5k on St. Patrick’s Day Race Recap

Yes, you read that title right. I somehow went from not blogging about anything to writing race recaps about 5ks…?

Now is when I really wish I could include emojis in blog posts, because I would include the scared face with the white eyes and the blue on top of its head. You know the one.

No offense to the distance at all, I’m just generally not a short-distance racer – so I tend to equate a “race recap” to a half or full marathon. Regardless, this was a race I am proud of…so you get to hear about it, like it or not.

Let me back up first, because I realized I’ve given absolutely zero detail about how my “training” this spring has been strategized.

I decided a while ago that I didn’t want to run a spring marathon for a couple of reasons. 1) Our wedding is in June, and while running is a great stress reliever and I do it no matter the circumstances, I didn’t feel like intensive/heavy training would fit well into all the other to-dos that this occasion requires. And 2) I really don’t like spring marathons. They are always hotter than the temps I’ve trained in, and historically I just haven’t run that well in them.

So, a full marathon was out, and since I still wanted a “goal” to get my butt out of bed in the morning, I decided to focus on shorter distances and reclaiming my speed. My target race is a half-marathon in the middle of April, but generally I just wanted to think (for the first time) less about mileage and more about shorter, hard key workouts. My other “short distance” PRs were dusty as well, so I figured this spring would be a good time to do an overall refresh and reset on my running. The end goal, ultimately, being a faster marathon time (because they’re still my jam), but that can wait for now.

Anyway, onto this past Saturday’s 5k!

I was really pumped up for this race, namely for the fact that I really wanted to race it. The time on the clock was certainly a consideration, but mainly I wanted to focus on embracing discomfort and pushing through it. In researching race results from last year, I also hypothesized that I could break into the top 10 women as well. Game on!

I planned a light training week beforehand, and the morning of I did everything 5k-specific I could; a slow 1.5 mile warm up, activation exercises, and strides. Mentally, I treated it as I would another “big” race, including a lot of visualization of running strong and shutting down fear. I lined up near-ish the front of the pack (which with over 2,000 runners was not easy) and took some restorative, calming deep breaths. And then boom, we were off!

I knew the course started on a very slight downhill, followed by a slight uphill, and finished fairly flat. I told myself to take advantage of that first mile and not be scared of a fast split – which in hindsight was a good forethought. My watch buzzed right at 1 mile in 6:16…which might be the fastest mile I’ve ever run. But I felt great! My lungs were a little fiery, but it was manageable and I mentally checked out of mile 1 and focused solely on mile 2. And shortly after…things started to get uncomfortable. We were on that “slight” uphill at this point, and it felt anything but slight. I focused on maintaining my form, maintaining my position (although I had zero idea how many women were in front of me), and keeping calm.

I peeked at my watch a few times, but it frankly felt like too much wasted effort, so I just tried to stay strong. Closing out mile 2 (6:47), I was excited to finish the thing off, since I could mentally handle 1.1 miles to go. There were two hair pin turns in mile 3, which kind of threw off my groove, but they made for nice landmarks to focus on. I was also able to run back by the other runners coming out to mile 3 on the way to the finish line, and I got a wave and cheer from my dad and step-mom who were also running the race. I might have even mustered a smile, but who really knows what it looked like.

pain face, coming down the finishing stretch

Pain face, coming down the finishing stretch. Photo by Adam.

The finish line was closing in, and things were hurting. I had no energy to think about anything other than holding my pace and getting it done – so all thoughts of finishing place and time were completely out of my mind. As I neared the end, I could see the large clock ticking below the 20:20 mark – which was the first time  I realized that my goal of breaking my 21:05 PR was going to the crushed.

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I busted over the line, immediately stopped my watch, put my hands on my knees, and tried to catch my breath through the huge smile on my face.

20:17, 9th female overall, and 1st in my age group.

Leading up to the race, I was generally just hoping for a strong finishing spot and a 20:xx finishing time. This result was beyond my expectations for the day, although I won’t say it was beyond my expectations for myself. I think part of why I was excited for this chance to run hard was because I know there’s more out there for me to reach toward, and this result validated that I should probably stop limiting myself as I tend to do. I’m feeling encouraged and motivated after the fact – and somehow for the first time I haven’t sworn off the distance for another two years 😉

Additionally, since I was able to beat a record previously set at sea-level at 6,000+ ft elevation, I realized I need to stop sand-bagging myself with the “altitude” excuse. Sure, it’s a factor, but I think I’ve reached a point where comparing myself to my Seattle-self isn’t really relevant anymore. Which is exciting! I also think these last two paragraphs may have come across as a giant non-humble brag, but…just trying to keep it real.

I’m looking forward to what’s to come, both within the next few months and for the rest of this year. I’ve got the aforementioned half-marathon on April 12th coming up, a 10k on Memorial Day, and I might try and schedule another little race pre-wedding. I’m excited for the momentum shift that seems to have happened, and I’m hoping to capitalize on it throughout the spring.

Hope everyone had a good weekend! Hallelujah for the (almost) end of winter, amiright?

Ch-ch-changes

…hi

Yep, I fell into a deep pit of not blogging (and not even considering blogging for that matter), and I just now managed to drag myself out of it. There are a million excuses, per usual, but they’re all either not interesting, too personal, or some combination of those two.

The short story of what happened after Philadelphia goes like this: I recovered what I thought was a proper amount, it wasn’t, I was burned out hard, Colorado was super cold and snowy, we moved, more burn out, more snow, and now, at long last, I’ve finally started to feel motivated again. Unrelated (read: completely related) is the fact that my speed reappeared, and in a very encouraging way. I’m actually running faster now than I was during Philly training, which is really exciting given the fact that I’ve generally been a Grinch regarding my speed for the past year. However, I’ve finally started thinking beyond “getting back to where I was,” which is the mode I was stuck in for far too long.

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Mountain-top handstands for feeling BACK!

In this aforementioned year, a lot has changed in regard to my training and running in general. Chalk it up to the Colorado move, boredom, or just natural exercise-evolutionary process, but I’m not really the runner I was when I left Seattle. Most of it’s for the better, at least I like to think, but it’s generally just been a big overhaul. Here’s what has been going on:

I don’t run with music anymore

I don’t know the exact point in which this switch happened, but somehow I turned from someone who listened to music on 90% of their runs to a person who runs almost exclusively without music.

This still kind of blows my mind, considering the amount of panic I used to feel whenever music wasn’t going to be available for a run. When I first started in the long-distance world, plugging into my headphones and hitting the pavement went entirely hand-in-hand. Which I totally enjoyed; particular songs elicited different emotions, several of which I could tie back to either running or however I was feeling that day. My “running music” became the soundtrack to this passion I was building for distance running, and I enjoyed the background noise just as much as I enjoyed the miles.

Exhibit A: First half-marathon ever! Check out that i-pod arm band!

Exhibit A: First half-marathon ever! Check out that iPod arm band! Also, pretty sure I bought that cotton Target shirt exclusively for this race. Totally makes sense.

As most people can probably guess, running (namely, long runs) can get a little boring, which is why a good playlist can be clutch in getting the job done. I was no exception to this line of thinking, and therein spent years ensuring my little nano/shuffle/whatever was as well-prepped for the miles to come as I was.

But then, something happened. Namely, moving to a new city and needing frequent restroom breaks happened.

I run in the morning, and for most of the year, it’s completely dark out when I start. Living in a new place where I was navigating uncharted routes didn’t feel entirely safe with my headphones in. I would use the music on weekend long-runs when daylight was guaranteed, but for my early morning jaunts, I accepted that for the time being, it was safer to stay alert.

