Saturday, February 27, 2010

Sweet Sixteen

Oh how sweet it is to have a good run! After last Saturday's mishaps, today was practically a walk in the park. Some might argue it was practically a walk in the park because I was practically walking. To them, I say "phhhhbbbbbbbttttttt!"

I learned from last weekend's mistakes. Firstly, I slowed down. Instead of going out at an 11:30 pace and then trying (unsuccessfully) to hang on to a 12:00 pace later in the run, I started out at about a 12:45 pace. Ahhhh, comfort. Sure it's slow, but the goal of the long run isn't to break land speed records. A long run is supposed to be about 1-2 minutes per mile slower than your goal race pace. So, if I want to run an 11:45 pace in my marathon (which may be ambitious for a hilly marathon, but we will see), I should do my long training runs at 12:45 - 13:45. It seems so slow compared to other runs I do, but as I so successfully demonstrated last weekend, going faster does not a fun run make. Especially when there are a lot of hills. We'll get to the hills in a bit.

Secondly, I carried fluids with me, so I wasn't dependent on two or three water stops to get me through the whole 16 miles. Having Gatorade ready for me whenever I needed it was wonderful. And I consumed my entire bottle of Gatorade (as opposed to last weekend when I had drunk barely 1/3 of my bottle). Combined with my Sport Beans, and a mini Reese's Peanut Butter Cup - I was well-hydrated and well-fueled the entire run.

Thirdly, I didn't try to "power through" the hills. Especially the early ones. I just tried to keep an even effort by keeping my heart rate in check. My body thanked me later when I had a BIG hill to climb from Miles 12 to 15.

What was the net result of all this? Well, I felt better the entire run. My heart rate stayed low for most of the run. And I was able to finish strong - my fastest mile of the run was Mile 16. Indeed, the entire last 8 miles were faster than the first 8 miles. Not by much, but considering that the last 8 miles were far more uphill, I think this is quite impressive. It can be hard to finish strong on a flat course, but to finish strong uphill means you did something right early on.

So, without any further ado, here's the run graph and map. The spikes in the pace graph (blue) are where we had to wait for a crosswalk signal. The elevation graph (green) is more or less accurate. As you can see, we basically ran into a canyon and then ran back out. Well, it sure felt like a canyon.

I had the privilege of running with a friend today. It's not often I can find someone willing to run my slow pace, but today was my lucky day. One of my FAST buddies, Jess, ran the entire 16 miles with me and it was so nice to have someone else there to chat with and to share in the suffering.. er, I mean... the fun. That's right, the fun!

Actually, it was kind of like a Team Scream reunion today. You see, back in October '09, we had a four-person marathon relay team for the Screaming Pumpkin Marathon. Our team - we called ourselves Team Scream - actually won the relay (it was a prediction marathon, not a timed marathon). Today, the four of us ran the same 16 miles. And then the four of us had lunch afterward. It was good times.

So let's talk about lunch, shall we? We purposely planned our route to finish right in front of one of our favorite cafes - Cyd's Gourmet Kitchen. The food there is fresh, tasty and, for the most part, healthy (unless you include the bakery!). It's perfect for post-run. There's nothing there that isn't good. And the bakery has a huge selection of sweet treats, which are also perfect for post-run. I had a Caprese Baguette - fresh mozzarella cheese and fresh tomatoes with basil pesto and balsamic vinaigrette on a toasted bun. So delicious! And then I followed that up with a Chocolate Chubby cookie. It was the perfect end to a good long run.

I must say, I'm glad that the upcoming week is a recovery week. The reduction in mileage will be nice, and my long run will "only" be 12. It's kind of funny to think of 12 miles as a recovery run, but after 16 today, it really will be.

Right now, I'm ready for a little catnap. Tonight, the hubby and I are going out for a nice dinner to celebrate our 6th anniversary (which is actually tomorrow, but our favorite restaurant isn't open tomorrow). Oh, and by the way, my hubby, who isn't even training for a marathon, was one of the Team Scream members who ran 16 miles today. What's he training for, you ask? A 10k. Or so he says... I think he's training for some secret marathon that he's not telling anyone about. Only time will tell...

Peace. Love. Train.

