Tuesday, December 29, 2015

2015 by the miles

Goal for 2015: Run more and don't get injured.

I'm calling this a success. I ran 963 miles in 2014 and 1428 miles in 2015! And I managed to escape without any major injuries. I did mess my hip/back up during my marathon taper, but I really only lost about 2 weeks of running. While it was incredibly frustrating and nerve wracking at the time, when I compared that with the 6 week break I needed to allow a calf strain to heal, I really can't complain. It also helps that I didn't miss any races due to this minor injury.

Major Training Cycles

5k training recap
Marathon training recap
Bonus: half marathon training/racing thoughts

Race Reports

May 9, Shanty 2 Shorts: 21:02.7 PR
June 6, R2SOY 5k: 21:36

Half Marathon
February 22, Disney Princess Half: 2:14:07
June 27, Charlevoix Half: 1:47:52
September 20, CC River Run: 1:42:20 PR

October 18, Grand Rapids Marathon: 3:59:02 PR

Best Race

CC River Run. Hands down. In 2013 I ran CC River Run in 1:48. It was my second half marathon and a 12 minute PR. I figured that breaking 1:45 would be easy and set it as my next goal. Four half marathons and two years later I finally, finally beat that goal. I felt like I was flying for the entire race. I kept waiting for something to go wrong during the race but that never happened. 

Honorable Mention: Shanty 2 Shorts. I was hoping to take about 30s off of my 5k PR and ended up taking off over a minute. A huge, huge step toward my long term goal of breaking the 20 minute mark.

Worst Race

Charlevoix Half. I completely fell apart in the last couple miles and had to watch my A, B, and C goals slip away. I'm not sure I have ever felt quite so defeated after a race. I was starting to believe that I would never be able to break 1:45 and that if I failed this badly in half marathon, how would I ever make it to the finish line of a marathon.

Honorable Mention: Disney Princess Half. I have never felt so ill during and after a race. Definitely learned my lesson about training in the cold and trying to race in the heat with no time to acclimate [but I LOVED running with my sister and would do it again in a heart beat!].

Hardest Race

I couldn't recap my year with a special mention of my first marathon. Crossing the finish line was a feeling like no other, but it was hands down the hardest race of the year. Between mile 16ish and mile 20 I went from "I'm tired and this hurts" to "Never again." I was burned out exhausted at mile 20 that I was honestly thinking about dropping out. The only reason I didn't drop out is because I was positive that if I did I would have to run a redemption marathon. I'm still not sure how I managed to start running again and pick up the pace enough to squeak in under four hours.

While "never again" might be a bit of an exaggeration, I do intend to spend a few years focused on shorter distances before I run another marathon.

Final Thoughts on 2015

2014 was a pretty rough year for me. I set three goals for the year and ended up not achieving any of them. I didn't want a repeat performance in 2015 so I got rid of my pace/mileage goals for the year. It really helped me not to set any goals dependent on reaching a certain time. Of course I started each race with a goal in mind (how else would I know what pace to target?), but the success of the year wasn't dependent on whether or not I hit that goal. When I think about how this past year has shaped up, I am really happy with the way things went.

Taking the pressure off of the end result also allowed me to focus more closely on the process. This was especially helpful with 5k training. It was a completely new process and I really had no idea what to expect at the end of training. I'm looking forward to employing similar strategies for my 2016 goals and am really excited to see how much progress I can make towards my long term running goals.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Happy Holidays

I have just a few more hours of work standing between me and 11 glorious days off. I am so looking forward to sleeping in, finishing my grad school application, and making time for running and cross training. Oh and presents! I am definitely looking forward to presents!

My mother in law bought me this awesome ornament last year!
I have not run at all over the past four days and, if the forecast for thunderstorms is accurate, I probably won't be running tonight either. My husband has been extremely sick for the past week and I just keep waiting for his cold to claim me too. I started feeling a bit congested over the weekend and decided not to run with the hopes keeping myself healthy. It seems to be working because apart from a tiny bit of congestion, I feel fine. Thank you, rest days!

I'm not stressing too much about missed runs, because the break is really stoking the fire for my spring training. I am so excited to take on a new training plan and start crushing some 5ks! I mean I still need to sign up for some spring races and actually write the training plan, but other than that, I am ready!

I've also been working on the two most popular posts of the season: 2015 recap and 2016 goals. Hopefully those posts will be up next week. Until then Happy Holidays/Merry Christmas/Happy Festivus!

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Life lately

I have not been running frequently enough to warrant any sort of training recap so instead of telling you about all of my extra rest days, I thought I would just provide a general life update.

I've been keeping my "training" very informal. I followed a pretty good 22 mile week with a week of only running twice. I have been reminding myself almost daily that I designated November-January as my off season and that NOW is the time to be okay with skipping a run.

I ran last night without my Garmin. I think I am going to stick with that for the rest of the week. Last night's run felt amazing. I'm starting to feel excited about my next training season and racing again. Yay!

Graduate School
The reason that I skipped so many workouts last week was so that I could focus my energy on my graduate school application. I have been alternating between feeling really confident and excited about going back to school and scared to death that I won't be accepted. In terms of actual work on my application I have completed one of the two required essays and received confirmation from 3 colleagues that they are willing to provide me with letters of recommendation.

The deadline for early consideration in January 15, the same day that I leave for California. I expect the next 4 weeks to be very busy with finalizing my application and am looking forward to a nice vacation as my reward for completing it.

Cross Training
Ugh. No. I have not even thought about P90X since that time I tried to do yoga and ended up skipping it. Part of me doesn't feel too bad since this is technically my off season, but the other part of me knows that I would benefit from being a more well rounded athlete.

Since I haven't been able to stay motivated with P90X I have been looking into other stretching/strengthening options that I could try. I don't want to sign up for a yoga class since I have tried that before and I hated it. I have been considering signing up for an adult ballet class (not Pure Barre, an actual ballet class). And by considering I mean my coworker mentioned it to me yesterday, lol.

I took dance lessons from age 4-17 (with a 2-3 year hiatus at some point in there) and took a semester of ballet when I was an undergraduate student, so at least I know that I would enjoy the class. I feel like this could really benefit me by improving flexibility and strengthening my hips, legs, and feet.

I have been loving this holiday season! I decorated our Christmas tree a few weeks ago and love seeing little kitty sleeping under the tree (thank goodness she doesn't try to climb it!). I sent out all of my Christmas cards this week. I even have 95% of my shopping handled, but I still need to wrap presents. Now I just need my actual holiday break to get here; just 5 more days of work.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Holiday Donut Dash

Last week I was aimlessly wasting time on Facebook and I saw that someone from my running group was going to an event called "Holiday Donut Dash." There was only a picture of donuts and a brief description of the event:

"5K Dash to Dom Bakery and back followed by some intense donut eating. Maybe you make the Wall of Fame. Maybe you just enjoy a run with some donuts. Or just come to run. Bring $5 cash for donuts."


I don't know if I mentioned it during training, but basically every Sunday during my long run my husband would go pick of donuts (from Dom Bakery, even!) and then I would eat a donut while sitting in my ice bath. Running and donuts is definitely my jam. I RSVPed yes and tried to find out more information about the "intense donut eating" and the mysterious "Wall of Fame." I couldn't really find any information so I decided I would just show up and wing it.