At the same time, I realized fairly quickly that my frequent need for potty stops and listening to music did not go well together. It’s a little hard to explain, but essentially it took all of my concentration to keep my digestive system calm and manageable – and even that hardly ever worked. Listening to music when I was dealing with an incredibly unpredictable and temperamental gut just kind of made me more wound up, and I found that when I was in desperate need of a nearby bathroom, having music on did nothing to help keep me calm. That might not make sense, but basically the combination of my irritable stomach and wanting to stay safe on the streets was enough to break my music-listening habits.

And now? I’ve remained unplugged, despite the fact that my location awareness and Crohn’s issues are much better. And I love it! It feels simpler, more purist, and I’ve found a love for the routine sounds that occur on a run: the pitter-patter of my feet, the friendly “hello” from a stranger, and the chirping birds as they wake up. I’ve tried listening to music again as inspiration to get me out the door, but I’ve found I almost have a distaste for it at this point. Even on long runs, when I am indeed bored and ready to be done, music just kind of annoys me when it’s on. Granted, this is partly due to the fact that I have more company now on runs than I ever have before (see third bolded statement below), but even when I’m alone – I much prefer the sounds on the run as opposed to the sounds on the ‘pod.

Look at me! Running a full marathon! No iPod! Booyah!

Look at me! Running a full marathon! No iPod! Booyah!

I don’t go to the gym anymore, and I don’t really cross-train anymore

If you’ve read here for a while, you might remember that I used to be a boss at doing different types of cardio. I would run and train for races, but I always incorporated frequent spin classes, lap swimming, and Body Pump classes. Seriously though, if you compared a week of training for me two years ago compared to a week now, the difference would be kind of astounding. In fact, for fun, here’s one from 2012. Stair stepper, treadmill, spin, swimming, and lifting all in one week?! I don’t really know who that person was, but since then I’ve either become a lot lazier or just less manic about being an A+ exerciser.

Nope

Nope

I cannot tell you the last time I went to our gym. The thought of going kind of revolts me right now, which is why I’ve somehow managed to do every single run this winter outside, no matter how slow and slippery it may be. Or, I just don’t exercise. It used to be that I wanted to get a good cardio fix no matter the medium (run, spin, pool, etc.), but now my disinterest in anything other than running has forced me to accept more rest days, which I’m really appreciating and enjoying.

Oh, and let’s not forget an important factor here: November Project! In some ways, I do consider this cross-training, considering the plyometric and body-weight emphasis in a lot of our workouts. But more than anything, no matter the conditions – I would always rather be outside with those people than inside either alone or with a bunch of strangers. The workouts are always quality, but the community and the camaraderie are what have really caused me to remove my “gym rat” name tag altogether.

But seriously. Sledding + running up hills with your friends > everything else

But seriously. Sledding + running up hills with your friends > everything else

One thing that I have reintroduced to my routine is yoga, which has taken on an entirely different role than it used to. Before, it was simply a check-list item which I begrudgingly tolerated since I always had running aches and pains, and I knew it would help ward off injury. But, I spent every class with my third-eye focused on the clock in the room, counting down the minutes til savasana.

Now, my practice has entirely transformed – and I find myself sometimes craving an hour in the studio more than an hour on the roads. I’ve been loving the trifecta of spiritual, physical, and restorative elements incorporated in yoga, and I love that classes can emphasize either one or all of those aspects together, depending on the day. Not to mention that I’m certain doing yoga (I’ve been going about twice a week) has been tremendously beneficial in my desire to run most days of the week. The balance between running, NP, and yoga has all my exercise needs entirely filled right now, and then some, so for the time being – I’m going to stay far away from the gym.

*for the sake of not jinxing myself, I wholly acknowledge that being injury-free has helped me avoid the gym

I run with other people now

This is easily the biggest change in my running, and I think the very best one. In fact, it kind of saddens me just how long I jogged along by my lonesome.

There were a few reasons why I never ran with people before, but mainly it was due to the fact that A) I had no running friends within the vicinity of our neighborhood, and B) I didn’t really know how to run with other people. That second point sounds weird, but the only running I ever really did with other people was for a fun run or a run before an event. Does that make sense? Never was it the pavement-pounding, boring grind of just getting a regular run done. I was too conscious of coordinating speeds, schedules (5 am typically doesn’t make you many friends), and logistics to attempt finding a training buddy. And, a big part of me enjoyed running alone. I could choose my own pace and route, and I wasn’t accountable to anyone else’s schedule but my own.

One of those blue-moon times when I would run with other people. Also, hi Seattle peeps! I miss you.

One of those blue-moon times when I would run with other people. Also, hi Seattle peeps! I miss you.

I’m actually going to write an entire post about this, so I’ll try to refrain from explaining more of my thoughts (and there are lots of them!). But, currently I run with someone else maybe 50% of the time, which is a HUGE change. Most of the time, it’s with this girl, who’s been a training game-changer in so many ways. But like I said – that’s a love letter for another day.

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Holy shit this is a long post. I hope you’ve made it this far. In fact, if you even opened up this post – thank you, I know it’s been while. I have to hit publish soon before this disappears into the abyss of drafted posts that are piling high right now. But, I do pinky promise to not let this be my only update until another three months go by. I do have more things to say and some races coming up – so you’ll be hearing from me sooner rather than later.

I’m also going to end with something I haven’t done in YEARS. And generally I don’t love to do this, but I am curious:

What is something that’s done a 180 degree turn for you in your running life?

 

2014: The Year of Everything

Without question, 2014 was the biggest “holy shit!” year of my life.

It wasn’t necessarily “the best” (although in some ways it was), and it wasn’t even the most “life-changing,” but it was certainly filled with the most moments where I couldn’t really believe everything that was happening.

In the spirit of the New Year, and because I feel like I want to actually document the craziness that was this past year, here’s a look at the big stuff that happened in 2014. Warning, there was a lot of it. And in hindsight, a great majority of it had to do with running.

January

After being immobile, inactive, and basically a waste of space for so long, I finally returned to the land of the living and started, well, living again. And running.

One of my first runs post-injury and in the midst of flare recovery. I was in California and elated to be in shorts and a tank. Obviously, based on the mirror selfie.

One of my first runs post-injury and in the midst of flare recovery. I was in California and elated to be in shorts and a tank. Obviously, based on the mirror selfie. 

February

Surprise! We’re moving! I left my 8-years of Washington residency and followed Adam and his new job to the motherland, Colorado. I quit my job and took a leap of faith into the unknown of a new city and no employment.

The view from my beloved old commute to/from work in Seattle. I miss this every day.

The view from my beloved old commute to/from work in Seattle. I miss this every day.

March

Duh

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But also! I got a new job approximately 60 hours after our moving truck pulled up to our new apartment. Trust me, I do not take for granted my luck in this department. Now I had a new city, new fiancee, and a new job. Life was blowing up in my face.

April

Crohn’s is back. Bad.

Running the Boston Marathon despite Crohn’s being back. Good! This was a huge highlight for the year. I like to daydream about this experience a lot of the time.

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Go with my new friend Julia to a workout group called, “November Project.” Get my ass kicked. Become hooked.

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May

Nothing huge happened in May, but here were some fun things I did. Also, Crohn’s starting to settle down. Good!

Running a half-marathon with my best friend Anna on her journey toward her first full marathon (see: October below)

Running a half-marathon with my best friend Anna on her journey toward her first full marathon (see: October below)

Running up Bergen Peak for Julia's birthday, get a taste for this "trail running" thing

Run up Bergen Peak for Julia’s birthday, getting a taste for this “trail running” thing

June

I climbed ten 14ers this summer and became addicted to the all-consuming, primal feel of being in the mountains. The first one was in June, therefore June gets to be highlighted.

Atop Mt. Sherman

Atop Mt. Sherman

They're calling

They’re calling 

July

Ragnar NWP! I made my way back to beautiful Seattle and ran 35+ glorious miles with my wonderful WA running family. I felt the best stomach-wise and running-wise than I had in 8 months. Happiness all around.

