A Spark of (Invisible) Potential

photo“The weird thing about running is how people keep running faster and faster. Take the great example of the four-minute mile. One guy breaks it, then all of a sudden everyone breaks it. And they break it in such a short period of time that it can’t be because they were training harder. It’s purely that it was a psychological barrier and someone had to show them that they could do it. It’s the same thing if you’re a runner and you’re around older runners, you just get a sense of what’s possible. You have no clue, if you’re by yourself, how fast you can run. You have no sense of what your limits are.” – Malcolm Gladwell, September 2013 issue of Runner’s World 

I read this earlier in the week, and though the realization Gladwell discusses here–that the runners already had the ability to break four minutes, they just needed to learn that it was indeed possible–wasn’t necessarily new to me, for the first time it got me thinking. This summer brought with it the re-ignition of my desire to truly train again after a year’s run-for-fun hiatus post college. (Hallelujah!) That means I want to go to the gym, I want to do speedwork, I want to log more mileage. And now I want to run fast.

Now it’s not lost on me that I’m still very much a marathon newbie. It’s a distance that just doesn’t mess around. You have to respect it. And since it’s still so new, I’m pulling numbers out of thin air when it comes to goal times and potential race paces. Yes, I have my first four marathons as benchmarks, but I’m learning from experience that those first few cracks at any distance aren’t worth fussing over when it comes to what you can do down the road.

Screen shot 2013-08-03 at 1.43.40 PMCase in point: My freshman year of college, I decided to try my hand at the steeplechase. I’m (embarrassingly) uncoordinated–this is why I run–but the challenge was exciting and new. (Trust me, when you’ve spent the last six years running in circles, mixing in a few hurdles is a welcome distraction, intimidating as they might be.) I was the lone freshman on a squad of water pit pros who could leap over the water in fluid, powerful bounds. I, on the other hand, was a pencil-diving pro. I remember thinking, Wow, I will absolutely never run as fast as those girls. I know I’ll improve, but I can’t imagine ever touching their times. This was a game of gazelles vs. baby giraffes.

3274_539101569066_5984858_nI ran my first steeple (above, laughing because I was soaked head to toe) in 12:08 and dropped it down to 11:45 by the end of the season. My teammates were running in the high 11:20s (that’s them on the left!). Dang they were quick. It might not seem like much, but over a 3K, seconds are like months. It’s tough to shave off time.

Fast forward to my junior year when one of my all-time favorite running moments happened. I won our dual meet and ran 11:23 (below). I dropped it to 11:17 at the league championships. I honestly still can’t really believe it. No, the pencil diving never improved. I don’t remember feeling like I had done anything different to get there. Sure, I had gained experience by then. But it felt more like a miracle rather than months of work paying off. Finally a good race in a sea of crappy ones.

But those magical races were few and far between in college because my head was so far up my own a** (pardon my French) most of the time no thanks to unnecessary nerves and pressure. I know my brain held me back more than I care to admit.

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Looking back on those races, I think they were hints at my true potential. But since I didn’t really see them that way, or at least fully believe that I really could run faster, I never did. I was stuck running 11:52s my senior year.

A (ridiculously fast) alum told me then and still tells me now that I could go sub-11 in the steeplechase. That’s like telling me I could run in the 3:0Xs in a marathon. (Which she reminded me of again last weekend). To me, that’s crazy talk.

In fact, one of my coworkers truly believes I have the potential to make it to the Trials if I set my mind to it. Again, say what?

Every time both of them say it without hesitation. They genuinely believe I could do it if I wanted to. She’s watched me pencil dive dozens of times, yet she still thinks I can go sub-11. He’s spent hundreds of miles watching my knees knock together, but he still thinks I can run close to a 3-hour marathon. Their faith in my potential is both unsetting and…inspiring?

I’ve spent my whole running career looking at people that spoke of my potential incredulously, like, Hey, that’s great and all, but let’s come back down to earth. Thanks. So far that mindset hasn’t really gotten me anywhere.

But what I’m starting to realize is that they have the ability to spot those sparks of potential. They have a clear view of them without all of the negative self-talk that fogs it up in my brain. Maybe it’s my year-long hiatus that’s helped me see this, who knows? I guess what I’m trying to say is that I’m finally getting a sense of what’s possible. And possibly believing in it, too?

So from now on, here’s why I’m going to do to try to help me reach my potential:

  • Keep an eye out for those successful workouts or runs. I remember doing a solo 20-miler in January, and I ran every mile under 8 minutes. I’ll never forget it because when I finished I couldn’t believe I’d done it. I want to remember that run (and the other good ones) when I get to the starting line in October. 
  • Keep an open mind when it comes to race goals. That means not feeling restricted to a specific time goal or pace. I want to run by feel and go from there. If I feel good, I’ll pick it up. If not, there’s always another race.
  • Quit writing off my support group when they’re encouraging me to aim higher. Rather than putting up a barrier, I want to use those opportunities to think about what more I could do to run better.

