On the Eve of My Second Marathon

Ok, Ok, technically it is not the eve of the marathon…I have two days until the Duke City but I feel like everything I do from here on out is going to effect my performance on Sunday so let’s take a look at where I am at.

After getting over strep throat four weeks ago, I went out and kicked some serious a$$ on my 20 miler.  I averaged a 9:53 and felt pretty decent when I finished…and by decent I mean completely spent but think I will be able to push for the last 6.2 at something close to that pace.

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Now, I know that running race pace for a long run is frowned upon, but I had such a horrific 19 mile run two weeks before that I really needed a confidence booster.  So I did it.  Race pace on my longest run.  And then I decided to not follow conventional wisdom the next week either – 16 miles at 9:30 pace.

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 Yes – a long run at FASTER than race pace, but it gave me the ego boost I needed and made me feel like I was ready to tackle the race.

Then came speed bump number one: Achilles Tendinitis.

While out on an easy 4 mile run two and a half weeks from race day I was stopped in my tracks by a pull in my calf.  I knew right away it was my achilles and it did not feel good.  I hobbled home and rested for a few days, iced, road my bike like a crazy person around town and yes, perhaps cried, because I was again going to have to DNS another marathon I had signed up for just like last fall.

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Circa 1994 Schwinn Mountain Bike that weighs 1,000+lbs. It gets the job done, though.

I immediately went in for an assessment with a PT and it was recommended I get deep tissue massages, rest, ice and take some time to let it heal.  After all, I was two weeks from the race and my training was done – I wouldn’t gain anything by pushing through long painful runs now.  I had two fabulous massages that loosened both my achilles and my bum hamstring that has been bothering me since March and followed the strict PT directives to take it easy and am feeling so much better.  I also went out and bought a new pair of shoes.  About two weeks before the achilles strain happened I switched to a new pair of Mizunos – a type that I had never worn before because they discontinued my current Mizuno line.  I just had an inkling the switch might have something to do with my injury.  The minute I put on the new Brooks Adreneline I felt almost immediate relief.

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Shoes sent from heaven to save my achilles.

They are much more supportive, and while heavier than the Mizunos, I feel like these shoes are going to get me across the finish line.   If you are a runner you know that I am about to commit one of the cardinal sins of running: switching to a brand new brand of shoes days before the marathon.  I know.  I know.  I have run in them for my short taper runs this week and they just feel so good on my achilles.  I have to do it.  Stay tuned for the race report next week when I am either going to be praising Brooks or posting pictures of my blistered and battered feet.  Lets hope for the former.

Speed bump number two: Sickness (again?!!!)

Our household was hit with another round of sickness within a months time. I started with the kids and then, as most moms do, I came down with it right after they got better.  The dreaded cold with congestion in my head and chest.  It caused me to skip my long run three weeks out from the race and couple other runs and suffer through my last long run of 8 miles with all sorts of walk breaks and nose blowing.   After 10 days of complaining and barely running and taking every supplement I could find, I have turned a corner.  Congestion has cleared, I have slept well and I feel like I have my strength back…JUST IN TIME!

Race day in Sunday.  I am monitoring everything I eat from here on out.  I have the world’s most sensitive stomach so nothing but white bagels, plain chicken, potatoes, and oatmeal for the next two days.  I also have some Immodium tablets in the waiting for Sunday morning.  The weather is calling for low of 49, high of 75 with ‘sun and clouds’.  I am super excited about the ‘clouds’ part of the forecast because we don’t get a lot of cloud cover in the Land of Enchcantment and a little shade will be nice on the trail, which is mostly exposed for about 24 of the 26 miles.  I plan to wear a tank top with my new Oiselle Roga shorts (don’t worry. I have tested these out on a couple long runs.  Wasn’t going to make a second cardinal running mistake by wearing new shorts!) which I absolutely love!  I have a pair of knee socks that I cut the feet off to wear as arm warmers for the first couple miles when it is freezing out and then can toss in the garbage when I feel I don’t need them any longer.  I plan to fuel with GU along the way and will pack one bag of honey stinger chews just in case my stomach can’t take another GU after 20 miles.  I have three salt tabs to take each hour to ward off cramping and will take water and powerade along the race course.  The pace plan is to start slow for the first 3 miles at 10:00/miles and then pick it up at four to race pace of 9:45.  There is a particularly hilly part to the course from mile 10 to 14 that I would like to really hold on to race pace, and then if I am feeling good at 14 I plan to push a little faster on the way back (the course is out and back).  This is all  hypothetical of course, because with my last marathon being a total bust (due to mono) I really don’t know how I am going to perform.

