Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Slow Down to Run Fast

I've been doing a lot of research on this idea of slowing down on training runs in order to run faster in races.  I'm a believer.  Worse than that, I've become a zealot!  I can't say I've completely complied with the idea during marathon training, but the problem there is the fact I didn't have very accurate training paces to start out with.

And that's the key, having accurate paces on the front end.  If you've been running a while and you seem to be racing at the same pace as you train (or worse, slower), you've most likely been training too fast.  This isn't just me talking here...take a look at an article on McMillan Running titled Finding Your Sweet Spot (Maximal vs. Optimal Adaptation Rate).   Basically McMillan says  
The maximal adaptation rate occurs when your body is adapting as fast as possible to the stresses you put on it. It summons all its resources to build new blood-delivering capillaries, energy-producing mitochondria, and stronger muscles and tendons. But adapting at the maximal rate requires that your body be stressed to its limit. Over time you're bound to push past that limit and get injured or burned out and perform poorly.

The optimal rate of adaptation, on the other hand, occurs when the body is stressed to a tolerable level, allowing it time to adapt without having to draw on every ounce of its physical and mental reserves. It gradually adapts and is at far less risk for injury or burnout. At the end of a training run you feel pleasantly fatigued but also know that you could have done a little more.
Remember my post a while back on Lactate Threshold Training?  It's basically the same thing.  In the Candy Shop episode of I Love Lucy (see the clip in the other post)...Lucy and Ethel were able to handle wrapping the chocolates in the beginning...and even when the conveyor belt sped up a little bit, but eventually the candies were coming out much faster than they could wrap them up.  If you train too slow, you aren't challenging your body (and won't get faster).  However, train too fast and you'll end up fatigued and/or hurt (and most likely running races at the same or slower paces than you do in training).

Finding the "Sweet Spot" is just as important in running as in golf!
So...HOW ON EARTH do you find that optimal pace?  The easiest way is to hire an experienced coach.  However, even a coach will need information to determine what paces to plug into your plan.  The best way to start out finding the training sweet spot is to look at races.  What are your recent PRs?  McMillan has an excellent pacing calculator.  I have no idea how he did it, but all you have to do is enter your most recent PR and he gives you training paces, and expected finish times, for various distances (provided you've trained appropriately).  I'm finding it to be extremely accurate.  I can't say I've been the best at holding my training paces down, but I am getting better.

After you have a starting point, you need to closely monitor your training.  How are you feeling?  Is your speed work getting faster?  How do you feel the day after harder efforts (ie: long runs, speed work, hills)?  Are recovery runs leaving you feeling recovered or exhausted?

If you have any specific questions, please leave a comment, or feel free to email me at I Will Run Strong at Gmail dot com (spelled out to hopefully avoid spam spaces).

Thanks for stopping in.  Come again soon!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Beating the Turkey

Several people have told me last year's Turkey Chase race recap is one of their favorite race stories of mine.  This year's race went a bit different, starting with the fact my stinking sandbagging cheating husband didn't register.  The turkey I was going to chase this year was the one in my mind!

Here's the thing...I knew with a fair amount of certainty I would set a new PR.  I'm in considerably better shape now than I was when I ran the Firecracker 5K in 27:37 last July; I can usually run a 9:00 pace on any given day.  My tempo pace during the marathon training runs has been around 8:15-8:20 so I felt fairly confident in setting the goal to break 25 minutes...if my mind didn't let me down.

In all the marathon speed training runs (except one) I've been running with someone else.  I ran the first three miles of the Huntsville Half in 24:40 (but was running with someone I was trying to race-albeit unsuccessfully in the end-as well as a pacer) not to mention I would have an additional .1 mile to run, which would add on about 45ish seconds if I were running at an 8:00 pace.  I was a bit sore from my long run the Sunday before.  I had been in the car a total of about 40 hours in the previous 7 days (driving/sitting that much is exhausting!).  The wind was blowing about 14 mph according to

My mind was throwing up obstacles to my sub-25 goal faster than I could shake them loose.  So, I told myself what I would tell anyone can't change your training at this point, all you can do is EXECUTE.  Time for that turkey in my mind to get the ax!

