Unstructured training (break) between training

I’ve been enjoying a little unstructured time since my last race, and it’s been great to get extra sleep and decide how I’m feeling in the morning to determine what kind of workout or run I want to do. Cadence still does not sleep through the night at 19 months, and I feel like I’ll be digging myself out of this sleep deprivation hole until she graduates from high school.

My favorite runs have been with Cadence in the stroller, and I forgot how challenging that can be!  It’s so fun, but we haven’t done any high mileage together, and I think Cadence is at an age where she’s not about to fall asleep and risk the chance of missing anything. We ran 13 miles together on Saturday, which I managed to extend from our usual hour by bribing her with Cliff bar bites throughout the run.

I’ve been getting at least 45-60 min of cardio a day, as well as 3x upper body and 3x lower body strength work each week.  My legs don’t feel quite as fresh and fast as I’d like for them to be, but I have no goals this month that require for me to push hard, so I’m enjoying a little less speed and a little more baby time.

I plan to keep May unstructured and move back into training in June/July for non-goal races.  I am signed up for the Peachtree Road Race 10k on July 4, and I’m also running the San Francisco Marathon (as an elite!) on July 23.  Neither of these races are A goal races, but I want to perform well and have a good time.  There are a couple of other races that I’m considering, but nothing else on the calendar.

I will most definitely be focusing on road racing for a bit now that Gorge Waterfalls 100k is behind me.  I just don’t have the bandwidth to run on trails enough to be competitive on the technical stuff.  Plus, I really like road racing.

Based on my last race at Gorge, and my future goals, my two main areas of focus are 1. getting stronger on the hills (San Fransisco!) and 2. being mentally tough and confident.  I felt so strong for my sub 3 hour marathon in January, but it all kind of unraveled for me when I got out on the course of Gorge. But that’s how you grow. 🙂

There’s a quote by Alan Webb that I love: “Experience is something that you gain… after you need it so much.” So true, huh?

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What are you working on right now?

Going into Gorge Waterfalls 100k

I don’t know if anyone ever feels ready going into a race. I mean, I’m ready to go ahead and get this show on the road, but there are always the questions about whether I prepared enough and whether I prepared in the right ways. This course will be different than anything I’ve run lately, including my training runs, but I know that it will be beautiful, and I’ll be there with my husband and baby, so what else is there to want?
A little info about the race
I signed up for Gorge 100k because my husband said that he wanted to travel if I was going to keep signing up for races, and my coach recommended this race as one of the most gorgeous races out there. (I have the best husband in the world in case you didn’t catch that.)  From the videos and pictures I’ve seen, I think I’m in for quite a show of God’s glory!  Gorge Waterfalls 100k is a golden ticket race, meaning the top two male and top two female winners get entry into Western States 100 for 2017.  So this will be a very competitive race with everyone going for gold, but it also means that I’ll get to race with some pretty impressive runners!  The course is out and back with about 12,000 feet of elevation change.  I have read that some parts of the course are very slick and rocky, while other parts are fairly rolling and easy.  With that much elevation gain, I don’t think my legs will get bored.  🙂  The RD is James Varner, and everyone who talks about this race also says that James is a great guy.  I look forward to meeting him at the finish!
It looks like the weather will be in the 50s with a 90% chance of rain.  We are also told that the trails may be icy and snowy in parts, so might be slick!  I mostly feel bad for Cadence and Jon to have to stand outside crewing for me if the weather is so unpleasant.  Hopefully the scenery will make up for it!
How I trained
I ran a goal marathon in the middle of January, and then my coach had me cross training for about a month.  During that time, I built up my strength with weights and continued with a pretty big weight schedule until the middle of February when I started running again.  My training plan is also heavy on speedwork and weights, and that’s what I’ve been doing for a little over a month now.  I haven’t had any really big long runs, but that’s not really part of my plan.
It’s so hard to trust the process, but so far, my coach has gotten me to the start of every race in good shape for a solid run!  As a working mom, it has been hard to get in the “extras” in cross training.  If you follow me on Instagram, you know that I incorporate Cadence into my training as much as I can.  Most mornings, I workout solo before work, but after work, Cadence is with me so a stroller or a baby carrier are often involved.  Time is so precious, and being present with Cadence, as well as a good night of sleep, have won in this training cycle.  We’ll see how that translates to race day.  🙂
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What I packed
Everything.  Just kidding!  I have all of my race food in little ziplock bags divided by aid station.  I’ve packed a lot of Honey Stinger products and Bonk Breaker bars.  I tried on my race outfit (same thing I wore for my marathon), and packed up extras just in case.  I have a race plan written up, but I know that that may fly out the window as soon as the race starts.  I bought extra pepto bismal after what happened for the first 66 miles of the Yeti 100.  Ha!  Packing for a baby is also another challenge, so hopefully we won’t be doing any last minute shopping out there for stuff that I forgot!
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Last Thoughts on Mental Toughness
I read an article yesterday saying that the best way to help train an athlete for endurance is to toughen them up. Hands down being a mom is the best mental toughness training out there!  The guilt (working mom + training), the late nights (still not sleeping through the night), the emotions (mine and hers, ha!), the breastfeeding (yep, still breastfeeding)… and still getting out there to train and do the hard stuff.  When I start to doubt myself, I don’t have a huge log of training runs or past performances to draw from, but I do have the confidence to know that I grew a tiny human in my belly, brought her into the world, and have kept her alive and thriving.  And my reward will be to see that tiny human and my strong husband at aid stations cheering for me as I pursue one of my passions.
Thanks for all of your support on my running journey! 
What do you do to relieve race nerves?

