Marathon Training 3.0

Marathon #1 was in January 2009.  That was a marathon I probably had no business doing.  I had only started running in May of 2008, did very few long runs (my longest training run was 16 miles thanks to an ice storm) and every run was an easy run.

Marathon #2 was in December 2009.  I improved my training quite a bit, following the FIRST plan, using 3 key runs per week, each with a focus.  I was never good at the cross training that was supposed to happen and still fell apart after about mile 20 of the marathon, but it was a big improvement.

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In the nearly 5 years since then I’ve had times where I didn’t run once for months at a time.  I’ve also had times where I followed a training plan and improved my 5K, 10K and half marathon times by pretty big amounts.

This year, I’ve been bitten by the triathlon bug.  I really feel like I have lots of room to improve in all three disciplines and want to continue all distances of triathlons, but would really love to do the full 140.6 at some point.  I know that the smart answer is to get another season of 70.3s under my belt and look at 2016 as my 140.6 debut.  But it sure is tempting to still attempt it in 2015.

The off-season for triathlons will be focused on gaining strength and endurance to hit the ground running in the spring of 2015 with triathlons.  My first marathon in five years is coming up in December and I’ve made some pretty significant changes to how I’ve prepared for a marathon in the past.

Change #1- Cross Training

Luckily I now know that I love biking and swimming so cross training days are almost more fun than running days.  I’m also enrolled in a speed training class that involves intervals, agility and strength training- focusing on more explosive power.

Change #2- More long runs

In the past my training has not had enough long runs.  The last two weekends’ long runs have been big confidence builders, and I will have another month of pretty long runs to continue building strength and endurance.

Change #3- Training buddies

As mentioned in my last post, my dog accompanies me on some of my runs.  She is really great for tempo runs as she likes to run a bit faster than my easy pace and is a great pace dog.  We’ve done a 6 mile tempo run before where each mile was within 3 seconds of each other.

The biggest change though, has been going to my local running store, Runwell, for Saturday morning training runs.  A group of similarly paced and distance seeking runners have run together the last few weeks.  Suffering with other people is so much better than the solo long runs I had done in previous marathon training attempts.  Two weeks ago we tackled 17 miles, this week 19.  While this week was more of a struggle, it was still a confidence boost to have covered that distance at this point in my training.

New long run buddies
New long run buddies

Rocket City Marathon is 7 weeks away and I’m looking forward to it.
Goals for the next 7 weeks

  • Get better about mid week tempo runs and increasing the distance of those (Elsa will thank me for this too)
  • Be consistent with training and not burn out like I tend to do before the race
  • Break 2:00 in half-marathon in a couple weeks
  • Continue to experiment and learn about mid-run nutrition

Are you afraid of the dark?

Remember the cheesy 90s show “Are You Afraid of the Dark”?   Me neither.  But for whatever reason I can totally hear the voice in my head that introduced the show.

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About two years ago I purchased a headlamp, intending to run more in the mornings and evenings even as the hours of daylight shortened and the weather got colder.  After two years I have probably used said headlamp 4 times.

This fall I am determined to do better.  I want to increase my fitness through the winter to have a great lineup of races in 2015.  My final race of 2014 is my first marathon in 5 years, the Rocket City Marathon in Huntsville, AL.  To keep up on my training during the week, some of my workouts will have to be done when it is dark outside, either morning or evening.

This week I set out on my second dark run of the year, taking my dalmatian Elsa with me for the first time on a dark run.  We set out on a 3 mile route on a local trail one morning before I had to go to work.  Once you are about .25 miles into the trail, it becomes really dark as there are no street lights, houses or buildings anywhere nearby.  The first half mile or so was the worst. My biggest fear is some other animal being on the trail and deciding to attack me (unlikely, I know….sort of…..).

After the first half mile, Elsa and I found our groove and the run became pretty enjoyable. I was enjoying the run so much that I decided we would go a bit longer and do four miles.

Such a good running buddy!
Such a good running buddy!

Just past the 1.5 mile point, Elsa suddenly started pulling forward on the trail, she was on a mission to get further ahead as fast as possible.  After about a minute, I decided she could definitely see something I couldn’t and we turned around so we didn’t have to see said animal.

