Category Archives: Facing Fears

Making a Plan, Changing the Plan

Bad blogger here, poking out from my cocoon of silence…

Hey peeps! Guess what? It’s race week! A race I’ve been anticipating for a while…meaning I’ve already had some nerves and goals running through my head.

As I said last week, I rearranged my sky-high hopes for this race and settled on a “we’ll see” approach. Which is what I was/am still planning on. Essentially, my mission has become:

Race the damn race. Don’t just cruise—get a little uncomfortable. Stay in control, run smart, but make it hurt if I can.

Simplistic. Anddd there might be a few pace numbers thrown in there too. But I won’t bore you with those.

I did determine some good ole fashioned A, B, and C goals. So without further ado…

A) PR: I think this is possible if I have a really good day. Ideal conditions, happy legs, etc. A sub-7:30 pace average (what I’d need for a PR) shockingly isn’t as scary as it used to be, which in and of itself is encouraging. Even so, it would take some luck smart racing.

B) Sub-1:40: I became a member of this club on only one occasion, and I feel like it would be nice to affirm my status a little more considering I tend to feel like a poser with my “fluke” 1:38 PR sometimes. No, I don’t feel like I need to prove anything to anyone…except for maybe myself. It would just be nice to feel those race paces again.

C) Keep my head on. This is better than another “sub xx:xx” goal, right? Here’s the deal: I feel like I’m a good racer, but I don’t necessarily feel like I’ve mastered overcoming the mental hurdles that come with tough conditions. Sure, I can press onward, but I feel like I have a tendency to completely count myself out as soon as I feel fatigued. This is especially true in workouts. I’d really like to use this race as an opportunity to keep my game face on straight…or something like that. Having other people to chase after tends to help with this, so I’m excited to execute some playful competition in the name of building confidence.

So, all that’s well and good. But! Of course….but.

Now, I’m not one to whine and complain about race-day conditions. For the most part, I accept them as they are since I know there’s nothing I can do about them. We’ll all have to run in the same weather, right? Right.

But when a race I’ve been looking forward to and anticipating a strong performance at looks like this, my evil eye tends to come out:

Capture

 

Rain doesn’t really phase me. I’m used to the rain, I’ve raced in the rain, whatever with the rain. But rain + wind? Gross. Talk about my least ideal running/living conditions. And 20 mph isn’t a joke…that will make a difference.

So, I suppose for right now I’m trying to accept that some adjustments may need to happen. Goal adjustments, pace adjustments, etc. All in the name of Mother Nature…that saucy little minx. Am I completely discounting those goals above? Absolutely not. Do I think this adds another important variable to consider? Certainly. We’ll see, friends. Expect a very soggy finish line photo, with a side of yummy thigh chafing.

But, no matter the circumstances, I’m excited to run my 9th ( <—lucky number alert!) half-marathon this Sunday. The same half-marathon, in fact, that I ran as my first half 3 years ago. Crazy! This will also be my first official race as a Oiselle team member, clad in the singlet and everything. Let’s hope those new wings know how to sail in the wind!

Who’s racing this weekend? Does weather affect your race-day hype? 

 

Go Time, Ragnar Northwest Passage

It’s finally here, Ragnar!

I’ve wanted to do a relay ever since I started hearing about them last year, and I’m actually kind of excited that my first will be an ultra. Go big or go home, right? I suppose if I ever do a 12-man team, I’m going to be thinking…wait, that’s it?

I’m really, really excited for this. I love the idea of taking on a whole new kind of challenge/adventure…especially since it involves running! As someone who loves new experiences and equally loves to run, this is right up my alley—and I truly can’t wait.

In case you’re just tuning in, here’s the dirty details:

A team of 6 of us will be tag-team running nearly 200 miles starting tomorrow morning and ending on Saturday afternoon. Yes, that’s straight through the night running. And you thought running a marathon was crazy? 😉

The thing I’m most excited for though is hanging out with a bunch of awesome gals. I don’t especially know anyone very well, which makes it that much more fun. And there will be plenty of time for conversation, given the 10 hour gaps between runs.

We’re starting tomorrow morning at 9:30 am, and since I’m Runner 6…well, I’ll basically be chilling all day until my first run. Despite the fact that I’ll probably be feeling a little restless tomorrow afternoon, I’m actually pretty pumped about my projected running schedule. Here’s what my (projected) run times and distances will look like:

Run #1, 6:30 PM- 10.7 miles

My first run is near Burlington, and it starts on a long downhill, followed by flat-as-a-pancake terrain. Lovely. I’m also thinking that temperatures will be cooling a little bit around this point as the sun will start to set. I have a feeling I’m going to be itching to get out on this run given that I will have been in the van all day, so I’m hoping that translates into happy running.

Run #2, 4:30 AM- 15.4 miles

At first glance, this looks kind of brutal. And it probably will be, but it’s actually a perfect time to have a long run. It will be cool, the sun will be rising (pretty scenery!), and I already get up to run at this time of the day during the week anyway. Obviously that will be different given the lack of sleep that is inevitable, however at least I’m not too phased by the 4 o’clock hour.

This run is hilly, but not too daunting. It’s also on Whidbey Island, which I’ve heard is quite the spectacle to run on. I’m really excited for this run, needless to say, including the challenge of it. Teammates, it is certain that I will need to be reminded of this when the time comes 🙂

Run #3, 3:30 PM- 8.5 miles (aka: the last leg for our team!)

It’s going to take some patience to get to this run. Everyone will be thrilled to be finishing while I’m twiddling my thumbs, waiting to carry in the caboose. But, it will definitely be fun to finish things up for the team. Oh, and there’s a ton of climbing on this leg…thanks Ragnar.

And team, be warned, despite how tired I’ll be, I tend to gun it when I see a finish line…so there’s a chance I’ll make us all sprint for it 🙂

Are you tired yet thinking about this? Me too.

But I’m SO excited! We’ll be sure to post updates along the way via Twitter, Instagram and #sixpackrack. Oh, and our team name is Six Pack with a Rack. I have neither of those things…but you get it. I can certainly supply a six pack of microbrews at the end, so hopefully that will count.