I set a plan...I wanted to run the first mile in 8:20, the second in 8:10 and the third in 8...that would leave me with pushing hard for the last .1.  The biggest problem I was facing was not trusting my Garmin.  It's been acting very strange lately and not giving me accurate pace information during runs.  Last week I was running fairly hard and looked down to see 14:30.  Granted, it doesn't stay there and the splits seem right, but if I can't see the correct pace how can I run it (because I CERTAINLY can NOT feel it)??  So when I met a women who said she thought she'd be keeping between an 8 and 8:30 pace I just about hugged her!  However, I should have known that was subject to change when her first answer to, "what kind of pace will you be running?" was, "it depends on who shows up today!" which was followed by some start line smack talk with another (obviously) local gal who was there to run with her son in his first 5K.

As the race director made final announcements, I took a deep breath and told myself to stay calm the first mile, run comfortably uncomfortable the first two miles, then hammer down the last mile, and kick the final .1.  The horn blasted and we were off.  I knew it felt a little fast at first, but when I looked down and saw 6:30 I thought I might faint.  Was the Garmin right?  I didn't think it could be by the way I was feeling, but could that just be adrenaline?  My "pacer" was about 15' in front of me.  The mom/son team were just behind me.

I told myself to stop watching ANYONE else.  The only race for me on this day was against the clock.  Sub 25 was my goal.  Sub 25 was my target.  But...without having a reliable watch to gauge my pace, how on Earth was I going to be able to make sure I didn't blow up in the last mile???  I reminded myself I KNOW about what an 8ish pace feels like.  What I needed to do was try to take myself out of the race, erase all the people who were running with me, bring my focus back to my body and stay centered. race was against the clock, it didn't matter who passed me, even if the man pushing the stroller just trucked by as if I were standing still....even if my "pacer" was getting slightly further ahead with every step...even if the 12 year old boy running with his mom just trotted by...even if the FIFTY EIGHT YEAR OLD WEARING SHORT SHORTS AND A SPORTS BRA went passed me as if I were taking a walk in the park.  (Yes, I checked her age after it was said and done, she was 58, and no, I never caught her.)

I had to keep reminding myself to block out every other thought and remember what an 8ish pace feels like...and HOLD that.  When I saw the mile one flag, my Garmin only showed .9, and it read 7:23.  I decided I needed to stop looking at it and just run.  ...Yeah, right, like that was going to happen.

My mind was racing (7:23, holy stink...that's way too can't hold should slow, you are THIRSTY...there's water at 2 miles, you should take a cup and get a sip, just to wet your throat...this isn't the goal race here, you don't want to get hurt running a stupid 5K...).  I could feel myself slowing down.  Garmin: 9:23.  I knew that was wrong.  I knew there was no way I had slowed that much.  I decided I needed to stop looking at it and just run.  Just let the time fall as it may and know I did my best.  But, what is my best???

The wind was brutal.  My mouth and throat were so dry.  All I could think about was the water at the 2.something mile marker.   The mile 2 flag was coming up.  I wanted to look at my Garmin, but knew I needed to just run.  I knew I had slowed down but I just didn't want to know how much at that point. I know I looked, but the time didn't register with me.  I saw the water table.  I had a decision to make.  I could let the turkey in my mind have it's way with me, allow myself to get water and slow down, or I could remember my plan to hammer down the last mile and kick the final .1.

I sailed passed the volunteer offering me a cup and started the chant in my head (only .9 to go, .90, .90, .90; only .89 to go, .89, .89, .89......I know how dreadful it sounds, but it works wonders on speeding me up and keeping my mind occupied).  I concentrated on my breathing.  I concentrated on strong legs and arms.  (Thinking about arm swing is another thing that usually helps me speed up.)  I tried not to notice when the NINE YEAR OLD body and TEN YEAR OLD girl raced by, or when lady with a dog on a leash passed me.  I took a deep breath and heard Chick Pea's voice in my head telling me to run my own race.  I heard the three Erics telling me to SUCK IT UP.  I heard Daisy telling me, "you got this."  About that time, I heard my sweet husband yelling, "DANA YOU GOT IT...YOU'RE GOING TO MAKE IT...GO GO GO!!!"  (It was at this point last year that same sweet husband left me eating his dust as he FLEW to the finish line.)

