Category Archives: training

Healthy Habits of the Traveler in {MCM} Training

Fact: it’s a challenge to keep up with your daily habits while you’re traveling, no matter what category they fall into. The layers of difficulty can quickly pile up depending on where you’re going, for how long, why, how you’re getting there, and you know, any other life things you may have going on at the time!

I never turn down an opportunity to travel, simply because it means branching out of the norm and getting some sort of experience. But as of late the travel has been frequent, so I’ve had to get creative in maintaining some sense of normalcy for my system-in-marathon-training.

Last week I got to head up north to Seattle for four days to conduct a few coaching trainings. I love that city. Love it. But in those four days my schedule also included three runs – one of which would be over 3 hours. I wanted to eat healthy for those runs, to avoid being the girl in Seattle seen frantically searching for public bathrooms in her running attire. And I wanted to keep stress levels low so that my heart wouldn’t decide it had its own plans for those miles.

Here’s how that stay-on-track strategy looks, in my world….

1) Bring what you love (and what you need*)!

I packed peanut butter, fruit, homemade trail mix (pepitas, almonds, cashews, dried blueberries and raisins), Larabars and a refillable water bottle. I also packed my Long-Run *essentials: handheld water bottle, hat and fuel.

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I’ve learned to pack nut-butter in tupper-ware, as the TSA deems the ‘jar’ a liquid in some cases. And that’s been confiscated. And that was a bad day.

2) Shop for the rest!

Once I got myself to the hotel, I immediately looked up a grocery store. As you might assume, the Seattle area is saturated with healthy options! So, this one was easy. I headed straight to Trader Joe’s after lunch (see: leftover Thai food, ‘Thank you!”) and stocked up on the good stuff:

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Obviously that tiny tupper-ware of peanut-butter wouldn’t suffice for the whole weekend. The other things: bananas, salad for lunch the next day, organic peaches and apples, plums, (not pictured) sparkling water and sea-salt + almond dark chocolate.

This was one of three grocery-store stops in 4 days.  Just trying to do my part for the health food store economy!

3) Use the web to plan ahead! 
  
  It’s full of (mostly good) information. Exhibit A: MapMyRun.com

MMRbellevue run_MMR

Friday morning had “3:10 // 20 miles” on the schedule (i.e. run for that amount of time, as prescribed, and don’t exceed 20 miles). I did a quick search of the hotel’s zip code with a mileage filter and found a ton of options. This search also led me to quite a few park trails in the area, which would be ideal for many miles during the Friday morning commuting hours.

Another vital MapMyRun tool while running in Seattle? The elevation chart. It took me a while, but I finally mapped a route that only included approximately 1,000 ft of climbing over those three hours. That’s skill.

4) Stick to your workout ‘plan’ (make one, first).

Exploring new cities with a run is always fun, but I rarely feel motivated to do so before tying up the laces and convincing myself to GO. As soon as the legs get moving, I’m happy. In three runs I discovered crazy-hilly neighborhoods, a cute little park near my hotel and a lovely downtown area to return to for some afternoon sun-soaking and planking.

Having a plans works wonders; I don’t do as well with the “we’ll just see what happens!”. On this trip I wanted to check a few training boxes and, of course,  stick to the plank challenge!

2014-09-10 18.06.02 
When on vacation, attempt a new plank-hold record. At least when your arms and legs start shaking, no one’s watching your craziness…or judging your continuous plank-selfies…

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5) Head back to the grocery store!
I.e. Take advantage of the Whole Foods (
or similar available option
) hot + cold bars.

In four days I managed to only eat “out” twice. I was lucky to have stayed in the Hyatt House Hotel, where each room is stocked with a few kitchen supplies and a full-sized fridge. But even a mini one would have sufficed here – there’s luxury in having a real plate to eat off of, along with real utensils. Bliss!

Thursday afternoon I went to Whole Foods and picked up the following from the buffet bars:

Dinner (Pre-LR): honey-ginger salmon, steamed kale, roasted vegetables (squash, onions and peppers), roasted cumin sweet potatoes.

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Breakfast (Post-LR): two hard-boiled eggs and tomatoes (from the salad bar), plain roasted sweet potatoes, 1 avocado (from produce section). (I already had my pre-run banana + Peanut-butter ready to go – see picture above.)

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Before heading to the airport on Saturday, I made my third trip to WF in as many days. I wanted to make sure lunch was full of fresh deliciousness, since dinner in an airport is rarely promising…

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From the WF salad bar: mixed greens, grated carrots, marinated mushrooms, tomatoes, hard-boiled egg, diced celery, Italian dressing and a side of roasted sweet potatoes. To drink: lemon-flavored sparkling water.

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All-in-all, pretty successful trip. I eased right back into training – thankfully with the new pair of kicks that finally arrived on my doorstep. The only thing that’s different is I’ll be right back to running along the bay this week, jonesin’ for that PNW sunshine and already-cooked, ready-to-eat meals.

For those who travel often – work, or wanderlusting – what are some of your must-dos to keep things feeling somewhat normal?

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Filed under challenges, food, health, marathon, Nutrition, training, travel

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.

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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

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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.

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

New Almaden Trail Race (Quicksilver Park)

While we’re less than half a mile to the coast here in Monterey, we happen to be spoiled by the West Coast’s tectonic genius and are also a short drive away from state parks, mountain ranges and endless trails for exploring.

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He did some searching and quickly found us a local trail race – New Almaden Race at Quicksilver Park. We had a few weeks to adjust to the microclimates here – if it’s 65* in Monterey assume that it’s at least 80* in San Jose? Got it! – and prepare our muscles for the changing terrain. He contemplated signing up for the half-marathon option, until we looked up race times from last year and the winner of the 10k came in around 1:35.

