peak week is done … hello taper!!!

Last week was my peak week of training for the Richmond Marathon!  I can’t believe it.  It was quite a week!

I ran 101 miles total (this is a very *wow* thing for me), with six days of running and one day of rest.  Every run had a purpose and I listened to my body and let how I felt dictate what the purpose and the goal for each run would be.  This is what it looked like….

Early morning – 11.5 miles solo.  8:15 average pace.  Mostly easy miles, but some race pace miles thrown in there.

Evening – 9 miles.  8:32 average.  I ran the first 3 by myself at goal race pace, and then the next 6 miles with my good friend Cindy at run club before the Pilates class I teach every Monday night.

Early morning – 11.5 miles – easy/recovery run, at a 8:19 average pace.  After Monday’s double (20.5 miles total for the day) even though my legs were feeling fresh and strong I wanted to take it easy because I was planning on a track workout on Wednesday and I wanted to feel good for that.

Mid-morning – 45 minute strength training session, primarily focused on core and upper body.

Early morning – TRACK!  I hadn’t  been to the track in MONTHS.  I was so happy that my good friends Dora and Michiel were up for meeting me there!!  11.5 miles total.  10×800 with 1:00 timed recovery between each set.  I ran these really smart and strong – consistency was the goal and I wanted to hit them between 2:57-3:05.  They came in as follows: 2:59, 2:57, 3:01, 2:58, 2:57, 3:01, 2:59, 3:02, 2:59, 2:58.  I felt really good about this workout, especially with all the miles on my legs these past few days and weeks!

Mid-morning – recovery run – 10 miles all very, very easy (8:38 average).

Early morning – 8.3 miles recovery pace, 9:04 average.  Legs were feeling the soreness and heaviness from yesterday’s workout so I took it really easy.

Mid-morning – Another 7.2 miles recovery pace (9:24 average), pushing Baby Gus in the stroller!  Also did another strength training session at the gym, again easy on the legs and more focused on core and upper body.

These runs were both much slower for me than most recovery runs are, and I felt I had faster in me but I just did not want to be risky knowing how much more I had left in my week.  Nothing felt off or tweaky, just tired.  I wanted flush the gunk out of my muscles and honor the recovery my body needed.

My legs were feeling good and strong again!  But it became an unplanned rest day — Maddie and I met to run 10 miles together, but the weather was totally creepy.  It was very windy and rainy on-and-off and we decided it might not be the best idea to run in those conditions.  So, rather than run we hung out together nice and cozy in Starbucks.  It was a really nice morning!  So funny because we both showed up wearing the exact same outfit!

Early morning – 10 miles nice and easy (7:56 average).  My legs felt really, really fresh and I wanted to run farther and faster, but was saving my energy for Sunday’s long run.

Early morning – Long run!  Wow did I feel good.  22.5 miles total.  First 10 miles easy, then the next 11 miles at marathon goal race pace, followed by 1.5 miles cool down.  Average pace was a 7:18.  I ran 11 miles heading east and really tried to just make it feel extremely easy.  At the start of mile 11 I picked up my pace still heading east and it felt very good and natural going into that 7:00/mile range. This made me happy!  But then after that mile, I turned around to head back west and found that I was running into what felt like a WALL OF WIND.  I was not happy about this … seeing as how I wanted to run the next 10 miles at goal race pace!  Mile 12 was HARD and I didn’t hit race pace or even close to it (at 7:19) but I knew I was working way harder than the pace on my watch.  Thankfully, I found my groove despite the winds though and from there the miles clicked away right where I was hoping they would, if not honestly a bit faster than I had expected.  I felt steady and strong.  And this made me really, really happy.  This is what my splits came in at: 7:33, 7:35, 7:46, 7:42, 7:43, 7:34, 7:22, 7:35, 7:28, 7:24, 7:01, 7:19, 7:06, 7:04, 7:04, 6:55, 6:46, 6:50, 6:46, 6:53, 6:59, 7:48, 7:54 (last .5).

