Weekly summary + the 20 mile bonk

Gotta love those four day work weeks. It’s Friday! And what’s even better is that I’m heading on vacation tomorrow. Two and a half weeks in Europe – family, wedding, honeymoon. Yes! Yes! Yes! I am beyond excited about this trip and can’t wait to set foot on that plane tomorrow.

This week has been crazy busy – hence the complete lack of presence on the blog world but I think things are finally organized – besides last minute packing. One thing that has stayed on schedule is marathon training. It is exactly one month until I run the Twin Cities marathon – just four full weeks of running to go with most of that being my taper. Here’s how the last week went down.

Saturday: 4 miles at 7.13 min/mile pace + 1 mile at 8.17 min/mile pace

Sunday: 20 miles at 9.01 min/mile pace

Monday: 5.25 miles at 9.32 min/mile pace

Tuesday: 1.4 miles at 8.42 min/mile pace + 6.5 miles at 7.47 min/mile pace + 1.7 miles at 9.36 min/mile pace (9.6 miles total)

Wednesday: Rest

Thursday: 5 miles on the trail at 11.06 min/mile pace

Friday: 8.05 miles at 8.08 min/mile pace

Reading back through my training paces it looks pretty good but that would be hiding the bonk that was my first every 20 miler. I do my long runs on Sundays, and I always run the day before (usually at a pretty decent pace for me) -> getting used to running on tired legs.

I pushed it for the 5 miler on Saturday (average pace was 7.23 min/mile, although my Garmin decided it didn’t want to connect with any satellites that day). The rest of the day was spent cleaning the house (my house needs to be spotless before I leave for vacation) and hitting the salon for a much needed haircut. We then headed for dinner with friends who made the most amazing seared tuna. The one thing that didn’t happen on Saturday -> proper refueling.

My Sunday 20 miler started pretty well. I like to take the first couple of miles to warm up and then settle in to a comfortable pace. I mentally split my runs into parts so I try not to think about the crazy long distance that I’ve decided to run. It was a little overcast and in the high 50s so perfect running weather. By halfway I was feeling totally great. Things started to feel a little hard at mile 14 before the wheels totally came off at mile 18.

The last two miles were ugly. My legs felt so tired. I really wanted to stop. And I had to bargain with myself to make it home. Once I stopped running things didn’t get better. I felt like I couldn’t eat anything. The chocolate milk I managed to get down almost made a reappearance, and I felt completely off. I managed to have a shower and then had to lie down for about an hour before I could even contemplate eating food. My friends, I hit the wall hard.

This was not a good run and had me seriously questioning my ability to run a marathon. If I felt this bad after 20 miles, what was 26.2 miles going to feel like? Plus, I had been thinking of running the race 30s per mile faster than this training pace. How was that ever going to happen? So I needed to go back and find some positives and some lessons to take from this.

Positives:

1. I ran 20 miles. I did it. Even though it was hard I made it.

2. No chafing. I was trying out my race outfit and had no problems. I also had to retire a pair of shoes last week, and wore my newest pair and they felt great.

3. No knee pain. I couldn’t imagine at the start of this training cycle being able to run this far with no pain. That is pretty amazing.

4. Highest weekly mileage ever: 45.55 miles

5. Highest monthly mileage ever: 191 miles

6. I ran 20 miles!

Lessons:

1. I need to eat more. I’ve noticed that when my weekly mileage increases by 5ish miles I need to eat more or things go badly. My weight has been pretty constant for this training cycle – I think I might have gained some muscle and lost some fat but it’s been sitting between 112-115lbs. After my run on Sunday it was 105lb. This is too low for me. So this week I’ve made a conscious effort to get more calories and I’ve been feeling great.

2. Carb loading. This did not happen on Saturday. Pasta + bread needs to happen before all long runs (14+ miles for me).

3. Start gels a little earlier. Drink more during the run. The major downer of this run was a crappy fueling strategy – both before and during the run. Lesson learned. I do not want this to happen again.

I also need to give my body some credit – this is the first time I’ve run this distance (a repeat is happening next week). I remember when I ran my first ever 10 mile run while training for my first half marathon. I thought I was going to die and the last mile was SO hard. Maybe not quite as wiped out as after this 20 miler, but definitely exhausted. Now, I regularly run 8-9 miles as a midweek training run. 10 mile is easy. I know that 20 miles is never going to be “easy” but I’m hoping that it will never be THIS HARD again. Perspective is a hell of a thing.