Let’s do this!

The Fall Goal

Without really meaning to, I somehow came up with a fall racing schedule that I instantly fell hard for—as in, head-over-heels obsessed with.

I commiserated to all of you about how I felt goal-less, restless, and lost after Eugene. I think the post-marathon blues hit a bit harder than expected. Okay, a lot harder—and I can admit it now.

I’m finally coming to terms with the fact that while I was really excited to have accomplished a big bucket list goal, it was actually really hard to wave goodbye to that goal and look out into the great beyond. Qualifying for Boston had been my baby for so long, and I think I had this idea in my head that once I’d done it, all the running happiness would be mine forever and ever. That’s exaggerated—but you get the point.

But I didn’t feel like that, and it wasn’t just because I had a hard, less-than-perfect race. Yes, Eugene wasn’t as satisfying as I might have hoped, but I’m realizing now that it had less to do with the race itself and more to do with my lack of direction afterward.

I know I should have let my unrelenting goal-setting brain kick back and take a break, but that’s not really how I work. Even when I’m between training cycles and running less frequently, I still like to know that a new possibility is out there, waiting for me to take it on. Without a defined goal, I was left with a very jumbled mess of potential ideas, and consequentially a very blank drawing board.

I went back and forth on running a fall marathon, on committing to triathlons, on working solely on speed, on jacking up strength training (no pun intended). Around and around it went, until all I had was more confusion, too many “potential” race options, and not enough enthusiasm to even make a decision. In retrospect, this is one of the reasons my blogging went down so much after Eugene (okay…one of the reasons). I felt like I had no idea what I was doing, so what was the point of lamenting those frustrations to others?

So I kind of gave up. Not because I no longer wanted a goal, but because I decided a “roll with it” approach was going to be more tolerable than orchestrating a race schedule that I wasn’t totally psyched about. Sure, I had races lined up, but none that had a sparkly “goal race” asterisk attached to them.

But now, approximately 48 hours after a light-bulb went off, all that’s changed. I think the light-bulb may have actually broken with how much intensity the idea came to me.

FYI, this is a very long-winded explanation for my decision making process. Sorry…there was just a lot of build up.

It all started with a little triathlon last Saturday. I had such a great time at this race, and it left me hungry for more. Admittedly, when it comes to triathlons, I’m more interested in the distances that have an “iron” in their name. But it was too soon for that. There is a chance that I could do the 70.3 distance this fall, but I feel like it would be a little half-assed. I’m not experienced enough on the bike or in the sport itself to have a real go at it, and it’s not really my style to commit to a serious distance without a decent training cushion to go off of.

But I still wanted more from the tri. I wanted to become a “bike rider” and get more acquainted with my beautiful baby bike. And I want to open the option for a half-Ironman next year. That requires more practice, more training, and less marathoning.

Which all ultimately brought up the idea of the Black Diamond Olympic Tri in September. Arielle first mentioned this race to me last year, and it seems like this year there’s a lot of blogger interest. It was also far enough away to get in some actual tri-specific training in—and far enough after my second ultra-relay to allow for some recovery time.

So yes, I was on board for Black Diamond. But it still wasn’t clicking. It felt like a means to an end; a stepping stone, if you will, toward what would be an actual goal race next year. Therefore, I still felt as if I was winging it in terms of training and racing, and I was okay with it. Black Diamond would follow a lot of summer running, and eventually I’d figure out some more fall/winter plans.

But then, THEN…an idea came to me. I shouldn’t take credit actually, in fact—credit goes to a Twitter conversation between Lauren and Larira two nights ago. I spotted them talking about the Bellingham Bay Half-Marathon this fall, and I had to chime in since it was my own first half-marathon almost three years ago. I started thinking then about how much fun I had at the race, how nice the course was, etc.

Somehow, then, after remembering how much I loved that race and how much I wanted to run it too—it all came to me: I want to run a goal half-marathon this fall.

And not just any goal. No—that’s the fun part. This goal would be hard, elusive almost, and perhaps the most intimidating training I’d ever have to take on.

And I was hooked. This is exactly what I wanted to commit the rest of the summer toward, and it seemed silly I hadn’t thought of it sooner. I have never done goal-specific half-marathon training, in fact—I’ve never actually done intentional half marathon training, and I figured why not start after already running 6? 🙂

I considered a few options for races, but Bellingham just felt right. It’s close by, it’s cheap, and it’s a PR-ready course. I considered a few other options, but after navigating a few scheduling plans, this was clearly the best option. The best part was that I could still do the Olympic tri as it’s a full two weeks before Bellingham, leaving enough time for recovery while still gaining the tri experience.

So basically, I’m obsessed. For a number of reasons, but mainly:

1) I’m sticking to my no fall marathon plan 

I really wanted to try and commit to saving myself for Boston next year (assuming I’ll get in), but I could feel that commitment slipping away when I felt completely goal-less. It would be easy for me to just plan another 26.2 training schedule, but that wasn’t ultimately what I wanted. This plan totally fits the bill for maintaining distance but without going all out marathon.

2) Speed!

I have been wanting to focus on speed forever now but never fully could because marathon training + excessive speed work is kind of a recipe for disaster. At least for me. With a goal for a half instead of a full, I’ll be able to really narrow in on speed workouts, which will be very new to me in some respects. I can’t wait.

3) Forced cross-training

By keeping the Olympic distance tri on the schedule, it will not only force me to spend more time on my bike and in the pool, but also off the roads. Cross-training, IMO, has a direct correlation to decreased injury risk. Double wins all around.

4) Tempering the sadness of no fall marathon

Despite my aforementioned goal of not doing a fall 26.2, I knew that when the time came and everyone was after their respective marathon goals and running 20 milers, I would be seething with jealousy. Having a distance goal of my own will (mostly) help offset that little green monster and keep me focused on the Boston end-game.

