track is back

So, remember that time I raced a road mile? Apparently I wasn’t quite done with the speedy stuff. Despite almost bailing on the idea due to feeling a little burnt out, I biked over to a track last Tuesday night to participate in an all-comer track meet. I had watched the meet last summer from the sidelines, due to my frustrating injury. This year, I am on a mission to replace all the memories of those summer races spent wishing I could run with new ones of, well, actually running. And attempting to run well. My main event of the evening was the 3k, and I figured I would do the 800 too to get more of my money’s worth…why not.

Running the 3200m at my county meet in 2007.

Running the 3200m at my county meet in 2007.

Let me give a brief history of the 3k, in the context of my personal running career. In high school, I didn’t race the 3k, but rather the 3200. I can’t even count how many 3200s I have raced, between dual meets, conference meets, county meets, and state sectional meets. I’ve raced the 3200 a lot, both indoors and outdoors. My PR is 11:53, from a scrimmage held two days after what was supposed to be my time to shine in the conference meet, pulling out my first sub-12 despite doubting coaches. I was never fresh for a 3200 (I always raced the 1600 beforehand, and my PR was 12:09 from a meet when I raced fresh indoors), so I knew I had it in me to do it if it was my sole event. A thunderstorm minutes before the race was scheduled halted my plans, and so I angrily gutted it out at this little scrimmage instead. That season (spring 2007) was my last [pretty much] entirely healthy season until…2013. I got back into the 12:20s after only a month of running the next year after a stress fracture, but I never really had time to train for a PR again unfortunately. In college, we would run a 3200 time trial the second day of preseason, and again, always coming off of a post-stress-fracture summer buildup, I’d run in the 12:50s and be satisfied. Indoors, the 3k was my main event, but there was only one season when I got to race it multiple times. I was always very unhappy with my results – I’d usually run 11:50-something. My official best time for 3k was 11:48 indoors (also not happy with that, as I expected to be running that kind of time for two miles).

So, I showed up to the meet Tuesday not knowing what to expect. I knew I was in shape to get a 3k PR. I didn’t expect to get a 3200 equivalent 3k PR, if that makes any sense – just because I was only two months out from a marathon and wasn’t training specifically for the event. I should mention it was ninety degrees and sunny, and the track was black….I had some chest pains warming up, and honestly expected to tank the race due to that. I also gave up on trying to find my hardly worn track spikes, so I wore flats. Having awoken at 4:45am, I had wanted caffeine but admittedly had it too late in the day, causing the distress. Oops. I know better. I got on the line anyway and hoped for the best. A lot of fast runners ended up showing up, so they took it out fast! My first lap was way faster than I planned, about 84 seconds, but at least that was what I used to do in high school 3200s….I was still under 6-minute pace at 800m, and my mile was 6:03ish. I was surprised how good I felt: the caffeine-induced chest pain was unnoticeable now which never happens (it always gets worse the faster I run), and my legs were not nearly as tired as I expected them to be after biking around all day. I could tell I was dehydrated, but a 3k race is hardly cause for concern, especially since I was over halfway through it. I picked it up with about 600m to go, and gave it all I had the last 200m. My official time was 11:24.0, satisfying my unspoken goal of sub-11:30. While one of my first thoughts was that I would have been faster on the day of the College Ave Mile, because of all the unfavorable circumstances of this particular day, I was happy with my time and the way I felt throughout. Now if only I had ran that time during indoor conferences in college…better late than never I suppose.

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Oh, so then I ran an 800 too. That was sort of laughable, and I didn’t really prepare too well for it (mostly because the chest tightness/acid reflux returned after the 3k…), but it was fun I guess. Anything that’s two laps can’t be too bad. I ended up running it alone, because there was a big pack of guys and one younger (really fast) girl who ran in the 2:20s, and two little kids who ran 3:30. I ran 2:40.0 even and called it a day. 800s are so short and fast…. Results from the meet are here.

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Start of the 800. The kids were intimidated I think.

Biking back home afterwards, I felt way more relaxed about, well, life, than I had before. I was in quite the funk on Monday, and I was at a loss as to what could possibly pull me out of it. Turns out throwing myself into two track races in ninety degree heat after a super long day was the answer, at least for a little while. I suppose this is proof for the argument that runners aren’t 100% sane. I wouldn’t want it any other way, though.

