Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Grand Rapids Marathon - 12 weeks to go!

After a couple of rough weeks in a row, I am super happy to have an awesome week to write about! Dialing back on the mileage and intensity really seemed to do the trick. In my training plan, this week had slightly less mileage than the previous week, but it also had a fair amount of difficult runs. I've made note of the changes I made to the training plan in blue.

Distance: 6.0
Pace: 8:52 average

To make things interesting I ran: 
1 mile EZ, 1 mile hard (7:47), 1 mile EZ, 2 miles hard (8:02, 7:42), 1 mile EZ

rest day

Distance: 12.0
Pace: 9:27
Reduced mileage from 14 to 12

Distance: 6.0
Pace: 10:00

Distance: 4.0
Pace: did not time
Reduced mileage from 6 to 4

Distance: 16.0
Pace: 9:19
Reduced intensity from 16 miles with 12 at MP to just 16 miles.

Total: 44 miles

It was absolutely awesome to end the week with a long run that I finished feeling strong! I'm glad that I didn't try to push myself to hold MP for 12 miles on Sunday. I wasn't sure how this run was going to feel. My last two long runs started to get messy around 14-15 miles into the run. I was feeling pretty good at 12.5 miles, so I dropped my pace down to MP for 1.5 miles (Garmin indicates 9:03 for this section, but I got caught at a stop light* right before my watch ticked over to the next mile. I was running ~8:45). For the final two miles I pushed it a bit harder to average 8:10.

*I typically don't pause my watch during long runs and speed workouts. I figure that I won't be stopping the clock during a race, so I try not stop my watch during important runs. For easy/recovery runs I stop my watch to wait for traffic signals because it forces me to be honest about my pace. If I let my watch run for 90 seconds while waiting at a light I could run faster than I should for recovery but it wouldn't be noticeable looking at my average pace. This would defeat the purpose of an easy run.

One final thing: I will probably be late with my next training check in. My sister's family is staying with us for a long weekend and I will be way to busy being Auntie Heather to work on a blog post. I am counting down the hours until I will be doing this:

Monday, July 27, 2015

Side Stitch Fix

I know Mondays are usually dedicated to training check-ins, but I have been trying to resolve my side stitch issue and wanted to share some of the things that I have been trying. I'll try to get my training update up on Wednesday. I don't usually get side stitches during training runs, so it has been a bit hard to nail down possible fixes. The side stitch that I got during the Charlevoix race left me with abdominal pain for the next few days and any moderate efforts in the next two weeks gave me a side stitch. So hooray for pain, I guess.

Poses I'd like to avoid during my next race!
I had two long runs where I got side stitches. Since I was less focused on my time during these runs I ran until the side stitch became unbearable and then tried to figure out the best combination of walking and running that would let me transition back to full on running. I found that alternating 1 minute of walking with 1 minute of running for a couple rotations while I focused on keeping my breathing steady seemed to work. Once I could make it through a minute of running without any issues I reduced the walking breaks to 30 seconds and started extending the running portion to whatever time felt comfortable. One thing that I learned is that if I am fighting a side stitch downhill running will make it worse. I think it is the added force from landing.

I also had a close call with a side stitch during a 5 mile tempo run. I started to notice the pain creeping in about 3.5 miles into the tempo. I really, really wanted to make it through all 5 miles without stopping so instead of letting the pain get worse, I immediately started working on my breathing exercises.

I've noticed that when running my breathing tends to be a bit shallow. I don't think I am utilizing my diaphragm correctly. So I try to focus on taking a slow, steady breath in while expanding my diaphragm, then I sort of forcefully exhale. This was a tip suggested to me by Dolly. I also have been timing my breathing so that I am landing on my left foot when I begin to inhale/exhale. The combination of these two things seems to do a pretty good job at keeping the stitches at bay. During my tempo run I only saw my pace slip a tiny bit during mile 4 and I was even able to pick up the pace for the remaining mile (mile splits for that run were 7:49, 7:43, 7:45, 7:54, 7:13!!!).

Unfortunately it takes a lot of concentration since I seem to naturally want to inhale/exhale with my right foot striking the ground. I do worry that at mile 12 of a half marathon I won't have the capacity to really focus that closely on synchronizing breathing and left foot landing. I have been trying to practice these two breathing exercises during most of my runs so hopefully by the time my next race gets here it will be a little more intuitive. 

In a race I would like to think that I will utilize the second method described here for as long as I can. My goal of course would be to run as much as possible without needing to take walk breaks. But, I can't guarantee that the breathing techniques would be able to fight off a stitch, so I guess it is good to have the run/walk intervals as a back up plan.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Grand Rapids Marathon - 13 weeks to go!

