field tripping to the track

I feel so lucky to have a local high school track so close to where I live.  I LOVE the track.  As hard as the workouts are and as intimidated as I may be each and every time I show up, I am always buzzing with energy when I go there.  Completing my track workouts consistently are without a doubt one of the reasons I have been able to improve as a runner so much over the past year.  I believe in them and am dedicated to them and I will absolutely commit myself to showing up there every week to get it done.

But I have never, not even once, had to go to the track alone.  All thanks to the most amazing friends and running buddies – the honey badgers.

There are just some things I know I would not do by myself.  And running to the track at 5:15 in the morning, in the pitch black dark, is one of those things.

Now that school has started we can’t park in the high school parking lot for our morning track workouts – the buses and students arrive before 7am and it is COMPLETE chaos.  So instead, Team Honey Badger meets at our local Starbucks just about a mile from the school.  We put on our head lamps and our back packs and take a field trip to the track.  It feels like an adventure.  It feels totally badass to me.  We run along the lake and through the woods (somewhat creepy) and then descend upon the high school track.  It is a really awesome feeling.

head lampin’ at the track

Yesterday morning we had a beast of a workout to tackle.  Just like every week, I was nervous about it. The workouts are getting longer and harder as I near the peak of my training (race day is just over 6 weeks away).  The workouts have so much purpose though – building endurance at faster paces.  Teaching me to control my speed and push through and turn it ON when I am my most tired and mentally drained.  They are working.

Here is how things went yesterday after we warmed up for 2 miles (one mile on the way to the track, the other mile around the track). I took 2 minutes rest between each set, drinking some water and walking a little bit before starting up again:

1 x 3200 (8 laps around the track, or 2 miles)
For this workout I was supposed to start at marathon goal pace (7:40) and build to lactic acid threshold pace (6:45ish).  Mile 1 clocked in at 7:12, Mile 2 was a faster 6:47.  I think I ran too fast for the first mile (I never saw a 7:40 on my watch) and possibly too slow for the second mile … but I felt really good about how I ran it.

1 x 1600 (4 laps around the track, or 1 mile)
This interval was to be run the same way as the 3200 – starting at race pace and building to threshold.  I clocked in at a 6:43.  I think I ran it right.  It felt good.

4 x 800 (each set was 2 laps around the track, or 1/2 mile)
My goal for these was to nail them somewhere between 3:04-3:12, the paces McMillan suggests for a 3:20 marathon.  I hit them with the following times: 3:10, 3:05, 3:04, 3:07.

Running those 800s as fast as I did after 3 miles of controlled fast running was TOUGH.  But it made me feel strong.  And I was SO HAPPY when I was finished.  I was in an amazing mood, excited that I got it done and that I did what I came to do.  I put my back pack on and the honey badgers began our cool down mile back to the Starbucks…

ready to head back!

The run back to our cars was so beautiful.  Early morning sunrise running is hands down my favorite time of day to run.  I feel so blessed to see the world waking up …  It’s just beautiful and magical and so full of promise.

Lake Audubon

Arriving at Starbucks after 8.25 miles of running with 5 fast miles in the middle … well that is just the absolute perfect place to end a run in my opinion.  My favorite thing to get after a workout like that is a soy white mocha.  So yummy.

I love our Wednesday morning field trips to the track, and I am so thankful for my friends for doing this with me.  We are making amazing memories together, and words just don’t do the job in expressing to each of them how awesome I think they are – how grateful I am for their friendship.  In running fast or slow, long or short – and more importantly, in life.

three weeks

I think it’s safe to say that I have recovered from MCM.  These next three weeks are about enjoying easy runs, not tracking my mileage like a maniac, concentrating on Pilates and strength training and gearing myself up for my next training cycle as I prepare for Marathon Number 9 – Rock n Roll USA.  Let me tell you, it is going to be a biggie!

Before I dive into my next training cycle (which begins on December 4th) I want to take a moment to reflect on some of the really great aspects of my MCM training:

  • PRs ~ I set new PRs with every single race that I ran!  This is just so awesome to me.  I did a few 5ks (improving my PR in that distance by more than 2 minutes), a 10k (a 3 minute PR), a half marathon and two marathons.  My Half Marathon PR was a 13 minute PR and my marathon PRs combined left me with more than a 54 minute PR.  My heart is proud and grateful.  The only limits I have are those that I place upon myself!! 
Crossing the finish line at the VA Beach RnR Half Marathon. New PR of 1:43:02
  • Speed Work ~ For the first time ever, I incorporated regular speed work into my training.  It paid off in major ways and I enjoyed it more than I can describe, but more than that those early mornings spent running around in circles were some of the most beautiful moments I have ever experienced as a runner.  I miss it.
  • Being Coached ~ Another first in my running career: I was coached!  I participated in the =PR= Distance Training Program and I really believe I could not have made a better decision.  If you ask me, Coach Caitlyn is the bee’s knees.  She is smart, she really cares about each and every person she coaches – celebrating all of our accomplishments, advising us when we were unsure of ourselves, picking us up when we felt down or were struggling with injury – she is a natural at the coaching thing and I was grateful and honored to be coached by her.  When I joined the group in June I remember telling her that I would PR this year.  I told her on that balmy June morning that I would get a solid 25 minute PR in the marathon come October (I was shooting for 4:10 at the time) and I could tell she thought my goal was a lofty one especially as a nursing mother of three, but she believed in me anyway.  As training progressed and my body was responding so well she encouraged me to dream bigger, but to still be smart.  Coming away from this training with a 3:41:56 marathon time – close to an hour faster than my prior PR – is just summed up with one word ~ incredible.  I know I did the work but I truly believe that the support and encouragement of Coach Caitlyn and Coach Adam and also all of my “teammates” in the group – was just as important to my success as the hard work I put in to get there.  I cannot imagine training without these guys.  They are my posse, my friends, my people.  I am so proud and thankful for each one of them and cannot wait to run together again.
  • Strong Core ~ I was very dedicated to strength training and Pilates throughout my training cycle. I can’t tell you how important this was for my running as well as for my mothering!  Strengthening my core, especially after having a baby, has been seriously hard work.  After hurting my back in the spring I swore I would make Pilates and strength training a regular part of my life’s routine whether or not I am training for a race.  How you move is extremely important in life whether you are a runner or not.  A healthy spine is imperative to living an active happy life!  I don’t sweat it out in a Pilates class – that is not what Pilates is about.  Pilates is about how we function in life.  How we carry and care for our bodies.  I want to live a long and active life and Pilates will ensure that I feel good in my body for a long long time.  It is something I will make time to do each and every day.  I believe the quality of my life depends on it.

Focusing on a strong core at Reston Pilates

I’m taking these next three weeks to focus on rest, relaxation and rejuvenation.  To enjoy the freedom of not having a training plan to follow and to get myself ready and excited for what’s ahead.  I have big dreams for my next training cycle and I want to enter into it ready and confident as I step up to the plate.  This does not mean no running and it certainly does not mean no sweating.  The goal for the next three weeks is to sweat, strengthen my core and have fun.  I’m also going to spend some time thinking about my goals for 2012 and how I’m going to accomplish them.  It’s no secret that I want that sub-3:40 marathon and a BQ in the bag, but believe it or not I have other goals in mind besides that.  I’ve got a lot of dreaming and scheming to take care of over these next three weeks.  Just thinking about it makes me excited.

So how about you?  What do you do in the breaks between marathon training cycles?  Are you thinking about your dreams and goals for 2012?