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Tale of two workouts: lemonade & an audience

During what was probably simultaneously the busiest, hardest, and generally most awesome week of my training thus far, the week that just ended, I ended up doing two workouts. I  mentioned two posts ago that I was leaving to do the “Michigan workout.” Well, no such luck. For the second year in a row, something went wrong and I didn’t end up doing it, meaning I haven’t actually done the workout since March 2011. Someday. I swear. Anyway, it wasn’t the end of the world. The track area was completely occupied because of a lacrosse game, and there was too much traffic to drive to another track. I had also already warmed up two miles to the track. I took control over the situation (there was a group of four) and decided we should do mile repeats on the neighboring roads instead. We did a trial loop together to figure out a good mile to use, and luckily got it on the first try (my sense of distance is getting good, what can I say). We basically just ran until our watches said 1.00 anyway, because we were all wearing GPS watches. We alternated directions and there were rolling hills the whole time, especially during the mile where I didn’t make a turn and improvised. Yeah that’s right, I got lost and made up the loop myself. It happens. I could tell I felt pretty tired though, almost moreso than after the 21-miler the week before (I only did 16.5 Sunday), so I chose to just do four repeats and then cool down two miles: 6:17, 6:31 (the one I accidentally made super hilly…), 6:21, 6:28. It was hard to compare the effort to track times, but I’d say I would have been hitting 6:08-6:14 if I had been on a track. Overall I finished feeling like I gave a pretty good effort but felt a bit flat. Being my typical corny self post-workout, I exclaimed that these were the “lemonade miles,” because we made lemonade out of lemons (the lacrosse players occupying the track). Ha, ha, ha.

 YASSO 800s

I don’t know where the fatigue went from Tuesday’s workout, but it was gone by Wednesday night and I was itching to run so much that I did a rare after-work run in the dark around 8:00pm, averaging 7:36 and feeling smooth. Maybe I was partially just mad that my bike tube was flat when I went to ride it in the morning. ( 😦 ) Regardless, the week was not over yet. Friday, I had a marathon of a day that included a 6AM-12PM work shift at one place and a 3PM-7PM shift at the other, giving me less than three hours – more like less than two – to do something worthwhile, running-related. Not to nap, who would think of that idea?

I was torn between a six-mile tempo on the towpath at 6:35-6:45 pace or Yasso 800s. Then on Wednesday night, I saw online that Jenny had beasted her Yasso 800s and it inspired me so much that I knew I had to choose them for my workout too. I got excited to see how my times this year would compare to last year. It was a wet and windy afternoon. I headed to the University track having recently remembered that there was an evening track meet there. A few teams had already arrived, and it looked like people were doing drills. Not many, though. Normally I would leave because I a.) don’t like to be in anyone’s way, I really should work on that because sometimes I don’t even recognize my own rights to be places/etc., and b.) I would hate it  if a coach told me to get off the track mid-workout…especially during Yassos, when I would not be stopping at all. Luckily, I took the risk and everything was totally fine. The meet didn’t start for several more hours, and hardly anyone was running on the track for more than 100 meters, and not even in lane one. Phew (I can only make lemonade so many times in one week).

Last year, I averaged 3:22 or 3:23. I remember there were a couple times I stopped after a hard 800. I was not feeling mentally 100% that day. This year, I did not stop once, or even want to. I know there are different versions of Yassos out there, so for clarity, I did 8 x 800m with 200m recoveries at a not-super-slow pace. I could have done 10 but I was short on time and I thought 8 was sufficient since I did the mile repeats two days before. The results….

So, I averaged ~6:24 pace (I could’ve sworn I calculated a 3:10 average, oops) for the 800s and 8:01 pace for the 200m recoveries, which I consider “normal pace.” I’m pretty sure I can credit the latter faster-than-“recovery” pace to the fact that 1.) There were a few dozen people around me watching, and if I ran them really slow I’d look lame for using the track if someone didn’t see me do the fast portions, and 2.) I was afraid I’d get asked to leave at any moment and wanted to get the workout done as quickly as possible without cutting it short. Sounds ridiculous I know, but hey – there is apparently something to be said for having an audience (of probably very good athletes) during a workout! Overall, it went by really quickly and I felt really good throughout. There was a strong headwind on the backstretch, but just as I made the turn after, I was almost being pushed by the wind, so it was both my friend and foe. While I’m not one to say that Yasso 800 times = Boston times 100%, it was a good workout regardless and it made me more confident in the way any good workout does. One more stat that’s pretty cool to think about: the workout totaled (I know Garmins are a little off on the track, but whatever) 5.02 miles in 33:09, 6:37 average pace. It might be fun to run one of the big five-mile races at the shore early this summer….

Girls on the Run!

The next day was my first day coaching Girls on the Run! It was pretty awesome. The highlight was a literal goose chase: a dog jumped in the pond to chase a swimming goose, and the girls freaked out and started sprinting the path around the pond chanting, “get the goose!” At this rate, they are going to learn the importance of pacing a lot earlier than is in their curriculum. The incident channeled my inner 9-year-old, because I thought it was just as hilarious as they did and proceeded to tell friends about it as I’m sure they did (and, I just told you all now…). I think it will be an interesting adventure for both me and the girls. 🙂

I forgot to take a picture (there are pretty yellow flowers among the brown branches on the little island!), but here's one of the pond we run around (also for Intervals!).