Was it scorchingly hot for you this weekend? The temperature starting rising on Friday and it never seemed to stop! I had a 10 mile run with 6 miles at half marathon pace scheduled for Friday. As I monitored the temperature throughout the day I watched the heat index climb from the 70s to the mid 90s. There was no way I was going to make it 6 miles at HMP in those temperatures. I waited as late as I could to start my run, but even with plenty of shade, it was miserably hot. The slight breeze felt like opening an oven. I ended up running 10 very easy miles with a walk/water break after each mile.

I had 5 miles planned for Saturday, but it was also the hottest day of the weekend. There was a heat advisory from noon-midnight due to the heat index reaching 100-105 Fahrenheit. I was up at 5:30 to start my run, but my legs were pretty tired since it had only been 10ish hours since I completed my 10 mile run. I ended up only running 3 miles.

Finally, the weekend of hellish temperatures came to an end with a 20 mile long run on Sunday. Again my alarm went off at 5:30 and I was out the door at 6. Even with this early start, it was already in the 70s when I started my run. I knew that my run would end up taking around 3.5 hours to complete and that temps would be well into the 80s by the time I finished (the heat index was 95 when I finished my run).

In my mind this run was split into three sections: 6 miles to the park, 8 mile loop through the park, 6 miles back home. I made it through the first two sections of the run without any issues, but when I realized how far away from home I was and how hot and miserable it was becoming, I kind of lost it. It doesn't take much to make me cry, and knowing that I had no other option but to keep running, no matter how awful I felt, really did me in (my husband was out of town this weekend so I couldn't call for a ride).

With 4.5 miles remaining in my run, I stopped my watch and ducked into a Panera to grab some ice water and try to compose myself (and also, AC!). I wouldn't normally take advantage of a restaurant in this manner, but I decided it was okay since I am friends with the manager. After texting my husband a bit I knew I needed to get back out there and get home! I walked for about 1.5 miles while I waited for my stomach to stop feeling sloshy and then managed to run the last three miles with just a couple short water breaks.

Training Log

Supplemental Training: Strength training and foam rolling

My hips were feeling rather tight on Monday so I focused my workout on stretching and foam rolling them. Since I hadn't foam rolled in a while I also did a quick once over on all of the major areas (calves, hamstrings, quads, IT band). I felt like a new person after this workout.

Distance: 7.08
Pace: 9:37 average with 6 strides

Distance: 12.4
Pace: 9:02


Distance: 10.15
Pace: 9:44

Distance: 3.0
Pace: 10:05

Distance: 15.68 + 3
Pace: 10:06 (18.68 miles in 3:08:45, which includes time spent refilling water bottles and walk break towards the end)

Total: 51.31 miles (My biggest week ever!)

So that's another week of training completed, another week closer to the big race. The insanely hot temperatures this weekend definitely added an awful twist to this week's training. But, I'm not sure that I can blame all of my issues this week on just the heat.

In May I started following an 18 week marathon training plan found in Pete Pfitzinger's Advanced Marathoning. This training plan starts with 33 miles/week and peaks at 55 miles. My mileage prior to starting this training plan was right around the 30 mpw, so I thought that this plan would be a great fit. Now I am starting to wonder if the plan is slightly too aggressive for me. In the past two weeks I have really struggled with the final miles of my long run. At this point I think it would be smart to take a step back.

Fortunately I have two things going for me. First, the next two weeks in my training plan are already a step down from this week. Second, I have 10 weeks left in my training plan, but 13 weeks until my marathon. If you recall, I decided to start my training plan a bit early in an attempt to get ready for the Charlevoix Half Marathon and to build in a cushion in case of injury/illness. I'll spend some time this week making adjustments to my training plan.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Charlevoix Half: Critical Thinking

The disappointment of the Charlevoix Half Marathon is already starting to feel like a distance memory. I haven't decided if I will attempt another half marathon in 2015, but when the time comes, I want to avoid making some of the mistakes I made for Charlevoix.

Not the clock time I was hoping for...
This spring I focused solely on racing my best 5k ever. Speed work was my training focus. I still managed to run one "long" run each week (long compared to 5k, short-ish compared to half marathon!). Following my goal 5k, I had only 7 weeks until my half marathon. That really only allowed for 6 weeks to get myself ready for a race over 4 times longer than a 5k (the race was week 7).

Although I put in some really great runs in those 6 weeks, it was just not enough time to prepare. For future PR attempts I need to put in a standard 12+ week training program.

My half marathon PR was set while I was training for a marathon. Leading up to that race I was running some serious long runs every week. Two weeks before the race I nailed a 20 mile training run with a fast finish (9:40 average pace with the last two miles at 8:44 pace). The race took place shortly before I would have started my taper. I was in great shape!

