Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Photo Finish 5k 2015

This past weekend I pinned a bib on my singlet for the first time since Erie, albeit with much less internal pressure about a time goal. I had originally thought I would run Syracuse Festival of Races on Sunday, but due to logistics and it generally being a really busy time for me- it didn't make sense (it also would have meant breaking plans which I don't like to do). So I knew if I wanted to run I'd need a Saturday race to leave Sunday free for going down to Wineglass Marathon to spectate, as luck would have it there was a perfect race.

The Eastman House Photo Finish 5k was logistically what I needed. I wanted to get my butt back out there after Erie, and build a little running pep for Chicago next weekend. Close to home smaller race, good course, and all for wonderful causes (MANY charities benefit from this race). 

Saturday morning I was a bit slow moving getting ready, and walked right out the door without my racing flats. That pretty much just says how little I cared about the actual race (normally I get EVERYTHING ready the night before). I realized I forgot them when I was almost there, and it was a pretty nonchalant "meh" while sitting at a stop light.

It was cold, but admittedly I love that kind of weather for races. I bundled up and did a few miles before the race then stripped down for some strides at the start line. I felt good but really had no idea how the race would go, and my only plan was to not stare at my watch the whole time.

We started and I instantly went out too fast (I can drill a marathon pace in my head but 5k's, not so much). Slowed down about half mile in and held that to cross the first mile in 6:06. I knew I was gonna back off a bit (not necessarily by choice, ha!) and just rolled with it. Second mile was uneventful and I was just keeping the lead guys in my line of sight, I was lead female and hoped holding on to the guys might help keep me there. Mile 2 was 6:18 (read: how not to pace a 5k), but I felt decent so my goal  was to try pick it up for the last mile.
I look super grumpy, don't mind me.
We ran on East ave past the front of the Eastman house so there were some more spectators which gave me a good boost and helped me pick it up. Made the final few turns and went back and forth with a few guys. I turned onto the Eastman property and saw the clock was at 18:5X which made me happy because I really wasn't sure what I was at. I finished in 19:07, which is technically my second fastest 5k behind Bergen in August. I don't regret not staring at my watch, but I do think I could have dipped under 19 again had I actually known where I was at a little sooner. But, again it wasn't a goal race.

Much like Erie told me about other distances (basically, I have a lot of room for improvement in half marathon and down), this just reinforced that. I love marathons but I do have a strong desire to work on some other distances as well. Although, I don't see myself drifting too far from the distance- mainly I'd like to see some big drops in my half and 10k times. 5k is great but I just don't enjoy them the way that I do some of the longer stuff(everyone has their preferences!). Once in a while it is good to get out there and do them though, and I plan on a few this fall after Chicago.

I cooled down with a friend, and then a little more solo before waiting for awards. As first female I won a book, museum tickets (to the Eastman house), and also $100 donation to the charity of choice in my name. I chose KMB for answers. I have talked about this non-profit a little bit before, but it has grown a ton since then. It was founded by friends/family members of a girl with whom I went to high school with. They are doing wonderful things gaining support and raising awareness about eating disorders. If you have a minute, please take the time to hop over to their website or Facebook page and see what they are all about.

Next race, CHICAGO MARATHON!!! I am really excited for this upcoming weekend with Brittany and the rest of the Saucony 26 strong ladies!

Friday, October 2, 2015

8 Reasons you might consider a coaching change

As many know, I was a self coached athlete for a long time. I succeeded with it (until I didn't) and gained invaluable experience, but I also learned a lot when I became a coached athlete again last year. I have talked about why I hired a running coach, all of which I still think are valid. I also wrote some notes down about working with a coach after a year, which the differences still hold true (coached vs. self coached). But I figure now is a good time for the third installment of coaching posts, knowing when to move on to another coach or to self-coaching.

Lets look at a few reasons, you might want to reconsider the coaching thing or at least have a good discussion about what changes could be made to have a better working partnership. Also good to note that many of these could be role reversed in situations coaches might choose not to work with athletes any longer (only fair to mention that).

1. Your training styles are TOO different. Changing the way you approach things in training can be a great way to add a spark, but there is also a limit. Changing the way you do everything, is a recipe for injury or burnout. Usually you can spot this kind of difference quickly though, during discussions with a coach (or potential) be sure to chat about what kind of training you have honestly been doing and what kinds of things he/she would implement into your training.

2. You are constantly injured/burned out. This is a clear sign that something is wrong, and that changes need to be made. Is the training too much? Do you need time off? Some of this could be a negative effect of # 1, training too drastically different than you were. This isn't placing blame, it's simply recognizing something needs to change.

3. There is no trust. Like any relationship, the trust needs to be there. You need to be able to trust the workouts and the plan you are given, and trust the person giving it to you. If you trust that person, and their plans you are more likely to stick to it (and not slack off, or deviate/do more than you should be) which will make you more successful. You also need to trust that your coach has your back, will support you, and has your best interest at heart. Yes, you are paying them to do a job- but would you continue to pay an employee to work for you if you knew you couldn't rely on them?

