Monday, June 16, 2014

The great slowdown aka swallowing my run-pride

So as I've mentioned in nearly every post since I started this blog (err... so 5 posts?) I am challenging myself to respect the easy days/easy paces. I would like to think I always have, and that I'm just faster than I think... but if I'm perfectly honest with myself, I was being an idiot.

In the last 6-7 years since I started seriously running again, and more specifically the last 3-4 years where I became more of what I would call a 'competitive age grouper' I have made a lot of progress. When you start from ground zero you have a lot of room to improve at first. And I did. Then I joined my running team, and made another big leap. I PR-ed every distance I raced (okay, several were new distances anyway...) and was running faster than I had in years. Until I plateaued. And I've been stuck there. I have recently eeked out a few PRs but not by much... and in my cocky opinion, not by enough to truly reflect the training. Joining my team, and the last few training cycles really challenged me in what I believed I could do with speed work and tempo, and I made jumps in those areas. But the easy run was still elusive and not surprisingly, the race results weren't coming.
Random pic from my 30th bday 30k last year. Def ran EASY this day (/walked and died). Also, nice cross body arm swing... that's good form.

Easy days always followed the same process. I would dread the run a little bit. I would creep on my watch CONSTANTLY and get irritated with paces I saw. I would push harder. I did NOT listen to my body EVER. I did not allow myself to run on feel. I beat myself up over any pace that was above 8:30 for instance (yes, that was the number in my head that I HAD to be faster than). At every stop light on some runs, I would pray for a red so I could stop. I would take 'stretch breaks', to catch my breath from my 'easy run'. Are you seeing all the red flags? Because I sure didn't. Don't get me wrong, some days these faster paced easy runs felt amazing, but overall.. I was digging myself into a hole my body just couldn't recover from. I just kept digging. I could not swallow my pride and allow myself to try something new. I read tons of articles about easy days (there are a million out there, this is obviously scientifically legit) but I just kept pushing myself.
Who would have thought I feared a pace over 9 minutes more than any other workout? 

Ironically, the quote "if you do what you've always done, you will get what you've always gotten" rings true for me, possibly in the opposite way that most would see it. At first I would read it as feeling I should push harder, dig deeper, run harder. But for me, that's what I've always done. Out of 17 half marathons, about 9-10 of them are in the same 1:43-46 range. To me that shows a pretty big plateau and was an indicator that doing what I've always done (pushing my easy pace) was getting me nowhere new.

It took Sarah's blog, and more specifically, her DailyMile account to push me into really challenging myself with this. She runs amazing races, and wicked fast speed work, but she is mindful of her easy day like few others. I've used the Hanson Marathon Method twice, and their book details the importance and value of the easy day. But I still couldn't quite commit until Sarah's blog came onto my radar. I've been focusing on this for I think about a month. I really like lists (hint: when you slow down more, you can make lists on the run) so here's the positives and negatives I've felt so far in this self-challenge.

The Good stuff!

