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.)

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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 

Friday Faves | A Little Bit Of Everything

Although this week’s list is a little all over the place, it includes a bit of humor, sportsmanship, motivation, and inspiration:

  • In what might be the worst (and most hysterical) interview ever, a TV anchor asks Mo Farah if he’s ever run before after his win at the Rock ‘n’ Roll New Orleans Half-Marathon:
    If you think this is funny, check out this post created by my boss, Mark Remy. It takes the clip to a whole new level.
  • RW’s “Big Guy” blogger Ted Spiker wrote a short but sweet post about race-day perspective that even includes a nifty graphic. Head over and check it out!
  • Though it isn’t running related, this clip about a high school basketball player is a heartwarming example of an incredible act of sportsmanship, and it is worth sharing. What makes it especially cool is that I went to Franklin High School. I’m definitely a proud Cougar alum! Watch it:
  • This made me want to lace up and run, even though it was almost 9 p.m., via my Boston Bound, Steamtown Marathon racing buddy @WhitRunsThis: large
  • A good daily reminder, via Believe I Am: 480677_470756076312426_312079256_n
  • Love this. That is all.

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

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 

Sisters in Sport | On the Starting Line!

Nearly nine months ago, the running rut that had been dangerously brewing during the final few months of my collegiate career had reached its boiling point. Over ten years of competitive running had taken its toll on me mentally and physically, so I was eager for the fresh start and squeaky clean slate that graduation would bring. I knew I hadn’t fallen out of love with the sport, and I couldn’t wait for the chance to shake off the negative mojo and redefine who I am as a runner.

Come summer, I dove head-first into the uncharted territory of running just for me. I hit the refresh button by shedding structure and embracing spontaneity with my training and tried my hand at a new racing distance…the marathon. Though the build-up was far from perfect, the race itself was absolute perfection. Talk about a tidal wave’s worth of positive energy!

I’ve been riding that wave since that day last October. In (lucky!) 2013, I want to take full advantage of this empowering feeling and run with it!

photo 1-1Enter… the Sisters In Sport bloggers and the Believe I Am training journal, both created by Lauren Fleshman and Ro McGettigan.

One inspiring and compelling discovery I’ve made post-college is the online running community. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been drawn in by a runner’s post or motivated to hit the road myself because of Sunday morning’s inevitable stream of long run-related tweets. I started this blog as a means to join in on the conversation, and you can imagine my surprise (and excitement!) when I was asked to be part of a group of female bloggers dubbed the Sisters in Sport. (Check out the link above to find out what these lovely ladies are all about!) Using Lo and Ro’s Believe I Am training journal as a guide, I want to home in on what truly makes me a happy, healthy runner, and my hope is that some part of my journey will resonate with you, too!

photo 2-1Because this is my inaugural #SistersInSport/@BelieveIAm post, I want to share with you my goals for this year:

  • Keep up this streak of positivity: Whether it be a good or bad run or race, find something that went well and focus on that! (Exhibit A: The super-slow, but incredibly enlightening Walt Disney World Marathon.) 
  • Reintroduce some structure to my training: I want to find a way to love doing workouts again because I flat-out need to get faster. The key? Sticking to a schedule that’ll help me get there. Since college, I’ve rejected any sort of pre-determined plan, so I know I’ll need to up my commitment level and make sure I get in some proper training. (Creating a training plan for April’s Boston Marathon is actually my January goal of the month!)
  • Get fitter from head to toe: That means lots of core (I seriously need to improve my pitiful plank PR), lifting sessions and yoga. I plan to keep track of how often I hit the gym/studio each month to I make sure I actually do it.
  • Break into the 3:1X’s in the marathon: I don’t care if this happens at Boston or Marine Corps this year, but I would be SO stoked to be able to run an entire marathon around 7:30 pace. I know and believe I can do it!
  • Eat healthier in general: This translates into actually cooking more often. I won’t lie, my workplace’s super duper organic environment is starting to rub off on me!    

Between actually writing down these goals down in my journal and having y’all keep me accountable via this blog (the game plan is to write a post per month that’ll recap the previous month and discuss my goals for the upcoming month), I have a feeling I’ll be able to tackle most (if not all) of these goals. I know it won’t be easy, but that’s what keeps things interesting, right? =) Now, let’s get this year-long race underway!

QUOTE OF THE POST: “When you put yourself on the line in a race and expose yourself to the unknown, you learn things about yourself that are very exciting.” – Doris Brown Heritage

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If you’re interested, here are the other super-sweet Sister in Sport bloggers! Check ’em out:

Sarah
Laura
Larissa
Jessica
Jen
Laura
Jocelyn
Jennifer
Nicole
Morgan
Mollie
Jennifer
Sarah
Meggie
Bethany
Lisa
Dorothy
Kaitlin
Jane
Shannyn

Read my other Sisters in Sport posts here