Archive for October, 2012

A Runner’s Angst…

On the Eve of Hurricane Sandy I’ve decided to distract myself with yet another angst-ridden post about my training. He past 2 weeks have been my worst since I began e-coaching in June. I’ve skipped 3 runs in 2 weeks. That 3 out of 7, or close to 50%. Not good! I can explain the deficiency. The first week I did my training run on Tuesday. Wednesday ended up being crazy – left for work early and got home late. On Thursday I was up by 5:15am to finish last-minute preparations before heading to work at 6:30am. I had a fantasy of a quick run before heading to the airport that night but was derailed by a NICU baby who needed to be seen prior to my departure. My flight landed in New Orleans around midnight. I took Friday off because I had 7 miles Saturday and 18 miles on Sunday. Which I did.
Apparently I took the 18 miles too fast because my legs were trashed for much of the week. The week would have been tough anyway. 3:45am wake-up on Monday to catch a 6:10am flight home so I could make it to 1pm office hours. Tuesday and Wednesday were OR days and Wednesday night was the first of 2 black-tie hospital events for the week, I was so confused this week that I actually showed up in the OR on Friday only to learn that I had no cases scheduled! Oops!
Today I was able to do my 5 mile run. I started at 12 min/mile pace and developed severe right shin pain after mile one. I increased my walking interval, shortened my run, and slowed down. The pain improved and I was able to finish without pain. I can feel the potential for pain now but it doesn’t actually hurt. Just what I don’t need. A week off of running followed by an injury!
I also had this epiphany. The Goofy is a lot! A Full Marathon alone is a lot! Why do I need to do this? I’m wondering why I don’t stick to the half marathon, train hard, get faster, and enjoy? 18 miles was hard. And I felt trashed afterwards. All day. And my legs were sore for several days. Thank goodness I was at a conference because I would have been useless to my family. In 2 weeks I’m supposed to go further than that. 26.2 miles is really, really far. And maybe it’s a commitment that I can’t keep giving.
Obviously I’ve signed up for the Goofy and I’m running it the best I can. And I’ll continue to give my all in training. But why do I always need to do the hardest thing? Maybe I need to learn to be happy with half marathons and not do this again for a while? There is no doubt that a full 26.2 is a much different beast than 13.1. And now I’m doing 13.1 the day before the “real” race? Why do people do this? Why am I doing is?
Anyone who knows me well realizes that I’ve made a lifetime habit out of the road less travelled. What sane person moves 200 miles away from her husband with a 16 month old child and another on the way just so she can have the privilege of working 80 hours per week? Oh wait. I did that. So I know that “needing” to run the Goofy was an inevitable ending to me running at Disney. It’s the Big Kahuna at runDisney so that competitive part of me needs to prove that I can do it. But will I need to keep doing it or is this a one and done deal? I guess only time will tell.
Part of me loves the challenge of seeing how far I can go, another part of me thinks it would be far smarter to spend a few years running half marathons and working on speed (there’s an interesting phone conversation here that will wait for another post). I think I’m capable of running a 10 min/mile half. Not yet. Not soon. But with practice and training I think it’s possible. Is that a better goal than an annual Goofy? Let me know!

When training is hard!

