Dreaming of Dry Roads

unnamedYes, I realize that last time I blogged, I wrote about how the snow ain’t so bad. But two weeks later…

I’ve had enough of this winter!

Let me explain why I’ve changed my tune:

For yesterday’s long run, we did 13.75 miles on our hilliest, most challenging loop. Whether it’s balmy and humid or bone-chillingly cold, this quad-busting route hurts like hell. BUT, even when the inclines leave you wheezing, it rewards you with these breathtaking views of the open, rolling farmlands dotted with old farmhouses. The roads are empty. It’s amazing.

Other than my first 10-miler on a treadmill, I can’t remember the last long run I did during this training cycle that didn’t involve navigating through snow and ice. So I asked the guys if we could do the crazy hill loop because I wanted to get in a real, quality distance run for once. (No) thanks to yet another snowstorm on Saturday, we spent what felt like 13 miles of the 13.75-mile run on either a slick sheet of ice or beach sand-like snow. Not amazing.

Sure, the farmlands blanketed in white were stunning as always. But it was hard to appreciate the views when I was focused on just staying upright. Deep down, I know that the tricky terrain is a bonus workout that’s actually making me stronger. But moving at a snail’s pace up and down hills is doing absolutely nothing for my confidence. I really want to believe that these tough runs will translate into a solid spring marathon just like the slow and steamy summer runs make for a fast fall marathon. My frozen fingers and toes are crossed.

I know I could be doing these runs on the treadmill. But honestly, I just don’t have it in me to sacrifice my daily dose of fresh air when I’ve been cooped up inside even more than normal these days. At this point, though, it feels like a lose-lose situation. Extra kudos to everyone who has made the commitment to get those workouts in regardless. Teach me your ways!

The yucky part of it all is that, since I’m not running Boston as a goal race, I’m feeling even less inclined to get all of my runs in. Rather than doing four or five treadmill miles during a snow storm, I’m opting out of the workout entirely. I just can’t get into a rhythm with my training.

That said, here’s my silver lining:

Since I apparently can’t get enough of this marathon business, I’m hoping that my involuntarily scaled back training routine right now will benefit me later on this year when I’m gearing up for my goal race in October. Even though it feels like I’m cutting myself short, maybe the extra rest will keep me from burning out when I’m actually training for a PR.

I’ve still managed to do my strength routine once a week. I’d like to be going twice per week, but I’m okay with not skipping it entirely for now.

I’m trusting that, come spring and some dry, heavenly roads, I’ll feel fit and more like myself again. I had one fantastic five-miler a couple weeks ago on a warm-ish day. Here’s to hoping that more of those will happen when this Arctic tundra decides to thaw out.

The forecast says Sunday will be sunny with a high of 47 degrees. Hopefully I’ll have a decent run that’ll re-inspire me and get me mentally back on track!

QUOTE OF THE POST: “When it’s pouring rain and you’re bowling along through the wet, there’s satisfaction in knowing that you’re out there and the others aren’t.” – Peter Snell

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MCM Training | Holy Hills

This morning’s 18-miler sucked.

Or at least the first 17 were a slow, sweaty slog. I’ll admit, I wanted to call it quits before I took my first step. No real positive thoughts ran though my head while I got ready. Just get this over with, I kept thinking. But there I was at 7 a.m., groggy and so not game for the helluva hill run ahead of me.

Ironically, my introduction to this notorious loop was for my first 18-miler leading up to Marathon #1 last fall. I remember my coworker told me that it has made people cry thanks to its six (or seven?) daunting, named inclines–runners know that if a hill has a name, nothing good can come of it–that are just relentless. It’s even got a hill dubbed “The Hill That Must Not Be Named.” I’ve done this run a handful of times since then. It’s both soul-crushing and confidence-building. For this reason, this stunning run through PA farmlands has become a staple of my marathon training.

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Last year, I was blissfully unaware of what was ahead. On today’s anniversary of that run, despite knowing all too well what was ahead, the hills not only looked like walls, but they felt like them, too. I knew today was not about speed; getting the distance done was my focus. I know it was likely a self-fulfilling prophecy, but my legs felt like s***, slowing me almost to a walk on the very first hill. Really? I still have so many more hills to get over! This was mental marathon training at its finest.

I spent the rest of the run struggling up each hill, and easing down them. I tried to distract myself with my friends’ conversation, thoughts trained on that strawberry-banana-chocolate crepe that was waiting for me. I’ve done this before. It’ll be over… eventually. Suck it up. 

I realized last weekend after my 16-miler that I must genuinely, to my core LOVE running. This isn’t exactly “news,” I know, but why else would I be up at the butt-crack of dawn after little sleep to run for miles for…fun? It’s taken a year, but that awareness has sunken in to a whole new level. Maybe my running self is maturing? It’s crystal clear to me now that it’s the sacrifices we make each weekend (and weekday for that matter) to prepare ourselves for a race that make crossing that finish line SO much sweeter. Even sweeter than my strawberry-banana-chocolate crepe.

I tried to remind myself of this when I neared the end of my run. I even said aloud, “Come on, Meg. I can finish two miles. I can do anything for two miles.” Despite one last insult of a hill, I finished my last mile faster than any other mile of the run. It made every sucky step this morning worth it, and I’m thankful that it didn’t go to waste. Boy am I ready for those last six miles of Marine Corps. Bring it.

Here’s another perspective of my run, written by my colleague Mark Remy over at RW. Get up and run? Or stay in bed?

———————-

Here’s a quick recap of the rest of the week!

  • I did two lifts and a yoga session. I’m now officially obsessed with planks and am challenging myself with different variations of the position. Um…who am I?
  • I completed another two-a-day on Tuesday for a total of 10.5 miles. (Should we just start calling these “Two-a-Day Tuesdays”?) I averaged 7:32 for my second run, and it somehow felt better than my lunch run. Weird, but I’ll take it!
  • Thursday’s workout was 4 x 1 mile on the roads with a two-mile warm-up. I managed to keep my splits pretty even, and I’m pleased with the workout overall. As per my point above, I secretly love that I did mile repeats voluntarily. Hate ’em with a fiery, burning passion, but gotta do ’em (for fun) right?

Looking forward, I’ll be changing up my usual programming this week because I’m headed to HOOD TO COAST with Nuun on Wednesday! Stay tuned for a Race Report early next week (or whenever I’ve regained consciousness).

QUOTE OF THE POST: “Whether you believe you can or believe you can’t, you’re probably right.” – Henry Ford

Friday Faves | Long Runs, Babies, and Beer

These are a few of my favorite things… from this week:

  • Beyond adorable and spot on via @FitHappyGirllarge Which reminded me of this gem that is the definition of a few of my summer runs:
  • Took the words right out of my mouth:
  • Lauren had her baby this week!!! Some people might care more about Kate Middleton’s baby, but RUNNERS care about Lo’s cutie pie, Jude:IMG950202 Congrats Lo and Jesse! Couldn’t be happier for ya!
  • There are few things we at RW care more about than running shoes and beer, which led to this tweet after our summer beer-tasting last week:

    And this:

  • The fact that I kept up the #RWRunStreak by logging a mile in my apartment’s parking garage yesterday morning to avoid getting struck by lightning. Hells yes. Day 18!
  • We saw Spirit of the Marathon II on Wednesday! It was freakin’ awesome and basically, I need to run with those Italian cousins (and also just run in Rome in general). Kudos Jon!
  • Finally, I added a few photos to my About Me page from way back when. Check it out! =)

QUOTE OF THE POST: “Running is in my blood — the adrenaline flows before the races, the love/hate of butterflies in your stomach.” – Marcus O’Sullivan

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