Sunday, February 26, 2012

Lazy Susan

I recently took a "what kind of runner are you quiz" from It was just for fun of course, and I had to laugh when they called me the "Lazy Susan, Casual Runner." One of the reasons my score was low enough to fall in this category was because I indicated that I ran with others and I did most of my runs "in the community" as opposed to trails and mapped out routes. I'm guessing they're picturing a fitness runnergirl who gets together with her other runnergirl friends for a few laps around the neighborhood several times a week. Not the case!

In this context, I will provide a training update!

Running With Others
As I blog about frequently, I run with Capital Area Runners under the guidance Coach George. I run with them once during the week, for either an interval or a tempo run, and then usually on the weekend long runs. When I am not running with CAR, I am running with my husband, and lately he has been joining me on the weekend long runs.

I used to think that running with others wouldn't help me get faster because I'd likely be going too fast or too slow for an optimal workout. But the coach has us work in groups for a reason. We all pull each other through the long runs and on the track workouts, we take turns being the leader. I ran just over 20 miles yesterday with two teammates and my husband during a wind advisory, but being with a group made the time just fly by. It was fun!

I haven't been blogging about my workouts lately, because my head hasn't really been focused on any specific workout, but I'll pull a few examples now of runs with others that have been enjoyable, confidence-boosting, and good race prep.

Feb. 18: 16 miles w/10 at MP
Specifically, 2 warmup up miles, 4 MP, 1 recovery, 3 MP, 1 recovery, 2 MP, 1 recovery, 1 MP, 1 recovery. This was a workout prescribed by my coach and I ran with three teammates plus my husband. This was my second time doing this workout. The first time was two weeks prior, on Feb. 5 with one teammate and my husband. During the Feb. 5 workout, I was focused on going no faster than marathon pace, although the last MP mile was very zippy because I felt good. During the Feb. 18 workout, I was being lead by this speedster, and was worried that I was overdoing it. But one of my other teammates said, toward the end of the workout, "just go with it" in a casual tone of voice and it totally relaxed me. "Just go with it" might be a new mantra of mine. Just as I can't obsess over not running fast enough, I also can't worry about going too fast. I need to stop worrying and just run!

Splits for the MP miles:
4-- 8:03, 8:02, 8:12, 8:00
3-- 8:14, 7:56, 7:58
2-- 7:56, 7:47
1-- 7:39  

Whatever this averages out to, I do not plan on it being my actual marathon pace! But it was a nice workout. Surprisingly, my legs felt great the next day so I guess I wasn't overdoing it as I suspected.

Feb. 21: 6 x 1200m with 500m recovery jogs.
This was a Tuesday morning track workout. The coach lately has been emphasizing not over-doing the speed on the track and trying to get more volume out of the workouts. I had never done six 1200's, so this was a 1200 PR for me. As I mentioned above, we took turns leading. I considered myself to be one of the more conservative members of my group and fully expected that I would go no faster than what the coach recommended, but when it was my turn to lead, I shot out way too fast and then had to dial it back for the second lap. Oops!

The splits were 5:09, 5:12, 5:10, 5:11, 5:10, 5:07.  I was actually running 1200's faster last summer, but that's when the coach cut me off after just four of them, so I'm guessing I was pushing too hard and my form was falling apart.

Running in the Community
There aren't any paved running running trails that I can get to from running out my front door. So if I'm not running with CAR, my husband and I are running around nearby neighborhoods. Thankfully there is a nice path that connects the neighborhoods so we don't have to run on major roads. And once inside the neighborhoods, we run on the street because cars are typically few and far between.

Feb: 11: 20-mile Progression
Two weeks ago, I ran 20 miles on neighborhood roads with my husband. We would have joined CAR, but we had to be somewhere at 11:00am, which meant a 6:30 start time. Actually, the original plan was to go with CAR on Sunday, with a tempo run on Friday, but the forecast for Sunday was a "real feel" of 8 due to the cold temps and wind chill. Therefore, we did the run on Saturday, the day after my 4-mile tempo. 

Splits: 9:43, 9:14, 9:16, 9:14, 9:37, 9:03, 9:05, 8:56, 8:39, 8:34, 8:39, 8:28, 8:52, 8:10, 8:17, 7:56, 7:50, 8:02, 7:49, 7:40.  