This weekend marked 12 weeks until I start the Goofy Challenge. For the most part I would say my training is going well. I’ve finished 2 races since I started this training and finished both with negative splits. I have a new Half Marathon PR. I’ve been pretty injury-free and have mostly felt good about my running.
This weekend provided some interesting challenges and gave me a lot to think about.
Thursday of last week should have been my 2nd short run day of the week. Except I was up at 5:15am to finish packing for my weekend away while still getting to the hospital by 7am. While I certainly could have set the alarm for 4:30am to get my run done, I knew my flight was landing near midnight. And so I missed my first training run since I started e-coaching.
Surprisingly, for me anyway, I was pretty ok with that. I knew I had a big running weekend on tap and would still get 3 runs for the week. What was less clear was how I was going to be able to do my weekend long runs. As part of being Goofy, my training plan called for a 7 mile walk on Saturday and an 18 mike run on Sunday. And somehow I was supposed to accomplish this while attending a medical conference in New Orleans.
One of my many challenges was the reality of trying to run – and run long distances – in an unfamiliar city. I will confess that I have not always done a stellar job of taking my own personal safety into account but I was a little too nervous to ignore it. One idea was to run on a treadmill in the gym. 25 very long miles! But before resorting to that torture, I asked around for safe running routes. I finally had a map with a route to a good running neighborhood in hand.
I did a pretty good job with my pre-hydration and even got to bed early on Friday night. My alarm went off early on Saturday and before 6:30am I was out for my walk. The first mile or so of my route gave me pause – not the best neighborhood in New Orleans – but I was soon in an area with other runners. I used a walk 2 min/run 10 sec ratio for my walk. My legs felt a bit sore by the end but I managed a 14:39min/mile pace – plenty of extra time for the Donald.
I spent much of Saturday in conference and kept my hydration up. My legs felt more tired than I’d like. Saturday night I went to a conference-related banquet but managed to get to bed by 10pm. The alarm was set for even earlier and I was determined to go the full 18miles. By 5:30am I was on my way. I encountered a few issues. 1. I had a 20oz bottle of PowerAde and another maybe 15oz water bottle. If one should drink about 20oz per hour, I was going to be behind. I brought money in my belt but didn’t know if I’d be able to buy more. 2. I was going to be out there for about 4 hours. Where could I use a bathroom? The loop nearest the hotel was the least safe neighborhood so I didn’t want to have to cross it multiple times. 3. My legs still felt a bit tired at the start.
Jeff Galloway wanted me to walk the first 3 miles since my half marathon had prevented me from increasing my mileage sooner. Then the plan was to run 30sec/walk 30 sec.i had no big issues with finding a place to run – I even did a few loops in lovely Audubon Park – but my legs were definitely sore. I was able to use a disgusting but working toilet in the park so that helped that problem. And I conserved my liquid as long as possible which meant I didn’t technically run out until mile 16 but effectively stayed under hydrated.
On paper the results weren’t terrible. 18 miles at 13:42 pace, including 3 miles of walking. But reality tells a different story. My legs felt trashed – stairs are do-able but not easy – and my ody felt wiped out. I even ended up leaving the conference for an afternoon nap. I really started to question my sanity for attempted another full marathon at all, much less the Goofy. I really had very little left after this run.
Trying to look critically at the weekend I have some ideas. I think 13:42 is too fast for a run that includes 3 miles of walking. It means the run-walk part was done much faster than 13:30. Maybe I need to go back to 20/40 to slow down or just walk slower. The back to back is hard. My legs started tired. But that is the reality of the Goofy and with the additional training I should be ok to finish. I may need to lower my marathon expectations. The warmer weather may also have played a role. It’s gotten comfortable in NY but is still quite warm in New Orleans.
I am plagued with doubts about future full marathons and Goofys. This wasn’t an easy run where I bounced back quickly and easily. I need to re-think my long runs to make the next one better.

Why do you run?