Leading up to Charlevoix, I think I was (am!) in great shape, but not necessarily the right shape for a long distance race. During 5k training my weekly long run was typically 9-10 miles. Not a terrible base for a half marathon, but not like it was in 2014. Take a look at the long runs I ran in the 12 weeks leading up to each race:

CC River RunCharlevoix
 126.30 (sick)
910.890 (injured)
712.630 (5k race)
318.420 (5k race)
Total Miles150.02100.72

That is a 50% decrease in long run miles logged from Fall 2014 to Spring 2015. Better endurance might have allowed me to finish the race without getting any side stitches. Due to the missed runs this spring my long run average for the 12 weeks leading up to Charlevoix was only 8.4 miles. For Capital City River Run it was 12.5 miles.

Positive Splits
The main cause of my huge positive split: side stitches. This was a curve ball during the race that I wasn't expecting. When they hit I didn't have a strategy in place for how I would deal with them. For my next race I plan to go into it know what I will do if/when a side stitch hits. I have been practicing a few things during my training runs these past few weeks, so I hope to have something worked out in time for my marathon this fall.

I can't let the blame fully rest on the side stitches because I know I started to slow down slightly before that. I think I started too fast. I don't necessarily think that averaging 7:48 in a half marathon is out of the realm of possibilities for me, but I think it was too fast for the first mile. I tend to run most of my runs with the first 1-2 miles around 30 seconds slower than the rest. For the 5k, I do an easy jog to warm up for 10-15 minutes and then a few strides to get my legs ready to run fast. For the half marathon, I did a few dynamic stretches to warm up because I was afraid I wouldn't have the energy for a half marathon if I wasted some of it on a warm up mile.

I really need to do a proper warm up before trying to race a half marathon. It was stupid to think I could go from 0 to sub 8 pace without a proper warm up. I won't be making this mistake again. I think in addition to a warm up mile before the race, I will try to run the first few miles slightly slower than my goal pace. Once I am fully warmed up, I will start kicking the pace up.

Last thoughts
I know that addressing these three issues is not going to guarantee sub 1:45 in my next half, but I do really hope that if I keep putting in the work and keep making slight adjustments that I will get there soon. While it is disappointing to have missed my goal, I am trying to get the most out of the experience by learning as much as I can for the next round.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Training lately

I never actually got around to posting a training recap last week, so this week you get two full weeks of running to read about. Consider this my gift to you (try to contain you excitement).

Monday 6/29
Rest day

Tuesday 6/30
Distance: 1.5
Pace: SLOW (not timed but super, super easy)
Supplemental: Strength

Wednesday 7/1
Distance: 5.07
Pace: 9:35

Thursday 7/2
Distance: 10.11
Pace: 9:07

Friday 7/3

Saturday 7/4
Distance: 5.33
Pace: 9:07

Sunday 7/5
Distance 13.5
Pace: 9:59

Total: 35.51 miles

Overall I am really happy with how this week went. I never quite know what to expect following a race, in terms of soreness, etc, but this week I was really surprised with how quickly I recovered. The only small issue I had this week was that Sunday's run was meant to be 16 miles, not 13.5. After an incredibly busy independence day (running, atv-ing, boating) I decided to sleep in on Sunday. It was super hot and sunny, which was miserable for running but made the lake I was running next to incredibly enticing. I bailed after 13.5 miles in favor of going swimming.

Monday 7/6
Supplemental: 2 mile walk

I don't think I've mentioned it, but during Saturday's ATV adventure I got stuck in the mud, twice. Which meant a lot of pulling/pushing/lifting to get my quad out. My back was killing on Monday so I thought it best to skip strength training. I did spend some quality time with my heating pad which seemed to relax the angry muscles.

Tuesday 7/7
unscheduled rest day

Wednesday 7/8
Distance: 10.27
Pace: 3 miles easy, 5 miles at 15k-half pace (7:41), 2.27 miles easy

Thursday 7/9
Distance: 11.02
Pace: 9:23

Friday 7/10
rest day

Saturday 7/11

Distance: 7.07 + 8 strides
Pace: 9:33

Sunday 7/12
Distance: 18.35
Pace: 9:39

Total: 46.71 miles

My schedule for the week called for 10 miles on Tuesday, 4 on Wednesday, and 11 on Thursday. Even though I took Tuesday off, I didn't want to miss one of my longer runs for the week. I decided that my skipped run should be made up on Wednesday. I chose not to make up the 4 miles from Wednesday. I kind of thought that 10 miles followed by 11 miles was going to be the most difficult part of the week, but it was definitely the 18 miler that was the worst.