5) Lots of work to do

No sugar coating…this goal is a big stretch for me. It is going to require more discipline and probable more puke-inducing workouts than I’ve ever done. And while that probably sounds awful to some, it’s exactly what I need right now. Feel free to remind me of this at my 4:30 am alarms 😉

6) It doesn’t feel possible (yet) <— Biggest reason of all 

Here’s the honest truth about training to BQ in Eugene: I was nearly 100% sure I could do it. The required pace was something I was already comfortable with, and without the injury when I ran Chicago, I’m almost certain I could have done it there. Of course, I wanted to work hard and I wanted to secure my confidence, but I never really had a doubt that unless disaster struck—I could do it.

This goal? Not so much. In the name of full disclosure, let’s get real with numbers here:

I would like to run a 1:35:xx half this fall.

That would require dropping nearly 15 seconds off my current half-marathon PR pace. And here’s the biggest kicker: I’m still convinced my current half-marathon PR was a fluke. Yes I’m proud of it and I’m happy it happened, but I still, to this day, have a hard time believing it wasn’t a lot of luck.

Which makes shaving 3 minutes off that time even scarier.

So no, I’m not totally sure if I can do it. Do I believe with the right training it’s possible? Of course—which is why I can’t wait to dive into the horrifying place of having a very big reach goal.

This whole agenda, tri and all, feels like the perfect formula for all the things I was hoping to take on this fall season, and I can’t wait to get started.

In fact I did start, yesterday, with a 5-mile tempo at my previous half-marathon PR pace. It wasn’t the easiest, but it happened—7:30s on the dot. And it’s a start.

Time to get uncomfortable folks, I can’t wait.

 

50-Mile Weekend

Happy Monday!

I hope everyone had a great weekend full of whatever-it-is you like to do.

We had a lovely time here in Seattle. While the weather was a little indecisive at times (sunny? cloudy? sunny? cloudy?), it was warm which meant I spent as much time as I could enjoying the vitamin D.

This weekend I managed to combine my current ultra-relay training and “triathlon training”* into an unplanned hefty number of miles and enjoyment.

*Quotation marks added since I’m not actually really training for this race, I just happened to practice tri-related things for the first time on Sunday.

I’m happy to report though that it all felt great! It seems as if my legs have finally shaken all the post-marathon cobwebs, and I’m feeling 100% normal again. Thank goodness for that. My speed still feels a little slow, but that’s not necessarily the focus for the time being.

Anyway, the deets:

Saturday AM: 16 miles

Watchless, sunny, happy running. Good stuff. So much salt on my face.

Saturday PM: 4 miles

My original plan for the day was 14 AM and 5 PM, but since I felt great in the morning I decided to switch it up a little. And really…doing 19 miles seemed silly. I like round, even numbers.

The best part was that the PM miles felt great! Much better than a couple of weeks ago. I’m thinking these occasional two-a-days are going to be clutch in terms of relay prep.

Sunday AM: Dilettante Sprint Tri bike course (~14 miles) with Lindsay and Becky!

+

Open water swim around the lake

This was HUGE in terms of comfort for next weekend’s tri. Not that I was necessarily nervous, but getting a firsthand feel for both the bike (my biggest trepidation) and the swim was really helpful. Also (please judge away) this was my first time going on a real bike ride on my new bike. So yea, I would say that was a good idea to do before race day 🙂

But I forgot my bike shoes!!! After totally psyching myself up to practice a clipped-in ride with my shoes and my bike, I failed to bring the separate bag my shoes were in. And, as I discovered, it is hard to ride with flimsy flat pedals in your regular shoes! I found myself concentrating on my feet way more so than I would have otherwise.

The course consists of 2, 6.8 mile loops around the lake, and overall I’d say it’s pretty moderate. Excited to ride it again next Saturday!

We also tested out the Becky-proclaimed “brown water” (she’s totally right about that), and swam a little out and back. Open water swimming is definitely a little alarming at first, but after settling my breathing I felt fine. The wet suit really helps with buoyancy too (Thanks Nicole 🙂 )

The morning was totally great overall, and I’m SO thankful to have had a little experience on the course (and on the bike and in the water) before I “race” it next week.

The only glitch though was my lack of clip-in practice, which leads to my spontaneous Sunday afternoon decision…

Sunday PM: 15 miles, around Alki and back, CLIPPED IN

I was so excited about this! I kind of just kept going and going and enjoyed the feeling of really riding. I rode my standard long run route and, no surprise, it goes by A LOT quicker on the bike 🙂

The best part was that I felt completely natural with the clip-ins. It was really weird actually…when I first started, it was like I instinctively knew what to do no problem. As if I was picking up an old habit again. Which doesn’t seem right, because I only learned to ride clipped-in last weekend.

And by learned, what I mean is…I fell on my butt a few times and at the end of the day managed to somewhat mount and dismount without toppling sideways.

But yesterday? No problems! I felt like I’d been doing it for years.

Maybe this is only a hurdle for me and everyone else thinks clipped-in riding is NBD, but either way…it was yet another confidence boost.

My little bike was oh-so-happy to feel wanted yesterday.

So there it is: nearly 50 miles in running and biking this weekend! Did I mention I also took a two hour nap between rides yesterday? 🙂

I love that I finally feel capable of someday being a real biker. I’ve always loved the idea of it, but I’ve held back since all the logistics seemed so technical and beyond my expertise. But practice makes perfect, and little by little I think that I’m actually getting the hang of it.

Alright, rambling over. I’m sorry I suck so bad at having visual proof of my life, and hopefully it doesn’t make my posts too boring. I think I included enough smiley faces in this post that there’s at least a little color.

Will get better at that.

Tell me about your weekend! 

“What’s Next?”

That’s the question I can’t quite get out of my head lately. Since finishing Eugene, I’ve had a hard time coming up with exactly where I want to focus my goal-setting energy. There have been lots of potential ideas out there, but none of which have really stuck. The only thing I do know for sure is that I’m someone who needs a goal, even if it’s in the distant future. And right now, considering I’m goal-less, I’m going a little stir crazy.

And the relays don’t count…those are really just for fun/I’ll be happy if I simply survive.

