Peak Week and a 5k

Last week I finished up my peak week of training for the Dallas Marathon. While the workouts weren’t outstanding, I feel like my training has been consistent and productive so far. The main thing I’ve noticed in the past few weeks, is that I’m not totally exhausted like I usually am. I think I’m doing a better job at rest and recovery. Mostly because I don’t have a high school student this year I’ve been able to get to bed earlier, but I’m also making it a point to nap some on Saturday and Sunday afternoons.

The main struggle for me with last week’s training was being able to complete my long run without too much disruption. There was a 5k that I planned to do with my kids on Saturday. We’ve been run/walking together at least once a week for a mile and a half. I’ve considered those “runs” as the gravy on my training, but it is also what pushed me over 50 miles/week for the second time this training cycle. After discussing with my husband about how to get that 22 mile long run in, he suggested to do 19 miles before and then finish with the 5k. So I had a plan.

Thankfully, I have a great running friend willing to meet at 5 am on a Saturday to knock out as many miles as possible. And it was a cold one! For the first time, temperatures dropped in the high 30s, but I was ready. I do love a good cold run.

Love watching the sun rise during a run!

Love watching the sun rise during a run!

We ran until we met up with the group at 7:00 (and some of them gave me grief for wearing shorts), and I ran until it was time for me to get home to pick up the kids for the race. I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to get all my miles in, and the chance of getting any after the 5k were slim. When I headed home I had 17 done so far.

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No time goal, just getting in the miles.

After getting the kids to the race site (less than a mile away), I left them in the car to stay warm and I had time to get 2 more miles in. This actually worked well because never really cooled off before the start of the 5k. My husband showed up on his bike to ride along the course and encourage them. When the 5k started, my daughter shot off and I had a hard time keeping up, but my son stayed with me. I knew we would catch her when she needed a walk break. When we caught up to her, I told my son he could go on and run his own race. I would stay with Abby. The race followed the same course that several of the local 5ks use, and I like that it’s an out and back course so I could cheer on others I knew. I was able to see my son on his way back, and my husband was near him on his bike.

I’m really proud of how my kids did on Saturday. Abby knocked off 2 minutes from her fastest 5k, and my son took off 4 minutes. Even though we haven’t run more than a mile and a half at a time since the last 5k, I think the consistency (and cooler weather) paid off for them. After we finished, they told me and my husband we needed to go celebrate their PRs because “that’s what runners do.”

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Another bonus: I got my 22 miles done without feeling beat up. Peak week was all about time on my feet – and I got it done. This week’s plan is to get a solid 12 at marathon pace for my long run.

 

 

Family Traditions (SEF 5k)

Last week was a cutback week for me for marathon training, and I had some fun with it.

Even though the heat hasn’t let up much here, I still got out with the kids and ran to get ready for the 5k we were all doing on Saturday.

They wanted to go to the park to run and then play. Sure, why not?

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Then on Thursday we ran a mile and a half. My 13 year old daughter would run ahead and walk until the 10 year old almost caught up to her. Then she’d take off again. Nice, friendly competition between siblings. Two weeks ago, she decided she was ready to start training for the 5k, and she made good progress in a short amount of time.

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Saturday morning, we were ready to race the Sherman Education Foundation 5k. This was my 7th time to run this race, and it wasn’t the first time for them either. I told them to make sure to run their own race the way they wanted to. Slow and steady, or run/walk – whatever is best for them.

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After I finished a very painful 3 miles (I have not been training at sub 8:00 pace!), I grabbed some water and a banana, and headed back out on the course to run my kids in. With a little over a half a mile to go, I saw my 10 year old and ran with him for a minute. He went on to finish, and I found his sister a few minutes back. My husband was out on the course with his bike, to encourage them. When my daughter askedhow far she had left to run, I told her about 3/4 of a mile. Her response, “Really? I’m almost done!” Probably not many kids who think 3/4 of a mile is a short distance. My kids have a different perspective on what “far” is. 🙂

I’m proud of the way they ran the race. My youngest ran faster than he did at the 5k in August, and it wasn’t much cooler. The humidity was high – still. I ran almost the exact same time I ran the race in last year (when it was rainy and a little cooler). This year my time was 24:23. I was hoping to get back in the 23 minute range, but I guess if I don’t train for 5ks, I really can’t expect to bust out a time close to my PR. I did manage to win my age group though. I guess I can’t complain about my 5k time if I’m always training for marathons.img_8239

This is my favorite local race of the year because of the traditions around it as a family. The traditions are changing a little with our family – two of my kids had to grow up and move off. 😦 But after the race, we visited the Arts Fest and spent some time at the different booths. And of course we had funnel cake. That tradition hasn’t changed.

