Category Archives: Running

Tri training and end of summer update

I have lived in Texas for 11 years (which still kind of blows my mind) but one thing I’m still not used to is thinking of the first (at most, second) week of August as the “end of summer”. Growing up in New England, we didn’t start school until after Labor Day, and even as a teacher in the late 90s and early 2000 years, I didn’t have to return for professional development until the end of August.

For me, “summer” is really July and August, even though here in Texas, it’s June and July (well, per the schools. If you go by the temperature, it’s roughly 65% of the year. Another aspect of Texas I am not fond of).

This is all to say that I’m about to head back to work, and the kids are in the thick of frantically starting finishing their summer work.

I’m still plugging away preparing for my September triathlon.  Training has been going well, in the sense that I’ve been very consistent with the 2x a week workouts in all disciplines, plus strength training, plus an additional weekly brick. I feel like I’m in solid shape, if not at my “fastest”. I’m not approaching this triathlon very competitively, given the timing (on the heels of the first 4-6 weeks back at work, which is always a beatdown). It seems every year, as I get older, I am a bit more tired with the teacher-mom August – September hamster wheel.

I am, however, looking forward to having a fun race, while (hopefully) feeling good. If you can believe it, I’ve only done one race in 2017 (a 15k back in February) so I’m ready to get my head, and body, back in the game. As I’ve alluded to in previous posts, 2017 has been a really, really difficult year, and my athletic hobby has been low on the priority list – I’m hoping I can turn that around heading into 2018.

Speaking of re-focusing on 2018, I’m almost ready to commit to my marathon. I’m starting to look at different first-time marathon training plans. For those of you who have covered the 26.2 distance, what’s your favorite newbie plan?

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2017 – Dallas Hot Chocolate 15k Race Recap and Life in General

On Feb 4th I ran the Dallas Hot Chocolate 15k , and I’ve been meaning since then to post my race recap. I’m not sure how two and a half weeks have passed, except to say that my 2017 so far can best be described as the following:

There continues to be a lot, a lot, going on in my neck of the woods, and most days I feel like I’m drowning. So much so that I considered, seriously considered, bailing on the race. I’ve never bailed on a race since I began running in fall 2013 (if you don’t count the 2016 Houston half marathon, which I don’t, since I made the decision roughly a month in advance of the event not to participate after I pulled a muscle in my back. That wasn’t “bailing” so much as changing plans due to injury).

When I say I almost bailed on this race, I mean that starting 72-48 hours in advance of the Saturday race, I waffled on whether I was going to follow through. The week leading up to the race was particularly exhausting and overwhelming and difficult for my family, and I was averaging 2-3 hours of sleep each night, and going through the motions.

The day before the race, when I had to drive downtown to get my race packet (taking time out of work and traveling 30-40 min from school), I gave myself the mother of all pep talks, told myself I wasn’t a quitter, that I would and I could and I should do this, and set off.

And got rear-ended on the highway. I can’t make this up. The universe hates me.

That night, with a stiff neck and sore shoulders to add to my litany of physical and emotional ailments, I was so ambivalent about the race that I didn’t even take my traditional night before gear-laid-out picture. I decided to set my alarm, but gave myself permission to not attend if I felt worse in the morning.

Ultimately I decided that whatever physical discomfort I endured during the 9.3 miles would pale in comparison to the emotional pissiness I would feel at not following through with my race entry. I hate not finishing what I start.

I don’t have an in-depth race recap to share (partly because I waited so long to write this that I don’t remember most details) but I can say this: until this race, I never really understood how people don’t finish races due to cramps. I mean, I’ve heard of people not finishing races due to cramps, I’ve even seen it happen in televised races. Someone is clipping right along, and suddenly grimaces, limps. sometimes dramatically dropping to the pavement, writhing in pain.

I always thought that was a little … much. I mean, how bad can a cramp be?

And then I ran 9.3 miles after forgetting, in my zombie state, to drink many fluids the 24 hours prior. Hello dehydration. And agonizing searing quad pain.

