Change in Plans and the Shortest Ragnar Recap Ever

I ran Ragnar Northwest Passage (my first relay) two weekends ago. Never heard of Ragnar or a relay? Here’s the short version: 12 runners pile into two vans and take turns running. Each person runs three times, and by the end of it, the team runs a total of 200 miles.

Relay recaps tend to get pretty lengthy, so I’m going to give you the quick and dirty version: IT WAS AWESOME.

The key to having fun during a relay is having good people in your van. When you’re sleep deprived and having GI issues (oh man, my stomach was a hot mess!), you don’t want to be in a van with high-maintenance drama queens. Thankfully, my van was pretty darn awesome. No drama, just lots of laughter, singing along to 90s pop, and encouragement.

Ragnar Northwest Passage Continue reading

Rock N Roll Seattle Half Marathon Race Recap

Yesterday I ran the RNR Seattle half. My race strategy, per my coach’s instructions, was to not look at my Garmin and run by feel. Warm up for the first three miles and then shift into half marathon pace.

Going into the race, I had no expectations of PR’ing, but I did hope to be able to run goal marathon pace (9:00). Spoiler alert: didn’t quite work out.

I was a little scattered on race morning. Due to a stupid long porta potty line, I started the race farther back than normal (corral 17 when I should have been in 10-12). And my head was just a mess. I’ve been really enjoying my easy-paced runs, and I was scared of how much the end of the race would hurt. This was the first race I’ve “raced” in more than six months, and I was scared and lacked confidence. In many ways, it was deja vu of Eugene Marathon.

The race started and I tried to find a reasonable pace. I tapered more for this race than I have any other recent half marathon, so I was surprised my legs didn’t feel quite as springy and light as I expected. This only added to the crazy thoughts circling my not so stable brain.

I felt like I was going at a decent pace, but my was head was just not in it. I questioned whether I was going too slow/too fast. Would I blow up at mile 10? Was I going too slow and wish I had done more?

I had pretty much assumed that I would break 2 hours, so when I looked at my cumulative time around 12.5, I was shocked when I realized I would be finishing in 2+ hours.

I finished in 2:03:44, and I’ll be honest:I was pissed when I crossed the finish line.

But now that I’ve had 24 hours to decompress and I emailed with my coach, I’m over being pissed. RNR was not a goal race, and I’d rather have a bad day now rather than on October 5. Time to move on and use this disappointment as motivation for the next 15 weeks.

hatefireAnd, on the bright side, there were a ton of photographers on the course. Here are a few gems. Screen Shot 2014-06-22 at 4.03.46 PM

Screen Shot 2014-06-22 at 4.03.27 PM

Hooray! Finally a normal picture!

Hooray! Finally a normal picture!

Here are my splits, if you’re into that sort of thing.

Rock N Roll Seattle Half Marathon Splits

17 Weeks Out

I’m now five weeks through base building, and I’m less than two weeks out from the Rock N Roll Half and 17 weeks out from Portland (!).

Overall, base building has been going really well. Last week I had some tightness that was causing significant discomfort in my lower left leg (same leg I had shin splints), so per my coach’s instructions, I skipped two runs and shortened my long run. As much as I hate missing scheduled runs when training is going so well, it was the right call.

Here’s how the last five weeks looked:

Week one: 5 runs totaling 21 miles (long run: 8 miles)
Week two: 5 runs totaling 24 miles (long run: 10 miles)
Week three: 5 runs totaling 26 miles (long run: 12 miles)
Week four: 5 runs totaling 21 miles (long run: 7 miles)
Week five: 3 runs totaling 13 miles (long run: 8 miles) <— skipped two runs due to leg issues, and my long run was supposed to be 14 miles.

In addition to rest, I saw my chiropractor for ART (ART hurts but I love it; if I were rich and/or my insurance didn’t limit the amount of treatments, I would go in once a week) and I’m working with my coach to improve my cadence, to hopefully avoid future issues.