  • I look forward to my run! Knowing it's not going to hurt, cause discomfort, or feel like a suckfest makes me much happier to get out the door. It almost feels like cheating, how comfortable and easy these runs feel. Not all of them, there are days where even super slow my body lets me know how tired it is. But that brings me to my next point...
  • I'm listening to my body! I don't stalk my watch. I wear it, and use it as a tool to control the pace and effort, not as something that I have to measure up to. I don't let the numbers discourage me, because I am tuning into my body. How my legs feel, head feels, breathing feels. I honestly miss half the splits, and don't usually check the feedback until the end.
  • I feel like I am doing the right thing. More than ever with my medium hard paced 'easy days' I feel like this is the correct workout. I love finishing feeling effortless and strong the whole way through, and mentally it clicked for me that this is the correct practice. I don't know why it suddenly felt like it 'fit' for me but it did click.
  • I treat it as a workout, the same as speedwork/tempo. Instead of feeling like I need to prove myself to have a faster easy pace on these days, I set slow goals. I celebrate and pat myself on the back and brag about these days as much, if not more than, my hard workouts. I am so proud of myself for sticking to this, and for taking the easy day as serious as every other part for once. 
  • I feel strong. I don't often visualize but I do now on these days. Slowing down and really sinking into the run allows me to think about form, breathing, effort, stride. I picture my body burning fat, running fluidly, and sure... I daydream about the breakthroughs and race goals I have in the future. 
  • Weather doesn't phase me. Windy day? No big deal. Rain? Meh. Sunny hot? I got this. Because I am not fighting the elements or my body or my watch I can just chill and enjoy the day.
  • I can listen to slower music! I don't need pumped up jams to get through my run. I can listen to the cheesy love songs, or my Journey station on Pandora and not need something upbeat to survive. 
  • It's making me mentally tough. I firmly believe now that it takes a lot stronger mind to slow it down and do this right than it takes for me to do a hard workout. Those aren't easy either but this takes a lot of focus. I spend a lot of time talking to myself about control, relaxing, and reminding myself "just because you aren't running fast, doesn't mean you can't. You are making a choice. You are in control of the run. It isn't running you." And I feel like the mental stamina I am building is valuable. 
The struggles I still face
  • Where I might be proud of my focus on slowing it down, I'm definitely swallowing my pride. I sometimes hate accepting paces that I used to avoid/fear. It might be empowering, but it is also really scary for me. It's unnerving how easily my body has accepted slower paces and I fight the constant fear of "oh crap... I'm just going to be slow... I'm slow! Oh no!!" 
  • I still compare. To my past self training logs. To other runners on social media. To my boyfriend even! (uh... no contest). I try to seek out athletes on social media who truly abide by this (which has led to a lot of information on MAF-something I'm very curious about) but obviously comparison creeps in and induces a touch of panic every time. 
  • I run alone a lot. This might actually be a positive too, because I enjoy it... but it definitely means a lot of solo workouts so as to avoid my pace being pushed by others. 
  • ... okay, those few things are really all I struggle with during my easy days. 
So obviously, the pros are outweighing the cons. Granted I don't have any race day evidence that this is working, but I feel like it will come. I feel stronger on my hard days. I've always been able to 'survive' those workouts, but now I feel like I am in control of it. Both hard and easy days I feel like I am in control, consistent, and smart. My coach and I have been increasing my weekly mileage a bit at a time, and the last few weeks have been my highest volume all year, and I feel fantastic. It makes me feel more well rounded as a runner, if that makes sense. It sure isn't an easy journey, but I'm proud of my commitment to it and hoping I will start reaping the benefits soon! 

How do you feel about your easy paces? Would you say you run 'medium hard' all the time? 

What is the easiest/hardest part of keeping your easy days easy enough? 

And the big one: Who thinks the REAL easy day has made a positive impact in training? 

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Weekly recap: 18 weeks to go.

This is officially the first week of an 18 week training cycle, and of course, I did the thing you shouldn't do... compared current running Monica to past training cycles (particularly, both my 2013 marathons). In some ways I am the same, in that the paces I can put in are pretty similar. But mentally, I am far beyond where I was last year. When my coach gives me my workouts, I am excited to take them on. I trust myself, and my ability to do them. I am confident that I will be able to run the workout well, instead of fearing it. And I am consistent. I can dial into a set pace without too much stress. Last fall I had a few tempos (even 2 mi sets) where I would flip out over the pace, stopping every few tenths of a mile to get worked up, almost cry, be frustrated, and my paces reflected this. They were up, down, fast, slow, uneven. Now, I can look at them and think "yes, I am capable of this". But on the flip side, I can also take it with a grain of salt. If the workout doesn't go as planned, or I feel it's a struggle, I can accept that it's what my body had for the day. It's a brick in the foundation. Brick by brick...

This week:

Monday: 6ish easy miles. Felt extra fatigued, and took it really easy. Gold star for listening to my body.

Tuesday: 3 sets of 4x400 at 5k pace. I love 400s! I give myself the allowance to run at a pace faster than 5k, as long as I don't hit the time slide (the splits getting slower). Ran this in pouring rain and a freak hail storm. That was a little rough, but I felt pretty badass by the time I was done. My splits were still where I wanted them for the most part, and given conditions, I was pleased.
Screen capped my own snapchat. It was cold and wet, but those are really earbuds! Soooaked. 

