Friday, April 1, 2016

Tobacco Road Half Marathon

This post is about 3 weeks late, but better late than never I suppose...

When I started out the year and listed out some running goals I hadn't planned on attempting to run a half marathon until the Fall. But as I was training for my 10k I realized that as I was slowly increasing my mileage I was feeling really really good. As I was approaching double digit mileage for my long runs I was feeling no pain. I started flirting with the idea of running Tobacco Road as a long run and was given the go ahead by my physical therapist. I simply wanted to be on the start line and to finish. My main motivation was to prove my first PT wrong when he said I would never be able to run a half marathon again.

I don't care that Lost has not been on in years, this is a
perfectly legit and timely reference.

All I had to do was mention it to my running partner, Caitlin, a few weeks before the race and she was all in. I was a little concerned that Tobacco Road was the week after my 10k race. The 10k remained my primary goal, I just started increasing my long run miles on the weekends.

I haven't run a half marathon since Philly in 2013. I am now at least 20lbs lighter and running faster, so even running it as a long run I would set myself up for a nice PR as an added bonus.

This race has remote parking and you are bused to and from the start/finish area. We had heard horror stories about this from previous years where runners almost missed the start of the race due to traffic. We decided we would rather be early and wait around then be stressed out about getting to the race on time. This meant we had A LOT of time to kill waiting for the start. Luckily we ran into some fellow Oiselle teammates and the time passed rather quickly.

The first couple miles of the race are on the roads with gentle rolling hills. Caitlin and I were feeling fresh and our pace reflected that. I mentioned that I wasn't sure if I could maintain 10:00/mi pace for the whole race. We decided to keep it comfortably hard for as long as we could and just relax and settle in. We were looking forward to turning on to the trail because we knew a big group of teammates would be cheering. It was so much fun passing them. It gave us a great push as we turned onto the trail.

I love this team! (Photo cred: Julie)

Once on the trail we continued feeling good. The trail is nice and soft and mostly flat. Within a couple of miles we ran into Brooklyn who wasn't having her best day. The three of us worked together navigating the crowds on the narrow trail and checking in and making sure everyone was feeling ok. It was warm and humid so we made sure to hit every water table. I started pouring water on my head as well because it was getting pretty warm.

Because the course was and out and back we got to see a few Oiselle girls on their way back. It was nice to see so many friendly faces!

For the first 8 miles we maintained about 10min/mi average pace and everything was feeling pretty good. Things started falling apart in mile 9. We walked so we could take a gel but right after we got going again we came up on a water stop. Because of the heat and humidity we didn't want to skip it. Right after the water stop I got a rock in my shoe that I tried to ignore. I knew it had potential to cause a lot of problems, so we had to stop for that as well.  It was really hard to get our grove back and mile 10 was also a struggle. Caitlin asked to walk a couple of times. She told me to go ahead, but we were in this together and I wasn't about to leave her. What I didn't know at the time was that she was suffering with some pretty gnarly blisters. Afterwards when I found out I was shocked she finished as strong as she did.

We slogged through those two miles knowing that we'd see the Oiselle cowbell corner again at mile 10.5. We were really looking forward to that. We needed all the extra energy we could get to get to the finish.

Fake it til you make it (Photo cred: Kelly)

The last couple miles on the roads felt long and we were looking forward to finishing. We had picked up the pace again but walked up a couple of the hills. We knew we were looking at a 2:15 finish and I was pumped.

My favorite pic of the day. I should probably buy it.

We crossed the finish line in 2:15:38. This is a 12:50 PR for me and over 18 minutes faster than the last time I ran this race. I was so happy just to finish the race without feeling any pain and to have a pretty substantial PR was just icing on the cake. It was a fantastic day overall.

PR Bell!!

Best running partner ever!

Two PR's in two weeks, and without my hip bothering me, is what I would call a successful winter of training! Looking ahead to the spring, I'll take a couple of weeks easy and get back into training for the Kiwanis 15k in Asheville in May and the Running of the Bulls in June. I am excited to try my hand at some structured speed work for the next couple of months!

