Wednesday, September 18, 2013

I love the 80s

This girl did not like to run.
I grew up in the 80's and have photo documentation of big hair and dramatic make up to vouch for that (right). I still love to dance to 80s music and watch reruns of bad 80s sitcoms. Mostly now, I like to run in the 80s. Last week was my first 80 mile week. This week I'm shooting for 87 miles. And, in my workout tonight the 80s were a recurring theme.

I had a workout of 16 x 400m with 1 minute jog recovery. I met up with some super fast ladies for a long warm up of about 6 miles and then we busted out the 400s on the track. 

splits: 83, 82, 80, 81, 82, 81, 80, 81, 80, 78, 80, 80, 80, 80, 79, 78; average = 80

Yeah, so I went back to the 70s a few times there. It wasn't a bad decade. For this girl, that is pretty darn fast. This is on par with workouts I was running prior to running my fastest marathon times in 2009-2010. It gives me hope that my legs are coming around. I am usually not as strong on the shorter workouts, so this is a pleasant surprise.

I am always strong on my longer workouts, like the one I had on Sunday. Again, I was graced with great company and a great pace pusher. She sat on my tail the whole way to remind me that she would eat me up if I fell back. This was the same workout we had run the day I tried not to poop my pants. Here's a comparison of the two workouts:

August 18th: 17 miles in 2:00  
5 x 1 mile @ 6:10-6:20 w/ 1 mile coast @ 7:00-7:30 
actual splits: 

September 15th: 20 miles in 2:20 
5 x 1 mile @ 6:00-6:10 ) w/1 mile coast @ 7:00-7:15
actual splits:

Pretty amazing difference. Now, I know I was impaired during the August workout, but I actually almost repeated the same pre-race ritual for this last weekend's workout. I had a gig the night before, but this one was in the late afternoon. I still managed to get drunk but this time I passed out at around 9. I think the sleep made all the difference and this time, my bowels cooperated--mostly.

Things are starting to click and I am cautiously optimistic that I might have some good fall racing leading up to my first attempt at a Trials qualifier at CIM. As I have stated before, I just need to get into the same shape I was in before Chicago 2010 to feel like I can run sub-2:43 because I believe I was in shape for that time that day had the weather not been so hot. Then, all I need is perfect weather, a great taper and some fast people to pace off of. Not too much to ask, is it?  

I am doing everything I can at this point to stack the deck in my favor. I'll be cutting out alcohol from here on out (after this last beer tonight-I promise!); trying to get as much sleep as I can; trying to get my butt down to racing weight; taking my workout fueling to the next level; and working on the mental aspect of my training. We're getting serious here folks!

Monday, September 9, 2013

10 miles at GMP

Heading toward the finish. Photo by: Jim Glickman.
I ran a 10-mile race yesterday in 1:03:05.

I could choose to be disappointed about not running faster. I should be able to run faster than that, right? The thing is, I just can't be upset about the race. I placed second overall and won some great prizes. I got to hang out with my cool runner friends before and after the race and experience the great Sacramento running community. I ran 10 miles at about goal marathon pace on tired legs, and there is no better marathon training than GMP on tired legs. I was not at all trashed after the race--in fact, I ran another 6 miles later and did an hour of strength training. I woke up feeling great this morning, too. How can I be disappointed about all of that?

I have a choice in which version of my race story to tell you. I can tell a negative version where I wonder why I am not racing well and why my times are "slow". I can choose to question my training, my fitness, my sanity. That version focuses on the negative of the performance without any context. The one that I chose focuses on the positive that came out of the effort and was put into context. The context is the larger goal--a fast marathon whether that happens in December or some later time.

I mentioned in my last post that I had been going back through my training from 2009 and 2010: the 20-22 weeks of training before the two fastest marathons I've run. While it is interesting to look at those training logs, it does not provide the whole picture of what I did to run those times. To understand what got me to that point, you'd have to go back a lot farther than 22 weeks. You'd have to go back 3-4 years. I had been building my fitness and training for those races for years, not weeks. Everything I did as a runner before those races played a role in getting me across the line fast.

For perspective, I like to think back to a goal I had as a runner in 2005. I wanted to break 3 hours for the marathon. I had run 4 marathons at that point with my fastest being 3:20 in Dec 2005. I trained with the goal pace of 6:52 minutes per mile tattooed on my brain for two more years and 4 marathons before I was able to run that fast. What's more, the first time I broke 3 hours was the first time I didn't have to stop and walk at the end of the marathon! That was more of an accomplishment for me than breaking 3 hours. It then took me another 2 years to get close to 2:50. Neither of these milestones happened incrementally. They happened in big jumps. I ran right around 2:55 for three marathons before I hit 2:50.

My point here is that training builds on previous training. That's why consistency and patience are so important. Sometimes when you think you're plateauing, even though you're putting in a ton of work, something pops and you have a spectacular performance. The key is that you have to keep putting in the work and you have to continue to believe that it will happen.

