Category Archives: learning

Recovery & Resilience

This year has taken my running+racing ego for a wild ride. Let’s just say this:  I severely underestimated the cumulative effect of taking 2013 “off”.There’s not one single thing I would change about that decision, or any of the other ones I made in that calendar year (‘twas a great one, indeed),  but set me up for peak physical fitness it surely did not. Noted.

2014 started off like a rocket: taking the RRCA running coach certification course, signing on to work with a Coach and subsequently starting to train for a marathon (after a 10 day trip to Africa, of course).  If you’ve hung around for a while, well, we know how that turned out.

Desire to Change_Dietitian on the Run

Right away my name was thrown into the MCM lottery just to see what might happen.  I knew that my body had more to give. I also knew that was a lot more to be learned from MAF, my coach, and my favorite sport.

I ran MCM with a goal to re-qualify for Boston. It wasn’t a huge stretch, but it certainly wouldn’t be easy (and it’s not supposed to be!). I let Katie whoop my butt from July to October, and have never been so happily exhausted.

Aaand, now we know how that turned out, too.

Katie reminded me that I took a huge chunk of time off my spring vs. fall marathons in one year; I did what I did on that day. And it’s up to me how to move forward from that, how to recover.

Resilience_Dietitian on the Run

If there’s one thing I’ve learned from this year, it is this:  whether or not you choose resilience will teach you a lot about yourself and your strength. It won’t give you measurable pounds lifted or minutes per mile run or a specific race time. (At least not right away….) But every time you choose it, you run a meter that deposits a lot of emotional energy in a bank with an incredible interest rate.

When you choose to be resilient after your perceived failures, set-backs or let-downs, you’re recovering and coming back stronger.  You’re soaking in a mental ice-bath – letting the sting of the situation-at-hand cool down, become numb, and eventually dissipate. It’s absorbed into your muscle and brain tissue to rebuild and get ready for what’s next.

——

It took a few days and enough time to accept, absorb and let go of a race day that wasn’t what I expected it to be, before finally giving credit to a few things. I didn’t enter this year with the fitness base I’ve had in the past. I didn’t keep building on the successes of 2012, and because of the year I did chose to have ( think: more fun less fitness, in a great way), I entered this one as a different athlete. I’m rebuilding. And it’s a long, tedious process that involves using a lot of patience that I didn’t think I had (still debatable, I s’pose). 

But it’s way more exciting to be resilient – to chase endurance and strength and speed on my own terms – than to throw in the towel.

courage_Dietitian on the Run

————-

2 Comments

Filed under about me, challenges, Goals, learning, running

Marine Corps Marathon Training: The Things We Did Differently

Let’s say the training for this fall marathon actually started in January, with an e-mail to a friend-turned-coach that included some stubbornness on my end and a LOT of patience on hers. Let’s look back at life one year ago and question whether/not I’d ever choose to be tied to my HRM and the numbers and science of running? That’s a definite “No, thanks!” 

Let’s just call it like it is – things are a bit different around here these days.

- I frequent the (once-boycotted) gym, and know how to properly do a dead-lift so that I can walk normal the next day.
- I haven’t looked at, or thought about, my total weekly mileage in months.
- I have an entirely different running vocab in my brain now. (MAF!)
- I know a lot of math and science go into a sport that I once considered pretty simple. (At least I’m not the one doing it, though.)
- I ignore my pace on most runs, and usually couldn’t care less about it.

image

What does that mean? All of the following made up 16+ weeks of training in a way I’ve never fully trained for a full(-marathon) before:

imageBuilding the base, and dedicating an appropriate amount of time to the 26.2 mile distance.

image Strength-training workouts, twice each week. Exercises that focused on building the running muscles we need when fatigue really sets in.

image Running mostly by time, and allowing my heart to become more efficient so that within that time frame, more and more miles were covered.

imageKeeping stress really low, as much and as often as possible. Life stress affects training stress, which means you either progress or regress – your choice.

imagePaying very close attention to nutritional detail. See above: stress.

imageTrusting the whole process. All the time.