During the final four miles of my long run I could tell that I was getting very tired, very quickly. I thought that the breaks for traffic signals would be a nice chance to rest, but instead they just threw off my rhythm and made it harder to start running again. Miles 16 and 17 in particular were quite rough as the starting and stopping brought on a round of side stitches. This was kind of a blessing in disguise since I was able to try some of the side stitch strategies that I've been reading about. Better to work on this in training than on race day!

Somehow I managed to make it through all 18 miles. Even though I was ready to quit around mile 16, I knew that if I kept running I would be home quicker than if I stopped running, got out my phone, called my husband and waited for him to come pick me up. So that was my motivation to keep running. Since I am still 14 weeks out from my marathon, I am not too worried about struggling through an 18 mile run. Though it does highlight my general lack of endurance (compared to speed). At least I have plenty of time to work on it!

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Happy 100!

This is my 100th post! Hooray!!

At the risk of sounding incredibly cheesy, I'd like to take a quick moment thank everyone who reads and/or comments on my blog. Reading your kind words and encouragement always puts a smile on my face. Whether is has been congratulatory comments after a good race or words of encouragement and reassurance after a poor performance, I am incredibly grateful to have your support.

This check in is coming a bit late because I have been having a weird week. I spent a long weekend in northern Michigan for 4th of July. Traffic is usually super bad on holiday weekends, so my husband and I left later at night and didn't get home until 10pm. Since I am up at 5:45 am for work, 10pm is usually after my bedtime. Monday was just a sleepy blur.

Busy holiday weekend of ATV-ing, running, and hanging out at the lake.
And then Tuesday. Oh yikes. Tuesday was just not my day. Nothing terrible actually happened, just a lot of little annoyances that built up and managed to ruin my day. On Monday I got Chipotle for lunch and tucked half a burrito bowl into the work fridge for Tuesday's lunch. Tuesday morning, when I went to stick a coconut water in the fridge, my Chipotle was gone. Who eats someone else's partially eaten food? So gross! And now I didn't have a lunch. So angry!

But then I was supposed to have a meeting with bagels available, so I figured I would just get a bagel for lunch. Except we the meeting didn't have bagels. At this point I knew I would either need to face the rain and leave work for lunch or try to find something a the coffee shop in the library. I settled on grabbing a bagel from the coffee shop. Except the coffee shop was completely out of bagels and I didn't have time to run anywhere else because I had another meeting starting in 15 minutes.

Finally, an hour later I was able to walk to Jimmy John's for lunch. On my walk back to work the light rain turned into torrential downpour. I had my umbrella, but everything from mid-thigh down got completely soaked. So I spent the last 2 hours at work in soaking wet pants and shoes. Not comfortable at all.

I took Tuesday off from running and blogging because all I wanted to do was curl up with a book and disappear for a few hours. There also might have been a glass of wine involved. And pizza and a movie with my husband. Overall not a bad night at all, but it does leave me wondering if I'll be able to make up my missed run this week.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

2015 Halfway Check In

Can you believe that 2015 is half over? I thought that this would be a good time to check in with my 2015 goals. This is where I would link back to that post that I made in January about my 2015 resolutions/goals/dreams. Or at least, I would if I had made one of those posts.

In 2014 I made some huge running related goals and I ended up not reaching any of them. Sub 1:45 half marathon? No. Run first marathon? More no. Run 1000 miles? Even more no. I finished the year feeling like a disappointment and I decided I did not want to feel like that again in 2015. So for 2015 my goal is simply:   

Run more and don't get injured.

I can happily say that I am perfectly on track! While my injury prevention work has not always been perfect, I have made it through the first 6 months without any issues. I'd like to think that I have started to figure out when I can push through the pain and when I need to take an extra rest day, but maybe I've just gotten lucky this year.

In terms of running more, in the first half of 2014 I ran 376.01 miles (that .01 is super important, lol). So far this year I have logged 675.83 miles! Almost an 80% increase in mileage! I know that sounds like a ridiculous increase, but the winter of 2014 was so terrible that I hardly ran at all. I also missed almost an entire month due to a non-running injury.

Of course I have still set some more granular goals along the way this year. I wanted a PR in the 5k (victory!). I still am chasing that sub 1:45 half marathon (maybe later this year? next year?). And I definitely plan on running my first marathon this year (no injuries, pleaseandthankyou!). But instead of getting really hung up on the details, I have been trying (trying, I'm not perfect!) to focus on the big picture. I know that if I put in the work my times will continue to improve. Maybe not as quickly or consistently as I want, but they should keep improving.

All smiles after Charlevoix, but in my head I am demanding a do over!
What goals did you set for 2015? What progress have you made towards your goals?