I remember my first workout…

First, thanks for all your support in response to my last post! It means a lot to me to have more people out there believing in me. Also, fun fact about that fortune I posted: I spotted it on the ground during my warmup before a turkey trot in 2012…on my cooldown after the race I was too curious not to go grab it.

I ran [long] hill repeats with two friends this morning. The experience really got me thinking about something…aside from my announcement that there should be a community website for runners to go and color-code roads and sidewalks on a map after a snowfall, indicating what’s been shoveled and what hasn’t (that’s almost better than the porta-potty network idea, I think). Anyway, one friend ran competitively in high school and college like me, and now runs marathons. The other found running, running races at least, later in life and now balances training with a very busy family life. So, the workout idea I had in my head was pretty natural to me; I had done things like this a dozen times before: warm up about two miles, run hard up a medium-grade hill 0.4-0.6 mi. in length five or six times, and use the downhills as recoveries, then cool down a mile or two.

This hill is in the middle of the Princeton Half Marathon course…hence the photo of so many runners on it at once.

Long story short, this is what we did, but I was reminded during the workout that piecing together something like that might come very easily to me and my one workout partner, but not as easily to someone who was not introduced to competitive running (meaning, training to run a race for which you have a time goal in mind) by a coach at an early age. I seem programmed to use some of the same things I did in high school and college when it comes to workouts, such as two mile warmups and cooldowns, an ab workout and stretching immediately following a cooldown instead of another time during the day, not doing “workouts” two days in a row, not lifting two days in a row…the list goes on. To be fair, I guess the things that have stuck with me are things that worked for me. I don’t run my long runs the day after a race anymore, because that doesn’t feel like a good idea to me most of the time. I don’t do 2-3 mile runs in the morning if I’m doing a hard workout at night, in fear of too much mileage. These were some other things my teammates would be advised to do sometimes. I’m lucky to have had good coaches who understood my bad luck with injuries; I don’t blame them at all for the times I got hurt.

It all got me thinking about how other people started to grasp the concept of a “workout.” Did it just make sense to you? Did you look up workouts specific to your race distance online? Seek out a coach? A friend who seemed to have experience? I think runners on both sides of the continuum can learn from one another: there are probably things ingrained in a former high school/college runner that need to be given a dose of variety, and there are things that a runner new to the whole training-to-race thing is missing and can find within a typical college cross country team workout schedule. Then there is the concept of a sport-convert: the marathoner who played soccer (or another sport) all her life without once touching the track aside from the preseason fitness test. This also has given me a different perspective on the newbie runners I talk to everyday. I fitted a collegiate swimmer for running shoes yesterday; he told his sister he would train for the Disneyland Half Marathon in August with her (what a nice brother!). A “half marathon” to any college or high school runner doesn’t sound daunting: increase the length of your tempos and the number of intervals you are already familiar with, maybe increase your long run by a mile or two at the max, run the race. To imagine myself as the runner I was when I started, however…running 2-3 miles a day for fitness and not knowing how fast I was going at all…or to imagine that all my workouts had been done in a pool and I was in shape for an entirely different sport…well, a “half marathon” doesn’t sound so easy anymore, I guess.

I’m glad I had such a gradual transition to marathon training…but tell me, what was yours like? What was the first faster “workout” you ever did, and how did you go about choosing it? 

It just occurred to me before I hit “Publish” that I might have evidence of my first track workouts in spring of 2006 in a folder a foot away. Success! Check it out:

march 2006


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.


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.


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!

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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.


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.


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!

2014 Boston training outlook + help me choose a half!

Unlike those who say they are done with 2013 and want to start fresh in 2014, I fortunately was grateful enough to have a fairly solid, satisfactory year, particularly as it related to running. That being said, I don’t need to have some kind of calamity to begin 2014 with the same momentum as those eager to leave the previous year behind. I don’t make New Year’s resolutions. I make resolutions whenever resolutions need to be made: February 17th, April 2nd, September 8th, an hour from now – doesn’t matter. “Goals for the year?” Kind of a silly question when I’m already signed up for a major marathon and a half Ironman for 2014. So, January 1st held no special meaning for me this year. When everyone else seemed to be posting their race or run photos from the morning, I was in bed until the afternoon thanks to being struck with a cough, sore throat, and nearly-absent (it would be totally gone three days later…) voice. Didn’t mind. Life went on.

