2015 was great. It was my best year of consistent exercise and I saw improvements in swim, bike, run and strength. It has been a great year. I know there is more I could have done in each area and plan to carry that with me into 2016 as I tackle those goals and look for improvement!
Runner’s World has challenges a few times a year that involve a running streak. I fall for it every time- I’ve started the challenge a few times in the past but not completed it. The most recent challenge was to run at least a mile per day from Thanksgiving to New Year’s. Since I was already doing a Thanksgiving race, I decided on Thanksgiving that I’d go for it. The days where I wouldn’t normally run were simply filled in with a short, easy run. Here’s what I learned through the process:
It isn’t as hard as you think it will be. I expected days where going for a run would be the last thing I wanted to do and really didn’t experience that. I enjoyed each and every run.
You aren’t guaranteed to get hurt. I have never been someone who runs every day. I’m a pretty low mileage runner and have always felt best running 3-4 days/week. I thought my body would rebel when I was running every day. It didn’t. Actually prior to Thanksgiving I took 4 days off exercising completely due to a hip issue I was experiencing. During the first week of the Run Streak, my hip continued to be pretty tight. I began doing some strengthening exercises at home and it has been a non-issue since then. If anything, the daily running has kept aches and pains at bay.
Involve other people, even if they aren’t “streaking”. Since I was doing the Thanksgiving run with my family, I told them all about the challenge and asked if anyone wanted to do it. The kids both said no, my husband James said yes. He ended up missing some runs in the first, but still ran more than he may have otherwise. Even though no one was doing the streak with me, I had plenty of company on my runs. My daughter and I are training for a half-marathon in January so we had lots of runs together. My husband and I snuck in a few runs together. My son joined me for a number of my “mile days” and we would run through our small town and look at Christmas lights.
In addition to runs with my family, I also had runs with my friends at Runwell, where I run most Wednesdays and Saturdays with a group. I also got in a number of runs with my high school students as they train for a half-marathon in April.
Every run doesn’t have to be easy effort. Again, I worried about how my body would handle running every day and assumed I would have to do every run at easy effort. I was still able to do a number of long runs, tempo efforts and interval/track workouts. I didn’t feel any more tired from running daily than running 4 days/week.
Recovery is important though. I can’t imagine and definitely would not recommend doing every run at high intensity. The easy “mile days” were just that. I didn’t care what my pace was, I concentrated on my breathing to make sure that I was keeping those runs at an easy effort. I also took advantage of a few of my favorite Hammer products: Tissue Rejuvenator and Recoverite after hard workouts to keep me fresh for the next day. And don’t forget a foam roller!
Miles add up. Unfortunately my old training log is no longer available on the site I used for years. However, I’m pretty sure that December 2015 was the first month I broke 100 miles. For many runners this is no big deal and they do it frequently, but again as a low mileage runner, it was pretty exciting for me!
You are likely going to get stronger and faster. I was in pretty decent running shape at the start of the challenge, but I feel even stronger at the end of it. I don’t feel like I have to put in as much effort to hit a given pace on a run.
Don’t give up. There was a night in the second week of the challenge where I had waited until after 9PM to get a run in. It was so tempting to just stay on the couch and watch TV after a long day. But realistically, a mile takes less than 10 minutes of my time. I would have been really upset with myself the next morning so I just got the run in. It doesn’t have to be long, it doesn’t have to be fast, just get the run in.
You won’t look forward to the end. I really figured by the end of December I would be so excited for January to come where I wouldn’t “have” to run each day. I would be counting down how many days were left because I would be so ready for a break. That didn’t happen either. The one late night run was the most challenging to get out the door. For the most part, I’ve looked forward to the run each day.
You’ll want to keep going. I totally get it now. I thought the people who would do this for years at a time were crazy. Now that I’ve started, I don’t want to stop and then have to start over. I have no idea how long I’ll continue, but as long as I’m enjoying it, I think I’ll continue streaking!
I realized today that it’s been awhile since I updated what I’m up to. For the most part, I’ve not had any big goal races since August. I’m quite proud that during that time I have still stayed active and maintained my fitness (mostly) without having to have a race on the calendar.