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August

Bird Camp! Had a lot of fun running around Bend, OR with Oiselle teammates plus old and new friends.

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September

Ran a super fun half-marathon with my family, start to feel my speed coming back, get a little more confident in potential for Philadelphia Marathon.

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October

Witness a “first marathon” experience from the other side. Seeing Anna cross that finish line was unbelievably inspiring.

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I also start going to yoga again, which made me wonder why I ever stopped. I’m resolved to continue my practice throughout 2015.

November

The best race I’ve ever run. Unexpectedly PR’ed the marathon, broke 3:30, and actually enjoyed every step of 26.2 miles.

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December

We’re moving!

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Yes, again. Our site-unseen tiny apartment worked temporarily, but it was time for an upgrade. Adam and I found a perfect little bungalow (rental) house, and we’re in the process of moving all our things in several back-and-forth 8 minute car trips. We’re elated.

It’s hard to believe that 2015 could top 2014. So many changes happened, and if you told me on December 31, 2013 that all of the above would occur, I would never have believed you. But that’s the wonderful thing about life; the unexpected tends to hold the most fun. I can’t imagine life right now without some of the things that occurred in 2014 (NP, Denver, etc.), and I have a feeling the good stuff is only going to continue to get better.

Oh, and there’s a certain occasion happening on June 20th this upcoming year. I’m just guessing here, but I’m pretty sure that milestone will make it’s way to the top of my 2015 list. I can’t wait to see, though, what the rest of it holds. 🙂

Happy New Year everyone!

Guest Post by Julia Griffith: ECSCA 50k Race Recap

I’ve got something super awesome for you all today. My badass training partner, dear friend, and all-around wonderful person, Julia Griffith, ran her first 50k on December 6th and I’ve asked her to recap all the dirty details that happened. Considering that the 50k distance (and trail running in general) is way out of my league at this point, I thought it would be fun to read something a little different and muddier. Julia’s report totally inspired me, and I’m pretty sure it will elicit some trail-running interest from you guys as well. Take it away, Jules!

Robyn asked if I’d be interested in posting a recap of my first 50k at the North Face Endurance Challenge Series in California (ECSCA). So, I wrote this long detailed post that included information about my training and the trip to California but it was all boring and what really matters is what actually happened on race day. What happened on race day was magical. It was the best race of my life and I truly loved almost every minute of it. The trails were absolutely gorgeous, the people were amazing, and I blew my goals out of the water. If you love mountains and to run for a long time and be outside and play, you should think about doing a 50k.

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Just a little background first. ECSCA was held on December 6th & 7th in the Marin Headlands, just north of San Francisco. The week of the race, NorCal experienced some exceptionally heavy rainfall which left muddy trails and the need for a slight course modification to the 50 mile and 50k races. The 50 mile race was the championship of the entire series and attracted a really awesome elite field. There are a ton of amazing, inspiring ECSCA 50 mile recaps out there that you should read if you want to learn more about the series and what the scene was like that day. The series also included a marathon relay which attracted 100ish November Project tribe members from across the country. The NP community is unrivaled and having the group there turns race day into a party. I traveled to the race with about 10 friends from November Project – Denver, including my boyfriend, Dan, who also raced the 50k.

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My goals going into the race were: a.) to love it. To have fun and finish feeling proud of myself and my effort. b.) To feel like I was racing (at my level), and not be out there just to finish. c.) If everything went well, to finish under 6 hours but to not be hung up on paces during the race.

With that, here are a few highlights:

  •  Running up Cardiac. Cardiac was on every racer’s mind as it was the longest climb up the day, starting around mile 14ish and going up to 18. It was a single-track trail (with a river running down it) turned into double-track for the day because of the course modifications. There was an aid station at the top and even though this wasn’t truly the halfway point, I thought of the trip down Cardiac as starting the second half of the race. As I was climbing (aka trudging through mud), I saw the first 50k runners start to make their way down which meant I was on the lookout for Dan. I spent all my time watching for him and as soon as I saw him (in 6th place), I yelled out. It was so great to see him on course and I wanted him to know that I was having a good day. Also during this time, the elite 50 milers were making their way down. I casually cheered for Sage (in 1st place) and Timothy like they were old friends.
  •  Running down Cardiac. Running up was muddy and all, but running down was a shitshow (in the most fun way). Shortly after the aid station (which was my favorite of the day), I saw three friends. I’ve given a lot of high fives in my life and the ones I gave to Twig, Malone, and Sophia on Cardiac were three of my favorites. Two other women and I naturally grouped together during the descent and it was so nice to have people to talk to, though most energy was spent trying to stay upright. The trail was so slick and muddy that for those running down, you had to let go of any hesitation and just GO. Fortunately, almost all of the racers running up moved out of the way for us and many cheers and thanks were exchanged. During this time, I was pretty vocal about how fun it was and how much I love trail running and runners. Near the end of the descent was where I took my one fall of the day. I almost lost a shoe in the mud but nothing was hurt and I quickly got up and kept moving.dirty shoes
  • Resilience around mile 27. I had been focusing on the word ‘resilience’ and how being resilient means to keep pushing forward when you’re tested and you’ve been challenged. I knew that accomplishing my 50k goal would take more than just enduring and it was right after the mile 26.3 aid station when I proved to be resilient. The 26.3 station came after the toughest hill of the day and my legs were feeling pretty beat from both the ascent and descent. It was the first time during the race that I actually wished to be done; I should also note, it was probably the only time I didn’t smile. As I left the aid station, I gave myself a mental pat on the back for my brand new personal distance record but looking at the hill ahead of me, it was hard to want to keep running. I was with Amy, one of the women I befriended coming down Cardiac who also happens to be from Denver, and we were both feeling a little beat up but also determined. As we were trudging along, I said something to Amy about how it was the time to be resilient and saying it out loud was like flipping a switch for me. I started running again with a second wind that carried me through to the finish.
  • Final aid station and seeing relay runners. The last aid station was at mile 29.2 and I knew after that it was just a cruise down to the finish. I also knew this was the course for the relay runners so I would start to see some familiar faces. With every NP runner that passed me, a “Yeah, NP!” was exchanged. Brogan (co-founder of November Project) ran by and yelled out “Proud of you, dude.” right after another tribe member I’ve never met reminded me to be present in that moment right then. Amazing, yes. I pulled into the aid station already fighting back happy tears. I stopped for a few seconds to eat an orange slice and drink a cup of Coke and as I started out, Lauren (leader of NP San Diego) caught up to me and told me that Dan crushed it. As if I needed any more motivation to get to the finish line, hearing how well he did was it. Lauren, thanks for he update and  telling me I looked good – you helped me push those last couple miles! All fired up, I felt like I was flying down that hill and then I noticed a familiar woman up ahead – it was the other lady I was with coming down Cardiac; we had been leap-frogging with each other all day. So, I caught up with her and passed her for the final time of the race with a “hell yeah! go get it” exchange.image (1)

I finished in 5:38, muddy and tired but completely in-tact, with a massive smile on my face. There are no words for sharing a feeling of such accomplishment with people you love who are celebrating too and I’m so grateful for the friends I got to experience this with. I’ve been racing for a few years now and many of my recent races have ended with me feeling beat up and defeated. I walked away from this race feeling energized, excited, and proud. I’m fired up for the next one and after a little bit of a break, I’m ready to start training again.

All of this really doesn’t mean all that much without people to experience it with. Without November Project, I wouldn’t have this community that’s become my family made up of badass, inspiring, caring individuals. Huge thanks to Dan for running up mountains with me on the weekends (among a million other things I’m grateful for that contributed to this day). And, many, many thanks to Robyn for being the best running partner I could ask for! It’s been so special to share this training and race cycle and to truly feel like I have someone who is experiencing it all – the hard work, the tough times, and the achievement – with me.

