1st day "back"

I'm back to following a plan. I still don't know what the main goal will be for this winter/early spring (i.e. which race we're going to exactly target), but it feels so good to be at least working hard toward something.

Yesterday was the start of my strength plan and my first tempo run. Both felt great. I did the tempo work on the treadmill since the wind was gusting to 60 mph. I hate the treadmill. My hamstring hates it too. I did 3x1 mile at 6:00 pace with 1 minute rest, the first without incline, the next 2 at 2% grade. Felt easy. I would have done more, but I could tell I was running a little differently because of my hamstring on the last one. Hate that. It's an old injury that left me with some scar tissue -- and it always comes back when I'm going up tempo on a treadmill. UGH.

Then Nate and I went through my strength routine. Wow! I think this is going to make a HUGE difference for me. Honestly. Even though I look like I'm strong, I'm really not. The plan called for 12-25 reps of each, 2 sets of 9 different exercises. It kicked my butt, and I only did about 12 reps of each. During the last few, I exclaimed, "Seriously... I'm going to be doing this 3x a week for the next year?!?" Guess I've never done much strength training before, so the thought of doing this, often, for a year, is a little daunting. Is this the way non-runners feel when they're starting a long training program? Excited about what it'll do, but intimidated by the time it'll take? Wondering how you'll ever stick to it all?

He replied back, "Yeah -- think of how much stronger you're going to be!". How true!! Again, I think this is going to make a really big difference in my running (and ability to stay injury-free).


More notes for next cycle

I want to start somewhat of a "list" of things I did well and things I could improve upon for next cycle. I'll add to this as I think through my upcoming goals/plans for next cycle. Again, this serves more of a purpose for me than for any type of blogger-reader pleasure, sorry!

Things that I did well:
1. Consistency of training. This is 100% due to Jerry. Wow, what a difference working with him has made! Even though I didn't have big mileage weeks, I was still able to train more miles in total during this cycle (and it was even pretty short!) than I have before, just because I didn't have the big ups and downs.

2. Listened to my body. I can "feel" now when my hips/back aren't in alignment, and don't hesitate to go into the chiropractor. That made a huge difference in keeping me healthy.

3. Started some sort of strength work about 5 weeks before the marathon, based on a presentation given at Finn Sisu. Before this, I wasn't doing much of anything. I also devoted a lot more time to stretching, something I skipped out on before.

4. Didn't overly consume myself with thinking about "the plan". I trusted in what Jerry gave me and just went out and did it. Previously, I'd have a plan laid out, but then would constantly be thinking about it, changing it, just questioning it in general. That takes WAY too much brain power.

Things that I can do better:
1. Following a more consistent strength plan. Chrissy B. of Fit Life is going to help me with that. If something is laid out for me, and I don't have to think about it, I'm more than able and excited to do it... I think before I've always just not had the brain power to think through a strength program, and because I don't have anything planned, I just didn't do much of anything. So, Chrissy formally becomes a part of my "Trials Team" :). Pretty exctied about it.

2. Mileage and duration of marathon training cycle. The build up to TCM was great, don't get me wrong, but it was short, and the mileage wasn't super high. I think I can (and will) build on this, which will just make me stronger.

3. Speed. My 5k speed was just 18:00 before the marathon. I need to bring that down a bit. Easy to work on: in the TCM cycle I only did 3 or 4 VO2 max workouts, and only right at the end. We just didn't have that much time to cram everything in during the cycle because of the injury, so focused more on tempo and threshold.

4. Weight. I know this is a taboo subject, so I don't want to dwell on it too much. But I can improve on this. Nothing drastic, but I should probably be a little leaner before a trials-time effort. I think consistent mileage over a period of time (and not starting from scratch without much muscle and a bunch of extra flab), a good strength training program will probably take care of it :) I can eat a lot more fruits and vegetables too :)

5. Training partners. I did way too much of my training alone. Nate was great (ha, that rhymes), but he doesn't do all of the workouts with me. I did all of my VO2 max stuff alone, which although that worked, I know I work a lot harder when I'm chasing someone. Not sure who I can contact, especially since I live in RW, which is a little bit of a haul. One of my thoughts was to ask the RW CC coach if a few of his boys would want to run through the winter... maybe they'd be up for a hard workout every now and again? Any ideas, anyone?

6. Mental toughness. If you've been reading this blog recently, you know what I mean :) In general, I need to re-learn how to RACE, and especially how to race a marathon.

Hope all of these improvements lead to shaving 5:27 off!!

I'm sure I'll be adding to this as I think of things.


Random comment of the day

During last night's run around the high school:

"Todd thinks you're HOT!"

