Tag Archives: Goals

Weaknesses, Ambivalence, & a Great 10k

I’m at a week (and a half) in recovery mode: Last week I tried to get a bit more sleep (success), not work a ton of extra hours (moderate success), and ran only 23 total miles. I was feeling a lot more optimistic about the rest of Winter training and going into the Spring racing season. Especially after running the Back On My Feet Mardi Gras 10k on Saturday without falling apart (although it wasn’t without cramping).

The course was .20 short. Whoopsy. Mile 5 was slow because we ran into the 5k..bod and weave isn't in my repertoire.

The course was .20 short. Whoopsy. Mile 5 was slow because we ran into the 5k..bob and weave isn’t in my repertoire.

With honesty I’ve concluded that some of the discomfort and bonkyness I experienced at the LA Marathon wasn’t from having a cold (although that was the biggest contributor and certainly exacerbated things), but also was an illustration of several weak spots in my training and other habits that all reacted at once to the stress of 26.2 miles, on a hilly course, while fighting a lack of rest, a high level of stress, and illness over the past few months while also running at a (for me) high volume.

IMG_0030

Screen shot from thumbnail…used without permission…is marathonfoto really never going to decide to charge a reasonable prices for downloading images?

Also, side note, I’m on my second “rest day” in a row (because of logistics and weather), so it’s plausible I’ve entered a reality distortion based panic where I can’t stop eating, feel 20lbs heavier, and am certain I’m out of shape. You know, the usual.

What are these training weaknesses? In no particular order here are the things I’ve pin-pointed, which if given some attention, it’s realistic to expect I would run (and generally feel) much better:

  1. DIET: True, I maintain a diet that more-or-less keeps me  more-or-less feeling good, and out of the hospital. Having faulty guts  means that I eat much “better” than the average person. But there are several areas where my vices rule me: lots of sugar, lots of coffee, lots of wine. If I just halved my consumption of those three things , I might wake up looking like Shalane… or at least, I’d reliably be able to button my slacks instead of trying to make leggings work-suitable. us-olympic-marathon-trials-results-team-amy-cragg-shalane-flanagan
  2. STRENGTH: I’m as total weak-ass. Figuratively and quite literally. I have very little strength and gave up my weight lifting habit once my weekly mileage went over 40. So, that was like 4 years ago, and now I have all kinds of hip, back, and core issues when I run… because those areas are so damn weak! And, as suggested, I think my ass is pretty wimpy too.
  3. SLEEP: Poor Jorge can share hundreds of anecdotes illustrating how much I struggle in the morning. I’ve been like this my entire life. Doesn’t matter how early I get to bed, my brain, mood, and body take FOREVER to wake up in the morning. If I sleep less than 8 hours (and who has time for THAT?!) it’s worse, and for me sleep debt seems to accumulate very fast and I almost always develop a fever, or catch whatever virus/bacteria is going around – this is what happened in Jan/Feb first the flu then the cold. I was logging only 5-6hrs of sleep per night from Thanksgiving until I got back from LA and said….NOooooooo I can’t take this anymore!
  4. STRESS: Productivity and stress have such a weird relationship. High productivity increases overall stress, but also decreases it… but then if overall stress gets too high then productivity slows down – creating more stress! GAAAAH! This is my life.

    This counts as a whole week's worth of ancillary work, right?

    This counts as a whole week’s worth of ancillary work, right? (and to be clear: this is me NOT Shalane.

  5. CLARITY OF GOALS: For the first time, outside of wanting to break 3:10 in the marathon this year, I don’t really know what I want from running in 2016 … which makes it hard to focus, do the supplemental work, drink less wine,  plan training, and choose races. Which brings me to my next point.

I’m still waffling like crazy over how to proceed in terms of racing and training. More specifically, I can’t decide whether I should go run the Catalina Marathon on March 19th, or stay home and run the Cary March Madness Half Marathon on the 20th (already registered). I registered for Cary on New Years Eve (it sells out within minutes most years), and then last month, very impulsively I entered a giveaway for an entry into the Catalina Marathon. I was really excited when I won! As it says in my entry post, I ran the Eco Marathon in 2013, and LOVED it. I also managed to finish as the first female, and 7th overall… which was an awesome experience. I wrote about it here.FullSizeRenderWhat I failed to consider in my impulsivity, was that this race is 5 weeks after LA and 4 weeks before Boston, and although it’s a comped race entry, I still need to FLY TO CALIFORNIA, which ain’t free. If the weather and sea conditions cooperate I don’t need accommodations because my bother, SIL, nephew and I will go out to the island on their boat. I usually take 36 or so hours to not be sea-sick, but I mean, who sleeps before a marathon anyway? Not me! The bigger concern is running with “sea legs”, basically then you feel sea-sick, but while you’re on land, running a race that is 26 miles with like 4,000ft of elevation gain. Awesome?

Note: not the actual boat.

Note: not the actual boat.

I honestly feel ambivalent, I can get on board with going and with not going. The biggest appeal is an extra visit with my family . I feel too awkward to ask to defer the entry, because, you know. Contest. But I also feel like a douche if i don’t use it. I need to make a decision so I can figure out how to train…

I can’t decide what to do. 

Thanks for hanging in here with me, now it’s time to CROWD-SOURCE this, yay!

What do you think? Catalina: yes or no?  (follow-up question, am I stuck being a jackass no matter how I handle this?)

Reduce training volume by 20% to make time/energy for supplemental work: yes or no?

Give up candy and wine: just kidding, don’t answer this one.