BONUS image: Reading through this book to do a little self-education on the training method that was running my life. Pun-totes-intended. That was a game-changer.

One thing has stayed the same: I have a lofty goal, and I’m pretty damn excited to chase it down.

Marine Corps Marathon Goal 2014

—–

It’s worth mentioning that this central California lifestyle we’ve adopted is also quite different than that of DC living. Our little Monterey community is slow and quiet, sunny and peaceful. Not better or worse than DC (you know I love me some District days!), but nowhere close to as busy or bustling.

Then we went and dumped California trail races on the calendar, because oh-my-god they happen all the time and we gotta run on all the dirt! Big thanks to the Coach for letting all of these sneak in there.

2014-09-06 10.58.05 2014-09-14 14.11.45

2014-08-02 07.27.05 2014-08-18 06.45.31-2

——

And now…

My brain is absolutely in taper-mode-overdrive, dripping little doses of anxiety here and there every time I think about running for 26.2 miles yet again. It’s a funny thing our memory does – to mostly forget the worst, but remember just enough of it to invoke panic in a moment of weakness. Taper becomes a focus of pushing those moments into the dump, and being like “Brain, CHILL OUT. We know what we’re doing!”

There were so many things done differently with this training cycle, and therein lies just enough mystery for wonder. But either way, I wanted to be more dedicated, run stronger, run faster and run MAF into the ground. Check! 

1 Comment

Filed under balance, cross training, learning, marathon, running, training

MCM Training: Maintaining the Machine

This past Saturday was my “Last Long-a** Run”, as defined by the Coach and our current standard for “long”. For the fourth week in a row, I had over 3-hours to kill on the run with a lot of specifics in between. My legs know the GMP well, have courted it successfully and are moving quickly to the next phase of their relationship.

I’m in that place where I think about the race and instantly feel my heart-rate increase (enhanced by the fact that I am now very well aware of when and how quickly my heart is pumping blood). I feel anxiety, excitement, nausea and impatience to just GO all in one very fleeting moment.  It’s marathon month. Before I know, it’ll be marathon week – DC, I can’t wait to see you! – and then, just like that, it’s marathon DAY and, for the third time, I’m staring at the familiar red arch.

image

Photo source: csnwashington.com

Last Saturday’s run wasn’t my strongest, but I finished all three hours + thirty minutes and 22 miles. Press Stop; complete the run; instantly remember that this is possible and I am capable.

But in the middle? Oh, yep there were familiar moments of sheer panic with a few mind tricks I know all too well; remember how fatigued you feel at miles 20, 21, 22….remember how you question your sanity every time you get close to the end but couldn’t feel farther from the finish…remember how much it hurts to run for 26 miles?! I don’t, really. At least not well enough to throw in the towel. Because if memory truly served us well we’d never do any of this again. Instead, memory puts up a good fight but loses to adrenaline 10 times out of 10.

——

For the next 20 days the key is to remember I’m not looking at that starting line just yet, but I’ve taken all of the BIG steps. For 20 days, I maintain, recover, build, eat and sleep. I listen acutely to every message sent from every system. I do my part in Coach K’s plan to “not accidentally kill” any part of the machine we’ve carefully put together!

And when the anxiety predictably loses its battle to my insane excitement and adoration for this race, I remember this:

mcm 2014_I Will

Doing what these legs do best – run DC.

Leave a Comment

Filed under learning, marathon, running, training

Convert Confessions: Why I Train+Coach by Heart Rate

If I could talk some sense into 24-year-old me, who gave the “heart-rate training” a try but promptly dropped it because ‘why the heck would I run SO SLOWLY?!’, I’d do it. In a heart beat.