I got home, quickly showered and put on my compression socks and headed to Abby’s soccer games.  Last night I foam rolled as usual (part of my nightly routine) and this morning I woke up with zero soreness in my legs and ran a little more than 7 miles at recovery pace to flush anything out that might be lingering from the huge week I had last week.

I am feeling really, really good.  I never would have guessed that this is what I would feel like after the kind of mileage I have been putting on my body.  I think my body likes this.  I know that sounds silly to some, and probably insane to most, but it is really, honestly and truly, how I feel.

The taper has arrived and Race Day is less than 2 weeks away now!  I am going to do this taper right, and trust in it’s magic and purpose, no matter how crazy it might make me feel some days.  This week I’m planning to run the same number of days that I usually run (6), but lower the volume considerably, almost cutting my mileage in half.  I will plan on a tempo run or mile repeats at the track on Wednesday and then do a long run of probably 12-14 miles over the weekend.  Next week I will take extra rest days and really tone it down over the days leading up to my race.  So that should all make me feel really good and ready to do what I want to do on November 16th in Richmond!!

This whole training cycle I have told myself – take it one day at a time.  Be in the moment – the day, the mile, the step – that I am in.  Push myself forward, and listen to my body and to my heart.  Trusting in where it can take me.  Trusting in what is meant to be, being.  The same goes for the taper and I need to remember that.  Right now I’m just floating on how amazing the experience has been so far, and my heart is full of hope and excitement for all that is possible.  Not just what is possible on November 16th in Richmond, but well beyond that.  Beyond running even.  All that is possible in LIFE.

making changes, and running for the LOVE of running

Rock n Roll USA was just a little over 2 months ago and I’m finding that really hard to believe.  Time sure does FLY by.

Since recovering from that race, I’ve turned my focus toward shorter distances and have raced three times – setting PRs in both the 10 Miler and the 10k and coming really close in the 5k.  I’ve been averaging around 45-50 miles per week and my longest runs have been 14-16 miles.  Liberated from the rigors and the self-imposed pressure of marathon training for a little while (though I miss it and can’t wait to get back to it!), it’s been a lot of fun for me.  I’ve been running for the simple sake of doing something I love to do, and it has been more than wonderful.  The fact is though, I have been running a LOT and even though it’s been tons of fun, I haven’t really given myself – my legs – much of a break.

A couple of weeks ago I started noticing soreness in my calves and in my right foot.  I went to see Dr. Wong and brought my shoes in for him to take a look at them.  I’ve been spending a lot more time than usual in my 4mm drop Kinvaras (as opposed to the 8mm drop Triumphs I usually train in) and as a result my calves were getting tight which was causing the foot discomfort.  “Early stage plantar fasciitis” is what he told me.  Here is one thing I know for sure about running — nearly ALL running injuries are preventable if we listen to our bodies and if we pay attention and are SMART.

This is one of the MANY reasons I love seeing Dr. Wong.  He helps me keep things in check.  After seeing him I switched out my shoes (the Triumphs were completely worn – it was time for a new pair), built an extra rest day into my schedule and spent more time each day rolling out my calves with the Tiger Tail stick and stretching them after runs.

And you know what?  I feel so much better now.  No more weirdness in my foot.  My calves feel totally normal again.  Injury paranoia makes me completely neurotic.  All runners feel pain and tightness – and I’m convinced that if we all stopped running at the first sign of that, nobody would run at all on this good green Earth.  The trick is telling the difference between the kind of pain that we should push through and move past, and the kind of pain we should definitely not ignore.  When something bugs me and won’t go away, I take a close look at what I’ve been doing and ask myself some questions:

Have I been taking enough rest days?
Have I built my mileage properly?
What kind of speed work am I doing?  What have my paces been like?
What’s the scoop with my shoes?
What does my stretching, foam rolling, strengthening routine look like?
Where do I need to make changes to what I am doing?

