YEAH for the taper!

I've been waiting for these two weeks for a long time! Good ol' glorious taper. Today I only had to run 6 miles. Other than the two Fridays before races, I haven't run less than 7 miles in a day in a LOOONGG time!! Feels great to be done with work, errands, running, etc before it's extremely late!

I've decided to keep my mileage relatively high this week. I tend to taper really quickly. For example, my legs felt awful the week of the 20 mile. I gave myself a light day the Friday before, running 3 miles with striders. The following day, race day, my legs felt great! They weren't springy like they are after a long taper, but they turned around from being sore/dead to being able to crank out a 2:15 20 miler without too much trouble.

So, with that in mind, I'm altering the plan I've been following. Today really only called for 4, but that just seemed too light. I did 6 instead, taking it easy. I checked my Garmin after the run, found I averaged 8:08 pace (felt very easy, terrain was hilly) and my HR was just 160 (my max is 210, so that's at 65%). I haven't seen my HR that low in a LOOONGG time, honestly. Most of my easy runs I'm at 175 or higher. My first thought was: did I not have the monitor on correctly? Maybe my watch isn't reading it right? But, I don't think that's the case (at least I hope!). I hope it's just that I'm just more fit and am not working as hard. Exciting to see!

I'll keep my mileage at the 50 mile mark this week (keep in mind the long run of 17, which skews things... the rest of the week averages 6.6/day), then cut significantly starting Sunday. I can already feel more energy in my legs, which is exciting!!! :)

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17:57.31!

17:57.31 in the 5K at the Gustavus Alumni meet (just 5 seconds off a stadium record!). I am completely surprised I was able to pull that fast of a race off... I haven't done much VO2 max work, haven't tapered, and in general I thought all of my mileage would have made me slower.

My goal going into the race was a sub-19 5K, given all of my doubts above, so I wanted to go out in a 6 minute first mile. I don't race well if I go out too fast. So, when the gun went off I tucked into 4th or 5th place and just allowed myself to run easy. That also allowed me to draft, which was nice because it was pretty windy. We did the first 200 in 45 seconds. Perfect! That's even pacing for a 6:00 mile. We continued at that pace for another 3 laps. I noticed that the girls around me were starting to breathe hard. "Really?", I thought to myself. I wasn't hardly working, it felt like. Luckily, one of the other girls decided to break it up, and shot out of our front pack. I followed suit, moving up to 3rd. That lap was a 1:25 (5:40 mile pace). The second mile I basically cruised -- 1:25s each lap (weird how consistent I was, I haven't done ANY pacing lately). I passed the 2nd place girl, and had my sights set on #1.

We stayed about 30 meters apart until about a mile to go. That's when I could feel that I was just strong/fit. Yes, I was working, but not nearly as much as everyone around me. I came up quickly on Laura Edlund, leading, and was surprised she didn't hang with me. She's had a great post-collegiate season (also a graduated Gustie, class of 08), and recently ran a 30:04 8K (so fast!!).

From then on out I tried to see what I had left. I checked my watch with 2 laps to go and knew that I'd be under 18 if I kept up this pace, and might even have a chance at that stadium record. 2nd to last lap was in 1:24. The bell lap came... c'mon, Nichole, let's go!! I don't know what my last lap was in, but I think it was quick -- I was surprised to find that I had a good kick. I've never had a kick before! :)

I crossed the line at 17:57.31, and was super happy with it. 2 great confidence boosting races in the last 2 weeks!! Signs of good things to come at Fargo?

Now, I just need to trust in the next two taper weeks. I did my last "long" run yesterday, 17 miles. I actually felt great, and let myself go with it. For the last 12 miles I averaged 7:30s, and it felt effortless. This'll be my last workout where I let myself go if I'm feeling good (please remind me!! :) -- from now on out I'll have to keep it controlled. It's just so hard to pull in the reins, especially when I've come to love pushing myself day in/day out!!

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Seriously Unmotivated

Yesterday was not my best day...