I focused in on the finish clock which read "24:something"...and I KICKED as hard as I could.  I was so focused on the clock, I didn't even notice I sailed passed the woman running with her dog.

Me after the race before pulling out the 20/20 hindsight glasses!
24:43.   Good enough for third out of 30 in my age group (40-49) and 42/181 over all.  More importantly than that...good enough to beat that turkey in my head.

...At least it was for about 5 minutes.  When I looked at my Garmin data, it said the first mile was about 8, the second about 8:25, the third about 8.  Immediately I started beating myself up for that second mile.  I could feel the slow down.  The prattle in my mind only got worse when I realized one of the women who passed me in the very end was the 2nd place winner of my age group (thirteen measly seconds ahead)...and first place???  THE LADY WHO WAS RUNNING WITH HER SON!!!!!  (They were less than a minute ahead of me.)  I don't think I could have realistically knocked off a full minute on that particular day...but I KNOW I could have knocked off 14 seconds.  I vividly remember her passing me because she was wearing a bright blue shirt.  I remember thinking I needed to hang on to her and take her DOWN.  It was about that time the little boy and girl raced passed both of us and the woman with the dog made her move.  I felt totally demoralized at that point...but my mind kept telling me I would be happy if I beat that blue shirted woman.

You know mind was wrong.  Yes, if I'd have beaten the blue-shirt I would have beaten my goal AND would have come in second place.  But then I would have beaten myself up for not trying harder to beat the nine year old boy and ten year old girl...and if I'd have beaten them both, hindsight would have me upset I didn't target the mom and son.  The truth is I'll always be chasing a turkey, and the truth is...I like it that way!!  I'm not beating myself up.  I'm reveling in the fact I broke my 5K PR--blew it out of the water in fact.  I'm thrilled I didn't stop for water.  I'm ecstatic I pushed through all the thoughts in my head and had the ability to hammer down the last mile and kick the final .1.   On that day...I beat the turkey I set my target on.

Turkey chasing only makes me stronger.

What's next?  A sub four hour marathon on December 10, 2011.  The things that will get me there are trusting my training, making a plan, and EXECUTION.  That bird is MINE.

Thanks for stopping in.  Come again soon!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Huntsville Half Race Recap

Boy do I have a lot of thoughts about today's race (as usual).  I'm going to try to "just" give a recap and leave all my feelings and comments out of it for now.  (We'll see how that goes...)

As I said, I was really nervous this morning.  (Hmm...okay, nevermind, I don't think I can write without including my feelings...)  Anyway...I don't think I clarified earlier why it was I was doing "reverse calculations" for a 1:50 half.  I had originally wanted a sub-2 hour time.  After Wednesday night's workout, one of our head coaches said if I was looking for a 4 hour marathon, I should shoot for a 1:53 half.  The next day as we were talking about it, he said I should go for a 1:50.  One of the coaches offered to pace for that time so I decided to go for it. 

I had calculated the pace for 1:53 (8:40), but not for 1:50.  Three minutes, how much faster could that be over 13.1 miles.  (Yes, my husband, like many of you, could calculate that out without blinking, but I didn't want to think about it.)  Right out of the box my pacer told me... for a 1:50 finish we'd need to run an 8:23 pace. 

What?  REALLY??  That's really fast.  I tried to put that out of my head and focus instead on the fact I would have a pacer, as well as Chickpea, running "with" me.  I decided to try to stay focused on them and not on myself.  The marathon training group ran a little over a mile warm up; after some pre-race announcements and the National Anthem, the gun sounded and we were running!

