Saturday, December 16, 2017

Runners Support Each Other...

Running groups are like a family. Typically close knit, with a variety of unique personalities. Some members are closer than others (whether that's because of pace or similarities in training that facilitate different bonds developing, or just like-mindedness). Some members see/run with each other more often. And some members show up on occasion (for that "seasonal" group run) and then aren't seen again until next season. At times, just like with family, the running group dynamics become... dysfunctional tense. And ideally that period of tension is short lived because at the end of the day we're a "running family" right?

Over the course of my short (i.e. 4 year) running life I've run with a variety of different groups and I've also run solo. There are pros and cons to both group and solo runs, but the one thing I love about group runs is that the miles go by faster and I finish feeling stronger...

Bigger running groups have different pace options and so those groups definitely have the ability to make runners of all levels feel welcome. That can sometimes be harder with smaller groups. Which means that if you run with a small group it's important to be intentional about not isolating anyone or making anyone feel like they:
1. Don't belong because they run at a different pace
2. Don't belong because they are training for a different race
3. Don't belong because they don't run with the group all the time
4. Don't belong because they want to do different mileage

I could go on, but the point is we should not make people who want to run feel like they don't belong, or shouldn't run with our running group because their plans/goals/abilities differ from our own. As members of a broader running community we should encourage and embrace everyone who wants to run and try to facilitate each of us reaching our running goals (as best as we possibly can).

I'm dealing with some of these challenges in the group that I run with right now. And I'm pretty transparent about my life and my feelings so I recently felt like I had to comment/post a reminder that we (as a group) need to be accommodating to all the group members. To say the least, it wasn't taken well by everyone...

I'm probably overly sensitive to the need to make everyone feel welcome because there have been times when I've felt like I wasn't good enough, or fast enough, or had enough endurance to keep up/fit in. And I will acknowledge the fact that I completely control whether or not I will allow a passing comment or an exchanged glance affect how I feel or whether or not I run. But, at the same time, I deal with enough insecurities (actually I have a lot of insecurities) and running is a "safe place" for me. So when I'm out on a group run I don't want to feel like those insecurities are surfacing. And when some of my insecurities are related to running, that's definitely the last thing I want to feel.
Runners support each other

Unlike bigger groups, small running groups have to be even more careful to avoid the pitfalls of isolating others because... karma. I'm kidding, because it's just not the right thing to do. So if everyone has different mileage goals, then plan runs that have loops or an "out & back" option. If everyone has a different pace, an out & back option is especially accommodating. Another option is to schedule different start times for different mileage/pace goals. Regardless of the option the group chooses, it's important to ensure that the plan takes everyone into consideration (or at the very least, if you can't accommodate all, then accommodate most of the group).

This morning, I did a 6 mile loop, as part of a "let's try to accommodate most of our training" group run...

Mimi (in the picture with me) was doing her final really long run in preparation for Dopey, and graciously broke her run into 6-6-6-4 mile loops so that I could do 6 (first loop), another runner could do 12 (middle loops), and another runner could do 10 (last two loops). Of course, it's mutually beneficial because Mimi gets a change of company and pace with each of us that did different loops with her, and the rest of us get our desired mileage completed. This is how running groups should work. Ideally, we should find a way to work with each other in supporting each other's goals. It won't always fall into place nicely. Sometimes a runner may need to break off/turn back early, or continue to do more mileage after the group run is over. But the spirit of encouragement should be at the forefront... and when it is running groups shine.

Do you run with a running group?

If yes, how does your group accommodate runners of different levels?

If no, why do you prefer to run solo?

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Run For Tomorrow...

This morning I completed my 22nd half at the Rotary Run For Tomorrow Half Marathon...

This "race" was less of a race and more of a training run as part of my general Pittsburgh Marathon training plan. So with that in mind, my goal was to finish the distance using intervals that pushed my endurance -- run 1/2 mile: walk 1 minute...

The race average temperature was cold (but perfect for running)...

And people were decked out in their sweaters and mittens from the beginning...

The course doesn't have many any sights to see. It's essentially 13.1 miles of neighborhood streets. But it's pretty flat and simple so if you wanted to aim for a PR you could. But if you like lots of attractions on your half marathon route this is not the race for you. Since this was basically a training run for me I just focused on my intervals and breathing, and then distracted myself with music for the last 3 miles of the course. My earbuds aren't working so I was playing the music on my phone speaker which may have annoyed a few of the runners as they passed me or as I passed them. But, the distraction was what I needed after 10 miles of only my thoughts and breathing to keep me company. 