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Florence Forth 10k

As I started back running last Fall I was determined not to repeat my 2014-2015 cycle wherein I work my way back into running only to get injured again and have to start all over. In a couple of shorter Fall races I was seeing paces in the 9:30's, which was really exciting for me. I decided a good and realistic (albeit slightly scary for me) goal to get through the winter was to shoot for a sub-60 10k. I could keep my mileage a little lower and have time to focus on my much-needed strength work as well. I would need to run 6.2 miles at 9:39/mile to clock a 59:59. I hit that pace in the Bull City Race Fest 5 Miler in October and in the Gallop and Gorge 8k in November. My goal was to be able to add one more mile and, most of all, not re-injure my hip.

I started seeing a new physical therapist in December. I decided to start going when I wasn't actually injured as a preventative measure to strengthen my glutes and correct all of my imbalances in order to avoid having to take 4 months off for the third year in a row. My new PT is amazing. She is also a runner and understands my desire to do whatever it takes to keep running. So with a focus on core and glute strength, I set out using the Another Mother Runner 10k Own it Plan as a guide. I followed the plan's weekly interval and tempo runs. I added one or two easy runs during the week when I did my core/hip work and then long runs on the weekends.

The training cycle went well but I still wasn't very confident going into this race. I struggled to maintain tempo pace in a few runs and just wasn't sure I had it in me to go sub-60. As the race approached I was most grateful to have made it through the winter without any major hip issues. I've missed March races for the past two years so I was primarily happy just to be at the start line. I was hoping that some race day magic would get me to my time goal.

I got to the start early and did a very easy 2 mile warm up around Duke's East Campus and some strides before the race. I was nervous about keeping the pace because I've heard that the course is hilly, particularly in the second half. I was comforted by the fact that this is my home town and I was vaguely familiar with most of the route. When the gun went off I just ran and told myself to do what I can.

Mile 1 was mostly uphill and I was surprised to find myself running a bit faster than my planned race pace while chatting with an acquaintance. When I saw my Garmin beep at 9:14 I knew I had to back off and settle down a bit. Miles 2 and 3 are a net downhill with a few rolling hills. I slowed down but was still hitting paces in the 9:20's. My watch hit the 5k mark at 28:56, which is a PR time for me. I started to get a little excited but knew I still had half the race to go and the biggest hills were still ahead of me.

Mile 4 had a pretty steep and long hill. I was certain I would have to walk part of it, but I shocked myself by making it up the whole thing without ever stopping. It took a lot out of me but my mile split was right on target at 9:35. The last big hill came in the last mile or so and by this time I let myself walk for a few seconds knowing I had a little time in the bank. The last mile is part of my weekly tempo run route so I knew exactly what to expect. I was pretty tired by this point and just wanted it to be over.

As I crossed the finish line my watch said 59:00 and I was so excited!

I found out soon afterwards that the race only counts the gun time, so my official time was 59:32. I was a little disappointed in that, but it is still sub-60 and knowing I can go faster than that will give me some added confidence in my next 10k.

Monday, March 14, 2016

2016 Goals

In the beginning of the year I made several running goals for 2016.

1. Run through the year without a major injury.

In both 2014 and 2015 I missed 3-4 months of running thanks to the same running injury. This year I am determined not to let that happen again. I have been seeing a new physical therapist since December. She is also a runner and understands my desire to do whatever it takes to keep running. The difference this year is that I started seeing the PT as a preventative measure to keep an eye on my hip and core while I am not injured. To this end I am making more of a commitment to the ancillary work than I ever have. It seems to be working as I am runner stronger than I ever have. I am listening to my body and backing off when need to.

2. Sub-60 10k

In the Fall of 2015 I ran a couple of races that made me think that this goal was not out of my reach. It seemed like a good way to test my body's boundaries as I started getting stronger.

3. A fall half marathon.

I want to see how my body responds to the increased mileage and if nothing hurts I want to run another half marathon. My last half marathon was Philadelphia in the Fall of 2013. When I first got injured in the Spring of 2014, my PT said I would never run long distances again. I refuse to accept that. Plus, as I've said, I am running better than I ever have before. I just want to see what I am capable of. The temptation is just too great for me at this point.