I forgot to take a picture (there are pretty yellow flowers among the brown branches on the little island!), but here’s one of the pond we run around (also for Intervals!).

Next, a recap of my final [really long] long run before Boston on Sunday, a day that ended up having an itinerary mimicking those in my book of hypothetical Best Days Ever (which only exists in my head as of now, if you were wondering).

The in-between season (and Santa is real…)

I hardly ever have “in-between seasons” in terms of training. Why? Well, I’m usually injured, and that takes the place of an in-between season. So, I’m either “getting back” from an injury, training and training well, or I’m injured. After the New Jersey Marathon, I thought I would finally have an in-between season, when I could rest when I felt like it, and run when I wanted to. Less than three runs into this period, I hurt my IT band…so that was that. I’m back at that place again: my goal race is over (though I’ve done some speed workouts and raced a 5k since then…oops?), the next race on my plate will be the biggest of my life to date, and I want to do everything in my control to train 100% healthy for it, as I did throughout the fall and for my first marathon.

I’ll be the first to admit it: I don’t know how to have an in-between season. Or rather, I’m pretty bad at it. I had a plan to treat the Philly Half like it was a marathon, to ward off any injuries since I was doing so well in that department. Then, start running whenever I felt like it, and cross train. I only followed that plan for less than a week. Why?!?!

Well, here’s what I did instead that does not follow the plan at all, and why:

Helped pace a friend to a 10k PR

The Saturday following Philly, I went to a run at 7 AM with a group I normally don’t run with, just because it usually involves a lot of stopping, and slower running than I prefer even on easy days. When one member of the group announced he needed to do a tune-up “race” at around 7:20 pace, and others were joining him, I thought it would be a great opportunity to finally run with everyone. Why should I say no because I’d just done a half, when others who had ran the full (or three fulls this fall…guy is nuts) were going? Insert peer pressure, exhibit 1. The route he chose was pretty hilly, and I mainly just ran right with him, or slightly ahead of behind. When he kicked it in, I didn’t follow. So at least I was good about that. My legs were still tired and I had a “looking forward to actually recovering” mentality going on. Overall, it was fun to help a friend and I’m glad I did it.

Ran with a new, fast group

A friend sent me a message following the half, inviting me to join an “enclave” of runners in my area for runs. Since I had a friend coming to visit, I had off work, and I didn’t think the PI workout scheduled would help me prepare for the 5k Thursday, I decided to skip the PI workout and go to one of these runs at 3:30 the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. It was cold and rainy, and I ended up doing a nice 8.3-miler with one other girl from New Brunswick (who ran a 3:06 marathon debut in October). We had some good chats and warmed up to average a pace of 7:45, a pretty solid medium-length run with rolling hills. I think it will help me to run with fast runners as I train for Boston. More on this later, but I almost have an overwhelming amount of training-partner resources becoming available to me for the winter and spring right now….I definitely need to look at all my options when the time to set a plan gets closer and take advantage of every single one. Not many runners can say this, and I know I am lucky. Back to the run…I have no pictures from this run because my hands went numb. I will say that I wore my Oiselle Flyer Jacket from Hood to Coast…and it was the perfect weather for it.

Seattle-20130822-02376Insert peer pressure, exhibit 2: these runs are happening weekly, and everyone seems to be training hard despite having raced a marathon or half recently. How do I know if my body has truly adapted to training and won’t fail me like it used to on any random day? I don’t. I know it’s better to be careful until after the holidays, when I should start training for Boston (on fresh legs). It’s really cool to be invited to run with 3:0x marathoners and feel like our training paces are similar. It’s inspiring and motivating to think that maybe my body is finally making sense, and I can do what they do at last: reach 40 mpw, run more than one faster workout a week, etc. But if it’s not ready yet, I can’t risk it. I’m having trouble differentiating between listening to cues from history versus listening to cues from my body, and knowing what’s best in the long term to run as fast as possible. Perhaps in normal jargon this is the issue of overtraining vs. undertraining, on a personal basis?

Ran PI workouts + fast 300s

I went to the workout last Tuesday night. I thought about why I shouldn’t go: I should still be resting in the “in-between season.” I thought about why I should go: I wanted to. It was as simple as that. I missed it, and I’d rather be running fast around a track on a Tuesday night than anywhere else. So, I went. We did 4 x 2000m. I thought it would be a good goal to try to hit 8:00-8:07 for 2000m, or 6:24-6:30 pace. My first one was 8:14, bleh. I didn’t want to leave with a sub-par workout effort, post-“season” or not, so I managed to run 8:02, 8:02, and 7:56 for the remaining three intervals. That was better. The cooldown back to downtown was a peculiar experience, as I somehow got colder and colder as the two miles went on. Weird. Peer pressure, exhibit 3: running fast is fun. 

