Friday, April 17, 2015

Boston Goals & The Sub-3 Elephant

Rewind to Boston 2014
Because of the lackluster training cycle (from my semi injury--basically a nagging soleus), and the personal hurricane in my life- Boston was a run and not a true goal race. I went into it with no real goals other than to just enjoy the race, the experience and smile as much as possible. If I felt great and ran faster, awesome. If I felt like crap and slowed down, that's cool too. That morning when asked what I thought I was going to run- I said 3:20 given my training. I ran a 3:20. I'm pretty good at knowing my body and what it's capable of on a good day, sometimes I underestimate it but sometimes I'm spot on. {I try very hard not to overestimate my abilities because that led to some serious upsets early on in my running days}
Some amazing 2014 memories

Boston 2015
This year, while only a year later- feels like a different world to me. I'm not going to Boston for just the experience, I'm going to race. I've been working my ass off {like everyone else}, and know that even though Boston is a tough course- a PR is possible.

While race strategy isn't solidified yet, some things I do know.

I know that I'll start conservatively and not kill myself on the downhills.

I know I will focus on being relaxed and not letting my form get sloppy (which, I tend to do).

I know that I will embrace the crowd. The high fives. The kids. The kisses. BOSTON.

I know that I will be chugging up the Newton Hills, keeping my head up and effort consistent.

I know that I will do everything I can to come into those last few miles like a runaway freight train.

Those are the things that I can control, and I will do everything I can to stay true to that.  Although I might spend the weekend looking up witchcraft to figure out how to turn the predicted 21-mph wind direction around. If the wind doesn't switch, a note to any tall men near me at the start: pardon me for tagging along behind you. We will file that under, huge perks of being short.

Now I'll bring up the elephant in the room. You know, the circus elephant sitting in the corner wearing a shirt that says Sub-3. Yeah, that one.

While that is something I have thought about for a while, it was always a 'long term' kind of goal. As much as I am a "dive right in" kind of person, there are other things I prefer to take a little slower or reel in over time. I call that a healthy fear of bonking hard/failing.

After Memphis, that sub-3 goal turned into an elephant that sat next to me anytime I started talking about another marathon with someone. With the finish of that race I was less than 5 minutes from a marathon time starting with a two. I have had so many people encouraging me for working towards it, and also those realists with the kind reminders that there is still a big difference between 3:04 and 2:59. Neither of those types of people are wrong. I truly believe it is something I am capable of, but I also know it's gonna take work to get there. It's not just a gimme.

Yes, it's on my mind and I know that it's coming. Maybe it happens at Boston if I have a great day (I won't rule it out), maybe it happens in the fall on a less challenging course. Maybe it doesn't happen for a few years- and that's OK. I don't plan on quitting running marathons before, or after running a sub-3 hour time.

I love having a big goal to chase, it drives me every single day. After qualifying for Boston the first time, I floundered a bit- well what now? I'm not a pro runner, I'll never make a living off of this, BUT I can embrace my passion and continue to push myself to be a better person and runner. Some days that won't be chasing times at all, but for right now I'm chasing a time starting with 2. My life right now allows me to make that a priority- that's a decision I have the right to make for myself.

Like any race, there is so much that is out of our control. In the mean time I will obsess about all the things I CAN control. Like the 10 outfits packed. Like the mass amounts of food I will inhale this weekend. Like pushing away any negativity, and embracing the positive (awesome) things that this weekend will bring.

So on Monday, Marathon Monday, Patriots day, the 20th of April- I WILL be competing. I will be competing against the clock, and against myself. As for the goal, I simply plan on using the mantra that got me through Memphis....Just hold on like hell.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Taper & Travel Time

Wrapping up Training
The final few weeks of training went pretty well. Some runs were better than others (as always), but finished with a solid 20 miler this past Sunday. Of course it snowed for the run (which prompted some cursing), but I was happy with hitting the first 10 at 7:52 average pace and the second half of the run at 6:57 average pace{7:25 average for the run}. Feeling strong at the end is always a good thing.

I also did my final longer tempo run yesterday morning, I ended up cutting it short and changing it a bit. I wasn't feeling 100% and right now the goal is to get to Hopkinton feeling fresh, happy and healthy- no point in risking that by pushing a workout a week and a half before start time. Eye on the prize.

