Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Marathon Training

This post is more for me than anything. Hopefully you don't find it incredibly boring. I use daily mile to track my miles and workouts, but I don't keep a running journal. I don't have a method of easily reviewing my past marathon training cycles, so I'm trying to do that here. That way, I can refer back to this post when I plan out my training for Boston, which has to get done soon...

Past Marathon Training Summaries:

Marathon 1:
Peaked at 40 running miles a week. All my running was easy (10:00 - 11:00 pace) with the running stroller. I only did 3 "long" runs: a 14 miler, 16 miler, and 18.5 miler. I did do a lot of intense cross training with the bike and row machine. For the time each week I spent running, I spent more time cross training, but I was nervous about injuries. I was hoping that the cross training would help my time. I had no illusions of grandeur here though. At that time, my current 5K yielded a predicted time of 3:35 for the marathon, but I knew that I had not trained properly. I was also lucky to even get to the start line, as I had pneumonia a few weeks prior. Marathon time = 3:51.

Marathon 2:
Peaked at 35 running miles a week. All running was hard. I did four 20 milers (8:45 pace, 8:15 pace, 8:00 pace and 7:47 pace). I also did a lot of intense cross training. Again, for the each week I spent running, I spent more time cross training. I did have illusions of grandeur for this race. My recent half marathon had predicted a 3:18 marathon, and having run some really good long runs, I thought a 3:20 was doable. I feel silly now for thinking that. 35 miles a week just isn't enough (for me) even with cross training, but again I was nervous about becoming injured. By race day, I was both sick and injured. Marathon time = 4:15. Side note: I don't think all hard running works for me. This was similar to the FIRST program, where you run three days a week and cross train other days. I felt awful all the time.

Marathon 3:
Peaked at 55 running miles a week. By this time, I figured I needed to run more. Almost all running was easy besides MP runs. I did a 20 miler, 22 miler, 24 miler, and another 20 miler. Most of my long runs were around 8:25 pace, while my MP runs were around 8:00 pace. By the end of this cycle, my IT band was bothering me. I had to take a week off. By race day, I was really sick. Sick enough that I almost didn't run the race. This was just a tough training cycle because Emily was only 8 months old and a terrible sleeper. Marathon time = 3:40.

Marathon 4:
Peaked at 57 running miles a week. All running was easy besides MP runs and long runs. At this point, I was getting tired of marathon training, but I was irritated that I hadn't even come close to a 3:20 yet. I did two 20 milers and a 22 miler (all around 7:47 pace). I was injury free and healthy at the start line. Marathon time = 3:26.

Marathon 5:
Peaked at 49 running miles a week. I mixed hard and easy running. Now I was thinking that I needed to mix in some hard runs with my easy running, but I was nervous that hard running would get me injured, so I backed off the miles a bit. I did at least two hard runs a week (tempo and interval). I only did three 20 milers though. The fastest 20 miler was 7:30 pace and the other two were around 7:38 pace. It's around this time that I started getting faster all around. I ran a couple sub 19:00 5Ks and a 1:29 half. And with the 7:30 pace 20 miler I did, I thought I had a 3:15 marathon in me for sure. I was injury free and healthy at the start line. Marathon time = 3:22. This race made me realize I needed to run more miles, while still doing tempos and intervals. I know I did all the right workouts for this training cycle. I just didn't have the miles, and I think I need long runs that are longer than 20 miles too.

Marathon 6: My Most Recent Marathon Training Cycle

Here's where I decided to change my training strategy. I can't complain about my previous marathon times, but according to every race predictor I've found I should be able to run faster than I ever do. I use my most current race times, but I can't even come close to the predicted marathon time (and I don't have a lot of confidence that I can). I'm sure one reason is that I didn't train properly, but I also think I might have a "high rate of fatigue." I have read in "Lore of Running," that the race predictors use some form of equation that estimates your race time based on fatigue rate. If you have a higher rate of fatigue than the average runner, then the estimators aren't as accurate. What determines your fatigue rate? Well, according to "Lore of Running," it has something to do with brain chemistry and max VO2 scores. He goes into detail about it all, but honestly I didn't read it carefully. I was more interested in getting around the issue.