4. Communication is lacking. Much like number 3, this is crucial in any relationship. Being able to talk to your coach is very important. You need to be able to ask questions (and get answers), you need to be able to make training adjustments if something isn't feeling right, and you need to be able to adjust the schedule to life. Being able to talk about how training is going, or how to prepare for a BIG upcoming race are vital. You don't see NFL coaches taking vacations right before a playoff game do you? You also don't see pee-wee soccer coaches just sending the kiddos out on the field without some instructions. Whether you are a newbie or a pro, the communication lines should be open.

5. It's adding stress. This is one that is tough to quantify or judge. As runners we are constantly trying to learn how much to push when things get tough, and when is too much. If having a coach is stressing you out (undue pressure or frustration from lack of trust/communication) or the training load is too much for you on top of your general life, it might be time to back off a bit. Running is fun (most of the time), and if you aren't enjoying it or it is not adding to your life what is the point?

6. You're not improving/You're not getting what you need. This is kind of a combination of all of the above. But in general, if you are paying someone but aren't getting what you need- why keep paying them? We all need different things, there is nothing wrong with admitting that you need more or less from someone. This could be a great conversation to have, let them know what you are looking for and if that isn't an option you have your answer of what to do. You shouldn't compromise your personal beliefs, training, or happiness to suit someone else.

7. The reasons you started, are no longer valid. There are so many reasons to hire a coach, from complex reasons down to a simple desire to get faster. But just because someone helped you get where you wanted to(in life or running), it doesn't mean you are tied to that person forever (assuming you're paying the person, otherwise we can refer to that as using someone...don't do that). Whatever the reason being, if you aren't content where you are and feel it's time to move forward then there is nothing stopping you. Life changes, goals change, people change, your methods will change along with all of it.

8. It's no longer feasible. Add up the shoes, the fancy clothes, the race entries, and then a coach and that 'cheap sport' gets a lot more expensive. Organizing your finances in a way that allows you to have a coach is one thing (cable TV or a running coach? Personally I'd pick the coach), but jeopardizing your finances is another. Lets just leave it as, if you are unable to pay your bills like an adult and still continue training without the aid of an irresponsible/disrespectful GoFundMe page- it's time to re-prioritize. Be a responsible adult first, and runner second.
I will file the last year under a reason and a season, no regrets.
I guess it's probably pretty obvious why I would choose to write this post, I am no longer working with my coach. I've heard a lot of "I thought things were great" comments based on my previous posts about coaching, which I understand. But there are always two sides to every story, and as we all know- we rarely see the whole thing as posted online. He helped me in many ways the past year, pulling me out of a rut and helping me find more productive ways to train than I had in the past. Obviously I have seen great improvement in a lot of my times and that isn't something I am trying to discount. But that doesn't mean that there weren't ups and downs along the way, I simply didn't find those important to share. He guided me and I did the work, like a coach/athlete partnership should.

In the weeks leading up to Erie things were changing though, and it was more clear to me that moving forward on my end was imminent. Chalk it up to a combination of the above reasons. Most importantly though, I feel comfortable with myself and training that I'm excited(and ready) to be in control of it again. The details are not important and except for a few of my taper fueled frustrated tweets(the internet doesn't forget), the dirty laundry doesn't need to be aired. At the end of the day I respect our differences and know that I learned a lot that I can use going forward. Live, learn, and move the F on.

I'm looking forward to playing with my training a bit, but still using what I have learned to avoid past mistakes. I do also think being a little more 'relaxed' with my training the rest of the fall will be a good mental break for me before gearing back up for Boston. Maybe I will look at other coaches in the future, but in the mean time I will enjoy the perks of being self-coached again. Fall is my favorite time to run so the motivation won't be lacking, and on days that it is- who cares :)

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

So, Sub-3...Now what?

Some of you know me well enough to know that there is always a "next". My mind is constantly going, and my naturally intense "go for it" attitude tends to make me jump 10 steps after just taking 100 in a row.

After some of my races, it was evident that I personally wasn't going to accept the time as the "final" for the year. See fall of 2011, 2013, AND 2014 where I ran an early fall marathon and also a late fall marathon to better my previous time.

2015 will follow suit with two fall marathons bu the second isn't MY marathon- it's "ours" or more importantly, it's Brittany's. I'm really excited to support her through every step of her first marathon and spend a weekend with the rest of the Saucony 26 Strong teams in Chicago. So first and foremost, that is what's next.

Beyond that though, there won't be another fall marathon. My next marathon I'm planning will be Boston (yes, again) on April 18th.  I admittedly had a bit of an internal battle during registration (I had barely processed the previous days personally epic race, and didn't exactly love the thought of instantly signing up for something next year). In the end, I did register for Boston and think it was the right choice for me. I have some great friends who will be there this coming year, some for the first time. My first time was made extra special by the people I got to share it with- I love the thought of being there with others to do the same.