"Yeah, turn around! Todd thinks you're hot!!"

I sort of laughed at myself. Oh, high school.

Then I thought to myself, "Wow, I'm 27, and the oldest Todd COULD be is about 17. Hmm. 10 years, really? When did I get old?!?" (I don't feel old! I feel like high school wasn't that long ago!!)


TCM Miles 13.1-26.2

I crossed the 1/2 way mark at 1:26.11 or so. WAAAY behind my goal 1/2 time of 1:24.30.

At this point, I'm easily cruising at 6:29 or below pace. I check in with myself: I'm feeling really good!! Should I start to push? I tell myself to continue to hold back. Stick to the plan. If you're still feeling good at 20, you can go then.

So, I cruised through what's normally referred to as "no man's land" (miles 13-20) with very little effort. I'll post splits later tonight. I took my 4th gel at mile 17 and sipped on that from miles 18-20.

I wish I could record my thoughts during this part of the race. Honestly, I have no idea what I even think about during this time. I know I thought back to my "epic" Sunday run a couple of times (I vaguely remember thinking once or twice that I wanted to let up, that this pace was tough and I wasn't cut out for marathoning). Note for next time: it's pretty important to be able to draw upon a really tough workout that you nailed. I think I'd definitely repeat that workout again, just for the mental confidence boost it gave me. Other than that thought, I can't remember a single thing I thought about.

I took another gel at mile 21 or so and sipped on that until mile 26. That worked out perfectly. No diziness whatsoever (could have been I stayed better hydrated as well). I managed my energy as well as I think I could have.

Then came the 10k to go mark. At this point I honestly was looking forward to a nap at the finish line (I pictured myself in the medical tent taking a nap :). Is this normal? Honestly, I get sleepy at this point in a marathon, and I have no idea why (or if this is anything anyone else feels?). Has the caffeine in my gels worn off? Am I just allowing myself to lose focus? I shake if off, and charge ahead. C'mon, Nichole. Focus. This is the part of the race you OWN.

Problem is, the course profile for the last 10k doesn't exactly lend itself to making up time. I guess I hadn't thought much about that. Seems pretty dumb now. Miles 21-23 are entirely uphill. I didn't notice the uphills much at all, though -- thank you Red Wing for making me a strong hill runner -- but it makes it impossible to make up time. 6:40 miles for 21-22 was all I could muster, and I was working hard. Bummer!! I was hoping to make up some time here, not lose more time!!

At 23 you crest the hill and I thought to myself -- just 5k to go. I look down at my watch. I think I can still pull off a 2:50.xx if I can push these last 3 miles. I think, anyway -- I didn't really put too much math into that though. I tried to pick it up, but I was more spent than I realized. I did a great job of pushing miles 23 and 24, but let myself slow to 6:30 during mile 25.

As I'm charging to the finish line, I see 2:50 pass. NOOO! I sort of let up a little when I saw it turn. I crossed the line in 2:51.26.

What a great feeling. A 4 1/2 minute PR, and it came so easily! I was elated. Add to the PR the honor of finishing as the first local runner. That's sort of a big deal for me -- guess I had always looked up to those women before & thought they were "untouchable". Can that really be me now? (I was just lucky that Chicago lured away all of the women that normally beat me, but let's forget about that for the moment :).

On the drive home, though, I broke out in tears. I didn't even hurt that bad during the race! I had the perfect day, unbelievable family support, and I didn't race to my full potential. I felt like I had just wasted a marathon. You only get so many chances! What am I doing racing so comfortably?

Although somewhat negative (I'm trying not to allow myself to be negative anymore), I'm glad I had that reaction. I think it's the turning point I needed in my training. Prior to this race, I had run every workout with a "I don't know if I can do this!" attitude. I ran unsure of myself, unconfident in my abilities, and without much of a "let's RACE!" attitude. Not like me at all. Since getting pissed at wasting a marathon, I'm now fired up to start training hard again, to race again (any distance) and make the best out of every workout I have. So, I think this race, and my anger at running too comfortably, were exactly what I needed to light that competitive fire again.

Random comments on the race:

The last 10k was in 40:48. Take out the slowing on the hills, and that's a 40:28. Intersting that that's still slower than my goal 10ks of 40:18. Does that mean that despite the fact that I felt great, I just didn't have a 2:50, or even a sub 2:50 in me?

Even though the last 10k was a little slower than goal pace, the last 1/2 of the race was pretty much dead on, even with the hills. 1:25.15 for the last half. So I think you could safely say that after I stopped worrying about being behind, I raced a 2:50 marathon.