Dun dun dun……………..20 miles this weekend :/

This week has been crazy – who knew that missing one night’s sleep last Saturday during Hood to Coast combined with peak marathon training would leave me so tired. I even switched a morning run to an evening run-commute because my body needed that extra hour in bed. But this is a three day weekend which should leave me plenty of time to catch up on some sleep and the weather out here has taken a definite autumnal vibe so no crack of dawn starts. Plus pumpkin everywhere……..

Monday: Rest – no way anything other than grocery shopping was happening after Hood to Coast

Tuesday: 5.3 miles at 8.57 min/mile pace

Wednesday: 9.3 miles at 7.41 min/mile pace. Great workout but was pretty wiped out that night.

Thursday: 5.9 miles at 8.20 min/mile pace. Easy (and downhill!) run home from work. Morning run was not happening  today. And only had one car not see me as they were turning right on red.

Friday: 1 hour strength workout. Back to pre-6 AM wake-ups. Felt good to get back to the gym. Think my butt might feel it tomorrow.

The plan for this weekend is a quick 5 miles tomorrow morning. And then the big one on Sunday. 20 miles. HOLY CRAP – that’s far. I remember when I first looked at my training plan (13 weeks ago now) I thought that this week seemed impossible. Twenty miles is far. Could I run it? I wasn’t sure. I put my faith in the plan and did my 14, 15, 16, 17 and 18 mile long runs. It’s funny how adding a couple of miles each week suddenly made the 20 miler seem less intimidating. I mean I’m still going to be a little nervous taking my first steps out the door (does this happen to anyone else on their long runs?) but I really believe I can do it and be fine. My last long run (18 miles) went really well and left me believing for the first time that I will be able to run a full marathon.Let’s see how Sunday goes – wish me luck!

My schedule includes two 20 milers with a 12 mile cutback week in between – then taper time. Is it weird that I’m really looking forward to tapering? The main reason for this is that my taper time nicely coincides with my trip back to Ireland (wedding!) and Italy (honeymoon + carb-loading – gelato’s a carb, right?). We are flying back in one week and I am beyond excited but also incredibly busy trying to organize last minute wedding/honeymoon/visa details. But the countdown has started! Woohoo got vacation! And we finally got our wedding rings delivered yesterday so shit is getting real y’all!

I am hoping to get a post about Hood to Coast done this weekend because I really need to tell you guys about how awesome it was! Plus I’ve added a new half marathon to my race calendar (and potential PR target) and have my corral assignment for Twin Cities. So much going on – thank God for Labor Day!

Car

Weekend in pictures

What an epic weekend! Our team managed to run 198 miles in 28.5 hours – through sunshine and mist, from sunset through sunrise, up hills, along rivers and urban trails. Not much sleep. Lots of traffic. And then we partied at the beach. Amazing!

Hat

Our team visors.

Car

Van 2!

Major Exchange1

Our first taste of the craziness at Exchange 6. 1000 teams x 12 people = big crowds.

Tunnel

Victory tunnel.

Group

Party at the beach.

Ice cream Beer

Hello calories!

Hood to Coast! Bring it on!

Things have been pretty busy out here of late. Between work, marathon training, attending weddings, planning weddings, planning a honeymoon, visa stuff – there is just no time left over to blog. I will get around to replying to comments and catching up with my favorite bloggers – but probably not this weekend. Because at 4PM today I’m heading out to Portland, OR, where I’ll be spending 27ish hours in a van with five other stinky runners. Hood to Coast, baby!

course-map

Our team will be covering 198 miles from Mount Hood all the way to Seaside. I’m running 12, which means I start last (probably at about 6-7 PM tomorrow evening) but I do get to cross the line and finish for the entire team. I think my total distance is a little under 17 miles (divided into three legs) and it’ll be a nice break from my solo long runs. I haven’t done any specific training for HTC, I’m hoping that all my marathon mileage will carry over. I’m pretty psyched about the whole thing – it’s the original relay running race and Oregon is one of my favorite states  – plus we get to hang out by the ocean and party once we’re done.

I’m almost two-thirds of the way through my marathon training plan – the race is 6 weeks from Sunday. Holy crap! But I’m finally starting to believe that I can run 26.2 miles. I did my longest run ever (18 miles) on Saturday morning and it went really well. I felt pretty comfortable the whole way around (even with 700+ ft of elevation gain – curse you Salt Lake and your unavoidable hills). By the end I was glad to be done but not completely wiped out. It was the first long run I’ve done where I’ve thought “I think I can run 26 miles”. Amazing feeling! I have two 20 milers left to do but everything else is 12 miles max and then a three week taper.

