Wednesday, November 19, 2014

WHY I Hired a Running Coach

I've been asked a lot why I hired a coach, what I hope to get out of it. The answer isn't black and white. This is something that had been on my mind for a long time but never really had a reason to act on it. I had PR'd every distance in the 12 months leading up to hiring a coach. I hadn't had a string of injuries, I hadn't had a pattern of things happening that warrant changes. Those are 2 big things that let me hold off on a coach for as long as I did. I was getting faster, stronger, and remaining mostly healthy/intact without a 'coach'.

Some hire a coach to get started.
Some hire a coach to learn.
Some hire a coach to get faster/stronger
Some hire a coach to heal.
Some hire a coach purely for the accountability.
Some hire a coach simply because they can.

The sum total of all things this year was pretty much what led to my decision though.

I had big goals while training for Boston. I wanted my training and miles to be stellar- if that meant a PR then great, if it didn't then that's fine too. Here enters Polar Vortex, The Unexplained Calf Debacle of 2014, and my personal life being in shambles. Boston became an 'experience' run and I was okay with that, I shut down training well before the race even happened. I was smart enough to back off so I could run healthy, even if that meant slower. Then after Boston, recovery was 'magical'. Maybe it was the weight off my shoulders from everything else, maybe it was just a fluke- but I was running better than ever. Earning myself a nice shiny new half marathon PR at the end of May, I was on top of the world. Then the slow spiral started.

June was okay, I was excited and officially marathon training again. I had 2 sub-par races but nothing I was overly concerned about, they weren't my goals. Training was going well, I had a loose plan of what I wanted to do for Rochester but was also enjoying the freedom of doing what I wanted with my running.

July, started great with a strong 20 miler. Three days later I let emotion and rage get the best of me and banged out a 16 miler (and not a 'recovery' 16, because that just isn't a thing). I felt okay though, some friends showed concern but I said I was FINE. The rest of the month continued into a depressed state(Physically and emotionally). Running a 5k and 10k that were the worst I have ran in years, something was wrong. Part of it was physical, and a big part was mental but there was no denying it...July was a rut and I was borderline over-training. I struggled pretty bad and only told a few people about it- I was ashamed at first. I felt like I was failing, and felt like I couldn't pull myself out of it- luckily I have some kick ass friends who made sure to remind me that wasn't the case. I knew that I needed to make some changes, and that started with actively searching for help at the end of July.

A good friend of mine had struggled with some similar things, but had seen much improvement since working with her coach. I was frustrated, emotional and feeling like everything I had been working for was slipping away. So she introduced her coach to me via email. We emailed, back and forth over and over. Was this going to be a good fit? What's your training style? Getting to know each other and making sure it was right. I can truly say he helped me get my running back on track the last 4 months. (No more rut, no more flirting with over-training, and mentally finding my race grit again. If that isn't proof maybe the new marathon PR, and a new half PR/Win are--and this is just the beginning)
So I can relate to all those reasons I said people choose a coach. I wanted to get started (training at new level), I wanted to learn new ways to do things and new ways to help this lifestyle and not just when it comes to pounding pavement.

Obviously I want to get faster and stronger, coach and I have some big goals for myself and I love it. I needed to heal, physically and mentally- slowing down, giving him the power and removing some of my stress, the added was all healing to me (healing does not just refer to physical injuries).

The accountability has been huge, knowing I have to report back- knowing that someone out there is invested in my training. The accountability has helped me slow down when I need to, and push more even when I'm tired and want to hold back.

Then there is the fact, I hired a coach because I could. I work two jobs as most of you know. This is not just so I can pay my bills, this is so I can sustain the lifestyle that I want (mainly race fee's and travel, let's be real), save money for future and still have a life outside of paying bills. I don't have kids, I drive a car that is paid off(read: old), I live in a modest apartment, and I don't live beyond my means. I have the ability to put some money and time into my training so I'm taking advantage of that because it's important to me.

Asking for help isn't a sign of weakness, it doesn't mean I wasn't good enough before- it simply means...I needed help. We all do in some way or another, whether we admit it or not. I wanted to get the help before things got worse, over-training/injury are things I wanted to avoid. Having a coach doesn't eliminate those things from happening- in fact I think having the WRONG coach can increase chances of those things. I happened to find a coach I work incredibly well with, and for that I can say I'm truly grateful.

