Getting back to it...

All in all, not a bad first week back: 63 miles with one day off. One long run (16) and one track workout (well, sort of! Post earlier in the week below :).

I had almost forgotten what it meant to be this sore :) I'm almost embarrased to report it, but yes -- my quads were completely beat up after my 16 miler on Saturday. Yes, yes, it was undoubtedly the first week of mileage leading into the 16 miler, but still. I have not been so sore after just 16 miles in a really long time! I hobbled up and down the stairs afterwards & laughed at myself.

Sunday I went for a slow shake-out jog, and although felt better after the run than before, I decided to postpone my Monday track workout until later in the week. There was no way these quads, which still ached to massage, were going to be able to do all-out 200s.

One thing I've learned about coming back: soreness like this that lasts more than a couple of days can only be remedied by a day off. In the past I've tried to continue to train, just easy miles, in hopes that this soreness would take care of itself (because honestly, it never takes more than a day to recover after a long run -- much less recovering from "just" a 16 miler).

It's not often you get to feel like this, so I'm trying to enjoy it (guess it is sort of fun to have pushed yourself to this level of soreness!) - sort of :).

Tomorrow will be my first tempo workout, and I'll venture over to do it with the Carleton women's team. My goal? To run as hard as I can for as long as I can (written in 6 miles in 6:00 pace). It's the first one, and I obviously don't have my legs underneath me yet. But, unlike other cycles when I've allowed myself to lackadaisically come back into training, being mentally positive and tough, I'm... well, I don't know how to describe it, but I'm just different starting this cycle. Perhaps it's because I've sort of said, "I know I can run faster than a 2:44" and I have the unsatisfied-PR fire lit in me. Perhpas it's because I've sort of told myself that I'm allowing myself one more marathon -- or at least one more spring/summer/fall -- to see what I'm capable of. That's a pretty short window, and I have a lot of work to do.

Like Jerry has asked, "How fast do you want to be?". You can't know unless you give it everything you have, don't allow yourself to think "I hope I can keep up!" (which was honestly my first thought when I was going to do my first tempo workout with Carleton), and do it all with that "Let's just see what I can do" smile and attitude. So -- let's get after it!

Interesting analysis from Flotrack:

http://www.flotrack.org/blog/41049-Are-US-Elite-Women-Marathoners-Really-Improving

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This is cruel :)

My exact words to Cassie during Monday night's adventure on the track :)

Simone was doing 5x1000m in 3:20-3:25, and was starting late enough in the evening that I could join after work. I figured it'd be a good first speed workout. My previous 1000s have been around 3:19-3:20 (before the Trials).

We started the first repeat and I immediately knew I was NOT going to be able to hang with her. It's funny how fast you lose speed. I've been doing a lot of base work (although, mostly on an elliptical/bike), but that did not help at ALL.

Things that you notice when you're out of shape: you can't maintain contact when someone makes a move. What a difference from the month prior when I did a track workout with the team when I felt like I was the one who could change speeds/make moves! Simone would pick up the pace periodically within the repeat, and all I could do was watch her back move farther away from me. I literally couldn't do anything about it! No matter how much I willed my body to pick it up, to do a short surge, etc. It just simply wouldn't move any faster. And as the repeat wore on, I progressively slowed.

I also felt like I was straining, tight, running very inefficiently. Seriously, why can't my body move? Perhaps it's the 6-7 pounds I've put on since the Trials (it's been so fun! I love chocolate!)? And why can't my lungs work like they used to?

After the first to repeats (3:24 and 3:29), I realized that I could only handle 800m of her 1000m repeat -- except I couldn't even keep up for that! Sort of embarrasing to admit you can't hang with someone you used to be able to, but I desperately needed the extra rest :) I think my 800s were in the high 2:40s (2:48-2:49? I didn't really look, actually).

We did 4 200s after the workout, and I think they were 41, 40, 38, and 37. Felt good to try to move my legs quickly -- but also reminded me how much I'll have to work to gain that top-end speed back.

After I got home & reflected on the workout, I realized that this was the 7th time I had run - any distance - since the Trials. Ha! Was I really expecting to be able to keep up?

