Marathon training sanity/status check

I always find it ironic that the days I feel lousiest – PMS cramps, bloating, and the first few days of my period – are the days that I run strongest.

(Also, I’m never really sure if I’m using the term “ironic” correctly or in an Alanis Morrissette sort of way.)

Anyways, since we last spoke, I’ve been concentrating on making my Saturday long runs more quality (slower, constant work) than quantity (speedy first half, followed by rapid crash and burn). My micromanaging self decided to keep my ass on my treadmill for these in order to control my speed better. It hasn’t been completely boring; fortunately, my treadmill is situated near the tv, so as long as I pick something engaging to watch, it isn’t too bad. (Action movies are key – short scenes, lots of noise.)

On the whole, all my running is really improving. It’s … well, it’s pretty awesome. Remarkable what happens when you actually stick to a training plan. I’m still following the Hal Higdon Marathon Novice Supreme Plan, which has me running Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday afternoons – I take my hour of fitness time allowed by work at the end of my workday, so I’m usually running around 2pm. Not the coolest time of day, but I feel like running a couple hours after lunch still leaves me fueled but not heavy, if that makes any sense. Saturday long runs – I do them when I do them. Having a treadmill means not feeling any great rush to wake up super early to eat then try not to collapse under the heat and humidity of the August morning. I wake up at 3am five days a week; I’m not going to do that on my weekend.

I think the fact that I’m also doing cross-training Monday through Friday also helps. Currently, I’m doing the Jillian Michaels Body Revolution DVDs before work – it’s only 30min and that’s all I can handle at 3:30am (I just finished week 6 out of 13). I highly, highly recommend these – I’m always working hard, yet it’s not too high-impact or impossible. I haven’t felt this strong in years.

As far as my fall race schedule is concerned – I almost gave in to the FOMO monster this week. After all, I’ve been feeling so great and so many people are running this marathon in late October and look, I totally found something selling their bib on the race’s Facebook page! But budget, school/work schedule, training, travel – nothing is working in this race’s favor. Plus I’d be cutting my current training two weeks short – is that really the smart thing to do for your first marathon? Exactly. However, I still do actually need to register for the Outer Banks marathon. Price increases 1 September, so … I’ll probably continue to put that off until 31 August. Just to be sure. :)

– K

 


About LSD…

No, I’m not talking about the drug. Geez.

LSD is known as the “Long, Slow Distance”. So when you’re training for a race, the idea of running slow for a long period of time is supposed to help with endurance and building an aerobic foundation. This may not be the most accurate description, but you know – my blog, my words. Anyways, science and stuff says this helps with training, especially beginners. Which, despite having completed a handful of half marathons, I consider myself to be.

Anyways. Over the weekend, my Saturday long run (as part of my training plan – Higdon’s Novice Supreme Marathon) was actually more of a shorter distance, so it should have been pretty straightforward. Except it sucked. Five minutes is my normal time to work out the kinks and feel normal into a run, which happened. But then ten minutes later, I was just “this is no bueno, this sucks and I hates it”. Over the next mile, I went through the five stages of grief: denial (“I refuse to believe that my legs feel like lead!”), anger (“Fuck you, legs! Work, dammit!”), bargaining (“Okay, I only need to run to point X and then we can maybe think about walking”), depression (“So far! Too hot! Legs hurt!”), and acceptance (“Aaaaand now we’re walking”). Not my finest run.

When I got back home, I checked the stats on my Garmin. I’ve never really mastered the art of checking the watch while running because math is hard. So is thinking during running. It just doesn’t happen naturally to me. Anyways, I plugged in the watch and went over the details on my computer and DUH. Even though I was making an effort to run by feel and try to keep things slowish … I wasn’t. I had started off too fast and paid for it halfway through my run. Through some run/walk breaks, I salvaged the second half of my run, but it was not cool. Not by a long shot.

Later on Saturday, I saw this article from Women’s Running magazine … and again: DUH. Of course. Even speedy runners need to slow their roll. So I’m really going to have to make a concerted effort to get on board the LSD train. (Again, not the drug.) I don’t want to relegate myself to slogging it out on the treadmill every Saturday, but I will if I have to in order to control my pace at a slower speed.

Slow and steady, my turtle friends.

– K


No, YOU stopped blogging for three months.

Right. Not that I’ve been a reliable blogger in the first place.