Finally Sunday arrived and I found out more about the event. You run from Ypsilanti Running Company to the bakery, stop and buy your donuts, run back to the running store (while carrying your donuts), and then eat 5 donuts as fast as you can. The whole thing is timed and the fastest times (combined running and donut eating and just donut eating) are recorded on a chalkboard wall in the running store. The dash is held on the first Sunday of every month.

Since I have not run anything close to 5k pace in months I decided to take it easy. I also figured that throwing up a bunch of donuts was not the best way to make new friends. I ran to the bakery at an easy pace (9:15ish pace), bought myself two donuts, and decided to kick up the pace on the way back. I surprised myself with a 7:15 final mile. It felt good to run fast! I could tell that I was working hard, but it definitely wasn't the all out burn of 5k pace. Maybe I still have a bit of speed that I can tap into!

Outdated Wall of Fame, because I failed to take a picture and snagged this old one from Facebook.

My run time was 27:35; I'm already looking forward to heading back next month to improve my time and eat some donuts. Once my spring training is underway and I am a little more comfortable with running fast I am definitely going to try to get my name on the wall. It is kind of an unpredictable race though since the course is not closed, so I had to wait for traffic at one intersection and there could be a line at the bakery. I definitely won't be setting a PR on this course, but it should still be lots of fun!

Monday, December 7, 2015

Weekend recap!

Last week almost felt like a normal week of running. For the first time post-marathon I ran 5 days/week and I had a sort of long run on Saturday. In addition to running more, I had a jam-packed weekend! My life is usually pretty boring. I run a lot, I sleep a lot, I eat a lot. Sometimes I take selfies with my cat (please try not to be jealous of my glamorous lifestyle). This weekend my husband and I left our boring comfort zone and tried a few new things.

Friday night happy hour aka a normal Friday night
Friday after work we headed downtown to grab a happy hour drink at Grizzly Peak Brewing Co. Beer of the night: 4k Hoppy Wheat, brewed from half Vienna & Wheat malts and generously hopped with Liberty & Willamette hops. It is the 4,000th batch of beer that Grizzly Peak has brewed.

After our beers we walked over to the farmers market to check out Christkindlmarket, a German Christmas market. We sipped Glühwein (hot, spiced wine) while we browsed the booths filled with hand made gifts and snacks. There were also fire pits available to warm up and roast s'mores. We completely lost track of time listening to the live music and the Christmas carolers.

My band geek husband loved that there was a clarinet.
I started Saturday morning with a sixty minute run and then met two of my college friends for an afternoon of shopping, eating, and non-stop talking. The mall was extra crazy (of course) and I was disappointed to discover that the bracelet I wanted to get my sister for Christmas has sold out both in stores and online. So I'm back to the drawing board for her present. Boo!

It was a wonderful day spent with friends, but I had to rush home so I could head to another brewery with Kendall. This time it was Wolverine State Brewing Co for their 5th anniversary party. Beer of the night: Vers l'avant, a golden lager made with Michigan Bartlett Pears and aged in white wine barrels. We stayed later than anticipated so we could check out the bluegrass band that was supposed to start at 9, but actually started around 9:30/9:45.

Wolverine for life. Go Blue!
By the time I got home Saturday night I was exhausted. So exhausted that I almost canceled our Sunday plans. All I wanted to do was stay in bed all day but instead I was dragged out to check out a new running group (more on this later this week). After the run we spent the afternoon doing all of our normal weekend things: grocery shopping, house cleaning, meal prepping. After three busy days, I am officially ready for another weekend.

Running totals
Monday: rest
Tuesday: 4.54 miles
Wednesday: 3.75 miles
Thursday: 3.76 miles
Friday: rest
Saturday: long run! I ran for just over an hour. It was my longest run since the marathon, and came in somewhere around 6.5 miles.
Sunday: Donut Dash 5k (more on this later)

Total Miles: I'd need to double check my Garmin, but around 21-22 miles.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Yoga fail and a racecation (sort of...)

Running has been feeling really good lately. It has been so nice to just head out for a few easy miles and not have to worry about my pace/struggling due to heat/struggling with the fact I'm scheduled to run 12 miles on a Tuesday. Even the weather has been cooperating; it was warm enough to wear shorts on December 1st! Basically running has been bringing me nothing but pure joy.

Even last night when it was mid thirties and raining. It should have felt cold and miserable, but I was just so happy to be out running that it didn't even bother me. When I finished my run I knew that I needed to do some yoga. I wish I could have just ran a few extra miles instead, but I've been telling myself that this is the time for cross training AND I've posted it on the blog so everyone will know when I flake out on it after just a few weeks...so I grabbed my mat and put in my yoga DVD.

Unfortunately just two minutes into the video I was interrupted by a phone call from my sister. Instead of doing yoga I ended up talking to my sister for over an hour and a half. This is what happens when your sister/best friend lives over a thousand miles away. The other benefit from this phone call (you know, other than saving me from the horrors of doing yoga) was that it gave us a chance to hammer out some details on a sort of impromptu sister vacation!

See you soon! (source)
My sister is a lover of all things Disney. She lives in Florida and runs basically all of the runDisney events (we did Princess together in February). In January she is running the Star Wars half marathon in California. It was supposed to be a family trip for her, but unfortunately some plans changed at the last minute. So now she is either A) Going by herself or B) Going with my 4 year old niece who will need a babysitter during the race. Well it just so happens that in addition to being an awesome race cheerleader, I am a pretty kick ass babysitter. So I'm booking a flight and headed to Disneyland for a week next month! Woohoo!

I won't actually be racing, but I am pretty excited to cheer for my sister while she races. And I get to hang out with my two favorite ladies for a week. And get out of the cold/snow for a week. And go to California for the first time. And this trip will be smack dab between my birthday and my sister's birthday, so it will kind of be a double birthday celebration for us!

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

December Goals

I'm finding it hard to believe that there is just on month left in 2015. October and November were sort of strange months for me in terms of running, so I am hoping to get December on track and stay there.

I ran a half marathon at the end of September and started October needing to recover. Except I was determined to maintain my marathon training schedule and ended up pushing myself too hard. I ended up taking the first week of October completely off from running and the second week I ran a whopping 11 miles. The third week of October ended with my first marathon, and even though it felt like I had just taken a break from running, I knew that I really needed to take a break from running.

In November I tried to start running a bit more, 3-4 very, very short runs per week but I was sidelined by a nasty cold a week ago. I decided that if there was ever a time to take a few extra days off, it was now. I don't have any races lined up in the near future, so I didn't feel guilty at all about snuggling up on the couch with little kitty and a box of kleenex.

Soft kitty, warm kitty, little ball of fur...
Which brings me up to December. One final month to make 2015 awesome. My 2015 mileage is currently sitting at ~1360 miles. It would be pretty freaking awesome to hit 1500 for the year, but I am just not sure if that is a realistic expectation. Last year I had set a goal of running 1000 miles, but ended up finishing the year with 963. Definitely disappointing and I'd like to skip the disappointment this year. This year my only goal was to run more and not get injured. If I stopped running right now, I'd still have achieved my goal for the year.

Obviously I don't want to do that. I am setting a few goals to help keep me on track for this final month.

1. Get back into P90X. I let this slide while I was sick. And then when I was feeling better I started running again but neglected P90X.

2. Keep running! I'll be aiming for 1463 miles (500 miles more than last year) as my easy goal and 1500 as a stretch goal. Like I said, I haven't been running much lately and I want to be sure to rebuild my weekly mileage safely, instead of pushing myself just to hit a random number of miles.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Winter Running Game!