On Thursday, I wanted to run 4 x 300 very fast in preparation for the 6th Annual PI Mile (which is tonight!). It was warm-ish and humid, and after running about 4.5 miles as a warmup, I stopped at the track and ended up running the 300s in just a sports bra…in December. So humid. Anyway, I have hardly had good workouts on this particular track for whatever reason, but I was shooting for 60 seconds per 300. I gave myself as minute rest of walking/slow running. I felt very, very good on these 300s! As in, smooth and fast. I actually felt fast, like I wasn’t just a “marathoner.” I ended up running 60, 60, 58 high, 57 high/58 low. I considered running even more 300s, I was having so much fun, but I decided to save it and run back. The cooldown was slow and sluggish – funny how that works. Self pressure, exhibit 4: now I think I could be “fast.” Oh dear. 

Explored a new trail

It isn’t really “new,” but it’s improved. I checked out the Lawrenceville-Hopewell Trail on Saturday. I thought I’d get off the roads like I used to, during the “in-between season.” It was pretty fun, though I was tired and just didn’t feel like running a full 8 miles like I thought I would (so I didn’t; I ran 7.4), which almost never happens. I wrote all about the experience  (as well as some cool history about the area) on our store page on Run.com, so you can read about it here.

Ran in the first snowfall

It snowed for real in NJ on Sunday. I wanted to run in it! So I did. Back-to-back days of 7+ miles, not my normal schedule. I probably should have only done 3, but I started from a location from which I would need to run farther to run anywhere fun.

This brings me to today. The PI Mile is tonight. After the 300s, I think I’ve got it in me to go pretty fast. My goal is always a year-best time…since I hardly ever race a mile. This year, that would put me at sub-5:49, which I ran at TCNJ (a week before the marathon…) in April. I do think I have the potential to dip under 5:40, but we’ll see what happens. The first matter of business will be a non-traditional warmup…because you see, it currently looks something like this outside:

I have no idea how long it takes to shovel the entirety of lane one of a track, but that is what I’ll be attempting to do soon. I also brought spikes with me. Might as well do it right…. [My left foot is feeling slightly weird, as of yesterday (a day I didn’t actually run). Hoping, wishing, praying it’s not a stress fracture. I haven’t had any pain yet, or felt it running, but this is a glimpse into my paranoid mind, if you were wondering….]

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Last but not least…this is entirely unrelated, but I should announce it as a follow-up to my last post: SOMETIMES, SANTA IS REAL. As you know, on Thursday night I had officially accepted the fact that I was unable to do Ironman 70.3 Princeton next September. I couldn’t spend $300 on it on December 16th; it just wasn’t practical. On Friday, something ridiculous happened. I was not expecting it at all. Thanks to the generosity of two friends, I now have the means (via a gift card) to register for the race. I was so surprised and happy I was practically crying. What an amazing gift. So, I still need to register and officially get into the race, but I am registering for the Princeton Half Ironman on Monday at noon. Scream with me. AHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!! I still can’t believe that happened.

Questions for you: Am I doing the “in-between season” all wrong? How do you handle running peer pressure? Should I run when I want to, or make myself hold back? Have you ever shoveled a track (wish me luck…)? 

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.

Running lately

I have had some noteworthy long runs and workouts lately that I have failed to write about, mainly because I have had other running-related news to share that has been a bit more engaging than writing all about myself! (See: Perfect 10 Miler course preview, Savannah trip…and I guess I thought it was imperative to show you my t-shirts, huh.)

Let me take a step back…

September 22 long run: I ran twelve miles as my long run this week, and had some good company. I mapped a somewhat engaging route, taking us down to the towpath, turning right, and continuing farther than I have been in quite some time. We got off the towpath a couple miles down, taking a road all the way out until it intersected with a common, hilly running route. All if this formed a big loop, with nothing repeated twice. It was a lovely, 64-degree sunny morning, and I could think of nothing else I’d rather be doing. The longest stretch of time during which I wasn’t talking was probably five or ten seconds, making this run certainly classified as “conversational.” It was a notable long run for me because of how the stats compared to this fact.

Sometimes it’s not the races, or the speed workouts or tempos, but the ordinary runs that are the runs that boost us to a new level of confidence. I definitely could run Boston at that pace was the first thought that came to mind. Heck, I was talking the entire time. I wasn’t exactly well-prepared for the run, sleep-wise, or hydration-wise. But it was totally fine, and easy. And I averaged 7:36. So while 7:36 for 12 miles isn’t super fast by my standards, I still think it was my strongest “normal long run” to date given how I felt and the fact that I wasn’t concerned about my pace, and that made me happy. So did the Starbucks protein fruit smoothies we got immediately afterwards, after salivating over the thought of water and/or fruit juice the last two miles (little did I know, this smoothie would become a weekly tradition…).