A 7:30/mile marathon (or 7:00/mile marathon for that matter) seems crazy now. But who knows? It might not seem crazy a year or two from now! I want to leave the doors open for those opportunities rather than locking ’em shut and waiting for something to seep through the keyhole. I want to listen to the people telling me I can break through my own four-minute barrier, rather than telling them that it’s impossible. I know I can trust them since I bet they’ve been in my shoes in one way or another.

QUOTE OF THE POST:  “You have to know your body. It’s part of the beauty of the training process, and once you’ve determined how much your body and mind can take, you can then begin to reach your potential.” – Frank Shorter

MCM Training | Back on Track

photo 3It’s amazing what knocking a few degrees off the thermometer can do, huh? A mild week weather-wise meant some quality miles were logged, leaving me feeling confident and strong. Thank goodness. I know we’re not out of the woods yet, but the mantra this summer–take advantage of every cool day; don’t dwell on the yucky, hot ones–is holding out.

As I’m writing this, I think my elbow is the only thing NOT sore on my body. Even yoga hurt today. Hurts so good, right? Heck yes. Thank you cooler weather!

This past week(ish), I logged:

  • A surprise double thanks to my first group run at my local running store.
  • A mile-repeat workout on the track, the first in a long, long time. It felt exactly how you’d expect mile repeats to feel (umm…OUCH), but I’m pretty satisfied with my splits. It felt good to shake a little speed into my legs!
  • A 15-miler as a part of the first training run with the RW editors for the RW Half. I ran 10 of them with work friends and Lehigh friends, which made those miles fly by. The last five I ran with WG, and they all ended up faster than the first 10. Sweet. photo 2
  • Two lifting sessions. I’m pleasantly surprised that I still want to go to the gym. There’s something moderately addicting about sweating twice in one day. I certainly don’t hate it!

I also:

  • Kept up my strawberry-banana-chocolate crepe streak – yes, this post-long run nom is becoming something of a habit. It just hits the spot, how can I resist?
  • Participated in my first #runchat in a very long time and discovered a handful of fellow run-chatters also doing MCM! It’s still so cool to me how the running community–even the virtual variety–can be insanely motivating.
  • Tried out these puppies. Verdict’s still out on how I feel about ’em, but they’re pretty sick looking, right? photo 1

I feel like I’ve successfully hopped back on the bandwagon, and I’m holding on tight with both hands! Until next week!

QUOTE OF THE POST: “The combined feeling of exhaustion, euphoria, and accomplishment is quite luxurious.” – Larry Smith

On My First Group Run With My Local Running Store…

Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE my running group at work. It’s been over two years since I began running with them, and they somehow still make me laugh so hard. But when Hannah suggested we go to the Tuesday group run from our local running store, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to meet new runners and try something new. Hey, a change of pace was in order! (Pun totally intended).

Since the run on tap was only going to be three miles, I decided to run at lunch, too, so I could get in enough miles for the day. Plus, I was pretty pumped to do a surprise double for the day. Win, win all around! We arrived at the store and hung out with a few of our Rodale coworkers before the run was announced.

You can imagine my confusion when a plastic cups were handed to us BEFORE the run. What were they for? One of the store’s employees then told us that we’d be running to the river (it’s about a mile and a half away), filling our cups with water, and running back with them. The challenge? Whoever returns with the most water in their cup wins. No walking allowed.

Alright, challenge accepted. This’ll be interesting…

We took off toward the river, running at what felt like almost tempo pace. Speed wasn’t a factor in this game, but since we only had to run a tad over a mile, we ran fast. We got to the river, filled up our cups to the brim, and began to slowly…carefully…steadily… retrace our steps. It didn’t take long for us to realize this game felt like a race water stop from a nightmare.

Some of the guys covered the top with their palms, but that proved ineffective thanks to my small hands. Running unbalanced with both hands on the cup was much tougher than holding it with one hand. I tried to run (more like shuffle) as smoothly as possible, but as soon as I thought I’d found a rhythm, the murky water would slosh out. Dang it! Ha!

The competitor within made me want to run faster, so we caught up with a few of the guys in the front. We all ran through the neighborhoods, passing people sitting on their porches. Don’t mind the weird runners carrying cups of water! We’re not odd at all, I swear.

We were all giggling (with a few swear words sprinkled in when the water spilled) and it was way too much fun.

After the run, we headed to a local bar for running trivia, which, despite my occupation, I’m apparently awful at. But the evening as a whole was so awesome. It introduced me to new runners in my community–always a good thing!–and I had a blast doing it. I think the Tuesday group runs will become a regular part of my running routine, that’s for sure!

QUOTE OF THE POST: “Running is a mental sport…and we’re all insane!” – Author unknown

MCM Training | 98 Days ‘Til Go Time

Switched roles and was the interviewee at a 5K I ran last weekend!

Switched roles and was the interviewee at a 5K I ran last weekend!

Hello run-blog universe! Long time, no see everyone!

It’s been far, far too long since I’ve posted here. To get my blogging butt in gear, I’m dusting off the keyboard with a Marine Corps Marathon training update, the first of what’ll become a weekly series until October 27.

MCM will be my fifth (!) marathon, and I’m racing it through work with the Runner’s World Challenge, which, by the way, is one of the coolest running programs around. Not only do you get access to my colleagues’ seasoned advice and coaching, BUT you get VIP treatment on race weekend. Know what that means? Private porta-potties. That’s right. Join us, it’s worth it. (Got questions about it? Ask ’em below.)

