Off-Season Week 1 Training Recap

With a race at the end of the week, this doesn’t feel like much of an off-season. That’s what it’s supposed to be though. I may have run that race a little harder than I should have…at least that’s what I figure if I listen to my calves. I need to get better at this whole “off-season” thing.

Monday easy run
This was a fairly good run. I ran inside because I still haven’t been able to make myself run outside. I did have a weird feeling somewhere around my knee (yeah, that knee) but nothing like anything else I’ve had and nothing that interfered. It also went away after a few minutes. The rest of the run went really well and I got to watch one of the David Tennant Doctor Who specials that hasn’t been on Netflix until now.

Tuesday stationary bike + NTC
Stationary bike: I liked this ride. By the time I got to the end I wanted to have pushed harder and go longer. That’s the sign of a good ride.
NTC: I really loved this workout. (Yes, I am wondering who this person is.) I am still motivated to get fit overall and can tell that my fitness is improving just with planks. (I’ve been working on finally completing a 30 day plank challenge.) Those 60 seconds in this workout felt like a piece of cake.

Wednesday fartlek run
Eventually I will get back outside and off the treadmill but not this time. :) This was the first “structured” workout I’ve had since the marathon and I loved it. (It’s hard to call fartleks structured. :D) I felt great the entire time even though the “speed” wasn’t quite as fast as I have gone in the past. That will come.

Thursday stationary bike
I decided against strength training with the half on Saturday. (I’m not racing it but I’d rather not be super sore.) I did debate about that decision through most of the first half of the ride but oh well. It was a good ride. I pushed hard and got farther than I have in a while.

Friday easy run with some hard effort intervals near the end
This run felt really good. I felt really strong including the hard effort intervals near the end. I loved it.

Saturday Spinx Run Fest!
I may have let my enthusiasm get the better of me. :)

Sunday rest
I did this like a champ. Sunday rest days are awesome!

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Spinx Run Fest Race Recap

Half Marathon #26
SC Half Marathon #19
Spinx Half Marathon #2

Hang on…this has the potential to be very long. This morning was amazing in so many ways, most of them not about me at all.

Today I ran (not raced) the Spinx RunTown USA Half Marathon and Mom ran her very first time (in full on beast mode no less!)

Spinx Run Fest, despite its many flaws, holds a special place in my heart. Back in 2010, I ran my very first half marathon there. In 2011 I completed my own 26.2 mile journey there and was hooked. Today was another first, this time for my Mom. I am so excited for her.

Before the race I Facebook messaged and emailed everyone I could think of to let them know about Mom’s marathon journey and projected finish time without telling her. I also started planning my post half marathon finish plans. After a half hour or so I would start walking the marathon course back and start running with her once we met up. Once we reached the stadium I planned to dash in and get down onto the field before she finished so I could hand her the medal.

Back to the race…

We arrived with just the right amount of time, not too much waiting. I took Mom’s sweatshirt and we took some pre-race photos.

Spinx Run Fest Part 1

Spinx Run Fest Part 1

Spinx Run Fest Part 1

I headed a little further down to take pictures once she started running. Just after 7:30 she was off!

Spinx Run Fest Part 1

I was literally giddy watching her go.

The half hour before my start passed fairly quickly. I had no goals except to run well but not too hard so I could run Mom in to the finish.

From the start I decided to use this race to focus on form. Throughout most of the miles (a few times I forgot…of course) I focused on keeping my arms swinging front to back not side to side. It’s a little thing but the little things that count.

I had such a great time throughout this race. I put the clock screen on my Garmin and ran by feel, making sure that I kept the effort in the easy range. Every mile I was surprised to see mile splits under 9:00 (except one) with most of them between 8:30 and 8:45 aka my marathon pace. Somehow my legs held onto that pace despite not running more than 6 miles and a minute per mile slower for three weeks.