There are lots of factors to consider, some of which are out of my control, but here’s my attempt at conveying the big, jumbled picture. Be warned, it’s somewhat all over the place and almost doesn’t even make sense to me.

Since even before I ran Eugene, I was not planning on running a fall marathon. Assuming I got into Boston, I wanted a break for a little while from the 26.2 distance and to save my legs for Marathon Monday in 2014. Had I not qualified, obviously this would have been a whole different story 🙂

There was one exception to this plan though: if I got into the NYC Marathon.

I entered the lottery, just like everyone else, and honestly didn’t expect to get in. That didn’t stop me on Wednesday though (the day of the marathon drawing) from refreshing my bank transactions and NYRR status way too many times. Spoiler: I didn’t get in. As expected.

But what surprised me was just how bummed out I was about it. It made me think that if my one fall marathon prospect gave me such high hopes, maybe I want to/should do a fall race after all?

Who knows.  I do really like the idea of a fall marathon. I absolutely love fall races (way, way, WAY more than spring), and undoubtedly I will be seething with jealousy if I don’t get in on the action.

However, this desire is not at the expense of Boston. I really do like the notion of bottling that 26.2 energy and focus up until next April…and if I was guaranteed an entry, this decision would be a no-brainer.

But that’s the thing. I’m not guaranteed an entry. And with every article and headline that comes out about 2014 being the “Biggest Boston Ever!” I get more and more skeptical of the likelihood of getting in. That would suck, frankly, but it’s a fact that everyone who qualified will have to face. Except probably Shalane…homegirl doesn’t need to worry,

Essentially, then, I don’t want to sacrifice a fall marathon and then not be accepted into Boston. We don’t find out about Boston until the end of September, leaving little to no room to “salvage” a fall/winter marathon.

Then there’s the other options: the ones that completely eliminate any thoughts of a fall marathon in favor of other sports.

There was a point in time when I declared 2013 “the year of the triathlon,” and in case you were curious on how that plan is going…it isn’t.

But! There is that option. Which both excites me and further confuses me. It would be a huge change in gears and a complete overhaul in the training I’m used to. And while I absolutely love the idea of competing in triathlons, I’m not quite sure if I’m up for it right now. Maybe that’s just fear of the unknown talking (or laziness) but something just doesn’t feel quite right about it yet.

So that leaves me with the next choice (the third choice? I lost count): getting away from distance and working on speed.

This is the decision I find myself leaning toward, as I feel like it’s something that I’ve wanted for a while but haven’t really had the chance to really take on.

I constantly feel like there’s an untapped reservoir of improvement that I have yet to really dig into. At the risk of sounding like a total d-bag, I’ve relied a lot on natural ability ever since I started running and racing. Yes, I put in work, but more often than not, I shy away from anything that sounds too “hard.” Essentially, I stay in a comfort zone. And while it seems silly to call the still relatively high number of miles I run a “comfort zone,” it is what I’ve been used to over the past few years.

I really hope that last paragraph didn’t sound too jerky, because that’s not at all what I intended. In fact, my intention was to state that in a lot of ways, I don’t try as hard as I think I could be. And I’m becoming more and more anxious to get over my fears of the unknown and bust a gut for a little while.

I recently realized that I’ve either been training for a marathon or injured for the past three years. Neither of which is very conducive to really working on speed. And it’s kind of funny, since sprinting and speedwork were the only types of running I did when I ran track so many years ago.

The times when I have done a little speed work here and there within marathon training—I actually loved it. There’s something so rewarding about a hard interval workout that feels so different from a long, single-speed run, and despite my self-proclaimed love for the long run…I think I’m ready to shake it up.

…..

I suppose my little narration about the confusion that is my running brain actually turned into a little bit more clarity than I expected. Isn’t writing nice that way? 🙂 Essentially, I think what I’ll do is a combination of all ideas, in smaller proportions. There are some races out there that I’ve all but pulled the trigger on, and I think once I do that, the rest of the specifics will fall into place.

The Hardest Workout I’ve Ever Done and a Race Weekend

Something crazy is happening, I’m posting three times in one week! This would have been a little light for old-school “I’m a new blogger and need to establish content!” RBR, but for this currently lackluster, unmotivated, very busy person who’s taken over, three times is a big win.

I still love running. I still love writing about running, I still love blogs and bloggers. I just want to live my off-internet life a little more right now.

Which brings me to the topics of today’s post—both of which (excuse my horrid play on words here) are both very topical.

Topic number 1: Today’s workout.

I’ve gotten away a bit from posting the details about all my runs and workouts because…hey-o, that’s boring. The weekly recaps work much nicer for that. However, some workouts jolt your system to the point that you can’t help but gab about it to other running kin.

On the schedule: 10 miles with 5 x 1000 meters @ 5k pace

I have been scared of this workout ever since I wrote it on my training schedule. You see, I decided to do something stupid late last year and get a new 5k PR, which consequentially lowered my “5k pace” approximately 15 seconds. (I know, I know…I am happy with my 5k time and I’m just being a brat right now). I normally correlate 5k effort with a 7-minute mile for my current fitness. I can handle that. I can wrap my brain around that. But a 6:47 pace? That shit cray.

I have just recently become accustomed to being comfortable in the 7s. I’ve had to be very deliberate in not letting a 7:xx on the clock scare me back into my 8:xx comfort zone. It’s mostly been working—which is good. However, it does not, in any way, further prepare me to face anything with a 6 in front of it.

To this day, I’m still a little shocked by my 5k time. I’m proud of it, but I’m honestly unsure as to if I could do it again. BUT, it is what it is…so when a workout calls for 5k pace, that’s what I’ll stick with.

Back to business. I decided to do this run on the treadmill (cue ominous, threatening music) simply because it was going to be a hell of a lot simpler to watch my splits/time on a self-regulated machine than on my own outdoor route and shoddy Garmin stalking. It wasn’t the treadmill that scared me though…it was the distance. I have never, ever, ever, ever run this far on a treadmill, mainly because I love being outside, but also because the thing that goes hand-in-hand with treadmills (other than boredom) is HEAT. Gyms aren’t ventilated like a 45 degree breeze keeping you cool throughout the run. No, a treadmill run is an unforgiving, unwavering torture mechanism in which your temperature just keeps going up and up along with the distance ticking slowly upward on the dial.