As for what is next for my marathon goals? I couldn't tell you.

Do I have dreams of further bettering my time? Yes.

Do I think that I have truly found my running niche in marathons? I do.

Do I wonder what I could do with the distance, given more time and quality training? Absolutely.

Do I see my priorities in shifting a bit though? I do.

The thing is, I need to not get too far ahead of myself. For once I'm giving myself the time to celebrate properly. To embrace the fact that I just ran a time that according to many studies, less than 1.9% of runners actually run. I worked hard to drop my time the last few years, and I'm content where I'm at for the current time being.

I also don't know what the next 3 months of the year will bring, let alone the next 7 months until Boston. Maybe I'll have a great training cycle, maybe I won't. Maybe other life priorities will leave me putting running in the back seat a bit more, and that is okay if it happens. Things are going well outside of running too, which is a really cool feeling (I also enjoy running more, because I'm not just running to escape everything else). While it's always going to be important to me, and I love marathons too much to give them up- they'll always be there. So maybe Boston will be a PR attempt (or at least a course PR attempt), and maybe it will be a fun run. I don't have answers on that for now and not sure when I will. I haven't lost my drive or passion in the least, I'm just learning to relax a little bit and let things happen. Admittedly this has led to some really great changes lately.

Fall plans
After Chicago my tentative plan is to recover and then work on some shorter distances. It's hard to look at my times and know that I'm capable of much more. I almost broke my half marathon PR in the middle of Erie Marathon, yup there's that. Obviously I have some improvement to make with the distance. I'd love to go back to Empire again, possibly defend my title- but that isn't realistic(or smart) as it is only a week after Chicago. Ideally I see Philly half marathon(11/22) being a strong goal. I was already planning on going to cheer for friends in the marathon so this works out well logistically, two birds one stone. Who knows though, I could also argue the case for the rest of the year being "run whatever" and not have any goal races. We will see how things go.

Upcoming Training
Just like I am trying not to get too ahead of myself with races, I'm also trying not to get too far ahead of myself with training. I want to wait and see how recovery goes after Chicago and then go from there. I'm playing around with some workouts and things I would like to try, but leaving everything in pencil for the time being. There have been some changes around this part with my training (more on that Friday), so I have a lot more freedom to play things by ear. The nerdy planner in me freaks about this loose plan a bit, but sometimes it's good to just let go and see what happens. 

Monday, September 28, 2015

Erie Marathon Cycle Wrap-Up

I mentioned before I wanted to do a little wrap up from this training cycle and Erie itself. You can learn a lot from races (good and bad) and even though this race went 99.9% the way I wanted it to, there are lessons that can be pulled from it. What works, what doesn't and what I'd like to see going forward.

Nerdy Numbers for the cycle

I averaged 49 miles/week for the 16 weeks leading up to the race, with a high of 64.

10-15 mile runs [including tempo runs]: 20 total for ~12 mile average

16-19 mile runs: 4 total for ~17 mile average

20+ mile runs: 3 [20 easy, 22 + 23 long progressions/workouts]

I'm happy with the mileage, I've slowly increased the average MPW with each training cycle and I do think it makes a difference. I've never been a high mileage person but this good middle ground has worked really well for me. I really enjoy the extra double digit runs in the week (in addition to weekend long), hence the higher number of 10-15 mile runs.

I averaged about 75 minutes a week of supplemental training (swim/bike/weights/yoga), which I am happy with. While I'd like to see it be a little higher, I think it was the right amount given I was running more consistent miles than before. Last thing I wanted to do was crank up the miles AND everything else. I like to have a good balance of both, but looking back I think there were some times I could have upped my non-running time a bit.

Some Training Notes
My nutrition was much better this time around.  While I didn't lose weight (maybe 1-2 pounds since spring) I did feel/see some shifts in my body. I'd say I leaned out a bit, but nothing drastic. I still indulge in my treats, I still enjoy my craft beers but in general my diet as a whole was better. I nailed down which foods I can eat for lunch at work and still have a great tempo in the evening (Chicken pad thai, or fried rice are pretty much my go to for workout day lunches). I was better this cycle about getting fuel in me shortly after workouts, and having an extra boost of protein before bed in a smoothie.

I wasn't afraid of using the treadmill when need be. This is the case in the winter, but usually in the summer it isn't needed as much. I didn't care though, on those 90+ degree days I wanted to get my workout in but have water right with me and protection from the sun. Both of the marathons I am running this fall are pancake flat (Erie and Chicago) so some extra time with endless flat was actually helpful for me and my mental training. I still had plenty of time on the roads, and some in less than stellar weather so I wasn't concerned about spending some time indoors.

Probably the most confidence boosting run was my second to last tempo of the cycle. It was done outside and I felt like a metronome on the flat portions of the route mid tempo. I was running very consistently and was focusing on my form and the mile I was in rather than freaking out about miles to go. The run started off as a struggle but mentally I was able to pull myself out of the 1 mile tantrum and got to work. 14 miles at 6:50 average, with the 12 tempo miles at 6:58, 6:47, 6:44, 6:43, 6:45, 6:43, 6:43, 6:43, 6:43, 6:38, 6:39, 6:34.