*AB

What it’s really all about: Chicago Marathon 2013 Recap

(Note: I began writing this a few days after the event, but after 5 drafts I haven’t been pleased with the result. So I decided to just be brief -haha, for me- and make my basic point. Please share your stories of what running a marathon is really all about for you in the comments.)

DM CM post

pain joy 2

Marathons and marathon runners often get a bad rap. Some of the negative reputation surrounding marathon’s and endurance athletes is the same as what draws some people to the sport; it is an “individual” as opposed to “team” sport, training is often done in solitude, and to make improvements, sometimes even small ones, hours and hours of training are required, which means training can have a ripple effect on the athlete’s entire life. These things give marathoners a reputation for being selfish, self-centered, and self-interested.

I'm certain I'd individually come in 1st place for anything at a major international sporting event.

I’m certain I’d never individually come in 1st place for anything at a major international sporting event.

Ready to take our first racing singlets for test run!

Ready to take our first racing singlets for test run!

I can actually agree or at least understand, some of the complaints surrounding very large half marathon and marathon events, especially with there being one or more going on it seems every weekend in or near major cities nationwide. Streets are shut down, public parks, paths, and trails get monopolized, there’s sometimes a lot of clean up needed, some are franchise and commercial events so not necessarily giving much back to the community of a charity organization, and so on.

However, if you are reading this and aren’t a runner, or don’t live with one, or if you are a runner and you haven’t thought about what running means to you and your life, let me tell you something, you can’t pour your heart and energy into training for and running marathon’s without help and support from a whole lot of people. My new running friend, and teammate, Declan, who just made his marathon debut (in 3:17!) articulates some of what I mean in a blog post here.

I've never run with someone at a goal race before. Declan was a perfect race buddy, but it's possible we wasted energy with our enthusiasm.

I’ve never run with someone at a goal race before. Declan was a perfect race buddy, but it’s possible we wasted energy with our enthusiasm. Photo credit: Maggie Wolff

Until about a year and a half ago, I trained alone, travelled to races alone, raced alone, and then came home and outside of my parents didn’t really talk about running with anyone. And I don’t think it’s a coincidence that when I started developing friendships with runners, I immediately started to get faster, and fell more in love with running.

On April 15, 2013 and the month that followed many non-runners became familiar with a quote from a marathon legend, Kathrine Switzer, “If you are losing faith in the human nature, go out and watch a marathon.”

The 1967 Boston Marathon. Race official Jock Stemple attempts to remove Switzer from the race. Her running companion (and I think boyfriend) Tom Miller, physically defends her. 5 years later women are officially allowed the compete in the marathon.

The 1967 Boston Marathon. Race official Jock Stemple attempts to remove Switzer from the race. Her running companion (and I think boyfriend) Tom Miller, physically defends her. 5 years later women are officially allowed the compete in the marathon.

It’s a phrase that can be taken as a reference to the perseverance and dedication shown by those running toward their individual goals, it can be illustrated by the hours and hours of time, service, and encouragement given by spectators, and it can be seen in acts of friendship, sportsmanship, teamwork, joy and loyalty shown by competitors.

So rather than detail my own race experience, I’d like to share a few examples of what running really means from the Chicago Marathon 2013. It’s easy to find 100 samples of “inspiration porn” within any marathon event. I’m not trying to minimize the efforts of the amazing people who are fundraising for heart-breaking causes, and the people who preserve through physical, emotional, and situational hurdles most of us can barely fathom, but only trying to say that every marathoner who pours their heart into this sport is an inspiration.

Every single mile is meaningful, and every challenge is meaningful.

A marathon is about finding and embracing joy even when things fall apart. Scott Laumann and Evan Rosendahl are fellow Chicagoans who run with The Track and Trough Athletic Union. Following how these guys train and race, and the matter of fact, yet focused way they approach running, totally helps me to stay focused on long-term goals, and I aspire to race with their sportsmanship and class. Both of these men are capable (and have) run marathons firmly in the mid-2 hours range, and when their races fell apart at Chicago they spent the final miles of the race having fun and hanging on to finish with each other.

Evan and Scott

A marathon is about showing someone that you believe in them even when they have stopped believing in themselves. My friend Lynton (as seen above), jumped in just before mile 20 wearing an injured friend’s bib (thanks Ogi!), I was really struggling, and indeed, evidently, not making much sense during that final 10k. But Lynton stayed right with me, pulling me along, and calling me out on my bullshit.

mile 23 whiney fina;

What does running mean to me? It’s something that makes me feel good, but it also make me feel helpless sometimes, I am compelled to do it. Running means relief and solace, when I’m running there is nothing else. For me, it is the very definition of mindfulness. It means perseverance, and it means love. I’ve never had such good friends and known such amazing people, as the runners I know.

*AB

Running is hard

Training for the Chicago Marathon (which, FYI, is this Sunday) since completing the No Frills Marathon last month has been a little challenging. Nothing hugely or meaningfully catastrophic has occurred, just lots of hiccups. To put it another way, I haven’t been bitten by a bear, just by lots of fleas, and scratching them is tedious and I’m tired.

I’ll catch you up on my training and some of the multiple flea-bites while also bringing to you a message I’ve wanted to deliver for a long time:

RUNNING IS HARD!

This is what Meredith and I say to each other when one of us “overreacts’ to a bad workout, or when the weather is conspiring against us, or when some ding-dong or another makes some remark that minimizes our efforts. It can be an extremely validating and calming thing for a runner to think about.

DM 10-8

Running.Is.Hard. This is my Daily Mile entry from this morning.

Running is hard for some obvious reasons, such as, it takes a lot of energy to run. I don’t mean that a prerequisite for being a runner is that you’re a crazy-eyed-always-moving-fast-talking-knee-shaking sort of personality, I mean, actual energy must be exerted to move your body overground at a more rapid pace than you’d normally take to say, transport yourself from the car to the grocery store.