So what’s new? Not much. I’m exploring some options that might take me away from Small Town in the next year or so, but nothing is finalized. I don’t hate it here – on the contrary, it’s a great place to live. Work-wise, I’m not really being challenged, which has its pros and cons – it’s nice not to have to work too hard, but some days I leave wondering if this is all I really want to do for years to come. I’m just looking at opportunities within my current agency, so it’d be more of a job relocation versus a major career change (if I even opt to move). Still, it’s nice to have options and reevaluate your situation every few years, I think.

My fall race training plan is going almost as I called it back in April. I cut out the Insanity thing after a few weeks because it was honestly making it hard for me to do my running – my knees started acting up and I was just so damn tired. So I focused on this year’s Runner’s World Summer RunStreak (for those who don’t know, it’s where you run at least 1 mile every day from Memorial Day to Independence Day). I did the Summer and Winter Streaks last year and found that, even if I only run 1 mile, that act of running each day helps establish not only a routine, but a decent baseline for a sporadic runner like myself. Even with a two-and-a-half week work trip during that time, I still managed to get in all my runs, so it was awesome.

I still wanted to get a little cross-training in my schedule, so after the Streak finished up, I went with Jillian Michaels’ Body Revolution set. I’ve had the DVDs for awhile now, but haven’t used them. Like all her workouts, it’s only 30min a day, so it’s totally do-able. Two weeks in, and I feel great. It’ll take me up to the first week in October, a month before the Outer Banks Marathon.

Yes, I’m still planning on the OBX Marathon. Loosely planning. I haven’t yet signed up for the marathon itself, but it’s a race I know won’t sell out before I need to make a decision. I just want to make sure I’m smart about training. I have the hotel booked and everything … and if my training goes to hell, I’ll run the half that same day. So it’s not like I’m setting myself up to back out. IT’s just … a big decision. I don’t want to take it lightly.

Speaking of training, I’ve made a few adjustments to the race calendar. I’m still “on” for Mo Cowbell on October 5th and Rock n’ Roll St Louis on October 18th. I’ve opted not to run the Urban Bourbon for myriad reasons, mostly timing. (It’s fine. I’m not heartbroken.) I switched out the Go! St Louis Halloween Half on October 11th for … the Army Ten Miler! That was a FOMO decision I can live with. I’ve ran it thrice before, but it’s been almost ten years. I’ll be glad to return to that course. And, of course, I have one more addition to the calendar I’m excited about:

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After checking to make sure the distance worked with my marathon training plan, I signed up to support Every Mother Counts in the Magnificent Mile Half Marathon over Labor Day weekend! I’m really excited to support this nonprofit. EMC works to address the barriers to maternal health around the world and at home, helping women overcome such obstacles as transportation, education, and supplies. It’s unforgivable that over 90% of maternal death are preventable – and EMC is working to bring that number down. It’s a cause I can wholeheartedly support … and would love to have your support for as well! Please feel free to visit my crowdrise page to donate and support this worthy cause.

Hope everyone is having a great summer so far! What are your fall racing plans?

– K


Plans and other plans

I had considered, several months ago, running a half marathon in April. After all, I was running in February and March, why not go for the hat trick? Ultimately, since it was a local run, I decided to wait and see how I felt about the idea after the Shamrock Half. And I’m glad I did, because while I didn’t run altogether horribly in March, my performance did show me that my fitness isn’t quite where I want it to be. So I’m bagging the idea of another half this Spring.

On the upside, though, this makes a perfect opportunity in my daily schedule to regroup and focus on 1) aerobic fitness, 2) losing weight, and 3) gearing up my training for my Fall plans. I’m attacking the first two points with a round of Insanity. I did this program initially back in 2011 with great results – I lost about 30lbs and was really fit going into my first half marathon (which still stands as my own little personal best time, I might add). The timing works great, finishing up the first week in June and right into pool weather. The only issue is that I want to do these workouts before work, and that means I gotta wake up ungodly early. I’ve been waking up at that time this week in order to try and adjust my circadian rhythms and get used to it, then I start getting Insane next week. As far as the losing weight portion, I’m also going to try and work on the nutrition parts. That means my little evening habit of beers after work has to go. I’ve also recognized I am terrible at both keeping fresh produce in the apartment and packing a healthy lunch, so I’ve already started heading to the (not-Subway, but similar) sandwich shop just a short walk from my office for lunch. After all, the best sandwich is the one someone else makes for you, am I right? Get it on wheat bread, drag it through the vegetable garden. It keeps me satisfied a good part of the afternoon. So: worth it. I’ve got some other stuff to work on the nutrition front, but you know. Baby steps.

