Monday, January 31, 2011

The Long Run That Felt Like a Human Game of Pong


Well that was interesting! After last week's snowstorm, I knew that the amount of runnable roads would be limited. Throughout the week, I began mentally preparing for whatever our group would be able to come up with for a place for our long run. How long was on the schedule, you ask? 18 miles! Yep. Not cool.

We typically run all our long runs on the W&OD Trail as a combination of out and back or double out and back, but it was just not runnable, especially for 18 miles. Luckily enough, there was some scouting going on behind the scenes to find something else. The end result was a stretch of neighborhood roads of approximately 1-1.5 miles long each way. So, while certainly not the greatest type of way to run 18 miles it, it would be better than doing it on a treadmill or even a track (if one had actually been cleared off). So doing the math, that means I'd be pinging and ponging back and forth from one end to the other somewhere between 7-8 times! Oh yea, and it was nonstop hills. Beggars can't be choosers!

I'm happy to say that the run was completed, and done in a respectable time. In order to play mental games, I made each lap slightly longer or shorter, so as not to run the exact same lap each time. Sometimes I did 2 miles in an out and back lap, while other times it was closer to 3 miles. I ended up with about 2:20 of solid running the whole time.

One thing is for sure - I feel very mentally strong after this run. This week is a slight recovery week, but with another big run coming the week after, let's hope the weather improves and we can find some different roads. Oh what's that? There's another major storm coming? Crap! One can dream...

Thursday, January 27, 2011

It Could Have Been Worse


At least it looked nice outside when I woke up this morning. Notice I say "I"...as in, only one of us made it home last night ;) Rebecca had an interesting night, becoming one with her office at work, rather than trying to slip slide her way home and into the nearest guardrail. It was definitely the right decision. I saw countless updates on Facebook throughout the night of people stuck on the highway for 3, 4, and 5+ hours to go only 2-4 miles! No thanks!

We ended up with about 8 inches of heavy, wet snow. It was enough to knock a ton of trees down and take out power for a lot of people. We had a tree come down, but it was just to the side of the house thankfully. More on that, once the snow clears and we figure out what we actually have to do with it!

For now though, it's time to go get my core workout in for the day and get started on some shoveling. The plow was nice enough to ensure I get in a good workout by leaving an extra 2 feet of snow piled in front of our driveway ;)

Monday, January 24, 2011

Selecting the Race

As you know, I'm running another marathon. This time, I decided it was time to branch out from the local venue and race somewhere a bit further away. My primary reasoning was that I wanted something that was:

1) Different
2) Not quite as challenging
3) At a location that could provide some relaxation following the race

I also didn't want the costs to be too high, which means I'd like to drive there. So, I took a look on over at marathonguide.com's marathon map and searched for a spring race. I came up with a few options.

- Charlottesville Marathon: April 9, 2011 - Considered to be run on a scenic course, but also has some hills. Would provide for a good venue post-race, with wineries nearby and could stay at a bed and breakfast for a relaxing weekend.
- Pittsburgh Marathon: May 15, 2011 - Has been recommended to me by others, but has some larger hills in the 2nd half of the race. A May race could mean the potential for a hot day, which would not be what I trained most of my running in.
- Shamrock VA Beach Marathon: March 20, 2011 - Considered to be a fast course, with minimal elevation changes and bands on the course. Winds could be a factor. Supposed to have a killer post-race party. Lots of goodies! Beach setting would be nice for relaxing after the race.

There were some other races I considered, but I ruled them out early, because they required farther travel or were similar to these races, but not as enticing.

After reading race reports and looking into lodging, I decided on Shamrock. I found beachfront lodging within 5 blocks from the race start (and finish!) for less than I would have paid to stay at any of the other locations. Plus, I'll be able to stumble back to the hotel after the race...I know it is going to be a LONG 5 blocks at that point though. Lastly, I'm just looking forward to relaxing after the race, as we'll be staying an extra day to make it a long weekend.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Unfinished Business

You know when you try to take on something big, you develop all these ideas in your head about how perfect to plan everything is going to come out. Well sometimes they do end up perfect (usually not) and sometimes they don't. So I'm sure most people know what it is like to spend a long time working toward a goal (whether a race or something else in life), only to come up a bit short. When it is all said and done, you've reached the light at the end of the tunnel, but yet you still sit there wondering - "Could I have done better?". At first, you are happy to be done - it's quite the relief to no longer be consumed by that one goal. But as time slips away, it begins to eat at you. Day after day, week after week, month after month....what can I do different next time?

Well in this case, my unfinished business belongs to the marathon distance. I jumped into the marathon distance a number of years ago without much endurance knowledge, like most people do, despite thinking that I knew all there was to know about running. Through trial and error (lots of errors!), I've learned a ton of stuff along the way. I've read books (and continue to read more), taken steps back to assess myself, spent nearly the past year to develop the running foundation I believe is needed to ensure success, and gone through training to learn even more.