(Un)balanced

The other day someone asked on Instagram if I have balance in my life in reference to all of my training.  I use my Instagram account as a running account, and it’s full of training pictures, but it still made me feel a little defensive.  I read the post right before I went to bed, so I went through various stages of answering this question in my head throughout the night (made possible when your baby wakes you up in the night and starts the thought process over again).

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I woke up clear headed with my answer.  No, I don’t have balance.  That’s not my goal.  If we’re honest, not many people have balance, whether they are training for crazy goals, or just trying to survive motherhood in a world that has traffic and work and grocery shopping and housework and relationships to attend to.

I don’t think there have been many stages in my life where I lived a balanced life.  I’ve always lived in extremes. I finished first in my class in high school, skipping my senior year and going to college early.  I didn’t drink before I turned 21. I was not good at math growing up, so I majored in engineering and ended up getting my masters degree in it.  I finished the masters degree in 1.5 years, while my peers took 3+ years to finish.  I married the first person who I ever went on more than three dates with.  I never missed a workout until I hired a coach and she made me so tired that I finally took rest days seriously.

Like most runners, I’m a bit A type, and I also really love to train and get stronger and faster.  So this past year of running postpartum has been a lot of work, but it has also been extremely rewarding.  I compared my Boston Marathon experience to Disney for adults.  In that case, training for my first 100 mile race and completing it was heaven.  And the feeling of satisfaction in training a little harder to get my sub-3 marathon was the icing on the cake.  While I can do it, I’m going to keep going.  I have a supportive husband and a baby who fits right in to the schedule.  It’s hard work, and I have to make sacrifices, but that’s where I am in life right now.  Unbalanced.  🙂

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Is balance one of your goals?

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?

Goals for the next (marathon) training cycle

img_20161015_172000My husband and I took a road trip this past weekend for a fun weekend of hiking and hanging out with friends.  On the way, I asked him what upcoming goals he has for the future.  (Sidenote: they say the best marriages are those where the couple talks about the future together.) My husband’s response was like any normal person related to his hobbies and his career; mine however, are all running related. Haha.  (No, but really, there are always goals about being a good mom and wife, finally making it to work on time, and organizing my house.)

First, my big goal for this next training cycle is to run a sub 3 hour road marathon.  It gives me a knot in my stomach to even write that, but my coach believes in me, and I’ve gotten faster by running through pregnancy and now running post-partum, especially after training with my coach for my 100 mile race.  So, now I’ve put it in writing, and I can start chipping away at my big goal!

