The Breakthrough Year

30 Nov Executing.

Without fail, at the end of every year I always seem to reflect and think “wow, what a crazy year.”  So hang with me for a moment here when I tell you – 2016 has easily been the most tumultuous year of my life.

I am a software/test engineer and my job has always involved some amount of travel, but up until this year, that typically meant maybe a one week trip every 8-10 weeks.  This year, that all changed.  In the first third of the year alone, I was gone for half of January, the entirety of February and March, and half of April.  

While I was on the road, I was also dealing with a pretty big breakup.  I was in the process of ending a 9 year long relationship (I say in the process because as you might imagine, breaking up with someone is incredibly difficult when you technically live with them and yet are never home) and while it was something that had been in the works for a while, you don’t flip your life upside down like that without incurring some mental stress along the way.

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I lost my dog in the “divorce” and honestly, I’m still not over it yet.

I thought I was handling things ok, but as I look back – I was flailing.  I was making the best of a difficult situation, sure, but I was staying out way too late, drinking way too much, making way too many “temporary friends,” all while claiming to be seriously training for the Utah Valley Marathon.

In March, I flew from Salt Lake City to Virginia Beach for the weekend to run the Shamrock Half Marathon with Hollie.  The weather conditions that day were tough, but I had been essentially living and training at altitude (SLC is approximately 4400’ above sea level) for months.  I had secret hopes of a PR and ended up incredibly disappointed to run 1:38:10.  “I’m a 1:38-1:39 half marathoner,” I remember grumbling to Laura.  “That’s just what I am and what I’ll always be.”

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Not. Pleased.

Of course, Laura never lets me throw too much of a pity party and I’m eternally grateful for that. Chatting with her got my brain back into a more positive gear. Out of all the stories of weather related misery, I noticed that one person happened to PR at Shamrock. I also knew that Laura was seeing success and enjoying working with her new coach, and I knew that oh, coincidentally, Mary and Laura had the same coach. I finally realized that if I wanted something to change, I needed to do something different. That it was stupid to think I wasn’t fast enough for a coach.  I gathered up all my courage and made a phone call. And then a day later, James became my running coach.

What happened over the next few months is something I’m still processing, and writing this post (and reviving this silly blog) is a way for me to do that. As I mentioned, I did end up running the Utah Valley Marathon but it became less of a goal race (I only gave James 11 weeks, I didn’t expect miracles yet) and more about getting another 26.2 under my belt and enjoying the time in Utah with my best friend.  I might go back and recap it at some point, but that is for another day.

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I guess I’m gonna run a marathon tomorrow or some crap like that.

After taking some time to recover from UVM, the focus became Dublin Marathon at the end of October.  I was still traveling quite a bit for work over the summer (and to Texas, no less – I have SO much respect for all you runners down south) but my attitude had changed.  Workouts became a priority, if I had a quality session on the schedule I was doing everything I could the day before to make sure it went well.  Nutrition was still a challenge due to some circumstances out of my control but I started making better choices when I could. (Long story short: I was working 16 hour days, unable to leave to go get food, and surrounded by donuts constantly. Damn delicious donuts ….)

More importantly, I started turning down happy hour invitations and I focused on getting more sleep. This all makes me kind of sound like a drag, I know, but I was really doing it because it made me happy.  I won’t try and tell you it was all glitter and rainbows, but most days, I hopped out of bed completely PUMPED for my run that day – even if it was just an easy hour of jogging.

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Not turning down ALL the happy hours though, gotta get your tan on sometimes

As Dublin crept closer, I had my doubts.  There were some amazing workouts that had me feeling on top of the world and then there were some reality-smacking-me-in-the-face moments that had me wondering if a BQ would even be possible.  I ran the Hartford half marathon in early October and while I did set a PR, I was minutes off of where I secretly thought I would be. That race would lurk in the back of my mind for the next 3 weeks until Dublin.  

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My goodness … I’m moving so slowly, yet feeling so terribly.

Even as James and I discussed the race plan for Dublin, Hartford was there whispering – “you’re a fraud, none of this is real, your watch is broken, you don’t deserve 3:2x.”  And then suddenly, I was in Dublin. In the starting corral. And suddenly I realized if I wanted this, all I had to do was execute.  The fitness was there. One bad race didn’t erase everything I had done, all that I had worked for. I could let my mind ruin it for me or I could just tell myself to just. shut. up. and execute.