With the 5k on Saturday, I got up planning to meet my running buddy for a 12-13 mile long run Sunday morning. This is what I woke up to:

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With the time constraints (and lightning factor), I reluctantly got on the treadmill. The storms weren’t moving through anytime soon. By the time it started to clear up, I was up to 10 miles. I just finished off at 13, and that ended my cutback week. That was a rough run, but at least I had podcasts to listen to. Before Sunday, my longest treadmill run was 9 miles. I didn’t want to go that far on the treadmill, but I have goals that won’t be reached by skipping a long run. I learned for next time to put towels around the treadmill, because it was a gross sweaty mess. My body is just too efficient at cooling.

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Partly bad lighting, but yes my face probably was that red.

That ended my first cutback week of Dallas Marathon training, and now I’ll start ramping up the miles while I wait for fall temperatures to show up.

Anybody else?

 

 

 

 

Marathon Training (Weeks 1&2)

The first two weeks of training for the Dallas Marathon have gone pretty well. I’ve been pleased with my paces, mileage, and how my body has responded to the long runs. I like how my marathon training in the fall always starts right along with the school year.

My eyes have adjusted to the early morning runs:

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So I appreciate the Saturday long runs when I get to see the sunrise.

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I’m still running with my son, and my other daughter joined us last week to get ready for a local 5k next weekend.

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I worked on my marathon pace during my first double-digit run (since my half Ironman) in two months.

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I was happy with it.

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Then last week, I was inspired by another runner in our group. She’s one of the ones I’ve been chasing for a few years, but I can’t catch her. She’s a few years older than me, and she ran Boston this year. About a month ago, she started chemo and she’s come out for most of the Saturday runs since. On this run, she was flying and I couldn’t keep up. I think she finally dialed it back for the last mile and ended up running around 8 miles. She wanted to get a picture of our little group to post on her care page. She inspires me as she goes through her treatments with a great outlook and sense of humor, cracking up when someone said she was taking the “run like Meb” thing a little too far.

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It was a great group run, and I ended up with 13 miles total on Saturday.

I’m looking forward to the weeks ahead, and more miles with my kids. That’s the icing on the cake in my training.

 

 

Wrapping up Tri Season

Finishing up where it all began…

Sunday, I did my sixth triathlon since I embarked on this crazy journey last summer. I decided this would be my last triathlon of the year so I can focus on marathon training. I talked my running friend into doing the same race we did last year as our first tri: Tri-Rock in Rockwall.

I haven’t spent a lot of time on the bike since Buffalo Springs, but at least once a week I rode either on the road or my trainer. I kept up with the swimming twice a week. Even though I’m not fast, I feel much better about my core after I swim. I’ve focused on more strength training following my swim workouts than I have in the past, and I’ve noticed a difference in my everyday life from it.

I was tired the day before the race: a five mile run with the group, one mile with my daughter, then a bunch of back to school shopping. Combining tax-free weekend with some birthday rewards from Kohl’s, JCP, and other stores paid off for us. By the end of the day, my legs were aching like I ran 15 miles. I wasn’t sure what to expect for the race, but the number one goal was to have fun, and I had my sights set on a PR.

My feelings on race morning were so different from last year. It was just the usual butterflies right before the start that quickly disappeared when it was my turn to jump in the pool.

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My biggest change from last year – being able to swim all the way to the wall without stopping. I only had one person swim by me in the pool. What a great feeling! Last year it took me 10:27 to “swim” 300 meters. This year it was 8:02. There’s still plenty of room for improvement, but…progress.

