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This Week’s Wins: Lots of Running and Some Yoga, Too

Another week has flown by, which means I have officially completed the seventh week of my base building plan. My weekly mileage is still low (18-22 MPW), but I’m running more days per week made up of shorter runs that focus more on speed and strength. My goal over the next 5 weeks is to build a solid foundation that will carry me through marathon training injury-free.

Looking back on this week’s workouts, I can easily pick my 3 Weekly Wins:

This Week’s 3 Wins

  1. When it works with both our schedules, I’ve been meeting Mary once a week to run after work. This week, we were both feeling pretty good and got to a point in our run when Mary asked if we could pick up the pace a little, to which I happily agreed. For about 3/4 of a mile, we were pushing our pace to the low 7s. We ran stride for stride, our arms pumping, breath flowing, and legs turning over in perfect tandem. At the end of the run, we realized we’d executed a perfect progression run, with each mile about 10-12 seconds faster than the previous one. We didn’t even mean to do that! Definitely a win, and a much-needed confidence boost.
  2. I had been planning to do my long run on Saturday to get used to waking up extremely early on the weekends now that I need to be out the door before 7 to beat the heat. But, when Tori asked if I wanted to join her for some of her 12 miler on Friday, I gladly accepted the invite. Running with friends on Friday mornings as the sun rises is the best way to start the weekend! Though it was hot and sweaty, I knocked out 7 miles before heading to work, which I love doing. It’s nice knowing all my key workouts are done and the weekend is open for more cross training and resting.
  3. I used my extra time this weekend to reunite with my yoga mat. Yoga is something I know I need in my life to remain healthy. The benefits of incorporating yoga into training are numerous: flexibility, strength, breath control, mental toughness, sanity. But, as I run more days and try to fit in strength exercises, yoga often gets put on the back burner. I’m going to try to be more diligent about my practice, hoping to go a couple times per month to keep my muscles limber and my mind calm. Today’s class was free through our local lululemon store. We had this amazing guest teacher named Ashley Halley who created her own workout called MOVE that uses many yoga poses as a starting point, but incorporates much more cardio, strength, and fun music than traditional yoga. She had us planking and jumping and squating and push-upping all over the place. After 60 minutes, I was dripping in sweat and knew I had worked every muscle in my body. It was a tough workout that I thoroughly enjoyed, and hope to do it again soon! I’m not so sure if my friends who I met for brunch afterward felt the same, given how far everyone chose to sit from me. 🙂
source: Ashley Halley MOVE Facebook Page

source: Ashley Halley MOVE Facebook Page

Needless to say, it’s been a good week of training including one day of Body Pump and one day of yoga. I had one tough running workout that didn’t go as I’d hoped it would, but I don’t want to focus on it too much. That’s the whole point of trying to stay more positive regarding my training. At the end of the day, I know one bad workout isn’t going to define me; it’s how I handle it that will dictate who shows up to the start line of my upcoming race.

How did your week go? What were your 3 top workout wins?

The Art (or Science?) of Positive Thinking: Introducing Three Wins

Before I launched into this latest training cycle, my first “official” one in more than a year, I decided a big focus for me would be improving positive thinking and mental toughness. As the cliche for our sport goes, running is 10% physical and 90% mental. While I think that ratio is just slightly skewed, it does show the importance of training your mental muscle as well as your physical ones. 

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My first couple weeks of training I spent a bit of time reading some articles about running and mental toughness, especially as it relates to the marathon (see the end of this post for links to some of my favorites). A few common themes arose that I’ve already put into practice:

  • Visualization: The concept of thinking about your runs before they happen is an interesting one – you’re basically tapping into your imagination to project the movie of a run or workout in your mind. Without realizing it, I did this a lot before my first two half marathons. The night before my long runs, I’d take some time before falling asleep where I’d play out how well my run the next day would go. I’d think about the route, imagine how my legs would feel, and focus on what I’d do to push through fatigue. Somehow, as I became more knowledgeable about training and running, I stopped practicing visualization, and I can say I had fewer amazing long runs than when I was using visualization techniques. This is something I’ve brought back into my training. 
  • Mantras: Every runner I know has some (or several) mantras that they recite when a run or race gets tough. To me, the repetitive nature of running makes mantras so successful in helping distract the mind from discomfort. I have a handful of little sayings that I turn to when I’m pushing through a less-than-perfect run, but I’ve also realized that there are other little tricks I can play on myself to keep me moving. Now, when I recite a mantra in my head, I tell myself I have to speed up my cadence slightly. This has been very helpful in keeping me from slowing down for no real reason other than I’m feeling slightly fatigued or hot.  

