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?

Sunday, March 11, 2018

My Current Status and Race Predictions...

I'm 56 days away from the PGH Marathon and this is my current status at the "less than two months to go" mark:
⃢ I have completed 3 moderately long LRs (16 miles x 2; 15 miles x1)
⃢ I have 3 longer LRs left (18 miles x1; 20 miles x1; 22 miles x1)
⃢ I have 2 more races prior to the PGH Marathon weekend (Sunrise 1/2; Carmel Marathon relay)
⃢ I have 1 major trip that will somewhat interrupt my training cycle (FLL>>SEA>>PDX>>FLL)
⃢ I have 0 doubts in my ability to complete the PGH Marathon (based on how training has been going)
⃢ I have 1 tiny concern about getting a sub-5:30:00 finish (since I haven't been doing a lot of hill work)
⃢ I have 2 "back-up" race goals just in case (beat my Chicago marathon time; or get a sub-5:45:00 finish)
⃢ I have 3 minor things to finalize before my PGH trip (but the major stuff (flight & hotel) are taken care of)
⃢ I have 3 major work things to complete before I can start tackling those minor things

So about my race goals - I've been planning for a sub-5:30:00 finish time, which will not only be a PR for me but also a major accomplishment after the disasters of the NYC & Berlin marathons. For NY I was under-trained and for Berlin I got injured during the race. Not fun. Both those races had finish times of 6+hours and I'm not in the mood (or emotional frame of mind) to deal with that again. Not when my goal (for both) was 5:30:00 (I've been chasing that goal for a while). Anyway, choosing Pittsburgh to PR in may not have been the wisest idea (being from Florida with no hills and considering the entire second half of the race (pretty much) is nothing but hills...

I've invested a lot of time in my training plan for Pittsburgh; making edits and tweaking things as training has progressed; taking rest days when I feel myself approaching the "over training danger zone"; and adjusting for life (a lot) to accommodate competing priorities; and creating as much work:life:marathon training balance as I possibly can. So in keeping with my investment of time, and my desire to remain realistic about what my body can do, I decided to look at a couple of race predictors to see if I'm still on track for a 5:30:00 finish time.

Tool #1 from RunningAHEAD

(ok, not bad... especially since the 16 & 10 milers were my last two LRs)


Tool #2 from Chicago Endurance Sports

(so right under the goal time, but still... not bad)


Tool #3 from Runner's World
(RW asked for different info (13.1 miles & 10 miles) & had a significantly different estimation)

I'm not a big fan of the Runner's World prediction (as you can imagine) since it's worse than my time for the NY Marathon (during which I walked all the bridges... and then some) and Berlin (where I got injured at mile 21 and walked most of the remaining 5 miles). But, it also used different statistics for it's calculation so maybe, just maybe, I still have time to improve the prediction before race day. Plus, the distances and times I used for all these predictors weren't exactly race times, but rather my LR times over the past two weeks; and according to Hal's tweet...

Worst case scenario, if my Plan A, B, and C goals fall through, I will still attempt to finish under 6 hours (which will be a big improvement over both NY and Berlin).

All-in-all I refuse to let negative finish time predictions dampen my excitement about this trip (and this race). A lot of things will be different about this event, including my official blogger status...

I'm looking forward to meeting all the other amazing bloggers and organizers in person when I go, and (hopefully) getting to spend more time at the Expo fully exploring everything it has to offer (I've been rushing through every race expo so far this year). 

I also got my "I'm In!" yard sign recently so I've had that up on display...
Less than 2 months to go!!!

Have you ever used a race predictor when training for a race?

How often do you modify your training plan (during your training cycle)

Have you ever been to Pittsburgh? I need some restaurant recommendations please :)

Saturday, February 24, 2018

The Long Weekend...

Last weekend (yes the one that just ended yesterday) I took an unscheduled weekend off from training and went home. The trip itself wasn't unscheduled. It had been in the works for a while as a belated Valentines Day celebration trip. But the break from Pittsburgh Marathon training (and not doing a long run last weekend) definitely wasn't planned, but it was well needed...

The truth is my body is tired and I'm tinkering dangerously close to pushing myself into "overuse injury territory". I've been there before. In fact I've been there so often that I recognize the signals long before I reach that dreaded destination. But now that I'm approaching year 5 as a runner I'm wise enough to force myself to stop before I get too close. The wisdom doesn't erase the frustration and disappointment I feel though. And despite knowing that not pushing the limit was the right thing to do, I still feel sad that I'm not getting the mileage completed.

I've never had an uneventful marathon training cycle; probably because running doesn't really come naturally for me. I mean, I wasn't the last one picked for races/relays in school, being picked second to last wasn't much better. So when I started running in 2013 I knew it was going to be an uphill battle. This year, and this training season has been no exception...

This training cycle I've been feeling exhausted... all the time. Despite getting a full nights sleep I still don't wake up feeling rested. And, to add "injury to insult" (so to speak) I'm having shin splints and other areas of concern that are more tender/sore than normal. Some of my usual fixes haven't been implemented yet, i.e. I haven't focused on cross training and strength training as much as I should; I foam roll about as frequently as I'm able to achieve a sub-11 minute per mile pace (in other words, rarely); and every day I set ambitious hydration and nutrition goals only to be undermined by my sweet tooth (and salty tooth... and "any kind of red wine" tooth).

In isolation (and moderation) any of those things probably aren't horrible per se... but the combination is certainly not ideal. And unfortunately they have all been the background tapestry of my marathon training. I have just about two months to go before Pittsburgh so I still have time and (fortunately) I haven't veered completely off course, but I'm definitely not as far along as I would like to be. So the time to auto correct is right now; and after my long weekend off I'm refocused and re-energized...

