Thursday, January 31, 2013

Who Let the Dogs Out?

After last week, I headed into week 14 feeling more confident than ever. A long weekend, due to a snow day on Monday and a 2 hour delay on Tuesday, left my body well-rested and ready to run. Tuesday was one of my rare free afternoons where I had no commitments after school. I made plans with Sandy to get a 4 mile run in right after school, but the pouring rain changed our plans a little bit. I do not mind running in the snow or a light rain or even freezing temperatures, but pouring rain is usually where I draw the line. There is nothing more uncomfortable than clothes that are wet and heavy when you are running. So we opted for a 4 mile run indoors at school. I was not too happy about having to run in the hallways and stairs again after my run last week. However, I was not willing to run on a treadmill or brave mother nature. I did find that running through the hallways was much more pleasant when you have someone else to run with. We were about 10 minutes into our run when Nikki decided to join in with us and the run surprisingly went by much quicker than I expected. The map my run app on my phone was having trouble measuring the correct distance so we stopped running after 44 minutes and decided to call it a 4 mile run. While we were running, we kept running past 3 of our coworkers who had also opted for a hallway run Tuesday afternoon. I am so impressed that so many of my coworkers are now into running and am especially proud of those who are just beginning to get into running. I am not sure if there are even any other middle schools where you would find 6 teachers running through the hallways on a Tuesday afternoon. The only bad part of this run was the fact that the rain had stopped by the time that I got home from work.

On Wednesday, mother nature decided to repay us for her terrible weather on Tuesday with a 60 degree afternoon. I was extremely happy to be able to trade my under armour and gloves for a pair of capris during a January run. By the time that I was ready to run, there was a light rain and I was really hoping that it would not get any heavier. Luckily it did not and I actually enjoy running when it is misting out because it is pretty refreshing. I came home from work feeling extremely frustrated about many things and could not wait to get my run in. I set out for my run with no set distance in mind and just wanted to run until my legs stopped working. 1 extremely frustrated runner + 1 missed long run a few days before = a 9 mile long run on a Wednesday afternoon. After missing my long run this past weekend, I felt that a long run was extremely necessary and could fit into my schedule. I have been following one of Hal Higdon's marathon training plans, but I am currently a little ahead on my mileage. When I began the training plan, I was already a few miles ahead of where the plan started so I kept increasing my mileage slowly. In a few weeks, I will be right on track with Hal because some of his long runs jump up 2 miles each week. I am only letting myself jump up 1 mile each week until I catch up to Hal. I do not want to over train or injure myself so I am being smart about my training. I ended up completing the 9 mile run in 1:31:29, which is a 10:10 min/mi pace. I was extremely impressed with my time because I am usually much slower on long runs. I guess all of my speed work over the past few months and the frustration of the day really kept my legs moving at a decent pace.

This 9 mile run just so happens to bring back the comedic element to my blog. My last few posts have been pretty serious and technical. I do not think that many of my running stories can top the tale of the treadmill, but I am pretty sure that yesterday's run came quite close. I think that yesterday's run was even more comical than the time that I twisted my ankle when I tripped on a pop can during a run. So yesterday I set out on my usual 4.5 mile loop in my neighborhood, which is relatively flat for the most part. There are some slight inclines, which feel like hills to me, but they are more like small bumps in the road. I could've run this loop twice to get to 9 miles, but I was feeling adventurous yesterday. I was still pretty frustrated around mile 3.5 so I left the loop to run some hills. I normally do not run hills during a long run, but there were really no limitations during yesterday's run. There is one fairly large hill in my neighborhood that makes me want to throw up by the time that I get to the top of it. I was about 3/4 of the way up the hill when I decided to cut down one of the relatively flat side streets. I figured that I should not push my body too much if I wanted to complete a long run. This was my first time running through some of these side streets and I was not at all prepared for what happened next. I ran through a couple of side streets before I was ready to head back up the hill. Out of the corner of my eye, I suddenly saw a large dog running towards me and he was barking like crazy. I immediately started sprinting in the opposite direction until I realized that the dog was on a leash. It's no secret that I run away screaming when a dog starts running towards me. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that my brother was bit by a pitbull when I was 4 or 5 or the fact that we never had a dog growing up. I am not completely afraid of dogs, but many people who have run with me before have seen me run away from dogs screaming whether they are on a leash or not. I would feel stupid about this if my college roommate did not run away from squirrels screaming when we would be out running.

