5K this weekend

I'm getting pretty excited to race this weekend! I don't race often during a training cycle, so it's a real treat when I get to look forward to one.

First, let's revisit the goals I laid out for myself back in November of 2010. I haven't raced nearly as often as I laid out here, but crazily enough, I'm right where I wanted to be.

January I ran a 17:52 5k, on a no-so-great day for me. 2 seconds off of my goal of 17:50.
I didn't race again until the 8k in March, where I ran a 29:19 (goal back in November was 29:20). So throughout 6 months of training, I've been within 1-2 seconds of my goals. Not too bad :)!!

The goal I originally laid out for myself for the GAC Alumni race was a sub 17:30. Uff. My previous best has been a low 17:40 (even in college). Despite how fast that seems, I feel like I have a good shot at it. The stadium record is currently 17:34, and I would LOVE nothing more than to break that :). That's really what I'm gunning for -- sub 17:30 would be even better.

So, just have to try for it. 17:30 = 42s for 200, 1:24 for 400 (a couple of 1:23s would help), 5:36/mile. Then I'm just hoping that I have a little bit extra in the legs for the last mile or so. Ohh -- just mapping out a goal makes me excited about it!! Can't wait!

Weather forecast currently: 14 MPH wind, 45 degrees, chance of showers. Hmm. Can someone please work on that for me? At least the wind part?

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8x6 minutes, 30 seconds rest

I knew I needed to nail it. The last two weeks have been peppered with rough tempo workouts, stopping-midway, etc.

I also knew that I was unlikely to be able to do this myself. So, I called up the GAC assistant coach, Brenden, and asked if he'd be up for it. No hesitation. He was. Gotta love this guy, he's always game.

We did a 2.5 mile warm-up together, and I told him about the workout. He knew it was something like 8x6 (we had done 6x6 minutes a few weeks ago together), but bawked at the fact that there was only 30 seconds of rest in between each one :). Ha. Gotta love these long, sustained, little rest workouts :).

I told him before that I'd been having a harder time with this pace lately, and if I was having trouble, we could shorten the reps to 5 minutes each or lengthen the recovery to 1 minute.

We were off. The first three were into the wind, and more uphill. 6:07s for those. Not bad, considering the rain, wind, and incline! I purposely didn't look at the pace on my watch much -- tried to go by "effort". At 3, we turned back. Now we were around 6:02s, which considering we were going downhill, with the wind, was actually probably slower than the first three, but I didn't worry about it. I gave myself the option to take a longer rest or shorten the reps during reps 4-8. Do I need the extra 30 secs rest? Do I need to stop earlier? The answer was always "no". I can do this!

And I did!! What a fabulous workout & confidence booster. This isn't an easy workout, so it shows how strong I've become.

Next up: Gustavus Alumni 5k on Saturday. Hoping for good weather (there's a stadium record I'd love to chase down!!), but know there's less than a very slim chance of it... it's ALWAYS windy, rainy, snowy for their home meets :(. You think I'm kidding? I'm not :)

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Some much needed rest

Last Wednesday's tempo workout was not good. It wasn't mental. If anything, I was as strong mentally during that workout as I've been. I knew I needed to hit it and was excited to do it.

About 15 minutes into the tempo (averaging about 6:07 until this point), we turned a sharp corner & all of a sudden I felt my legs losing ground. They turned over at a much slower rate, and I felt like I couldn't make them go any faster. My pace slowed. I know this is not a good feeling... haven't had it very often, but it's not a good type of fatigue. Quads all of a sudden very heavy, slow, and unable to respond. It feels like the muscle cells are coated in a sticky, slow substance that doesn't allow them to work. I felt it last week as well, but this week was worse. I stopped at about 16 minutes, and ended up packing it in early that night. Sort of felt like I was failing, actually.

Jerry and I had a good conversation that evening. We decided to take a few days easy/off (I actually took 2 days off after scaling the stairs at work on Thursday morning and feeling like I was trying to move bricks up the stairway). I started up again on Saturday with a long easy run, and 10 more easy miles on Sunday.

I'm going to go get my iron/ferritin checked, per Jerry's suggestion. Maybe that's part of it. I think it's mostly due to mileage in general -- just a little too much for too long. The rest week this month was 75 miles, and was also right before Ellie was hit. I think the combination of the stress of her accident & the fact that I'm not quite strong enough to have 75 miles/week be a recovery week definitely contributed.

I'm glad I listened to my body. The runs the last couple of days have been better. Not 100% yet, but I can at least think about picking it up a little now (previously, even the THOUGHT of changing paces made my brain cringe... odd feeling, anyone else experience that?). I'll attempt another tempo run mid-week this week, and I'm praying that I've allowed enough recovery to be able to nail it. At this point, that's my goal: recover enough so I can start hitting all of the hard workouts again. After all, mileage is good, but only if you can hit the hard stuff :).

