Selecting a goal race: things to consider

Recently I ran the Warner Robins Aviation Marathon as my goal race for a sub 3 marathon. Aside from wanting a more flat course, there are a lot of other factors that went into my race selection.  I made a list of considerations.  Some of these items may seem obvious, but I really struggled with settling on the Warner Robins race, so this list might end up helping someone trying to decide on their next goal.

Some really basic things to consider:

  1. Terrain: Do you want for this to be a trail race or a road race?
  2. Distance: Are you looking for speed or distance? Any PRs that you want to chase?  How long do you have to train? What shape are you in, and how soon do you need to be recovered?
  3. Type of run: Is this a goal race, or is this just a fun training run?  If it’s just a fun run, many of these considerations won’t make too much of a difference. But for goal races, it will be nice to focus on what will best help you succeed.

Getting more into the specifics:

  1. Destination: How far are you willing to travel for the race?  Will a long car ride or plane ride affect how you perform?  Will the stress of a new city add to your race jitters or make you feel more motivated?  Is it in your budget to travel, and will you need doggy/childcare if you leave town?  My next race will be a destination race, and my husband and I are really excited about the opportunity to travel. But we decided that my sub-3 marathon attempt was best run closer to home.
  2. Weather: What will the weather be like for the race?  Will you be able to train in conditions similar to race day?  One other element of weather to consider is humidity. Georgia, where I live, typically has really humid weather, but we can typically let that slide in the winter.  This is a really good website when thinking about humidity (and dew point).
  3. Running crowd: Do you like big races or small races?  Big races are great for feeding off of the energy of other runners and using the talent of other runners to push you to run harder. However, the larger the crowds, the more likely that you may have to weave around runners to maintain your pace. I love running Atlanta races, but they are always really crowded. For this reason, I intentionally selected the Warner Robins race so that no one could interfere with my paces.
  4. Fan support: is the race very accessible to spectators and how important is this to you?  Trail races very rarely have many locations for fans to gather.  Out and back races are more likely to have fan support because you get to see the same fans twice.  I did not realize how much I like some fan support when I’m road racing until the Warner Robins Aviation Marathon where there was only one place along the race at mile 13 for fans to stand.  I was fine, but it definitely would have helped to have a few more cheers.  The Boston Marathon is by far the best fan support I have ever experienced!
  5. Elevation change: If you are going for speed, are you willing to sacrifice some of the effort toward climbing hills?  For the right race, it’s always worth the sacrifice!  I really like hills (and the more the merrier on the trails), but for my sub-3 hour marathon attempt, I really wanted to limit the hills that I needed to climb.

It’s always fun to fill out the calendar.  I like to switch between trail races and road races. My next goal race will be on the trails, and I’m really excited to get back out there in my training and focus more on hilly distance over flatter speed.

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Ready to run at the ATC Thanksgiving Half

What races do you have coming up?

Race Report: Warner Robins Aviation Marathon

I started marathon training in November with the idea that I’d run sometime in January and try for a sub-3 hour marathon. My previous PR was a 3:24 from Boston, but my coach planted the seed that a sub-3 hour marathon was possible, and I couldn’t resist.  She created an 8 week plan for me, and I didn’t miss one workout (for better or for worse).

The Week Before

I didn’t actually commit to this race until after New Year’s, which just goes to show how little confidence I had in my body at this point to pull off my goal of a sub-3 hour marathon.  I stayed quiet about race day on Instagram, which if you follow me, you know that I post everything on there.  In November, I was feeling extremely strong, but by the end of December, I was having little (and big) health issues pop up, and I just felt tired. 

Part of my problem in this training cycle is that I was just chronically not getting enough sleep.  Our 15 month old still wakes throughout the night, and with teething and runny noses (both momma and baby), we were have had some rough days and nights.  The week before the race, I finally started going to bed early.  I don’t know why it took me 15 months to finally get my butt into bed early, but it was glorious.  And in a few days, some of my health concerns started to abate and I was feeling human again.  It’s just so hard as a working mom to see above the weeds sometimes. 

