Tag Archives: running

Boston…here I come?

Would ya look at that, we’ve reached the end of January.

Well, shit. I guess I’m training for the Boston Marathon now?

Based on my offical-yet-loosey-goosey plan I told you all about at the beginning of the month, now is the time that I should be officially “starting” to train.

I feel many things about this, but namely…I’m a little overwhelmed with uncertainty. And it’s not just my body and health I’m uncertain about, but perhaps scariest of all, my motivation.

Don’t get me wrong: the idea of training for and racing Boston is so bright and sparkly in my head. The thought of running the course on April 21 makes me giddy, and I’m very grateful for the chance to do so. However, it’s the getting-there process I’m a little more apprehensive about, which is consequentially putting a kink in my excitement to get into training.

Real talk: I’m really not used to not being in good shape. That probably sounds way more conceited than I intended it to, but it’s a fact of the matter. For years, most of my easy days were what would be considered a long workout to many, and I was always able to count on a very solid base of endurance and strength when approaching my training and races.

That’s not the case right now. My workouts are much shorter and less intense than “normal,” I’m not able to float through runs with any kind of ease, and muscles that I never even knew I had before have disappeared (namely: the entirety of my butt). Not that I’m surprised by any of this, don’t get me wrong. The mere fact that “training for Boston” is on the table is something I’m hugely thankful for. But, this new reality of starting from scratch has been a harder pill to swallow than I anticipated.

Because I’m sure we can all agree on this: running, going to the gym, taking a class, etc. is so much easier to do when you’re in good shape. Sure, sometimes we have lazy days, but there’s a whole new level of willpower needed when you know that you’ll be struggling through your workout rather than kicking its ass.

(Obligatory acknowledgement that all of this is all incredibly eye-roll worthy complaining. I get it. It’s so very first world and things could be and have been much worse. But this is my blog, meant to detail my experiences in running. Cool? Cool.)

So, in a nutshell, the fact that I’m having to garner way more motivation for runs that are generally not fun and yield much slower results than I’m used to means that I’m not exactly chomping at the training bit. Not to mention the ill-effects of the weather, the dark mornings, and my need for bathroom access on every run.

There are moments of hope though, which rekindle my memory of being a happier runner. This past weekend, for instance, I was able to run multiple times around a foggy, quiet Greenlake and it was perfection. I’m also running without pain, which I’m grateful for with every footfall. My IT band isn’t 100%, as in it’s still stiff and cranky whenver I sit down, but I’m confident that it will be near 100% before too much longer. Also, for the first time last week, I found myself enjoying (at least for a little bit) my favorite strength class which recently has been embarrassingly difficult.

So yes. Progress is being made. I just need to remember to celebrate the little victories instead of expecting to instantly regain all of my strength and speed back. To use the most cliche yet appropriate metaphor, “It’s a marathon…not a sprint.”

I know, I’m sorry

So yes, I am now training for Boston. My mode of operation hasn’t changed, in that I’m focusing primarily on staying healthy, regaining fitness, and getting myself to the start line. Despite my natural instincts to plan out paces and workouts and goal times, it’s not really the time for those things. This training cycle is going to be about learning different kinds of lessons, namely in patience, in letting my body be my guide, and in appreciating the journey.

My focus will be on spending the next three months experiencing marathon training from a different vantage point, one that I am hoping will make me a more complete and smarter runner. I’m hoping Boston will be a victory lap of sorts, in terms of celebrating both the joys and the struggles I will inevitably face during the process. Because the joys cannot exist without the struggles, and if I’ve learned anything from these past few months — it’s that a heavy dose of perspective can be a pretty transformative thing.

Here’s to learning along the way and appreciating the smaller victories. And, hopefully, there will be a wonderful run from Hopkinton to Copely Square at the end of it all.

I’m planning on documenting the weekly training, per usual. So look for those coming soon 🙂

So with a chip on my shoulder and a healthy dose of humble pie, let’s get this underway!

Progress

I keep going back and forth on subjects to blog about. One day, I’ll be convinced I’m never going to run fast again and then want to vent all my boo-hoo frustrations to the internet. Other days, I’m so gracious to have (most of) my health back and to be capable of running at all that I want to shout tear-filled gratitude from the rooftops.

Basically, I’m in a state of limbo; wavering between discouragement and encouragement, frustration and optimism.

However, no matter what mood I may fall into on a certain day, there is one thing that’s undeniable when it comes to both my fitness and my health: there’s progress being made.

I got a good slap-in-the-face of reality the other day. After a very slow, very not-enjoyable short run, I felt completely out of sorts. How was I ever going to break free from my out-of-shape shackles? As I was throwing this pity party, it suddenly dawned on me that it had been one month since I started running again. One little tiny month.

Get it together Robyn!

One month ago, I was slogging out 2 miles on Christmas Eve, after just starting to feel better from my horrible flare up. Just over month ago, I couldn’t even muster up the energy to get off the couch, let alone exercise at all.

Needless to say, I was a little humbled that I had the audacity to call into question my current fitness level. Of course it’s hard, of course it’s slow. There’s really no reason it shouldn’t be. But, the mere fact that I am out there and am able to jot something in my log book is a bit of a miracle.

I admit, nothing motivates me more than speed gains, so it’s tough for me to go from running a PR in the half marathon to running slower than I ever have in my life. But that’s the way running (and life) work sometimes; we progress and we regress. And after too much regression over the past few months, ultimately I’m going to try and be glad for any progress that comes my way.

Here is some running progress that’s happened since I disclosed my plan for getting to the Boston starting line:

-I’ve been running 3-ish times a week, and I’ve done two “long runs” in the past two weeks. They weren’t pretty or effortless, but they’re stepping stones to getting my head back into regular running mode. I’m going to try another long run this weekend, and hopefully by the time I’ll need to log some big miles, my endurance will have returned some.

