Saturday, June 30, 2012

Marathon Training Week 1

Here we go again. Time to kick off another marathon training cycle.

This will be my 4th standalone marathon training cycle in preparation for my 6th marathon, the Marine Corps Marathon on October 28. I am sticking with Hal Higdon's Intermediate I as my training plan. Sorta. I followed Intermediate I for Chicago. It mostly worked. I followed Intermediate I for Shamrock, but with slight increases in mileage and a lowered marathon goal pace. I ran about a half mile longer on most runs and a mile longer on most long runs. Y'all know about the good things that happened at Shamrock. So I think I will bump up the mileage again, even slightly above what I did for Shamrock, and lower my marathon goal pace again. To what, though? 7:30? That just seems crazy fast.

Goals? I am not completely sure. Once you have a marathon or two (or five) under your belt, it is helpful to pin down your goal before you lace up your shoes for your first training run. What you do from Day 1 onward sets you up for the rest of your training. Last time around, I knew I wanted to come closer to 50 miles per week than I had in the past. I set myself up for extra mileage from the very beginning. I am going to train to run 3:30 or 3:35 but don't have to reach either of those times (unless Boston registration goes completely haywire and I need a faster qualifier. I doubt this will happen but you never know. Even then Marine Corps will be too late to get me into Boston for 2013.).

The summer in DC is one of my biggest fears. I ran fast, and sometimes very fast, in the winter in preparation for Shamrock. I can't improve or even replicate that speed in heat and humidity. Then there's the actual marathon. I might run as a pacer. Who knows. I will have a better sense of goals later on in my training. Plus, although I go into marathon training with a general goal, I never decide on a firm time goal until a day or two before a race. You need to take weather into account. And your training. And how you feel. And 834 other factors.

My plan for the week was cross-train, run 4, 5, and 4 miles, rest, 5 mile pace run, and 9 mile long run, plus strength training where it fit. No, not exactly Intermediate I. I made some adjustment where I saw fit. But lookit that. A pace run. Haven't done one of those in a while.

Sunday - about an hour of yoga podcasts, plus lunges.

Monday - 4.5 mile run plus one-legged squats in the AM. Humid but not too hot yet. Ran on the fast end of my usual pace for no particular reason. Did core and pushups in the PM.

Tuesday - 5.3 mile run. Cool and dry. Almost cool enough for a T-shirt. Fast again. I think something clicks once I am training. Running is more focused. That is fine, as long as I don't do it on every run.

Wednesday - 4.8 mile run, plus upper body strength training and calf raises. Still nice and cool.

Thursday - Rest.

Friday - 5.2 mile pace run. I usually start off each new training cycle with a pace run on the treadmill, but not this time. 7:44 overall pace. The first 2 miles were exactly 15 minutes (7:30), and then things slowed down. It was a combo of hills and the weather. I still do not know how to pace myself appropriately on hills. It wasn't super hot and humid when I ran, but the weather enough to make an impact. Good thing I ran with Gatorade and water in my Fuelbelt. I could feel the poor air quality in my chest by the end. Temps got up to over 100 later in the day.

Saturday - 9.2 mile long run. Got going early because it was another day with forecast temps over 100. Bah. Maybe it is going to be a long summer. For long runs, I tend to see where my overall pace falls in the first mile or two and then stick with that pace. It was in the 8:30s and so I went with that. My pace crept up into the 8:40s in the middle, but I got it back down to the 8:30s by the end. Did I mention the strong storm overnight that knocked out trees, branches, power lines, and power to 1.5 million people in the DC area? They were fun. My car windshield got badly damaged, my power was out for 16 hours, and my run was an obstacle course. First world problems, right? The windshield can be easily replaced, the power could have been out for days, and there are worse things than jumping over tree limbs and leaves.

Total Miles- Scheduled: 27 Actual:29

1 week down, 17 weeks to go!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

How to Run Back-to-Back Marathons

Now that I've had some time to reflect on my spring racing season (which included the Shamrock Marathon, Gansett Marathon, and a 5K), this is my Top 5 list on how to survive back-to-back marathons.

1. Be smart. Yes, you need to get back out there quickly, but you also need to give yourself enough recovery time. Don't push it too hard.

2. Listen to your body. If you feel OK, keep training. But if it doesn't feel right, stop. Immediately. Don't wait until things get worse. If you need extra rest, take it. If you need to modify your plan, do it.

3. Learn from previous racing experience. You should know how quickly you recover both physically and mentally, how you like to train, etc.

4. Try it with shorter distances first. Race on successive weekends, or schedule half marathons a couple of weeks apart.

5. Plan in advance. Ideally, you want one race to be your target and the other to be practice or just for fun.

Did my back-to-back plan work? I'd say yes. I danced with the devil and came out OK on the other side. I got back-to-back PRs in both marathons (although part of this was sheer luck in getting perfect weather both times). I did not get injured in 22 weeks of training. I recovered quickly from both marathons.