Friday, February 26, 2010

The best thing about marathon training: carb-loading

I love my carbs. Yessiree, I do. Bread. Pasta. Cookies. Pizza. Cake. Fruit. Chips. Potatoes. I've never met a carb I didn't like. So it's only natural that I would gravitate toward an activity where a major component of preparation is eating lots of carbs. Unfortunately, many of the above listed carbs are not the IDEAL carbs for carb-loading before a long run. If you carb-loaded on cookies, cake and chips, you would also be fat-loading, and that's really counterproductive. Drat! No Cookie Casserole for dinner tonight! (I don't think Cookie Casserole is a real thing. I could be wrong...)

So, alas, I have to be careful about my carb selection. Even though I'm logging 30 miles per week these days, I'm still prone to weight gain (because running 30 miles per week makes a gal HUNGRY). So eating any old carb just won't do. I try to stay away from processed stuff, going for whole grains, veggies, and legumes as much as possible.

So what exactly is carb-loading, why do we need it and how do we do it?

Carb-loading is a way of increasing your body's stored glycogen before an endurance event. Glycogen is the body's readily-available fuel source, and is stored in the liver and muscles (thanks to Julie for clarifying that!). The body typically stores enough glycogen to get a marathoner to about Mile 20 (give or take a few miles - it depends on the runner's unique physiology and running intensity). But, as my alert readers know, a marathon is 26.2 miles... So you may be wondering how you would run those remaining 6.2 miles with no fuel. Well, simply put, you can't. That, my friends, is The Wall. When you run out of glycogen, your body will not go any further. You cannot will your way past The Wall. Once you hit The Wall, you're done. The best way to deal with The Wall is to prevent it. Carb-loading is one way of doing this. Carb-loading actually increases the body's capacity to store glycogen, so you have more fuel available come race day (or long run day, as the case may be).

The old school of thought for carb-loading was that you should deplete you carb stores for several days before switching to a high-carb diet, to maximize your glycogen stores. This method has come out of favor, thankfully. Today's carb-loading method simply involves eating a greater percentage of calories from carbs over the 2-3 days before a long run or long race. This is a method I can get on board with. More carbs? Sign me up! But if you read the fine print, it says "Eating more carbs should not be the result of eating more calories." DOH! Stupid fine print!

So, basically, eat the same amount of food you normally do, but make more of it carb-based. Have pasta, but don't have two pounds of pasta.

And let's not forget our good friend, protein. We need him too! Protein slows the digestion of said carbs, giving a sort of time-release effect - that sounds perfect for a long-distance endurance event! So it's important to have a little protein during carb-loading.

What's my carb-loading meal of choice? Though I am a fan of pasta, my carb-loading tool of choice is usually homemade pizza. We make the crust from scratch, using a blend of whole wheat and white flour, and top it with lots of tasty veggies and part-skim mozzarella cheese. Here's our fabulous pizza:

The hubby and I will be making one tonight, as we prepare for our 16 mile run in the morning. We'd love to share with everyone, but we're carb-loading and need all the pizza we can get. So you'll have to make your own.

Peace. Love. Train.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Will run for sushi and cookies

I'm adding a new post label today. It's "food". For those of you wondering what the heck a post label is... At the bottom of each of my blog entries, there's a list of labels associated with that entry, assigned by me. They're basically keywords, so people can find posts about specific keywords. So, if you wanted to look up all the posts about FAST, for example, you could just click on the FAST label and see all my entries about FAST.

Today, I felt it necessary to add "food" as a label. Because I love food. But also because for a runner (or any serious athlete or fitness guru), food is nearly as important (if not just as important) as the workout. Food is fuel. If you fill up with low-octane junk, you will get sub-par performance out of your body. If you give yourself high-octane, high-quality, pure food, good performance will follow.

With that said, there's nothing wrong with enjoying food and eating the indulgent things you love in moderation. I have a weakness for chocolate chip cookies. Especially soft homemade ones. I don't eat cookies very often because they go straight to my hips, but what was I to do last night when one of my FAST friends brought me an entire platter of homemade chocolate chip cookies? (Thanks again, Becky!!!) Well, run hard, of course! Run hard first, eat cookies later. I'm sure that's the mantra of all great marathoners.