I always choose a verse for my goal races, and for this one I wanted something to remind me that God’s love is sufficient, regardless of how I perform.  So, my verse was Phil 4:18a,19 “I have received full payment, and more. I am well supplied […] And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” I’m thankful that the race went well, but even if it hadn’t, I know that my “medal” isn’t of this earth. It makes it a lot easier to run your heart out when you know that you’ve already won.

The Night and Morning Before

My grandmother lives 30 minutes from Warner Robins, Georgia, so my husband, baby and I stayed with her for the night.  My grandmother’s house wp-1484618173235.jpgis one of my very favorite places to visit to relax, but we had a few unexpected things happen to make the night exciting.  In one sentence: a criminal stole a truck and wrecked it across the street from my grandmother’s house so the five dogs that she is dog sitting barked at the eight cop cars and fire truck that showed up, and the wrecker that was called to tow the stolen truck ran over our water valve, so the water was shut off, and that doesn’t even include the baby who still doesn’t sleep through the night and my aunt who called at midnight to check on us!  🙂

I like to say this for the benefit of the new moms. I am still breastfeeding Cadence at 15 months postpartum, and I have not had any problems with breastfeeding while training and racing.  Everyone is different, but don’t let breastfeeding intimidate you out of competing.  You know your body better than anyone after going through pregnancy, especially if you are a runner.  So I breastfed Cadence the night before and the morning of the race, and then I pumped a couple of ounces in the car on our way to Warner Robins.

Everything went smoothly once we arrived at the race and I checked in.  The forecast changed to be a few degrees warmer than expected with full sun instead of clouds.  Also, the race started 20 minutes later than scheduled, but this wasn’t announced until we were all lined up at the start.  I wasn’t thrilled about the schedule change, but once I set my expectations, everything was fine.

The Start

My prayer was that the paces would come easy.  It’s the best feeling in the world to feel your legs floating during a race.  Thankfully, when the gun went off, everything clicked.  I was running in the low 6:40s , and it felt easy.  I ran with a small group of guys for a few miles, then many of them dropped off.  There were no females in sight.  It wasn’t long before I was running by myself on the course as we spread out.

My goal pace to go sub 3 hours was a 6:52.  Even though I was running faster than I had planned, my new rule is to run by feel.  If 6:40s feels like I’m running at top efficiency, then that is what I am going to do.  I knew that it would only get hotter as the morning grew later, and I wanted to take advantage of feeling good.

The course was not at all beautiful, but it was interesting to see different buildings on the base and see planes peaking out of hangars around the base. The course had minimal elevation change, but it was enough to have to work a little on the hills.  The hardest part was around mile 11.5 (and 24.5) where there was about a mile and a half of gradual incline. The aid stations were about every two miles, but I never felt like I could quite get enough water despite this frequency.

Halfway There

There were very very few spectators since it was a military base, and there were not many volunteers on the course.  I have never known whether I needed the spectators for energy, but I definitely noticed that whenever I passed anyone at all, I got a little bump in my speed.  The sun was out full force by the halfway mark, and I wished that I had worn my hat.  It was in the mid-70s by the time that I finished the run.  Otherwise, I felt pretty good in my zone and I was thoroughly enjoying this run.  This is what we train for and it passes so quickly!  You have to enjoy every mile because there are only 26(.2) of them.

By mile 13, my legs were feeling like they were running in the 6:40s, but I was pretty confident that I could at least keep pace to hit my sub 3 goal. When I passed the mile 13 aid station, I saw my husband and baby, and it was the highlight of my race (other than the finish, haha!).  Mile 13 was the only place where spectators could gather, and since I was completing two loops, I knew that the next time that I would see them was the finish. (Jon gets husband and daddy award of the year for keeping our one year old occupied at the museum while I was out playing. Below: it looks like they had a pretty good time!)

The Finish

So out I went for the second loop.  I knew that I could hit my goal, but I’d have to work for it.  For fuel, I was eating Honey Stinger chews, and I had packed one Honey Stinger gel.  I assumed that the race would have some type of gel at the aid stations, but I was wrong and only saw half bananas at one aid station.  I carried enough food, but would have appreciated a little extra should it have been available.

I was really happy with the Honey Stinger chews, as I was able to eat two or three at a time over the course of the run.  I mixed the caffeine chews with the regular ones in a ziploc bag.  I also ate one Honey Stinger gel before the race and one during the race.  The HS gels taste so good!  I’ve never cared for gels, but these actually taste like honey, and the consistency is more natural.