I think these goals are all attainable but they will take some hard work and consistency in all areas. I have to focus on the quality of my workouts and not get hung up on the amount of miles I am running. I will have to run less miles than I would prefer in order to have time to get my core and strength work done. But if it means that I can continue running without being injured, there really isn't a question about it. I also need to focus on cleaner eating. I think a large part of my progress is my 20 pound weight loss over the past couple of years. Less stress on my body is key.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

January Check In

Last night I was reflecting on this past month of running in my new Believe Training Journal. I like that at the end of each month it prompts you to reflect back on the past couple of weeks so you can assess what worked and what didn't. Overall January was a fantastic month of training, but not without some hiccups. Here's the rundown for January:

The Good:
  • I logged my highest monthly mileage ever at 110 miles for the month. I've come close to 100 miles in a month a few times before but never passed this particular milestone. I credit running consistently 5 days a week and upping my mid-week miles. 
  • A new 5k PR!! I started the month with the Commitment Day 5k. Going into the race I wasn't really sure what I wanted to achieve, whether I wanted to race it or just take it easy. My training plan that day called for a negative split 5 miles so I decided to have a 2 mile warm up and see what my legs felt like doing for the race. I sped out the first mile at 9:16/mile and knew I really couldn't maintain that pace for the whole race. I was hoping for a 9:45 overall average so I tried to calm myself down in the second mile.The second mile clocked in at 9:58 and I was getting tired. I wanted to give it all I had for the last mile but the path was covered in black ice and we all had to walk a few portions. Since my number one goal is my half in March I wasn't about to risk injury. The last mile read 10:10. My official time was 30:37 (9:52 avg pace). So close to sub-30! It made me excited to try a few more 5k's after my goal race in March!

  • Nailing workouts that looked scary on paper. 
    • This training cycle is the first time I have tried tempo runs and I love them. Over the past couple of weeks the tempo miles have been increasing and instead of being intimidated, I find myself looking forward to them.
    • Long runs with a few race pace miles in the middle are also new to me and I was able to do them just fine.
    • My favorite run of the month was a negative split 6 miler. The plan called for a 2,2,2 run meaning that my pace should drop every two miles. During the week I usually run on the treadmill since I have to go very early in the morning. This particular morning I decided to drive out to the trail and try pacing on my own instead of relying on the treadmill. My plan was a relaxed first 2 miles, then my "B goal" half marathon pace (10:45) and then my "A goal" pace (10:30), By the time I got to mile 5 I was feeling so good I decided to give a little extra in the last 2 miles. I think I did pretty good.

The Not-So-Good
  • Perhaps related to my jump in mileage this month I have developed a tightness on my left leg, particularly in my calf. Because my huge injury last year was on my left side this gave me cause for concern. Then last week when I started feeling some old familiar pains in my SI joint I knew it was time to step back a little. I actually skipped my last long run of the month and took a couple days off. That seems to have helped a lot because everything is feeling much better.

Things To Work On:
  • My main goal for the coming month is to listen to my body and don't be afraid to take a step back if necessary. Taking a few preventative days off is way better than being forced to take 5 months off again.
  • Consistent core and hip strengthening. I have been doing this a couple of times a week, but I really feel that I need to incorporate a few hip strengthening exercises each day in addition to what I am already doing. I just ordered some resistance bands to help me out.
  • Get enough sleep!
  • Be mindful of what I am eating. I am slacking off a little and I need to get back on track.

Friday, January 2, 2015

The Best of 2014

As far as running goes, 2014 just wasn't my year.  I had such high hopes. I went into 2014 calling it "the year of the marathon". My first marathon was supposed to be in April and then Marine Corps in the Fall.

My training for RNR Raleigh came to a screeching halt with my first 20 mile run. What followed was 4 months of physical therapy and 2 months of getting up the nerve and the athletic base to start running again. I DNS'ed more races than I ran, including Marine Corps.

To say I was frustrated would be an understatement. When I started running again in August, I felt like I had a huge hill to climb to get to where I was before I got injured. My legs felt heavy and nothing about it was easy.

But then something clicked. Looking at my training log it seems like all of the sudden with one 4 mile treadmill run everything changed for me. I stopped running intervals and my paces were dropping. I give a lot of credit to the Another Mother Runner 10k Finish It plan. I used it to train for my Thanksgiving Day 10k race and the workouts were more structured than anything I had tried before. And I was nailing them. Training for that race using that plan gave me so much confidence in my running.

As the Fall went on I PR'ed in the 5 mile, and 10k distance and placed 2nd in my Age Group for a trail run. I had so much fun coming back to running. Looking back on my injury, I can honestly say that I am thankful for it. While I could not see the benefits while I was in the thick of it, it gave me the chance to completely reset my running and the tools I needed to get even better.