In November and December winter is kind of awesome. The snow seems kind of magical, serenely blanketing everything in a layer of bright white. The cold air feels crisp and invigorating. The first few snowfalls put my holiday spirit into overdrive. Running through fresh powder makes you feel like a bad ass.

And then January comes. And suddenly living on the ice planet Hoth sounds less than ideal (nerd alert). Runs are missed because the windchill is -15 and there is 8 inches of fresh snow. Or there is an ice storm and the sidewalks are now an ice rink. It's okay though, because spring is right around the corner. Right?

Yes. Feels like -24. That is frost on my hat.
No. February sucks too. I think February was actually colder than January this past year. And by this point I am so exhausted from the constant piling on of layers and rearranging my training plans that it is just easier to say, "Nope! I'm staying inside." Motivation is at an all time low. Winter sucks. I hate it. And we still have to get through March.

Two years ago I tried to combat this by doing the Holiday Running Streak from Thanksgiving to New Years. I thought, that will get me through the holiday parties and then New Years resolutions will keep me on track while I get my half marathon training started. Nope. Didn't happen. I hated the running streak. HATED. I will not do one again. It turned running into a chore and when January hit I had zero interest in running.

Last year I discovered the Winter Running Game. I love, love, LOVE it! Basically you get points for every run that you log. The longer the run and the worse the weather conditions are the more points you get. The site explains how the points are rewarded, but the built in calculator does all the work for you. Just enter the time spent running, the feels-like temperature, and precipitation (if any).

Earning those points!
The game started on Monday, but you can join anytime before 12/13/2015. If you want more information you should check out this thread on Runner's World. It really helped keep me motivated last year and I am hopeful that it will do the same this year. If you struggle with the motivation to get outside during the winter you should definitely check it out.

Monday, November 23, 2015

P90X - 21/90

Time to play catch up!

08: Monday November 9th
rest day

Arms and Shoulders: Probably the most boring workout ever. Curls and tricep dips just don't do it for me.
Run: 3 miles @ 9:24
Ab ripper X

YogaX: Not as terrible as the first time. I kind of had an idea of what I was doing and that made it easier. I also set a timer on my phone for 45 minutes. I stopped the video when it went off. It definitely helped knowing I wouldn't have to go for a full 90 minutes.

Legs and Back: Probably my favorite workout so far! I've already learned that my right leg is stronger than my left, so that is something to work on. And in general, I can see how improving leg strength can benefit running.
Run: 3.18 miles @ 9:16. If I recall correctly this was the day it was rainy and windy.
Ab ripper X: skipped (so I could get out of my wet running clothes)


Run: 3.13 miles @ 9:07
Core Synergy: skipped

Run: 3.42 miles @ 9:09

15: Monday November 16
rest day/GRE day

Arms and Shoulders
Run: 3.07 @ 9:15
Ab Ripper X

I had to work late on Wednesday and it was a miracle that I made it through the day. By the time I got home any doubts as to whether or not I was really get sick had been answered. Yes. Definitely sick.
skipped: yogaX

skipped: Legs and Back, Run, Abs
I spent the entire day on the couch. 

rest day and still quite sick. Another exciting day on the couch.

Run: 4.0 @ 9:28 
I decided I was no longer sick and that a snowy run would be no problem. And since I was finally able to get off the couch I blitzed around the house doing 4 loads of laundry, a bunch of dishes, and some other cleaning. And I made cookies. And by about 4:00 I was right back to feeling miserable.
skipped: core synergy

Yet another exciting day on the couch.
skipped: run

Which brings me up to today: day 22, a rest day. I'm feeling better and can actually breathe through my nose for the first time in 4 days (gotta celebrate the small things!). I'm keeping today as a rest day because I learned my lesson on Saturday (and I do not want to be relapse sick on Thanksgiving!). I'm about to start my fourth week of P90X, which is a cut back week. However, I think since I have missed so many workouts in the past week, that I am just going to repeat week 3, then move on to week 4.

I don't feel guilty AT ALL about missing workouts, which is a nice change of pace for me. However, I'm really, really glad that I am following a plan since I can see myself just giving up for the next week: Oh it's Thanksgiving week, I'll just get back into it on Friday. Which would be followed by: I'll just wait until December and make it a fresh start.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Some other goings-ons in my life

For the most part I have kept this blog strictly about running. I thought I would diverge from that routine today to talk about something else that I have been working on for the past few weeks. After years of indecision and numerous talks with my husband regarding financing/time commitments/etc, I've decided to go back to school. Specifically I am planning to start working towards a Masters degree in library science.

Although I'm still not sure how I will balance working full time, classes/homework, running, and normal life stuff, I'm really quite excited! I actually made the decision to apply back in September, but I told myself that I didn't need to get started on the application process until after the marathon. Obviously that time has come!

I didn't have time this weekend to write my usual Monday training check-in because I was busy hitting the books. Monday morning I was taking the GRE. If you are not familiar with grad school applications, it is a delightful 4 hour standardized test that some schools require for admittance. It is required for the school to which I am applying.

I finished my undergraduate degree almost seven years ago. I have not studied for almost seven years. I was really out of practice, but I found after a week of feeling really, really stupid, things started to come together. I think with another week or two of studying, I could have done even better on the test. But with that said, my preliminary scores are high enough that I shouldn't need to take it a second time! Which is awesome because the test costs $200.

I still have quite a lot of work to do to finish my application, including writing two essays, and, of course, I still need to actually be accepted in the school, but I am really looking forward to this new chapter in my life. Hopefully you won't mind a few more school related updates mixed in with the running posts.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015


Ten days ago my husband and I celebrated our 2nd anniversary. Which means that two years ago today I was busy falling in love with Hawaii. I wasn't blogging back then, but I was running. In fact, running a race in Hawaii was the inspiration for starting a blog.

Tunnels Beach.

I was feeling nostalgic the other day and decided to read the race recap that I posted a few months later, when I finally got the blog started. I realized that I mentioned our honeymoon both started and ended with a run. If you have read the recap, then you know how it started (we literally drove from the airport straight to packet pickup!). So this post will be about how I managed to end our honeymoon a day early.

Nā Pali Coast.
I'd have to look back at my training journal, but I think we ended up running about 5-6 times over the two weeks that we were on Kauai. Ugh. I hope that doesn't sound like I spend most of my honeymoon worrying about training. I actually wasn't training for anything at the time and only ran when it tied in with sightseeing.

Our flight home left on a Saturday evening. On Friday morning, our last full day of vacation, I got a running map from the concierge and planned a 3 mile morning run with my husband. Our plan for the day was to run a few miles and then hike down to Queen's Bath (again).

Queen's Bath. Easier to get to if you don't wear flip flops.

The route that we chose was a paved path that ran along the road in some sections, then looped through a subdivision, and back on to the paved path. Please note that this was not a sidewalk. It was this black lumpy thing with huge cracks running across it.

As you might have realized, I have a tendency to be just a bit competitive. So when I realized if we ran just a tiny bit faster we would probably end up passing this other runner before we finished our run, well, I decided we should run a bit faster. And that is when I stopped paying attention to the lumpy broken black top and started focusing on reeling in my target.

Polihale Beach (7 miles of sandy beach ends in these cliffs)

And that is when I felt my left toe catch a piece of uneven pavement. There was no stopping it. I was going down. I tried to aim for the grass on my left, but that just resulted in me coming down HARD on my left elbow. and both knees. and sliding in a way that took off a lot of skin. I had never fallen while running before so I was kind of in a state of shock (don't worry, I've fallen twice since then so I'm really getting the hang of it).

