear is simply no fun. I usually listen to audiobooks, but I’m thinking that I will revisit this once I get more confident in maintaining my pace. Maybe I will find some music that has a quick beat and use it as the same way as a metronome.

Either way, progress is being made. I was feeling pretty discouraged, because my pace wasn’t naturally improving, but I’m feeling more confident about it now. Onward!

Keeping Calm… or at least I’m trying!

I missed my run today.  It was extremely cold (below zero with the wind chill), and when my face started to hurt after a 5 minute walk across campus, I decided the risk of frostbite was too great.  Plus, it turns out that dogs can get frostbite – especially dogs with long, floppy ears.  I couldn’t take that risk with Wendy.

It is frustrating, though.  This was the first run I have missed since NOVEMBER.  I had quite a streak going!  Plus, Wendy is very used to her every-other-day runs, and she gets a bit of cabin fever if she misses one.  (Yes, I consider how these things affect my dog – but it also helps me get out the door when I’m not motivated.  It’s hard to let her down!)  Also, I’m really starting to feel the pressure of my goal race in April.  I know I have plenty of time, and I’m not even a little bit worried about having to cover the distance.  I’m worried about my speed.  I need to get my pace faster… and not get injured.  I’m trying not to stress about it, especially since everything I read says that winter running is about building a base (endurance), not speed.  Still, I thought my pace would be faster by now.  I improved pretty quickly after the NWM in October (by roughly 2 min/mile), but I walked most of that race.  Now that I’m running more, it is concerning to me that my pace isn’t continuing to increase at that rate.

So, this is my plan (because I always have a plan):

  1. Relax!  Stressing about it isn’t going to help.
  2. Finish my half-marathon training plan, as written.  That means no speedwork.  I’m on week 8, and should finish in early March (weather permitting).
  3. Remind myself that I have to be a bit more flexible with my running because it is winter, and I live in New England!
  4. Continue adding in cross-training whenever possible.
  5. Research ways to gradually improve speed.  Implement them as appropriate, but plan to do a speed-focused plan for March and early-April.
  6. Tighten up my nutrition.  Weight loss can only help with speed.
  7. Oh – and relax.  I have to remember to relax.  I have 95 days to figure this out.

Nike Women’s Half-Marathon 2012

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Well, I made it to the 2012 Nike Women’s Half-Marathon!!  I was pretty excited to be here – my 2nd Nike half-marathon, and this time I didn’t run alone!  I had two friends in the race, plus Jeb was there to cheer me on.  When I signed up, I fully expected to build on my experience from last year and get a PR, but injuries got in the way.  My training was significantly limited, so I decided to relax and enjoy the experience!

Jeb and I spent a couple days in Napa before heading to San Francisco for the race, so we only popped into the Expotique for a few minutes – long enough for me to grab my packet and catch a quick glimpse of Alyson Felix during her presentation!  The Expotique looked to be about as fun and impressive as last year, but it was VERY crowded.  It just didn’t seem worth it to wait in all those lines for some samples.  Also, I wasn’t crazy about the set-up this year.  There was less open space, so it was harder to move through the crowds.  Niketown had some great gear this year – seemed like more options than last year, and the crowd was well-managed.

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The start was more organized this year.  The corrals were blocked off, and runners had to show their corral bracelet to enter.  This eliminated some of the bobbing and weaving for many of the runners trying to get around groups of walkers.  Set up this way, it did take much longer for me to reach the starting line (even though I ended up in a faster corral than last year).  It took about 30 minutes, but the time flew by!  People were so happy and excited- the atmosphere was outstanding (and what keeps me coming back to Nike events).  I particularly liked the guys dressed in Tiffany box costumes!  They totally embraced the idea of a women’s event, though, and were super-fun to see on course.  There were others in costumes too (lots of tutus!), but these guys were my favorite.  Also, there were water and Nuun stations throughout the starting area, and plenty of clean outhouses.

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See the start? It is WAY down there!