So this was our FAST workout last night... warmup, 3 x (2 laps hard, 1 lap recovery, 4 laps hard, 1 lap recovery, 1 minute rest), cooldown. Did ya get that all? It's a mouthful. It may make more sense when you look at the graph. The 2 laps hard was to be at 5k race pace, and the 4 laps hard was to be at 5k race pace plus 20 seconds. The recovery laps were to be half-marathon pace (so not really EASY, but easier than the hard laps). Here's the run graph:
This was a fun workout. There was plenty of variety in pace and distance to keep it interesting. And it was quite challenging as well. My last hard lap was run at a 7:15 pace - not bad! Can anyone spot where I messed up? I skipped a recovery lap in the 2nd round. Whoops.

And after the tough run, we did some tough core work. I held a plank for 1:30 - I didn't know I had it in me!

The reward for all that hard work was sweet indeed. Cookies!!! Okay, I had a cookie. And it was delicious. While it would have been tempting to eat half a dozen (or more) cookies post-workout, what I needed was REAL food. A good post-run meal has both carbs and protein to replenish your glycogen stores and to rebuild broken-down muscle fibers. Whenever possible, it's preferable to eat real, fresh food, rather than a sugary energy bar (most of which are nothing but glorified candy bars).

I can think of few foods as ideal for post-run recovery than sushi. It's fresh, it's packed with protein and carbs, low in fat (unless you get something fried) and it tastes REALLY good! (You could probably argue that white rice is, well, devoid of any nutrition, and there is much truth to that. But it's also very easy to digest, which makes it good after a tough workout when your tummy might not be so happy.) So a few of us from FAST headed off to Sushigawa in Peoria for some fresh, tasty food. I ordered some steamed edamame and the Tokyo Maki, and as always, it was outstanding. The presentation is as wonderful as the flavor. For my followers in the Peoria area, if you've never been to Sushigawa, you must put it on your to-do list. I wish I had taken a picture of my dinner, but I was so hungry, I ate it all before I thought of taking a picture. *burp*

Peace. Love. Train.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Flying Pig Marathon in a nutshell

I found this nifty little video on the Runner's World website (the Flying Pig is the first marathon in the 2010 Runner's World Marathon Challenge lineup). So I thought I'd share it with you all so you can see what I've really gotten myself into. Enjoy!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Progressive thinking during a progressive run

Like every Monday, yesterday was my progressive build run. It was not much different than the previous week's progressive build run. Or the week before that. Although I did manage a slightly faster pace for the last lap. (See graph below)

But I got to thinking during this run... It's pretty easy to pace myself on the indoor track because I'm timing every lap (which is 1/12 mile). If I run a lap too fast, I can slow down for the next lap, and vice versa. And even if I took the run outside, I would have my GPS watch telling me my pace. But how would I pace a run like this without any sort of timing device? How would I know each mile is faster than the one before it? And how would I make sure I don't go too fast early on? This is where being able to listen to your body comes in real handy. To be able to know the difference between a 10 minute mile and a 9 minute mile just based on how it feels is a supreme art form.

We, as modern day runners, get so caught up in our gadgets, gizmos, stopwatches, GPS devices, heart rate monitors, and shoe pods, that we forget to just FEEL. While these gadgets are useful and are there to help us become better runners, I think at the same time, they cause us to lose touch with ourselves. I'm not sure I could duplicate the run graph above if I had no timing device. Well, I couldn't duplicate it at all because I would have no data to graph, for one thing. But say I clicked the lap button every lap but never looked at my watch to see the lap times... would I be able to get such a nice progression? Probably not. Pacing by feel is really pretty tough to do. Even elite athletes have trouble sometimes - elite marathoners often have pacers for the first 20 miles to help them make sure they're not going too fast or too slow. Of course, they are aiming for a very high precision in their pacing. Me, I'm just trying to stay within 30 seconds of a certain pace.

Maybe next week I'll run my progressive run without looking at my watch. I'll try to run it by feel. It will be interesting to see how that chart looks...

Peace. Love. Train.

A brief history of FAST

So what is this FAST thing I'm always talking about? Well, in short, it's a running group. But that really doesn't do it justice. It's so much more than just a group of people who run together. Those of you who are a part of FAST know what I'm talking about (and feel free to post comments here about what FAST has done for you!).

First, a little history. FAST stands for Fun And Smart Training. The group is a program offered by the Peoria Area Track & Field Club. Despite the acronym, it really has nothing to do with being fast (although I believe many participants have become faster runners as a result of FAST). A direct quote from the website:

"FAST will be a program for you as an individual. Through tailored personalized programs based on your mileage, your abilities, and your goals, FAST, is designed to work with you to become the athlete you want to be. FAST does not care if you run a 4:00 minute mile or a 10 minute mile! This program is for YOU to achieve your personal goals!"