It was one of those days where I felt like I could have just kept going and going. I am fairly confident that I could have tacked on an extra 6.2 at a decent pace and had a decent time. But alas, the marathon was not on Feb.11. 

Being the Lazy Susan that I am, I think I'll go have some breakfast and surf the net now.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Running: Then and Now

As a follow up to my somewhat serious previous post, I thought I would do a more lighthearted comparison of my running then and now. For "then" I'll take 2009, the year I met my husband and I was still living in my condo in Falls Church.

Always ran with iPod/Headphones  Almost never use iPod/Heaphones 
Speedwork on the treadmill Intervals on the track, tempos on track or road
Monday-Friday always on the treadmill. Treadmill only on business trips, and even then I try to avoid it. 
Usually ran alone, had a training partner for some long runs. Run with my husband and/or Capital Area Runners. Only run alone if husband is injured or sleepy.
Average mileage was in the low 50's during marathon training. Average mileage is in the upper 30's to low 40's during marathon training.
Only swam when injured. Swim at least once a week.
BQ on the Brain. Focused on races of all distances.
Brooks Adrenaline for long runs and easy runs, Mizuno Elixir for races and speedwork. No change! These are great shoes for me.
Ran all races in a skirt. Longer races in the skirt, shorter races in shorts.
Followed a training plan. No training plan. One day at a time!
Did long runs without gels and on an empty stomach, trying to teach my body to burn fat. Eat breakfast before long runs, use sports drink and gels during.
Rarely did core work. Do planks almost every day & stuff on the Bosu Ball.
All long runs on the W&OD trail. Long runs on various routes in DC, VA and MD with my group, or on neighborhood streets w/husband.
Posted on Runner's World Forums almost every day. Never post on Runner's World Forums.
Started most runs at 5:00am (waking up in the 4:00 hour), bedtime was 7:30-8:00. Start most runs at 6:00am. Bedtime is 8:30-9:30.

Most of these changes can be attributed to three huge factors:

My husband and me in NYC
  • Meeting my husband and doing most of my runs with him.
  • Moving to house where I can run out my front door and have a shorter commute to work.
  • Training with Capital Area Runners.

A quick training update: I am now four weeks out from the Shamrock marathon in Virginia Beach. I've completed one 20-miler (progression run) and have another one planned for next weekend. I've run two 16-milers each including 10 MP miles. I've been running decently fast intervals and tempos and feeling energized overall.

I like focusing on how far I've come with my running in the past few years instead of having my PRs be the "tell-all". I don't necessarily think that what I was doing before was wrong or ineffective. I just feel like I'm more balanced now and enjoying it more.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Attitude Adjustment

It's very tempting to write a post that recaps my training over the past few weeks, complete with split times and mileage totals, but I'm going to tackle a different subject matter.

I've had many, many successful training cycles. Suffice it to say, I'm good at training! I'm very consistent and dedicated to running and I have been since day one. In the past four years, none of those training cycles resulted in a good marathon. None of them. So I'm not going to address my progress with this cycle (at least not in this post) because it's not the kind of progress that I really need at this point.

I need a healthier mindset. I've been working on this for about two years now, but change doesn't happen over night, so I'm still working on it. What do I mean by "healthier mindset"? When I met my husband back in 2009, my attitude about running was as such:

  • Followed a training plan to the letter and was disappointed with myself if I didn't make my weekly mileage goal.
  • Didn't listen to my body and would do all runs as scheduled, even if I was tired or I felt an injury coming on.
  • Very focused on time as the only indication of a good run or race, disregarding how the run felt
  • Very competitive with others and frustrated when I saw other people get faster at running while I wasn't progressing as much.
  • Everything in my life revolved around my running. It was my top priority.
  • Needed to "prove to others" that I was fast
  • Had to qualify for the Boston marathon because that was the ultimate determination of whether or not I was a fast marathoner.
Doesn't sound like much fun, does it??? A lot of this is deep within my personality, and I don't intend to change who I am at my core. I will always be competitive, dedicated and self-critical. I will always care about how others perceive me. But the extent to which I allow these elements of my personality overtake my mindset and ultimately wreak havoc on my marathons can certainly be lessened.