-I haven’t been wearing a watch or a Garmin at all, which is very very intentional. I wore a stopwatch for a little while when I first started back up, but I’m too hard on myself when it comes to speed that I realized the surest way to make my runs a little more enjoyable was to ditch the numbers. I have a pretty good sense of pace, so I know I’m slow (for me), but the other day a glimpse of running magic happened:

I was out on a run in the early morning and I saw BF coming my way on the other side of the street, on his own run. He was about the turn around, so on the way back I started to see him coming out of the corner of my eye. He was still on the other side of the street, so there wasn’t any communication, but with about a 1/2 mile til home — we both started to pick up the pace. No eye contact, no gestures, we both just channeled our mutual competitive natures. I kept picking up speed, as I was certain he was going to jet by me at any moment. But we stayed neck-in-neck, and somehow I was able to keep going faster and faster. I was able to outstride him as we got to the front door, and despite feeling completely winded, I was elated. It was the first time I experienced speed of any kind in so long, and it felt positively wonderful. BF, who was using his phone to track the run, said that our little non-race/race at the end had clocked in at a 7:05 pace, which made me smile for the rest of the day.

I’ve come nowhere near that speed since, but the memory of the feeling and the knowledge that the potential is out there gives me a lot of comfort.

-I’m doing any and all kinds of recovery tricks, and they seem to be working. I stopped going to PT when I was really sick, but I’ve tried to keep doing the rehab exercises I learned to help continue to heal my janky IT band. It’s not 100%, but with each strengthening session it’s feeling better and better. I also got a sports massage last week which was incredibly helpful. It hurt, and I was bruised afterwards, but I could definitely feel the effects of having someone really dig into my tough spots.  It was so good that I’m going back again tomorrow, and hopefully after one or two more sessions my lingering tightness will subside. The gal I go to can do 1/2 hour sessions, which is really nice for time management and my wallet.

So in terms of running—progress is definitely being made. I can feel the muscle memory coming back, and it’s encouraging to know that while I might not feel my best right now, running is a routine my body is ultimately very familiar with. The best metaphor I can come up with is that I feel like Forrest Gump when he has the leg braces on his legs and he’s trying to run away; the braces are there for a purpose, but eventually he’s able to outgrow and break free of them. So here’s hoping I’ll be breaking free of my current struggles sooner rather than later.

(I am not, in any way, trying to equate being out-of-shape to having actual disabilities. Please do not read that metaphor literally at all.)

Finally, the biggest progress that’s happened has been the return of my health. I’ve made some leaps and bounds in the last month, and I’m so very grateful that my body has bounced back so well. I went to my GI doctor for the first time since I was sick this week so she could look at my labs that were, you might remember, “terrible” when she last checked them. The morning after I got the bloodwork done, I had an email from her that said:

“Your labs all look perfect. This is a dramatic improvement.”

I was ecstatic—and doing way too many imaginary first bumps in my head while sitting at work. While physically I feel so much better, it was so reassuring to know that the science behind it all was showing the same thing. Again, I’m not 100%, but compared to how I felt before, I might as well be. My doctor is confident that the medication I’m on will continue to have bettering effects over the next few weeks.

So despite my occasional belly-aching about being slow and my actual belly-aching from Crohn’s, progress is definitely being made. I am ultimately so thankful to be sitting in a different place than I was just one short month ago, and I can only hope things continue this way. Admittedly, after injury and illness, it’s hard not to be scared of another road block popping up. Which it might. But until then, I’m going to do everything I can to keep getting stronger and pressing forward.

Progress feels good, and no matter how long it may take, it feels like I’m moving in the right direction.

Snohomish River Run Half-Marathon Race Recap

A lot of the time, you don’t really know who will show up on race day.

This is something I’ve learned time and time again, however I tend to forget how true it is until after I’ve finished a race.

Yesterday, I tried to keep it in the front of my mind from the get-go: It may not have been ideal race-preparedness, but that didn’t mean that big things couldn’t happen.

Backing up. Late Friday afternoon, I decided I wanted to try and run below 1:38. This would mean a PR, but in my mind it was more than that; I’ve felt a little stuck in the 1:38-1:41 range in the half-marathon, and I wanted to set the bar higher. It wasn’t going to be the best pre-race set up as I had a wedding to attend on race eve—which I was fully intent on enjoying as much as possible. But, I didn’t want to use that as an excuse for not trying hard at a race I’d been anticipating for a while. So, I didn’t even let myself have the out, and instead just went with it.

Of course, as always, the will to run well can only go so far—which is why when I prepped for the race on Sunday morning, I kept in mind the above mentality that anyone can show up on race day, and all I could do was the best with what the day gave.

Hotel room selfie. Oiselle jersey, Flyte shorts, arm warmers, and Brooks Pure Connects.

Hotel room selfie. Oiselle jersey, Flyte shorts, arm warmers, and Brooks Pure Connects.

So, I showered (new race day routine must-do!), ate a little, hydrated a lot, and attempted to psych myself up. We had stayed in Everett after the wedding as the race was only about 5 minutes away from the guest-designated hotel, so ease of transportation and convenience was definitely on my side. The weather, however, was not.

I opened the curtains of our hotel room after being 100% ready to go and was greeted with the disheartening sight of huge puddles that were filling by the minute from the incessant rain. It had been so long since we had real rainfall in Seattle (somehow) that I hadn’t even considered it could be an issue on race day. It was also still dark and cold, so needless to say…my gun-ho attitude was waning on the drive to the start line.

However, the show must go on, and after retrieving my bib and chip, I did some warm up drills and tried to get in the zone. There were more people doing this race than I’d anticipated, which helped fuel the pre-race energy. Before I knew it, we were all lining up just as the rain subsided a bit. Score! I saw two teammates at the start line as well, Caryn and Erica, who went on to finish as 2nd and 3rd women overall. No big deal, right? After the race director gave some course instructions and wished everyone good luck, we were off!

