10 Weeks Until Indy Monumental!

Just typing the title of this post makes me nervous.  My training for this race has been a little "less" this cycle than I can remember in recent years.  There are a few reasons for this - first, I am working under the guidance of a coach, not coaching myself, and second, the goal is to not repeat the mistake I made last fall of showing up in Indy a little overdone in terms of training.  I recently read an article about peaking in your fitness level too soon, and I'm pretty confident that is what happened in 2016.  I have adopted a way of thinking that it's better to show up a little under prepared than over trained.  A slight gap between your fitness level and your race goal can easily be bridged with a strong mental game.  I'm sure you've heard the saying that the marathon is 90% mental. This is my weakness - my mental game. And I need to fix it fast.  

As I've mentioned before, I don't love racing.  I love running.  Races tend to cause unnecessary stress, and who needs that?  I would love to get to a place where I see them as a fun challenge. When I look back at my past marathons, the ones I have enjoyed the most were the ones without a hard and fast goal.  Even the Boston Marathon this past spring turned into one of those races when the temperatures soared.  I threw my expectations out the window and ended up surprising myself with how strong I ran.  It was a blast!  So over the next 10 weeks, I need to learn how to view Indy with that same positivity in spite of having a big goal, because I really, really want to break three hours in the marathon.  It may not happen in 10 weeks, but I do feel it can happen in the near future.

I been listening to a lot of podcasts lately profiling runners similar to myself who have broken the three hour barrier and each time I reflect on what must be different between myself and that sub 3 runner.  On the surface, their training, diet, and overall lifestyle seem pretty comparable to mine.  Many of them started out as four hour or more marathoners (I finished my first marathon in 3:31), and steadily worked their way down.  If they can do it, why can't I?? What is holding me back??  It's my self-doubt.  Everyone in my life is so supportive of my goal and has no doubt I can run a marathon faster than three hours, but if it's going to happen, I have to truly believe it, too, and not let doubt creep in.  I like to think of myself as a pretty mentally strong person - I have successfully conquered anorexia, infertility,  and am the mother of a child with special needs.  These battles are not for the weak!  I need to transfer this same determination over to my running.

After I realized what was lacking, I shifted my focus to implementing strategies that will help me reach my goal.  I've recently read two books, pictured below, that have given me some great tools.  This is what I have in my arsenal so far:

  1. Stay present.  This means focusing on one mile at a time.  Not worrying about what's going to happen five or ten miles from now.  
  2. Acknowledge negative thoughts and let them go.  The letting go is the hard part for me.  Marathons are long, and if you have completed one, you know there are many ups and downs in that time frame.  When I hit a rough patch, I need to embrace it and not dwell on whatever is plaguing me.  It will soon pass.  Didn't hit my pace for a particular mile?  Let it go and focus on the mile ahead.
  3. Have a list of positive statements.  This is where I pull out my inner Stuart Smalley. "Smooth and relaxed", and "I can do hard things" have worked well for me in the past.  I recently listened to an interview with a 2:43 marathoner who stated she chants her goal pace over and over.  
Great reads!!

Great reads!!

I am running a half marathon next month that I will use as a dress rehearsal for practicing my new strategies.  It's going to take time to change my ways but now that I've realized the difference it could make, I already feel less stressed. 

As always, I love hearing from my friends who take the time to read what I write.  How do YOU stay positive when the going gets rough?  

Cupping Therapy - My New Love

First, thank you to all of you who sent emails, texts, and comments regarding my last post.  I am really, really glad I decided to share.  I discovered many of you hold the same disdain for running with a phone. There are two things I use to make this possible without too much annoyance.  The first is a Flip Belt, pictured below.  I have never had luck with running with anything around my waist for two reasons:  first, I believe it causes GI distress (for me).  Second, I feel like I can never get a secure fit and whatever I'm using bounces all over the place.  Not the case with the Flip Belt!  I can slide my phone, gels, whatever, into the belt and forget about it.

PC:  Flipbelt.com

PC:  Flipbelt.com

After my nerve wracking experience last week, I found a pretty sweet running bra from Lululemon (sorry, guys!) that has a pocket for your phone on the back of the bra!  I tried it today and loved it.

PC:  Lululemon.com

PC:  Lululemon.com

A few months ago I was discussing my perpetually cranky right hamstring/piriformis with a friend and she urged me to try her sports massage therapist who specializes in cupping.  Like many of you, when I think of cupping, I think of Michael Phelps and his odd bruises at the 2016 Olympics. Cupping is a treatment modality that is actually thousands of years old.  It is believed to alleviate pain, inflammation, and improve range of motion.  The suction created by the cups promotes blood flow to injured areas and loosens fascia.  