P.S. As we were cleaning our office late in the week, I came across a friend's training log who made the trials a few years ago. When I copied her logs, I remember being in awe: 80+ mile weeks were typical, some in the upper 90s. I was in awe of that and the harder workouts she was doing & the times she was hitting. I realized re-glancing through her logs how far I've come -- my mileage isn't too different from hers, and many of our reps are done at the same pace now! It made me realize how far I've come in this last year, and how strong I've become. You don't realize it when you're sludging through a workout plan with target paces, target mileage/etc (at least, I didn't). Glad I have those as a reference point -- a huge confidence booster!

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Another week bites the dust

Last week was not my greatest week.

I'm not sure why. Ellie, perhaps? Fatigue in general?

I'll recap:
The day after Ellie's accident I was supposed to do 7x6 minutes at tempo. Nate got me out the door. He's so great about that. The first two reps were awful. We were going into the wind, which was atrocious, and my times were awful. I wanted to quit. Nate kept me at it, reminding me that my times didn't matter. Just put in the effort. The third rep, my brain kicked back in. Yes, Ellie was gone & this was my first workout without her, but let's forget about that for now. The last 5 reps I was at a 5:57-5:58/mile pace, bringing the last one down to 5:48 without too much effort.

That was the last workout that felt "easy". The long run that weekend took a lot out of me. It was hot, and I was not properly hydrated. I averaged 7:15s for 21 miles, which is quick for me. The first 15 felt GREAT - so effortless! But the last few were torturous. I remember thinking, "this is good for me. I'll be praying for these last few miles to be done during the marathon as well". I couldn't let myself slow down, though, and ended up picking up the last mile to marathon pace. Later that day, I knew I had tapped too far into my "reserves". Note to self: even if feeling good, I should probably limit my long runs to no faster than 7:30s.

The following Wednesday I ran w/ the college team. I did 20 minutes w/ Simone (I kept up, but just barely -- I wasn't pushing the pace like the week before), then 3 minutes easy. Here's where I fell apart. Instead of 15 minutes at tempo next, I stopped after 8 minutes when I saw my pace was in the 6:10s. ARGH. I started up again and did the remaining 7 minutes. Another 3 minutes of rest, and my last rep was supposed to be 10-12 minutes. My legs were completely drained, and I really struggled to get them to move. I can't remember what my pace was, but for the first mile it was something like 6:20, and I stopped after a minute or two of the next mile, pace in the mid 6:20s. I was beat, and not because I had just nailed a workout. Hate that feeling.

Fast forward to the weekend (past Saturday). I'm supposed to do 13 miles at marathon pace. It snowed in the morning, which cancelled workout group #1. Back-up group #2 (aka high school senior, cousin) also sent me a text backing out. Hmm. Knowing the winds were 20-25 mph, I opted to attempt the workout on a treadmill. I started up & quickly realized my head wasn't in this at ALL. I didn't want this workout, and my performance reflected that. I stopped 3 times within the first 4 miles. I fought myself -- just DO this. At 4 miles, I realized that it wasn't going to happen on the treadmill. Should I try the remaining 9 outside? As I grabbed my outside gear, I passed the indoor track. I wondered if it was better for me to try to do the 9, knowing I'd probably stop several more times, limp along through it, or try to make it a hard track day. I decided that the track sounded fun: a chance to go fast, hard.

So, we did 5x1000m together (or, rather, Nate did the last 800 or 600 of each rep) :). It felt great! Times were 3:31 (legs a bit tired from the 4 miles at MP), 3:23, 3:32, 3:19, 3:19. I gave myself the option of just doing 4, but found myself wanting to push for a 5th.

Another thing I've noticed: extreme sleepiness. Luckily, I've been able to use the weekend to get 12+ hours/night, and have been good about getting to bed earlier than usual this week -- hopefully it's just because I wasn't getting enough sleep the last few weeks.

I'm hoping the fact I just realized there are ONLY 8 weeks to go puts that fire back in me. I CAN do this, I DO want it. Just need to re-light the fire. I'm on track to be the strongest, most fit, and likely fastest I have EVER been, so just need to get after each workout like I was before this last week. I can, and I will! :)

Hard tempo workout on the schedule for this evening... :)

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Ode to Ellie


I lost one of my best friends last Thursday :(.

Nate, Ellie and I went out for an easy 6 miler. She was crazy as usual -- "We're going to run? Oh, boy, oh, boy, oh, boy..." as she paced around the house waiting for us to change into our running clothes and put on our shoes. She LOVES to run. She's gone as long as 20 miles with me, and probably averages above 50 miles a week, either with me or Nate.

When we got her, she was actually quite obese. She looked like a round, stuffed sausage :). In just a few short months, though, she was a fit and trim dog. Her first run with me was 9.1 miles, after all. Shortly after we got her, I taught her how to run on the treadmill. She loved it. Tail wagging the whole time, she'd easily go for 5-7 miles on it, completely alone. It's fun to look back and see old blogs about these events :) Oh, fun memories.