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Philadelphia Marathon Race Recap

I haven’t told many people this, but when I ran Eugene back in Spring 2013, I wasn’t very happy with my race. Of course I was glad I qualified for Boston, and I felt like a tool saying I was displeased with a 10+ minute PR, so I kept it to myself that I felt like I had a better race in me.

But ever since then, I’ve longed for a different kind of marathon; one that left me proud and satisfied that my execution, training, and heart were all acting in harmony for 26.2 miles. It’s a tall order, no doubt, but I refused to believe it wasn’t possible.

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Going into Philadelphia, I felt incredibly calm and prepared, but not prepared in the same way I felt before Eugene. At that point in time, I knew I had a BQ in the bag, and because I was so confident in that goal, I let the disappointment of the secret A+ goal (sub 3:30) overrule the achievement of qualifying. With Philly, I was hesitant to make time goals – not so much for fear of being disappointed, but because I didn’t really know what I was capable of in the same way I used to be. I trained loosely for a goal pace, but that pace never felt very easy or like I could keep it up for a full marathon. So, when pressed for some tangible goals, this is what I decided:

“A” Goal: 3:3x on the clock. Of course I wanted to re-qualify for Boston, but because I was so unsure of how the race would go, I thought it would be more realistic to go for a time frame instead.

“B” Goal 3:4x on the clock. It wouldn’t be great, but it wouldn’t be too bad. Not to mention it would still be 20 minutes under my time from Boston this year.

“C” Goal: Faster than my Boston time (4:08). I wasn’t really concerned about beating that time, but you never really know with these things.

So those were my goals. A very wide range, but they gave me some room to work with and kept me from being too stressed about pace or splits.

But there was one thing I didn’t really tell anyone, and in hindsight I probably should have paid more attention to it; I had an incredibly good feeling about this race. I don’t know if it was the amount of visualization I did ahead of time (there was a lot), the solid training cycle, or just a gut feeling, but there was something telling me that something special could happen.

So as not to bore you with all the details leading up to race morning, let’s just kick things off right from the get go.

"Pre-race details" includes being paranoid that I walked too much the day before and this is how I looked for a lot of the night beforehand. Also, I'm wearing the same shirt as I wore for the race. Underpacked? Yea...

“Details” include being paranoid that I walked too much the day before and this is how I looked for a lot of the night beforehand. Also, I’m wearing the same shirt as I wore for the race. My Oiselle jersey was going to be too cold, and this was my only long-sleeve. Underpacked? Yea…

We woke up around 4:30 am on Sunday, and I was fairly pleased with my sleep the night before. After some breakfast, our pre-ordered cab arrived at 5:30 on the dot. We were only about 1.5 miles from the start, but I didn’t want to waste any energy walking there. We arrived, went through security, and checked our bag really quickly…too quickly. We had just over an hour until the race started, and it wasn’t exactly toasty in the waiting area. Note to self: the next time I choose a late-November marathon, buy more throwaway clothes! We were freeeeezing, and I started to panic I would shiver off all my extra tapered energy before the race even started. While standing in the port-a-potty lines, Adam and I were “that” couple holding each-other way too closely just for warmth purposes. And speaking of…my PRP seriously left something to be desired. WTF? Luckily, this didn’t cause any issues during the race 🙂

After a few times through the bathroom line, it was time to line up in our start corrals..the race was about the start! I proceeded to strip down, toss my throwaway fleece directly into some dude’s face (we all had a good laugh about it), and take some deep breaths. And just like that…off we went!

Very standard crowded race start. I didn’t want to do any weaving, but it quickly became clear that people didn’t exactly start in their assigned corral. So I wound my way around some folks, trying to stay as streamlined as possible, but oh baby did it feel good to just be running! The sun was rising, and we were running right toward the Philadelphia skyline – good stuff! My goal for the first few miles was to stay around 8:15-8:20 pace, so I tried to sneak some peaks down at my watch early on to get into this rhythm. I managed to get pretty comfortable right around there, and I tried to just relax, soak it all in, and enjoy the city. Miles 1-4 or so wound all through the downtown streets and they were pretty packed with cheering crowds. It was awesome! There was such great energy, and I was feeling really calm and collected.

I don’t remember a ton in those earlier miles, except that I kept trying to remind myself to stay smart and stay boring. I would shake my hands out by my sides and wiggle my jaw loose to keep out any tension, and generally I was just trying to run by feel and keep my breathing easy. I wanted to just stay in the moment and not get carried away with the miles to come or the emotion I knew I had invested in this race. There was plenty of time for that later on.

In the back of my head though, I knew that running a negative split meant that the second half would need to be run under an 8:00 pace. I tried to block that out, although there was definitely a lingering feeling that at some point soon, I was going to need to step it up.

Mile 1: 8:15

Mile 2: 8:17

Mile 3: 7:54

Mile 4: 8:03

Mile 5: 8:14

I took my first two Shot Blocks and grabbed my first water cup at the 5.5 mile aid station, and it was the perfect time to start gearing up for the “hill” portion of the race. The first major hill of the course came around during mile 7, and this was the first time I definitly noticed the training-at-altitude advantage I had; it was no problem! I cruised up, and despite having planned on that mile being a bit slower, it ended up being right on pace with the rest of the race. I was definitely thankful for all the stair climbing and trail hills I managed to include in my training at this point. I also tried to capitalize on the downhill that followed, which always gives my turnover a good boost. Miles 9 and 10 had another up and another down, more water and Shot Blocks, and although I felt a little energy drain on the uphill effort, I was able to recover quickly and get back in the zone.

Mile 6: 8:11

Mile 7: 7:59

Mile 8: 8:10

Mile 9: 7:44

Mile 10: 8:15

At this point, we were running along the river, heading back toward the city. I knew that once we got close to the halfway point, everyone running the half-marathon would peel off toward the finish line, so I tried to keep focus and not think about the fact that I’d still have an entire half to run (with many fewer people along for the ride.)

Mile 11: 7:34

Mile 12: 7:47

Mile 13: 8:02

I clocked the first half right around 1:46, which is exactly where I’d hoped to be in terms of first-half pacing.

No idea when this was taken, but this is the expression I had for the majority of the race.

No idea when this was taken, but this is the expression I had for the majority of the race.

There was actually something kind of magical about heading back out along with the other marathoners; a shared battle we were all ready to take on together. Things were also spread out enough at this point that I could keep step with some people around me, and I started to listen in to some of the conversations happening. I had my iPod with me and had actually planned on plugging in once we completed the first half, but it didn’t feel necessary yet – so I stayed tuned into the race around me. The second half of the course is essentially an enormous out and back, with a small out and back tagged on in the middle, which I thought might be a little tedious, but again – I was just trying to stay in the mile. Mile 14 went by, mile 15 went by, and I still wasn’t interested in my headphones. I continued to shake my hands out, take deep breaths, and continue on at the pace I was holding. I felt good; strong, controlled, and ready to let my heart and emotions play a bigger role.

Mile 14: 7:40

Mile 15: 7:51

Right around mile 16, a girl saddled up next to me and asked if she could hang onto my pace for a bit. Indeed, new friend! I’d overheard her talking to someone else earlier, so I knew she was after a BQ, and after I told her I’d run Boston this last spring, I think she trusted I knew what I was doing. Ha! But fake it til you make it, right? I could tell she felt strong and ready to race the rest of this thing, so I figured for however long this lasted – we could help one another out. I learned her name was Sadie, she was from New York, and this was her second marathon. She had some sass, and I loved it. Around mile 17 or so, we started to see the lead runners coming back on the other side of the road, which was super fun. We both cheered everyone on, and these miles seemed to go by pretty quick. My watch was decently behind the mile markers, but since she was doing manual mile lapping, she read off our splits whenever we hit one. We were averaging right around or right below 7:50 miles, which at this point was exactly on par with my negative splitting ambitions.