I decided I had nothing to lose.  I have tried physical therapy, ultrasound, and dry needling without much success.  (Side note - dry needling was amazing for my Achilles tendinitis!).  I admit I was a little nervous given the bruising I associated with the treatment.  

My massage therapist used a combination of deep tissue massage and cupping on my piriformis, hamstrings, calves, and feet during the one hour session.  I immediately noticed a difference - I could sit down without my piriformis screaming, and the range of motion in my hamstring was greatly improved. Did I bruise?  You bet.  However, I don't find the sessions painful at all.

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My first session was in June.  Since then I have been getting treated every other week and cannot believe how much better I feel.  My therapist has encouraged me to try the cupping on myself but I'm not quite ready for that!  If you are, here is an interesting article.

Any other cupping fans out there?

My Wake Up Call

What I'm going to talk about today is a little more serious than my usual posts, and I actually considered never writing about this at all, but if it helps one person become a little more cautious then it served its purpose.  I don't know for sure, and never will, if I was truly in danger but this incident has changed my way of thinking forever.

This past week I was spending time with my parents at their house in northern Michigan, a place I've visited for years.  When I'm there I run daily on a path that is used by runners, walkers, and bikers.  About halfway through my run I decided to make a pit stop at a restroom at the public beach.  Before heading in, I glanced around and did not see anyone in the nearby area. It wasn't all that early, around 7:50 a.m. 

While I was in the bathroom stall I heard someone enter the bathroom and close the door, but they did not move toward the stall next to mine or to the sink. Just silence. I was ready to leave the stall but didn't feel comfortable until this person either left or went into a stall. Something just seemed odd. It felt like a half hour went by but after looking at my Garmin stats (data nerd alert!) my watch was paused for a total of eight minutes.  I tried to stay calm and came up with a plan.  I proceeded to have a fake phone conversation with someone who was meeting me to run.  I told my "friend" I was just finishing up in the restroom and they should wait by the door for me.  I ended my conversation and prayed this person would leave.  I was scared.  Really scared.  As in cold sweat dripping down my back.  If this plan didn't work I was going to call 911.  It may have ended up being excessive, but I didn't care.  You can imagine my relief when I heard them leave.  To be sure, I climbed on the toilet so I could peek over the top of the stall to make sure I was alone.  I was!  I bolted out of the bathroom and into an open area.  I saw a man walking slowly away from the direction of the bathroom. He didn't turn around, but I got a good look. Was that the person in the bathroom?  I can't say with 100% certainty, but he was the only person in sight at the time.  I ran in the opposite direction.

While I was running, I considered what to do. To be perfectly honest, I was initially leaning toward not saying anything at all. I felt stupid for getting myself into a situation like this.  I was embarrassed. My family occasionally, ok frequently, makes comments to me about how running with a friend or one of my dogs would be a smart idea.  I always respond with I'm aware of my surroundings, don't worry.  I've read countless stories about the mother of young children, the high school cross country runner, and so many more women who were attacked or taken while out on a run.  It doesn't seem possible for you to end up as one of those stories.  And given the fact nothing actually happened, and I had no proof, would I be brushed off by the authorities?

I decided not to keep my experience to myself.  My husband and I agreed not saying anything was the worst thing to do.  If someone else was hurt I could never live with the guilt.  After taking some time to think, I sent a message to the county Sheriff detailing what happened and I'm assuming someone will contact me to discuss it further.  

So what do I change going forward?  First, I will always run with my phone.  I bat about .500 on this and thankfully I did have it the day of this incident.  I am already good about running in well populated areas, which doesn't protect you 100%, but it's always the better bet.  I'll continue to work on getting my dog, Levi, into running shape, too.  I will make an effort to change up my usual routes as to not be too predictable. And if anyone wants to become my running buddy, let me know!  :)  Here is a short and sweet article that gives some additional ideas of how to protect yourself.  

I hope sharing this will be a reminder to keep up your guard.  I am beyond lucky to have gotten out of this situation, but it was certainly a wake up call.  Stay safe, my running friends!

