Thursday, November 17, 2011

Chickamauga Battlefield Marathon: Race Recap/Review

Before I get into the nitty gritty I just wanted to say that this race deserves all of the kudos that it gets. A well-organized event, beautiful course, great volunteer support. Truly could not have asked for more. Sooo...if you are looking for a marathon in the the southeast (GA, for you 50-staters)...skip the overcrowded RnR Savannah and get thee to Ft. Oglethorpe, GA. I do not think you would be disappointed.
Before the Race
This was probably the *least* stressed I have been leading up to any longer race that I have done (13.1 and above). Don't get me wrong, it was a BUSY week leading up to the race, but knowing that the expo was open until 9pm Friday and that packet pickup would also be available Saturday morning before the race, eased my mind tremendously.

I worked until about 2:30 and then we dropped off the dogs at the vet for the night and finally headed out of B'ham around 3:45 Friday afternoon for the 2.5-3 hour drive to Ft. Oglethorpe, GA, which is actually just outside of Chattanooga (the race is sponsored by the Chattanooga Track Club). We actually "lost" an hour going from CST to EST which had me a tad concerned about the wake up call the next morning, but it turned out to be no biggie.

We got to Ft Oglethorpe no problem, they had a marquee at the entrance of town welcoming the marathoners which I thought was nice. We headed to packet pick-up/expo which was being held at the local HS...nice and easy to navigate through. Not that this is a bad thing, but it had a VERY small town feel to it and I was surprised to see more than a few vendors set up...including one with TONS of race day nutrition (Gu, honey stinger, etc) and another very creative booth that sold cowbells :) I have never seen/noticed a cowbell booth at an expo before and thought that was pretty cool.

Checking through the swag bag, I was quite impressed given that is a small race (capped at 700 half and 700 full marathoners). In addition to the l/s gender specific tech tee, there was a nice neoprene waist pack branded with the marathon info, key lanyard, mini-moon pie, muscle cooling stuff, and a couple of discount coupons ($10 off at Dick's? yes, please)

After the expo, we were on a mission to find dinner. Yes, we were not far out of Chattanooga, but we did not feel like driving back that direction so we decided to see what was available in town. Let's just say...TONS of fast food, plenty of Mexican, and about 3 sit down chains that we could identify (Applebees, O'Charley's and Logans) Each of the chains was equally packed so we finally settled on Logan's where there was not a pasta dish to be found. There WERE however, rolls the size of my head, so I had more than my fair share of those and then tried to pick the least stomach-averse dish on the menu.
After dinner it was on to the hotel. We stayed at the Hampton Inn in Ringgold, GA (which is basically the same town) which was actually a really nice Hampton Inn, IMO. Hampton Inn was one of the "host" hotels where the race would have free shuttle pick up in the morning which (among other reasons) made it especially attractive so Matt would not have to get up at the ass crack of dawn to drive me to the start. They also offered a marathon discount which seemed to be $25 or so off the published/Priceline/etc rate which was another bonus.

I set my alarm for 4:45, put in a wake up call for 5 and had no problem crashing soon after we got checked in.

Race Day
I slept incredibly well and woke up easily with my alarm. A(nother) check of the weather revealed that it was right around 32 degrees outside, so I was definitely going to need some extra layers.

Tired but not overly nervous this time around

I wrapped up a bagel with PB, grabbed a banana from the hotel breakfast buffet (which opened an hour earlier than normal to accomodate the very nice!) and hopped on the 5:45 shuttle with no problem. I read actually read blogs on the way over to keep any nerves at bay, the bus was generally pretty quiet at that hour.