That pretty much sums it up in a nutshell. We have two coaches who provide individualized training schedules and instruction to help us reach our goals. Some people are training for 5ks, some for marathons, and everything in between. In the winter season, FAST meets as a group once a week at an indoor track. The workout is usually some type of speedwork, whether it's fartleks (or "fartskis", as my mom likes to call them), or 400m repeats, or 1 mile repeats, or a 3-mile time trial. And following the run is some sort of core routine, involving various forms of crunches and planks. Every week is something different, which keeps things fresh and reduces the boredom of running around in circles. We are not there to race each other (although I know I have used faster runners as "targets" to try to catch up to, or hang with, even if only for a short while). It's never a competition, except to compete with yourself, as you strive to become a better runner than you were a week ago, a month ago, or a year ago.

As a group, we support and encourage each other. I have never been a part of a group that gives as many high fives, and "good job"s and other words of encouragement. We may not run together in the literal sense, because we all run at different paces, but we always run together. We are friends and comrades. Faster runners will wait around for the slower runners (like me) to finish. More experienced runners will offer advice and tips to newer runners. We swap race stories, talk about past mistakes and triumphs, empathize with each other over injuries, and talk excitedly about our future running plans. After our runs, many of us go out for dinner together, where we take great pride in stinking up entire restaurants with our sweatiness, and ordering large volumes of water.

And I can't forget our fabulous coaches, Brad and Bekah. They rock! They push us farther than we think we can go, but never past our breaking points. They know exactly what to say to get just a little more effort out of us. They have led many of the members of FAST to PR's (including me), but they never claim that our victories were their doing. They are, in short, very very good at what they do. And we are very fortunate to have their leadership and wisdom.

So as you can now see, FAST is far more than a running group. FAST is a team.

Summer FAST 2009, at one of our track meets.

Peace. Love. Train.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Adventures in hills, snow, and potholes

I'm going to try to put together a coherent blog entry today, but be forewarned - I'm still a bit delirious from today's fourteen miler. It shouldn't have been a big deal. Only two miles longer than last weekend, and last weekend was fine. But I made several mistakes today that ended up hurting me later on in my run. So what have I learned from today?

1. Don't go out too fast. To be fair, I wasn't really sure what "too fast" was, since this was my first really long run outside, on a hilly course. Up until now, I'd been running indoors on a flat track, or moderately inclined treadmill. I seriously underestimated the increased difficulty of the hilly route we had chosen for today. Whoops. I should have known better - I ran this route many times training for my first marathon. But it has been over 3 years, and apparently time has made me forgetful.

2. Don't try to make up for lost time. Somewhere around Mile 1, I was fiddling with my iPhone (I use it to run the Nike+ and play music), and apparently dropped my glove. But I didn't realize it until I went to put my gloves back on. So I had to turn around, run back about 1/4 mile (uphill!), find my glove, and then run back. I should have just done this at the same easy pace, but for reasons I can't explain, I felt the need to "catch up". Catch up to who? Nobody. Even though my husband and our FAST friends were running too, they were all far ahead of me since they run faster. So I knew I couldn't actually "catch up" with any of them. Nevertheless, I picked up the pace once I got my glove. I should have just kept the pace slow.

3. Don't try to "power through" the tough hills. Not sure what I was thinking here. I should have slowed down on the hills, to keep my heart rate down. Instead I tried to hold pace. I don't think I was very successful anyway, but I still should have been slower. The long run is not the time to battle against the hills. They always win.

4. Don't panic when things don't go quite according to plan. I made a wrong turn around Mile 8. I was supposed to turn on High Point Dr and instead I turned on Fox Point Dr. I realized my mistake shortly after I made the turn, but it was already too late to go back and run the road I had intended to run. So I did some quick mental math and determined how far I needed to run on this new "uncharted" road. It should've been fine. But for reasons I cannot explain, I sped up during this segment. I guess I thought I needed to "catch up" again. But as we have already discussed, there was nobody for me to catch up to. I think there should be a medical term for this... Running-Induced Irrationality (RII).

5. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate!!! Okay, I already knew this. But when it's cold outside, you just don't realize how much fluid you're really losing. I stopped for water/gatorade three times during this run. It wasn't enough. If this had been a half-marathon, there would've been at least 6 water/gatorade stops and I would have stopped at almost every one. Today I made my first water stop at Mile 6. Not good. Next time we are going to have to be more strategic about our placement of water bottles along the route.

