back to the track

Earlier this week I went to the track for the first time in LONG time.  I can’t even remember the last time I did a track workout, but I’m pretty sure it was in early April (possibly even late March) in preparation for Boston.  Months ago.  I was SO excited to return there.  The track is where HARD work is done.  I step up to my fears when I am there, and test my limits around and around and around as I go.

Being outside my comfort zone like that takes me to places inside myself that I didn’t know existed, and places that I forgot existed.  It teaches me to BELIEVE in myself.  It reminds me that I am strong – physically and mentally – and it helps me to let go of negative thoughts.  It empties me and fills me up all at the same time.

It is a hugely therapeutic endeavor for me.

I decided this week that I would begin my marathon training with a ladder style track workout, to get a little bit of everything.  2×1600, 2×800, 4×400.  I wanted to get a baseline for where I am at going into the training cycle, and this is one of my favorite workouts to do that with.  My goal for Richmond is a 3:10 marathon and this is a big huge scary thing for me, but the reason I am setting this goal is because I believe I can do it based on what I am already doing.  Gotta step up to it and do what I believe I can do!

McMillan tells me my target paces for this workout should be the following.  I have these and all my other target paces programmed into a note on my iPhone, so that I always have them with me.

1600 – 6:16-6:26
800 – 2:57 – 3:05
400 – 1:24 – 1:29

I went to the track this week with some of my very favorite running buddies.  We warmed up together (2 miles easy) and then it was time to do the WORK.  Supporting one another as we went, but all focused in on dialing into ourselves and getting done what we needed to get done.  I love this about the track – together, yet on our own.

I took one minute rest between each set – basically enough time to catch my breath, take a sip of water and enter my time into my phone so I can keep track of it (I still haven’t made the effort to figure out how to pre-program my Garmin for these stats (I hear it’s easy I’m just a techno-phobe!), so I am re-starting my watch every time!).  I am experimenting with rest time between intervals this cycle – trying to shorten it for certain workouts so I can keep my heart rate elevated a little and not recover completely between each one.  I read a great article from Runner’s World on this topic and found it helpful.

I was really happy with how I was feeling with each interval, and with where my times came in.

2×1600 – 6:14, 6:11
2×800 – 2:54, 2:52
4×400 – 1:21, 1:22, 1:23, 1:20

My times were consistent, and were all just under my goal range for each interval.  And I finished strong.  I have got to believe I am capable of doing what I am setting out to do!  My body is telling me this is the right place to be.  My heart is telling me to trust that going after this is the right thing too.

That even if I “fail” at achieving a 3:10, so much will be gained through trying.

When we were done with our work, my friends and I cooled down for a mile together and then packed up to head home.  Each of us with a happy heart.  Ready to greet the day.  Ready to take on the training cycle we just began!

tapped out and filled up

With just 9 days to go until my 10th marathon, I am getting REALLY excited. 

This week I’m logging around 45 miles – half as many as I did at the peak of my training a little over a week ago.  I find it totally mind-blowing that for this same race one year ago, the peak of my training was just shy of 50 miles.

I have come a long, long way over the last year.

My body is feeling good and strong.  It is enjoying the extra rest.  I can almost feel the energy building up in my legs.  The tightness that kind of lingers in certain spots is gradually loosening.  My mind is adapting … I would be lying if I said I don’t feel like a crazy person much of the time.  Because I DO really feel like a pretty major kook.  But in my heart – I trust the taper.  I believe there is magic in it and I know that when it’s time to run my race I will be able to spread my wings and fly.

Each week during this training cycle the honey badgers and I have met at the local high school track on Wednesday mornings.  As a result, Wednesday is possibly the hardest day of the week for me – and therefor the most rewarding.  This week was the last HARD track workout of the training cycle because next week we will just run a couple of goal race pace miles around the track – more an exercise of controlling our energy and pace and holding back when we want to go fast than it is working to get faster.  At this point, the hay is in the barn and we are not making gains in speed or fitness.  We are making gains in confidence and saving our energy for the big day.