So instead of looking at 2014 as "the year that wasn't" I prefer to focus on the positive experiences. And because I really like Miss Zippy's Year in Review (2012, 2013), here is my Best of 2014!

Best Race Experience
I'd have to say my best race experience was the Bull City Race Fest 5 miler.  It was a race I initially signed up for for fun because it was a local race and a lot of people I knew were running it. I was my first race in almost a year and my first in my Oiselle singlet. It was awesome to have friends and teammates on the course. Plus, I completely shocked myself with a >9 minute improvement over last year's time.

Best Run
It may seem strange but my best run was a 4 mile treadmill at a ungodly hour on a Monday morning in September. It was an easy 3 miles followed by 6 strides and I did the whole run without stopping once. This was huge for me. It got me thinking about the personal boundaries I set for myself and gave me the courage to push past them.

Best Piece of New Gear
My Oiselle singlet! This year I joined the Oiselle Flock and am having so much fun being part of this team!
Lovingly stolen pic from here

Best Piece of Running Advice
This came from my physical therapist who strongly indicated over and over again not to neglect my core and hip strengthening exercises. I very aware that running can't just be about actual running. To prevent another lengthy injury and to become a better runner I really need to make core work and hip strengthening exercises a priority.

Most Inspirational Runner
This would have to go to my Oiselle teammates near and far. I love reading their highs and lows and everything in between. In particular I absolutely love the little team we have assembled here in North Carolina. I've lucky to not only consider them my teammates but also my friends.

Oiselle Team NC at the City Of Oaks Marathon Relay in November

If you could sum up your year in a couple of words, what would they be?
A total learning experience.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Go Ahead, Call it a Comeback

Yeah, it's been a long time since my last post. The truth of the matter is that in the deepest throes of my injury, the last thing I wanted to do was talk about it. I pretty much avoided social media for months because I couldn't bear to read about my friends having great runs and PRing races. Maybe that makes me a jerk, but I was a jealous hater.

When I started PT in March, I thought I would just take a few weeks off and everything would just sort itself out. After six weeks, things were still pretty painful. I had dry needling sessions every couple of weeks from the middle of my back down through my hamstring. Just sitting in the car was so painful in my glute and SI joint I would cry on the way home from work. Things were progressing so slowly and to say I was frustrated would be a severe understatement.

Despite my whining, I kept up with my exercises and eventually I was cleared to use my road bike. I have always loved cycling but it always took a back seat to running. I was thrilled to be able to do some sort of physical activity. And loved being able to ride so much throughout the summer.

This was my view for most of the summer. I didn't hate it.

Between the biking and increasing the intensity of my PT exercises I was able strengthen my core and glutes and slowly eliminate all the pain I had been feeling for months. In July had a treadmill test where my gait was analyzed and after a few adjustments I was told to go home and try out a run on my own.

Maybe I was a little excited

My first few runs were very short and very slow and I paid super close attention to how every thing was feeling. While I was so happy to be running it was also discouraging to realize how much fitness I had lost over the course of three months. I had to start all over again and it took a while to stop comparing myself to where I was before the injury.

Because I work better with goals I chose a Thanksgiving Day 10k race to train for. I took a month or so to very gradually ease myself back into running on a regular basis. In September I  started the 10k Finish It plan from Another Mother Runner and very carefully started to increase the intensity of my workouts. Along the way though something just clicked. I was able to stop relying on run/walk intervals and run continuously.  This in itself was a big deal to me since I have been running intervals for the past couple of years and had convinced myself that I needed them. My runs got longer and longer and I found myself not needing to stop and walk. It was a huge confidence boost at a time I desperately needed one. 

I loved the AMR plan because it also incorporated speed work, which is something I never really did with any other training plan. Speed work came mostly in the form of short high intensity intervals. They started out small and gradually increased in difficulty each week. I found myself looking forward to these workouts. Because all of my mid-week running is done on a treadmill, they really broke up the monotony and occupied my brain for the whole workout.

Around the same time I also started really focusing on my diet in an attempt to lose some weight. I added cross training to my training and continued focusing on core and glute strength. To date I have lost 15 pounds and have seen all sorts of benefits. I can now fit into a pants size I haven't seen since before my 9 year old was born.  Most exciting to me though is watching my paces drop. The combo of the speed work and the weight loss has done incredible things for my running so far.

