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?

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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.*

Love the run (and race).

There’s something to be said about experience.

I did my best to sabotage myself in the last few weeks leading up to Spinx Marathon. I hated running; I didn’t want to run; I barely ran. Instead of focusing on race day and what needed to be done, I only focused on all the things I didn’t do perfectly. I very nearly didn’t race.

But, race day dawned, bright and beautiful. It was the perfect day for me (a bit too warm for some, but I do love the heat). Experience at the marathon and ultra took precedence and I was able to force my body into race mode. I chose to go out very conservative, managed to settle in with a great group, and slightly negative split my way to a 3:18:32. Good enough for a 2 minute PR. I’ll take it.

I was 9th woman here, about 7 miles in. Steady, steady.
I was 9th woman here, about 7 miles in. Steady, steady.

Of course I wish I’d been in the mindset to really go after the 3:15 or better. I know my body could have done it, but I just wasn’t strong enough mentally to do it. I’ll be better next time. I have a new game plan, new race goals, and an awareness of my faults and strengths at racing. I’ll be better next time.

By here, at almost 16, I was 7th. I finished 4th. My fastest miles were 23, 24, and 25 (mostly thanks to my pacer that just kept pushing)). Yes, I'm that pigeon-toed. It seems to work.
By here, at almost 16, I was 7th. I finished 4th. My fastest miles were 23, 24, and 25 (mostly thanks to my pacer that just kept pushing). Yes, I’m that pigeon-toed. It seems to work.

In the almost two weeks since the marathon, I ran about 25 miles and am on pace for about 55ish for this week. I’ll race a trail half on Saturday and spend the next few weeks remembering why I love running. I love hill repeats, I love fartleks, I love slow meandering runs that take me through the best parts of my city. I love running, and heading into winter– my least favorite season, I’ll take all the love I can get.

Until Paris Mtn 20k (that is on Dec. 6th and I care how I race at that one)….

**Photos Courtesy of Pace Running Magazine’s Facebook page**

Darlington Half Marathon and Solidifying Goals

On September 27th, I raced the Darlington Half. If you know me at all, then you know I have a not-so-secret love for NASCAR. So given the chance to run around one of the most historic race tracks in a race that lines up perfectly with my marathon training schedule was pretty freaking awesome.

image

I ended up 3rd woman, and hit right at 1:35. That was the time I’d had in my mind to solidify my marathon time goal of 3:15 four weeks later. Of course, anyone who races knows that the final time is only a part of the equation. I’d had this little voice in my head in the week leading up to Darlington telling me to go for a new half PR (which is 1:32 and change), but another voice telling me that I’ve been training for a full and that there is no way I’ve got enough speed to pull it off.

After a chat with Palmer, the ever-logical fiance, I decided to go out at PR pace and just see how I felt. If things were going well then I’d keep digging and go for it but if not I could always back off and return to the original plan of 1:35. I went through the first mile in 6:59, followed by several more sub seven miles. Obviously, since I’ve already mentioned my finish time, this sub-7 experiment didn’t last. I never felt bad exactly, but I didn’t feel good at all, either. This resulted in a mental pity party from about mile 8 on and I slowed down more than I should have, really.

All in all though, this marathon cycle has gone as well or better than last year (so far). I’ve averaged over 10 miles more per week in the same time frame and I haven’t entirely (just occasionally) avoided the track and other workouts. I definitely screwed up last year in the last three weeks by tapering too aggressively and having my last long run go too well (as in, I was way fresh for it and essentially ran the race out of my legs in training). So, I’m hoping that I can rectify that this year by keeping the mileage and intensity up for a while longer, even if it means I don’t get the ego boost from crushing the last long run. Less ego, faster race day. 3:15. Probably.

Time Keeps on Slippin’

Name that song!

 

I certainly meant to blog in the last two weeks, but I mean to do lots of things and that rarely works out. I’m generally one of those that is a content consumer rather than a content producer which pretty much means I’ll never write a book because I’d just rather read one.

 

Anyway. Things happened since I last wrote, and most of it had nothing to do with running:

Exhibit A: I'm engaged to be married
Exhibit A: I’m engaged to be married.

 

Exhibit B: I really did graduate from Clemson.
Exhibit B: I really did graduate from Clemson.

 

Exhibit C: I have a job. I'm a barista, and doing my part to perpetuate the stereotype of underemployed persons with advanced Humanities degrees.
Exhibit C: I have a job. I’m a barista, and doing my part to perpetuate the stereotype of underemployed persons with advanced Humanities degrees.