This week’s workout was the following (with a 1 mile warm up, 2 minutes of active rest between each interval, and a 1 mile cool down):

1×1600
6:11

2×800
3:00, 2:58

4×400:
1:23, 1:22, 1:26, 1:24

I ran these all by feel, which is so awesome because with each passing week I’m really learning how to dial into listening to my body while I run and especially when I push myself.  I felt so elated when the workout was done – so completely satisfied.  I finish these workouts feeling as though I’ve simultaneously tapped myself out and filled myself up.  I know I could keep going if I had to, that I am always reserving some bit of heart and energy for myself.  And I am doing more than I ever would have dreamed I could possibly do.

Yesterday I checked in with the McMillan calculator and was really surprised to see that my paces were all in the range for a 3:05 marathon.  What!?!  I haven’t decided yet what I’m going to shoot for exactly on race day – I know without a doubt that I’m going to listen to my body and to my heart, that I am going to give it all that I’ve got and that I’m going to run a SMART race.  I want to come across that finish line knowing that I gave it everything I had, yet completely spilling over with happiness and gratitude.

One more long run to get in the books – 12 miles on Sunday.  And a few more miles to go after that, before I line up at the start line on October 28th.  I cannot wait for this race!

a killer track workout and dreaming bigger

Yesterday was an important track workout for the honey badgers.  With our marathon just a little over 2 weeks away, this was going to be one of the last really challenging track workouts on our training schedule.  We needed to make it count yesterday.  We needed to step up to the daunting task and hang outside our comfort zone for a while.  I think all of us were dreading it, just like we dread every other track workout before we get started.  They are HARD.  But they are always worth it.  Every single time.

Yesterday’s workout was as much about testing our fitness as it was about renewing our faith in ourselves and in our training.  It was about reminding us that we are where we are for a reason.  We’ve done the work to bring us to this point.  We’ve earned it.  We’ve shown up each and every week for run after run AFTER RUN – no matter the weather or the time of day or how badly we didn’t feel like showing up.  Or what was going on in our lives.  We’ve put in the time and the energy and the work.  Now we need to own it.  We need to believe that we can and we WILL do what we are setting out to do.  Everything is falling into place now as we begin our taper … and it is so cool to witness, in myself as well as in each one of my incredible friends.

Perseverance (aka, Dora)

The plan – 10 sets of 800s at a controlled – yet fast – pace.  Also known as “Yasso 800s,” this workout is KILLER and is a fantastic gauge of both physical and mental stamina.  Ten repeats is a lot, and 800s (two laps around the track) are FAST.  But you cannot make them too fast at first, or you will regret it then feel drained and heavy for the later sets.  Running on the track teaches you to push yourself in a controlled way.  You must learn to listen to your body, otherwise you will fizzle out or worse – hurt yourself.  When you practice pushing through discomfort, you come to realize that you can go even farther and are capable of so much more than you thought possible.  The track teaches you to embrace your own edges and the discomfort that exists there.  It shows you that you are the one in charge – perspective is a CHOICE and the track is great place to practice this.

Track workouts are different from the marathon in so many ways – the workouts are shorter, the paces are faster, the PAIN is different – yet the mental strength and self awareness they require are one and the same if you ask me.  What I learn about myself on the track, I know I can and will apply to my racing on marathon day.  Start out strong and determined, push myself – yet hold back in the beginning because I have a LONG way to go.  And when the end is near, when I know it is safe to do so, I will give it everything I’ve got and finish fast and strong.

Before heading to the track yesterday, I checked out what paces McMillan recommended I try to hit for a 3:15 marathon.  He suggests a range of 3:04-3:10 for 800s.  I wasn’t sure how it would feel, so I just dialed in and went with it.  I am pretty certain that I was right where I needed to be.

