Half Marathon Training

Shiner Half & BCS Training Update

Training for Shiner & BCS is coming along nicely. If you remember, back in September, I wrote this awesome training plan for myself and though I’m using it as something of a guideline, it’s not getting followed, exactly. Or at all, really.

About two weeks after I wrote my training plan I left on a 16 mile run and came home 20 miles later. It had been a long week and I needed the alone time. It was more for therapy than training but after that I decided to up my long run volume this training cycle. My body is fully capable of handling the higher mileage and it seemed like a good chance to experiment. I’ve run 6, 20+ milers in the last 8 weeks. Including a 26.2 mile monster that featured 1,500 feet of climbing/decent at the Hockley Community Center. That was fun. Right?

The goal became making the dreaded 20 mile run “no big deal” and I can easily say that I was successful. Running 20 miles is no longer a big deal. BUT I’m tired. Very tired. More so than in past training cycles. I’ve learned some valuable lessons, most notably that I shouldn’t do more than two consecutive weeks of 20+ mile runs. Every three weeks I need a recovery week. Duly noted.

Speed work has been going pretty well. I skipped my last scheduled tempo run due to some emerging achiness in my knees and shins but a couple days of hot baths, targeted massage and cross training did the trick. Other than that the speed sessions have gone according to plan, with one exception…

…since I lost the Y to Harvey, I moved to a new gym. The temperature inside the new gym isn’t nearly as cold as the Y was, and sometimes it’s downright hot in there. As a result my heart rate has been higher and my tempo run paces have been slightly slower than normal by about 10 seconds per mile.

What was a 7:08/mile tempo run at a heart rate of 171 at the Y, is now a 7:19/mile tempo run at the same heart rate…which is slightly frustrating.

At first I thought it was me, as I hadn’t done any tempo runs since training for Boston and I took the summer almost entirely off from structured running. Instead I spent all summer playing with my friends and running a ton of trails.

When picking up speed work up after a layoff, you never really know how those first few speed sessions will go. They’re kinda like sticking your hand into one of those mystery feeling boxes. You never really know what is inside.

It feeeels like an eyeball…but maybe it’s a grape? 

It feels like a tempo run, kinda. From 2 years ago? It left me wondering, what happened?

Maybe my age is finally catching up with me? Maybe I’m paying the price for goofing off all summer? Maybe I’m just not as fast as I was back in April?

Thankfully there have been a couple of times when it’s gotten cooler outside and the temperature inside the gym has followed suit. I’ve had a few runs that resembled my old YMCA-pre-Harvey pace so I’m pretty sure it’s not me.

Which is good. I was getting paranoid.

Because the tempo runs have been slower, I’m slightly concerned that although my heart/lungs are in good enough shape to handle a seven minute mile, my legs may not be.

To supplement the tempo runs and work on my leg turnover I’ve been doing strides at the end of easy runs and have done a series of 2 mile intervals at 10k pace (6:45)  but if it worked remains to be seen.

I was hoping to find out on Saturday because it’s FINALLY time for Shiner! I’ve been looking forward to the Shiner Half Marathon since I finished Boston back in April. After the race I sat at the post-race party in Fenway Park, drank my special Samuel Adams 26.2 Celebration brew, and I switched the countdown timer on my watch. That seems like forever ago but it’s finally here!

Unfortunately, yesterday around 2:30 pm I was moving some firewood and dropped a piece right on my foot. It landed squarely on my big toe. I screamed and yelled a bunch of four letter words and cried a little BECAUSE IT HURT and watched my toenail turn purple – then the rest of my toe decided purple was an awesome color so it decided it wanted to be purple too. Moral of the story, don’t move firewood wearing flip flops.

I’m feeling pretty lucky that I didn’t break my toe.

I was planning on using Shiner as my last tempo run prior to BCS but right now I can barely walk, let alone race. I’m confident that I can complete Shiner on Saturday…it just may not be very fast because this HURTS. Like a lot. Badly enough that, last night, I briefly considered a trip to urgent care for something stronger than ibuprofen.

I’m disappointed. I wanted another stein. Hope isn’t lost entirely but I’m not exactly optimistic.

What is it with me and injuries right before a race? Last night when I was laying in bed with ice on my foot I realized it was the second time in six months that I had been elevating and icing an acute injury. Last time it was the mountain bike incident prior to Boston. At least this time I was doing something productive and not something incredibly stupid.