But, convenience won, and off I went on my speedwork endeavor. And by “off I went” what I mean to say is…I very unhappily got out of bed, blindly put on clothing, somehow drove to the gym, and just managed to fully wake up after the first warm-up mile. It wasn’t a pretty morning, folks.

As for the workout? Well, I kind of hated how right I was to be afraid of it. Because this sucker kicked me right in the pants and left me sweaty and beet-red crying on the ground next to the treadmill. <—find the exaggerated part of that sentence.

Here’s how it went. I did a .38 mile recovery between each 1000 meter interval, making each interval an exact mile:

3 mile warm up in 8:20s: Happiness! Easy! Bring on the sprinting!

1st 1000 meter @ 8.9 mph: Um, yea. Okay then. 4 more of those?

2nd 1000 meter @ 8.9 mphHey! Still super hard! How the effing f did I do a 5k this fast?

3rd 1000 meter @ 8.9 mphHATE. HATE. Have I ever quit a workout? Okay, I’ll just step off for a few seconds..

(I’m not proud of that one…it was only maybe 5 seconds, but still…not cool Broker)

4th 1000 meter @ 8.7 mphIf you’re going to jump off, you can lower the speed a little bit. It needs to be do-able. Okay…this is a little better. Still hate life.

5th 1000 meter @ 8.7 mphThis is it…the end. You can finish the workout or you can stew all day about not getting it done. HOW IS THIS ONLY .1 miles through???

2 mile cool down in 8:30sThis run is “never ever ever ever” going to end. I love Taylor Swift.

All said and done, I’m glad I finished the prescribed workout.

I’m not, however, happy with

a) briefly stepping off the treadmill while I was supposed to be interval-ing

b) turning down the speed for the last two 1000s

I realize that using a PR 5k pace may have been overambitious—maybe I was in better speed shape back then? But it still stung a little to feel so wiped by that pace. However, this was a VO2 max workout, which translates into 90% of max effort…which I definitely feel I was at.

It also could have been the longer distance that was spread throughout the run, the fact that this is my 4th day of running in a row, or the fact that I was in a very hot gym. Or it was an off day. Or the Girl Scout cookies have stolen my 5k pace. Yea, that’s it…let’s blame the samoas!

At any rate, this workout was no joke, and it really changed up the medium-long runs and recovery runs that I’ve been so merrily skipping between during the weekdays.

I really do like speedwork, and as difficult as it is, between the wheezing and the “Oh please do not puke” thoughts, I always tell myself that there is progress being made. I try and remember to embrace the discomfort and that it’s only temporary. You know, just to reflect on what every single sports quote of all time tells us.

Topic number 2: This weekend.

Surprise! I’m racing this weekend. Well, not racing-racing, but I will be doing a tune-up race of sorts at the St. Paddy’s Day Run Half-Marathon in Tacoma. Is “racing-racing” the runner’s equivalent of “like-like” instead of just “like” in middle school?

It works out rather perfectly. I’m supposed to run 20 miles for my long run that day, with 12 of those miles at marathon goal pace. Meaning, I will plan to run the half at the exact pace I’m hoping to run in Eugene. Bonus! I get to wake up hours before the race to run 7 additional miles. That part won’t be awesome, and running MGP for 13 miles afterward won’t be especially awesome either, but it’s going to be a great test to see where I am. I feel like I’ve gotten pretty lucky in the last two halfs I’ve run, so I hope that luck hasn’t quite run out. I mostly care about running a very even-tempo’ed pace the entire time. I’m going to be very happy with even 7:55 splits and a quality race “practice.”

This will be the first time I use a race as a part of a long run, which isn’t exactly ideal, but I like to think I’m killing two birds with one stone. The race environment in general is good practice—IMHO—and I plan on using it as a reference point.

Plus, I have a bad running taste in my mouth from Tacoma, so I’m hoping I can redeem myself a little bit.

Best part? BF’s running the half too! Post-race St. Paddy’s beers for all! Not like that wasn’t going to happen anyway…

So there you have it. A very long-winded post detailing how I almost threw up on the treadmill and how I’m running a St. Patrick’s Day race this weekend. I’m such an original running blogger, sometimes I amaze myself.

Happy Thursday!

What’s Next

I had a very similar thought after I finished both the Seattle half-marathon and the Yukon Do It half. Sure, there was the usual relief to be done and satisfaction in a fun, hard race…but the most prominent thing in my mind was this:

What will this do for my marathon time?

Don’t get me wrong. I was really proud of my times for both races, and I developed a new fondness for the 13.1 distance. But deep down, I was looking further out. I hadn’t realized it before…but while increasing speed across as distances and enjoying races in all forms is important to me, there’s one distance that beckons louder for me than all others.

26.2

So although I do love running no matter the conditions—hot, cold, short, long, fast, slow, I’m realizing the my competitive focus has narrowed on the marathon.

In some ways I wish this weren’t true, given the nature of the beast. The training, the miles, the race itself…it’s all rather torturous, really. I’m pretty sure I’m not into masochism (although some would argue all runners are to a certain degree), but there’s just something about the distance that calls to me. It’s the difficulty, it’s the magnitude, it’s the glory—all in one. No matter how many times I get beat down by the brutality of it all—and there have been many—I just keep crawling back into the lion cage, begging for more.

Which leads me to the point of this post:

Spring Marathon Training. It’s here…well, almost.

Over the past few months, since recovering from Chicago, I’ve tried to centralize my running focus on two things: speed and recovery. Speed, in the sense of building up my lactate threshold in shorter distances in hopes of lowering my marathon goal pace. And recovery in the sense of establishing a ying and yang between hard workouts and rest. I’ve sucked at resting before, and it’s lead to one-too-many overuse injuries. I’ve begun to make rest a habit, and it’s working.

Nothing changes if nothing changes.