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The course is gorgeous, and there is so much to see!  I enjoyed the political sign (since the race was only a couple weeks before the election), and saw a hawk sitting on a concrete fence by the water!  It was really foggy that day, so we could barely see the Golden Gate Bridge or Alcatraz.

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“Yes, you can run faster than Paul Ryan”

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There’s the Golden Gate Bridge – I promise!

There was tons of on-course entertainment – marching bands, a gospel choir, and cheerleaders.  There was also some of the same types of motivational signs as last year. Nike also surprised runners with a “Bra Exchange” at the top of the biggest hill on the course (in mile 6).  When I got there, they didn’t have any left in my size.  People complained about the (lack of) stock, but I still think it was kind of a cool perk, even if I couldn’t take advantage personally.

This is a good course for a first half-marathon, in my opinion, because it is fun and exciting, and it is easy to break up the race into chunks.  The first 5 miles are fairly easy and straightforward.  There are some hills, but it’s not too bad.  Miles 6-9 are physically rough – very hilly (with STEEP hills), and very little relief.  Mile 8 is the worst, I think, because it is through a neighborhood with houses, stores, etc. so there isn’t much to look at.  I did notice some women coming out of Walgreens with a snack, though, so I guess that stretch has its perks.  One of the sponsors does hand out oranges during this section, though, which is a huge pick-me-up!  After getting through mile 9, the rest of the course isn’t so bad (physically – mostly flat, with rolling hills), but it is mentally GRUELING!  Both times that I ran this race, I though I would never get through mile 11!  It felt like forever.

We did it!

The finisher’s village was awesome!  I particularly enjoyed the stretching tent on the beach – it was heated, and had plenty of yoga mats and foam rollers for people to cool down (plus, plenty of staff to keep everything clean).  I had a big old bottle of chocolate milk, and brought my niece into the Pacific for the first time (this kid loves the beach -just like her auntie!).

We had such great weather for the race -can’t you tell? 🙂

Once again, Nike put on a great event.  It isn’t perfect, but the people who have the most complaints tend to be runners who are looking for a small-town feel.  This race has a lot of excitement, though, and is a great experience.  Having my name on the wall at Niketown, and going home with a Tiffany finisher’s necklace are pretty sweet too!

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My Goal Race

NWM Half Washington DC 2013

I’m in!  I am running the Inaugural Nike Women’s Half-Marathon in April.  This will be my third Nike race, and I’m so excited!  This is a very popular race series, but I have been lucky enough to not have to enter the lottery for any of them (so far).  I will be running this one as part of the college program (benefits of a career change!).  

This will be my third half-marathon.  I am apprehensive about this one.  I trained hard and was so excited for my first one… then I got food poisoning.  It derailed my entire race, and I had to walk a significant portion of it to avoid major cramping.  I shook off what I felt was a bit of a failure/setback, and began training for the next year…. then I got injured.  I spent all of last summer stuck in bed, and couldn’t even begin training to WALK it until September (6 weeks before the race).  Considering how far I had come since my injury, I saw that race as a victory, despite having to walk the majority of the course.

Being injured (and recovering from injury), I started to learn how to train smarter, rather than harder.  This will be my mantra as I prepare for this goal race.  I am progressing very slowly – frustratingly slowly – as I am so afraid that I will have setbacks and not be able to race.  Following my PT’s advice, I am not running on consecutive days, and I am following a run/walk plan for now (currently at 4 minutes running/2 minutes walking).  This makes it difficult to get my pace to where it needs to be to finish the race – sub 15:00 miles – since I am not exactly a speed demon on my best day.  It is frustrating and even a little embarrassing to have such a modest time goal, but I would rather get to the starting line than try to push my speed too hard and too fast, only to end up sidelined again.

Sometimes, holding back like this is so frustrating.  But it has its benefits – I am enjoying my runs quite a bit since I’m not killing myself on every workout.  Plus, I have done enough running now to know that I just have to stick with the plan, and trust my training – I will get there.  Finishing any race, especially a longer distance race, is so satisfying.  I know that this one, after the setbacks I have already faced at this distance, will be especially sweet.

Now I just have to hope the weather holds up enough that I can stay consistent with my training!