I have another post in drafts about things I have learned having a coach, and what I find to be most beneficial- if you have any questions you want answered let me know and I'll include it!

If you have a coach: What led you to get one?
If you don't have a coach: What's stopping you?

Has anyone else reading here experienced serious physical/emotional rut with training (borderline over-training)? 
[I'm considering a post on some experiences with this, I would love some input on those who have experienced it. If it makes you feel more comfortable you can email me instead of leaving it in comments (I will make the post anonymous)]

Friday, November 14, 2014

Counting Down: Racing, Off-Season and Fresh Starts

I'm a nerd, who likes spreadsheets, lists, numbers, and many other nerdy things. Memphis is in a few weeks- you can bet the spreadsheets have started (fueling plans, pace plans), lists have begun (packing list, travel plans, etc.) and the numbers are certainly being crunched.

While I can honestly say at this point I have no idea what my goal could or should be for the race- I'm feeling confident I have another PR in me this year (Sub 3:11), beyond that who knows. I'm not stressing about it. Looking back I think I was too set on specifics for Rochester and that made me feel like that race was not an accomplishment (Um, PR and 4th place finish- it is an accomplishment and I will remind myself that every day. I'm mad at myself for even thinking it wasn't). I have enough going on outside of training- so minimizing stress IN training is crucial (luckily I have an awesome coach who helps with this).

I focus on my workouts and getting things done without dwelling on a finish line number(yet) and quite frankly it's nice. I'm not doing my normal result stalking, post-its with goal times, etc.etc. Do I have some ideas what I would like to see happen, absolutely- but first and foremost I want to enjoy the hell out of marathon #10 and see what I have in me that day (whatever time that means). Coach and I will talk more about goals as it gets closer. Yes I care about my time, yes I want to do well but right now the focus is on getting the training in first.

The countdown is certainly on though. Well, multiple countdowns.

21 Days until I am wheels up from Rochester with my Pops! A weekend away is going to be just what I need, I do love Rochester(most days) but we ALL need a break from life sometimes. My Dad decided to use some flyer miles and join me on the trip- it has him written all over it....blues, BBQ, bourbon (this is where I get it from). My flights were already booked but he managed to get on the same ones- Memphis, I'm not sure you're ready to handle this father-daughter duo. We create havoc wherever we go. I'm super excited for my friends that will be there to meet this crazy man- I think they'll understand me a lot more after that, I'm not kidding.

22 Days until Marathon #10. WHAT. Where in the hell did I find time to run 10 marathons in 3 1/2 years? Beats me. I'm so excited for this race, more than words can say. I'm excited to be in a new city, running on new streets, and putting a solid last 6+ months of training to good use. I'm excited to run through St. Jude Campus and  see the amazing children who are more inspiring than I could ever be. I'm excited to run with people I know, and people I don't. I'm excited for the start line, the great miles, the hard miles and the finish line. I cannot wait to soak it all in and lay it on the line.

23 Days until off season. Yes, I AM looking forward to this. Yes I wanted Memphis, I wanted more hard training even knowing it meant postponing downtime. BUT, I'm human and I fully admit- training is hard. Training is time consuming, exhausting, overwhelming- but 100% worth it. I'm looking forward to some extra time with family and friends for the holidays. I'm looking forward to working out without a purpose for a few weeks and getting back to the basics.

48 days until the new year, and new training cycle. Just as much as I am looking forward to a few weeks of downtime- of course I am excited for training to start again. I'm excited for 2014 to be over and to attack 2015 with ferocity, courage and confidence in the person 2014 turned me into.

What are you counting down to?
Holidays? A Race? The end of the work day?

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Rolling With the Punches

I can effectively sum up the last few weeks of my life in Gilmore Girl images.