Sometime during the first mile (which was feeling okay, not great, but not HORRID either), Chickpea said she was going to slow down.  She was looking at her Garmin.  I was NOT.  I told her NO was going to get better and to just hang on.  I told her what I was trying to tell myself, we'd settle in after a couple of miles and it wouldn't feel like that anymore, just take a few deep breaths and don't look at your watch!  She listened and stayed strong.  I listened, then "forgot" my own words of advice!

Mile one according to the split timer was like 8:21...according to my Garmin data it was 8:11 (I'm sure glad I didn't see THAT number on my watch, I'd have freaked out right then.)  As we were running a couple of others joined our little group.  I was encouraged--more people for me to "hang on to".  I try to mentally rope myself to someone and fall in step behind them in order to lose myself in the run.  It worked for mile two (8:16) (**all times according to my Garmin**) and mile 3 (8:13). 

At about mile 3, the route passes back in front of the start (where my husband was).  I told myself I needed to hang on to my pacer at least until we passed by then I could let up for a little if I felt I needed to....which is exactly what I did.   BIG MISTAKE.  I didn't think too hard about it, I just simply couldn't keep up.  I kept the group (mainly Chickpea) in sight for several miles.  I started gaining on them at one point, but, again, I just couldn't hang on. 

Let me say,  I love running races here in Huntsville.  I have the good pleasure of knowing so many people in the running community, there's always someone calling out my name!!  (Either that or there were a lot of "Dana's" out there today!!!)  Usually when I'm running races I am looking around for people I know and cheering them--either for their running or their spectatorship (yes, I just made that word up).  In fact, if I don't see someone I know on the sidelines, I cheer for them anyway and tell them to feel free to cheer for me!!  I usually tell all the volunteers THANK YOU FOR BEING HERE TODAY!!!  I talk to anyone around me.  I sing (usually NOT out loud).  I look at houses/scenery.  I look at running styles and/or clothes and/or shoes.  I sometimes even think about my breathing or my body (what I coach others to do--go from head to toe relaxing all body parts, including breaths).

Today however, from mile 3 thru about 7, although I heard people cheering for me at various spots, I didn't have the energy to even see who the people were.  Every now and then I tried to look in the general direction of the voice and throw up a hand to say THANK YOU, but most of the time I couldn't even look.  A friend of mine who was running the race came up beside me and started talking a bit, asking how I was doing.  I really couldn't even answer, I just sort of grunted.  He laughed and said I was obviously working since I couldn't talk...he ran on up ahead.)  About mile 7.5 I started huffing out some congrats to the front runners who had already made it to the turn around and were on the way back.  But even those cheers were few and far between. 

I was looking forward to getting to the aide station on the greenway about as much as the finish.  They even had a finish line blow up thing out there!!  That is the BEST aide station EVER.  They have music, dancers, sidewalk chalk (GO DANA--I was so happy to actually see that!!  THANK YOU to who ever put that out there!)...and naturally water and power aide.  Not to mention, tons of people I know!!!  Faces barely even registered with me, but everything else pumped me with a burst of energy.   As I neared the turn-around I saw my pacer and Chickpea on their way back.  It seemed she was less than a minute ahead of me.  However, after the turn around I noticed I was getting better and better and talking to people.  I knew I wasn't pushing at that point.

I realized there was NO hope of catching Chickpea and the pacer at that point.  I was quickly losing the chance of making it to the finish in 1:53.  I reasoned with myself that at least I would surely get a PR.  About mile 11 or so I saw another friend who is a little older than I am, and who is FAST FAST FAST.  I knew she must have had a problem for me to be catching up to her.  She said she had bonked big time.  I tried to encourage her, but she said she just didn't have anything left in the tank.  I took a little internal inventory and realized I did in fact have a good bit left in my tank.  I was talking quite a bit, and although I was hurting, nothing was so bad I wanted to cry.  Another friend passed and told me to stay with him.  I tried, but didn't have quite that much left.

My sweet husband was waiting for me at about mile 12.75.  I almost cried.  I could hardly even look at him.  I was hurting.  He told me I was doing great and looking strong.  I felt like poo.  I had wanted to do my best but I felt like I had given up.  About that time I heard someone cheering on the friend who blew by me in the last mile or so of the Monte Sano 15K...she was behind me!!  Seeing my sweet knight in bald head combined with the knowledge there was a fierce competitor behind me was what it took to finally get my reserve tank engaged.  I gave it all I had from that point to the finish....for a final time of 1:56:30 (8:54 pace)!!  Good enough for TENTH (out of 59) in my age group!!! 