All I knew about the course was that it was flat, but otherwise I was a little blind in terms of what to expect. It became obvious pretty quick that we were in for a pretty lengthy out-and-back for the majority of the race, which was a little disheartening, but I tried to not think about it. I do like seeing runners pass on the other side, so this would be a plus. Additionally, we were on the course with the 10k runners who had started at a different time, so there were people around pretty consistently.

Flatty flat flat. I don't know what that was...sorry.

Flatty flat flat. I don’t know what that was…sorry.

For the first 3 miles or so, I tried to stick to the loose “plan” I’d put together. I figured if I started off around 7:30s, I could gradually drop down and still have some left for a kick at the end. Not exactly what happened, but not too far off:

Mile 1: 7:19

Mile 2: 7:28 (my attempt to get back to the plan)

Mile 3: 7:20

Eh, okay, a little fast, but I felt in control and that’s what I tried to focus on the most. I was a little oblivious to everything else aside from keeping myself “comfortably uncomfortable.” Once I get below a 7:30 pace, there are very narrow ranges for what feels okay and what feels like too much, so I paid a lot of attention to keeping tabs on my perceived effort.

I was trying to think of the whole endeavor as a 10-mile race followed by a 5k; keep it steady and controlled for 10 miles, and expect it to hurt in the last 3 miles. In this respect, I was very focused on staying in the mile and letting each individual mile be its own mini effort. It seemed to work, and despite being quicker than I’d planned…I was somehow staying incredibly consistent.

Mile 4: 7:22

Mile 5: 7:24

The course was quite flat as expected and wound along a small county highway. It was pretty, but a tad boring, and I was really glad to get to the turnaround around mile 4.7. At this point, I noticed there was a man about a stride and a half behind me, and he stayed either right there or next to me all the way back to the start of the out-and-back. It was incredibly helpful to share the pace with someone. I was running a little scared since I was running so much faster than I’m used to, and even the smallest mental reprieve of matching someone else’s pace was pretty clutch. I think I would have started hurting a lot earlier if it hadn’t been for the tall dude in the all-black compression clothing. Thank you, sir.

Mile 6: 7:16

Mile 7: 7:18

I ripped open a gel around mile 7, and slowly sucked it down for the next few miles. I also started taking water every ~1.5 miles or so, and I think maintaining this consistency was a big help. I was also starting to hurt around this point, too. My legs were getting a little toasty, and the increased pace was burning my lungs a little. It had also started to rain again, which coupled with a small headwind wasn’t making things better. However, I was able to maintain my “stay in the mile” mentality, and as long as I focused on each individual mile—I was able to push the fears of bonking to the back of my mind.

Mile 8: 7:21

Mile 9: 7:16

Tall man and I seemed to be picking it up at the very end of each mile, as we’d be between 7:20-7:25 throughout the mile and then drop in the final .1 or so. But I went with it. I could always feel it when we dropped below 7:20 (crazy just how noticeable it was), but I’d tell myself, “Okay, the next one can be 7:25,” and it somehow was a mental save.

Mile 10: 7:15

Tall man pulled ahead around this point, and we were passing back by the starting area and heading down to a paved path along the river. This is where I think my real mental battle began: It was time for those final 3 miles that I knew would hurt, and it was just me, alone. Since I was near-ish the front, we had all thinned out just enough that you felt like you were running alone, and it didn’t help that the winding river path obscured any forward looking. It was beautiful though, and I welcomed the change of scenery.

This portion was also an out-and-back, and it was a definite fight to get to the turnaround point. The most defeating part was when I saw the “Mile 11” marker when my watch read “11.2” No!!! The mile markers had been so accurate throughout the course, and it was so saddening to not only think I’d have to run further than I thought…but that I’d be logging another long half-marathon course.

Mile 11: 7:13

But, I kept on, and finally the turnaround point appeared. I’d been able to see the top runners coming back by the other way, and I thought I was probably within the top 10 females. There were two women about 100 yards or so ahead of me, but for the first time maybe ever in a race…I didn’t really care. I was already giving everything I had, and I was completely content letting that be enough.

Mile 12: 7:20

I was thrilled when the mile 12 marker appeared right on schedule with my Garmin, and the thought of “only a mile let to go” was so relieving. I was so excited to finish and anxious to see what my finish time would be…because not once during the entire race did I have the energy to try and compute it myself.

Mile 13: 7:21

I was closing in on the girl immediately ahead of me in the last 1/4 mile, but there wasn’t much more I could do at that point. Even my “kick” wasn’t much more than the pace I’d already been maintaining. Regardless, I was elated to see the finish line come into view, and I dug deep into the dregs of energy I had left and strode my way as best I could to the end.

Last .1: 54 seconds (6:43 pace)

There's a smile on that face!

There’s a smile on that face!

I saw the clock ahead reading “1:36:xx” and I was ecstatic. I figured I’d be below 1:38, but this was better than I could have hoped for.

Smiling big, I crossed the finish line, stopped my watch and saw a “1:36:14” flash back.

photo 22

Official time: 1:36:11, 9th female overall (<– lucky number alert!), 2nd in age group

How did that happen?!

I was in pretty immediate need of my space blanket and water (and my medal, duh 🙂 ) and gingerly made my way to the finishing chute exit. Despite the plethora of post-race food (hot soup, cheese samples, bagels, etc) I couldn’t even think about getting anything down. I did manage to grab a bowl for BF though, who’d been dutifully waiting in the rain for me to finish.

I wanted at least one photo of the pretty river we'd been running along.

I wanted at least one photo of the pretty river we’d been running along.