Note: This was my first run in my new North Face Better Than Naked Singlet, which took me way longer to buy than it should have. New favorite shirt – I’ve been digging TNF lately.

September 24 PI workout: The workout two days after this was one I actually came up with: 2400-1600-1200-400-400 meters on the track. This was a good one because it started with a distance long enough to need to conserve some energy and find a good rhythm, then a “mile” because it’s always nice to have a mile split, a similar interval but a little faster, and then two much-faster laps. I ended up doing a third 400, and I’m not really sure why. I guess I felt I had more in me…and that wasn’t the best feeling post-last-400. I started it with some runners aiming to go slower, as their pacer of sorts, then decided to just speed up, why not. My splits were: 9:36 (6:24 pace), 6:14, 4:38, 1:24, 1:20, 1:23.

This is a pic of the track we've been using for workouts...this was taken during an all-comers meet in June, though...hence all the people and the warm sun....

This is a pic of the track we’ve been using for workouts…this was taken during an all-comers meet in June, though, hence all the people and the warm sun….

October 1 mile repeats: The first PI workout of this month was a bold one: 5 x mile. There was some debate over if it was 5 x 1600m or 5 x mile, so we (my sub-group anyway) ended up doing the first one as a full mile and the rest as 1600m. I was feeling pretty tired going into this due to the insane amount of time I spent in a car the weekend before, plus the draining Monday I had following that. I wasn’t really sure what my goal should be going into it, but I decided I would be happy if a.) I executed the workout better than I did in the spring, and b.) I averaged around 6:17 (ultimate goal 5k pace if I were to race one all-out right now, especially on a track).

The results:

apriloct

Note: 6:23 mile = ~6:21 1600. So, I averaged 6:19 in April and 6:16 in October. A small difference…but I did it in a much better way.

This day for me also included a 1.94-mile warmup and cooldown to and from the track, at about 7:49 average pace, bringing my total mileage to almost 9. This is the kind of Tuesday I would like to have. While the easy miles aren’t necessarily quality miles, it does allow me to get them in, and I think feeling strong in the last mile or so (finished at 7:21 pace) of a cooldown post-hard workout does actually benefit you.

I’ve already shared this past Sunday’s run – it was the course preview for Sunday. I got in seven miles on trails Tuesday instead of the intervals workout (it was hill repeats this week) to get in some more recovery. I’m feeling very confident about the race, and getting more and more excited by the day! To make things even more epic, I checked my bib number the other night and this is what I saw:

bibnoI’m not sure if I can explain how excited I got without sounding crazy. Numbers just really excite me, okay? It doesn’t take much sometimes….13 is my favorite number – it’s my birthday day, when I used to play team sports back in the day I always insisted on being #13, it has been my house number once…AND it’s the year 2013, the race is on the 13th…I could go on and on. It’s like they knew I’d want it. Somebody did point out to me that it would be pretty cool if I was #10, since it’s the “Perfect 10.” But now two of us can feel lucky.  

One last thing – I am now cross-blogging for work on Run.com’s new WordPress site! Chances are my posts on there will be less personal versions of what I write on here (like the course preview post, which is all I’ve done so far), but there will also likely be posts about more local events and running routes that will be useful to you if you are in the NJ area, so check it out from time to time!

NJ Marathon: an analysis

This time last week, I was just getting home from running my first marathon. My stomach was yelling at me and I was replaying the whole morning in my head, with a smile on my face. Now, my legs are no longer sore (but my ITB decided to act up…trying to tell myself it’s fine, the marathon’s over and I’m allowed to rest!), and the high I got from the race has lost its initial intensity. I wanted to write more about the race and what it means in the context of my life as a runner, both past, present, and future. 

May 2011. My view, pretty much every meet in college. Expert lap-counter.

