Hey, The Snow Ain’t So Bad!

Screen Shot 2014-02-01 at 1.10.13 PMEarly Sunday morning, the temps were in the teens and, after Saturday’s snowfall, the roads still looked like God had poured a giant slushy over them. The parking lot where we usually meet was empty–mind you, this lot is never empty on Sunday mornings. On this dreadmill-worthy day, clearly we were the crazy ones. While I waited for the guys to show up, I sat in my car, toasty and not exactly in the mood to emerge into the slippery Arctic tundra for my 10-miler.

At 7 a.m., the guys arrived and started doing doughnuts through the snow in their compact SUVs. Naturally. Prerun shenanigans like this are honestly one of the few reasons I actually wake up and get my run done at all. They never fail to make me laugh, pull me out of my it’s-far-to-early-for-this-madness funk, and get me excited to run. I love them for it. Find running friends like these guys, and you’ll never skip a run again.

We lurched onto the roads and right up this steep hill beside the lot, spinning our tires… I mean… trainers the whole way up. Yep, that warmed us up! But man was this going to be a rough run. We ran through quiet, sparkling-white neighborhoods with only our voices and the crunching snow beneath our feet to break the silence. Then we reached wide open farmland with the sunrise breaking on the horizon. Stunning moments like these are what made me fall in love with Pennsylvania and remind we why I run.

A few days later, the guys decided to hit the trails at lunch. Initially I resisted the idea, preferring the finally dry roads over the potentially slippery, snow-covered trails. But I gave in to the peer pressure, so off we went… and it was amazing.

The woods had transformed into the definition of a winter wonderland. Armed with trail shoes and Yaktrax, we powered through the powder, breathing deeply and breaking a sweat despite the freezing temps. Like kids on a snow day, we devolved into goofiness (not like we don’t on a regular run), laughing the whole way up and down the mountain. The run was worth every exhausting step.

I stumbled upon a quote this week – summed up these runs perfectly:

“Nothing’s better than the wind to your back, the sun in front of you, and your friends beside you.” – Aaron Douglas Trimble

Now don’t get me wrong, I love winter. But this edition has made me seriously wish spring would hurry up and arrive already. I’m so over sliding through my training runs.

But these two runs were the best I’ve had in a while. When the rest of the world stayed cozy and warm inside, we were out embracing the snowy beauty that was SO much better than the view I would’ve had on a treadmill. I’ve got the guys to thank for that. Hey, the snow ain’t so bad after all!

QUOTE OF THE POST: (see above!)

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Gearing Up for Boston to Big Sur

Screen Shot 2014-01-20 at 5.12.19 PMIf you’re wondering where I’ve been for the past few months since Marine Corps, I’ve been recharging the batteries with some active downtime. I ran on my own terms, which meant running whatever distance felt right on a given day, or… not running at all. After months of rising early (and reluctantly) for long runs, staying cozy in bed on Sundays felt ahhh-mazing. I started a new core- and butt-busting gym routine with my coworkers. Dialing back on my running gave me more free time to work on my weak spots. That’s what off-seasons are for, right? I’m already feeling stronger. And finally, I went on hiatus from blogging because, honestly, I needed to take a break from analyzing every workout.

Heading into week four of training for my second Boston Marathon (and six days later, the Big Sur International Marathon), here I am feeling restored (running-wise) and ready to dust off the proverbial cobwebs of this blog. But this time around, even though I’m only ankle-deep in my training, it feels different.

One reason I’ve put off writing this post is because I’m not really sure how to put into words how I feel about this training cycle and what I want to learn from it. One thing I do know is that unlike last year, this race won’t be about setting a PR. It’ll be about joining 36,000 other runners to reclaim the Boston Marathon. I want to run for those who can’t. I want to run to celebrate all of the good that has emerged from the bad. And I want to really feel the emotional highs and lows during the race. What I don’t want is to cloud all of that with my own goals and expectations. Like last year, though, in the epic setting that is Highway 1 along the coast of California, I’ll run Big Sur to embrace how incredible our sport is and to remember why we run in the first place. I think Big Sur will always be a sort of redemption run for me.

