Still Learning

No matter how many times I train for a marathon, or how much it can feel same-ole, same-ole – I find that I am still learning new things. This was especially true last week.

I’m still trying to adjust to different schedules, and basically have decided I just need to roll with the flow. My son’s work schedule is interfering with my sleep. It’s just not easy to get up at 4:30 when I get in bed at 11 pm. As much as I like to plan, sometimes life gets in the way of training. But I’m a wife and mom first, so I just have to give myself some grace and work it however I can. I did that last Tuesday when I tried to get through my workout, and 20 minutes in I tossed the plan and scratched the workout. I was tired and overdressed and it just felt too hard that morning. I decided not to let a bad run define my training. I got up Wednesday morning and started with the same workout plan. That day I was able to get the workout done in the planned paces. I learned that it’s okay to let myself slide once in a while.

Saturday was my planned 22 miler, and I wasn’t looking forward to getting it done on my own. But I set out to do it anyway.

It was poor planning on my part when I realized I didn’t have enough gels or chews for the long run. I did have some fig newtons though and those are a good source of carbs, so I decided to try that for my fueling strategy.

And that’s why we practice fueling during training and nothing new on race day. That wasn’t a good plan.

I never felt like the carbs worked their way into my system and by mile 16, it started to show in my pace. I also couldn’t figure out why my legs were so heavy after mile 10. I know I’m better prepared with endurance than that! Around mile 18, I wondered if sitting on the balance ball at work had something to do with it. Over the past two weeks I’ve gone from alternating between the ball and my desk chair to sitting almost exclusively on the ball. I spent more time moving last week, and where my legs were aching during the run sure seemed related to the ball. I’m going to back off of it some for now.

Because I had so much trouble in the last five miles, I stopped my long run at mile 21. I didn’t see how I would benefit trudging through another mile. I was pushing 3 1/2 hours by that point, and had quit marathons at least six times.

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Truth.

When I went in the house, defeated from my run, my daughter was dressed and ready for me to take her to swim. She is going to try out for the high school swim team next year, and I told her I would take her over the weekend. She took it upon herself to pick the time. As much as I wanted to eat and shower and go have a good cry, I put my mom attitude up front, and got ready to go swim. I did leave my Garmin at home so I could move slowly through the water. I’d say that counted as another mile. It probably helped work out some of the soreness I would have had in my legs from the run.

Sunday, my husband and I went to the gym. I’m still working on my upper body. That’s three times in 8 days that I worked on my arms. I think that’s a record! I will get stronger.

 

And here’s a picture of Chloe just because it makes me smile.

img_8667Have a great week!

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Training Update: Getting ready for Cowtown

The past few weeks have been hectic with life and training. It seems like my weeknights have been more chaotic than they were in the fall. Typically, the blog lands at the bottom of the to do list. Apparently these other people in my house like to eat dinner and such. Now that my oldest daughter is back at college, and my husband has started his new job, maybe I can get back into my routine.

Training for Cowtown has been going strong the past few weeks. I’ve been working on some strength and mobility work, because I plan to follow the Simple Marathon Training this fall. I’ve been doing the SAM work after every run for at least four weeks, and I can tell the difference – at least when I’m running up my hills.

I had some trouble getting back to my usual paces after Dallas, but all of a sudden it clicked one day and running felt good again. It’s been difficult for me to get my mileage up with everything else going on, and running twice a day won’t work right now. So to up my training game, I started swimming again.

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It had been two months since I’d been to the pool, but once I got back in the water I remembered why I enjoyed it. I am slow, and swimming without the concern of a time cutoff had a different effect on me. When I get out of the pool my legs aren’t mad at me, and my glutes don’t whine. Now my arms are another thing. But for now I’m supplementing my running, and working my way back to the strength I felt during half Ironman training. I don’t have any triathlon races planned so far this year, but I believe the swimming can only help me for the marathon.

My running buddy and I haven’t been able to get together for a long run in a few weeks, so this past Saturday I had to tackle a 20 miler almost solo. I did meet up with the group for a few miles, but everyone was going different directions and paces, so I stuck to my plan. It was nice to see some of them out in different areas though as I checked off the miles. I was pleased with my time.

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The plan was to just do the distance, and not worry about the pace. I missed an 18 miler the weekend before, so I didn’t want to shock my body too much. The first and the last mile were the only two miles over 10:00 pace (and the last one had a steep uphill). I discovered a great new gel flavor!

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Tastes just like Nutella!

 

 

This weekend I’m going to do 22 miles, and then I’ll start tapering. My running buddy and several from our group are running the Hot Chocolate 15k in Dallas on Saturday. I hate to miss it, but I’ve got a lot going on and I wanted to make sure my Cowtown training included one more long run of 20 plus.

