Training Purgatory Weeks 4&5

Well well well, just when you thought I’d already quit blogging, I make a comeback! Ok, you probably didn’t even notice I missed a week, but I won’t hold it against you.

Since I procrastinated so long on writing up the week of May 21-27, I figured I would just embrace the laziness and lump the last two weeks together. This is actually a decent moment to remember that training doesn’t happen in a vacuum. While we often tend to think only in terms of weekly mileage, it’s the larger picture that gets us to our running goals. The months on months and years on years of training are more important than any one long run or big week. In fact, someone asked me what I’d done to have recently gotten so much better from my previously lackluster results, and my response was that I finally started taking training seriously…in 2014. Yup, my breakthrough in the half marathon earlier this year was built on the consistent mileage and workouts I began running three years ago (and certainly even the sporadic training before then helped a little). That said, there’s still lots of running to do, and here’s what the last couple of base building weeks looked like:

Sun 5/21: 0 miles! I hadn’t had a day off in about a month, the weather was awful, and I planned this as a down week anyway.

Mon 5/22: 13 miles…hmm, I feel refreshed from the off day, so perhaps this week won’t be as down as I expected?

Tue 5/23: 10 miles with a relaxed fartlek on the back half.

Wed 5/24: 10 miles again, but easy peasy this time.

Thu 5/25: 18 miles. Errr, in my defense, the weather was absolutely beautiful with cool temps and lots of clouds. I couldn’t resist! I was extra naughty and even wore my GPS watch and looked at my pace. I kept it slower at 8:30ish on the first half. I may have gotten a little excited on the second half, but I felt good and didn’t go under 7:00s at least?

Fri 5/26: 10 SLOW. I actually felt fine from yesterday, but I knew I needed to slow my roll.

Sat 5/27: 8 only! It was hot, this was technically a down week, and I felt lazy.

Total: 69 miles. This balances out that odd 81 mile week two.

 

Sun 5/28: 13 miles. Time to crank it back up!

Mon 5/29: 12 miles. Oh yeah, I also lifted and did some drills. I have actually been doing a couple of days of weights these last two weeks, even though I forgot to mention​ it.

Tue 5/30: 13 miles total. Did 3 on my own, then met up with Hannah and we did another 10 with a little trip to the Greenville High track! We decided to do 12×200 with 200 jog. No timing the intervals allowed, but it was nice to open up the legs and move fast-ish.

Wed 5/31: 12 slow miles. I’m embarrassingly sore from squats on Monday combined with sprints on Tuesday. So maybe I haven’t been as consistent with the weights as I thought… My monthly ​total for May was 342 miles. Not bad!

Thu 6/1: 18 miles. It got a little toasty in the last couple of miles when I lost cloud and tree cover, but it wasn’t too bad. I resisted the urge to use my watch for this week’s long run, and I’m glad I did.

Fri 6/2: 10 miles. Felt decent, but of course I waited until it was stupid hot out to get going, but I survived.

Sat 6/3: 12 miles with a few pickups scattered in. Got out slightly earlier, mostly in an effort to avoid all the “weekend people” who descend upon my city. It’s not that bad, usually, but I’m so used to having Greenville mostly to myself during the week that it just grates on me. Plus there’s a whole rant about trail etiquette in me, but I’m preaching to the choir here, so I’ll refrain.

Total: 90!! In singles! I’m really not feeling too beat down, which is good because I’m planning on another big one next week. I do think I’ve hit my threshold for mileage in singles though. I aim to experiment with a few doubles next week and maybe get into triple digits, but I’m also conscious of the dangers in spiking mileage just for the sake of it. I feel like I got in a decent amount of quality for a base phase week and I’d much prefer to have 5-7 more weeks like this one rather than one huge mileage week that I have to come way down from to recover from. So we’ll see. Mostly I’m just pleased with how good I feel, which means I’m doing the right things as far as food/water/sleep goes and I’m excited to tackle another week!

Training Purgatory Week 3: Don’t Count Your Chickens Before They Hatch

And don’t count on timely blog posts from me, ever.