I've been really tired lately, and I'm not sure why. This week my miles are down, and I'm not super stressed about work or anything else. Anyway, lucky for me that yesterday they were giving out free coffee in the morning at work. Otherwise I don't know how I would have made it through the day. Even with that caffeine (I normally don't do coffee or a lot of caffeine), I was moving much slower than usual and my brain wasn't functioning normally.

Fast forward to the end of the day: I get home, throw my stuff down, and then proceed to dilly-daly around. I RARELY ever waste time like this, unless I'm really tired. So, I convince myself to lay down for a nap (by this time it's nearly 7). I set an alarm, but sleep through it, not getting up until about 9pm. Great nap, though, definitely worth it since my head is much clearer now. I flip on the TV and try to motivate myself to get into my running clothes. Here's where the struggle comes in. UGGG, I really, really don't want to. I'm just fighting the idea - hard - for over 25 minutes. I keep telling myself: You should go, Nichole. You haven't missed a workout yet. But my brain just wants to kick and yell and fight against the idea of a workout (doesn't help that it's a speed day and it's already 9:30).

Nate finally gets me out of the door. We do a 3 mile warm up, and then proceed back into the house for water/to stretch. I make the mistake of sitting down. Needless to say, the same inward battle comes up when I try to get myself out the door again. Luckily, I have Nate there, and he's able to coerce me into going (by now it's 11:00).

So, I did it... 1.75 miles shorter than "the plan" and not as much speed as the plan, but at least I got out there. Hopefully I won't have another one of these days in a LONG time :(.

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Maybe not as good as I thought?

Just out of curiosity, I plugged my 20 mile time into a few race predictors...

Running for Fitness: Puts me at a 3:00.47. Puts my training partner, who ran a 1:24.50 1/2 marathon at the same race, at a 2:58 :(.

Running times: Puts me at a 3:01.35 (again, pegs my training partner faster than that)

McMillan running: Puts me at a 2:59.35 (whew!)

So, what I take from this is that I need to be even more mentally focued on that 3 hour barrier than ever!! It's taper time, but that means that I need to start doing everything right: sleeping enough, eating healthy, watching my weight a little more, keeping stress low. Eeeek!!

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GREAT RACE!!!!!


I'm smiling as I write this :)

I had a really, really good race today at St. Cloud's Earth Day 20 miler. I finished 1st for women (7th overall!!!) in 2:14.51, which is 6:44 mile pace. I wasn't sure what I'd be able to do, especially considering how TIRED and slow I felt this week. So, this is exciting and encouraging!

How'd the race go? Well, we got to St. Cloud a little late (my fault, I was the one who let myself sleep an extra 10 minutes)... aprox. 50 minutes until race time. We walked in to SCSU to get our packets, then ran back out to the car to grab all of our stuff. Dropped that back off in the fieldhouse, and then went out for a quick 4 minute warm up (trying to stick to the regime recommened in Advanced Marathoning). Then -- QUICK!! -- get on all of my race gear. Garmin, check. Nathan race belt, check (testing it out to see if I'll run the marathon in it). Bandaids on my heel, check (they're really cut up, since I'm switching shoes so often now :(). Nike Lunar Racer shoes on, check. Race number and timing chip, check. I'm now at the 12 mintues to go point. EEEKKK!!! I run to the bathroom, because I honestly couldn't run without going. Ok, 6 minutes to go (darn lines!!!). I sprint out of the fieldhouse, out to the roads. I have no idea where this race even starts. Luckily there are a few stragglers making their way to the start. I am running at about 6:30/6:45 pace, along the fence to pass everyone to get to the front. At least I have this shoulder to pass!!! I get to the start line, about 4-5 rows back. The race director instructs everyone to step to the start line. WOW. Just in time. I clear my watch, lock the bezel (for splits on the Garmin), say hi to Nate and my training partner Jenny, and try to relax. Note to self: be to race course 1 hour before start of race, at a minimum!!!