A calendar year is a recognized period of time, however, and my “marathon training started” immediately after that awful cold/sickness/whatever subsided, so I might as well share some thoughts on what I hope the first part of the year brings for me as a runner. And what it will bring…because I’m registered for things…so I’m doing them of course.


Winter/Early Spring 2014 = Boston Marathon training. As I mentioned before, I am so excited to be able to say I’m “training for Boston.” So. Excited. When it’s five degrees and snowing, it doesn’t feel anywhere close to now, but that’s all a part of training for an April marathon I suppose. No complaints from me. I plan on making a lot of effort to have long run partners each weekend; I think that’s important and it has helped me tremendously in the past. Specifically, faster partners. I don’t want to do every long run at sub-7:30 pace, but I do want to find people who are 100% okay with the pace(s) at which I run my long runs so everyone gets something out of it and just enjoys it. Also, I want to incorporate some faster miles into some of the long runs, and it would be cool to run with people who are on board with that, and that particular faster pace, also. I want to run as many hills on normal runs and long runs as I can. As far as speedwork is concerned, I’d like to do some longer, steady-pace tempos in addition to the Princeton Intervals Tuesday night workouts. I was also thinking of adding in to the workouts I do with the group, since some of them cater more to 5k/10k/half marathon training. I’ll surely be writing more about my training plan as the weeks progress, but these are the main things I want to make sure I do.

The big question: Should I race a half marathon en route to Boston? Part of me thinks it’s only logical, but it should be about six weeks out. That will give me time to gauge my fitness but also have time to recover and continue training hard before tapering (oh, and note to self: decide what tapering actually means and if I really want to do it, because I think I’ve done it right in the past). I’m at a loss as to what half I should do, for two reasons: 1.) Most in this area are less than 5 weeks before Boston weekend, and 2.) I want a flat one. I’ve raced two halves and both have had hills near the end. Remove the hills from Philly and I know I would’ve ran sub-90. I know it. I hope to be in sub-90 shape regardless in March, but the truth is I’ll be training for a full, not tapering, and…well, I’d just rather play it safe. The hills in training will make up for it in time for Boston. I want a flat half course. I don’t care if it’s boring or really small. So what are my options?

e.murraytoddThis race is so low-key that it doesn’t even have its own logo or website. Kate did this en route to Boston last year, and I trust her decision timing-wise because she ran great at both (though they may have been a week closer together then). Negative: I do recall her saying it was “hillier than she expected.” Positive: $30 though! Could be convinced.


I don’t know why I was so drawn to this at first. Maybe the magic “6 weeks out” of the event. Positives: One description says they eliminated a hill at mile 10 for this year (it’s like they heard my calls), the race course goes around some lakes and looks pretty, the late start could accommodate the extra hour it takes to get there. Negatives: it takes an extra hour to get there. Plus, upon further investigation, it appears that the staggered start times for runners slower than 2:30 and walkers will lead to lots of weaving around people. Lots. Just read this.

This was a top contender of mine for last year’s spring half marathon. Positives: IT’S FLAT, I would be competitive in it yet it’s a big race so that’s pretty cool, I’ve never been to Queens or Flushing Meadows Park, it’s on a Saturday which is rare. Negatives: it’s twice as much money as some other options, it’s only four weeks (and two days) out from Boston. Those of you more experienced than I at this marathon thing (ahem, almost all of you reading) please tell me your opinion: is four weeks too soon before Boston?

EML5FbqOrgegNQUE1C1JThis was another contender last year, especially since it was the same weekend as the race I ended up choosing. Positives: I think I could arrange to stay overnight in the area this year thanks to a relocated friend (wasn’t an option last year), 5 weeks away sounds okay to me, and I’ve never had a RnR experience and I hear good things about their races. Negatives: I’ve also heard bad things about their races, the price is steep (food vs. race fee…not a fun game to play), I would have to stay over somewhere the night before, and probably take days off of work for the ordeal.

