Category Archives: 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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Training Tales: Recovery Running

Today checked the third run-box in as many days, defying any logic my previous training approach would have justified. In another life, I would have been behind the steering wheel with directions reading “Caution: Detour! Turn right, rest after the Long Run (LR)!”

A recovery run? Wellll, that’s the short-cut to injury! So much running!
Take it easy!

Flash forward: barring the 24-hr flu/food-poisoning mongrel that wreaked havoc last weekend, I’ve run for 30-60+ minutes after every LR for the past 6 weeks. Lo and behold, all systems are still functioning.

Not only does my schedule include a weekly recovery run, it tacks onto the fatigue with “1 hour, easy” every Monday. I’ve come to appreciate, and actually look forward to, these routine runs so much so that there was no skipping it today. Snow day? Forecast of 5-10”? Better get out there early, before it piles up!

snow run.3.3.14

Mission accomplished.

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FIRST order of business: I had to run the LR differently.
Because the coach (and oh so many running experts) says so!. 

The LR should be done at an easy effort and ‘conversational pace’; slowing the ‘normal’ run pace by 30-60 seconds  doesn’t always add up. We have some intuition assessing how a run may ‘feel’, but that’s (more often than not) clouded by expectations and ego. It’s easily ignored when X + Y doesn’t equal Z  in our mental math.

Enter: the HRM. That thing doesn’t lie! It tells you exactly how your body perceives effort, in real time. On some days it’s your friend, while others it is your ego-smashing foe. Either way, you have the harsh truth right there on the screen.

Every LR has come with very very specific instructions. Pace and mileage don’t make appearances; I look only at “HR” and “Time”.

just goSource: Greatist.com

SECOND, I had to be inquisitive.
Because I’m a questioner and I need logic behind these things!

While the LR should be taxing and working to increase endurance, it should not slam on your brakes. It should not leave your legs so completely trashed that you can’t fathom the idea of running the next day. (That’s what a race-effort is saved for!)

Consider my former self’s mind blown.

When you take the LR easy (as defined by your perceived effort and/or HR zones – pick your flavor), your aerobic system gets a good looong workout. And when you’re training for a marathon, the aerobic system is your very best friend. Work it, work it!

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Some perspective: a 400m sprint is run 99% anaerobically. GO GO GO – breathe if you find time!  A marathon is run 99% aerobically. Oxygen is along for the ride

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If you can save just a little bit of energy and effort for the day-after a LR, you can go at it again. You can run on tired, but not trashed, legs and increase your resistance to fatigue (e.g. the Hanson Method). You can have a little chat with those muscles and be like “Hey, remember what it feels like to reach mile 23 and convince yourself to keep going despite every single part of you screaming to PLEASE STOP?”… “We’re training for that moment, right now.”

And this may be a game-changer. I still have 5 weeks to train, check boxes, refuel and recover. But I can tell you that in many ways my mentality has shifted; a recovery run may be your Ace if you play the cards right*.

*This assumes a runner who has no previous injury that prevents running consecutive days in a row. Above all, do what works for you.

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Do you include recovery runs in your training? Why / why not?

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Learning to Love…

The past month has been a lesson in practicing discipline, being patient and embracing an entirely new approach. I’ve gone through a tough breakup*, one we can all relate to. You’re stuck obsessing over the little things, knowing full well when you’re making deposits in the ego-bank (that acquire little-to-no interest) instead of investing in your own long-term success.

You’re ready to move on, but sometimes need a little outside push.

Things only get “better” by change. Embrace change; invite it over for appetizers and get to know it as slowly as you feel comfortable with, and then you’ll find you have a lot in common and could probably chat for hours and you might even ask change to stick around for dessert. After all, you never know what could be…so, why not?

just goIn the spirit of this lover’s holiday, I’m not here to drone on about the lows and the tough days and the little tantrums that our minds sometimes slip through the crack. Nope – those won’t do any good! Today, we’re chatting about the growth that comes when you declare victory over all of the above.