I’ve got my big goal, but in order to give myself the best chance of a successful training cycle, here are my three sub goals:

  1. Nutrition: reduce the processed food that I eat and reduce the sugar in my diet.  I am a chocolate bar-oholic.  I do pretty good throughout the day, but at night I eat a lot of candy.  Sugars increase inflammation, and I am already stressing my body enough with all of my running and strength training.  I’m kicking off this goal with the 7 day challenge to eat real food proposed by mskatieblaze here.
  2. Sleep: I have said this for a year now, but really, this time I mean it. My (one year old) baby is still waking up several times in the night. That means that I really need to get to bed earlier to get a semblance of good rest.  It’s a shame to not give my body time to repair and get stronger after all of my strength work and running.
  3. Stretching/foam rolling: This should be a no-brainer, but I know that I’m not alone in this struggle. We’d all rather get in just one more mile than cut the run short to do some foam rolling and stretching.  I just signed up for a program that sends me a new range of motion activity every day.  I’m excited to see how much it helps my performance and recovery.

What are your upcoming goals?

Heart and Mind: Craving the right things

A couple of years ago I read the book Made to Crave by Lysa Terkheurst, and it really influenced my thinking. I don’t think that I’m alone, especially amongst the runner population, when I recognize that there is something in me, a craving, that pushes me to keep chasing down the miles.  I love this quote, “God made us capable of craving so we’d have an unquenchable desire for more of Him, and Him alone. Nothing changes until we make the choice to redirect our misguided cravings to the only one capable of satisfying them.”

During the month of October, I am focusing more on croimg_20161021_224000ss training and letting my body recover from my 100 mile race, so I thought it would also be a good time to make sure that my heart and mind are in a healthy spot too.  (I also feel a lot more motivation to stay healthy on all fronts now that I am raising a little girl who is watching my every move.) The book is primarily written with a focus on food, and I have definitely been there too.  Food can be the perfect salve to a long day, and my candy shelf in the pantry is proof that I don’t have much discipline in that area. (I love the quote that is listed at the end of this post–wow, so true!)

But in this season of my life, my “craving” has definitely been more about getting faster, running longer, and pushing my body harder.  I’m not saying that there is anything wrong with the physical satisfaction that I feel with running, but it is important to know your heart in these things.  My identity is not in running. My identity is in Christ.

I highly recommend this book for anyone who has had issues with overindulging, whether it’s overindulging in food, exercise, or trying to keep the perfect house.  We were designed to crave, but those desires are meant to be focused on our Creator.  And when we get the cravings directed to the right Purpose, all of the other desires seem to fit into place too.

Here are some of my favorite quotes from the book:

  • The more we operate in the truth of who we are and the reality that we were made for more, the closer to God we’ll become.
  • Food isn’t sinful. But when food is what Satan holds up in front of us and says, “You’ll never be free from this battle.  You will always bounce from feeling deprived when you’re dieting to feeling guilty when you’re splurging. Victory isn’t possible.
  • Being ruled by something other than God diminishes our commitment and will make us feel increasingly distant from Him.
  • Yes, eating healthy and exercising get our bodies into better shape, but we were never supposed to get the satisfaction our souls desire from our looks.
  • Psalm 73:26 My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
  • It is good for God’s people to be put in a place of longing so they feel a slight desperation. Only then can we be empty enough and open enough to discover the holiness we were made for. When we are stuffed full of other things and never allow ourselves to be in a place of longing, we don’t recognize the deeper spiritual battle going on.
  • Some actions are not sinful in themselves, but they are not appropriate because they can control our lives and lead us away from God.
  • I was made for more than being stuck in a vicious cycle of defeat. I am not made to be a victim of my poor choices. I was made to be a victorious child of God.
  •  Life as a Christ follower will always be a learning process of depending less on our own strength and more on God’s power.
  • Obviously, the core of Eve’s temptation was she wanted to be like God, knowing good and evil. But we can’t ignore the fact that the serpent used food as a tool in the process. If the very downfall of humanity was caused when Eve surrendered to a temptation to eat something she wasn’t supposed to eat, I do think our struggles with food are important to God.

This little baby is definitely watching my every move.  That’s a scary responsibility, but I’m thankful that God gave us wonderful friends and family to be part of our village.

Do you have a craving that you sometimes need to redirect?