Swim: Although I’ve not spent tons of time in the pool, I’ve been working on improving a couple of things: a stronger pull and incorporating flip turns. The flip turn battle was brutal. For a long time. Months. I made a deal with myself that from Sept. 1 on, I wouldn’t do open turns anymore. Most of my swim workouts since then have not had me do more than a 200 at one time because my breathing was so labored. I finally figured out that I was exhaling too much as I flipped and felt like I couldn’t get to the surface fast enough. Then the rest of that length was just recovering before I had to do it again. Finally in the last month, it has clicked a little bit. My turns are still not as efficient as most people’s but I am not dying breathing wise. I’ve been able to get in some longer and faster swims. Now I just need to make myself get to the pool more often…
Bike: I’ve not been on my bike much at all since August. The desire to do road rides just wasn’t there. I’ve been mountain biking some with my husband.
I also tried out a small cyclocross race that my tri-club put on. So fun. I ended up first female and fourth overall. It was a small race…ha!
And I’ve been saving up money to buy this beauty!
I’m pretty excited about my new bike. Unfortunately since I’ve had it either the weather or my schedule has not allowed for an outdoor ride. A couple of trainer sessions in and I’m happy with it. Fingers crossed that I’ll get nice weather over Christmas Break to get to try it outside!
Run: This has been the area where I’ve been spending most of my time. I’ve been spending a lot of time introducing the sport to some new people. I’m leading a group of high school students to train for their first half-marathon in April. We’ve been meeting 2 days/week after school since October. My group has about 25 students in it. Each month we’re doing a timed mile so they can see their progress. The timed mile they completed last week saw four separate kids take 2 minutes off of their previous time! That has been a lot of fun.
My other focus has been on running with my daughter. Once she heard I was starting this group for my students, she wanted to do a half-marathon as well. Her logic was “Why can someone two years older than me do a half-marathon when they can’t even run a mile, while I’ve done 5 miles in cross country practice and am not allowed?”. Hard to argue with that. A lot of bigger races require 14 years old in order to do a half-marathon, but I found a local race series that actually has a division for 12 and under. The St. Louis Track Club puts on a Frostbite Series every winter, a 5 race series of different distances through Forest Park in St. Louis. I’ve done the half-marathon part of the series before so knew what to expect.
Since Cross Country ended for Grace, she’s been joining me on group runs at Runwell most Wednesdays and Saturdays.
She’s become a great training partner and challenges me to push the pace a bit more than I had been. She loves having the adults at the run talk to her, give advice and cheerlead. And I think most of the adults are pretty impressed that a 12 year old is out doing what they’re doing as well. Some runs are more tempo feel where we’re quite tired at the end and some are just conversational pace long runs. Regardless, we’re having lots of fun with it.
We’ve also had a couple races so far. The first was a 5k in Litchfield, the Route 66 5K. We’ve done this race the last few years, for me the 5K in 2013 and the half marathon in 2014. Grace really wanted to do the half-marathon, but I wasn’t comfortable with her doing that since we hadn’t gotten very many long runs in at that point. I was intimidated by doing the 5K because her cross country times were FAST! I just made up my mind that I’d have to really challenge myself and try to hang on no matter how fast she went. It was a fairly small race, so we started near the front. After the start a couple of guys took off at a pace I knew we couldn’t do so we settled in. One woman passed Grace and I in the first half a mile and Grace looked at me and said “Come on, let’s pass her!”. So we did. And then we hung on and kept a nice pace. 3.1 miles later, we both had shiny new PRs by about 2 minutes and Grace won Overall Female by .15 of a second. I’ve never been anywhere close to Overall Female so that was fun. And a huge PR never hurts!
More recently we raced in the first race of the Frostbite Series, a 12K. I made Grace a promise that the Frostbite Series would be running together and not necessarily racing, a little easier effort. Of course once we got to race day, she was checking out any competition that looked close to her age, ha! But we had a good experience, closer to long run effort than race effort but still a new race distance for us both, so an automatic PR!
So overall, the offseason is about having fun, maintaining fitness and rediscovering a love of the sport. We’ve made it a family affair with random workouts together, a Gobble Hobble race and my husband and son are also doing the Frostbite series, but the ‘Short Course’ option.
My son, Jack, has been joining me on some short runs during the week to keep my #RWRunStreak alive- we love to look at the Christmas Lights around town. I join my husband James on a mountain bike whenever the weather allows.
Life is good, the off-season is fun. I’m getting recharged and ready to tackle 2016!