Lead On

Thanks to a member of Texoma Runners, our local running group, I found one more 10k to run before I change age groups. The Christmas in July 5k, 10k, and fun run was a small race, but with chip timing. Saturday was the hottest day of the year yet, so it made perfect sense to test my Summer of Speed progress. Right?

To give you an idea of my mother runner life, Friday night at 11:30 I was picking up my oldest daughter from church. She had been on a mission trip in Nicaragua for eight days. I got a quick rundown on the drive home and she was ready to crash when we got home. With less than five hours of sleep, the next morning I set off for #3 of my “4 before 40.”

I did enough of a warm up to wake up my legs, and boy it was hot. I realized how small the race was when they had the 10k runners line up at the start. The 5k would start 10 minutes after. I’ve done enough races and finally have the confidence to start near the front instead of safely tucked in the middle. I stood back about two feet from the start so the fast runners could line up in front. But no one stepped up ahead of me  – except for one guy to my right. I had no idea how many runners are behind me and I don’t turn around because maybe they think I’m arrogant lining up at the front. I certainly don’t feel like I belong up front.

Two things ran through my mind:
1. I’m seriously bad with directions. I’m going to follow the others.
2. I feel pretty good.

Side note: My Friday morning run was terrible. I ran six miles at what should’ve been an easy pace, and I felt like I was running with a brick on my chest. It’s not a feeling you want the day before a race.

On “Go!” the runner to my right shot off and I fell in line behind him. For the first half a mile I trained my eyes on his back watching the turns. Then he was gone. Fortunately the course was well marked since no other runners passed me. Where the heck were they? It’s an odd feeling being at the front of a group.

With a left turn near the end of mile 1, I saw a guy about a 1/4 mile behind me. Oh, good. If I’m no longer alone, maybe I won’t get off course.

By the end of the 2nd mile, I still felt strong. My pace was well under 8:00 which would keep me under a 50:00 finish. That was my contingent goal since a PR in July was a long shot.

The course was two 5k loops with a turn through the parking lot for the first loop. The same guy was still behind me. Closer now. It was a matter of time (or maybe a mile) before he passed me.

Heading out for the second loop we met 5k runners finishing their last mile. There were calls of encouragement from runners of both distances. I like to call out “good job” because I know how much it means to me in a race.

At a turn around mile 4 1/2, a volunteer told us we had it when I glanced back. There was one aid station on the course which we crossed at miles 1, 2, 4 & 5. I slowed at mile 5 for a drink. I was hot. I scooted over to the left so the same guy who was behind could go around. I said “sorry” as I moved. He said, “You’re my pacer.” He waited for me. As I picked up my speed I said “Well, I’ve been slowing down.” He offered me some water, which I declined. I guess I sounded like I was dying. We ended up running the entire last mile step for step. The finishing kick put me one second in front of him. That’s when I confirmed that I was 2nd place overall and first female for the 10k. My time was 48:22 which is only about 30 seconds from my PR. My pace per mile splits were 7:40, 7:52, 7:49, 8:10, 8:12, 8:10.

Lest I get a big head, I must admit there were a total of 14 finishers in the 10k and about 40 in the 5k. That keeps me grounded. But I liken it to leading a Saturday group run (which I never do because we have some fast runners in our group).

It was a fun race. Shady, mostly flat, snow cones, and it was for charity. I met some runners from a Facebook group. You can always tell who the blogger is – the one with the camera.

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And my summertime running was given another boost.

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Saturday will be my final race before I change age groups. As of today, the forecast is looking good for a 5k.

Making Plans

It’s that time of year again! While some runners are training for a fall marathon and are well into their training plans, others of us plan for a winter race and start training later in the summer. We endure our sweat fests with thoughts of cooler days for longer runs and “thank goodness I’m not marathon training yet.” Okay, maybe that’s just me. But I do use summer to plan my fall training. Which training plan will I use? What days will I run? What finish goal will I train for?

I get excited as I think about the possibilities I can achieve after slogging through summer heat. I look for a plan that will challenge me, but not break me. I want to push my fitness to new levels so each year I can say what I said the year before: I’m in the best shape of my life.

As you prepare for a half or full marathon, how do you decide on a training plan? For some of you this is your first long race (yay you!) and your goal is to finish. For others, you seek beating a previous time, or trying a new course. No matter what your ultimate goal is, try to look at what’s right for you, your family, and your season of life.