With that said, I think Sunday’s long run may have offered an answer:

At 7 a.m., I found myself shivering in the darkness. I was so NOT in the mood to do my 14-miler in 18-degree temps. I wondered, Why, why do I do this to myself again? I’ll admit, my attitude stunk and it stayed that way for most of the run. Even the guys’ goofiness couldn’t shake me out of my frozen, unhappy state. But with a couple miles to go, the sun finally broke out from behind the clouds, drenching the creek and snow-covered trees in warmth. It was stunning. That moment alone lifted my spirits and made the run worth it.

So what do I want out of this training cycle? Rather than focusing too much on mile spits or how many workouts I squeeze in per week, I want to soak in my surroundings, feel the fresh air move in and out of my lungs, and do my best not to resent my ability to push my body and feel it in motion. I want to appreciate those beautiful moments like the one I experienced Sunday morning. During my downtime when I wasn’t running as much as usual, I discovered that I felt most like myself while I was running. Not running made me want to run. (Surprise, surprise, right?) I want to tap into that feeling as often as possible from now on!

QUOTE OF THE POST: “To run outside surrounded by a beautiful natural setting where the air is crisp and cool, the sun is shining, and all I can do is admire my surroundings and listen to my body in motion.” – Jonathan Steckel, an RW Challenger

P.S. Dr. Jordan Metzl created the wicked-tough workout I mentioned above. Called IronStrength, a video series of the routine can be found over at Runner’s World dot com. Here’s a taste:

– 6 sets jump squats (x15), rotatory planks (5 each arm)
– 3 sets rows from plank (x10), pushups (x10), situps with weights (x10)
– 3 sets lunge plyos (x10), alternating sides of hamstring plyos (x5 front, side and rear) in between.
– 3 sets mountain climbers (x10), legs down (x10)
– 4 sets deadlift high pull (x5), biceps curls on single leg (x5), overhead press on other leg (x5)
– planks (60 secs; side, down, side)

Rest and Re-Inspiration

After two full weeks of absolutely no running (save for a certain brush with Ryan Hall’s f-ing fast marathon pace), I’ve spent this week slowly coaxing my legs back into running. Winter decided to arrive during my hiatus, and despite a few “niggles,” it feels wonderful to breathe in that cool, fresh air, break a sweat, and laugh with the guys again.

I decided to commit to 14 days of rest because Marine Corps left me feeling a bit banged up. I’ve been marathon training for the better part of the year, so the lingering aches gave me a good excuse NOT to run to let my body heal. Besides, MCM fell smack dab in the middle of the madness that is “working” at the RW Half, MCM, and NYCM on back-to-back-to-back weekends. All of it was incredibly exhilarating and inspiring–heck, I LOVE everything about races–but it’s also exhausting. My brain and body needed some downtime. Badly.

So while I’m here dusting the cobwebs off this blog, I have to say that even though I wasn’t out on the roads, running still managed to find ways remind me why our sport is so tremendously incredible. For instance…

I’m officially “in real life” friends with Iron(wo)man and mother-runner Michele Gonzalez (right), who raised over $10,000 for Superstorm Sandy relief efforts last year; Pam Rickard, an ultrarunner whose comeback story is best summed up by this Facebook post; and Summer Sanders (left), an Olympic swimmer, one of my childhood idols (thanks to a certain TV show), and now an incredible, speedy! runner. Words can’t really express how impressed, amazed, inspired [insert more similar words] by these women. They are the embodiment of why runners are awesome.Summer-Michele

I got a dose of the November Project, the highlight being a high-five with co-founder Brogan Graham, who’s gracing the December cover of RW. The bear-hugging, no-excuses, potty-mouthed “tribe” that began in Boston has injected a whole new level of badass-ness that’s shaking up what it means to be a running group. Get a better sense of who they are here and why they’re the shining light in an otherwise rough year for the running community here.

RW1213_COV_spread

And finally, I spent a weekend witnessing, for the first time, the magic of the New York City Marathon. It’s truly eye-opening to see runners from around the world literally take over the city, to see them streaming into Central Park from dawn until dusk, and to watch the elites cover 26.2 miles with precision, strength, and in Meb’s case, courage, from the gun to the tape. I bumped into Shalane and Julie, who again reminded me that the pros are just (blazing fast) regular runners. The list goes on… I left the city with my mind made up: I need to run New York next year.