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  • Moving to Positive Thinking: One of the posts I read talked about envisioning a big STOP sign when negative thoughts creep in, and I’ve found this incredibly helpful. I used to find myself dreading tempo runs and would spend the whole day focusing on how hard they would be and how I didn’t want to do them. Now, I’ve shifted my thinking to be more along these lines: “This tempo run is going to be hard, and I am so excited to put in the work that will make me stronger for my race. I can’t wait to run fast tonight and see if I can beat my times from last week!” Anyone who knows me knows my running nemesis is humidity. For someone who grew up in Florida and lived in the swamp that is D.C., I have never gotten used to humidity or the negative impact it can have on performance. My first couple of summers back in Florida, I’d spend giving up on hard running once the humidity increased. Instead on fixating on weather I can’t control, I’m focusing on how it’s making me a stronger runner who can push herself in tough conditions. 

That last theme is the main reason why I’ve started recording what I’m calling my “Three Wins” every week: I pick the top three highlights from the past week of training and jot them down in my training log. My plan is to read through these when it comes time to taper so that I remember the joy I found through the process of getting to that starting line come November. It’s all about embracing positive thinking to build mental toughness! 

This Week’s Three Wins

  1. I had a great run with good friends (Hi, Tori!) this morning. We got in 6 waterfront miles as the sun rose and managed to negative split the whole run, despite the 89% humidity. 
  2. With quite a few plans on Memorial Day, I moved my tempo run to Wednesday. Due to a conflict, I had to take to the treadmill to get my workout in which is less-than-ideal since I hate treadmills. I sucked it up, and powered through my tempo run with perfectly even splits, making me really glad I didn’t blow off the run when it would have been pretty easy to do so. 
  3. My boyfriend is here visiting from LA, which makes it hard to stick with a routine. Though I shifted around some workouts throughout the week, I still managed to get in everything that was on my training plan including a 6 AM Body Pump class that kicked my butt (…and hamstrings… and shoulders).

My Favorite Posts on Mental Toughness:

 

What are your weekly wins or favorite mental toughness exercises? Share them with me in the comments! 

Life Since the Marathon

I can’t believe it’s been almost a month since the marathon. Part of me feels like it just happened, the other part feels like it took place months ago.

After such a tough training cycle – between injury and illness – I knew I wanted to recharge after the race. I forced myself to take a full 6 days off of running, which was needed as my hip ached for a few days after the race.

My first run back after 26.2 was pitiful as every muscle in my body ached. I ended up only going 2 miles before calling it quits. The next day, I attended a hot yoga class that focused more on recovery and balance than intensity, which helped loosen up my hips. When I tried running the following day, I felt much better, although I did notice some minor pain in my left ankle and hip. I shrugged this off, figuring it was just leftover soreness from the marathon. I ran quite a few more times that week, including a 5 mile tempo run at sub-8:00 pace and an 11 mile long run with friends that included steep bridges. 

I honestly felt okay on these runs, and I loved the long run, especially the company. Sure, I had aches and pains while out running, but I kept telling myself it was nothing to be worried about, that as long as I took a couple more rest days during the week, I’d be okay. 

I don’t know why I felt the need to keep pushing myself so hard. Perhaps it was a bit of obsession – I am desperate to get back to the paces I was running last fall, and I think as soon as I finished the marathon, a part of me wanted to jump right back in. Another part is that I read about all these amazing bloggers who run multiple marathons a year, sometimes a month, and I guess I, naively, thought that if others could do it, I could do. 

Lesson learned: when it comes to marathons, it really is important to respect the distance AND your body, and that means taking the time you need to recover. 

Needless to say, after 1.5 weeks of pushing myself too much too soon after the marathon, I developed intense pain in my left hip flexor that resulted in an awful limp and the inability to run at all. I haven’t been able to run in a week, which is driving me crazy. 

But, there is some good coming out of this little injury: I am finally, finally learning how to properly swim. It’s been a goal of mine for a while now, and I am committed to getting more comfortable in the water so I can have an alternate form of cross training. 

Today, I headed to our local pool with two friends who helped give me tips and pointers on how to get familiar with freestyle swimming and breathing. I can’t lie – it’s very strange for me, and I feel like I look insanely ridiculous, but I’m excited about the new challenge. Plus, I know it’ll make me a stronger runner in the end… a runner who (hopefully) smartly cross trains to prevent future injuries. 

Because… one day… I will run another marathon, but that doesn’t mean it has to be any time soon. 🙂

 

 

 

Training: Not Pretty, But Getting It Done

Training for 26.2 with Donna is underway. Yesterday, with a 17 mile run, I set a personal distance record. Each week, I fill in boxes on my training plan, marking off scheduled runs and yoga practices and rest days as I complete them. On Sundays, I reflect on the previous week, leaving italicized notes in the margins of the Google Document that serves as my training program.

I’d be lying if I said that this training has been amazing, that I’m loving it, and feeling more and more prepared to tackle a marathon in February.