After a little bit of meandering, I wanted to skedaddle back to Seattle as soon as possible. There were football games to watch after all! I also felt ridiculously wiped; the kind of fatigue that normally only comes after a sleepless night. Needless to say, you can probably guess how the rest of the day played out 🙂

I’m really, really happy with how this race went. I was glad I was able to stay composed and strong despite the intimidating speeds, and I’m satisfied with the consistent pace—probably the most consistent I’ve ever done. Primarily, it felt great to break through the threshold I’d been dancing around for a while. No, the time isn’t the 1:35:xx I’ve been lusting after, but I can honestly say I left nothing out on the course…which in no way can I be disappointed about. This race gives me the motivation that with a little more time, more training, and more practice, there are big things to come.

No running blogger has ever posted this type of picture ever. But look! Consistency!

No running blogger has ever posted this type of picture ever. But look! Consistency!

Running is a fascinating sport, and it was races like yesterday that keep me wanting to discover the mysteries of running even more.

photo 3

I’m tempted to say that this is the end of my racing season for the year, but who really knows. For right now though, I’ll be hibernating for a little while, and I’m definitely looking forward to some rest time.

Thanks all for the good luck texts, tweets, and notes. Your encouragement is invaluable. 

 

The Salty Half-Marathon Race Recap

It seems that the theme of this past summer has carried over into the fall—that theme, being, complete and total race/running spontaneity. I suppose this comes with the territory of not being extra strict with training or having a huge A race on the horizon… two things of which are my typical M.O. 24/7.

My broadly stated goal this fall was the work on speed, and while there is/was a tangible goal time I’m working toward, it’s been fairly loosey goosey around these parts for the past few months.

Which is why, when asked on a Tuesday if I wanted to run a half-marathon (The Salty Half) that following Saturday, it took me all of a few minutes to happily accept. Those who know me wouldn’t think that this was an exceptionally random decision, with the small caveat that I’m running another half this coming weekend, the Snohomish River Run. I couldn’t pass this one up though; not only was it $22 and included the company of these two, the start line was about a half mile from my house.

That said, I knew that I’d have to choose one of the two races to actually race and one to fun run. Since the Salty Half was a last minute decision, less official, and wouldn’t be tapered for whatsoever, I decided to take it easier on this one. Anddd, that actually didn’t end up being the case, but we’ll get to that later.

Saturday morning bright (dark) and early, I trotted down the hill to meet Lindsay and Nicole at the start line. There were just under 100 people running the race, so it was easy and casual—not timing chips or mats. It was super foggy, probably 85-90% humidity, but it was brisk and cold which is always my jam.

I had very little plan in terms of race execution. I wanted to save race pace for the next weekend, but I also know myself well enough to know I would want to compete a little. And considering the size of this race…I knew I could probably do fairly well if I tried. So, upon starting, I decided to just feel out the first few miles and settle wherever I felt comfortable. I knew for sure I wanted to go for a fast finish, so the only plan really was to save some for the end.

I settled into a group of two girls and a dude running a ~7:45 pace, which felt super comfortable. We were continually switching spots in the pack, and it was the first time I really understood to concept of “doing the work” in a pace group. I took the lead a few times, but otherwise I decided to just stick with this group so long as the pace felt manageable.

The course circled around Alki beach to Lincoln Park, which is my normal long run 80% of the time. Needless to say, I knew every upcoming turn and divet in the road, which meant I didn’t need to worry about course surprises.

We dropped one of the girls around mile 5, and then it was primarily another gal and me side-by-side, nearly stride-for-stride. She introduced herself, thanked me for the company, and we kept on like that for nearly 3 miles. It was the perfect silent runner agreement: You keep me going, and I’ll keep you going.

The turnaround in Lincoln Park was right at the halfway point (out and back course) and my legs felt good. I admit, I heard the siren sound of the race atmosphere get a little louder, and I started to think about executing a kick.

As we exited Lincoln Park (~5 miles to go), my new friend fell back a bit, and since I felt great, I kept on at the same clip. To go from having lots of fellow-runner support around me to instantly having no one was weird. Crazy how simply having someone to share the miles, fatigue, and pace with can make such a difference.

I was in a bit of a conundrum at this point. I knew I was the current 5th overall female (they were giving out prizes out to 5th place), and I  (obviously) liked the idea of a top-5 finish. I also knew that the girl behind me could be thinking the same thing, and playing an A+ game of letting me take an early lead. I went back and forth or whether I should slow down, speed up, or stay where I was. It was the first time I’ve ever actively thought about placing strategy in a race. Kind of fun! But stressful. I ultimately decided that since the pace I was at felt good, I would stick with it. If she caught me, I’d let her go by, and I’d save the chase for the final few miles.

Between miles 10 and 11, a familiar face strode up beside me; my friend Charles was out for his weekend long run and I filled him in on the spontaneous race decision and my current position. Charles is faster than me, and when he offered to help me ward off the girl behind and nab a top-five finish, I was 100% on board. He told me to tell him what felt pace manageable, and we’d hold that until the end.

And so we ran. I attempted to chat, but he made me save my breath while he distracted me with his own stories. Around 11.5, I started hurting some, but I was determined to keep stride with Charles and finish the race strong.

It was a little hard to determine exactly who around us was running the race and who wasn’t, since it wasn’t a closed course and there were tons of people out, both racers and non-racers. So, when Charles asked if a girl about 200 yards ahead was the 4th place female, I wasn’t sure. He said we could catch her if I wanted, and with a nod, we were on the hunt. Sure enough, once we passed, he verified that she was wearing a bib and I was now in 4th place. There was less than a mile to go now, and I was feeling both anxious to finish and determined to keep on my game face.