Another 1/4 mile past where we turned around, an animal ran across the trail, just in front of the headlamp’s beam of light so I couldn’t really see what it was.  I let out a “Augh!”, not a full on scream or anything, more a noise of surprise…….After a few steps my headlamp revealed that this animal was a bunny.  Ooops.

The rest of the run was uneventful, even enjoyable.  I am determined to get over this fear of running in the dark, because I think those runs could actually become my favorite.

Both happy campers after our run in the dark
Both happy campers after our run in the dark

Has anyone else run through dark mornings/evenings and felt uneasy?  Would love to hear any words of wisdom!!

My first 70.3!

Last Sunday I completed my ‘A’ race for the year, Border Wars 70.3 triathlon.  I signed up for this race on a whim and my training was focused on this race for most of 2014.  It has taken me a week to get my thoughts together to be able to re-hash the events of the weekend.

Saturday was packet pickup, T1 set up and a pre-race athlete meeting.  The weather in the St. Louis area changed pretty drastically on Friday, going from summer to a more winter feel in one day.  Saturday morning I coached a soccer game where the RealFeel was in the 30s, complete with gloves, stocking caps and blankets.  All I could think was how I would convince myself to get in the water the next morning.  Saturday afternoon my husband drove me over to the race site.  The wind was very strong, the temperature was cold and I was getting more nervous by the minute.  The swim area had small white caps because the wind was so rough.  There were also lots of rocks along the shoreline and under the water.

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The swim course on Saturday. Looking pretty scary and intimidating, especially in very cold temperatures!

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About a week before the race, we received an email stating that the bike course had to be changed.  During the athlete meeting we learned more about the new course.  It went from an out and back course closed to traffic along the Great River Road to an out and back with two hairpin turns and quite a few other turns on Highway 94 in Missouri, open to traffic nearly the entire course.  There seemed to be a very long list of things still to do for the race to be ready the next morning.  There was also very little chance for spectators to see their athletes, only in the first mile of the bike ride and at T2/Finish. I left the meeting feeling as though the wind had been let out of my sails.  The race that I had been looking forward to, training for and dreaming about for months was not living up to my expectations.

Before we left the area, my husband and I drove the bike course and found a small gravel parking lot at a local VFW that would provide my family with a great cheerleading opportunity.  Luckily, as my husband says, I am a very food motivated individual.  A large helping of pasta for dinner made things seem a little better.  That evening I was laying all of my race items out, getting organized, making sure I wouldn’t forget anything in the morning.   Does anyone else have a pet who gets very nervous when they pack for anything?  Elsa was sure she should get to do the triathlon with me.

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Elsa wants to know why the training partner doesn’t get to do the race too.

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On race morning I woke up with no problem. My kids stayed the night at Grandma and Grandpa’s so they could sleep in, so it was only my husband that had to suffer with me at 5AM. We arrived at race site and set up T2 and waited for my wave to be called for transportation to T1. Somehow I got less nervous as the time went on that morning. Seeing that transition areas were setup, that I had what I needed and that I was where I needed to be meant all I had to do was swim, bike and run!

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A small portion of the bikes. The race had about 550 registered.
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My beautiful bike!
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Race morning with my number one fan!
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T2 Setup
Look at the cute trolley that took us to T1!
Look at the cute trolley that took us to T1!

Once I arrived at the T1/swim start area, I checked my bike, chatted with other athletes and waited in the very long porta potty lines.  The long line was actually a great thing because it ate up most of the time where I could have been getting nervous.

SWIM:

