Sunday, May 28, 2017

Riding the PR Train, Eating PR Cake

I started racing almost exactly 12 years ago. I had been a treadmill runner for years, but I didn't discover racing until my 5-year college reunion in 2005, which had a two-mile race. I was the first female finisher and I had a blast. One of the other runners suggested I run a 10K the following weekend in DC, so I did it and once again loved it. I ran my first half marathon in September of 2005 and my first marathon in May of 2006.

I've been training consistently ever since, with my longest breaks being my two bouts with mono in 2012 and again in 2016. Throughout all this time, I've never had as much of a "breakthrough" season as this spring. Typically runners see the most improvements when they first start out-- during the first 3-4 years of solid training. While I did see improvements over that time, I pretty much plateaued from about 2009-2013. PRs during that period were few and far between. I think it was a combination of dealing with injuries, and doing the same type of training runs over and over. I didn't have a personal coach who was focused on developing me and tailoring a plan to my needs. 

The past two years have been a "running renaissance" for me, and the PRs have been fast and furious! I know that I will reach the law of diminishing returns and the PRs will become smaller and more rare. So I am savoring my PRs now. Literally savoring them:

10K PR in February 2017

Marathon PR in March 2017

10-Mile PR in April 2017

5K PR in May 2017
Greg has been PRing like crazy too. I'm extremely grateful that we are both healthy and able to train together. With all of this PR celebrating going on, I have maintained my mindset of running being about so much more than PRs. I'm enjoying the training and putting in the hard work. When I set a PR, it's not so much the time I am happy with, but it's that I'm learning how to execute on race day, and that my training has been consistent.

Here's a more technical look at my racing history, since I started using my training log in 2008:

10K Pace over time

5K Pace over time
Now that my spring races are officially over, my plan is as follows:
  • Run 3 short summer races between now and July 4th
  • Early July: Take a little time off so I am rested for marathon training
  • Late July: Go on a running cruise (more on that in future posts)
  • August: Kickstart marathon training the first week of the month
  • September: Run a half marathon
  • October: Run a 10-miler
  • November: Run the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon 
Finally, here is a recap of this week's training.

Monday: 5.8 miles easy @ 8:38 average
This was the day after the 5K. My legs didn't feel sore or tired or anything! I credit that to the flat course and the fact that my legs are used to running fast from all the speed work I have been doing. I should mention that I got soaked on this run. I was completely drenched from the pouring rain.

Tuesday: 7 Hill Repeats
Cool down after the hill repeats
I asked my coach if he intended to put hill repeats just two days after a 5K. He responded yes, this was intentional to see how much my legs could handle. Ok! 

I warmed up for 2.1 miles, and then started the workout. The plan called for 6 to 8 hill repeats at 5K effort. Each repeat was 75 seconds each. Whenever my plan calls for a range I try to be right in the middle. If I am feeling absolutely amazing I will do the high end of the range. If it's a tough day I will do the low end. Anyway, I climbed about 30 feet during each 75-second repeat. My paces were: 6:53, 6:54, 6:41, 6:42, 6:48, 6:31, 6:32. So my legs ended up handling it just fine, but they were very tired at the end. And admittedly, I ran the last two repeats harder than 5K effort without intending to. I ended with a cool down of 1.9 miles.

Wednesday: 6.9 miles easy @ 8:40 average
Greg and I ran to the track to see if they were done with the maintenance that had prevented us from using it the week prior. Unfortunately, the track was still closed, so this meant we'd have to go to a different track for our upcoming workout.

Thursday: 5.3 miles easy @ 8:25 average
My plan had a track workout scheduled for this day, but the forecast was calling for thunderstorms so I figured I should stay close to home and do the track workout the following day. It poured heavily, and I was drenched again, but there ended up being no thunderstorms.

Friday: Track workout
Greg and I drove to a different track, which we immediately discovered was the home of a gaggle Canada geese. About 30 geese were lounging around in the center of the track while we were warming up. As we started our workout, they decided that it was time to migrate to the outside of the track!

The workout was 200m, 400m, 600m, 800m, 1000m, 800m, 600m, 400m, 200m, all with 90 seconds recovery jog. What made this workout difficult was the short recovery jogs, particularly during the 800-1000-800 stretch, where I typically get twice that amount of time to recover. Thankfully, the geese were smart about making their moves and there was only one close encounter as they walked across the track to the outer field. My splits were 0:42, 1:31, 2:18, 3:10, 4:01, 3:12, 2:18, 1:29, 0:41. It was a tough workout with the sun shining right into my face when turning the corner, and I wasn't wearing sunglasses. 

By the end of the workout the geese were safely gathered on the outside of the track. We cooled down for 1.3 miles, which included the jog back to the car.

Saturday: 14 miles @ 8:30 average
It took a while for this run to start feeling decent. The first three miles were a struggle in that my legs had no pep. My energy level was decent, thanks to taking a serving of UCAN before the run. The middle portion of the run felt okay, but not as good as previous long runs this spring. I became mentally exhausted during the last two miles and really wanted to call it quits at 12 miles. But I hung in there and was happy that I completed the full run. If I hadn't re-arranged the schedule on Thursday/Friday, my legs would have had an extra day to recover from the track workout. In the afternoon, I got a massage that was painful at times, but much needed.

Sunday: 3.4 miles recovery @ 8:46 average
Greg and I ran a different route than what we typically do for 30 minutes, and it ended with a huge hill. There's a monster of a hill very close to my house but we usually run in the opposite direction because it leads to more residential areas that are easier to run in. But since it was the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend, there were very few cars going the other way.

Total mileage for the week: 49.4.

I'm on day 58 of a running streak, which makes me tied with my longest streak ever. If I run tomorrow, I will set a new streak PR.

I'm looking forward to another month of hard speed workouts and racing! The weather is certainly heating up, so I'm definitely not expecting any more PRs. Course PRs, however, are another story.


  1. I've learned a lot from reading your book and your posts, but probably the biggest takeaway I've gotten is how much you vary your pacing depending on what you are doing for that particular day. I need to do what my friend calls "find your gears". I tend to run all my runs at basically the same speed and I know that's wrong. You do a great job of controlling your pace, based on what you are doing!

  2. It's been fun and exciting to read about your PRs this year. I am excited to read about your marathon training too.

  3. Ahhh the cakes are awesome! I love that you do this to celebrate PBs :-) and it's so nice that you and Greg can train and celebrate together.

  4. Be careful about racking up those PRs...those cakes could lead to weight gains - LOL. Good to hear you are cognizant about law of diminishing returns as you continue to ride the PR train. Also good you maintain realistic expectations regarding setting new PRs. Eventually, as you get older, you will have to "reset" the benchmark to PRs in a different age group division. Do you mean by a running streak 58-days of consecutive running? If really should consider not using consecutive days as a PR. You would be better served in the long-term schema to at least have 1-day non-running (but you can xt other types of aerobic exercise like biking) a week, or every 2-wks. My opinion is you are dancing with the injury devil doing that. Taking a day off non-running every so often is going to ruin that PR train ride you on, in my humble opinion. But maybe that's what your MacMillan Coach wants?

    1. You think my coach is trying to get me injured?

    2. I'm not a streaker, nor do I have a coach. But after all these years of running, I totally trust that you have the sense to not run if something feels "off". Injuries and illnesses happen- I took days off and still got injured. Most runners getting injured don't run every day (because most runners in general don't run every day).

      I think most of us realize your attempts to PR are more about PRing for time/race distance and not necessarily a streak. There are streakers whose primary goal is that streak rather than a particular race.

      Different things work for different people. I don't think anyone could argue that what you're doing isn't working for you.