My past marathons all started with high hopes early on in the training process. But along the way, things fell off track via injury, forcing extended periods of downtime. This time, I will not fall into the traps of year's past. I'm being smart about self care, strengthening, stretching, and personal maintenance. It is all about the total package of training and not just running the distance.

Because come hell or high water, I'm running another marathon!
(as for which one, you'll just have to wait and find out in another post)

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Preaching to the Choir

It was around this time last year that I started writing up my Training Manifesto series, which was basically a brain dump of the things I had compiled over time in my head. Part of it was out of frustration over what I kept reading about from various sources online and knew was misleading most people to workout differently than they should, and part of it was as a reminder to myself to avoid the same common pitfalls many athletes experience each year.

Well, I couldn't have said it much better than this. You just have to remember - patience, consistency, and long term vision are the keys to getting and STAYING fast.

Don't sacrifice your short term goals, if your longer term goal is to get faster.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

2010 Year in Review

Now that 2010 is behind us, I wanted to take one quick glance back to consider the year that just transpired. For me, it was a big stepping stone in many ways of the things that I hope to come in 2011 and beyond. After reaching deep into my head for some serious reflection, I realized that I'd need a year to get back to the basics - and that is exactly what 2010 was.

Early 2010
I started off the year with several months of focused base training. After looking back at my training over the years and reflecting on some of the books I had read, I realized that it was in my best interest to build myself back from the ground up. This began in 2009, but continued through April as I steadily became a stronger runner through consistent running and strengthening exercises. I started off the race season with the Monument Ave 10k and the GW Parkway Classic, having only run my base miles, and not focusing on any speed at the time. The fitness gains from that base foundation alone carried me to massive PRs (and a trip to the med tent!) in both distance and gave me a verification that what I was doing was working. The period immediately after this also coincided with the time I started training with Marathon Nation, as the approach for getting faster fell directly in line what I was looking for at the time.

Mid 2010
Despite having raced just the week before, Rebecca, some friends, and I headed to a 5k race, because it was one we've done before, and which raises money for Celiac Disease. The course was tough and hilly, but the result was pretty good - a course PR of 5s, tying my 5k PR, and placed 2nd in my Age Group. A couple weeks later, Rebecca and I raced in a local 5k that was only a mile from our house. Determined to run a smart race, I developed a race strategy for the 1st time for a 5k race. The result was a true breakthrough performance - a PR of 34s and an Age Group win! This race set my confidence to an all time high that I was training right, getting faster, and still having fun. Throughout the rest of the summer, I continued to just run without adding any more immediate races. I added some cycling to my schedule to mix things up and did most of the Reston Century (link from last year's ride), despite not really training much for it. I could have finished it, but because I didn't want to significantly impact my recovery to continue running, I called it quits at 75 miles this year. At about the same time, the opportunity came up to register for a 1/2 marathon through my work (free!). So that became my focus for the rest of the summer and into fall.

Late 2010
My training for the 1/2 marathon was going really well until I hit a minor setback. I had taken a slight break from writing here at the time, so I didn't share, but I was developing some peroneal tendon issues. I was still able to run, but I took the conservative approach with the race looming only weeks away to focus on RICE, because my hard training was essentially done. Race day came and I pulled out what I consider my best running performance yet, exceeding my expectations on a hilly course by running a 1:31:35 and placing 2nd in my Age Group. Despite my race day success, I also had a recurrence of my peroneal tendon issue as I was cresting the last big hill of the course. I took the next 3 weeks to fully recover, only for it to come back again once I got back to running. It was then that I realized my running shoes (despite being neutral like my previous pair) were causing the issue. The onset of the issue coincided with a change in shoe and I quickly went back to my previous shoes, which seemed to clear up the problem. Despite some nagging issues occasionally, I am consistently working to get better. Lastly, through the semi-frequent 5k baseline tests we run inside Marathon Nation, I was able to further lower my 5k time to 19:05. For those of you keeping track at home, that is an improvement of 1 minute between May and December. Considering that I had been stuck on 20:05 for nearly 8 years, I'd consider a 1 minute improvement this year to be a huge success.

The end of the year also brought about something new for me - coaching. I was so excited to be able to share my experience with others and am having a blast each week working with the runners in the program. I can't wait till we get closer to the race and see how things are going to play out and see the progress that people make.

Year over Year Comparison
I hate doing this, because all miles are not created equal, but it is the only high level comparison I can make. Let's just say that aside from my early year base miles, nearly every mile run, from April - December was a quality run. Each workout had a purpose and a goal, whereas in previous years that was not the case. It is certainly one of the benefits of a program like Marathon Nation. However, my consistency this year was unlike any previous year, allowing me to score more miles that any previous year.

Here are the stats:
2009: 942 miles
2010: 1374 miles

My hope last year was to increase my overall mileage to more than 1000 miles. I knew with consistent training, it wouldn't be an issue. I definitely accomplished that. And since running was my focus, more of my training time was devoted to running, rather than cycling or swimming. In any case, if I can stay healthy again in 2011, I expect more of the same!
Happy New Years!
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