Dr. P, my chiropractor, made a really good observation when I told him about the race. I told him I didn't know what to do after the first 3 miles when I was so far off. I hadn't mentally prepared for anything like that! He said that I'll never be able to plan for everything that'll happen. I need to get better at relying on my intuition more. He compared it to the saying that says, character is who you are when no one is looking (or however that goes). A true racer/competitor is made in the moments that you don't have planned. AWESOME way to look at it. This is something I can definitely improve.

Nate also had a great observation: I wasn't prepared to have the best race of my life. I had trained myself to run a 2:50, and that's what I set out to do. What if my body would have told me it was ready for a 2:48 or a 2:46? I probably wouldn't have listened to it. So, I don't know how you get over this, but that's pretty important. Have a plan, but be prepared to throw it out the window (and be VERY prepared to do this). Be okay with racing out of your comfort zone. All things I was not ready to do on 10-3-10. But all things I WILL and HAVE TO BE ready to do come fall next year.

Now, what should the plan be for this winter? Another marathon? Or do a 12-16 week Daniels cycle to focus on speed? Leaving it up to Jerry to point me in the right direction... more to come :).


TCM Race Report

Finally! Life has been way too crazy lately :(

I'd like to be as thorough as possible with this race report -- more for my own records than for blog-reader pleasure (sorry!). As such, I think I'll break this into multiple posts, and may be editing as I remember more.

Where to start? I'll begin with the no-carb/carb diet. Per Jerry, I decided to try the 3 day no-carb, 3 day all-carb diet. I've tried the 3 day all-carb diet before, and felt like that made a big difference.

So, for M-Wed, I ate only salad, chix breast, egg whites, peanuts and celery w/ peanut butter. Yuck. By Tuesday, I felt sort of sick after my easy run. I wondered if it was because I had eaten a hot dog (no bun) and celery with PB for supper. Not anything I typically eat, and not remotely healthy, but I was in a hurry & didn't have anything else quick to eat. By Wed, though, on a healthier diet day, I felt TERRIBLE. It was a 3x1200 m at tempo pace (6:05-6:15) workout. I think I wrote a blog after that... I felt awful. My head was fuzzy, my breathing was heavy, and my legs felt like they had run a marathon.

I weighed myself often to make sure I didn't lose anything during this stage. Wednesday morning I weighed 106.4 (sorry for the details -- just trying to record everything so I can build on it next time!). I think I lost 1 lb. between Monday and Wednesday. Not quite at my goal racing weight, but pretty close (I began training at 112-114 lbs because I had taken so much time off. It took FOREVER to get below 109-110).

Day Thur-Sat: All carbs. LOVED this stage. I looked forward to the next time I could eat a bagel with either jam or cinnamon and sugar or fruit or oatmeal. I didn't miss the protein or fat at all. I weighed myself on Thursday: gained 1 lb. back. I weighed myself Fri: Another 1 pound gain. After that, I didn't touch the scale. I didn't want to freak out, thinking that I had gained too much or was too heavy for a fast time. Gaining 2 pounds during this stage is PERFECT. It shows you how much your body is packing in the glycogen & storing water along with it. Pretty amazing, actually.

I took Friday off from running, and Saturday ran for just a mile. My plan called for more Saturday, but I don't think I'd change this.

Now, on to race morning. Ate a packet of oatmeal and a bagel with Jam, along with a bit of water. Off to the start! Nate drops me off at a Church near the start, which is the staging area for the Elites. Talk about intimidating. I stretched alongside the men's eventual winner... made me feel pretty big and out of shape, not going to lie! He was so lean & sinewy, you knew he was a FAST marathoner.

At 7:30, 30 minutes before the start, I went out for my first 5 minute warm up. I started out nice and slow, and worked up to about 7:30 mile pace. Perfect. Then ran back in, tried the bathroom one more time, and started to pack up my stuff. Ideally, my 2nd 5 minute warm up is with 10 minutes to race time. Problem was, they led the elites out to a parking lot with 15 minutes to go. I stripped down (no last minute clothing drops, boo), took my caffeinated gel, and nervously thought to myself, it's ok not to do the second warm up. Instead, I ran a little bit back and forth in the parking lot. I think this was a mistake on my part: I should have found a way to a road to do the 2nd warm up. I just didn't know where to go & was scared I was going to miss them herding us into the start of the race (which actually could have happened).

Perfect weather at the start. I started with gloves, a singlet, and compression knee-length shorts. The gun went off at 8. I rely on my watch heavily during this first mile. It feels so easy, at any pace! My watch said 6:30 for a while, and then jumped down to 6:15. Hmm, that's quick... better hold it here. I remember talking to one guy whose goal was 3:00. I said outloud, we're going a little quick for that... you may want to slow down. He agreed & I didn't see him again. My watch clicked off 1 mile at 6:15. Problem was, I didn't see the first course mile marker/clock until 6:5x. "WHAT?!?!?", I exclaimed to the guy next to me. This can't be right. It's probably off & they'll correct the mile markers by mile 2.

