Sunday, May 20, 2018

The Happiness Project...

Too often I've found myself faced with disappointments. Whether that be with performance, or pace, or how my legs feel during/after a run etc. I know that's not unique to me as a runner (we've all been there at one point or another) but I've definitely dealt with them often and, it seems, with increased frequency recently.

To be fair, it is entirely possible that my unwavering commitment to elevated expectations is directly proportionally to the frequency with which I am disappointed. And some would say that an "expect nothing" philosophy would unburden me of the daunting weight of unmet goals. But if I approached my running (or my life) with that view... what would be the point? Yes, I want to be happy with my running, but I am most happy when I meet the running goals I set for myself.

That being said... I decided to cancel the Chicago Marathon this year.

The decision was not easy (although I have to admit it became a lot easier when I remembered how much I suffered with blisters during Summer training last year). But once I made it... and cancelled my hotel reservation... I was sure it was the best decision for me.

The reality is my body needs a break and I refuse to have another disappointing marathon experience. I've trained hard for all of the marathons I've done and my current statistics do not contain the type of motivation and encouragement I need to start training for another one (at least not right now):
# of full marathons completed: 4
# of marathon training cycles with injuries: 3
# of marathon finishes over six hours: 3
# of marathons where I got injured on the course: 3
# of times those injuries included my left knee: 3
# of times I cried after the marathon was over: 2
# of times I cried during the marathon: 4
# of marathons I still want to complete (Plan A goal): 22
# of marathons to reach my Plan B goal: 9
# of marathons to reach my Plan C goal: 3

The 2018 Chicago Marathon would have been my 5th marathon and a good option for a marathon PR (since everything about the event is amazing)... but I need a break.

So instead of focusing on a Fall full marathon I've decided to focus on a Fall half marathon and aim for a PR at that distance. This goal is now the mission of my Happiness (running) Project for 2018. On my way to achieving a half PR, I've also decided to throw in a 10K PR, a 15K PR, some goals for strength training and swimming, and an optimistic (while still being healthy) goal range for weight and body fat %.

I've got 7 months to get all that done... let the challenge begin!

Training restarts next week (as in the week starting on Monday May 21st) and I've tentatively created a diverse plan for myself as a starting point to what the rest of the year is going to look like. There are a lot more cross training activities included in the plan (each one with a different goal) and I'm limiting my running days to 3 days per week. I'm still going to do my group runs with my running BFFs Mimi and Suzanne as they train for Chicago, but I'll do less mileage for the long runs (since I'm focusing on a half marathon PR).

2019 will come with its own set of goals (and yes, I'm already planning for what next year will look like), a lot of which will depend on if I get into the London (or Tokyo) marathon. I'm really hoping for London since it will give me more time to train and would be less likely to disrupt my revised goals/plans for 2018. Because I always have a Plan B... I contemplated trying to get a marathon PR at Big Sur if I didn't get into London (but I revised those thoughts when I read the course description... I'm not a fan of hills right now). Then I thought about the New Jersey marathon (which is the same weekend so training would be the same), or even the Prague marathon (on the first weekend in May).

I still haven't decided.

One thing I do know is that the next time I start training for a full the goal will be to PR (not just finish), and as a result the choice of event will be significantly impacted by course difficulty, weather, and the potential for an overall amazing race experience. Training for "lucky marathon #5" will also be designed to my specific needs... which I'm about 90% 75% sure I'm fully knowledgeable of.

Anyway, for right now my focus is on getting stronger, faster, and healthier... and earning my half marathon PR. All that's left to do is pick a goal race (in December).

What does the rest of 2018 look like for you?

Have you ever had to start from scratch with your training?

What was your favorite half marathon?

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

I'm A Runner of Steel!!!! {PGH Marathon Race Weekend Recap}

I got to PGH late Thursday night (05/03) so there wasn't much to do except head to the hotel and go to bed. I stayed at one of the race hotels so they had all the frills for the runners checking in...

Once I got enough sleep, I was off to the race expo for packet pickup and other fun stuff on Friday morning...

Last year I ran with a group during a work related Pittsburgh trip and met Tonya, who I was happy to see again at the expo...

We spent time walking around the expo, checking out the different vendors, and shopping. By the time I was done I had collected quite a few race goodies...
[there may or may not be a few tops and a medal rack not featured here 😊]

Then it was time for the PGH Marathon VIP Reception (and Official Blogger Meetup) on Friday night...
(we took serious pictures also I promise)

I also had the pleasure of finally meeting Erin, who was my main PGH Marathon contact as an official blogger for the race...