After much swearing and making sure nothing was broken and more swearing I was able to hobble back to our hotel room. Kendall tasked me with washing the dirt/gravel/lava rock out of my wounds while he went out to find bandages. After he convinced the hotel employee that a band-aid was really not going to cut it, he returned with some gauze and tape.

There was a lot more crying and rock picking before I was all bandaged up. And in a lot of pain. It was still very early in the day, but our honeymoon was basically over. There would be no hiking to Queen's Bath (can't bend knees), no last bit of snorkeling (salt water in wounds), not even a quick dip in the pool (chlorine in wounds). I'm so grateful that this happened at the end of our honeymoon.

See you in a few years, Kauai!
We are hoping to head back to Hawaii for our 5th anniversary. I'm hoping to do a bit of running while we are there but I think I will need to leave the competitive edge at home. Three souvenir scars are enough for me.

Monday, November 9, 2015

P90X - 7/90 competed

One week of strength training and crossing training completed. And it wasn't the worst thing ever.

01: Monday
Monday would have been a rest day (Yep, I started my plan with a rest day), but I knew I would not have time to work out on Tuesday so I moved up Tuesday's workout. The video for today was Arms & Shoulders and Ab Ripper X. Since I have not done any strength training in such a long time I cut back on the reps and made sure to use light weights. I wanted to actually be able to use my arms the next day.

I normally would have followed up with a short, easy run, but I decided to skip it. I've been having a bit of pain on the top of my right foot (probably extensor tendonitis). I read that extensor tendonitis can be caused by tight calves, so it seems likely that it got inflamed during the marathon.

02: Tuesday
Date night. Hockey. Go Wings.

03: Wednesday
Getting home late from the hockey game combined with working a ten hour day was exhausting. On my way home from work I realized that if I had a run scheduled I could probably push through it. Yoga, however, was not going to happen. Cue the pizza and ice cream.

04: Thursday
The first day that went as planned! I started with Legs & Back which might end up being my favorite video. I kind of hate doing lunges (and there were plenty of lunges!) but I could really feel my legs working hard. It felt like the work I was doing would really benefit my running.

I followed that up with a quick 2 mile run before finishing with Ab Ripper X. It was a long day of working out. 

05: Friday
My would have been rest day turned into Yoga X. Yoga is really not my thing and this video served as a 1.5 hour reminder of that fact. I think I am going to skip some sections of the video and try to keep this workout to about 45 minutes.

06: Saturday
Eh. Neither my two mile run nor my experience with Core Synergistics was noteworthy. I kept the pace easy on the run. The DOMS from leg day made everything difficult. I worked my way through the assortment of pushups, squats, and ab work in the video but wasn't really into it and didn't feel like it was a great workout. I'm hoping I come around on this video.

07: Sunday
Long run day, you know, if my foot wasn't bothering me. I kept it short; just another 2 miles.

This week will be repeated twice and then the fourth week will be a cutback week. I'm looking forward to being a bit more familiar with the videos and hopefully starting to run a bit more.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

3 reasons I'm choosing strength training

As I mentioned in my last post, for the next 90 days I'm going to be prioritizing strength training instead of focusing on running. I'll still be running, but if I have to choose between fitting in a strength training session and going for a run, I'll be choosing strength. Or at least that is the plan.

I think I've actually lost muscle mass since Disney
Strength training is really not my thing. I don't love it. I don't miss it if I don't hit the gym a few times a week. That is my relationship with running, not weights. In the next year I'm hoping to knock out some pretty sweet PRs and get a little bit more serious about running. So even though it feels a little counter intuitive, I'm going to be focusing on strength training instead of running for the next 90 days.

Improve Resiliency
Last year I realized that I don't seem to bounce back from races as quickly as other runners. I'm pretty much okay with that. I know not to schedule races too close together. And it mostly works. However, I can't help but wonder if I had better overall fitness if I would be a bit more resilient after races.

I'm hoping in 2016 I won't be quite so worn down after racing, which is especially important since I'm planning on tackling a lot of 5ks in the spring. After most of these races I will need to recover quickly and get right back into hard training if I want to continue to see improvements over the course of the season.

Reduce Body Fat
It is no secret that elite runners are very lean. While I am definitely not quite that speedy, I do want to get faster. A sub 20 5k is not an easy goal. If leaning out a bit can help me get to that goal, then that is what I am going to do. I'm hoping that changing up my usual work out routine (running with a side of running) I will pick up a bit of muscle and drop a bit of body fat.

I will be cleaning up my diet as well. P90X has a diet plan to accompany the program, but it looks like it would difficult for me to follow (I'm a very picky, lactose intolerant, vegetarian). I will be adding a bit more protein to help build muscle, cutting back on carbs because I'll be running less, and cutting back on alcohol/splurges (my wedding anniversary, Thankgiving, Christmas, New Years and my birthday are all within this 90 day period).

Maintain Fitness
I don't have a single race on my calendar until April 2016. This is a good thing because I absolutely need to take a break from hard training. I've been following one training plan or another since March and it is time for a break.

Well, sort of. I want to maintain my running base so that I am ready to start training hard in February and I KNOW that without an actual plan I will end up hardly running at all. Especially when the weather starts to suck and I just want to stay inside. I'm hoping that by keeping the focus on strength training while supplementing with running, I will be able to maintain my current level of fitness and still feel mentally/physically prepared to resume training in the spring.

I've already skipped one workout this week in favor of pizza, ice cream, and Netflix. So there is definitely a strong possibility that this plan will not work out at all. But I'm hoping if I keep reminding myself that it is only 90 days (87 left!) I can power through. 

Monday, November 2, 2015

2 Weeks of Lazy (and a bit of what's next)

For the past two weeks I have pretty much been focused on recovery being lazy. And by that I mean hardly running at all and eating all sorts of tasty, but completely unhealthy food. Ice cream is my favorite food and I might have had some everyday the week after the marathon (#dontjudge).

The first few days after the race I was incredibly sore. I'd like to think I wouldn't have been quite so sore had I been running regularly leading up to the race, because wow. Literally every part of me hurt. Even weird things, like my arms. I did my first post race run on Friday. It was just 2 miles and when I finished I felt like I had just finished a long run. I was tempted to run again on Sunday, but in the end I decided to take full advantage of my recovery time.

The second week of recovery was slightly more structured. I was starting to miss running and was getting anxious to get the next phase of my training underway.

Monday 10/26: 4 miles
Tuesday 10/27: strength training (core)
Wednesday 10/28: 2 miles
Thursday 10/29: rest
Friday 10/30: 3 miles
Saturday 10/31: rest
Sunday 11/1: 3 miles

Most noteworthy in this week was Tuesday's strength training session since it ties in to my next training phase, which will basically be running + P90X. It is a 90 day plan that will take me from the beginning of November to the end of January.

The running component is fairly straight forward: rebuild my running base to 40 miles per week. I will be aiming for one long(ish) run and 3-5 shorter runs per week. There will be no intervals/tempos/hill repeats, just easy mileage with a few strides thrown in each week. Maybe some form drills. The focus is volume, not speed.