In the case of this Spring, I determined that it was time for new shoes and that I should pay better attention to my calves since I was asking so much more of them in the speed department with all these shorter races.

shoe love

I got some new kicks that I am really really loving.  The New Balance 1080 v2 are very similar to the Saucony Triumphs I was training in – a neutral cushioned shoe with an 8mm drop.  I loved my Triumphs, but =PR= as out of my size when I went in to buy them and I had been really curious about this shoe anyway so I think it was meant to be.

I took them out for a spin on Saturday.  16 miles that could not have gone better.  It was a perfectly executed long run and was just what I needed to feel strong and ready as I head into my taper for the half marathon I’m running on June 2nd (ZOOMA Annapolis).  I averaged an 8:24 pace and the last 5 miles were all sub-8 with the last and fastest mile run up hill in 7:39.  It was pretty much perfect.

I have never tapered for a half marathon — every one I’ve ever run has fallen in the middle of marathon training so it hasn’t really been necessary.  I’ve decided that this time around I’m going to build a real taper phase into my preparations and this week marks the beginning of that.  It makes me feel excited – I really want to show up on race day feeling more than ready to rock it.  And the taper, though it will probably drive me crazy in more ways than one, will be GOOD for me.

Early this morning the Honey Badgers and I went out for an easy 6 mile run in the rain.  It was pouring and we were literally soaked from head to toe.  It was the perfect run to start my taper … out with friends just enjoying doing what I love to do, with people who GET that and share in it with me.

soaked and happy

When my alarm went off and I heard the rain falling, I knew that if my buddies weren’t meeting me there was absolutely NO WAY I would have motivated myself to get out that door (or even out of my bed at all), especially now that I am in taper mode.  Before we started running we all laughed at ourselves and said we better just get it done.  We’ve run in worse weather before.  We made it this far, we may as well JUST RUN.

My memory of today’s run will stick with me for a while I’m sure.  Yes, my fingers were pruning and my feet were squishy and wet in my shoes.  My hair was a rat’s nest, tangled and gross under my hat.  Not an inch of me was dry.  But it was so fun.  It was simple and peaceful.  The trail was lush and green.  The rain cooled me off when I started to warm up under my jacket.  We were running for the pure JOY of running.  And I loved every minute of it.

When I got home Abby was sitting in the front door, holding onto her blanky and her doll and watching us through the glass as she waved to us.  As I walked up the front step and opened the door she said “wow mama, you are one wet honey badger” and I burst into laughter.  Coming home to my warm cuddly family after a run like that is priceless.  I love mornings like this, and this is why running is so worth it to me.  The racing, the PRs the accomplishments that are mine alone – that is all icing on the cake and makes running exciting and meaningful on lots of levels.  But running for the simple JOY of the way I feel while I’m doing it, and really how I feel once it’s DONE – that is magical to me.  I will listen to my body and adapt as necessary to prevent myself from getting injured or burning out.  Because what it all comes down to is the fact that I LOVE TO RUN and I want to be doing this for all of my life.  I want to greet my grandchildren at the end of a run some day.  It is all a part of my dream.

welcome home, mama

I’m Ready to Rock – Marathon Prep

Tomorrow is RACING DAY!

I’m so excited I can’t stand it.  This week went really well.  Team Honey Badger met for an easy paced 5 miles early Tuesday morning.  Our wonderful running group from the =PR= Distance Training program met at the track on Wednesday night for a light workout (totaling 3.25 miles – two at race pace) followed by a wonderful carb-loading extravaganza at our favorite local pizza joint.  It was awesome – so much great energy in the air!

the gang’s all here
Yesterday we went to the expo.  It was a quick trip, though traffic was a nightmare – such is the life in DC.  We got our race packets, switched corrals (very easy to do!) and made one lap around the room to check out what was there (same stuff as always).  I am so glad I have that out of the way!

This morning I met Jodi and Dora for a very quick shake-out run. We met at Starbucks and ran two laps (probably about a half mile) around the parking lot before getting ourselves some yummy coffee.  The purpose of the run was just to loosen up – mostly to relax our minds and calm our nerves than anything else.  It was lovely.  I think we are ready!