Last night my husband and I did something extremely unusual, at least for us, and attended an adult party. The party was hosted by the parents of some of our children’s friends. The attendees included a mix of other local parents, some of whom we know fairly well and some only by face, and friends of the hosts from their Korean Church. The concept was to teach a bunch of philistine Americans about Canadian Thanksgiving – complete with ice luge (I leave you to figure that out for yourself) and Turducken (which was delicious).
When faced with a group of people who I know only in passing, I often find myself discussing my training. After all how better to decline multiple trips to the ice luge than to use “marathon training” as an excuse (that and being the designated driver saved me from certain peer pressure). Early in the party I met a fellow runner, or maybe former runner is more accurate. This man had qualified for Boston in his grad school years and subsequently burned out and stopped racing. We had an interesting conversation about the difference between recreational racing (how I would describe my running career) and hard-core time goal driven running. He was fascinated by the concept of just enjoying the journey and doing the best you can without making the finish time an ongoing and obsessive quest. Not that I wasn’t gunning for a sub-2:30 last weekend but when you consider that my Magic Mile time was predicting a sub-2:20 potential, perhaps my goal could (should?) have been more aggressive.
My second running-related conversation was even more perplexing. I mean I truly understand that the “need for speed” can undermine any enjoyment that distance running confers. This time I was talking to a really nice women (a new friend, I would say)with a daughter in the same grade as my daughter. She admits to being a chronic “over-achiever” – a designation that could probably be applied to me. The concept that she couldn’t understand is why on Earth I would choose to spend time running (waste time?) when my life is so over-scheduled already. Wasn’t training for racing just another source of stress? Wasn’t I worried about injury? Why oh why would I do this to myself?
And so I forced to explain in words to a near stranger the joy of distance running.
Why am I hooked on running? It is hard to explain in words. How do you explain, while sounding like a sane and rational being, that waking up at 2:30am and taking a monorail to Epcot with a bunch of strangers so you can run 13.1 or 26.2 or 39.3 miles is exhilarating in a way that defies explanation? That meeting people while you freeze your buns off in the starting corral (or sweat buckets in the case of Tower of Terror) and feeling the nervous energy build as you anticipate the starting fireworks provides more joy than any drink or drug on this planet? Pushing your body to the limit and then going another mile or two or six just to prove you can lets you realize that maybe you have no limits? And then that moment. That magical moment when some fabulous volunteer hangs a big shiny medal around your neck and you realize you are capable of setting a goal and achieving it?
Forget that for a moment. Let’s talk about the training…
I lead a crazy life. 5:30am alarm clocks. On call 50% of the time. Early mornings. Some late nights. Coordinating schedules of three busy children with endless activities and birthday parties. Why would I choose a time-consuming hobby like marathon running? Let’s start easy. During my week I have very little time that I call my own. Yes I drive about 20 min each way to work but I hardly call driving in NY traffic “time to myself.”. So when do I think? Or breath? Or laugh? Or cry? During my runs, of course. I remember last December during marathon training. My son was having a terrible time at school and it was tearing us all apart. At 5am on Saturdays I’d start my long run. In the still dark, pre-dawn. Cold and still. Peaceful and quiet. Christmas lights shining on a few homes. No cars. No talking. Cheaper than therapy. I loved those early morning long runs!
I suppose that if finishing time is the only reason you’re running, running becomes a job. Getting faster has been a side effect of my e-coaching and new-found consistency but that’s not WHY I run. I’d run even if I knew I’d always be a back of the pack runner. And after all we’re all supposed to exercise at least 3 times a week. Two of those are only for 30-45 min. What’s wrong with having 2-3 hours of exercise (or 4 or 6) every few weeks?
I’m still not sure I satisfied my new friend with a reasonable explanation of my running. And maybe it all is just another example of over-achieving but I don’t think that’s it.

Next stop? Goofy!

Now that I’m done with my fall racing schedule, it’s time to start focusing on the Main Event – The Goofy Challenge. I have a fabulous countdown app on my iPhone which tells me I fly to Florida in 90 days. So about 3 months left to train for 39.3 miles. The post-race is gone and I’m left with only mild residual soreness and the let-down which comes after racing. It’s time to get seriously as I ramp up my mileage in the next few weeks!
This week I took it easy. Tuesday was a very slow and easy run 20 sec/walk 40sec. My quads were still quite sore and it was more about doing something than real training. Today was 2.89 miles at 11:25 pace. It felt pretty good but I had some mild right hip pain. I’m not worried about it but I may need to slow down until it’s better. This weekend is only 4 miles with a Magic Mile. If I’m not 100% I’ll skip the Magic Mile and just run an easy 4 miles.
Next weekend is my issue. Thursday I’m flying down to New Orleans for the American Academy of Pediatrics Conference. I’ll be at the Convention Center all weekend and staying in a nearby hotel. Not only am I worried about travel messing with my running, I’m worried about being able to run. I’ve heard that the area around the Convention Center is not terribly nice and outdoor running may be dangerous. Making matters worse, my assigned mileage includes a 7 mile walk on Saturday and an 18 mile run on Sunday. For safety reasons I think I’ll have to run all 25 miles on a treadmill. Yikes!
My plan, for now, is to get up early both days and try to get as many miles in as possible. Maybe after daybreak it’ll be safe to do a few miles outdoors. I guess I’ll have to ask at the hotel. Otherwise I’m thinking of hourly bathroom breaks or changing treadmills each hour. I’ve done 14 miles on a dreadmill before but this will be almost an extra hour of boredom. Any good strategies for keeping it real?
If the fitness center isn’t open 24/7, I may have to cut my miles down. I’m in New Orleans to attend the conference so I can’t spend all day running. I’m hoping for early bedtime as much as possible!
For me I big part of training consistency is learning to schedule my runs around my life since my life makes it hard to schedule anything. Hopefully my weekend plan will work and I’ll get my runs done!