On to the bike, I was ready to give it all I had. Apparently I forgot about the hills from last year. I was pushing hard though, and my legs were burning. In the last mile, I hear “Hi friend” and look over to see my friend ride past me. She had not ridden her bike once since our last tri in October, and had just pulled it out the day before. That was humbling. But in all fairness, she has more cycling experience than I do. Anyway, I still had my fastest bike split yet. Last year was 14.8 mph. This year was 15.9. So…progress.

We ran out of transition together, and my legs were feeling pretty good considering how hard I pushed on the bike. I didn’t worry about my pace too much, but tried to run steady. It was a two loop course (a little different from last year), and I worked on running each mile faster. I ended up with a 26:08 5k, and I was really excited about that. I can’t really compare the run to last year, because I’m pretty sure the course was short last year. This time I had my Garmin on, so I know the distance was right. But overall, I still set a PR in this race, and wasn’t at the bottom of the age group this time. Again…progress.

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We both had a lot of fun. My friend placed in her age group, and got a pretty neat rock for her award. I wish I could find a way to work on my triathlon and running goals at the same time, but I’m going to call this race the end of my triathlon season.

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My focus now shifts to marathon training which starts on the 22nd. I know that in order to have a strong marathon, I need the mileage. I will continue to cross-train at least once a week either biking or swimming, so I won’t completely lose my progress.  Then after the first of the year, I’ll decide what I want to work on next. I haven’t quite figured out a way to mesh up my big running goals and triathlon goals. Running holds my heart.

Not too shabby for a year's work

Not too shabby for a year’s work.

 

Pretraining

I talked a little about how I’m enjoying a break from endurance and spending time doing other things I enjoy for/with my family in my last post. I have to be honest though. My motives haven’t been entirely selfless. In fact, I believe that what I’m working on now will help me immensely when I start marathon training for Dallas next month. So I’m referring to my plan before the plan to as “pretraining.” I think it will pay good dividends this fall.

My big goal – for the third year in a row – is to break four hours in the marathon. I came closest in Houston in 2014 running a 4:02:03. Since that year, I haven’t closed in on a PR in any distance. I also gained 10 pounds since that race. When I began training for the half Ironman in March, I was able to lose a few pounds. The week after the race in Buffalo Springs, I was down six pounds from March. For the first time since I began running, I lost weight while training for a major race. I’ll blame the swimming. 🙂

I pulled this book out after I finished the Cowtown in March and reread it. During my half IM training, I focused on the Nutrient Timing chapter. Now with a few more weeks before I start marathon training, I’m working the Quick Start to drop the last few pounds. There is a lot of protein paired with strength training lately.

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Racing Weight by Matt Fitzgerald

In the past four weeks I saw the scale hit below a number I haven’t been able to break under since the summer of 2014. That’s the beauty of using the same app to track food and weight for the past five years. Graphs can be useful. Now if I was only focused on the number, the scale might be a problem. But since I’m focused on being able to run faster – for longer – I see the scale as just one of the tools to measure progress.

Yesterday, I did my four week body fat check, and it has dropped a percentage point. That’s another measurement of my progress. My clothes fit comfortably again.

My long runs (even though they’re not that long right now) are averaging just over 9:00 pace. In the summertime that feels good.

I feel stronger from the strength training. There is muscle definition in my upper body that has never been there. As I head into another birthday next month, I can say I have never felt fitter than I do right now. I’ve said this before. It still blows my mind how I am able to improve fitness year after year.

July 24, 2010 I started training for a 5k on July 24, 2010 with the goal of completing a marathon one day. That step changed my life. As I continue my pretraining to get my body ready to handle the rigors of marathon training, I will keep the progress I’ve made in the past six years in the forefront of my mind.

 

 

 

 

Downtime, Goals, and Kids

I promised myself (and my family) that once I finished Buffalo Springs, I would take a break from training and be present. I would take time with them and time for myself. In the past three weeks, I enjoyed several games of Peanut (think Solitaire with teams) at 9:30 at night with my kids, I went to the library and checked out books that I am actually reading, and have been focusing more on my kids. Also, I went back to my Saturday morning running group. That was one of the things I really missed while half Ironman training. I enjoy the camaraderie of the group, and even though I don’t get the chance to run with them all (some of them are really fast), it has been nice to catch up and meet some new members.

“Are you the one who did the triathlon?”

“Yes, that’s me.”