My overall thoughts on this training cycle are still being formed (read: I have been staring at charts on my running ahead account for hours). The general gist of it though: quality over quantity, and consistency is key. Oh, and a giant middle finger to the never ending winter. It wasn't a perfect cycle (is there ever one) but it's been the smartest and most consistent one to date, another testament to coach and I working well together.

I can honestly say I used to HATE taper. I'd freak out, lose my mind and drive everyone around me batty in the process. Now, I mostly look forward to it. Sure there are aspects of it that are still hard, and there are times that I don't like it- but in general I welcome the taper and the extra rest with open arms.
I should just wear this for all of taper.
I do my best to focus on what I CAN control, something coach and I talk about often. I make my packing lists, race gear check, plan a bazillion outfits (for a gazillion possible weather scenarios), meal planning etc. I obsessively check the weather- not to really freak out about it (maybe a little) but more so I can PLAN what I want to do to best be prepared for it. It's safe to say at this point I put ZERO faith in weather reports though. I will be travelling to Boston with clothing/gear suitable for the Idtiarod, as well as a marathon running along the equator. Fingers crossed it's somewhere between the two.

My least part of taper is the carb deplete. I love carbs. I love refined carbs (sue me). I don't like micromanaging my diet (literally reading every label), but that's what I do during taper because I know that it works. Carb deplete has worked very well for me in the past, so no point in fixing what isn't broken. Just don't talk to me next Tuesday- Friday. There's your warning. You're welcome.

I will be spending a good chunk of taper in Virginia. Heather, Britt and I leave today for road trip shenanigans. Tomorrow we will get into VA, just in time to start Hollie's wedding weekend festivities! Luckily I'll be travelling with two other runners, so there will be no judgement on the level of my food consumption, or on the compression attire I will be donning for the 10 hour trek.

Looking forward to a weekend with the girls, celebrating Hollie & Tim, running in warmer weather, and generally just being away for a few days. Then we come home, I'll work for a few days and before we know it- I'll be back in the car heading to Boston with my Mom and Carrie! Talk about a whirlwind of a taper.

I already have my post written about race goals, but that will come closer to the race and give me a little more time to ponder. Basically, another week to stare at my training logs, and also evaluate every muscle twitch I and bound to feel between now and then. I'll try to diagnose myself with no more than 10 imaginary injuries and illnesses during this time.

Enjoy the social media bombarding for the next week and a half about road trips, weddings, coffee, taper, and Boston. #SorryNotSorry 

Friday, March 27, 2015

Syracuse Half Marathon 2015

After Lake Effect, coach and made Syracuse half a 'maybe' on the calendar. Mainly because of the mental state LE put me into- and because 'Cuse was 4 weeks out from Boston. We decided after Johnny's that I would actually run Cuse but that I still had the ability to pull the plug on it at any time (i.e. if it was a blizzard race morning like last year). So I was going into the race weekend pretty relaxed because it wasn't certain I'd be racing, therefore it wasn't a goal race. The goals for this race were less about time and more about running controlled, confident and keeping my head on straight.

After watching weather reports, I knew that morning could be tough and didn't want to drive so I booked a cheap motel for the night before. This allowed me to go out to Syracuse Saturday, have a beer and some food with Heather and then relax. I think I watched Hulu on my laptop in bed all night, crazy Saturday party girl I know.

I woke up before my alarm Sunday morning, which isn't unusual for race day- but it wasn't my mind or body, it was the sound of snow plows. Looked out the window to see...
No, not crazy amount of snow. But still not what you wanna see on race morning!
I got ready as if I was going to run, and decided I would make the call when I actually got there. It was only a 10 minute drive, but traffic was really bad once I got into downtown so I parked in some random apartment building lot and hoped I'd remember where I was. I had time to run to the Oncenter, pickup my bib and then bag check. I sent a last message to coach "cold and snowy, will be slow" so he wouldn't worry if he saw slow splits on tracking. The fact that they do bag check is huge, especially on a cold day.