I was doing pretty well for the first 7 miles or so. So well that I knew I was on track to bust last year’s 15k time out of the water. I’m not going to lie, I was feeling pretty badass – there I was, almost not even showing up to the race hours before, and now I’m flying along at a faster pace?

And then my legs starting twinging. Not badly, at first, but enough to let me know they weren’t happy. I wasn’t overly concerned – with less than 2 miles to go, I figured I was home free.

Around mile 8.5, with just under a mile to go, the pain got so bad that I actually had to do this weird Jedi mind trick where I pretended I was floating and my feet weren’t really striking the ground each time, but just skipping across clouds. I know it sounds weird and doesn’t make sense as I type it out, but it worked, in the sense that I hobbled-limped-floated to the finish line when all I really wanted to do was collapse on the ground and start crying. Like those people I had seen on television who I secretly called wusses in my head. #karma

Still, I finished. With a 4+ minute drop from last year’s time to boot.

In other news, yesterday my oldest turned 17. 17. I can’t really wrap my brain around the fact that I have a 17 year old. In one year, I will be the mom to a legal adult. How did that happen?

Wasn’t I just giving him kisses in the park on my 26th birthday?

In my mind, he’s still this age.

But actually, he’s about to be a senior in high school and next year, in addition to delivering cookies to his advisory down the hall, I’ll be ordering his graduation tuxedo.

Marathon by decree

As I wrote earlier this month, training for my only first marathon is on my agenda for 2017.

Let me elaborate.

Back in 2014, when I ran my very first half marathon, the crazy notion that maybe, just maybe, I could complete a marathon first occurred to me. The significance of even entertaining this endeavor is a post of its own (which I will write at some point), but suffice to say, I have been mulling it over for, literally, almost 3 years. For someone who tends to rush into graduate programs, mortgages and babies, this amount of reflection is indicative of just how intimidated I am by 26.2 miles.

Nevertheless,  I slowly began socking away money, because I knew, even then, that 1. I may very well be a “one and done” marathoner and 2. if I was going to do one marathon, it was going to be at Disney.

If you’re reading this, the odds are high that you’ve run at least one marathon (at least, when compared to the generally acknowledged statistic of 1% of the population that has run 26.2 miles). I have a lot of readers who found this blog through the running and triathlon communities, so maybe you’re thinking “oh, just you wait. Marathons are addictive. You’ll definitely do more than one.”

Maybe. But maybe not.

But there’s no uncertainty or hesitation in my desire to do my (potentially) singular marathon at Disney. I love Disney. Love. It. Beyond that, RunDisney is supposed to do a fantastic job at putting on the race, and it’s rookie-friendly. So, nearly 3 years ago, I began saving a bit of money each month. When I say “bit of money”, we’re talking less than a Starbucks coffee a day amount. Our budget is tight. We have 3 kids in private school, and “we” are teachers. But I committed to working on it. I threw some tutoring money in there. I saved my PTA Christmas bonus, every year. I taught an extra class in the summer, and split the extra between my Disney fund, and family vacations.

I knew, in 2014, that I wanted to go in 2018. It is the last year my oldest is living at home before leaving for college, and it is really important for me, as a mother, to have my kids see me complete this goal. That is also an entirely separate blog post, that I will also write.

But for now, please understand that my kids seeing my first marathon? Even if I go on to run 20 more and they see nary a one? Non-negotiable for me.

In 2014, when I began saving, Disney marathon weekend was the 2nd weekend of the month. As it was 2015. As it was 2016. So you can understand why it never crossed my  mind, as I saved for and fretted over this Herculean goal, that the Disney marathon in 2018 might be the 1st weekend of the month.

Also known as their Dad’s weekend.

You see where I’m going with this.

I wish I could say that asking my ex-husband to trade a weekend was a possible scenario, but it’s not. If you know me, you know why. If you don’t know me, just trust me.

So. Isn’t that just a kick in the teeth?

As someone who has a lot of practice reframing and turning lemons into lemonade, I decided that I would just find another marathon that is worthy of my  investment. I mean, there are some other awesome marathons out there – even if they’re lottery-entry, I’m sure I could find one that is kickass, and on my weekend, right?

Chicago marathon? His weekend.

NYC marathon? His weekend.