I’m so glad that I wasn’t trying to achieve a PR on this course. It’s seriously tough, so many hills! I loved it though. I loved all the twists and turns through pretty much every runnable section of Cleveland Park.

Around mile 9 another runner came up beside me. He held up his left wrist which had a Garmin 220 on it and said “I read your review.” Alright Garmin, where’s my commission?

I felt so much stronger than I expected.

At mile 12 I flipped the screen back to overall time and clocked one of my fastest miles of the race, 8:30.

All too soon we were at the stadium. As I made the final turn and headed onto the warning track I decided that I was going to pass as many people as I could during that last little section. Mission accomplished. I even passed one guy feet before the finish line. That felt good.

Once I crossed that finish line, in 1:54 flat no less, it was on to the next part of the day. I cleaned up, grabbed some good and headed out. A few minutes later I realized that I was heading out way too early so I headed back to Starbucks (I forgot to grab my credit card so I was limited to the Starbucks app on my phone) to hang out for a few minutes.

While I was waiting I got a second text from my coach who was out on the course somewhere near Furman that he had just seen Mom at mile 17.5. Spinx may not have had runner tracking but I had an in. ;) I used that time and calculated both her estimated finish time and when I should start heading out again.

Twenty minutes later it was time. I cannot put into words how excited I was.

Just before mile 24 there was a railroad crossing. This crossing must be the bane of the Spinx’ race director’s existence. Before I got there runners had been blocked by the train for 15 minutes. Yeah, that sucks.

As I approached the train started to cross the road. I actually shouted at the train because it would have sucked if Mom got stuck behind it. I had to wait a minute or so but thankfully it moved back into the yard. (I don’t understand that though. Surely the conductor could see that there was a race going on. Why move the train then?)

After I crossed I spotted a runner wearing orange in the distance. After a few seconds I knew it was her and could not wait to get close.

Once I started running with her I could not believe how well she was running. (I was a mess by this point three years ago.) She stuck to her run/walk intervals and kept moving forward. I knew she was going to beat my projected time for her by a lot.

We made the turn to head to the stadium and I started to get nervous. I had no idea whether I would get down on the field in time. That’s how well she was running.

We got up towards Liberty Tap Room and there were my aunt, uncle, my mom’s boss, his wife and his mom all cheering for Mom. She was so surprised!

I dashed off then and headed down to the field. I had just enough time to take a medal and wait for her to make it around the field. I couldn’t keep the smile off my face as I watched her start increasing her speed to pass another runner, a 17 year old no less.

She’s a marathoner!

Spinx Run Fest Part 2

Not only that … she did it in 4:36:38!!!!

What an awesome day. I’m so glad that I got to be there for this.

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Another’s First

This post has been a long time coming. I’ve held off mainly because I wasn’t sure it would actually happen. (Then I forgot about posting it for a couple days. Whoops.)

Watching my mom discover her own love of running over the past two and a half years has been incredible. I love having someone to share this with. I must admit, I never expected that the marathon bug would infect her too.

Tomorrow morning, bright and early, my mom will start her own 26.2 mile journey at the same race that served as my first marathon too. There’s just something special about a hometown marathon. (I just wish they would distinguish the medals from the half marathoners’ but that’s a story for another post.)

Due to many scheduling conflicts, her training has been jumbled and less than perfect. (She’s in high demand! :D) Through all that, even when the prospects for getting in adequate preparation seemed dim, she would not let go of that marathon dream. She persevered. Call me a runner nerd but that made me beyond excited for her.

Here’s to Susan becoming part of the real 1%!

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Off-Season Week Two

Since I am not training for anything at the moment (shocker…I know) I debated what to call these workout round-ups. For now I’m sticking with “off-season.”

This week was “full” of easy runs and no structured workouts. I kind of enjoyed it. I didn’t enjoy it enough to keep it up. I’m ready to get back into some solid base-building and strength training.