Once I was done I took a few "yes I was here and earned this medal" pictures...
... and then headed back home to change out of my cold and wet running gear.

So here's the thing about using races as training runs... you get a lot of on course support (water stations and porta potties (if you need it) etc.) but you also need to stay focused on the fact that it's a training run. It's easy to submit to the temptation to race it as people pass you by, but that can be dangerous if you're not properly trained. 

Although this was half marathon #22 for me, my legs (and lungs) are really not in tiptop half marathon shape right now. After Berlin I essentially started my training over and I've pushed it along by incorporating races into my schedule (which has proven to be the best way to keep me motivated for training). But even though I've been trying to push myself, and training has been ok so far, I'm still far from where I need to be pace & endurance-wise. I am really happy about my intervals today though. I'm working my way up to running 1 mile: walking 1 minute, and that will be my goal interval (with hopefully a consistent sub-12 min pace) for 2018.

I have a race next weekend to close out the year and then I will spend most of the holiday period cross training and keeping my baseline mileage up while I prepare for all that 2018 has in store for my running life.

How was your weekend? Any races?

Have you thought about your 2018 goals yet?

Do you use shorter races as training runs when preparing for longer distance events?

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Kicking Off My Pittsburgh Marathon Training...

This training week started off with a 4 mile run on Tuesday and ended with a 10 mile run this morning. My training plan for Pittsburgh includes 4 days of running + 2 days of cross training & 1 day of rest. I nailed the 4 days of running part, but my 2 days of cross training were converted to 2 days of "rest". Tomorrow is supposed to be a rest day but we'll see what the morning holds.

Until then, I'm just going to focus on this week's runs and the fact that I was able to get through them all...

(not really the pace I'm aiming for but hopefully that will get better on future runs)

While I'm super excited about completing my runs and the start of my Pittsburgh Marathon training, nothing was more exciting than finding out I was selected to be an official blogger for the marathon!!!

I'm honored to be a part of this esteemed group of bloggers and I'm really looking forward to blogging for the marathon. Pittsburgh happens to be in May (my birthday month) which makes it extra special for me. It will be a birthday present to myself and I plan to train hard for it so that when I cross the finish line I can cross it smiling (not crying like I did for Berlin & New York). Deep down I really want to PR in Pittsburgh (so that's goal A), but I'll also be happy with a sub-6 hour marathon finish time (since both NY and Berlin were over 6 hours and I really don't want that to be a trend)...
(source: somewhere on IG) 

What's next on your race calendar?

How is training going?

What exciting things are you doing this weekend?

Sunday, November 19, 2017

This Morning's Run...

I had lost the joy in it
And lost my motivation
It was like suddenly no longer a place of peace
But a source of frustration.

I found every excuse for it to 
Not be the "right" day
I would blame the transient weather
For my decision to stay away.

And when I ran out of excuses 
I would struggle through the route
Using every muscle twinge
As a reason for a "time out".

The blisters were real though
That pain is not something imagined
During every run they appeared
That's not something I tried to make happen.

I tried running with friends
And running solo
I tried running in Berlin
Cause hey... YOLO.

But at the end of the day
In the depths of my soul
I'd lost the joy of running
That used to make me feel whole.

Until this morning when I glimpsed
The joy it used to bring
At a steady pace, ignoring haste
Listening to the birds sing.

I was able to feel the gentle breeze
And feel the warmth of the sun
Vary my route and intervals
Listen to my breathing during my run.

I know each run is different
But tomorrow when I rest
I'll still think of this run fondly
As though it was my best.

And when I get back out there
When my training plan restarts
I hope I remember the joy it brought me
And the way it healed my heart.
                       ©SitariPoetry (aka ThisIsMyFaster; aka LeAnne)

Saturday, November 18, 2017

The "Not A Real Race Recap" Rundown of Ragnar South Beach...

After a lot of contemplation I decided not to do a traditional race recap of the Ragnar South Beach Relay I did last weekend. I had (have) a lot of thoughts feelings about the event and how things went. Not all are good. So instead of focusing on the not-so-good stuff, I'll just share the highlights and some of my favorite moments of the weekend...