In other news, I am happy to report that I’m returning as a Nuun ambassador for another year.

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I bought my first tube of Nuun at the Dallas Marathon expo in 2012. I almost DNFd the race the next day due to dehydration. You know, nothing new on race day. After that painfully slow race, I tried Nuun on a long run. I haven’t had any issues since then. It’s easier on my stomach than other sports drinks and without the sugar. Right now, my favorite flavor is Grape.

Finally, have you been following along the World Marathon Challenge this past week? I heard Ryan Hall talk about it at the Dallas Marathon Expo stage, and it was inspiring to follow this journey. Then Mike Wardian made history as he ran all 7 under 3 hours. I can’t even imagine covering that kind of distance! This is a pretty good article about it. And if you check out Ryan Hall’s social media accounts, he did videos along the way. It was interesting to see how he went through some of the same stages in a marathon. “I told myself I wouldn’t go out too fast. I went out too fast.”

He also talked about how he admires the everyday runners who get out and run marathons in 4, 5, and 6 hours.

Again, that’s one of the things I love about this sport. There’s a connection and a community, no matter what pace you run. 🙂

 

Cowtown Marathon 2016 – Completing the Set

Sunday I finished off my marathon season at Cowtown (that’s in Fort Worth for you non-Texans). I went into this race with halfhearted goals and expectations. I was tired of long runs and ready to make some changes in my training. My eating had been terrible all week, and I was the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man.

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The people running away…that would be my kids on race week.

Even when my dad asked me before the race what my goal was, I shrugged and said “Um, finish?”

Those are not the words of a motivated runner.

My went to pick up my packet on Saturday, and I was hoping to generate some excitement in my brain. I couldn’t find any new gear I wanted, but we had a good day anyway. We only had one child all weekend because the girls had DiscipleNow with church.

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We then had to make a stop at the Lego store so he could spend some of his money.

Sunday started early, but I was happy to meet up with my dad before the race. He was running his second half marathon. Last year at Cowtown was his first. That was the icy year, so he had to come back and do it again. My parents met Jeff Galloway on Friday and talked with him about their run/walk intervals. He got some pointers about changing his timing from 4:1 (minutes) to 30 seconds run, 30 seconds walk.

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I found my running friend and we got ready to sweat it out.

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The start of the race was overcast and windy. The sun stayed behind the clouds and I was grateful. If you’ve never been to Fort Worth, just know there are a few hills. For the half marathon. The full and ultra course have several more hills. There’s a big one at mile 9 that everyone talks about, but we handled those first few hills like champs. Our pace was consistent through the halfway point. We smiled at the signs, thanked the volunteers and police officers, and chatted some. The best parts about having someone with me were the times I wanted to walk but didn’t because she was there. Then the sun came out and started to cook me. I ran out of my Nuun and gels around mile 22, and I needed electrolytes. We walked through the aid stations so I could down some Powerade. The hills were killing us, and the sun too. We settled on finishing and how nice that would feel. The chatting had disappeared and we focused on one mile at a time. I think we were both in tears when we finished. Our finish time was 4:31.

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I was happy to learn that my dad took 8 or 9 minutes off his last year’s time using the 30:30 method. He says he’s done with half marathons though. We’ll see.

My son was really concerned about me. I heard him ask my husband, “Is she okay?” He’s never seen me right after I finish a marathon, especially when it’s warm outside. It takes me a few minutes to pull myself together. Plus, everything hurt from the neck down.

 

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I enjoy a lot about this race. Both of my parents are from Fort Worth, so I’m familiar with the area. I like running through the Stockyards, around TCU, and there are some beautiful neighborhoods. The hills are a bit of a downer though.

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Finished the 3 year medal series!

On the way home from the race, I told my husband I’m done with marathons for a while. I want to focus on getting leaner and faster – then add the distance back. I’m tired of being out there for four and a half hours.

I guess training for a half Ironman will help with that. 😉

The Taper…again

For my first week of tapering for Cowtown, I think I ran more miles than I did in the two weeks before. I will say at least my mileage has been pretty consistent for the last several weeks, hovering around 40 miles per week.

I didn’t really feel like I was tapering – but it didn’t seem like that busy of a week either (at least in training).

I tried out some new socks that Feetures! sent me. These are the best! My socks are the only thing I haven’t changed in over five years of running. I mean the brand of course! I do change out and put on clean socks after every run. 🙂

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Tuesday, I had a birthday lunch at school with the newest teenager in the family.

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They finished our foundation work, and the kids left a reminder for us in the wet cement.

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Thursday morning I had a good mile repeat run, and in the evening my first swim in over two weeks.