As I was running around warming up, I realized the roads weren't THAT bad. The RD had posted on Facebook that they actually took the time to hand salt the course over night. I have to praise them for this, last year the course was a MESS and this new RD made sure that wasn't going to happen if he could help it. I did some strides, and decided I was going to run even if it was a little slower. Luckily Heather found me before the start, her photo proof that I was incredibly at ease going into this race. We chatted and talked about our plans to go to Empire Brewing Company after (one of my favorites), and she told me to run the race for the beer. Good friend I tell ya.
"Do it for the beer!"
Start Conditions: 15 degrees, 15-20mph winds

Traffic was so bad they delayed the start 15 minutes, but eventually we were able to get going. I settled into a pace and didn't look at my watch a ton, just plugged along. The longest hill of the course comes early, I just tucked in and focused on powering up without killing myself. I pictured myself running up one of the Newton hills, and then realized this was a GREAT chance to work on stuff for Boston. I pretty much forgot I was in a different race. I tackled the uphills, relaxed and focused on form on the downhills. I enjoyed not being a slave to my watch and really just wanted to take the course bit by bit. I forgot how many little rollers are mixed in, and how many turns there were- but it gave me good opportunity to focus on small chunks instead of being concerned about my overall time.
No, the elevation isn't crazy but there really are no flat parts. Constant up and down- Great Boston Training!

I don't remember a ton about the middle miles, I do remember swearing a bit about the nasty headwind from 5-7ish. I decided I would pick up pace more once I got to the 15k, I remembered looking at the map before the start and thought that the steep downhill was mile 9....not 8. So, I saw the downhill and tackled it and was like "Weeeeeeeeeeeee" and then realized that I was pushing a mile early. Well fuck. It didn't make a difference really but was just one of those forehead slapping moments. I'm 27 and apparently suck at reading a map, I'll blame it on a frozen brain.
I'm not sure what this face is.
Anyways, after that downhill I was near a very tall lean man in shorts and a singlet. In my head I named him thin man. Thin man and I were step for step for a while, which was amusing because his legs came up to about my shoulders. I could tell he was struggling with his breathing, I encouraged him a few times as best I could. When we were coming down a little hill and passing the Irish bar Kitty Hoynes (fantastic aid station/cheer section), thin man ruined our unofficial race friendship by cutting me off. He was fading and getting a little loopy and nearly plowed me over stepping in front of me. Luckily I backed off and then darted around him(never to see him again), which triggered lots of "You go girl" from the crowd. Tall Thin man-0, Short Laura-1.

After that it was 'okay I wanna be done', I looked at my watch for the first time in a while and knew that I could squeak in under 90 if I picked it up a bit. Well, okay then! {The whole time I was running I assumed I was more on 1:32-3 pace but again I wasn't paying attention to my Garmin} I knew it wouldn't be a PR but I was really happy to know that even though I wasn't giving 100% I could still break the 90 minute barrier that for years seemed so impossible to me.

As I approached the finish line I could hear Heather cheering, the word "growler" stuck out loud and clear and I ran faster. My name is Laura, and I run for beer (specifically EBC "Local Grind").

Overall really happy with this race, no it wasn't a PR{actually it at the very least IS a course PR by a few minutes} but it was a great training day. I ran at a comfortable pace without killing myself, focused on form with the rolling hills- and I finished with my head on straight. I'm in the peak part of training, the part where I am feeling beat up but still able to knock out some solid races and workouts. Things like that make me uber happy. When I got to my phone, coaches message to me was awesome- because we were 100% on the same page. Talking about not getting greedy during this race because Boston is the goal. Talking about discipline and managing expectations while thinking about long term strategy and overall technique. So no, I didn't throw down a PR 4 weeks before Boston but I gained the confidence from this race as if I had.


Thursday, March 19, 2015

THAT Point in Training

We are a little over a month out from Boston, which means we're in the thick of the final grind until taper. Only a few more weeks of long runs and workouts, then the ever amazing thing called rest. This year is light years different than the final few weeks before Boston last year, that's for sure. I'm truly excited to head back to Massachusetts in a few weeks, and embrace all that the weekend and the race have to offer. More about that another time, for now I need to focus on getting through the rest of this cycle.

This point in training is...

When the already tough task (for me) of waking up in the morning becomes, even tougher. The struggle is real.

