Sunday, January 31, 2016

Road to Redemption: Week 4

Monday: The snow was over, but a snow plow had still not graced my street with its presence and based on Sunday's sometimes-harrowing run, it was obviously that my regularly scheduled program of speed work was not going to happen. Around noon, the snow plow came through and Husband and I celebrated by making tracks to have Mexican for lunch with friends, complete with margaritas.

His and hers
After all that Mexican and another day of sitting around doing nothing, I decided to try a some You Tube yoga at home. My training buddy Lauren had recommended this yoga routine so I decided to give it a try even though any past attempts to do exercise at home by watching videos have generally been epic fails. As it turns out, the 45 minute was not bad at all; not as challenging as Penny's class, but still a good workout. In a day of sloth, it was a welcome spurt of activity.

Tuesday: Despite the fact that we should have known better (and a 2 hour delay for work due to continued bad road conditions), I met up with Greg, Lauren, and Kit in the near West end to attempt the week's speed work session. Our plan was to run up and down Grove Avenue, a main thoroughfare that was pretty well cleared and we assumed would be pretty deserted at 6:30 am. On the way there, I put myself on autopilot and took a wrong exit, so I was running late. As soon as I arrived at the meet up point and got out of the car, I knew it wasn't going to happen - the parking lot was an ice skating rink, black ice was everywhere on the street, and everything that looked like snow was really ice topped slush. The four of us stood there looking like we'd just been told the world was going to end, repeating out loud over and over that it was smarter to forgo the workout than end up falling on ice and having a serious injury. After doing this for about 10 minutes, we left. Frankly, I'd rather get fat and slow than run on a treadmill, a device that definitely figures into my personal hell, so I didn't work out at all that day.

Wednesday: Thanks to warm(ish) temperatures on Tuesday afternoon, there was some good melting action and we decided to tempt fate again with a morning run on Wednesday. We abandoned any idea of speed work or tempo paces and ran a careful 7 miles, still managing a decent average pace of 8:15.

Thursday: Things were finally cleared up enough for a post-work tempo run. Both Kit and I had itchy legs, so we added an extra mile on to the planned 7 miles (1 warm up, 5 @ 7:49, 1 cool down). Those itchy legs meant that we failed spectacularly with pace discipline. Observe:

The 8:18 at the end was more because of a ton of snow obstacles than anything else.

Friday: Rest day. 

Saturday: 18 miles planned with the training team. Our route was one of the toughest of the season , as it included running all the way down to the river, back up to the downtown area, and then up one of the steepest hills to one of the highest points in the city (Church Hill, which was probably the most scenic and infamous spot on the course at this past September's UCI Bike Championships), back down to the river AGAIN, then back up to downtown AGAIN. Here is the elevation chart.Church Hill was mile 7.5. The dips on either side are down to the river and back up again.

The goal for this run was an 8:00 average with a mildly negative split second half. It was pretty cold this morning and again, we failed rather miserably at pace discipline during the first 7 miles. We were supposed to be running 8:06 averages until mile 9 and well... we were sub 8:00 except for the climb up Franklin to Church Hill. Somehow we did manage to really push it through the back half of the 18 and did run a negative split. Mile 18 was the fastest mile at 7:53. 

Both Kit's and my Garmin went slightly insane when we were downtown (tall building interference?) so the splits were a little off, but when I checked out our average at the end of the run, I was thrilled and surprised to see this:

There's a wonky mile in there, but I don't care. The perfection is too awesome.

Sunday: Rest day. My quads are reminding me that yesterday included some intense down hills as well as those up hill climbs.

Total Weekly Running Mileage: 33.12
Total Overall: 113.32


After dealing with snow and ice all week, the forecast says that Monday's high will be 70 degrees (!?!?!).

Please Jesus don't let it be 70 degrees on race day.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Road to Redemption: Week 3

Monday: 6.5 miles of speed work. It was just a little bit cold on Monday {sarcasm}. Air temp wasn't that bad but there was a bitter wind blowing, which not only took your breath away with its chill but also added resistance to what was already a challenging workout. A one mile warm up was followed by 6 x 800 with rest intervals at 400. Goal was 3:13 for the 800s. Here's how it went:

1st - 3:09
2nd - 3:09
3rd - 3:15
4th - 3:10
5th - 3:14
6th - 3:17

Not perfect, but not bad. I'm happy with it, especially considering the conditions. Once we were finished, we walked around the track gawking at the pretty ice puddles and then smashing them with glee until we all suddenly got really cold and booked it back to our cars.

Tuesday: Vinyasa. It was freezing outside again and I think that kept a lot of the fair-weather gym goers away because class was not nearly as crowded. Penny had a ton of balance poses in store for us including two of my favorites: King Dancer and the Lotus series. There was also my least favorite (FOR THE THIRD WEEK IN A ROW): Warrior 3. Hate that pose.