Mile 16: 7:57

Mile 17: 7:44

Mile 18: 8:01

Mile 19: 7:43

At one point, we saw a man on the other side of the road with a Central Park Track Club jersey on and Sadie yelled, “Way to go NYC!” She explained that he was part of a big Central Park running group, and I had to stop myself from saying, “Homegirl, I read hella running blogs and I know way too much about both that club and some of its members already.”

Around mile 19.5, we were getting close to the major turnaround and Sadie was clearly rearing to go. After she got a couple strides ahead of me and I noticed our pace was around 7:35s, I told her to go ahead. She’d definitely helped me out, and I wanted her to have the kickass finish I could tell she was after. Sadie, if you’re out there, I’m pretty sure you killed that BQ goal! Thanks for carrying me along.

We turned around right near mile 20, and I still felt great. I had grabbed some orange slices from a good samaritan a little while beforehand, and I could feel them kicking it. Time to finish this thing! It was a definite energy boost to be heading back toward the finish line as opposed to away from it. And although the crowds weren’t as thick as they were in the city, I was so impressed with the people that were out. Without my iPod I could hear all the times people yelled my name or “Go November Project!” which was so helpful. Speaking of, around mile 22 I ran by what had to have been the Philly NP cheering station. One guy (maybe the leader?) saw me and yelled, “NP DENVER! WE’VE BEEN WAITING FOR YOU!” I wanted to accept/give so many hugs, but their high fives and cheers would have to suffice; I couldn’t stop now!

Mile 20: 7:53

Mile 21: 7:45

Mile 22: 8:00

I refused to do any mental math in my head in terms of finishing time, but I was certainly running at this point with the hope that something awesome could happen at the finish line. I kept reminding myself that I was in control; the was my race, my story, and I was the one in charge of the outcome. I’d told myself for 16 weeks that I was capable, and now was the time to bring all that visualization to life.

Maybe I was in more pain than I remember, according to this photo. Definitely getting a little harder...

Maybe I was in more pain than I remember, according to this photo. Definitely getting a little harder…

So on I ran. I kept waiting for my pace to slow, for the wall that I knew all too well to smash right into me. But there was no wall, and although my legs were aching and my feet were killing me, I kept pushing. I continuously replayed over and over in my head the mantras I’d told myself all through my training, and I let those emotions I’d kept in check all week beforehand and throughout the first half of the race pour energy into my legs. I was writing this story, and I was going to make it a good one.

Mile 23: 7:52

Only a 5k to go. That was once around Green Lake in Seattle, right? I remember running that loop when I first started running again in February; it was the first time since being sick and injured that I kind of felt good again.

Mile 24: 7:52

Ugh, I’m .2 miles behind on my watch! So is that 2.2 miles to go? Or 2.4? I don’t know anymore. Keep running!

Mile 24.5: Are those gummy bears? Yes! Gummy bears! GIVE ME!

Mile 25: 7:56

Wait a minute, holy shit, I might be under 3:30. How long have I had these gummy bears in my mouth? I can’t swallow them, I can’t spit them out, I guess I’ll just carry them in my mouth.

Mile 25.5: Less than a mile. Make this happen, Robyn. This is the race you’ve been waiting for. This is yours. Go get it.

Mile 26: 8:07

We saw that mile marker flag this morning! It looks so much prettier now! There’s the finish line! Goooooo.

I was flying. Without even thinking about it, my finishing kick came from somewhere else; an energy source that was stored away just for this moment. I peaked down at my watch just in time to see that with enough gusto, my finishing time wouldn’t just be faster than Boston, wouldn’t just be a PR, but would be under 3:30.

Final .38 (clearly ran the tangents like a boss): 7:24 pace

With 50 yards to go, I spotted Adam in the crowd, waving and then motioning for me to finish the damn thing (he knew I was within seconds of that 3:30 mark). I strode and strode, realizing that the dream I didn’t even know was possible today was coming true, and I had made it come true.

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I heard my name, raised my arms in the air, stopped my watch, and let out some sort of exclamatory yell.

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Official time: 3:29:49. Booyah! I was elated, overwhelmed, and in a daze. Did that actually just happen? Who was that person running for the past 10 miles at a faster pace than they’ve run in almost a year? Holy shit, that was me! I did it!

The trudge back through the recovery area include a little eye mistiness, a lot of looking for my fiancee, and a quick realization that everything, literally everything, hurt. While I may have been able to block out the pain while running, it was quickly catching up with me.

At some point I got a bag of food and some water, and after calling Adam on a random cell phone, I finally was able to meet up with him – at which point it all came out; lots and lots of tears. Adam killed the half too, finishing in 1:54, way under what he expected for the day! So proud.

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I’m still kind of processing the entire experience, and I still can’t really believe it. It was the race I’d been picturing ever since I started running marathons, the race that I visualized when I needed inspiration throughout the past year, and the race that kept me training and kept me pushing even when none of it felt worthwhile.

I have a lot of thoughts on the things that I felt I did well in terms of both preparation and race execution, but I’ll save that for another post. For now, I’ll just say thank you to all of you; your encouragement, your cheers, and your support over this past year in every capacity was in the front of my mind for all 26.2 miles. I feel unbelievably lucky to have a system of friends and family who without question have supported this crazy sport, and none of it would be possible (or fun) without you.

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Now, when’s the next one??

Philadelphia Marathon Training Weeks #15 and (most of) #16

It’s race week people! And I’m weirdly calm. I can feel some nerves creeping in a little, but generally I’m just feeling good; rested, ready and excited! I feel like I did (most) everything I could in terms of training and preparing for this race, and so now it’s just time to let it rip on Sunday.

I am still having a really hard time figuring out my goals and/or pace plan. I know where I could be on an incredible day, I know where I could be on an average day, and I know things could just get ugly, but there’s a very wide time range between those outcomes. I’m not going to sandbag myself at all, as I will certainly be racing and running as competitively as I can on Sunday, I just don’t really know what that will mean. I suppose I’m just going to try to run the best I can on that day, give my very best, and stay as mentally strong as I can.

My mantra for Sunday is to be smart in the first half and be brave in the second half (also known as: don’t be an idiot, then don’t be a wimp).

If I were to have ONE main goal, it’s to negative split the race. Out of my five marathons, the two that actually felt good were the ones I negative split. I have drilled this technique into my head over the past few months, and I’ve been running my long runs this way as well. Baring something terrible happening, I am determined to run the second half faster than the first. I’m less concerned about the “holding back” in the first part element of this equation so much as the pushing it after mile 13 element. Digging deep on tired legs is a scary thought, and it’s going to necessitate a great deal of mental focus and strength. I like to think I have these qualities, but the marathon is a merciless beast and has eaten me alive before. I’d be lying if I said the distance doesn’t scare me anymore since I’ve run it five times now. In fact, I’d say it scares me more because I’ve already faced it.

But here’s what I’ve been taught about fear: When things are important to us, there is always going to be an element of fear involved. When it comes to goals that we’ve been focusing on and working toward, this fear (namely the fear of failure) is even more pronounced. But when you want something more than you fear it, when you can channel those scared feelings into feelings of deep determination – you take control over fear, and consequently – you cannot fail.

There are some big goals that I want in regard to the marathon distance, and while it will take more than one race to achieve them, I intend to use Sunday as a step toward getting that much closer.

Here’s how the last two weeks of tapering have been:

Week #15 (aka: the week of the polar bomb)

This is the average amount of clothing I had to lay out before every day I ran last week.

This is the average amount of clothing I had to lay out before every day I ran last week.