I essentially ran the same time in both marathons, although I ran two very different marathons. My current PR is from Gansett, the second unplanned marathon. Although Gansett was slightly faster, Shamrock is the marathon I will remember as "better." I ran more evenly at Shamrock and had a physically and mentally better race. Plus Shamrock is my first BQ marathon. At Gansett, I had issues with my Garmin and knew I went out much too fast. But where better to test yourself than at a race like Gansett? You don't know unless you try. Sometimes you don't get it right. I do not regret going for it. Shamrock may have been the "better" marathon, but Gansett earned the bragging rights. I ordered a custom race necklace for Gansett, in part because it is Gansett and in part because it is my current marathon PR.

For the record, I do not advocate running back-to-back marathons. Definitely not for a first marathon. Yes, I have done it twice (2 in 10 weeks last year and then 2 in 4 weeks this year). Yes, I survived. Yes, I got 2 PRs out of it. But yes, what I did was admittedly foolish and risky. Very very risky. You really have to know what you are doing. I cannot stress that enough. You need enough running experience to understand your mind, body, and motivation. You have to cross your fingers and hope you don't get injured or burned out. I didn't have the luxury of planning in advance because I didn't know that I'd be running a second marathon until I finished the first one. I had Gansett on my radar, though. Once I had a qualifier in hand, I knew I needed to recover quickly and push only when it was appropriate.

Of course, I was highly motivated to qualify for and run Gansett. That made a difference. And it wasn't the first time I had done back-to-back marathons. The first time, I was not as good or as smart a runner as I am now. That first set wasn't pretty, but I learned from it. That made a difference, too.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Working It, Last No Plan Week

In between finishing Gansett on April 14 and now, I ran about 230 miles. Good job, self. That includes a 5K race where I set a PR (and won a prize!). My long runs were about 7-11 miles. I took a short hiatus of a little more than a week. I did a brief experiment with minimalist running and decided I'd have to start from scratch if I ever wanted to get beyond one mile. I slowed down a bit, but this was not a time to push it. There will be plenty of time for that over the next 18 weeks.

Sunday - about 45 minutes of yoga, plus calf raises

Monday - 4.3 mile run. In rain showers. Relatively cool. First run without water in over a week. Was going to do some exercises in the evening, but I hurt my wing somehow (sore shoulder ... no idea why ... think I slept funny).

Tuesday - 5.3 mile run. The wing was still hurting a bit but felt better later in the day. Did planks, one-legged squats, lower back, lunges, and core.

Wednesday - 6.3 mile run. Already hot and humid first thing in the morning. First run of the summer where my tank top did not make it to the end of the run. Did upper body strength training in the nice cool gym.

Thursday - Rest. Good day to rest. It was the hottest day so far.

Friday - 4.2 mile hot and humid run, plus pushups. Maybe this is going to be a long summer.

Saturday - about 7.8 mile run. Either I paused my Garmin at some point or it paused for no reason, so I lost about a mile. Oops. Hot and humid. Took a walk break in the middle to take a phone call.

Total Miles: about 28

And with that, I officially kick off training for the Marine Corps Marathon tomorrow. Bring it, marathon training!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Working It. Yes, Again.

Thanks to my good friend the nasty cold, I ended up getting extra unplanned rest. Good, because my ankle was feeling a lot better when I got back to my normal mileage again.

Sunday - Rest. Literal stay-in-bed rest. Nasty cold was still kicking my butt. I had a low-grade fever starting on Saturday that I think was masked by taking ibuprofen. As much as fevers are bad, I kinda needed it to make the germs go away. I started to turn the corner in the afternoon.

Monday - 3.5 mile run. Slow and hot. Well, relatively hot. Ran in the evening for the first time in a long time. I am not used to the heat yet, plus I was just getting back out there after the nasty cold. I was underhydrated and underfueled from not eating much over the weekend. So I decided to run whatever distance I could cover in about 30 minutes. It was one of those runs to just do it, not to worry about speed or distance. Also did core work, lunges, and one-legged squats.

Tuesday - Upper body strength training, calf raises, and a wee bit of yoga.

Wednesday - 6 mile run, plus planks and pushups. Humid but not too hot yet. Actually managed to get all of my planned strength training in this week. Yay.

Thursday - Rest.

Friday - 5.2 mile run. Slower than usual but pleasant.

Saturday - 10.4 mile run in Rock Creek Park. Nice weather. Not too hot or humid. Finally back to my usual running pace. Even managed to run negative splits in the last few miles. Ahhhh.