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Executing. WHAT ARE YOU LOOKING AT, TONY

I ran 3:22:56.  A 4 minute negative split.  And while I do intend to recap the race itself, I will say here – the second half of my FULL marathon was 1:39:22.  Around the same time as I was racing HALF marathons earlier in the year.

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It’s weird because in a way, it doesn’t feel like I did anything drastically different yet at the same time, I feel like a completely different person than when the year started.

As far as running goes, I loved the workouts I was doing, but none of them were totally foreign to me – it wasn’t like I was being presented with concepts that I had never heard of or hadn’t tried before. (That’s not to belittle the impact hiring a coach had — more on that later).  I didn’t make any dramatic dietary changes, I still drank beer and ate desserts and all that jazz. There isn’t one major thing I can point to and say “that’s it – that’s how I ran 3:22.”  It was really a lot of small changes that added up to something big. Which is not to say that it was easy, just that it wasn’t some huge overhaul.

And as my running and approach to running changed, I found my attitude changing about other things.  I found myself opening up, accepting other points of view and opinions, allowing myself to feel and think and care about things again.  I don’t claim to have it all figured out now, but I think I was frozen in a cycle of unhappy relationship – unhappy at work – unhappy with running – drink to numb the pain – repeat.  Tackling the most superficial of those problems just happened to lead me down a path where I started solving the harder ones too.  2016 wasn’t just a breakthrough for running, it was a breakthrough for my life.

To wrap this all up in the cheesiest of ways, allow me to hop on my soapbox for a moment. If you’re unhappy with your life, it truly only takes a few small steps to start changing it. If you aren’t reaching your goals, reevaluate and try something new.  At the end of the day, the beautiful thing about life is that YOU are the one in charge – you are the one who gets to set your own priorities and make your own decisions. I sat around waiting for my life to happen, to change, to get better, to refresh itself, etc, for far too long.  2016 was the year I realized — you have to change your own life.

Off the Rails

17 Apr

As you might have guessed, my spring marathon plans have taken quite the detour. Detour is putting it nicely. This train is completely off the rails. 

I wouldn’t say training had been going well but I was remaining positive that I’d be able to string together some solid weeks of training and see where that got me on May 3rd. 

Then winter stepped in. 

For anyone living in the Northeast in particular, you know how brutal this winter was. I’m not really going to complain too much about that because there was never any day where I decided not to run or didn’t complete a planned run due to temperatures. I had no problem using the treadmill if need be. My first 20 miler was scheduled on a day where I knew the temperatures were supposed to drop dramatically; I still decided to head outside for it and prepared by packing extra layers in my car in case I needed them later. 

What I didn’t expect was the precipitation. Which started coming down in the form of ice. Do we all see where this is headed?

  

At first I thought it was just a bad bruise – I actually thought I would be able to salvage my 20 miler the next day. Well, here I am 4 weeks later and I still cannot run completely pain free.  Every time I would try to run, I’d end up with intense aching in my shin which would freak me out and lead me to cross train for a few days. At this point now, that pain has disappeared and I mostly just feel very tight (and very out of shape).

So that’s that. I probably should’ve rested completely and maybe I’d be in better shape today – hindsight is always 20/20. It took me about 10 days to realize that the marathon was probably not going to happen, and a few more to mentally come to terms with it. At the end of the day, there was nothing I could do – sometimes, shit happens. 

I was able to struggle bus it through a 5K last weekend with my girls (<– I really hate that phrase but I can’t think of a single other way to say it, someone get me coffee) and ended up not doing too terribly. 

  

21:50, which is not where I wanted to be right now, but it is a time I would’ve killed for just a few years ago. So the only thing I can do at this point is try to safely build my base back up and start making plans for a fun summer racing and training season. 

My only closing sentiment is to deliver a hearty fuck you! to Winter 2014-2015. You sucked, and nobody liked you. The end. 

Toronto Goodlife Marathon Training: Week 4

9 Mar

Somehow the magic of week 3 managed to stick around for another week – I had another solid week of training with only a slight upset to the schedule.

Monday: Rest

Tuesday: Unplanned rest – had a ridiculous incident which prevented me from completely my scheduled 10 miles.

Wednesday: 8 miles am / 5 miles pm (both around 9:30 pace)

Schedule said 5 but I knew I needed to make up for some of the missed miles. I decided the best way to get that done was by doing a double.  Kept the pace very easy for both runs.