Monday: rest

Tuesday: 7.5 miles + PM hot yoga

13 degrees outside and the first time I wore tights to run in this year. Thankfully Julia joined in on the fun, or else my bed probably would have won out.

Wednesday: November Project workout + run to/from (5.5 miles)

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ONE DEGREE. Good thing I’ve got a weatherproof crew of badass people to inspire me to get outside. This workout was slow and easy stairs, and it was so special. To be out there in frigid cold, defying all natural instincts to hibernate, with some awesome people was an incredible thing and was one of my more memorable NP workouts.

Thursday: 75 minute yoga class

One of the best classes I’ve ever been to at my new studio. Good stuff!

Friday: November Project workout + run to/from (6 miles)

We ran up and down a gentle hill in the 9 degree weather. I took it easy, smiled a lot and probably shivered more.

Saturday: 12 miles

Last “long run” of the training cycle! It was snowing the whole time and I had a hard time seeing since snowflakes kept sticking to my eyelashes and not melting since it was so cold. It was beautiful, but this run seemed to take forever. My speed was fine, my legs felt fine, it just seemed to drag.

Sunday: 4 miles easy + hot yoga

Hottest hot yoga class I’ve ever been to. It was certainly cleansing and relaxing, but it was a little too hot for my preference.

Total= 35 miles

 

Week #16 (aka: this week, aka: RACE WEEK)

Monday: rest

Tuesday: 7 miles with Julia

Wednesday: 6 miles

I ran to November Project, sat out of the workout and took pictures, and still loved it as much as if I’d been participating. Really great to see my people, give some hugs, and get some good lucks before the race.

Thursday: yoga

Easy flow class this morning, it was lovely.

Friday (planned): 4 easy miles, shake out

Saturday (planned): rest

Sunday: yea…

You can add “binge watched Lost” to most days up there, as that’s been my chosen taper distraction technique. It’s really good for keeping me occupied, not so good for keeping my heart rate low.

Generally, I’m really happy with how things are feeling this week. I feel like I’ve balanced resting and continuing to move really well, and my body is feeling more and more ready every day. My legs, somehow, have felt great on every run this week – let’s hope that’s a sign of good things to come on Sunday! I’m trying a new technique of not doing the shake out the day before the race, and I’m excited for it. I always feel like my legs feel best after full rest days – so let’s hope this holds some truth. My guess is that we’ll be walking around Philly enough to get blood moving and to calm any nerves.

This is it! I’m really excited. Thank you all for your encouragement through this training cycle – it’s been a good one!

Here is tracking information, and my bib number is 2276.

Gah! Okay, time to buckle it in until Sunday. Booyah!

 

How November Project Brought Me Back to Life

November Project is a grassroots, free fitness movement that started in Boston and is now in 16 cities across North America. The premise is simple: just show up, work hard, and hug harder. No frills, membership fees, registration, or gear needed. The idea is to bring a community of people together to push and encourage one another while getting fitter, faster, and happier along the way. In Denver, November Project takes place at 6:15 am twice a week: at the Capitol Building/Civic Center Park every Wednesday, and the location rotates every Friday.

I’ve always been the type of person who exaggerates for the sake of emphasis.

“This is easily the best cookie I’ve ever had.”

“I’ve never seen a better sunset in my life!”

“No one has EVER been more tired than I am right now.”

I’ve said all of those expressions, more than once, along with similar statements in the name of humor or stressing my point. Therefore, when I say something like, “November Project brought me back to life,” it would be understandable to assume that – once again – I was giving a light-hearted exaggeration.

But here’s the truth: without a sliver of doubt, or feeling that I’m being over-the-top, I can boldly say that since I started attending November Project in late April 2014, nothing has really been the same – all entirely for the better. And in both literal and figurative ways, it really has brought me back to life. Here’s my story of finding NP5280.

When we first moved to Denver at the beginning of March, a great deal of change had happened all at once. Adam and I quit our jobs, got engaged, moved to a new city, and started new jobs all within the span of a couple weeks. In hindsight, I should have anticipated that it wouldn’t be easy, but I will fully admit that I completely underestimated just how overwhelming and stressful it would all be.

In the moment, all I could think was, “These are all good things! Must stay pumped! Love it all! Do it all!” But the fact is that change, even good change, takes its toll. So, after a brief period of my health recuperating from my terrible Crohn’s Disease flare up last December, it’s no surprise that my symptoms returned in full force within a few short weeks after our move.

I was frustrated, to say the least; I was taking the best-of-the-best (and most expensive) medications, I was trying to train for the Boston Marathon and couldn’t go a mile without making a bathroom stop, and the last thing I needed while living in a new city was a reason to stay in bed.

Consequently, the start of living in Denver was spent trying to train amidst a lingering Crohn’s flare up (while acclimating to high altitude) , going to GI appointments, and using all other energy reserves to try and learn a new job. It was not, as you can imagine, the fairy-tale Colorado life I’d been picturing when we initially moved.

I managed to get myself in shape enough to make the Boston trip, and along the way I met Julia. We “knew” each other from the internet since we both ran for Oiselle, but our serendipitous official first meeting happened while we were both literally on the run. It was great to make contact with someone I knew would be in Boston, and seeing as we both had identical PRs in both the half and the full marathon, I was pretty convinced we’d get along well.

The two of us teamed up in Boston, so-to-speak, and she introduced me to another friend there from Denver, Dan. I learned the two of them knew each other from a workout group I’d vaguely heard about through the grapevine, called November Project. They encouraged me to come once we were back home, and while it definitely did not sound like my normal fitness preference, their enthusiasm was intriguing – and infectious.

With Julia, Dan, and a runner named Kara you probably haven't heard of the night before Boston.

With Julia, Dan, and a runner named Kara you probably haven’t heard of, the night before Boston. Fun fact: Julia and Dan’s friendship turned into romance right around this time.

So, after they both kicked my ass at Boston, I figured why not: these people are fit, fast, and obviously infatuated with this “November Project” thing, so I suppose I ought to check it out. Admittedly, though, I was intimidated. I was incredibly self-conscious about my fitness level at that point and gravely aware of how far off I was in terms of my normal speed and strength. Not to mention my stomach was still a wreck, I couldn’t run without needing a bathroom, and I wasn’t feeling great about leaving any comfort zones.

But, on April 29, I mustered up my courage and made my way to the Civic Center Park. When I arrived, I initially panicked that Julia wasn’t there yet and approached the group as slow as possible, trying to blend in and act like I knew exactly what I was doing. Almost immediately, a smiling face approached me and asked if I was Robyn, and before I could barely even say yes I was embraced in a huge hug.

“Well, she’s certainly friendly!” were my immediate thoughts.

A few minutes later, the group was called into a circle and we started to bounce up and down – which was a welcome relief from the cold.

Dan (the same Dan from Boston, who I hadn’t even realized was the leader of this whole deal) belted out, “GOOD MORNING!” to which everyone replied good morning back.

“Okay, this is fun…lots of upbeat people, I’m not the only one who likes the early mornings apparently.”

Dan: “Y’ALL GOOD?”

Group: “FUCK YEAH!”

Me: “Okay…I like this.”

We were then given directions for the workout. I didn’t really know it at the time, but it was “PR Clover Day,” which is a workout done once a month in which you count up the number of repetitions you can do of a running/stairs route within 35 minutes. Something else I didn’t know at the time: it’s the hardest workout they do.

Off we went. And within probably 4 minutes of starting, I was both horrified and giddy about what I had gotten myself into: this shit was hard. Like I mentioned previously, I was hesitant to work out “publically” since I was so down and out about my fitness decline, but I realized quickly that it didn’t really matter; everyone was going at their own pace, some faster, some slower, and it wasn’t really all that obvious who was doing what. So, I hoisted my still-Boston-sore-quads up and down the huge stairs, got high-fives from people I didn’t know, and felt my lungs burn in a way they hadn’t done in months.