Since we last spoke, I decided against fighting the HR and thus I win. It’s a pretty sweet deal. We’re very happy together.

run walk

Or at least up the hills, and if I’m chatting your ear off, and if the paper-man throws a newspaper right near me during a dark early-morning jaunt in the neighborhood. I’m learning a lot of lessons about what makes the heart skip a beat!

The back-story: when I started this HR-based training cycle, it was recommended I remove pace (and perhaps distance) from my watch. Yes I could still do the nerdy run thing and calculate them myself, but focusing on one number (HR) while running is enough. Trying to match that up with expectations and associations won’t be any good – comparing your current beau with all of the exes is never advantageous, right? Right.

too far

I’d prefer to only go 26.2 miles, but you get the gist.

*So, I broke up with pace. And that is NO easy feat for a runner. But, in the early stages, while I’m base-building and courting my own cardiovascular system (so romantic), it doesn’t serve me. It’s a mind-game gone sour, and when it’s not in the mix, you’re suddenly very relaxed.

This time, running is about effort and efficiency – working to strengthen your cardio and aerobic system. Once you have the basics down, you work on pace and mindset and race-day plans.

The greenest thing on this side of the fence is how you can gauge improvement. With mileage/pace-focused training, I can add 2 miles to every long run every Saturday and survive that, feeling as though I’m moving forward. But, there’s no way to know for sure – some long runs are great, and despite every effort, some feel really freaking awful. While that may still be the case here, I can look back at the trend. And when things are going well? It’s very obvious! When you  can say “I ran for one hour (again) and covered more distance at a faster pace and lower average heart-rate than last week!”, you can also say “Whoop! It’s working!!!”. The latter is less of a mouthful, but if you’ve ever trained by HR, you know the former is really what we’re going for.

I’m learning to love the math, data, HRM and pace-free watch screen. I’m learning to trust a new process. I’m learning how great it can feel to “run easy”, with plenty of oxygen. I’m learning that there is always more to learn.

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What have you learned to love lately?

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Marathon {5} Training: Stories of Safari, HRs and Zen

“Go on an eleven day vacation to Africa right as your base-training begins!”, said no running coach, ever.

When I bought the ticket to fly from Dulles to (Amsterdam to) Africa, there were no thoughts of long runs or HR caps or race dates. I wouldn’t change a thing about the trip; we had an incredible experience and the elephants didn’t seem mind at all that I was taking eleven days “off”.  (Nor do they seem to mind that we spent four of those days staring in awe at them and their adorable offspring.) Neither did the Coach, which was an early sign that we would be a-OK working together! In fact, my schedule read: “Above all, don’t stress. Don’t run if you don’t feel like it. ENJOY your vacation. That is the number-one rule!”

This gal and I, we’re in sync.

I did have one specific workout on the calendar:  Take a picture of a lion for me today! Well yeah, I can do that:

Masai_Lion tree Stand

If you know how lazy lions are, you know this was quite the feat. It’s a rare luxury to see the cat standing and alert during the day! Most of the time they look like this:

Masai_Tree Sleeping Lions

So sleepy! It’s tough hunting animals and eating all night. These guys were still here the next day. Truth.

The point is that I put in some work before I left, trying probably-not-as-hard-as-I-could to get onboard with this HR-focused training and the initial crawling feeling that ensues.  I completed the running along with most of the functional strength training and a little bit of SolidCore (hurts so good!).

In the midst of gallivanting around Nairobi and Masai Mara, Kate & I did manage to get in three runs, total. Fun fact: Nairobi is at an altitude of 5300’ while the Mara ranges from 6- 7,000’. It’s 80* and sunny every day. Better fact: one of the Safari camp staff asked if we wanted to join him on a run one morning, and we did. Side note: we requested the 8k distance and ignorantly scoffed that we’d be okay without bringing water. Mmhm.

IMG_4640

(A safari is not the active-vacationer’s ideal situation. Needless to say you can’t just go running around the game reserve. Walking anywhere, unguided, is also inadvisable. You spend most of your days in a jeep, relaxing at camp, eating and sleeping. This running adventure was a treat, despite the profanities my lungs and legs were screaming. Run with a native Kenyan: check!)

