Monday, May 18, 2015

Believe, part deux

I didn't get a chance last week to write up my race goals for the Steel Rail Half Marathon. It was a really busy week-- I was a surprise guest reader in Chewie's class and the Princess turned 8. The Strong Running Mamas celebrated our 5 years together with a night out not wearing running clothes. So, just trust me when I tell you what my goals were (although I think I may have talked about them once or twice before): 

All I wanted to do for this half was get back down to my original half marathon time of 2:15. That's it. I'll admit that I after my 5K PR, I did plug my times into the McMillian calculator to see what a 27:22 5K would mean for a half marathon (2:07) but I decided to just stick with my original 2:15 goal. I was slightly concerned that I hadn't done as many double digit long runs as I should have because I had those 2 5Ks. So much of my mental focus in my training has been on the 5K and not on this race, but I was fairly confident I would be able to do 2:15 again. I also really wanted to run negative splits which is always a goal of mine. 

My day started at 6 am which is wicked early for me. I wasn't able to eat much because of nerves and the time but I had my normal cup of tea. I also brought a hot cup of Runner's Tea for the car. In addition to the 40 ounces of water I had in my hydration vest, I had an extra bottle of cold Runner's Tea. I was pretty set with the liquids. We carpooled to the race and got there around 8:30. 

There were so many friends running this race. Lots of Strong Running Mamas:
Strong Running Mamas before the race
Lots of local running friends. And our very own Boston-finisher-should-be-elite runner: 
Me and Jim before the race
There were roughly 600 runners but it really didn't look like it. I tried to line up in the middle of the pack so I wouldn't go out too fast. I didn't realize there was a starting line so I started my watch when the "gun" went off which was 16 seconds away from the start. I realized it though so I decided to just use the mile markers on the road as a guide for my walking. At each mile sign I walked for one minute and drank the Runner's Tea and then my water. Anyway, as usual I started out way too fast which isn't the right way to go when you really want to negative split. My goal was a 10:18 pace and my plan was to run 10:20 for the first half and then speed up. My first mile was 8:49. Oops. I tried to rein myself in for the next few miles:

Mile 2 9:30
Mile 3 9:59
Mile 4 10:15

Around Mile 4 I realized that I needed to go to the bathroom. I knew there was a port-o-pottie somewhere around mile 6-7. I willed myself to just make it to the potty and then I would speed up. 

Mile 5: 10:21
Mile 6: 10:22
Mile 7: 10:03

I can't remember exactly where the potty was but it was a beautiful thing to see. I didn't care if I would lose a minute. I knew if I didn't go I would spend the rest of the race slowing down. My watch automatically paused which was both good and bad. I now know I only "lost" 1 minute 7 seconds thanks to the data on garmin connect. But I didn't know how much I had lost while I was running so I figured I should try to run a little faster. 

Once I had that out of the way I focused on running slightly faster and starting to pass some people. I was constantly taking stock-- my legs were good, my breathing was good, I was well hydrated, not too hot, not too cold. 

Mile 8: 10:08
Mile 9: 9:52
Mile 10: 10:14
Mile 11: 10:16

I started to falter just a bit at 10 and 11, but I knew I still had some time to play with because I was still above my 10:18 average pace goal. I walked for the last time when I saw the mile 11 sign. From then on I put it into high gear and tried to run as fast as I could and pass as many people as I could. At mile 12 I found Bridget and ran with her for a short time and then I just let it go. 

Mile 12: 10:01
Mile 13: 8:58
.17: 8:42

The last mile I ran with a huge smile plastered to my face. I knew I was not going to run 2:15. I was going to finish faster. The last 10th of a mile I saw Super Runner Jim (1st in his Age Group, 8th finisher overall) cheering me and it carried me through. 

My official time was 2:11:07 (that includes the potty break. The time on my watch because of the auto-pause was 2:10:16) with a 10:00 avg pace. 4 minutes faster than my half marathon PR, 12 minutes faster than my time in my last half just 7 months ago. I was not at all anticipating a PR. I was aiming for 2:15 and I was going to be happy with 2:15. But when I hit the half mark and did the math I knew I could do it. I just had to keep up the pace or preferably run faster and I chose at that moment to just BELIEVE I could do it. And at each mile I kept believing until I crossed the finish. 