The nice thing about base building is that it’s gently easing me into marathon training. In the past, I often went from taking a break in training to going balls to the wall. On several occasions, I fell into the “too much too soon” trap, got burnt out, and then either rallied to finish a good training cycle (like I did for Eugene) or totally gave up (like I did for both my Portland cycles).

It’s also been a good lesson in balancing running with life. Things are settling down now, but the last two months have been pretty busy. Here’s a quick rundown:

We went to Hawaii.

10294313_10102983166088148_1975648116986883301_n

Maui VacationWe updated/gently remodeled our kitchen. Woohoo! The under mount sink and touch faucet are life-changing. Well, not really, but they are pretty sweet.

Kitchen before (taken right before we moved in)

Kitchen before (taken at the appraisal shortly before we bought the house)

Kitchen after!

Kitchen after!

I went to my friend’s bachelorette party in Vancouver.

bachelorette partyThe following weekend, we went to her wedding.

photo 5

WeddingWeddingI turned 29. This shouldn’t count since my birthday was super relaxed (just hung out in Seattle with my dad, nephew and John), but I’m including it. Plus, I love this picture of Ryder going down the slide on his tummy. I’m not a kid person, but man I love this little guy. He is a total goofball.

photo 3Last but certainly not least, my girlfriends and I saw the Backstreet Boys in concert. It was pretty darn amazing.

backstreet boys

The last two months have been great, but I know all of these activities played a part in my leg acting up. Specifically, for several weeks straight, I averaged less sleep each night than normal, I drank a lot more than I normally do (especially the weekends with the bachelorette party and wedding), and my diet kinda went to crap.

My goal for the next 17 weeks is to achieve a better balance: keep the fun but lose the excessive booze and unhealthy food. And sleep more. Training for a marathon requires sacrifices, but it doesn’t mean I need to forgo all the fun in my life. It just means I need to have fun, only have one glass of wine, and then be in bed by 10 p.m. :)

 

Training Update

In my last post, over a month ago (opps!), I had decided to not run the Mercer Island Half Marathon. I also promised to update you on my goals and plans for this year.

Well, I changed my mind and decided to run the half marathon. When I wrote that post, I had decided that running it would be foolish, especially considering my longest run was only seven miles. But come race week, I realized that although I was certainly not PR-ready, I was capable of covering 13.1 miles.

I was terribly nervous for the race; I hadn’t run a race this under-trained in a long time. My strategy for the race was to take it mile by mile and let my lungs and legs (not my Garmin) set the pace.

Based on recent training runs, I figured I’d finish right around 2:10, and if everything went right, maybe I could squeak in under 2:05. Given my fitness level, I had a great race and ran even splits; I finished in 2:03 and was truly ecstatic with this time.

2:03 is about ten minutes slower than my PR, and a year ago I would have beat myself up over this time. My head would have been swirling with thoughts like: Ugh, Megan. You’re so slow. Why did you take so much time after CIM and get so out of shape? How the hell are you going to finish sub 4 at Portland? You suck at running.

Thankfully, I’m starting to move away from this way of thinking. Being so critical of myself is not healthy, and it’s a bad habit I’m working hard to break – both in running and life in general.

Throughout the race and when I crossed the finish line, there was absolutely no negative self-talk. I was genuinely happy and proud when I crossed the finish line of my 17th half marathon.

Now let’s talk about my plans for 2014 and my approach to training.

I’ve been running consistently since February, and my general approach has been quite simple: Don’t be an idiot. I’ve gradually built up my weekly mileage to 20-25 miles/week, and I’ve paid close attention to my left shin. In the past, if my shin hurt, I sucked it up and ran through it. Super smart, I know. Now, if it feels a little off, I’ll take the day off or do an easy run on a soft surface.

My shin is doing much better, but it still isn’t 100 percent. Since I haven’t been able to rehab this injury on my own, I decided to reach out for help (something I struggle with) and started seeing a sports chiropractor.