Almost instantly I was disappointed.  Yes, I am hard on myself.  Yes, I know it was a PR by 22 minutes and 44 seconds.  Yes, I know how far I've come.  But I have no doubt if I had started slower (say at an 8:40 pace), I could have finished "much" stronger.  I was so thankful to have an elite racing friend tell me it was a GREAT thing to start out too fast every now and then.  He said with increasing RACING experience I would learn more about my body but if I never went out too fast I would never know what "too fast" was.  AND, I know if I had run solid the whole time I would have been beating myself up for feeling like I didn't push hard enough.  Yes, I know...I'm "never" satisfied.

Lessons learned:
  1. I actually really like carrying a water bottle.  I can sip any time I want, I don't have to stop at water stations, just grab and pour, and I can take my Gu when I want to, not when there's going to be an aid station nearby.  Also, I could put EFS in it which I think is WAY better than Gu.  (I just don't know how I'll carry more of it.  I wish they made pellets of some kind like Nuun to drop in along the way.)
  2. Duh...don't go out faster than I planned to go.  It's GREAT to have a pacer, but know ahead of time what the pace is going to be and what it will look like (positive/negative splits or steady).
  3. I am VERY confident with a 4 hour marathon goal.  VERY.
  4. Smack talk can make some people feel personally attacked even if that's NOT what I EVER want to do...some people do NOT like to RACE.
  5. Although I do LOVE to race (even if I'm not quite fast enough just yet to be in the running for awards), I LOVE coaching and pacing others.  ((I'll write about a guy I "coached" on the course, and running in with some of the final finishers, another time.))  It's like coaching infuses me with energy.  I think it would be ideal to coach someone who doesn't realize she is faster than me because then I can coach AND be challenged/pushed.  Come to think of it, that's why I loved NOBO2 so much--those gals in my group kept me going and they didn't even know it!
  6. If I'm talking, I'm not racing.
  7. I picked the absolute PERFECT first marathon.  I hope I'll have as many dear, sweet friends on the course as I did today.
Okay...after writing it all out...I had a great race today.  I didn't have the exact outcome I hoped for.  I didn't run nearly as well as I wanted to from miles 9-12.5, but I didn't fully give up.  When I look at where I've been, I can see just how far I've come and I'm completely overwhelmed.  For anyone who says they want to get faster...let me tell you--YOU CAN DO IT.  IF you want to.  There is NOTHING wrong with NOT wanting to go faster.  Everyone has their own goals.  But, never say "can't"'s not the same as "don't want to" but also don't try to fool yourself into thinking you don't want to because you think you can't.

Splits:  8:11, 8:16, 8:13, 8:53, 8:19, 8:32, 8:47, 9:06, 9:11, 9:07, 9:21, 10:01 (I actually stopped to take a drink during this mile--had I just grabbed and gulped I wouldn't have had one single mile over 10 minutes!), 9:03, 1:24.

On top of the half marathon PR, I think it's crazy I set a HUGE 5K PR time , as well as a HUGE 10K PR time (in the first miles of a half)!!  I don't think I even recognize myself anymore.  I can't possibly be the girl who couldn't run 2 miles in like 18 minutes when I was 18 year old, can I???

Okay...not exactly, but getting closer!
Thanks for stopping in, come again soon!!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Huntsville Half Pre-Race Thoughts I'm nervous.  I've been training with a different philosophy than I'm used to so I just don't know what to think.  Basically, I've been doing speed work once a week with long "slow" and easier runs the other days.  I know for a fact it's working because I'm getting faster on my "easy" runs, and have been able to hold a better "fast" pace most speed work days.  But today will be the real test.  But it's a 13.1 mile test.  Well...I did run the Monte Sano 15K (9:06 pace on a hilly course, with a cold, over a month ago--meaning I have even more training under my soles!).