Overall: 324/608
Females: 166/384
Age Group: 51/117

Despite starting out too fast, I think I still managed to run the second half faster (the first 7 miles: 69.19, last 6: 59:29). I know I definitely felt stronger and in control. My legs felt fine (although my toes did hurt a bit again), my breathing was fine, everything was FINE. I think that training in the heat definitely helped me because I was not at all bothered by it like everybody else was. I actually kind of liked it... I think the Runner's Tea helped me. I think adding biking to my plan, even though I haven't done any this month, helped a lot. Walking every mile REALLY helped. All the speedwork I did to PR for the 5K probably helped in this race as well. But more than anything else it was BELIEVING I could do it. I knew I was running smart and I didn't allow ANY doubt. 

So that's 2 PRs in 2 weeks. I can't even tell you how much I love that this is happening this year. In just a couple of weeks it will be 5 years since the very first race I ran and here I am running my strongest year. Just a couple of months before I turn 40 too... which is good because those ladies are FAST. 

I am super stoked and elated and really looking forward to NOT running this week. If I can get all the stuff done I need to do (clean the pool, finish the garden, plan a birthday party or two, scrub some toilets, write a MILLION book reviews), I'll start running again next week. If not, my first run back may be at the Freihofer's! 

Me, Bridget and Elisa after the race

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Runner's Tea

Back in January I started seeing some tweets (there's that Twitter again) about something called Runner's Tea. I was immediately intrigued. I've read before that coffee can be great before a run (provided you're not dumping a bucket or sugar and milk in it which is what I would have to do to drink it) but I don't drink coffee. I've been a tea drinker for a couple of decades now. Ok, maybe a few decades. Anyway, when I saw that someone had come up with a tea specially formulated to help with running, I HAD to try it.

When I say I'm a tea drinker, I mean, I put a tea bag in my mug with a dollop (not a bucket) of sugar & milk. Less and less sugar actually. I'll drink any kind of tea when I'm out, but I usually drink Lipton at home. So I'm not quite the tea connossueuir... The Runner's Tea does not come in tea bags. It's a powder with herbs and spices. It's packed quite full of useful things like lemongrass and cinnamon and cayenne! You can find a list of ingredients and their health benefits on their website. This is not your regular run of the mill tea.

I bought a little ball infuser to use with the tea and it worked horribly. Well, it worked just fine but for me it was horrible. I have super texture issues-- I'm the girl who buys No Pulp orange juice and gags if there's a little bit in there. The infuser let lots of the smaller herbs through and I just couldn't deal. The website has instructions for using the tea both hot and cold and I remembered my iced tea maker that I hadn't used in a while... So I made a pitcher of the tea with that and it was awesome. No little bits floating in my tea and enough tea to last me a few runs! I've used it on a couple of long runs (cold) and I also used it for the pyramid intervals I did a couple of weeks ago. Hot is supposed to be better for speed so I put the iced tea in a mug and heated it up in the microwave. I put it in a travel tea bottle I have & actually drank it before & during my intervals. It worked great. It was a really good treadmill run. Hopefully the microwave is not mutating the organic goodness of the tea because I've done this for both speedwork and my race and it was awesome. I drink it hot while doing treadmill intervals (I know, but it works!) and then I drank it hot in the car on the way to the race. Which turned out pretty well. 

I can't say for sure if the tea is having an actual effect on my running, but it seems to be working out. I've had decent long runs after drinking it, I've had quality speedwork while drinking it, and I had an awesome PR-breaking race after drinking it. I don't want to discredit all the hard work I put into my running this training cycle and say it was the tea. But I think it definitely helped to give me an extra kick. I don't use Gatorade or energy drinks and I haven't had to use Nuun at all. I have the citrus mint flavor now and might try the berry one. There's also a new recovery blend I'd like to look into. I've had NO issues with my stomach while drinking it and it didn't conflict with the Honey Stinger chews I used on a long run. I'll definitely be buying more of this tea. 

I was able to purchase this tea at a discounted price thanks to an ambassador on Twitter. But I did purchase it on my own and I'm reviewing it so I have something to blog about not because they asked me to (they didn't). If you'd like to try some of your own, check out their website:

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

April stats

I'm still riding pretty high from Saturday's race. I had to tell Lauren Fleshman how I did because we're besties now and she replied and retweeted me. Such a perfect day. The best part though was having my family there and my kids seeing me get the medal.