Goals:

A: 9:45 pace for the race.  This would translate to a 4:15 completion time.  This is a big stretch, but maybe if the stars align I can get there.

B: Beat my first marathon time by an hour.  This would be a finish time of 4:39 or a 10:15/mile pace.  This may be the most realistic goal.

C: Not walk.  Have fun.  And remember that this is just the start of my marathoning journey, because I already have my eye on some 2015 races.

Happy racing this weekend everyone!

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#342! If you see me on the course give me a shout out! I am certainly going to need every good vibe I can get!

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A La Luz Finisher!

Yesterday I completed what I consider the hardest race I have ever participated in. The La Luz Trail Race.

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The La Luz Trail is a beautiful trail that runs up to the top of the Sandia Mountains – the mountains that border one side of Albuquerque.  I have long thought of the La Luz Trail Race as a right of passage and something I NEED to do as a runner from Albuquerque. This year, I threw caution to the wind and put my name in the lottery even through I rarely ever run trails and had only hiked the trail once before in the 12 years of living in New Mexico. I was lucky enough to be one of 400 people selected to do the race, and so my ‘training’ ensued. With other race commitments and travel plans this summer, I only made the accent up the trail three more times before race day. I did do some extra hill repeats this summer, but not necessarily at the altitude the race runs at.
Yesterday I got up at 5am to run up a mountain. The race begins on a twisty, turn-y, steep Forest Road that leads to the trail, which I was not excited about but now realize that it is a great way to ‘sort out the runners’ before hitting the single track trail.

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I started near the back of the pack because I knew I was going to have to employ a run/walk approach right from the start and I was so pleased to see others doing the same thing. The first few miles on the trail are a slow incline of switch backs and I found myself sticking with a group for awhile until I had an opportunity to pass and catch up to the next pack of runners. By mile 5 (of 9) of the race I had found ‘my people’ – the group running the pace I could keep up with and that helped me keep pushing forward. At around mile 6 the dreaded ‘rockslide’ starts – 7 or 9 switchbacks across loose boulders that you have no choice by to walk across and the trail gets increasingly more steep from here on out.

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This is where the mental toughness starts to kick in. One foot in front of the other. Hike with purpose. Don’t slow down. Just keep moving. I focused my gaze to the persons shoes in front of me and just tried to keep up. As we neared the final turn off at 8 miles, I was really feeling the altitude effects – light headed and my legs were burning and fatigued. Up to this point I hadn’t stopped once on the trail, but found that I had to catch my breath two times before getting to the finish line. This portion of the trail is the more brutal – steep and a set of stairs that just seem like a cruel joke after what you have already gone through.

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I would say this is the portion of the race that I most regret not being familiar with. I had only run the last mile of the race once before and it would have been nice to be a little more familiar with the twists and turns during this section and to be able to judge how much more of the race was left. The second time I stopped was just about 200 feet from the finish, but I didn’t know that until I rounded the corner after I caught my breath.

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This ‘finisher’ picture should be titled, “EXHAUSTED!”

Every race is a learning experience. This race I learned that I am stronger than I thought. I ran about 1:30/min per mile faster than training runs, and in some portions even faster.

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In trail racing, it is nice to be familiar with the race course – probably more important than road racing because the terrain can very so much. If I do this race again, I will do a lot more training runs covering the whole course.

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The shirt only finishers receive. I think I will wear for a week straight.

Up next: preparation for the Duke City Marathon on October 19th. I have two half marathons that I have committed to – the Rio Grande Half next weekend and the Chips and Salsa Half in September. Both these races fit nicely into my training plan for the full marathon and it will be nice to try out my pace for race day and see how it feels.

I Just Signed Up For What?

With Ragnar just a a few short weeks away, I have been training hard.  The last two weeks I have put in over 30 miles each week along with about the same on the bike trainer.  I still have some aches (hip/priformis) and pains (shins), but nothing that will stop me from racing with 11 friends over 200 miles.

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While gearing up for this epic adventure, I decided to throw my name in the hat for another – the La Luz Trail Run.  The race is run on National Forest trails, so they limit the number of runners on the course to 400 people, hence the lottery system to get in.  I kind of feel that this is a right of passage for an Albuquerque runner and after living here 13 years I thought I should give it a go.  On Monday afternoon I got the email:

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No turning back now!  I’m in!  Did I mention that when I signed up for the lottery I had only hiked La Luz once in all my years living here?  I remember it being hard, but I had hiked it with a bunch of girlfriends and I remember the miles flying by.  As a Mother’s Day present to myself, Tom and I got a sitter last Saturday to ‘run’ the trail and see how it felt.