Thursday: 8 miles on the treadmill, 9:15 pace

I had considered doing 10 to make up the last 2 missing miles but I ran out of time before work.  Decided that being 2 short for the week wasn’t a huge deal.

Friday: Rest

Saturday: 5 miles – 9:45ish pace

Ran with someone for the local St. Patrick’s Day themed race and had SO much fun!  It was very crowded at the start (we started too far back) and it’s a hilly little race, but I had a blast.  I also had a lot of fun bar hopping afterwards. Hashtag balance.

Sunday: 17 miles – 8:45 pace

Ended up having an excellent long run despite some very heavy legs at the beginning.  Moderately hilly route and still only saw two miles over 9 minute pace.  It was around 30 degrees for this one and it is really sad how warm it felt.

Having two successful long runs in the past two weeks has really helped my confidence level.  I was definitely on the struggle bus for the first few miles yesterday but before I knew it, I had 11 under my belt and the thought of 6 more seemed completely manageable.  I was surprised at how quickly the run went.  These are not typical thoughts or feelings for me during a long run so I’m considering this to be a good sign.

8 weeks to go!

Total: 43 miles

Toronto Goodlife Marathon Training: Weeks 2 and 3

2 Mar

Life has been fairly hectic lately (lots of work.  lots and lots of work.) and I never got around to posting a training update last week.  Combining weeks 2 and 3 presents an opportunity for some swell juxtaposition so let’s consider it an intentional literary device rather than pure laziness.

Without further ado, weeks 2 and 3:

Monday: Rest

Tuesday: 8 miles on the treadmill, 9 minute pace

Wednesday: Rest

Thursday: Unscheduled rest.  Legs still feeling like poo from the previous week’s long run disaster so I decided to move Thursday’s run to Friday.

Friday: 8 miles very easy on the treadmill, 10 minute pace

Saturday: 6 miles very easy on the treadmill, 10 minute pace

Sunday: #FAIL

This was supposed to be the Lake Effect Half Marathon with Britt and Laura.  I had planned on running about 2 miles as a warmup and then the race.  The race is a double out and back in a park in Syracuse, and is always a bit of a crapshoot given that it’s February.  In Syracuse.

However, no fresh snow had fallen the morning of the race and I expected the parkway to be fairly clear.

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Yeah, about that.

If I had my Yaktrax with me, I would’ve run (slowly – this wouldn’t have been a day for racing).  If I hadn’t had such a disastrous run the previous week reminding me how hard it is to run on snow, ice and slush – I would’ve run.  But neither of those things were going to work in my favor (I live about 40 minutes away from the park so driving home to grab my ‘trax quickly would not have been a viable option).

I decided to not run the race.  It didn’t feel good but I knew it was the right call.  I knew that I was only risking injury by running, even slowly.

If I was a little bit more committed, I would’ve abstained from booze brunch after and hit up the gym to get my miles done on the treadmill.  But I am me, and I am not that committed.

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Hanging with these ladies > running 13 on a treadmill.

Total: 22 miles (yikes.)


 

I thought about running on Monday and trying to make up the missed miles, but decided to just get back on track with the plan.  A lot of this had to do with the fact that my calf and hip were still tight and bothering me a bit.

Monday: Rest

Tuesday: 6 miles on the treadmill, 9:20 pace.

Wednesday: 8 miles on the treadmill, 9:25 pace.

Thursday: 6 miles on the treadmill, 10 minute pace.

Quick lower body strength training circuit (single leg squats, donkey kicks, wall sits, clamshells).

Friday: Rest

Saturday: 16.5 miles, 8:25 pace.

BALLER long run.  It was cold as hell (-2 real temp at the start) but for some reason, my legs were just clicking.  I had some stomach issues so it wasn’t all perfect; I couldn’t choke down any fuel on the run because of it.  That aside, everything else felt great and it was very nice to run on clear pavement and get into a good rhythm.  Very thankful for fun and fast friends to chase around for 2+ hours in the cold!

Sunday: 6 miles on the treadmill, 10 minute pace.

