the final countdown…

boston3daysGiven that I am leaving for Boston tomorrow morning and hope to get in a shakeout run before I leave, sleeping should really come before writing right now, but I would be remiss if I didn’t capture some of my excitement in these final days before the Big Day in writing.

I’ve been insanely busy and haven’t had time to share my awesome 19-miler last Sunday (the 6th): basically, I ran midday to mimic potential warm and sunny weather (okay, I just wanted to sleep in because it was the one day that week I could…), and decided that my final [very] long run would have to go through downtown Hopewell. I altered the route so that I would get a gradual uphill rather than downhill on Crusher Rd., a road that far exceeded my expectations. Having only remembered being on it in a car at night, I had no idea what beautiful views awaited me. Also on the run, I learned of a new bike shop opening soon in Hopewell called Sourland Cycle, and I found the exact location of a cool quarry-turned-swim club my college team had visited during preseason (aptly named the Quarry Swim Club). I consumed two Tri Berry Gus and 12 ounces of water on this run, and the method seemed to do me well. Farewell, Shot Bloks. Gels were not the cause of my unusual stomach distress, and therefore I will take them during Boston because they are way easier to carry. I averaged 7:47 for the hilly 19 miles, my fastest average yet this spring. I was pretty pleased with that, especially the fact that I finished the last couple miles at 7:28.

The weekly elevation check-in....

The weekly elevation check-in…I honestly think Garmin went a little crazy this day though, so there may be a couple errors.

While I am on the subject of hills, I found a site that previews what some of the vendors will have to offer at the expo, and apparently Brooks is selling THIS beauty:

Brooks-Boston-Marathon-Shirt_2I may just have to purchase it. The pointing finger is quite an open-ended question, however: at first glance, it seems like the statement refers to the one wearing the shirt…but is it really for a girl who convinces her running buddies (running/standing next to her) that hills are awesome as well? Both sound good to me. Expect me to wear this whenever I want to intimidate a new running partner (just kidding).

“Taper” week 1: I did one final hard workout last Thursday the 10th, because I couldn’t bear to start my taper in earnest until the weekend before….I warmed up two miles and did a five mile tempo, and out-and-back on the towpath. The intention was to keep it flat and even, but the wind coming off the lake had other plans. I hard to work much harder when I turned around after 2.5 miles to keep the same pace. Splits: 6:43, 6:40, 6:54, 6:52, 6:45 (average = 6:47). What was most interesting about the entire run was that I averaged 7:32 on my warmup and 7:24 on my two-mile cooldown, which was uphill, and I felt like I was taking it really easy after the tempo effort. Huh. I’ll take it. The next day I did a recovery trail run without my Garmin. I fell in a stream. Not going to lie, it was refreshing. I’m weird. This weekend was a twelve-miler with the usual hills…while it felt too warm (it was 64) and somewhat tiring, it felt really short, so that was a good sign.

Taper week 2: I was a good girl this week, in the world of tapering. Shocker! It helped to be working on my feet 50+ hours…I didn’t feel like running much. I did a really easy 6.5 miles Tuesday afternoon and then some pickups yesterday which felt amazing and left me with 5.3 miles at an average of 7:18.

A year since 4/15/13: Tuesday was an emotional day. All the news reports and the coverage on the memorial ceremonies and such on Boylston Street just brought back memories of last year: how I saw it everywhere I went, and how everyone asked me where I was, what I heard, what I did, how I felt. How I felt the need to read everything about it for some reason, and how I felt unsafe on the crowded streets of my town for a couple weeks. Now that it feels more like springtime here in New Jersey, the memories of those feelings post-Boston are easier to recall and feel again, and that’s a little hard to think about. I’d reflect more, but instead I’ll announce that on this past Tuesday, my aunt Diane and I ended up sharing our experiences last year and our thoughts on running this year with a reporter for CBS Philly, and the article will be run tomorrow (Saturday)! I’ll post a link via some means of social media, but for now I’ll direct you there for what I have to say about all that.

BOSTON 2014: I am so, so, so excited. All I’m nervous about is logistical stuff about race day. I trust that everything I’ve done from January 1 until now has 100% prepared me for this race. I hadn’t decided yet, going into this post, if I wanted to publicly share my specific goals. I probably wrote a long time ago that I definitely want to break 3:20, but that’s old news now. I’ve started to have some more confidence that I can actually surprise myself even more, and so I think I’m just going to leave it at that. I do have a plan, but the plan mostly entails responding to the race itself – the course, my body, the energy, the crowds, the magic. For some reason I’m really not stressing over it. So, track me to see what happens! I am Bib # 13857 (emphasis on my lucky 13!), and for text alerts, text my number to 345678.

On that note, I should stop listening to my “Boston Pump Up” playlist so I can actually go to sleep.

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Through the woods and over the river, year two

A couple weekends back, I did my longest training run to date: 21 miles from Montgomery to New Hope. Last winter, I did a shortened version, but this year it fell perfectly on my calendar and I did the whole thing. I am not kidding when I say (and I said this during the last couple miles and everyone agreed, so it’s not hindsight speaking) it felt like six miles. Never before had a run of such a great length felt so short. I ran with Kate and Sarah, and we caught up and exchanged stories and chatted the whole time. Martin and Kate’s husband Nick had driven to Lambertville (across the river from New Hope, technically our “finish line”) and then ran back on the route until they found us and turned around to run with us into town. The landmarks we passed on the run, which have become iconic to the runners who have participated in this run several times, were no less exciting to pass this time around, and also made the run fly by. It felt so good, and so easy, that I forgot to take the Gu that I had brought (I had Clif Shot Bloks though). I’ll take that as a good sign. Most consider the route to be hilly, but compared to all the ups and downs I’ve done on every other long run this year, it was actually easier. There was a gradual up – then several miles – and then a steep down, basically.

Me, Sarah, and Kate, immediately after finishing the run. Note the Welcome to Pennsylvania sign.

After touching ground on the PA side and seeing my watch hit 21 miles, we stopped, snapped some pictures, and walked back over to New Jersey. Recoverosas at Full Moon Cafe were in order, as well as eggs and the like. For being called Full Moon Cafe, there is a lot of half moon decor. Just saying. They do have specials on every full moon night though, which is pretty cool.

Image

Recoverosas!