Last year I worked the event and got to celebrate post-race with all of the Challengers. No matter the outcome of their race, every finisher said MCM was an incredible experience. One runner’s recap even moved me to tears. That was all the inspiration I needed to want to join in myself in 2013.

So here we are, just 98 days away from 26.2 miles through our nation’s Capitol. And let’s just say my training is off to a, uhhh, bumpy start. The RW Run Streak got me hopped up on speed and strength, which helped me run a post-college 5K PR of 19:42 (and snag a top overall female win!) at a race my old teammate puts on in honor of her mother last weekend. I’ve also been consistently hitting the gym two to three times a week, and I’m already feeling stronger head-to-toe. (And get this, I figured out how to enjoy planks, even the dreaded side planks! Rather that holding a position until my core gives out, I’m rotating positions every 20 seconds, doing at least three sets per gym session. Plus, according to my roomie, shorter bursts are better because you’re more likely to hold proper form. Rock hard abs, here I come!)

photo 2But…that momentum came to a screeching halt when I went on vacation with my family last week. I did one glorious run with my Dad on the beach, but that was it. I’ll be honest, whenever I’m with my family, running goes on the back-burner. I hardly ever see them, so the time is precious. I’d rather be with them than on the roads alone. I’ve got 50 other weeks to do that.

As much as I needed to hit the mental reset button, I’m ready to dive right back in to training. Taking a week off from the get-go has left me a bit anxious, but I know that my off-season streak and newfound need to lift stuff has given me a solid base. Since strict day-by-day plans are still the bane of my existence, I’m going to keep up my flexible routine. Here’s a rundown of my goals and what I’m hoping to do training-wise:

  • This race marks just over a year anniversary since my first marathon. I haven’t run as fast since, so I’d be thrilled with a PR. Don’t care by how much, but you know, deep down I’d love to cross the line in the low 3:2X’s.
  • Speaking of that uber-successful first marathon, I went through my training log and wrote down what I did for my long runs leading up to Steamtown. The goal is to more or less copy that progression since it worked so well last time. Don’t fix what ain’t broken, right?
  • Ideally I’d like to do some sort of speed session once per week, because I finally got the itch to do genuine workouts. It took a year, but the desire has returned. Whether it’s doing Wednesday intervals at work or throwing a tempo run into the mix, upping my turnover to offset those long, slow distance runs will hopefully make me faster come October.
  • No excuses, I’m going to lift at least twice a week. A third time and/or yoga is a bonus.
  • I trained through the heat last year and it paid off. Every time I want to skip out on a run because of the sauna-like conditions, I’ll wipe the sweat out of my eyes and focus on that fact. Yes, summer running sucks, but remembering that it’s only going to get cooler will make those miserable miles worthwhile. And hey, maybe that’s why I ran as fast as I did at Steamtown!

Long story short, my weekly routine should look like this: 1 long run + 2-3 lifting sessions + 1 speed workout – any heat-related excuses = a successful Marine Corps Marathon.

That being said, I’m off to the gym! Tomorrow, I think I’m going to break out the earbuds, knock out 12 miles as early as possible, and use coffee, a strawberry-banana-chocolate crepe, and a nap as incentive to get ‘er done.

Until next week, happy running everyone!

QUOTE OF THE POST: There’s no such thing as bad weather, just soft people. – Bill Bowerman

I’m Going #RWRunStreak-ing! (Because…Why Not?)

runners-world-rwrunstreak-pardon-my-streakingIn case you missed my tweets over the weekend and the super-snazzy badge at left (and at right and down a tad), I’m officially going to attempt the summer edition of the #RWRunStreak. After an unfortunately delayed flight home derailed my winter streak last year, I’m determined to finish at least one of these dang things. Thanks to my strong aversion to heat and humidity, I know this 39-day streak will be tougher than the winter one. But for that same reason, I want to use it to get my butt out the door during my in-between-marathons training lull. I’ll be updating this post throughout the streak to track my progress between now and July 4, so check back to see if I’m (hopefully) still on the bandwagon! And let me know in the comments section if you’re streaking, too! I’d love to have someone to vent to about the ungodly about of laundry that’s inevitably going to pile up!

So, to kick the whole thing off…WE’RE GOING STREAKING!