Total Miles: 25.1

I have enjoyed this time without a plan, but now I am looking forward to training again. One week until Marine Corps Marathon training begins. Oorah!!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

How to Run When You Are Sick

I just got over a nasty cold. This one was a real winner. It was so bad at times I thought I had the flu. I haven't felt that miserable in a long time. Sore throat, congestion, sinus headaches, weakness, aches, chills, cold sweats, low appetite at times, a low-grade fever. After a weekend spent in bed and some ibuprofen and Alka Seltzer, I am on the mend again.

For the record, summertime colds are no fun. Colds in general are no fun, but especially not in the summer when you want to go outside.

There are some times when it is OK to run when you are sick and other times when it is not OK to run when you are sick. Ultimately, you need to weight the risks and benefits and decide which ones are greater. Running can be a good decongestant, for example. That's good. But running when you are weak could further run you down. That's bad.

The general rule is OK to run if it's above the neck and not OK to run if it's below the neck. However, there are exceptions to every rule. Go by how you feel. If it doesn't feel right, don't do it. If you are sick enough to stay home from work/school/other commitments, you are sick enough to skip running. If you aren't eating much and/or aren't properly hydrated, you probably shouldn't run.

If you choose to run:
Run outside. Skip the gym. Your gym buddies will appreciate you not sharing your germs.
Stay hydrated. Bring water with you, even if you usually don't.
Suck on a cough drop or hard candy to sooth your throat.
Don't push it or overdo it. Pushing it when you shouldn't push it could set you backwards more than resting.
Slow down. There is no award for running fast while you are sick.

If you choose to not run:
Don't beat yourself up for missing a workout. You can't always prevent getting sick.
Enjoy some extra rest. Sometimes rest is best.

The good news is I've noticed that since I've been consistently running (and mostly consistently running outside), I haven't gotten sick very much. I had one cold all last winter. One. And that was in November, coincidentally during a relatively low-mileage time. One theory is that running boosts your immune system. Another theory is that temporarily raising your internal temperature kills off germs before they make you sick. Either theory seems plausible.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Working It, One More Week

This week is all about cross training and strength training. Woo!

Well, not woo. I get cranky when I don't run. Eh. It's just par for the course. A few days with no running will not kill me. A few days with no exercising at all might, but not a short running break. I need to do more cross-training anyway. And maybe it was my body's way of telling me, "Slow down, crazy woman."

I picked an inopportune week to take a running break. The weather was beautiful. Nice temperatures. Low humidity. Breezy and sometimes cloudy but dry. It was a treat after the heat and humidity of Memorial Day weekend. Too bad I didn't do a long run last weekend and spent most of this week inside at the gym.

And then I got the nastiest cold I've had in a long time. See, this is what happens when I don't run. I get sick. Every. Time. Or maybe it was the unseasonably pleasant weather and change in temperature. I had a slight sore throat when I woke up on Wednesday and progressively felt worse as the day went on. Came home from work and pretty much did nothing. Almost considered staying home on Thursday, but felt OK enough after breakfast and a shower. Still had the cold on Friday and Saturday.

Sunday - lunges, core work, squats, and 3 yoga podcasts. Pesky ankle was feeling better, but I could tell I needed more rest.

Monday - 35 minutes on the bike.

Tuesday - 40 minutes on the bike.

Wednesday - 6.1 mile run. Humid but cool. It was very pleasant. Ankle felt OK, too. Not completely fine but much much better. Happy National Running Day! Also did upper body strength training and calf raises in the morning. The nasty cold started getting to me in the afternoon. Bah.

Thursday - Rest. I plan on resting on Thursdays anyway, but the cold got in the way too.

Friday - Rest again. Still had the horrible cold. I would have attempted to run in the evening, but I forgot I had plans.

Saturday - 4.2 mile run. Slow and painful because I was still sick. Took a walk break every mile. It was not a time to push it. My ankle felt fine. That is good. Extra rest was not necessarily a bad thing.

Total Miles: 10.3. Double digits. Woo.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

How did I know I was ready for a marathon?

By the time I committed to run my first marathon, I had been thinking about running a marathon for a while. Well over a year. Something always got in the way, though. I wasn't sure I had the time. I didn't like running outside in the cold. I didn't have the desire or motivation to train for and run a marathon.

Then I completed my first 20-mile run. There was no reason why I ran that 20-mile run. I was training for a fall half marathon. I didn't need to run that far. I went along with friends who were training for marathons. And yet it wasn't awful. I figured I'd run 15 miles and then stop, but at 15 miles, I said, "Eh. What's another 5 miles?" Yes, it was hard at the end. Yes, I was sore the next day. Yes, I had a boost in my confidence. It was time for a marathon.

That confidence boost was probably the biggest reason why I plunked down and committed to a marathon. I believed I could do it.