Fun workout, all in all. Glad to be back in it, and you have to start somewhere! No use in denying the fact that I'm a little out of shape and slow now :). But -- I'm fired up & excited about focusing more on my "speed" (if there is such a thing in these slow-twitch legs!). Hopefully this "getting back into shape" period isn't too long :).

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carb BOOM!

So excited to announce that carb BOOM is now a sponsor! Their energy gels are amazing - not only super flavorful (try their raspberry! It's amazing!), but completely natural, which is super important to me. So instead adding some sort of processed flavoring, their raspberry gels are flavored with raspberry concentrate and raspberry puree. Love it!

Looking forward to my next long run so I can bring a couple with :)

Thank you, carb BOOM!

(And I'm well on my way - did my longer run tonight without a problem. Bring on that 2:40 marathon training plan!)

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Restraint

I'm finally fired up about running, training, and reaching for goals again. My achilles feels great so far. Problem? I have to hold myself back and not get back into things too quickly.

But, the few days and miles I have done have been glorious, and I've been able to increase things at a pretty decent rate. First run last weeked was 2.25 miles, then 5 miles on Monday, then 7.5 miles Wednesday followed by 7 miles Thursday. I'm excited for the day I will not have to wonder how many miles I'm able (or allowed) to do, how many days in a row I can stretch my training to, etc.

I'm also excited for my "running muscles" to come back to life. My 7 miles Thursday was done faster than normal (running with someone), and I had to ask him to slow down (from sub 7's to 7:30). I can't remember the last time I've had to ask someone that, how embarassing!

Jerry's official plan, made shortly after the Trials started the week of Feb 20th (~70 miles/week, focusing on 5k/10k speed). I originally looked at that and was like, What? 1 month from the Trials? Seems so long! But turns out that I will needed the entire month - to heal physically, mentally, and to come back into mileage slow enough. Can you say genious?

I'm "allowed" to try 10 miles tomorrow and am so excited :). Hope for continued progress, health, and strength! Mesa will be SO happy! She's been a bit miserable lately with my lack of running :).

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5 miles!

Wow, how awesome to be able to pound the pavement for an extended period of time. :)

(Disclaimer: "extended period of time" does not mean that I call it quits for the day. I did an additional 90 minutes of elliptical and 50 minutes of P90x - trying to maintain a high degree of fitness throughout this so when I'm able to run 100% it won't be AS difficult to get back into it)

And the best part? The calf was a little tight afterwards, but not as bad as Friday -- I am sooo excited!!!

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2.25 miles

It felt SO good to run today, the cool 32 degree air filling my lungs, the feeling of my feet hitting the pavement. As I finished the run I told my husband, "I really do love to run. A LOT". I was picturing myself running for 100 miles/week, strong, efficient, fast. Ahhh, what a beautiful image.

Granted - even if I'm able to jump back into running now (we'll see how the achilles feels tomorrow) - 100 mile weeks won't happen for a very, very long time. And I know that when they do, I won't appreciate every mile, every second, every breath like I did tonight. But, it's fun to imagine being able to train a lot again.

So, now on to the elliptical for the evening and then finishing up with a little P90x. All with a smile on my face!

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Sooo... what's next?

I've been asked this question a few times since the Trials.

I don't know where to begin.

It's so hard to come off of the "high" of racing at the Trials. Honestly, what other goal could I have that motivates me as did qualifying for/racing at the Trials?

Before I answered that question, for anyone, including myself or Jerry, I needed to take some time off. First, I needed to heal the achilles, so it wasn't even possible to run or make the next concrete goal. Definitely a good thing, because otherwise I think I would have forced myself to get into running too quickly.
Second, and most importantly, I needed a mental break. I've never needed to take much time off to recharge before, but I absolutely needed it after this cycle - it surprised me. After 1 week totally off, I struggled to convince myself to start cross training the Saturday after the race. Once I got on the elliptical, my brain didn't fight it. Instead, there was the familiar, "Oh yeah! You really do enjoy working out!" feeling. That first week, I did whatever I felt like doing. I thought about making some kind of hour-based plan, but my brain totally rejected the idea. So that meant doing whatever I felt like - an hour on the elliptical or bike, sometimes P90x (something new, sort of fun :)), or both.