Monday easy run
This run felt pretty good, especially since there was no foot issue. I did start to feel a bit fatigued at the end of the run but that’s to be expected with the marathon only a week in the rear-view mirror.

Tuesday stationary bike + NTC
stationary bike: It’s been a few weeks since I’ve been on the bike and I felt it. :) I did like the ride though. Hopefully I’ll be getting a lot more in the next few weeks.
NTC: It’s been even longer since I’ve done a full strength training workout. I’m surprised at how much I liked it. Hopefully this enthusiasm for strength training will continue. I knew it would make me sore but underestimated how much.

Wednesday easy run
My legs (glutes and hammys specifically) were pretty sore after Tuesday’s strength training. That made this run a bit of a slog but I actually enjoyed it.

Thursday stationary bike
Since I was still pretty sore following Tuesday’s strength training workout so I settled on an hour of easy riding instead. I’ve been battling an oncoming crummy feeling (most notably a super sore throat) so I took it easy.

Friday easy run
This was definitely the best run so far this week. I took it nice and easy. There was nothing extraordinarily good or bad about this run.

Saturday stationary bike + NTC
I totally meant to get in another ride and a bit of strength training. I kept forgetting things and then realized that I didn’t have to push myself to get this workout in.

Sunday rest
When you do it so much it doesn’t feel quite as “enjoyable.” :)

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Twin Cities Marathon Reflection and Plans

I just reread the recaps for my first half and full marathons and it’s amazing how far I’ve come. That made a good experience feel that much better.

First, I must say that I am absolutely thrilled with my finish, as I mentioned. That was my prime goal, finish on a positive note or in other words, run a good race.

Second, I have to refer back to my big PR goal post. It’s been a big year. With those 10 minutes I checked the last distance off the list. It’s not often that a runner is able to notch PRs at the 5k, 8k, 10k, hlaf marathon and marathon distances. I didn’t make my reach goals for the half or full but that’s why they’re called “reach” goals.

Now to what went right. I already mentioned this in my recap. I didn’t stress about time. It baffles my mind that not looking at the clock helped me run a faster time. I know that the added stress and increased effort (to meet that arbitrary pace goal) would have left me very few energy reserves to draw on in the final miles.

I also stuck with my fueling and (modified) hydration plan. I’ve mentioned in previous recaps that inadequate hydration probably kept me from a better time. Even though the weather was cooler (which helped me tremendously), I hydrated frequently before I started getting dehydration warming signs.

Looking ahead, there are several things that I can do to improve. My half marathon times have consistently predicted stronger marathon results than I’ve achieved.

First, I want to focus on the long (and longer midweek) runs. Looking back, I feel like I short-changed my long run training for various reasons.

Second, I need to focus my training. The cycle that ended with TCM on October 5th started way back in April when I started ramping up my workouts to prep for Y2Y. It was also too fragmented; I had a few too many goals. These goals weren’t bad. They just distracted my training. I may run a few races before Rome but just as training.

Third, I want to become fitter overall, not just in running. My knee scare taught me that I can’t neglect strength training and expect my body to hold up under high (for me) mileage training. I plan to take a legitimate off-season to work on improving single leg balance, hip strength, glute strength and etc. I’d also like to create a plan that I can incorporate daily even after marathon training begins again.

Fourth, in a similar vein, I want to work on cleaning up my diet. You get out of something that which you put into it. I put a lot of delicious but not super nutritious food into my body over the last several months. It may take a little more time than cooking a frozen pizza from Costco but I think the results will be worth it.

I’m putting this all out there for accountability purposes. I’ve said it. Now, I need to go do it. Next stop on the BQ journey? Rome!

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Twin Cities Marathon Race Review

As usual, I forgot to mention several things in my original recap. Plus, I enjoyed this race so much that I want to devote an entire post to a race review. (Originally, I had planned to reflect on my performance but the review got a bit wordy so I’m saving the reflection for another post.)