I have a fairly instinctual finishing kick, which comes I think from my track days, but also from my ingrained competitiveness. With a half mile or so to go, without even realizing it, we were passing another girl, and Charles turned to me and said the most Robyn-Broker-esque motivation there is: “You’re in third now, and you have to prove it.”

So, with my aching legs and screeching lungs, I officially kicked my “fun run” intentions to the curb, opened my stride, and gutted it out—determined for my first “podium” finish.

(Side note: The nice thing about having a pacer is that they can check and see the progress of the person behind you)

With the finish line in sight, I gave it everything I had, only to be directed into a mini-turnaround and loop to the actual finish line (way to throw off our momentum guys!). Charles took off running on his own, I squawked out a thanks, and ran my way to cinch the 3rd place female spot.

Unofficial finish time: 1:40:06 for 13.2 miles

salty half

Hooray! I was awarded a huge plastic fish with a “Third Place” tag on it as soon as I finished, along with a “Salty Half Marathon” sweat towel. Sweet!

*FYI, the race has self-declared “messed up” the places and timing on their results page, which they promised to fix. Just in case anyone decided to lurk 🙂

After thoughts: Obviously, this wasn’t exactly the relaxed race I intended it to be. Did I shoot myself in the foot though for this upcoming weekend? Not necessarily. Yes, it was a harder effort than I intended, but with the exception of the last three miles, I felt composed and comfortable for the entire race.

This was certainly a small, pick-up race, but I’m glad I was able to actually learn a lot from it. This was a first time for running in a pack, “making a move,” and truly executing a big finishing kick. All of these are valuable training tools, and I feel like they’ll come into play more often now that I have a better feel for them. I was also really encouraged by this race: it was my 5th day of running in a row, my legs were pretty wiped going into it, and yet the 7:35 pace I averaged felt very do-able.

Good things from a small, random race.

I’m excited for this weekend. As has become standard, I’m not sure of my specific goals, other than to log another solid half-marathon. This distance has been really fun to practice recently, and I’m looking forward to seeing how racing 13.1 more often affects my next 26.2 endeavor. On that note: less than 6 months til Boston!!!

And since this race recap is void of any pictures whatsoever (sorry…) here is a picture of Jasper with my fish prize. He is not too impressed.

photo

Thanks Lindsay for the race idea and Nicole for submitting to peer pressure 🙂

Shoe Switcheroo and Speedwork Surprises

Oh alliteration, I will never get sick of you.

Hey people! Happy Friday!

Jumping onto the blog for a quick update on running things, plus a couple of recent kitten pictures since I’ve been getting requests (and I’m a shameless mama who wants her baby fawned over by the internet 🙂 )

Unrelated photo of Lady Rainier from this past weekend in all her glory.

Unrelated photo of Lady Rainier from this past weekend in all her glory.

Shoes

I’ve recently been cheating on my Brooks Pure Connects. And it wasn’t me, it was them.

Oh dear, sweet, beautiful baby blues...I wanted so hard to love you.

Oh dear, sweet, beautiful baby blues…I wanted so hard to love you.

You see, when I first slipped into the first version of the Connects, it was like sunshine had broken through a metaphorical shoe cloud, and I was finally seeing the light. They were perfect for my foot, and I went through more pairs of them than my paycheck was happy with. Then came the Pure Connect 2s, which I figured, obviously, must be even better! I bought my first pair, and things seemed fine, except for a little nag that started in my right foot. At first, I thought it was just basic plantar faciitis that was coming from having a new shoe, but no matter how much I stretched and iced my foot (both go-to remedies for PF for me), the ache remained after most of my runs. It wasn’t anything serious, but it was annoying and although it took me a while to admit it…I had a feeling it was the shoes. Whenever I’d switch back to my older pairs, I had no issues at all, which only confirmed my suspicions that my beloved Pure Connects were no longer my ray of sunshine.

After a few months of refusing to admit the truth, I started looking elsewhere for a comparable replacement. I considered the Pure Drift, the more minimal in the line, but they were just too low. Good for short, speedy runs—not so much for long runs. And I’m a girl that likes my shoes to be able to do both. Basically, I needed all the qualities of the older Connects but without the new adjustments that were pulling on my arch.

So, I ventured outside of the Brooks family and started researching the popular Saucony Kinvaras. It sounded like they were pretty similar in terms of ride and drop to the Connects, and with so many rave reviews, I figured why not? I also found last year’s model on sale and I already had an REI gift card—making them a $20 purchase. Score. Okay Kinvara 3s, let’s try you out.

photo 1

Full disclosure: I did not love these on my first run. My feet didn’t feel very supported, and generally I just kind of felt— as Nicole puts it— like I was running in flip-flops. However, I didn’t want to write them off yet, so I stuck with ’em. It wasn’t until my 4th run that I realized that the shoes actually did feel good. It took my foot a little adjusting to not be hugged as tightly as the Connects do, but I think that once that hurdle was crossed, my stride and strike started to really like the Kinvaras. And so did I.

I definitely still feel like they’re not the best in terms of support, speaking even as a more “minimalist” runner, but they do offer what I was seeking all along—no arch pulling! I have a wide foot, and so I think by allowing my foot to spread out a bit more than that Connect 2s has made all the difference.

But, the Kinvaras haven’t (yet) gained long run or race approval. So, until I find “the shoe” that once again fulfills all my running desires, I’ll be alternating between my Connects and the Kinvaras. I raced in the Connects in Bellingham after having worn the Kinvaras for three-ish runs in a row and didn’t have any arch pain, so I think that this whole “shoe rotation” idea could be the ticket to happier feet.

This is now my life when I try to put on my shoes in the morning. Also, TEASER JASPER PIC.

This is now my life when I try to put on my shoes in the morning. Also, TEASER JASPER PIC.

I’m still hoping that the next version of the Pure Connects are closer to the originals, but for now I think Saucony can stick around to play.