Next week is supposed to be peak week for BCS training. Peak week may or may not happen depending on how quickly my toe heals. According to the plan (that I wrote but haven’t been following), I’ve got a longer run scheduled for next Tuesday of 13 miles with 7 miles at marathon pace, one last 24 mile run on Saturday and if my body feels good I’ll do a marathon pace run on the following Sunday. Peak week mileage should be in the mid-70s. After that all I have left is a two week taper.

Regardless of what happens with my toe, I’m ready for the taper. I need the taper. I’m both physically and emotionally exhausted. Training for a race does that.

Yes, I can run fast but I don’t like it. The process of getting my body from summer-of-trail-running-fun shape to marathon race shape is uncomfortable and sometimes downright painful. Constantly pushing myself drains me emotionally. By the time I make it to peak week I’m ready to give up running altogether.

But then race day comes. Racing is awesome. It hurts but I’m rewarded emotionally and shortly thereafter I forget about the pain of training and start making plans to do it again. Because that’s what I do.

And because of marathon legs. Marathon legs are my favorite.

Rock n Roll Virginia Beach & Future Plans

Labor day weekend we made a somewhat regular trip to Virginia Beach to visit family. As is tradition Jason, his brother and I ran Rock n Roll Virginia Beach half marathon together. This year the race was unique because tropical storm Hermine moved through the day before, leaving behind a half assembled course and 35 mph wind gusts.

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As luck would have it, my daughter came down with something the night before the race and this momma got ZERO sleep. Needless to say, race conditions weren’t ideal.

Regardless, I was determined to do the best I could. This year, for the first time EVER I was in corral ONE. When I first ran this race 6 years ago I was in corral 13, I love seeing signs of progress like this. Races are unpredictable, once the gun goes off its anyone’s guess how they go but no matter how well I did that day I started in corral one and to me that was a big deal.

I had no idea what to expect of myself performance wise since I hadn’t really trained for the race. I’ve spent all my time lately on easy aerobic runs and I was sure that I was sure my legs had forgotten how to run quickly.

Here are the splits:

Mile 1 – 7:20
Mile 2 – 7:34
Mile 3 – 7:29

5k – 23:46 (7:39)

Mile 4 – 7:47
Mile 5 – 7:42
Mile 6 – 7:44

10k – 48:04 (7:44)

Mile 7 – 7:47
Mile 8 – 7:45
Mile 9 – 7:50
Mile 10 – 7:48

10 Mile – 1:17:25 (7:45)

Mile 11 – 7:51
Mile 12 – 8:21
Mile 13 – 7:55
Last .1 – 7:46

Official Results

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After the race, as I shivered while waiting on the boys, I had a lot of time to think about the race. Though 1:42 isn’t a PR it was only 3 minutes off

My PR was run while I was in the middle of training for the Chevron Houston Marathon. I was doing speed work twice a week, and was in nearly peak condition. That race was run under nearly ideal circumstances. I was well rested and the weather was a perfect 50 degrees with no wind. The course was flat and close to home. You couldn’t ask for anything better.

This race was the exact opposite. I didn’t train for it and am most certainly not in peak condition. It was 75 degrees and windy. I was 1,000 miles from home and exhausted. The course IS relatively flat but there’s a giant bridge you have to cross at mile 4 and again at mile 12 which slows things down considerably.

All those things considered, 3 minutes shy of PR is a great result. I was happy with the race and my performance and it leaves me excited about things to come because big things are coming!

November 19th, I’m running the Shiner Beer Run Half Marathon. I AM training for this race with the full intention to kick it’s butt. In April I’m running the BOSTON MARATHON! Registration was three weeks ago and I’m officially in! Excited doesn’t even begin to describe how I feel about this. Training doesn’t start until January though so for the next three months I need to find something to keep me occupied so I don’t go crazy. I should have about six weeks of downtime after Shiner before Boston training starts and that sounds just about perfect. The countdown begins!

The Run Streak Ends!

Beach RunAfter 176 days and 690 miles the run streak has come to an end. It didn’t end due to injury or illness but instead I chose to bring it to an end on my own terms.

I started the streak as a way to motivate myself to run after a tough marathon training cycle and it evolved to become part of a larger challenge to help my husband lose weight. Coincidentally, he gave up alcohol to aid his weight loss quest the same day I started my run streak. This led to a little friendly bet between the two of us {read about it here}.