We were dropped off with no real instruction, at the edge of what was a dark (and frozen) field which was a bit freaky until we were finally able to glimpse the start line and the tops of tents at the other side. The ride over had not taken long and the start was not until 7:30, so we had a LOT of time to kill and it was really cold. In addition to what I had on in the picture above, I had a l/s cotton shirt that would be my "toss away", along with gloves and a bondi band. Considering I also had on capris, that is not a recipe for warmth while you are standing still. Luckily, there were heaters inside the main info/reg tent and the ground was warm (and dry) in there so I found a warm seat and hung out for about an hour chatting, eating b'fast and relaxing. There were plenty of portapotties and I got in line before the lines got incredibly long and found out at some point that they were going to be delaying the start until 7:45 b/c of traffic being a major cluster. I guess it's nice that they were accomodating but this is a 30+ year old race and I would think that they would have figured out how to route traffic by this point (it's not as if the battlefield has changed locations!!!) Maybe I was just pissy b/c I was absolutely frozen and could NOT feel my feet at all.

FINALLY it was time to line up and get ready to run. There was a presentation of colors, the national anthem and then a cannon start...and we were off!

(borrowed from the Chickamauga FB page)

(borrowed from the Chickamauga FB page)

Aiming for a 5 hour marathon, I tucked myself right behind the 2:30 half pacers hoping that this would keep my pace in check. Given that I'd run a brisk-for-me 10K the Saturday prior I was wondering if my legs were going to default to that pace...which is definitely not something I could sustain over the long haul. (Side note: they had various half and full pace groups but in the full it went from 4:30 to a 5:30 Galloway group with nothing in between, kind of a bummer but for such a small race, I was surprised to see pace groups at all) I kept creeping up on the pacers and by mile 2 I was right alongside them. I told them I was trying to stay with them and why, and made some small talk but little by little I pulled away and never saw them again after about 3.5 miles. Maybe against my better judgement? I'm still not sure. I was averaging in the low 11's at that point and did so comfortably until the half way point even considering that I was taking 60-90 second walk breaks every 2 miles. (I actually forgot to walk at mile 2 and started this at mile 3, so I was walking on the odd miles for a while)
Just after mile 1 about to head into the national park/battlefield (borrowed from FB)

Headed onto the trail

It took nearly 2 miles for my feet to totally unthaw and we were seeing frozen breath for at least 5 miles. I tossed my l/s shirt at mile 4, gloves around mile 8 and tied the arms sleeves to my fuel belt around 12-13. I was trying to shed layers when I felt comfortable but before I actually started to feel warm. The miles were ticking by and I felt really great. We came to our first half/full split and I got a surge of adreneline (the course would split and converge at different times) but that first one made me realize that there was no "going back".

First split (borrowed from FB)

Sometime within the first loop (before mile 8...I still have the gloves!)

The course was so incredibly beautiful...and for me, the best of both worlds. I had "trail run" scenery but with the benefit of running (mostly) on pavement. Open fields, woods, cannons EVERYWHERE, tons of monuments and signs that would point to "XYZ general died here", "Union guns captured here". I am a sucker for that kind of stuff and wished I had the time (or extra energy to expend) to read more of the details.

Borrowed from FB (again) :)

I actually saw a runner run up to the tower and go it! (yes, again from FB)

The middle miles are kind of a blur and got pretty lonely. The marathoners around my pace were so spread out, sometimes I felt like I was on a supported training run. I got REALLY sick around mile 15.5 and felt better after that (amazingly, my pace wasn't really affected by that stop, lol) and actually never got passed after that point. I would come up on little clusters of runners and for the virtue that I was pretty much still running most of the time (I was now on a run 1 mile, walk .1 cycle), I was able to pick people off one by one. Volunteers and other runners were really encouraging to each other...I have never experienced so much genuine camraderie on a course before. Also, I should mentioned that the course was HILLY and really took its toll. I knew it was not "fast and flat" but I don't know that I fully anticipated the rolling nature of the course. However, I felt like I was really well prepared for it, given that I had specifically incorporated hill training into this cycle.