I also had a pretty good steady state run on Wednesday. I like to push my longer midweek runs to get a feel for running at a moderate pace. This was a little over 9 miles and felt pretty comfortable. This marathon thing might all be coming together.

Saturday: 18 miles at 8.53 min/mile

Sunday: 8.3 miles at 8.38 min/mile

Monday: Rest

Tuesday: 5.35 miles at 9.15 min/mile

Wednesday: 9.25 miles at 7.50 min/mile

Thursday: 5.6 miles at 9.01 min/mile

August is on track to be my highest mileage month ever – and last week (at 44 miles) was my highest mileage week ever. Gotta love setting new records.

Enjoy your weekend!

Triggers and fine lines

Marathon training is hard! No joke! After my 17 miler and stomach issues on Sunday I desperately needed a rest day by Monday.

Monday: Rest

Tuesday: 5.3 miles at 9.20 min/mile pace

Wednesday: 8.3 miles at 7.53 min/mile pace. Stomach issues completely gone!

Thursday: 4.2 trail miles at 9.50 min/mile pace + express yoga class. My legs felt really tired on this run. And my half-moon is still not happening. Getting closer but so awkward.

Friday: 1 hour strength training. Right leg slowly catching up.

Most of my gym hours are done in zombie mode – 6 AM is not conducive to human interaction. But this morning I noticed one of the summer regulars. I see this girl every time I’m at the gym, which is usually once, occasionally twice a week, and she is hitting the elliptical/treadmill like it’s going out of fashion. And every time I see her, I get flashbacks to college and watching one of my close friends being taken over by anorexia. Now, I don’t know personally know this girl and she could be perfectly healthy or have some health issues not obvious to a perfect stranger (and I know some people have a difficult time putting on weight and are shamed for being too thin) but seeing her is a trigger for me.

This trigger is seeing someone who is clearly exercising just to burn calories. Someone with no body fat but also no muscle definition. With that cover of downy hair, sunken eyes, wearing baggy clothes. It brings me back to the time when m friend turned into someone else – with no interest in ANYTHING. Literally fading away in front of my eyes. It was terrifying looking in from the outside so I can only imagine what it is like to live INSIDE. She did eventually “recover” (and I use this term lightly – this is a forever illness), but this period has made me hyper aware of the dangers of crossing that fine line into disordered behaviors. I periodically will check in with myself to make sure that the exercise/eating that I’m doing is healthy and not obsessive. That I shouldn’t feel guilty for missing a workout, or taking a little extra dessert. If you’re doing good 90% of the time then that is plenty good enough.

This brings me to something else that has been on my mind lately: trigger blogs. These are blogs that I read that are supposedly focused on healthy living but are clearly written by someone with disordered thoughts about exercise/food. I’ll often wonder if I’m doing enough by running only 35 miles a week. Crazy, huh? Then I’ll quickly wake up and realize that I’m following a well-tested marathon training plan with specific aims and one that includes designated rest days/workout days/crosstraining. No junk miles here.

And I know that I’m lucky that I can have these thoughts and almost immediately dismiss them, but a lot of people aren’t so lucky. These fitspo blogs can encourage compulsive/obsessive behaviors – and that is completely irresponsible. Sure, professional runners routinely log 100+ miles per week, but they also take naps during the day, sleep 9+ hours a night and replace ALL of those calories to fuel their training. All of those miles serve a purpose – and that just isn’t to burn calories – but to get faster, stronger or go longer.

This can also translate into “healthy” eating. To me, healthy eating mean eating a variety of fruit, veggies, grains, dairy – with nothing being off limits (unless you have an allergy, obviously). Personally, I think egg yolks are great to eat, you don’t need to make a cauliflower crust pizza, nutritional yeast has no place on human food and real pancakes are just fine. Balance is the key. By putting restrictions on food, creating “good” and “bad” foods it is easy to develop an unhealthy obsession with otherwise healthy eating – orthorexia. This is a lot easier to disguise as plain ol’ healthy lifestyle. But symptoms may include:

  • Planning their daily menu more than 24 hours in advance
  • Getting more pleasure from the perceived virtue of food than from actually eating it
  • Decreased quality of life as the focus on “better” quality food increases
  • Being increasingly rigid and self-critical about their eating
  • Defining self-esteem and self worth by the quality of food they eat
  • Having a lower opinion of people who do not eat what they deem healthy
  • Describing healthy food as “pure,” “proper,” or “correct”
  • Eating only at home where they have total control of the food, therefore withdrawing socially
  • Feeling guilt or self-loathing when they eat “incorrect” food

And I can see how that can happen. You cut out junk food and feel a million times better. Then you decide to cut out something else and maybe feel even better but at some point it becomes a fine line between eliminating certain foods from your diet and becoming constricted by a rigid set of rules about how to eat “right”.