Where the thought of running 26.2 miles at X:XX pace makes me feel like.......

Where Tuesday night I cancel plans to do something because I am EXHAUSTED and will be in bed by 8 PM.

Where on Wednesday night (following above Tuesday) I say yes of course we can keep our plans tonight, as long as I can stretch and foam roll too. I'm such an exciting date.


This is the point in training where I need to sit back and relax for a hot minute and look at what I've done so far.

Long runs:
14 (Easy @ 7:49 average)
16 (Progression @ 7:30 average)
16 (Easy @ 7:42 average)
5 x 1 mile (6:08 average)
Tempo Run:
9 mile tempo with 2 x 3 miles (6:56 average for entire thing)
9 mile 'broken' tempo (6:51 average for entire thing)
10 Mile (6:48 average for entire thing)

Long runs: 
18 (Progression, with 7:23 average)
20 (Easy @ 7:56 average)
6 x 1 mile groove intervals (6:17 average)
5 x 1 mile w/60 seconds rest (6:07 average)
4 x 2 mile @ 15k (6:28 average)
3 x 1 mile @ V02 (5:48 average)
12 x 200m (4:46 average pace)
Tempo Run: 
50 Min. wave tempo alternating between ~goal MP and 10k pace (6:59 average for the entire thing)
8.2 mile tempo run (including a 10k PR in the middle, 6:38 average for the entire thing)
Lake Effect Half-Marathon

Long runs: 
22 (Easy @ 8:12 average)
16 (Progression, with 7:30 average)
18 (Easy @ 7:56 average)
5 x 1 mile cruise interval (6:26 average)
Tempo Run: 
14 mile tempo (6:51 average for the entire thing)
12 mile tempo (6:39 average for the entire thing)
5 mile race PR
Upcoming Half marathon this weekend

Maybe I just needed to take the time to write all of that out, stare at it and take a few things away from it all...

1. January was still a solid start to the year, even with being sick for a week.

2. Holy Speed Batman! February really worked on my turnover.

3. No wonder I'm freaking tired right now, that's a whole lotta' work...

4. Those 'average for the entire thing' include warm-up and cool down miles on tempo runs. There was a time my 'tempo pace' wasn't even as fast as I am averaging including those slow miles. Progress.

So, I may be tired and hungry and ready for taper but I've got a few more weeks of work to do. Hey Boston.....

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Johnny's Running of the Green 2015

After a lackluster start to the racing year at Lake Effect, I was hoping for a breakthrough at Johnny's. Well, I got a PR and had a really fun day with Heather- so maybe not a breakthrough but certainly a fantastic weekend!

The week was a little hectic with life/training/work but  kept on track- until Friday. Things blew up at work a bit and I couldn't get my run in before it got too late, it happens. Luckily Heather was coming into town after work, and her being there helped me mentally relax and unwind from an exhausting day. We went to Johnny's Pub where packed pickup is (yes, at a bar), and of course had to stay and have a pint. We had a pretty low key night the two of us with food, drinks, and lots of talking. Also, my dog attacking her with fur and kisses- at least he is cute so he can get away with it.

Race morning is so easy for this race as I live a mile away. We parked, warmed-up, threw our stuff inside the War Memorial and then we were off. I was so happy to see that they FINALLY listened to runners and removed the bottleneck start this year and gave us some room. Once we started I could tell that not running since my tempo on Wednesday was going to create some heavy legs. I tried to shake it off and just run.
Heather and I during warm-up...while I'm eating my Honey Stinger Gel
Thanks Ron for the Photo!:)
I hit the hairpin turnaround feeling...."meh", I focused on the fact that after this I would see everyone coming back and could feed off the crowd. I was running near another local girl who I finish very close to in most shorter races. We went back and forth for a while, listening to people yelling our names- that's the Rochester running community for you. 

Mile 3-4 was just a grind, I couldn't seem to find the right gear. Nothing felt smooth or comfortable, but finally in the last mile I found at least one more gear to finish strong and with fastest mile of the day. 
Rocking my Leprechaun Green Zensah Calf Sleeves
I finished with a 32 minute 5 mile time, a new PR, top 10 finish. So maybe it wasn't what I planned, but still a great outcome. I got to cheer on friends finishing, including Heather and her big PR! We did a cool down jog, then checked results to see we had both placed third in our age groups. Hell yes, wine and medals for awards. 