This has been my secret weapon. I believe I can run a spectacular marathon race even though my training and racing may not indicate that I should be able to run what I do. I may question my ability to run a fast 5k or even a half marathon, but I know, under the right conditions, I can run a great marathon. I prepare myself for it, and I let it happen.

That's not to say that I don't have my share of melt downs before marathons and work myself up unnecessarily. I do! I was pretty worked up before the Eugene Marathon this year because my training was so sketchy. I didn't feel that I had put in the work for the race, and I freaked out about it the week of the race. I especially freaked out the Tuesday before the race when I was out in the field for 18 hours, hiking 10 miles up and down hills all day. I threw my expectations out the window and ran the race by feel. I had done few if any goal marathon pace workouts at the pace I was able to hold in that race.

Experiences like Eugene and the other unexpected performances I've had reinforce in me the belief in the magic of the taper and of race day. You have to be willing to let it happen and trust in your body and mind to get the job done.

I think Journey wrote a song about that, right? Hold on to that feeling. You know you're singing it right now.                  

Friday, September 6, 2013

Finding JoMo

I ran another 5k last Saturday, a cross country race, and I didn't have the race I wanted. I had hoped to find that extra gear that I know I have based on recent workouts, but it wasn't there. I ran hard, but not very fast. After the race, I added on 9 miles for a total of 15 for the day. I am in marathon training, after all. I spent the whole run wondering what was going on. I have now had 4 subpar race performances in the past ~8 weeks: three 5ks and one half marathon. I've had few if any bad workouts.

Now, I know that this type of situation usually calls for a complete rethinking of what I'm doing with my training and racing, but I don't think that is warranted and here's why.

During the rest of my long run, I realized I have two choices: I can keep moving forward and put in the work to try to achieve my ambitious goal, or I can stop trying. It is impossible to know how I will perform on any given day. So many things have to line up to have a great performance. What I know for sure is how I will perform if I stop trying. I won't have a chance.

I spent the next day looking through my training logs leading up to my two best marathon performances in 2009 and 2010. I was fearless back then and willing to push the limits of my body and mind. I had a singular focus on my goal and didn't let myself give in. I looked back at the workouts I did and was a bit surprised at how hard I worked each week. I was doing so much and really pushing the boundaries of overtraining and injury. I did not experience either before these races, but I came close. THAT is where you have to be willing to put yourself to achieve great things.

I tried to remember how I felt during those training blocks. I was tired. I ran on tired legs all the time. I had to push myself to get out the door, but I got out the door every day. I did my core and strength training. I rolled my legs out regularly. I gave up alcohol. I pushed myself hard. I had some crappy workouts along the way. I stopped for "water breaks" during almost every marathon paced run, but I did not let that smash my confidence. I was magically able to hold that pace during the marathon.

I then contrasted that with the way I've been thinking about my training and racing lately and had to admit that I've become somewhat of a wimp. When did that happen? Over the last couple of years, I have lost that fearlessness and drive in my running. Sometimes, I wake up and feel a little bit off and put off my workout. Maybe my legs are too heavy from strength training. I convince myself that I'm going to feel awful during my workout and either postpone or don't do it. What happened to the runner that never missed a workout?

She's still here. She just got lost when she got injured. I was lucky for the first 5 years of my running career because I was never injured. I was able to train consistently and got fast very quickly as a result. Then, in 2010, I got injured and kept getting injured and lost my confidence in my body. Fear and pain became my constant running companions. They stood by my side the entire time I was injured and helped me lose faith in my ability to push myself. Even after the pain went away, the fear remained.So, during that long run last weekend, in the midday heat, I asked myself: what am I afraid of now? I am not afraid of putting my goals out there and failing. I am not afraid of working hard and feeling pain. I am not afraid of losing, and I am not afraid of winning. The only thing I am afraid of is giving up.

I feel like something in me shifted this week: a sort of culmination of the events of these last couple of months. If I had spectacular races all summer, I wouldn't have come to this realization and might still be approaching my training with trepidation. Instead, I added a bit more work to my schedule this week and went after it like I did back in 2009 and 2010.

I didn't worry about whether I was doing too much on Tuesday, and might jeopardize my 10 mile race on Sunday. Add in a short, fast fartlek on Thursday to keep the legs fresh? Why not? Besides, Sunday's race is not my goal. The marathon in just under 14 weeks is my goal. This race is a stepping stone but not a validation of who I am as an athlete or what I'm capable of. I will have good and bad races and I can handle both with equal amounts of grace.

I feel like I found my JoMo, which is kind of like MoJo, but better. It is also a 100% natural joint nutrition supplement recommended by orthopedic surgeons and olympians for fast acting, maximum strength joint relief and the first name of the leader of Kenya during the 1960s and 70s.

Finally. Game. On.