As bloggers (and people!) I think that we have an obligation to check in with ourselves and make sure that what we are sharing with the world is positive. I love to exercise and to eat (and I am conscious of the food that I buy/prepare/eat) but I need to step back and make sure that I’m being responsible – for my own health and for anyone who might stumble across this blog.

Apologies in advance if I’ve offended anyone with this post but it’s something that’s been on my mind for a while.

 

15k

The TMI post

Or how I became a real trail runner this weekend.

I feel like I need to include a disclaimer for this post. If you are uncomfortable with lots of poop talk then you should probably stop right here. Also, there are some trail rash photos if that’s not your bag either. But we’re all runner friends here so read on……

Saturday was the final race (for me) in the Park City Trail Series. They have a half marathon in September but I’ll be out of town. I ran this race last year and it was not pretty. I ran out of gas on a horrible set of switchbacks and was hanging on for the last 4ish miles. It was tough and I was a little nervous to go back, especially as I’m in the middle of marathon training (->tired legs) and had a 17 miler on the cards for Sunday (yes – great planning by me).

J had signed up to volunteer for the race and I tagged along, which meant a 5 AM wake up call so we could arrive by 6 AM to get our assigned duties. J and a couple of other volunteers headed out to set up an aid station. Because I was racing, my job was to acts as a parking attendant. (FYI – people really listen to you when you’re wearing a hi-vis yellow vest).

By 7.50 I was done and had just enough time to put on my bib and head to the start. This meant I had to miss my pre-race bathroom visit and disobey my first rule of running: No poop, no run. The elite/pro athletes who usually run this race seemed to be missing so I found myself very close to the start line. I had decided to run this at a moderate effort – with those darn switchbacks in the back of my mind.

The first couple of miles felt ok – the start was a bit mellower than the 5K/10K course and I was feeling pretty good. And catching up on some of the people who went out too fast. We then merged with the 10K course and headed towards the switchbacks, which felt GOOD! How did that happen? I felt about a million times better running up these switchbacks compared to the 10K. What a great confidence boost.

Then the downhill began. I’m definitely better at keeping a steady uphill pace than flying downhill. The trail was really dry a with a lot of lose stones, steep turns and switchbacks. I had a few close calls but at mile 6ish I was letting a guy pass me on single track when I went down. The guys I was running with immediately stopped to see if I was OK – and of course I said I was. I knew my elbow was bleeding and I could taste dirt in my mouth but nothing sprained or twisted so I kept going but took it a little more conservatively on the downhill. Eventually it mellowed out and the last couple of miles were pretty easy. I finished in 1.19.41 which was 5 whole seconds faster than last year.

At first I was a little bummed that I wasn’t faster, but I definitely held back in this race and was never going at max effort. I felt comfortable throughout and was conscious of needing to conserve energy. And I finished strong. I also managed to finish 2nd in my age group, and 8th woman overall – I even won a couple of prizes in the raffle.

IMG_0971

Race haul!

Splits.

IMG_0970 IMG_0969

Scratches and scrapes!

I made my way to the first aid station to clean up along with a bunch of other fallers.

Now the poop talk. The last couple of miles I really needed to go. REALLY needed. My pace at this point was a hybrid between wanting to finish ASAP but not go to fast to freak out my bowels. Why am I telling you this? Well so this never happens to you, and also my stomach has been a wreck since Saturday morning, including my epic 17 mile trail run. Ughh!

On Sunday, J suggested we head up to Park City to do our long runs (17 for me, 18 for him) on Mid Mountain trail. This trail connects the three ski resorts in PC and is about 20 miles long. We parked at Deer Valley and decided to do an out and back. This trail is described as pretty flat. Now, here’s some life lessons for you – if someone describes a trail that connects three SKI resorts as flat they are lying to you!

The first couple of miles felt so hard. My calves were burning. All I could think was: there is no way in hell I can run 17 miles today. But I bargained with myself: Make it to four miles (1/4 way through) and then reassess. By the third mile the trail had leveled out and become more rolling. I decided I wasn’t going to quit. After four miles we made it to Park City Mountain Resort and stopped for our first Gu.