Strength training: bench press, biceps, triceps, fire hydrants, plank variants, single leg squats, bridges

Total: 42.5 miles


This winter has caused me to do a ton more treadmill running than I have ever done in the past, but it’s honestly working well for pace control reasons.  I have no problem setting that thing on 6.0mph while I zone out watching Netflix for 60-90 minutes.  It’s nice and comfortable, and it’s kind of fun.  If I was running outside, I would have a very tough time keeping my pace that easy.  I know I am being somewhat aggressive with my mileage increases so I feel it’s important to really keep my non-workout runs at a very easy pace to allow my body to adjust to the miles without the added load of a more aggressive pace.  So far I think it’s been helping; we’ll see how it goes as the weeks go on.

Toronto Goodlife Marathon Training: Week 1

17 Feb

Week 1 in the books!  Here’s how it shook out.

Monday: Rest

Tuesday: 8 miles on the treadmill.

Wednesday: Rest (intended to cross train, but work got the best of me)

Thursday: 9 miles on the treadmill.

Friday: 3 miles on the treadmill / 30 mins elliptical.  This was supposed to be purely cross-training but I just wanted to run.

Saturday: 13 miles of misery // 9:07 pace.

I went outside for this bad boy and man, that was a mistake.  The roads were plowed but the shoulders were still snow-covered.  It was pretty windy, so there was a lot of drifting snow in the road.  Super slippery – felt like running on sand.  Between the wind and the road conditions, it felt almost impossible to power myself forward at times.  My knee felt awful; my calves, quads and hip flexors felt overworked and very sore.  Even though the pace was modest, the effort was high.  Would’ve been better to stick to the treadmill or indoor track for this one.

Sunday: 5 miles super easy on the treadmill.

Total: 38 miles

I hit the hot tub after 5 recovery miles on Sunday and I think the combination of the two really helped my legs.  That and I was in full on compression gear for about 24 hours straight (doing Valentine’s Day right, oh yeah).

This was a slight bump in overall mileage (I’ve been hanging at around 30-33 for the past few months) and I kept the paces modest to make sure I’d be able to handle it.  Thankfully I’m feeling good and excited to be back in real training mode again.

Winter is definitely rearing it’s ugly head and I think I finally realized I have to be smarter about the long runs.  I don’t mind bundling up and facing the cold, but if the road conditions continue to be this bad, I need to take it inside.  I won’t be able to hit paces and I’m putting myself at risk for injury.  It sucks, but it’s also what I asked for by signing up for a spring marathon.

How many more weeks until spring?!

When Faster Isn’t Better

16 Feb

As I mentioned last time, there are a few things I am focusing on during this 12-week training cycle for the Goodlife Toronto Marathon. Today, let’s talk about #2 – less speed, more marathon pace.

I’ve decided to follow the Pfitzinger 12/55 plan from Advanced Marathoning – 12 weeks long, peaking at 55 miles, for those not well versed in PfitzSpeak. One of the main things that drew me to this plan was the focus on marathon pace (MP) miles during the long runs. The 12/55 also has very little true speed work in it; I’d say 75% of the quality miles are in the marathon pace – tempo pace range. The VO2 max work is all specified to be run at 5K pace and no faster, and the intervals are on the longish side – generally 1000m-1600m.

This is a vast difference from the training I have followed in the past, and something that I hope in turn makes a vast difference come race day.

Previously, I was doing nothing but slow, time on your feet style long runs with one speed workout per week. The workouts would alternate between a tempo, long interval, and short interval workout. We would do a tempo run maybe once a month; all the other workouts were legit, gut-busting speed workouts. This started at the very beginning of the training cycle, so anywhere from 18-22 weeks out depending on when your goal race was (so, no periodization principles being applied). We were also encouraged to run them as fast as possible – and maybe that was the real problem. On any given week, I was running workouts at speeds much faster than 5K pace, and then the rest of the time, I was slogging along at a 10-10:30 minute pace.

The short intervals also gave me a ton of problems with my hamstrings. I blame this on poor form and not enough of a warm-up to properly execute the fast stuff. My body just seems to break down once I push down into the 6:1x territory, but I also think that a 10 minute warm-up prior to running intervals isn’t sufficient for me. My muscles frequently felt stiff and tight and I would always end up with a minor tear in one, if not both, of my hamstrings.

I would then continue to run through the hamstring issues because again, we were encouraged to do so. Taking rest days meant you weren’t fully committed, that you were weak. If you felt like you were injured, you still run – just go slower. 6 days a week or GTFO.  Every training cycle turned into 12-16 weeks of injury mitigation.  I never felt 100%.