Missing a few layers! (That's an arm sleeve hanging off my hip)

I must admit, I had a mini break down at mile 23. I called Matt to let him know I had a little more than 5K left and he told me he was proud of me and I was really wanting to be done at this point (I'm not sure if this was my "wall" but I know I did not hit one the way I did in Memphis) and I almost started crying and told him how much I loved him. I was TOTALLY alone at this point (no runners in sight in front or behind) and in between aid stations (they were every 2 miles after mile 4 and had water, powerade, fruit and Gu at each one!) and Matt told me I needed to focus on getting it done. I found a second wind within a few minutes and got myself together. (Consequently, mile 23 was my slowest mile of the race).

One of my fav signs (FB)...another was a giant Justin Bieber cut out

The photographer I had seen on the first 2 loops (the marathon was 2 loops of the battlefield plus the entry and exit roads) was now at mile 24. I joked him it was cruel to be there and he laughed and said that his battery was dead because he had been blasting his music at the other spot and his wife was the finish line photog so he had to wait to get someone to come jump his car. HAHA! Then he took some highly unflattering pics of me and wished me luck...I thanked him for being out there. That gave me an added boost to the end.

I passed a few more people (mostly men at this point) and then came to the gravel trail. I saw a male/female duo ahead (I had noticed them on prior out and backs and they had seemed to be keeping pretty good pace ahead of me until now) The woman was tired and mentally done and the man turned around and saw me and I could tell did NOT want to get passed. I was actually cracking up a bit because he told her "Bri, we HAVE to run...NOW" She had NO CLUE what was going on and he took her water bottle and said "I'm leaving!" And she was forced to chase after him! (I felt so bad for her!) I was getting ready for a scheduled walk break anyway, but once I started running again I caught right back up. Dude, KEPT turning around and I kept a few paces behind. I probably COULD have passed them, but it would have been a struggle to maintain to a strong finish and I did not want to be a total bitch, b/c I knew he was bothered and there was no need to do that. I had lost my 5 hour goal by this point too so it's not like I was fighting for that and I knew we would be looping the post-race party and wanted to save my energy for that kick to the end.

Thankfully it was downhill to the finish and the spectators were very encouraging. I could see Matt waiting at the finish and I was so happy to see him and be done :)

Coming in to the finish

How the heck did Matt actually miss me crossing??? It's not like there was a crowd! LOL I do have toned calf muscles though, if nothing else!

After chatting with Matt for a few minutes, I headed over to the runner's food zone where I got a REAL fountain coke (no diet right then), a bottle of water, and some snacks to go (an apple and granola bar and a couple of cookies). They also had pizza, homemade soups, banana pudding, moon pies, bananas and of course more sports drink but I'm not one for tons of solid foods after a long run anyway, and if I never saw anything that resembled marathon hydration again I would have been happy.

Marathon #2 in the books :)

The Aftermath
We headed back home immediately after the race. We stopped at a gas station so I could change clothes and I got violently ill while in there. Forget a post-marathon splurge meal, I got the largest fountain Sprite known to man and nursed waves of nausea the rest of the day while laid up on the couch :( I fueled exactly according to all of my long runs (powerade/water, honey stinger chews, basically the same pre-run meal), so I am really not sure what happened here. My only guess is that is it was much colder than any of my training runs and that maybe my sweat rate was lower and that my electrolytes got imbalanced.

My hips and achilles held up much better than last time and this time the real lasting soreness was in my quads (likely due to the hills). I can't avoid stairs in my home so I had some creative ways of getting up AND down for a couple of days following and a couple of times while I was out and about running errands/at work, it actually felt like my legs were going to buckle underneath me. But that is totally better right now and I'm feeling ready to get back into some low impact cardio...

BUT, Sunday night I started coming down with a sore throat which turned into a full blown cold by Monday. At first it was just my nose/sinuses and now it's turned into a lovely hacking cough. I haven't missed work but I have been exhausted and have actually had to get this post up in segments due to my energy levels. I feel maybe I'm finally on the mend and I feel ready to ease back into things. I guess being sick made really took away any guilt I may have had for lounging on the couch and catching up on much needed sleep.