I’ve only had two sessions so I can’t speak to the treatment’s effectiveness, but it gives me peace of mind to have an official diagnosis and a treatment plan. He also told me that my gluts are very weak, which is causing my other muscles to pick up the slack and puts me at risk of more injuries. So I’ll be working on that as well.

Reaching out for help makes me uncomfortable. But after six marathons and three failed sub 4 attempts, I’ve accepted that I need professional help to reach my goals and take my running to the next level.

So I’m excited to announce that I hired a running coach!

I’ve thought about hiring a coach for several months, but I was always too nervous to pull the trigger. Now that I’ve coached myself through six marathons and stressed out countless trying to figure out the best way to train, I am thrilled to hand over the control and let someone more knowledgeable and experienced guide my training.

I only have one goal this year: To finish with a 3 on the clock at the Portland Marathon. Ideally, Dad and I would both finish sub 3:55 so he can get his BQ and I would get an eight-minute PR.

Portland is an awesome race and has a lot of sentimental value, which is why Dad and I decided made it our goal race. Dad ran his first marathon at Portland 15ish years ago, and this will be his 11th Portland Marathon.

Training begins May 5; I can’t wait!

Catching Up

Yes, I’m still alive. Last time we talked, I had signed up for the Mercer Island Half Marathon because I needed to light a fire under my ass and get running again. The good news is the fire trick worked: I’ve been running consistently for the last six weeks and things are starting to click. My stride is starting to feel less clunky. My muscles are working in harmony. My pace is starting to drop. And running has actually been pretty darn fun.

Here’s how base building has looked:

Week one: 3 runs, 12.9 miles
Week two: 4 runs, 18.2 miles
Week three: 4 runs, 17 miles
Week four: 3 runs, 14.1 miles
Week four: 5 runs, 15 miles
Week five: 4 runs, 21 miles
Week six: 5 runs, 25 miles

The not so good news is that although things in the running department are progressing nicely, I’ve decided to not run the half marathon, which is in two weeks. I’ve been super cautious and haven’t logged as many miles as I originally hoped (I’ve learned my lesson that too much too soon = shin splints and mental burnout), and I’m not even close to half marathon shape.

Sure, I’m physically capable of running a half, but the big lesson I learned last year is that just because I physically can do something doesn’t mean I should. Kinda like Fat Amy in my favorite movie Pitch Perfect.

tumblr_me2ipiBn581r4an4bo1_500I have another week and a half of easy running/base building and then I’ll start layering in tempo runs and speed work as I prepare for my first goal race of the year: the RNR Seattle Half.

In my next post, I’ll talk about my goals and changes I’m making to my training approach. Happy Wednesday!

What’s Next?

It’s been almost two months since CIM, and I’m finally crawling out of the post-marathon slump. I took more time off than I normally would to help my stupid shin splints heal, but the good news is that for the first time in months, I am running pain-free.

In the last two months, I’ve done a lot of yoga, not much running and very little cross training. I should have cross trained more to retain some of my fitness, but honestly I just didn’t care. Mentally and physically, I needed the lazy down-time.

Last week I decided I was ready to put an end to this off-season. So I registered for the Mercer Island Half Marathon, which is seven weeks from this Sunday.

I chose this race primarily due to timing. It is soon enough to light the much needed fire under my out-of-shape flabby ass, but far enough way to give me a little time to train so this isn’t a huge suffer-fest.

The day I registered (Thursday), I ran for the first time in two weeks. I only ran 3ish miles (I think my Garmin is finally dead, so I just used my stop watch) and was SORE the next day. I ran again Saturday and Sunday. Sunday I was able to run on the trails, and it felt lovely. It made me realize how much I’ve missed training and running, and for the first time since CIM, I felt like the old Megan. A less fit slower version of myself, but I’ll take it.