Day 13 Update: 62.25 Miles To Date: I’m going to kick-off this recap with wow, this streak has surprisingly gone much more smoothly than my winter streak! Heck yes! I haven’t once seriously considered quitting (granted, it has been pretty mild weather-wise, so that’s helping), and it took next to no time to just expect to run every day, no questions asked. The first few days, my absurdly inflexible hips and weak butt hurt like a mother f-er (pro tip: don’t take a week off, then do a 7-mile hill run) to the point where I woke up a few mornings and immediately felt the need to stretch out. But I mixed in a few “recovery” 1-2 mile days, and so far I’ve been in the green. I’ve done a couple 7.5-mile long-ish runs and did an impromptu 5-mile tempo run–my first in a long, long time–yesterday. Considering I haven’t done any genuine speed work in a while, it actually didn’t go half bad! So far, this streak is shaping up to be good off-season, maintain-my-strength-before-my-fall-marathon training. =) If it weren’t for my broken washing machine and the ever-growing pile of dirty running clothes (a side-effect to this streaking business), I’d couldn’t be more glad that I decided to give it another go. Until next time!

photoDay 23 Update: 103.25 Miles To Date: Hot damn people! We’ve surpassed/plowed through/cruised beyond the halfway point! Just 16 days left until the finish line. Unlike my previous update, I finally (and not really surprisingly) had some days where I thought dang, I’d really rather NOT run today. My hips have been sporadically tight (but I rediscovered my love for hurdle walkovers – had my first date in over a year with them last weekend) and my left knee has been achy, which is weird. But I’ve iced a bunch and done a few easy one-mile recovery days, and all seems to be more or less in working order. I’m trying to be smart and not hurt anything, but I’ve come too far to quit this now. On the bright side, I finally got a hard 5K effort out of my system today! I had to push my run to after work but squeeze it in before an impending flash flood. I thought about doing an easy mile and call it a day, but I felt good and decided to push it. Won’t lie, I love, love, love those days when you unexpectedly feel good! Now I need to do a real 5K! And thankfully, the washing machine is fixed. Thank. God.

Day 39 FINAL Update: 164 Miles Total: Ahhhh the streak is OVER! Can’t really believe I made it, and if anything, I emerged on the other side more motivated than ever to run. I capped off the streak with a four-mile run (for the Fourth of July, of course) in the blazing summer heat. Had I not been streaking, I likely would not’ve run at all. I even began integrating some speedwork, AND I became a member of the gym downstairs! Between my super fit roomie, watching nationals, and the fact that Marine Corps Marathon training starts on Monday (!), the need to regain some measure of upper body strength and speed has finally returned. It took over a year, but it returned. Heck. Yes. (More on this later – stay tuned). So to cap off the streak, here’s a bit of what I learned along the way:

  • Even if it was only a mile, breaking a sweat every day was wonderful and I began to crave it. Doing something physical every day was easily better than doing nothing at all.
  • Speaking of those one-milers, on days I would’ve normally “taken a zero,” seeing the sunrise over the bridge and feeling my creaky, tired legs loosen up in just 10 minutes was a surprise benefit of the streak.
  • I HATE summer running. I’m sorry, but suffering through a run in sauna-like conditions is just not appealing to me. But thanks to the streak, this summer has sucked a little less. Traditionally I take the full month of May off to recover from nine months of being in season, leaving me to deal with the heat while being out of shape. Ooof. This year I swore, never ever again. The streak helped me maintain my conditioning and make a smoother, less painful transition into the summer. I’m feeling fit and motivated to get even fitter. BAM. Suck it, summer.
  • As much as my “secondhand training” has worked for me thus far, imposing a no-excuses-you’re-running-today regimen was a much needed change of pace, especially because I was in training limbo. It kept my laziness at bay at a time when laziness could’ve easily killed my fitness.
  • The streak has proven yet again that it’s an excellent way to get back on (or stay on) the bandwagon. Before I started this streak, I said it would likely be my last, a means to redeem myself from the failed winter streak. Today, I’d say there’s a good chance I’ll do it again. I didn’t resent my committing to do it as much as I thought I would, especially since it took place during my least favorite time of year to run.

Looking forward, I hope this streak serves as a solid springboard for my next bout of marathon training. During the streak, I started integrating some speedwork and lifting. If hitting the track and gym becomes a habit, I’d be thrilled because I know both can only help in my quest to drop my marathon PR. I’m ready to get full-body strong, and the streak inspired me to really want it. And to that I can only say, “Thank you RW Run Streak!”

RWRUNSTREAKBADGE

Sisters in Sport | March Madness + Gearing Up For April

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PR! – A high point from my March training.

Simply put, March was just madness: every smokin’ fast long run was countered with a crappy one, my get-serious-for-Boston training plan probably got more views from y’all than from me (but I ran a half-marathon PR, so I must be doing something right…right?), my confidence level was more wobbly than my yoga poses, and speaking of yoga (and core), yeah, that didn’t happen much this month either. My butt was much happier on my couch than on my mat. Not okay.

Today, I’m in the midst of the infamous “taper crazies.” Mentally, I’m equally freaking out about this cold I can’t seem to shake, but confident that come April 15th, those 60ish vertical long run miles with pay off. Heck, my half PR proved that I am in shape. Deep down, I believe I’m going to have a good race. Just get me to the line. Now. Please.