Along with these two focuses, I’ve tried to establish a solid running “base.” I’ve logged approximately 40 mile weeks for the past two months of so, including over 200 miles over the month of December (Thanks Nicole for enabling us to keep track of that!).

All these things for the sake of being in top notch condition for a very focused, very disciplined Spring Marathon plan. A plan that is all geared toward a very specific goal time:

3:34:xx.

BQ, baby. It is on.

I’ve had this goal before, but I never really admitted it, and I never really internalized it for myself. It always seemed a step away from me and only possible if a miracle happened. For the first time though, not only am I announcing it publicly— but I truly believe it’s possible.

There are many specifics as to the plan I’ll be following—which I’ll include in another post—but the primary change is that for the first time, I’m not making up my own schedule. 12 weeks, prescribed workouts, all hitting specific targets.

And I’m psyched. Actual training will begin Monday, February 4th, ending on Sunday April 28.

The goal marathon, you ask?

screen-shot-2012-10-13-at-8-51-21-pm

Some of you may remember that I was registered for Eugene last year. I was all set to run, but due to some knee bursitis and schedule rearranging, I switched my plan and ran the Tacoma Marathon instead. I still believe it was the best decision at the time…but consequentially I believe there’s some unfinished business to be done in Track Town.

Obviously, there’s a long way to go until then, but I really cannot wait to get started. Something feels right about this go-around…my brain, my legs, and my enthusiasm all feel very in sync, and I’m excited to see how this kind of exposed-goal, regimented training session goes.

Until then, I’m running when I want to, sleeping in when I want to, and mentally preparing for what feels like the biggest 26.2 undertaking yet.

And since I know for certain I’m not the only blogger/runner making the April trip down south…tell me, are you in for Huge Eug??

Changes, My PSA, and an Epiphany

I had a bit of an “a-ha!” moment recently, and while it may seem trivial and a little like, “No shit, Sherlock” to most people…it’s kind of done a 180 on how I approach both my training and my running.

It all started when I first heard my new favorite quote/life mantra:

“Nothing changes if nothing changes.”

(First heard from this girl, originally coined by this guy.)

Simplistic and to-the-point. But when you think about this idea a little more closely, it starts to highlight some of the things in our lives we’d rather hide away from.

It got me to thinking about the things I always wish would change. Obviously, I eventually landed on one of my favorite parts of life: running.

“What do I wish would change about running?”

Well, a lot. I’m constantly thinking about the things I want out of running. I want to BQ, I want to be faster, I want to stop getting injured, etc. And then it hit me like a ton of bricks: What have I changed to make these things happen?

The answer? Not much.

Let’s take the “stop getting injured” thing for instance. The last four injuries I’ve had were all due to overuse. They were injuries caused simply by wear and tear over time, and all of them were—in that regard—completely preventable. So why, then, did I keep getting hurt after my first 4-month of no running due to an overuse injury?

Well, because I was stuck in the habit of working my body too hard.

When I get hurt,  I convince myself that I’ve learned my lesson…I’ll never overtrain again, I’ll stop working out so much, and I’ll start taking more rest days.

4 injuries later, and that lesson hadn’t sunk in. And it’s because I, by habit, overtrain. I wasn’t changing any of my habits, so why should my body stop responding in a deconstructive way?

Let’s take a look at my most recent injuries (knee bursitis, IT band syndrome, and ankle tendonitis—yep, all this year). What was similar about all three instances?

1) I was marathon training

2) I was over 50 miles per week

3) I was running 5+ days a week

The body is an incredible thing, and it can teach us a lot. Clearly, my body had been trying to teach me something about how it handles the above factors…and it only took me 3 different overuse injuries to figure it out. It seems so simple, so logical, however for me—and I’m sure for many runners—hindsight is always much more crystal clear than foresight.

Because running is a habit. We develop habits, and we stick to them—because they’re familiar. They’re comforting. Because we know we can do them and they satisfy us.

Running and exercising excessively became habits of mine…and unlike picking split ends or biting nails, the addictive nature of endorphins make these habits a lot harder to let go of. And why let go? These things are good for us, they make us happy. What’s the harm in continuing the habit of excess exercise?

Well, a lot actually. And it’s not just the tangible problems (injuries), either.

Now that I’ve kind of figured myself out, and I’ve recognized that injuries aren’t going to change if I don’t change, I’m realizing all the other problems that resulted from always wanting high mileage and high intensity workouts. Burnout, anxiety, chronically tired, isolated, etc.

Nothing changes if nothing changes.

As someone who is constantly striving for the betterment of my own life and the lives of those around me, I’m all about constructive changes.

Constructive changes in the form of listening to my body instead of pushing it, taking rest days at least once a week, and realizing that there’s a lot of goodness out there that doesn’t come in the form of sweating for hours on end.

(And seriously…rest days have become the best days. Ever. How did it take so long?)

It’s a work in progress, and obviously I still and will always love me a good hard workout, but I’m feeling much better than I have in a long time thanks to this recent influx of “moderation.”

I don’t believe it’s a coincidence that I had two significant PRs recently in conjunction with the extra rest and breathing room I’ve allowed myself. My body seems to be responding appreciatively to the changes I’ve made…and as a result, I’m reaching new levels that I didn’t really think were possible before.

Because I truly believe when you become proactive  in making real change happen, the things you always hoped would happen seem to follow closely behind.

I love running so much that I want to do it as much ans as long as possible. I would so much rather choose to not run an extra mile or an extra day for the sake of safety rather than let my body choose for me in the form of a disabling injury.

My body’s been choosing my breaking point for me for too long, and I’m deciding to regain control over the situation.

Nothing changes if nothing changes. 

And on that note, here is my PSA for the day:

Runners, take rest days. As someone who went weeks, sometimes even a whole month, without resting once, I really do know what I’m talking about here. I get it—you crave a workout, you love your workouts, you don’t feel right without them.

But guess what? You’re a human and an athlete—and your muscles and bones eventually will not tolerate incessant beating. Exercise necessitates rest…and you are undoing all the work you’ve put in by not letting your body recover. No progress can be made with continual wear and tear, so ask yourself why you’re really avoiding rest if your intent is to be fitter and stronger.