One of the main things I’m working on now is helping my kids. My oldest daughter is going to UT on a Navy ROTC scholarship in August. I’m running with her in the mornings to help her get the endurance she needs to have when she checks in. My 10 year old wants to run another 5k. So I have been going out with him in the evenings to get him running consistently. He’s done a few 5ks in the past two years, but this is the first time he has shown sustained interest and reminds me what days and how far we need to run.

Last week, I took the three kids to the track so we could all stay together. Even the 13 year old who likes the idea of running until she actually does it, came along. It wasn’t the storybook ending I would have liked to have that night, but at least I have some memories in pictures for when they’re all grown up.

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I made a deal with myself that I would keep my activity level to under an hour after the half Ironman. I wanted to give my body the rest it deserved before marathon training starts in August. I also wanted to finish taking off the weight I had put on the last two years. Up until last weekend, I stayed true to my promise of staying under an hour.

On Saturday, I ran just over an hour with the group, and then headed out with my daughter for 30 minutes to run/walk. The next morning, I went on a bike ride with my friend and her husband. She keeps asking me to go with her with the cycling group on Saturdays, and I keep telling her I don’t want to be on my bike that long. Plus, it conflicts with the run group. But this time when she asked me to go ride, I relented because it was on Sunday morning and under two hours.

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I didn’t hate it.

But I’m going to try to keep the endurance bug in check for a few more weeks.

Last night when my son and I ran together, he told me he was moving slower so he could work on his stamina. We are up to a mile and a half. For a child who would rather play video games all summer, I think we’re making great progress.

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Now that I’ve talked a little about how I’m enjoying my downtime, tell me what’s something you do?

Buffalo Springs 70.3 (Part 2 Bike and Run)

If you missed my last post about the start of my Half Ironman at Buffalo Springs, you can catch up on it here. The next part of the race was the longest and required some mental effort. I apologize in advance for being long-winded. I love to write and I love to give details. Double whammy here.

To sum up where I left off, I had completed the swim not knowing how long it took me, and made it to the bike with people still behind me. I was feeling pretty good.

THE BIKE:

I had a nice mental boost from seeing my husband and brother right off the bat, then I passed where we parked and the downhill was followed immediately by another climb. This one got to me. I was breathing heavy, focusing on my turnover when a guy passed me and said “Easier gear.” The guy right behind him said “You have two more.” I acknowledged with “Thanks” and shifted – twice. I was calm and ready to tackle the ride. Once I completed that hill, I knew I had a while before the next one.

The weather was cooperating so far with a cloudy sky and low winds. It was a nice day for a bike ride.

As I moved forward into the second major climb, I saw the athletes coming down and it didn’t seem as scary as it had in the car. This was the one that curved around with a guardrail that bordered a cliff. The downhill that kept me awake half the night. The one I was most worried about. But focusing on my climb, I noticed some riders walking their bikes up the hill. I focused my legs on a steady cadence and stayed in my seat all the way up. I honestly could’ve run a flat road faster than my speed climbing, but I got it done. My motto all throughout the ride became “the tortoise always wins.” I repeated it out loud as needed. I focused on my race, my speed, and my skills. After the turnaround when I began descending, I kept my confidence in place and braked all the way down. “That wasn’t so bad.” I knew that if I made it through that one, I’d be okay for the others. The next big climb had a sign “Spiral Staircase.” This one was steeper but there were no big drop-offs. I saw people walking their bikes up again. It definitely hurt going up, but again I focused on a steady climb. A straightway for several miles, and then a turn around right into the wind. Coming back down the Spiral Staircase was a little faster than the other hill, and scary in a roller coaster thrill way. Oh thank goodness it was a low wind day, because the rest of the ride I fought the wind one direction or another. I couldn’t get my average pace above 14.0. Even with the downhills.

By mile 50, the wind had taken its toll on my legs. They were done and I wanted to be off the bike. The sun had come out about 2 hours into the ride, and I was on my last bottle of Nuun. I was getting thirsty so I tried to ration the rest of my drink. I didn’t want to stop before I finished the bike. My bike was moving slower than I estimated, and since I didn’t know my swim time, I hated to push the time limits. Looking back, I should have had more chews on the bike instead of the extra Clif bar I never ate. At mile 55, I audibly groaned “Oh no!” as I began to climb the final hill in the park before the downhill to transition. It was a straight up hill.