Thanks for sticking with me! Please feel free to ask any other questions about the race or experience or even my training...I am happy to answer the best I can :)

Monday, November 7, 2011

Race Report: Vulcan Run 10K

I ran this race last year as my first "official" 10K (and as part of a longer training run) and knew that as long as I could fit it into my schedule, I would be back again in 2011.
Vulcan is Birmingham's oldest race and has the reputation for being difficult. Miles 2.5(?) to 4.5(?) are run on part of the Mercedes Half/Marathon course but in the opposite direction that is not as favorable to the runner (read: a gradual uphill). It's basically a grind uphill on Highland Avenue  (beautiful area) with a teaser downhill and then a long, achilles-busting downhill onto 20th street which flattens/rolls into the finish. I get it, it's not easy but I really don't understand the hype (we live in a hilly city) and I still maintain that V2V is a tougher course. ANYway...

Even though I knew I would be running the race, I procrastinated on registering and finally did so at packet pickup the night before the race. Swag bags were pretty mundane (lots of paper plus a coupon for free Yogurt Mountain and a mini-Snickers energy bar) and we also received a s/s tech shirt. Shirts came in mens and womens sizing but the women's ran ridiculously small so I opted for a men's small (like last year) which fits just fine.

A little more orange, less "melon" than this picture would suggest

I had 8 on the schedule for Saturday so I ran 1.3 before the race and figured I would make up the rest by running back to my car (I intentionally parked further away with that plan in mind). I hesitate to say I had ZERO expectations for the race because of course I wanted to do better than last year but I have not been training with 10K paces in mind. The closest thing I have come to thinking about my 10K pace is this: my tempo runs. HH advises to run the tempo portions "at or near 10K race pace". last official 10K time was in January and when I set my paces for marathon training I thought "maybe I should subtract 15-20 seconds per mile...that's probably closer to my current ability level given the training load". So that's the pace I have been using for my tempo training. It's pushed me for sure, but not to the point of being stupid, so I've felt good about targeting that for my zone.

The weather was in the upper 40s at the start. I was wearing my usual capris, Buenos Aires tech shirt and new arm warmers that I had picked up the night before for 20% off. I have been wanting to try these for a while and not quite sure why I haven't just bitten the bullet. Let me just's some of the best $25 I have ever spent. I warm so quickly and hate having an extra layer...and then these are so easy to push down. I am totally sold...but I digress...Garmin and handheld in tow but no shadow pack (or phone) and no iPod. My first race without an iPod...but I have been training without one and love it, so no need.

We were off with a bang, and I told myself to hold back. It's so easy to take off too fast and (as always) I could pick out the people that I knew I would be seeing later...

Having done the race before, I knew what to expect and this time the 1st two miles ticked by quickly (for me).

1: 10:38
2: 10:38

I started to feel tired running down the flat industrial stretch before heading into the Highland Avenue part...where I knew the real work would begin. I could tell others were starting to feel the same way...I was hearing a lot of sighing and grunting...people trying to pep up their running buddies "we are not going to walk...we've got this!" and I was starting to worry that I would fade. And given that I had not set any hard goals for myself, I wasn't sure what I was shooting for. I realized I was warm and pushed my arm warmers down to my wrists which instantly felt better.

3: 11:00

Once we got into Highlands I set my mind to staying with the pack of people around me and began looking for people to pick off. I felt like my hill training was paying off and began to feel stronger and stronger. Any dips/slight downhills during this part, I took advantage of loosening up my stride and not holding back..shortening back up when I got to the next hill. I felt like I was running a smart race.

4: 10:47
Once we crested upon the fluid station just past mile 4 (thankful I did not have to stop or slow since I had my handheld), I decided to take advantage of the net downhill before the HUGE downhill and left the main pack I had been with, following one girl who had been with that same pack the entire time and seemed to be running a similar strategy. She would be my pace bunny the rest of the race...never caught her, never actively tried to do so either though because while I was pushing it, I was not going to do something stupid and jeopardize my marathon this coming weekend.