While standing up and walking to the car after our meal did not feel as good as walking back over the bridge right after finishing the run, I must say that I felt pretty darn good after this run. Recovery felt 100% within a couple days, and while I was still a bit tired, I even did the weekly intervals workout two nights later.

Boston is in thirteen days! I have many more training updates to share, since this run to PA was a long time ago (or so it feels – it’s even “warm” now!). Stay tuned for all sorts of runners-high-induced banter.

twenty mile fun: hills, trains, and chews

I am well on the other side of my first 20-miler of the year! As all marathoners know (gosh, I almost sound like I consider myself experienced…I don’t yet), getting up and over that hump is a big relief. If you can run one 20-miler without any (well, many) mental or physical roadblocks, it’s safe to say you are prepared for a marathon, if someone was like, Surprise! Run 26.2 in two weeks! What a good feeling. Speaking of “getting up and over,”

I took hills to a new level this weekend. The destination spot of the run can be seen at the very highest point on the above chart. It’s a part of the road I have only ever been via bike, and that whole extra loop in that territory was an area I was eager to explore. Pretty much everyone in the area knows exactly where I am talking about when I reference this hill and this road. It comes with a beautiful view – if you turn around at the top that is – and then another beautiful view less than a mile later.

Here’s a photo my friend took from almost the top of the hill, while biking in the fall:

And no that is not, nor will ever be, my bike. In case you were wondering.

The hill starts way before this, and then there’s the sharp turn you see in the picture. It goes past a stable…not the best smell to waft at that point. Just before the climb, I experienced something that had never happened before on a long run: I HAD TO STOP FOR A FREIGHT TRAIN. See, as I was approaching the base of the hill, I noticed two things: one, there was a herd of cyclists coming up behind me on the opposite side of the road, and two, there was a railroad crossing about 200 meters ahead. I thought, wouldn’t it be funny if a train came right now? So of course, on cue the bells start sounding and the gates came down. I reached the crossing just as the cyclists did. “Great timing, right?” I yelled with a laugh, and threw my hands in the air. While it would have been cool to chat with the cyclists, or better yet, see who was faster up the hill as soon as the gates went back up, I’ve heard stories about freight trains that take twenty minutes to cross, so I decided to run up and down the road. Luckily it was only a few minutes long. So, that was a first….

As soon as that loop was over, I headed to the more familiar stretch of the road, where the previous “biggest hill” is located. And did that one.

This is actually the view from the other side. The side I climbed is more gradual, but longer.

It’s pretty easy to tell where the big hills were….

I must give photo credit to the guys behind Hidden NJ. One thing you should know about me (if you haven’t realized it already…) is that I can’t get enough of learning the history behind places I frequent. Whether it’s photos taken inside a friend’s house from twenty years ago or a historic landmark I pass on a run, it excites me incredibly. I just discovered this site as I was searching for photos and spent way too long on it….If you want to learn about when East and West lines were drawn for New Jersey though, check it out here.

Back to the run. In an effort to experiment with something other than gels after suspecting they may be causing stomach distress (I think it actually was a stomach bug of sorts…but I still don’t want to stop during Boston!), I took along PowerBar Energy Chews. It was nice that I could have just one chew at a time, and spread them out over several miles. It was kind of strange to chew while running…believe it or not, it was my first time doing so. In the future, I think I’ll try the Clif Shot Bloks instead. The PowerBar chews were very, very chewy. There was no one to save me if I choked out there, just saying. I didn’t hydrate well because I didn’t want to carry a bottle…also could not find the bottle pre-run anyway…first sip of water was at the municipal building (this was planned, it was either there or my house) just before mile 18. Needless to say I downed two full glasses of Nuun when I was finished. Other than lack of water though, I have no complaints. I did the entire thing alone, and it wasn’t so bad. Much, much better than last year’s 20-miler, even though nothing really went wrong on that either. I felt fine all day and night after that – much less tired than after my 18-miler for some reason. All of this left me super relieved. Another conclusion drawn from both the long run and Tuesday’s hill loop interval workout: hills are way easier than they used to be, even last fall. Making hills the name of my game was such a good idea. Never looking back. I may be in a relationship with hills from now on.

My friend was in town, and fortunately we both agreed to do the best activity humanly possible right after my 20-miler: MAKE LOTS AND LOTS OF PANCAKES. With peanut butter, Nutella, and bananas. I made so many I had to actually save some for later. Got a little over-ambitious. :/

PANCAKES.

I have a long list of other things I want to write about very soon! I just wanted to write down the 20-miler recap so, you know, it actually happened. 😉

I can see the light at the end of the tunnel…I mean…the shoulder on the side of the road.

My theory of good weeks following bad weeks proved itself valid, as I had a great week of training last week. In my world, the week begins on Monday, not Sunday, a factor that would have made the previous statement untrue otherwise, since my long run Sunday fell significantly short of pleasant. It was only 13.5 miles though, so I told myself it was better to have that run be sub-par and look forward to a solid 18-miler the next weekend.

I miss you, track!

I miss you, track!

To avoid the issue I battled the week before when I tried to do a track workout, I chose to do a workout earlier in the day Tuesday rather than at night (er, at 6:30pm…same thing). As I feared, the track was not shoveled after the snow we got at the end of the previous week. Luckily, the snow had been completely cleared from the neighboring turf field, so I took advantage of its unoccupied state and did 5 x 3 laps, or 1255 meters, with about two minute rests. It was so windy, so that definitely was an added factor, as well as the slightly soggy surface. I ended up averaging 6:30 pace for the intervals, granted my GPS was accurate while running in a square, which wasn’t as fast as I would have liked; however, I got out there and did it, and after the week before, that was okay with me. I was also very grateful to have the turf available for intervals when the track was covered in snow.

Thursday was a workout I was both looking forward to and anxious about…clearly, signs of a workout that was going to be worthwhile. I wanted to do another five mile tempo, maybe even six, but I did not want to do it on roads with shoulders covered in ice and snow, with cars forcing me to break my stride and jump to the side every few minutes. A coworker had told me she did a tempo run in Hillsborough, a couple towns north of here, and there were huge shoulders and no traffic. I didn’t have to be at work until later that day, so off to Hillsborough I went. It helped that it was almost fifty degrees with full sun: short sleeves and shorts, hooray! I will spare the details of how the few errands I had to do before this run caused me to almost pay a frozen yogurt shop worker to use the bathroom as a locker room. It happens. That is all.