When your goals begin to move past running for fitness, or “to eat”, to wanting to get faster and stronger, sometimes workouts can be so challenging (read: HARD) that you don’t realize that they were a breakthrough session until much later. This is my Daily Mile entry from about 2.5 weeks ago, I was totally “meh, typical fair” about it until I got the flu last week and missed my final chance for a goal-pace test run.

Running is so hard, that it becomes impossible to talk about your life without talking about running, or running without talking about your life.

Running is so hard that it becomes impossible to talk about your life without talking about running, or running without talking about your life.

Pet peeve alert: I HATE it when people say “I run so that I can eat/because I love food”, in fact, I call B.S.. Eating is TOO EASY and running is TOO HARD for that to really be the behavioral contingency at play.

Running is also hard for some reasons that you may not think about, and that people actually lie about. Here’s one example, speaking of food, if you want to get better at running, you cannot eat all of the cupcakes, or even any cupcakes, on anything that resembles a regular basis. In this case “cupcake” is equal to the following (not even close to exhaustive) list: donuts, frappachinos, brownies, cookies, pizza, soda, bagels and all the ridiculous toppings, pretty much everything on “Pinterest”, anything Racheal Ray put cheese on recently, mimosas every weekend and beers everyday, bags of candy corn, adult-head-sized cinnabons, or brunch 2-4 times per week. I mean you can, but good luck running that off, and good luck not puking or hating running while you try.

Running is even harder if your diet is crappy.

Last Monday, running was hard.

Last Monday, running was hard.

Running is hard because even though running marathons, indeed running any race distance, has become a wildly popular, there is still a lot of discouragement that you’ll face based on a misunderstanding of how the human body best operates. “You’re tired? Oh you shouldn’t run”, “You’re stressed? You should stop running so much.”, “Oh, XYZ hurts? You definitely need to stop running”. There are probably 100 comments that could be added to this list, and the fact is, that running helps make nearly all of the BETTER, not WORSE.

A thing that makes running hard is that you learn how to decide when you run even though something hurts, because the running actually helps it heal.

Two weeks after the No Frills Marathon: A thing that makes running hard is that you learn how to decide when to run even though something hurts, because the running actually helps it heal.

Running is hard because as you start achieving your goals, and start getting faster, people make assumptions. It minimizes a runner’s hard work when you attribute their successes to a god-given talent, saying, “oh, they’re fast”, the same way you’d say “oh, they have brown eyes”. When I was in high school and college, in New Hampshire, I had this one 5 mile loop that I ran hundreds of times, and no matter how hard I tried, I never could finish it in under 48 minutes. That’s how frustrating it was, I remember that it wasn’t 45 minutes, or 5o, but 48 that I got stuck on. The last time I ran that loop was about 10 years ago.

The other side of the counter-intuitive decision making to train through some injuries and illnesses, is that other required backing off. The flu, and colitis flare-ups for example, which means this was actually was my last solid workoutbefore Sunday's race. Running is at its hardest when it's unpredictable. But  I do know, that after this workout, next time I go to NH, I breaking that 48min barrier!

The other side of the counter-intuitive decision to train through particular injuries and illnesses, is that others require backing off. The flu, and colitis flare-ups for example, which means this was actually was my last solid workout before Sunday’s race. Running is at its hardest when it’s unpredictable. But I do know, that after this workout, next time I go to NH, I breaking that 48min barrier!

My first 10k, where I felt like I was running like the wind, my pace was over 9 minutes per mile, it has taken me almost 15 years (of on and off effort) to get my 10k PR pace down from 9:16 to 6:39, and a whole hell of a lot of runners are faster than that.

Like this one:

Hearing what the pro's have to say should be a required element to training.

Hearing what the pro’s have to say should be a required element to training.

Running is hard, and to master it (whatever that means to you) takes a lot of practice, strategy (I don’t just mean for the workouts, I mean to manage it with all the other parts of life too), and patience. There is a cultural oddity in this now HUGE population of runners, where, even though a runner is training hard, and making improvements they should be (and perhaps really are) very proud of, they will look at another runners bad workout and say “oh, man, you’re shitty run is still faster than my best mile!”. I know that the intent of comments like that is very positive. But I always cringe, because running is just too hard for people to self-deprecate like this.

Running is hard because contrary to what MANY people will tell you, you can tell very little about a person's running by how many mile they log each week.

Running is hard because contrary to what MANY people will tell you, you can tell very little about a person’s running by how many mile they log each week.

Comments like that minimize the efforts of both runners, the faster one and the slower one. Because at an equal effort, runner A might run a 5 minute mile, and runner B might run a 12 minute mile. It’s still EQUAL EFFORT. What I’m saying is that it is OK for someone who usually runs a 7 minute pace to come back from bad run that had a pace of 8:45 and call it a bad run. And it’s ok for a runner who usually runs an 8:45 pace to come back from a run that had a pace of 8:30 and call it the most amazing run ever. And neither runner should feel at all shy about either statement. Because running is hard enough! One of the hardest things for new runners to understand is that above all else running and training (especially for the marathon) is all relative.

So whether you run a 14 minute mile, or a 4 minute mile, you better own that ability, or I am going to internet slap you silly!

Running is so hard that even if it’s their favorite way to pass 20 minutes or  several hours, and even if they are relentlessly pursuing a goal they are passionate about, nearly every runner really REALLY looks forward to a day with no running now and then!

See? Haaaard.

See? Haaaard.

*AB

Go Speed Pacer, Go!