I confess: I’ve been converted. I’ve become dependent on twice the gear and technology that you would have found me wearing as early as two years ago. I’m that runner who checks my watch, quite frequently. I’m the gal who you’re probably passing on the trails, but won’t let it bother me. I’ve become a slave to the training plan, the slow and easy runs, the long hours on the road and the philosophy that “less is more”.

Because it works.

——————–

Dictionary:

HR: Heart rate.
HRM: Heart rate monitor.
MAF: Maximum Aerobic Function (Threshold).

——————–

Polar-HRM_running
((My gear: Polar RC3GPS watch and HRM))

I started this year off on a totally different path, wanting a Coach to guide me and teach me something new about the sport of running. I reached out to a friend, curious about how this might work, and promptly answered “okay, I’m in!” when she said, “Work with me!”.

Trickster: she said it would just start out with some HR, a little bit of running by time vs. mileage, and we’ll just see how it goes.

What actually happened: I trained for the Charlottesville marathon solely by HR, MAF and a lot of TrainingPeaks logging. You’re smooth, Coach. Really smooth.

cvillemarathon_done.coach

Was it my fastest marathon? Holy geeze, not even close. Was it my best executed? No. Doubt. Whatsoever. Would I have done my training differently? Yep, and it would have done more harm than good.

I learned what it means to build your aerobic base, prioritize training needs, minimize stress, listen to the body, and train my legs to run no matter how ridiculously fatigued they felt. And that meant that in mile 24, as we climbed another ridiculous hill and, mentally, I wanted it to be over 10 miles ago, I was passing people.

While I wasn’t thrilled with my time, I had faith in what brought me there. Left to my own devices, that race would have destroyed me even more than it did.

2014-07-28 15.36.13

What’s all this HR, HRM, MAF stuff about, anyway?

For endurance athletes in any sport, training your aerobic system is more important than anything (aside from managing and minimizing stress). Monitoring your heart rate allows you to objectively measure individual runs and your progress throughout training. Shutting pace out of your head for 90% of your training runs, and basing everything on effort, allows your body to do what it’s capable of on that day and in that moment.

Running at or below your Max Aerobic Function/Threshold allows you to develop your aerobic muscles and systems. The more time you spend doing this, the better. (Don’t worry, there’s some speed, hill and interval work thrown in there when you’re ready!) Your aerobic system functions primarily off of fat for fuel, meaning it’s got juice for days! Your anaerobic system relies on sugar, meaning you tap out quickly. When you give your aerobic system just enough stress, through training, you build its efficiency, therefore, your speed.

There ya go!

Uh, why would I run slow to go fast?

I had a come-to-your-freaking-senses moment in March, about one month out from my Spring marathon and far from any shred of sanity related to this HR crap. Coach gave me a 3-hour long run on Saturday with some GMP-work mixed in and it was one of my favorite runs. I felt exhausted at the end and thought, “OMG FINALLY.”

Then, the next day, I had an 8K race (which Coach knew about, of course). My instructions were simply, “warm-up for 20 minutes, STORM THE CASTLE, then cool-down and do a shake-out jog for 10 minutes”. And my brain was all like, “This chick is crazy.”

I ran 30 seconds off my 8K PR, which was set while chasing Kate two years ago and seemed almost untouchable to me on that day. Until it wasn’t.

I had been running so So SO slowly, and yet I could still run fast.
OH, GOT IT.

————-

Fast-forward to June: I had thoroughly recovered from Charlottesville, raced a trail 5K, a road 10K and started packing up for a cross-country move. I also found out I got into the Marine Corps Marathon Lottery. Time for another rodeo!

This time around? I honor it. I trust it. I know how my body will respond, when to listen to it, when to shut the tantrum up and when to just give a little and leave the watch at home. I know how to be truly disciplined, discovering more and more things about a sport that I love unconditionally.

I put in the work, walk when I have to and mentally talk myself out of the days when it just doesn’t click. Something, some system, is trying to say I’M TIRED or THAT ROAD TRIP WAS TOO LONG or I DIDN’T ASK FOR THAT FROYO and because these are all my actions and it’s okay, I will listen.