I mapped what I thought looked like a good course ahead of time, and wrote the turns on my arm, like so:

I failed to write one road/turn here, which made me improvise a bit at one point, but it was all good. I used the first two miles as a warmup: 7:46, 7:48. At mile 3 I picked it up to tempo pace and held it for the next 5 miles. There were some gradual inclines and declines, and a steep, short hill during the second tempo mile, but for the most part the course was much, much flatter than places I normally run. Splits: 6:52, 7:10, 6:56, 6:51, 6:41 (34:30, 6:54 avg). I thought about going for a sixth mile, but instead decided to do a recovery mile, then do 4 x 60 seconds hard, 60 seconds easy, then cool down back to the start from wherever I was at that point. This ended up being pretty fun. The easy mile was 7:42, and then the on-off minutes and cooldown looked like this:

I was pleased that my “recovery pace” after the tempo was around 7:30; it felt very comfortable. Overall, I managed to run 10 miles in 72 minutes, for an average pace of 7:12. Although my tempo two weeks before was faster, I averaged an overall faster pace for this run and a farther overall distance, and this route had considerably fewer downhills. It was one of those runs that left me with rekindled confidence as well as a killer runner’s high. I put the windows down on the way home (for about five miles until I was freezing of course) and blasted this awesomeness:

I usually match…but when I don’t, I really don’t (not shown: traffic-cone orange shirt).

Brooks Transcend group run

That evening was our group run with Brooks. I was thinking about doing two miles really easy in the Transcend, but decided against it since a lot of people ended up showing up and so I didn’t feel bad for not participating. I still have yet to test out the shoe, but I recently read Jesica’s thorough review on rUnladylike, so I will direct you there for now! What I did learn was what astronaut ice cream tastes like. I can’t say it’s better than real ice cream, but I’m not even a big ice cream fan, so what do I know.

Saturday was the first long run in my training that felt like a legitimate long run. That is, not a run I would do if I were not training for a marathon. The plan was 18 miles, and I luckily found a buddy for the entire thing. I decided to be smart and not do much besides go to a yoga class and eat dinner the night before. I was already multiple steps ahead of my first super long run last year. In short: this was the shortest 18 miles I had ever run. We talked the whole time, and made for excellent matches in terms of pace, lack of awkwardness, etc. This whole phenomenon makes me laugh when I think about it, because it’s almost like going on a date. I just wrote so much more about this and then took it out, which means…separate post to come – subject: why a first run is like a first date! But back to the run itself: I keep mapping similar things, yet adding on an extra corner or two as the run gets longer. This time, I took us down a road I’ve always been curious about, called Aunt Molly Road. Come on, don’t lie. You’d be curious too. It turned out to be a very interesting stretch of road, including an unpaved section, a farm, a lot of trees, and a vulture sitting atop a telephone pole. Curiosity satisfied indeed. Of course I added the infamous hill in reverse as well…and my running buddy still wants to run with me again sometime. I think. So that’s good. We stopped back at the car for water but that was at 16.5 miles or so…not really necessary but I took a few sips and we did a small loop for 18 (18.33, actually). In terms of fuel, I was also going to have a PowerGel on the run, and one for “breakfast.” I was hungry when I woke up, so I had both for “breakfast.” Oops. The good news is, I didn’t feel like I needed it on the run at all, and felt like I could have kept going. Summary: I feel way stronger than I did at this point in marathon training the first time around (last year). Long miles feel easier. Big hills feel easier. There is very little thirst, or bonking, or slowing of pace. I was excited to have completed this run, and am simultaneously looking forward to the 20-milers ahead of me, because I know they’ll just make me even stronger, especially mentally to be honest. [AND THE SNOW IS MELTING! BIG DEAL. SO EXCITING.]

What I did with my wet clothes after the run...sometimes you've got to be creative....

What I did with my wet clothes after the run…sometimes you’ve got to be creative….

Oh, and let’s not forget my weekly elevation report:

(Watch got screwed up, aka I forgot to restart it for awhile, hence the cut-off.)

So, I’m already well into the week after everything I just wrote about…and contrary to the pattern that developed before, it’s been quite alright! The E. Murray Todd Half Marathon is this Sunday, March 2nd. A couple weeks ago I was feeling pretty underprepared, but now I’m actually excited. The course is rolling the whole time:

emurraytoddelevationchartHowever, it looks like the hills are less massive than the ones I’ve been running. I’m looking forward to putting the work I’ve done so far – and yes, I finally feel like I have actually done some hard work – to the test and seeing what I can do. I’m not gunning for a PR, or even a PR effort, but rather a hard effort over 13.1 miles that will serve as a benchmark and confidence-booster for the rest of my training for Boston. It would be nice to run faster than I did on the somewhat hilly Caesar Rodney Half course last year, though. So while I’m not going to state an overall time goal, I will say that I would be content maintaining around a seven-minute-mile pace effort, or slightly faster.

Training check-in between snowstorms

I started this post – okay, wrote the title and saved it as a draft – over a week ago. I was having a great week of training and finally felt like I was able to do workouts and runs that allowed me to assess where I stood in terms of fitness. The week that followed was quite the opposite. This pattern is leading me to believe that we may need “bad” weeks to appreciate or even have “good” weeks of training…at least, that’s what I’m telling myself. This in turn got me thinking about all the blog posts I read that mention such “bad” or “good” weeks, and the bigger picture…which totally deserves its own blog post, but I’m pretty sure when I publish two at once, one never gets read. Anyway.

The week of February 3rd…the “good week”:

Actually, take it back to the preceding weekend. I did a solo 15-miler on Saturday, and it was SHORTS WEATHER! This was glorious. I also think I was a bit dehydrated. When mid-forties gets you dehydrated…that just says the weather we have been having otherwise is just wrong. I found a new giant hill, and was loving life while running up it. Seriously. It was one of those awesome top-of-the-world kind of hills, with a view that only lasts a moment before you descend, but it stays in your mind for the rest of the run.

feb1hillsI averaged a little slower than I would have liked on the run for feeling so good (8:00 pace), but to be fair this was probably the hilliest loop so far, and I didn’t want to look at my watch much, just go by feel.