This last week I've found myself wanting to do more, push the limits. I find myself wanting to do at least an hour and a half of cross training, plus the hour of p90x. Wish I had more time in the day and I might do more... guess I've turned myself into an endurance athlete junkie :)

This week I was also able to meet up with Jerry. Perfectly timed. Anytime before this and I wouldn't have been able to even talk running, planning, or goals. But earlier in the week I had been able to toss around the idea of another cycle.. thought a little bit about what my goals might be...

I had sort of planned to be "done" after the Trials. When I made this pact, I had thought it'd be a miracle if I even made the Trials. But -- now that I had qualified, competed (and 69th!) -- was I okay with returning to a more normal life, not chasing PR's (esp. in the marathon?). Was I okay with a 2:44:12 lifetime PR?

... And the answer was "no". I'm not happy with my 2:44 at the Trials. Yes, a PR. Yes, a great place amongst the women there. But, no, this is not my full potential as a marathoner. Everything went right for my Grandma's finish: tail wind, rainy/cool weather, someone to run with the entire way, legs that felt springy and snappy. Everything did not go right at the Trials: flat feeling legs, no rhythm, the achilles injury, not an ideal taper. I know I am capable of much faster, that sub 2:40 is definitely within reach.

So -- there will be one more marathon, likely Grandma's or Chicago. I need to make sure this achilles is 100% before I jump into anything, but once it is, Jerry will have me focusing on my 5k/10k speed for at least a couple of months. I really missed that this cycle: taking a month or two to develop and perfect a certain system before moving on to another (Daniels' elite has you working all three systems throughout the 3-4 month cycle). I really felt like focusing on VO2 max first, and then moving into tempo and MP suited me much better. So, I'm excited to get back there :). (You don't know until you try it, right? :)) The thought behind focusing on speed is to make that 6:00/mile pace seem much easier (vs. racing a 5k at 5:30 or whatever pace my short little legs can move at).

I need to give myself a little more time, though, before jumping into anything too structured. What has made me a good runner/marathoner in the past has been my love of the sport, love of chasing a goal, and love of pushing myself as hard as I could to achieve said goal. I'm not there yet, and I know it's not something you can force - or fake your way to, for that matter. I need to get my signature "Dream Big!" "Let's go for it!" attitude and smile. Once I fully get that back, then I know I'm set for the next cycle -- and to chase down something big :).

I'm also excited to embrace the reality that I can compete with the top women in the US (with exceptions, obviously). Prior to the Trials, I had the mindset that it would be a miracle to even make it there and assumed that IF I did, I'd be last or near last. Now, I'm coming to the reality that if I chose to race most marathons that I'd be racing for the win, or keeping the first few in sight and then slowly reeling them in. That's an entirely different mindset. I have to be confident in my ability, confident in my training, confident in my ability to out-hurt others (which I 100% am), and fully embrace the idea that I'll be racing with the top from now on. I need to start as close to the lead women as possible, let them start out faster but keep an eye on them... and then work my way up past them :). Might seem weird, but it's a different mindset, a different way to race (vs. just thinking: wow! I'm so lucky to be here! I'm not that talented, I can't try to stick with these other women).

The other thing that I need time to process is the life commitment that it takes to train and work full-time. As much as I loved the craziness of it, it was exhausting. That's all I did: work, run, work, run (sometimes eat, sometimes sleep). I woke up every morning and thought through the meetings I had, the reports I needed to produce/analyze, the presentations I had to give -- and then thought about how I'd fit a noon run and a PM run in, as well as strength and a chiropractor visit. Our house was constantly messy. Nothing wrong with that, I guess, except I would just love to have a clean house, dishes done, laundry done, etc. I made time for laundry when I had run out of clean socks... dishes piled up until the weekend (Tupperware bowls were used most Fridays when we ran out of clean regular dishes!)... you get the picture. When you're in a cycle and are in love with chasing a goal, that stuff doesn't really matter... but when you're signing up for another cycle... it's hard to embrace not having free time, struggling to fit in time to do errands/clean, not having a social life, and just being constantly tired...

But on the other hand, that craziness has become a part of me. I truly love chasing goals, reaching for everything I have. So as much as I hated how crazy things were, I also loved it... if that makes any sense...

Test run of a mile or two tomorrow. I really HOPE it goes well. Before now, I wasn't lamenting being sidelined. But now... I'm ready. :)

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