2014-08-09 10.22.06

————-

To solidify my convert status, I’ve taken my RRCA Running Coach certification and added in MAF/HR-based training. I’m coaching my first few athletes this way and having a small internal party every time I see progress for them. Go, go, go! It just makes sense. So far I have my favorite dude training for a Boston Qualification, and winning local trail races in the meantime.

This type of training requires a lot of you, the athlete: patience, discipline, and perhaps most importantly, faith. It means you have to bury your ego, until it’s ready to toe the starting line (and then let it get all of that pent up energy out!). It means you have to be ready to see what else your sport has to teach you. And then let that work some sciencey-magic!

————-

It’s not easy, but why should it be?
What will challenge you, will change you.

5 Comments

Filed under learning, marathon, new things!, running, training

{MCM} Endurance Training Tales: Different Long Run Options

For the first time in a long time (possibly, ever?), I put on my big-girl marathon pants and started the training process nice n’ early. MCM announced the 16-weeks mark and I could be like “ON IT!” instead of Psh.

You could say I’ve had a change-of-heart.

stubborn goals

Training never really ceased or ‘started’ after Charlottesville – it was a seamless transition from recovery to 10k-race to right-back-at-it! The Coach hasn’t given up on me, and my heart is slowly coming back to bat after throwing the moving-stress-tantrum for a few weeks.  Because Charlottesville training was so different for me, I didn’t feel the intense need to take a ton of time off, or break-up with the marathon forever (just the hilly ones, maybe). Rather, I threw my hat in the MCM lottery because hot-damn I love that race with all my heart, and fate played spades. I’m in!

We’re doing this, MCM – round 3.

This year has been all about putting my ego to rest and letting a Coach tell me what to do, how to do it, and why to stop freaking out about my slow, easy, pace. It’s been about trying a new approach to endurance training, letting someone else take the reigns. I’ve become best friends with TrainingPeaks.com, my Polar watch (RC3 GPS/HRM) and MAF training.

My weekly training schedules of yore bare little-to-no resemblance to what my calendar fills up with these days. Exhibit A: the Long Run.

What I used to do: set out to tackle an exact mileage, increasing by ~2 miles each week, taking every third week “off” (step-back). 14, 16, 18, 20 – milers. The drill.

What I do now: leave the calculating and brain-waves and mad-scientist action to the Coach, of course! My Long Runs are almost always based on time, not miles, and are typically broken down into very specific sections.

I love this for a few reasons: it’s not monotonous, it gives my brain something to think about as I chug along, it challenges me in a different way, and on that note, it’s DIFFERENT. Some days I run solely based on heart-rate ranges (a), some days there are times + pace sections (b), some days it’s based on mileage and pace sections (c) and some days I look at my schedule, scratch my head and spend 5 minutes memorizing the flavor of the day.

Say what? Lemme explain…

(a) 2:00 hours: 30 min warm-up, 60 min at MAF*, 15 min MAF + 5, 15 min cool-down.

(b) 2:00 hours: 30 min warm-up, 45 min at MAF, 30 min at 5K Pace (RPE*), 15 min cool-down.

(c) 15 miles: 2-mile warm-up, 2 miles at 9:00 min/mile, 8 miles at 8:00 min/mile, 3 mile cool-down.

Disclaimer: warm-ups, cool-downs, MAF, paces, etc. are all unique to you. These are just random examples!

*Team TAD trains by the MAF method. I hate-love it.

——

If you’re feeling stagnant and ready for something new, don’t be afraid to go back to the drawing board. There is always something to learn about yourself, your abilities, your comfort zone boundaries and the sport, itself. Changing the Long Run is something most endurance runners are hesitant to do – it’s THE gold standard of endurance running – but trust me, it has more to offer to you.

2 Comments

Filed under learning, marathon, running, training