Monday was the first snowfall of the week…I went for a sloppy run once the snow stopped and some plows had made their way through town in the evening. It wasn’t horrible, but obviously pace went out the window with the footing I was dealing with. Oh, then I had this. I nearly forgot (man, that was a good week…):

20140203_215105

It was worth the snowy trek. And here are some necessary snow pictures…for those of you jealous of us freezing, buried New Jerseyans! (Anyone, anyone?)

snow

Tuesday was Intervals practice and I was really hoping our plan to improvise would work! You never know what is shoveled….We really lucked out, because we found a turf field that had been snow-blown. The perimeter of two lacrosse fields ended up being 0.27mi, so we went with that and did a down ladder workout of sorts. After, I ran right to the gym and did some lifting and abs…I can’t say my half-mile run home from the gym was very fast or pleasant, but it was an evening well spent, in every sense of the word. Wednesday was the day New Jersey turned into an ice skating rink, and I ended up working all day and that was it. I didn’t feel like myself at the end of the day – just sort of restless – and it was a reminder that a.) I’m getting used to more training, and b.) running and cross training is definitely not all physical. The latter is a simple concept, but I forget it too often.

This was taken by someone else who scoped out the possible workout locations a little early...no photos of the actual loop we did but it's inside the fence! The lights weren't on...but that was okay, snow makes quite a bright perimeter.

This was taken by someone else who scoped out the possible workout locations a little early…no photos of the actual loop we did but it’s inside the fence! The lights weren’t on…but that was okay, snow makes quite a bright perimeter.

Thursday I did a five-mile tempo in the middle of a nine mile loop. I was planning on going alone, but I ended up with a great partner/pacer at the last minute. We warmed up three miles (during which I forgot to start my watch at one point, so my perfectly-planned, mile-by-mile workout was kind of messed up before it started…oh well), all uphill…then did the next five of the loop at tempo pace. Going into this, I had no idea how any sort of pace in that range was going to feel, because I’ve only ran faster or slower than that since the Philly Half. I thought I’d aim for what felt like 6:50-7:00, but told myself I wouldn’t be discouraged if it was slightly over 7:00, because the route was rolling (and the shoulders were covered in ice…). I just wanted to see what my legs would decide “tempo pace” was on this day in early February. It was probably more downhill than uphill, but there was more elevation gain in the third mile for sure. My splits were: 6:46, 6:45, 7:03, 6:39, 6:37, giving me 33:50 for 5 miles (6:46 average). I was really pleased with this, because we were talking at times. Just a few words, but I didn’t feel like I was racing or anything. It was definitely a relief to know my tempo pace is 6:45 at this point in training. Pretty sure that was a 5 mile PR!

The week of February 10th…the “bad week”:

First, it wasn’t really a bad week. It would have been if the IT band soreness I felt after my long run Saturday had developed into anything remotely bothersome for longer than a day after. In my typical paranoia, I started the week by taking two days off of running completely, icing twice a day, and constantly assessing how I felt on stairs. Oh, and wondering if Boston was out the window. Let me emphasize that I actually had no pain, I’m just that paranoid. I skipped the Intervals workout Tuesday (hill repeats) and did an easy run to test out my leg instead. It was totally fine – no discomfort at all. PHEW. You must understand that with me, something can go from “bothersome” to full-on, season-ending “injury” in one simple run. So, I wasn’t hurting but that run was still awful. So tight, so tiring. Further proof that I want to take fewer days off than I used to feel comfortable with. I think I can handle it now, and I think it will help me, not hurt me.

The good thing about the long run though, was getting to meet Hollie in person! She, Greta, and I slid up and down hills (okay, I made it sound too easy there) for sixteen miles.

Photo credit: Hollie.

Photo credit: Hollie.

The rest of the week was a comical failure, honestly. I had a workout attempt just like this one from April, but I couldn’t try again because there was a snow and ice storm the next day. And I still felt sick. Ultimate combo of un-motivation and frustration. What did get me motivated for a 75-minute bike trainer ride in my shed?

House_of_Cards_title_card

THIS.

I only wish I had stumbled upon it sooner so I wasn’t so behind everyone else as they’re starting the new season (released in full this past Friday)!

The ending (please let it be the ending!) to this sub-par training week deserves its own post, so up next: what I learned on Valentine’s Day. I’ll give you a hint: it has to do with treadmills dreadmills. There will also be glitter.

Dashing through the snow…and an epic fall.

I’m going to take a risk and commit a faux pas of mine: I’m writing about the weather. Something you all are aware of and can look up online at any time.That being said, it would be difficult to write about my last week of training without doing so! Here in New Jersey, we have gotten snowfalls more frequently than any previous year I can remember. They have not all been significant, but I hold the theory that to a runner, one huge snowfall a month is much preferred to bi-weekly medium-caliber snowfalls. The reason being, we can move around an important workout or long run according to the one huge snowfall, but it is much more difficult to constantly have your speed workouts become a project week after week. Easy runs in the snow are no problem, but when it comes to hitting specific paces…there’s ice, there’s packed snow, there’s loose snow, there are unplowed loops and unshoveled tracks…clearly, frequent snowfalls make it much more difficult to do the exact run you want to do, when you want to do it.

…it actually looks better on “paper.” You had to be there.

Snow #1 of the week was on Tuesday…the day of my interval workout. I had off work, so there was no point in waiting until 6:30pm, by which significant snow would have surely accumulated. After some running around in what was already lots of snow, I decided to do hill repeats in the middle of campus. The footing wasn’t ideal, but it was a good workout done by effort, and with less traffic than on a normal road. I was glad I did it instead of a normal run…but I’m still itching for some concrete, distance-based workouts. That might not be a bad feeling to have in January though.

Exercise on this snow day wasn’t over after the run. I somehow managed to do double workouts on a day it snowed all day. Kind of ironic. A friend came over and we set up shop in my shed/barn out back for a trainer ride. We rode for 50 minutes at a steady effort while chatting and sort of watching Without Limits (since he had never seen it). A trainer ride had never gone by so quickly, and I realized what people meant when they said it’s hard to make a trainer ride “easy.” There were tight quarters due to the temporary storage space this thing has become (if it was all mine I would totally make it a triathlete’s dream barn…if there is such a thing), but it worked. I also did a solo trainer ride here Monday night, and my view was something like this:

10 Things I Hate About You…so many quoteworthy lines.

On Wednesday morning I managed to find a running buddy and had a lovely, chill run through the snowy streets. There is something really fun about getting out on foot to see what it looks like after a snowfall that lasted the entire previous day.