Actually, I’m struggling. Marathon training is tough. I knew that when I signed up, I wasn’t naive. But, training for a marathon while moving to a new state, traveling overseas, starting a new job, and adjusting to a new climate is even tougher. There’s no getting around it. Needless to say, this hasn’t been the prettiest training cycle.

Yesterday, while tackling 17 miles, I endured the toughest mental battle I’ve ever had. It started while I was getting ready, when I checked the weather and saw 75-degrees with 100% humidity. Not exactly ideal conditions when running the furthest I’d ever gone before, but I shrugged it off, drank more water than usual to prepare, and left my house to head to Clearwater Beach.

I’m still unfamiliar with Clearwater, but am trying to do the majority of my long runs there so I can take advantage of the steep bridges (the same ones from Iron Girl) and nice, waterfront routes. I prefer running long in Clearwater compared to where I live because it’s easier to map out loops rather than out-and-backs, which I hate – there’s nothing worse than running really far only to have to turn around and cover the same ground twice.

Another great thing about running in Clearwater is that my uncle lives there so I’m able to park my car at his place. It makes me feel safer to know that someone is aware of my route and knows when I should return. Plus, he’s an endurance athlete so he has excellent recovery fuel when I get back!

Well, I spent most of Friday night mapping out and memorizing my run so I wouldn’t get lost. I felt comfortable with the first half of the run, but there’s a neighborhood that can get confusing, and that was making me nervous. I decided I’d run with my phone so I could have access to a map just in case, but spent a lot of time creating a mantra out of the directions I’d need in the neighborhood.

After dropping off my car at my uncle’s, I started my run in thick, muggy fog. It was still very dark, so between that and the fog, I was focusing on every step to ensure I wouldn’t trip. The thick air made it difficult to breathe, and in spite of being drenched in sweat by mile 2, I felt surprisingly good. In the dark, I climbed the first bridge and made my way to the beach, still focusing on my footing and maintaining an easy pace.

As the sky began to brighten, I noticed my surroundings didn’t look familiar  “You’re being paranoid,” I told myself. “You’ve only run this route once before, and it was dark.” I kept going… enjoying the beautiful beach-front scenery and trying to take my mind off the stifling humidity.

After a couple more miles, I thought I should have reached the hotel I was planning to use for a hydration/fueling/bathroom break. I pulled out my phone, tracked my location, and reassured myself I was on the right path. I continued on my way.

Another two miles passed and, 8.25 miles into my run, I still hadn’t reached the hotel. This isn’t right, I thought. Frustrated, I stopped and pulled out my phone to check my location again. I couldn’t believe it – I had been going south instead of north from the minute I came off the first bridge, and was completely off the route I had mapped. Due to the layout of the gulf beaches, when I had checked my location a few miles before, I was still parallel to where I had started, making me think I was going the right way.

Wrong, so wrong.

I realized I was going to have to do a dreaded out-and-back run, which took a big toll on me mentally. I wanted to cry, but I turned around and kept going, trying to think of all the positives: I was already more than halfway done, I only had single-digit miles left to cover, the scenery was beautiful.

At about mile 11, I realized I hadn’t taken in any water. I could feel the humidity affecting me, and knew I was risking getting dehydrated. With an unfamiliar route, I had no idea where the closest water fountains were, causing a slight panic attack. My mind started reeling, and I began beating myself up – why had I signed up for a marathon? How would I be able to run 26.2 miles when I couldn’t even get through 17? I’m not cut out for this.

It’s amazing how the snowball effect works, when one little thing goes wrong and it only seems to emphasize other small things that normally wouldn’t be bothersome. I couldn’t believe it, but I really, really wanted to stop running.

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I eventually came across a public beach access with water fountains, and I took full advantage, maybe drinking more than I should have. I stopped and stretched, and re-evaluated how I felt. I found myself considering a phone call to my uncle to see if he’d come pick me up, and lingered on that thought for a little bit.

I channeled my running buddies from D.C. – what would they do? I knew they’d both keep going, they wouldn’t give up. I looked down at my watch and saw I had already run 12 miles, and decided to give myself a little bit of a pep talk that went something like this:

Running 17 miles is hard. Training for a marathon is hard. You’ve run 12 miles in really tough conditions. You are not hurt, you are healthy. If you quit this run now, you’ll feel better for about 10 minutes, but the fact that you quit will make you miserable for days, weeks, months.  You have 5 miles standing between you and a personal distance record… what are you going to do?

And, so, I ran. It was tough, and my legs began to ache, but I kept going. As my watch beeped and flashed 17.00 mi, a huge smile (grimace?) broke out on my face.

The run wasn’t pretty. Very few of my training runs this cycle have been pretty. But, I’m doing them. Every day, I fill in another little box on my training plan and get one step closer to the starting line of a marathon.