I'd say my final 23 miler was the second most confidence inducing run. This one, was done on a treadmill to have my water and everything around me, as well as to diligently practice my fueling. I felt great the whole time, could carry on conversation if need be, and finished with my fastest long run(20+) ever by over 10 seconds a mile in a non-race setting. 23 miles at a 7:13 average, with the last 10 at 6:46 average {which, happens to be the pace at least 73% of my race day miles were at...}.

I saw this after the marathon, but I really like the way McMillan words that.
I think I was really able to accomplish that this training cycle, and it played a big role in race day "comfort" at marathon pace. Those last few tempo runs and long runs really made me feel ready to tackle sub-3 pace without killing myself.

Race Fueling
After Boston I finally felt like I had a better grip on my fueling. When/what to eat before but more specifically how often during the actual race. I admittedly under fueled for many of my earlier marathons, I'm talking EXTREME under fueling (I drank water for my first marathon, that was my fuel). That's a story for another day though.

Leading up to the race I did what I have done for the last few marathons. 3 days of carb depletion (feeling bat shit crazy), followed by 2 days of all the food and carbs you can imagine (feeling like you're in heaven).

Race morning fueling: cold coffee (it um, gets THINGS going), and half of a bagel about 2.5-3 hours before the race. 60-90 minutes before the race I drink 3/4 bottle of Gen UCAN (Tropical Orange). Finally, about a half hour before the start I have a Honey Stinger Waffle and 1 package of Honey Stinger Energy Chews. It sounds like a lot, but I've worked out the spacing well and noticed I have much more energy in the late stages of the race.

I am not a person who takes an entire gel at once. I'd rather run with one in my hand and take a swig of it every other mile or so with water, and this works for me. Yes it gets a tad annoying having it in my hand, but the small goals (fueling so frequently) helps make the whole race less daunting. I take in the same amount as many other runners do (3-4 gels) but just smaller doses at a time. I also prefer caffeinated gels, because DUH.

Race Pacing
Erie was going to be a two firsts for me. It was going to be my first pancake flat course, and my first true attempt at a sub-3 hour marathon. I knew going into it that I needed to use the course to my advantage and also not necessarily pace my normal ways. I did a lot of work over the summer holding on to pace, on flat terrain, and grinding the same gear over and over. I admit, the flat course actually scared me more than a hilly course does. My quads like changes, my mind like changes- Erie doesn't give you changes.

I took the first 3 miles easy (my goal was still sub-7 pace for these miles 6:58,55,52). Then I used the hairpin turnaround as a spot to shift down into race pace. I had my watch set so I could only see overall time, and overall average pace. No distance, no lap pace, nothing that could distract me from doing what I needed to do. I was in a race against the clock, not a race against whatever pace my garmin thought I was doing at the moment.

You guys I blew up hard, I ran a 3 SECOND positive split from first half to second. Wait, just kidding- who the hell am I running 1:29:05/1:29:08 half marathons back to back? Remember when I was dying just to break 90 minutes once...let alone twice back to back?! Sorry, had to relish in the progress I've made over the past few years. It's really okay to pat yourself on the back sometimes, if it's not I'm gonna do it anyways.

I have always loved negative splitting, but I do realize that some courses (such as this one) are really made to help you be a human metronome. There are no elevation changes, okay maybe one little bridge but that thing is basically a barbie car sized speed bump compared to Newton. So finding a gear and sticking with it is easier. Except for when you need to speed up to get away from A)the guy who questions your ability as a female shooting for sub-3 or B) The guy wearing his iPhone on his arm and random data being spoken by Siri out loud every few minutes.

I did pretty well, I sped up a bit in the few spots where there were extra spectators(miles 13/14 were my fastest-going through the half/finish area both were 6:3X), and slowed down a bit when I knew I'd see B for a pass off of the excessive crap I had on me (gloves, arm warmers, spibelt, etc.). I also slowed a bit at the end as 23/24 were both 6:5X, but I was really happy that every single mile was sub-7 (that was kind of side goal of mine).

Training changes I would like to make:
Overall I am happy with the cycle, I do think that I was a little short on marathon specific work (maybe 1-2 extra weeks would have been helpful) but that is something I can look at going forward. As someone who used to really hate tempos, I now see the value they really have in marathon training. Regarding mileage, I would like to see another increase in my average miles per week but still nothing drastic. Perhaps throw in a double once a week for some extra recovery miles (not fluff, but actual recovery running to flush the legs). I would also like to see a few more morning runs each week, I do most of my training in the evening even though I race in mornings- I should be practicing what I preach about race specific training.

Racing changes I would like to make: 
Execution wise, this was by far the best I have done with regards to fueling and pacing but I don't want to use that as an excuse to get lazy. I want to work a bit more on getting down to race pace quicker (I guess this is more pertaining to half marathon and shorter), the 3 mile "warm-up" was helpful for me but that's also an extra ~30 seconds I can shave off. Get comfortable being uncomfortable right?

