Tag Archives: running

Charlottesville Marathon Recap: Up, On & Over

“It’s not your grace in victory that defines you, but your response to defeat.”

MC {So wise, this guy.}

—–

I crossed my fifth Marathon finish line, felt more defeated by those 26.2 miles than any other race to date, and processed the ins and outs for 48 hours. Now that I’m over the little tantrum that is accepting a race-gone-crazy, I realize those miles taught me quite a lot.

learn from failure dream a little bigger

cvillemarathon_eve.finishline

This marathon neither hides nor spares nothing. The hills of Charlottesville will sprinkle salt on your ego and chew it right up! In no review of this race will you hear anyone saying “it’s so easy!”, but rather “be ready” for what’s ahead. “It’s a beast.” Know that yes, you can have a great day on any course, including this, but it won’t be handing out any favors.

It WILL hand you a unique and picturesque college town conducive to great eats, beautiful scenery and runners with a lot of heart.

—–

I went into this race with a few goals in mind, but training the way I did left a lot of room for questions.  The Coach and I decided that, if nothing else, I needed to start easy (because that’s what you do when there are at least three hours of running ahead of you!), and see how all systems responded to the course.  Because I’m no newbie to this whole shebang – I know what it’s like to blow-up, and I can expect that and accept it and hope-with-all-hope my legs put up with it – it was also okay to have a lofty time in mind.

After what has felt like the longest winter EVER, we had a 50* and sunny morning for race day. The high was 65 – essentially this was perfect. For a system used to a few more layers and a lot less warmth? This was, uh, new. But that’s what you get with Spring marathons and that’s what we took. No gloves, no ear-warmers, no sleeves – exactly what’s expected when you think of “wonderful Spring” mornings.

cvillemarathon_before   cvillemarathon_startLine

Elevation Chart_Chartlottesville Marathon

“Easy” for today meant sticking right around the 8:45 min/mile pace for at least the first 10K. The course is split by the following sections, though: 1-5 with the half-marathoners, 6-12 loop, 13-18 out-n-back, 19-20 too close to the Finish Line area downtown, 21-23 out along the river, 24-25 UP up up, 26-26.2 finish with whatever juice you can squeeze out of those legs.

I’m at the base of the mountain running uphill
You’re either running for the top,
coming down,
or you stand still.

Miles 1-4: told me very quickly that if an 8:45 felt like this, it would be tough to drop down to 8:15s, but maybe not impossible once I warmed up. Miles 2-4 felt like a pretty steady climb, and my calves started to fight me. We’ll call that Sign #1 that this day would not be totally mine.

Mile 4 was the first family sighting, as we approached the Full-Half split (mile 5) and headed towards our own separate challenges.

cvillemarathon_mile4.2  Marathoners took a turn towards the UVA campus and started up another climb.

Miles 5 – 12 took us around the University, into a neighborhood and back. It was rolling and I fell into a stride and everything seemed A-OK. The photographic-memory knew things would be tough from here on out but I was still in a place of peace with that. Will this be a PR? Absolutely not. But it’s a marathon day, so you fight the battles in front of you.

Mile 13 couldn’t come soon enough – I needed that “halfway point”. When it did show up, I quickly saw “Mile 18” on the other side. And shortly after that? We started down Down DOWN a paved trail that twists and turns and drops you off into another neighborhood. I witnessed Elites coming up the other side, struggling. And a few stopped for water. And I thought, “Holy Whoa, this won’t be easy.”

Way up, way on
Way UP, ON and OVER

Miles 14 – 18 almost broke me. Look at that chart and you’ll know why; it was hard to swallow that we’d have to run it all TWICE (out-and-back). There were switchbacks and long miles and the sinking feeling that you still have 12, 11, 10, 9…miles to go. And that you’re counting.

Then, after that loop has snot-rocketed your ego to the dirt, you still have EIGHT miles to run. And those eight miles ain’t easy either, yo!