The few tips I follow to choose a training plan have kept me healthy, happy, and brought me to race day with confidence.

1. When I increase mileage each week, I try to keep at no more than a 10% increase. I’ve seen this on other running sites, and it’s what I adhere to even when I’m not on a plan. I believe it’s what helps keep me injury free. If I run 31 miles one week, I run no more than 34 the next week.

2. Cutback weeks. Generally the mileage on a training plan follows this pattern: increase, increase, increase, step back. About the time I start feeling pretty sore and tired, a cut back week comes along and saves me. These are the weeks I also remember to drop off overdue library books, catch up on laundry, and balance our checking account.

3. Look at the number of running days per week. If you currently run three days a week, don’t choose a plan with six. Last year I made a change from running five days a week and cross-training one to running six days with no cross-training. It took me several weeks to adjust, but it paid off. Also, decide what cross-training you’ll do.

3. Rest and recovery. This is not a scheduled part of a training plan but I’ve learned it’s pretty darn important. My recovery has gotten a lot better in the past year, although the rest part is still a struggle. Why does marathon training have to coincide with marching band season? But, I’ve learned that if I don’t rehydrate and refuel ASAP after a long run, the rest of my day is shot. I need to replace electrolytes (Nuun), and begin rebuilding my muscles. Low fat chocolate milk is my go to with its ratio of carbs and protein. While I may think I earned an apple fritter, it’s not what my body needs. It took me a while to realize that long run days can be emotional. If I don’t refuel my muscles correctly, my mood heads south. I want my family to continue to support my running. They won’t if I’m a bear. The recovery process is an often overlooked part of training for beginning runners. Take it from me and prioritize this step.

Most of all, as you choose your training plan remember to cut yourself some slack. Life happens and every run won’t go as planned. Some training runs won’t get done. Just remember to enjoy the process along the way.

Meanwhile, I’ll try to settle on a training plan myself. I have some pretty big goals to accomplish this winter.

4 before 40 and a 15k

It has been a week.  Somehow, I’m keeping my training and goals in place as life keeps throwing curveballs. At least this is a good week to have air conditioner problems. Thank you cold front.

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Those low temperatures were nowhere in sight for Sunday’s Too Hot to Handle 15k, but I was still excited about the race. I was looking forward to a nice new PR and my friend was running her longest distance in preparation for her first half marathon in September. This delivery earlier in the week added to my excitement.

 

All the Gear

All the Gear

Now I would get my first chance to represent Team Chocolate Milk.Ready to Represent!

Ready to Represent!

The nice thing about a 15k is that it’s not a half marathon. I have little experience racing this distance so I went out too fast – for the heat. My first five miles were the fastest. With starting temps around 80 degrees, the heat did take its toll on me. There were plenty of opportunities to cool off along the course – shaded areas, sprinklers at the aid stations, and ice cold disposable towels.

I made a decision a couple of years ago after a difficult humid marathon that I would always pay attention to my body. I would rather finish a race feeling good than throw up or dehydrate. That means when I start to overheat I will slow down, dump water over my head, and walk if necessary. That’s exactly what I did. I started feeling the heat after the 10k mark, so I lost my negative splits. That was fine, because my focus stayed on my overall time goal.

 

I’m changing age groups in less than a month, and I am trying to run strong and PR the shorter distances. I call it my “4 before 40.” It’s a fun way for me to stay motivated through the summer heat while I’m working on building strength and speed. My new 15k PR gave me the motivation I needed. I still can’t believe I was 6th in my age group!

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The race was great. A lot of runners out in the Texas July heat. Run On knows how to put on a race. At the finish there were ice cold terry towels, a sprinkler cooling station in the shade, plenty of ice cold water, popsicles, and post race food. I made sure this time to have my post race chocolate milk in a cooler in the car. At a race earlier this year, I found out the hard way that the 4:1 combination of carbs and protein is exactly what my body – and gut – needs to recover. Chocolate milk really does make a difference.

Post Race Celebration

Post Race Celebration

 

I have two races left in my “4 before 40” – 10k on July 26 and a 5k on August 2nd. Meanwhile, I’m upping the protein and strength training for the next four weeks.

Happy summer running!