Wednesday: National running day! Also known as my rest day. I went for a 3 mi walk, and maybe jogged a few steps? I do what I want.
Following kidlet on our evening walk/ride

Thursday: Broken tempo. 8 miles with 2x15 min segments at HMGP. I struggled to find the pace at first, and was frustrated with feeling tired (duh, speedwork fatigue in my legs!) and the pace being hard. Stopped watch-gawking and the pace dialed in. Still wasn't the best I've felt, but it was what I wanted to run. I was way dehydrated all night afterward, until about 9, when the 2190 oz of water I'd consumed finally hydrated me and I had to get out of bed every 5 minutes.

Friday: Easy 6 on lunch. It was warm and I made the mistake of wearing compression socks. Too warm! Kept it easy and comfortable.

Saturday: Long run of 14 miles!! I was a little tired for this, but for 2 hours of running, it kind of flew by. I ran out in Coeur d'Alene which was a nice change of scenery for me, and did a double out and back. I tried my first V-fuel gel (cool citrus-delicious actually!) and felt pretty decent until the last couple miles.
Post long run with my coffee and feet up. 

Sunday: 5 easy in the evening. FINALLY a run that I ran easy, but instead of feeling like I needed the easy pace, I felt like I was focusing on holding myself back. It was nice to feel like I had another level instead of just "well, there's no other pace than this easy slog". I wore my HR monitor for the first time in ages, and confirmed to myself that yes, I've got a hummingbird heart and to run in an easy HR zone, I would essentially walk. Not sure I'm on board with that idea yet.
Is there a contest for sweatiest runner? Did I win? Yes, I did. 

Sunday morning was again a morning of spectating! The man friend (I need a better nickname than this, but so far, I'm uncreative, and why would I actually use his real name) was racing a sprint tri. He's doing his first Ironman in 3 weeks! It was so fun watching him and other friends race, and I'm excited to be the ironfan in a few weeks. Unrelated but boy do I have a partially formulated post on what it means to be on the other side of endurance training. It's a beast of a different breed. I had a great time though, and was definitely having tri-envy by the end... uh oh?

Total weekly mileage: 47.5 (highest week this year!)

Do you love running through hideous weather? Or would you rather wait for better conditions? 

What's your favorite coffee drink post run? 

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Throwback Thursday: Eugene Marathon 2013

I am stealing this idea shamelessly from Lindz and recapping past races because I didn't blog when I ran these, and of course they need to be memorialized! Plus it's a good way for me to continue figuring out how to blog! (Oh... just write words. Got it!)

On that note, let's start with the Eugene Marathon last April! This was one of the best 'marathon weekends' I've done, where it was more than just to show up, chill, do the race. 

Background on my training for this race, since there isn't 4 months of blog-log to detail what I did. I followed the Hanson Marathon Method advanced plan. I ran almost every single workout as written, altering a few due to niggling 'is that a potential injury' or due to illness, because heck, it started in winter and of course I got strep. I completed the 18 week training cycle feeling strong, capable, and ready to really race a PR. 

And then there was the taper. One week out from Eugene, I was going downstairs in my house, and caught my heel in my sweats, falling down the stairs on my back side! Immediate panic ensued as I tried to catch my breath/assess my body. It ended up being just a big ol' bruise in my booty and sore back. Test run the next morning and it was painful when my butt jiggled every step (yes, it does that. Also, my thighs touch. Bam) but it was tolerable. I felt relieved. I ran downtown with my sister, her jogger, and was feeling optimistic again. Then, on the walk back to my car, I had put on flip flops, and it was raining. I was thinking to myself to be careful, it was slick. The very next step my feet slipped on the concrete and I landed flat on my back on the sidewalk! Thanks to my Oiselle spike bag I was buffered from slamming my head into the ground but the fall still snapped me. A passing car stopped to check on me, and offered to drive me home. I think I baffled them as I blubbered hysterically trying to explain that I was fine NOW but "I... have... a... marathon *sob sob hiccup gulp*" I iced my neck all day, and the next day. I got an emergency massage and a visit to my chiropractor revealed whiplash, and both guys seemed skeptical about my race. Two days later, I was on antibiotics for strep again as well. It was the taper week from hell. I was so confident, and this week took me down. I waffled from confident, to embracing any finish time, to the possibility of a DNF. I accepted all the outcomes. I let go of my BQ dream. I just planned to enjoy the trip. 