Today I finished my 5th half marathon.
I woke up around 6:15am after a decent night’s sleep. I’m still recovering from last weekend’s trip to Disney and have been fighting the beginnings of a cold all week. I did my usual pre-race routine – shower and dress. Obsess over the weather. Debate endlessly over the appropriateness of race day clothing (in terms of weather). Pack Spibelt with gels and fuel. Prepare water bottle. Then pace until departure time.
The early morning temperature was 45F – the coldest morning this season. There were threats of rain to add to the worry about race day clothing. Ultimately I choose a short-sleeved tech shirt with arm warmers, compressions shorts, and calf sleeves. I skipped my running hat because it looked like the rain would hold off. It was about a 10 min drive to the starts although the line to get into the parking lot was as long as my drive over. By 7:40am I was ready to go to the start.
I walked around the starting area a few times and quickly realized that I was cold. I crossed the street to the County Center where I could wait inside in the warm. While standing around I met a sweet young lady running her first distance race. She was curious if they lined us up by speed. Not at this race! She is an 8 min/mile runner and seemed to do well. At 8:15 she and I walked over to the starting area where we met up with 2 of my former residents. When the gun went off I hung out and waited until the back of the pack before crossing the start line.
My plan, as per Jeff Galloway, was run 40sec/walk 20sec at 11:45 min/mile pace for 4 miles. I, of course buoyed by adrenaline and cool temperatures, went too fast. Mile 1 was my slowest of the race but still 11:35. When you take into account the gap between Garmin distance and race distance I was probably about on target. The next 2 miles were both 11:31 pace and then mile 4 was 11:23.
The course is an out-and-back. It starts at the Westchester County Center and travels South on the Bronx River Parkway until Scarsdale Road in Yonkers. At that point you make a U-turn and head back on the Northbound side. Just before the County Center is another U-turn (at, like, mile 13.05) and then a short sprint to the finish. The first half meanders downhill (there are rolling hills in both directions) and the second half gradually works uphill. On course support is great, especially for a small race. (Official results won’t be available until tomorrow but last year there were about 700 runners.) The water stops were staffed by high school kids – I’m guessing sports teams but I saw a bus labeled Boys and Girls Club so I’m not 100% sure. Every stop had water, Gatorade, and Hammer gels, as well as a port-a-potty. Some stops also had food – I remember bananas at one of the later stops – and one stop in the second half had Vaseline for chafing or blisters. The kids were blaring upbeat music and were quite enthusiastic. It was really refreshing! They did a good job both of handing out stuff and cleaning up the garbage. I was impressed.
After 4 mile I had permission to speed up to 11:30 pace and the option of increasing the run interval. I was worried about going to fast so I stuck with 40/20. Mile 5 was 11:17 and then I tried to slow down a bit. Next few were 11:20, 11:30, and 11:19. I knew at Mile 9 I could speed up and increase the interval. My legs were feeling it by the turn-around but I was passing people from there to the finish. And I mean leaving them in the dust. Mile 9 was 11:13.
One issue with this race – for me, at least – is that it seems to attract “real” runners. My 2:42 (ish) finish last year put me in the bottom 20 for the race. The same finish time at a runDisney event puts me solidly mid-pack. With my finish pace around 11:13 (unofficial), I ran most of the race towards the back. Or, more accurately, AT the back. From beginning to end. There were times, before the top runners made the turn around, that I could only see one or two other runners. Luckily it’s a pretty course, right along the Bronx River with its waterfalls and wooded area surrounding. The leaves are starting to change and the rain didn’t start until mile 13. During the second half my run/walk strategy paid off and I passed at least 20 runners but I was still well behind any of the “pack.”
I started picking up speed. I knew I could probably PR but I really wanted to break 2:30. I don’t know why I picked that number except it’s the nearest interval of ten. And I knew I probably could if I pushed. Mile 10 was 11:13. I timed myself as I crossed the actual mile marker (as opposed to Garmin mile 10) and I did it in 1:55:20. A lot faster than last weekend’s 2:11:58! And then I turned it up a notch. 5K left. Mile 11 was 11:00 even. Mile 12 at 10:44 and Mile 13 at 10:29. I sprinted across the finish line – passing 2 more people at the end – and my Garmin says I went 13.28 miles in 2:28:54. The last 0.1 was at 9:30 pace. For good measure.
Thoughts from the race: I probably should have started a bit slower but my splits were great and I never really needed to walk extra (there was one steep hill in the last few miles where I started my walk break 5 sec early). I had enough to really sprint the end. I feel sore but not so bad that I can’t do stairs. I’ll take some easy runs this week but don’t think this will set me back too much in terms of Goofy training. Most of all I believe in my training because it’s working. Almost an 8 min PR. The weather definitely helped me. Nice cool temps with some clouds to prevent overheating, finish temp was around 57F and it was raining at the finish line.
I’m very happy with my overall performance. I think I really did what I wanted and I wonder if I’ll be even faster if I do this race again next year?