After we got our awards, we have some serious business to attend to. Yes we wore our race shirts and medals, and yes I actually drank Bud Light. I also drank some whiskey and Guinness, so don't worry- I'm not completely losing myself.

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Lake Effect Half Marathon 2015 *womp womp*

I was very excited about the first race of 2015, a race that I know, with friends I couldn't wait to see. It was my first race since Memphis, and first race representing Zensah and Honey Stinger. Did I want to come out of the 2015 gates with a bang, you bet. Did it happen, not in the least.

I controlled everything that I could. I relaxed the day before, ate and hydrated like normal and got a decent amount of sleep. I was up on time race morning, got there early and wasn't rushed. I was prepared with clothing for every weather situation, and brought my trail shoes for extra traction. I ate a bagel on the road, and drank my bottle of UCAN with it. I warmed up and did my strides, and I took my honey stinger gel during just as planned. I ran 13.1 miles, like I was supposed to (albeit 7 minutes slower than I wanted). I controlled what I could, well...I could have controlled my attitude better but I'm working on it.

While driving into Syracuse I can see part of the course from the thruway. "Where is the pavement?" was my initial thought as I slowed down the car a little. A few minutes later I parked and got my bib and did everything as I should. I ran into Megan who told me that it wasn't plowed and she was going to go jog out and see how bad it was (she wasn't running the race).

The weather was not bad, it was cold (well, low 20's felt warm) but little wind and wasn't snowing. I opted for shorts/calf sleeves, and a two long sleeves. I am most comfortable racing in shorts/tank top but knew that would be too crazy so I opted to at least let my legs move freely.

I chatted with a few people at the start, and minutes later we were off. We quickly went into single file and took advantage of the clear spots, but I knew coming back would be harder (double out and back course). About a mile and a half in, the course conditions started getting worse. The further West we went, the more snow there was. I saw my paces drop quick, and my trail shoes were barely helping the traction. I threw any time goal out very quickly.

The frustration set in almost immediately. Why didn't they plow? This snow came down last night, not this morning. They had time! My stabilizer muscles kicked into overdrive and I made the first loop slow but not too bad. I got to high five friends and cheer on the way back and tried to stay positive. It didn't work well. I wanted to stop. I wanted to DNF (this is not something I consider lightly), I wasn't having fun and I was running far slower than the effort I was putting in.
Let's not discuss the form.
*Side note: Last year I ran Syracuse Half marathon in March and was able to adjust my goals before the race, stay pretty positive despite the blizzard that hit that morning (unexpectedly). I think my biggest issue with LEHM this year was, the snow came the night before and they had time where as at 'Cuse there was no time for it. But again, I should have been more positive this year and adjusted my attitude*

I didn't have a good reason to DNF. I wasn't hurt, I am not coming back from an injury I need to be weary of, and it wasn't SO bad that I feared injury (as long as I was careful). Because I was frustrated and couldn't change my mindset from negative to positive (which I'm usually good about these days). But you know what, I am not a pro athlete. This wasn't about a paycheck for me. This race wasn't going to make or break a sponsorship- did I want to do well for the companies I represent, of course. But I would have kicked my own ass for DNF'ing, and I respect the pro's who finish races even when fall off time (See: Meb, NYC 2013). DNF'ing because you are hurt, legitimately concerned, or other such things is valid in my eyes. I didn't have an excuse, so I kept running.

I spent the second time heading West, in fear of what the back half of the course was going to look like after 500+ runners had gone through. It was worse, that's for sure. The first time hitting the snowy sections my pace slowed about 40 seconds/mile, the second time I actually slowed over a minute/mile. I remember laughing at one point because I legit couldn't make myself move any faster, every step was slipping 3 inches backwards.
Thanks Craig for the photo! Death by ponytail whipping.
When I finally got back to the clear section- I was toast. Luckily I was not far behind another girl which helped mentally kick me back into racing mode and I passed her with less than a half mile to go.
Sticking my tongue out at Heather in the last little bit of the race
1:34:35{5th female, 1st AG}, officially my slowest half since 2012 (Excluding any halves I was pacing someone or the half within the half-iron triathlon that I did). Also 10 seconds/mile slower than my current marathon PR pace. Oof.