So what did all my mistakes mean? Well, the last few miles were extremely challenging. My heart rate refused to go down to an acceptable level (I like to keep it below 160, and on this run I was routinely in the low 170's). I struggled through every step, willing my legs to move. It shouldn't have been that difficult. The good news is that after a good lunch and lots of water, I'm feeling pretty good. Nothing hurts in a bad way, I'm just a bit stiff and tired.

Let's hope I remember all these lessons on the next long run (next weekend is 16 miles). I want to finish feeling good rather than feeling completely drained.

Oh, and one of the advantages of running outdoors is that I get to use my GPS. So below is the data from my Garmin watch, including a map of my run. Note the elevation graph in green. Total climb, according to the Garmin, was 900 feet. This may actually be hillier than the Flying Pig will be. So I guess if I can run this route, I can run The Pig. I will be ready for those hills!

The GPS map doesn't show (1) hills, (2) snow or (3) potholes, but rest assured, there were plenty of all three of these things along the entire route. And all three of them make for a challenging run. I also think they increase the risk of RII (Running-Induced Irrationality).

I'd like to take a moment to give huge high fives to my training buddies today: my husband, Matt, and our friends from FAST, Niki and Marc. They all did a great job today. For Matt and Niki, it was their longest run EVER. WAY TO GO GUYS! :)

Peace. Love. Train.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

No, I'm not cooling down - this is my 5k race pace!

We had another great workout at FAST last night. As is my new custom, I arrived early so I could get in an extended warm-up (2 miles). Then Bekah (our lone coach for the night) delivered the good news about our workout. It was to be a progressive run, similar to what we do on Monday nights, except, for the final mile we were to run an all-out 5k race pace. So, a little different than the typical progressive run.

I think I did pretty well on this run. There are some ups and downs, but mile over mile, the pace does increase nicely. The last mile was definitely challenging. But whilst I was huffing and puffing along at my zippy (for me) 9:01 pace, sweating (like a pig, of course) and most likely looking very red in the face, another runner had the nerve to run up beside me and ask "So, are you on your cooldown now?" I would've given him an evil glare, except that I just didn't have any energy to spare for facial expressions. So I responded, between gasps for air, "Uhhhh, no, *pant pant* this is actually my 5k race pace..." To which he responded, "Oh, so how many laps do you have left?" And I was thinking, Really, dude? Do you really think right now is a good time for a conversation? This all took place in my 2nd to last lap, and you can see I did slow down a bit on that one. Thanks a lot, chatty-fast-runner-guy - you totally blew my pace! :-P

Of course, I'm not actually blaming him for anything - I found the situation rather amusing, actually. In the same way I can't fathom being able to run 5 or 6 minute miles, some runners can't fathom NOT being able to run 5 or 6 minute miles. We are all different in our abilities and goals. But the common denominator is we all love to run and are all striving to improve.

So without further ado, here's my run graph from last night. (Click to see it big)

Peace. Love. Train.

Monday, February 15, 2010

The progressive build run

So every Monday, I have a "Progressive Build Run". This is where you increase your speed each mile of your run, so that your last mile is significantly faster than your first mile. I've been doing these sorts of runs for a while now, and I've got a pretty good handle on the pacing. I start out at a tortoise pace and then gradually increase to slightly-faster-than-tortoise pace. This sounds simple in theory, but it can be really hard to reign in the pace at the beginning. Especially when other runners on the track are zipping past me. I want to yell at them "I can run that fast, but I'm not on Mile 5 yet! Just you wait!!!"

Today's progressive build run was 6 miles (as it will be for the next 3 weeks), and below is my pace graph that I took great pleasure in charting with Excel. *geek alert* Remember that pace actually decreases as you move up the Y-axis - the lower the point on the graph, the faster the pace. Click to admire the progression full-size:

Let us take a moment to admire that last data point. The final lap. That was a 7:15 pace. Which is not unusual - I have managed that pace for the final lap several times before. However, what's interesting to note is that today, I didn't have to work as hard for it. My heart rate was lower on this last lap than it has been in the past (182 today, versus 184 last week, and this week I ran the entire last mile faster). Which is not to say that it was EASY by any stretch of the imagination. Not at all. But at least I didn't feel like throwing up! It's all progress. :)

Peace. Love. Train

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Lance Armstrong called...