My new achievement:

You'd think I was carrying the Olympic Flame.

You’d think I was carrying the Olympic Flame.

One of my running buddies was signed up to be a 1:45 pacer at the Rock and Roll Half-Marathon this Sunday, but she’s working through a lingering hamstring issue, so I said I would take her spot, with the warning that I might besmirch her name because I had no idea what I was doing, only that an 8min pace is comfortable right now, and I’d planned to run 10 miles on Sunday anyway, so why not? (yes, Half-Marathons are still 13.1 miles)

I’ve volunteered at races before:

  • I’ve volunteered at water-stops
  • As a course “marshal” (i.e. point and yell “go that way!”)
  • And, as a bike-marshal (the “weee! follow me guys!” kind, the “hey jackass, pull over before 1,000 runners come barreling into you!” kind, the “I’m so sorry but you’ll need to finish your race running/walking on the sidewalk” kind, and also the “please send an ambulance, I just got puked on, again” kind)

I volunteer a couple of times per year because, although the business model of big races is questionable, and actually doesn’t make a ton of sense to me, I do recognize that without the huge numbers of volunteers laboring for hours at every race from a 5k to a marathon, then the opportunities for us age-groupers and experience racers would not exist in anywhere near the abundance or quality they do.

I haven’t ever seriously considered volunteering as a pacer. Mostly because between experiences I’ve had while training, racing, and volunteering, the more popular running gets the more I see a whole lot of self-absorbed runners do and say a whole lot of disrespectful things to volunteers, as well as to fellow runners and walkers. Therefore, I’ve selfishly figured that if I’m going to put the energy into running the entire length of a race, then I’m going to be trying to do so as fast as I can, that is to say, I’m going to race (kind of hypocritical isn’t it? I’m complicated).

If the jersey fits...or whatever.

If the jersey fits…or whatever.

I’ve never run with a pace group even, but I’ve heard enough horror stories that although I was really motivated to help my friend out, and a though I felt pretty sure I could maintain the steady pace, I definitely lost a little sleep over the nuances of being what I thought would qualify as being a “good pacer”.

My experience of the actual pacing gig was 90% positive. The runners who stayed by me from start to finish of the race were all pretty stoic runners, which can be good when people are vying for a PR, because it means minimal banter and no energy to spare for heckling the pacer.

I was relieved to learn, when I went to the expo to get my bib and pacer jersey, that I’d have a partner-pacer who was a veteran at this game and could sort of show me the ropes. He definitely got me going and settled in over the first few miles, and totally helped me to not panic when I realized that everyone’s GPS watches were basically useless in this race (bridges, buildings…city races are fun, but offer a lot of satellite interference), he was great in knowing what to say to help people not freak out, and helped me be confident in my own rhythm and using my Garmin’s stopwatch function. (Which is silly because until a few years ago I’d only ever done so, well, no Garmin) Unfortunately, my pacer-pal was not having a great day and needed to ease off about 70% into the race. So it got a little lonely.

The not so positive 10% was actually nothing to do with this specific experience but some general things that happen in every race. There are always a few people who don’t know or aren’t aware of race etiquette, or more accurately, their surroundings.

So of course, there were the few folks who came to a dead stop getting water, and the guy who dropped a part for his iPod and dead stopped then reversed direction to retrieve it (add this to my growing list of why personal music devices should be banned from ALL races).

There were also a few passive-aggressive digs. This infuriates me, and I assume it happens with regularity, in different iterations, to most dedicated runner’s. I tried really hard to be extremely self-aware during the entire half-marathon. In fact, I made a point to only speak when I was either calling out the mile split, or answering a question someone had asked me directly. As it happens there were several people who had lots of questions. Those people, (4 of them) as far as I know, all ran substantial PR’s, I like to think in no small part because I told each of them, when our mini-conversations ended, that they were clearly feeling comfortable and they should speed up just a touch. They all did.

Insult # 1: Just after I finished one of these mini-conversations (lasted exactly a half mile – yes, I was tracking it), a man said “how can you talk so much while running this pace”? Trust me, he wasn’t giving me a compliment. I responded that I was in peak marathon training (a lie).

Insult #2: Post-race another man from my pace-group, said “I know why women are better endurance athletes than men” Sadly, I took the bait and asked why. He said, “Because women always talk the whole time they’re running.” I responded “No, I can talk because I train my ass of and I was pacing not racing. It has nothing to do with being female.”

I wasn’t trying to be an a-hole, that’s really offensive. Obviously, I’m not going to volunteer to pace a target-time that I don’t know is well within my comfort zone (I’ve since learned people do sign up to pace at targets shockingly close to their own PR’s, I do not like this, it seems very irresponsible).

Also, DO NOT use my sex against me because you’re feeling intimidated.

If you’re feeling intimidated, then work HARDER.

Also, seriously, I barely spoke. In fact, I worked really hard at that.

Equally frustrating (to me) are the runners who don’t understand that yelling at people mid-race is not going to teach proper etiquette. Mid-race is not the time to explain to someone why stopping at the water stop is a bad idea, or to yell sarcastically at completely panicked and clueless pedestrians who “Frogger” their way across the course.

In the end, I think I did well. I figure pulling it in 20 seconds under is enough time that people who were keeping me in their sights as a target could pull off a finish in the 1:45 minute, but close enough to 1:45:00 that there were not dead-sprints needed.

RnR PACE STATS

What surprises me is I always considered being a pacer a free entry to races. But it’s not. It definitely felt like work, between staying aware of what a runner might need (count down miles? Yell out splits? Do neither? Talk? Stop Talking? Encourage? Offer gel? Run close? Give space? etc etc etc), making sure I stayed on track for the target finishing time without any periods of sprinting or crawling (my variability ended up being only about an 8 second range), and even trying to find that balance between projecting confidence but not making it seem too easy because that could be really aversive to someone who is just hanging on (maybe I need to work on this, see “insults” above).