Are you sensing a trend?

cvillemarathon_mile20

In more moments than I cared to count, I considered stopping right here at mile 20. I knew I’d see the crew, that he would be ready to hop in with me (after running a freaking killer 1:34 half + hangin’ out for an hour), that Meg would be cheering and that we were only blocks from the  “Finish” area.

Ambivalence defined these moments. I couldn’t even project to an hour after the race, or that evening, or tomorrow and assume that I’d be disappointed. I felt I wouldn’t be. I’m almost always able to convince my mind that it’s worth fighting the moment’s fantasy of fatigue to get the satisfaction later. Not today. There was no fight, no goals, no oomph. It was just the matter-of-fact that I hadn’t trained for this course and it wasn’t “my” day. That happens. It’s fine.

And after all and all and all
It’s just a wheel we’re spinnin’ on.

What’s not fine is totally dropping the ball, anyway.  C’MON SYSTEM, we’ve gotta see this through.

He hopped in here (mile 2o) to join the party that is the last 10k…

This last loop was also the end of the half-marathon, so I got his insight – what to expect and where to expect it. We stopped briefly at the mile 22(ish) water stop, and I did a little mental check. I also got his stories for a much-needed distraction, and his pacing efforts for a much-needed boost.  One thing I knew to be true no matter what the race-day conditions: my legs have been trained for these miles. They’ve been tested over and over and taught to run through fatigue and resist with all they’ve got! Every recovery run after a Long Run, followed by the “one hour easy” Monday run brought me to these last 4 miles. I may not be flying up or down the hills, but I can absolutely run.

Miles 22 – 24 were the flattest of the entire day. We ran right along a river – with shade and cool air from the water, but without crowds – and I passed people as I let the muscles do what they could. We maintained somewhere around an 8:50 – 9:00 pace and that was that.

Miles 24-25 were demoralizing. This is THE HILL. Any glance at this race’s course chart provokes one of those “What the…” reactions – are they really throwing this in at the end?! Rude, man. So. Rude.

Me to him: “And the worst part? You can’t even justify this by telling yourself it’s the last hill. ‘Cause it’s not!”

I walked up this beast (probably just slightly slower than I would have run), until I was passed by the 4-hour pacer. Nope! That wasn’t going to happen. I picked up my feet and convinced them to push off and we ran. And we rolled over the remaining hills and listened to the crowd saying “Almost there!” and “one more hill!” and “just around the corner!” and we kept going until finally there were NO more and that Finish Line was crossed.

cvillemarathon_mile26 So close so close so close SO CLOOOOOOSE.

——-

And just-like-that, it’s over. Relief pours into every muscle fiber to tell them they’re done, it’s time to relax and put on some flip-flops, and they’re still alive.

Charlottesville Marathon – 4/5/2014

3:58:31

Funny story: after grabbing some food, water and other life elixirs, I heard them start to announce AG winners. My name was called for F25-29 2nd place, and I started laughing -  there’s no way – and thinking, that’s your clear sign that this course is no joke!

cvillemarathon_done.us cvilledone_certificates

Left: what?! …I ran a…how is this…HUH?!
Right: Man, what a weird day.

As it turned out later, those announcers were pretty far off! I was actually 7th in the AG. Our AG winner ran a 3:40:xx.

—–

cvillemarathon_Crew   cvillemarathon_watch

Would I do this course again? Definitely not the Full, but maybe the half just for a good hard challenge and an excuse to hang out in Charlottesville again!

I’m glad the box is checked. As I’ve been reminded in the days that followed, it’s not how you respond to success(es) that define you, it’s how you handle, and perhaps admit, the days of defeat. Learn the lessons, take them with you on every subsequent training run, and then the race(s).

Fuel the fire that will light up your legs for
whatever limit you plan to push past next.

Up, On & Over – Bronze Radio Return

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{Marathon} Training Tales: Joy is…

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

——

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.

——

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.

————————————————————–

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!

—-

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

—-

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.

—-

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.

—–

What have you learned to love lately?

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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.

——

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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