Archive for May, 2012


I don’t know if it makes sense to start talking about my training for my 10 miler in late September or not. After all I’m running a 10k in just over a week. Yet another race where my training was going well until “something” happened. In this case that “something” was a sinus infection that eliminated 2 long runs and 2 short runs. I did manage a hot and humid 6.32 miles is past weekend – which, at least, exceeds race distance and gave me some practice with summer running. And my 3 mile treadmill run yesterday was close to tempo pace (the pace at which you hope to run the race). And it felt good. Not to mention that I’m registered to run a half marathon – 13.1 miles – the weekend after the Tower of Terror race. Should I be focusing on my training for the longer distance run? And finally, I’m going to be starting my official training for the Goofy – that insanity involving a half marathon on Saturday (13.1 mikes) and a full marathon on Sunday (26.2 miles) for a total of 39.3 miles in one weekend – sometime in the middle of my training for ToT (Disney geek short-hand for Tower of Terror).
On the other hand this is supposed to be the story about running to Disney and the ToT race is my next Disney race. And I feel like I need to really get some focus when it comes to my running. So I guess starting with week 1 of the official Jeff Galloway plan for the ToT race is as good a place to start as any. Right?
I’ve had to modify the Galloway plan to account for the fact that I’m not training for one 10 mile race but I’m training for a 10k (June 9th), a 10 miler (September 29th), 2 half marathons (October 7th and January 12th), and a full marathon (January 13th). I tried to take the various Galloway plans and merge them into one GRAND training plan. I needed lighter weekends for the week before races and adequate half marathon miles despite the slightly lower mileage for a 10 mile race. I needed post-race recovery weeks and back-to-back distances to prepare for the demands of going Goofy. Which is to say that I’ve made calendar pages with every long run between now and January 13th. Yes. I am insane.
It’s also a time to reflect a bit on my running life. My mileage so far this year is a bit lower than my target. I know that I’ll get some high mileage months as my marathon training kicks into full swing in the fall but I want an adequate base. Which I don’t really have yet. I need to navigate the challenges of running all summer (I don’t like running in hot and humid weather!). Not to mention the challenges of running with a crazy crew of munchkins at home and an unpredictable and busy career. I certainly haven’t figured it all out yet (although if anyone has some brilliant insights into how to manage it all, do share!).
For me it isn’t about my finish time so much as my potential. I don’t care if my times are slow as long as I feel I maximized my training potential. I want to actually run a high percentage of the training runs on my calendar. And that’s something I haven’t realized yet. (As a challenge I think I’ll review my running logs and see what percentage of training runs I’ve done for previous races and challenge myself to beat that percentage.)
Anyway I’m off to a good start….

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Some running friends and I were having a twitter discussion today about deciding when you’re ready to train for and run a full marathon. I think our conclusion was that running a full marathon defies all logic (in other words, you need to be a little crazy to do it). But I thought the topic was worth a bit more thought.
I was never someone who had “finishing a marathon” as one of my bucket-list items. I remember a discussion with my husband (who might have been a boyfriend at the time – this was more than a decade ago) about the NYC Marathon. We lived in NYC near Central Park so the marathon was truly a neighborhood event. He felt that the NYC Marathon was something he’d like to do some day. I told him he was crazy. There is no need to run 26.2 consecutive miles. Never say never, right?
It’s a little surprising to me now that it took me so long to discover running. While those who knew me in my early 30’s might be surprised to hear it, I was a life-long athlete. I started as a gymnast and competed in my first meet by my 7th birthday. My final gymnastics meet was during my freshman year of college when I realized that my injuries would allow me to stay at my current level – if I was lucky – and certainly prevent any further improvement. I graduated high school with 9 varsity letters: 4 in gymnastics where I qualified for the Counties every year, 3 in soccer where I won the Coach’s award my senior year, and 2 in lacrosse. I also raced sailboats and won Girls’ Champs of Long Island Sound at age 16. I did some competitive diving and tennis, although I was only passable at both.
It’s surprising that after I graduated college, I did little in the way of athletics. (I continued to race sailboats throughout college and contemplated attempting an Olympic Campaign in sailing – which I might not have been good enough to do – but decided to go to medical school instead.). In medical school my best friend and I would occasionally go to the gym to ride stationary bikes but at such a low intensity as to be laughable. During residency I made a few attempts to start running. Even without Jeff Galloway’s guidance I instinctively did some run/walk intervals. Just as I would start gaining consistency, I would have to stop (usually because of pregnancy – my first child is an IVF baby so I was more restricted in activity due to the effects of the medications).
And yet here I am. A marathoner. So where’s the logic?
As I’ve written before, the thing that got me to stick with running was paying a registration fee for a RACE. For me that race was the WDW Half Marathon. There was no way I wasn’t going to finish a race I had paid money to enter. The crazy thing about Marathon Weekend at Disney is that there are runners finishing a 5K, Half, Full, Half and Full, and all 3. As proud as I was (and am) of my half marathon medal, I couldn’t help but see the medals for the longer distances. I am a naturally competitive person (mostly with myself – gymnastics is really you against you) and immediately coveted a Mickey and Goofy medal.
Logic should have told me to stick with my half marathon. I work full-time + and have 3 young children. But my heart demanded a Mickey medal and so I came to be a marathoner. In only a few more weeks I will be starting my training for something even crazier – the Goofy. And there’s no logic to explain why I think I need to do this but, barring disaster, I suspect I’ll add 3 precious medals to my collection in January!