5: 9:53
One mile and some change left, roads I run during my normal downtown runs. Slight uphill the rest of the way and I was going to push to discomfort. I did feel a little woozy at some point during this last stretch and backed off a tad, but picked people off (men and women) right and left. Got a kick out of watching the Yogurt Mountain "mascot" running on the course pepping people up. (Wish I had a picture of THAT!) So proud, my last mile was my fastest and yes, uncomfortable but not "puke threshhold" uncomfortable.

6: 9:47
.25 : 2:15 (avg 9:10 pace)
Final time (Garmin): 6.25 miles, 1:04:58, avg pace 10:24 which is almost the exact tempo pace I have been running during my workouts!!! It's also almost 4 minutes faster than my time at this race last year and nearly a 2 minute PR!!! :)

However, I'm a bit surpised but my official time is 14 seconds SLOWER than my Garmin time and I'm not sure how/why? We used B-tags (bib timing) but there was a timing mat to cross at the start (so it's not gun to mat like V2V) and I hit the button as I crossed that and then actually the second (third) mat at the finish.  I didn't take any breaks or stop my watch during the race so I'm not sure where that large of a discrepancy would come from. Any ideas? Regardless, I'm going with my watch here since I have no viable explanation.

Fun fact: Before I knew there was a timing discrepancy, I actually asked one of the volunteers which finish mat was the "official" one since I never know which one "counts". Turns out the first one is for the announcers (they announce name and city when you officially cross), the second one is the "official" time and the third one is "back up" in case the official mat fails. Hopefully someone learned something there...I thought it was interesting :)

After I caught my breath, I grabbed a bottle of water and a bottle of powerade and headed back towards the final turn to cheer runners in. There was a "one woman volunteer cheering section" here so I stood opposite to her and joined in the "great job...finish strong" chorus for about 15 minutes before jogging back to my car and heading home. I completely forgot about the post-race party and free massages inside Boutwell until after I got home and saw the FB messages, but I was alone/didn't know anyone there and I was riding high from my PR anyway so no matter.

I am beyond pleased with my race and so happy that I could finish with 2 strong, solid miles in the 9s without feeling like death. I keep saying I know I am capable of "more" and I am excited to dial in on paces that will get me there. This performance also suggests I am close to being able to go "sub-5" at the marathon on Saturday...a performace which I would be thrilled with. More on those goals in another post :)

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Chickamauga Training: Week #16 Recap

I wouldn't be "me" without posting this way late :) I'm sure I'll be thankful for the record of this later...

Monday, October 24
Plan: Rest
Actual: Rest

It was the day after my 20-miler, Matt was getting back from Vegas and I had errands and laundry to catch up on. I was residually tired AND hungry from the day before too.

Tuesday, October 25
Plan: 5 miles
Actual: 4.25 miles

Amy and I agreed to meet after work and I was so excited to get to run with her. I just love that we can be silent or chat the entire way and the run seems to fly by no matter what. The trail was really crowded tonight and we ran for a lot of the time "single file" since it's a double track trail. We wanted to run our "loop" but it was another case of chasing daylight so we settled for a modified out and back. She carried her flashlight this time and we needed it by the end. I forgot to turn on my Garmin so I have no idea of our pace but I could tell that we had really pushed it. It felt great!

Wednesday, October 26
Plan: 6 x hill
Actual: 6 x hill plus .5 w/u and .5 c/d

I ran my usual downtown would be the last of this training cycle...and for a while...because downtown is NOT a place I will run after dark. I hate to say that and to give my city a bad rap, but it's not safe, especially since our downtown is more of a M-F, 8-6 location and not very "residential". There are some awesome lofts and condos and great restaurants, but for now, it's the reality that we deal with. Anyway...