This past weekend was one of the best race experience I’ve ever had. Before I get to the rave part of the review, I have just one critique and it has to do with the website. The design could have been much more user friendly, specifically by listing the options for transportation to the start under race day and not at the bottom of the travel page under all the hotels. All the information was available but navigation was a bit tricky.

Now to the good stuff:

The Expo:
After two poorly designed expos (MCM and SF) TCM’s expo had it all. There was a discernible flow down each row that took attendees past all available vendors without too much crowding. The volunteers at the bib pick-up and athlete tracking tables were both competent and friendly. (That won’t be the last positive statement about the volunteers that you’ll see in this review.) Everything appeared to run smoothly. Additionally, the river front location was spectacular. You can’t beat a well-run expo in a gorgeous locale.

Transportation
TCM provided plenty of options for runners to get to and from the start and finish in this point to point race. Additionally, the new Green Line light rail provides almost direct, cheap transportation to the start and finish lines for spectators.

Pre-Race
I don’t know where the announcer was set up but the sound system worked like a charm. Even away from the actual start area I could hear the announcer clearly. He gave prompt updates on time and instructions on entering the corrals.

The Course
I loved it. The “Most Beautiful Urban Marathon” moniker is not hype. A huge reason that I wanted to have a positive finish was so that I could soak in all the beauty. From the very urban streets of Minneapolis to the suburban neighborhoods surrounding the lakes, everything gave off an appealing charm I’ve never seen anywhere else. Technically, this course offers plenty of PR opportunities. There are some hills but nothing significant, including Summit Drive which is more of a really long (mildly soul-crushing) incline than a hill.

Spectators
These people deserve a separate shout out. I saw more spectators per mile than any other race I’ve ever run. Keep in mind, it was in the high 30s and low 40s that morning. People voluntarily came out to the course to cheer and support all the runners. The only portion that didn’t have spectators was part of the massive bridge heading into St. Paul. I’d be hard pressed to find friendlier people on the planet. Seriously.

Volunteers
Two words: Best. Ever.
From the volunteers at the expo to those handing out finishers’ shirts, they all had sincere smiles on their faces. They manned the water stops with such skill you’d think they’d been doing this for years. (Maybe they have!) It’s amazing how far a smile goes.

Post Race
Unfortunately, I had to return my rental car and get to the airport so I was unable to fully enjoy all that they offered. From what I saw, the “27th mile” moved runners efficiently through to get the medal, water, space blanket, chocolate milk and finishers’ shirt and out to meet family and friends.

I’ll close this entry with a hearty recommendation of the Twin Cities Marathon. If I didn’t want to run all the marathons in all the states (and etc), I’d be back every year if I could.

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Twin Cities Marathon Race Recap

Marathon: #6
State: #6
Minnesota Marathon: #1
Twin Cities Marathon: #1

I debated about a goal post. As I’ve mentioned a few times recently, I’ve been having mental issues with my knee which kept me from getting into my usual anticipatory race mood. It wasn’t until I got to the expo yesterday that I really started getting into it.

I wasn’t sure what my goal would be for this race. I finally decided on sub 3:45 so I could earn a qualifying time for Chicago and postponing a BQ attempt until Rome in the spring.

Then there’s the weather. I absolutely loved it and am glad I came prepared with a long sleeve shirt and throwaway gloves. I also purchased a hat at the expo which I probably would have been okay without but really appreciated through those early miles.

To the race itself…

Dad and I ended up at the start with plenty of time.

Race Day

(That throwaway sweatshirt has yet to be thrown away.)

I made one pit stop when I first arrived but I should have gone again after I got into the corral. Thankfully, that didn’t end up costing me too much time.

A few (very cold) minutes later, it was time to go.

Race Day

The goal for the first half was a 1:51 aka an 8:28 pace. I tried (and succeeded except for the pit stop near mile 9) to keep as close to this pace as I could.