We turned left a little earlier than normal, as we only had 6 to do. Ellie kept running straight, until she realized she was separated from us (she runs with a shock collar on so she can roam the ditches and farm fields - she usually is very good about staying right with us, or at least off of the road). Her instinct was to run out of the trees and into the road to find out where we were at. Guess that makes sense, since we're likely to be either up or down the road she's standing in... but also very dumb when cars happen to be near.

You can guess what happens. A thud. I didn't see it, thank goodness. I just saw the red suburban swerving back into its lane and slowing down. Nate and I sprinted over to the lump laying in the middle of the road.

"Oh, no... Ellie", I murmured as I ran to be by her side. I couldn't stop crying. "Good girl, Ellie", I kept saying, petting her head and placing myself where she could see me without moving. I have never felt so helpless. She was at least alive, and all I could see was bleeding a little from her mouth and other side of her head. I took it as a good sign? A wonderful stranger drove Nate back to our house to grab our car and wallets/purse/etc. The same stranger also had the number to the vet and dialed it for us. I am so grateful for those 2 individuals. Wish I had their name. They may have said it, but I can't remember it for the life of me.

When we lifted her from the road into the car, I realized how badly she was hurt. There was a large flesh wound on her hip from the impact. I didn't take the time (and couldn't see 100% through the tears), but I'm pretty sure I saw bone.

On the way to the vet, Nate asked the dreaded question: how much are we willing to spend to save her? We decided to wait to see what the number would be before making a decision. I grew up on a farm where pets were lost often, so the thought of spending a lot to save a pet is foreign to me. But, it's so different when you have a indoors pet that has become a part of your family. Where DO you draw the line?

She was such a cool dog :) Quirky, definitely. She loved to lean her butt against you (we always thought it was so that she could keep track of you while watching what else was going on), wiggle in between you and the stove when you were cooking, and drag her beds all over the house :). She LOVED to wear human clothes. She thought she was so cool in one of Nate's T-shirts. Put a baseball hat on her head & she'd try to balance to keep it there. She was a great training partner as well. We went to the track a few times together, and she knew when the "beep" happened that she was to run on the inside grass, right beside me. After each repeat ended, she would make sure I was OK, wait to have her head petted once, and then go off on her own to sniff something until the next rep started. Oh, Ellie :).

The vet took one look at her and tried to break it to us as easily as she could. There was nothing we could do. Her lungs were filling with blood, and she was sure her entire back end was broken -- ribs, hips, legs, etc. I sobbed. Are you sure??? Please double check... she's a really tough dog...

We put her down shortly thereafter. I really hope she didn't suffer. What an awful thing to have to do :(.

I really miss you, Ellie Cat :) (she had a very cat-like affection towards me in the beginning, which started the name. She also had a tendency to toot, lending itself to names like "Smelly Ellie" and the "Smelly Cat" song from Friends. Hence, "Ellie Cat" became one of her nick-names :))

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Spring back in my step!

Tuesday my head-cold came back. Pretty sure it's the same bug I had before, I never really got over it. I've been blowing my nose for the last two weeks. Just as it was getting better, I could tell it moved into my sinuses. Ugh. Please go away! I'm hoping it leaves quickly... but I know that if anything moves to my sinuses, it's never good.

Wednesday morning I woke up completely stuffed up. Great. I knew I had 4x12 minutes at tempo to do, and contemplated moving the workout until later in the week. Problem is, between my work schedule and the way the miles lined up, I knew today was the best possible day to try it. Just have to do my best! I took a decongestant mid-day, and that helped a ton & carried me through the workout.

I did the first 12 minutes with Simone, then turned back for 2 minutes easy. We averaged 5:50 pace for the first 12 minutes, and it felt great! The Nichole "spring" in my stride was back. Ahhhh, I've missed you! I'm not sure if my stride looks any differently, but it feels different. Effortless & fun. It's been a long while since I've felt that way for a race or a harder workout, so it was great to have that feeling today & to be able to feel good on a harder workout.

For the recovery I ran backwards and was now behind all of the other Carleton women. It was pretty fun to move up their pack, talking to each individual runner, and then focusing up ahead on someone else. Tempo workouts are SO much easier when you have someone to run with/chase!

The last 2 were not as much fun. The team headed back to campus, and I went back out for two more repeats. I let myself slip mentally on the 3rd one, but on the recovery before the 4th one I reminded myself that I was just practicing for the "hurt" at the end of the marathon. How bad do you really want this? C'mon! I averaged around 6:07 pace on the last one, so slowed a bit (goal range is 5:55-6:05), but it was a really good effort & I was there mentally, which is all I can ask for.

Not a bad day, considering I'm not able to breathe 100% (imagine how great the workout would have felt then!). Hopefully this'll go away soon... it's getting really old :(.

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