Then there was a sluggish, achy leg run on Saturday. I don’t know what the deal was. Maybe I was still recovering from mile repeats. But my friend felt the same way and we kind of whined our way through the 16 miles. The achy legs were made worse by my GI tract that was not on board with running. I was so ready to be done! Then we reminded ourselves that we get to run and shouldn’t be so whiny about it. But I am very excited about the 12 mile long run this weekend.

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Then I came home to my newest piece of gear. I went back and forth trying to decide on this purchase. I try to be cautious when it comes to deciding what is a need and what is a want for my upcoming half Ironman. I had some Christmas money I was still hanging on to, so I took the plunge and ordered the older model – Garmin 910XT. So now I’m too far invested in my race to turn back. 😉

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Here’s one of the few pictures from the Hot Chocolate 15k race that I downloaded last week. I forgot about that perk. You can tell I’m completely zoned in on the finish line.

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I love free race pics!

What’s one of your favorite race perks?

Big Goals and Routine Changes

Toward the end of 2015, I saw a lot of posts/tweets/pics about goals for 2016, and race schedules, and plans. I started to feel like I was behind the curve because I didn’t have my race schedule mapped out for the entire year. All I knew was I had a marathon at the end of February.

Then when I wondered if I would ever get it together, things started to fall into place. Now I have the main arteries in place to map out my training for the first part of the year. I’m set with my big goals at least until the end of June.

My blueprint for the next six months to guide my training:

Train to get closer to a four hour marathon at Cowtown by strengthening more, improving overall nutrition, and pushing myself more on the hard and/or long run days.

Tackle a triathlon with an open water swim before June.

So…I can then compete in my first 70.3 race at the end of June – which I registered for before the end of the year to save some cash.

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That was the easy part.

My motivation is high. My training is back in full swing. I had an awesome long run the day after New Year’s. It was my first run over 5 miles since Dallas, and I’d say it went well. There are benefits when I run with a group who are all faster than me.

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I made myself run hills because I know it will prepare me for Cowtown.

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It totally sucked, but I got it done.

My long run Saturday helped me feel better about my endurance. The weather was nasty, but I found that I was able to push myself through mentally. I always wonder what people think when they drive past me and the weather is less than ideal. Then I saw some a softball game going on at the park, and I thought “Well, at least I’m moving.” IMG_7104

On the weekdays, I have been focusing on finishing my runs by a certain time – no matter if I finish the mileage or not – so I can be sure to get my strength routine done. That means if I oversleep, I run less. Since I noticed such a difference in my form during the Dallas Marathon from adding core training, I want to keep at it. It’s the little things that make the difference.

Nutrition. Well, I was doing fine after Christmas and up until last week. I lost a couple of the pounds I gained after the marathon. Then I hit a few bumps over the weekend (s’mores) but I’ll get back to it.

My biggest challenge right now has been my work schedule – which affected my blog. This post was started last Monday.

I’m starting my second week of working between two offices. When the owner approached me a few weeks ago to ask if I’d like to broaden my horizons, I said yes. I will not turn down opportunity to learn new functions. The hardest part for me has been adjusting my schedule. My workday is starting earlier (right after I drop the kids at school), which is fine with me, but I lost some of the time I would use to make and eat breakfast, finish getting ready, etc. In a way, it’s forced me to get my act together earlier. On the other hand, my appetite is all out of whack, because I’m eating breakfast earlier, and taking my lunch later. The major benefit to this though is that I’m a two minute drive from home, and I can go home for lunch. Larabars to snack on in between meals is the norm now. I also carry almonds, greek yogurt, and fruit. If you have any more good ideas for healthy, portable snacks, please share!

I’m sure in a few weeks, my schedule will settle down and I’ll be in a routine. That should be right about the time I get ready to start Half Ironman training, which starts right after the Cowtown Marathon.

I sure do love a challenge!

 

Finding My Speed (Radio Run 5k)

A week ago, I ran my first 5k since last August. I had to go back and verify with my training log, but October was the last time I did any sort of speed work. Short distances on the track: 400s, 800s, 1000 meter repeats, ladder workouts. Short and fast. Recovery intervals. A workout that makes you hurt.

I had almost forgotten that kind of hurt.

As I lined up to start the 5k, I tried not to think about it. Negative voices swirled around my brain: “You’re slower this time.” “You’re not as fast last year.” “You’ve gained weight.” “You need a break.” I didn’t even know how fast I could run anymore. Sub 8:00 miles were a distant memory, replaced with longer intervals and marathon specific pace work. Those evil little self-doubts crept back in, but I pushed them aside. “Just run, Eileen. Don’t even look at your watch.”