This week, that metaphor became literal as one of our hen’s hard work of sitting on a clutch of eggs was rewarded. We don’t have a rooster, so when the bird turned broody (for the un-chickened, that just means every now and then a hen will decide it’s time to incubate some eggs and be a mama) we quickly swapped out her unfertilized eggs with five fertilized eggs from my sister’s flock. Of the five eggs however, only three hatched out. Unfortunately, the last chick to hatch was obviously unwell and didn’t make it past the first day. That’s just the nature of…well, nature. We now have two healthy baby chicks running around as an adorable addition to the chicken party happening in our backyard. I spend an inordinate amount of time sitting outside and just watching them all run around and do chicken things. Not even a little sorry, because it’s so damn cute and funny!

Anyway, now that I’ve bored you with poultry-talk, let’s get to last week’s running, shall we? In actuality, the running stuff was significantly more boring than the chicks hatching, but that’s what you’re here for, so…

 

Sun  5/14: 10 miles. Like last week.

Mon 5/15: 13 miles. Also, like last week…are you sensing a theme here yet?

Tue  5/16: 10 miles with 2 sets of 8xhill repeats in Cleveland Park with Hannah. Then we went to trivia after and WON! Okay, fine, it was entirely due to the fact that my husband came with us and knew the final question to double our points. But still.

Wed 5/17: 13 miles.

Thu 5/18: 10 miles. I genuinely don’t remember a thing about these two days of running at all. I think that’s a good thing, actually. If I remembered too much about all these miles I’d probably realize how insane I am.

Fri 5/19: 16 miles. This run was a lot warmer than last week’s, but I still felt pretty decent. I’m not sure when I want to start stretching out my long runs, but I guess it’ll be about the same time I find the motivation to wake up early enough to not be out running in 88°F with 88% humidity. So, it might be a few more weeks.

Sat 5/20: 8 miles. Oh hey! The struggle bus! I wondered when it was going to come by. I was expecting some fatigue to catch up to me this week, as the third week of higher miles and hotter weather, so even though I mentally wanted to get in a few more miles to bump my weekly total I could tell I was pushing the limit a bit physically.

Total: 80 miles. One less than last week, and about four less than I was aiming for, but I can’t be mad at an 80 mile week, y’know? And I am happy to report that I lifted weights TWO times and did core work THREE times! It is almost enough!

Looking ahead to next week, methinks that my grand delusion of continuing to add miles indefinitely might not work. Turns out, my body does need a bit of a rest every now and then, despite my best recovery methods and trying to tell myself “it’s mostly slow miles anyway, it’s not that taxing”. Thus, I’m allowing for a bit of a cutback week, but just a little bit! The weather is getting more brutal (because duh, South Carolina in the summer), so I know I’m going to have to be more vigilant about hydration and continue my streak of paying zero attention to pace at all right now. All in all, I’m feeling good, healthy, motivated, and excited about the fitness gains, so that’s where I’ll leave you this week!

Happy Running!

Training Purgatory Week 2: One is the Loneliest Number

This week featured far too much “me-time” for this extrovert, an odd number of miles, and a fail. Let’s just get right to it, shall we?

Sun  5/7: 10 miles. Nothing fancy.

Mon 5/8: 13 miles. Trying to step up a few mid-week runs right now. My husband left for a couple of days to work in Columbia which isn’t my favorite. I’ve grown accustomed to [his] face, to paraphrase Prof. Higgins.

Tue  5/9: 10 miles with 10xhill repeats in Cleveland Park. Not enough repeats if I’m honest, and definitely not fast enough. All my training partners have abandoned me this week because they have lives and things to do like actual adult humans, so I was feeling very lonely.

Wed 5/10: 12 miles. It finally started to feel a bit like summer! Today, those extra two miles more than my “usual” 10 seemed extra long. I also got word today that the summer course I was scheduled to teach didn’t have enough enrollment so it was cancelled. This isn’t too surprising as summer enrollment is always low, but that does leave me without a guaranteed paycheck this summer and needing to be somewhere with human interaction. Super.

Thu 5/11: 10 miles super slow. I tested out a new pair of shoes (the Brooks Asteria–should I do some shoe reviews? what do the people want?) which may not have been a fair shake in the middle of a long mileage stretch, but I liked them well enough.