I was that type of runner and exerciser for so long, and while I’m still working out all the kinks, I’m recognizing just how much more harm I was doing than good.

Take care of yourselves. Take care of your bodies. I know so many runners in real life and through blogging who are constantly complaining of fatigue and lack of improvement, and I cannot emphasize enough how much rest and letting yourself of the “I must always exercise” hook will better your running and your life.

And to sum up this somewhat nonsensical ramble of a post, here’s another quote to chew on, which does a much better job of getting to the point than I do.

“Run often and run long, but never outrun your joy of running.”
– Julie Isphording

Resolutions Revisited

As the end of the year draws nearer, I’ve started thinking back to the resolutions I made at the beginning of this year to see—you know—if I’ve succeeded or, well, sucked.

My resolution for this year was a bit simplistic and also not necessarily super tangible. All I really wanted was to do more things that ordinarily scare me.

At the end of last year, I was thinking a lot about how I shy away from things that are either hard, inconvenient, or simply unknown. We all do it—it’s in our natural protective natures—but I wanted to do something about these fears. I wanted to take away their power by facing them head on, no matter how big or small they may be.

It’s a little silly actually…it really all started with admitting how much I hated running hills. I would drive to various parts of West Seattle that I knew would be hill-free, all because hills made me nervous.

As a runner, I knew this was a weakness, and it was something I could very easily change. So it began with the hill fear, and then my resolution expanded out to encompass all the other things I’m afraid of in my life.

So how have I fared over the past 10.5 months?

Well, when I first started thinking on my progress with this resolution, my first thought was:

Wow, I did nothing.

But, upon a little more scrutinizing…I realized that somehow I’ve actually done a pretty good job at following this resolution. But admittedly, it wasn’t on purpose.

So let’s do a little trip back down 2012 memory lane. By the way, can you BELIEVE it’s almost the end of the year??

Here’s some of the ways I’ve been successful at facing my fears this year:

I am no longer afraid of hills, in fact…I seek them out. Sure, I prefer for a race course to be flat and happy, but I now recognize the benefits of incorporating hills, and I regularly try to keep them in most of my runs. And as someone who’s currently desperate to get faster, I don’t really have an option.

Hill fear? Win.

-I quit my job.

Oh yea, that little thing. This was frankly one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do—and I don’t really wish that conversation with your employer on anyone. I left a cushy, some would say “ideal” job without much knowledge of what my next job would hold. So while this wasn’t necessarily something I was actively avoiding like the hills, it was definitely something that I was petrified for a long time to do.

-I started a new job.

No matter how you slice it, starting a new job is tough. You don’t know anyone, you don’t know where to go, you don’t know where to sit… it’s kind of terrible. And with my new job particularly…not only did I not what to do, I also barely knew the subject matter. I took a grand total of ZERO finance or business classes in school, and all of a sudden I needed to know what terms like “hedge fund,” “crossing,” and “enhanced asset allocation” meant.

Needless to say, it was a process. A scary process. However, it definitely fit the bill for taking on scary things.

I met new people.

This really might not seem like a big deal, but to me…it actually was. As someone who prefers to be alone most of the time and has a hard time even getting together with good friends, I’ve never been in the business of “putting myself out there” or however you say it. But this year, I put my introvert tendencies aside every so often and met some pretty sweet people along the way.

-I got beat up by the marathon, and then did another one.

After the horrors of Tacoma started to wear off, there was never really a doubt in my mind that I would—at some point—run another marathon. However, the closer and closer Chicago came this year—I began to realize just how much of an impact Tacoma had made on me. While I had all the ordinary taper worries, I was also paralyzed with fear that something like Tacoma would happen again. It was the reason that I was more worried for Chicago than any other race—although I didn’t necessarily confess it to anyone. I knew I had an easy way out of not doing Chicago. Since my ankle was questionable, it would have been understandable, some would say smart, to just not run Chicago. However, this was an opportunity to face the unknown instead of walk away from it—and while I didn’t realize it at the time, it was a great test of my resolution.

So now that I’ve talked about how great I was at following my resolution (insert snarky tone here), let’s take a look at the “room for growth” in regard to facing my fears.

{In my company, “room for growth” is code for “weaknesses” on performance reviews.}

I suppose the good and bad thing about this resolution is that it’s never quite done. Even if I have taken on a few things that previously scared me, there are always going to be more things out there—even if I don’t know about them yet. And in all honesty, I could probably write a whole post about the things I’m afraid of ever trying, fixing, getting better at, etc. But, that would be a little overly self-deprecating and depressing, so instead I’ll focus on one…because it’s been on my mind recently:

I realized, or more like admitted to myself, that I’m afraid of the 7s.

Whenever I see a time on my Garmin that is under 8:00, I immediately panic: I convince myself that my lungs are on fire, my legs are going to fall off, and I’m going to start heaving on the side of the road whenever I see a pace starting with a 7.

And while paces below 8 are certainly a bit faster than I’m used to, I think I’ve let my fear overrule my determination to make these paces stick. It almost feels like if my watch just lied to me and said that a 7:50 was actually 8:10, I wouldn’t even know the difference. And while I definitely try and keep in check my “comfort” and “discomfort” with certain speeds,I think that my brain has a big effect on how my body “feels” at those speeds.

I’m fairly certain this is very normal for most runners, and it’s why training our mental game is just as important as training our legs.

So back to my resolution…although it’s getting toward the end of the year, I’m going to try to stop being so afraid of the 7s.

It seems a little strange to try and “get in” my resolution so late in the year, but isn’t that what they’re for? I think most people forget about their resolutions around mid February or so…myself included…but sometimes a little retrospect can do us some good, as well as show us that while we may have made some progress, there’s always “room for growth.”

What were your new years resolutions this year? How have you done at achieving them? What scares you?

When It’s Better Not to Run

No, this is not a post about not running while injured, when it’s dark out, when it’s hailing, when you’re burnt out, right after a big race, or when your running shoes resemble flip flops.

