Wednesday, November 26, 2014

23 Miles of Gratefulness

Marathon training is time consuming, challenging and whether you admit it or not- something that isn't done solo. Sure, we do the runs in our own bodies and put the miles on our own shoes. We do the work, but support from others is something I think many runners discount when looking at their training. Whether it be words of encouragement from a friend, someone calling you to make sure you are up, maybe actually running together, little and big things all make a difference (especially the little ones).

I have no shortage of great support from friends/family. Quite a few of my best friends who I talk to daily don't live here in Rochester. Some don't even live in this state, but it doesn't matter- they take the time to encourage me, ask about training, and even come to races. That's what friends...and runners do. The running community here in Rochester is pretty awesome too, I know I'm lucky to have such great friends/runners also in the area.

The long introduction was to bring me to the point that runners are great people, they support others while training AND racing. This past weekend some friends of mine hosted an off the books half and full marathon. It was a Sunday run, on a marked course with volunteers and post-race celebration. I had 23 miles planned for the day, so they offered to drop me off at mile 3, so I could run the last 23 of the course as my workout.

While I was reminded by a friend the night before- this was not a "pass/fail" kind of run. BUT, I knew that I wanted it to go well (no one wants bad runs, but you know what I mean). I knew that while a bad run wouldn't break me, a good run could help build me up this final two weeks until race day. This was the third time I have gone up to 23 in training for a race. The first time was last year training for CIM, where I had an AMAZING feeling run and it gave me incredible confidence heading into taper. I also ran 23 training for Rochester this fall, although that run wasn't so great but still got the time on feet in. My goal for this run was to focus on form, practice fueling strategies and test race gear and pacing. Coach had given me a progression pace plan with a warm-up and then progression down to the last few being faster than marathon pace. I was excited for the challenge.

I got up and did my normal puttering around, downed a bottle of GenUCAN and then made my way to my friends house. We met up with everyone else and I cheered and waved off the runners as they left on the double loop course. I was then dropped off at mile 3ish and waited until the one other person doing the marathon passed me and then jumped in to finally begin my workout. It was hard to keep slower pace the first 2 miles, but I knew there was a long way to go. I went back and forth for a while with one of the guys who was running the half, this gave me a good distraction. The course was rolling hills, which forced me to focus on form and effort- GREAT training run conditions.

I never went more than 2-3 miles without seeing someone. Whether it was a water bottle hand off (I didn't have to carry one, simply take a sip and drop it), cheering, or road marshaling around a corner. One fellow runner even came out to take photos for the day(Photo Credits: Come on people if this is not your idea of a Sunday Funday Runday I don't know what is. I progressed as planned the first 10 miles of the run, spot on.
Back at the starting point, mile 10 for me- 13 for everyone else. Still feeling good:)
When I got back to the school at mile 10, there were even MORE people there than when we started. Cheering, ringing imaginary cowbells, offering encouragement and fuel. I smiled, waved, danced a little and went on my way. 13 miles to go, and this is when I was supposed to start dropping pace more significantly.

The first 12 miles of the run, I was taking one shot block (Margarita, for extra sodium) every 2 miles or so. This is a method I've used before in races/long runs that works well for consistent fuel and less stomach issues. After 12, I switched over to caffeinated gels (GU Vanilla Bean). When I got to 13, I wasn't feeling great. Maybe it was switch-over from fuel, or just general miles of bleh (it happens). 13-16 were those mental miles that required some will power, which was good training because 13-20 are my least favorite miles of the marathon. I also really had to pee during this time, but every time I found a wooded spot I'd consider- I'd see a car pulled over not too far ahead (Friends cheering) and decided I'd save my public indecency for later.

Around 17, I started mentally and physically feeling better, my turnover increased and I started feeling stronger. Gel kicking in, maybe. Support/encouragement from friends, maybe. General love of later miles, most likely. Desire to finish so I could pee, yeah pretty sure that was it. I was finally able to get my pace down to where it was supposed to be for 17-18.

Once I hit 19 I was supposed to be sub-7, so I knew I had to focus. I stopped taking water/fuel after 20, partly because I thought I'd burst and partly because I was getting in the zone and cranking out the miles. The last 6 miles were all 7:02 or faster. I knew the run would be a little longer, and I decided to hit that last section harder and practice my 'finish kick'. I ran the last .43 at 6:20 pace, which made me happy that after a hard 23 miles I was not on E and still could push.

I could see everyone waiting, and it was a welcome sight after a long training run. I'm not used to people being there when I'm done. I admit, something challenging about making some of the changes I did this year, is that when I come home- there's no one there. Sometimes you just want to finish a day/run/workout (good or bad) and be able to come home and express yourself about it. So finishing my best 23 miler (not in a race) to cap off a great cycle and having friends there (and people I had just met!), meant more than I could say.
Tired. Happy. Grateful. DONE.
Overall I am really happy with this run. I was in control, stayed relaxed, and was able to finish strong even after a few off miles. I worked on my fueling, and race day strategies. Heck, the terrain and weather even mimicked what Memphis will be like pretty damn closely.

I have one more workout today, a tempo which if done properly will give me a new half marathon PR. If only I could get a USATF official to come certify it for me. 10 days people, 10 freaking days and I couldn't be more grateful for this year in life and training (the good AND the bad).

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!?)

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