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Start of the Trail Head. Looking fresh.

We started out at 7 a.m. with some water and a couple gu, and I stowed away 6 fig newtons for us to celebrate with once we got to the top.  We started out strong.  We ran all the flat parts and hiked up hills quickly for the first three miles.

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My view for the whole trail…trying to keep up with Tom.

 

It was beautiful looking down on the city from so high up.

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Pictures never to the view justice. I wish I could bottle the crisp, clean air and scent of piñon to accompany the picture for my readers.

And then we got to this…

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The Rock Fall area – switch backs of boulders, rocks and pebbles for at least a mile and a half.  Last time I hiked the trail I didn’t remember it going on for so long, but this time I certainly noted it.  We practically slowed to a crawl  to get through this area without falling.  I don’t know how the people in the race attack this section of the course, but I am going to make sure that I just take it easy so I don’t twist an ankle and DNF.

After the rock fall, the course twists and turns a few  more times and then your at the top!

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We made it! Tom was so kind to take it slow so I could keep up with him.  Time for those delicious Fig Newtons…

And while this sign marks the end of the race, you still have a mile or so to get back to the tram that returns you to the bottom of the mountain.:

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I would say the run to the tram was probably my favorite part of the day because you are on top of the mountain, running fairly flat trails and have a beautiful 365 degree view of New Mexico.

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We finished the course trail in about 2 hours 4 minutes – that included a couple Gu stops and photo ops.

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Crazy Elevation Gains!!!

 

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Miles 5 and 6 = Rock Fall!

We did not start at the actual ‘start’ of the race – which is 1.8 miles of forest road, so I guess I can hope for about a 2hr 40 min finish in August. The course winners last year completed the course in 1hr15min for men and around 2 hours for women.  I certainly won’t be the last person up the mountain, but I won’t be anywhere near the front.   I’m looking forward to the training this summer, although spending three weeks at sea level in Wisconsin probably isn’t going to help much – even their largest hill is nothing compared to our mountains.  But, the best thing about running a race for the first time is no matter what I complete the course in it will be a PR!

 

 

My Weekend Run in Photos

6 mile tempo run on an early, cloudy, drizzly Saturday morning.  Here are a few of the pictures I took along the way:

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Love when the clouds curl over the top of the mountains.

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First signs on spring. Flowers growing in the medians.

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Loved the contrast of the chartreuse of the tree against the blue and purple clouds.

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Happiness Is Your Creation

Last Thursday I was kind of dreading my workout.  I had 6×800 on schedule and the only time I could squeeze it in was while my son was at art class.   I  decided to do the repeats in the industrial area across the street – flat and long, straight streets and if I did the workout quick enough I could treat myself to a latte before picking him up.  Normally I would drive 10 min to the beautiful bosque running trail for my workout, but – like I said, a latte was a necessity –  if I drove to the trail and back I wouldn’t have time to get one after my workout.  Priorities.

The thought of running 800s in a very unscenic part of town that is a little sketchy was not sounding like running heaven, but I was determined to get the workout in.  As I ran the first 800 toward the industrial warehouses I saw boarded up abandoned buildings, empty dirt lots, garbage, broken glass, uneven sidewalks and rusty barbed wire.  There were two teenagers huddled on the side of the road outside of their car – doing drugs?  I don’t know, but I avoided them and that area for the rest of the run.  There were rundown houses past the warehouses and broken down cars.

Just keep your head down and get the repeats done.

The end of my second 800 ended in front of a house that looked like this:

Is that the RV from Breaking Bad?

Is that the RV from Breaking Bad?

And the house had a view of this, across the street:

2014-02-13 10.27.44Probably not your most sought after real estate in the city.  As I was ‘walking off’ my repeat (i.e. 90 second break), I looked down and I was stopped in my tracks.  I saw this:

HAPPINESS IS YOUR CREATION

HAPPINESS IS YOUR CREATION

Who had taken the time to spray paint this on the curb by this house?  I was blown away.  And as my Garmin started to beep to signal the start of the next repeat, I started to look around.  I started to notice more about this area I was running in.  It wasn’t just an industrial area, there were homes here that people lived in.  And there WAS beauty here.

Totem Poles

Totem Poles

Pyramid Home?

Pyramid Home?