At the end, I was completely winded and a-gasp at how these people did this every week. But in almost equal measure, I was hooked.

It was also the first time in 4 months that I was able to exercise without a bathroom break.

Very first NP workout. I'm in the blue + earwarmer in the second row. To my left is Julia, to my right is Kaitlin - the girl who first hugged me that day.

Very first NP workout. I’m in the blue + earwarmer in the second row. To my left is Julia, to my right is Kaitlin – the girl who first hugged me that day.

I went again the next week. And then the next week. Then I started going twice a week. The hugs continued, the “FUCK YEAH!”s continued, and the more I went…the more enthused I became. I noticed that every single day at work after an NP workout, I had more energy, I was happier, and I was more productive.

Clovers, my third-time around.

Clovers, my third-time around.

I met more people every time I went, and I began to immensely look forward to seeing people that I barely knew outside of 45 minutes twice a week. Not to mention I could feel myself getting fitter, stronger, and more confident in my body that had for so long been disappointing me.

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The workouts were addictive, but it was the people – the atmosphere, the hugs, the energy – that kept me coming back for more. Julia described it best when I first started going: November Project is like taking a shot of endorphins right at the beginning of the day; the workouts are good and challenging, but the social aspect is what brings the whole thing to life.

Ice bucket challenge by NP5280.

Ice bucket challenge by NP5280.

And in hindsight, it was the social element that I needed more than anything else. As a distance runner, I naturally spent a lot of time by myself. I didn’t train with anyone, and generally I enjoyed spending my miles within my own head. However, when you pair this with the fact that, in general, I’m a very introverted (some would say antisocial) person, I wound up spending a lot of time alone. Which I always told myself was fine; I preferred staying in and living the literal translation of “the loneliness of the long distance runner.” What I didn’t realize, however, was just how isolated this left me. I may have told myself over and over that this was who I was, but in reality I was stuck on a comfort-zone island without any hope of someone finding me.

When I got so sick last December, those natural hermit tendencies turned into full-on hibernation. I could barely stand up long enough to put on makeup in the morning, let alone go and see anybody. When I finally started to get better, I spent so long just trying to dig myself out of my sickness ditch that my original running ditch didn’t feel so deep, relatively speaking.

But it was. And I didn’t know just how bad I needed something like November Project until it swept me up with its comfort-zone breaking, f-bomb dropping, literal and figurative all-consuming hug.

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Now, almost 7 months after that first gut-busting day in April, I can’t imagine life without Wednesday and Friday mornings with November Project. They’ve become my community, my friends, and those 45 minutes twice a week are always the very best part of my day. Not to mention the weekend trips, the Friday night happy-hour runs, and the very best training partner I could ask for.

We all come from different backgrounds and have different goals, training, and motives. But that’s one of the things I love best; it doesn’t matter who you are or how in or out-of-shape you are – November Project is authentically all-inclusive.

Over 100 people last week!

In nine days, I’ll be running the Philadelphia Marathon, and I couldn’t feel more different than I did when I was getting ready to run Boston. The strength and speed improvement is certainly a factor, but more so – my mentality as an athlete has transformed immensely. Dan said it way better than I could:

“What used to be a ball of nerves before a race due to high personal expectations, and quiet reflection post-race, has now become a flurry of pride, passion, and enjoyment. Training used to be a burden: why and I doing this in 20-degree weather? What effect will skipping this run have on my performance? Now through the November Project community, the training part is fun & happens naturally, and the races are wild, joyful parties! There hasn’t been a day that I’ve run or trained alone, because I know that other NP tribesmates are out there doing the same.”

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So, to Julia – thank you for bringing me into this community and inspiring me every day to dream bigger, run faster and just show up.

To Dan and Molly – your tribe has rocked my world, and the two of you keep me smiling and digging deeper every week.

And to November Project Denver – you are my family. Thank you for bringing me back to life.

 

Philadelphia Marathon Training Week #14

Three-weeks of taper is a tricky thing. Initially, you’re psyched for some well-earned down time in which you’ll spend hours of blissful sleep/rest regenerating every muscle fiber just in time for race day. In reality, the first week of taper doesn’t really feel like tapering, the second week (where I’m currently at) is when you question if you’re doing too much or too little, and the third week is just mayhem.

For my first week of taper, I still had to run 50 miles based on the 20% reduction rule off of my peak mileage (65). That’s still a lot of running! I ran 5 days last week, some of which felt great, some of which weren’t so great.

Monday: rest

Tuesday: 9 miles + Core Power yoga

Solid run with Julia around Wash Park x2 and some sweaty yoga after work. Mmm.

Wednesday: November Project workout + run before/after (7 miles total)

So many humans! Biggest NP5280 group yet.

So many humans! Biggest NP5280 group yet.

Thursday: Core Power yoga

Friday: November Project workout + run before/after (11 miles total)

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Super fun workout last Friday. We did a running circuit with some steady inclines/declines in between strength moves. There was a gorgeous sunrise, and I felt strong and happy the entire time. Julia and I ran before and after too, for a total of 11 miles for the day.

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Proof of the glorious sky! I swear I don’t just go to NP because they take photos that I can conveniently use as a blogger.

Saturday: 7 miles easy

Sunday: 16 miles

A very stereotypical long run story: up too early, didn’t feel great for the first half, felt monumentally better for the second half. While I’d rather feel good for the entirety of my long runs (HA!), I’m glad that I seem to have a trend going of negative splitting my long runs in both pace and general attitude. One of my biggest hopes for Philly is to race, not just survive, the second half, so hopefully this is good practice.

Total= 50 miles

Generally, this week was fine. Nothing was groundbreaking, nothing was terrible; just doing to work and going through the motions. In terms of where I’m at now, I’ve dug a little mental ditch this week and need to get myself out of it. Things are just achy, and I’m questioning all training decisions by the minute (despite the fact that I’ve had it all planned out already). I’m really trying to just listen to my body, and I know more rest is better than less, but it’s all just kind of hard to gauge at this point. I’ve decided to not really abide by mileage targets anymore and just stay conservative.

I kind of can’t believe that the race is 10 days away. I kind of feel like I should take some time to internalize it a little more, because it doesn’t really seem to stay in the front of my brain. Maybe that’s a good thing, but I feel like after 14 weeks of this business, I should be getting a little more excited, nervous, something?! I’m certain to eat those words next week, but this taper just feels a little different than previous ones. I’m still trying to nail down some goals for the race, although I have a general framework of times that I think are possible, depending on the day.

I do know that I want to run a smart race. At my last goal marathon, Eugene, I hit the wall so hard I had a difficult time even enjoying the feeling of qualifying for Boston, and it was entirely my own fault. I know the distance will hurt no matter what, but I’d like to beef up my mental toughness a little more this time around.

More goal talk and taper talk to come, I’m sure. Thanks for sticking with me 🙂

Philadelphia Marathon Training Weeks #12 and #13

Yep, another two-in-one training recap. I almost just bailed on recapping last week since it wasn’t very exciting, but considering I’ve managed to get every other week up…I might as well. The following are a cut back week (between peak weeks) and my final tippity-top peak week, which was finished on Sunday. Here’s what was up:

Week #12 (10/20-10/26)

Monday: REST

So very necessary after Denver Rock ‘n’ Roll the day before!

Tuesday: 9 miles + Core Power yoga

Wednesday: November Project workout (PR clovers) + run to/from, 7 miles total

Somehow I managed to have a half-marathon scheduled the weekend before we do this workout twice now, which doesn’t leave me in a great position to “PR” the workout. No matter, it’s still a butt-kicker and I love it.