If I thought the speed work was doing anything for me, I would put some time and energy into figuring out how to do it without getting injured. And when I decide to focus on the 5K (spoiler alert: I kind of want to do that this summer), I will. Longer warm-ups, targeting specific paces for the intervals rather than essentially racing them all out, etc. I’ll play around with all of that. But after doing a lot of reading, I just don’t think those are the right workouts to be doing for marathon prep.

The final thing that drove the principle of specificity through my thick skull was this post that kept popping up in my Twitter feed about a month ago. An interesting read for many reasons, but the one thing that really stuck with me was the idea that workouts with paces closest to your goal race pace are the most important. It seems completely obvious that a 5K specialist would be wasting their time running a lot of marathon pace workouts, so why has it been so hard for me to understand that running a lot of 5K (or faster) pace workouts isn’t going to help me run a good marathon?

I realize that it may take a few cycles before I see the results that I want. I am still hopeful that even after a short cycle, the combination of MP miles and long runs with reduced stopping will prevent the epic crash and burn that has been the trademark of my marathoning as of late.

A New Race and Some Training Goals

9 Feb

After every sub-par marathon I’ve run, my response has been largely the same. It took me a while to realize this, as I have a tendency to get stuck in the subtleties, the emotion, the here and now. My immediate feelings about each marathon I’ve run over the past 3 years have been very different but my behavior? My behavior has been 100% the same.

It usually starts with the swearing off marathons forever – or at least for a while – until I can achieve some arbitrary standard in another race distance, some sort of marker that will tell me I’m not crazy for thinking I can BQ. This is followed by a week or two of grandiose self-pity where I tend to abuse my Amazon Prime account and get back on a first-name basis with the clerk at the liquor store. Then comes the crazy finger pointing (you know, if only my dog hadn’t been up whining the night before that last 20 miler, I might’ve slept better and had a better run and therefore would’ve nabbed that BQ time, it’s all my dog’s fault!), followed by the more realistic finger pointing (more stretching, foam rolling, core work, hydration – did you really commit 100%?), then the realization that I really miss training for a marathon. Finally, the recommitment to wanting to run a BQ marathon time, soon to be followed by signing up for a goal race after a ton of time spent on marathonguide.com, findmymarathon.com, and random googling for blogs and race reports/reviews. Then it’s MORE. More more more. More miles, more speedwork. Better, faster, stronger.

But always the same training program. Always the same training philosophy – that more is better. That miles in = time out. That if 25 miles a week gets me a 3:45, then 45 miles a week should get me a straight up walk in the park <3:35.

I’ve spent a lot of time reflecting on this over the fall and winter and I realize I am the absolute definition of insanity. Why do I continue to do the same thing and expect different results?

So here’s the part where I admit that I have signed up for a spring marathon and I have every intention of training hard and hoping that puts me in the realm of a BQ time. I’ll be running the Goodlife Toronto Marathon on May 3rd, but the process of getting there WILL be different than it has been in the past.

After a lot of analysis of past training, and knowing that a complete overhaul of anything isn’t likely to bring success, I’ve chosen to focus on 3 key things to improve upon during this short training cycle. Because I am nothing if not verbose, I’m going to write about them separately; however, I intend to do the following:

  1. Be smarter about long runs
  2. Less “speed” and more marathon pace work
  3. Focus on nutrition

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So, let’s get into #1.

I’ve been running for a little over 5 years now, but it took me at least 4 of those years to learn to love the long run. For years, I would do every single run as scheduled except for the long run. Skipping long runs was the hallmark of every marathon training cycle for me. After meeting a great bunch of people through my running group and becoming intrinsically more committed to training, showing up for long runs became much less of an issue. Given my history, I counted that as a huge win. And it was.

But, to get to where I want to be, I’m not sure it’s enough. A lot of the long runs, while extremely fun, were at odd paces and included a lot of stops. Now, let me be clear that I am a firm believer in a “time on your feet” type of run, and that especially for a long run, sometimes relaxing and getting the time in is 100% beneficial. That isn’t the part that concerns me. What does concern me, however, is the stopping.

I have a read a lot of posts where the blogger in question brags about a 20 miler at <insert fast-ish pace here> via a Garmin shot, but then goes on to mention that she stopped at 72 water fountains, stopped at the car to eat something, stopped at 891 red lights, etc. I’ve always rolled my eyes and honestly said some pretty shitty things about that type of training. But then … I realized I am 100% guilty of it myself.