So I was already spooked when I rounded the next corner and all of a sudden I heard not one, but two barking dogs. I was running right past a house where two wiener dogs were roaming freely in front of their house without any leashes on. I knew that I should not be scared of such tiny dogs, but my instincts told me otherwise. I ran halfway down the hill literally screaming my guts out before I dared to turn around to see if the dogs were still chasing me. Now this is the part of the story where I feel like a total idiot. I turned around to see that both dogs were actually in an invisible fence and here I was waking up the entire neighborhood with my shrilling screams. If I did not already feel like a complete idiot for screaming for help from two tiny wiener dogs "chasing" me, then this next part of the story probably would not have been so embarrassing. As I continued sprinting down the hill, I noticed some little old lady hysterically laughing at me from her driveway because she had witnessed the whole embarrassing hill sprint. I am sure that I must have made this lady's day and I am glad that my stupidity can entertain others. Needless to say, the rest of my run was completed on roads that I have already run hundreds of times before. So I'm pretty sure that the dog "chasing" ranks pretty high up on the list of embarrassing running moments, but sometimes you just need a little speed work in the middle of a long run. So the next time that I muster up the courage to brave the giant hills in my neighborhood, I will greet those tiny wiener dogs with chants of "WHO LET THE DOGS OUT?!"

168.45 miles complete in 28:10:07 and only 114 days until conquering 26.2 miles!

Monday, January 28, 2013

Being My Own Running Coach

It has been difficult to fit all of my scheduled runs in during the past couple of weeks. I have had to be a little creative with my training so that I could continue to get my mileage in. The good part is that I have been ahead of my schedule for a few weeks so it was not a huge deal to get off track a little bit. A trip to NYC at the end of week 12 bumped my long run to a Thursday night that week. I was not sure how successful a long run would be on a work night, but it was actually easier than I expected. I did run the first 2 miles uphill and was wondering if I would be able to make it all the way to 8 miles. So I turned around at mile 2 and ran downhill for the next 2 miles. I finished out my long run with the last 4 miles being completely flat. When I finished my run, I actually felt like I could have run a few more miles. I have no doubts now about completing a half marathon, especially since I have already run 4 before. I feel more prepared to run a half marathon right now than I did last spring and it is still pretty early in my training. I do plan to run 1 or 2 half marathons this spring before I attempt my first marathon ever!

After such a successful week 12 of training, I headed into week 13 feeling pretty confident about my marathon training. However, week 13 sure gave me a run for my money and it was mostly my own fault. The weather is probably the only thing this past week that was not my own fault. I braved the single digit temperatures on Tuesday to get a 4 mile run in. I have run in subzero temperatures before, but I had forgotten how uncomfortable it is to run in such low temperatures. I did not want to run in the cold on Wednesday, so I opted for the hallways and stairs at school. I have really wanted to get a good stair workout in so I thought that running the hallways would be a perfect workout and I would not have to deal with the low temperatures. After I completed my run, I almost wish that I had run outside that day. It took forever to get to one mile in the hallways and I still had 3 more miles to go after that. I always use the map my run app on my phone and the GPS kept freezing and then skipping ahead to the correct mileage. By the time that I got to 4 miles, I was shocked to see that I had completed the run in 32 minutes. I am pretty sure that I won't be running the hallways again any time soon. It was almost as bad as running on the treadmill.

By Thursday, I knew that I had already pushed my body too far for the week. It was a short work week, but an absolutely hectic work week. I stayed at work Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from around 7:15am until 8pm or later. Even if I had time on Thursday to get a run in, there was no way that my body would have survived it. I decided to take Thursday, Friday and Saturday off from running and give my body time to rest. It was the first time in my entire training that I actually took some of my own advice. I have had a lot of people ask me tips about running over the past few weeks. I have had family, friends and co-workers all asking me about everything from training plans to stretching to nutrition to proper footwear. I will admit that I am no running expert, but coaching cross country sure has taught me a lot about running. I have helped people to come up with their own training plans and have given them tips that I should probably follow better myself.