And number 3? My Fall plans? They’re mapped out. I’m excited.

Oct 4: Mo Cowbell Half Marathon
Oct 11: Go! St Louis Halloween Half
Oct 24: Urban Bourbon Half
Nov 8: Outer Banks Marathon

I’ll be using Hal Higdon’s Novice Supreme plan, as I’m just looking for training to get me from start to finish, rather than a specific finish time. There’ll be some overlap with the first few weeks and the Insanity program I’ll be doing, but I don’t see it being unmanageable. I’m excited about the halfs I’ve worked in – I just had to switch one set of weekend long runs to work out that lineup. I ran Mo Cowbell last year and had such a great time – I knew I wanted to do this half again. The Halloween half will be fun, too. While searching for halfs that fit my schedule, I found Urban Bourbon and knew I had to try that one on for size. Even though I don’t really drink bourbon. I’m actually not sure I’ve even tried it. But this event sounds too good to pass up, and Louisville is only four hours away, so it’s not going to be a hardship with my work/school schedule. Speaking of that, I really had to try and work my plans around my school’s Fall break – Fall quarter ends Nov 4 and Winter quarter begins Nov 16, so the Outer Banks Marathon was a perfect choice. My family vacations there almost every summer, and I know it’ll be a scenic race with awesome local support.

So! As Liz Lemon would say – things are happening!

What’s new on your end? Ever run any of these races?

– K


Shamrock Half recap

I just got back from a long four day weekend in Virginia for the Shamrock Half Marathon, which was (spoiler alert) just okay, I guess. I’d been wanting to run this race for awhile for several reasons – the course is super flat and is just an hour’s drive from my parents’ house. Plus March in Virginia Beach is usually pretty decent weather, and since I tend to run hot, I prefer something on the cool side. I spent most of the day Thursday on the road from the STL metro to Williamsburg (it’s usually an 11.5 hour drive for me, but results may vary depending on the number of highway patrol on I-64).

I headed out to VA Beach for the expo first thing Friday – I was kicking myself for overestimating how long it would take me to get to the expo, since I got there an hour before it opened, but I wasn’t the first person in line, so there’s that. Actually, the line grew seriously long in the hour I waited there for the expo to open, so I was kind of glad I got there when I did. I’d received my bib number via text message a few days earlier, so  picking up my bib was a breeze. More importantly, the directions for picking up someone else’s bib were very specific and super easy to follow – I had a “permission slip” from my sister as well as a photo of her driver’s license, and was able to grab her bib hassle-free. I’m not one to spend a lot of time in expos, so did a quick walk-around (and got some serious race envy – you people who live in the VA/NC area have some great events to choose from!) before heading back to Williamsburg, trying to beat the rainy Friday afternoon traffic.

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After spending a relaxing Saturday with my family, my sister and I got up early Sunday morning and headed out at 4:30 to the Beach. The race directors had provided a lot of info on race day parking, so we were able to find a space in a free lot about ten blocks from the finish line. Of course, as we were walking the twenty blocks to the start, we started joking that we might need to hail a cab for the walk back after the race. We weren’t sure about the port-o-john situation (being used to large events like Disney), so we jumped into a local hotel lobby for a quick bathroom stop, but we really didn’t need to worry. The start wasn’t very crowded at all – we were able to sneak into a port-o-john again before the start (we were standing around for about an hour). Also, no corral nazis – it was definitely a relaxed start, so even though my sister is a lot faster than me, we were able to hang out (yes I started in the wrong corral, no shame).

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So. The race itself. Well, I like the course, mostly. The locals were great, and some of them had set up their own little aid stations (I’m talking about street-side mimosas at mile 11), so that was fun. The last mile or so was right along the beach, which made for a pretty (if not windy) finish. I really didn’t like miles 5-9 in Ft Story, though. Being a military brat, former Air Force officer, and current DoD employee, I’ve seen my fair share of military bases, and this one was not only boring, but fairly run-down, to be honest. The crowd support wasn’t as great as it could’ve been for this section, and since I was running without an iPod, the silence was pretty deafening.After leaving Ft Story, though, I was running/walking slow enough that I was able to start seeing the marathon leaders heading in the direction I’d just left at mile 11 (for the half marathoners, mile 14/15 for the marathoners), so that helped provide a little extra boost of energy for me. I hadn’t done a lot of running in between last month’s half and this one, and I was feeling it. Still, I finished just over 3 hours, which for me with my running ability is a middle-of-the-road half.