Friday morning I dropped kidlet off at school, letting him believe that he was spending the weekend with Papa and Lori while I traveled. I kept it a secret that he would be going on his first flight! Around lunch, I went to the school and snuck into his class to surprise him with a toy plane and a note telling him he was coming! He was speechless with excitement and then cried. It was so fun to kick off the trip that way. We got cupcakes and then headed off to the airport! 
Sea-Tac waiting to fly to Eugene
 We arrived in Eugene Friday evening to stay with my cousin Liesel and her family. I hadn't seen her in more than 10 years and was so excited to visit! We stayed in her beautiful home and I absolutely was ready to move there within 5 minutes of landing. Ben hit it off with the other kidlets, including Liesel's twin girls! She fed us an amazing meal of mexican lasagna and salad and we relaxed and hung out catching up. I ended up going to bed kind of early because of the travel and I was exhausted.

Saturday morning I was up early and had a yummy breakfast... seriously, I wanted to ask Liesel to adopt me... there was talk of needing a nanny later on in her year, and I was genuinely willing to be said nanny just to stay. She took me down to UO so I could go on a shake out run with Oiselle birds and bloggers. I was a little like a fan girl meeting so many women who's blogs/twitters I already stalked, and several new people who I now follow/read/fangirl. I was tempted to ask them all to autograph my Winona tank, but I contained myself .We ran on Pre's trail and chatted, shifting groups/paces to talk to everyone. It was so beautiful and surreal to be running around Eugene. Running town USA! It wasn't my first trip to Eugene or running on Hayward Field, but it was still incredible.
Working up some allergies on Pre's trail with the birds! 
Liesel picked me up when it was over, and we got ready for lunch. There was a lot of socializing and meetups among the other athletes, but I was content to spend the time with my family and keep from overthinking my race with all the other goal talk that was likely flying around. We got burgers for lunch and they dropped me at the expo. I was so lucky to stay with family who kept Ben occupied so that I didn't have to tote him around to boring things. I wandered around the expo, visiting with newfound friends I'd met that morning and shopping. I picked up a pint glass (because duh) and 'the stick'. Unfortunately I left the expo prior to seeing Lauren Fleshman speak, and I was bummed to miss it! Liesel retrieved me and we went to Vanilla Jill's and the Nike Store before going back to her house. From there we just relaxed and she sweetly made my pre-race meal of Chicken Marsala (from scratch, and it was amazing!). Her parents, my aunt and uncle, came for dinner, and I hadn't seen them in years either. It was so nice to see family. I ate as much as I could, prepped all my things for the next morning, painted my race nails, and headed to bed early-ish.

Race morning I was up early! Due to some last minute scheduling, Liesel had to leave earlier than I was up for a trip to Mexico, bummer! Her husband, the twins and Ben were planning to spectate the race. Unfortunately the text updates didn't work out well, and I was always ahead of them when they tried to find me. They were on Agate near. the finish but I never saw them on the course.

I had my coffee, oatmeal, and banana before the taxi arrived to take me to the start. The cabbies were so cool, 2 guys around my age, and we chatted away about the race and kept my nerves at bay until they dropped me at the start. I carried my Nutella toast with me for 30 minutes, ate one bite and finally tossed it. 

I saw some of the girls from the day before, but for the most part waited solo feeling a little lost and lonely. It was my 4th marathon, and not the first time I have been solo at a start line but it felt weird. I found fellow bird Sarah who was running in the Oiselle bridal outfit for the half and waited in the corral with her. The start is a blur, I believe there were words, perhaps a moment of silence for Boston, and Sweet Caroline played as we took off and the marathon was under way. 