Thursday I took off because I got up at 5:45am and proceeded to have a day that rivaled the entire past year in terms of productivity. Seriously, I may have figured out my whole life on Thursday. More on that soon.

Friday I ran with a friend before work, and unfortunately chose roads (hilly roads of course!) that had inadequately shoveled sidewalks, making the run pretty slow. I’m starting to realize I run slower when I run with most other people. Strange.

Saturday more snow was expected, so I decided to do my long run today (versus Sunday). I admit I should have started earlier than I did. The snow was coming down kind of hard when I started, and I immediately understood the purpose of running vests…I should really add that to my wardrobe one of these days. Today would have been the perfect day to wear one. Anyway, this run is probably worthy of its own post, but I’ll consolidate the highlights. Or rather, the most important episodes within it. I mapped a 15 mile loop on roads I usually run, with the exception of one unfamiliar corner, since it was a mile farther out than I usually go. Despite the bitter cold snow pelting me (and the salt-spreading trucks…oh, the salt-spreading trucks. Love ’em and hate ’em), I was feeling really good. I cruised at about 7:30 pace on every flat stretch that didn’t have a lot of snow cover, but made up for it on the hills that did. I found a new really steep hill during mile eight (reference elevation map to follow), so that was cool. Then the intersection came in the later part of mile ten. I knew these two roads were busier, but they have shoulders when there’s no snow (guess I overlooked this factor), and I was hardly on them for long. A car was coming so I moved over to run partially in a snowbank…when the road beneath said snowbank became really uneven (it dropped off onto the dirt but I couldn’t see it coming because of the snow). The next step was no better, and I lost my balance and wiped out. It was my first fall on a run since January 1, 2012, so it was a big deal! The snow gave me a soft landing on my hands, but my knees took a beating. The only answer was to get up and keep running like nothing happened, which was easy to do because any pain I felt was delayed until after I was no longer frozen….

A visual representation of the fall & its aftermath.

A visual representation of the fall & its aftermath.

These were my newest pair of Brooks Infiniti tights…and yes I will still be wearing them like this because a.) I no longer have a washer & dryer in my house and b.) I can’t budget for a replacement pair right now. Oh well.

As I discovered when I showered, the battle wounds actually look a lot worse underneath the tights – some swelling and bruising. I suppose it’s bound to happen to every runner someday – that little-kid-who-fell-off-her-bike look. I’ll be rocking it for awhile, but at least it’s winter. In other news, who would’ve thought to put Body Glide behind the knee? And only the left? Well, not me.

Weekly long run hill report…note that short & steep climb during mile 8!

To conclude, the random things I learned this week are plentiful:

1.) Don’t touch your eye after chopping hot peppers, even after two hand washes.

2.) Trainer rides are not easy, but they can be fun.

3.) The path to get where I want to be in life is actually there, contrary to previous doubts.

4.) Doing stupid things while running in the snow (like running on particular roads) does have consequences. Even for me. Shocker.

And no, the contact solution didn't help at all.

And no, the contact solution didn’t help at all.

pre-Boston half choice, running lately, and SHOES galore

And the winner is…

e.murraytoddDark horse, huh? Sometimes I write blog posts asking people for advice, when I really end up deciding for myself just by writing down my thoughts on the choices. My last post was one of those times. I won’t be shooting for a PR here. I won’t need to travel overnight or spend over forty dollars. I could do both of these things, if I picked another race. However, I decided this is best. Boston is my goal race. It will be the biggest race I have ever run in my life, and so that is the race on which I want to keep the focus. Therefore, choosing a really hilly, low-key half marathon to run seven weeks before will force me to not stress over it and treat it as a race I’m running purely as part of my training. A running friend of mine said she’s running it as well, so it will be nice to have her there too (whether or not I can keep up).

Recent long runs

If there is one common theme to my long runs so far in 2014, it’s HILLS. If my memory serves me correctly, it was on the last hill of the first one of these runs that I decided something like, this is a hard run because of all these hills. If I do this often, any hill on the Boston course will feel easier. And thus it began, my new motto:

Suffer now. Glory later.

I may have just made up the wording right now. The concept has been in my mind for awhile though: why not do things the hard way in training, so that on race day, the same factors are so much less of a problem? I can watch the pace on my watch slow down and try not to give in to a steep incline on mile 11 of a long run in January, February, and March. I can make weird faces and wonder how my quads can possibly burn so much after the ascent. I sure as hell want to feel better than that at mile 22 on April 21st. Therefore, I must commit to doing more than my necessary share of hills in training, right now.

Here is what my recent long runs have looked like, elevation-wise.

elevations

Those of you living in the Rockies or San Fran, I don’t want to hear it! I’m basically finding all the hills in a certain radius and doing the opposite of avoiding them. I’ll hopefully drive to some even hillier places later, but for now I think I’ve done a decent job. Each of these contains the same hill at one spot on the run, I believe, and my average pace for that particular mile has gotten faster.

I want this.

I want this…

Theorizing: more is more?

As you may know, I am a little terrified of high mileage training. In high school I would run 45-50 miles a week and was just fine. When I started getting injured I cut it back to 40ish and added cross training. When I still was getting injured, I cut it down to 35ish and added even more cross training. I was paranoid for a reason: when you get stress reactions in places like your pubic ramus on 32 miles a week and people say you “must be overtraining” – newsflash: you are going to get really scared of normal mileage levels. Training for the New Jersey Marathon last year, I really did the minimum possible. I just maximized the training I did on the days I did run. My highest mileage week was 40…and that was the week I did my 20-miler. I did a 20-miler and a 18 (okay, 17.8...)-miler, and those were my two “really long” runs. That’s it. To feel totally prepared for 26.2 as I did come May 5th…that was pretty awesome. I’m considering the theory now that running more will teach my body to handle more, though…and furthermore, actually prevent overuse injuries my strengthening everything just because I’ve taught my body to better handle stresses. A podiatrist once told me he thought my stress fractures happened because my body needed more years of running to truly get used to the stress of running. It took awhile, but I’m starting to get that. I am in no place in my training to experiment – Boston is a mere three months awayHowever, I’m going to try to add one more run a week that my former, paranoid self would not have done. Continue to do PT and core and cross training to the max. See how I feel. It can’t hurt…unless, well, it does.

