Archive for December, 2013

Looking backwards, moving forward

In the year 2013 I ran approximately 815 miles.  Give or take a few.  At an average pace of 12:45 min/mile.  The previous year, 2012, I ran approximately 650 miles at an average pace of 13:21 min/mile.  Now 165 miles over the course of 12 months isn’t anything crazy but I do think the increase in pace per mile is fairly significant.

I started the year off with the Goofy Challenge – a half marathon on Saturday morning followed by a full marathon on Sunday morning.  Despite some late injuries I was able to finish both “in the upright position with a smile on my face.”  My full marathon time at Disney was a few minute PR over the previous year’s disaster marathon while the half marathon was, intentionally, my slowest half marathon to date. I followed that up with a decent performance at the Princess Half Marathon in February.  Despite the heat and humidity, I was only a few minutes short of a PR.  Even more impressively, I spent the entire day touring the parks at Disney World with 3 children in tow and didn’t return to the hotel room to rest until well after dinner.  My FitBit told me I walked/ran the equivalent of a full marathon that day! In April I ran another strong MORE Magazine Women’s Half in NYC with a new PR of 2:25:41.  This isn’t an easy race because it requires tackling the Harlem Hills twice but it’s a race that I continue to love running. 

In June I ran the Mini 10k also in NYC.  The 6.2 miles were only a small part of my total mileage for the day but I still had an official PR at the race.  This is another special women’s race and one that I plan to run again in the future.  For someone who works in a male-dominated field and always felt comfortable participating in traditionally male activities, I really do enjoy the women’s races.  Although Marathon Weekend at Disney World is a particular favorite of mine, there is something special about seeing women of all shapes, sizes, and abilities test themselves on a race course! I had the pleasure of running the Diva Half Marathon with a new running friend.  This was another race run at training pace instead of race pace.  Although the course wasn’t super interesting, it was still an enjoyable day.

The highlight of my running year was certainly the NYC Marathon.  This was definitely a bucket-list race for me and I’m so pleased that I was able to run it this year.  I raised close to $3000 for charity and loved running through the streets of NYC.  My finish time was almost 1 min/mile faster than my previous marathon PR and yet I was somewhat disappointed in my performance.  I think the logistics of the race were difficult – especially for those of us in the back of pack – and I also learned – yet again! – that 26.2 miles can never be taken lightly. While I love the half marathon distance, there is something uniquely challenging about a full marathon.  The distance can never be taken for granted.  Overall I’m proud of my NYC Marathon race.  It is yet another reminder of how much we learn about ourselves when we are truly tested to our limits.

To summarize 2013 is to say that I improved my speed and endurance.  I ran several enjoyable and challenging races.  I made new running friends and strengthened my friendship with other running friends.  I was reminded of the special bond that forms between runners.  Some of my favorite people in the world are runners I’ve never met in person or runners I’ve only met a few times in person.  These include some of the most generous donors to my charity campaign, people I’ve met through runDisney, and people I’ve met through the Extra Mile Podcast.  I am grateful to you all! I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the love and support of my family.  I certainly believe that I set a great example for my children when they see me running.  But I also appreciate that my running takes its toll on my supportive husband and children.  I am so lucky to have a family that is proud of Runner Amanda in the same way that they are proud of my other accomplishments.

What’s ahead in 2014?

I’m starting the year with my 4th consecutive Disney World Marathon Weekend.  This is such a special weekend.  We live in a country that is plagued by an obesity epidemic.  It is so refreshing to spend time at Disney World surrounded by people who care about endurance running.  We aren’t all built like elite athletes but we are all working towards fitness goals and that sets us apart.  I can’t wait to see friends old and new! And I’ll confess that I can’t wait to show off my brand new Mickey Medal after I finish marathon #4.  I love seeing the new race bling around the parks!!! I’m also looking forward to running with my husband for the first time as we run the 10k.  Good times!!!

My focus in the beginning of the year will be a time improvement goal for the April 13th MORE Magazine Women’s Half Marathon.  I’ve PR’ed this year 2 out of 3 years and I think with my current training plan, I should be able to finish strong.  I will likely run the Mini 10k in June again.  I’m hoping to return to the Westchester Running Festival this fall after taking the year off (it’s a half marathon in October).  I will either run the Tower of Terror 10 miler or the Wine & Dine Half Marathon in the fall.  I will let my husband pick which one he thinks I should do.

My big debate will be To Goofy or Not To Goofy in January, 2015.  It will be the 15th Anniversary of the race which means Special Anniversary Bling.  Although the Goofy was challenging, it was certainly do-able.  I’m suspecting I’ll be Goofy again in 2015 but I’m not going to decide until I finish my marathon in January.

My family has decided to join a new gym which will open in February.  Although much of this deserves its own post, I will be undergoing metabolic testing (the kind where you wear a mask and run on the treadmill) and spend some time working with a nutritionist.  I need to lower my body fat % and increase lean muscle mass.  I hope to add more cross-training.  Additionally I will continue tae kwon do either once or twice a week.  I should be testing for my yellow belt at the end of January.