10×800 with 2 minutes active rest between each:
3:10, 3:04, 3:07, 3:07, 3:06, 3:05, 3:04, 3:04, 3:02, 2:55

The last few weeks of my training have inspired me to DREAM BIGGER than a 3:20 marathon.  At first this thought really scared me.  My PR (set this spring) is a 3:34.  Fourteen minutes is a LOT to try to shave off in one cycle, especially after making such huge leaps this past year.  BUT it is what it is and I am so grateful.  I know that I am capable of more.  I have earned it.  I truly believe that.  So in the next couple of weeks I am going to be putting my heart out on the line, setting goals for this race and dreaming very very very BIG dreams.

A Timed Mile

This week I thought it would be fun to do a timed mile at the track as part of our weekly workout.  My hope was that it would serve to boost our confidence and also be another piece of data we could use to benchmark ourselves against ourselves.  To see how far we have come with all the hard training we have been doing this cycle.

It turns out that “FUN” is not exactly the best adjective for this kind of thing.  But still — I am really happy that we did it.  And I think the honey badgers are, too.

I know that I talk all the time about how much I **love** the track.  And I do mean that honestly.  I love that what I do out there makes me a better overall runner.  I love that the workouts make me tough and that they teach me to NOT GIVE UP.  I love that they make me a stronger person, inside and out.  And yes,  I love that they make me faster.  But I don’t necessarily always love the way that I feel while I’m doing them.  Track workouts make me squirm, they make me burn, they make me FIGHT.  There is nothing easy about them.

In designing our workout for the timed mile yesterday, I wanted to make sure that we warmed up enough – but not too much.  I contacted a coach who I think very highly of and he gave me some excellent advice.  He explained that since we are high mileage marathoners we would need to be careful of how much fast running we did before our mile – because we wouldn’t want our legs to have too much lactic acid built up in them before we asked them to move as FAST as we could for 4 laps around the track.

Based on his advice, we ran 2 very easy miles to warm up and then did some dynamic stretching before running 4 laps with accelerations followed by jogs (we jogged 100m easy, accelerated for 150m, jogged 100m easy, accelerated 150m).

Right before I started my timed mile, as in mere seconds before, I all of a sudden got a huge rush of race-day nervousness and felt butterflies swooshing through my tummy and I was a jittery mess!  It hit me like a ton of bricks and I didn’t expect that at all.  Up until that point I was calm cool and collected.  I wasn’t scared of the timed mile.  Last year I did it in 6:39 and I knew without question that I would beat my time from a year ago.  It could only serve to boost my confidence and remind me that all my hard work has been paying off, right!?  So why in the world was I such a mess all of a sudden?  I didn’t have time to think about it.  It was time to go.  So I went.

It was still dark out and I decided not to wear my head lamp which was a little freaky at times.  It was humid yet I opted to keep my tank on and during the first two laps I was a mental case wishing I had taken it off.  It was bugging me.  I couldn’t get into a rhythm with my footsteps and felt like my form was off.  I was having a hard time checking in with myself.  Chris was running in lane 1 just ahead of me and I was very indecisive with where I wanted to be – in lane 1 just behind him, or in lane 2?  I kept switching from 1 to 2 and back again.  Finally for the last two laps I found a groove.  My lungs were burning and I wanted it to end.  But I was determined.  I stayed in my lane, locked it in and pushed as hard as I could.

And when I was done — I am telling you — I. WAS. DONE.

1.06 miles in 6:06.

My mile was 5:46.  The other .06 was run at a 5:21 pace.

I didn’t really know I could do that.  Until it was done.

Running is teaching me so much about myself.  About my limits and how to expand them.  About how far passion and dreaming can take you – if only you dare to face your fears and put yourself out there.  And about how important these things are in my life and in making me the person that I am.

Marine Corps Marathon is in a little more than 4 weeks.  No matter what the outcome is on race day, when I cross that finish line I assure you my heart will be soaring.  I love this sport called running.  I love how it fills me up.  How it teaches me to keep dreaming and to fight for what I believe in.

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.