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.

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Where I Have Been and Where I Am Going….

Wow.  It’s been almost two months since my last post!  Life got busy and while writing about running may have fallen to the wayside, my running workouts and races did not!  Since my last post:

1. I ran the Shamrock Shuffle 5k with my 6 yr old daughter.  And she ROCKED it!  In Albuquerque and the surrounding suburbs there seem to be some standard 5k and 10k routes that all the race organizers use and the one the Shamrock Shuffle uses I try to avoid….because it is uber hilly.   But I had these great new socks

Screenshot 2014-05-02 12.04.39and they needed to be used in a St Patty’s day race – surprise, surprise New Mexico has only one such race on the uber hilly course.  We decked ourselves out in as much green as possible and headed across town to the race.  Not only did I have to run the hilly course, but it was my turn to push the stroller with our almost 4 yr old.  Ugh.  I could barely keep up with my daughter in the race, she stopped several times to let me catch up and finally at mile 2 had to tell her to go on ahead, “Just follow the rest of the people, ” I panted.  And she did.  She PR’ed the race by around 10 minutes, with a finish time of approx. 34min.  Wow.  Just wow.  I have to give props to the guy dressed a green chili pepper costume.  He started out in front of us and Cate had a fire in her to “beat the green banana!”.

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The Green Chili Costume looked something like this…

She passed him by mile 1 and only needed to be reminded that he was gaining on her near the finish line for her to kick it in to high gear for the last 100 meters.   Cate ended up winning her age division for the race and was so proud of herself to get the special 1st place medal.  I didn’t mention to her that she was the ONLY PERSON in the  girl age 6-9 division.

 

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My Irish lad ready to rock the 1k.

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Sweet victory!

2.  I ran the Albuquerque Half Marathon on April 19th.  About two weeks before the race a tweaked my hip during a tempo run, and being the type A person I pushed through the training plan instead of taking a few days off to rest it.  Resting when I am injured is really, really tough for me and something I need to work on.  So needless to say, on race day my hip was still bothering me – so much that I couldn’t push myself to keep the pace I had been training for.  That morning I thought I would try taking two ibuprofen to see if it would dull the pain, but by race time my hip was still hurting AND my stomach was upset from the medicine.  Double whammy.  I should have learned my lesson from Ragnar DC that ibuprofen and I don’t get along….

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Where’s the Immodium?

By mile 3 or so, I resolved myself to just getting to the finish line and to take in the scenery.  And that is what I did.  I finished – 16 whole minutes slower than my 2013 time – but I finished.  Lesson learned: Not every race is going to be epic and it sure is nice to let the pressure go and enjoy the commeradery of other runners out for a race on a beautiful spring morning.

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Where I am going:

1. Tomorrow I will undertake my very first TRAIL RACE!  I have signed up for the Valles Caldera 10k which takes place at 8,000 feet above sea level.  Weather is predicted to be beautiful and I am excited to wear this shirt that I received from my friend Aimee:

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I think “My Pace. My Peace” will be the perfect mantra for me tomorrow.  There is something really exciting to me about doing a race that I have never done before because there is no pressure to ‘do better than last time”.   Whatever I accomplish tomorrow will be a PR.  And maybe that is why starting to trail race will be a new goal.  Every trail is different – different altitude, different obstacles, different elevation gains/losses.  And short of doing the same race year after year, I won’t be able to compare say a 10k in the Valles Caldera to a 10k in the Sandia Mountains.  I like the thought of that…

 

2.  Ragnar ChicagoScreenshot 2014-05-02 12.07.04Ragnar Chicago is just one short month away and my team and I are getting really excited.   We are being sponsored partly by Breadsmith, so we thought we would pay tribute to them in our team name: This Is How We Roll.  We’ve ordered t-shirts and magnets to tag other vans and have finalized which leg will be run by which runner.  I’ve been assigned Leg 9 and be in Van 2.  This will be different than my last Ragnar (Washington DC) when I was in Van 1 and was able to sleep from midnight to 6am.  I personally think Van 2 has the harder job in a Ragnar because they have to run from noon-6pm, midnight – 6am and noon-6pm roughly – running through the hottest part of the day and the dead of night.  If anything, some really funny stories will probably come of it due to serious sleep deprivation.  Here’s a picture of my sis and I doing some Ragnar practice while she was visiting last week!

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3. La Luz Trail Run.

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Sign on the first 2 miles of road leading to the trail head.

I’ve signed up for the lottery drawing for an entry into what 2001 Trail Runner Magazine selected as one of the “12 Most Grueling Trail Races in North America”.  Yes.  I voluntarily have signed up to run 9 miles and 5,000 feet elevation gain up Sandia Mountain.  I kind feel like it is a right of passage as and Albuquerque runner to complete this race.  And that is all I will be doing if I get in: just making it to the finish line.  The lottery takes place May 8th.  We will see if this is my year.

 

So that is what I have been up to these last couple months and my plans for the summer.  What are your summer racing plans?  

Run This Year 2014 Update!