Fri 5/12: 16 miles out-and-back on the Swamp Rabbit Trail. For those of you local, from my house 8 miles out puts me a little bit past Furman Univ, but not quite to Travelers Rest. It’s a nice flat run which is great when I need to hit specific times, but means I probably ran too fast today (I didn’t time it; I know my exact turn around spot because I use the trail markers, and I’ve been trying to run by feel for the most part). I felt unexpectedly excellent and the weather was quite cool, so I rolled with it anyway.

Sat 5/13: 10 miles. SLOW. Unsurprisingly, I felt less-than-spry for today’s run. I wore the Brooks Asteria again though, and they felt even better today, so they are getting a permanent spot in the rotation.

Total: 81 miles. That extra (or missing, depending on your perspective) mile[s] to make this week odd is annoying! As you may have noticed, I didn’t mention any weight-training…because I failed. I did do some core work on Tuesday, but that hardly counts. I recognize the irony in saying that I was lazy during an 80-mile week, but that’s the truth of it. I have the time, I know I need to do it, but it’s so easy to just let the day slip by without going near the weights. I’m determined to do better next week!

Speaking of next week, aside from actually lifting weights and doing core, my goal is to keep the mileage in the 80s and stick to single runs for now. I’m not sure what else the week will bring, but I know I’m likely to be more fatigued from the mileage accumulation, so I am going to attempt to be more diligent about best recovery practices and hydration/nutrition. I’ll probably just end up eating another entire box of Cheez-its like I did this week, though.

Running Lessons

I never really thought I’d be a teacher. But, this is my second semester as an adjunct English instructor for a local technical college. Last semester felt a little like drowning, and I was determined to have a better go of it this time around. Today I realized that part of my growth as a teacher has come directly from the things I’ve learned as a runner:

 

1. Experience Matters. Walking into class for the very first time was easily as nerve wracking as when I toed the start line of my first marathon. I had no idea what to expect, if I had hydrated properly (yes, for class, too!), if I was going to blow up after the halfway point, and generally if I would survive it all. Nowadays, even though there is no way to predict exactly how class or a race is going to go, I am not nearly as terrified because I’ve done it before. I can rely on having been in the scary last 10k of a marathon or in front of an unresponsive class before and making it through. Not without a few battle scars to show for it, though!

2. Be Prepared. Just like it’s a terrible idea to show up for a race without having trained, I definitely can’t roll into class without a lesson plan. My planning hours are just as precious to me as my hours spent logging miles. And just like I tweak my training over the course of a racing cycle in order to get faster and better, I have changed up the way I prepare for class over time. It’s not always the most fun thing to do, but I don’t really like track workouts either. It’s worth it though, to have a smooth running class period and a faster running race.

3. Dress the Part. I’m no fashionista, but the performance aspect of running and teaching have created something of an evolution in my clothes choices. I still aim for comfort above all else, but comfort with a purpose. I need to feel fast during a race, so I dress to inspire that feeling. I need to feel like a seasoned educator during class, so there too, I dress to evoke a capable persona. Of course, I’m usually still nervous before a races and class, but by wearing my running or teaching “costume” I can at least sort of fake it!

4. Participation is Key. I struggle with this one. I train mostly alone, and I’m wont to spiral into monologues during class. However, I see a real difference in my own running when I’m more involved with the Greenville Track Club or get to run with others. And of course, class is a lot more energetic and successful when I’ve got the students moving about and talking with each other. I have to really work on this, but I’m trying.

5. Roll With the Punches. If you’ve ever tried to follow a training schedule to the letter, then you know that is pretty much impossible. The same goes for following lesson plans– which is why I make sure to note that the schedule is tentative right on the syllabus! With running, there is always the possibility of injury, unexpected travel, feeling burned out, or prohibitive weather issues. In class, the students might be burned out, or just super uninterested in the material, or a seemingly great lesson plan fizzles out in practice. During all of these times, it’s important to be able to reassess the situation, change tactics if necessary, and most importantly, don’t give up! Things rarely go perfectly, but just keeping at it as best you can is often enough to get through both a rough training patch and a rough class day.