From the get-go, I was concerned. In any race, usually the first mile involves reigning it in, feeling fresh, and being eager to race! I was sluggish, my pace was 20 seconds off of my goal pace, and it felt terrible. I tried to keep calm. I have never been a mantra girl, but had been reading Chrissie Wellington's 'A Life without Limits' the week before. "Ebb and Flow" ended up being the thought that carried me through the highs and lows of the day. It started on an ebb. Around mile 2-3 I had to stop and pee, before it got the best of me. I was watching my watch, trying to find a rhythm and struggling. I came through 5k in 25:31, slightly slower than planned but in such a long race, it was fine.

After that, I finally just decided to 'let it roll'. After following the Hanson plan, I had done week after week of goal pace runs and decided to just let go and run however my legs wanted. My pace dropped down and I felt the rhythm come together. There was always an underlying feeling of fatigue and heaviness which I later realized was from the effects of antibiotics on my hydration, as well as the injuries and setback from the weekend before. I hit 10k in 50:06 feeling solid. The 'hill' Eugene offers came along, and I felt fine on it. I saw the Oiselle cheer squad several times in the early parts of the race and felt a little more cheerful and upbeat! I had to check my pace every time I passed them because I would get giddy and pick it up. 

After 10, I know we dropped into some park paths and neighborhoods, but I can't remember much of the course. I focused on people ahead of me and reeled people in, still feeling like I was doing alright. I was taking gels every 5 miles as planned, and eating Honey Stinger chews in between, as well as drinking at every station. I hit the halfway point feeling good in 1:45.12. My pace was picking up each split and I started chanting to myself "you are a 3:30 marathoner, you are a 3:30 marathoner". Not long after this though, everything caught up to me.
Double thumbs up to K-Met and the Bird Squad around 16! 

As we hit the cheer squad around 16 miles I waved to the Oiselle girls and gave a thumbs up. As we ran past, and crossed a foot bridge (uh maybe? Or maybe I made that up) I suddenly felt exhausted. Maybe this was standard fatigue, but it seemed too early, and too heavy. I started worrying a little more, and around 18-19 miles, I was slowing and finally surrendered to my first walk break. I hit 20 miles in 2:41.47 (an average 8:06 pace, my goals still well within reach). I was struggling hard. I tried to run, and we were in the park where there was some shade, but I was not doing well. 
I was just ecstatic the photographer caught this priceless moment of death face. 
From 17 on, I couldn't take in fuel anymore, and after 20, I started throwing up. I would dump water on my head, and try to drink, but nothing was staying down. I was extremely hot and had chills at the same time. Girls with the same goal as mine began passing me. They offered words of encouragement, and I would try to hang on to each one as she passed, but was soon dropped again.

Kidlet finally spotted mom heading into the finish
Honestly, I remember little of the last 6 miles. I was becoming delirious. I was still trying to do math, clinging to my goal of breaking 3:35 and earning my BQ. My math skills were shockingly bad as I believed it was within reach until the last mile. I made it past our shake out run spot, back onto Agate. I saw the Oiselle girls and heard the roar of crowds in Hayward. I walked. My quad cramped so bad that it was walk or faceplant. And there's really no bouncing back from the faceplant is there? Somehow I pulled it together to turn into Hayward and kept telling myself "You don't walk on Pre's track. And you don't puke here either. Just hold it together. Just finish this thing." 
I look a lot stronger than I felt. Fake it til you make it? 
And I did. I forgot to put a hand over heart for Boston... but honestly, I think I had forgotten my name at that point too. I finished in 3:37.05. It wasn't the goal I set and I was very disappointed at first and definitely cried about it afterward, but as more time passed I came to accept what an amazing race it really was, all things considered. Given the fact that I had accepted a possible DNF, or a 4+ hour marathon, I ran much better than I expected. 
Lindsey, me, Amy, and Sarah. I trained with L & A all winter/spring and they ran great marathons (Lindsey's first!) and Sarah raced an awesome half!
After I finished, I found other friends from the weekend, some of whom had crushed their goals and others, like me, who had not had the day they wanted. I have learned from that day, and since, that the marathon is such a fickle beast. Most of them will not be perfect, or even great. The stars will not always align. Hell, most of the time they won't. But that's why we keep trying. I have had the 'unicorn' marathon where it is magical. Running in Eugene was amazing though, in the end. The weekend was perfect and I would gladly return and run again. (But maybe not in July. Put it back in April!)
Tired selfie at home with my medal. Proud of this race!