My main goal in the next two months is to do lots of easy runs and build a decent base so my body is ready to handle running for 2ish hours on March 23 (my main goal is just to finish, but I’d ideally like to be under 2:05).

I’m in strict base-building mode until April, which is when I’ll start sprinkling in speed work and focusing on getting faster in preparation for my first goal race of the year: the Seattle Rock N Roll Half. I really want to finish sub 1:50.

I don’t have anything on the schedule after this half, but I have some ideas brewing. And my ideas all revolve around PR’ing in the marathon. Dad and I are talking about doing the Light at the End of the Tunnel Lite in September, but we haven’t made any final decisions. Portland is also a possibility. Or I guess CIM, although I really don’t want to wait that long!

Last year I made a ton of mistakes with my training (I increased mileage and intensity simultaneously, which resulted in inconsistent training and shin splints). Even though I have lost fitness and have a long road ahead of me just to get where I was, I’m really excited to apply what I’ve learned and make 2014 my best year of running yet.

California International Marathon Race Recap

Last month (yep, this post is a tad overdue) I ran my sixth marathon and finished in 4:04:59. Unlike Eugene when I threw a hissy fit about another failed sub 4 attempt, I’m proud of this time and equally proud of how I ran the race.

Dad and I arrived in Sacramento Friday afternoon. Saturday morning, we hit the expo.

California International Marathon Race ExpoAfter grabbing our bibs and packets, we sat in on the press conference for the elite runners, which was very helpful and inspiring.

We spent the rest of the day doing a whole lot of nothing (other than sitting on our butts and eating carbs). Pre CIM carb loadingIt was a little boring and my anxiety was in full swing, but it’s important to stay off your feet the day before a marathon. Definitely succeeded in that!

After what felt like 15 minutes of sleep, the alarm went off at 3:30 a.m. I probably slept a total of three hours, but I was wide awake and excited to finally run this thing!

Ready for CIM!Dad and I ate and headed down to the hotel lobby, where the shuttle bus came at 4:45 a.m. Our hotel was near the finish, so it was a bit daunting to take such a long ride (in the dark cold) to the start.

We got to the race with about 30 minutes to spare, which we spent hydrating, porta-pottying (not a word), eating and trying to stay warm on the bus (they let you stay on the bus until the race starts — major perk!).

About five minutes before the race started, Dad and I dropped our sweats off at Gear Check and found our way into the corral, between the 3:55 and 4 hour pacer. Around 7 a.m., people around us started walking toward the front. I hadn’t heard the national anthem or the gun go off, so I thought we were all just moving closer to the start. Nope, the race had actually started!

It was super anti-climatic, but I liked the undramatic, no frills start. It helped me not freak out and get too much in my head. I was excited but calm about the race — taking the complete opposite approach as I did in Eugene, when I was a total psycho headcase beginning at mile 1.

I had a few strategies for running the race:

1. Focus on the present mile. When I ran Eugene, I was terrified of mile 20 before I even finished mile 1. I broke CIM into five-mile segments, and I forced myself to not think beyond those five miles.

2. I had ear buds in the entire race, but I didn’t turn the music on until mile 15 (my original plan was to wait until 16, but I got impatient). I wanted something to look forward to in the later miles.

3. I let go of my end goal (finish sub4) and just focused on doing the best I could on each mile.

4. GU often. In previous marathons, I GU’d every six miles. During this training cycle I played around with GUing every five, and I prefer this fueling strategy.

5. Aim for 1:58 half and then pray to the running gods to just hold on. That didn’t quite work out, but it was a good idea in theory.

Since it was so cold (27 degrees at the start), Dad and I started the race wearing our throwaway jackets. My feet were numb for the first few miles, and I joked that maybe my legs would go numb and I wouldn’t feel the pain in the last 10k. Didn’t quite work out that way.