Anyway, if they comped your entry into another event (or the next running of that event) so that you could run your own race, then I’d call it a “free entry”, and holy cow, I’d volunteer to pace all the time, my desire to practice racing more and more is bankrupting me!

I probably wouldn’t have ever registered for a “Rock and Roll” event without this opportunity, but I actually can’t review the race at all because I was so hyper-focused on my little pacing-gig that I don’t remember anything except for running through the (McCormick?) tunnel near the list mile and almost falling several times because of the stupid disco-lights and thunderous music. Complete sensory over-load. I guarantee people threw up in there.

IMAG1339-MOTION

Thanks to my new blogger-friend Declan for the above capture of my first-ever pacer finish!

*AB

2013 Training and Racing Plan

It’s totally reasonable to expect a training/racing plan post to go up in late December for early January (and perhaps I did one and forgot?). As we enter the seventh month of the year, I’ve still been slightly less than committed to my racing plans and training strategy. Mostly because I want to be smart, and successful, when I hit the fall racing season.

What that really means is I don’t want to be miserable for my fall marathon(s). For those of you who are not runners, I’m sure you’ve assumed this but let me be clear: 26.2 miles is an ETERNITY of MISERY if you are under-prepared, injured, or anything less than 100% committed on race day.

A sub 2:45 marathoner in Chicago told me over the winter “A PR race is always easier to manage and less painful than a bad race”. For example, in my own experience, my 3:17 performance at Boston this year, even though I had some discomfort that held me back at times, was by far more enjoyable and seemed to go by much faster than the Chicago Half Marathon when I ran it last year in 1:38. If you do the math you’ll realize that the latter race was half the distance but run at the same pace. And, I swear, it felt like I was out there for just as long.

Another example, if you were reading Fluency’s Folly last fall you might remember this:

Slightly injured, burnt-out (mentally), under-trained = looong and tantrum filled marathon.

Slightly injured, burnt-out (mentally), under-trained = looong and tantrum filled marathon.

I ran a 3:26 at Chicago 2012, but I swear, it felt like I was out there for 8 hours, just China Town felt like I was on a treadmill. Bad race experiences, of course, can happen even when you are completely prepared, there are dozens of variables that can individually effect a marathon performance. I think it’s this sort of gambling scenario that keeps runners coming back to chase their own definition of marathon mastery.

I’ve had some success doing 2 marathons within 2 months (last year, Boston then Midland). This fall I’m attempting 3 in 3 months, with the last one being a doozy:

I know, you've seen this screenshot like 17 times now. Sorry, nerves.

I know, you’ve seen this screenshot like 17 times now. Sorry, nerves.

Racing review of 2013 so far:

I’ve run 4 half marathons, one being a PR where I felt as good as I could ask for (read about it here). The first one (here) I wasn’t race fit but still race a controlled race and was satisfied, the last two, I was emotional, not fit for them, and overall not pleased with how they felt (go here for a recap of the First Midwest Half). I’ve also done a 10k where I hoped to break 40 minutes for the first time, but failed, and had to admit I was injured (read about that here), I ran a 5k, totally impromptu, and was shocked to break 20 minutes, but it wasn’t without discomfort. Finally, in June I ticked two items off my running bucket list: Ragnar (fun recap post here) where I felt awful when running, but could probably be convinced to sign up again, and the Mt. Washington Road Race (HERE!) which brought me full-circle with my post-Boston events emotional roller-coaster and confirmed that I do in fact, love to run, and do, in fact, want to keep working at it.

Training review of 2013 so far:

Boston training went great, I hit most of my targets every week, and after a lot of time spent staring at my training log, and thinking back to how key workouts felt, I think I’ve isolated where I crossed the line from having some tight back/core/hip muscles to have pulled/pissed off muscles. It was while doing 800 repeats in March, I remember hitting descending splits and being stoked about it. I remember having 3 to go, and tension growing in my right lower back. I remember it hurting, and I remember making the choice to push through and get my split. Then, I remember searing pain 3/4 of the way through the penultimate 800. And then limping slowly through the rest of the workout and the cool-down.

I survived the rest of training, and still hit a massive PR in Boston. I’ve run between 30 and 45 mi per week most weeks, I took the week between Ragnar and Mt. Washington completely off of all exercise, I didn’t even walk the poor dogs. I’ve been seeing a totally awesome chiropractor  (Ryan) for the past 6 weeks or so and I’m learning a lot, but mostly, I’m learning the value of doing the ancillary work that elite runners and coaches are always talking about.

I returned to a structure plan 2 weeks ago, which included some flirtations with speed and tempo work, after at 15mi long-run effort today, I’m ready to commit to saying that I am officially “in training” for the fall.

Here’s what I have planned for the next two weeks.

training block #2

Beyond these next two weeks I’ve only just plugged in the key workouts I think I should be doing, and will fill in everything else as I go, based on how I’m doing. I’ve been trying to research how to best handle the recovery and preparation for the serial marathons…it’s a little overwhelming to say the least, although I’m ok with not racing hard at the No Frills marathon, and at Catalina, I’d really rather not do any walking, or feel like I’m unprepared to race should a perfect day present itself.