Finally time to start!  I was in the second to last wave of athletes, the pink caps.  First thoughts as I hit the water, much colder than I anticipated!  At the pre-race meeting they announced that water temps were 73 degrees.  Actual temps that we later learned were somewhere between 53 and 58 degrees.  Brrrr……My Zoot wetsuit is truly the best money I ever spent!  Though it was chilly, the only place I really felt uncomfortable was my feet and that seemed to go away after a few minutes.  I felt a little claustrophobic in the first section of the swim, and just kept reminding myself to stay calm and that we would all spread out as the swim went on.  I continued to swim freestyle, breathing every other stroke so I could see where I was as often as possible and just kept making headway.  As I continued to literally “Just keep swimming” I continued to make progress along the course and pass people who started ahead of me.  I kept reminding myself to take it easy and not swim too hard.  Those statistics I’ve read about swimming too hard to gain two minutes in the swim costing 20 minutes in the run are scary and I remind myself that I have a long day.  At about the mid-way point of the course, some of the guys in front of me stand up and are walking.  I keep swimming, not wanting to lose my rhythm, waiting for the point where I have to stand because of shallow water but I never got there.  Not sure if they just needed a break or were in slightly different places on course that were significantly more shallow.  Make it to the last turn and have caught up with some of the swimmers who started two waves in front of me.  At some point I messed up. I truly have no idea how, but at some point after the last turn I was swimming on the outside and got turned. I was heading in the wrong direction for some amount of time. Fix that, get back on course, wonder how the heck that happened. Realize that I will definitely finish the swim, definitely feel good and am definitely closer to the front of my wave than the back.

I'm somewhere in here!
I’m somewhere in here!

Swim-1.2 miles- 39:05, 7th place in age group. *Less than 60 seconds between me and 3rd place (if only I hadn’t turned off course!!)

T1- feeling pretty chilly, but decide not to put on long sleeve bike jersey, only arm warmers. Get shoes on, and run to the end of T1/timing mat. Time: 4:16 (feel good about this, there was a long way to run with the bike, in the bike shoes to get out of T1)

Bike-

Man it’s cold!!  The temperatures were in the 40s at this point I think.  The first mile of the bike I realize I made a rookie mistake, didn’t reset my bike computer (which is still very new to me and I am far from an expert at).  Work on resetting the values for far too long (all while riding much slower than I’d like to be).  Finally get it reset only to see that it is saying my speed is zero.  Crap.  I really don’t want to do my second triathlon without any numbers!  Take the computer off, readjust to hope it hits the sensors correctly- SUCCESS.  .9 miles into the bike, I’m ready to start riding.

I spent the first half of the bike ride questioning my decision to leave the long sleeve shirt at the transition area.  At around mile 5 I accidentally dropped a water bottle trying to put it back after one of my first drinks….oops.  The area my family would be was around mile 18 which was perfect.  Enough time to know how I’m feeling, the right point to give a boost for the middle miles and, lets be honest, it’s always great to see your family on a race course.

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Mile 18, the first time I get to my own personal cheerleading section!
Mile 38, seeing the fam for the second time.
Mile 38, seeing the fam for the second time.

Feeling great after seeing them, continue through the course.  I focused on my cadence, trying to keep it around 90 and not worrying about the rest.  I’m not getting passed by nearly as many people as my first triathlon, but I’m not passing a ton either.  The two hairpin turns were tricky.  I’ve been riding clipped in for about a year, but definitely haven’t done a lot of hairpin turns.  I went uber slow to make sure I wasn’t going to accidentally ride off the road or fall.  I spent the next miles of the race wishing there was a porta potty somewhere along the bike course.  I don’t understand how people take in all/most of their nutrition on the bike and don’t have to pee.  I’ve heard rumors of people just peeing while riding on the bike.  I am NOT that hard core, sorry.  Eventually I got to where there was a building I could duck behind to pee.  Felt a lot better and able to focus and take in more nutrition after that.  Saw my family again at mile 38, great boost.  Loved how excited the kids were, hearing them yell not just for me but every single athlete that went by.  Eventually the bike course turned to where we were going into the wind.  Again, just tried to focus on my cadence and not worry about the speed.  Eventually we turned back onto a very busy road but had a lane blocked off for us.  I started to really appreciate my new bike.  I bought a Bianchi a few weeks ago and hadn’t gotten any long rides in on it to fully appreciate what an upgrade it was.  I was at the 50 mile mark and really had zero complaints at this point!!  Thanks Bike Factory!  We’re in the final miles of the bike ride and I’m still feeling great, though noting that the wind is slowing me down more than it has previously.  In the last stretch, we got to ride over the Mississippi River.  I tried to really make myself look around and appreciate the surroundings and the experience.  As we crossed the bridge, the vehicle traffic was slowing down.  I’m sure that the people in cars who had nothing to do with the race were cursing me as I rode by on my bike faster than what they were traveling in their car.  Turn after the bridge and it’s just a matter of a few turns and an uphill to the T2 area.  A set of railroad tracks on the underpass was overly bumpy and I was sure I would have a flat tire from it, but just kept going.  The final hill was a bike path, one lane dedicated to runners coming down beginning their run, the other to bikers finishing their final half mile.  A woman in front of me on the bike was riding right in the middle of the lane and hardly moving going up hill.  I said “on your left” more aggressively than I meant to, but I couldn’t handle a loss in momentum going up the last hill.  Sorry woman struggling on the hill.   56 miles- finished!