Nutritional changes I would like to make: 
This is something I want to play around with a bit and still working through in my head. Ideally I would like to see my mid-week lunches be better, which will go back to being better with meal planning and prep. This also comes down to self control and not running out to the store on my lunch or for a snack due to raging hunger. Cleaning up the snacks and being prepared for the hunger at work would really help me go a long way in tuning my diet.

Other Erie Marathon Posts
Training: The Build
Training: The Peak
The Race!

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Erie Marathon Recovery

Coming off of the high from Erie was hard, but admittedly not as hard as I thought it would be. Post race blues were definitely better this time than other big races, I'll chalk that up to life OUTSIDE of running being pretty fantastic right now. The first week I was a bit of an emotional mess, but in general did well(thank you, food & friends). This week feels more like business as usual, albeit a little fluffier.

First week of recovery was what I like to call the "recovery week food tour". I covered a lot of bases: Mexican food, Wegmans food bar, lobster rolls, cheesecake, ice cream, Chinese food, booze/bar food, and finished out with homemade garbage plates for Sunday football. This allows me to indulge, and also be lazy with the whole grocery shopping/cooking/meal prep thing. Basically I wanted to sit on my rear all week, and eat. Mission accomplished.

Race hard, celebrate harder...or something like that.

As for physical activity the first week, there wasn't a whole lot. We went for some walks with the dogs which helped flush some of the gunk out of my legs and get me off the couch. I originally planned to run Thursday, but ended up laying in my running clothes for an hour instead of actually running in them. I've learned not to push it physically but also mentally, sometimes you just need to chill. 

Friday and Saturday I got out for about 25-30 minutes of running each day which felt comfortable and manageable. Sunday my goal was an hour of easy running, instead I got a few hours of marathon cheering, and many hours of football/food/naps. I didn't want to run, so I didn't.

Recovery is a little different this time, as I will be running another marathon in a few weeks. Sure, this is not my goal race but I need to be ready to support Brittany as best I can for 26.2 miles. Last week was time based running, and this week will be as well (except long run with Britt). This allows me to focus on time on feet rather than set mileage. I may throw in a fartlek or some strides for informal speed work/turnover to put a little pep back into my legs but in general it'll be easy miles.

Erie was my 12th marathon, therefore I've learned a thing or two about what works for me after races for recovery. This is different for each and every person, that is one thing I know for sure. I have found though, that I recover quicker from marathons now than I did the first few. My body knows more about what it's going through, and my training has also gotten better which in my head does make recovery easier. If you go into a race properly trained, you're going to recover quicker. Might not be a hard rule, but it's pretty strong assumption.

One of the biggest things I try and do during recovery is stop worrying about the numbers. It's hard sometimes because I'm a data nerd, but not dwelling on it makes me feel less guilty about not getting out there as much. After Boston I ditched my fitbit all together, seeing the numbers drop so drastically was eating away at me a bit. I figured I would use it again once training started, but ended up leaving it sitting on my dresser collecting dust. I also stay away from food logging and apps of the sort. Not that I have ever been religious about those things anyways (I don't need My Fitness Pal to remind me that those craft beers and chicken wings MIGHT not be the healthiest). While I love running numbers, food/fitness tracking numbers are a little too much for me- so I stay away and feel less guilty during recovery which means I am less likely to push my limits too soon.

Do I have plenty of training/racing/recovery areas I can improve though? Absolutely. 

Seeing as I have some of this "free time" (which I've actually been filling pretty easily), I have had some time to work on other blog posts. I've done some more thinking about Erie training and the race itself which will be a good post for the nerds (or at least for me to look back at). Also will be some updates for future races, training, coaching updates and some other running related info.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Erie Marathon 2015 {Sub-3!}

It's really hard to know where to begin with this one. The race? The time? The amazing weekend in general? The fact that I've been an emotional basket case for the last few days? So much to say, so few comprehensible phrases coming out of my mouth. Runner brain for the win; or for second if were being literal.

I guess we should start with the weekend, for which I could write a post of its own. My shake out on Saturday was done in the pouring rain while bee bopping around. I felt good, but not great. B and I hit the road in late morning to head down to Erie, most of which was traffic and more rain. He just kept telling me it was getting the rain out of it's system a day early (I wholeheartedly hoped he was right). We got to town, ate lunch, then went to packet pickup and drove around Presque Isle. The rain wasn't letting up and there was a LOT of standing water. B did a good job of distracting me though, whether he knew it or not. Football talk, a new Bills jersey, and generally laughing our way through the day was just what I needed.