Marine Corps weekend? His weekend.

I literally spent about 45min the other night, thinking of marathons I could get excited about, googling them, checking my calendar, and then dejectedly returning to square one. I commented to my husband that race directors must all be divorced men who are looking to make the most of their 1st, 3rd and 5th weekends.

I kid. They’re probably divorced moms who need to work on the weekends that their exes have the children.

I’m sad, y’all. But truly, personal growth, because I’m not angry, or resentful, or shaking my fist at the powers that be that godDAMMIT divorce is just the gift that never stops giving. I don’t feel upset.

I just feel sad. Dejected. But resigned. It is what it is. This is part and parcel for my life. It’s a marathon, it’s not life or death.

But it matters to me.

So, where does that leave me? Right now, I’m leaning towards the Houston marathon in January 2018. It’s my weekend, and a 3 day weekend, so the kids won’t even miss school. I hear it’s flat, with good crowd support, and I’m sure it will still be meaningful and amazing and heck, I’ve got the money more than saved for the entry fee and hotel.

It’s just not what I’ve envisioned for the past 3 years.

 

2017

happy-new-year-2017-wallpapers-images-pictures-hd5

Happy New Year!

I think there are a lot of people exhaling that the dreaded 2016 is finally over, and looking forward to a fresh calendar year. The stroke of midnight like a tangible exorcism of last year’s demons, albeit with champagne instead of sage and resolutions replacing incantations.

Meh. I’m not all that excited for 2017.

Now, lest you think I’m just stubbornly clinging to the pervasive 2016 Debbie Downer mentality, I have my reasons. Sure, there are some exciting and anticipatory events on the horizon. We have a family spring break trip planned for March. I’m trying to work out the details to return to Yankee-land in July for a family wedding. I do have a pretty scary exciting fitness goal for 2017 (more on that in a minute).

But I have a hunch, somewhat reasonable and partly intuitive, that 2017 is going to bring the winds of change. For better or for worse.

I don’t like change. I would rather stay entrenched in known and predictable misery than face the unknown. True story: when I was a child, my mother would ground me*.  Only, she wouldn’t tell me how long I was grounded for. It might be 2 weeks. It might be 2 days. I didn’t know. This was far, far worse than the actual moratorium on Atari or television or sleepovers. I used to try to bargain with her that she could add on extra time to whatever number she had in her head if she would only tell me when my time was up. It was the purgatory that made the hell.

For a woman who, still, to this day, likes to call me her “brilliant Georgetown girl”, she’s clearly no dummy herself.

Anyway, most of these possible changes, I can’t blog about, for various reasons. I can say that my oldest will be applying to colleges in 2017, and will in all likelihood (fingers crossed) already have an acceptance or two under his belt by this time next year. That situation is particularly difficult for me (above and beyond the usual oldest-flying-the-nest hurdle), and I’m still hoping that there will be an amicable, non-litigious, resolution.

But I’m prepared for the alternative.

So, count me in the camp of giving 2017 more of a suspicious side-eye than celebratory squee.

With that said, I do have two goals for 2017.

One: train for a marathon. I have been saying for a couple years now that I would cross the 26.2 threshold in 2018. It seemed like a safe and comfortable horizon back in 2014. I blinked, and here I am, starting 2017, and realizing that the once far off shore is the next port of call. Since most marathon training plans are 3-4 months long, and I’m looking at marathons in the first month or two of 2018, the majority of my training will most likely take place in 2017.

So. 2017. Time to step up my running game.

On a smaller scale, I still want to do some sprint triathlons and shorter distance races in the meantime (I have a 15k in early February, and a triathlon on the books for the end of April).

Two: write more.

new-years-greetings-quotes-for-friends

I’ve always written, in various forms and fashions. I journaled as a tween and teenager. As an English major in college, I was always writing. I did the mommy blogger gig before it was even deemed “mommy blogging”. I’ve written for my eyes only, and, once upon a time, for an audience of several thousand viewers a month (in my previous incarnation).

I’ve always written. Except not so much the past few years.