 

 

What I'm Doing to Reverse Burnout

August is here, and summer is going a little too quickly for my liking!  I have about 13 weeks to go until the Indy Monumental marathon.  A few weeks ago I was not in a good place with my running - feeling a little burned out, much more tired than normal, basically not enthused about running.  Around that same time my left hip flexor started feeling off - not painful, just off.  A little tight, could feel a clicking sensation, just an overall painless awareness of the area.  Given that I have endured two pelvic stress fractures on that side, I panicked, but thankfully the issue is still nothing more than feeling a little odd.  The last two weeks I have lowered my mileage and eliminated speed sessions just to be safe.  I do not notice anything during my easy runs but am leery of picking up the pace just yet.  I will see my doctor next week just to be sure things are alright and am continuing to base build for Indy until I get an official all clear.  I am also seeing my fantastic cupping specialist tomorrow (that is the topic of my next post, so check back soon!).

Back to burnout.  I think this is something every runner encounters at some point.  Around this time last year I felt the same way (maybe the heat and humidity taking its toll?) and instead of honoring what I was feeling, I pushed through and stuck to my training plan.  The result?  I toed the line in Indy feeling overcooked.  From the first mile my legs felt dead and it never got any better.  It was really disappointing.  I'll never make that mistake again.

At the first sign of those same feelings, I started to think about what I could do differently and not have a repeat performance of last year. First, I focused on increasing my sleep and hydration.  Second, I started to pay close attention to my heart rate during my easy runs.  I am a big fan of heart rate based training.  It's so easy to tell yourself a certain pace feels "easy", but your heart rate will call you out if you're running too hard.  Racing your training runs is one of the most common errors made in training.  I made a commitment to stay in Zone 3, my aerobic zone, during my easy runs, no matter what my pace was.  And believe me, sometimes I don't like the numbers I see on my watch!  I remind myself if it's just a number and refocus on my goal I went back in my training log to last summer, when I was feeling burned out, and sure enough, my heart rate on my easy runs was WAY too high.  So yes, my runs this summer are going to be slower than last year but they are having the appropriate training effect on my aerobic system, and I will recover faster.  I already feel much better than I did two weeks ago. Here is an excellent article by Sarah Crouch on the subject of burnout.

One of my most prized training tools!

One of my most prized training tools!

So what's next?  Making sure my hip is healthy, and adding some intensity back into my miles. Thankfully November is still quite a ways off and I have plenty of time to add some speed to my nice base of miles!

A Bit of a Workout Fail and a New Find!

The title pretty much sums up my run this morning - a bit of a fail in terms of hitting 10k pace. What was supposed to happen - 3 mile warm up, 16 x 90 seconds at 6:20 pace with 1 minute recovery at 7:30 to 8:00 pace, 3 mile cool down.  What actually happened - the majority of the 90 second intervals at 6:20 pace were more like 6:30 pace.  The recoveries between 7:30 and 8:00 pace were a breeze.  The cool down was a breeze.  So what happened?  The weather was beautiful, cloudy and 55 degrees.  Can't point the finger there.  I'm going to chalk it up to 6:20 pace being foreign territory to me.  To sum it up, I'm not efficient at anything under 6:50/mile. My legs cant seem to tell the difference between 6:30 pace and 6:00 pace, they just feel like lead.  For the last nearly 10 years of training I have done lots of workouts at marathon and half marathon pace, and really nothing any faster, with the exception of strides.  Mostly I feared injury, and marathon and half marathon paces were my safe place.  I have run exactly one 5k and three 10k's since I started running 10 years ago. But, as I tell the members of the studio where I coach classes, if there's no challenge, there's no change.  Today was a challenge, and according to my Garmin, there was change! (I know, don't get too hung up on data, but it's making me feel better so we're rolling with it).

A little consolation thanks to my Forerunner 935!  

A little consolation thanks to my Forerunner 935!

 

To be honest, a little failure is a bit of a turn on.  If I smoked every workout that would not keep me hungry and focused.  But now, after taking a hit to the ego, I want to put in the work that will make 6:20 pace feel more familiar and less like a stranger.  I want it more now after the workout than I did before the workout.

This morning I did something I had never done before, and I'm shaking my head that I waited so long to do it - I programmed my workout into my watch, which literally took less than two minutes.  I tend to lose count of reps very easily and it was awesome to have the watch do the counting for me.  If your Garmin has this capability and you've never taken advantage, try it!

Last week I decided to order a pair of Rabbit Catch Me if You Can running shorts.  I had noticed some buzz about Rabbit on social media and on some podcasts I listen to.  I am in love!!  I have worn Lululemon Speed shorts and Oiselle Roga shorts for years, and there's a decent chance I may never buy another pair.  The fit of the Rabbit shorts, especially the length, are great for my short legs and the fabric feels lighter than any other shorts I own.   I'm hooked!  Rabbit's website is:  www.runinrabbit.com.