Suggestions??

All it takes is one

One workout, that is. At least for me.

You see, one workout—whether good or bad—can make or break my confidence in terms of my running fitness. I’m certain I’m not alone in this, and it’s definitely something that’s both bad and good in different respects. However, I’ve found that the good workouts tend to outshine the bad ones, so I’m taking this trait of “it only takes one” as more good than bad.

Moving on.

Wednesday’s workout was a good one, a really good one. And it’s kind of helping me go back to the drawing board for both my short term and long term running goals—in a good way.

Due to some scheduling conflicts on Wednesday, I begrudgingly had to do my run in the afternoon, and we all know how I much prefer those early miles. My stomach is always wonky when I run in the afternoon too, which gravely thwarts my desire to do PM speedwork.

Nevertheless, Wednesday afternoon I had an unusual sense of enthusiasm and motivation to have a good, fast run—so I planned out a little tempo. I hadn’t done a real workout since Bellingham, so I was feeling anxious to reacquaint with my Garmin and my turnover.

Unrelated photo #2 from Bellingham. Not too horrible somehow.

Unrelated photo #2 from Bellingham. Not too horrible, somehow.

CONFESSION: I have a very, very bad habit of doing all speedwork on the…wait for it…treadmill. I know! It’s not good. And as a 90%-of-the-time outdoor runner, I’m embarrassed by this little handicap. There’s a few justifiable excuses for it…but more than anything: speedwork scares me, and it scares me less on the treadmill. That’s really all there is to it, and it’s a habit I’ve consciously decided to try and break.

And Wednesday would be the start of that scary adventure. On the docket: 1 mile warm up, 6 miles between 7:25-7:30, 1 mile cool down. I thought it would be manageable but still a quality run. I had high hopes, which helped fuel my fire to work hard. Furthermore, the results were both surprising and encouraging:

speedFirst of all: I clearly suck at following workout directions. This turned into a tempo+progression+fast finish apparantly.

Second: What the what? How did that happen?

I was definitely working for those last miles; they were not in the realm of “comfortably hard” like a tempo is supposed to be. But I went for it anyway, and I can’t say that I’ve seen speeds like that during a training run, well, ever. The most encouraging part was how comfortable those first 4 harder miles felt. It felt like I was working, but not with the same discomfort that those paces brought not too long ago. I’m not really sure if it was the perfect weather, the motivated attitude I started off with, or simply that it was a good day—but this was one of the most encouraging runs I’ve had in a long time.

First time running 8 under an hour too!

First time running 8 under an hour too!

I think the biggest difference I’m learning when it comes to speedwork, which I certainly tried to apply during this run, was to let it be okay to be uncomfortable. Not that I should relish the discomfort—but I shouldn’t hide away when it shows up. I tried really hard to keep this in mind, and I found that there was a sense of strength in hurting a little that I haven’t recognized before. It goes right along with all the cliches—what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, yada yada—but, there’s a lot of truth in it. What seems to work for me is staying in the mile and remembering that it’s outside of our comfort zones that the real progress occurs.

After runs like this, that scary 3:35 half goal suddenly feels a little closer than it did before. And yes, all after one little 8 mile run. But sometimes, all it takes is one.

That said, I’m realizing that if I want more of these speed-highs and if I want actual progress, I’m going to need to up the ante in my workouts. Setting the bar high shouldn’t just be reserved for race days, and I’m definitely going to try to break away from the comforts of my watchless, easy, go-to runs and seek out a little more hurt.

Jasper

photo 3

15 weeks, still as cute as can be. I go back and forth between thinking he’s the most wonderful, precious thing in the world and wanting to lock him in a closet. Little dude is so fun, but still a playful kitten, and he can turn into a rabid tiger at times—particularly right before bedtime and often at 3 am. Yes, he sleeps in our bed. And I refuse to lock him out. Good baby practice? Although I doubt little babies eat your ponytail whenever they get the chance. I’m certain though that he’ll outgrow his constant playful energy, especially when he has his special male kitty procedure in a few weeks 🙂

But really, how can you resist this face?

Just hanging out in the underwear drawer.

Just hanging out in the underwear drawer.

"My bed, not yours."

“My bed, not yours.”

His state of existence when not sprinting all around the house.

His state of existence when not sprinting all around the house.

"Pick me to scrub in Bailey!"

“Pick me to scrub in, Bailey!”

The calm before the storms... And fave Oiselle sweatshirt btw, coming soon in this color!

The calm before the storms… And absolute fave Oiselle sweatshirt , coming soon in this color!

Okay, okay…I’m done. For now. In case you couldn’t tell, all I do anymore is take cat pictures.

So, basically you get three blog posts in one. I wish I had time to separate them all out, but hopefully you can accept my random smorgasbord of posts.

Which shoes do you wear? Do you rotate shoes?

Best workout you’ve had recently?

Who wants to babysit my demon sweet kitten for the night ;)?

Getting into Boston 2014: Patience is a Virtue

I’ve never been the most patient person.

When I get something in my head that I know I want, I want it to happen immediately, and I tend to get anxious and restless when I’m forced to wait. This is both a blessing and a curse… although I’m sure some (my family) would argue more toward the curse side of that.

Essentially, I feel like I know what I want the majority of the time, and I don’t like to waste time not going after it.

This is why, when I ran my first marathon in Portland almost exactly two years ago, I started plotting a way to qualify for the Boston Marathon. I may not have been ready, I may not have known the qualifying standards, but I knew I wanted in. Those “BQ” letters were coveted in the running community, and I wanted to earn them for myself.

Post-first marathon mug shot

Post-first marathon mug shot

As long time readers know, it took me a while to get that BQ.