I ran the first at a slow, steady pace, picked the middle 4 up to focus on powering up and down (using the parking meters as stride counters) and ended the way I began. I felt a little sluggish on the "down" portions, like I couldn't loosen up but I didn't wear my Garmin, so I'm not sure if it was perception or reality. As I was running back to my car close to sunset, I noticed a couple of very shady looking guys peering into the windows of closed businesses and checking the doors/pushing on the windows and it made me run a little bit faster. Something was NOT right and I didn't want to be anywhere near where I was.


Thursday, October 27
Plan: Rest
Actual: Rest

I took Friday off work to spend some quality time with my mom before the weekend of basketball and football festivities. Since Matt works from home the majority of the time, we decided to head down to AU/OPL Thursday night to avoid traffic and to take one car. Traffic was hell getting home and then we hopped into Matt's car to continue the nightmare going south. It took us nearly 3 hours on a (slightly less than) 2 hour trip and my commute home was over an hour (75 minutes) when I would normally expect it to be 30-40. To say that I was restless and agitated when I got to my parents' was an understatement!!

Friday, October 28
Plan: 5-6 miles
Actual: 3.2 mile walk with my mom and her dog

My mom ended up having to go to work for just a couple of hours that morning and I had every intention of heading out for some solo miles while she was gone. But relaxation won. When she got back, she agreed to join me (and Ziti) for a nice walk. Beautiful clear skies, pretty leaves and comfortable temps. We did the route that we always used to walk when I was in HS or home from college "to the middle school" and "with the loops".

Saturday, October 29
Plan: 10 miles
Actual: 9.25 miles + 2 miles walk

It was a chilly morning and hard to peel myself out of the warm bed. My aunt left to do some cardio and body pump at her gym and I knew I needed to get out the door. (On a side note, I was also really glad that my Dad had given me some gloves when I saw him on Friday as they were perfect running gloves and I totally neglected to pack some for the weekend) When I initially left I thought I might run for 2 hours (1 hour out and back) but as I progressed my energy felt really low and the route I took ended up "cross country" for nearly a mile on the out and about .5 on the back. It's a locally popular road to run on but there were no sidewalks and no shoulder to speak of so I ended up running in the grass/gravel up and down some pretty challenging hills.

I ended up deciding to use a certain high profile local resident's house as my arbitrary turn around point (which I reached in 50 not my intended destination, but yes, faster than I should be running my long run). I ate a couple of left over "pink lemonade" honey stinger chews that were hanging around in my handheld pocket but I wasn't really thirsty and drank maybe half of the water/powerade mix I had on me. I actually thought I was going to negative split the run (which shocked me as I had to walk a pretty steep incline on the death trap part of the route) but I ended up being 30 seconds positive. I tend to do a lot of "time-based" turn around runs and I really do run overall consistent pace over distance.

Sunday, October 30
Plan: Cross (choice)
Actual: Rest

We ended up heading back to Birmingham a little later than planned and by the time we picked up the dogs, ate dinner, grocery shopped, did laundry, etc it was time for Dexter (and relaxing!) I (we) always cram so much into our weekends down in Auburn between visiting family and friends, events with the University, running around, working out, late(r) nights staying up visiting, etc that by the time the end of the weekend rolls around, I am zonked!

I feel like this was really kind of a "down" week but I was constantly on the go and heading out of town on Thursday really compressed what I needed to get accomplished M-W at home.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

101st post...and fun things ahead

I had no idea when I was posting yesterday that it was my 100th post! Feels like such a milestone :) But seriously...I have probably "written" just as many posts in my head that have never made it to paper (errr...screen?) I enjoy writing and love looking back to see where I was and really am resolving to get things written down even if they are not "perfect". I have mentioned before that I had a blog/journal on another site long before blogging was cool (2003!) and wrote in it nearly every day.

For fun and amusement, I thought I would go back and look to see what was on my mind on November 1 "back in the day".