#painface

#painface

Overall? I had fun time; crowds were great and the race was super organized (without feeling like I was being overly controlled/directed). I enjoyed the music and bands along the course, too. I wasn’t a fan of the middle of the course, but it was definitely flat, so that was nice. The finish line party was way too crowded for me, though, so I skipped the free beer. (I know, right? Who am I? But seriously, I looked over at that tent and was all “Hell no”.) I think this is a great race for you East Coasters out there, and if I ever move back out East, I’d definitely consider running it again.

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– K


The Way Forward

A few months ago, I postponed my marathon plans, opting to switch my registration to a half marathon instead of half-assing 26.2. And I have zero regrets about it. But I’ve started thinking about what I want to run this fall – mostly because if I want to pay a lower registration fee or possibly get in to a race by lottery, I need to decide what I want to run soon. I thought briefly about the prestige of having my first marathon being a well-known one. I mean, not New York, because despite all the bloggers I’ve read saying how much they love it, nothing about that experience sounds awesome to me. Nothing. To each his own. Chicago and Marine Corps sound better, but there’s that whole lottery thing. The biggest factor in this is that I start a part=time masters degree program this fall, and my ability to take long weekends will basically be nonexistent. And I’m not keen on the idea of hopping on a plane either the evening of or early the morning after finishing a marathon.

That leaves me with three options. One, I just don’t run a marathon. While viable, I really want to try for 26.2, so this is out. Two, I run a local marathon so I don’t have to worry about travel. I wouldn’t mind this, but the local one I’d chose is the first weekend in October, meaning I’d be logging long runs in the highest heat of summer. Still an option, but not great. Three, I find a marathon that’ll be held during the break between fall and winter semesters or during holiday break, so I have time to “recover” (aka, be lazy) after running.

So. I narrowed it down to two choices I could live with. An early November marathon on the east coast or a mid-December marathon in southwestern Missouri. November is a run I’ve always wanted to do and looks like fun, plus its at the beginning weekend of my fall break, meaning I’d have a full seven days to relax before it’s back to work and school. BUT. I’d have to travel out east and deal with hotels … and then there’s the racecourse, which is point-to-point and has a significant incline at MILE 23 like an ASSHOLE. December is a run I just found out searching “marathons by weekend” on runningintheusa.com (which is a pretty decent search tool). It’s a three hour drive for me, so no big shakes, and is the weekend before my two week holiday break, so I could get fat over Christmas guilt-free (that’s how that works, right?). However, it’s a smallish race, so even though it’s Boston-certified, it doesn’t have that “name factor” … and the course is a loop. A 3.275mi loop. So I’d have to go round-and-round 8 times.

I’m kind of torn. Both races have low entry fees, which is fine. Looking at training, I’d be hitting my longest runs either early October or mid November, and there’s a big difference in that weather. Then again, racing in November could be a whole different ballgame than December – while that coastal weather out east is fairly predictable, you just never know about late Fall/early Winter in the Midwest. The big thing about the December run is that the training will fit nicely with some half marathons I’d like to use as longer runs. I wouldn’t have much opportunity to do that for the November run.

Right now the training plan I’d like to use (as well as my early summer plans) favors the December marathon. Fortunately, I’m not facing any registration price increases for either race for the next few months, so I don’t need to make this decision right away.

Then again, reading all I’ve just written here, I know which way I’m leaning.

– K


Princess Half Recap

As always, I had an amazing time at Disney’s Princess Half Marathon. This is my fourth year straight of participating, and while I had myself convinced beforehand that it’d be the last, I won’t promise that. While it’s expensive to spend a few days down at Disney World, the experiences I have there and the desperate need I always feel to go somewhere warm in the month of February … well, it’s worth it. Maybe I won’t spend quite so many days next year, but I’m pretty sure I’ll be there.