The P90X component is the part I will struggle with. I have been extremely lax with strength training in 2015. I'm blaming buying a house and losing access to my apartment complex's gym. I chose P90X because I already own it (Yay! Free!) and when the weather is terrible, I won't have excuses such as "The roads are bad, I can't drive to the gym." I'm adapting the lean schedule by replacing the cardio videos with running and doubling up workouts on some days.

As I am building my mileage during this program I will slowly be cutting back on strength training. My hope is that when February hits I will be ready to start an actual training program (5ks!) but still be able to maintain 1-2 videos per week (core and yoga, most likely).

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Marathon #1 - 2015 Grand Rapids Marathon

On Friday I headed out for a 3 mile shakeout run, but I ended up only running 2 miles. My legs were not feeling the best and at this point an extra mile was not going to make a difference. After my run I had one last sports massage. This massage was much gentler than my massage earlier in the week. I didn't want to have any residual soreness during the race.

After double and triple checking that I had everything packed for the race, my husband (Kendall) and I drove to Grand Rapids on Saturday. We went straight to the expo which made my already high pre-race anxiety sky rocket. I got my packet quickly and left. The rest of the night was spent trying to relax. We watched some football, ate some pasta, and visited with family.

Race Day
I tried to treat the morning of the race just like the morning of a long run. Breakfast first, then get dressed. Body Glide everywhere. Band-aids on my pinky toes (they like to blister). I made the last minute decision to tape my Achilles with KT Tape. Although I have used KT Tape throughout training to keep minor annoyances from turning into issues, I wasn't that experienced with taping my Achilles. I had taped it earlier this week, but had only run 6 miles with it taped. I was a bit nervous to suddenly jump to 26 miles with it taped, especially since the tape wrapped around my heal and onto the bottom of my foot. I was worried that if the tape bunched up, I would have to stop to remove it. And if I took my compression socks off mid-run, I would probably never get them back on my sweaty feet. Fortunately I did not have any issues with the tape.

We arrived at the race about 45 minutes before the start. It was in the 30s (Fahrenheit), so I was glad we were able to wait inside the YMCA. About 20 minutes before the start I made my way outside and into the starting chute. I gave myself a pep talk about staying slow during the start of the race and then it was time to start running.

Miles 1-3: Warm Up (9:02, 8:51, 8:51)
I had lined up near the 3:56 pace group (9:00) which turned out to be kind of annoying because it was a huge group and very congested. I did not want to get lured into running with the group because I did not know how consistent their pacing would be (very consistent, as it turns out). I tried to focus on just running my own race, but I found it really hard to settle into an even pace. During the first few miles I was able to shed my warm up layers: an extra long sleeve, gloves, and a headband.


Miles 4-8: With the Pace Group (8:45, 8:44, 8:47, 8:54, 8:58)
I sped up a bit during the first part of this section because I was tired of getting caught in the middle of the pace group. I quickly gave up that strategy because I didn't want to run faster than my plan and joined the pace group. The size of the group made tangents very difficult, so although my watch is indicating some faster miles, the pace group was hitting each mile marker almost perfectly on pace.

Mile 7 was the first place on the course where I saw Kendall. I felt amazing and strong and was super excited to see him! Official mile 7 split was 1:02:42 (8:57).

Miles 9-11: Side stitches (8:37, 9:27, 9:34)
I don't know what happened in mile 9 that resulted in such a quick mile, but I paid for it with a side stitch during mile 10. Getting a side stitch just 9.25 miles into my race was a wake up call. I was running at a much slower pace than at CC River Run, and I made it through that race without a single stitch. I figured this was a solid indication that I had lost a fair amount of fitness following that race/due to my injury. My breathing techniques were not helping so I stopped to walk for a minute. I decided right there that I would not try to speed up in the second half. My primary goal became holding a steady pace and finishing sub 4.

When I was able to resume running I was able to run a full mile before another stitch hit. During this mile I overheard a runner giving another runner a pep talk. Although it wasn't directed at me, it really boosted my spirits! I chatted with those two runners for the next mile, but I lost them when I stopped to walk for my second stitch.

Miles 12-15: Back at it! (9:01, 8:42, 8:46, 8:54)
Mile 12 includes the biggest hill of the race. I was super surprised to see Kendall waiting for me at the top of the hill. I wasn't expecting to see him again until mile 15. Climbing that hill was a bit of a mental turn around for me. The hill felt easy and I felt ready to start working my way back to the pace group. At every mile marker I calculated how far off I was from a 9:00 pace and hoped to see that number shrink with each mile.

I saw Kendall again in mile 13 and he told me I was only 30s behind the pace group. I told him "slow and steady" and kept moving. Somewhere in here I caught my pep talk friends from mile 9. I was also excited to see two of my cousins out cheering for me at mile 15.

Official 13.1 split 1:58:20.

Miles 16-21: Major suck (8:41, 8:57, 8:51, 9:10, 8:56, 11:06)
This portion of the course is an out and back section. At first it was exciting to see the super fast runners, but after a mile or so everything just started to suck. It seemed like every time I could see a mile marker in the distance, it turned out to be a mile marker for the returning runners, not me. This section felt so long and was mentally and physically draining.

At mile 16 my Achilles started to hurt. I was glad that I had made the decision to tape it because I imagined it would hurt even worse had I done nothing. I did my best to ignore the pain and just focus on running.

I saw Kendall, my two cousins, and one of my college friends at mile 18 and it did nothing to improve my mood. I felt so miserable and was doing all I could to hold my pace. I made it my goal to hold my pace until the timing mat at mile 20. I crossed the mat perfectly on pace for 9:00 average (official split 2:59:49).

When I crossed that mat I stopped to regroup. I was probably stopped for about 10s, but I could feel my muscles tightening up so I forced myself into a brisk walk. I was really afraid that I would not be able to start running again. I wanted to cry but I held it together. I walked for 3 minutes before I felt ready to start running again. I was glad to discover that running didn't seem to suck quite as much after that break. I ignored my pace and told myself that 4:05 would be just as awesome as sub 4.

Miles 22-24: Still moving (9:51, 9:30, 9:20)
Mental Dialog: Alright. I'm holding it together. I'm running. Slowly, yeah, but still running. And if I finish this marathon I never have to run another one again. Ever! Never ever! Never ever ever! But if I drop out, I'll probably want a redemption race. Don't drop out. Keep moving. And then never again.

I saw Kendall and my cousins one last time at 21.5 miles into the race. Kendall told me I had just 5 miles to go and it nearly broke me. I'd been counting down the miles and knew I still had 6 miles to go. It was devastating to hear 5 miles and know that he was wrong. This is why I should not do math when exhausted. I also knew that he knew I had slowed down a lot since mile 18. I was so afraid that I was letting him down (which was stupid, he would never be disappointed in me for not getting my goal time). This is why I should not think at all when exhausted.

At the 23 mile marker I celebrated that fact that I only had a bit more than a 5k remaining. My running had been picking up, maybe I could pick it up enough to get my sub 4. I would need to run 3.2 miles in 29-30 minutes (I don't remember exactly what my watch read, and my Garmin splits are off due not running tangents). I still had a tiny sliver of hope.

Miles 25-26.2: Keep digging! (8:59, 8:35, 3:27 (7:52 pace for the final 0.44))
I tried to keep doing the math and figure out if sub 4 was possible. It seemed like I was making up for lost time, but I didn't know if it would be enough. I would pick out a runner in front of me and work my way past them. Then pick another runner and repeat.