Last night I laid everything out for race day.  It is going to be HOT and SUNNY tomorrow, nothing like the weather we have trained in this cycle.  Temperatures will be in the mid-50s at the start and will climb to a high of 75 tomorrow. 

I am planning for the weather.  Here is my race outfit plan:

The Outfit:

  • Hat and sunglasses
  • A light colored tank (originally I was planning on black, but since it will be sunny I’m going for a lighter color)
  • Shorts
  • A light pair of socks so my feet don’t get hot
  • Endorphon Warrior “BELIEVE”bracelet
  • Road ID

The Shoes:

I am wearing my Saucony Kinvara 2s for this race.  I love these shoes and wore them throughout many of my runs this training season.  Mostly for track workouts and long tempo runs (usually anywhere from 20-30 miles a week), these are my “fast shoes.”  I wore them for a few longer runs towards the end of my training cycle and over the last few weeks I went back-and-forth between whether to wear these or my Triumphs.  I decided on the Kinvaras because what it comes down to is I feel so good in them.  They are my racing shoes, my fast shoes.  I am excited to wear them tomorrow!

I have also laid out everything else that I am bringing with me tomorrow.  This is something I always do before a marathon, just to be sure I am not forgetting anything.

The Race Bag:

  • Hand held water bottle (I carry my water when I run and race)
  • Gels – I plan to eat one every 5 miles, but I packed a few extra just in case (you never know if you will lose one or if you will have a running buddy who needs one!)
  • Sunscreen!
  • Lip balm with SPF
  • Body Glide
  • Picky Bars (I will eat one about an hour before race start, and have another one for after the race to)
  • Extra water bottle
  • A tube of nuun
  • Arnica gel – for any sore muscles before or after
  • An extra bag, for wet clothes after the race
  • A small towel
  • Tissues in case the potties are out of T.P before the race

My husband and our two sons are coming to spectate the race  – I am so thankful for this!  Robert is going to try to see me at miles 11, 14 and 18.5 and then be at the Finish.  He will have an extra hand-held water bottle for me and gels just in case.  He will also have a dry set of clothes for me to put on after the race.

I think I’m in good shape and that I’ve covered all my bases.  Today I will do as much resting and relaxing as a mom of three can possibly do.  I’m going to hydrate like crazy all day (which for me is 100+ ounces of nuun and water), eat an early and light pasta dinner this evening and try to get to bed nice and early.

Are you running the RnR USA races tomorrow?  What’s your outfit plan for the race?  What will you pack in your race bag?  Are you feeling ready!?

GOOD LUCK to everyone racing in DC or elsewhere this weekend!!!

race week – monday!

Oh my goodness, everyone — It’s RACE WEEK!

After months of training for and dreaming about the Rock n’ Roll USA Marathon, it is finally so close that I can taste it.  My heart is full of excitement, anticipation, nervous energy, gratitude and hope.

I’m feeling good.

I’ve done all the work.  I’ve trained hard and I’ve trained smart – nailing my paces, sharpening my mental game, figuring out what works and what doesn’t work for me to perform at my best.  I’ve gutted it out through powerful winds, freezing rain and even 20 miles on a treadmill.  I’ve put in the time and the miles each and every week, at the track, on the trails and in the gym.

Now is the time to rest up, so I can make all this hard work COUNT on race day.

What do I mean by that?  Well, every phase of a training cycle is important, and the taper is no exception to that.  It’s SCIENCE.  In order to make all that hard work we put into our training count on race day, we must honor the taper and take it seriously – as seriously as we would our peak mileage week, our toughest track workout or our longest run.  Our muscles need to rest and recover – we don’t want to feel any soreness on race day (we will be feeling plenty of that once we cross the finish line!).  Our glycogen stores need to be replenished and full so that we head into the race with energy reserves because we will need to use them – they will deplete quickly.  Hydration this week is key – we do not want to risk starting the race feeling dehydrated and chugging water right before the race will do us no good.  We need to REST and make sure we are sleeping enough all week (the night before the race will likely not be the best night’s sleep of our lives since we will be nervous and excited.  Not only that but take the time to RELAX each day – to calm our minds as well as our bodies. 