Wednesday: 7 miles of tempo work. I was dreading going out on Wednesday morning. Air temp was 15 and felt like 9. About 3 miles in, I realized that the thing about running is that if you're doing it right, it's never cold when you're running. 15 degrees feels like 60 when you're busting your butt. Thankfully the strong wind that had been blowing Tuesday evening had died down so at least we didn't have that to deal with. Our route was a new one for tempo and included a few "inclines" that were a touch challenging, but I am very satisfied with the results for the three tempo miles - a 7:08, 7:03, and 7:02 (goal pace was 7:04). That first mile started on the steepest incline of the route (excuses, excuses).

Thursday: Spin class! In my new shoes! I initially had some trouble getting clipped in and had to ask the guy next to me for some help. Embarrassing, right? I managed to get clipped in and enjoyed the class immensely.

Friday: Rest day/impending blizzard prep day. In hindsight, I should have accepted Kit's invitation to get in our 16 on Friday before the storm hit. I declined because when I got off work on Thursday I was so excited about the office being closed on Friday that I celebrated with some very non-long-run-friendly food and didn't even think about the possibility of running the next day.

Saturday: Blizzard. I sat on the couch and watched a lot of Netflix.

Sunday: The snow finally stopped, but we haven't seen a plow come through yet and most of Richmond remains a disaster area. 16" of snow may as well be 30" in Richmond; we are very ill-equipped to deal with this amount of snow. Even though I know full well missing one run isn't going to completely sabotage training, I was feeling very anxious after having done nothing but sit around, eat junk food, and watch Netflix for three days. So I got in Stella (Subaru for the win) and slowly navigated my way out of the untouched neighborhood and hopped onto the blessedly clear Powhite Parkway to meet Kit in Carytown to see how many miles we could run in 1.5 hours.

I was an interesting and exhausting run, to be sure. We got quite a few "wow, more power to you!" calls from pedestrians (the joke is on them - they were shivering and we were sweating; if you run you're never cold); more "What the HELL are you doing?" looks from drivers and other pedestrians than I can even count; and a few unfriendly horns. A few of the main roads of the Fan and Museum district had 1.5 lanes cleared. We ran against traffic in the .5 lane, which made some drivers rather unhappy. The sidewalks were impassable and the traffic had more than enough room. There were plenty of people walking in that .5 lane too.

The side streets were an absolute disaster. They looked like deserted snowy wonderlands compared to the main streets with the irritable drivers, but thanks to melting, refreezing, and the fact that they hadn't been plowed and cars had been packing down the snow, they were more like ice skating rinks and definitely not for running.

In the end we ended up with 10 miles and were thoroughly exhausted by the end. It wasn't 16 miles at an 8:00 pace like we needed, but we also didn't fare too badly, average 8:40 despite the snow, ice, etc. Something is better than nothing, I suppose.

I didn't take any pictures because I'm sure you've all seen snow before. If you're like us and dealing with the blizzard and subsequent fall out, you probably don't WANT to see it anymore.

Total Weekly Running Mileage: 23.5
Total Overall: 80.2

The weather is probably going to continue to impact training this week. The track where we usually do speed work is no doubt still snowed under and likely the only thing that will clear it is the sunshine we'll get over the next few days. Judging by photos on Facebook and news reports, any hope of side streets being clear any time soon is pretty slim, which will make finding safe alternate routes for fast running a challenge.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Road to Redemption: Week 2

Monday: 6.2 miles of speed work. This session, in a word, sucked. 1 mile warm up, 3 x 1600 with 400 RIs, and 1 mile cool down. I did not hit my target pace for the 1600s once. The goal was 6:41 repeats. The closest I got was a 6:46 for the first 1600 followed by a 6:52 and a 7:01. This is where things like running your long run 40 seconds on average too fast is not a good idea. It comes back to bite you on Monday.

Tuesday: Vinyasa yoga with Penny. Another packed class but another great one.

Wednesday: 7 mile tempo run. I was not feeling confident about this after Monday. Goal was 1 mile warm up, 5 tempo miles @ 7:19 pace, and 1 mile cool down. It was cold and there was a stiff breeze. But we did it. The tempo miles were right on target or slightly under. I really needed the ego boost. It was great. Unfortunately my SI joint is being pesky and I was in pain for the rest of the day.