April was a pretty good month. I was able to do some stroller runs, some decent long runs, good speedwork & I ran a race. I upped my running mileage and for the first time in months I ran more than I biked! I seem to have forgotten to do any strength training. Oh well.

Total Mileage: 129.4 miles
Running: 72.4
Biking: 57
Crosstraining: Oops
Races: 1

Monday, May 4, 2015

Strong Running Mama

I started running 5 years ago. I really didn't know anything about running. I had no idea that when you first start out you make tremendous gains in a short amount of time without even really trying. I PR'd every race that I did--by minutes--and I thought that was the way it was. I had no idea that 5 years later I would have to work so hard and fight for SECONDS. But that's the way it is, you reach a point when you are no longer a new runner and you have to work harder and change things up if you want to progress. I've learned a lot in the last couple of years. I've read as many articles about running and speedwork as the miles I've run. 

I've worked hard this training cycle--I've added cycling with the exercise bike, I've been pretty diligent about my speedwork, and I've tried to run smart. But the biggest thing holding me back wasn't my legs or my breathing or even those kidney stones and the fear of peeing blood, the biggest thing holding me back was my mind. You know that saying that runners like to share about not competing with each other, but rather with the voice inside their own heads saying they can't do it? The voice inside my head is pretty loud. "Why are you even doing this? You've been a couch potato bookworm your entire life. You don't belong here. You can't do this, why even try? Who do you think you are?" I've had a few good runs in the last couple of weeks to help mute that voice, but it was still there. 

And it was there when I lined up to run my A-goal race on Saturday. It was there when the horn went off. And then... then, I shut that voice up. 

Sara (1st woman overall), Kathleen (4th overall & 1st in Age Group), & me
Before the race

I wanted negative splits for this race but it didn't quite work out that way. I had planned on 8:55, 8:50 and 8:48. I started out way too fast, as usual, but even more so because it really is a small race. I looked at my watch and saw I was doing 7:30 and decided I needed to rein myself a bit. I wanted to finish fast, not last. So I forced myself to slow down and hit the first mile at 8:33

Starting a wee bit too fast. 

A bit faster than my intended 8:55. The second mile I ran into a herd of fundraising walkers (from a benefit walk being held at the same time on the same course) and that slowed me down. There was a lot of weaving around dogs on leashes and bikes and kids and it was not exactly fun. I finished the second mile in 8:57. I knew that all I had to do was keep running, not slow down, and I could get to my goal. I just couldn't give up. That voice in my head tried so hard to knock me down, but I tried harder. I sped up. My legs were fine, my breathing was fine, I was strong. I knew I could do it. I just had to hold on. I finished the last mile in 8:45. While not true negative splits, at least it was faster than the second. I saw the finish line and the time on the clock and I gave it everything I had. I did the last .15 (according my to watch) in 7:28

I finished the race in 27:22, beating my A-goal, 13 seconds faster than my almost 4 year old PR, and 44 seconds faster than when I did this race last year. I came in first in my age group (7 of us), 2 minutes ahead of the second woman in our AG, 7th out of 52 women, 27 out of 97 total. 

I needed this race. I'm thrilled with the results, I'm thrilled with my effort. I didn't give up. Didn't give in.  I fought for those seconds. I worked for them. And when that little voice asks "Who do you think you are?" again, I have the answer:

Strong Running Mama

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Running goals

This weekend is my A-goal 5K race. It is also week 13 of my half-marathon training plan so I am supposed to do 8-10 miles. I have discovered that if I care about how I do at a race I am NOT one of those people who can run a few miles before and a few miles after. So I was going to do 8 yesterday to make up for missing it this weekend. I figured I'd do 5 miles of intervals on the treadmill and then get another 3 when I dropped the Princess off for Girl Scouts. But the 2yo wasn't interested in hanging out while I ran and we wound up cuddling on the couch reading books and then walking around outside and swinging. He didn't go down for his nap until too late and my treadmill hopes were dashed. But it was ok. I still had my evening run planned. 