I’ll say now, this was, hands down, the most gorgeous marathon I have ever run. It might just be the prettiest race, period, that I’ve every run. I loved the sections of downtown Minneapolis that we ran through. Since we stayed in St. Paul, this was my first look.

At this point in the race I felt good physically. Barely 6 miles into the race I started struggling mentally. Thankfully, this didn’t last too long. I wish I could remember what I struggled with but my memory is playing keep-away.

I do know that early on I started repeating the mantra “one step closer.” I don’t know why but this really helped.

When I got to halfway, I checked the Garmin and saw that I was just barely behind that 1:51, almost exactly on target. If I hadn’t had to make a pit stop, I would have hit the nail on the head.

I still struggled mentally. (I’m sure that longing thoughts of half marathons filled my head at this point.) I started thinking about changing my Garmin screen to the time and thus prevent myself from obsessing about my pace. The more I thought about it, the more I wanted to do it.

Around mile 14 I switched the screen and started running by perceived effort. This was so freeing. It kept me from obsessing about my pace and also helped this marathon pass faster than any of my previous 5. I gave myself mini goals of getting to the next water stop where I would walk through and guzzle water. I had planned on stopping at every other stop but decided against that. (I did stick with my fueling plan and ate 2 Gatorade chews every 4 miles.)

After that my splits varied widely (from 8:35 to 9:20) but I did not know any of these while I was running. That was both freeing and slightly depressing at the same time. Based solely on how I felt, I thought for sure that walking at each of the water stops was bringing me closer to barely squeaking out a PR or worse.

The things that kept me going were: “one step closer” and “make this a good finish.” In all my previous marathons I’ve felt horrible in the 20+ miles. I didn’t want that again. Today I passed under that 20 mile wall determined with every step to get one step closer to that strong finish.

The only thing standing in my way was the “infamous” Summit Drive hill. Looking back, I have to laugh. Compared to San Francisco or even Greenville, that hill was nothing. Don’t get me wrong. It still does not feel pleasant at all coming after mile 20 of a marathon but I conquered that thing. My legs hated me and marathoning but I conquered it.

After that hill only a 5k remained. I didn’t quite hate the marathon but I wasn’t exactly pleased with it either.

Between miles 23 and 24, I happened to overhear a spectator say something about “quarter after” to a runner ahead of me. I thought that might be either her projected finish time or the approximate actual time. If the latter was the case, I was doing better than I thought.

Then came the mile 24 water stop and the clock. I was doing better than I thought. That was such a motivator. Another motivation? “Shake it Off”. Say what you will about Taylor Swift, the idea of telling yourself to “shake it off” at mile 24 of a marathon is awesome. Shake off all the previous miles. Shake off your soreness and protesting legs. You’ve got this. I did just that. I shook my head and hands a bit, cleared my head and headed for the finish.

I could put one foot in front of the other until I reached the finish. After all, it was only 2.2 miles away.

After mile 25, I finally got excited about this thing. I could do it. I could PR. The only thing left to determine was by how much. With about .4 miles to go my music finished. I had enough for a 3:42 finish. Out came the headphones which got stuffed into my back pocket.

One last turn and I could see the finish, the beautiful downhill finish. Even though it felt great to conquer that insane incline right before the MCM finish, I’ll take an amazing downhill any day.

Would you believe that I somehow had enough for a “sprint” to the finish? I ran the last .5 (yes, I’m terrible at running tangents) at a 7:13 pace. Finally, an awesome finish. I’ve been waiting 6 marathons for this.

Race Day

(So, I still need to work on my arm swing…)

Final result?

Race Day

That is 1 second away from an exact 10 minute PR.

It may not be the sub 3:45 I had hoped for but I am more than thrilled with this result for the main reason that this was the best marathon I have run yet.

Since this post is already long enough, I’ll leave further thoughts to my reflection post. I’m off to walk the length of the airport terminal to keep from cramping up. (No more flights out on marathon day.)

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