Bike-56 miles- 3:07:29, 17.9 pace, 10th in my age group.

T2- My legs don’t feel as wobbly as my first triathlon, this is going to be great.  Quickly put on my running shoes, grab my nutrition and forget to grab my belt with race number on it.  Oops.  I also make the conscious decision to leave my Garmin there.  For some reason I decide that running by feel is my best move at this point.  T2 Time- 3:13:28.

Run-

The race website stated that there was one uphill at the beginning of the course and it was fast and flat from there.  Great!!  I leave T2 with the feeling that I am running like an 85 year old woman….shuffling along at best, this couldn’t be considered running.  People are passing me in the first mile of the run, encouraging me.  I allow myself to walk up the hill, since it’s the only one it won’t make a huge difference and will allow me to get my heart rate down.  Get to the top of the hill and begin the shuffle again, still waiting to get past the initial distance of feeling like I have no legs so that I can begin my run.  Take in some nutrition, grab some water at the first aid station at mile 1.5.  Convince myself that I have to run the whole way to the porta potty at mile 3.  Stop at the porta-potty even though I don’t feel like I have to.  I know I won’t be back at them for another 6 miles and no one wants to get stuck like that.  Continue bargaining with myself, have to run to a certain landmark or mile marker, take a walk break, etc.  Around mile 4 or so I am really cursing the race website.  That whole claim about the only hill being at the beginning was far from accurate.  We continued to go up and down the levy along the river.  Not only that, the gates at the bottom of the hill were closed.  With probably a two foot opening between gates, runners were forced to zig and zag in between, as well as navigate with oncoming traffic because there was no way two people could fit through the opening at the same time.  I had resigned myself to walking up every hill at this point, but for the most part running the rest of it.  At the 6.55 turn around I was dying.  I grabbed a cup of pretzels and allowed myself to walk until they were finished.  I of course looked for the cup that was most full, ha!  At about this point, a guy who I’ve done long runs with at the local running store was coming up the hill as I was eating my pretzels.  He said “I’m coming for you, you better not let me catch you!”  This really saved my race.  For all I know I may have walked the entire way back without that little kick in the butt.  I continued to shuffle my way back.  At this point using my family members as motivators for each mile and getting me through.  I was already a bit disappointed in myself for falling apart on the run, but determined to get through.  Finally making my way back to the amphitheatre which housed the finish line.  Once I got to where spectators could see me, I convinced myself no more quitting and I had to shuffle along, no walk breaks.  A final downhill and I was at the finish line!  I was completely oblivious to the fact that my husband was taking pictures at this point.

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Crazy hair, hating life, almost done……this was at probably 13.0 out of 13.1
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The first time I realized I was still making my goal time since I did the run sans watch.

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Run- 13.1 miles 2:22:08, 10:50/mile pace, 11th place age group.

70.3 Totals- 6:16:14, 10th place age group finish, 191st place overall.

Post race- greeted by kids, my parents and my husband, all are perfect cheerleaders saying how great I did.  I slowly move around, get some food in me (BBQ may be my favorite post race meal ever),  assess the race, get a post-race stretch from a chiropractor and enjoy relaxing in the sun on what turned out to be a beautiful day.

My first 70.3 triathlon was a great experience.  There will always be things you would do differently, but I learned a lot and am definitely looking forward to more half-distance triathlons in my future.

Special thanks to all who supported me, through training and on race day.  Couldn’t have done it alone for sure!!

FINISHED!  And happier to have gotten a little rest, some BBQ and some stretching done.
FINISHED! And happier to have gotten a little rest, some BBQ and some stretching done.