...He said he wishes he could be as awesome as me. True story.

Okay, maybe it didn't happen exactly like that. What actually happened was Lance Armstrong's voice came on my iPhone (via the Nike+ app) at the end of my run today to congratulate me on logging another 250 miles on that particular device. Well, I guess that counts for something.

Today was my long run. 12 miles. The last time I ran that far was the Chicago Half-Marathon last September. So it's been a little while, but I was fairly confident that it would be okay. And it was. As I have been doing the past several long runs, I broke it up into chunks. I spent the first 5 miles on the indoor track (which is 12 laps per mile), then I moved on to the treadmill for the next 4 miles, where I inserted a 3 mile long hill of varying grade, and then finished out on the track for the last 3 miles. Mixing things up like this keeps the workout from getting too painfully boring, and makes the distance seem more manageable when all you're thinking about is "I only have 1/2 mile to go on this god-forsaken treadmill!"

I don't mind doing my long runs indoors, but I have to say, I cannot wait for the weather to warm up a bit so I can do my long runs outside. The cold is not my friend. Although, if you want to look for the silver lining, all this snow piled up everywhere makes a great instant ice bath. Knees aching after your run? Just kneel down in a snow drift!

So, who wants to see my run graph? Since I think my Garmin footpod was fairly well calibrated today, I'm going to show you my Garmin graph. Not only does this graph show my pace, but it also shows my heart rate. As you can see, it peaked around the end of Mile 7, because that was the steepest part of the hill I ran. The random spikes in pace I attribute to dodging crazy people on the track. You'll notice there aren't any spikes like that between Miles 5 and 9, when I was on the treadmill, except for a few seconds where I walked to eat some Sport Beans (I have not yet mastered the art of opening and eating a package of Sport Beans while running). So here it is:

The very end was my walking cooldown, thus the drastic reduction in heart rate and slowing of pace. Average pace, including the cooldown, was 11:49. Not that it matters. The long run is not the time to set land-speed records. Running the long run slow makes it easier to recover from. And I am feeling pretty good right now, almost 5 hours after finishing my run. A little stiff in the legs, but otherwise fine.

Now, my husband also managed to run 12 miles today, despite the fact that he was only supposed to run 10. Not very good at following directions, that one. However, he did great and came out of it mostly fine (except for a chronic black toenail issue - ewwww). If he keeps running the same mileage as my friend Niki and I do (we are both training for marathons), he may as well run a marathon. We have both told him this, but he brushes us off and says he's not interested. I don't know... I think we'll make a marathoner out of him one of these days. Y'all wanna help me? *insert evil grin here*

Peace. Love. Train.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Deep Thoughts for Friday...

Since Fridays are my rest day, I'd like to use this time to examine the deeper side of running. Why do we runners voluntarily run distances that most people would rather drive? And not only do we run these distances voluntarily, but we often pay good money to do so! (Case in point - I recently plunked down $130 to run the Chicago Marathon this fall) Are we flipping mad?

In a word... YES.

There is no convincing a runner that what he or she is doing is pure insanity. So don't even try. Just know that for many of us, running is a sort of addiction. We simply can't stop.

It's worth noting that just a few years ago, I hated running. I hated the very idea of running. I never wanted to do it. Ever. See, growing up, I was never very athletic. *ahem* That's putting it mildly. I was the kid hyperventilating after running the mile in 16:32. When I mention that I'm a runner, people sometimes ask me "Oh, did you run in school?" Yes. I ran to the cafeteria for lunch.

But about 4 years ago, I decided I wanted to run a 5k. Just to say I did it. So, like many before me (and many after me) I trained using the highly-praised Couch-To-5k Plan. For reasons I cannot explain (because I do not know), the race I chose for my first 5k was the Jingle Bell run. As the name implies, it's in December. (Apparently I had all the insanity of a true runner before I ever was one.) On race day, it was, well, insanely cold. And icy. But I did it. I ran that 5k in 33:54. It damn near killed me. And I LOVED it. More confirmation that runners are mad.

Within hours of finishing my first 5k, I decided I wanted to run a half-marathon. *begin sarcasm font* Now there's a logical leap. From 3 miles to 13 miles. *end sarcasm font* More confirmation that runners are mad.