Thursday: Spin class with Becca at 6 am. I can't tell you how much I wanted to just adjust my alarm/hit snooze when it went off at 5:08 am. There is just something about having to be somewhere (ANYWHERE) before 6 am that I just can't handle. If it's 6, I'm good. If it's 5:50, I'm not good. That extra 10 minutes slays me. Anyway, I scolded myself into going and I'm glad I did. I forgot how much I love Becca's spin class. She uses music very effectively and I her encouraging yelling coaching. One phrase that she uses often is "Strong, powerful legs. You're building them!" and she always encourages us to keep pushing to think about why we're here and what we want. I kept thinking about Boston. I want Boston. And it worked - I powered through pretty well today.

Friday: Hallelujah praise Jesus, it's a rest day!

Saturday: On tap: 14 mile long run. The goal: An overall 8:00/mile pace with overall negative split. I found a negative split calculator and popped in the target finish time, selected a "moderate negative split" option with first half slower than second, and got some recommended paces mile by mile. It recommended running 8:05 for the first 7 miles and then slowly ticking off 1 to 2 seconds for the last 7.

Per usual, we had a LOT of trouble running 8:05 despite a lot of "Hey, we should slow down" and "HEY WE SHOULD SLOW DOWN!" Running a slightly faster first half only meant that to get the negative split we had to push even harder at the end. It was a slog, but again we were successful. First 7 miles were at an average of 8:00, back 7 were 7:47 with the last mile at a 7:24! Overall average 7:54.

Hello negative splits.

Sunday: Rest day! I sat on the couch under my awesome fleecy sweater blanket and watched BBC nearly all day.

Total Weekly Running Mileage: 27.7
Total Overall: 56.7


This was a good week of training. Monday stunk, but I was able to put that out of my mind and keep on keeping on. Not every run is perfect and that is ok; continuing to push is the important part.

I also had an article published on RVANews this week; it is about the importance of being properly fitted for running shoes and what to expect when you visit your local shop for a fitting. Big props to Jeff Van Horn, who spent a good hour and a half talking with me and doing a very good job pretending I was a brand new runner who had no idea what I was doing (Jeff has fitted me for just about every pair of shoes I've had so that was quite an act).

Friday I had the day off thanks to Lee Jackson Day (if you're not from Virginia ,don't ask). I decided to get over my fear and embarrassment of being a noob and went to a local cycling shop to finally obtain spin shoes. I've been thinking about getting a proper pair for more than a year but immediately felt overwhelmed and afraid that I was making a bad choice when I researched them on Amazon. Inevitably I'd put some in my cart, then delete it all a few hours later. Finally, my BFF said, "Why don't you just GO TO A STORE and have them help you??"


I went to Coqui Cyclery, neither of which words I can pronounce so don't ask me to, and had a great experience. The expert in attendance pointed me to a basic pair of spin shoes that were on sale for $40 (woohoo!!). Clips were another $13 and the Expert installed them for me. Not too shabby for $55. I left feeling very happy that I had found a better deal than I had on Amazon and I also didn't have to waste hours trying to figure out how to properly install clips. Now I'm actually looking forward to trying them out on Thursday morning.

Me? Looking forward to spin class? That truly speaks to the power of new gear.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Road to Redemption: Wrightsville Beach Marathon

I'm resurrecting my poor little blog. Hello, how are you? Did you miss me? (Probably not.)

That's ok though.

In truth, the point of this blog has always been more of a memory jogger for me than anything. If  I don't write it down somewhere, I forget that it happened. And if I forget it happened, then it may as well have not happened at all.

I would like to forget what happened last September very much, but this won't make much sense if I don't provide a little bit of an update. So here it is.

In September, I went to Erie and ran the Erie Marathon. I was attempting to get a 3:30:00 to guarantee my entry to Boston because I had a bad feeling that my 3:33:40 from earlier in the year wasn't good enough. Kit went with me. He was also trying to BQ.

For 20 miles I was doing great and on target. I met two great gals (Katie and Carmel) and we all pushed each other hard. The best thing about Erie was meeting them and running with them for 20 miles.

Katie in blue tee, Carmel in black, me in blue tank

Then I did some really bad math (for the record, 8 times 6 is NOT 42 and it is also NOT a good idea to try to do simple math in your head at mile 20 of an all-out marathon effort), decided I had plenty of time, and walked for 2 minutes then stopped and stretched because my quads were completely shot.

Did I mention that 8 times 6 is NOT 42?

When I crossed the finish line, it said 3:34:42. When I looked down at my Garmin and saw a matching figure, I couldn't comprehend why my time was not at all what I wanted.

It was because 8 times 6 is 48. Not 42. I did not have any time to spare. Certainly no time for walking or stretching.

Kit did BQ with a 3:23:(and some change I can't remember) - taking 20 minutes off of his previous PR. Which is amazing. I was so damn proud of him that day. I still am.