Those are all reasons not to run, but this post is about when it’s better not run when you just as easily could run.

I will be the first person to admit that I can over-exercise. I’ve gotten much better about it, and I’ve learned that a rest day can be a bff, but generally speaking I would say that I could loosen the reigns on how strict I am about fitness. I am not in any way saying this to show off or boast about how much I exercise—because frankly, I’m coming to a point where it’s a quality about myself that I’m growing to be less proud of. Which is so contradictory to what Pinterest/Twitter/Facebook/blah blah blah always preaches about “getting it done” and “sweat once a day.”

In a nutshell, after years of constantly feeling the “need” to exercise and beating myself up over any rest I took, I’m beginning to seriously re-evaluate my priorities—and in that process, my death grip on my exercise security-blanket has really started to loosen. And you know what? It feels great.

And yes, I’ve written about this before and I’m sure to write about it again—but hey, I’m a work in progress.

I’m really back and forth sometimes between maintaining my title as a “runner” and just being “normal.” Because let’s be honest…runners are not normal. Admittedly, it baffles me that people who I love and respect are equally as happy and upbeat about their day-to-day lives without running at all. Furthermore, I’ve realized that over time I had become so dependent on running that I’d lost touch with all the other aspects of life that can be just as rewarding.

And I really don’t think I’m alone.

There is a sizable demographic, particularly within the running blog world, that is quite the opposite of lazy. We plan out workouts a week ahead of time, we track our progress, speed, and miles, and we live for the content feeling every day that we’ve logged a good workout. And rightfully so, because there are few better feelings than knowing you’ve poured sweat hours before most people are even at work.

And all of these things are okay…because of course, exercise is so powerfully good for you.

But the fact of the matter is that there can always be too much of a good thing, and exercise is no exception. It’s really hard to see this—because  a) we’re in a country with an obesity epidemic and b) endorphins feel so damn good. But when exercise-induced highs start to take away from other parts of our lives, a red flag goes up.

My red flag went up a long time ago. It’s taken a while, but I’ve finally begun to admit to it, internalize it, and slowly but surely—hold up my white surrender flag.

Which brings me back to the topic of this post—when it’s better not to exercise.

I had the perfect opportunity to practice this kind of decision this weekend. And I use the word practice because it is something that is still very difficult to do.

I spent Friday through Sunday morning in Colorado for a Film Festival that my mom is the Executive Director of. Yes, she’s super badass.

Mommy on stage.

In normal RB protocol, I would have planned out ahead of time exactly which hours I would have available to run. And truthfully, I did pack all my running gear with the intention of keeping on track. But when the hour presented itself to knock out some miles, I simply chose not to. And you know what? It was such a good choice.

Part of being at a Film Festival requires you to watch several movies, literally, all day. You wouldn’t think it—but this requires A LOT of energy and caffeine. When I laid in bed Saturday morning (my intended run time) and thought about the day ahead of me and the option for 1.5 hours of more sleep—the decision seemed ridiculous. I came to Colorado to be at my mom’s film festival…why would I want to inevitably sleep through parts of it for the sake of a run?

Films!

I know this sounds silly…because there are so many people who would have understood this kind of prioritization much earlier on. But for me, it’s hard—and it’s taken a while.

There are so many times when I choose running over other activities (namely sleeping) in order to maintain my sanity throughout the day. In many ways, I love this about myself—but I’m finally realizing that over time, the exhaustion and pressure of uber-prioritizing exercise completely negates the  highs we get from it. In other words…it has the opposite effect of exercise.

Here is what I’m finally getting: missing one run does not make one. little. difference in how complete of a person I am. It’s how I choose to react that makes the difference—and in that sense, I’m choosing to stop reacting so much.

Because as much as I adore running, and as huge of a part of me as it may be, it’s not everything. When we spend so much time building our identities as “runners” we lose touch with all the other elements that make us who we are. And when we drift too far away from those things—it becomes harder to regain a sense of self when, all of a sudden, we can’t run.

It’s why when we’re injured, we panic—without running we’re lost. Of course, I am the guiltiest of the guilty in this regard, which is why I’m choosing to practice a different form of discipline. And in that respect…by relaxing our running and by taking on some more rest, our susceptibility to be injured goes down and we’re left with not only healthier bodies, but more well-rounded senses of self.

I’m not currently injured. I have zero desire to become injured. But if and when it does happen again (and I’m going to go with “when” on that one given the nature the beast), I want to be more armed with experience and amo for getting through it. The experience, in this case, being the familiarity with not running sometimes. And the amo being the ability to let other wonderful things build me up while running might be down.

I am a runner, through and through. I would venture to say that there may never be a point where I am not a runner—because that’s quite unimaginable. I love it, and it seems like the more I do it—the more I love it. But one of the biggest parts of being a runner is respecting the fact that it’s a sport that requires a great deal of discipline—and with that discipline comes the need to rest.

Rest has been my most underrated part of my participation in this sport, and I’m finally realizing that I’m honoring my title as a “runner” more so when I accept rest instead of resisting it.

So sometimes, it’s better to not run. Not because of anything particular, but because when we pair running with the other great things in our lives, it makes the sport much more fulfilling and exciting.

champagne and cupcakes post Friday night gala FTW.

When I got home on Sunday, sleepy and happy from my quick CO trip…I couldn’t wait to slip into  my running shoes. And when I took off on a long, leisurely jaunt around West Seattle, my thought wasn’t “Dang I need to make up for the past two days,” it was, “I loved spending every minute I could this weekend with my family.”

So sweaty. Seattle decided to be humid and hot to kick off November. I forgot BodyGlide also. Mistake.

I’m a work in progress—as we all are. Some days are better than others, but overall I would say that I am finally getting the balance thing.

I encourage everyone who takes their exercise really seriously to continue to do so—but not at the cost of losing your health or all the other great things about you.

Sometimes the better decision as a runner is to not run, and you know what? It’s okay. Running will always be there, so don’t stress out if you take a time out every now and then. After all, absence makes the heart grow fonder.