Planned races:

Bastille Day 5/8k (5k): Chicago, IL. July 11, 2013

Waterfall Glenn Xtreme 10: Darien, IL. July 13, 2013

Burgers and Beer 5k: Chicago, IL. July 15, 2013

El Chupacabra De San Antonio (10k): San Antonio, Tx. July 26, 2013

Zooma Half Marathon: Chicago, IL. August 10, 2013 **

No Frills Minocqua Marathon: Minocqua, WI. September 1, 2013

Bucktown 5k: Chicago, IL. September 15, 2013 **

The Chicago Marathon: Chicago, IL. October 13, 2013 **

Carrera de Los Muertos (5k): Chicago, IL. November 2, 2013

Catalina Island Eco Marathon: Catalina Island, CA. November 9, 2013

** = Goal Race (PR effort)

So there you have it. I’m sure I’ll add a few 5 /10k’s this summer and fall, because I’m a sucker, and there are so many good races every weekend! I could also continue with more detail about how I’m thinking about my training and race selections…but I’ll save that for later, this post is long enough.

What are your goal races the rest of this year?

Do you go to a chiropractor and/or massage therapist as a part of your training?

Got any research on ART, Graston, foam rolling, and the like you’d be willing to share with me (email me?)? I’m coming up peanuts…(stuff procured from the Graston Technique website doesn’t count).

Tell me, tell me!!

*AB

Why Swimming will make me a better runner.

As you might remember, a couple of weeks ago I got a membership to the super-excellent gyms I used to work at (2006-2012 in fact). This means I have access to yoga, Pilates, spinning, (treadmills), step mills (!!!), weight training, and swimming. So far I’ve completed one extremely uncomfortable yoga class (I can’t stand on one leg, as it happens), and have been swimming a few times. Here, this happy moment will jog your memory:

Flatterning picture, isn't it?

flattering picture, isn’t it?

Let me start here with a disclaimer that I am doing zero (and I mean N-O-N-E) research into the sports and physiology literature to support anything I say in this post, this is just me, stringing things together.

I watched the video below the other day (Jay Johnson posted it on his blog), and then did the routine two nights ago. I’ve had more ankle twists, pops, strains, and sprains in my 31 years than I care to try tallying up, but it’s very likely these injuries (both the individual insults and the cumulative effect), are definitely effecting my running (negatively) but also might explain some of the persistent aches and pains I have.

When I finished this approximately 10 minute routine, I thought that my feet and lower legs felt similar to the way they feel after a swim.

Some history: For over a 18 months, until early 2012, I had very bad planter fasciitis. I slept in not one, but often two, night splints, and systematically went through every remedy out there, including working with an orthopedic surgeon. The treatment that finally proved effective (FOR ME) was to get in the pool a few times a week, and just kick, lap after lap, after lap, after lap.  I wasn’t even running very much, or consistently when these all developed in late 2010.

It’s Friday and I’ve only been running twice this week. And I’ve definitely not been observing my “become a fast runner” diet whatsoever. But I did supremely enjoy a swim session on Tuesday morning, and I’ve been thinking about it ever since.

So here are some reasons swimming will make me a better runner:

  1. It reminds me of the first time I practiced a complex, athletic skill, over and over, and saw consistent improvement. (I was a swimmer as a kid, and in college)
  2. I love flip-turns, I love that 5-10 meters when you’re underwater and moving fast.
  3. It makes my core stronger.
  4. It’s great breath control practice.
  5. I could float, on my back, all day. Bliss.
  6. Swimming teaches you how to selectively relax while uncomfortable.
  7. Swimming loosens up all those things made tight from running. Increases flexibility.
  8. Sometimes a break from running makes you grateful for running.
  9. Moving through the water is like being on another planet, and it feels awesome, and graceful.
  10. When I’m swimming I can think about running, without being able to critique my running in real-time, it makes for a more objective/rational view.
  11. Swim workouts are similar in structure as marathon training workouts.
  12. A great workout in the pool requires patience, as does running a great race.
  13. Swimming is a skill I’m fluent in, and it’s rhythmic, so I don’t have to think if I don’t want to…it’s calming, even medicinal.
  14. ……..I like it.

I think recreational runners tend to over-emphasize the importance of cross-training. The time we are able to allot to training is precious, and finite, so for us non-elites our best training tool is probably specificity. However, the emotional, and perhaps physically therapeutic effects of cross-training totally justify having a gym membership, or going to a few spin classes.

Just please, no cross fit. (I love this article, and also this one)

I’m registered for the Chicagoland Spring Half Marathon on Sunday…Before then, I’ll probably just go for another swim.

*AB

 

Transitioning from Boston

Pre-Boston, my plan for post-Boston had been to take 10 days mostly off of running to recover, and put together a killer training program that would span from the 11th day after Boston and carry me through my last planned event for 2013: The Catalina Eco Marathon on November 9th (FYI, that’s the day after my birthday, feel free to send gifts). I have only completed a few uncomfortable runs, and have barely thought about what my training for the next 6 months is going to look like. One run worth noting, however, was the back half of a friend’s marathon, the week after Boston.

brc sistahs

My motivation to run, even a little, took a sharp nose-dive two and a half weeks ago. I recognized it for what it was, which was, I think, equal parts:

  1. a bizarre “injury” to my right side…
  2. legitimate post-PR need for rest
  3. a conflagration of conflicting emotions that were a bit slow to take shape regarding the events post-marathon in Boston
  4. frustration when I realized how big my goals are and how limited my resources seem (and the profound guilt at thinking that way, see #3)

The 3rd point has taken a lot of forms, but the one related to running is that it has seemed foolish to focus at all on my very self-indulgent, self-interested running goals, amidst what has happened.