About six months after my first 5k, which was run in the icy cold, I finished my first half-marathon, which was run in the sweltering heat. It was so hot, they actually closed the course shortly after I finished. It took me 2 hours and 39 minutes. I LOVED it. More confirmation that runners are mad.

I really haven't stopped running since that first fateful 5k, except for injury and illness. I'm quite content to keep the insanity going. And maybe all this doesn't show that runners are flipping mad. Maybe it just shows that I'm flipping mad.

Peace. Love. Train.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

The problem with the Garmin footpod... that I can't get the damn thing calibrated right. Okay, let me back up here and explain myself. Some of my wonderful followers may not be familiar with the Garmin running computers and the various accessories that accompany them. (And a quick note to my wonderful followers - THANK YOU! I never expected so many people to want to read my blog. VOLUNTARILY! You guys are awesome!)

Back to the Garmin. The Garmin 405cx is a handy-dandy gadget for the geeky runner. That would be me. And my husband. Yes. We both have one of these. But I digress... The device is best used outdoors, where GPS can track your run, speed, distance, pace, etc. But should you be forced indoors due to weather (which has pretty much been the case since November), they offer a Footpod accessory that uses accelerometer technology to track your pace and distance. It's supposed to be 98.5% accurate right out of the box. HAHAHAHAHAHAHA NO. Not even close. Out of the box it was reading ridiculously fast, telling me I was running 9:00 miles when I was actually doing 11:30. So I went through the calibration procedure. And then it was reading too slow. Grrrrrr. I have been fiddling with the calibration on my Footpod for, no joke, 2 months and it still isn't right. Perhaps I just run funny (those of you who actually get to SEE me run - no comment from you guys). So getting to the point of this story... the wonky calibration is the reason I ran too fast last night during our FAST workout.

FAST (Fun And Smart Training) is my running group, for those who don't know. We meet every Wednesday evening for a group workout, led by our two fabulous coaches, Brad and Bekah. I arrived early to get in a good jogging warmup (and ended up doing 2 miles). The prescribed workout was 2 x 2mi repeats at goal marathon pace. Okay, fabulous. Just two little problems for me. (1) My goal marathon pace is not much faster than my warmup... so that's hardly a workout. (2) If I ran 4 miles at my goal marathon pace, we would be there all night. Seriously. I'm slow, people. So after some discussion with my coaches, we decided that I should shoot for about 50 seconds faster than goal marathon pace, to better simulate the end of the marathon, when I'll be really tired from hours and hours of running really slow. So, I was targeting a 10:30 pace for my 2 mile repeats. Totally doable.

I started my 1st 2 mile repeat and looking at my Garmin, saw that my pace was pretty good. According to the Footpod. I wanted to save some energy so I could run the 2nd 2 miles faster than the 1st 2 miles. (Negative splits) I was breathing pretty hard at the end of my 1st 2 miles, but still feeling okay. I took the mandated 2 minute rest and then set off for my 2nd 2 miles, trying to run a little faster this time. Which I did. I was getting pretty tired during that last mile and thinking that it felt harder than 10:30 should feel. But I had just enough oomph left in me to "sprint" the last lap. (I put sprint in quotes because what feels like a sprint to me is a warmup pace for a lot of runners :P ) My heart rate was pushing 185 (about 95% of max HR). (Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that the Garmin also has a heart rate monitor! I told you this thing was for geeky runners!) The cooldown after that was so wonderful. I was beat. Of course, then Bekah made us do all sorts of crazy core work after that. Yeeeeouch!

Alright, let's get down to the data analysis. I know you're all dying to see it. *crickets chirping* Oh come on! Somebody out there surely wants to see it! Well, I'm showing it to you anyway. Take that!

The Garmin wrist unit has a lovely lap counter button, which is handy when running on a track where 7.5 laps = 1 mile. Who can track that in their head? Not me! So when I look at my Garmin data, I can easily take my lap times, multiply by 7.5 and get my lap pace. And then graph it like so, Laps on the X-axis and Pace on the Y-axis (click to see it larger):
Uhhhhh. Wait. What? My first 2 miles was an average pace of 10:07, and my 2nd 2 miles was 9:36??? That's a little bit faster than the 10:30 I was SUPPOSED to run. No. Wait. That's a LOT faster. Oopsie! Well no wonder I was so exhausted! I was pretty much running my 5k race pace. And that last lap of the last 2 miles... 8:15 pace. Not too shabby for a slow girl like me. Now THAT, my friends, is how we do negative splits.