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It’s been two months since I decided to join the Run This Year 2014 challenge.   After falling short of my 1,200 mile goal in 2013 due to injury, I decided to set my goals high for this year …and stay injury free…. 2,014 km in 2014 (or 1251 miles). So, how am I doing?

January was a little bit of a slow start.  I had the Phoenix Rock and Roll Half Marathon on January 19th, which called for a taper for the first two weeks of January before the race and then a little RnR from the RnR (Rest and Relaxation from the Rock and Roll).  

Total miles for January: 70.82 running (50.3 biking)

In February I picked up the pace.  My next big race on my calendar is the Albuquerque Half Marathon on April 19th and I jumped onto the Run Less, Run Faster training plan as soon as I felt rested from the Phoenix RnR Half.  Because the Run Less, Run Faster (RLRF) book emphasizes three quality runs a week and two cross training workouts, I was a little concerned I wouldn’t hit my 100+ mile goals, but was surprised when I logged on this weekend to get my Feb. totals:

Total miles for February: 101.86 running (74.90 biking)

and the grand total for 2014 so far: 172.68 running (139.20 biking)!  

Ok, so I am a little bit behind to achieve 1,251 miles for the year.  I should be at 208 running miles by the end of February, but I am going to keep plugging away.  Maybe I will have to adjust my goals to include my biking totals since I am spending so much time cross training and my number one goal for the year is to stay injury free.  I am really pleased with the RLRF program after 5 weeks of being on their half marathon plan.  I haven’t hit all the pace goals for every single run, but I have gotten the miles in and feel like my body isn’t getting too broken down as I near the thick of the training miles.  I do miss an ‘easy run’ every now and again – one where I don’t have to constantly be checking my Garmin for pace and mileage, but I did have one little ‘cheat day’ last week when I skipped a 30min easy spinning bike ride and ran outside without my watch for 30 min.  It felt good and I look forward to pulling back for a week or two once this race is over before my next race…. 

And I am so excited to share that I have signed up for my first trail race – The Valles Caldera 10k on May 3rd!  I have had my eye on this race for a few years but it always seemed to be in June when I was on vacation.  This year they moved it back to May which could be a little cold, but will probably be better to avoid the heat of summer and forrest fire closings.  Here are a few pictures from the race website:

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Doesn’t it look wonderful!?!  Now here is the scary part:

ImageIt’s a little fuzzy, I know.  If you squint at the above elevation chart you can see the race starts at 8,200 feet and climbs to nearly 8,800 for the first three miles! Yikes.  I live at approximately 5,600 feet, so at least I am not coming from sea level, but it is still going to be a huge stretch.  My plan for the race: leave my watch at home and take a lot of pictures on my first trail adventure.  Now for the technical questions: What type of race gear do I need?  Shoe suggestions?  Any other trail racing knowledge you would like to impart?

 

 

Training Week 1

IMG_7452Whew.  I did it.  The first week of Run Less, Run Faster training is in the books, and I am not going to lie – it is TOUGH!  I discovered I really enjoy easy paced long runs and that on this training plan, there are no ‘easy’ runs – all runs have purpose, and therefore pace.  I set my goals high for this round of training and as I was reading in the book, the authors remind the reader again and again to be realistic about goal pace.  After doing all three training runs this week, I have discovered that my goals are not realistic – in that I didn’t hit my paces for two of the three runs.

The first run was the long run, and as I posted here I was able to just squeak by on pace.

The second run was my speed workout.  A mile warm up, 3×1600, and a mile cool down.  I choose a very flat out and back course for the mile repeats.

IMG_7447The weather proved a little windy, but since I was turning around at half mile, I figured that the wind shouldn’t matter quite as much.  Here are my splits:

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For a 2hr half marathon the splits should be 8:06, for a 1:53 half marathon (my PR last year) the splits should be 7:37.  I didn’t even come close to the 7:37, but I did keep it under the 8:06.  The plan states all speed workout repeats should all be within a second or two of each other – this I need to work on.  By setting a more realistic goal time hopefully I can focus more on my splits.

My third workout was a tempo run.  There were a couple things I did wrong the night before the tempo run:

 -Wine tasting

-Papa John’s pizza

-staying up late when I knew I had to get my run in at 6am the next morning.

The run was really doomed before I even stepped foot on the treadmill.  I was supposed to do a mile warm up, 6 miles 9:09, one mile cool down.  I made it to the end of mile 5.  I was able to hold the tempo pace for four of the six miles, but then hit a major wall.  I went into survival mode – just keep running at whatever pace I could to get the miles in.  I finished all eight miles, but I think you can see what happened based on my heart rate chart:

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I completed both the cycling cross training workouts this week with very little trouble.  It was actually quite enjoyable to do something different and give my knees and ankles a little break.

So where do I stand going into next week? I am going to do what RLRF suggests and set a realistic goal: 1:58:58.  I am going to use the tempo paces and speed workout paces for that half marathon pace and see if I can be successful.  If I can, then I will reevaluate next week.  While I want to push myself, not hitting the goals doesn’t feel very good and I don’t want to injure myself trying to attain them.

