Tuesday, July 29, 2014

A Mini Run Break + This Week's Training

Last week, Coach Matt had me take a few days off from running and cross-training. It was a little rest period to help me recharge before starting the final marathon training push. I'll admit, not being able to run was a bit like torture but I did enjoy spending extra time with friends.

Jazz in the Park! Photo by Melissa Miller - Music Photography

Anyhow, this week it's back to the usual training with a mix of running, strength training and Y classes. Although the week only tops out at 48 miles, I know I'm in for a challenge with a workout, race and long run including marathon pace. This will be fun :)

Here's this week's plan:

Monday: 6 mile run; Y-Kettle Bell Interval Circuit + Strength Training
Tuesday: 8 mile workout, inc. track intervals
Wednesday: 5 mile run; Y-Fuse + Absolution
Thursday: Race for the Bacon 5k + wu and cd miles
Friday: Rest Day
Saturday: 16 mile run, inc. goal marathon pace miles
Sunday: 6 mile run

Total: 48 miles

My questions for you:
  • What do you do with your extra time during training breaks?
  • What workout are you most looking forward to this week?

I can't wait for my long run with marathon pace miles. Nothing like a Saturday morning run challenge ;)

- ST

Thursday, July 24, 2014

CHI RNR Half Marathon Race Recap

I can finally say it: My half marathon curse is over! This has always been the most intimidating distance to me - even scarier than running a full marathon. I'm far from mastering the half marathon race distance but it feels great to finally have had a decent one.

Here's how it went down:

The night before the race I am usually in full-on running robot mode and the night before the Chicago Rock n Roll Half Marathon was no different. Dinner is always pasta. As plain as possible. Served with bread and a cooked vegetable, preferably spinach. Since I had a super early wake up call the following morning, dinner was at 4pm. I felt like a senior citizen! Bedtime was at 8pm and it was still light out. But, my alarm was set for 3am so early to bed it was!

Maybe I'm a complete weirdo, but I always shower before morning races. It helps me wake up, plus it loosens up my muscles a bit! After showering, it was time to get dressed and I realized a crucial packing mistake - I forgot my Oiselle Randies! This left two options: wear a different non-running-tested pair of underwear under my Distance Shorts or wear the buns I threw in my suitcase at the last minute. After a few minutes of panicking, I decided I would wear the buns (which turned out to be a fine decision - zero chafing of any type!). They look great with my Oiselle Team singlet plus they make me feel fast!

One of the best parts about CHI RNR is the number of participants. This year, there were nearly 14,000 runners in the half marathon race plus an additional 1,900+ runners doing the 5k race. Everyone is excited to be there and you kind of forget you've been up since 3am to do a race that starts at 6:30am :)

Anyhow, I waited a bit late to get into my corral and had a tough time getting through the crowd. I was a teensy bit worried I wouldn't get there in time but made it in with about 2 minutes to spare. Nothing like waiting til the last minute!

Photo from Competitor website

And soon enough, it was time to run! My plan from Coach Matt was to start the race at a conservative pace and pick things up after mile 3. The overall goal was to run 7:45-7:55 pace for the race. Although it was a humid morning, I felt really good during those first few miles. Never did I feel out of breath or as though I was working too hard.

One thing that made the early miles go by fast is there was a wheelchair participant that somehow got stuck in the middle of all the runners. He would go fast for awhile and then slow down to a crawl at any inclines. It was actually pretty dangerous because he was moving down the middle of the road and yelling to runners to get out of the way - and many couldn't hear him because they were caught up in their own race or listening to music. I was worried about getting run over at some point so when we got to a bridge, I surged for a bit and lost him.

The CHI RNR course is fantastic because you get to run through the streets of downtown Chicago with tons of spectators to cheer you on. I love it! This goes on for about the first 6 miles of the race and at that point you're pretty much halfway done!


I didn't start feeling the race until between miles 9-10. The air was getting warmer and I had to concentrate to keep my legs moving at a decent pace. I should add at this point that I didn't know my time or pace during the race. My Garmin decided to not work right before the start of the race so I was going by feel and using the clocks at the mile markers as my guide. Fortunately, I run by feel a lot and can decently estimate what type of pace I'm running.

The final 5k was when I really had to work. I knew I was on track for a PR. I didn't know by how much but knew if it was going to happen I had to keep grinding away. During rough patches in training runs, I tell myself I only have to make it to the next street light, sign, etc. and then I can slow down. I never do, but it breaks up the run a bit and gives me something to focus on other than how my legs feel. So that's what I did during the last few miles of this race. My goal was to make it to mile 12 and then pick it up to the finish. It felt so great to see the mile 12 marker ... and then the mile 13 marker. And then it was time to fly!


My results:

Time: 1:42:08 - new PR!
Pace: 7:48 min/mile
Age Group Place:30/1,481 (Top 2 percent)
Gender Place: 164/8,328 (Top 2 percent)
Overall Place: 795/13,754

This year's bling

The only part about this PR that kills me is that had I run 9 seconds faster somewhere on the course, I would have a 1:41 time. And I believe I could have done it since I know I left a bit on the course. But it's okay. I'm in the heart of marathon training right now. Maybe next year I'll do a half marathon training segment and focus on a sub 1:40 time!

My confidence in half marathon racing is restored. And I'm that much more excited for Lakefront Marathon in 10 weeks. Running, I heart you :)

My questions for you:
  • Do you shower before racing? Or, do you do any other 'weird' things before a race?
  • How do you break up a race to make the miles go by faster?
  • Where's your favorite place to eat in Chicago?