And the gun goes off: YEAH!! I'm excited to be racing. I keep it under control for the first mile, which is really hard to do when you're running with a bunch of 1/2 marathoners! My splits for the first 5 miles were: 7:11, 7:13, 6:53, 7:04, 7:01. Perfect. I just ran easy, and watched women ahead of me. Were they running the 1/2 marathon or the 20 miler? I had no way to tell. Just stick to the plan : 5 miles easier, then pick it up to marathon pace. At 5 miles, I was lucky enough to pick up a man named Tom, and we ran together for a mile. We began talking, and I told him my goal. He was more than happy to pick it up to 6:50s with me (he was running the 1/2 marathon). We talked a lot, which was really fun:). He was also super nice and allowed me to take the waterstops first, cut to the inside of corners, etc. WOW. Seriously, that meant a LOT to me. When he just had a mile or two to go, I began to pester him about picking it up :). He was at conversation pace, which is fine... but with 2 miles to go, you should see what you have to go!! He said that he just needed a 1:45 to qualify for the fast corral for TCM. Fair enough, I told him :). He turned to finish, wished me good luck, and I had 7 miles to go. Brutal!

I wasn't feeling bad, though, in fact, I was in a really good rhythm. Here were splits with Tom from mile 6-13: 6:49, 6:53, 6:50, 6:42, 6:47 (took a Hammer Gel at mile 10, feeling a little hungry), 6:49, 6:38, 6:31 (oops!!). As he turns off to finish, I wonder if I've let myself go too fast. I feel pretty good, though. I only have 7 to go. Can I keep it up? I see one lone woman ahead of me, in red shorts. I tell myself that I'm going to get her. Problem? I don't seem to be gaining on her, even with a 6:31. My next few miles were pretty quick: Mile 14 and on: 6:38, 6:36, 6:23, 6:26. Gaining a little on red each mile. I can feel the liquid and Gel in my stomach a little, so start to limit the amount I'm drinking. I know at this point I'm not digesting a lot. Problem is, I get a little dizzy when my blood sugar gets low (and I started to feel that with 5 miles to go), so I have to make sure I have enough in me...

I caught the girl in red at mile 17. She's breathing really had, and tries to keep up, but just can't. YES!! :). I'm still feeling really good, considering I'm at 17 miles. I just have 3 to go. At this point, I'm passing 1/2 marathoners who I'm lapping left and right. It's SO fun to be cheered on by people. The women in the race were especially enthusiastic. What a confidence booster! My 3rd to last mile was in 6:35. Uh, oh. Did I let myself to too soon? 2 miles to go, I can do this. C'mon Nichole, I cheer to myself. Let's see what you have left. The 2 mile to go split clicks off in 6:29. Just one to go!! I'm flying by people at this point, and decide to go for broke. The finish of the race is really neat, curving around and finishing in the stadium. :) It was so loud, and I could hear my training partner, Nate, a few friends from work -- all cheering my name. I finished strong, and looked at my watch: a 6:15 last mile!!!! WOW.

I felt a little sick afterwards. Partially because I wanted to drink a LOT of water, but then my stomach wanted to rebel. My quads never tightened up like they did for Houston, which was very nice:). It's nice to be able to walk after a race!! We stayed for awards, and I picked up a nice etched-glass trophy and a cash check :). No better award!

I don't know that'd I'd change a lot about this race. I raced to my potential, and it shows me how well I can run if I run from behind (slow at the start, negative splitting the last half). I'll have 3 weeks now to decide what strategy to use for the marathon... do I risk it and take it out slow? It's very hard to negative split a marathon. But, as proven by today, I can definitely do that. I did the first 10 miles in: 69:23, the second 10 miles in: 66:48.

Question of the day (or for the next three weeks!): Can I do a similar negative split in the marathon??????? Any comments/opinions would be greatly appreciated. Seriously. Please comment here.

P.S. Random fun comments from cheering runners/spectators:
1. 9 year old boy on sidelines: Look at that kid, mom! Wow! Mom: I don't think that's a kid?
2. Gosh, look at their small butts! (They had already been passed by woman in red, then me 20 seconds later... the women talking were 2:30 1/2 marathoners, being lapped)
3. Darn Relayer!! (Man accusing me of doing the 1/2 marathon relay, which would explain the reason I was FLYING past him, I was actually lapping him...)
Oh, how I love random comments...