How not to run

After several weeks of relative consistency and decent training, it all came to a screeching halt. I woke up on Friday morning May 11th with a wicked sore throat. I fortunately had a half day at work (my youngest had his annual physical exam in the afternoon). By mid-afternoon I was exhausted. Zachary was recovering from 3 vaccines so he and I rested during the afternoon. By Saturday I felt worse and knew that my long run wasn’t going to happen. I figured this was a viral illness that would pass quickly.
Every day I wanted to run but knew that I wasn’t getting better. By Wednesday this had clearly become a sinus infection. I started some antibiotics in preparation for a trip to Atlanta for work. Thursday morning I started to feel human again but still had congestion. And Thursday night I flew to Atlanta. While my trip was productive, it was also a whirlwind with not enough sleep. Early morning meetings followed by late-night events didn’t help my cause. Although I brought running clothes, I had neither time nor energy to run.
I returned home on Sunday night. Monday I forced myself to try to run. I managed a very slow walk/run on the treadmill with my children encouraging me. My usual rate-limiting issue is my leg muscles. On Monday I felt like I still couldn’t breathe. So frustrating!!! Even today at work I got comments about how I’m still sick.
I have a 10K on June 9th. I don’t really have a time goal but I was hoping for sub-12 min/miles. Now I’m hoping I’m well enough to finish strong. I feel so frustrated that my training, once again, has stalled. It seems that every time I get moving, I encounter some huge obstacle. I worry about the implications for training for the Goofy. Last year’s marathon training was less than ideal due to a combination of family responsibilities, minor injuries, and work issues. Now I’m going to try to run both the half AND full? What was I thinking?
I’m hoping to go for another slow run/walk tomorrow morning. And a longer run on Saturday. Maybe I’ll be ready to run the 10K!

Walk Breaks

Some virtual training buddies and I spent some time today emailing back and forth about walk breaks. How often should you take walk breaks? Should one’s ultimate goal be the elimination of walk breaks? Are walk breaks a sign of weakness or inferiority?
There are many opinions about walk breaks out there. Some woman posted on the New York Road Runners page recently complaining about “walkers” getting in her way during a race. She wanted these people to know that she is a “real” racer and trying for a PR (personal record) and they should hang out in the back. The implication, of course, is that anyone walking couldn’t possibly be going for a PR. Many people pointed out that run/walk is relatively common and some straight walkers are faster than she is. Just as many applauded her annoyance at walkers.
I, like many others, started my running “career” using the Couch to 5k training plan. The goal of this plan is to get Couch Potatoes ready to run every step of a 5k. It starts off with short run/walk intervals and quickly jumps to long ones. These jumps are disheartening for many of us. Oh how I wish I had discovered Jeff Galloway sooner!
Galloway has a beginning (I think he calls it a build-up) program. He has you start with straight walking and then adds 10 sec of running every minute. As that becomes comfortable, he increases the running portion. The difference between Galloway and Couch to 5k is that Galloway doesn’t believe that most runners – even Boston qualifiers – should run every step of any long run. Even if you run 7 min/mile (I can’t do that for 1 mile, much less 26.2), walk breaks are helpful. Walk breaks reduce injury and increase speed. And, in my opinion, increase enjoyment.
There are recommended intervals based on pace. A 12 min/mile runner would use a run 2/walk 1 ratio. If you are faster, you increase the run portion. Slower runners decrease the run portion. For a Long Slow Run, my pace is often around 13 -13:30 so a 1:1 is appropriate. Saturday’s long run felt great but I missed some training last week so I chose a 1:1. I probably felt great due to a good ratio. As I work on my speed, so I increase my ratio. For short runs I base my ratio on how I feel that day and my goal for that run. Today I felt crappy and stuck with a 2:1 ratio (but decided against hills or speed work until I feel better). Despite feeling off I managed 3 miles at 12:07 pace. Again I picked a good ratio. Other days when I’m feeling great, I may choose a 3:1 ratio.
I definitely get comments implying that my ultimate goal should be to run every step. Or that I’ll be faster if I do. Galloway has lots of data on this and it all shows that I will be slower without my walk breaks. Unscientifically I have found this to be true. I am faster with walk breaks. More importantly I’m happier. I enjoy my run/walk. I love that I can adjust things based on how I feel that day or even that moment. On my worst run I know it’s only 1 minute or even 30 seconds until my next walk break. And that gets me going when I’m tired or not feeling 100%.
Walk breaks are supposed to reduce injury. Since I started I’ve had a tight muscle in my back and a tight calf muscle. That’s about it over the past 2 years. Considering that I’m 40 – which is reaching an age when injury may be more common – that’s not bad.
My goal in running right now is to enjoy it. I’d like to train smart and maybe work a bit on speed and endurance. I want to be stronger and more fit. I want to finish my training runs and my races with a big smile on my face. And I know that means I will be continuing to take walk breaks on most of my runs.
My life is stressful (shocking, no?). I’m a surgeon with 3 young kids to raise. Running is my stress-reliever. It should be maximally enjoyable and minimally stressful. Being able to adjust my run/walk ratio to go with my reality, helps. I feel to shame in run 30 sec/walk 1 min on my worst day because I’m still out there working on my endurance, burning calories, and run/walking my way to a finish line.