Couple more pictures from my runs this week:

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Cottonwood are beautiful even in the winter.

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And my favorite breakfast this week – Rice cakes + Nuttzo + Bananas.  Have you tried Nuttzo yet?  If you love nut butter, you MUST try it.  Simply addicting. :

Perfect Breakfast: Rice cake + Nuttzo + Bananas

Perfect Breakfast: Rice cake + Nuttzo + Bananas

A final motivational thought for your week ahead:

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Talk to me:

What is your favorite pre-run breakfast?

How is your training going?  What have been your ups and downs?

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?  

Carbs. Carbs. Carbs. Carbs.

Am I dreaming?!

Am I dreaming?!

My favorite, favorite, FAVORITE part of training – the carb loading!  Who doesn’t love forbidden white bread and pasta?!  I am three days out from my race and I have to admit, I may have started the carb loading a little early. I couldn’t help myself and I went crazy at the store.  Tortellini, gnocchi, animal crackers, white bread, bagels, pita chips, pretzels.  And a lot of it I ate already.   I’m a carb-aholic and when I have been given the green light to eat all the things I don’t allow myself on a regular basis, I just go off the deep end.

Seriously, though. I have been doing a lot of reading about carb loading before a race this week mainly because my husband is running his first full marathon and I want him to not hit the wall. (*Note: I am not a doctor or an expert on carb loading. Please take the following information with a grain of pasta…I mean salt.)  One of the important things I learned in this article is to start the carb loading 2-3 days before the actual race, dispelling the ‘huge bowl of pasta the night before the race’ myth.  Your body can store and build glycogen stores a little at a time so eating a few days of small carb-loaded meals is the way to go.  I also learned 85-95% of your calories on those days leading up to the race should consist of carbs, with a little bit of protein mixed in.  Go easy on the fiber and skip the butter, oil, and cream as well.  This Runner’s World article even has a sample menu for a day:

Good Eats
A day of carbo-loading for a 150-pound runner

BREAKFAST
1 bagel with 2 tablespoons strawberry jam (71 g)
1 medium banana (27 g)
8 ounces fruit yogurt (41 g)
8 ounces orange juice (26 g)

MORNING SNACK
2 Nature Valley Oats ‘n Honey
Granola Bars (29 g)
8 ounces Gatorade (14 g)

LUNCH
1 large baked potato with 1/4 cup salsa (69 g)
1 sourdough roll (40 g)
8 ounces chocolate milk (26 g)
1 large oatmeal cookie (56 g)

AFTERNOON SNACK
1 Clif Bar (42 g)
8 ounces Gatorade (14 g)

DINNER
1 chicken burrito with rice, corn salsa, and black beans (105 g)
1 2-ounce bag Swedish Fish (51 g)

One thing I noticed about this plan that I am going to try is including Gatorade in the days leading up to a race.   I usually reserve Gatorade as a drink  I use only during the race and maybe one cup following a long run, but never outside of running.    I’m interested to see how this affects my hydration and how I feel during the race.

Pasta Love.

Pasta Love.

My meal plans for the rest of the week will go something like this:

Thursday:

Breakfast: Oatmeal w/berries

Lunch: Turkey Sandwich on White Bread

Dinner: Stir Fry with white rice

Friday:

Breakfast: Waffles with berries and bananas

Lunch: Baked Potato with Salsa

Dinner: Gnocci w/ marinara

Saturday:

Breakfast: Waffle with berries and bananas

Lunch: Sandwich from the airport – something on white bread!

Dinner: There is an Einsteins Bagel in our hotel, so I am hoping to grab a sandwich from the for dinner as well as a bagel for my pre-race breakfast the next morning.

Snacks: Cliff Bars, Gatorade, Pretzels

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Happy carb loading!

The Taper

6 days until the half marathon, and I may need to create this sign for our front door.

6 days until the half marathon, and I may need to create this sign for our front door.

T-7 days until Phoenix Rock and Roll!  It’s time to talk about tapering.  My mileage has significantly decreased on my training plan (Train Like a Mother: Half-Marathon Own It Plan) this last week and the upcoming week has only a few short runs :

Monday: 3-4 miles (and pilates class)

Tuesday 3 miles, last 2 at RP

Wednesday: 3miles, 4-6 strides

Thursday: Rest

Friday: 20 min or rest

Saturday: 20 min or rest

Sunday: RACE!

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A lot of runners I know , including myself, get a little crazy during the taper.  They feel like they aren’t running enough and are losing fitness.  I’m not feeling that so much this time around.  I know I am not going to PR in this race because I haven’t been able to train as hard with shin splints, so I am a lot more laid back about cutting my running down.  Can I admit I am actually happy about only putting in 10-12 miles this week before the race?  (Gasp!)  I think that is a sign that after this race a couple weeks off a plan and cross training is in order.

How do you feel about tapering?  Do you have any secret tips for getting through tapering week?