At the Mile 25 marker I knew it was going to be damn close. I would need to dig deep if I wanted this to happen. I also knew that there would be a "1 mile to go" sign (we passed it early in the race). So I would know exactly what time I would need to bust out for the final mile. I passed that sign at 3:51, but I saw my pace was in the 8:30s. If I could hold my pace, I had it.

Shortly after that point, one of the spectators told me I was looking great and there were just two turns left before the finish line. I told myself to dig deep and hold on to that pace. With a half mile to go I stopped looking at my watch. I stopped my music and tried to soak it all in. I was about to finish my first marathon and I knew I had the sub 4. The crowd was roaring (or maybe it was just Kendall) and I heard the race announcer call my name. It was a feeling like no another.

I love this picture so much (source)

Official Finish: 3:59:02

Finish Line
I stopped running and tried to catch my breath. I couldn't believe I was done. And then I couldn't believe that my legs had stopped working. They were complete jello. The volunteers tried to get me into a wheel chair, but I knew I just needed a few seconds to get it together. Fortunately Kendall showed up on the side lines at that moment and basically distracted them for the 5 seconds it took me to regroup.

A volunteer placed a medal around my neck and I was still in disbelief that I had finished. I was also handed a mylar blanket, a bottle of water, a bottle of chocolate milk and then I made my way through the food tent. I really could have used a bag or something to hold all of my stuff, but I somehow managed to also grab a banana, a couple Oreos, a bagel, a bag of chips, and a cup of ice cream.

Mile 27
Finally I was able to reach Kendall and my cousins. I was desperate to sit down at this point and Kendall told me that the beer tent had chairs. Perfect! We said goodbye to my cousins (and thanked them for cheering!) and made our way to the beer chairs.

I tried to eat a bit of food, but mostly I was just thirsty. I drank my water, but decided chocolate milk didn't sound good after all. Kendall got us a beer and that was delicious. Oreos dipped in vanilla ice cream were amazing until I realized I was freezing cold.

I couldn't leave without trying the Mile 27 pilsner that New Holland brews specially for the race. I don't really like pilsners, but I had earned it! Eventually I was just too cold to sit outside any longer and a hot shower was calling my name (the YMCA offered free showers to runners).

I was cold. I was sore. I was completely exhausted. An injury had kept me from starting the race last year, but I had finally done it! I could finally call myself a marathoner!

Thanks for reading and thank you so very much for your support, encouragement, and advice during my training! The running community is just plain awesome!

Monday, October 19, 2015


 A full race recap should be up later this week, but I wanted to let you know I finished! 
I'm officially a member of the 26.2 club!

Friday, October 16, 2015

Grand Rapids Marathon Prerace Thoughts

Feeling 100%! Ready for the race!
Well, almost. I feel about 95% but I am hopeful that one last shakeout run + one last sports massage + one last rest day = 100%.

I'm coming for you! (source)
I had a great, confidence boosting run last night. Two miles to warm up, two miles at goal pace (8:31), followed by a two mile cool down. I ran my cool down too fast, but I felt so good! It was hard to stick to the plan.

Quick Training Recap
In the 15 weeks of training leading up to the taper I averaged 44 miles per week. Four of those weeks were 50+ mile weeks. I was pretty excited to compare this to my 2014 training where I averaged 31 mpw and peaked at 45 miles (and didn't make it to the starting line). What an awesome improvement!

My long runs during this time included 16 miles (x3), 17 miles (x1), 18 miles (x4), and 20 miles (x2). Cutback weeks (x3) and race weeks (x2) had long runs of 13-15 miles, but per my plan these are not technically long runs. Best long runs included a twenty mile run with the final 5 miles at 8:31 and an 18 mile run with the final 10 miles at 8:40.

In addition to a weekly long run I usually had an additional 1-2 runs per weeks that were 10-14 miles long. Six weeks (out of 15) included 3 double digit runs. 

Disappointing finish at the time, but still a part of my marathon journey.
During this training period I raced two half marathons. Charlevoix in June (1:47, second best half at time of race) and Capital City River Run in September (1:42, a 4 minute PR).

This was an excellent training period for me. Yes it is frustrating that I missed approximately 2 weeks of running right before the race, but those 2 weeks do not completely negate the fact that I have put in a lot work to run this marathon.

I am having a hard time committing to a race goal, because I just don't know how my body is going to hold up with two injury scares in the past couple weeks. If I had finished out my training as planned, based on my half marathon PR my goal would be 3:45 (8:32 pace). I think my training supports this goal.

However, considering my recent lack of training I am hesitant to start the race at such a fast pace. If I had prior experience with the marathon I might feel more confident, but I want to be sure to respect the distance. At this point I think I am going to use a strategy similar to what I used in Lansing last month, which was to start conservatively and slowly ratchet the pace down.

For the marathon I am thinking 8:50s for the first 9 miles, 8:40s for the next 9, 8:30s for the final push (or until I crash). This strategy is similar to how I handled my fast finish runs, so I feel pretty comfortable with this plan. This should easily get me under 4 hours, but I likely won't come close to 3:45. I think I am okay with letting that goal go for now.

I felt so confident after CC River Run.
Alternatively I am considering starting at 8:45ish and aiming for nice even splits for the entire race. I don't know which plan is better. Readers with marathon experience please feel free to chime in with your advice! I don't want to sell myself short (the last half mile of my fast finish 20 miler was FASTER than my half PR pace), but I also don't want to blow up with 6 miles left (I've run about 25 miles total in the past 3 weeks).

And just so it's out there: if on race day I need to slow down due to aches and pains, I am going to slow down. While I am approaching my off season, I'd rather not start it with an actual injury (been there, done that). Also you can track me if you are interested (bib 415); splits for 7, 13.1 and 20 will be available.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

My calves suck too

Since Sunday morning's 5 mile run was pretty much pain free, I decided to head out for a slightly longer run Monday evening. I thought a good goal for this run was 8-10 miles. I really wanted to get in one last double digit run before the marathon. Somehow I had convinced myself that 10 pain-free miles on Monday would mean 26.2 pain free miles on Sunday.

Instead of feeling excited for this run I spent most of the day dreading it. What if I fell apart after 5 miles? What if I couldn't even make it 5 miles? Is my marathon completely doomed? This is the exact opposite of the mindset that I need to be in right now. The first mile of my run was brutal. All I could think was "I can't do this." Finally I managed to settle into a comfortable pace and started enjoying the fact that I was running without pain.

When I started the run, my calves were really tight. I was not surprised since every time I take a short break from running, I am met with tight calves when I resume training. I figured once I got warmed up they would feel better. After about 4 miles I could tell they were getting tight again. After about a half mile I started feeling a slightly painful tugging in my right Achilles. I was less than a mile from home, so I decided to give myself a few minutes to see if it got worse. It slowly got worse over the next half mile so I started taking a few walk breaks to see if that helped. Eventually I decided to just walk the rest of the way home. I started icing as soon as I got home.

Part of me was relieved that my back/hip seemed to be holding up just fine (no pain during or after the run!) and the other part of me worried if this was the start of another injury (maybe Achilles tendonitis?). I tried to remind myself that tendonitis is an overuse injury and I have never had any symptoms prior to this run. It was hopefully just my tight calves pulling my tendon tight and creating pain.

The next morning my Achilles still felt very tender. It was not the pain that I felt during my run, but it was clear that it was not fully recovered. My calves were still incredibly tight as well (even though I had been foam rolling them). Fortunately I had an appointment with Chris (the massage therapist) that morning.