Screen Shot 2013-11-14 at 6.05.18 PMBasically, I can’t help but smile at all that went down over the past month or so. And trust me, this post touches on a fraction of it all. I couldn’t be more thankful. Thanks everyone.

QUOTE OF THE POST: “Running is not, as it so often seems, only about what you did in your last race or about how many miles you ran last week. It is, in a much more important way, about community, about appreciating all the miles run by other runners, too.” – Richard O’Brien

MCM Training | The Final Countdown

A quote from Lauren Fleshman - my mantra for MCM.

A quote from Lauren Fleshman – my mantra for MCM.

This morning I finished my last real long run of 15 miles before diving head-first into the “taper crazies” a.k.a. “maranoia.” After two weekends with my twitter feed full of amazing race results, I won’t lie, I’m itching for it to be my turn. I’m so curious/excited/anxious to see what I can do two weeks from now on October 27 because I know I have a solid race in me. I feel like I’m due for a good marathon, one where I’m running smart from the gun, smiling at the spectators, and just cruising along, enjoying and embracing the ride (at least until mile 18 or 20!). It’s been just over a year since I ran my first 26.2, and I haven’t run as fast since. BUT I’ve got four marathons worth of experience and a solid 14 weeks of training under my belt, so I’m feeling confident that good things will come.

Since Steamtown was my best marathon yet, the goal for this build-up was to replicate last year’s training but supplement it with strength, yoga, and speed sessions. (Here’s my first post about my game plan). I’m pretty pumped to say that that happened. Sure, I wasn’t perfect from start to finish. But this time around was a vast improvement over last year. I’m feeling fitter overall and have been able to finish many of my long runs with some race pace miles instead of slow-painful slogs that defined the end of those runs last year.

To recap this cycle, I flipped back through the pages of my Believe I Am training log (and my log from last year) to see how it all shakes out by the numbers:

(2013 Marine Corps Marathon Training | 2012 Steamtown Marathon Training)

Total Mileage: 475.5 (34/week) | 456 (32/week)

# of Workouts/Speed Sessions: | 3

I did my best to do one speed session per week (not including race weeks) to maintain the quicker leg turnover I gained over the summer. Not only did it change things up a bit, but those sessions got me to push myself harder than I would on long runs. I also managed to eek out a post-collegiate 5K and mile PR and a 10K PR. And PRs are always good confidence boosters!

# of Two-a-Days: 5 | 1

I typically take two days off per week, so doing these doubles allowed me to sneak in a few extra miles and teach my body to run on tired legs. Most of these runs were quicker efforts, too. I learned that I’m a big fan of two-a-days, and I definitely plan to integrate them into my training in the future! Read about my first double that I did with my local running store here.

# of Gym Workouts: 16 | 0

I went from not being able to do a push-up or two to knocking out eight+ controlled, arms-tucked-in ones. I’ve also reached a new bench press PR of 80 pounds. I can’t say I’ve ever really had this much upper body strength, and it feels good to not be so one-dimensional with my fitness. I’ve also discovered how to enjoy planks–which I used to avoid like the plague–and will happily do any variation of them.

# of Yoga Sessions: 9 | 0

I can’t stress how much yoga benefited me this cycle. My Monday yoga sessions became a staple post-long run recovery tool, helping me stretch out, loosen up, build strength, and relax. I really believe yoga and running go hand in hand.

Screen shot 2013-10-13 at 4.20.17 PM

Races: 4 – Steps4Stellar 5K, Hood to Coast, Saucon Rail Trail 10K, Fifth Avenue Mile |
4 – Revolutionary Run 10K, LVRR 5K, Falmouth Road Race (7 miles), Fifth Avenue Mile

—————

I wasn’t sure I how felt about chronicling this training cycle from start to finish, but I won’t lie, it’s been worth it. I’ve been able to jot down what when well, work through rough patches, and keep myself honest with my goals. It’s amazing to look back and read about all that went down in just 14 weeks, from the high highs to the low lows. I plan on re-reading it all in the days before the race, too, to remind myself to trust in my training. I hope to go into Marine Corps with the same mindset that I had before Steamtown – I was genuinely happy, purely excited to just see what I could do. Not a single negative thought crept into my mind. I stayed calm and in control. I didn’t become intimidated by the distance. I just kept pressing forward. I ran smart. I ran by feel. I started slow, reigning in the horses so I’d have some juice left for the end. I didn’t stress about the outcome or worry over every mile split. I just ran. That’s what I’m hoping to do at MCM.