On Saturday he reached his goal weight (he lost 30 pounds) and cracked open a beer. Since we started our streaks together it only made sense to end them together.  I put my shoes in the closet and for the first time in nearly six months I took a day off. Actually, I took two days off. It felt odd.

Run Streak Collage

I didn’t need it to motivate me anymore. I am registered for the Rock n Roll San Antonio Half on December 7th. My training plan calls for six days of running a week which includes speed work, pace runs and progression long runs. After three weeks of training while maintaining the run streak my legs were exhausted and after every run felt like wet noodles. I need that day of rest. It was time for the streak to go.

Time Out Run

I enjoyed the streak and had a hard time choosing to end it. It had me running on days I never would have laced up my shoes. I ran in a driving thunderstorm. I ran during a week long battle with Hand Foot & Mouth disease {day 81, I’ll never forget you}. I ran through a stomach bug. I ran on trips. I ran on the beach. I ran in golf clothes. One day I forgot to run and practically sprinted around my mile loop at 10 PM. I ran every single day for the better part of six months. Every. Single. Day. At least a mile.

My run streak taught me a lot about running on tired legs and it truly made me a stronger and much faster runner. I enjoyed it so much I intend on making it an annual event. After the Woodlands Marathon next spring I fully intend on streaking again.

How did our bet end? A draw.

Houston Half Recap

DISCLAIMER: This is long. I’m sorry.

A couple weeks ago my husband and I ran the Houston Half Marathon. Yes, I realize it’s been a full two weeks since the race so this post is rather belated. But, hey right now my life is just a little crazy. Getting this up at all is a small victory.

There’s only one word that can describe the experience. Rain. The race was planned to start at 7 am but thanks to a line of thunderstorms and heavy rain that moved through the area the start was postponed an hour to 8 am.

So, we sat around for an hour in the parking garage (it was warm and dry in there!) waiting for the rain to let up.

The delay wasn’t really a big deal except that I ended up eating my pre-race banana an hour too early and by the time the race started I was starving.

Because of the rain I have almost no pictures of the event. I wasn’t too motivated to take my camera out in the epic downpour. I think this one sums it up the best.

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My husband hung his shirt on the baby gate to dry out.

THE RACE

The race is an out and back which started and ended at Sam Houston Park in downtown Houston. The first bit meandered around downtown and then finally down Allen Parkway to Memorial Park and back to downtown.

The weather was a very cool 60 degrees and it rained during the ENTIRE race. I don’t mind racing in the rain, it kept my body cool and the clouds kept the sun away but being wet after the race wasn’t fun at all.

This was a smaller run, about 5000 runners and since it was small there wasn’t a waved start which was a little frustrating. The funnel effect of the downtown streets and the crowd of people running different speeds made finding my pace almost impossible for the first two miles. I bobbed and weaved around people just trying to settle in. Around mile three the crowd thinned out a bit and everyone was starting to run in a group of people their own pace. My husband found me around mile two and ran with me for about a mile but then he peeled off at a rest station and I didn’t see him again until the finish.

The race itself was organized well. Rest stations were about every 1.5-2 miles and were well stocked with Gatorade and water. The course was well marked and had police at every intersection. EMTs were patrolling the course on bicycles looking for people in need of medical attention.

I think the worst part of this race was something the race organizers couldn’t control – the mud at the post race party at Sam Houston Park. It was horrible. It made the post race “party” more of a grab a donut and go home type of event. This wasn’t mud in the traditional sense. This was brown primordial goop that was slippery! Oh so slippery! You couldn’t get to the food tent or any of the vendor tents without risking a fall in the muck. That and there was no toilet paper left in any of the portable toilets by the time the race was over.

MY PACE

My stretch goal for this run was to break two hours. I set the virtual partner on my Garmin for a 9 minute mile and made it my goal to beat it. I knew if I could average 9 minute miles then breaking two hours was a given.

My racing strategy was to run 9:30 the first mile, 9:15 the second, and then settle into 9 for the remainder of the first half. The second half I could focus on negative splitting and making up the lost time.

This was a small race (less than 5,000) and therefore didn’t have a
wave start. The crowd during the first couple miles made intentional pacing almost impossible. It was more of a do-the-best-you-can kind of situation but the rest of the plan worked out well.