I spent some time last weekend speaking with a friend who was writing an article that focuses on having ran the Boston Marathon and coping with the stark change in tone that occurred during the experience. It was a hugely therapeutic exercise that made me realize I’ve been avoiding blogging, planning my training, reading blogs/articles, and indulging in all things running, because admitting how important it is to me is uncomfortable given the recent context.

Although this is a personal blog, I still don’t want to re-count my experience in Boston here (it’s not going to add anything to what others have already written), but people have been so kind to inquire so I’ll say this: I felt safe the entire time and  was surrounded by friends. The way the bombing has affected me, personally, has nothing to do with running (Except that I will not be posting a race re-cap) and doesn’t belong in this format.

I will say this piece though: I am very disappointed in the general attitude amongst running-bloggers that it’s important to “move-on” quickly. Within 8 hours of the bombing in Boston I saw posts mentioning moving on and focusing back on your goals and training. I think that is OK, for some people, but to pressure everyone to do the same is not.

Being “Boston Strong” doesn’t mean to push ahead with aggressive defiance, it’s ok to be shaken.

If terrorism didn’t make us self-reflect, didn’t scare us, and didn’t throw us off our game for a while, then we would call it something else, and we’d be changed fundamentally, and in a way that reduces freedom.

Running is perhaps the ultimate expression of freedom.Very often my motivator to get out there when I’m not feeling like it, is to remind myself how amazingly fortunate I am to have not only the capacity to make such a choice, but the freedom to execute that choice.

So please, stop telling me that I am “entitled to celebrate” my PR.

I know that I am.

I just don’t want to.

On a happier note, although jumping right into training again hasn’t panned out, I did, last weekend make a list of the things that would help me move up another “level” in racing. I’ve got two items crossed off already: I am currently “shopping” a few chiropractor, and with help from some former colleagues, I got a membership to the kick-assingest gyms in Chicago (slight bias there). This morning marked my first swim workout in years. Which, as you can see, I was thrilled about.

Flatterning picture, isn't it?

Flattering picture, isn’t it?

I’m running this Sunday in Palos (First Midwest Half Marathon). Back in March I was planning on a PR effort, and to break 1:30, however, it appears I can’t maintain my marathon pace (so certainly not Half pace) for more than a mile without some pain, so I’ll be running just to soak up the environment, and the energy.

*AB

Take your head out of your arse and put it back in the clouds.

I sincerely apologize for my radio silence. But now that we’re officially a week out (less, if you want to be precise) from the start of the Boston Marathon. I promise you I will be present and transparent, as I usually (compulsively) am.

Thank you so much to those who have reached out via email, comments, and social media to check in on the status of my (runner’s) body, and offered words of wisdom and encouragement. You make me feel like this:

If you would like to track my race next Monday you can set it up via text (as indicated below) or click on the image below to sign up via email.  I won’t know you’re tracking me unless you tell me, so let me know! Last year at Boston as well as Chicago, knowing that people were following along with my progress was a tremendous help in keeping a positive and focused mindset when things got rough.

tracking

Speaking of a positive and focused mindset, I’ve not had one since the week after the Cary March Madness Half (read about it here). Very quickly post-race I went from a confirmed knowledge that my training plan was showing some seriously desirable results, to panicking and obsessing that my fitness had peaked too early and now the marathon would be a total slog.

Yes, I’m a brat. Go ahead and take a second to mutter comments in that direction.

My foot isn’t any better other than the swelling having gone down. My plan called for around 55 miles last week and I clocked 25 plus a lot of sulking. I ran 6 miles tonight, and they were slow and uncomfortable, my foot/ankle/soul wasn’t painful at all until after I stopped but I just have no rhythm and I feel like this is a new body, not the one I was training with all winter.

Again: wah-wah-wah!

I’m having a complete shoe crisis, because I bought a pair of excellent new kicks (Brooks Pure Flow 2), but now I’m worried that the former model (Brooks Flow: a fine shoe, but maybe I put too many miles on them real fast) is actually what might have caused this issue, and so now wonder if I should pick up a new pair of  Mizuno Wave Riders (which is what the bulk of my mileage was done with), and race in those next Monday. I love the Brooks Pure Flows, but I haven’t been running in the low drop shoe’s as much this year as I did last, and though I can certainly endure the marathon in them, I fear I’ll develop an injury that will then need 6 weeks to recover…or the injury is from overused Wave Riders…

The outside tongue is attached...why are all shoes not built this way?

The outside tongue is attached…why are all shoes not built this way?

Ach! The conflict!

Advice is very welcomed, If I’m going to go buy shoes (again) it has to be tomorrow after work (Tuesday).

But, back to what I really want to say. There are plenty of possible disasters regarding next Monday that I can mull over, but it’s time to work on my dreaming again.

I’d always rather set a potentially too high goal and joyously strive for it, than to be so caught up in limitations that I end up swirling around, miserable, and stagnant, which is where I’ve been for the last 10 days. And it stinks.

(Except at work: I’ve been extremely productive there…coping mechanisms are amazing.)

So back in the clouds I go! And I am going to keep running over my perfect race in my mind, and picture running a 3:15 at Boston.

Also, not sure if anyone else noticed but Shalane and Kara clearly want me to join their ranks, because their uniforms for Boston look very much like something I would race in:

Exhibit A:

kick ass uniform

Exhibit B:

costume

Yesterday my friend Erin (who KILLED the Shamrock Shuffle in 31:10!!!) reminded me that right after the race pictured above, a woman said to me “I love your costume”.

Yup.

Not a costume.

Other than day-dreaming about keeping up with the pro-elites, I started plugging away at the list of items I need to pack for Boston tonight. Which rendered my first sincere swell of genuine excitement for the trip, and race day. I was even tempted to get my suitcase out.