So, the day before Empire State Half- I got the news that my Grandma was not strong enough for more cancer treatments. Luckily I have incredible friends who are always there for me when need be. Phone calls, texts (even at odd hours), and general support- I'd be lost without them.
My grandma no longer lives around here (Florida) so seeing her is not as simple. Her time is limited, and we are simply waiting for the inevitable. Waiting for good things is hard enough, waiting for bad things...well....
With everything going on, I was diving back into working a ton. Both jobs have been keeping me living the busy-body-life.  Keeping myself distracted is a go-to method for coping though. Which naturally leads to....
Then the last week of October, I found out that a bigger apartment was available. When I left and moved in April, I picked the first available that I could afford that wasn't on the corner of murder row/car theft alley. But as time has gone on, my need for more of a home became increasingly apparent. My very small studio just wasn't cutting it anymore. Which led to a VERY busy last few days of the month with a last minute move. Throw everything in boxes as quick as possible.
This also included: running in circles around the block waiting for RG&E to come turn my power on (3 days late). That was a fun run, pretty sure my neighbors are going to have me committed. 

More work + moving = less time for other things. Grateful for those who helped me out, which usually involved food. Quick lunches, take-out deliveries and even making me soup for the week. Food is important, friends who understand this = damn good friends.
I certainly indulged in some things (wine, chocolate, good beer) over the last few weeks as coping. I've also been doing some random baking- Chocolate stout cupcakes for the win. Luckily I've been ramping up training for Memphis so there is extra calorie burning going on.
 Again, I need to express the gratitude for my friends. Letting me seriously babble and vent constantly with everything going on. Saints I tell you, saints.
Then there was the sucker punch. Spending time getting to know someone and growing much closer only to....woops there goes the rug. Get the news they're moving out of state for a new job offer. When it was finally 'see you later' (NOT 'goodbye') time- it looked a hell of a lot like the season 6 finale.

So while things have certainly been harder lately- I've got kick ass family and friends. I'm grateful for the time I get with them, and won't take that for granted. In the midst of it all I have been doing my best to stay on track with life and training- Something I haven't always been good about in the past. Minor alterations here and there, but sticking to the plan for the most part- even if it means early mornings/late nights or running around the block a million times. Old me would have dropped workouts, changed everything and wallowed. I'm certainly kicking like hell to keep my head above water- but at least I'm getting a good workout in the process.

24 days till' wheels up and Memphis bound- pretty sure it's going to be an incredibly therapeutic weekend full of Blues, BBQ, Bourbon and Marathon running. Until then, back to the grind! 

Friday, November 7, 2014

East Avenue Grocery Run

While this is a race recap, the nice part about it was mentally I didn't treat it as such. When discussing my November plans with coach, I said I could race again before Memphis but wasn't a MUST. So when I got my schedule for the month, I saw he added a 5k on Saturday the 1st but had it listed as a second workout of the week. There was no bold fonts, no highlighted fields or time goals like normal when a race is on the plan. Plain and simple, I was not to stress about this or do anything except go into it as a workout with a few hundred friends tagging along.

There was no race week plan, I did 3x2 mile repeats a few days before this so I had no idea what Saturday would bring. Halloween was the night before, I worked both jobs but luckily was out at a decent time. Home, relax and probably asleep by midnight- not too shabby. The morning came quick and it was cold but the short commute to the race took away any concerns about timing. 

I didn't even register until race morning (I always register ahead to decrease stress and/or things I have to do in the morning), this helped keep my brain in check regarding the goals for the morning. So I registered, jogged around for a warm-up while debating on calf sleeves vs. no calf sleeves (#runnprobs). In the end I went without, luckily my calves loosened up after some strides. 

I lined up near the front, and figured we would see what happens. At first the temperature wasn't too bad, made through the first few turns (quite a few for a 5k if you ask me) and then the wind came. But I just kept telling myself it was a workout, not that I didn't want to do well but I wanted to focus on the goal. The goal was not to kill myself the day before a long run. Stay loose, stay warm, keep form in check and run fast. GOT IT.
Roughly a tenth of a mile into the race, stellar.
My first mile was my fastest and then it just faded. I won't blame the wind (we all had it), but I did keep steady effort throughout the race. I went back and forth with this one girl a few times, and then the last time I pulled ahead I just wanted to be done (Helllooooo Coffee).