I assumed that I needed to run more miles. Hudson's "Run Faster," has a table that gives you a general feel for how many miles a week the average person needs to run to be a certain competitiveness level. My miles a week for my 5K and HM training matched up with his suggestion for a "competitive" runner. To be in that same category for the marathon, I'd have to run 60-70 miles a week, so that's what I aimed for. I also assumed that I needed to do two hard workouts a week (interval, tempo, or MP). And I'd need to actually run my long runs easy to reduce the risk of injury, but that was going to be difficult (for me). I usually wind up running my 20 milers at or faster than my race pace. To motivate myself to run easy long runs, I switched from running for distance to running for time. I also decided that I would attempt to do some form of MP run the day after my long runs. So when I was out there for a 3 hour run, and I had thoughts of running faster, I would first think, "it doesn't matter how fast I run, I still have to be out here for 3 hours" and then "I need to be able to run a MP run tomorrow."

This training cycle was a lot longer than my past cycles too. Usually, I consider my "marathon training" to be around 12 weeks. Any longer than 12 weeks requires patience (on my part), and I find that irritating. Too much training, not enough racing. This was also the most miles I've run during any training. In college, I often ran 55-65 miles a week, but I had never made it to 70 plus miles in a week before. It's funny though, then I was training for the 5K, and I thought marathoners were completely off their rockers. I assumed that if I was running 65 miles a week during 5K training, then I'd have to run something like 140 miles a week to train for a marathon. And that was crazy talk...well 140 miles a week is still crazy talk, but here I am a decade later thinking that 65 miles a week is a lot for marathon training. It's funny how time changes our outlook...

I've included a summary of my weekly training below. You'll probably notice that the first 4 weeks built up miles, then I backed off for a week. The rest of the training cycle alternated between a build week and back off week. This isn't typical, but I had hoped it would help me stay injury free. I think I might try something similar to this for Boston, but make my MP runs faster and include some TM incline for the last few miles of my MP runs. I don't think I want to increase my mileage. From what I've read, once you get to about 70 miles a week you should really start doing doubles. I hate doubles. Running twice a day just makes me miserable. Maybe at some point I'll try it again, but it's not going to work for me right now.

Week 1: 44 miles - Base building.
Week 2: 52 miles - Base building.
Week 3: 60 miles - Base building with both a tempo and interval workout.
Week 4: 66 miles - Long run on Sunday, 17.25 miles @ 8:34 pace (average HR 134).
Week 5: 60 miles - Monday was 10 miles @ 7:27 pace
Week 7: 71 miles - Sunday long run of 20 miles @ 8:18 pace (average HR 136)
Week 8: 64 miles - Monday was 10 miles @ 7:22 pace.
Week 9: 74 miles- Sunday long run of 22.15 miles @ 8:07 (average HR 136).
Week 10: 60 miles- Monday was 10 miles @ 7:22 pace.
Week 11: 76 miles- Sunday long run of 23 miles @ 7:56 pace.
Week 12: 60 miles - Monday was 10 miles @ 7:32 pace. Mile repeats @ MP pace
Week 13: 47 miles - Sunday long run of 20 miles @ 8:00 (next day stroller 10 miler @ 8:11) -SICK
Week 14: 60 miles - Monday was a 10 mile stroller run @ 8:11 pace.
Week 15: 76 miles - Sunday long run of 23 miles @ 7:47
Week 16: 54 miles - Monday was 10 miles @ 7:05 pace. This was week 1 of tapering.
Week 17: 35 miles - I had planned to run 45 miles, but I was tired and took the "long run" day off.
Week 18:  42 miles (including the Marathon) Marathon time = 3:11 (Though I'm super happy with this race outcome, the race predictors were still quite a bit off. Those calculators have me running a 3:03 - 3:07. I'm not sure I have that in me, but now I'm thinking I might just have a sub 3:10 in these legs.)