Because there’s literally no rhyme or reason to my March training, here’s a rundown of what went down:

  • I learned that I’m still apparently NOT ready for any sort of structured training plan. Bummer. The stress I felt trying to fit in each and every workout was simply not worth it. What I actually ended up doing was probably pretty close to the plan, but I ran on my own terms. And I was a happier runner because of it. I haven’t given up on trying (and actually sticking to) a plan yet, but this marathon build-up just wasn’t the right time.
  • That being said, I PR’d in the half by exactly a minute and a half…after maybe three hours of sleep. That means I’m in as good as (if not better) shape than I was in college when I ran my old PR. I think I averaged 7:09 pace, which is well below my hypothetical, probably-far-off-in-the-future marathon goal pace of 7:30s. It wasn’t easy, but I certainly wasn’t dying. This sparked a huge pre-Boston confidence boost…
  • …that quickly came crashing down on the following Monday when I got a killer cold. I took it easy all week and consumed more Vitamin C than chocolate (which says a lot with all that Easter candy at my fingertips), but the darn thing is still lingering around today. It made for one incredibly slow long run, too. It’s amazing how one weekend you can power up every hill with ease, and then two weeks later you might as well be carrying a 50-pound weight on your back because the pace feels like a death march. The wind was effectively sucked out of my sails.
  • I dabbled in three (Yay!) potential cross-training activities this month: (1) I did a flow yoga class at work, which was the perfect balance of strength, stretching, and relaxation. Perfection, especially for runners. This needs to become a weekly thing for sure. (2) I did a strength routine with some of the guys from work, and afterward I was sore in all the right places, meaning my (weaker than my arms) glutes. I think it’ll become my much-needed strength routine come summer. And (3) I rode a legit road bike! I haven’t ridden a bike in 5+ years, so this was a true test of that “It’s like riding a bike, you never forget” saying. A friend and I rode four laps around Prospect Park in NYC (about 14 miles), and it was equal parts terrifying and exhilarating. I was focused on every bump in the road and crossing pedestrian–I was, again, very wobbly–while I tried to maintain some sort of consistent pace (or in the cycling world, “cadence”). I was amazed by how my quads screamed going up any hill (big or small), but my breathing remained steady and in control. Talk about using different muscles! Overall, it was a very fun, but very different experience than running. But, I bought a cycling kit this week, so I’m game for trying it again! Maybe this could turn into something a bit more serious! (Gotta figure out how to turn the thing first though…hmmm.)
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    Yeah, I RODE this. Pretty intense, huh?

    To legit to quit!

    Too legit to quit!

  • I participated in the “Second (Not Quite) Annual Jeff Dengate Hill Challenge” >> A race that’s one mile up, then one mile down a huge hill by RW HQ. (I think it’s about a 450-foot elevation gain.) It’s an unofficial competition we do during lunch, and we stagger our starts from slowest to fastest so you’re always chasing (and being chased by) someone. As expected, it hurt like hell, but it was SO much fun! I beat my old record by about 15 seconds, running the mile up in 8:28 and the mile down in 5:57. Why we do this to ourselves, I have no idea. (BUT Heartbreak Hill/Hurricane Point, I’m ready for you!)

Looking forward to April a.k.a. my crazy/ridiculous/epic spring racing month, the overall goal for the month is confidence in all aspects of my life from work to relationships to racing. There are SO many exciting things happening this month, and I don’t want to ruin them with blah lapses in focus like I had in March. So this month, I want to:

  • Soak in every second at Boston. I want to get in some solid reporting for work, spend some quality time with my Dad, meet as many of my virtual twitter friends as possible, get inspired by just being at Boston, and then most of all, run the race to the best of my abilities and simply be happy with the result. If the uncontrollables work in my favor, a PR would be perfect.
  • Be smart with my post-Boston recovery so that Big Sur doesn’t kill me. I want to use the week-and-a-half break to catch up on work and most importantly rest, rest, rest.
  • Embrace running Big Sur. Hopefully I won’t still be out of commission after Boston so I can cruise through Big Sur watchless, iPhone in hand ready to take photos of the gorgeousness. I want to go into it with the same mindset I had before Disney–have fun.
  • Stay healthy. Sleep as much as I can–I have to master sleeping on planes–and remember to pop those Vitamin C pills!
  • Still have something left for the cherry on top of the cake: the Golden Gate Relay. It’ll be my first relay, and I want to enjoy it!

So without further ado, here goes nothing! Keep an eye out for race reports. I’ll do my best to write them as soon as I can!

QUOTE OF THE POST: “In my experience, there’s one constant to every marathon: fear. You stand on the starting line, and you wonder: Am I going to make it today? The marathon makes you feel naked—a runner in only the sheerest clothing. It can strip you, it can humble you, it will extract a harsh penalty if you don’t treat it with high regard. The day I stop fearing the marathon will be the day I stop running them.” – Amby Burfoot, 1968 Boston Marathon winner (and probably one of the coolest people I know.)

A Reality Check in the Form of Bootcamp

On Monday, I got guilt-tripped into attending a bootcamp session that my work put on during lunch. To be honest, I really wasn’t in the mood to display my glaring lack of upper-body strength (my coworkers and I liken our flimsy limbs to those on windsock men) and coordination to the world, not to mention I haven’t lifted in almost a year. But heck, hadn’t I just knocked out a super-hilly 20-miler last weekend? Bootcamp should be a piece of cake compared to that…Man was that logic flawed.

For warmup, we had to do bear crawls while dodging rabbit poo. Awesome.

For warmup, we had to do bear crawls while dodging rabbit poo. Awesome.