Mental Training

It’s been a tough week. I operated on 16 patients, including 2 emergencies from the ER, and saw about 45 patients in the office. I left my house at 6:30am 4 out of 5 days this week. The one “late” morning I left home at 7:15am. We celebrated my youngest child’s 4th birthday. And managed homework, instrument practicing, and all the other little joys that occur in a house with 3 young children. Needless to say I’m a bit exhausted this Friday night. And not just physically. I feel mentally drained.
The only run I managed this week was my hill repeats on Monday. While that was certainly a good work-out, complete with gasping for air and tired legs, it was a pretty short one. I added some crunches and minor strength training at home but this week has – fitness-wise – been a bust.
I’ve noticed that I struggle with consistency in training. I have good stretches where I don’t miss a run. And bad stretches where I’m lucky to run once a week. Obviously with the Goofy looming in my future and hopes of improving my overall times (obviously the Goofy is not the time to set PRs!), I need to figure this out.
And so I downloaded Jeff Galloway’s newest book, Mental Training for Runners. This is his book on MOTIVATION. How do we get ourselves out the door when every rational thought is screaming that we deserve a break? How do we keep running past the wall at mile 20 when everything wants to stop? I’m learning as I read.
The way that I’ve been training is to try to find 2 evenings per week for short runs and then an early morning long run on Saturday. What happened this week is typical of a “bad” training week. I had 4 early mornings. My rational self says I can’t possibly wake up any earlier on an early morning so I have to run in the evening, Monday I did my run but made the mistake of doing too short a warm-up so my overall exercise time fell short. Tuesday was a rest day (and Zachary’s birthday). Wednesday after work I had a meeting so I didn’t get home until after 6. No run because it was kid time. And I knew that Thursday’s schedule was a little light so I had wiggle room. Except that I had 2 surgical emergencies on Thursday in addition to my 4 scheduled OR cases. I left home at 6:30am and walked in the door after 7pm. I immediately jumped into homework and bedtime. Alas. And my excuses are totally legit. Unless I want to finish the Goofy or get faster.
Realistically I have already chosen a pretty bare-bones training plan. 3 runs per week with short mid-week runs. Optional cross-training (I fantasize about finding time to cross-train!). But the problem with bare-bones training is that you actually have to DO IT!
So part-way through the book I’m already realizing at I need to re-think my strategy. If I only need to run 30-45min per run for my midweek runs, could this be done in the morning? My alarm is set for 5:30am on my early days. I often hit the snooze bar. What about a 5am wake-up with no snooze bar? With the summer heat coming an early morning run makes sense. And if I have my stuff ready to go before I hit the hay, it shouldn’t be too bad. Hmmm.
It’s not that I’m being hard on myself. I want to run. I was genuinely disappointed that my week didn’t “allow” my runs. So it’s up to me to figure out a better way to get it done. I know there will still be missed runs now and again. But I think I know how to do better!