What this really means

If you asked anyone this day last year (when I was celebrating my college graduation with a gift to myself: a brewfest ticket…) if I would run a marathon less than a year later, feel awesome, and qualify for Boston, probably 90% of people I knew would have said no. Not because of willpower, dedication, or talent, but because of luck, or lack thereof. If you’ve read my running story, you know I was not the typical college athlete. There was no guarantee I would start or finish any given season. I tried as hard as I could to prevent getting hurt and every single time I failed, for reasons neither I nor anyone else could figure out. Every spring, after Fridays spent in class, then in the pool sweating out some boring “miles,” the training room, and then the library late into the night, I would pack a bag and head to my car, off to watch my team compete at track meets. I would try to nurse whatever injury I was dealing with at the time on the way, leaving old plastic bags once full of ice all over the floor of the car, Ibuprofen stowed somewhere in case it felt worse from being on my feet at the meet. I would stand on the side, losing my voice cheering for my friends, filling up my watch with split times and my camera with hundreds of race pictures. I would smile and celebrate when the team did well, which was often. I would head back to my car and make the trek back to campus, and each time among the excited thoughts about how everyone ran, there would be a resounding voice that said, why not me? Someday I want to accomplish something like this and not be happy just because everyone else did. This would happen every single weekend, and I would feel further and further away from ever obtaining that feeling. I remember watching my best friend run a provisional time for the 10k on Princeton’s track past 10:00 at night, in the freezing cold, and then breaking down once I was in my car, having no one to talk to about the feeling since it was a strange one: I was excited for him and everyone else, I wasn’t exactly jealous, or selfish, or hopeless. It was hard to understand, and equally hard to deal with. 

March 2010. Not a real bike, but it could have been. Note boot on right side.

The first weekend of May has always been a big one for me as a runner. It is the weekend of my college conference championship meet, as well as my friend’s, which I would often travel to Pennsylvania to watch also. I would drive all over, often with the contents of my dorm in the car, watching all these exciting races happen, and come to terms with the fact that yet another year had gone by and I hadn’t had a chance to do what I wanted to do, with running. I hadn’t had a chance to score points in the 5k, or ride the van back to school after a big win with the team. And I didn’t know why it kept happening. Freshman year, I ran the meet injured and it was quite disastrous. Sophomore year I was injured and was assigned about a dozen duties working the meet because it was at home. Junior year, I drove a couple hours north to watch the meet, injured again. I went right to visit a friend after in some attempt to not let it get to me. It would always be so beautiful outside, the sun shining and the perfect temperature for a PR. By junior year, I could not even imagine having the chance to run an entire spring season, and cool down from my last race thinking how it was time to take a rest before training again. That had not happened to me since 2007. 

Smiling.

Last weekend, I was finally given my chance. I could go on and on about what I did differently to get here, but I’m honestly not totally sure what that is. I took one day at a time. I maxed at 40 miles per week, and that was the week I did my 20-miler. I only ran what I needed to run, and filled in the gaps with anything that would help me recover and stay healthy. In the final half mile of the race, I couldn’t stop smiling (that is actually a smile in the photos…don’t question it). This was my victory lap, it was finally happening. I said what I wanted to do, and went out and did it. Most runners want the race to be shorter at this moment, I imagine. Just let it end. But I had a strange desire to make it last. That did not deter me from bringing it in at sub-7 pace, of course, but I remember thinking about how grateful I was to be here, on this little brick walkway, approaching the finish line of the New Jersey Marathon. Finish lines have not been readily crossed by me, over the last four years. I could finally, finally, be excited about an accomplishment of my own. What’s more, I’m looking forward to doing it all again.

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An analysis of my race

So, I ran 3:25:02. At first, I was overjoyed. 3:25 was not even on my radar.* I thought I would run between 3:27 and 3:30. The ladies I ran with until Kate came along ran 3:27:45. I was told to “respect the distance,” and respect it I did. But…I felt pretty darn strong in the last 6.2 miles. I held back until mile 20. I honestly thought I would hit some wall at 21 and count on running miles significantly over eight minutes. It was only logical to think this would happen. But it didn’t. This is very good…but it leaves me thinking I was in shape to run faster. I know Brennan is very intrigued by McMillan’s running calculator. I decided to check it out, and my half marathon time, which I think I ran all-out for my first time, predicts I can run 3:16 and change. Now, that sounds a bit quick. Here is what I do know: 1. I ran 26.57 miles…I know this is normal, but my actual pace would give me 3:22:10 for 26.2 miles. 2. I could have ran every mile 3-5 seconds per mile faster and not bonked. Okay, I don’t know this for sure, but I have a pretty good sense for these things and given the way I felt the first 20 miles and the last 10k, this feels about right. So, next time, I shouldn’t be worried about starting out at 7:4x. That felt incredibly easy at mile 18. 3. I want to finish that way again. Now, I know if I go out faster I risk not feeling that good, but now that I know I can pick it up with 10k to go, I want to use this as experience and repeat it again, regardless of the pace difference. A goal for my next marathon, as of right now just because? 3:20:25 – averaging just under 7:40 per mile. I’d say that’s my B goal. But why am I saying all this now? I’m crazy. 

(*note: I learned that I have to wait two extra days to register for Boston in September since I qualified by 9:57 and not by over 10:00. My crazy self is frustrated by this.)

I think this is my favorite, going to buy it…or tell my mom to?

SO WHAT’S NEXT?!