I think I have a bunch of race photos with me and this girl near each other in various races. We pace off each other well.
I finished in 19:49 as 6th female and first in my age group. Not too shabby for a "non-race" race. While yes I worked hard and I wouldn't say I 'slacked' with it not being a goal race- I know that I didn't go for broke. Mentally I needed that, low stress but a good time and to feel strong. 

Channeling positive thoughts is so important for Memphis for me right now. Having the killer half marathon PR/W under my belt, and a solid unforced 5k are certainly helpful. The next few weeks are some busy weeks of life and training but I feel like I have a good grip on how things are going. Less than one month till go time!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014


This isn't a typical race recap, it's also a few weeks behind- sorry about that. I assume the embarrassing photos of myself dressed as a troll will more than make up for the delay though.

This was my 6th year running this race (last years post has a photo recap of first 5). It's a fun local race, for a great cause (Youth sports, and the Breast Cancer Foundation). I was really excited to have my sister back this year for it, more fun when we dress like idiots together!

Meg and I went back and forth on costume ideas, and finally settled on trolls.  Why you ask? Because, again we really like dressing like idiots.

I had gone to a concert the night before, indulged in a little whiskey and dark beer- but was up and at it (and texting my sister "BRING COFFEE". She came over and we got to work. Let me tell you, you never realize how long your hair is, and how much you have- until you try and make it stand up. I'll let the photos do the rest of the talking, ENJOY.

There was a lot of upside down.

A pop bottle hidden in all of my hair.

A LOT of hairspray.

A lot of fumes in a small room. Great, let's get high on paint and hairspray before running a 5k, SOLID.

But the end product, totally worth it.

We got so many looks, as most people thought we were naked. Fun times. 

We met up with my sisters hubby, and some of our friends before the race.

We run this for fun and not for time when we do this together- so we set out chatting and enjoying the miles and everyone else's costumes. I even took some running selfies as I ran with my phone (which I never do in a race). My friend Bill (aka Clark Kent) ran with us and we had a blast!

Sister Shenanagins for the win.
I do believe out of all the times we have done this one together, this was our best costume. What on earth will we come up with next year?!

Please tell me you remember troll dolls?!?!
(some people had no idea!?)

Monday, October 27, 2014

Striking While The Iron is Hot

My last few posts have been race recaps, and the one after this will be as well (albeit a slightly different kind of one, hello trolls). So I'll throw in some training talk for a little filler this week, and because I'm kind of running another marathon in less than 6 weeks....NBD. 

After Rochester, recovery went pretty damn good. A full week off really did wonders, and then truly easing back into things for a few weeks. Deep down I knew the iron was still hot though, I knew Rochester wasn't it... Don't get me wrong, my PR at Rochester was really solid but I truly feel like I was just warming up. A decent 5k, and then a half-marathon PR/win kind of back up that feeling in case anyone (myself included) was questioning it. That's not to say the last few weeks have been perfect, because that certainly isn't the case. But feeling the 'heat' is a really good feeling heading into Memphis- I cannot wait to drill out one last 26.2 mile race this year.

The few 'low mileage' weeks were nice after Rochester, I had some more time on my hands which I can say for certain that I didn't do a ton with(Unless you count a few seasons of Gilmore girls as productive). Recovery and easing back into training were nice- but I craved more of the routine that I thrive off of (life of a busy body).

This last week of October and the first few weeks of November are the 'meat' of this short training cycle though. By meat I mean prime rib, fillets and throw in some crab legs to make it a surf and turf--QUALITY meat. The intensity of the workouts and long runs I will be doing, are quality that will prepare me for a helluva race come December 6th. While looking over the schedule coach sent me, I certainly winced a few times "I can't do that!" but then pushed those thoughts away. I asked for this. I asked for the race, this plan and this chance to nail down the things I wish I did at Rochester

Saw someone post this on Facebook and thought it was incredibly fitting.
Physically I've been making big strides the last few months. Training hard, but staying healthy and on track. My mental game has seen more strides in the last few weeks though. Eliminating unnecessary stress, unnecessary drama and unhealthy aspects of my life as much as possible. Mentally getting back in MY game and not trying to play everyone else's games too. 