And I met Patricia, the PGH Marathon Race Director...

And Aliphine Tuliamuk, elite distance runner...

And of course Chelsea! Chelsea and I were race ambassadors for another race series for a few years and were both official bloggers for the PGH Marathon (I actually met Tonya (from the expo pic above) through Chelsea's running group)...

On Saturday morning 4000+ runners gathered for the PGH 5K event (and part 1 of the Steel Challenge)...

My goal was to walk most of this event because I wanted to ensure my legs were rested for the marathon the following day. I can't say the course was scenic but the event itself was nice and the runners/walkers all seemed to be having a good time. At the end of the event though, I was ready to exit...

After the 5K I went back to the hotel to relax for the rest of the day and I woke up bright and early on marathon morning at 4am. I had a routine planned out that allowed for more than enough time to get ready and walk the mile (or so) under overcast skies to the start corrals... 

Once I got there I waited around until I saw the pacers... 

My first stop was the 6:30 pace group. It was the last official pace group for the race and with no time goals in mind (well... except to finish before the 7 hour course limit) I figured joining a group and having company for the race would be ideal. Unfortunately the 6:30 group was going to be doing intervals that I hadn't run in years so my next stop was the 6:00 group. And I lucked out! They were doing 1:30/30 intervals (which is what I used in training) and they were going to walk all the inclines (including the major hill at Oakland). It was a match made in heaven...

We started about 20+ minutes after the official start time and I had a great time talking with the other runners and getting to know my pace partners...

Well, up until mile 15. After that my left knee started bothering me so I slowed down and adjusted my intervals to 1:00/30. This was when the first wave of self reminders started: "Just finish. It's all about the experience. No time goals remember?" Despite the reminders I tried to keep the pace group in my line of sight for a while. Eventually I gave up on that and just concentrated on keeping my breathing steady and not focusing on my knee pain. By mile 19 I gave up all thoughts of running and started to walk. By that point it felt like I could walk faster than I could run anyway.

I spent the last 7 miles of the race walking, greeting people who were still kind enough to brave the overcast and rainy weather to cheer us on, and blasting "Girl on Fire" from my phone. At a couple of the aid stations the volunteers sang along as I walked passed. It was awesome!
(this music saved the day)

I didn't attempt to run again until I turned the final corner and saw the finish line on top of a small mountain hill (whose bright idea was that by-the-way?!). I ran the final stretch and got cheered through the finish by Chelsea and some of the other bloggers/runners...

And just like that marathon #4 was over and I was officially a runner (walker) of steel!

By the time I was done most of the finish line festivities were over so I went to collect my steel challenge medal...
...and walked the mile back to my hotel.

It's been a little over a week since PGH (therefore I've had lots of time to reflect) and the weekend was definitely among the best race experiences I've had. The people were amazing. It wasn't lined with crowds throughout all 26.2 miles but when the crowds were there they were great. The water stations never ran out of water, and the volunteers were happy and encouraging.

I'm not sure I would brave the PGH hills again (certainly not for a full... maybe the 10miler), but I am so glad I did this event!

Monday, April 30, 2018

A (Race Week) Letter To Myself...

Dear Body & Mind,
It's RACE WEEK! Congratulations on making it this far. It's been a long season but you stuck with it and trained hard! The moment you've been waiting for will be arriving this weekend and by next week this time you'll be able to hang your 4th marathon medal on your wall of bling!

There were several "milestones" during Pittsburgh Marathon training that made this cycle stand out from others. First, you got through more distance this season than previous seasons and had 100+ miles months in January & March (congrats)! You did a good combination of solo and group runs with most of your mileage done before 6am (thank heavens for night lights)! You also strategically mixed in a few races as training runs to get that well needed crowd support and disproportionately mixed Gatorade ;)

And yes, you may have single-handedly kept Au bon Pain open with the amount of blueberry muffins you purchased. It's also possible that your "new found appreciation of Merlot" might not have been the best claim to fame this marathon season. And I know you're not happy with the whole marathon weight gain situation, but substituting your weekly hour of cross training for that glass of wine may have had a little to do with it.