Two weeks later, on September 21, I applied to Boston. I used my Shamrock time of 3:33:40.

On September 30, I got the news that I wouldn't be running Boston. Kit wouldn't be either. And worst of all, Lauren, the first in our band of close running friends to qualify and the one with the widest margin, didn't get in either.

In October, I ran a little point to point trail race from Broadnax to LaCrosse, Virginia. I placed second. Kit placed first. As in, he won.

It was a little race. But it still felt really good to kick some butt.

In November, Kit and I started and finished the Richmond Marathon together - something we have never managed before. We've started plenty of races together, but never finished one together. We aimed for a 3:45 and we ran a 3:45. It was the best marathon experience I've ever had. A perfect, sunny, beautiful weather day. Running side by side, step for step with my best friend and enjoying every moment.

Photo by Jesse Peters

So here we are. It's January. Like over 4,000 other Boston rejects, I have a fire lit under me. I am ready to go out there, train harder than I ever have before, and qualify for Boston with a margin so huge that I will be guaranteed my rightful spot at the starting line in April 2017.

Kit and I are both signed up for the Wrightsville Beach Marathon on March 20th. This is our redemption race. Our screw-you-BAA-let's-see-you-deny-me-again race. I'm aiming for that 3:30:00 again. It's a 3:20:00 goal for Kit.

We've cobbled together an 11 week plan (unorthodox, right?) that combines the Spring Marathon Training Team long runs with Run Less, Run Faster speed work outs and tempo runs. All pace goals are based on a marathon time of 3:25:00. Per usual, I'm running three days a week and adding in a day of Vinyasa yoga and a day of intense cardio cross training (spin or aqua jogging or swimming laps).

We're also trying a few new things. One of them will be to complete a long run for time on feet rather than distance; time on feet equaling the total amount of time the marathon will take to run. We're going with my goal time of 3:30 and expect to run around 23-24 miles. In Erie, I felt great until I hit the three hour mark - which also happens to be the longest amount of time I ran during our training (which topped out at a 21 mile long run). I'm hoping that pushing to complete 3 hours and 30 minutes of running will help my body be able to cope better with the last 30 minutes of the marathon.

I am (VERY BEGRUDGINGLY) trying to clean up my diet, cutting back on sweets and alcohol while adding more vegetables on a daily basis.

I'm also committing myself to not slacking on the cross training. I definitely slacked near the end of the Erie training cycle. Who knows if it hurt me - we'll never know - but I am determined to go into Wrightsville stronger than ever.

In December, I caught a terrible cold and barely ran for two whole weeks. I came into January and the first week of training with a lingering couch and not in my best shape. It's been a rough start, but last week at yoga on Tuesday night, something clicked in me.

I am ready to do this. I am ready to push myself; dedicate myself; be uncomfortable; do something hard; not eat so many donuts.

I'm coming for you, Wrightsville.

I am also going to commit to keeping better track of my training. I can't improve if I can't see where I've been.

So here is what happened in week 1.


Monday - 6 miles of speed work at Mary Munford. 1200, 1000, 800, 600, 400 with 400 rest intervals. I have no idea what my pace was because it was cold and I was wearing mittens that caused me to screw up my Garmin during the first 1200, so I gave up and left it off. Target pace was 6:30/mile for the speed intervals. It felt hard and it was hard. To be expected for the first speed work session of the season, especially coming off an illness and a 10 mile running week.

Tuesday - Vinyasa Yoga with Penny.

Wednesday - 8 mile tempo run. This was only supposed to be 6 miles (2 warm up, 2 at 7:04 pace, 2 cool down) but we missed a turn thanks to my bad navigation skills and ended up running 8 miles. This was also hard, but not as bad as Monday. And I would remiss if I didn't mention that the "feels like" temperature was a whopping 10 degrees.

Thursday - 60 minute spin class; my first in I can't even remember how long. It was really, really, really hard. I was watching the clock the whole time... and I have a lot of work to do.

Friday - rest

Saturday - 15 miles on the Virginia Capitol Trail. The goal pace was supposed to be 8:34 but we let ourselves get swept up in a much faster pace, ending up with an average of 7:47. This might sound like a good thing, but it is not. Pace discipline has been a huge struggle and continues to be. Just because you can doesn't mean you should. Practicing negative splits has got to be on the agenda for Saturdays.

Total Running Mileage: 29 miles

I'm not going to lie - at the end of this week I was exhausted and very grateful to do nothing but sit on my couch and unfortunately watch the Redskins lose their play off game. Hard training has also reawakened my appetite big time. I am hungry ALL THE TIME and it is only week 1. Not a good sign; it's going to take serious self control and discipline to not eat a bunch of junk.

But I've got that axe to grind and it's keeping me going.