This past weekend was the mid point between Rochester and Memphis. I celebrated the mid point- by focusing on life a little more. It was a fun and necessary weekend, I even ditched my run on Friday. First one in MONTHS. Timing was hard (but not impossible), and I generally just needed a day off....So, I didn't run and the world kept spinning. Then the weekend involved a costume 5k, a lot of work, and finished with football and great company of friends throughout the day. It really was just what I needed.

This week is a step towards the bigger weeks, some more workouts and one more race[5k] (last race until Memphis). Starting next week the long runs get LONG again (22 miles) and back into long mid-week tempos with killer weekend mileage to boot. 6 weeks, 4.5 more of serious work and then taper.


Monday, October 20, 2014

Empire State Half Marathon 2014 Recap

This might be the quickest I've gotten a recap up- but I'm pretty sure the runner's high is still peaking and well- that creates a LOT of thoughts after the race. I wanted to get this all down before it fades into the abyss known as "post-race-runner-brain"- definitely feeling like a space cadet today!

So yesterday I ran the Empire State Half Marathon in Syracuse, NY. This was my third time running this race, as I ran in 2011 and 2013. Last year I ran this race with my sister as her first post-baby race, still one of my best memories- this year will tie that though.

Race Morning
The morning actually went super smooth- which looking back, was a good sign of things to come. I got up without a hitch, had my coffee (in the shower), and got ready and was on the road around 5:45. I got incredibly lucky- the weather/road conditions were good, the thruway was clear and I didn't stress one bit on the drive. This was a HUGE relief, because last time I went to 'Cuse for a half- I white knuckled through a blizzard the whole time and my whole body cramped from stress. Lord knows I didn't wanna deal with that again.

I quickly found Heather at the race, we hit the bathrooms and then pretty much hung out in the warm car until I needed to get a warm-up run in outside. I did an easy bit, and then some strides as planned. Much like the 5k I did the week prior- my legs felt good during warm-up strides which was confidence boosting.

I lined up right behind starting line and shortly after- it was time to go. I let loose a bit at the start, wanting to get through the crowd and around the first few turns before settling into a pace. The headwind started pretty much as soon as we hit the Onondaga Lake Parkway (as expected). This was a little daunting mentally because I wasn't sure what I wanted to do. I stuck behind some guys but realized it was too slow. So I ended up essentially running into the wind myself. I could see the lead female up in the distance as she had a cyclist with her, but I didn't think much about it.

When we got near the Salt museum I saw Heather's friend Megan cheering. I knew she would be there, and I had asked her that morning if she could have a shot of whiskey waiting if it was cold out. I asked where it was, bystanders laughed. She then looked at her watch and told me the lead woman was about 40 seconds ahead of me. Again, I didn't give it much thought at this point. I just focused on running a comfortably hard pace into the wind. My quads were numb and I just kept telling myself "get to the turnaround".
Cold red quads in the wind
I could hear coaches words in my head. "You need to be grinding when you get to the 10k". This, combined with knowing that at the turnaround (half) I'd have tailwind kept me going. I passed the second female around mile 6, and hit the turnaround only 20 or so seconds behind the leader. NOW, I was thinking about it.

As we were coming back and passing everyone coming towards us, the other runners were so incredibly encouraging. Yelling my place, cheering along and smiling away. Heather gave a big cheer as we passed each other and I was so happy to see her- she looked great and could tell it was going to be good day for both of us.

At this point I wasn't questioning "IF" about the lead, but "WHEN" I could/should. I finally brought the gap to a close, and took the lead a little after mile 8.  Then it hit me....this was happening. I stopped looking at my watch and just focused on pushing and not letting her come back. I was breathing heavily, and my heart rate sky rocketed a few times- I literally said BREATHE and told myself to calm the flip down.  I saw Megan again on the way back, I smiled when I saw her face when she realized it was me with the cyclist and not the other girl. I threw my hands up, asking again where the whiskey was- she laughed and then told me to get going! Apparently I needed to focus on the finish and THEN the whiskey- who knew!