Later that evening, we had dinner in our hotel with friends. Home cooked (hotel suite) meal, good friends, good conversation, and I was incredibly relaxed. I went through my checklists a few more times, and shimmied into the ever so fancy pre-race attire. Zensah compression leggings and a ratty old Saucony shirt that I wear the night before all big races. If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

Race morning was the usual cold coffee/hot shower combo followed by jamming to tunes, dancing around a hotel room, and going through lists in my head over and over. We all met in the lobby and were on the road at 5:30 to get to the park. We got there early enough to snag a parking spot (MANY spots were lost due to flooding of the lots from previous days excessive rain), and made our way to the pavilion.
2 friends were pacers, 3 of us racing, and my Buffalo Bills loving supporter by my side
We had a good group of people, and being around them kept me calm while I was listening to music getting "in the zone". A few minutes later I saw a woman bounding towards me with a big smile on her face, FINALLY got to meet Lori and give her a gigantic hug and exchange good lucks! The weather was chilly but comfortable for the start, the prospect of rain was minimal and things were finally feeling like they were coming together.

Eventually it was time to head to the start, 3 pounds of body glide later and I shuffled towards the corrals.

The Race
I did a few out and backs, some drills, and loosened up my legs while mentally getting focused. I spotted the woman I knew would be attempting and OTQ, and hoped she had a great race (she ran 2:42 on this course last year..BLAZING). I stood and bounced around on my toes a bit staying loose, assuming the start would be coming. No such luck. "5 more minutes" is what we first heard. As the minutes passed it was clear we were all getting antsy. Every few minutes a group of us would take off and do a few more strides to stay loose, then we would collectively drop some sighs and f-bombs when we heard it would be a few more minutes. Finally 20 minutes after 7, we were off.

In the days prior to the race I had spoken with a friend who is a coach (but not mine) and also has ran the Erie course. We agreed it would be good to have the first 3 miles as my "warm-up" and use the sharp hairpin turnaround as my spot to change gears. This worked really well, played to my strength of starting slower but gave me a point to specifically change pace. I hit the turnaround and mentally said, okay now lets get down to pace. This was different for me as I usually allow myself longer to drop to pace, but not this day. This was about getting to pace sooner, taking a risk and stepping outside my comfort zone. I found that it wasn't uncomfortable at all, which obviously was a good feeling.

I figured I would see B around 5-6, I smiled and threw my gloves and arm warmers at him while being mocked by the guys around me for lack of aim. We cruised at a decent clip and I was happy to be at pace, somewhere in here is when I started doing math.

 {(Current mile #  x 7 minutes) - (Current mile #  x 10 seconds)}

Basically, what time did I need to be at this mile by for a 6:50 pace. This was better for me, than staring at a pace on my Garmin knowing I could be running off tangents(I was). I repeated this each mile, add 7 minutes and subtract 10 seconds. It was a good distraction and helped keep me headed in the right direction.

Somewhere in here, a spectator on a bike thought it would be funny to yell "you're almost done". Without hesitation the words "Shut up" came right out of my mouth at a loud enough volume to make the guys around me laugh. Thanks for spectating sir, have a nice day.

My little outburst got the attention of the guys around me, as did another spectator who said I was second female. Some of the guys asked if I was gunning for a win. I told them that I wasn't as I knew that there was a female going for an OTQ. One joked that I was still going to win among "mere mortals". I laughed & said I was going for Sub-3, and another guy asked me "do you really think you can hold that pace?" I shrugged it off and took note of his bib number to make sure I beat him (I did, by almost 10 minutes). I didn't think I could, I knew it.

A little while later another spectator called out third female. I knew I hadn't been passed so I assumed someone was missed earlier on. Either way, I was happy with that and kept my focus on running MY race. I didn't want to allow myself to get wrapped up in anything other than what I could control. I could control my running, my pace, my fueling, my legs, my mind- that is where my focus needed to stay.

When we got around the back side of the course I knew we were going to have a headwind. Luckily I had enough guys around me still, and I just bounced from guy to guy tucking in behind them(but not right on them, I'm not that much of a leach) when I needed to. It's a racing strategy, some might knock me for that but it is what it is. I laughed when some of them tried to tuck behind me though, particularly the 6 foot tall older man who I yo-yo'd with for a long time. Dude, you have almost a foot on me I can promise I am not helping you.

I knew I would see B again around miles 10-12 which gave me something to look forward to. What I didn't know is that I'd be seeing the OTQ attempting woman walking on the side of the course with her bib taken off. I don't remember which came first, her or B- but both sent my brain into a whirlwind. Seeing him gave me a goofy smile and was a welcome distraction from the headwind. Seeing her though, admittedly distracted me from my own race and allowed some thoughts of winning to creep in.

"Holy crap, I hope she is alright"
{From what I have heard, she will be attempting an OTQ again in a few weeks}

"Wait, I'm not in the lead now am I?"

"If I'm in second....how far in front of me is she?"

"I'm gonna cry, and immediately end my running career if I win and break 3 at the same race. Nothing will top that."
{dramatic mid-marathon thoughts...}

Then it was back to reality, and back to adding 7 minutes and subtraction 10 seconds from each mile marker. Don't fall off 6:50.