PC:  Runinrabbit.com

PC:  Runinrabbit.com

I'm not sponsored by Rabbit, I just really like their shorts, and if you'd like to try some I can send you a link for 10% off your first order.  Email me or comment below!  

Training Update and Some Other Tidbits

Somehow three weeks have passed since my last post - the end of the school year craziness got the best of me!  I have started to build my mileage and intensity again as my focus shifts to the Indy Monumental Marathon in early November.  Last week I had two workouts on my schedule:  the first combined a fast threshold mile with 12 x 400 m repeats at 5:58 pace, and the second was five miles at marathon pace in the middle of a 10 miler.  I am working with my coach Esther Atkins again this cycle and am excited to see what progress I can make!

Like many of you, I have been running in some very hot and humid conditions.  Over the past few weeks I have been running slower (gasp!) than my easy range to keep my runs truly easy. The pace range for my easy runs is anywhere from 7:48 to 8:36.  Believe me, there have been many miles far slower than that pace range.  There are some benefits to running in the heat, which include your body producing more oxygenated blood to service both your hard working muscles and to dissipate heat, better control of core temperature, and you become a more efficient sweater - you start sweating earlier at a lower body temperature AND your sweat contains less salt, which results in a better electrolyte balance.  I think having a positive mindset goes a long way, too.  Rather than thinking to myself "It is so freaking hot today, this run is going to suck!", I've been trying to start every run happy and thankful I am able to do it. Here is an article which further discusses the benefits and dangers of exercising in warmer temperatures.  

I've been using my Garmin Forerunner 935 for about six weeks now and have had enough to time to determine it is by the far the best Garmin I have ever owned (and there have been many!).  I was going to launch into an in depth review but could never compete with DC Rainmaker's post, which you can find here.  If you prefer a shorter read, head here.  I really like the training status feature - below is a picture of today's reading.  It says my fitness is increasing while maintaining my usual work load, so hopefully I am reaping some of those rewards of hot weather running I listed above! 

Confession time - I am really bad about hydrating during long runs.  Really bad.  As in I only drink if I happen to pass a water fountain.  I know better, I really do.  After my long run last weekend that left me so dehydrated it took hours to recover from, I decided I need to purchase a handheld water bottle.  So please send me a recommendation!

 

 

Don't like to Race? That Doesn't Make You Less of a Runner!

Hello!  I hope you are all having a wonderful, relaxing Memorial Day weekend.  Summer is almost here!

This week I was able to incorporate some faster running again in the form of four miles at marathon pace on Tuesday, and six cut down miles in the middle of a 14 miler yesterday, starting at 7:30 and working down to 7:10.  My actual splits are below.  Yep, first mile too fast. Thankfully I got ahold of the pacing as the run went on.  I'm still not back to my normal mileage post-Boston and to be perfectly honest I'm not loving it.  I feel like I'm losing my aerobic engine but am trying to focus on the fact I'll be starting to train for the Indy Monumental marathon soon enough, and I'll get back to my mileage happy place.

What I really wanted to talk about today was racing.  I have shared before that races can really mess with my head.  A few months ago, I decided the only way to get past it was to race more, so I went online and looked for some races to add to my calendar.  However, the idea of actually doing this didn't excite me.  Currently, I race two marathons per year, and if I can, I like to race a half marathon four to five weeks out from my marathons.  So that's a grand total of four races per year. Whenever I scroll through Instagram, I see the runners I like to follow racing left and right.  And they look really happy about it!  So this sets off a bout of worrying:  how can I build my blog/coaching business/get over being freaked out by races on my measly four races per year? Am I not a "real" runner because I don't race every other weekend?  

Recently an athlete that I coach said she currently had no goal race on the horizon and wasn't really wanting one right now, and she hoped that was "ok" with me.  My first thought was, "Heck yes, that is ok, because I am right there with you!"  She likes to train hard and work on getting fitter and faster.  She just likes to run.  What I love about training for a race is the training, not the actual race.  I like the work outs, the easy runs, the long runs.  The process.    At this point in my life, my children are 12 and 10 years old.  Our weekends are filled with their activities, and I love this.  Before I know it, this chapter will be over.  Right now, a weekend race is bit of a logistical battle in terms of finding one that doesn't conflict with the family calendar, and when I do find one of those rare races, I end up wishing I was hanging out with them.  I love getting up early every morning before anyone else is awake, getting in my run, and enjoying the rest of the day with my family.  When my kids are grown, I will have a lot of time to increase my racing frequency if I choose to do so.  And I'm perfectly happy to spend the money that is not going toward race fees on running shoes!