Not really sure the story behind these guys

Not really sure the story behind these guys

Love the contrast colors on this home

Love the contrast colors on this home

The quote on the street really made me think about seeking out beauty and happiness – on runs, in life itself.  I don’t know that I will seek out deserted industrial areas for my future runs, but I will certainly think about finding the beauty and creating happiness wherever I end up.

Happiness is created.  It doesn’t just happen.

Half Marathon Training Starts….NOW!

After a week off of running and generally working out post-RnRAZ, I am so ready to get back on a plan.  The Albuquerque Half Marathon is just 12 weeks away and I was feeling rested, so I started this week.  I’m a loyal follower of AnotherMotherRunner.com and I absolutely love their books.  Their Half Marathon Own It Plan from their book Train Like A Mother got me to a huge, huge, huge PR last spring of over 20 minutes at 1hr53minutes.  I never could have imagined that I could go that fast and while I was exhausted at the end of that race, I was so happy with the results and my ability to push through.

That smile says 'Huge PR'!

That smile says ‘Huge PR’!

This round of training I am going in a different direction, though.  My husband followed the novice marathon training plan from Run Less, Run Faster by Runner’s World this fall and I really like the idea of cross training more.  After being injured I decided I want to focus more on whole body wellness.  I want to do more strength training, include pilates and ride the bike or swim at the gym more during my training.  The idea behind the Run Less, Run Faster plans are that you have three quality runs each week – a long run, a tempo run and a speed workout, along with two cross training sessions.  ONLY THREE RUNS A WEEK.   Because you are running less, you have to make those workouts count so they give you very specific time goals to hit for each one.  One huge difference is the speed of the  long runs.  In the past I have taken my long runs very easy and haven’t watched my pace all that much – one to two minutes slower than race pace usually.  In Run Less, Run Faster all my long runs for half marathon training are going to be at half marathon pace + 20 seconds or half marathon pace + 30 seconds.  When deciding what my half marathon pace is going to be, I decided to focus on a range – keep my pace between a 1:50-2:00hr half marathon pace, with a focus more on the 1:50 side.    This is going to be challenging since I just ran a 2:04 in Phoenix a week ago at a lot lower altitude.  But I know I am capable of a 1:53, and that is something I keep reminding myself.  Also, this quote:

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As long as my body can hang in there, I am going to push myself to the limit for this race.

The first thing I always do is hand-write out my training plan.

Run Less, Run Faster Half Marathon Training Plan

Run Less, Run Faster Half Marathon Training Plan…with shiny stars for my completed workouts.

Why hand-write it?  I think it prepares me for the work ahead and lets me see the ebb and flow of the plan.  When there is a challenging week, and when there is a week of easier workouts.   Right now I have plugged in all the bike workouts as my cross training, but maybe I’ll throw in a couple swim cross training sessions as it gets warmer out.

Yesterday I headed out for my first long run of the plan.  I have chosen to do my long runs during the week while the kids are in school because my husband is a CPA and tax season is gearing up – i.e. work seven days a week for 12 hours a day from Feb-April 15th.  Rather than get a sitter every Saturday (which I did last year during tax season), I thought I’d get my long runs and tempo runs while the kids in school, and save the nice short track workouts for Saturday mornings when I can get up at 5am and be done by 6am for him to leave for work.  So.  The first long run.  8 miles at HMP(half marathon pace)+30.  I chose to use my 1:53 half marathon pace of 8:37 +30sec for this run.  It was a challenge.  My body is so used to falling into the 10min/mile pace that I have been using all winter – I was constantly looking at my Garmin to adjust pace:

Pace all over the board...

Pace all over the board…

And then there are those spikes…where I either had to stop at a stop light, take a water break, or have a walk break.  The first 6.5 miles were only the former two, but after that things started to go down hill and I had to include a few walk breaks.  I wasn’t super-pleased with myself, but I reminded myself this was my first long run at such a fast pace and (hopefully) I will look back at this run in a couple weeks and be so much stronger.  And how did I finish?  At a pace of 9:07, I should have completed 8m in 1:13:04.  Here is the result:

8miles in 1:13:07

8miles in 1:13:07.  Run Happy!

I’ll take it.

Today is a rest day and I am taking full advantage of it.  The rest of my week:

Wednesday: Spinning.  5min easy, 3x(5min tempo, 1min easy), 5min easy  and Pilates

Thursday: 3×1600 (60 sec Rest Interval)

Friday: off

Saturday: 1mile easy, 6miles at 8:40, 1mile easy

I’m looking forward to this Run Less, Run Faster adventure.

What training plans do you use?

How much cross training do you include and what types?