My left hamstring and both calves were feeling tight, but it was manageable and I was able to sustain a decent pace.  I started to slow to about a 7 minute pace in the last 3 miles, especially for the inclines.  At this point, I was passing a lot of walking half marathoners.  I was just focused on not letting my pace slip so that I could finish the race with a sub 3 hour time.  I kept comparing the last 6 miles of this race to the last 16 miles of the Yeti 100 where my husband helped me shuffle in to the finish. I’m still not sure which one hurt more, but both were uncomfortable and made the finish all the more sweet!

I finally got to the finish… and ran the wrong way!  I passed the turn to the finish, but since there were so many half marathoners around, it took me a minute to understand that the volunteers were telling me to make a turn.  So I took a left turn and finally saw the finish line!  Glory glory!  I saw my handsome husband and cute little baby, and crossed that finish line as first female in 2:58:22!

The awards ceremony was held about an hour after I finished, so Cadence and I ate bagels (and one of us napped) while Jon drove to a Subway to buy us lunch.  We got our award, and then we were off to my grandmother’s house to celebrate and shower.

Thank you to my amazing coach, Michele Yates of Rugged Running, for believing in me and creating a training plan that helped me reach my goals!  Also, thanks to the Warner Robins Aviation Marathon for hosting all of us for a great day of running!

Also, I’ve been training with the Milestone Pod, and here is the data it collected about the running mechanics of my run:

Did anyone else have a big race this weekend?

Seeing double: Training with two-a-day runs

This is the first year that I’ve hired a coach and actually followed a training plan. I’ve

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Second run of the day almost always includes a baby. ❤

learned a lot over the last year, including the value of intervals to help make you fast, how cross training is critical for ultra running, and most recently, the value of running doubles.

During my 100 mile training, my coach added a lot of two a day workouts, but I very rarely ran twice in one day.  Instead, I would run my workout in the morning and then hike, stair climb, or spin in the evening after work a few times a week.  For my current marathon training cycle, my coach has incorporated a few shorter tempo runs as doubles during the week.

There are several benefits to running double days once you’ve established a good running base:

  • You gain more cumulative miles, which helps boost aerobic endurance.  It also means that if you don’t have a lot of time in the morning, you can split up a longer run into two runs to still get the same mileage.
  • You challenge your body to recover faster when there is less time between runs. (It is recommended to give yourself enough time in between runs. Double runs are not as effective if you run them 2 hours apart, and many sources recommend five hours.)
  • According to Runner’s World, running doubles delivers a double boost of human growth hormone (production peaks about 40 minutes into a run), which helps build and repair muscle.
  • Along those lines, Runner’s Connect says running twice per day increases the frequency at which you speed blood, oxygen, and nutrients to the muscles.  Running a double run after a hard workout will help flush blood, nutrients, and oxygen to and from tired muscles.
  • Running doubles can create a spike in resting metabolic rate because you are revving the engine twice in one day instead of once in a continuous longer bout of running, which can help runners maintain racing weight.  With that, it’s important to maintain proper nutrition so that you continue to perform.
  • This also means that you put your body into a glycogen depleted state, which improves training adaptations. Studies have shown that glycogen content, fat oxidation, and enzyme activity increase when training twice per day.
  • It forces you to use muscle fibers that are typically not used, and your body learns to adapt to a new strategy of digging a little deeper.

Research and anecdotes all corroborate the value of running doubles, but for a working mom and wife, it’s a tough schedule to maintain!  For my current training cycle, it’s been made easier because my husband often joins me for my after-work runs, and we bring the stroller.  It’s time that we can be together and knock out a workout at the same time.  My doubles are also kept under 30 minutes, which is a much easier pill to swallow once it starts getting dark so early in the winter time.

I have definitely felt the effects of fatigue as a result of the doubles, which according to everything that I’ve listed above, should be a good thing.  With the increase in training, even just adding a few <30 minute tempo runs at the end of the day requires proper rest on rest days and a good strategy of recovery!

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After work double with the fam!

Do you run doubles?  How long is each run and what’s the intensity?