Calming my mind is perhaps the trickiest component for me during the taper period, as I feel so nervous and excited every single time I think about my race (which is, um, pretty much all the time these days!).  The goal of a sub-3:40 and my first BQ has been at the forefront of my thinking throughout this training cycle but now as the race is only days away I’m realizing it is time for me to LET GO.  It is time for me to relax my thinking and trust in my body’s ability to get the job done on race day.  I have been re-reading a wonderful book (I last read it 12 years ago when I was training for my first marathon).  It is called Running Within and is written by Jerry Lynch and Warren Scott.  It is one of my very favorite running books and I highly recommend it to runners of all levels.

This past week I have been focusing on the sections in the book that explore effective ways to relax your mind and body while racing.  One of the pieces of advice that really speaks to me is to detach yourself from the outcome on race day.  When I first read this a light bulb went on in my head.  It was like the words just jumped out at me.  It’s a little ironic that I’ve been so focused on my goal all season long but that come race day in order for me to perform at my best I will have to let go of this focus.  If the race is going well and I start thinking about accomplishing my goal I could get too excited – I may pick up my pace too soon or get emotional and mess up my rhythm or my form.  If I fall off my pace and it becomes apparent that I will not hit my goal, that could ruin my experience and make me feel completely miserable.  I REFUSE to let that happen.  So this week I am working on relaxing my mind, taking time to visualize myself on race day doing what I love best.  Setting my body free to do what it is trained to do.  Being in the moment and letting things happen.  Trusting in my training, trusting in my body and believing in myself.

I am embracing the purpose of my taper this week.  Butterflies are zipping and zooming around in my tummy and I can hardly think of anything other than Saturday morning, but I will take the time this week to relax my mind, rest my body, fuel and hydrate properly.  Race day is almost here!!

happy after my last long run before race day!

hello from Jamaica, mon

We’ve been in Discovery Bay, Jamaica since Saturday afternoon.  Our vacation has been one moment of wonder after another.

It’s times like this that make me feel extra thankful for my commitment to running.  Running makes me strong, and helps me to be the kind of mother that I want to be.

A mother who can take her son on a sea kayak adventure, hunting for pirates and on the lookout for dolphins, paddling over the soft waves.

A mother who can go snorkeling with her daughter.  I held her hand as we both swam out to the reef and explored the underwater fantasy that lives below.  Sea cucumbers, all sorts of fish big and small, crabs and creatures crawling along the ocean floor.

A mother who can hike through a bat cave with her 25 pound baby on her back, on her hands and knees at times, so she can fit through cracks, crevices and tunnels.

This trip has been so special and we are only halfway through the week.  I’m keeping up with my training without any problem.  The house we are staying at has a gym with two treadmills.  I have never worked out in such an incredible setting.  I brought my foam roller and Tiger Tail and am being good about keeping up with my core strengthening and stretching routine.

This is the life.

view from my treadmill

8 Miles: 2 mile warm up, 4 miles TEMPO, 2 miles cool down

all i need

I don’t think it gets better than this, honestly.  To say I’m thankful would be a huge understatement.  I feel so blessed to be in this beautiful place with my family, active and peaceful all at the same time.  We still have a few more days left and I know we will fill them with memories that will last a lifetime.

This afternoon we have a massage therapist coming to the house to give each of the adults a personal massage by the sea.  Seriously … can somebody pinch me please?  I am so excited.

For the most part I’m staying disconnected from the internet while on this trip, but I’ve set my alarm to remind me to log on later today so I can sign up for MCM when registration opens at 3:00PM.  I do not want to miss out on that.  It’s a funny feeling to be signing up for my next marathon while in the midst of tapering for the biggest race of my life.  Occasionally my brain dabbles with thoughts about what my goals might be come fall, but I can’t entertain them too much.  I have to focus on the task at hand in this moment.

And right now, at this very instant, I am focusing on relaxing, staying healthy and strong, believing in myself and enjoying each and every moment of this vacation with my family.

I am blessed beyond words, and so very grateful.