Thursday: 6.5 miles PM

This was one of the very few times in my running career that I was so happy I pushed my run back to the afternoon. Not only did I get a little more sleep, but it was a gorgeous evening and I loved ending my day in the cool fall splendor.

Friday: Core Power yoga

As much as I love a morning run, a morning yoga session is pretty awesome as well.

Saturday: ~11.5 mile trail run up and down Bergen Peak

I was so excited to do this trail run for a second time, and it came at a perfect point in training. I wanted to do a long run, but I still wanted to keep it shorter since it was a cut back week. I didn’t feel too great on this jaunt, unfortunately, mostly due to a wonky head and stomach, but it was still great to be out there with good people. Not to mention that climbing 2,000 feet in 5 miles at an average altitude of 8,000 feet isn’t the worst marathon training 🙂

No pictures, somehow.

Sunday: 8 miles + Core Power yoga

Fun fact: I was late to yoga, therefore speeding, and was then pulled over (for the second time in my life) and not only did I manage to only get a warning, but I still made it to the class. Namaste indeed.

Total= 42 miles

There was definitely some good training during this week, despite the fact that I feel ridiculously tired the whole time. Although it was a good step-back week in terms of mileage, I’m guessing the rebuilding that was occurring just sucked a lot of energy out of me. Not to mention it takes me probably 3-4 days to fully recover from a fast half-marathon – which took place the Sunday before. But, I was happy to get in 3 yoga sessions and a beautiful trail run a little later in the season.

Week #13 (10/27-11/2)

Monday: 12 miles

I had to get up so early to get in 12 miles before work, but it turned out to be a great run. Super quiet park, relatively fast legs, and generally really peaceful.

Tuesday: Core Power yoga

Wednesday: November Project workout + run before/after, 8 miles total

The best thing in the world happened last Wednesday: Adam came to NP!!! As if I didn’t already get enough of a happiness boost from going myself, having him there left me glowing all day.

My 6:30 am giddiness caught on camera.

My 6:30 am giddiness caught on camera.

Thursday: Back at the track! 6 x 800, 7 miles total + Core Power yoga

I’ve put off/avoided the track for speed work in favor of stairs, trails, etc. basically this whole training cycle. Lucky for me, I managed to wrangle two friends to join in on my last attempt to get in a real interval workout. And the results were encouraging: 6 x 800 in an average of 3:18, the last one in 3:14. Boomshakalaka! I felt strong and in control, and it made me excited to find some shorter races to do post-marathon.

Friday: November Project workout (stairs!) + run before/after, 7.5 miles total

I was a little apprehensive about a hard NP workout the day after speed work, but this one turned out to be awesome. Steep stair repeats, mixed up with some body-weight exercises. So good!

Saturday: 8.5 miles easy

This run could be classified as death warmed up. I was in a fog the entire time and unable to enjoy almost any of it. But, I was a little overdue for a bad run, so I accepted it and moved on.

Sunday: 22 miles

This run was a big check mark to make, in my mind. I’ve done two other 20 milers, technically, but the first was perforated with a lot of stopping (it was run around the city) and the second was broken up into two parts (7 miles + a half marathon). So while I don’t want to discount either of those efforts, I needed a long, steady big kahuna of a run. Julia and I headed out to the Highline Canal trail, and after the first 12 together, I headed back out for the last 10 on my own. And it went great! There were a few instances where my head was getting a little bogged down by the distance and time on my feet, but I was generally able to pull myself out of it and get in the zone. I was also able to negative split the run  (one of my huge goals for Philly itself) and the last 4 miles were the fastest overall. Really encouraging, and despite normal fatigue, my legs felt pretty darn good for having run 22 miles on the back end of a big week.

Total= 65 miles

BIG number! That’s the most miles I’ve ever run in one week, and it felt like the perfect finishing point of build up over this training cycle. Which also means: TAPER is here. I used to be a stereotypical runner who hated taper, but I’ve grown out of that a bit and I intend to enjoy this stage of training. I’m bound to get a little batty somewhere along the way, but I know at this point the only real work I can do now is recover like I champ. This week will be down around 50 miles, next week 35, and the week after probably a little under 20 pre-RACE DAY.

This has been a really good training cycle, and I haven’t really felt burned out at all. I mostly just feel ready to rest, rebuild, and get myself in fighting condition to let it rip on November 23. It’s been a very long time since I went into a big goal race feeling fit and ready, and while I definitely still have some apprehension and self-doubt, I intend to approach race day with a lot of gusto.

But for now, it’s time to sleep and eat.

Have a lovely week!

Philadelphia Marathon Training Week #11

Last week was my first peak week of this training cycle! And it was the most miles I’ve ever run in one week! And I ran a half-marathon! So many exclamation points!

I had been hoping to peak around 60 miles this training cycle, but I wasn’t going to force it if it didn’t feel feasible, or if it felt like I was pushing it too much. Like I said in my last update, recently I’ve started to really feel my fitness creeping in, so I thought I’d set the goal of 60 miles and see how it went. My long run this week was also going to be a hybrid 20-miler: 7 easy miles early in the morning, followed by the Denver Rock ’n’ Roll half marathon with the goal of running my hopeful marathon pace. Lots of big numbers, lots of good training, here’s how it all unfolded:

Monday: 9 miles

Tuesday: 8 miles + Core Power yoga

Wednesday: November Project workout + run to and from (6.5 miles total)

Killer NP workout, including bounding up big stairs and bunny hopping up little stairs. Also, I won the Positivity Award! It may or may not have sat next to my bed for the entire week…which may or may not have made me smile every time I went to bed and every time I woke up.

This is Alli Bell, who is the best, bestowing me with the Positivity Award via a stellar poem. It was all awesome.

This is Alli Bell, who is the best, bestowing me with the Positivity Award via a stellar poem. It was all awesome.

Thursday: 10 miles

This run was heaven. Perfect fall temperatures and a sunrise that stopped me dead in my tracks and made me wish I ran with my phone.

Friday: Core Power yoga

Yoga in the dark in the early morning was close to the most relaxing way to start a Friday. I’m really enjoying supplementing my running with yoga, and it definitely does not feel like a chore or a hassle at all.

Saturday: 6.5 miles easy

Sunday: 7 miles easy + Denver Rock ‘N Roll half-marathon in 1:43:17 (7:52 average pace)

I was a little apprehensive about how this whole crazy scheme would shake out. Doing this made me feel a little insane, but I’ve done this same “20 miler” scenario before and it ended up being the biggest confidence booster on the road to Eugene. Which is why I decided to schedule it for this Philly training cycle, and as you can see above – it worked out great, once again!

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I’ll write a full recap soon (promise), but essentially – this was as good as I could have hoped for in terms of how this race unfolded. My pace was spot on where I’d like to run at Philly, and it was on the back-end of a huge week, which gives me a lot of gusto for the added benefits tapering will provide. Not to mention this was hillier than Philly will be, and I’ll have sea-level on my side for the marathon as well. So, while I realize running 7 miles before a half-marathon seems positively wild (and it sort of is), I’ve really become a fan of it for marathon training. Not to mention running 13.1 miles of a 20 miler alongside thousands of people around your city is infinitely more entertaining than designing a route to run solo.

Total=60.1 miles

Really happy with last week, overall. It did, however, take it out of me a bit – as this week hasn’t exactly been top notch. But, my plan this week is to take it easier as a step-back, crank into high gear next week for my second and final peak week, then lock it in for a three week taper. Holy shit, I can’t believe tapering is only a week and half away! Scary. But, we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. Right now, I’m still focusing on keeping the balance of hard work and quality rest in harmonious equilibrium…and judging by the amount of sleeping in I’ve done this week, I’d say I’m doing a solid job.

On one final note from last week, Peyton is the best, and now it’s going to be hard for people to keep denying it. GO BRONCOS!

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509, adios Brett