Post-race, I can't get enough of Gino's East. Deep dish. To die for!

- ST

Monday, July 14, 2014

Expect the Worst; Dream for the Best

It's race week! To get things started on a delicious note, I indulged in an ice cream sandwich for breakfast. 

Chocolate chip ice cream sandwich from Purple Door - Nom nom!

I know, I know - ice cream sandwiched between two cookies is definitely not part of a racing diet, but having that small treat made for a pretty great start to the week. And feeling happy and positive can only help me race faster, right? ;)

It's been about a month and a half since my last race and I'm so ready to go. I recently read an article about how your mindset can affect your race. Basically, it recommends runners brace themselves for the worst - pain, feeling bad, etc. - so when actually racing, the effort feels better than expected. So that's what I'm doing this week. Imagining how terrible the race is going to feel. All while dreaming of a PR time!

As for the actual work before the race, here's this week's plan:

Monday: 5 mile run + Strides; Strength Training
Tuesday: 7 mile workout, inc. race pace intervals
Wednesday: 6 mile run + Absolution
Thursday: 6 mile run + Y Kettle Bell
Friday: Rest Day
Saturday: 3 mile run + Strides
Sunday: Chicago Rock n Roll Half Marathon + 5 mile cooldown

Total: 45 miles

My questions for you:
  • How closely do you watch your diet the week of a race? 
  • What is your favorite weather for racing?
  • Any workouts this week that you can't wait to tackle?

After a tasty treat to start the week, it's time to buckle down and get serious!

- ST

Monday, July 7, 2014

Half Marathon On My Mind

In my perfect world, every weekend would be a long weekend. Isn't it amazing what a difference an extra day (or two!) off makes? I could get used to all this extra time to relax!

But all good things must come to an end eventually and today it's back to following a schedule. Here's this week's training plan:

Monday: 8 mile run + Strides
Tuesday: 10 mile workout, inc. hills + half marathon pace work
Wednesday: 6 mile runch; Y-Fuse + Absolution
Thursday: 8 mile run; Y-Blitz + Y-Kettle Bell
Friday: Rest Day
Saturday: 11 mile run
Sunday: 7 mile run

Total: 50 miles

So, the main thing on my mind right now is the Chicago Rock n Roll Half Marathon, which is in just two weeks. Although I love this race because of the fun course, fantastic crowd energy, great expo, organization, etc., half marathons and I don't get along. I've tried so hard to like them but nearly every time I've tried to race this distance, it hasn't gone well.

I think I just about died during the 2012 Chi RNR

For whatever reason, racing a marathon doesn't scare me nearly as much as racing a half marathon. I think it's all about perspective. I've never had a bad marathon. I've only completed two and I didn't race either one so both were good experiences. I've felt fatigue at the end but never the pain that comes with putting your all into the miles. And with the half marathon, I've done that and it hasn't been pretty. Last year, I even had to take a break from the distance and although I did two, I used both as training runs and ran at whatever pace felt easy and comfortable.

Taking it easy at last year's Strider Half Marathon

But ... I think this year's Chi RNR might be different. I'm feeling more confident in my running than ever before thanks to the awesome Coach Matt and Thunderdome Running, and taking down my old - as in first year of running old - half marathon PR seems possible. It's not going to feel great during the race, but it sure will feel great after if I can somehow muster up a successful half marathon. So I'm going to go for it!

Anything can happen on race day. I'm choosing to believe in the wonderful :) 

My questions for you:
  • Half marathons - love em or hate em? Why?
  • Have you ever had a race disaster? If so, what happened?
  • Have you ever suffered a blow to your running confidence? If so, how did you restore it?

- ST

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Summer Running Is Here!

After months of waiting, summer is finally here! A solid few days of sunny skies (with a few showers), temps in the 80s and plenty of humidity. 

While this was fine for activities such as going to Summerfest and seeing Outkast with a few fellow runner girls ...

Photo by @lauramke

It wasn't so awesome for running. Lately, MKE runners have been a little spoiled. While the rest of the city has been moaning about a chilly summer, it's been great for runching without getting too unbearably sweaty and being able to sleep in and start weekend long runs a bit later in the morning. 

But last Saturday, I quickly regretted a later start. The goal was 17 miles and to get faster throughout, finishing up the last four miles at goal marathon pace. I knew I was in for a treat when the pace for the first few miles felt tough. I somehow managed to hit all of my paces but it was a real struggle - not a single mile felt easy. By the end of the run, I was drenched in sweat, covered in salt and probably had a dazed look in my eyes. After a cooldown jog and 5 minute walk, I felt better but couldn't believe how much the run took out of me. 

It was a reminder that summer running requires a bit of planning. Here are a few things I'll be doing on future runs this summer:

  • Plan a shady route with access to water fountains.
  • Get an early start. Out the door at 5:30-6am is the way to go. 
  • Wear as little as possible. Shorts, bra and a lightweight tank, like Oiselle's Hail Mary Tank.
  • Use Body Glide on any areas prone to chafing.
  • Take an Endurolyte before heading out for longer runs.
  • Make a point of taking in fluids early and continuing to drink up throughout your run.
  • Focus on effort, not pace.
  • Refuel and rehydrate at the same time with a post-workout recovery drink, i.e. chocolate milk.
  • If it's really ghastly hot/humid, run at an indoor track.

Another idea is drinking a cold, iced beverage before a run to help lower core temperature before venturing into the heat!

My questions for you:
  • How do you get acclimated to running in the heat?
  • What is your best tip for running in the heat?
  • What did you do to enjoy the weekend's summer weather?

Stay safe in the sun, everyone!

- ST