So, I’d like to return to that. Some of my writing will appear on this blog, natch. If you’re interested in reading my ramblings, especially once I figure out my marathon plans (gulp!), feel free to subscribe (top right), especially if you’re visiting from Facebook. I’m not planning on promoting most of my blog posts on there in 2017.

But some of my writing will not be published in this corner of the internet. This is not a resolution for public consumption. Not yet, anyway.

Happy 2017, everyone. May it be bigger, brighter, and filled with more hope, love and optimism than that stinker 2016.

 

*a lot. All the time. I spent approximately 67.4% of my childhood and adolescence on restriction.

Sayonara

So, how about that 2016?

If you’re on social media, or heck, sitting around kvetching with family or friends, you have probably heard, even declared yourself, that 2016 was the worst. year. ever. Don’t believe me? See here.

Here’s the thing, though. It wasn’t. I mean, it hasn’t been a banner year. Certainly for some people I know, who have endured personal grief, loss or challenging circumstances, it has legitimately been one of the worst. I’m sure there are people out there, maybe even reading right now, whose 2016 was their version of my 2010.  I’m not talking about those versions of 2016. Y’all go ahead and give 2016 the trophy for the biggest loser.

I’m talking about this.  How our access to information, and groupthink catastrophizing, has led us to this mantra. Yes, many celebrities died. Yes, the election was a clusterfuck. Definitely, the violence, both domestically and abroad, is tragic. But we still have it pretty good. By we, I mean those of you (myself included) with internet access reading from your comfortable First World abode. For the record, I’m in pretty good company with this assertion.

So can we agree, on this last day of 2016, that while the year set the bar relatively low for 2017, it wasn’t a total wash?

Personally, when I look back at my resolutions for 2016, I discover that, beyond completing my triathlon and continuing to eat healthy, I didn’t really make any grand goals. This is a relief as I prefer apathy to failure.

I kid. Well, not really, but my lack of resolution making last year was purposeful. Still, I had a fairly productive year.

  • Miles run: 683 (much lower than last year’s 835, but #triathlon)
  • Miles biked: 898
  • Miles swam: 38 (okay, this number makes me giggle. Really? Remember when I won my OWS AG by 10 minutes.  If only running and biking came to me as naturally as swimming. I could be a triathlon SUPERSTAR).
  • Races: 2 half marathons, 2 triathlons, 1 15k,  1 5k, and 1 open water swim race.

I feel like that is a decent year, although in retrospect, it doesn’t seem like many races. I would love to do more, but I try to limit the impact of my midlife hobby on my family’s budget and weekend time.

I’m ending the year at the same weight I began (actually maybe a couple pounds lighter. I think. I’ve orbited the same 5-6 pounds since 2011, but I’m currently on the lower end of the range).

In other ways, 2016 had many other achievements, tangible and measurable, and otherwise. I completed my first year running a new program for the senior class, and it went as well as could possibly be expected (which is to say with 91 out of 93 completing it on time, which is statistically successful but not up to my 100% or bust standards).  I saw my girlfriends more than in previous years, and considering we have 19 kids between the 6 of us, that’s no easy feat (we even squeezed in a weekend getaway for a 40th birthday celebration. Not mine of course. I’m older than 4 of them. Bitches.). My kids continued to flourish and celebrate their own achievements, and my husband is wrapping up his year-long administrative leadership training program, and considering potential career trajectories.

There was a lot accomplished in 2016, despite the year’s bad rap.

Still, I’m not sad to say goodbye to 2016.

 

 

9 ways I shaved 9 minutes off my half marathon PR.

As I blogged last week, I was nervous for this race. I thought I could do well. I was pretty sure I was going to PR. But still. You never know.

On Sunday morning I ran the Dallas BMW half marathon with 20,000 ish other runners. The weather was perfect: overcast and 50 degrees with some drizzle and fog fading for the start. The wind gusts picked up the last few miles (I imagine it was less pleasant for the 26.2 people still out there), but I was able to run most of the race without feeling too much resistance.