My watch shows 6:40 for mile 2. I could have picked it up, but in my mind I was averaging my first two miles to be a 6:30. I didn't want to start off too fast. So I held to 6:40 and waited for the 2nd mile marker. I passed that in 13:35 or so. Is it possible that both the 1 and 2 mile markers are off? I didn't know what to do at this point! My goal was 6:30s, so by the course, I was already 35 seconds off. Not good. I tried to pick it up to 6:30 pace, but just couldn't find it. I figured it was because my mile markers were probably right, so just to roll with it. I DIDN'T want to be a slave to the watch.

Plus, I had a bit of a stomach ache. I was a little afraid of that, because during my last marathon I battled stomach issues the entire way. Wonder what causes that? Luckily, it went away after about 5 miles. Crisis averted.

I passed the 5k mark in 20:39. Hmm. Goal was 20 minutes. I decided to stop worrying. Just run comfortable & try to find marathon pace. I eventually did, and when that happened, WOW. How easy! 6:29s nearly every mile. It felt effortless and I didn't even need the watch. Note for next time: maybe I need to do more MP work without a watch? To learn how that pace "feels"? I think the 2nd warm up would have helped, because I usually work up to MP during that warmup. Missing that meant that I was coming into that pace totally cold.

Anyway, I kept battling with my pace mentally during the race. When do I start to make up my deficit? I'm feeling good (really good!), but I told myself to wait. Bad things can happen if you go out too hard too early.

I ended up going through the 1/2 way point in 1:26.11. I couldn't believe the clock. Again, another "What?!? Oh NOO!", this time to myself. I knew that I needed to start picking it up STAT. Had I just blown my chances at a fast time? Why hadn't I corrected myself sooner?? I told myself to forget about it & just concentrate on the 2nd half. I'm a VERY good negative splitter, I told myself. You still have this! Plus, you're not even tired. You have a lot more to give!

One thing I did really well during the beginning of the marathon was managing energy and water. I took a gel at the start, at about 7 miles, and at about 11 miles (I'll update this later with actual mile markers). I took water at nearly every stop (only missed one) and poured a cup over my head as well, even though it was cool. I was a little full, but it worked out great. Take them early, and often! It kept the dizziness away the entire marathon!!

... I'll sign off for now with the 1/2 way mark. More to come later!
P.S. Not the best picture, but one of the only ones I have for the first part of the race :)


TCM Race report

2:51.26, chip time

1st Minnesota Woman, 20th Woman overall

Gee... where do I even start with this?

Guess I'll start with the new diet plan, which started the Monday. Per Jerry, I decided to try the 3 day no-carb, 3 day all-carb diet. I've tried the 3 day all-carb diet before, and felt like that made a big differnce.

So, for M-Wed, I ate only salad, chix breast, egg whites, peanuts and celery w/ peanut butter. Yuck. I watched my weight and didn't lose anything (on purpose -- not easy to get all of the calories you need through protein/fat alone). By Tuesday, I felt sort of sick after my easy run. I wondered if it was because I had eaten a hot dog (no bun) and celery for supper. Not anything I typically eat, and not remotely healthy, but I was in a hurry & didn't have anything else quick to eat. By Wed, though, on a healthier diet day, I felt TERRIBLE. It was a 3x1200 m at tempo pace (6:05-6:15) workout. I think I wrote a blog after that... I felt awful. My head was fuzzy, my breathing was heavy, and my legs felt like they had run a marathon.

Day Thur-Sat: All carbs. LOVED this stage. I looked forward to the next time I could eat a bagel with either jam or cinamon and sugar or fruit or oatmeal. I didn't miss the protein or fat at all.

Fast forward to race day. Nate drops me off around 7 am for an 8:00 finish. I head to the elite staging area (a church), and proceed with all of the normal stuff: bathroom, stretching, little bit of warm up.

The gun goes off. I look at my watch at .5 miles. 6:15 pace. Really? This feels absolutely effortless. I know that's the way MP is supposed to feel on race day, but I have a few doubts. I find out 1/3 mile later that those doubts are real... I pass the mile course mile in 6:5x. "WHAT?!?!?", I exclaimed to the guy next to me. This can't be right. It's probably off & they'll correct the mile markers by mile 2.

So, I paced myself (per the watch) to a 6:40 next mile. My rationale: 6:15 1st mile, 6:40 next = an average less than 6:30, which was the goal.

