Thursday, March 26, 2015

The Road to 26.2: Week 15

I spent most of week 15 stressing about the weekend long run.  Even though I'd run 19 a couple weeks earlier, 20 loomed large and foreboding.  I did everything I could to prepare mentally and physically: kept up with post-run stretching and nightly foam rolling, ate the right foods, planned out my route, and visualized myself covering the distance.  All in all, the 20-miler and the rest of the week went quite well.  Here are the workouts that led up to the big one:

Monday (3/16):  walk with my BRF.
A beautiful spring morning and a terrific start to the week.  Springtime + BRF = the good life.
Tuesday (3/17):  5 mile run and strength work.
Holy wind, Batman!  The windiest run I've encountered in quite some time.  At points, I battled merely to remain upright.  I noticed that the wind was coming from the northwest, so on the fly, I adjusted my route to run the first half north and west and finish with the wind at my back.  The plan worked out reasonably well, though I had to make one last northwards turn in the final mile and felt like I was nearly stopped in my tracks.
Wednesday (3/18):  5 mile run and strength work.
No part of me wanted to get out of bed to log these miles.  I snoozed an extra time or two and assured myself that I could find another time to run.  Finally admitting that it was now or never (and the window for now was closing rapidly!), I forced myself out of bed and out the door.  Not a particularly good or bad run, but I'm proud of myself for doing it when every fiber of my being protested.
Thursday (3/19):  walk and strength work.
A little walk to raise my anemic step count (thanks, Fitbit, for keeping me accountable!) and some strength work: glute work, planks/side planks, and push-ups.
Friday (3/20):  5 mile run.
On runs less than 8 miles, I like to go without audio stimulation.  I enjoy the chance to let my mind wander and enjoy the peaceful stillness of the morning.  On this day, however, I was taunted by a relentless song and desperately wished I had some other music or a podcast to force it out.  The Strawberry Shortcake theme song on repeat makes for a long five miles.  In case you wondered.

The neighborhood tree week 15: note the grass is turning green!

Saturday (3/21):  20 mile run.
20 freakin' miles!!  A run worthy of its own post, and one that I hope to write before I forget all the minutiae.  In a nutshell, 15 miles felt pretty terrific, 3 were uncomfortable, and 2 were a slog.  Just after mile 15, I was back in my neighborhood to pick up more water, and I really wanted to stop.  I was tired and my motivation was waning.  At just the right moment, I saw my daughter's teacher, one of the sweetest women on the planet.  Seeing her smile was just the pick-me-up I needed as I headed out for the final stretch.  Other highlights from the run: I was stopped by 1 train, hollered at by 1 belligerent old man, and nearly run over by 1 woman reversing without looking.  The inattentive woman was backing out of her driveway as my watch read 19.91 miles.  My thoughts as I realized she wasn't paying attention: "If I stop now, I will never start again."  "If she hits me and my watch doesn't click over to 20, I will go postal."  Fortunately, I jumped into the street to avoid her, kept up a killer pace, and finished with the fastest mile of the whole run.
Sunday (3/22): REST + yoga
After Saturday, which started with a 20-miler and ended with helping run a fundraiser for my kids' school, I was more than ready for Sunday's rest day.  My body felt surprisingly good, but I knew I needed a good stretch.  I worked in some yoga to relax and unwind my tight muscles.

A perfect weekend for books and Legos on the porch.
And just like that, we've made it to the taper!  I hope to focus on foam rolling and yoga while the miles diminish.  I think a big challenge will be keeping my food choices on point.  I've been surprisingly diligent in my diet as I can see a direct relationship between the food I choose and the way I feel on the run.  With fewer runs to keep me honest, however, I know the allure of junk food will be strong.  Step away from the Girl Scout cookies!

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

The Road to 26.2: Week 14

My poor neglected blog.  I'm working hard to balance my training with the seemingly endless life to-do list, but sadly, there isn't enough room for more frequent blogging, too.  Instead of dwelling on it and berating myself for not making the time, I'm going to accept it and move on.  While my posts are few and far between, I'm pleased that I've been keeping up with the weekly training summaries, as I like reading back over them to see how far I've come during this journey.  For week 14, the workouts happened like this:

Monday (3/9):  walk with my BRF.
I sorely miss our early morning runs while Emily heals her hip flexor, so I'm always glad when we can meet up for a walk.  A perfect start to the week and a great way to stretch out my legs after Sunday's 19-miler.
Tuesday (3/10):  5 mile run and strength work.
Wow, did my legs ever feel stiff at the start (and middle!) of this run.  My calves screamed until mile 3.5, and as a result, my pace was barely more than a crawl.  I kept reminding myself that my legs will be tired in the late miles of the race; this was good practice for continuing forward progress even when faced with discomfort.
Wednesday (3/11):  8 mile run.
When my early morning alarm sounded, I found an intensely foggy scene out my window.  An outdoor run was out of the question, and my brain revolted at the thought of 8 treadmill miles at 4:45am.  So I logged those treadmill miles at 1:15pm instead while my girls napped.  I've done plenty of 4- and 5-milers during nap time, but 8 is hard to squeeze into that window.  Lesson learned.
Thursday (3/12):  BRF walk, yoga, and strength work.
Another lovely morning walk with my BRF with yoga and strength work during nap time.  I made up my own yoga sequence, which (surprise, surprise) hit all the tight spots I'd been feeling.  So refreshing!
Friday (3/13):  5 mile run and strength work.
Slow, easy miles in a drizzly rain.
Saturday (3/14):  REST!
But not because I wanted to.  At the last minute, I was called into action to help my ailing grandmother, so my Saturday running window closed before I could lace up.  I was irrationally frustrated by the situation and wasted a great deal of mental energy being angry.  I finally set my negativity aside and enjoyed a sunny afternoon, including a highly anticipated fashion show with the girls.

J-Bug selected dresses, headbands, and shoes for all three of us.
We were all quite fashionable, she assures me.

Sunday (3/15): 12 mile run
Starting at 6:15 to squeeze it in before church, this run began in moonlight, included a brilliant sunrise, and ended in beautiful sunshine.  I felt strong throughout, both mentally and physically, and pulled off a strong finish for the final miles.  Especially considering that it didn't happen when or how I had planned, I'm very pleased with this long run.

You may notice strength work cropping up more frequently this week.  One of the lovely Strava BAMRs challenged us to try incorporating more frequent but shorter strength workouts during the month of March.  To my surprise, I've really enjoyed the mini workouts.  It's easy to fit in just 3-5 minutes of strength after a run or while waiting for the pasta to boil.  I'm enjoying a new approach to strength, as my tried-and-true routine was growing a bit stale.

Blue sky, sunshine, and not a speck of snow or ice.
Life is good.

I have just one more heavy week of training before the taper begins.  How did that happen?!  3.5 weeks to race day!

Thursday, March 12, 2015

The Road to 26.2: Week 13

I have no excuses for not posting this training recap earlier in the week.  Best intentions and all, but it just didn't happen.  If only there were 26 hours in a day!  Week 13 didn't include any 26 hour days, though it did feature one 23 hour day (thanks, daylight savings!).  My week of training looked like this:

Monday (3/2):  Pilates.
Still fighting a head full of snot and trying to deny that the symptoms had moved down to my chest, I thought I should take an extra day off from running and do some cross training instead.  A little bit of Pilates kept me from feeling like a sloth, but I was itching to run.
Tuesday (3/3):  5 mile run.
I wasn't too sure how my lungs would feel (and there was some patchy ice on the roads), so I took to the treadmill for this one.  Quite a bit of coughing and nose wiping later, I finally finished this not-so-easy five miler.
Wednesday (3/4):  5 mile run.
Not back to full strength and the ice not fully melted, I was back on the treadmill again.  Thank goodness for Netflix!
Thursday (3/5):  yoga and strength work.
A good mid-afternoon stretch while the kids napped followed by my usual strength regimen: squats, planks, side planks, pushups, glute and core work.
Friday (3/6):  5 mile run.
Finally felt more like myself!  The kids were off school, so I could run slightly later.  I enjoyed a fabulous sunrise and felt nothing but gratitude during this incredibly cold run.  Chances are good that this was the last brutally cold run of the season!  Temperatures climbed all day, and we've enjoyed spring-like weather ever since :)
Saturday (3/7):  REST!
A packed family calendar with no room for a 3.5 hour run.  I felt antsy and off all day as I've done a long run on each of the last 12 Saturdays; it seemed odd to be preparing for the run rather than logging the miles.

My "I survived 19 miles and can still muster half of a smile" face.

Sunday (3/8): 19 mile run
Beautiful weather, sunny skies, and a brain that wasn't engaged.  I ran a lovely route through Forest Park, saw lots of other runners, and listened to some great podcasts.  Yet inexplicably, I couldn't find a groove and very little of this 19-miler felt fun or comfortable.  In spite of my brain's tantrum, however, I kept a fairly even pace throughout and managed a strong finish for the last mile.  The best part of this run was seeing my BRF at the end!  She was walking home from church in her Sunday finery, and I was a hot mess, but she gave me a hug anyway.  Aren't BRFs the best?!

Tiny bits of snow left in the grass.
Hopefully the last snow of the season!
I'm so happy to see that spring is starting to show her pretty face.  With the time change over the weekend, the mornings are pitch black again, but I'll take it in exchange for warmer weather, sunnier skies, and greener landscapes.  Fingers crossed that I've logged my last bitterly cold run of the season!!