—————

Between now and the big day, I’m doing my last training run at the Runner’s World Half & Festival. My parents and youngest brother will be in town, which is beyond awesome. My dad is going to run…no crush his first half-marathon, and words can’t express how much I can’t wait to see him accomplish this goal he’s worked toward for months. Just thinking about it literally fills my heart with joy. Ahh!

I’ll write a recap of the weekend early next week and possibly share one last update before the race. Can’t wait to kick off the next few weeks of racing!

QUOTE OF THE POST:   ontheline500

MCM Training | Derailed

My ER dream team - made me smile despite the gash in my lip!

My ER dream team – made me smile despite the gash in my lip!

Just when my training should’ve hit its peak before the “taper crazies” set in, life threw a wicked curve ball at me.

I haven’t run since Sunday.

A dog bite and eight stitches in my lip later, my fingers (and toes!) are crossed that come this weekend, the train will get back on the tracks for the final three weeks before Marine Corps.

Up until Sunday’s not terribly dramatic (but still unfortunate) incident, I’ve been feeling fresh, fit and ready to get after a PR on race day. Highlights? I turned my cut-back weekend 10-miler into a perfect progression run that felt awesome. I successfully completed my first Yasso 800s with David, who’s shooting for his BQ of 3:25 (I would be THRILLED to run that time at MCM!). And I pushed through nasty tummy issues in the final four-ish miles of Sunday’s 16-miler, dropping down to goal race pace despite feeling like I was going to s*** myself. (I’ve also been able to up my weights at the gym and can now do about eight real push-ups – I’m so excited to see some progress in that department!)

That paragraph of good news is a huge reason why I’m not freaking out that much about missing three days of running. I’m much more concerned about letting my lip heal properly than getting a few runs in. I know the rest can only help. At this point, the hay is in the barn, right? I’ve told friends this advice before, so I’m trying to take a dose of my own medicine (along with some horse-pill-sized antibiotics) this week.

I’d say the worst part is that I’m starting to get antsy because I just don’t feel like myself when I’m not sweating it out on the roads. BUT…I’m staying focused on the positives. It could’ve been much worse. It could’ve happened closer to race day. The list goes on… I’m so thankful that, despite it being a sucky experience, I’ll be back in business soon (and that I won’t look like the Joker at the RW Half or MCM. Booyah!)

QUOTE OF THE POST:  “To get to the finish line, you’ll have to try lots of different paths.” – Amby Burfoot

A Note To My Future Self That Summer Marathon Training IS Worth It!

Screen Shot 2013-09-19 at 4.57.36 PMDear Future Megan,

Next summer when you inevitably return from a long run dehydrated and defeated, remember Sunday’s 20-miler. It was epic, it was ahh-MAZ-ing, it was confidence-boosting, you name it. That single run made up for a summer’s worth of slow, sluggish death marches. Yes, it’s hard to see now with stinging sweat in your eyes that the cooler weather will bring with it faster, easier running. But remember that this run proved that it does.

More than once that day, I caught myself experiencing the “runner’s high.” Around mile 12 or 13, we dropped the pace to 7:35. And it felt easy, like we had only 10 steps, not 10 miles, under our belt. I felt smooth and in control, my breathing was relaxed, and I shifted into cruise-control so I could fully take in the gorgeous, sun-soaked scenery around me. (Mind you, I’d been struggling to hold my pace within 8:15-30 range on my long runs so far, so stop feeling discouraged about your long-run splits so far this summer. It’s not worth your time or energy!) Then with four miles to go, I still felt strong, so I decided to try to dip down into the 7s again. I genuinely couldn’t believe it when my splits were all 7:30 or faster. I was giddy for the rest of the day (and week for that matter).