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Dehydrated??...

Not a great run today. The tempo was pretty good (7:38), which surprised me because my legs didn't feel great. But 7:30s seemed to take a lot less effort than 8:00s, so I just went with it. At about 10 miles, though, I started to feel my quads tighten up and in general didn't feel as good. I was completely dry and had a salty film all over. Gross. I did another 2 miles, but then called it quits. No use in running through feeling like this just to get mileage in. I've learned my lesson... listen to your body.

I hope it's just the fact that I'm not used to running in heat and haven't been hydrating properly. It might also be that I pushed it a little too much last week (I added marathon pace to a long run, did the repeats faster than I was supposed to... but I felt so GREAT last week!! Had to take advantage of that). Maybe my body hasn't fully recovered? At any rate, I need to get that "spring" in my legs back before Saturday's race.

So, I have a water glass next to me as I write this :). Wondering what I should do tomorrow? The plan originally called for 8 in the AM and 4 in the PM plus a few striders...

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Spring - Finally!!

There is nothing better than the first few runs in good weather!! It even makes hard workouts seem that much easier :)

I'm at the 3.5 weeks until race day mark, which is both exciting and scary :). Fargo is still under water, which concerns me a little bit... will the river receed enough in the next 3 weeks??

I'm excited for this Saturday. I'm running in the Earth Day 20 mile race in St. Cloud. It should be a really good test of my fitness -- I haven't quite decided what my strategy will be (how many miles at marathon pace should I do?), and I don't know if I'll have one... sometimes it's best just to race without a plan, listening to your body and responding to competition. I'd like to take it out a little easier, picking it up to marathon pace somewhere around the 5-6 mile mark. That'd give me 14-15 miles at marathon pace, which would be a really good, grueling workout. I guess my ony real "strategy" for the race is to make sure I have something left at the end so I can practice finishing strong. No more of this "survival" running like I did at the end of Houston!! It'd be fun to be in the top 3 as well, but we'll see who shows up on race day.

The race will also give me the chance to practice with gels, water stops, breakfast, etc. I don't think I did a good job of that at Houston -- I was pretty dizzy (low sugar?) at the end, and I know I was dehydrated.

Hopefully my legs taper up well the last part of this week. I've been going pretty hard lately (84 miles last week!!!), and they're just a little more sluggish. I did a 1200 meter VO2 max workout last evening, and even though my legs didn't feel "fast", I was able to hit them at: 4:10, 4:11, 4:08, 4:01 (it's downhill). I was surprised. So even though I'm tired, I think my legs are strong and getting faster. Add a little bit of taper in there, and let's hope it equates to a good race!

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52 miles -- in 3 days!!

This week is a lot, even by my standards. In the last 24 hours, I've run 30 miles. I took Monday off, but counting Sunday's 22 puts me at 52 in the last 3 training days. My body is responding well (very few aches/pains and almost no soreness, which I'm surprised at), but I do find myself a little more tired generally. I can't imagine keeping this mileage up for very long -- it consumes your life! All I feel like I do is 1) sleep 2) work (2 jobs) and 3) run. It's short term (just two more weeks until I taper!), and I'm really looking forward to having more time for the little things -- errands, the house, etc. I cannot even imagine trying to juggle this with kids. Major props to all the women/men out there who do!!!!

So, what have those 52 miles been? Sunday was my long run (22) which I finished with 3 miles at marathon pace. Tuesday AM was a 5 mile easy run, averaging 8:05 or so. Tuesday PM was 4x1200m VO2 Max workout, and I was surprised how good my legs felt!! Until now, they've felt terrible on my speed days (probably just adjusting to the mileage). Last week I did them in about 4:22. This week I was at 4:13, 4:05, 4:13, 4:06. I felt much stronger and smoother. What a fun feeling! Wednesday was a medium-long run (15 miles, 7:40 pace) which went pretty smooth. I've been having a few stomach issues (feeling very nauseous), and this run was no exception. I really need to do something (change the times I eat? What I eat?), because it makes an otherwise fun easy distance day into a miserable run. Suggestions, anyone?