Facing my fears…

This Sunday I will be running my 5th half marathon ever. Remarkably I have gone from non-runner to marathoner in less than 3 years. However speed seems to be coming, excuse the pun, a bit more slowly. I’m hoping that my new e-coaching and consistent training will allow me to finally set a new half marathon PR. Over my past 4 half marathons my finish time has fallen in a narrow range from my first half marathon at Disney – 2:44:15 – to my fastest finish time of 2:36:41. This time I hope to go a bit faster.
When I was in Florida over the weekend, I had the opportunity to meet my running hero and coach, Mr. Jeff Galloway. I was truly amazed by his enthusiasm as well as his kindness. He took the time to answer our running questions, despite a forming line. He was my hero before we met and now he has been elevated even further!
I email Jeff every week with my training update and any questions. This week I gave him a summary of my Tower of Terror race and was pleased to get his response. He thought I had run a smart race despite adverse conditions. He went on to say that the humidity actually increased throughout the race from a starting humidity of 80% to a high of 85%. Yuck. Just yuck.
I also asked for a race plan to try to achieve my goal of 2:30. Why did I pick 2:30? The McMillan formula suggests that my 8:48 Magic Mile time predicts a half marathon time of 2:22:03. The Galloway calculator predicts an even faster time of 2:18:20. I’m just happy to PR so I figured I’d go with the even 2:30.
Today I got my race plan. Mile 1-4 at 11:45 pace; mile 5-9 at 11:30; and mile 10 to finish whatever I can. I have SO many doubts! I’m starting at 11:45 pace and speeding up from there? My fastest half is slower than that. I’m not sure I can sustain that pace for 13.1 miles. What if I crash and burn? Really?
I know I can finish a half. And I know I’m better trained than ever before. But I just don’t know about this pace. He also has me using new run/walk intervals which is making me nervous. I’ve been using run30 sec/walk 30 sec pretty consistently (even during the race and my last 5K was at 12 min/mile pace in extreme conditions). For this race he suggests either run 60 sec/walk 30 sec or run 40 sec/walk 20 sec until mile 10 when I can move to a 3/1 ratio. I did run 60/walk 30 tonight and it was fine but I only went 2.32 miles. I’ll probably start with the shorter intervals and see…
I’ve never had so many doubts about a race. Which is very surprising since this is the best trained I’ve ever been. I finished Tower of Terror strong despite heat and humidity that made many people sick. But my pace was 13:12 not 11:30!
I’m trying not to let my brain interfere with my race and hopefully on Sunday I’ll come home with both a new medal and a new PR.