2003: My first semester of grad school and I was talking about my costume(s) and the Halloween parties (and all that went with that). For our "class party" I dressed up as our econ professor (Yes, I have a picture but given that she and I are employed with the same university system I'm not sharing). For the bars, my friend and I dressed up as 80s prom queens, crimped hair and all.

2004: I was talking about Matt. We met in a class that semester and were still getting to know each other. We'd been out a few times, but nothing official. I was musing about new relationships, old relationships and the passing of time.

2005: I had a lot of job stress at the time, as I was finishing my administrative residency and job hunting. Matt and I were getting ready to leave for our first real vacation together (San Diego) and were talking about me moving in with him to his townhouse.

Self-portrait in the rose garden at Balboa park...just before he told me he loved me for the first time :)

We were at the zoo from open to close

2006:  I was trying to find my identity and voice with a new boss (my current boss), trying to prove myself and navigating new responsibilies and challenges.

2007: Matt and I decided that we would go to Vegas before the Christmas holidays. His mom was gifting us some FF miles and we were super excited. (We stayed at Ceasar's, saw 2 Cirque shows and I made the rounds through a couple of was a full...and fun...4 days)

2008: No entry around that time :(

2009: I was stressing about turning 30 and recommitting to running. I had just run my 3rd 5K (Komen) a couple of weeks earlier and feeling pretty out of shape, so I decided to start training for my 1st half marathon (which I would complete in 2010)

2010: I was debating on running the Vulcan run as part of my longer training run for that weekend. I did and had a great run. Yes, I will be running it again this year, but no, I am a procrastinator and have not registered in advance.

Fun stuff! And I love seeing the evolution of my life, relationships and priorities. And I look forward to penning my next 100 posts :)

So as I continue through taper, my next race and the upcoming holiday season, I do have a couple of fun, fitness things (besides races) that I am participating in and wanted to give a shout out to...and extend an invitation for any of you to join in.

First is the Pile on the Miles challenge being hosted by Monica at Run Eat Repeat  It's very simple actually: all you have to do is log 5 miles (running or walking) each week to be entered into the weekly drawing for fun, health-related prizes. Challenge goes through Thanksgiving.

And then, starting up in just a couple of weeks (post-marathon, just my luck) is the Holiday Bootie Buster Challenge (HBBC) being hosted by Amanda at Run to the Finish. This is my first year to participate in HBBC but I have seen it circulating among several bloggers. She has several great prizes lined up as well. And the good news is that there is still time to sign up! AND this year, she has it set up into different levels, so novice participants are not competing against those in Half Ironman training which I think is great :)

Let me know if there are any other fun challenges going can be tough to get moving again post-marathon, and I need all the motivation I can get!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

A Tale of Two Training Cycles

It's really and truly hard for me to believe that I am almost halfway through my taper and that I am running my second marathon NEXT WEEK!!! :)

These days I am pretty calm about it, feeling a little sleepy and pretty hungry. Craving salt and protein like none other and eating my fair share of Halloween candy (if you have not tried Dark Chocolate Mounds you are missing out!) We don't keep the Halloween candy at home but our assistant at work has a well stocked bowl at the main desk and due to the aforementioned hunger, it's hard to resist!

I have been even more quiet around here than usual because last week was a "short week": Matt got back from Vegas Monday and we headed out of town again Thursday right after work. Back to Auburn for football and I (shockingly) took Friday off and spent most of the day hanging out with my mom before joining my aunt for some basketball scholarship donor activities that evening.