Anyway...I took a look at the workout calculator thing our coaches have been using from McMillan Running.  It was extremely encouraging.  I did some reverse calculations using 1:50 as my time for the half to see what kind of times I would need to be using to train...and WOW, it's right were I'm at actually!!  I'm just having a hard time wrapping my mind around the idea I could train that "slow" and race that "fast". 

I was talking to a guy the other day who said the key to running faster is to slow down on long run, make speed work FAST and easy runs EASY.  He said he used to train at all one pace; all his races-at any distance from 5K-marathon-were all at the same pace.  Once he started doing as he said he began to have much faster shorter distance races.  My husband has been saying the same thing to me (although in a different way) for a few months now.  (Yes, my husband is always right, but I didn't like how he was telling me...he was basically saying I needed to keep my heart rate below 138--based on a book he's been reading...)  Anyway...this who philosophy is just hard for me to grasp because I don't have enough actual experience with it.  I almost wish this was a 5K so I could test it out on a smaller scale!!

I know many people are saying, "Why are you so nervous?  It's not like someone will shoot you if you don't finish in a certain time."  But, I want to do my best, remember??  The problem is I have no idea what that is.  I don't want to rein myself in out of fear.

I think Chickpea is laughing a bit at my nerves.  She hasn't run many races and asked me the other day, "so what will happen if you go 'too fast'?"  I basically said you end up slowing down more than you could have if you just ran a steady slower pace from the start.  I think, based on what I've learned doing speedwork, the mind--MY mind--gives up a long time before my body does.

Time to run a race!!!

Thanks for stopping in...should have a recap for you soon!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Dream BIG??

Dream big, but allow yourself the opportunity to start small, and have your share of struggles in the beginning. The world's great composers weren't writing symphonies the day they first sat at a piano.
--Kevin O'Rourke, Marathoner
WARNING:  I'm writing this in the middle of the night (well, early morning) so I'm probably actually really dreaming...that will be my excuse anyway if what I'm about to say is completely crazy...
I ran 20.22 miles on Saturday.  (Well...walk/ran some of it, but that was out of the need to stay with a running partner more than a need to take a walk break.)  (...and, yes, the .22 is completely necessary to add on!)  I was hurting, no doubt about that...but my last mile and almost a quarter was just slightly under a 9:30 pace, and I felt like I could "easily" finish a marathon right then.  Sunday I was a TINY BIT sore.  Monday's 4 mile recovery run was interrupted three times so I could stretch out my tibialis (see photo).  After the run was over, I felt GREAT!  (So that's why they call it a "recovery" run, huh?!)  Tuesday was a rest or cross train day so I rested.  

Yesterday was my group torture training day (maybe I've struckout the wrong word there??).  We did Yasso 800s.  Basically Bart (Chief Running Officer of Runner's World) says if you want to run a 4 hour marathon, shoot for 4 minute 800s.  He says to start out doing 3 or 4 of them several months out (with either 200-400 of recovery, or the same time it took to run the 800)...and work up to doing 10 of them about 2 weeks before your race.  The workout we did was a mile warm up then 8 X 800 with 2 minutes recovery between each one.

My A goal is 4 hours; B is 4:15 and C is 4:30.  However, initially I was hoping to push myself to a 3:40-3:45 because that would be a 2013 BQ for me.  (For my mom and any other non-runners reading this blog...that means "Boston Qualifier"...meaning I need to run a marathon (one that is labeled as a BQ race) in 3:45:00 or LESS between September 24, 2011 and September ?, 2012 in order to have even the chance to get into Boston.  (It's really more complicated than that because they do this rolling entry thing where the faster people have a chance to enter first.)  ((For the record-I COMPLETELY AGREE with this set up.  That's the way I think it should be.))  So the truth is, more than likely in order to have a shot at getting in I would need to run 20 minutes faster (so a 3:25) to get in the first day...but that's not really the point.  3:45 is still a BQ TIME even if it won't guarantee me a spot in the actual race.