My fast running group friend was my rabbit again. We started together. I fell in line behind her and focused on an even effort with my eyes trained ahead – not on my Garmin. The first quarter mile or so was up a hill, but I knew the payoff would come at the end since the course was out and back. Just before the turn around I was hurting, and huffing, and trying to even out my breathing. At the mile two marker, I briefly glanced at my Garmin to see the overall time – 15:24 – not my pace. I continued to try to catch my friend, and evaluate if I was giving all I could. Two male runners passed me in the last mile, and I tried to catch another. We ran at the same pace for a minute or so, then he pulled ahead. A woman on the other side of the road called out “5th female” as I ran past. I welcomed the downhill as I cruised in to the finish and stopped my watch. My official finish time was 24:25.

I don’t know if I was more excited that I ran without checking my pace, or that my mile splits were all under 8:00 with the final mile being my fastest. I almost always go out too fast for the first mile in a 5k. My splits were 7:47, 7:56, 7:41. I also got first in my age group, a nice benefit of local races.

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I now have a base time to work from. Once I run my next half marathon on Saturday, I have a plan to change up my cardio and fitness that will hopefully help me shed some weight and gain some speed.

I picked up a couple of other trinkets the same day:

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It did feel odd to get a medal two weeks after running a race on my own.

Since we were just a few minutes away and it was such a beautiful day, I took the kids to the Fort Worth Botanic Gardens. They enjoyed it more than I thought they would and we did have a good time together.

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Springtime is my favorite time of year!

 

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A Virtual Race and a Family 5K

About the time I became happy about short “long” runs and my half marathon schedule, I received notice that the Cowtown Marathon was allowing a virtual race option. I spent the better part of a workday trying to decide if I wanted to do the virtual marathon.

The first task was fitting into my schedule. It’s a lot easier for me to block out half a day for a race than an entire morning for training. My kids don’t call me when I’m at a race – or at least don’t expect me to answer for a while. 🙂

The second task was to decide if running 26 miles less than three weeks before my next half marathon would mess up my time. I had until the end of the month to complete it, but I was ready to be done with long runs and I needed my speed to come back for my shorter races. I also needed to drop the marathon weight gain, and that doesn’t happen when I fuel up for long runs. A fringe benefit to running 26.2 would be burning off more of those carbs I had loaded up on, even though a week late.

When I told my husband about it, he said “do it.” We had a family 5k that Saturday (March 7th) and I decided to work that into my virtual marathon. I would run as much as I could before the 5k, run the 5k, and then finish. I would not be carbo-loading. I would not push too hard, and I would take enough walk breaks so I could return to training the following week.

I had my plan.

After work Friday, I stopped to pick up race packets for the first annual Band on the Run 5K.

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I was excited about this race for several reasons: local race, band fundraiser – saves us money as band parents, spaghetti dinner included with the registration, nice goody bags and family fun!

Then we headed to the spaghetti dinner/band concert. Yum. Carbs.

Saturday morning, I tried to start early. I wanted to be at least halfway done before the 5k.

Close Enough

Close Enough

For the 5k, my 12 year old wanted me to run with her. My husband (for his first 5k) would stay with our 9 year old. The band – including our 17 year old daughter – would play at the start/finish line and other band members would be at the water stop/halfway point. From experience I knew this 5k would have a lot of walk breaks, and that was okay! I won’t go through the entire list of ailments my daughter had through the 3.1 miles of the course, because I’m sure I was that way when I first started running. “Ow, there’s something in my shoe.” “My face is itchy.” Etc, etc…

I would negotiate our walk breaks. “Make it to the next cone and then we walk.” “Now to the stop sign.”

She would bargain. “No, let’s walk at the light pole.”

We came to the last turn with less than half a mile to go and I grabbed her hand. “Come on! We run all the way through. The band was playing for everyone that finished and it was great. These two finished before we did.

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5K done!

5K done!

The best part was the awards ceremony. The little ones placed in their age groups (benefits of a small race) and so did my husband. Not bad for a first timer.

I'm the only one without an age group medal! :)

I’m the only one without an age group medal! 🙂

After that, they headed home and I set out for the second half of my virtual marathon. By then it was warming up and before I made it back to my neighborhood I had shed the headband and jacket. Then I trudged through the rest of my miles. I should’ve worn sunscreen – or my visor.

26.3 miles - done!

26.3 miles – done!

Running a marathon is hard. Running it in three stages like I did made the overall distance seem shorter, but the morning sure was long. But I got it done. I wasn’t wiped out like I normally am after a marathon, but my legs sure felt like they covered 26 miles. I may not have qualified as a Marathon Maniac this time, but I earned my Cowtown marathon medal and shirt.

 

Now on to my next race which is this Sunday – the Rock ‘n Roll Dallas half marathon with Team Chocolate Milk. I’m so excited about this race, and I know there will be chocolate milk at the finish! Yay!

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