As I approached the finish area (you literally run right next to the finish to start the second loop), a race official informed me I was second female. I knew which one was in front of me based on start line images flashing through my head. But I had no idea where she was, and wasn't about to blow my time goal trying to find out. I went into this race with a time in mind, and not a place. Stick to the plan. I do a lot of things on a crooked path and ass backwards in life, for once I wanted to stick to the damn plan I laid out.

"If I find her, I will fight for it. If I don't, then I don't"

The second loop was pretty much as expected. I zoned out, wasn't paying much attention to anything except adding 7 subtracting 10. I was consistently beating where I needed to be at each mile marker, but wanted to give myself as much wiggle room as I could.

I kept hearing "second woman", and finally caved and asked someone how far she was. A girl told me she didn't know but said probably a few minutes. I was fine with that and went back to + 7 - 10.

My  spibelt was annoying me a tad bit (it's great, but I just wanted to have less on me especially if I didn't need it), so I finished my gel in my hand and pulled the other out. I knew I would see B and could pass it off. Sure enough, came around a corner to see that blue Buffalo Bills hat which made me light up as I unbuckled the belt and threw it at him while saying "Sub-3".  He gets an award for this weekend. Drove me around, supported me in every way, and chased me around an island cheering for me while I threw things at him.

After that I knew I wouldn't see him again until the finish. I went right back into my metronome groove and reminded myself it was a 20 mile warm-up for a 10k race. I crossed the mat at 20 and knew that I was on pace, and smiled knowing I was minutes ahead of my mile 20 split from Boston a mere 5 months ago.

When we rounded the curve to head back towards the finish I knew I was about to meet a wall of wind. There are some trees for shelter and tall dunes, but it didn't make a difference. I soaked in every "you go girl" I heard, and focused on holding on and picking off guys as I reeled them in one by one. I occasionally tried to get a glimpse ahead of me to see if I could see the female or a lead bike, but no such luck.

It was around 21-22 that I really started thinking about something a friend told me in an email a few days prior to the race. He had shared a little story about his father in law and the health struggles he is battling right now. At this point in time, he will never be able to wiggle his toes again (let alone run/walk).

"Run for yourself. When it gets hard try fucking harder. Remind yourself that you have earned this; you deserve it and god forbid 40 years down the road you’re struggling to wiggle those toes you can say “Yeah. On September 13th I sure did light it up.”"

So here I was on pace for breaking 3 hours (despite the voice in my head doing bad math trying to convince me I was going to fail), and the wind was whipping into me making me grit my teeth to hold pace and salvage my form. But then I thought of those words. I was 20+ miles into the race, I was a little tired and of course I was dreaming of sweat pants and beer- but I wasn't dying and I had no reason to allow myself to back off. So I wiggled my damn toes, tucked my head down and ran harder. 

I kept telling myself to get to mile 25. You can run 1.2 miles in your sleep, that is less than 10 minutes of work. Get to mile 25. At this point it was just one foot in front of the other. Get to the finish. Go demolish that PR. Go get a big hug from B. Just freaking GO, damnit!

When I got close enough to see the clock, I squinted as hard as I could. I couldn't tell what it said. The chute was screaming and I was finishing full stride. "Second woman, GOOOOOO!". Finally I saw a 2:57:XX and knew it was gonna happen. I was half in tears before even being 100 feet from the line.
12th marathon & {5:50 PR from Boston}
 I threw my fist in the air and blew through the line, and promptly bent over with the "holy shit, hands on the knees" stance. I'm sure you know that completely exhausted stance, which promptly makes no less than 5 medical staffers ask you if you are okay/need anything.

 "I'm good, *gasp*, I'm good"

Within less than a minute I looked up and could see B standing on the other side of the gate. I hobbled over choking back the tears, and just buried my head in his chest as he threw his arms around me. A very happy finish line indeed.

We chatted a bit while I caught my breath, and tried to process what was going on. Eventually meandered out of the area and walked back on the course a bit to cheer runners in and watch for friends coming through. The adrenaline and runners high made it possible to keep standing and cheering, that as well as a healthy fear of not being able to get up if I sat down. We wrapped up the day celebrating all of our marathon finishes with beer, good food, great friends and football. 

The Stats:
First 10k: 42:22 (6:49)
10k-Half (6.9M) 46:43 (6:46)
Half-20M (6.9M) 46:42 (6:46)
Last 10k 42:26 (6:49)

Gun time: 2:58:16
Chip time: 2:58:13

2nd/695 Females (1:58 behind 1st, 8:14 ahead of 3rd)
36th/1521 Overall

Early morning: Cold coffee, half of a bagel w/nutella
On way to race (60-90 minutes to start): about 3/4 bottle of Gen UCAN
Pre-race (30 minutes to start): 1 Honey stinger Waffle, 1 pack of Honey Stinger Energy chews
Mid-Race Fluids: water at most stops, maybe 1-2 cups of GU Brew mixed in
Mid-Race Fuel: 4 caffeinated gels (I start around mile 5, a small swig of a gel at least every other mile this time closer to every mile though. Never a full gel at once, yes this means I run most of the race with a gel in hand)

I wanted to step outside my comfort zone and race like I hadn't before, I didn't want to "sit and wait". While I think depending on the goal, sitting and waiting can be a great race tactic and has suited me well time and time again. I wanted to do something I'd never done, I wanted to break 3 hours and I didn't want to wait until the second half to be "going for it". I can analyze my last few races forever and still come to the same conclusion, I've got a good grip on what works for marathon execution (for me personally).