Thursday, March 5, 2015

The Road to 26.2: Week 12

After a frustrating week 11, I had high hopes for week 12.  And it was a better week, if only by degrees.  I made it outside twice, got my cross training done, and finally got to turn the page on February.  In greater detail:

Monday (2/23):  5 mile run.
Facing the treadmill again after the weekend's 18-miler, I wanted nothing to do with this run.  I forced myself to apply a mantra I often use in life but rarely need for a run: shut up and do it.
Tuesday (2/24):  yoga and strength work.
A good release of my over-tired muscles.  I'm getting to the point where my muscles are fatigued most of the time, so the yoga is more important that ever.  My body - especially my calves - are so happy when I'm faithful to yoga.  I followed the yoga with my usual strength roundup: squats, planks, pushups, glute and core work.
Wednesday (2/25):  8 mile run.
OUTSIDE!!  After 36 consecutive treadmill miles, my feet loved every second of this cold midweek mid-distance run.  The miles flew by!  Happy does not even begin to express the elation I felt as I cruised through the neighborhood.

Adding to Wednesday's happy run, I glimpsed a brightening
sky as I returned home.  Spring is coming!

Thursday (2/26):  5 mile run.
A frustrating day from start to finish, this treadmill 5-miler while the kids napped was the lone bright spot.  When a treadmill run makes it on the highlight reel, you know it was a rotten day.
Friday (2/27):  brisk walk plus strength.
Cold but sunny, I enjoyed a speedy walk through the neighborhood followed by my tried-and-true strength favorites.
Saturday (2/28):  13 mile run.
I still marvel at the fact that a 13 mile run is a stepback distance.  How far I've come in the last three months...  In the snow in the middle of the afternoon, this run took me outside my comfort zone and challenged me to consider whether cold and snow is actually better than treadmill boredom.  The jury's still out on that question.
Sunday (3/1):  REST!
Three cheers for March!  I gleefully changed the calendar page and bid farewell to February.

A family snowball fight on Sunday afternoon.
I thought I was all done with snow after Saturday's run,
but we had a blast :)
In addition to doing yoga to help relax my tired muscles, over the last few weeks I've also tried to be more attentive with foam rolling.  My husband and I enjoy watching Netflix in the evening when the kids are in bed, and I'm attempting to use Netflix time to foam roll.  Some nights I just can't face it, but I'd say I'm making it happen about four times per week, which seems pretty reasonable to me.  My calves and upper back, especially around the shoulders, are my primary targets for the foam roller.  I think the calves are tight from the accumulated miles, but I'm pretty sure general life stress gets the blame for the shoulders.  Whatever the source, I need to roll out that stress to keep this body moving towards the starting line.  6 weeks to go!

A snowy view of my favorite tree.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

So Long, February!

For such a short month, February can be a real pain in the ass.  The mere 28 days dragged on endlessly this year.  Crappy weather, germs, and a hectic family schedule made the month far more painful than I expected it to be.  It is obviously fitting, therefore, that all three of those would collide on the final day of February to help me bid the foul month a fervent farewell.

My darling children shared a nasty virus with me, and I woke on Friday morning with a throat that seemed coated in a dozen razors.  A head full of snot and stiff neck rounded out my discomfort, but in spite of my symptoms, I made plans for my Saturday long run.  I obsessively checked the weekend weather report and saw that I should be able to squeeze it in on Saturday afternoon.  Our morning was packed with various other commitments, so my earliest opportunity to run was close to 2:00.  As of early Saturday morning, the radar looked cooperative with my plan.  St. Louis was expected to receive nearly 24 hours of snowfall, but it wasn't supposed to begin until 4:00.  With 13 to run, my 2:00pm start time should be perfect.

However, as we walked outside after our early afternoon appointment, we were greeted by tiny little snowflakes.  Almost 3 hours ahead of schedule.  (Because weather always operates on a rigid schedule, right?!)  My husband gave me a look, afraid to ask how this might change my running plans.  Stubborn as ever, I responded with a look of my own that said I was running outside no matter what.

I hit the road at 1:53 with light flurries dancing around my head.  They were small, and I was sure the real snow was going to hold off until 4:00, so I confidently headed out.  I got lost in a podcast and kept my tunnel vision focused on the few feet in front of me.  As I neared the farthest point of my out-and-back, however, I realized the flakes were getting much larger, and real accumulation was gathering on the sidewalks.  I started doubting the sanity of my plan, but it was far too late to change course now.  I turned around and began the slow slog back home.

A sight along my route as the snow began accumulating in earnest.
I spent most of the run debating whether frozen eyelashes were in fact better
than endless boredom on the treadmill.
I never really settled that question...
My stuffy head, congested roadways, inconsiderate pedestrians, and a passing train made for a run that seemed much longer than the two hours and eight minutes that elapsed on my watch.  When I'd hit my distance and stopped my watch, I checked the time: 4:01.  Had the weather followed the earlier report, I would have finished just as the first few flakes started to fall.  Instead, I finished in 2 inches of fresh powder with patches of slush and ice.  While a beautiful scene for a Christmas card, it proved a bit unpleasant for a long run.  Nevertheless, it seems a fitting end to a month full of unexpected frustrations.

With great gladness, I turn the calendar page and look forward to warmer weather and more enjoyable runs.  Onward!