Although last week was plagued with aches & pains and strict orders to rest (and not run), getting the official "OK" to toe the starting line on Sunday makes up for all the nights you cried yourself to sleep out of frustration and sadness. Yes, things looked grim for several days... even up to this morning you were worried about stress fractures and whether or not your bones loved you enough to keep themselves together. And while your legs may not be up to PR attempts on Sunday, your new mindset to "just have fun" will hopefully get them through the 26.2+ miles without giving up. 

With that in mind, here are some last minute words of advice and motivation:
  1. Run based on how you feel (there will be other marathons to PR at when you are not recovering from an injury).
  2. Enjoy the race (everyone's finisher medal looks the same so just enjoy the journey to get yours).
  3. Stay grateful (and hydrated) in each mile. So many people are unable to run, to run a marathon, to afford to travel for races. You are blessed to be able to do this so don't forget that.
  4. Warm up gently before you start (compression pants are great but they aren't magic). Warming up will help decrease injury risk.
  5. Fuel properly (you've done this before so I don't need to tell you how important it is).
You are ready. You've trained hard (next time we really need to fix that cross training plan though) and worked hard to get here. Do your best... run with your heart... and remember to smile

Always and Forever,
Your sense of satisfaction after the race.

P.S. Pittsburgh I can't wait to help you celebrate #10YearsRunning!

Saturday, April 21, 2018

The Last "Long" Run {a late post... kinda... but a timely update}

There is something about completing your 20 miler long runs that make you feel a slightly bit more confident about marathon training. Granted, I did my last 20 miler last weekend (and somehow my legs are still sore), but I still feel great about it... mainly because it was my fastest 20 mile training run ever!

The training run distance and pace translated into a pretty decent estimation of my upcoming marathon finish time...

This past week I've been nursing my tired legs through short distance mid-week runs (and my run this morning)...

And I even managed to earn a "highly improving" badge from Garmin on Thursday...

I run again tomorrow (for my last double digit mileage run of this training cycle) and next week I'll continue with my moderate mileage + decent intensity plan. After next week it will be RACE WEEK! 

I'm grateful for this training cycle. It has brought back the joy of running that I've missed for some most of the past two marathon training cycles. The Pittsburgh Marathon may not bring me a PR (p.s. you should always check the course elevation and difficulty level before you set a PR goal at the beginning of training); but it will be an amazing event and I'm determined to enjoy every aspect of my racecation!

Do you have any racecations coming up?

What big event are you training for right now?

Have you ever been to Pittsburgh? What restaurants would you recommend? 

Sunday, April 1, 2018

The 1st Quarter Recap...

So much has happened so far in 2018! You probably could have guessed that based on my relatively scant blog posts for the past 3 months. It's not that I haven't wanted to blog, it's just that time has been so limited recently with lots of competing priorities. Anyway, it's the end of the first quarter so this is the perfect time to recap the last few months!

January started off with a big bang work-wise. I got a promotion (yay!) and took on a lot more work related duties. Running-wise I did 3 races (the Key West virtual half marathon, the Tropical 5K, and the Miami half marathon) and I started noticing the downward trend in my overall running pace (sigh). I did make it to my first "100 miles in a month" milestone though so that's something right?

February kept the same work momentum because we started off the month with one of our major events for the Trauma Program at the hospital where I work. The event actually started in January and continued through to Feb 2nd. I also travelled back home to spend some time with family and friends. February had 2 races, another virtual half and the A1A Ft. Lauderdale half, but I didn't make my 100 miles milestone for February (I only got to 75 miles). I'm blaming that on the fact that it was a shorter month (but the truth is I skipped a few runs).

March was a major travel month. The first trip was to Seattle and Portland for part vacation/part work. Seattle was the vacation segment with Marc... we went to visit some of his friends from college. Then we went down to Portland where I presented at the STN's Trauma Conference (it was amazing!). And, in case that wasn't enough travel, I went to Carmel, Indiana with my friend Niqui from work and we completed the Carmel Marathon Relay. I also ran the Miami Beach 1/2 at the beginning of the month, so I ended up with a total of 115 miles for March :)

So now that the first quarter of the year is over (so fast right?!), it's time to look forward to some of the major life stuff happening in quarter two:
1. Some big birthdays are happening - Kai; San & Me; Marc; my Mom)
2. The Pittsburgh Marathon will kick off month 2 of quarter 2!
3. College tours with Kai will be taking place throughout June!

Any major/exciting things happened so far this year?

What are you looking forward to in quarter 2?

When is your birthday? Do you do a big birthday celebration?