Chris started by checking if the alignment corrections he had made last week were still in place (they were). My right hip is still slightly forward, so I will be continuing to do the recommend exercises. Next was massaging and scraping my adductor muscles (the muscles that are likely causing my hip issues). This was a lot more intense than my first appointment, but not terrible.

Finally Chris got to work on my calves. Oh my god, the pain. So much pain. My right calf is just a mess of tightness and knots. The scraping was absolutely miserable. Scraping along tight muscles. Scraping along the Achilles tendon. The left calf was in better shape than the right, just one really painful spot as opposed to the entire back of my lower leg hurting.

The pain seemed worth it in the end since when I left the appointment my Achilles was feeling completely normal. I woke up this morning with my calves feeling bruised, but there isn't a mark on them. I guess this is normal for deep tissue massages and I should be feeling better tomorrow.

Thanks for making it through this boring injury update. My brain is kind of a mess right now. I really just want this week to hurry up so I can stop obsessing over the race. But also if you could slow time down so I could fit in a few more weeks of training, that would be nice too!

Monday, October 12, 2015

Hips don't lie

As I mentioned in my last post, I have been having a lot of pain issues in my right hip. The pain started after a handful of pretty crummy training runs following the half marathon, but really peaked a couple days after my last long run. Basically any time I put any weight on my right foot I was treated to sharp stabbing pains in my lower back/hip.

Even after a week of rest I was still having on and off pain so last week I decided to get my first sports massage. Since that appointment I have had almost no pain (HOORAY!). So let's talk about that massage.

I decided to book an appointment with Chris for a few reasons, the number one reason being that he is a former University of Michigan track athlete. I figured another runner would understand my determination to make it to the starting line. Add to that experience working with Big 10 varsity athletes and physical therapy patients. And two years coaching in the university's Olympic Sports program. Yeah, Chris definitely know athletes. I definitely made the right decision.

The appointment itself was not really what you would expect when you hear massage. There was no laying on the table and relaxing. Chris started my comparing my right and left hips and established that my right hip was rotated forward. Then I was treated to a lot of "Hold your arm/leg like this, I'm going to try to push/pull it away, don't let me." This helped Chris identify which muscles weren't working properly so he knew which trigger points to focus on (or something like...I'm not an expert). He also gave me some homework to do twice every day and before/after every run.
  1. Lie on the floor with knees bent. Bring my right knee to my chest and clasp my hands behind my thigh. Try to push my leg down but use my hands to resist the movement. This should help rotate my hip back into the correct position.
  2. Massage the tender area at the bottom point of my right shoulder blade. I don't honestly remember what sort of voodoo magic this is supposed to do but supposedly it will help with my legs/hips. 
  3. Use a lacrosse ball to massage my glutes. As a bonus this hurts on both sides, but kind of in that hurts-so-good sort of way.
  4. Bonus: Massage and stretch my hip adductors. 
Per Chris' recommendation I headed out for a short run later that day. I was able to run 2 miles, but I could tell things were falling apart quickly during the second mile. I experienced some muscle aches in my hip for about an hour after that run. My complete lack of self control lead me to running another 2 miles the next day. I could tell that I felt stronger, but the last mile still wasn't perfect. This time the muscle aches only lasted about half an hour. Those two post run segments of pain were the only pain that I have had since the massage.

I utilized some better self restraint on Saturday and took a rest day. On Sunday I managed a glorious 5 mile run with only minimal discomfort during the last half mile. I maybe could have pushed it up to 6 miles, but I didn't want to risk causing a setback. I had no pain after the run.

With just a week left before the marathon I know that I can not make up any of fitness that I lost during the past two weeks. It is what it is. What I need to focus on is getting to the starting line as healthy as possible. I booked another two appointments with Chris for the upcoming week, so that should hopefully keep my hip in check. So long as I can keep myself from overdoing it on the running, I should make it to the starting line (fingers crossed on the finish line part of things!)

Friday, October 9, 2015

Training lately...

I haven't managed to post a training update for the past two weeks. Unfortunately this is because things have not been so great after the half marathon. I'm sorry for the radio silence and for the excessively long post you are about to read.

In the week following the race (September 21-27) I was pretty worn out. I did my best to listen to my body and took a few extra rest days and, when I did run, I reduced the mileage. My total for the week was 30.48 miles. The worst run was my final 20 mile run. After some moderate discomfort/pain in my glutes for the first 13.5 miles, my right hip flexors cramped up and refused to relax. Feeling defeated and discouraged I walked the rest of the way home (about 2 miles). Weekly total 30.48 miles.

Not an ideal final week by any stretch, but finally I had reached the taper! The next week (September 28-October 4) was complicated by the fact Thursday-Sunday would be spent in Toronto. I was planning on front loading some mileage, but after cutting Sunday short, I thought this sounded stupid. My body definitely agreed because on Monday and Tuesday my lower back/right hip was in complete agony. I needed to rest.

I looked through Advanced Marathoning and was relieved to discover that missing up to 10 days of training within the final 8 weeks of training should not have any negative affects on my goals. Hooray! I took full advantage of that fact by taking almost the entire week off. When I got home Sunday night I went out for an easy 3 mile run. I'd be lying if I said it felt great. It merely felt okay and didn't seem to make my pain any worse. Weekly total 3.1 miles.

Which brings us up to this current week (October 5-11). I tried to run on Tuesday and made it less than a mile. Too much sharp, stabbing pain in my hip. That night I realized that rest alone was not going to get me through the race. That night I booked an appointment for a sports massage for Thursday morning and hoped for the best.

My biggest concern is that once the pain reaches a level that I can not run through, even walking becomes excruciating. My I'm-not-a-doctor conclusion is that something in my right hip is messed up/out of place. It seems to have varying levels of messed up. When it reaches too far out of place, it starts pinching my sciatic nerve. The only thing that will relieve the pain is keeping weight off of my right leg. I don't know what I will do if this happens during the marathon.

That said, the sports massage really, really helped. I feel like I could write an entire post about the massage. I'm planning to book another couple appointments before the marathon. So hopefully I will have some time to talk more about the treatment! Chris, my massage therapist, said that my right hip was rotated forward (anterior pelvic tilt). He worked on fixing that and gave me a list of exercises/self massage things to do twice a day as well as before and after each run. He also suggested that I try running again that very day, which I guess is what happens when you see a guy with a background in running.

I was able to run 2 miles last night. The first mile felt completely normal! The second mile slowly slid downhill, but I stopped before the pain got too high. Once I did my new post run routine, things were feeling better, but still tender. A couple hours after the run I felt completely fine!

I was originally thinking that I would take today as a rest day; no reason to push myself right back into the pain. However I woke up this morning with absolutely zero pain (for the first time in over a week!). So now I kind of want to run! I've hardly run at all in the past two weeks and I miss it!

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Half #7 - CC River Run 2015

Let me start by saying I finally did it! I finally broke 1:45 in the half marathon! I don't think this race could have gone any better; it was a perfect day on the perfect course. It was one of my best executed half marathons (if not the best!) and I managed negative splits.

Pre-Race Thoughts
I was very nervous leading up to this race. I have been chasing 1:45 for quite awhile and I did not want to finish yet another race filled with disappointed. I started drafting up a "pre-race thoughts" post for the blog, but then I started feeling a bit confident. And somehow feeling more confident flipped around to feeling even more anxious. I felt so confident going into Charlevoix and every comment I received on this post was so supportive. I just did not want to have to come back and be all "Look at me, the girl who can't make reasonable race goals!"