6. Setting Goals. I know what I expect from myself when it comes to running, and I extend that same level of expectation to my students. Having clear goals laid out at the beginning of a training cycle or new semester is so helpful when the inevitable rough patches hit (see #5). Then, even if you don’t exactly go straight from Point A to Point B, you at least know where Point B is, and know that you should end up there eventually. Goals are also built-in accountability managers. My students want to achieve their high grade, and I want to achieve a new PR. Goals are important, duh.

 

I still have a LOT of growing to do as a teacher– and as a runner! I do love that being a teacher means also being a student. I have learned so much from my students and other instructors/professors and I’ve gained a sense of accomplishment that is not unlike running. It takes hard work to do it right, but it’s so, so worth it when I cross a finish line with a new best time or know that I’ve made a positive impact on a student’s life.

Year End Review-ish

I feel like every runner I know, or at least every runner with a blog, is gearing up to regale their readers with the highlights and lowlights of their previous year’s running.

Well I, dear reader, am going to do that exact same thing…

One of my goals this year was to get my overall mileage total up. I’ve never really had a full year of consistent running. Sounds strange even to me, but I’ve always had extended breaks at some point in the year mostly due to lack of motivation. This year I actually kept my running log, and even though I wish I’d run more (who doesn’t?), I managed to get in 2744 miles. That’s about 7.5 miles per day on average. I didn’t start keeping my log until the second half of 2013, but I’m certain that I didn’t run over 2000 miles in 2013 based on the info I have. So of course I’m happy with the relative consistency and overall higher mileage this year, but this is the point that I tell you my 2015 goal is to run more like 3500 miles. Seems like a reasonable jump, yea?

Another goal I had this year was to race more often. I got in 238.8 race miles this year. I don’t know exactly how much I raced in 2013, but according to the results that Athlinks has, I raced at least twice as much in 2014!! I guess it’s no surprise then, that I ran several PRs this year as well. My 10k, marathon, and 50k each improved. I’m still pretty terrified of racing, but I’m working on getting into focused race-mode. For 2015 I want to keep up with racing more often, and I really want to tackle some of my shorter PRs (5k-half) in the first half of the year before turning my attention to another marathon PR in the fall.

One thing that I think is largely going to be on the backburner in 2015 is…ultrarunning. And, by extension, trail running. It isn’t so much that I really want to avoid the ultra races as it is that I really really really want to get speedier. This means more track work, more tempos, more doubles, and less time just slogging around town like I’m wont to do.

From a running-related standpoint, my last goal for 2015 is to continue, and get even more consistent with, lifting weights. I have seen a lot of improvement in my fitness just from picking up heavyish things now and then, even though my ectomorphic body type means I’ll never really put on much muscle. I do like how I feel when I’m lifting frequently, and I would say that being relatively stronger definitely helped my running this year.

So, that’s that. 2014 was a big step forward for me, both running and non-running related. I have some doable but scary goals set for 2015 (the track! the horror!), and I’m excited to use the pretty awesome base from this year to help meet those goals. Also, I’m super interested (fine, I’m just nosy) in other runners’ mileage totals and goals and stuff, so y’all better update your blogs/Facebook/other preferred social media site so that I can use your awesomeness as motivation for next year. See y’all in 2015!

I couldn't decide on a running picture, so here is Shelby with her derp tongue. Happy New Year!
I couldn’t decide on a running picture, so here is Shelby with her derp tongue. Happy New Year!

Race Recap and Weekly Roundup

Soooo…I already failed at my challenge to blog everyday this month. However, dear reader, I’ve done you a service as the last couple of days would’ve been just some variation on being cold/tired/hungry. I have had a lovely little week of running everyday, so there is that. And hey! I’m writing now, instead of just dropping the blog-ball for weeks like I’d be inclined to otherwise, so I’m not too distraught over missing a couple of days.

On to the running week:

Monday: 13 miles

Tuesday: 12 miles

Wednesday: 12 miles

Thursday: 13 miles

Friday: 10 miles

Saturday: 15 miles including Paris Mtn 20k (more on that below)

Sunday: 10 miles

Total: 85 miles– I feel really solid about this week’s volume, and overall I think my training mojo is back! I ran VERY slowly most of the time (aside from a few pickups here and there, strides after Mon/Wed/Fri runs, and the harder effort at the 20k). Frankly, that’s the only way to build mileage: by slowing down…wayyyyy down, if necessary. I only tracked my pace during the race, and otherwise just ran known routes at whatever pace I needed to to make it through that day.