Remember how this run completely changed your mentality going into Marine Corps and how it revealed that yes, you really do love this sport even when you’ve sweat buckets at the butt-crack of dawn Sunday after Sunday after Sunday. Remember to feel grateful and thankful for the ability to feel that runner’s high and rush of endorphins that sometimes get dampened by the summer haze. It’s all worth it, I swear. This is your mantra: Summer marathon training IS worth it! 

So go take a cold shower, cozy up in bed, cue up Netflix, and get excited. Fall will be here before you know it!

(One-Month-Out-From-MCM) Megan

QUOTE OF THE POST: “Running is a big question mark that’s there each and every day. It asks you, ‘Are you going to be a wimp or are you going to be strong today?” – Peter Maher

MCM Training | Hungover

Screen Shot 2013-09-14 at 12.33.46 PMBetween Hood to Coast and a 10K on back-to-back weekends, my body withdrew into a full-blown racing hangover that lingered for days. Marathon training is a lot like beer. It’s slow to kick in, but can still knock you off your feet if you have a few too many. I made the mistake of mixing in a couple shots of tequila. Yes, racing offered a quick buzz that felt great. But…it probably wasn’t the best idea. I had a little too much fun.

So despite the arrival of gorgeous fall weather, my legs were anything but fresh and springy for a full week and a half post-10K. I just felt flat, empty of any real energy. On Monday, I was torn between officially returning my regular routine and cutting it back for a few extra days to let my body fully recover. I opted for the later. To fight the fatigue, I actively cut back on my mileage and eased up my mid-week runs to make up for the harder weekend efforts.

Thankfully, it paid off. Come Wednesday, I felt like myself again. Thursday and Friday felt good, too! Crisis averted. Whew.

Side note: The past couple of weeks made me realize that I’ve been treading that fine line between training hard and overtraining. Usually I’m pretty good at not crossing it, but I have to admit that scaling back felt a bit like… cheating? I didn’t want to fall further away from my solid streak of training weeks, but I also didn’t want to risk get injured either. Regardless, feeling off was no fun and certainly wasn’t doing any favors for my confidence.

Deep down, I wasn’t too worried because I trust in myself to listen to my body and do what feels right. Since my calendar is (thankfully) clear now of any major races, my hope is that everything will naturally fall back into place within the next week or so and it’ll be smooth sailing through to October 27.

Here are the highlights from Weeks 9 and 10 of training:

  • A 10K PR! PRs are always a good thing. Here’s my recap!
  • An impromptu mid-morning trail run at work, which, like any trail run in general, was way too much fun.
  • A plank-off with a coworker. I lost BUT we went for over two minutes. It was nice to see physical evidence of my strength training. Fun fact: We did this in work clothes in our cubicles.Screen Shot 2013-09-14 at 12.34.47 PM
  • Spectating the VIA Marathon with my yoga goddess of a friend Rebecca. (Seriously, check out her blog – this Boston girl is the Dorothy Beal of the yoga world!). I had such a blast cheering on my friends who BQ’d the heck out of that course. I couldn’t be more proud, impressed, and inspired by their races.
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Surprise! Rebecca’s BF (gray) and my old Lehigh teammate (yellow) ran the first 13 miles together! And there’s the cheer squad. They’re such cutie pies!

  • Pacing elementary and middle schoolers at a cross country meet. I love seeing kids participating in running, especially the ones that love it even at such a young age when kicking around a soccer ball is probably way more fun that just running. Also, the 3rd/4th grade girls I lead through their mile race were friggin’ FAST, like they almost beat me fast. (And I got a head start.)Screen Shot 2013-09-14 at 12.34.06 PM
  • Completing a 5-miler in what felt like a 104-degree sauna. Just finishing this run was enough.
  • Soaking in the cool fall weather on my run yesterday, which was especially wonderful after the inferno we ran through on Wednesday.

As of this post, we are only 42 (AHH!) days away from race day! Hopefully by this time next week I’ll have a more positive training report to share!

QUOTE OF THE POST: “Erase from your mind that your preparation must be perfect. Hard work + dedication = a shot at your dreams. Keep believing.” – Kara Goucher