In October I decided to test things out with a local 5 mile race. Originally I was going to skip it this year but a bunch of friends were running and I had a ton of FOMO. I decided that it would be a no pressure race and just have fun. As I was running I couldn't believe how great I felt and I couldn't believe the numbers I was seeing on my Garmin. I finished the race in about 9.5 minutes faster than last year and had my first single digit average pace (9:59 totally counts). 

My first race in a Oiselle singlet. It definitely gave me wings.

I used the momentum from the race to drive the rest of my training for the 10k. I relied on the MacMillan calculator for my training paces and set a goal time of 1:02:xx which would be about a 5min PR for me.  I was nervous about this goal but equally as excited.

The 10k itself was in Ohio where we were spending the holiday with my husband's family. I expected it to be flat but encountered a lot of rolling hills. I'm used to them so they were no big deal, it was just a surprise. With the exception of a down hill second mile clocking in at 9:35, I kept the pace around 10:00/mile for the whole race and knew that my A goal was within my reach. I stayed strong physically and, most importantly, mentally throughout the whole race. I was able to push through the times where I wanted to slow down or even walk. I felt I ran as strong as I could the entire race. I finished in 1:02:08, which is a 5:39 10k PR for me.

Total goober

Training for and running this race was beyond anything I could have hoped for. I have said on more than one occasion that getting injured was the best thing that has ever happened for my running. Sure it was impossible to see that when I was in the middle of it, but recovering from injury allowed me the chance to totally reset my running. I am gaining the confidence I need to run faster and to try new things. I am approaching my diet and cross training with a different mindset as well. I believe all of this is just setting me up for great things ahead.

Next up - double digit runs and my return to the half marathon!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Reflections on my DNS

I had been looking forward to this past Sunday for months. Counting down the months and weeks focused on one singular goal - to cross the finish line of my first full marathon. I woke up much earlier than I wanted to more times than I care to count to count. I suffered through the coldest temperatures I've seen since we left Boston six years ago just to run. I missed hours with my family. All for this one goal. On any given day I could tell you the exact number of days until April 13th.

Ever since my doctor and physical therapist told me a few weeks ago that my hip injury was too  severe to even think about running the marathon, I've been dreading April 13th. When I first got hurt I thought I had come to terms with what it meant for my running this spring. It turns out that was a big fat lie because in the weeks and days leading up to Rock n Roll Raleigh every time I got and email or saw a Facebook post it was like a punch in the gut.

I know this all seems a bit melodramatic. That's because it is. I kept repeating to myself and my friends that there are people in this world with real problems. Problems more important than missing a race. But I was disappointed and I just wanted it to be over.

However, because this was the biggest road race Raleigh has seen, I still wanted to be a part of it and I wanted to make the best of my situation. I decided to volunteer at my running group's water station at mile 4. This way I could help out while cheering on my friends. (Besides, volunteering is just good race karma.)

I also decided to keep some of the plans I had made with my friends. Brent was away for work for the weekend and my kids went to stay with my parents, so I had a little stay-cation with my friends in Raleigh. They were running the half and I wanted to be there to experience the weekend like we had planned all along.

So in pure lazy blogger form, instead of sharing every single step,  I shall share my weekend in pictures.

Thursday night was an amazing dinner with Jolene followed by the Another Mother Runner party. I've been a long time fan of AMR and I just love Sarah and Dimity and the community of mother runners they've created.

Saturday was the expo. I was bummed about picking up a bib I was never going to use (except for the beer ticket. I used that) so my girls Monica and Francesca knew EXACTLY how to cheer me up. Behold, gelato and cupcakes on the same plate. They just get me.

Sunday I was up bright and early to hand out gatorade like a BOSS. This was actually an incredibly awesome way to watch the race. And when anyone from our running group came through - complete madness. So much fun!

The water stop was at mile four and only a couple of blocks from the finish area. I was able to get there after our water stop closed to cheer on the finishers and wait for Monica and Fran. I think that cowbell gave me blisters. 

My coping mechanism for my big fat DNS: double fisting at 11am on a Sunday morning. I think I handled it pretty darn well.

I am happy to see the weekend behind me. There were a few self-pity moments and a couple of times I wanted to cry, but the good times far outweighed the bad. I had a great day hanging out with so many people I know from the Raleigh/Durham running community. And I felt so much love from my friends.

So I am dusting off and moving on. Next up Marine Corps. And just so you know, October 26th is in 192 days.