You guys, I was a 2 year old about the whole situation. I whined, I complained, I stomped my feet (no, I literally stomped the snow off my feet as I walked into the bar begging for a beer after the race). I initially had a very crappy attitude about it all, no denying that. But, I spent time afterwards with good people, good food and great beer (If you like dark beer---> Black Magic Stout, and The Local Grind). I sang songs and talked it out to my steering wheel on the hour plus long drive home, and then ate/slept the evening away.

I'm feeling better about it as time goes on. I controlled what I could and that's what is important. While I didn't enjoy the race (which, to me sucks more than the time aspect), I did enjoy seeing friends and spending time with them afterwards. These girls were the best part of my day!
I didn't get the puffy coat memo. Sorry ladies!
Britt, Me, Meg & Heather
I won't regret the race or not stopping (I did for a little while), because it was good dose of mental reality check. I'm usually pretty 'mentally tough', and I'm usually pretty good about being positive. I didn't have either of those abilities at LEHM and that is a problem. I need to screw my head back on straight before Boston, positivity will get your butt to the finish line a lot faster than negativity will.

So, I move forward from an off race (that in the grand scheme of things, means nothing) relatively unscathed. I say relatively because apparently glide can freeze (or wash off with snow/slush kicking up) leaving me with the worst chafing I have EVER had. Because you really wanted to know that, I'm sure. I'll be fine, just walk like an idiot for a few days- my punishment for acting like a toddler because I didn't get the time I wanted.

Moving on, back to the grind...and the positive coffee. beer. chocolate. puppies. Unicorns.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Lake Effect Race Weekend & My '2015 Team'

It's officially my first race weekend of 2015, it's insane to me that I haven't pinned on a bib in over 10 weeks. Training has been going well though, and I'm excited to see what this weekend brings. The race is however, in the winter. Needless to say we are expecting some snow and chilly temps- but at this point anything will be better than what it is right now. {Forecast right now is a little snow, and temps in mid-20's which will feel like a heat wave!}

Unfortunately the race course was altered due to construction (Minor change from what I understand), but will not be certified. Obviously this bums me out a little because, barring any CRAZY weather I was thinking a PR could be realistic. But non-certified course technically means no official PR. I already have one unofficial half marathon PR (1:27:XX) from a tempo run I did in training leading up to Memphis, which is faster than my current official PR of 1:28:XX. Who knows, either way I am excited to race and excited to see Heather & Britt again! (Hollie, we will miss you at brunch this year. I'll be a nice friend and drink your mimosa and eat extra food in your honor).

In addition to this being my first race of the year, it's also my first race representing two really awesome companies. I mentioned before in a vague post that my 'team' was growing a bit. No, I don't have a bun in the oven and I didn't go find hubby in a Vegas Casino.

Running is individual but also a team thing in my eyes. I couldn't do what I do without the support from my 'team' of friends, family, my coach, teammates, and awesome companies who make gear that I use in the process. I'm lucky enough to have the opportunity to add two companies whose products I love and already use to my 'team'.

Zensah compression sleeves were the first ones I ever tried back in 2011, my collection has grown since then and so has my love of the brand. Super excited to work with them, and the other awesome people who will also be representing them. You can also expect to see my collection grow even more, although I think my neon pink tie-dye calf sleeves will always be my favorite. Besides the calf sleeves, they also make very functional (and cute) running/workout clothing----> Zensah

As for Honey Stinger, it's another brand I have used off and on since 2011. Fueling is something I have been working on fine tuning and the products they have are organic, taste yummy, and don't mess up my stomach (we all know how hard it can be to find gels that sit just right!). If you haven't had their waffles or gels, you don't know what you are missing!----> Honey Stinger

So first race weekend of the year, and first race with these two companies- a lot to be excited about (assuming I don't turn into an icicle between now and Sunday). I'm thrilled for the training and racing to come this year- onward and upward :)

Moose is already rocking the gear just like I am :) 

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