Well, this week I’ve been:

– Having a pool & gym crisis…this might be resolved soon but for right now I really want to lift and swim and have been simultaneously kind of cheated out of the deal I was getting. Time to get sneaky, friends. Or innovative. Same thing? Sore subject here.

– Biking and such

– Running a little: three miles Thursday without a hitch, about six yesterday leaving me with a very tight left IT band…once I stopped running. I’m pretty concerned about this because I’ve been doing exercise to prevent this religiously for over a year, and when I had ITBS it felt similar to this and I was out 7 weeks. What did I do wrong? I’m trying to calm down and tell myself the marathon is over and I’ll be okay. 

– Choosing summer triathlons! I’d like to do three…a sprint, an Olympic, and…a half Ironman or just another Olympic if I don’t have the funds/I don;t get in enough biking or something. I’ve decided I can’t afford a new bike, so that’s that. Triathlon post coming shortly. 

I really just want to run another marathon, if you couldn’t tell by the goals I set for myself, like, the next day. Thoughts on running three in a year span: NJ, Philly, Boston? Too much? If I do a fall marathon it will definitely be Philadelphia, that’s not a tough decision. 

BANANA BRENNAN!

Back on the track: alumni mile! (And why I didn’t like college.)

Every year, my college team hosts two home track meets, one the second Saturday and April and the other on the last Saturday. The second meet features the anticipated Alumni Mile, a coed race consisting of cross country/track alumni who show up to either hardcore compete with each other or find their way around the track four times by some other means. On the last lap, many of the guys, and some girls who have steeplechasing backgrounds, decide to give the water barrier a shot, to the amusement of the spectators. I have always been among the spectators, but this year I was excited to race! And yes, I was planning to race….

In December, after only a couple workouts back with the Intervals group, I ran the “PI Holiday Mile” in 5:53. I was happy with that, and told myself I’d give it a go again next at the alumni mile. Given that I have been doing a lot of training since then, I thought I would set my goal for sub-5:50. I’m sure racing a mile the week before racing a marathon is not in most runners’ training schedules; but, it needed to happen. I warmed up with some alumni and felt great. We all stood around with nervous excitement about racing on the track again, watching runners finish the 1500. As we were told to line up, three of my former guy

On the starting line.

So, if my legs get tired during the marathon, just remind me that I can always try to run it with my arms…jeez, I don’t know how this happened. And I thought I was developing a case of “the skinny arm.”

teammates ran up to the line out of nowhere dressed as Batman, Superman, and a Ninja Turtle. Thus, we began the race while laughing. I was smiling and laughing the whole time, almost. Well, except not in the photo that was taken of me, to my surprise. My coach was providing some hilarious commentary, which I could only hear when I was on one side of the track. I went through the first 200 in around 40-41 seconds feeling really tired, and thought to myself, well, if I don’t break six, it’s okay, I’m marathon training and already sore. I think I started my watch late though, because I was at 80ish for the 400 and could have sworn I’d slowed down. I’m not sure what my other splits were, I’d assume 2:54ish or something but I kind of made that up? I was able to pick it up with 400 to go and finished strong somewhere between 5:48 and 5:49. My watch read 5:49.08, but my coach called out “about 5:48.” It was the easiest 5:48 mile I have ever ran, that’s for sure. I was the first female to finish, about 5-10 seconds behind the Ninja Turtle (aka Rob).

Our photo finish...can you spot the superheroes???

Our photo finish…can you spot the superheroes???

I cheered in my former teammates in the final straightaway, chatted with them a bit, and then went on the best cooldown ever. I felt amazing. This was good. I thought about many things on the cooldown….

– I ran to my house I’d rented senior year and thought about all that I’ve been through since then. 

– I thought about how I had never ran a race I was truly satisfied by in college. Ever. 

– I thought about how I was only able to run at this meet once before, a 1500 freshman year. If I’d stopped at 1500m today my time would have been about 15 seconds faster. 

– I thought about how many awful runs I had on these streets, coming back from various injuries and not feeling like “myself.” I felt like “myself” now. 

– I thought about the countless nights, weekends, early mornings I had spent in the library studying, rushing around, worrying, stressing, having breakdowns over classes and exams, when everyone else was probably dealing with some of the life lessons and emotions I am dealing with now, in this year after graduating. Did I really miss out on all that and have no idea? Things hardly felt simple then, but they really must have been. My only cares were becoming a healthier, faster runner, feeling like I belonged, and doing well in school. How did I care so much about those things, try so hard to achieve them, and have none of those things actually happen?


As you can see, what started as a happy, carefree “that mile was so fun, I can’t wait to run a marathon next weekend!” little cooldown turned into a twenty minute reflection of what college was “supposed to” be like versus what it was like for me. It’s like I got everything backwards, and now there’s nothing I can do about it. Everyone has their own unique ways of getting where they’re going, though, and all I can do is be confident that I’m taking advantage of what’s in front of me at the moment, running with it, and seeing where it gets me, in running, my personal life, and academically.