My goals for 2014 are:

Faster Half Marathon (no definite number…yet)

Better overall fitness (cross-training, including tae kwon do)

Better nutrition with better body composition (this will almost definitely include weight loss but that’s not the primary motivation)

I won’t hang on a specific number but I will try for 1,000 miles in 2014.  That’s an increase of 185 miles over this year.  From 2012 to 2013 I increased 165 miles so this may be do-able (especially if I go for Goofy!).

Mostly I want to run a lot of happy and healthy miles!

Lessons learned…

Today was my last long run before the Disney Marathon.  Although I have 4 weeks before race day, Jeff Galloway scheduled my longest long run today.  The next several weekends will be in the 6-10 mile range.  During my mid-week runs I will continue to work on speed work in preparation for my April half marathon.

My alarm went off around 3:45am and I was greeted by 25F temperatures outside and impending snow.  I was out the door by 4:15am dressed in many, many layers in an effort to stay warm.  Jeff Galloway wanted me to walk the first 10-13 miles of my run since my longest run in this cycle was 20 miles.  I was a little worried about being cold during the walking portion so I chose to run 10 sec and walk 50 sec for the first 8 miles and then did a run 15 sec/walk 45 sec for the next 8 miles.  My final miles were at run 20 sec/walk 40 sec.  

The snow started sometime around 5:45am and started to really pick up around 7am.  By 8am the sidewalks had a decent layer of snow on them and were starting to get slippery.  The road had a thin layer, too.  I was regretting the fact that a new pair of yaktrax are wrapped and under the tree rather than on my shoes. I decided after 14.1 miles that it was better to finish on a treadmill than to finish by slipping and falling and getting injured.

I fully admit to being a wimp.  Having a decent treadmill in my basement makes it very easy for me to move my runs indoors on cold or inclement days.  I realized during the outdoor portion of my run this morning that I have never run in 20F temperatures before.  I’ve definitely run in 30F but 10 degrees makes a big difference.  As I was philosophizing and running, I came up with some lessons that I learned today.

1.  Diamonds may be a girl’s best friend but if that girl has to run in 20F temperatures, a pair of $1 hand warmers are probably more useful.  Having hand warmers in my pockets made a HUGE difference this morning as I am prone to Reynaud’s (where your fingers turn white in the cold).  I have decent running gloves but I still needed the hand warmers.

2. Remember in high school chemistry class where we learned that the freezing point of H2O is 32F? Apparently that holds true for water in a water bottle while you running…. There have been many 80F days where I’d have been thrilled to have ice spontaneously appear in my water bottle.  In 20F that is much less appreciated.  The next time I run in 20F, I may add Nuun or electrolytes just to lower the freezing point! 

3. 10 days before Christmas Eve at 4am in 20F temperatures, there are almost no runners out.  Except me.  At 8am in the snow there were several other runners out.  I saw one woman wearing capri running tights and one man wearing shorts with zensah calf sleeves.  Which leads me to wonder…. Am I crazier than they are or are they crazier than I am? You don’t have to answer. It’s rhetorical.

4. Snow is much less wet than rain.  At least when you’re outside in the cold.  Once you move indoors the snow melts and becomes wet.  I was surprised that the snow didn’t really make my clothes feels wet while I was running outside. 

5. A thin layer of snow on the sidewalk is very slippery.  If I had stuck it out and waiting for the snow to accumulate, it would likely have become much less slippery.  I didn’t stick around to figure this one out.

6. Consistently the coldest parts of my body when running in cold weather are my butt and thighs. I had 2 layers on and was still very cold in this area.  Thank goodness my daughter is buying me toasty buns shorts from Athleta to wear over my tights for my next cold weather run! 

7. The problem with the butt/thigh cold thing comes when you need to go to the bathroom.  Cold hands trying to remove multiple layers from cold butt/thighs is challenging at best and disastrous if you really, really have to pee.  Just like when you were a kid playing in the snow with snow pants and then it took forever to get undressed and use the bathroom…

8. Early, cold, miserable long runs are best done with company, even if it’s virtual company.  I had a running buddy (Nate Wagner – yay!) texting me while he ran 20 miles and another running buddy tweeting me (Thanks Kurt Bower!).  Then several friends checked in with me via Facebook.  It definitely kept my spirits up and entertained me.

9. It’s not the last 6.2 miles that are really, really hard for me.  It’s those darn middle miles – say 14-20 – that destroy me.  Not sure why. Today I struggled from about 16-20 and then it got easier.  Or closer to the end.  Either way.  During NYC Marathon it was the same.  I really struggled starting around mile 14-ish and then seemed better after mile 20.  If anyone has brilliant insight, please share!

10. There’s a reason the half marathon is more popular than the full marathon.  Running 14 miles in training is do-able.  Almost reasonable.  Running 27 miles in training is just crazy.