Splits were: 9:23, 9:12, 8:53, 9:08, 8:40, 8:43, 8:55, 8:48, 8:45, 8:33, 8:32, 9:02, 8:37

Official time – 1:56.28

Overall – 924/4543
Gender – 252/2378
Age Group (F 30-34) – 48/391
Avearage Pace – 8:53 min/mile

1st Half – 59:09 (9:01 min/mile)
2nd Half – 57:22 (8:45 min/mile)

PR by a whopping 13 minutes! 

I stopped at every water stop through the first half of the race and then only one in the second half. Took a Gu (Roctane Cherry Lime) at mile 7.

My legs felt surprisingly good throughout the race. Around mile 10 I started cramping in my left shin and foot but was able to run through it. By the time I finished the race though my thighs felt like someone had been pounding them with a hammer. My pacing strategy worked well; at the finish I had the perfect amount of energy left. I felt like I had pushed my body as hard as I could and left the course with absolutely no regrets.

THE AFTERMATH

Since the post race party was more of a muddy shiver fest we grabbed a few bites of food and then left. I changed into dry clothes in the car so at least I would be dry on the way home.

After picking up the kids at my parents house and visiting for a little bit we finally made it back to our house around 2. We immediately laid Evie down for a nap. I laid down with the baby for a nap around 3 and we all woke back up around 6.

We had planned on grilling burgers for dinner but we were both so tired we ordered pizza instead.

At 8:30 I laid down in bed to nurse the baby and fell asleep again. This time for the night.

I was so tired that I accidentally slept in one of my contacts. When I woke up I couldn’t see a thing out of my right eye and was a little freaked out. I kept putting eye drops in my eye thinking it was just really dry. It took me an hour to finally go look in the mirror to figure it out!

For those of you wondering, yes I wear a contact in each eye. I thought I took them both out before I laid down to feed the baby. I succeeded in removing the left one (which I put in the right side of the contact case?) and failed at removing the right one entirely, even though I distinctly remember taking it out. I must have been very, very tired.

THE SURPRISE

I think the biggest surprise of the day was my husband! He didn’t train AT ALL – like he maybe ran a total of 20 miles in the three months leading up to the race. He was planning on running/walking since he was so out of shape but somehow he still ran a 2:04! 2:04!!! No walking involved. Mind blown.

Only Shootin’ Stars Break the Mold

Occasionally, you do something in running, or in life, where you challenge your own perceptions of what you think you can do.

My little story begins Sunday morning at 5 AM. I woke up to prepare for my long run, a scheduled 14 miles.

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Through the window of our bedroom I saw intermittent flashes of light so I rolled out of bed and checked the weather. A fairly heavy thunderstorm was brewing but thankfully it was in another county. I started my pre-long run routine. I fed the baby, pumped, drank a cup of coffee, ate a banana and got dressed. I got in the car and drove a bottle of water out to my turnaround point. Once back home I parked the car and walked down the driveway toward the street to begin my run.

I was just about to push the start button on my Garmin when…

*flash* BOOM!

Eeeeeek! I scurried up the driveway to the covered area of our patio and realized that my run was officially cancelled. Bummer.

This left me with quite the dilemma. I really wanted to get this 14-miler done before the half. It was my last long run before the taper and I didn’t want to miss it. I could always do it on Monday but I had the kids with me. How could I run 14 miles with the kids? The furthest I had ever pushed the double stroller was 6 miles, there was no way I could push them the entire 14.

I finally decided to split it up and do two 7 mile runs – one in the morning and one in the evening.

Monday, I left for my morning run with an open mind, so open in fact that I threw a packet of Gu in the double jogger…just in case.  A mile into my run I felt great! I began to think about attempting the unthinkable, pushing the kids the full 14 miles. Just about then Smash Mouth came on my playlist and All Star came blaring through the speaker of my phone.

Didn’t make sense not to live for fun
Your brain gets smart but your head gets dumb

So much to do so much to see
So what’s wrong with taking the back streets?

I started thinking a little harder and evaluating the day. The weather was warm but not too humid. A slight breeze came in from the coast. It was overcast which means I didn’t have to worry about the sun zapping my energy. Both the kids slept well the night before and the baby had a great feeding before we left. I had rested legs and a positive attitude.

You’ll never know if you don’t go
You’ll never shine if you don’t glow

I slowed my pace and allowed my heart rate to settle around 150. If I completely ignored my pace and just focused on maintaining my heart rate I could do this. I COULD DO IT.