That's it! I'd be willing to bet that this particular training isn't good for a lot of runners. For one thing, I've noticed a number of people out there actually run what the predictors say they can run. In that case, I'd think this type of training would be a bad idea. I mean, running 10 mile MP runs the day after a long run seems a little silly, but I think it really helped me. It definitely helped me mentally during the race. I'm guessing that it helped me physically too, though it's hard to know for certain. This was my most consistent marathon. My first half was 1:35:30, and my second half was 1:36:30, so my second half was only a minute slower than the first half. That's really good for me.

On another note, I hope everyone has remained safe through Sandy. I'm in Mass. We've been lucky so far. My house didn't even lose power. During last October's freak snow storm we lost power for 3 days, which was actually way better than most of the people around us. We've being seeing updates from NYC, and it looks really awful there. Thoughts and prayers for all those stuck in a bad situation.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Running is like Math

Being a female engineer, I often wind up reading articles about women and math or science. Things like why aren't girls attracted to math. I also find the topic interesting because I have two daughters. I started thinking about it more recently because a little boy in Kaylee's class keeps asking her why she has a Star Wars lunch box? He keeps telling her "girls don't like Star Wars." She said to me, "Isn't that crazy, mommy? Why wouldn't girls like Star Wars?" Why indeed...Naturally my mind started to wander to the whole girls and math thing.

I started to think about my own experiences in math. I came to the conclusion that I have no idea why girls (in general) tend not to be interested in math, but that as a whole our society has this weird attitude towards it. We have a tendency to think math is hard. We also tend to believe that either we're good at it or we're not. If you're not endowed with math skills, forget it, you won't ever be good at it. I don't think that's true. And here's why...

Upon entering high school, I was placed into intermediate Algebra. Everyone takes a placement test, and that's where the test said I should be. I did extremely well. Really the class was too easy, but when my teacher suggested to the vice principal (VP) that I move to the honors class, she said no. It would be difficult for me to catch up, and so I stayed where I was. At the end of year, we had to select classes for sophomore year. I wanted to take both honors Geometry and Honors Algebra II/Trig. I had goals. I needed those classes to accomplish them. The VP said no. It would be too hard for me. I complained to my mother, who called said VP. After their conversation, my mother told me if I really wanted to take those classes, then I would need to fight for it. So I went into the office and declared that the school was basically telling me I could flush my dreams and goals down the toilet at the age of 15 (yes it was very dramatic). At which point, they agreed to allow me to take the classes if my parents signed a waiver stating that the school wasn't to blame if I failed. Awesome.

Well, about halfway through the first quarter I was failing.  Both classes. It was awful. I went to extra help everyday after school, and obviously it wasn't enough. To make a difficult situation worse, the extra help made me late to cross country practice. My coach was irritated with me. Why did I need so much extra help? Didn't I do my homework? Couldn't I schedule it some other time? I had to push back hard and told him as much as I loved running, my priority was school, and if that was an issue then I couldn't run. He backed off. Then my mom saw my progress report, and that I was failing. She gently suggested that I move down to lower classes, and I threw a complete teenage drama tantrum. I told her that I felt like I was drowning and everyone could see me sinking, but no one would even take the time to throw me a life vest. She felt bad and a bit helpless too, I think.

I did manage to pull off a C+ in each class by the end of the first quarter. By the end of the year I had a C+ in one class and a B- in the other. In my math classes,  I struggled to earn a B- the next two years. So math in high school was really hard for me, but all the hard work eventually paid off. When I entered college it was like a veil had been pulled away, and what was once so very hard, become easy and clear. I received A's in all my college math classes: Calc I, II, III, Differential Equations, Complex Analysis...and I became a math tutor.

The point is, I'm nothing special. I don't have a natural knack for math, but I did have the drive to want to be good at it. Looking back though, I realize there wasn't  a heck of a lot of support for me wanting to be good at math (at my school). And maybe that's an issue. Math is hard for many people (boys and girls). Most people can be good at it though, even if it doesn't come naturally, with hard work. Math is a lot like running. Sure everyone has different capabilities, but even those of us who are not naturally blessed with talent can become reasonably good at it. It takes a lot of hard work though. Practice, determination, drive.