As for Paris Mtn. 20k…well, I went into the race a bit fatigued from the week, but overall I’m okay with how it went down. I ended up just 5th woman in 1:39:54 (this time means almost nothing, because MOUNTAIN. AND ROLLERS. AND MORE ROLLERS). Oh yeah, it was also raining and about 45*f. Not my ideal race conditions by any stretch. It was still a solid effort near the end of the biggest week I’ve had in months.

Somewhere after mile 11, I think. (Photo from Pace Running Magazine. The gallery can be seen here: http://on.fb.me/12BOFeq)
Somewhere after mile 11, I think. (Photo from Pace Running Magazine. Full gallery here: http://on.fb.me/12BOFeq)

I’m already looking forward to the next few weeks of mileage, now that I’ve got the rhythm of running a lot back in my system. Sleep, coffee, food, run, food, nap, stretch/foam roller/core, food, sleep. Rinse and repeat. Okay, so I do have to work and do chores and such, too. But the semester is almost over and I’m at the cafe only three mornings a week right now, so I have a pretty ideal running-centric schedule. And those naps are seriously necessary.

I’m not so sure if I’ll get back to blogging every single day (how much can you really read about the daily mileage grind?), but I will definitely be keeping things a lot more updated. Now, time for second dinner…

Upcoming Races

I wasn’t sure what next to post, so it seemed easy enough to think about the races I’m running in the next few weeks/months. I’m actually running a race this weekend: the Paris Mtn 20k Road Race here in Greenville, SC. I don’t have much race-confidence going into this one since it’s a longer race, and up a FREAKING MOUNTAIN, amongst other concerns (like the 80% chance of rain on race morning). It’ll be a solid hard effort anyway, and fun in that masochistic way that  running races can be.

After that, I’ve got just two *goal* races coming up (I might hope in a few little other ones here and there): Harbison 50k in Columbia, SC on January 3rd followed by Myrtle Beach Half Marathon on February 14th.

I can barely believe it myself, but the half marathon is actually my major race focus through the winter. I have a very old half PR (1:32 from 2010), and I just know that I should give sub 1:30 a shot. I’ll be honest in that the 1:32 was something of a fluke. It was one of those days where I felt amazing, the course was favorable, and the weather was ideal. Basically a race-day that only comes along very rarely in a running career where everything was perfect. I want to prove to myself that I can race, really race, a half.

I’m definitely just running lots of easy miles through December which should send me into Harbison 50k with at least a decent base, if not speed. The plan from January through the half in early February is to beef up my track work and shorter (but faster) tempo runs. It sounds so easy written out like that doesn’t it?

Dec. 2nd

I’m already worried that I’m going to run out of blog topics and it’s only day 2! However, I actually had people read and comment on my post yesterday (THANK YOU!) and while I answered the comment, I thought I’d go a little more in depth for today’s post.

Essentially, I was asked if it is really a good idea not to take a day off of running at all. It was (rightly) pointed out that recovery is just as important as the running part of training. I explained that I felt confident in my plan, but I did want to expand on that a little more. Recovery can vary drastically between runners, AND it will vary at different points in a training cycle.

What that means for me, right now, is that I am running only easy, slow miles and thus my recovery needs are different than if I were doing 2-3 hard workouts per week (some combination of tempo runs, intervals, hill repeats, progression runs, and fast-finish long runs). If I was in a high quality phase of my training, taking a rest day every 10-14 days would be more necessary. However, because I am running just by feel right now, and likely only rarely even dipping below marathon pace, I can get away with running for 31 days in a row. Because pace doesn’t matter, and I don’t have any real mileage goals, just getting the time on my feet and letting my body go at the speed it wants to on that day means that I should be okay in this challenge.