The trail alternated between shady Aspen forests and clear ski run meadows. It was heavenly. I didn’t care about pace, just decided to run a pace that I thought I could sustain for the whole run. At mile 8.5 I turned around and told J to catch up to me as he added on another mile. This was fun at first – just myself and my thoughts until I started worrying about running into a moose. J caught me with about 4 miles to go – and reminded me that it was OK to walk on a trail run. We finally made it back to the car for some chocolate milk and snacks.

17 miler

This was the longest run – 17 miles – I’ve ever done and, by far the longest I’ve spent out running by at least 40 minutes, and the most elevation gain – 2000 ft. Holy crap it was hard – but my legs felt pretty good afterwards.

What didn’t feel so good was my stomach. At first I was hoping it was nerves – I tend to get a little nervous when running a new distance. No such luck. And at mile 13 I needed to go. So yes, I got to lose my trail running poop-ginity. May you never have to experience this yourself. By the time my run was over, it felt as if my stomach had gone a couple of rounds with Mike Tyson. The rest of the day was a write-off. Along with any workout today.

This is my first experience like this – I like to pride myself in my iron stomach. I have no idea how anyone with chronic digestive issues can cope. Let’s hope another early night will help.

I’m cured!*

*Well almost. But, importantly yesterday I visited my physiotherapist and she told me that I didn’t need to schedule any future appointments. Woohoo!

giphy

As some of you might know, I’ve been dealing with injuries since the start of the year. Nothing too serious and I’ve had medical approval to do all of my running.

It started back in January with some mild hip pain, which was pretty easily cured with some hip strengthening exercises. Unfortunately, this was quickly followed by pain in my right knee which has been bugging my from February til now. The initial diagnosis was, you guessed it, weak hips and a much weaker right leg. And as any runner knows, a muscle imbalance usually manifests itself in many different ways – for me this meant foot pain in my opposite leg. Meaning two complete weeks away from running – nicely timed to coincide with peak week for my half marathon number 2.

Although, I was able to train for and complete two half marathons in the first half of the year, this injury made me incredibly paranoid about amping up my mileage for my marathon in October. During the initial injury I had managed to bruise my fat pad on my knee. I would recommend never doing this – it has taken forever for this pain to go away.

For a while, it was painful to walk down any stairs. I’d have to psyche myself up at the top and do an old lady shuffle to get down. Not fun. And during this time (pity party central) I was struggling to imagine ever running (or taking stairs) pain-free.

What worked for me was time + leg strengthening. Time: I wanted to be fixed straight away. But fixing muscle imbalances that have been there for 30+years takes longer than two weeks -we’re talking 6 months here. I focused on improving my running form (which I got complimented on – by my PT “Your running mechanics are really good” – and a friend who told me “You look like a fast runner”).

I also thought about making running more fun – if I was going to hurt a little then I wanted to make my runs even funner (that’s not a word but whatever – you know what I mean). For me, this meant more trail running and running with people, and a lot of times combining both of these things.

Leg strengthening: I cannot tell you how much this has improved my running. My legs (and butt) and so much stronger and I think this has definitely carried over into my running times. I have a pretty regular routinne (5x a week on top of running, gym work and yoga) of:

Clamshells

Single leg bridges

Lateral leg raises, leg circles

Single leg leg press

Squats with resistance bands

Leg swings with resistance bands

The physiotherapist that I’ve been seeing is a running specialist and has a fancy treadmill that records every aspect of your run – cadence, force and a whole bunch of crazy graphs and charts. Yesterday, for the first time, there was no significant difference between my left and right feet.

And because I’m increasing my mileage (25->40 miles per week) and feeling LESS pain she was happy to let me loose – with the caveat that I need to continue doing these exercises during marathon training, and with the understanding that this is how my body naturally is and that I will always have to incorporate leg strengthening work in the future.

There still is some pain there – especially after a long run but it is nowhere near as bad as it used to be and my recovery time is significantly shorter. I’ve also had a couple of completely pain-free runs in the last couple of weeks. So I’m hopeful that I am in the finishing strait of this injury.

So this is a lot of writing about my knee……….But I wanted to share this with anyone who is suffering through a chronic injury that is improving way too slowly. There is light at the end of the tunnel. It will take time and it will suck right now, but you will get back to pain-free running. And when you do – it is AMAZING!

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