Hey now you’re an All Star get your game on, go play
Hey now you’re a Rock Star get the show on, get paid

So that’s what I did. At mile 3, I committed. I made a left turn to get on my long run route….and I took this picture.

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The baby slept most of the time and Evie just watched the scenery pass. At mile 4, I got a text message from my running partner asking if I’d run yet. I told her what I was doing.

She told me I was nuts.

At mile 6, I took the Gu and drank some water.

At mile 9, my running partner met up with me and she ran with me the rest of the way.

Sometime during mile 11, Evie started to fuss so I surrendered my phone for her to play with. She proceeded to take 15 pictures of our run…and three videos of her legs.

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A half mile from home the baby started crying but I didn’t care. I was sweaty, exhausted and had blisters between my fingers but I did it. I challenged my own perception of what I was capable of doing and I learned that you never know what you can do until you try.

All that glitters is gold…
Only shootin’ stars break the mold.

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Last Week’s Running Recap

I don’t know about you but when I check the weather and see, “0% chance of rain” I generally don’t pack an umbrella.

Rain never precludes me from running (unless there’s thunder involved) but I generally prepare just a bit differently for a rainy run than I do a dry one, namely I wear a hat.

Before I walked out the door early, early Sunday morning to meet my running buddy for our long run, I checked the weather online. Chance of rain: 0%. Hat not needed, or so I thought.

Off we went on our 13 mile journey but after just a couple of miles a large looming dark cloud appears on the horizon.

“It looks like it might rain.”

It’s not supposed to be rain. That can’t be rain.

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It was already cool outside, 60 degrees. Perfect running weather. Then the raindrops began. At first it was just a sprinkle then slowly the rain got heavier and heavier until we were running in a full blown downpour.

The rain drops turned into ice cold needles pelting our bodies and stinging our skin from a horizontal angle thanks to a stout North wind.

It was our first cool front of the fall and it came through during the middle of our run.

Miles 3-6 were absolutely brutal. Brutal. I’m a tough girl and don’t often complain about running in the rain but this wasn’t regular rain. It was a full blown storm. After mile 6 the wind let up but it continued to rain throughout the remainder of the run. 

BUT the run itself was great! Since it was cool and we were running slowly my heart rate stayed very low. We had only planned on doing 12 miles and decided to go the extra mile, literally, at the last minute.

That extra mile, plus and extra four miles with my hubby earlier in week brought me to my my highest weekly mileage since the baby was born. 38 miles! Woohoo!

This is what it looked like.

Monday: Rest

Tuesday: 5 miles, pace 10:11 min/mi (pushing double stroller)

Wednesday: 6 miles, pace 9:33 min/mi (pushing double stroller)

Thursday: 6 miles, pace 11:51 min/mi & 4 miles, pace 10:44 min/mi (all pushing double stroller)

Friday: 75 minutes of yoga

Saturday: 6 miles, pace 8:49 min/mi

Sunday: 13 miles, pace 10:46 min/mi

Unfortunately, yesterday I got sick and I’m still not feeling too hot today. I think today’s planned 5 miler is cancelled. I’m just going to focus today on resting and letting my body heal so I can get back at it tomorrow!

Rest Days, Yoga & Introspection

Friday’s are a rest day for me. I’m supposed to be cross training on Fridays but 8-weeks into my training schedule and I haven’t so much as lifted a toe on a Friday. Yesterday morning I went to my very first yoga class ever at the Y. It was my first attempt at getting serious about my cross training on Friday.

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Let me happily report that I loved it! What a great way to release tension from the week and prepare for the weekend!

I’ve done yoga before, in the privacy of my living room, by way of an instructor in my television but I’ve never been serious about it. For me, stepping into a yoga class is stepping outside myself, outside my comfort zone.

Lately I’ve been all about pushing my comfort level not just in exercise but in life. It’s time that I push my real and imagined fears and boundaries to make myself a better me. Stepping outside my comfort zone and stepping into that yoga studio is just one more way in which I’ve pushed myself this week.

Recently I’ve become much more aware of my shortcomings as a person. I’m very quiet, shy and reserved, the definition of introvert. It takes a lot of effort for me be social and making friends is hard. But recently I’ve realized that I need to be a better me so I can be a better mom.

I’m glad I pushed my boundaries and tried something new! Yoga has solidly planted itself as a Friday morning activity for me. It’s refreshing, rejuvenating and relaxing! Exactly what this mom needs by Friday morning!