Another thing I do want to note is that I’m also really, really lucky. While I’ve certainly had my share of little niggles and aches when bumping up mileage, or sore after a hard race, I’ve been largely injury-free in my running. This means that while I’ve struggled at times with consistency in my running due to motivation or time or burn out or whatever, I’ve only rarely been sidelined because of physical limitations. Many of my running peers are not so lucky, and they NEED those extra recovery days, no matter how slow and easy they are running (I will say that I don’t think many of those runners are actually slowing down ENOUGH on the easy days, but that’s an opinion piece for another day’s blog).

Anyway, I just wanted to expand on the reason that I feel pretty good about taking on this challenge of running everyday for a month. So far, these first couple of days have gone smoothly, and I’ll see you tomorrow dear readers (y’all are still out there, right?)!

 

December Challenges

I’m one of those people that gets really excited at the beginning of a project (or training cycle, or school semester, or…). That said, my enthusiasm wanes significantly as the novelty wears off and my follow through is somewhat iffy. As 2014 comes to a close, it’s easy to kind of write off December and look forward to what 2015 may bring. This is the time of year that a bit of gluttony and laziness seem more acceptable since we have our New Year’s resolutions coming right around the corner. However, I decided to set myself a couple of December challenges that will hopefully see this year ending on a positive note and set me up to begin 2015 with gusto.

Challenge #1:

Write a blog post everyday for the month of December. I enjoy writing, but I’ve never been very consistent at it. In particular, after finishing my Master’s thesis in May, I was so burned out on writing and editing and anything remotely academic that I’m just now beginning to feel the desire to write again. I’m not setting a word count goal or anything which means that some blog posts will likely be nothing more than a sentence or two, but I just want to get in the habit of writing. I’m also going to just force myself to hit ‘Publish’. I have numerous blog drafts sitting in my WordPress dashboard that I never finished, or never really started. Because this challenge is about quantity and consistency, I’m going to worry less about obsessive editing or second-guessing what people may want to read from me (not that I expect much in the way of an audience for this).

Challenge #2:

Run everyday for the month of December. This one is probably easier than the first challenge. I’ve gone weeks and weeks without a day off of running before. I just haven’t done so lately. As I mentioned in my marathon post, I sort of burned myself out before the race, and in the month following my 3:18 effort, I’ve let my running momentum take its sweet time to return. It’s the season for base mileage, but instead of getting in the 70-80+ miles a week I should be hitting, I’ve been quick to rationalize a day (or two) off each week and only hitting 40-60 miles per week. So, just to get myself back into good running habits, I’m not taking any days off this month (barring some catastrophic injury/illness, of course– I’m not trying to end up in the hospital). I don’t have mileage goals in mind; I just want to get back to the very effective, very consistent, very rewarding mileage and fitness that I experienced through mid-late summer.

So that’s it. Nothing crazy, but some good goals to end the year with. Until tomorrow, blogosphere…!

Get (trail) Legs

If you don’t use your trail skills, you lose them.

I learned this the painful way at Croft State Park Half Marathon this past Saturday. Now, let me first acknowledge that my “trail skills” are pretty bad at the best of times, but I had gotten fairly comfortable on more technical runs during the first half of this year. Fast forward through road marathon training, and I hadn’t stepped a race flat on a proper trail in months.

No big deal, I thought. My legs feel okay after the marathon, I thought. It’ll be fun, I thought.

Ok, so it was quite fun once I realized that racing was not in the cards for me and that I should just call it a semi-long run instead of a failed race attempt. Not only were my legs in no shape to go at race effort, but my ability to stay upright was nonexistent. Less than 5 minutes into the race, I took my first tumble. Approximately 4 falls later, I reached the river crossing (mile 8ish, I think?). I carefully eyed my best route across the chilly body of water and started hopping rocks. Hop, hop, hooohhshitSPLAT! Down onto the rock bed, landing on my right hip and knee. Up past my waist in the water. Did I mention it was cold? The upside to the frigid water was that my legs became numb and I was able to keep moving. I did a glorified jog that last several miles, but at least it was over.

I make it sound kind of terrible, but the Croft Half is actually an incredibly well organized trail race that offers substantial prize money, has tons of awesome volunteers, and is run through a beautiful state park. While my trail racing techniques could use a lot of work, the race itself is great.

*I’ll edit this to add pictures if I can find any. Thankfully I didn’t see any cameras around during my many tumbles.*