Not 10 minutes into the strength segment of the class, my air-squat-induced screaming quads and already-fading biceps and triceps thanks to endless sets of push-ups had me silently directing a steady stream of obscenities at our instructor. Say what now? You want us to do another set of mountain climbers and push-ups? I can’t even hold the plank position anymore! I mumbled to my coworker that I’d do mile repeats over this any day of the week. Adding insult to injury, we mixed in sets of step-ups and bench dips.

To cap off the session, the instructor challenged us to 200 air squats, 100 push-ups, and 50 burpees to divide between groups of two. Say what now?!? I stood there a little dumbfounded at the prospect of 50 push-ups after the already intense session we had just completed. But ahh alright, alright. Challenge accepted.

See that? Yeah, it was "soul-crushing."

See that? Yeah, it was “soul-crushing.”

My partner and I powered through the air squats–thank God for Pennsylvania’s crazy, quad-strengthening hills–but we were reduced to girly push-ups almost instantly. And forget any semblance of proper form when it came time for the burpees. We were the very definition of “weaksauce,” a term my younger brother would use to describe our pathetic efforts.

After the workout, my coworker encapsulated my dejected and dizzy thoughts perfectly: That bootcamp reminded me of how truly one-dimensional many runners are when it comes to strength. (My editor tweeted this, too: “Watching the workout, you could definitely tell the regular cross-trainers from the run-run-runners.”)

Well, I’m definitely a run-run-runner, that’s for sure.

On Tuesday, I woke up to a level of soreness that almost rivaled post-marathon pain, and it has persisted until now. I still can’t get up or sit down without wincing. I’ll admit that I’ve spent a good amount of time complaining about how insane and ridiculous that bootcamp was since Monday, but the nagging aches had me wondering if upper-body strength training really is all that important for runners. I totally understand the need for a strong core, but what does it matter if my arms can’t bench more than 50 pounds? I can get by without lifting, right?

Wrong.

I tweeted this to my followers: How often do you work on upper-body strength? Do you think it’s important for running? and the first response I received was this –

And this:

I knew deep down that I would probably get replies like these, but to get one from an elite runner like Lauren–who obviously knows what she’s talking abou–pretty much lit the fire under my (currently very sore) butt to seriously think about adding in some strength work. Since I’m so close to Boston, I don’t want to try anything new now that could mess up my training. But once April is over and there aren’t any major races on the horizon, I think this could be the perfect summer project. (So I don’t forget, I wrote it down for my May goal of the month in my Believe I Am journal.) Hopefully writing it down will make it happen!

Who knows, lifting might just be the missing piece I need toward breaking into the 3:1X’s!

Here’s what others had to say on Twitter:

QUOTE OF THE POST: “To be a good runner, you must first be a good athlete.” – Jay Johnson 

That’s It, I’m Putting My Foot Down!

It’s a bit early for my February recap, but…

This month has been too darn full of excuses – I forgot to plan ahead, I’m tired from yesterday’s trip to NYC, I’d rather do an easy run than that scheduled workout, I need the extra rest day, I’ll do it tomor…ENOUGH! Enough, enough, enough.

Whenever I bail on a workout or a core session, I get this bitter taste in my mouth and it lingers until I get myself back on the road again. Yuck. It never fails. February was my first month trying to follow a training plan to prepare for Boston, and I’ll admit, I’ve done an absolutely crappy job following it so far. Rather than finding ways to fit in each key workout, I’ve found excuses to justify skipping them. It has been an unusual month, but just because I’ve been thrown a few curveballs doesn’t give me a free pass to let my training go all willy nilly. What happened to getting serious about Boston?

Not to mention my February Believe I Am goal is to get into the habit of doing more core. To make it more obvious in my journal, I’ve decided to highlight any core/yoga session in pink.

Do you see much pink this month?picstitch

No? Yeah, I don’t see much either. Grrrrrr…

So, because it worked so well last December, I’m self-imposing a “run streak” to get myself back on track. Since I’m in marathon training, I’m modifying it because rest is important: rather than running at least a mile every day, I’m requiring myself to do at minimum 15 minutes of core on every rest day and (at the very least) a plank session 5 times per week. I’m not allowed to take two rest days in a row – that’s when the laziness really starts to kick in – and ALL scheduled workouts need to happen. Period.

I’m not giving up all hope on my ability to follow a training plan, and I have an itching suspicion that the structure itself has me rebelling against it. But that doesn’t mean I can’t work find a happy medium. If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again, right?

Here’s to a strong finish to February and an even stronger March!

QUOTE OF THE POST: “The only thing standing between you and your goal is the bullshit story you keep telling yourself as to why you can’t achieve it.” –  Jordan Belfort 

Conquering The Lonely (But Lovely) Long Run

photoWhen I was in high school, I did most of my training on my own with no one but my coach there to push me to hit my 400-meter repeat splits. Those solo workouts made me mentally tough and self-sufficient when I was out running, but there were (far too many) days when I’d make up an excuse to skip practice. I needed and depended on my parents to keep me focused so I could stay on track with my training. Back then, I loved running, but hated having to put in the work day in and day out.