Although it is halfway through the school year already, I have finally come to the realization that I work far too much and that is what makes my training difficult sometimes. My job is obviously my first priority, but there is no reason why I cannot have a successful marathon training too. I stay at work way too long sometimes and even if I'm not at work I am usually up late doing schoolwork. I am now going in to week 14 of my training and it is time for me to get serious about running if I want to be able to complete a marathon. Training for a marathon is about more than just getting your mileage in. You have to take care of your body and make sure that you get enough rest. This includes getting a decent amount of sleep each night and taking rest days from running, especially when your body is telling you that it needs a break. You need to eat healthy, drink plenty of water, wear proper footwear and train properly. I need to become more consistent in my training and have a balance at work. I still have my doubts about being able to run a marathon sometimes, but if I train properly then this should be no problem for me.

I finished off week 13 with a slow 4 mile run through the icy rail trail. I am really hoping that the weather starts to get better soon because mother nature has been throwing all sorts of obstacles at us the past few weeks. I have run in everything from ice to snow to rain to sleet to frigid temperatures. When you are actually running in these conditions, it is really not as bad as it sounds. However, I would not mind running in spring temperatures again soon. I am now heading into week 14 with a positive and serious attitude. I am ready to be my own running coach too and not just a running coach for everyone else. With 17 weeks left to get my body ready to conquer 26.2 miles, here's a quick look at the past two weeks:

Week 12 (Con't.)
1/16/13 - 4 miles in 39:21 (9:50 min/mi pace)
1/17/13 - 8 miles in 1:22:28 (10:18 min/mi pace)
1/18/13 - 5K in 34:34 (11:10 min/mi pace)

Week 13
1/22/13 - 4 miles in 42:59 (10:45 min/mi pace)
1/23/13 - 4 miles in 32:00 (8:00 min/mi pace)
1/27/13 - 4 miles in 45:39 (11:25 min/mi pace)

155.45 miles complete in 25:54:38 and only 117 days until conquering 26.2 miles!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The Red Line

If you are a runner and you have a Facebook, then you need to like Hal Higdon's Marathon page. His status updates appear on my home page every day and I love reading his tip of the day. Some of his tips are specifically for running or training for a marathon, but most of his tips are useful for anyone running any distance. Yesterday's tip of the day was the perfect tip for where I am in my training right now. Here's what it said:

"TIP OF THE DAY: Find your red line: Through trial and error determine the point (usually miles run) at which point you become overtrained and/or injured. Then back your training down to a point below that red line. Sometimes you can nudge this point upward by pushing on it gently, but everyone has a red line beyond which they get hurt. Find yours!"

This quote was extremely appropriate yesterday because I have reached my red line and never even realized it. I completed 3 half marathons last spring and spent the summer running shorter races. I wanted to give my body time to recover from all of the mileage that I put in for several months before that. I began to focus on speed a bit more at the end of the season because I wanted to be in great shape for coaching cross country. At the end of the summer, I ran a 10K that I have run before and it was probably one of the worst races that I have ever run. I began feeling sick near mile 3 and even had to stop to walk for a bit during mile 4. While I was walking, I wondered why I was having such a difficult time in this race when I had run 3 races that were double the length in just the past few months. I struggled to make it to the finish and felt like my legs could hardly move when I crossed the finish line. It was a pretty hot day out, but I have run in races much hotter than that. I probably would not have made it to the finish that day if the race had been longer and that's when I realized that there was a problem.