Me at the end of my 15 miler. Great day!! Gotta love spring :)

Best part about these three days is how I feel -- strong and confident. I really feel like the changes I've made to my training plan are paying off!! Now, I just need to survive the rest of this week and next :). Injuries, stay away.

P.S. I bought Nike Lunar Racers the other day at Run N Fun -- love them!!!!! I did my 1200s in them to test them out, and am hoping to race the Earth Day 20 mile race in them as a test before the marathon.
P.P.S. I was depressed today when I realized that my new training shoes (bought 1.5 weeks ago) already had over 100 miles on them. That means in about 2.5-3 weeks I'll need a new pair :(.

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April Snow Showers




Last week was a big week for me -- I hit 69 miles, which is the most that I've ever logged. I had hit 64 for Houston, and was around 65 in my peak weeks in college. This week I'm planning to hit 77-80, wish me luck!




I can tell the mileage is making me stronger. I also feel a big difference in my ability to hit my marathon pace without too much effort. This Sunday's long run was a great example of that. I woke up early and put in 6 miles before my training partner met me at my house. She had 16 on her plan, I had 22. The first 6 miles were pretty miserable -- high winds, big, wet snow, thick slush on the bike paths. I picked her up (along with my husband) and we ventured off. The next 16 went really smoothly, all things considered. We hit a minor diversion when we found that one of our paths was completely covered in water (running water, at that!). So, we just ran along an on-ramp until we found a fence we could hop... which for me is easier said than done :). I ended up snagging my tights. Big bummer. Hopefully I can fix them?? (I'm not the best seamstress)


Nate left my Jenny and I around 5 miles to go. We continued on to a loop by my house (I wasn't sure if I could keep up at the end since she wanted to pick it up the last 2-3 miles, and I didn't want her to get lost). Our 4th to last mile was in 7:22 (I could tell she was getting excited to pick it up! I was getting nervous, since that pace takes a bit of effort for me). We then "officially" tried to pick it up. I was amazed that I was able to lead the pick-up, and without much effort! It was SO much easier than the 7:22 mile. I was able to do all 3 with her, in 6:47, 6:51, 6:55 (hill at end). And the exciting part was that I felt smooth, strong, and (fairly) comfortable. Not bad for the end of a 22 miler!!






Now, on to the challenge of trying to fit an 80 mile week into a holiday week...




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My post from 4/2/09

Great week (weather aside :)! I'm back and healthy and have had some really great workouts. On Sunday I tried my first marathon pace workout inside of a long run. I did 20 miles total, 7 as a "warm up" (7:30 pace), then 12 at marathon pace (6:50), then a mile "shuffle" as a cool down. This is a FABULOUS workout for a marathon. At about 8 miles my legs started to feel dead (they were already tired before the run started), but you have to force yourself to run through that and to keep on pace. I made sure my last mile was really strong, clocking that in 6:23. I started out running this with my training partner, but she dropped back at about 8 miles. She's been training a lot more/more consistently than I have, and during the first 7 miles I was worried I wasn't going to be able to keep up. But, I was able to... and left her about 2 minutes behind me. That gave me confidence that my strength really is in the LONG, HARD stuff, and that I'm probably in better shape than I think. I was also excited that I can easily find my marathon pace and hold it steady -- my mile splits were consistently 6:49, 6:50, 6:50, 6:49, 6:51, etc, without too much monitoring!

The rest of this week's focus has been on endurance. I'll hit 70 miles this week (first time, ever!), and so far my legs are responding well. They're also adapting to the higher mileage -- yesterday I did a 15 mile easy run, and they aren't too sore today. Last week that same 15 mile middle-of-the-week run really drained my legs. So, that's exciting!!

P.S. I went out for the first time on my new Marwe 610s (I broke down and bought a pair) -- I love them! I was also surprised how much more stable I felt on them this year vs. last year. My goal is to get out 1-2 times per week for 30-45 minutes, just nice and easy, just to get used to balancing.

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I am trying to figure out this new blog format. Wish me luck!

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