I briefly considered switching from a half to full marathon that fall, but one great 20-mile run does not mean you are ready for a marathon. It was a smart move. I wasn't physically ready for a marathon, but more importantly I wasn't mentally ready for a marathon. Well, I PRed at the half marathon after PRing at another half marathon two weeks earlier (and one week after the 20 miler). I was pleased with my half marathon performances. It was definitely time.

I decided to pick one of the Rock N Roll marathons. I had another Rock N Roll race already lined up, and I wanted a Heavy Medal. I had a cancelled airline ticket that I had to use up soon. So I picked Rock N Roll Mardi Gras in New Orleans. There were 16 weeks before the race (I started at week 3 of my 18-week plan instead of week 1, and even that was a step back from my half marathon training), it was flat, and there were reasonable reviews on Marathon Guide. I plotted a training plan. I ran all winter. Off I went to New Orleans. Good things happened. I'm not sure I'd recommend Rock N Roll New Orleans as a first marathon (due to changes in the second half of the course that make it very isolated), but it was a good first marathon choice the year I ran. The weather, my race strategy, and the flat course got me to the finish line a full 4 minutes 30 seconds under my perfect day goal.

I was hooked. Yes, I liked marathons. In some ways, the marathon itself was the icing on the cake. It was more about the journey. I learned more from training for marathons that I ever imagined, and definitely more than from marathons themselves. In little more than a year, I now have 5 marathons on the books, 2 BQ marathons, 1 more planned for this year, and at least 1 planned for next spring. Big ones, small ones, and everything in between. Not perfect races, perfect races, and everything in between yet again.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Working It

I decided on Wednesday that I need to take a running break. Hopefully just a short one. My ankle has been bugging me to the point where I know I need to rest. It never hurt when I ran, but it hurt a lot of the rest of the time. Too many hills? Wearing unsupportive flats too much? Walking more? New running shoes? I do not know. I probably should have taken a running break a few weeks ago, but better now than never. I still have 3 weeks til I am scheduled to start training for Marine Corps. This is my last chance for a rest.

Sunday - some walking, lunges, calf raises, squats, and core work.

Monday - 5.2 mile run on a mostly new route, plus upper body strength training, about .8 mile total running in minimalist shoes (untimed, unmeasured), plus two 20-minute yoga podcasts, plus maybe about 1.5 mile walking later in the day. Some people sleep in when they have a day off. I exercise more. 

Tuesday - 5.2 mile run, including 1 mile in my miminalist shoes (ran the first part, then stopped at home to change shoes). Warmer and humid. Easy pace. Even still, wasn't super pleasant.

Wednesday - 5.2 mile run with the AM run group. Kinda humid and slightly drizzly but not too hot. Also did planks and pushups.

Thursday - Rest.

Friday - Rest. Again. 

Saturday - No long run for the first Saturday since I can't remember when (except the weeks here and there when I had a race on Sunday). Spent 45 minutes on a bike while watching the Prefontaine Classic.

Total Miles: 15.6

Thumbs Up/Thumbs Down: Liquids

Thumbs Up

Nuun - electrolyte tablets that dissolve in plain water. Not too sweet. Tastes better than plain water. Makes me thirsty just like Gatorade, though. One tablet is supposed to dissolve in 16 ounces of water, but I think it should be more like 12 ounces. I have tried citrus, orange, lemon-lime, tri-berry, strawberry lemonade, and lemon tea and like them all. Lemon-lime is my least favorite. Strawberry lemonade is my most favorite. Lemon tea has some caffeine. I can't run with orange-colored or orange-flavored anything, so the orange and citrus are just for pre-hydration or after runs. I will have access to public water fountains in DC, so I am looking forward to using Nuun in the summer. A girl can only carry so much water. I also use it as part of my pre-hydration plan a couple of days before a long run in the heat. So far so good.

Chemex coffee - Chemex is a method for brewing coffee, not coffee itself. A Chemex coffeemaker looks like a chemistry beaker. It's pretty simple. Boil water, put the filter in the top, add coffee grounds, pour the water over the grounds, and wait. Now, you need special filters. You need a ground slightly coarser than what you'd put in a drip coffeemaker. It is helpful if you have an electric kettle (which I do ... much easier than boiling water on the stove). Chemex ain't cheap, but oh man, it makes some tasty coffee. I intensely dislike Starbucks coffee, but I will gladly drink Starbucks coffee brewed in a Chemex. It is not bitter at all. Plus their customer service is excellent. I support any company that stands by their products and makes it better.

Thumbs Down

chocolate Muscle Milk - It has a note on the package that Muscle Milk contains no actual milk. That should have been warning enough. I thought I had a carton of chocolate milk (same size and colors ... go figure). I didn't realize it was Muscle Milk until I had already poked the straw into it. It was awful. Awful awful awful. Did I mention awful? It tasted like overly sweet chemical-infused chocolate cake batter. Yuck. I'll take chocolate milk any day.