So, those are basically my choices. I wish there were more races around here the weekend of March 9th! You’d think race directors would pick up on this void that falls in line with a prime Boston-tune-up weekend! I should also note that last year I did the Caesar Rodney Half Marathon in Wilmington, Delaware and have only good things to say about it. I would do it again, but it was hilly and it’s a week later this year, so it just makes sense to do the 13.1 New York race instead if I would consider CR (CR is cheaper though…). Obviously, my goal race is Boston, not a half. So, after writing this all out, I think there is one race I mentioned above that is calling to me more than the others. But I would appreciate any comments, opinions, and guesses as to which that may be. 🙂

Keep in mind, I think my current group of friends this March will be celebrating St. Patrick’s Day the way you are actually supposed to, and I won’t want to miss out completely…. 😉

Intervention Part II: what I need to learn from running

Funny that it’s almost two weeks later, and I’m literally sitting in the same place giving myself another public intervention on my blog. It’s about…okay, basically the same exact thing. I think that the way I view running can help me resolve the problem, however.

Running is an addictive sport. Way of life. Hobby. Lifestyle. Whatever you like to refer to it as in your own life. Sometimes, a lot of times, it is necessary to plan when exactly you will run, and what that run will be. You may not be able to do mile repeats on a specific day because that day is jam-packed, another day is too close to a race, and another day is going to be super hot. Why not plan to bang out the workout during a day that is not those days, if you still can? So you do, of course. As the weekend approaches, you should figure out which day you are doing your long run to see if you can snag some company before it’s too late. It’s not too late yet, so you do. This all just makes sense.

BUT. When you’re me, it doesn’t always make sense. It made sense for me to do this January through May, when I had goal races on my calendar. It never proved a problem, I liked planning my runs for the week, sometimes even the next and the next. There was a nice balance of structure but not too much – I wouldn’t necessarily write it down; neither would I know what I was doing the other days of the week. Whatever was most convenient on a particular day was what I did. Raining and taking off from running? Swimming and lifting is fine. Yoga is fine too. Not big deal. Really nice out but need to cross train? Going to bike and do an ab workout on the porch. Sounds good. Really busy day and just exhausted? Day off is okay, sure. I say “not me” because I get hurt so often, and I need to be so careful, that this is often the norm. Think of weeks in a row without running. Think about it – can you? Can you do it without making a cross training schedule and sticking to it, and freaking out about the race you signed up for and have no clue if you’ll be ready to run? Most people would have a lot of trouble. I once did, but now I’m used to it and I can handle it – the uncertainty, the lack of control. 

Let me emphasize that:

People like to be in control.

When there is control over a situation, you can believe and trust that you are doing the right thing and that thing is getting you to your end goal. A training schedule is the perfect example of that. I don’t do training schedules anymore. After years of trying to stick to plans other people laid out for me, I let it all go, basically took each day and each week at a time, understood I didn’t know what was actually going to happen, and just enjoyed doing whatever it was I was doing at the time. I did this for the entire year, and it has (believe it or not) been my healthiest year yet, as well as most fun when it comes to running and racing. 

This is what you get when you Google Image search “running training plans”:


This could drive someone mad! Do these people know you, and your body, and what it can and can’t handle? No. I’m not saying that for the super-beginner runner it is a good idea to wing it…but there is so much common sense in running that coming up with your own plan, and making it a very loose one that will still get you where you want to be, shouldn’t be the anomaly. Your shin is “killing you”? There’s a big difference between that and your quads being sore from hill repeats. Don’t run just because your training schedule tells you to. 

Phew, that took an interesting turn. However, I won’t erase it all, perhaps someone else will find it useful. My intervention topic is this: I need to treat the rest of my life more like I treat my running schedule. I had to go through several injuries and difficult running-related moments to get to where I am now regarding my attitude toward training, but I think the time for me to start this new outlook is definitely now. 

I don’t need to set my Saturday plans now, to have Saturday plans.

I don’t need to constantly have every second of my days off scheduled.

It’s okay to count on spontaneity.

It’s okay to let go of expectations and go with whatever is happening.

I’m allowed to stay inside when it’s sunny and hot, and I’m allowed to “waste” my time driving somewhere without panicking I’m missing out on something. This doesn’t mean I’m lazy or not living each day to the fullest.

What living each day to the fullest should really mean is not spending time in a state of high anxiety, when all you can think of is, I want things to be alright again, right now, because they were before. It’s not going to happen with a snap of the fingers, especially when you are so stressed you forget food exists and so does tomorrow.

So here’s to chilling out. This is new to me, but I realized that when I forget about the future and the past, I am happiest. The first intervention was not so effective. I’m determined to make Part II more so…by using the least amount of effort possible (to avoid a huge catch-22). 

I like this one for some reason.