The last few miles it was essentially me and my cyclist. She was riding a little further in front of me than I would have liked, I could have used some company. I wanted to be done, I was getting tired but kept going. "The last 5k should be tough" was floating through my head, coach checking in again. The cyclist looped around and I could tell she was getting my bib number and then saw her radio in to the finish. HOLY SHIT- this is happening. As we went through the last few turns she was yelling "first female" to people, and they cheered and waved- I have to admit, it was a cool feeling.

Before the last turn to the straightaway, a woman was screaming and cheering for me- I gave her a look and just said "is she close?". She looked around behind me and smiled and screamed "no where near you, GO!". The home stretch was full of a lot of omg-omg-omg moments. I get to call my parents and tell them I won. I get to tell my coach that I won. I get to tell my friends and everyone else who supports me- I won. OMG all those long tempos that made me want to die, they're paying off today. WHAT?
Almost positive this is when I gave that lady the look- wondering if I was safe. As my mother always says, I can't do anything without my tongue hanging out #classy
When I finally saw the clock, there was a twinge of "bummed". While it was a PR, I knew that a lost some time with the wind on the way out, and that perhaps I was too conservative.  Believe me when I say that twinge disappeared very quickly though. I saw the tape being held up, I knew I was about to PR and I was about to win. The smile here says it all- this is happening.

I threw my hands up, smiled and tried to hold back the tears and also kept thinking "Don't look like an idiot!". (read: no blubbery crying face! no goofy face! For the love of god do NOT stop your garmin right now).
Smiling like a fool, trying not to cry like a baby. Also, raising the roof.
 Immediately after finishing, THE Kathrine Switzer threw her arm around me and congratulated me. I couldn't stop smiling, and I still can't. I grabbed a space blanket and meandered around the finish chute while sharing congrats with others.
This woman....incredible.
I then quickly (relatively) went to my car and bundled up with warm clothes and grabbed my phone. Let's just say my mom thought something was wrong because I mumbled half crying and smiling like an idiot- then she finally understood me and was screaming happy things. I then made my way back to the finish quick, and cheered in Heather! I was so psyched to see her run a solid time and finish feeling good- I also got to meet her dad who showed up! We sat in her car blasting the heat while we thawed out waiting for awards. I received a very cool glass 'trophy' for winning, and Heather got a sweet plaque for taking 2nd in her Age group!
1st Female, 11th Overall (out of ~1100)
Gun time: 1:28:46 (6:46 pace)
Net time: 1:28:44 (6:46 pace) [30+ sec PR] [7 min course PR]
Garmin: 1:28:47 for 13.24 (6:42 pace)
Pacing: 1st half all splits were between 6:43-6:57
2nd half splits were between 6:32-6:37 (with one at 6:45)

Post- Race Thoughts
I never went into this race with even thought of winning. I'm well aware that this was a 'pedestrian time' for this race, this time wouldn't have put me in top 10 last year. Yeah, there's that. BUT I will not sit here and discount my accomplishment. Yesterday, I was the first female finisher and ran a personal best time. I worked hard for my time, and in the last 5 miles of that race I built a 2 minute lead over second place. I played to my strengths yesterday. I was conservative, tactical and knew to take advantage of the wind for my negative splits. I am incredibly proud of this race, I did what I set out to do- and then some. I squeaked in under coaches goal time- and more importantly, I focused on the things I wish I had done in the full at Rochester a few weeks ago (which was the best thing coach could have told me to do). I stayed relaxed, calmed myself down when needed, ran strategically, and I didn't doubt myself. Physically I think I've been where I need to be the last few months- but the mental grit hasn't been there. I think it's safe to say this 'test race'/'tune-up' went as good as it could have, and I have no doubt that I can carry this grit to Memphis in December for the full.
Post- race with my partner in crime. I've officially dubbed Heather my lucky charm. She has been there for my last 3 half PR's, and last 3 full marathon PR's. For the record, I FINALLY got my whiskey after the race- owner of the bar did one with Heather and I!

I want to thank everyone for the AMAZING support, I was truly overwhelmed. Texts, calls, emails, social media explosions, it means so much. I'm a glowing proud runner today, but know that I wouldn't be without the friends/family I have to help me along the way. In fact many of my friends, family, and coach were all in my head during the race-all the things you guys say to me, I remember it and use it as fuel. Cheesy but true.
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