I suppose there’s no need to build the suspense for how I did, since the title of this post is a clear spoiler. I shaved 9 full minutes off my previous PR, run at this same exact race in 2014.

check out that pacing #humblebrag

So how did I do it? After 2 years, two years spent consistently running and racing regularly, how did I have such a big drop in one race? I’ve thought a lot about it, and here are 9 contributing factors (I believe) led to that 9 minute PR.

I. My previous time wasn’t that fast. Let’s start with a dose of reality. I’m not a fast runner. I’m not even a fast runner for a 42 year old mother of 3. There are a lot of middle aged runners faster than me. I know from my years of swimming and coaching that you can only get big drops in time when there’s that lack of speed to begin with. I’m not being falsely modest, just practical and realistic. If I was running sub-2 hour half marathons, I would never see a drop like that. But my previous (5) half marathons were all run in the 2:26 to (cringe, altitude in Colorado) 2:35 range. I was bound to drop time at some point, amIright?

With that said, I still dropped a lot of time for me, which brings me to my next 8 points.

II. I took a break from the distance. When I discovered I could actually run 13.1 miles (in April 2014), I got a little addicted to medals running. In short order, I ran 4 additional half marathons (in less than 2 years). I grew weary, mentally and physically, of training for the long distance. I purposely took almost a year off from a half marathon race, to give my body and brain a break.

III. I played around with the Galloway run/walk method. I’ve raced some of my previous half marathons without walking at all, and finished some others with (exhausted) short stints of walking as I staggered through the last few miles. I’ve never done an entire training cycle with the dedicated intent to try out the run/walk method, thinking (full disclosure) that is for people who just aren’t tough enough to actually run all those miles. However, given my slow times with the “real” running, what did I have to lose by trying a training cycle with the run/walk?

I still did all my mid-week 3-6 mile runs (speedwork, tempo runs, easy miles) as straight runs, but practiced different run/walk ratios for my Saturday long runs. Eventually I settled on a 3 min run/ :45 sec walk ratio. As I practiced my long runs, I was shocked to discover that I was finishing 9, 10 and 11 mile runs in the 10:50-11 min/mile range without feeling like I was killing myself. Not only was my pace faster, but I wasn’t miserable.

Maybe that Galloway guy is on to something.

see? I smiled for the camera. Run/walk covert.

IVI worked on running faster during my mid-week runs. Yes, this is a no-brainer, but remember, I’m still relatively new to this running thing. Before I really committed to trying to lower my half marathon time, I completed my runs, but was not particularly motivated to work hard at them. I mostly stuck to the “novice” training plans, with suggested mileage, without a focus on speedwork. I figured out that I wanted to run my half somewhere in the 10:20-10:30 min/mile range, and started really working on the treadmill during the week at growing comfortable with that pace for 4, 5 and 6 mile stretches.

V. That triathlon training, tho. If I had to identify something really different about this year, versus my previous 2 years of half marathon training and racing, it was all that triathlon training during the 6-7 months before this latest 13.1 training cycle. From March through September, I only ran 3 days a week, but I was also swimming and biking several times a week. Remember, I completed an Olympic distance triathlon on Labor Day. I have to believe that had something to do with it. Also?

VI. For the first time, I actually did my strength training. Unlike my actual runs (which I am fairly militant about completing), I inevitably begin every race training cycle with the best of intentions about strength training. I conscientiously work in 10-15 minutes of planks, lunges and squats a couple times a week the first week or two…and then just sort of drop it. I don’t know what it is about that dang strength training, but I just can’t stick with it.

Until the past 2 months, when I diligently maintained my twice weekly planks and lunges. I still hated it. But I did it.

flying across the finish line. Tri training + strength training = strong finish

VII. I changed up my shoes. Previously, I’ve trained and raced in super cushy sneakers (or “kicks” as my husband calls them. Is that a Texan thing? I don’t know. Weird.). I oscillated between Brooks Glycerins or Saucony Rides. Don’t get me wrong, those are super comfy sneakers, and I still have mad love for them, but I discovered through my triathlon training that maybe I could pare down some of that extra bulk. I discovered the Saucony Kinvara and haven’t looked back.

VIII. I dropped a few pounds. Okay, I’m sure this is psychological more than anything else, but I lost 3-4 pounds, not that I was dieting or trying to reduce my size, but I’m constantly retooling my diet to figure out what makes me feel better during workouts, and keeps my energy up during the day.