The next two weeks will have 4 days of running each week, followed by three weeks of 3 days of running per week. Then in April I go back to 4 days of running and before I know it Race Week will be here! My swimming will also pick up steam (in terms of frequency but not necessarily intensity). I'm capping my swimming workouts at 60 minutes (with a minimum duration of 30 minutes). I decided to focus on duration for cross training because I want to ensure it's adding to my overall fitness without making me too exhausted to complete my runs. And I'm definitely keeping my commitment to have a solid rest (and sleep in) day.

So the countdown is on... 2 months to go (just about), which means I have 4 really long runs, 4 moderately long runs, and my taper runs left. I've got this!

You still have time to sign up and join me in Pittsburgh in May! Register (via the link below) and use my discount code (YOUNGDSGPM18) for any of the race distances!

What do you do when your training isn't going according to plan?

Do you find it hard to stay motivated and focused during long training cycles?

How many running vs. cross training days do you complete each week?

Saturday, January 20, 2018

DNF...

At some point in our running careers most of us have had a DNF ("did not finish") for a run. Usually the acronym is reserved for not finishing a race, but for me I use it when I don't finish my designated mileage for my training runs as well. I've (fortunately) never had to DNF a race, but training runs... that's a completely different story.

Today was one of those DNF training run days. My legs felt like lead from the very beginning; and between not getting enough sleep last night and being mentally exhausted from a very long, equally frustrating work week, I just could not push myself to do more than 6 (of the planned 10) miles.

I've been trying different strategies to work on mental preparation for my runs and my races because 9 times out of 10 the problem is less of a physical limitation and more of a "I'm not confident that I can do this" limitation. Mental training is hard. Especially since I'm not one of those overly confident individuals to begin with. And when it comes to running I doubt myself a lot.

This morning there was an "awkward yeti" type battle between my various organ systems...
Brain: Can I get through 10 miles?
Legs: I'm tired
Heart: I want to go back to bed
Stomach: I'm hungry
Brain: Well...
Legs: I'm still tired
Heart: I'm really sleepy
Nose: *sniff*
Stomach: Is that fresh baked bread?
Nose: *sniff sniff*
Stomach: *grumbles*
Brain: Well...
Heart: If I was sleeping right now I would be so happy
Brain: Fiiine
Legs: No I think I can
Brain: Too late I'm done. Let's stop at 6 miles
All: YAY!!!!!!

So I stopped at 6 miles. I was running with Mimi who continued on to complete the remaining 4 miles (after we took a quick post-run pic)...

Considering I did a (virtual) half marathon last weekend and I have the Tropical 5K and Miami Half Marathon next weekend, I'm not upset that upset about my DNF training run today. I may do a few miles if others from my running group want to hit the road tomorrow morning. If not, I might just sleep, or swim, or sleep, or do some weight training, or sleep.

This week (so far) I've done two 4 milers and two 6 milers. The distance sets were almost identical...

I'm trying to focus on incremental measurable goals for each week so that I can track my improvement (and not get thrown off by any one run). This week, for example, the group increased our run:walk intervals to 90s:30s and my personal goal was to maintain a sub-12 mins/mile average pace for all my runs (mission accomplished). Next week the running duration won't increase, but the new pace goal will be sub-11:45mins/mile. Each week will have a new goal and I will continue to set new weekly goals once I have accomplished the goal of the current week.

I'm doing the same for cross training. My goal was to swim twice this week for a minimum of 30 minutes each session. I only got through one 30 min session (on Monday) so next week I will aim for the same 2 swim session goal 💪.

What are your plans for this weekend?

Any races planned for the rest of January?

Did you accomplish all your training goals this week?

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Key West Virtual Half {"race" recap}

To kick off 2018's running calendar I decided to sign up for the Key West virtual Half Marathon...
Normally I wouldn't register for a race before the Miami Half Marathon race weekend (which is usually the weekend that starts my running calendar); but once I saw the medal I really had no choice but to register...
(The. Lighthouse. Lights. Up!)

I'm a real sucker for cool race medals. I won't even pretend to deny it. The first thing I think about when I'm considering registering for a race is "what does the medal look like?" Well actually, the first thing is probably do I get a medal? and then I determine if it's pretty enough to justify the race entry fee :)

Anyway, since my heart felt obligated to run for the lighthouse, I signed up for the virtual option and ran it this morning...

I ran with Jani for the first 6+ miles and then Mimi and I ran the last 7+ miles. During the first 6 Jani and I encountered a guy who was wearing less than ideal clothing for the 50 degree weather we were having and utilizing the sidewalk as his personal urinal. Not cool. We ran on the road to avoid having to run by him on the sidewalk (especially since he also appeared drunk/high on something). We also dealt with a pretty strong headwind for the first 3 miles, but other than that the first half of my virtual half was great.

When Jani and I got back to our cars, Mimi and I headed out for the second half of my half. We decided to add a change to our normal running route and included a highway overpass as part of an out and back section. Garmin claims that I started at high elevation for this run but I can guarantee you the route was pretty flat apart from those last two "hills" when we ran over the overpass and back...

Fortunately Mimi and I didn't encounter any unsavory characters on our route and we finished faster than I anticipated with a negative split (i.e. second half of the race was faster than the first half)...

Now I just have to patiently wait for my lighthouse medal to come in the mail! And start getting ready for the Tropical 5K and Miami Half Marathon coming up in two weeks!!!

Do you run virtual races?

What was your favorite virtual race (and why?)

What's your biggest motivator for registering for a race?