But of course, I was impatient. I absurdly thought it was possible in my second marathon, which resulted in a catastrophic finish and a hard slap of reality. In my third marathon, I was injured and ran only to finish…going for a BQ time would not have been smart.

One of these ankles is not like the other. Do you think I needed a pedicure?

One of these ankles is not like the other. Do you think I needed a pedicure?

And then came Eugene. The race that I so openly expressed as the race. The one where I had a very public goal of qualifying for Boston. My training, my preparation, my nerves…all of it was focused on one number:

3:35

I had all the confidence I could hope for going into Eugene. I even thought that a sub-3:30 was possible, although that was kept under wraps. I knew that unless catastrophe hit, I was well prepared to run a BQ time.

Now, truth be told, I didn’t have a good race in Eugene. I hit the wall harder than I ever have before, and it took another dimension of willpower to drag myself into Hayward Field and across the finish line. But, despite the pain, I’d done it.

image

3:32:06

A bonefied, “Females 18-34” Boston Marathon Qualifying time.

Honestly, it took a while for this reality to hit me. Despite the fact that I’d pined and hoped for a BQ time for so long, I don’t think I’d taken the time to internalize exactly what that would mean when it happened.

After the pain of race day subsided, I started to realize that it was the process of earning my BQ that ultimately mattered, perhaps more so than achieving it. I’d become so focused on the outcome that, in a way, I’d neglected the journey. It wasn’t until I looked at it that way, then, that I came to appreciate the patience and diligence it took to get those two little letters.

The closer Boston registration came, the more I began to realize just how badly I wanted that patience and training to pay off; in the form of actually running Boston next year. I know I don’t need to remind everyone that space for 2014 was tight, and even those that had qualified didn’t know how their chances of getting in would be. As those first two weeks of registrations went by, I watched the entries get swept up as expected and wondered if and when the “rest of us” would get a shot.

Patience, patience…

Eventually, the “squeakers” were given the opportunity to register. I have never been so eager and anxious to wish away $175. It didn’t take long, though, for the news to hit that registrations had surpassed the number of remaining spots, and we’d all to have to wait…some more…for the BAA to determining the cut off time. Yes, a process that truly started in February this year was going to need an extra week and two days. So I kept waiting, along with everyone else, speculating if my time would make the cut.

I had high hopes, admittedly. Some easy math would indicate that my 3:32:06 should be within the top 50% of the outstanding entries; although without any definitive numbers, it was still hard to tell. It was like waiting on a college admissions letter in a way…the same type of feeling of either being “in” or “out.”

The day finally arrived for the final announcement to come, and I was refreshing my inbox every 5 minutes in anticipation of the yes or no email. Finally, around 10:30 am, the news broke, via the ever-prompt Runners World:

“Runners whose qualifying time for the 2014 Boston Marathon was at least 1:38 faster than their age and gender qualifying standard will receive notice starting today that they’re officially registered for next year’s race, which will be run on April 21.”

My eyes widened, heart fluttered, and a 26.2-mile wide goofy smile spread across my face. I was in!!!

Yet another look at my inbox would confirm: I was accepted to run the 2014 Boston Marathon.

photo

 

It’s all still a little surreal. I’m euphoric, of course, but I don’t think the reality of the situation has really sunk in. And I’m okay with that…because throughout this process, I’ve learned that there’s beauty in patience. It forces us to focus on the fruit of our daily actions as opposed to constantly looking toward something else. So while it’s my inclination to look at course maps, weekend schedules, previous recaps, and any and all pre-race literature… instead, I’m going to hold off. It was patience that got me to this point, and I want to allow the excitement and anticipation of this dream to unfold in a one-thing-at-a-time manner. I’m intent on keeping the magic of this race alive from now until the finish line, and I think that means letting all the details unfold organically.

So, aside from my initial giddiness, overall I’m feeling incredibly honored. I feel like that’s an overused expression, but that’s the word that first comes to mind when I think about running Boston in 2014. It will be an incredibly important year for the already important race, and I’m so grateful for the opportunity to wear one of the 36,000 bibs on race day. I intend to treat the training, the race, and the overall experience with an incredible amount of care and appreciation. This will necessitate staying present both on the run and off, and for the first time…I hoping for the journey to take its sweet, sweet time.

Spring 2014, I’m so excited for you!

Bellingham Bay Half-Marathon Race Recap

Lots of things to say about yesterday’s race. For a quick minute in there, I was disappointed that I was (spoiler) only 20 seconds off my PR. I was also disappointed for an instant that my watch (along with those of several around me) read a long course and not a true 13.1. However, after those thoughts subsided and I thought back on the race that I’d run, I landed in the spot I am today: both very pleased and very encouraged.

I went into this race with some trepidation about the conditions (blustery and rainy) but also with a lot of gusto to run a good race. Relatively speaking, I hadn’t raced in a while, and I was ready to see what my legs could do. I rested all day Saturday (a new approach for me), hydrated well, slept well, and treated the run like a real race.

photo 1

Low and behold, race morning comes, and the drive up to Bellingham was…ominous. It was pouring, windy, and the perfect conditions for sleeping in and hot coffee…not running 13.1 miles in spandex and a tank top. But I kept my spirits high, and after an easy bib pick-up and some dynamic stretching, I forgot about the weather and tried to get in the zone. Spotting some fellow Oiselle teammates helped kindle my excitement, and I felt proud to be wearing the same singlet as such fast women.

Before I knew it, the countdown was on, and boom…we were running a half marathon. Tried and true to the start of any race, I a) felt incredible and b) knew I was going too fast. A look down at my watch about a half mile in would verify that my 7:00 “easy” pace was certainly not the way to start off a distance race, so I tried to tug back. Ugh, why is this always so hard? Every time I swear to myself I’ll follow the rules and hold back at the start, and every time I cross a start line I abandon all those good intentions. But, I forgave myself, let a faster mile 1 clock in, and prepared to reel in the reigns.