The race started on a nice decline, a wonderful way to start a marathon. Then the rolling hills began and continued until about mile 15. Up and down, up and down. I normally don’t like running hills, but I really liked the course. None of the hills were steep and I knew each uphill would be followed by a lovely downhill. Plus, it kept things fresh, and the miles flew by.

At mile 5, Dad and I pulled off to the side of the course to GU and shed our throwaway jackets. The jacket I wore was really snug around the wrists, which posed some problems since my Garmin is a massive, old-school 305. It took me a minute to remove the jacket, but I didn’t panic about the lost time.

At mile 10, Dad and I made another pit stop to GU and take some ibuprofen. I’ve never taken ibuprofen this early in a race, but my left shin was bugging me and Dad had a terrible calf cramp.

Even though my shin was a little annoying, I was really happy and felt great at mile 10. And I still felt good when we reached the halfway point in 2:00:20. When I looked at my watched and saw we were 2.5 minutes slower than our goal for the half, I looked at Dad and jokingly said, “Are you ready to negative split this thing?”

Dad just smiled. Though neither one of us said it, we both knew the chances of breaking 4 were pretty small. I have never negative split a marathon. (Yes, I know that’s what you’re “supposed” to do, but it’s not something I’ve ever been able to pull off.) Although I was  disappointed, I was OK with the prospect of not breaking 4 and still had my sights on a PR.

We kept running together until 15, which was a slow and steady incline and my least favorite hill of the race. At this point, I was starting to get tired and was ready for the course to flatten out.

As we ran up the hill, I slowly pulled ahead of Dad. Without intending to do so, I created a gap between Dad and myself. Several times I looked back and hoped Dad would catch up, but I was also prepared to run the last bit by myself.

Once I realized I was running solo, I turned on my iPod and was happily greeted with Justin Bieber and Jaden Smith’s song, “Never Say Never.” The song is totally corny, but I like it.

When I got to mile 16, I told myself: “Ok, let’s just get to mile 20 without feeling totally dead.”

I finally reached mile 20, the time in a marathon when things usually go from a slow unravel to a fast and steady downward spiral. My legs got pretty heavy and my pace slowed, but I tried to manage the unraveling as much as possible. With my PR chances quickly diminishing, I set a new goal to beat my Eugene time.

There was a small hill at mile 22, which I really wanted to walk, but I forced myself to slowly run up and over. I had read in a blog that there’s a street sign at the hill that you shouldn’t read, so of course I had to look. The street was named “Howe.” I smiled and thought how perfect that was.

I was very tired in the last 10k but also really happy. As I ran by spectators with cowbells and funny signs, I kept thinking how lucky I am to be able to do this. This was the first time I’ve felt “lucky” in the final 10k of a marathon (usually I’m praying to be hit by a car so the suffering can stop).

I kept counting down the miles until I got to the final stretch. The last few miles, as usual, took forever, but I finally made the left turn to the State Capitol and saw that glorious finish line. I looked at my watch and realized I could beat 4:05, so I gave it everything I had left and finished in 4:04:59. My second fastest time and 96 seconds slower than my PR.

After crossing the line and hobbling to receive my medal and space blanket, I sat down on a curb and did something I’ve never done after a race: I cried. Happy tears, not sad or disappointed tears.

It was a really nice moment. For the first time in a marathon, I stayed fully present — from start to finish — and as I sat on that curb and processed what had just happened, I was totally content knowing I had run the best race I could that day.

After collecting myself, I got up and had my picture taken. I got food, put on my sweats and eventually found Dad, who finished in 4:13 (his second fastest time since his return to marathoning).

The race certainly didn’t go how we originally planned/hoped. No sub 4. No BQ for Dad. But I don’t feel discouraged or view my third 4:0x finish as a setback.

After California International Marathon - CIMI plan to run marathons for as long as I’m healthy and able (which hopefully is for the rest of my life), and I’m not upset that breaking four hours is taking longer to accomplish than I  anticipated. My struggles and challenges will just make the moment I cross the finish line with 3:xx on the clock that much sweeter.