My point in all of this is:  being a runner is not synonymous with racing.  Running zero races or 30 races per year does not make you less or more of a runner.  If you like to race frequently and rack up that hardware and build a sweet race shirt collection, high five to you! Same goes with mileage:  running 80 miles per week does not get you a shinier badge than the person who runs ten miles per week.  We are runners because we get out on the pavement, the trails, or the treadmill to do what we love.  So no more pressure!  Do what you love and the way you love to do it.  I'll run the races that I am excited to race and that work with my schedule.  They'll probably still freak me out but hey, I'm a work in progress. 

Congrats to all of the Bayshore Marathon runners!  I really missed not being a part of the festivities this year.  Below is a picture from last year's race, an unbelievably warm and humid day in northern Michigan.  I was 12th overall woman last year and hope I can crack the top ten next year! 

My support crew!

My support crew!

A Few Things I'm Into Right Now . . .

I'm writing a different type of post today, something I'll probably do on the regular going forward. I love changing it up when it comes to my running, whether it's shoes, a new gadget, or reading things that could potentially make me better, faster, and/or stronger.  So here's a few new to me things I'm loving right now.

1.  Brooks Launch 4.  As you may have noticed from reading my blog, I have been a pretty hard core Hoka fan.  Lately, I have been straying (gasp!) from my beloved Hokas and introducing Saucony, Adidas, and Brooks shoes into my rotation.  I am really gravitating to these other shoes.  Who knows, maybe I'll swing back the other way in the future.  I picked up a pair of the Brooks Launch 4 about six weeks ago and am really liking this new update.  Lightweight but supportive.  I have about 100 miles on this pair and will definitely be getting another when these wear out.

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2.  The Orb.  I mentioned this new addition to my arsenal of DIY therapy tools in my last post.  I don't know what it is about this particular item, but it has been a game changer for my perpetually cranky right hamstring!  Great for the calves and glutes, too.  For me, it's a step up on the pain scale from my foam roller, but I'm really seeing a difference.  

3.  The Endurance Diet, by Matt Fitzgerald.  I have not finished this book yet but plan to review it when I do.  I have read several of Fitzgerald's books and really like his style of writing. Thought provoking, straightforward information.  This new book focuses on five core habits to implement into your diet that will help you run and feel your best.  My favorite part so far? Nothing is off the table in terms of food choices - eat everything (some things more than others, of course!).  

4.  Garmin Forerunner 935.  I just started using this beauty over the weekend so I can't deliver a full review just yet.  So far, I'm in love.  I still have aspirations of doing a triathlon this year and this watch will come in handy for that endeavor.

So these are my Fantastic Four of the moment.  Let me know what you're loving!

Back at it

Hello!  As I slowly resume training, I resume the blog posts I have missed writing.  Three weeks have passed since Boston, and in terms of training they've been very uneventful.  Short, easy runs. My coach has been really instrumental in helping me embrace a true recovery.  This is by far the least amount of miles I have logged post marathon.  I will confess in the past I have jumped right back into high mileage.  I worried that a slow comeback this time around might make me crazy but in fact it's been the opposite.  I haven't missed the long runs or hard workouts yet.  

With this extra time, I've been really focused on the things I like to neglect when I am running a lot of miles.  Stretching, strength training, and core work are things that keep me injury free and this year I have been far better about my consistency, and the results are showing in the fact that 2017 has been my most niggle-free year to date.  Below is a picture of the newest addition to my arsenal of pain-inflicting gadgets.  This little gem can get into my hamstrings in a way my foam roller does not!  

Love The Orb!  And my guy photobombing in the upper left corner.  <3 

Love The Orb!  And my guy photobombing in the upper left corner.  <3 

I've had a few weeks to get past my disappointment about the warm weather in Boston and how it affected the outcome of my race.  I was tempted to sign up for my favorite marathon, the Bayshore Marathon, which is held the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend, to get some redemption but that urge has subsided.  I actually did this after I ran Boston in 2014, another warm day.  The good news:  I ran a substantial PR at Bayshore that year.  The bad news:  five weeks after that second marathon I was diagnosed with a stress fracture in my pelvis. Coincidence?  I don't think so, and I don't want to find out.  Older and wiser!

I have a few races on the calendar, the first being a 10k in late July.  This is very intimidating for me, because I struggle in these shorter race distances.  I don't have another gear beyond marathon or half marathon pace.  If you look at my predicted race times for a 5k or 10k race based on my marathon time, I fall WAY short of the mark.  But facing my fears will only make me a better runner, so I'm ready to jump in.  You can't improve without challenging your weaknesses.   Next week I start back with some actual work outs, and it will be nice to get the rust out!