I felt so good during these first few miles. Like, better than I’ve felt running in a long long time. Isn’t that what we hope to feel during races? Anyway, I alternated between sharing paces with others, pulling back when they surged, and going ahead when they fell behind. Generally, it just felt great to be racing, and I let that mindset and momentum carry me through the early miles:

Mile 1: 7:14

Mile 2: 7:22

Mile 3: 7:23

In terms of pacing for this race, my goal was to stick to 7:30s for the first half and open it up if I could during the second half. So, once I reentered the 7:20s, I considered it okay and just went with it. I also knew that there was an incline coming up in mile 4 which would get things back in line.

That incline came and I already knew that my legs were in for a hard race, should I keep this pace up. My breathing sped up and my HR surged a little, reminding me that I was—in fact—racing. But, per usual after a hill reclines to a flat grade, my legs started turning over again and invited the steady downhill that would come in the next few miles.

Mile 4: 7:47

I knew that miles 5-7 were on a downhill, and I’d planned ahead of time to use those miles to my advantage. What I hadn’t considered, though, was that these miles would also change the direction of the course directly into the forecasted wind. These miles were also pretty exposed, which made the wind even more difficult to avoid, but nonetheless…I tried to gun it a little.

Mile 5: 7:18

Mile 6: 7:06

Mile 7: 7:01

There was a bit in there where my watch read 6:xx, which both horrified and exhilarated me. I’d never seen a pace in the 6s during a half marathon, and it was a definite confidence booster to see that pop up.

The course flattened out after this, and the headwind seemed to take a turn directly into our faces. I tore open my gel around this point too and held it for the next few miles, taking drags from it whenever I felt steady. We reentered downtown Bellingham, and there were a few twisty inclines that definitely slowed me down and reminded me of the miles I’d already logged. My energy started waning a little around miles 9-10, and looking back on the elevation profile of the course, it’s obvious that those mini hills took their toll.

Mile 8: 7:34

Mile 9: 7:45

Mile 10: 7:40

We were on a dirt path along the bay at this point, which was warmly welcomed after all the pavement pounding. Although my watch had been a little off the whole race, it was really off once I got to mile 10, which was a little discouraging. My miles were beeping at least 2/10 of a mile before the mile markers, and a fellow racer confirmed that her Garmin was at the same distance as mine. Admittedly, I fumed about this for a bit, considering I thought a PR was within reach should the course be 13.1, but I put that thought out of my mind and tried to just run the race I was running and enjoy it as much as I could.

Once I got to mile 10.5 or so, I resolved to kick it up in the last 5k, and that mind shift seemed to give me a bit of a second wind as well. I was hurting, but not done yet, and I wanted to finish strong. There was a STEEP boat ramp during mile 11 that felt like I was walking, which took a lot of self-talk to get up and over especially with another hilly ~1.5 miles to go afterward.

Mile 11: 7:17

Mile 12: 7:58

Alas, up I went, and we turned into the homestretch. Something I really like about this race is that it’s an essentially straight shot to this finish, and it seemed like everyone around me was pulling out everything they had to fire their final canons. I’d been leap-frogging with a few men the whole race, and all of us were straightening up and putting on our best race faces during this final stretch. Lots of fun.

However, things were hurting. This last mile was consistently up and down hill, and I was definitely feeling all the changing elevation, despite how minimal it actually was. When my watch beeped “13” I was nowhere near the mile marker, so I made a mental note to check “my” half marathon time in another .1 miles.

Mile 13: 7:12

Eventually, the finish line came into view, and I dug out my final dregs of speed as much as I could—I’ll be damned if that clock changes to 1:39!

photo

Final .32 miles: 6:37

Official finish time: 1:38:47, 16th woman overall

After a momentary feeling of being punched in the gut, I pulled it together, got my medal and space blanket and regaled on what just happened: Was that the fastest I’ve ever run before?

Technically, no. My official half-marathon PR is 22 seconds faster than that. But, in reality…it actually might be.

I am certainly not someone to play the, “But my watch said xx:xx!” card. I believe we all run the same course, the same race, no matter what, and the numbers we clock individually are secondary. But, .2 miles off is significant enough that I’m inclined to look at my pace according to the distance I logged rather than a 13.1 distance. Furthermore, in the case that I ran 13.32 miles in 1:38:47, I ran a 7:24 pace, which is easily faster than I’ve ever run a half marathon before. Take it or leave it, I realize this is a controversial topic, but I’m having a hard time ignoring that figure.

Despite the could-haves and maybes of the off-distance, I certainly had miles during this race that were both unexpected and mini personal-record breaking. The fact that 6.32 miles were under 7:20s is incredibly encouraging, and it brightens my hopes for a 1:35:xx in the (hopefully) not-so-distant future.

photo 3

I also felt like I was able to handle discomfort during this race much better than I’ve been able to before. One of my goals going into it was to keep my head on and not let the pain shadow my confidence. I tried to keep this in the front of my mind during those tougher miles, and I’m happy that I feel like I was able to stay comfortable being uncomfortable. There were some bleak minutes, certainly, but it felt like my resolve to push through was able to suppress those dark voices—which is something I’ve definitely struggled with in the past.

So, all in all, it was a great race. I’m happy that the rain held off (mostly), and despite the comprised conditions, I ran the best race I could. I have high hopes for what’s to come, and a little more gusto in my motivation to start training a little harder. The half-marathon is a fun and tough distance, and I’m excited to see what the next two this year have in store.

And a huge congrats to the other ladies who ran this race! In case I needed a spoonful of humble stew, the other 4 gals I ran with finish in 3, 4, 5, and 7th. Yes, really. Speedy ladies! Super impressive.

Happy Monday all!