Who feels a little like a fan girl when they meet 'friends from the internet'? 

How do you overcome a tough week to try and race well?

Best city you've traveled to for a race?? 

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Weekly Recap: the random week

I've never done a recap before... it's probably not going to be super exciting! So, now that I've basically said "Don't read this"... keep reading it please?!

I feel like this is the prologue week? This week is officially 18 weeks from my fall marathon, which is kind of what I consider my 'official' training cycle. So over the last week it was basically a recovery from the CDA 1/2 last weekend, and just a chance to start working on my head. While I didn't 'race' the half, it did turn out to be a 13 mile goal pace run, so it did require a little recovery.

Monday: 5 recovery miles. The first chance to take the Garmin and practice NOT panicking when my pace crept up into the 9 minute range (for me, that's the pace I tend to avoid). I made sure not a single mile dipped under 9. I ran to redbox, returned 'Frozen' (took me months to finally see it, adored it!) and ran home. It was hot, but the easy pace felt amazing.

Tuesday: 7.5 miles at the Swifts speed workout. I went intending to see how I felt and not push myself too hard. Even the warm up felt tough, and I was much more tired than I expected. We ran a combo of 800s on the roads, and short hill repeats in between sets. It felt decent, but my hip started tightening up badly on the 4th 800 so I backed off and just finished the workout at a moderate pace.

Wednesday: Rest day! I went to the pool for my first swim in ... oh 18 months. I think since I raced my last triathlon. It was a rude awakening. Running fitness does not translate to the pool and my shoulders were screaming after 100 yards. I swam 30 minutes, and lost count of my laps. It felt rusty and my lungs were toast by the end. All night I had the 'take a sort of deep breath, cough a lot' problem. Swimming will hopefully make a regular appearance going forward.
Super awkward gym selfie after a swim! Fuzzy cap hair, goggle eyes... I'm a catch!

Thursday: 5 miles easy and strides. Kept the pace in check again... and ran the strides hard. Nothing fancy!

Friday: 6.3 miles at an easy pace again. It almost feels like cheating to take the miles so easy! But boy it seriously feels so good. Just overriding the panic of "I'm getting slooooow!!! Must speed up!"

Saturday: 12 mi long run. I met up with my friend Danielle who had 8 miles on her plan with a tempo section. We ran a 2 mi warm up, her 4 mile tempo at her HMGP, a 2 mi cooldown and then I ran the 4 mi loop one more time to complete my mileage. I ended up with a fast finish run, just to get it done! It was a warm day even by 8 when we started, and we were both melting.

Sunday: 6 mile run in the evening, preceded by 25 min swim and 25 min weight session while kidlet noodled around the pool. Tried to focus on arms so that my legs could run later, but lifting after a swim? Whoa. And  Lauren Fleshman's Freaking Awesome ab workout-which I'm in love with and try to do 2-3x a week.
No sleep, unpictured huge coffee, and some cowbell. Ready to cheer!!
I spent Sunday morning spectating the Windermere half marathon which was a blast! My sister ran her 2nd half ever, killing it with a 12 minute PR! A ton of my Swifts teammates and friends were also racing. It was a lot of fun to leapfrog and cheer everyone on! Some days, it's so good to be a spectator. I may have been in tears hollering at my sister as she finished the run.
Super sister! With her mile long stride headed for her 1:38 finish!!

Anyone else love spectating just as much? Or do you always wish you were racing too?

Who else swims about as fast as driftwood? I think a floating foam noodle lapped me!