My running over the previous several months can be summed up with a line from Top Gun.  “I feel the need….the need for speed!” I’ve been very focused on time goals and getting faster.  After 6 months of dedicated training with several runs of 20 or more miles and 1 mile repeats, I did take 25 minutes off my marathon PR.  Which still puts me somewhere near that back of the pack.  My immediate thought when I finished the NYC Marathon was that I needed to get back into training ASAP so I could “redeem myself” at Disney (I guess I didn’t think a 25 minute PR was worth anything?) with a finish time closer to 5 hours.

Not surprisingly my rational brain and my body felt quite differently.  For the first few weeks following NYC, I found it difficult to get out the door.  I was super busy at work and also busy getting ready for a big family trip to Hawaii.  But I also lost all desire to run.  I just didn’t have to drive in my heart that my emotional brain felt.  I missed a few short runs and didn’t have a lot of energy.  The weekend that we flew to Hawaii (10.5 hour direct flight from JFK to Honolulu followed by a 45 minute flight to Kona) I had 26 miles on the schedule.  My husband was out of town until about 12 hours before departure and we agreed that I’d save my long run for Hawaii.  We arrived at our hotel at 8pm Hawaiian time (1am NY time – after leaving our house at 7am the previous morning).  I was up and out the door by 3:30am for my long run.

My run started in the dark.  Not NY dark.  I don’t think we know dark in NY.  I couldn’t see anything.  I crashed into bushes.  I finally turned on the flashlight app on my cell phone so I wouldn’t mis-step and fall.  I didn’t really have a specific route but knew I’d be safe if I stayed in the general area around our hotel.  We were staying in the Waikoloa Beach Resort area.  You turn off the main road (19) and there in an area with multiple time shares, several hotels, and 2 significant strip malls in about a 6 mile loop.  There are a few side paths to add to the distance. The stars were gorgeous but it was mostly warm, humid, and dark.  I tried to get creative with some trails but it was too risky.  The run was mostly going well.  I was using a 20/40 due to exhaustion, heat, and humidity.  I was trying to get back by 9am but my jet-lagged family was getting antsy.  Finally around mile 19 my husband texted me to find out my eta.  I knew it was time to throw the towel in.

I managed 20 miles and I knew that Jeff Galloway would tell me to give up any time goals for Disney.  And I knew he was right.  I just didn’t have the drive after running a time goal marathon to put in the effort for another time goal marathon.  I have one more mega run before Disney (which I’m trying to schedule as my December is getting crazier and crazier) but most of my runs will be 6 miles or less.  It’s nice to cut back on the distance a bit and I will certainly look forward to half marathon training after doing 2 fulls in a row!

I haven’t given up my goal of getting faster.  Jeff Galloway already has me doing more speed work on my short runs in preparation for my April half marathon.  Tuesdays I run cadence drills and acceleration gliders followed by 1/2 mile “race rehearsal” segments.  The cadence drills help increase foot turnover which leads to faster and more efficient running.  Acceleration-gliders are a form of speed work – they are similar to fartleks in some ways – but also teach running efficiency and improved transition between running and walking.  Race rehearsal segments are exactly that.  You run a 1/2 mile segment at race pace using the run/walk ratio you plan to use in the race.  After each segment you walk for 2 minutes to recover.  It helps get you used to the pace and interval you plan to use on race day.  On Thursdays I have a new set of drills.  I start with cadence and acceleration-gliders but then I do something completely new to me.  I run 200m repeats.  The 1st 200m should be in 60 sec.  I walk 100m and then try to speed up by 1 sec per 200m for each subsequent one.  I started with 4 x 200m and should increase by 1-2 intervals each week.  I’m finding it difficult to get the pacing right, although I did all 4 in under 60 sec, I’m not sure I got the timing exactly straight.  After I do my 200m repeats for the day, I finish with some hills.  That will become more important as my April half marathon gets closer as it is a very hilly course.

I’m at peace with my decision to run Disney at whatever pace feels comfortable.  The weather in Orlando in January can be very unpredictable.  The past 2 years it was in the 80s.  The year before was a bit cooler than that.  And in 2010 it was freezing cold with sleet.  Historically we should be due for some cooler temperatures this year (which is nice for racing but I must say that 80 degrees in January is very nice for vacationing!) but it doesn’t really matter to me at this point.  I can race according to how I feel and not feel tethered by a goal.

It’s hard for me to “give up” on a time goal.  I don’t think I’ll ever really be a “stop for photos at every opportunity” kind of runner (not a criticism at all – I’m too competitive for that).  But at least I can enjoy having my camera and pausing every so often without feeling like I”m missing out on a PR.  I feel good about starting to train for the April half marathon, almost as if the Disney Marathon weren’t really happening, but allowing me to create a new goal.  Although I’m not ready to give up on full marathons completely, I can definitely see that the half distance is more manageable (for me, at least). I’m ok working on my half marathon time for now and thinking about the full marathon when it next arises (likely for the Goofy 2015).