In those early workouts of the training plan I would repeat, over and over, "I'm going to Boston."  Yes...I'm slightly embarrassed to admit this, but hey, who doesn't want to go to Boston if they are completely honest????  ((Well...I'm sure there are plenty of people who don't, and even plenty of runners who don't have their sights set that high...but I'm the kind of person who DREAMS BIG even if I lose the drive to make my dreams HAPPEN.))

So...getting back to last night's workout.  Since my A goal was 4 hours, my goal 800 time was 4 minutes.  That's an 8 minute pace.  Sure,  I've done that before, but could I do it EIGHT TIMES??  I was thankful there was a group of five of us doing it other female, who is in my age group, who has been getting faster since we started...who I can't seem to keep up with anymore...who I desperately WANT to BEAT in the race...who will be now and forever called "Chickpea" in this blog.  (Yes, it's a silly name, but there's a reason...and that's all I have to say about that.)  ((Anyone who runs with us will know who it is, but I don't name people here, just nicknames.))  (((***WHY I want to beat her:  she's in my age group, she started out a bit slower but has really taken off, she's faster than me, but I feel like if I push hard enough I might be able to catch her.  Heck, I should really call her CARROT because that's the way it felt last night with me chasing her around the track!!))) minute pace for 8 X 800.  I knew from past experience I would have the tendency to start off fast and fade through the work out.  But, at the same time, doing them with the group meant I didn't have to pay as much attention to pace-after all there were 4 other people doing the same thing.  

When I do track workouts I divide up the track into sections and try to hit that spot in X amount of time.  800 is twice around the track, so we should have been around once in 2 minutes, and half-way around in 1 minute.  We hit that point in about :51.  My brain started firing 9 X 4 is :36...holy stink, that's a 3:24 800.  We slowed a bit and I stopped looking at my watch.  Lap 1: 3:50

With each lap they got harder.  But, they should have, we were running faster.  Lap 2: 3:48, lap 3: 3:38, lap 4: 3:37.

By lap 5 (3:50) it was taking me the full 2 minutes to catch my breath fully, just in time to start again.  I worried I wasn't going to be able to keep up, to be able to finish.  I wanted to quit, or at the very least slow down to my A goal pace time of 4:00.  My legs were so tired.  Breathing became harder.  But, dang it...Chickpea looked like she was out for a run in the park.  The leader of our pack was leaving all of us in the dust the last few laps...the other two guys were falling back and charging ahead...but Chickpea seemed steady and strong the whole time, and was JUST ahead of me each time (by split seconds).  Lap 6 (I think it was, maybe 7), I decided I would kick in a sprint for my sprint at the finish and made myself cross with her (in 3:45 for 6 and 3:43 for 7).

I thought I was going to puke...but only for a few seconds.  I asked one of the head coaches if it was supposed to feel really bad.  To my elation she said by all means YES.  She said it was supposed to feel like I couldn't take one more step.  Long runs are supposed to make me feel tired and ready to be done and maybe sore and achy...but this workout should make me feel COMPLETELY SPENT.  CHECK!!!  That made me feel surprisingly better because I knew at that point I was not failing.

Lap 8...last one...I wanted to give it my ALL.  Make it count.  Leave it all on the track for the night.  Maybe even puke my guts up for once.  As soon as we started the leader made time on all of us.  Chickpea was about 20 feet or so ahead of me by the end first lap.  All I kept thinking was that I wanted to finish with her...but my thoughts kept coming back to, " can't catch her...give shame...4 is good...let her be faster..."  But as the finish got closer I knew I would kick myself if I stayed in that place of passive resignation.  I ran as hard as my legs would go and closed in just a bit on her, but didn't quite get her before the "finish" (...if only I had that same resolve from the start).  3:43.

I came home, ate, got cleaned up and went to bed.  I always have trouble sleeping on hard workout nights, but last night I fell asleep pretty quickly...only to wake up 4 hours later (2:30am).  I couldn't stop thinking about my lap times and how good it felt to have some confidence in my 4 hour goal.  Again...Bart says the 800s are a predictor of the time it will take to run a marathon.