 

As you can see, it’s been a reasonably busy couple of weeks. I’m not really sure on many wedding details, but it’ll work out and be awesome. And I’m not really sure when and how I’ll find a proper career, but will also work out and be awesome. And I don’t know how long I’ll be able to maintain this level of optimism, but it’s worked out for the better part of 30 years and is mostly awesome.

 

I’ve also been running, and there are now only 9 weeks left until the marathon. In many ways I’m pleased with how my mileage and quality are going, but it’s often difficult to see progress in the day-to-day. Mostly I’m just kind of tired and feeling the cumulative fatigue that leaves my legs feeling flat. However, this morning I did a 20-miler that, while nothing all that impressive, was a negative split run that ended up being quite similar to a long run I did 5 weeks out from the marathon last year. But I’m 9 weeks out now and hitting about the same times in much hotter weather. So, progress? I hope so.

 

This coming Friday I’m going to race Midnight Flight 10k. I was fourth place woman there last year. I’m honestly not expecting much more than that, but I do hope to race smart and not let the hill in the last mile do too much damage to my legs (and ego).

 

I never know how to end blogs, so here's a picture of the fence Palmer built to keep the chickens out of the garden area in the backyard.
I never know how to end blogs, so here’s a picture of the fence Palmer built to keep the chickens out of the garden area in the backyard.

Spinx Marathon training week 1

I keep a physical pen and paper running log, because my version of a running log also looks a lot like a diary. I write about how I’m feeling, how life is going, what demons I’m currently battling, and other such journal-y type musings. I like it because running, to me, is so much more than just gps data and workout splits. I like being able to look back and recall exactly what I was going through weeks or months ago, and how it affected my running. I find the patterns and try to recreate the positive ones.

That said, I have big goals for the next few months, and I want a public place to talk about them without spamming my poor social media friends. By actually using my blog, I will have an internet dumping ground for my mundane running stuff, but only the people that want to read about it all will have the option of clicking through.

So, today marks the end of my first of 14 weeks of training for Spinx Marathon.

I think it went well:
75 miles
8-ish beers
4 midday naps
2 lifting sessions
1 track workout (all negative splits, too!)
1 5k race (run at 10k goal pace in a controlled effort)
And 1 very hot 16 mile long run

I hope to write more specifically about marathon goals and such, but for now I will leave it at that. On to week 2…

Summer Haze

I love surprise sprinklers when I'm running in the summer.
I love surprise sprinklers when I’m running in the summer.

I know it isn’t officially summer yet, but it’s close enough, and the summer racing schedule is heating up for most people. I noticed that there was a spike in traffic here on my oft-neglected blog, and realized that most people are reading my race report from Merrill’s Mile a couple of years ago. I hope everyone who read has signed up for this year! Unfortunately, I will not be attending the 2014 edition as I have a wedding to go to for a college friend.

My own summer racing schedule is actually looking rather sparse. I ended up dropping from the Bad Marsh 50k (yes, even after all my talk about crushing it this year), but I AM still doing a 50k that weekend. It just happened to work out that there is an ultra event here in Greenville and it felt like a better plan to switch to the race close to home. Not only that, but I’ve been helping coach some newbie runners to their first 5k and their big “graduation” race is on the same day (in the evening), so I’ll get to do my own racing still AND be able to go support my hard-working athletes at their race.

I feel pretty solid going into this 50k, even though I’ve had to slightly adjust my time goal since I’ll be running on (albeit fast and flat) trails instead of the track-like route of the Bad Marsh race. I still think I’ll run a huge 50k PR, it’ll just be a touch slower than I initially expected.

Oh yeah, I finished my Master’s degree. It sort of doesn’t feel like it happened, or maybe that it isn’t really over, but I am a Master of Arts in English now. For about two weeks after I finished I was just in this weird malaise of:

My brain hurts.
My brain hurts.

And also, I’m still unemployed. I have several options in the works, but I’m reaching my panic threshold about my career– or lack of. On the upside, I have been enjoying the opportunity to schedule my running and other cross-training stuff as I want, and explore some new creative projects that I have wanted to try, like photography and HTML stuff (and maybe I’ll stop ignoring my blog?). Most importantly, I needed the time to decompress from it all and recharge. I’m ready to get this show on the road though.

So, yeah. I’ve got the 50k in eleven days, then I’ll be transitioning into a road runner again as I prep for a fast fall marathon. I’ll find a cool job soon enough, and in the meantime my goal is to appreciate this chance to take in the world more mindfully and leisurely.

Summer mantra.
Summer mantra.