The Friday before the relay began included several last minute changes and associated logistical challenges that seemed to set the tone of the entire weekend. But despite all of that I happened to be on a team with great people who I am better off for having met and run with...
(Some of Van 1 & 2 before we started)

(Some of Van 1 after all our legs were over)

And of course, at different points along the course, we had (most of) the team together...

This was the first time I happened to be team captain...

But being captain of the team didn't mean I got to sit back and kick my feet up...
(although I did do that once)

My captain time was mostly spent try to ensure that everyone was having a good time and that they spent (most of) the time smiling...

My goal was to ensure that they started their legs looking this happy...

Even if they ended feeling this exhausted...

I had pretty short legs for this event, and overall the first two weren't too bad...

But then fatigue and hypoglycemia kicked in and I lost all sense of rational thinking...
(ready to run with only one shoe)

(night gear)

My third leg definitely sucked...
(I walked A LOT)

And my "Leg 3.5" also sucked, but it wasn't as bad as my regular Leg 3...

When Van 1 was officially done we went to the Finish area to wait for Van 2's Runner 12 to come in. The finish was crowded and parking was a nightmare, but the joy of knowing I was done was great...
(post race finish area)

The post-race team & medal & feet/shoe Ragnar pic... 

Team 13: Run Away With Me...
(missing Stephanie)

I'm grateful for all my teammates! (even when we got on each others nerves); and I have to say a special thank you to Kirsten for her last minute fill in (and saving us from having to do a lot of extra miles)...
(I really appreciated it!)

There's never a question about whether or not I would do Ragnar again. I absolutely will, every year for as long as I can run. This year I ran two and was able to earn the coveted "connector"...

Next year I want to do another trail (or two) and several road relays. I would do a South Florida Ragnar again (they just need to work out some of the logistics and maybe don't have us run through areas that are not the best safety-wise), and I plan to do the Alafia trail again (next year December), but I'm hoping my other Ragnars can take me to new cities/race courses. 

Right now my 2018 "Ragnar Race Calendar" wish list looks like this:
June: Ragnar Wasatch Back (road)
June: Ragnar Pennsylvania (road)
Sept: Ragnar Cottage Country (trail)
Sept: Ragnar Reach the Beach (road)
Nov: Ragnar South Beach (road)
Dec: Ragnar Alafia (trail)

So I need a lot of other suggestions for next year. Most of my Ragnars will have to be in the second half of 2018 because my race/training calendar is already packed for the first half of the year (leading up to the Pittsburgh Marathon). In the meantime, I have to shift my focus to the Tampa Hot Chocolate 15K coming up next month, which will be my final race of 2017! 💪🍫🏃(Blogger really needs to update their emoji options 😒).

How are you closing out your race calendar for 2017?

Did you already plan your races for 2018?

Do you have a Ragnar Relay in that plan? (if no... why not??? 😉)

Monday, November 6, 2017

Ragnar Race Week!

Ragnar South Beach Race Week is finally here!!!
In t-minus 5 days team Run Away With Me will be running south from Melbourne Beach to South Beach for my final Ragnar of 2017!

I wanted to do more Ragnar events this year but money has been tight and my schedule has been hectic. Last year, when I was planning for my 2017 running goals, I wanted to complete 2 road and 2 trail events this year. But unfortunately time and money did not allow for that. It sucks when your bank account and your schedule don't comply with your running/racing expectations doesn't it? Next year I'm hoping that I'll be able to do at least 3 Ragnar relays (fingers crossed).

But I don't have to worry about that this week because race week is finally here and my team is ready! Well... we're mostly ready. There are still a few logistics that need to be worked out, but it's mainly minor stuff so I'm not too worried. What's most important is that we are excited to start a weekend full of fun and fatigue! 

Training for Ragnar has not been the greatest but I also wanted to make sure I had a slow return to running after the Berlin Marathon. So I tried to stick to a "no more than 4 runs a week" plan for October, and then for November I started with 3 runs but I'll resume my 4 runs/week schedule this week (hopefully tomorrow)...

Even with my slow build up and the decreases in temperature, I'm still battling blisters :( I even tried using an excessive amount of anti-blister powder (as evidenced by my shoes after my run yesterday)...