So...the average of my Yasso 800s??  3:44.25!!  And...remember what my initial A goal was when we started this program??  3:45.  And...remember why that was my A goal?  Boston Qualifier baby.

Dream big or go home.  I think that quote sums me up better than the one I started the blog with.  But, do I dare?  Can I even think in those terms?  It's 26.2 miles not 8 X 800 with recovery in between.  Can I be happy with a 4 hour this year and then work on BQ for the NEXT marathon?  Am I really going to go for another marathon before September?  My main focus is triathlon...but having a BQ under my belt is very appealing. 

I have no idea what I'll end up actually doing.  I have a half this weekend that should be a great litmus test...but the 4 hour marathon goal put me at a 1:53 half goal time according to one of my marathon coaches.  I don't know what a marathon goal of 3:45 would mean for my half.  I was just looking for sub 2.
Dream big or go home....or dream big but start small.  Didn't I already start small???

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Up for the Challenge

Somehow I pulled my right soleus last week and ended up going to a CHIROPRACTOR.  The fact I spent over ten years in the insurance adjusting field should tell you why this is "said" in such an incredulous "tone"...  However, to my pleasant surprise, Dr. Olsen took such great care of me I was back up and running (literally) the very next day!!  He didn't do the pop and prod type of chiropractic adjustments...he did Active Release Therapy (think focused massage while moving the muscle). 

Although he told me to stay away from hills...I sort of didn't really listen to that part; this past Sunday I CONQUERED Cecil Ashburn on foot.

Well...maybe "conquered" is a little too strong of a word...but (for the locals) I ran from the Rave theater to my house (just over 9 miles), so it was the "easy" way.  For non-locals, here's the elevation profile from my Garmin (you can see why the direction I ran was "easy", right?  (I did go VERY slow and I walked a couple of times-but only about 30-45 seconds total.)  Wow...this is the first time I've looked at this...makes me realize just how much I didn't listen to the good doctor!

But, as Coach Eric always says, "WE LOVE HILLS!!  HILLS MAKE US STRONG" I got some (more) proof of how right he is.  My day started at the pool but that's not the "proof" I want to talk about.  Afterwards I went for a run on the trail I usually take with Daisy (who, sadly, was not with me today).  I am pretty sure our best time together on that trail to date has been 35:XX minutes.  I think my very best time alone has been about 34:XX minutes.  Today.........THIRTY TWO MINUTES AND THIRTY SEVEN SECONDS!!! 

The whole time I was running I felt like I was moving through mud.  It seemed as though I couldn't make my legs GO.  When I would look at my pace it was almost always under, or right around, 9...but I didn't believe it.  I thought my Garmin was not being honest with me, just trying to keep me from quitting.  (The pace usually seems off on the trails.)  When I STOPPED TO TIE MY SHOE and when I STOPPED TO TIE MY SKIRT (because it kept trying to fall off)...I considered walking since I "knew" my time would be so slow.  I decided I had to keep going if only for the experience of slogging out a tough run when I didn't feel up to the challenge. 

I've talked about the part of the route where the trail meets the road's where Daisy used to tell me, "it's only SIX minutes to the car from here".  When I got there I thought I might just slow down to a jog, but THANKFULLY I checked the time instead of just looking at my pace...27:??.  My thoughts at that point: 
"REALLY???  TWENTY SEVEN??? 6 is only 33...that's a PR on this route....REALLY???  AS SLOW AS I HAVE FELT ON THIS RUN???  NO WAY I'M SLOWING DOWN NOW!!!"
I didn't PUSH it as hard as I could because it was supposed to be an "easy" run today...and I know speed work is tomorrow.  I kept telling myself I didn't have anything to prove, it wasn't a race, and more than that, it was a TRAINING RUN that was supposed to be EASY.  I was not running as if racing, but I certainly wasn't holding back either!  I wanted that PR...and you should have heard me WHOOP when I stopped my watch and saw I had made it even faster than I expected. 

Yup, again...Eric was right.  I guess it's only five minutes to the car now, huh??

Thanks for stopping in!  Come again soon!