As we know, Tuesday is speedwork day. I always want to do tempo runs but I fail miserably at them on the treadmill. So I thought I'd attempt one on the road. I figured I'd run at a 9:30 pace, that seemed pretty challenging to me, but not all out interval-pace. I was lucky enough to have a speedy friend who met me at the school to keep me on target. We started out (I forgot to do an official warm-up, but just before I had been running with the Princess on the playground, so I'll say that counted as a warm-up). I did the first mile in 9:30 and I felt pretty good. I wasn't dying and I was able to actually maintain a conversation, albeit not quite as easily. So I sped up a little bit. My friend and I parted ways and I continued and sped up more. I felt GOOD. I felt like I was running fast and strong, but like I had more to give. It was awesome. I finished up the 3 miles and walked a bit. I thought about continuing but I had to pee really bad so I wound up stopping at 3.21. I should have just stopped the damn watch at 3, but every bit counts. I knew my average pace (for the 3 miles) was 9:17 so I was pretty happy I had come under my goal but didn't feel like I had just raced. If it hadn't been for my bladder doing it's own running, I could have continued. When I checked my splits though I was SUPER STOKED. I am always aiming for negative splits but I can usually only manage to get the last mile or two faster (depending on the distance). Last night's run was PERFECT. 9:30, 9:12, 9:09. I felt strong. Even better, when I peed it was nice and clear. Because I didn't run until 6 pm, I had all day to hydrate, so I had hit my target water goal (80 oz) before I even left.  

I've been having such successful runs lately that I am feeling pretty confident about my races. Like I said back in January, before that Runner's World article started circulating, I'm really trying to base my success on my effort and not on exact times. I might not break any PRs this weekend, but I feel really good about my training. I am starting to think that my body can run faster than my mind thinks it can. When I thought about doing 9:30 last night I pictured a lot of huffing and puffing. But there wasn't. I was in control and was even able to talk a little. I think I can do more. 

But I'm not setting myself up for failure again. Race goals:

A. 27:35 or better
B. Better than Course PR of 28:06

Whatever I do, I want negative splits and I want to finish strong. I don't want to start too fast & slow down. I want to race smart and I want to run happy. 

Monday, April 27, 2015

About those 11 miles

I'll be reviewing this soon too! 

My 12 mile run a couple of weekends ago was ok and I was able to do some of those miles with friends so that was good. But when I hit mile 8 I kind of petered out. My last few miles were much slower than the previous ones. I felt totally drained.

So, yesterday before I set out on my last double-digit run before the thirteener, I had some goals. I wanted to finish faster than I started and I wanted to run smart. I knew I needed to run 11, which sadly is not evenly divisible by anything. I made do though and broke my run up into uneven sections. For each section I had an average goal pace. For the first 3 miles I wanted to warm up and run slower, 10:45-11:00 min pace. The next 3 I wanted to pick up the pace and run slightly slower than race pace, ideally 10:20. Then I would slow it down again, around 10:30-10:40, for two miles and finish up the last three faster than race pace, preferably at 10:00. I wanted to wind up with a 10:20-10:30 average pace for the whole thing. So, that's basically what I did:

1. 10:43
2. 10:22
3. 10:44
avg: 10:37

4. 10:16
5. 10:24
6. 10:20
avg: 10:20

7. 10:33
8. 10:24
avg: 10:29

9. 10:38

10. 10:11
11. 9:28
avg: 9:49

I realized as I was heading back that mile 8-9 was going to land me right up a hill so I decided to just let it go and not worry too much about being faster. Although I had walked the first minute of each mile up until that point (1-8), I wasn't planning on walking for miles 9-11. All things considered I'm not too disappointed with a 10:38 mile going up hill, especially on tired legs.

Full disclosure: I stopped to take this picture while running up the hill. 

My warm up was pretty close to what I wanted. I wasn't sure why I ran slightly faster in mile 2 & then I remembered the dogs barking in their yard motivated me to go a little quicker. I just don't trust invisible fences. I'm pretty stoked that I ran the second part exactly as I wanted to, as well as the third. I am SUPER stoked that I ran the last part much quicker and that my last mile was my fastest. I had a bit of help from some cowbells and good friends who magically appear on their doorsteps at the exact right moment. I did the whole 11 miles in 10:23, which was faster than I have ever done 11 miles before. I was hurting a bit when I was done but not as I expected. I actually felt pretty strong and like I could continue running. Except for the extremely painful chafing! My target skirt just didn't cut it. I ordered a new skirt with longer compression sleeves underneath that are not supposed to ride up, so I hope it gets shipped soon. Until then I'll have to run with capris and compression sleeves and hope I don't sweat to death.