Workouts

I did one workout last week with the Intervals group. It was nice and easy to start: 3 x 10 minute tempo with five minutes rest (mostly active). I felt better as time went on, averaging about 6:59 for the first, 6:42 for the second, and 6:35 for the last. Clearly that was not a workout meant for marathon training, but it’s still early. As the weeks go on though, expect me to be on the prowl for the best marathon-specific workouts others (all of you…) have done…as I said before, this is something I do not want to skimp on over the next three months!

*    *    *    *    *    *    *    *

SHOE REPORT: this just in, from the land of shoes…

New Ravenna: I am still running through the pair of Brooks Ravenna 4s I got in October, but the Ravenna 5 came out January 1st! I’m getting seeded a pair any day now and I can’t wait to try them out!

I tried them on at work on a day I happened to be wearing pink jeans…so much color!

They FINALLY came!

They FINALLY came!

This is the men's Ravenna 5 if you were wondering.

This is the men’s Ravenna 5 if you were wondering.

Sayonara: Riley stopped by today and graciously gave my coworkers and me some lightly-used (former testers) pairs of the Mizuno Wave Sayonara! The first time I tried on this shoe I wasn’t a fan, but it turned out I was trying a half size too big. I wore them for the rest of the day at work and concluded that I really liked them! (It may have helped that they weren’t the magenta ones….) I’d like to try them out for a short and fast workout…I will report back after said workout occurs.

SAY SAYONARA!

SAY SAYONARA!

New Balance Fresh Foam 890This new technology from NB won’t be released until the first of February, but we were given a sneak peak at our annual work party Friday. We’ll all be getting a pair so I shall report back on those as well. It reminds me of the Adidas Boost, but then again we don’t carry Adidas so I was never fully teched on that anyway.

freshfoam

Run Co group pict

Group picture from the party.

Brooks Transcend: Finally, the Transcend is coming out February first as well. I’ve seen the shoe in person several times – heck, I’ve even sat inside of it:

Seattle-20130821-02364…and falsely advertised its release date months after the fact:

franklin-20130923-02595…so long story short: it will be good for this thing to actually get here. In the meantime, I’m channeling the energy garnered from my anticipation toward drawing spaceships:

 I’ll have lots more to say when I actually run in all of these shoes, of course. This got lengthy; I didn’t even realize I had enough to say about shoes to fill an entirely new post until I was well underway!

Running as an alternative to breaking dishes

When we are young children, it seems perfectly normal to cry. I’m talking, to just let it all out and bawl in every sense of the word, even if someone else can see or hear. There were probably few and far between reasons for such crying when we were that young, but that’s besides the point. There comes a point, as a young adult, when we might call to mind this feeling of wanting to cry, and realize we feel that way again. But this time, we’re expected to hold it in. Maybe I’m not referring to just simply crying tears, but also to displaying anger, in whatever passive or aggressive, direct or indirect way we can. It’s easy to say to ourselves, this is the right way to handle this, so that is what I’ll do. It’s quite another challenge to live up to this standard we’ve set for ourselves just to preserve the present and future and make sure we don’t mess anything up. There comes a breaking point in our emotions every once in awhile (if you think you’re an exception I applaud you…but I think you may be lying), and more often than not we break these “rules” bestowed upon us to an extent, the rules of being a mature adult.

Here’s my guy Joseph Gordon-Levitt breaking plates: 

Breaking-plates-joseph-gordon-levitt-23309340-400-263I know what that feeling is, and so do you: the dude has got to go for a run.

This weekend, I needed to run so badly. It was the only thing I could think of that would somehow solve the problem, remedy all the stresses and frustrations and bad thoughts swirling in my head. Saturday, it was snowing. I ended up starting my run close to 2 PM. I hadn’t eaten anything since the night before but was hardly hungry. It was a run fueled entirely by emotions and adrenaline, and it felt like half its length. I came up with a general idea of where I wanted to run and went with it. It included a few big climbs, and was absolutely perfect. As the run went on it snowed more and more, but I grew warmer and warmer. Sometime during mile five everything became a little clearer, and I felt like I was in a bubble with no space or time. The ground and the air and the sky were all the same shade of white, and my pace was whatever my legs wanted to do. I wanted to stay within the run forever, and I also wanted the night to never come. But both the run and the daylight had to unfortunately end, in that order. I ended up running 11.5 miles and not ever getting tired or slowing down despite inadequate pre-run nutrition. Strange how that works sometimes.

Post-snow run.

Later that night when the emotional bandage the run had tried to provide had mostly fallen off, I turned to writing. I wrote a lot, with no plan exactly, and during that time, too, I felt heavy things lift off of me a little.

I know a run only puts us at ease so much. Emotional writing only gives us space to displace our feelings for a little while. Aren’t we lucky to have this though? Think of all the plates we’re saving. 

On an unrelated note (but from the same day), this is what happens when it is raining but it should really be snowing for the safety of everyone who dares to step outside…as evidenced by my umbrella:

THE ICE UMBRELLA. This was a first.

waiting my turn (because I want to)

New York City Marathon Weekend

Last weekend, I went to New York City to work the marathon expo, as I did last year. I was not particularly excited this time around, mostly because it took a lot of planning just to get there, and I was in the peak of training and I knew it would take at least a few days to recover from the physical and mental exhaustion of the event. Still, I remained positive as I put together this whole plan of packing, dropping everything off at work, running to work, staying at a friend’s house, storing extra stuff at work, and walking to the connecting train early Friday morning to take it to the main NJ Transit station, which would in turn take me to NYC. Phew. To make matters worse, it was raining and ridiculously windy, and an entire water bottle leaked in my bag before I set foot on the first train. By the time I got to the Javits Center with all my stuff for the weekend, I already wanted a shower. Heck, I wanted a shower before sunrise. A twelve hour day of working on my feet, bright lights, and talking was ahead of me though. Long story short: I will never be a candidate to commute to another city for work. I need hours to get myself together after a single trip, it seems…that’s not good.

A scene from the maze you now have to navigate through construction to get to the Dinky station in Princeton. Time: 7:05 AM (after I missed the first train and was brave enough to try finding my way to Wawa while waiting for the second...).

A scene from the maze you now have to navigate through construction to get to the Dinky station in Princeton. Time: 7:05 AM (after I missed the first train and was brave enough to try finding my way to Wawa while waiting for the second…).