I crested the top, rode past our car and began the descent. Then I saw my oldest daughter right as she turned around and saw me. She began to cheer, and I saw all the other kids, my brother, and my husband. They all began cheering so loud, people were turning to see who was coming. I felt like a superstar! I made the final turn and when I hit the dismount line, the volunteer said “Coming in smiling. That’s a good sign.”

“Yes, because I’m done,” I said.

The tortoise always wins.

Here’s some of the data from my Garmin. Ignore the elevation gain, because it’s not correct. It’s actually just over 1000′ of gain, but I wanted to show the hills on the graph!

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Side note: I can’t say enough about how wonderful it was having my family cheer coming in off of the bike. I needed that lift going into the next part of the race.

THE RUN:

Coming off the bike, I was surprised my legs didn’t feel more wobbly. My first mile I stayed busy trying to make sure I was headed in the right direction, and I didn’t pay attention to my pacing. I knew the run was two loops so when I saw the first mile marker I relaxed a bit. Not paying attention to my pace was a mistake. The first mile averaged 9:30. In the second mile, I slowed to grab a cold towel at the aid station. My second mile pace was in the 10:30s. Then I guess you could say my wheels fell off. (Good thing this wasn’t on the bike. Ha!) The third mile started the walk breaks and I had an 11:30 average pace for that mile. Oops!

My legs were fine. It was my breathing I was struggling with. I was getting hot, and somewhat nauseated at the thought of taking in my chews. I tried a couple of them after the third mile, and kind of gagged a little while chewing. I took in some more around mile 5 and had the same problem. This is the same stuff I trained with, but my body wasn’t handling it at this point. Ever since before the swim, I had felt like my food was sitting at the back of my throat. I handled it ok on the bike, but the jostling from the run made it worse.

With this kind of trouble on the run with the heat, I quickly shifted my plan to run/walk/smile. I walked through almost every aid station. Wet cold towels, ice in my visor, and taking in Gatorade to get the carbs. My stomach did okay with that and I still had my Nuun in my bottle along with some Nuun Plus. As I came across the bridge to finish my first loop, I saw my husband. I called out, “You know that 2 1/2 hour half marathon I planned? Not gonna happen.” But I was okay with it. I was the tortoise. As he ran alongside me for a minute, I told him about being too hot, and my nutrition problems. My legs were still okay, but my effort felt hard even staying around a 12 minute pace.

The second lap was even tougher. The crowd had thinned out as most people were done by now, and I still had well over an hour to go. I talked to other runners, and fell into a run/walk pattern with another athlete for a while. We chatted about goals. Mine was to finish. She added, “finish with a smile.” I thanked all the volunteers. They were so uplifting at that point in the race. The ice was wonderful and I would grab handfuls at the aid stations and put it in my hat and down the front of my tri top to stay cool. I walked up the monster hill along with everyone else and noticed one of the hand cyclists rolling up the hill backward to get up. That was a game changer for me. There I was, walking to get through the tough parts of the course with all my limbs functioning, while those guys didn’t have that option. They did the swim, the bike, and the run all with their arms and upper body. It was so inspiring to see him working up that hill, and I know he was tired but he kept going!

I began to feel a little energized in the last mile. Two of my kids ran alongside me for a couple of minutes. They told me they had been swimming in the lake. Then I saw my other daughter, then my husband, then my brother, then his wife and kids were near the finish line. I felt like I was flying at that point. According to my Garmin, it was my third fastest mile. I made the final turn and saw the finish line, crying and smiling at the same time. I heard the announcer call out my name, and just like that I had a medal on my neck and a finisher shirt in my hand.

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The finisher shirt was an XL, and I tried to exchange it for a smaller size. Then I found out when you’re near the back of the pack, you don’t have much to choose from. I could have XL or XXL.

My husband has a new shirt to wear.

That evening, I finally saw what my swim time was and it completely surprised me. Overall, I expected I would finish in about 7.5 hours, and I wasn’t too far off the mark. I was surprised at how the run knocked me out, but my goals were to finish. I was the tortoise, and that was quite all right with me.

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