A lot of our group long runs involve meeting at a certain time, then looping back to pick up others, then heading out on a 60 minute route, stopping to then figure out where to go next, bathroom breaks, water bottle refills, etc. Now a lot of this is necessary break-age on a long run – if I have to poop, I’m going to poop. Not trying to deny anyone from responding to nature’s call. But when you have a group of 10ish people and they all have various needs, the breaks can really add up.

I went back and looked at some of my long runs in Garmin Connect, and active time vs total time occasionally varied as much as 20-30 minutes. That is a hell of a lot of down time.

Again, I don’t think this is a totally bad thing. And not all of my long runs have been like this. Many of them have been solid, at reasonable for me paces, with limited to no stops. But there was never any rhyme or reason to it. And 30 minutes of stopping during a 2.5-3 hour run is excessive, any way you slice it. I think that running long runs like that is not going to get me to a BQ time and it’s something I want to work on.

So my plan is to, well, plan. Plan a bit better for the long runs. I don’t want to not run with friends anymore, so I just need to have logistics figured out going in rather than flying by the seat of my pants. I don’t intend to completely eliminate the time of your feet style long runs either; I fully believe there is a place for those in any training plan. I just want to make sure that they are not the bread and butter of my training plan.

Part of addressing the long run issue will also include some marathon pace miles. But as I promised earlier … more on that next time.

Walt Disney World Half Marathon Recap – 1:39:39

23 Jan

Initially I had intended for this to be a goal race but as is typically the case for me, life had other plans.  After two months of nursing a knee injury, only to then be walloped with a cold-turned-bronchitis, I was left with total uncertainty as to how this race would go.

The one confidence booster I had was a workout Megan and I did the week prior – 1 mile warmup, 3 @ MP, 2 @ HMP, 2 @ MP.   I hit 8:07, 7:59, 8:01/7:24, 7:23/8:10, 8:06 and felt pretty decent.  The 7:2x paces felt a little aggressive, but I was pleasantly surprised at how easy the 8ish paced miles felt.  Worst case scenario: squeak in under 1:45 and not completely embarrass myself.

Mostly I was excited to bust out of the frozen tundra for a while and enjoy a much needed long weekend with friends.

Megan and I hit the expo on Friday; our seed times put us in the A corral and we both geeked out a little over this.  Feeling fast is not something I’m used to.  We walked around the expo for a bit and then headed out to grab lunch and buy some throwaway clothes – we totally underestimated how cold it actually was in Florida!

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Cheesin’ at the expo. I really dig this quote.

Race morning came sooner than usual but thanks to my old lady ability to fall asleep unreasonably early, I was able to get around 6 hours of sleep.  For those who don’t know, Disney races start at the crack of freaking dawn and because you need enough time to get to the start corrals, it means freakishly early alarms.  Like, 2:45am style alarms.  I don’t know if I’ve ever seen 2:45am sober before.

Race morning routine, same as usual.  Gulp some coffee, eat a Picky Bar, get dressed, stretch out a little, drink water.  We got to Epcot with plenty of time and hung out in the warm car for a bit while some other friends went to get their bibs.  Then we started the trek to the corrals.

It’s actually a fairly long walk to get from the parking area to the starting area, but there are tons of open porta-potties along the way and ample room to warm up once you get there.  Nice logistics, Disney.  +1 for that.

Finally it was time to line up and we geeked out a little more over the A corral business.  Before I knew it, we were off.

disney-half-marathon-race-start

 

The release of each new corral is signified by lighting off fireworks, and it was pretty cool to listen for them as we took off into the night.  Megan and I said goodbye and set off to do our own thing.  It was windy and my plan was to just run by feel until we got to the Magic Kingdom; it should be all tailwind from there.

The first five miles are kind of a blur.  I remember looking around a lot and trying to take it all in.  Then trying not to trip over people.  I wasn’t running very smoothly – I would start picking it up, then get nervous the pace was too aggressive and try to back off.  It took me a while to find my groove but I ended up settling in (7:39, 7:36, 7:34, 7:29, 7:31)

The course then goes by the Contemporary Resort and heads for the Magic Kingdom.  I wouldn’t consider myself a Disney fanatic by any stretch of the imagination, but I do have fond memories of vacationing there as a kid. Honestly, I feel lame for saying this but I got a little emotional running down Main St. and around the castle.  I thought a lot about my family – and my dad in particular – during this mile and I got all goosebumpy and teary eyed.  What a turd.