So I alternated between thinking about time goals [sub 1:45. If it is a stars align sort of race sub 1:43. I didn't even share that dream goal with my husband.] and repeating to myself: "Do your best and see what happens." My husband also reminded me that my goal race this fall is Grand Rapids, not this half marathon. Pushing to an injury would be stupid.

Pre-Race Shenanigans
The race takes place in Lansing which is over an hour away from my house. My husband's childhood home is just 20 minutes away from the race, so we drove up Saturday afternoon and spent the night. I spent the day hydrating like a champ and obsessing over the race.

Packet pickup was a breeze. There was no expo; bibs and shirts could be picked up from a local running store. For the past two years, the women's shirts have been absolutely terrible; the "long" sleeves are at least 2-3 inches too short. Last year I exchanged for a men's small. This year I registered for a men's small and they upgraded the shirts to a nicer brand. I was a bit disappointed that they wouldn't let me swap for a women's small.

We grabbed some pasta from Noodles and Co. on our way out of town. There is a Noodles and Co. in Grand Rapids as well, so I will be repeating this exact pre-race dinner in four weeks. I was having a hard time relaxing Saturday night, so when my husband wanted to grab a beer from a local brewery, I decided to join him. Maybe not the best pre-race practice, but I balanced it out with 3 extra glasses of water while at the brewery and it helped take my mind of the race, which was really needed at this point.

Race Morning Disaster
The race started at 8:00 am, so I planned to get up at 5:50 and leave for the race at 7:00. That would easily give me 40 minutes to warm up and use the restroom one last time before that race. Unfortunately I had not accounted for a million closed roads (construction, not race related) and the ones that were open were one-way streets making it nearly impossible to get to the start line. Eventually we gave up on parking and I hopped out of the car at a stop sign near-ish the start line at 7:40. I jogged through the Start/Finish area looking for the port-a-johns. Instead of warming up as planned I spent most of my time in line.

Business taken care of, I had a few minutes to warm up a bit and make my way to the start. I had no idea if my husband had managed to find a parking spot or not. I did not think I would be able to find him before the start, so I almost didn't even look for him. Until I realized that I had not taken my inhaler. I usually take it 20 minutes before a race. Fighting through tears I made a panicked search for him and prayed that he ignored me when I said I didn't need the backpack of running supplies that was in the car.

With 5 minutes to spare I found him and was flooded with relief when I realized he was wearing the backpack. Not an ideal situation, but way better than trying to race without taking my inhaler. My exercise induced asthma is mild; I don't take any medication for short, easy runs. I hoped that if I could keep it easy during the first couple miles, that I would be okay.

The Race (finally)
I lined up between the 8:00 pacers and the 8:30 pacers. My tentative plan was to keep the first mile around 8:15 and then work my way up to the 8:00 pacers. After 5 miles, IF I was feeling strong I would start working my way down to the 7:50s and 7:40s.

Away we go! (I'm wearing the purple and orange compression socks.)
I threw this plan away when I breezed through the first mile in 8:03. At least it was over 8:00! I decided to hang with the 8:00 pacers for the next 4 miles (so sort on plan), but a few minutes later I glanced down and saw my current pace was 7:48. That was much too fast for mile two, so I let them pull ahead a little and focused on my own pacing.

The first 5 miles of the race are basically a straight line down a road, then you hop onto the river trail, which is a paved multi-use path, significantly narrower than the road. The pace group was still right in front of me and I knew that a group that large was going to end up creating a bottleneck when the course narrowed. At about 4.5 miles I worked my way up toward the front of the pack, even so once we hit the trail our pace slowed to 8:15ish. This was the part of the race that I wanted to be picking up the pace, not slowing down. I also worried that since the pacers had started a bit fast, they were going to slow it down a bit to get back on track. When there was a section with a wide strip of grass alongside of the trail, I hopped over to the grass and kicked the pace up.

With the pace group officially behind me, I was ready to start picking up the pace. Except I had just run the first 5 miles faster than I anticipated. I told myself that I should hold it steady for another three miles and then make a move into the 7:40s. A couple tenths of a mile in front of me were two girls with matching singlets that seemed to be holding a consistent pace. I used them to set my pace and glanced at my watch every now and then to check my pace. It was too fast, but I felt strong.

That hoard of people in the distance is the 8:00 pace group.
I saw my husband out cheering for me at mile 7, which was sort of expected. That was what we had planned, but with the parking disaster I wasn't sure if he would want to leave his spot. But there he was cheering me on and taking pictures! He even had my inhaler at the ready in case I needed it. Best husband, for sure!

Mile 8 is home to my favorite aid station ever! All of the volunteers are wearing grass skirts and leis and there is Hawaiian music playing. It is just so much fun! I continued pacing off of the matching singlet girls (they were still a solid tenth of a mile ahead of me, so it isn't like I was running right on top of them or anything). They must have had a similar race strategy because the pace was gradually starting to pick up.

One of my favorite race pictures! Feeling strong and still smiling 9 miles in!
At mile 9 the marathon and half marathon courses split. As I turned follow the half course I was surprised to see my husband again! I love the pictures he took, there is sunlight streaming through the trees and I look like I am out for a leisurely jog. The pace still felt easy at this point and I was feeling very confident about breaking 1:45 (compare to Charlevoix when the pace started to feel difficult at the half way point).

Miles 9-11 passed quickly. I don't really remember much about this part of the race. I remember focusing on my breathing quite a bit because I was worried about getting a side stitch, but that never happened. This was also the part of the race where I started picking off some runners as I continued to pick up the pace.

Really making it look easy (love this picture).
With 2 miles to go, I started to wonder if sub 1:43 was an option. I'm not really that great at math while running, so I while I knew it would be close, I wasn't sure if it was a possibility. The last two miles also felt like the longest miles ever, even though they were my fastest. For the first time in the race the pace felt hard to maintain. It did not help that at that point you are on the east side of the river but the race finishes on the west side. You can see the bridge that crosses the river (right at mile 13!) for almost a mile so it feels like you are almost done, but you aren't.

When I hit the bridge I was too focused on kicking hard to take a glance at my watch. I knew I had 1:45, but I wasn't sure on 1:43. I sprinted past two people in the finish chute like they were standing still. I felt like I was flying. I crossed the timing mat and was overwhelmed with joy. All those miles, weeks, months of training finally paid off.

I was hunched over trying to catch my breath when I realized I had never stopped my Garmin. I quickly hit pause and about lost my mind when I saw 1:42:41. It was a perfect, stars-aligned sort of day after all.

Time on that last split is long since I didn't stop my watch right away.
 Post Race
Post race was kind of a blur of emotions. There was a lot celebrating and thanking Kendall for his amazing support. After some pizza and a banana I was able to locate a tent for swapping shirts (hooray!) and track down my official times. I can not believe that I took almost 4 full minutes off of my time!

What's Next?
[besides the Grand Rapids Marathon in 4 weeks!]

Before the race I spent some time analyzing my training leading up to CC River Run 2014, Charlevoix 2015, and CC River Run 2015. I'd like to spend a bit more time looking into my past training so I can work on shaping a half marathon specific training plan. I'd really like to dedicate a large portion of 2016 to half marathon training, because I'm already starting to think about breaking into the 1:30s (only joking, sort of).