I know this is a running blog, so maybe my math is a lot like running analogy isn't all that interesting, but I wanted to share it with you anyway. It's sort of a big part of who I am, and something that I often think about.I promise more running posts to come! I do want to share a bit of my training for my last marathon, how recovery is going, and what I'm planning next. Oh, and good luck to all those running MCM today!

Monday, October 22, 2012

BayState Marathon = 3:11:53 :)

My attempt at getting excited for the race...painted nails

Pre-race taping and stuff

There were 3 weeks of tapering. And I actually ran less miles than planned all 3 weeks. I wanted to make sure I was well rested and when (in those weeks) I felt tired, I ran less. I figured by the time tapering comes being tough isn't all that beneficial.

The week before the race was difficult. Besides being nervous, my right knee randomly started bothering me, my right IT band randomly started to feel tight, I got my period, my asthma was acting up, and I seemed to be fighting off a cold. I iced, stretched, rolled, rested, took my vitamins, took my inhalers, and did my best not to waste my energy worrying about things out my immediate control.

I tried to get excited for the race by watching "The Spirit of the Marathon", but other than the parts about Deena Kastor, I didn't find it particularly inspiring. I was actually a bit nervous that I didn't feel more emotion regarding the upcoming race. I was stuck in my engineer mindset (completely logical, practical, and emotionless).

Race morning

I did all the normal stuff. My parents picked me up. (Thank you mom and dad!) The last hour was really annoying. I just wanted to start...

The race

My goal for the first mile was to make sure that I didn't run too hard. I kept checking my Garmin because people were flying by me. My first mile was 7:11. Hmmm, could that be too fast? Well, given that the Garmin is always a little off and that my breathing was excellent, I thought I was probably okay. I wanted to be cautious though, so I made an effort to ever so slightly let up on the pace. And I did that. My mile 5 was a 7:20, but then I decided I didn't want to get complaisant either, so I made an effort to ever so slightly increase my effort. And I did.

I felt in control the whole race. My asthma turned out to be fine (though I made an effort not to talk knowing that exacerbates it), my knee and IT band were fine. The one issue I did have was a cramp in my side. The kind you get when you drink too much water, but I hadn't drank too much. That cramp traveled with me starting at mile 5 through the rest of race right to the finish, but as far as things go that's no so bad. Just uncomfortable.

I didn't feel great, but I didn't feel bad either. I don't find running marathon pace easy. I also (in a way) find the first half of race to be more difficult than the second half. I think a lot about how the second half will be harder and the fact that first half isn't easy...well this mentally takes a toll on me. Anyway, I crossed the first half at 1:35:30 (according to the race clock, so it was actually 1:35:23 for me). I was quite pleased. All my training had been geared towards a 7:20 marathon pace which is a 3:12 finishing time, so it was a great half point time. I spent the next mile or so thinking about seeing Nick. He was waiting around the 14 mile marker to switch my bottles. Poor guy, he was stressed about getting the bottle swap right, which went just fine. (Thank you Nick for everything you did to make my race go smooth! I love you soooo much!) Then I was on my own until the finish. Once I hit mile 14, my mental game got better. I thought "12 miles. I've done a ton of 12 miler MP runs. I can do this."

Once I hit 16 miles, my confidence grew (though my legs started to feel tired). I had run so many 10 milers, and I ran 10 miler MP runs the day after almost all my long runs (on tired legs). So I thought, "Yes, my legs are getting tired, but I can do this. I did this all the time in training." When I hit 18 miles, I thought, "At most, I have a little over an hour to go. I can do that." I was slowly passing people. People were starting to fade, but I just kept pushing. It felt controlled and consistent. 