So, once again, I will be recalibrating my Footpod. And I will take the time to do the math and calculate what my lap times should be for a particular pace so that I'm not led astray by the Footpod. For example, to achieve a 10:30 pace, one must run each lap in 1:24.

You may be asking yourself, "Self, how does one recover from such a tough run?" Okay, you're probably not asking yourself that at all. But I was looking for an excuse to talk about my post-FAST dinner. See, after FAST every week, a bunch of us go out for dinner. You gotta refuel after tough workouts like this, right? Last night we went for sushi. And it was SO GOOD.

And now I'm done rambling. For now.

Peace, Love, Train.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The training plan

This is the part where I post my training plan, and you all hold me accountable. Not that I don't already have plenty of people holding me to it. I have a running coach (two coaches, actually). And my husband. And my running group (more on that in another post). But sometimes it takes the collective efforts of all of cyberspace to get my butt out of bed at 6am on a Saturday morning to run 18 miles. So here's the schedule, in a nutshell.

M - 6 mile progressive build run (pace increases each mile, so you are running faster at the end than at the beginning)
T - easy 3 miles, and strength training
W - FAST (that's my running group, and the workouts vary each week, but usually incorporate some kind of speedwork)
Th - strength training
F- rest
Sa - long run
Su - BodyFlow class (yoga, pilates and tai chi)

That's the schedule for the next month. The midweek runs will probably change a little bit in April, due to my running group meeting on different nights. But that's not all that important. The core of marathon training is the long run, so named because, well, it's freaking long. For slowpokes like me, it can take upwards of 3-4 hours. So what does the long run schedule look like?

Starting with this coming Saturday (Feb 13), the long runs are (in miles unless otherwise noted):

12, 14, 16, 12, 16, 18, 20, 14, 22, 16, 2 hours, marathon day (26.2)

This is a pretty typical marathon training plan. For those unfamiliar with training for long-distance races, you may be wondering why it doesn't just keep increasing steadily the entire time. And why isn't the 22-miler the last long run before the marathon? Put simply, recovery time is when strength is created. Incorporating recovery weeks every 3 weeks helps the body adapt and regenerate so it is strong for the next ramp up in mileage. This is also the reason for the "taper" (as it is known to marathoners everywhere) - the decrease in mileage and intensity during the 3 weeks leading up to the marathon event.

So, is everyone bored yet? Are you all sleeping out there? ;-) It's okay. Training plan talk can be, well, boring. But at least now you know what I'm supposed to be doing this Saturday (and every Saturday for the next 11 weeks). And you know that tonight, I have FAST (which stands for Fun And Smart Training). So of course you can expect a blog post tomorrow about my FAST adventures... because it's always an adventure at FAST!

Let's get this party started!

Well, since I blogged about training for my first marathon (back in 2006), I thought it only appropriate to blog about training for my second marathon too. It's been so long since my first marathon, that this second marathon is practically a first. If that makes any sense. (I suspect it doesn't)

A bit of background for those who don't already know: I'm planning to run the Flying Pig Marathon in Cincinnati on May 2. Why the Flying Pig? Well, I love Cincinnati (I used to live there in my college co-op days). And they have a cool medal (double-sided, with a pig-butt on the back!). And the crowd support is supposed to be phenomenal. And it's hilly.

Wait. What?


Why would anyone want to run a hilly marathon? Well, I want to develop a new appreciation for hills. I don't want to be afraid of them. I want to embrace them. Okay, maybe "embrace" is a strong word. How about "tolerate"? And, well, I love a good challenge. I don't expect to set any land-speed records with this marathon (or any marathon, for that matter), but I do hope to beat my previous marathon time (6:29 - this, hopefully, should not be too difficult to beat), and have a lot of fun.

Below is the elevation profile for the Flying Pig Marathon. It looks like one big hill, but there are supposedly lots of rolling hills throughout the entire 26.2 miles. BRING IT!

Several of my friends and my husband will be there too, running the various Flying Pig events, ranging from 5k to half-marathon. Apparently, I'm the only one crazy enough to attempt the full marathon.

So, there are currently 11 1/2 weeks left until the Flying Pig Marathon. I'm well into my training, but I thought now was a good time to start documenting the trials, tribulations, achievements, and amusements of my journey. Stay tuned for the next entry, coming soon, highlighting my training schedule.