I flew in to Orlando around lunchtime on Thursday the 19th and had amazing luck. Since I was staying at a Disney World resort, I was able to take their “Magic Express” bus from the airport to my hotel for free. The past three years, I’ve stayed at the Boardwalk, which I love and highly recommend. It has a wonderful feel, opens up right onto a Boardwalk reminiscent of Jersey (without those MTV idiots), and is within easy walking distance to EPCOT. Even though it wasn’t yet 12pm, I decided to check in so I could leave my luggage with staff and head to the expo – well, lo and behold, my room was ready! Normally, that’s when I’d change into shorts and a t-shirt after having traveled from frozen St Louis, but it was in the low 30s in Orlando, so no luck there. I headed out to catch the bus to the expo (another perk of a Disney resort stay) over at ESPN Wide World of Sports. It was hellishly crowded when I got there, but the same flow of traffic as past years, so while I had to weave in and out of people, I knew where I was going. I always do a once-over at the expo stalls, but there’s just so many people there, I never buy anything (which is probably for the best). I took the bus back to my hotel, dropped off my bibs/t-shirt, then hopped on Disney resort transportation to Downtown Disney. As part of my resort stay, I’d also booked a 4-day park hopper ticket for the Disney World parks, but I’d be using that Fri-Mon – Downtown isn’t a park, but has a fun Disney vibe. Plus I was going to meet up with the rest of my friends/family there – all 8 of them! We had reservations at Ragland Road Irish Pub for dinner (any party larger than 2 anywhere at Disney and your best bet is to make dining reservations WELL in advance) and lucked out with some Irish jig dancers for entertainment. The food was great and service spot-on – totally recommend!

Friday was the 5k run – me, three other adults, and my niece were running it. The plan was to stick with my 9-year old niece, no matter if she walked – but she didn’t! She had a solid slow pace going and soldiered through the frozen Frozen run. Yes, it was a Frozen theme, and yes, it was totally freezing! With a real-feel temp in the high 20s at the start, it wasn’t just “Florida cold”, it was actually cold. The first part of the run was in EPCOT backlots, but that part passed quickly – then we ran though EPCOT’s World Showcase and Future World. Even though it was untimed, we all had a lot of fun. Later that day we had brunch with the princesses (if you have kids, do this – it’s like 5 character meet opportunities at once) and headed to Hollywood Studios. Dinner was at La Hacienda in EPCOT – service was not that great (be prepared to spend a lot of time waiting), but food was excellent.

Saturday was the 10k – I wasn’t running this one, but a member of our party was, so I headed out to the Boardwalk to watch the runners. Yes, the 10K route takes you around the Boardwalk, which looks super fun. I might consider this event next year.

 

Best sign ever.

Best sign ever.

We spent the day at Magic Kingdom, where I convinced folks to a bunch of baby rides like the spinning teacups with me because a) I am a wuss and b) I’d never been on those quintessential rides like teacups or Haunted Mansion. Highlight of the day was lucking into some prime spectating spots for the Main Street Parade.

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After a short mid-afternoon nap, we had dinner reservations at the Swan resort’s Il Mulino restaurant for some carb-loading. The service there was beyond excellent and the food amazing.

 

So. Sunday. The half marathon.

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We had perfect weather – high 50s to low 60s, clear, low humidity. I kept a slow and steady pace, just running to have fun and finish strong – and I did! There’s an uphill ramp just after mile 10 that I walked and will forever be my nemesis, so that part kind of sucked. And I couldn’t find a port-o-john without a line until mile 11.5 (and when I say lines, I mean 20 people deep lines) so that was a touch uncomfortable. I finished in 2:56:07, so about 5min slower than my October half. I can’t be too disappointed though, considering I’d spent the two days before on my feet walking around the Parks, which I’m sure didn’t really help me in the long run.

The rest of Sunday and Monday was spent at EPCOT – traditionally, we “drink around the world”, but I think we passed over Japan this year. So: fail. Still, I do love me some World Showcase and spend as much time there as I can. We ate at a few favorite places – Rose and Crown, Spice Road Table, and Le Cellier – spectacular as always.

Yeah, after reviewing all this, I’ll be back next year. A few hints for you, if you’ve never done a Disney race:
– You need to be ON POINT with registration. If it opens up online at noon on Tuesday, be ready at noon on Tuesday. The events sell out notoriously quickly.
– Stay at a Disney resort. Yes, it’s more expensive, but the ease of transportation to/from airport, expo, and race is all worth it.
– Wear a costume. It may seem silly, but you’ll feel left out if you don’t. Trust me.
– Consider visiting parks after your race. I walked around a little too much in the days beforehand this year.

 

– K


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