College was a baffling but exciting shock to my system – I remember what a strange feeling it was to instantly have 20 committed, motivated girls to train with, and I grew to love having my best friends beside me on nearly every run. I cherished those silly long run conversations about God knows what, and, even though it took some serious time to adjust, I learned how to work with a pack during workouts. I hardly ever ran alone.

Starting my job at RW meant replacing my lovely ladies with the endlessly goofy guys on staff. Not only are they super knowledgeable about all things running, but they became my support system throughout my first marathon build-up last fall. Having them beside me on every single early-morning long run and blazing hot lunch run played an immeasurable role in the success of that first 26.2. I know I’m already a smarter runner because of them.

Long story short, I’ve come to rely on my built-in training partners.

But, for loads of random reasons, I have to train for Boston alone. Thankfully, I’ve still got the guys for some of my weekday runs, but for those long marathon training runs on the weekends? Just me, myself, and I. I’m not at that point in life where I need the time alone. I’m also a marathon newbie, so I’m still getting used to being out on the roads for forever. (Sidenote: I have the upmost respect for those runners who train for marathons completely alone.)

For most of the past three months, I’ve spent one weekend morning mulling around the house, trying to build up the motivation to get out the door for my long run. Let’s face it, it’s tempting to stay in where it’s warm and there’s a steamy mug of coffee close at hand. It sure beats trudging through slush for two-plus hours, right? This past Saturday was no different. I’d planned on doing my long run on Sunday, but as always, my Twitter feed was bursting with relieved tweets about successfully completed runs. It’s amazing how much a few 140-character posts from strangers can be just the kick in the butt I need. Plus, the beautiful blue skies and fresh snow were calling!

I knocked out 16 miles. Heck. Yes.

Now, I’m learning to love my lonely long runs. I’m starting to find a rhythm when I’m out there, and a 15+ miler (sort of) feels like an eight-miler. It’s becoming less of a mental battle to get out and get ‘er done. I’ve also realized that you really can’t cut corners when training for a marathon (or any distance for that matter!) NO EXCUSES! Here’s what’s helped me lace up and conquer those long runs:

  • Plan ahead: If it’s actually written down in your calendar, you’re more likely to do it. That way you’ll make time for your run and you won’t be inclined to skip it for other things. 
  • Get it done early: Long runs are traditionally meant for Sundays, but there’s something to be said for crossing it off your to-do list on Saturday if possible. Lift that weight off your back early so it’s not looming over your head all weekend.
  • Get online: You might not have a running buddy waiting for you outside, but creating a virtual support system can become a HUGE motivator. If you tweet that you’re going out for a 12 miler, you don’t want to let your followers down, right? Then go ahead and #runbrag a little afterward to celebrate. Your post-run tweet just might inspire someone else to head out for their run, too!
  • Get your gear on: Lay out your outfit the night before, and don’t hesitate to put it on in the morning. You’ll feel silly sitting in your house in your running clothes, so hit the roads where those kicks really belong!
  • Pick a killer playlist: I don’t depend on music for my long runs, but there’s something to be said for those times when one of your favorite tunes comes on and nudges you to pick up the pace a bit. To be safe, I only use one earbud with the volume just loud enough to hear it. That way, I can’t always hear it if there is a lot of traffic, and it becomes a treat to listen to on the quieter parts of my run.
  • Focus on the half-way point: The first half of a long run is the hardest part for me mentally because I feel like I’m heading away from home. Even if I still have a ways to go, I get excited when I finish half of my run because it really feels like every step I take is a step toward home. Breaking up my run into parts makes it more manageable and less daunting.
  • Be creative with your route: I try not to run the same roads twice, so my route maps zig-zag all over the place. Constantly changing up the scenery can help beat the boredom.
  • Remember that it’s worth it in the end: It feels pretty darn sweet finishing a long run. I’ve found that it feels even sweeter when you’ve done it alone. Savor it.
  • And that steamy mug of coffee? It’ll taste even better after your run!

Figure out what works for you and go with it. What inspires you? What holds you accountable? What breaks up the monotony? I took to Twitter to see how y’all tackle those long runs. Here’s what you had to say:

QUOTE OF THE POST: “Life is short… running makes it seem longer.” – Baron Hansen

The Game Plan: Getting Serious About Boston

photoHere we are just TEN weeks away from the Boston Marathon, and I can’t believe it’s already so soon! A couple of goals (via my Believe I Am training journal) that I hope to attain this year (and maybe by Boston) are: reintroducing some structure to my training and breaking into the 3:1X’s in the marathon. If the stars can align come April 15–in other words, no blazing hot temps and a healthy me at the starting line–I’d like to give myself a shot at a PR. Regardless of the outcome on that day, I hope to use this build-up as my first attempt at checking those two goals off my list and start turning things like core and yoga into habits.

Which brings me to the training plan below, created by my coworker Budd Coates, a 4-time Olympic Marathon Trials qualifier and Senior Director of Health and Fitness at Rodale. I plan to use this as a framework for my training, modifying a tweaking things as I go, especially because this is my first venture into structured running since graduation. (In other words, I might flip-flop days or adjust paces here or there.) Without further ado, here’s the game plan!