So what progress have I made in this journey? Although I've always known that my running had an unhealthy aspect to it, I didn't see it as problematic until May 2010. That's when I realized I needed to make some changes.

Stage 1: Drop the BQ Mentality
Ever since I ran a miserable race at the Bob Potts Marathon back in May 2010, I realized that my attitude needed some major work. I had been obsessed with qualifying for Boston and every time I didn't qualify, I'd feel cheated because I trained so well and knew I was shape for the time required. I had gone into every race over the past two years with high expectations and when something went wrong, like the weather, it would just be a huge blow to me. I later realized that the weather was only one factor contributing to my bad marathons-- the pressure I put on myself to qualify for Boston was also wearing me down.

I was able to just say "screw Boston" and focus on running the best marathon I could. The qualifying standards for Boston got faster and I didn't care. In fact, I was glad they did because the race was filling up too quickly. I didn't really look at it as pertaining to me. It was just something else going on in the running world-- it didn't relate to me because I was doing my own thing.

In the fall of 2010, I ran the NYC marathon alongside my husband as his first marathon. I obviously wasn't trying to BQ there. A month later, I ran the St. Jude Memphis marathon without a real time goal, but the race was ruined anyway by digestive issues. And then came the multiple stress fractures, so there was no marathon in the Spring of 2011.

Stage 2: Ditch the Training Plan
The stress fractures, ironically, were very good for my running career. Because of them, I was introduced to pool running and regular swimming and I learned that I could keep up my fitness even without running for 4+ weeks. If I could go for 4+ weeks with just pool running and elliptical, surely I could do that for a few days if something in my body felt "off".

I now felt like I was no longer dependent on a rigid training cycle to keep fit. The best approach would be to take things one day at a time and see how I felt. That's how I approached my comeback from the stress fractures, and it's how I've been training ever since.

Along with ditching the training plan and adding pool running + swimming came a lower weekly mileage average. In 2008, 2009, and 2010, I would typically average my training cycles in the low 50s and peak right around 60. And I was obsessive about getting that target mileage every single week.

No more! Starting last summer I began training with Capital Area Runners, and the coach prescribes weekly intervals and tempo runs, but the rest is up to me. This approach to training has taken the pressure off. I take things one day at a time. I often even start my runs not knowing how many miles I will run or how many intervals I will do. I just go by feel. It's been great not only for my body, but for my mindset because the pressure has diminished.

Lately I have been averaging in the high 30s/low 40s, but the runs have been more focused on quality than they had been previously. Most importantly, I don't care about what the specific mileage total is. I like to look at it in my training log and be aware, but I attach no value to the number.

Stage 3: Have No Time-Based Expectations
When I ran the Milwaukee Lakefront marathon last fall, I had come a long way in changing my attitude. I had no time goal, I didn't care if I qualified for Boston, I hadn't obsessed over my training. I went in feeling confident and just knowing I would nail it.

The problem was, everything was now "perfectly aligned" for me. Wait. . . that's a problem? Well yes. Today was the day. I had so many issues with illness and injury and weather and finally I had the perfect day where I was in great shape and the weather was cooperating. Despite not having a time goal, I just felt like I had to do well. My marathon time just had to line up with what my shorter distances had been predicting for years.

But the race was a complete disaster. I went out slowly and the only explanation I could find was that I had stressed myself out too much and didn't get the sleep I needed in the weeks prior.

It's hard to have no time-based expectations. I know where I am at fitness wise. I know exactly the time I "should" be able to get. How do I just ignore that?

By telling myself that nothing is guaranteed in the marathon. Nothing. I've learned it the hard way.

There is still more "attitude work" needed with this cycle. Truthfully, I know I will always be competitive and driven so I will never go into a race completely stress-free. It's just not in my nature. I've really enjoyed the low-stress attitude that I've been having toward my training lately, so I am going to try and bring that with me on race day. I'm actually trying not to even think about race day. I would love to just wake up one morning, prepare myself to drive to a long run with my team, and then have my husband tell me we're actually going to a marathon instead.

Race day is just another training run. The only difference is that when it's over, I get a week-long break from running!

I'll return to blogging about my workouts soon enough, I just felt like writing another one of those "OMG it's going so well posts" wouldn't be very significant. Training almost always goes well and it's not where I need to improve.