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...
...so 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?

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Another Heart Break {Berlin Marathon: Race Recap}...


Race morning started like any other. Early. The night before I'd implemented my usual multi-alarm system to ensure I didn't oversleep...

But between race nerves and an early night I was up well before that...

We were staying at a hotel that was filled with runners and had a free breakfast option so once everyone was ready we grabbed a quick bite to eat...
(↑↑breakfast of champions↑↑)

And then took some "before we head into the cold wet weather" pictures in the hotel lobby...
(↑↑Me with my parents and Kai↑↑)

Berlin has an amazing transportation system (which is only one of the really great things about the city) so it didn't take us long to get to the station closest to the start corrals. As we were walking towards the entrance to the corrals runners were all around... 

The excitement in the air was starting to get palpable and I was starting to get more nervous. The moment I would take on my third Marathon Major was here! And in a city so beautiful and rich with culture... it was an unbelievable feeling.

On the way we saw remnants of the Wall so I stopped and took a few pics...

And then we continued on our journey. It was a pretty decent walk to the start. Runners who opted for gear check eventually went in one direction and others (like me) who opted for the poncho were sent in a different direction. And then there was more walking.

And still a bit more walking.

Until we finally made it to the start...

That's where I parted ways with my parents and Kai... 

And went to Corral H (after a quick visit to the porta potty)...

The Corrals had screens so we could see the elite athletes at the beginning of their attempt to break some records...

Which made the wait for the Corrals to start tolerable. Plus, someone left their blanket behind so I took advantage of that and sat down while we waited... 

Finally we started and I have to say the excitement reminded me of how I felt in Chicago. It was pretty incredible. I was able to catch a glimpse of my mom and Kai in the Grand Stand cheering area at the start, which added to my excitement as well. 

My strategy for the race was to stick to the right side of the course, get beyond the crowd at the start, and then start my intervals. I figured that I would start to slow down during the second half of the race so I wanted to run the first half under 3 hours. I already knew the points where my family was going to try to be along the course (we mapped it out the day before) and I was prepared to run the first 7K without seeing them. So I decided to take in the sites...

After the 5K mark (and first water station) we runners had to carefully maneuver through the increasingly wet streets...

I continued to take pictures along the course (which I'll post throughout) but for the life of me I can't remember where along the course most of them were taken. When I saw a nice building or something that looked like it would be "symbolic" of Berlin I just stepped off to the side and snapped a pic. Normally I try and remember the mile marker (or I guess in this case the Km marker) so that I can explain more about what that aspect of the course was like; but this time I really don't have that reference (sorry guys) so a few of the pics may be out of sync.

I do remember that just beyond the 7K mark I started to feel some blisters popping up, but it wasn't horrible. Yet. That's also the point where I saw my parents and Kai for the first time since I started...

While I was able to take off my gloves at that point, it was still too cold to take off my long sleeve running top... but too hot to need full sleeve coverage. I tried to keep the sleeves 3/4 way up but between the rain and sweat the top was soaked and I was only partially successful in finding the right balance. Oh well, that was, as I would soon find out, the least of my worries along the course.

I left my first family meet up and continued on. I wasn't going to see them again until just around the 21K mark so I had some more time to distract myself with taking pictures along the route. I was paying close attention to my pace because I knew I would be cutting it close toward the latter part of the race, but so far my pace was ok. I was on target to finish well before the cut off and even though my blisters were getting worse, I wasn't in any significant pain. 

Somewhere between 7K (or the start) and 21K (and maybe a little bit beyond that) I took these...

I (briefly) contemplated researching what these buildings are and confirming where along the course they exist but then I thought "Well, suppose someone reading the blog gets curious by not knowing and uses that curiosity as the platform to enter the Berlin Marathon, train hard for it, save up enough money, and go to run Berlin to find out for themselves? I wouldn't want to take that away from them would I?" I decided I didn't and therefore no additional research and confirmation was done (you're welcome).

After a while seeing the city was less and less thrilling as my fatigue got more and more intense. My blisters were getting much worse and my legs were getting really tired. I distracted myself by counting down the Km markers until it was time to see my family. My Mom took pictures while Kai searched for my MaxFreeze spray (which I applied quickly before moving on) and my Dad sang...

Then I was off for another long stretch of running before the final family meet up. I was already really tired by this point. Gradually my legs felt like they were on fire and my pace really started to slow. And then there was Mile 21. 

Sigh. I don't even know where to start... At Mile 21 my left knee felt like it was going to explode. I don't know what I did. I don't know if I landed wrong. I don't remember a sudden sharp pain. I don't remember feeling something pull. I do remember that I could no longer land on it without pain, I realized I still had 7K to go, and when I tried to reach my Mom and Kai on their phones I could not get through.

I was in pain and I was in trouble. So I messaged my twin sister...

By the time I got to my parents and Kai I had slowed down so much that I was in serious danger of not making the cutoff. They didn't have Advil but they had my MaxFreeze spray so I soaked my knee in as much of it as possible...

And then, while I anxiously checked my pace, I made my way under the arch that was deflating as rapidly as my Berlin dreams were...

My Dad suggested that I take the spray with me so Kai graciously ran after me so I could carry it in case I needed it later on (since I wasn't going to see them again until after I finished). I took the spray and kept on going and tried not to cry. I knew crying would lead to me gasping for air and I was already out of breath. My lungs couldn't handle any additional work so I really tried to stay calm. But I cried for a bit anyway. 

The trek from 35K to 40K was the longest 5K of my life. It seemed like it would never end and I spent most of it walking with my MaxFreeze in hand...

Eventually I saw the Brandenburg Gate and I knew the end was near. I was in so much pain that I couldn't even muster up the energy to smile (or open my eyes)...

And then once I passed Brandenburg I realized that the end was not quite as "near" as I had hoped. I still had another Km or so to go...

Shortly after MarathonFoto took that picture I looked at my watch and saw that I had passed the finish time I wanted. I was devastated. It took everything out of me not to break down in tears again. I was running as much as I could to make it to the finish in as little time as possible but I knew that the finish would be bittersweet. Once I was done, I called Sanya in tears again for the second marathon in a row. 

Why do I do this to myself?

It's a question that I asked myself repeatedly during those last miles of the course. I'm pretty sure that question popped up during my training as well. And I continued to ask it for several days after the race. 

I finished and I was really happy about that...
...but it wasn't the finish that I wanted so my heart was still a little broken in the end. 

Although I didn't meet my goal for Berlin, this race is definitely one worth doing. It was a beautiful course! The crowd support was awesome!! And the city is so incredible!!! It's a Bucket List marathon for sure! And whether or not you want to do the World Marathon Majors, Berlin is a "must do" event.