Thus, my own mini-marathon began. On Friday, day two of the expo and day one for me, I was assigned to work with CEP, but we had so many staff there that we were actually blocking the product, so I moved over to Superfeet, where I got to see two of my favorite reps, Anna and Rich (they were at the RW expo too)! I also tried beef jerky for the FIRST TIME, which was mind-blowing. Perhaps I shouldn’t have tried expensive, gourmet, flavored beef jerky first…I’m probably going to expect all future beef jerky experiences to be just as good. It was KRAVE Jerky…I can’t even look at the pictures, I just can’t…linking it and exiting that window right now.

Seriously though…

(Enough said.)

(Enough said.)

Clearly, the beef jerky was a memorable event at this year’s expo for me. Moving on. I eventually found myself needed at the Brooks booth (yessss), where I was stationed in the apparel section and then on one of the registers for the remainder of the expo that day. A strange moment happened when I saw a man holding two basketballs and commented, “Basketballs? That’s the wrong sport!” He replied with, “Or the right one! You don’t know who I am?” Note: when someone says “you don’t know who I am?” take that as a

I ended up getting a picture with Doctor Dribble....

I ended up getting a picture with Doctor Dribble….

warning that you are a.) justified in not knowing who he/she is, and b.) you are about to get a lengthy explanation of who he/she is. Turns out he was “Doctor Dribble,” and dribbles two basketballs while running marathons to raise money for charity. Apparently he holds a Guinness World Record for dribbling during a marathon.

Eight o’clock finally came. After closing up the registers, warding off rumors that the expo was until nine, and convincing fellow female coworkers that we should request a departure for the hotel, I escaped to fresh air for the first time since before 9 AM. Expos give you a warped sense of things…NYC air becomes fresh air, etc.

Later that night, everyone who was anyone in the running industry found themselves on the lower level of Rosie O’Grady’s, like every year on NYCM weekend. I got to catch up with people I hadn’t seen in awhile as well as meet new people I had heard of but never met before. I saw Megan and Hannah, met an editor at Running Times, met some cool people from our corporate office, had a business-related chat with the founder of a successful chain of running specialty stores, possibly met Desi, and definitely lost my voice. It was an overwhelming runner’s paradise, complete with alcohol. I only wish it wasn’t so late and everyone could have stayed longer…but unfortunately everyone still had at least one work day ahead of them.

Rosie's is for runners.

Riley, Jacqui, Chris, me, Pat…. Rosie’s is for runners.

Saturday…I somehow held on surprisingly well after little sleep and general exhaustion. I worked at the Garmin booth all day, which was more exciting than I anticipated. I got to play around with the brand-new Forerunner 220 and 620! And let me tell you…they are awesome. You know when you see an old gadget and think of how it looks ancient compared to whatever is new? These watches made my 210 look old. No lie. I don’t wish I waited for the 220, since I got my watch in April and it has helped my training tremendously since then. However, if there was some sort of option to trade, I would do it in a second. The most notable improvements, in my opinion, are: 1.) weight and size: the 220 is as

Garmin Forerunner 620 and 220.

Garmin Forerunner 620 and 220.

sleek and light as an everyday watch, 2.) wireless uploading, and 3.) the buttons are much easier to press. The third reason may sound strange, but sometimes I have issues with the buttons on my 210…they aren’t the easiest things to find or press hard enough, especially while you’re running and wearing gloves, or during a hard speed workout when you really don’t want to expend your energy on pushing a darn button. Kudos, Garmin. Both models have increased $50, but for the improvements, it’s probably worth it. The black and blue 620 was so popular at the expo, we sold out of it early on Saturday.

I’m not going to go into detail about the extra time we spent after the expo technically closed at 5:00 PM on Saturday. We were there until after 9:00 PM, with the union workers, moving and carrying and stacking heavy boxes and not really knowing what was going on or how late we would be needed. I debated trying to get another night in the city out of my trip, but after going to one bar with a coworker for a quick drink while carrying two big bags, I decided to catch the next train back to Princeton from Penn Station. I ended up boarding one with three minutes to spare, not even realizing a train was leaving at that time, and then catching a free University bus back to town after that. I met up with some friends as soon as I was back, and they questioned my sanity for leaving New York after ten on a Saturday night. But you know what? I was so relieved. I felt so at home and so relaxed. I no longer was holding heavy bags, no longer felt rushed (I even wished I’d skipped the little bar and ran right to the train from Javits, honestly). I was happily exhausted and I couldn’t wait to go to sleep and then return to normal life. I will write more about this later, because this was a weekend that made me realize how much I love Princeton.

Princeton Half Marathon Morning

On Sunday, I awoke to the sound of cheering outside. I had thought about waking up early enough to catch the start of the inaugural half marathon, then go for my long run, and then go to work. Plan B was to wake up and start my long run way before the start, so I would arrive at the finish in time to see the fastest runners come through, then go to work. I decided on Plan C: do whatever the heck I felt like doing, and maybe the timing would match up and I would see part of the race. I ended up beginning my run at 9:00 AM, and the start had been at 7:30 AM, so I did see some people I knew heading down the final stretch to the finish. The first few miles of my run (my plan was 13 miles) was along the course; I ran on the other side of the road in the opposite direction. I saw plenty of people I knew, friends and customers alike, and cheered them on as I ran. It was a nice, distracting start to the run. I split from the course eventually, and entered a more quiet zone. I had expected this run to be quite the death march after the crazy weekend on my feet with very little sleep (and Halloween week before…just saying). It wasn’t so bad, though. I didn’t go out far enough for thirteen, and ended up doing some circling around downtown when I got back. In hindsight, I should have done an actual extra loop somewhere, but I didn’t…oops:

loops113A very interesting phenomenon occurred, during the entire run when there were people around, but particularly in the last couple miles when I was doing all this adding-on-distance nonsense to make 13 miles. People on the sidewalks seemed to think that if I was running, I should be running the half marathon. At least, that was the vibe I got from all the comments: “You’re running the wrong way!” “Why are you still running?” “Did you get a late start?” “You should’ve started earlier and done the half marathon” “Why aren’t you in this?” “Doing your own half marathon?” And the comments behind my back: “Why is she running now?” “Why didn’t she just run the race?” “Why is she running over here?” PEOPLE, CALM YOURSELVES. ALSO, YOU’RE NOT FUNNY. Just because I am running, and there is/was a half marathon within a few blocks of where I am right now, does not mean I cannot run through this town. I wasn’t really angry or frustrated by the comments, I was more amused by the number of people who just didn’t get it. Call me a running snob, I don’t care, I’ve probably earned it long ago and that’s cool with me if I’m speaking truths, but:

Running is not racing. I am training for the Philadelphia Half Marathon. I raced a ten miler and a 10k a few weeks ago and I am allotting the three Sundays in between those races and that race for quality long runs. I just worked the New York City Marathon expo and got back to NJ less than twelve hours ago; I spent twenty-four hours on my feet this weekend, with poor sleep and poor nutrition to boot. I am feeling run down from all of this, and I need to run thirteen miles easy today. Running thirteen miles at whatever pace I feel like running is what my body can handle. Racing a half marathon after all that, and two weeks out from my goal race? No. Why would I ever do that? If I ran the Princeton Half Marathon, with a bib number, I would race it. I would probably feel horrendous, yet still make myself run pretty fast, and then get sick, and sabotage my goal race. I might injure my calves, which were noticeably cramping up after not having much time to hydrate during the weekend.

To summarize: yes, I live in Princeton. Yes, I work at a running store in Princeton. Yes, I had thirteen miles to run on the same morning. Yes, I chose not to run the Princeton Half a long time ago because I knew my schedule and I knew that it didn’t have a good place in it, for smart reasons. I am happy with my decision. Some runners can run races, and work them into their schedules as long runs. I can’t. That’s just the runner I am, and honestly, I don’t have a desire to change that. Running may be racing to some people, and I respect those runners’ goals and perspectives. But, I am not one of those runners, and I can only hope my goals and perspectives can be respected too.

Anyway, I ended up running a semi-hilly 13.0 miler at 7:51 pace (I ranged from 7:20 to 8:20…), feeling much better when I finished than when I started. The marathon of a weekend continued, as I worked all day and tracked lots of people via the awesome NYCM tracking app on my phone and watched live coverage at the finish on our store iPad (yay for working technology!). The app allowed me to track up to ten runners…as each one finished, I added another – there were so many people I wanted to track! Congrats to everyone who ran (and a shout-out to fellow bloggers I follow, Susan and Hollie, my coworker Becca, and a member of my running group, Michelle, who finally got her sub-4)!

That weekend was very much about waiting my turn to race. I was absolutely fine with it.

Next up, the last couple weeks of training and Philadelphia Half Marathon goals, all that required stuff….

costumes, headlamps, and a little more on writing…

My first order of business going into the weekend was Halloween, as I mentioned previously. It did not disappoint. In fact, now that the real Halloween is still to come, I’m quite concerned about how fun it will actually be. Probably not nearly as much as round one. Anyway, I’ll post a costume picture so you know what the final result was.

The rest of the weekend was pretty great, and it included a 14-mile run on Sunday before work. A few things about the run….It was hilly. I don’t know why I mapped a route with steep climbs at mile 2 and mile 11, but that happened. The reward for the first was the scenic Mountain View Rd., which Kate showed me back in February. It did not disappoint. I was only planning on running 13 miles, but it turned into 14 due to a bathroom excursion (it was locked! What a tease!). It was so nice to enjoy a long run without having to worry about a race; the Perfect 10 was two weekends prior, and the Runner’s World 10k was last weekend. It’s like too many parties: there is definitely a limit; sometimes I just need a solid, steady long run on which I don’t care about pace at all. I wore my Garmin but turned off the tones. The result was an average pace of 7:51. Looking back later, my splits vary quite ridiculously, but that was due to the sudden elevation changes, I think (I went from a 8:16 twelfth mile to a 7:16 thirteenth mile!). It was finally cold enough to warrant gloves (46 degrees)…but not cold enough for me not to sweat profusely through a short sleeve shirt and shorts of course.

Headlamps on the track

I used this for my warmup and cooldown for the first time….clipped it to my tank top/bra in the back. I didn’t feel it at all and I felt safer!

I know it sounds like it sometimes, but I don’t always have an incredible run. My interval workouts aren’t always perfect, and I don’t always have the mental stamina when I set off to the track or all throughout the workout. On Tuesday, I had off from work. I could have done a workout in the daylight at any time. I could have done an easy run, because I had slight ITB paranoia after Sunday’s run (spoiler: I’m fine now). But I went to the intervals practice to meet the group. And I am so glad I did. On my cooldown, I asked myself, why was I ever considering not going? We all brought headlamps, and we were little bouncing beams of light bobbing around the track, for 12 x 400m. I had no idea what pace I was running when we started, since it’s always hard to judge depth perception and whatnot. I came through in 84 seconds, and thought that was a little fast. Then I hit 84 again. I strung a few 85s in a row, hit 86 just once, then steadily ran 85 seconds for most of the remaining quarters, with one or two more 84s, and an 81 closing lap. Conclusion: I’m pretty certain it was my fastest 12×400 workout ever, especially at that effort level, and that workout was a weekly staple during high school track. Any time I break through a barrier like that, no matter how minute in the scheme of things, it makes me happy. 

Headlamp on the track: not so bad.

Speaking of happiness, now that running is finally loving me back after all these years, it’s becoming the only time I truly feel 100% strong and confident in my ability to plan, and execute that plan. Sometimes I think about other things when I’m running and that statement applies, sometimes it applies to just…more running. Either way, as I wrote about as a tangent in my RW 10k race report, I have been loving writing. Running and writing have been the two things lately that just make sense, and make me feel organized and in control and accomplished and happy. The fact that they can go hand-in-hand is nice, because basically, I can write and write, and then I can run out all the things there are no words for. 

There are, inevitably, things I want to write about that aren’t blog-worthy. At least, public blog-worthy. I used to write in a journal every single day…until a day when I didn’t want to recap my life, or think about it any more than I had to. When I finally got over that, I “caught myself up” on everything, then immediately got tangled in crazy confusion again and had no time to write. I could really use it now though.

So tell me, if you’re still reading, do you keep a journal? Are there journals online that aren’t public, so you can access it anywhere and not lose what you write? (I thought I was more of a handwritten person until I started this blog…typing’s not so bad anymore.) 

I changed the end of this post’s title to “a little more on writing.” It said “non-running crises” before. Dramatic much? But that’s just the thing: why not be dramatic? It makes life interesting. I say “a little” because there is more to say/ask/ponder about this later.