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Oooh look, a squirrel

I thought exciting Magic Kingdom would be kind of a let down, but it ended up being the opposite – I felt like the hard part was over and now I could cruise with the tailwind for a little bit.  I remember picking it up a bit because Shake It Off was blasting over some loudspeakers and that song is basically guaranteed to put me in a good mood.  I remember thinking how much fun I was having and just being very grateful.  This is all so uncharacteristic of me, I usually am hating life and mankind and myself and maybe even Taylor Swift by mile 7 of a half.

I kept plugging along in good spirits until about mile 10. (7:31, 7:30, 7:33, 7:29, 7:29)

That’s when the wheels started coming off.  We were running back into the wind for a bit and I felt like I couldn’t breathe.  I told myself to not wuss out but not kill myself either.  In retrospect, I think I could’ve pushed myself harder through these miles but in the moment, my inability to take a good deep breath was freaking me out.  Maybe that was justification for being a wimp, or maybe it was smart.  I’m not going to dwell on it too much. (7:43, 7:39)

Finally in the last mile, I could see my Garmin and realized I could squeak in under 1:40.  I also told myself to stop being a little bitch and actually run – there’s only one mile left.  Unfortunately, this seemed to be where the majority of the race photographers were located and daaaaaang do I make some ugly faces while I run.  This bothers me because hey – I’m running a race wearing a skirt for fuck’s sake.  Clearly I’m only doing this for cute race photos.

pain-face

I am screaming on the inside.

Finally I saw the finish line and boom, that was that. (7:29, 7:10 for the last .1)

Megan and I celebrated and cheesed it up a bit in our mutually delirious state.

walt-disney-half-marathon-medals

Hashtag precious.

We headed back to the car to celebrate a bit and revel in the fact that we were done for the weekend.  A few of our friends were running the Goofy and a few were running the full but us?  Yeah, beer us.  Immediately.

race-celebration

Hashtag precious, part 2.

Overall, I was thrilled with the way this race went.  Sure, I’ve got some work to do – but leading up to this, I was running 25 miles per week and most of those miles were 10 minute pace on a treadmill.  This is also the best I’ve ever run so early in the year which leaves me feeling motivated and excited for 2015.

In summary: this was one of the most positive posts I think I have ever written and it made me realize I am feeling very positive in general right now.  So strange, kind of love it.  Hope it sticks around.

walt-disney-half-marathon

2014: Year in Review

1 Jan

My gut reaction to 2014 is “what a shitty year” and I know I’m not alone in that sentiment. For some reason, I think that perception is what is making me want to briefly recap the year … possibly to change my mind about it?  To be a little more “glass half full?” Or to dwell in negativity like the malcontent curdmudgeon I am?

Anyway, getting on with it.

My favorite 3 things from 2014!

1. Hanging out with some of my favorite people in the world (Lake Effect Half Marathon and New Jersey Half Marathon, as well as many other adventures).  Laura, Hollie, Brit – you guys are amazing and I’m so happy my year had so much of you in it.  <3

lake-effect-half-marathon

Sometimes we wear things that arent spandex.

 

2. Running in Aruba!  And everything else in Aruba.  Because Aruba.

running-in-aruba

 

 

3. Getting through a kickass training cycle with a really good friend and having a blast doing it.  I have honestly never had as much fun training for a marathon as I did training for Lehigh and Megan is at least 93% responsible for that fact.

 

training-for-via-marathon

 

The shittiest 3 things from 2014!

1.  The death of someone close.  I don’t like to get into real personal stuff so I’ll just say I lost someone who was like a sister to me who passed away way too fucking young from cancer.  Diagnosis to death was only 6 months and those were some of the worst months of my life.

2.  Overwhelming stress at work and not dealing with it gracefully.  I’ve had a hard time keeping my cool in professional settings this year and while part of me wants to be all IDGAF about it, another part of me knows that it’s a sign that my job is slowly cracking me.  I need to learn better strategies for dealing with the stress because at the heart of it, I enjoy what I do and the people I work with.  I totally failed at this this year.

3.  My only marathon attempt, and marathon failure, of the year.  This sounds somewhat trivial with respect to #1 and #2, but to put so much time and thought and work towards one single event, and to then have it go horribly wrong?  It’s pretty devastating.