I hit 20 miles, and then there was just a 10K left. Less than 50 minutes for sure...my legs were starting to feel tired, my hips were a bit tight, but overall I was just fine. 21, 22, 23 miles past. It was at 24 miles that I really started to feel tired. I was getting warm, but I kept dumping water on myself which helped. I just told myself that I had less than 20 minutes left, and obviously I can handle anything for 20 minutes. It wasn't until the last half mile that I really felt like I was fading. People were yelling only half a mile to go, and I was thinking "sigh, I don't really feel like running anymore." Then I started thinking, "just 4 minutes, just 4 minutes, just 4 minutes." Then with about 100 meters to go, I saw the clock...and started hauling. That clock read 3:11:xx, and I thought "I want to break 3:12." The clock read 3:12:00 when I finished, and I forgot to stop my watch so I wasn't sure until later day if I had actually broken 3:12. My official time was 3:11:53! 

Final thoughts

My parents and Nick and Kaylee were all at the finish. Nick gave me a hug, and I started to tear up a little. This was the first marathon I've run that I felt like I was actually able to meet my goal. I had trained for a 3:12, actually hoping to run 3:15 (because to run a good marathon I have to train harder than the calculators seem to think I should.) I trained so hard for this marathon, got lucky enough to also have a good day, and am so happy with my time. Now I'm looking forward to not training for a marathon, running a 5K in few weeks, and a 10K on Thanksgiving.

Splits for anyone interested 

So there are the Garmin splits, which reported me running 26.52 miles at 7:14 pace, which would be super cool, but I know the Garmin was off a bit. I'm assuming the course is not long. I've assumed that Garmin error is about the same for each mile (which may or may not be the case), and normalized my reported Garmin results to reflect what my splits probably were based on my finishing pace of 7:20 per mile. Mostly it just gives an idea of where in the race I might have been struggling or not struggling...

Mile Recorded Garmin splits Normalized based on official time
1  7:11 7:17
2  7:12 7:18
3 7:15 7:21
4 7:17 7:23
5 7:20 7:26
6 7:16 7:21
7 7:14 7:20
8 7:17 7:23
9 7:14 7:20
10 7:10 7:16
11 7:05 7:11
12 7:07 7:13
13 7:11 7:17
14 7:10 7:16
15 7:15 7:21
16 7:15 7:21
17 7:13 7:19
18 7:13 7:19
19 7:13 7:19
20 7:11 7:17
21 7:12 7:18
22 7:16 7:21
23 7:13 7:19
24 7:24 7:30
25 7:19 7:25
26 7:16 7:21
26.2 7:22 7:28

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Tricky Taper...

The whole tapering thing is a mixed bag. Some runners love it. More runners hate it. And I'm indifferent (or maybe I want to love it, but actually hate it). I mean it's necessary, right? You spend 15-20 weeks beating up your legs, then aim to rest them up for 2-3 weeks in order to be in peak condition for some huge race. It's all very logical, which suits me just fine. Except there's more to it than that.

This training cycle I could not wait to taper. It was hard building up to 76 miles! I was tired, and so happy to have made it to the tapering part of the training cycle with no injuries! That was huge for me. But tapering is a big change too. I've been thinking about it, and most of us like routine. I think my body likes the routine. A huge cut back in running is difficult, and not just because of the reduction in endorphins  (which is what I see most complaining about when it comes to less running). For instance, I started having trouble sleeping. I realized that my habit of drinking a cup of coffee around lunch time wasn't working now that I'm not running as much. It was keeping me up a night. So I stopped the afternoon cup of coffee. Then, of course, by 2:00 I want to take a nap, but can't.

I've been finding that my runs are a bit sluggish, then realized that I'm not running far enough to feel good. Generally, the first few miles of all my runs feel sluggish. Often I don't start feeling good until after 5 miles or so...It is so annoying to never get to a point where you feel good in a run.

The real annoyance was last week when I ran a 5 mile run and my IT band started to hurt. Seriously? I have had no IT band issues in over a year. One would think IT band pain would be far more likely to pop up around a peak week, not a taper week. I immediately started to think about anything that I had recently changed, and realized I was suddenly using the foam roller more (because I had more time and it seemed like a good idea). I wouldn't think that the foam roller would cause an issue, but other than reducing my mileage, it is the only change to my routine. So I stopped using it, took a day off, and the next time I ran it seemed fine. I can only guess that I irritated something...