Uh….’scuse me?

The course is described as “hard with steep up and down hills”, oh, “ and is all exposed”. NOTED. We’ll start ‘small’ here in Cali. I figured the new Mizuno Hayates could handle all of the above – their first race-test. (We convinced Rachel to join us for her first trail race, too!)

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It started early, at 7am, to keep the half + full marathons in cool temps for a little while. Six hundred feet of climbing in the first mile (slowest split of the day, rolling in at 13:42) will wake you up faster than any cup o’ joe! I started to do some math and assumed I’d be lucky to finish in 1:20, and decided to stick with that.

Mile 2 brought some reprieve-turned-quad-pounding with 400 ft of descent, offering little comfort on an out-and-back course. But at least this split resembled something similar to “running”, with a much faster 10:22. WHEW.

I didn’t see any runners on their way back until around mile 2.8, and started seriously wondering if I had somehow screwed up a very well-marked course. Luckily the leaders came up around the corner (hey, I know you!), followed by the only other person I saw before the half-way point aid station. Hm, I’m in fourth place….*

I stopped for a cup of water and friendly chit-chat with the volunteers at the aid station (mile 3.1) – I know with trail races they often have to check your number & make sure you’re still out there and moving. Starting up and out again, I learned the two runners closest to me were at least a quarter-mile back. New goal: keep it that way!

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The actual goal was to run as much as I physically could. The ‘rule’ was that if I didn’t have to lean forward to get up a climb, I had to try to run. Sometimes walking was actually more efficient, but it’s easy to keep walking even once you’re over the crest because this is tough. The faster you get your legs ‘running’, once they can, the easier it is to motivate them to keep moving.

Almaden Run Altitude

One hill I actually walked up backwards, in an attempt to save the calves and lower back some agony. One hill was so steep I walked down it, too.

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There was one different turn on the way back that would save us a few ups and downs, easing up on the quads and hamstrings just a little bit.  He was waiting at the 6-mile ‘mark’ (miles weren’t marked), ready to hop in and push me to the finish. You know, that annoying thing where a pacer runs just a few steps ahead of you when you’re exhausted and so close and like, REALLY dude?! , but you chase them anyway.

The Finish Line sprint was hardly that, but it felt good to go ‘fast’ on a relatively flat section and see that huge jug of cold water waiting for us!

New Almaden Quicksilver Park 10K

1:08:58
6.2 miles
Top Female Finisher
(
Small Race = Big rewards)

Huge thanks to the West Coast Trail Running Group for an excellent race, course & finisher’s food spread! We can’t wait to join you guys again soon!

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Filed under race report, trail 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.

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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.

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Filed under learning, marathon, running, training

{Marathon} Training Tales: Joy is…

“Joy is what happens to us when we allow ourselves to recognize how good things really are.”        Marianne Williamson

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Marathon week has swiftly arrived!

This cycle went quickly since it started in late January and left me with about 10 weeks to figure out this whole HR-based, MAF, aerobic training stuff. I’ve dissected more runs and heart-rates and science-y things than all four previous training cycles combined! At one point there was a LOT of information swirling around in my brain.

Now, it’s just time to let it work. To let it go and see what happens. It’s time to remember that I trained for the process, not the medal (not even sure if we get one of those?). I trained this way to try a new approach with a fresh perspective, for the lifestyle that accompanies the choice to attempt a(nother) marathon. To ask some questions, and move in a different direction (or at different speeds, with different HRs n’ such!).

To grab that joy of running…

simple rules

Joy is…going to the track and doing those very specific workouts.

On the track, I feel more dedicated than anywhere else. You have to seek out this exact location and get here to do this exact, specific, run. I’ve never been much of a “track” runner before – for those exact reasons, having to do something so specific and prescribed and boring  – so it stands out to me.

This cycle involved a  few trips to the track for MAF tests, and one final visit yesterday for some pace testing. I got one last lap (400m) to “unload”! And with that, I ran to toe the line of all-out and you-still-have-a-race-to-run and to turn corners with a stupid-silly grin because whoa, this cycle was a good one.

Joy is…the little rush of looking up your schedule for the week.

I put this entirely in someone else’s hands. The only specific requests I had were: “I’d prefer not to train by HR only” and “I like to do long runs on Saturday”.  So, I got half of what I wanted! But some prayers are best left unanswered; if you want different results and experiences, you have to DO something different.

There were no two weeks alike; every time I logged onto Training Peaks with anticipation – what’s next? What do I get to do this week??? The first time I saw “the big mama” I spent the rest of the week excited for Saturday’s adventure.

( If first-marathon-me (circa 2010) read that paragraph
there would be eye-rolling for days. )

Joy is…asking questions, learning about a sport you love.

Joy is…visualizing that Finish Line clock & banner.

Joy is…realizing you’ve stepped so far forward you’re suddenly in Race Week.

With this week comes the good kind of nervous, slowly seeping into the muscle fibers. I wrote to my coach that it’ll come on strong tomorrow (Thursday) and Friday; the anxious-excited that starts to slowly drip adrenaline into my system every single time I think about the starting line, mile 15, or 21 or 25 or 26.1 and THE finish line sight. The running, all over.

It’s the type of nervous that gets you to that mental place you need to be – just enough fear, because it will hurt – without totally derailing the physical+mental readiness. That feeds your legs all of the juice they’ll need to push past their perceived limits. And that flashes your goal time across that mental clock over and over AND OVER, until you just know you’ll chase it no matter what.

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Joy is chasing a goal.

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