 

Running in 2014: the takeaways!

– I cracked 1500 miles for the year!  This is the highest yearly mileage I’ve ever run.

– I PR’d in the 5k, twice!

– I ran more consistently than I ever have before.  This kind of goes hand in hand with the first bullet, but given my history of skipping long runs … and base runs … and speed work … well, let’s just say I’m proud of the progress I made.

– I went under 1:40 in the half 3 times.  Arbitrary standard?  Sure.  But for now it makes me happy.

Running in 2014: the puzzles!

– I remain frustrated by the fact that I haven’t made any meaningful progress since 2012.  My half PR from that year still stands.  I haven’t come anywhere close to the marathon time I think I am capable of.  I honestly have no real idea why more miles and adding speedwork have not translated for me.

– I’m not sure why my form is so wonky or what to do to fix it.  Or if I even should?  I seem to get injured a lot.  I tend to think poor form is to blame.  Unsure where to start.

– I can’t stick to any type of strength training plan.  I actually really like strength training!  Why the hell am I unable to keep it up?

 

I guess now that I’m done thinking about this (and trust me, there was plenty more that didn’t make it into this actual post – I’m really trying my hardest to not bore anyone to death), I stand by my original assertion that 2014 was pretty shitty.  I am, however, grateful for the positives and am looking forward to all that 2015 already has in store.

Happy New Year, friends!

A Training Update

31 Dec

Here we are, in the dwindling hours of 2014, everyone and their mother penning their 2014 year in review posts and eagerly hitting submit.  Over here in the upstate runner tundra land?  Well, the absolute last thing in the world I want to do is look back at 2014.

I suppose I will.  Eventually.  Maybe even tomorrow?  But for now, an update about what’s been going on the past few months.

The last time we talked, I had just run the Empire State Half and was feeling relatively cheerful about life.  What I didn’t mention was that in the few weeks between the Lehigh full and Empire, I had been dealing with some strange pain in my inner knee.  (Strange as in, the location and type of pain is atypical and difficult to diagnose.  The pain is not strange to me, because it has been a come and go type of thing since fall of 2012 – it’s actually the same pain that made me drop from the Empire full that year.)  I had hoped it would ease up on its own, and it did – and then I raced on it.  And it was back.

Back with a vengeance, I might add.  No (reasonable) amount of rest seemed to be helping.  I’ll add that my guideline for that is, if 5-7 days off leads to absolutely no reduction in pain, I determine that resting won’t completely resolve the issue.  I am not a doctor nor do I have any idea what I’m talking about.  It’s just what seems logical to me.

So I went to the doctor, blah blah long stories involving my knee pain being mysterious and not meeting enough diagnostic criteria for an MRI to be approved by insurance, etc.  Since the sports medicine guy really couldn’t do much for me, I went to a chiropractor who is licensed (certified? stamp of approval-ed?) in both Graston and ART.

I backed off the miles to around 15-20 per week while getting Graston and ART treatments 2-3/week.  This lasted for 3 weeks, then I started cautiously upping the miles and reducing the treatments.  I was taking NSAIDS and running with a knee brace (with doctor approval, I might add); I gradually reduced NSAID use and – just this week actually – ditched the knee brace.

The knee slowly but surely improved and I went from being 99.999% sure I had a meniscus tear to being 49.7% sure I probably do have a meniscus tear but it can be managed with treatment and proper training/stretching/strengthening.  Or something.  The chiro was never actually sure what my issue was/is, but scraping the hell out of my knee and ART on my VMO seemed to help.

I’m running the Disney half marathon on January 10th with some friends and that had been a sort of not-that-secret-but-secret-from-the-internet goal race.  A long time ago I audaciously declared that I would run 1:35 at Disney.  Given the knee issue, I more than tempered my expectations but thought I could salvage it somewhat and maybe shoot for 1:42ish.

And then I got walloped by some sort of viral chest infection stomach rage flu.  At this point, I’ve been sick for 10 days and I’m just now starting to feel slightly more like a human.  With the help of a butt ton of meds, I might add.  What this boils down to is, I can’t even imagine walking 13.1 miles right now much less running it much less RACING it.  Joyous!

 

tl;dr version: the past couple months sucked.  I didn’t run very much.  I am very not ready for a race I am supposed to run in a little over a week.  And instead of being super bummed about it, I’m just looking forward to a clean slate and an exciting 2015 spring race season.