(Approximate Paces //  Long Distance: 7:30-8:10, Easy: 8:00+, Moderate: 7:30-8:00, Tempo: 7:00-7:15, Hard Interval: 6:30-7:00)

Week of February 3 – February 9

Sunday: 12 miles

Monday: 0-20 min easy

Tuesday: 30-40 min moderate

Wednesday: W/O intervals – 10-15 min warmup // 2 x 2 min hard, 2 min easy, 4 min hard, 2 min easy, 6 min hard, 3 min easy // 10-15 min cooldown

Thursday: 0-20 min easy

Friday: 30-40 min

Saturday: 0-20 min easy

Week of February 10 – February 16

Sunday: 14 miles

Monday: 0-20 min easy

Tuesday: 30-40 min moderate

Wednesday: W/O intervals – 10-15 min warmup // 2 x 4 min hard, 2 min easy; 1 x 6 min hard, 3 min easy; 2 x 4 min hard, 2 min easy  // 10-15 min cooldown

Thursday: 0-20 min easy

Friday: 30-40 min moderate

Saturday: W/O tempo – 10-15 min warmup // 15 min tempo, 5 min easy, 5 min tempo // 10-15 min cooldown

Week of February 17 – February 23

Sunday: 0-20 min easy

Monday: 30-40 min moderate

Tuesday: W/O intervals – 10-15 min warmup // 3-4 x 3 min hard, 2 min easy, 1.5 min hard, 1 min easy // 10-15 min cooldown

Wednesday: 0-20 min easy

Thursday: 30-40 min moderate

Friday: W/O short intervals – 10 min warmup // 8-10 x 1 min hard, 1 min easy // 10 min cooldown

Saturday: rest day

Week of February 24 – March 2

Sunday: 16-18 miles

Monday: 0-20 min easy

Tuesday: 30-40 min moderate

Wednesday: W/O intervals – 10-15 min warmup // 4 min hard, 2 min easy, 6 min hard; 1-2 x 3 min easy, 8 min hard // 10-15 min cooldown

Thursday: 0-20 min easy

Friday: 30-40 min moderate

Saturday: W/O tempo – 10-15 min warmup // 30-35 min tempo // 10-15 min cooldown

Week of March 3 – March 9

Sunday: 0-20 min easy

Monday: 30-40 min moderate

Tuesday: W/O intervals – 10-15 min warmup // 3-5 x 4 min hard, 3 min easy // 10-15 min cooldown

Wednesday: 0-20 min easy

Thursday: 30-40 min moderate

Friday: W/O short intervals – 10 min warmup // 5-10 x 1 min hard, 1 min easy // 10 min cooldown

Saturday: rest day

Week of March 10 – March 16

Sunday: 20-22 miles

Monday: 0-20 min easy

Tuesday: 30-40 min moderate

Wednesday: W/O intervals – 10-15 min warmup // 4 min hard, 2 min easy, 6 min hard; 1-2 x 3 min easy, 8 min hard // 10-15 min cooldown

Thursday: 0-20 min easy

Friday: 30-40 min moderate

Saturday: W/O tempo – 10-15 min warmup // 30-35 min tempo // 10-15 min cooldown

Week of March 17 – March 23

Sunday: 0-20 min easy

Monday: 30-40 min moderate

Tuesday: W/O intervals – 10-15 min warmup // 3-5 x 4 min hard, 3 min easy // 10-15 min cooldown

Wednesday: 0-20 min easy

Thursday: 30-40 min moderate

Friday: W/O short intervals – 10 min warmup // 5-10 x 1 min hard, 1 min easy // 10 min cooldown

Saturday: rest day

Week of March 24 – March 30

Sunday: 18 miles

Monday: 0-20 min easy

Tuesday: 30-40 min moderate

Wednesday: W/O intervals – 10-15 min warmup // 2 x 6 min hard, 3 min easy, 8 min hard // 10 min cooldown

Thursday: 0-20 min easy

Friday: 30-40 min moderate

Saturday: W/O tempo – 10-15 min warmup // 20 min tempo // 10 min cooldown

Week of March 31 – April 6

Sunday: 0-20 min easy

Monday: 30-40 min moderate

Tuesday: W/O intervals – 10-15 min warmup // 2 x 2 min hard, 2 min easy, 3 min hard, 3 min easy, 2 min hard, 2 min easy // 10-15 min cooldown

Wednesday: 0-20 min easy

Thursday: 30-40 min moderate

Friday: W/O short intervals – 10 min warmup // 5-10 x 1 min hard, 1 min easy // 10 min cooldown

Saturday: rest day

Week(s) of April 7 – April 15 

Sunday: 40-50 min easy

Monday: rest day

Tuesday: 20-30 min easy

Wednesday: light W/O – 10 min warmup // 3-5 x 1.5 hard, 1.5 easy // 10 min cooldown

Thursday: 0-15 min easy 

Friday: rest day

Saturday: 15-20 min easy

Sunday: 0-20 min easy

Monday: BOSTON!

 

QUOTE OF THE POST: “I’ve learned that finishing a marathon isn’t just an athletic achievement. It’s a state of mind; a state of mind that says anything is possible.” – John Hanc