The last few days I've felt particularly tired. Is this from tapering? I don't think so. Everyone in the house is sick, so I'm sure my body is tired trying to fight something off. Oh yeah, everyone is sick. Is this totally freaking me out? Not really. I'm doing all the right things, so if I get sick, I get sick. There's not much I can do to control it...

On a more fun note. I did this ghost craft thing with Kaylee that turned out really cool. Here are a couple pics. It so looks like it's just floating there. It looks better in person than it does in the pictures too. If you're interested here's the link to the craft.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Trying to rock my taper

Okay, so I have exactly 10 minutes to give you an update...and I'm not a fast writer but I'll try...

  • Last week was my first taper week, and ended up with 54 miles.
  • I had 3 workouts: 2 x 10 mile MP, and 3x1 mile faster than 5K interval. All 3 workouts went well, but I was sore after the interval workout, which may (or may not) be because I ran it the day after one of my MP workouts. Stupid. Oh well.
  • According to what I've read (like yesterday) right now I should be aiming for 2 easy days to each workout day (not 2 workout days to an easy day). Okay, lesson learned. I'll be sure to do that that this week.
  • This week I'll be running 45 miles: 1 "long" run (10 miles) and 1 interval and everything else super easy (and shorter). The interval is suppose to be 6 x 800's at 5K pace. I will probably run the 800 workout slower and make it closer to a Yasso 800 workout, which shouldn't leave me sore.
  • It's sort of sad, but my 10 minutes is almost up.  
  • Life is generally good. We carved a jack-o-lantern this weekend, which was fun. According to Kaylee the best part is "scooping the guts." I use "we" loosely. The kids scooped guts for about half an hour. There was more playing in the slimy pumpkin guts than actual scooping. Eventually they got bored. Eventually. At which point, I scooped the remaining innards and carved away. The whole time Kaylee was asking "when will you be finished mommy?" (No pressure.)
  • I'm not super nervous about the marathon. Yet. I do have lingering doubts some days. What if my legs aren't rested enough? What if I get sick? What if I die at mile 16 again? What if my legs fall off? (Because that could totally happen.) All pretty typical. It's generally not within my personality to be a head case though, so my doubts are more like passing thoughts than really lingering. Overall, I think I'm in good shape...
  • Hope everyone else is doing well! I read a few people had marathon PR's this past weekend! Congrats!

Here's our super scary jack-o-lantern!

Monday, October 1, 2012

Shhhh...lean closer, I want to tell you a secret

No, not really, but there's something interesting I heard about a year ago but forgot (of course) to blog about it. For awhile, I was running with someone from work who runs a ton of marathons and also happens to do the Iron Man too. She volunteers at the Boston Marathon, and somehow she scored the mega awesome volunteer status of working in the elite tent. She gets the elite runners whatever they want after they finish the race.

Any guesses as to what all the elite runners want after they finish a marathon? Water? Soda? A nap? Apparently, it's hot coffee, which sounded absolutely awful to me when she said it. Seriously? It's not like Boston is a winter marathon. Also, I generally feel nauseous after finishing a marathon, and coffee sounds really icky to me when my stomach is churning.

During my last marathon training cycle (Providence this past May), I decided to give coffee after long runs a try. It was sort of hard because my stomach is generally unhappy after a 20 miler, but I figured these elite runners must know something that I don't. Well, it turns out I really liked it, and I don't know if coffee has anything to do with it, but I have a lot less nausea now too. Could just be a coincidence too, I do run more long runs now.

Now I'm wondering if everyone out there knew about coffee after long runs? What do you drink or eat after a marathon of long run?

In other news, I'm now officially entering the three weeks of taper before the big race day! Though I don't think the first week will feel much like a taper, but still, I'm almost there! Last week I finished my peak week with 76 miles and my last long run was 23 miles at 7:47 pace. I did two marathon pace runs last week that were both 11 miles. Overall, it was a solid week of running, and I'm still in one piece too! Yay! Now I just need to hold it together for three weeks. ;)