I continued running through the fall, but there were days that I struggled to join in the workouts with my cross country team. After the season finished, I began focusing on speed work since I had a month before my 30 week training plan was to begin. It was discovered a month later that I had a hiatal hernia, which was what was causing me so much trouble running. There were days that I had terrible reflux during a run and I felt l like I was going to throw up in the middle of a run. There were times that I even had to cut my runs much shorter than I expected. This was part of the reason why I took some time off from running in December. When January came, I was more than ready to get back into running again since the problem was now discovered and being treated. I was still having some trouble when I was running, but I was able to get my mileage in still. I took a look at my times from the past few weeks and realized why I might still be having trouble. Whenever I ran with a group of people, my pace was slower than 10 minute miles and I felt great during those runs. All of my solo runs were well under 10 minutes most days, which is a pace that my body is still fairly new to.

It occurred to me that my faster paces might just be my red line. I tested out this hypothesis today with a 4 mile run. I completed the run in 39:21, which is a 9:50 min/mi pace. When I was done running, I felt great and even felt like I could have run a few more miles. Running the slower pace made such a huge difference today. I do not need to worry about my speed or my pace. I am training for a marathon. I need to focus on my distance and preparing my body for such a huge race. I am finally starting to believe that I might actually be able to do this, but I need to remember to take care of my body too. I am going to continue running at slower paces because I should not be reaching the red line in week 12. I have 18 more weeks to get my body ready to conquer 26.2!

128.35 miles complete in 21:20:37 and only 129 days until conquering 26.2 miles!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

2013 ..... The Year of the Marathon!

It has been more than a month since I have updated my blog and there are several reasons for that. December was a pretty rocky month and my running did not go quite as I planned. Things had also been extremely busy at work and still are pretty busy. There was also Christmas break mixed in there too. Due to some health issues, I had to take some time off from running and let my body recover. It took me a little while to get back into it and it was frustrating after having such an awesome training in the fall. So here's what weeks 6-10 and the beginning of week 11 have looked like:

Week 6
12/4/12 - 3 miles in 30:24 (10:09 min/mi pace)
12/5/12 - 5K in 34:07 (11:01 min/mi pace)

Week 7
12/16/12 - 3 miles in 33:33 (11:11 min/mi pace)

Week 8
12/18/12 - 3 miles in 29:56 (9:59 min/mi pace)

Week 9

Week 10
1/2/13 - 5 miles in 48:58 (9:48 min/mi pace)
1/3/13 - 4 miles in 38:39 (9:39 min/mi pace)
1/4/13 - 5K in 35:04 (11:18 min/mi pace)
1/5/13 - 10K in 1:01:06 (9:50 min/mi pace)

Week 11
1/8/13 - 4 miles in 36:38 (9:10 min/mi pace)
1/9/13 - 5 miles in 47:20 (9:28 min/mi pace)
1/11/13 - 3.25 mile run/walk in 41:26 (12:46 min/mi pace)
1/12/13 - 10K in 58:50 (9:29 min/mi pace)
1/13/13 - 4 miles in 42:21 (10:35 min/mi pace)

Week 12
1/15/13 - 4 miles in 38:44 (9:41 min/mi pace)

If I compare my running times to what I was running a year ago, I have definitely made a huge improvement in my speed since then. I have even seen a huge improvement in my speed from the fall until now. I definitely have XC and 2 months of running with middle schoolers to thank for getting me in such excellent shape. You would never even know that I missed a couple of weeks of running and a few random runs. All of the runs that I have done in the past month by myself have been under a 10 min/mi pace. I have never been that fast in my entire life and I never thought that I would be able to become that fast of a runner. I know for serious runners that's still a pretty slow pace, but I cannot believe how far I have come as a runner. Since 2013 began, I have been sticking to my training schedule and I have even run in 2 races. There's a Freeze Series 10K here every weekend in January and apparently only the die hard runners come out for it. I was one of the last ones to finish the race the first week that I ran it, but I had a personal best that day and cut 7 minutes off of my 10K time from the summer. I shaved 2 more minutes off of my 10K time the second week that I ran it, which is a 9 minute improvement on my 10K time from the summer. I am so proud of myself and cannot believe how far I have come as a runner. I still question whether I will actually be able to run a marathon or not, but I will never know if I never try. So I am going to continue my marathon training as scheduled and see where the road leads me!

124.35 miles complete in 20:41:16 and only 130 days until conquering 26.2 miles!