Problem is that the first mile market WAS right.

After I realized this 2 miles in, I had a really hard time feeling 6:30 pace. The 3rd mile I really struggled.

After 3, though, I was set. I owned 6:28s-6:29s. I know I've said it before, but I am SO blessed to be such a good pacer. Seriously, without effort, I'd look down. 6:29? Cool!

Problem is, when you're a minute behind the 8-ball from the start... when should you start to make it up? I decided not to worry about it for now, and to try to make up the difference in the last 10k or so.

So I cruised. 6:30s or below for the next 18-20 miles. I took gels at exactly the right time (5 during the race, 1 before), and drank more water than I usually do. The combination kept the dizziness away, and kept me feeling sharp and strong. Note for next time: take gels earlier, and more often than you think necessary.

Then came the 10k to go mark. At this point I honestly was looking forward to a nap. Is this normal? Honestly, I get sleepy at this point in a marathon, and I have no idea why (or if this is anything anyone else feels?). Has the caffeine in my gels worn off? I shake if off, and charge ahead. This is the part of the race I OWN. I'm usally a really, really strong finisher.


2:51.30, 1st Minnesota Woman at TCM

No race report yet -- I still need to digest the race before I write anything here. It was a bittersweet race for me. I'm very happy to have run a fast time, especially considering how BADLY injured I was this May/June, and that I came from a fitness level pretty close to zero.

On the other hand, I know I had so much more!

More to come :)

But -- the one thing that I do know is that I have the most amazing, supportive family. I just wrote them a big thank you that went something like this:
My amazing family,

I owe you a HUGE thank you for all of the wonderful support today. It made the day SO special for me to know that I had so many people coming to watch & 3 crazy “groupies” following me on bikes. Honestly, could I ask for a cooler family?

A special thanks to Mark, for making the whole bike-scheme work, Leighton for helping me with my last “epic” Sunday run (that’s why I was so strong the last 10k), and to Nate for all that he did during my training cycle and before/during the race (he puts up with a LOT of questions & training talk from me :)). And of course, to all of you who came to watch today, from near and far. Wow. Then there’s just the “thanks” I owe each and every one of you for helping to make my daily training runs possible.

Although I’m happy with my finish (who wouldn’t be, considering I wasn’t even training much until 10 or 11 weeks ago?!?), I know I have a lot more I can do. The Trails qualifier is still very much in sight, and I can’t tell you how bad I want to get there. So, I’ll take some time off, but then will probably be back on the marathon training/marathon talk bandwagon again all too soon. Hope you don’t mind .

Looking forward to the next one already!!
Thanks again,

I had Nate, my cousin, and brother following me around & cheering for most of the course on bikes. Ahvo, from Finn Sisu, was also on his bike following me the entire way. Add on top of that: my entire family that make a 3.5+ hour drive, with a 10 month old in tow; Nate's entire family; 2 uncles... gee. Who could ask for anything more? I could not do what I do without their constand support. So again: THANK YOU!!!


Layin' Low

I picked up my packet earlier today. How fun!

I've never run this marathon as an "elite". WOW, the TCM folks make you feel like gold! You walk into their "hospitality suite" at the Crown Plaza, and they take care of everything for you. Packet - check. Run down on all the info I need - check. There's a beautiful ROOM full of simple, carb-loaded foods. I made a toasted bagel with jam and took a few bananas for the road. I saw Katie McGreggor on the way out. She saw me and said "hi!", like she recognized me. That's fun! Wonder if I look like someone she knows? She couldn't possibly recognize me.

Then headed down for a massage. WOW. Amazingly relaxing. My right calf has been bothering me a little all week (just tight in the belly of the muscle and I can't seem to loosen it), so had the girl work on that specifically. 35 minutes later (!!!), we were done, and I made my way over to the expo.

Now for the rest of the weekend, I'm laying low. Hope I can cram as much carbohydrate into my legs as humanly possible & rest up the legs. The weather is supposed to be beautiful on Sunday, so should be a great time to go after that 2:50 goal!!!

P.S. I have the coolest family. First, my M&D, brother, sister and niece are coming up from Marshall to watch. Second, my husband, cousin, and brother are planning out how to get three bikes to the start of the marathon together so they can bike around and cheer along the entire course. My uncle is willing to go in on their scheme, which means that he's just going to be waiting around the finish area for 3.5 HOURS. How cool is it to have support like THAT?!?!!!! :)

P.P.S. If anyone that reads this will be out on the course on Sunday, look for bib #26 (green bib) and a bright pink singlet or long sleeve. Cheer me on!