Besides having a specific plan for this run, I did a couple of other things differently to avoid the slowdown at the end. I've been experimenting with Runner's Tea, a special tea blend made just for, you guessed it, runners (look for a full review soon!). I had some for my 12 mile run but I didn't drink it until the latter half. Yesterday I drank it right away, during the first 3 miles and then the rest of the time I drank regular water. I also recently bought more Honey Stinger chews. I haven't been using anything on my long runs and thought I was ok but after the 12 miler I thought it was a good time to get some more chews and see if they would make a difference. I started using the chews, two at a time, around mile 4 or 5 and finished them by mile 8. I think the combination of the Runner's Tea and the Honey Stinger chews kept my energy up, even though I was running much faster than I normally do for long runs. I didn't feel weak or tired.

I think I'm going to stick with this plan for my half. I'm sure with adrenaline and running with friends I'll be able to knock off a few seconds from my average pace and get back down to 2:15. The hard part will be not starting too fast. I may force myself to walk the very first minute to try to avoid the big rush of going out too quick. I really want to finish faster than I start.

Before I plan my strategy for the thirteener, I need to run my A goal race this Saturday. But that's another blog post.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Twofer Tuesday

Tuesday's are my speedwork days. I am a creature of habit and I stick to things much better when they are part of a defined regular routine. I hemmed and hawed all day Monday about whether I should do my intervals on Tuesday since I had just run a race on Sunday. I decided if I felt ok I would do it and if not I could do an easy run and switch it to Thursday instead. But I am, like I said, a creature of habit. So I really wanted to just do it on Tuesday.

Unfortunately, the cards seemed stacked against me yesterday. LightRunner and I lazed around like sloths during breakfast. I wanted to do pyramid intervals but for some reason I REALLY wanted to use my new watch too. So I programmed it to do the intervals I wanted, but then realized I messed up the number of repetitions so I had to edit it before I started running. It was already basically lunch time before I hit start. I was so focused on the damn watch not being in sync (I think the auto pause messed me up) that I ran longer than I wanted to for the initial intervals. Then I had to stop because LightRunner disappeared and I found him upstairs eating an apple. I had to deal with that and by the time I got to the "peak" of the pyramid, I was just done. So my 5 miles turned to 3. It wasn't an entire fail because I did run really fast for those early intervals, I just didn't do exactly what I set out to do. Did I need to use my watch? No. Not at all. But I wanted to. I cut it short at 3, took LightRunner back upstairs & intended on exercising before I ate lunch (LightRunner had eaten multiple snacks). But I got a phone call from the school nurse than the Princess was tired. So what, right? She had rammed her head into a pole earlier in the day and had a huge goose egg & being tired can be a sign of concussion. So off we went to pick her up and by the time we got home I really needed to eat lunch & get LightRunner down for a nap. No more exercising. 

If the Princess was feeling okay, we had to go to Girl Scouts that evening, so I planned on doing my remaining 2 miles outside around the school. Luckily, she was doing just fine and we could go.

Now, keep in mind, when I run speedwork on the treadmill, I generally do between 8:32 and 9:00 depending on the distance. I always have the incline set to 1 (except yesterday I kept it at 0). I thought about doing an easy 2 miles. But it was Tuesday. And Tuesday is speedwork. So I said screw it and planned 12 repeats of 1 min fast, 1 min walk. On the treadmill I usually do the fast portions at 8:32 when I do this workout.

I warmed up for only half a mile and then went right into it. I planned on running as fast as I could, rather than hit a particular pace so I also planned on waking each resting minute. I wound up with:


The slowest, 9:24, was up a hill. I had to run up that hill for portions of other fast repeats, but that particular one was entirely up the hill. My goal 5K pace right now is 8:48. So for 11 out of 12 repeats, I ran faster than my goal pace. And for 8 of them I ran way faster than I ever do on the treadmill. I wound up with 3.32 miles instead of 2. Oopsies.

And I did this after already doing intervals that day and running a race on Sunday. It was exactly the kind of confidence booster I needed just a couple of weeks before my goal race. I really think all the biking is helping me and doing the run/walk for my long run as well. At one time if I ran more than I should have I would be destined for some kind of injury. But I feel great. I hope I can carry this into the race in a couple of weeks... And then to the half-marathon.