I'll definitely wrap up some thoughts on the training cycle and the race itself in another post. For now I need to get back to recovery week food tour though, while simultaneously holding back tears and staring at that finish line photo.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Erie Marathon Training: The Peak

Officially done, I quit running. I quit training and hard workouts. I'm done.

Just kidding, but I am done with real training for Erie. I'm now in the "do no harm" phase, which is almost as hard as training but in other ways (sitting on your ass is tiring y'all).

Last week I talked about how training went for Erie leading up to the peak point. Now that 'peak week' is done, can wrap this training cycle up.

During this 10 day training period, I had 3 workouts to do which is how I closed out the last few marathon cycles with my coach. A tempo, a long hard progression run, and a final long tempo to be a week and a half out from the marathon. While I obviously want ALL workouts to go well (who doesn't?) I know that the outcome of those workouts doesn't necessarily dictate what will happen come race day.

Rochester 2014
Tempo 1: Nope, had to shut down last few miles.
Long Run: BONK. Bazillion degrees out, hit NO paces on the 23+ mile run.
Tempo 2: Eh, paces were there but didn't feel great.
Result: 2 Minute PR, 3:11 (although a few minutes off of my goal)
Thoughts: I guess bonking all 3 was probably a good indication, but ya never know.

Memphis 2014
Tempo 1: Very good progression tempo, hit paces and could have pushed more!
Long Run: Spot on 23+ mile run, very confidence boosting.
Tempo 2: I broke my damn half marathon PR in a training run. HELL YES.
Result: 7 Minute PR, 3:04:40 (Obviously a success!)
Thoughts: The confidence from nailing all 3 definitely helped, but worried if I peaked in performance too soon- obviously not this time.

Boston 2015
Tempo 1: Paces were there, but didn't feel awesome and had to work for it more.
Long Run: Decent 20 miler, first ten were off but the last half was on point.
Tempo 2: BONK, hit paces for a few miles but then slowed down & had to cut short.
Result: 37 second PR, 3:04:03 (Success, although not quite as big of PR as hoped)
Thoughts: 3 so-so peak workouts and still rebounded mentally to have a spot on race with execution, that is encouraging. The last long run was also shorter than the others and still felt like I had that endurance on race day.

Now onto Erie's peak training.

Tempo 1 (last Wednesday): Nailed it. I ran 14 miles total with an overall average of 6:50. The 12 tempo miles averaged 6:43 and I was very consistent with them especially on the middle flat miles (which is confidence boosting for Erie's flat terrain).

Long run (This past Saturday): 23 miles @ 7:13 average which is my fastest paced 20+ mile run by over 10 seconds/mile. I ran the first 10 as warm-up/easy progression averaging 7:41. Followed that with 3 miles around current marathon pace (7:04) and closed the last 10 miles at 6:58, 6:56, 6:52, 6:52, 6:48, 6:47, 6:41, 6:41, 6:37, 6:28 (6:46 average). The fueling was on point. The pacing was on point. The best part, gas in the tank.

Tempo 2 (Yesterday): Phew, it's done! It was 86 degrees yesterday, and pretty thick. Decided the treadmill was a better option, so I could have a fan as well as multiple water bottles in reach (I hate running with a handheld water bottle when doing a speed or tempo workout). Anyways, 1 mile up followed by 12 miles averaging 6:42, and 1 mile cool down. Originally there was 13 tempo miles planned but I cut one out for a few reasons, and really don't care. One tempo mile isn't going to make or break me in 10 days, if it does then I've got bigger problems.

Thoughts: HELLOOOOO Taper, I missed you oh so much. Sorry, had to get that out. Okay, back to thoughts on peak training this time around; the short of it is I am happy. This summer was a different one of training and I think it suited me well. I wasn't constantly freaking out about it and it made it go smoother and much more enjoyable. Enjoying it is kind of the point, right?

As for the peak workouts, they served their purpose. That first tempo gave me confidence on the roads to hit paces, and to take it one mile at a time. The long run helped me nail down fueling (something I am finally getting a better grip on), and also was reassuring when those later miles didn't feel like a ride on the struggle bus. The last tempo was probably the "worst" of the 3 workouts, but still gave me confidence in hitting paces regardless of conditions. It also made me really happy I won't be a a hormonal lunatic feeling like a beached whale next week like I do now; for once girl luck is on my side.

Now it's time to kick off a long relaxing weekend and get ready for the race week next week!
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