IX. I nailed my pre-race week nutrition. I was very regimented the entire week leading up to the race with what I ate. While I’ve figured out what works for me in general as far as nutrition (see VIII), I went into race mode earlier than usual for this half. No desserts, no booze, and carefully planned dinners with a mix of healthy carbs and protein.

Do I believe that not drinking any alcohol or eating any cookies for 7 days before running a half marathon directly correlates to a 9 minute drop? *shrug* It couldn’t hurt.

So that’s it. Nine ways I think I had an amazing race on Sunday.

Next up? A 15k in February, and then it’s time to plan my triathlons!

Knock on wood

So, how about that 2+ month blogging hiatus?

I have not forgotten to blog. In fact, as the weeks passed by, I felt increasingly guilty about neglecting my little corner of the internet. This, in turn, led me to feel indignant and resentful; it’s my blog, and if I don’t want to write, I shouldn’t feel (self-imposed) pressure to do otherwise.

Did I not feel like writing? That’s a complicated question.

Even when I wanted to write, I’ve had very little time. My life, logistically speaking, tends to grow harried and frenzied in predictable patterns. In any given calendar-year, I am reliably underwater for roughly 4-5 weeks from mid-August to mid-September, then again for the holidays, then again for the month of May. There may be other very busy, terrible, horrible, no good, very bad days, or weeks, that are circumstance-specific, but you can place bets on those spans as always crazy.

This year, however, has the been the first year (that I can remember) that it just never eased up from that mid-August mania. I kept waiting for it to settle down, for there to be the weeks when we weren’t supposed to be in 2, 3 or 4 different places at once. Where I didn’t have to plan on takeout dinners at least 1-2 nights a week, because I wasn’t even home to cook. It turns out the ages when I am officially overwhelmed, over-scheduled, and over-committed as a mother of 3 kids are 12, 14 and 16.

Truth be told and in full disclosure, however, much of the time, I haven’t wanted to write. Like for so many, the (national and international) events of the past few months have left me very … weary.

I haven’t been blogging, but I have been running. And this, also, is where I hesitate to say too much. Knock on wood. Throw salt over my shoulder. Cross my fingers.

*whispers* I’ve been running really, really well.

This Sunday, I’m running half marathon #6, the BMW Dallas half marathon. I have diligently followed my training plan, even with the crazy-making, harried hamster wheel of my life.  I haven’t skipped a single run, and only rarely shaved the occasional mile or two off sessions (and never from the weekend long run, only with the mid-week runs,  when I might  only cover 5 or 6 miles instead of 7 or 8, because #motherhood and #teaching).

“They” say that long runs should average 30-60 seconds min/mile slower than desired race pace; for a runner of my speed and caliber, I think it’s recommended to pace more solidly on the 1 full minute slower end. So, when I began my half training in earnest all the way back on October 8th, I figured an 8 mile run at a 10:40 pace was just a fluke. A good day.

But then this happened.

  • Sat Oct 15th: 6 miles at 10:55 min/mile
  • Sat Oct 22nd: 9 miles at 10:49 min/mile
  • Sat Oct 29th: 8 miles at 11:04 min/mile
  • Sat Nov 5th: 10 miles at 11:08 min/mile
  • Sat Nov 12th: 11 miles at 11:18 min/mile
  • Sat Nov 19th: 12 miles at 10:59 min/mile
  • Sun Nov 27th: 10 miles at 11:00 min/mile
  • Sat Dec 3rd: 8 miles at 10:57 min/mile

I have been nailing my long runs. I wasn’t trying to overly exert or push myself, and I finished each run feeling okay (ie not ready to vomit and spend the rest of the day in bed. Although some of those days did involve a nap).  As of today (Tuesday), my legs feel slightly sore and fairly tired, but if memory serves, that’s about right for the beginning of taper week at the end of a half marathon training cycle. I have 5 miles tonight, and then just 2 and 3 mile easy runs left before the race.

think I am in really good shape to PR this Sunday.

KNOCK ON WOOD.