So back to what this was originally about….

if at first you don’t succeed….

First, let me start off by saying I will rarely write blog posts immediately after whatever it is I’m writing about. This is just the way it is, if you haven’t figured that out already. The good news is, I have a ridiculous memory and can recount events in my life like they were yesterday…complete with their theme songs. Because all life events have a soundtrack. I should move on before risking sounding crazy.

Last Tuesday, I was all set to do the Michigan workout with Princeton Intervals. More than set, actually, really excited and well prepared! This was going to be my last really hard effort before the marathon, and I was looking forward to tackling it for the first time since spring 2011. Given that in 2011 I was unable to finish due to it being the final straw in the abrupt development of my pelvic stress fracture, I should have known it wouldn’t go too smoothly. This is a great workout, for anyone taking notes for ideas. I suppose it originated from Michigan’s track program, but I discovered it from my own college coach. It was the longest and most anticipated feared workout each cross country and track season, and it goes like this:

michiganOn my warmup, I knew I might have a problem. It was a problem I have had several times before, but I had managed to keep under control for the past few months, mostly due to fear the problem would arise. The culprit: acid reflux. It gets exacerbated by running, and creeps up based on no identifiable reason. It only happens when I have eaten something during the day, so I’ve never had an issue in the morning. But, it was a 6:30pm workout and there was no way I could have Gu and only Gu all day. The food I ate was normal, not heavy, and not acidic, so I was surprised this feeling overtook me just in time for this workout. (To be honest, I think this time it was mainly caused by being anxious and stressed about something non-running related.)  It basically feels like my lungs are being strained, making my pace automatically slow. It’s purely chest pain, no stomach distress, despite what people think when I tell them “acid reflux.” I felt like I was taking part in some intense beer mile. It was awful. However, since I was so  excited for this workout and everyone was depending on my instructions, I showed up and attempted to do it, hoping the awful feeling would go away. It didn’t. I think my 1600 was 6:35 (goal = ~ 6:10), and my tempo mile was over 7:00. The 1200 was actually 1066 meters, adapted to our workout location, and that was pretty slow too. After the second tempo mile, during which I stopped because I thought I was going to vomit, I gave up on the workout. I literally could not run without feeling nauseated and overcome by chest pain, and it was simply not worth it if I wasn’t hitting any times I wanted to hit. I knew what this feeling was, and I knew it would not get better until the next day.

So what did I do? I got up the next day and tried again. A redemption workout. One workout I have been curious about for awhile is Yasso 800s. I first read about the famed workout in an old Runner’s World article here, and after reading many “it doesn’t really work” articles subsequently, plus discussing it with my aunt, I decided I wanted to try it, with some modifications. On Wednesday, I planned on doing the 800s with 200 meters of jogging recovery between each. I wanted to definitely hit under 3:30 for each. That sounded really easy, given that it’s 7:00 pace on a track, so I thought I’d be happier if they were all closer to 3:20 than 3:30…but I had no idea how the workout would feel, so I would just see what happened! I would aim for 10, as the full workout calls for, but because I did do 3.5+ miles of harder effort the night before (even if it was an epic fail) I would be satisfied with cutting it to 6, or even in half.

My results: 3:17 (1:04), 3:24 (1:14), 3:25 (1:15), 3:21 (1:10), 3:20 (1:16), 3:22 (1:11), 3:23 (1:15), 3:15. Average = 3:20.8 

I was pleased with this. First, because I was going to stop after 5…then 6. Then 7. But I stopped after 8, mostly because I had to head in to work soon and wanted time to cool down. After that eighth, I was wiped. This was mostly because I was still sore from the previous Friday’s crazy warm long run, I think, plus the run Sunday night and the previous night’s failed workout. Basically, all I was thinking in my head on the last 800 was, I can taper after this. Words I have never before had a chance to earn the right to say. And how great it was that I am looking forward to this! This means that a.) I probably trained hard enough, and b.) I’ll probably listen to my body and be rested on race day. (Yes, I added those “probablies” after I typed that potentially overconfident couple of statements…) Thoughts on the Yasso 800 workout itself: I don’t think it’s a definite indication of what you can do in the marathon, but it is a good workout when you don’t take much rest! Do I expect to run a 3:20? Not exactly. It would be pretty sweet, but the workout taught me some things other than that, and that is perfectly fine.

Also, REDEMPTION. Who has time for ill-timed acid reflux? Not me and my training schedule, thank you very much.

Have you ever had a redemption run/workout? A day when you just had to say “let me try this again tomorrow…”? Re: Yasso 800s – tell me your stories! What were your Yasso 800 times vs. your marathon times? Just curious….