That being said, my 20 miler the previous week went so amazingly well. On the 20 miler during my 1st training cycle I had a major crash and burn moment and even though it may not be clearly there in black and white, the meltdown I experienced was pretty epic. There was crying on the side of the road, tons of walking, delirious calls made to Matt and my mom, blisters...and an exhausted day spent on the couch. This time? 180 degree difference. The weather was pretty similar (read: warm by the end) but I ran smart and despite having a little bit of difficulty stringing together witty conversation when I ran into a former professor around mile 15, I really did keep my sensibilities about me. I had no blisters and managed a productive afternoon/evening of running errands and doing stuff around the house. I actually forgot my Garmin at home!!! (no, not intentionally) and I have no idea if this served to my advantage or not, but with no Garmin and no music, I was really focused on the external (enjoying the leaves, the fall decorations, connecting with others on the run) and also within my own thoughts.

During the run, I realized I was so much stronger and when I got to the bridge with a mile left and I knew I HAD IT I actually got goosebumps because I managed to shake the crash and burn cloud that had been hanging over me. Did I experience ups and downs? Of course. But on the overall it was night and day difference.

This got me thinking about my two training cycles and the differences between them. Of course I have "the experience" this time around and my work hours, while long and demanding, have been much more reasonable. Less days in the office at 6:30am and out at 7:00pm for sure. The residual fatigue from that was certainly a factor, but what about the actual training?

My first training cycle was all running, all the time. I went back and looked at the paper notes I kept and true to memory, there was a little bit of walking or "double" days involved, but yoga, cross training, strength training were otherwise non-existent. I wasn't hitting my distances or plan consistently during the week due to fatigue and scheduling but I was at least making it out there for the long runs. I also ignorantly tried to add in "speed" about halfway through the cycle, not knowing what I was doing or how to appropriately set tempos AND violating the good sense that you should not focus on adding distance AND speed at the same time. I'm pretty sure that is exactly what led to the problem with my Achilles and while that tendon has made itself known a few times these past 16 weeks, it's basically been just fine.

So this cycle? While I have not always been great about getting my recaps posted up here (maybe to your delight?), I have been keeping track of what's been going on in Excel. A quick tally shows quite a difference:

Strength: 11 sessions, generally in the form of a 30 min intense bootcamp or the 30 day shred (Level 2 or 3); when bootcamp there was a 2-3 mile run (total) that would bookend the workout for an extra dose of cardio and endurance. These workouts kicked my ass, but I loved them.

Days of run/walk doubles: At least 13 sessions of this; usually in the form of getting my prescribed run done first and then talking the dogs out with Matt for another 45-60 minutes for a hilly and brisk paced walk. Loved these (usually) and hated when daylight (or lack thereof) all but put an end to the ability to (safely) do this.

Yoga: 4 sessions. Not quite what I had in mind as far as goals were concerned but it's better than zero! It was hard to make it to the outdoor yoga or evening classes at my gym (6:00 was really not happening with work obligations and horrendous traffic) The good news is that my gym did add a Saturday class, so I was able to take this on weekends when I was in town (another reason why this number is not higher...I have been traveling A LOT this fall), as many of my long runs ended up shifting to Sunday.

Other cross training: Again, at least 15 sessions of this and not included in the run/walk double workouts or yoga counted above. This could include days where I did walking only, or hiking, recumbent bike, etc. It doesn't include all of the walking we did in Argentina which I'm sure kept my weight in check while we were gone.

Massage: Have been much better about getting worked on every 3-4 weeks though I am due, as I did not get a massage during the month of October.

This cycle I have also worked on "speed" with one session each week (progressive), alternating hills, tempo and Yassos 800s (so I have done one of each every 3rd week). These workouts have been tough but invigorating and have left me wanting MORE instead of feeling injured or burnt out. (Tempos are still my least favorite, but I have gotten them done!) I've run on trails, downtown sidewalks, roads in my neighborhood and some new neighborhoods, the indoor track, and even the treadmill. I've run alone and with friends...and withOUT my iPod.

Writing this, I know I have given what I could to this training cycle and while there is *always* room for improvement, I feel satisfied that I've found a fairly decent balance between the marathon and with the rest of my life. Who knows what will happen on race day...26.2 miles is a long way to go...but I feel physically and mentally good about taking on the challenge.