But that didn't work so I'm still on the hunt for effective blister prevention methods (share your tips please!) I definitely need to get them under control before Pittsburgh marathon training starts next month. I've planned for an earlier start because Christmas (and all the associated holiday activities and travel) may throw my training schedule off a bit. So I decided to build some "cut-back" weeks into the plan to accommodate that. But, if all goes well with my mileage build-up, there shouldn't be any negative effects on my training as a result of the adjustments I've had to make. In the meantime, I'm just going to focus on one run at a time and, during my Ragnar weekend, one leg at a time :)

How do you adjust your training schedule during the holidays?

What are your running/racing plans this week?

If you've run Ragnar before, what's your #1 piece of advice for all the newbies on my team?

Saturday, October 28, 2017

"I Don't Like Things That Are Stressy"...

This week I've done three 4 mile runs and they didn't totally suck! It has been a long time since I've felt good about all my runs in a week so I'm kind of excited about training right now. Especially since it's been so hard for me to get (and stay) motivated... 

I feel like that's been my MO for the past several training cycles but I'm trying to break out of it. I know that a lot of things can contribute to lack of motivation. For me it's usually when I don't see myself progressing the way I want to... and when I gain weight. And typically the weight gain leads to me feeling slower and sluggish, and then that inhibits my progress and so I feel demotivated, and then I eat a ton of comfort food (cause food = joy), and that leads to more weight gain.... and so it goes on and on and on...
Although I did a lot of stress eating this week, it was definitely a good training week. So far I've run Tuesday, Friday and this morning (Saturday), with another run scheduled for tomorrow. On Tuesday I did a solo "focus on how I feel" run...

And then on Friday I did another solo run with longer running intervals (which included running the last mile non-stop)...

And this morning I joined Mimi (from my running group) for the last 4 miles of her eight mile run. We did intervals (run 1 minute: walk 30 seconds)...

It seems like later start times correlated with a faster overall pace. Which makes sense since I haven't been sleeping well (the nightmares are back) so the longer I'm able to stay in bed the more rested my legs are (at least that's what should happen in theory). In addition to the nightmares, this week in general was just a stressful work week... I definitely needed as much rest as I could possibly get. 

Quite fittingly, the warning signs that corresponded with my mood/stress level this week were on display in the hospital's gift shop...
So between my Garmin reminders and the gift shop reminders I'm going to take the hint and try and have a relaxing weekend. 

Over the past 5 days I spent more time trying to map out my training plan for Pittsburgh (maybe that was the main source of stress?)

I'm definitely not a believer that "one plan fits all" and now that I'm entering my fourth marathon training cycle I really want to focus on the ideal components of several plans that work best for me. I'm an injury prone runner with a propensity for blisters so my ideal marathon training plan requires: flexibility, a moderate mileage build-up, a focus on both endurance and strength (i.e. A LOT of cross training and non-impact but simultaneously endurance/strength building activities), and different types of training runs. 

For the last two training cycles (2016:NY marathon training & 2017: Berlin marathon training), all my runs were pretty much the same. The only thing that varied was the distance. For this upcoming training cycle I'm planning for a speed workout every other week (it takes me a long time to recover from speed work so I want to space it out); a tempo run at a 10k - 10k+30s pace every other week; varied interval runs; non-stop runs mid week; hill work... actually change that to mandatory hill work (because the course is hilly especially in the last half of the race); and the ever important long run with an interval build up to running for 5 minutes: walking for 30-45 seconds. 

I really feel like the variety of different runs will keep me from getting bored and help me stay motivated. The diversity in my training plan will also be enhanced by my cross training plans (still tweaking those at the moment but swimming will be a foundational component of my cross training). 

The more I work on modifying the training plan, the more excited about it I become. I really hope (and pray) that I can have a great training cycle and a great race. I know I may not PR, but I definitely want to get as close to my PR as possible. Plus, I'm reserving my PR plans for Chicago in October. Wouldn't it be amazing to break my PR at my first and favorite marathon? Just the thought of it makes me happy. I had to defer my entry from this year to next year so as soon as I get that email confirmation from the race organizers I will start to focus on planning for Chicago as well. 

I'm off to relax, rest my legs, and hydrate (in preparation for tomorrow's run). I hope you have a great weekend!

Anyone racing this weekend?

Do you follow a specific training plan/method or do you create your own?

Is there a race that you love to run every year?