My last pair of cheap glasses broke a few weeks ago after 6 years of sweat!

My last pair of cheap glasses broke a few weeks ago after 6 years of sweat!

Did I share yet my gel epiphany from a few weeks ago? It’s hilarious and self-effacing (humiliating), you all will love it.

And with that, before I make this lumbering post more awkward than it is, have a great day and dream-on friends!

*AB

Go ahead: laugh, relax, it’ll make you run faster.

Very short training re-cap:

Yes, I ate several of those little sandwich creations.

Yes, I ate several of those little sandwich creations.

On many occasions this past week, I ate my feelings. The silver lining is that all those delicious feelings were indeed gluten-free, so my belly may have taken on a bit more mass, but it wasn’t excruciating.

My scheduled runs were re-arranged an impressive number of times last week, and I had an unplanned rest-day in there. But, in the end I got all the key workouts in and only came up short by about 5 miles.

Total Mileage: 55

Key workouts: 1) 8mile tempo (w/ 2mi warm-up and 2mi cool-down), 2) 8×800 (same warm and cool) descending splits, 3) 18mi long run progressive pacing.

I haven’t done this yet: I have a debt of about 50 box-jumps to pay this week…

Like challenge #4

Being under the 2 months mark to Patriot’s day is terrifying…mostly because I haven’t saved up any cash to burn at  expo yet!!! Disaster!!!

55 days

I’ve been trying to be more light-hearted about my goals in the last few weeks, but it’s backfiring and I’m just getting more sensitive.

I realize that people are trying to be inspirational and help people to get more active. But, things like this only further promote a destructive all or nothing culture:

I’m sure you’ve seen about 4 dozen different iterations of this. But seriously, dudes, I could workout for 5 hours a day and I’d likely not have this woman’s body. For the same reason I likely won’t run a 2:40 marathon.

Genetics, yo.

Call this just another silly semantic argument (my specialty) if you’d like, but I think it’s actually a very important matter of perspective, I’ve had plenty of workouts that I regret doing.

Like the time in college when I felt sick and wanted to skip swim practice, but rather than confront the conversation with the coach I went to practice, then swam hard as hell into the wall during sprint repeats, and suffered a concussion. And also found out I had pneumonia. I missed a week and a half of practice, and classes. Yup, I regret that workout.

Oh and that one in February of 2011, when I was exhausted, and my feet hurt, but I pushed myself to do a hill workout on a treadmill and suffered a stress fracture that kept me out of Boston 2011. I totally regret every workout I did that week.

I could list more, but you get the point.

Taking rest, rearranging or skipping a workout altogether is one of the changes I’ve made to my training strategies over the past 18 months, and it’s paying off just as much as the hard workouts.

But, in the end, I do suppose that the potential of having a great workout outweighs the risk of a poor (or even regrettable) one.

I just wish there was more promotion out there of learning to hear what your own body is saying to you, and learning that whatever your personal goals and limitations are, they are great, and worth every ounce of respect and enthusiasm you have to give.

*AB

I don’t only run. I also swim in oily water, eat cookies, and laminate stuff.

If you read the title, you really don’t have to take the time to read this post. It’s like high-gloss, big-budget, blockbuster movie preview: you just got all the good bits.

But if you enjoy the minutia of my life, please continue.

I was filled with self-satisfaction for the first half of today because I got my lazy butt out of bed and down to Ohio Street Beach this morning. The last few weeks I’ve had a hard time getting up in the morning to run, or do anything, for that matter. Which has meant a lot of evening runs, and a few missed ones.

Last time I had a running related injury, swimming (more specifically, kicking, I reckon), really helped the recovery process, so up I got.

I still score about a 7 on the lame-o-meter for driving rather than riding my bike. Sunrise is creeping later into the morning now, and I do not have any lights on my bike.

Don’t worry, I started a shopping list.

My friends are more punctual and quicker to wake than I, and so when I arrived at the lockers at 6:06am they were already in the water.

Here’s the proof I was really there, sucking up diesel and whatever else was glistening in the sunrise in that silky surface skim….

euch…

Sorry about the crazed eye expression there. I’ve never been a morning person.

Typically, if I am in the water, be it pool, lake, ocean, or bathtub I am fairly content. I am not very graceful by land, and everything feels less effortful in the water. This morning the lake was really calm, so the swim was nice. I wish could have swum longer, I covered a mile, but have no idea how long it took. All I know is I got back home at about 7:05.

The water was really warm, I wondered if I was swimming in pee.

I probably was.

At any rate, it’s a good way to start a day.

The finish to my day will be far less idyllic.

I just got home from work and for the second day in a row wonder if I’m occupying some alternate universe because A.) it again only took 45 mins from office to home (usually it take a minimum of 90),

My nephew’s dream in life is to work for JPL (who you may have heard of in the last few days), and design a mass-market flying car. I sure wish he’d hurry up on that. I mean, he is 5 already…what’s the hold up?

B.) I am craving junk food uncontrollably and don’t think I’ve had a vegetable in a week, and C.) I have little to no desire to work out.

This is the first week in 10 that I haven’t weight trained, so as I eat these Oreo’s, and drink sugary tea, I shall reflect on that success.

I am also going to laminate a bunch of matching and sorting materials for work…doesn’t behavior analysis sound inspiring?!

Tomorrow morning I am going to head to the track to test out my weirdo achy shin.

Have you ever found yourself in a training rut and been so confident that it’ll pass that you don’t really put any effort into getting back into the groove?

Does that even make sense?

I guess it means that I’ve been here before, and I know at some point I’ll look back, mid-routine and think, huh….when did it get easy again?

Relapse is part of growth.

*AB