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My “welcome back to reality” was a 30* day and snow-packed sidewalks, along with a full TrainingPeaks calendar. As I naively underestimated the effects of jet-lag, my legs and cardio system were happy to teach me a lesson. The coach was spot on with low-key runs and easing in, while I reported things like “well I ignored that “cool-down” and ran up the Calvert hill instead” because 1) I had to, to get home but actually 2) my ego got the best of me.

We all know that any story where the ego is served does not end well.

The ego and I took a big dose of humility yesterday; I’m taking a step back while reading the “this should feel Zen-like” note and conjuring up trust that may not have fully been there before. As an athlete, you are the only one who can tell your muscles what to do – the coach provides a suggestion and crosses fingers that you’ll be diligent,  listen and have faith. Then it’s up to your mind to decide how to play the cards. Man, that’s a tough way to get through the weeks! But that’s the point. Teach your mind, and all systems will follow.

All aboard, now. I took my recovery run today so easy that I could still chat and keep the HR below the prescribed number (huge win! Huge. ). We  covered a short distance in those quick (but actually, very slow) 30 minutes, but who cares? I’m recovered, did exactly what I was told AND I got some QT with my gal. Most importantly, another learned lesson is in the books for this cycle and we’re moving forward.

Week 4, it’s on.

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Now, let’s hear it. I know I’m not the only one who has started HR-focused training and been like “MAN, WHAT THE EFF?”. Vent, tell your story, come have a glass o’ vino (or water), or ask questions. All ears.

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Taking on {marathon} #5 With a First

Last year got a pass – no marathon training, what-so-ever. No thoughts of 26.2, no long runs exceeding what would prepare me for a half (13.1), no plan-B and caving and signing up for a race even though I said 100x that I wouldn’t.

no. No. NO. Rest. Recharge. Go out late on Friday nights and enjoy vacations without any fitness footnotes and run without any focused plan.

banana.2

Yep. That.

Some people don’t need a full year to do that, and well maybe I didn’t either but damn it felt good. The year effortlessly filled itself with other things that I happily handed my attention to, and that was that.

After a few short races mixed with the RW hat-trick weekend last fall, it was clear that this break had served its purpose. The legs were like, “Yeah we GOT IT. Rested. Recharged! Etc. etc. HOP TO IT!”

Noted, madams.

Spring marathon research began and we decided on something slightly local but slightly far away (mini road-trip!). We found something that is nice and hilly – why not throw in a little challenge? – but that also rewards us with views of (and subsequent drinks from) wine country.

Charlottesville Marathon

Charlottesville Marathon – April 5, 2014

Marathon #5 is booked! What now?

I wanted a different approach to this. I want to learn and not just go through the motions for the 5th time.  Twenty miles is twenty miles is twenty miles. It’s hard and your mind will have a lesson to learn every single time. But what else is there? What workouts have I not tried yet? In what ways have I not pushed myself yet? And, open poll: who will push me to do it?!

I decided to run a different road for the first time,
with a Coach navigating the way.

There are two goals with this*, but first and foremost there is a Finish line
to cross.

Right now I’m 90% through week 1 (one long run to go!) and if you compare the last 5 days of workouts to those of any other training cycle I’ve done? They have but one similarity: I’m running. And, well, if that weren’t the case we’d have some questions needing some answers.

There are a lot of numbers being through around that I have yet to absorb, but hey! I don’t have to! It’s a beautiful thing. The reigns have been handed over and I just go into Training Peaks to record things like “well I was chatting my face off” and “it was a balmy 12*!” and “bad news: I forgot to turn the auto-lap back on”. And then the next day on the calendar tells me what to do & I do it!

Easy peasy? Not so much. I’m not one to brag about how well I stick to training schedules or instructions, because I generally don’t. But that’s part of this challenge and what I’m already loving about it. The comfort zone is expanding and knowledge base is growing and running feet are like, “whatever man, just tell us where to go.” 

I’m enjoying the process, which was the plan.

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What do you think about working with a running coach (whether you have or haven’t)?

*More to come. Checking a box soon.

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