Monday, March 24, 2014

Week Six: Staying on Track

I have been bound and determined that the drop-down to the Half distance at my goal race will not derail my training. I will not allow myself to skimp on my training even though I am not running the full 26.2. I will respect the distance and the course at OKC, and I will do all that I can to prepare as best I can for this race.  It's not JUST a half. I want to really show what I can do on that day and I want to be able to rely on my training and preparation to give me a strong performance on race day.

After my decision to cut back, I went to my training plan and re-evaluated it and made the appropriate revisions.  I was using a hybrid of Hal Higdon's novice marathon plan, with the intention that I was treating this as a "first-time" since it had been so long since I ran a full.  The basics behind that include 3-5 mile runs bookending a mid-week mid-distance run that is half the length of the long run that week, and 3-4 miles on Saturdays.  I don't have any prescribed paces to hit, as the focus is just on getting the miles done.  Plan the work, work the plan. In actuality, I usually end up cutting one of the shorter runs each week, just depending on my schedule, how I feel after the long run, and what the lovely Texas weather decides to throw at us that week. While I am committed to sticking to the plan as much as possible, I also am committed to having as robust of a life at the same time, which means I will not break my back at the expense of the plan. This is a part of me, not all of me. There are some weeks that I need a longer recovery, some weeks that it just doesn't happen. And that's okay. With this plan having me out 5 days a week, if I have to bail on a run, I make sure it's the shorter ones, and not the mid-week or the long run. Those two, in my experience, are the most valuable for me.

With that in mind, I didn't fret too much when I intentionally skipped my Tuesday run. I had meetings all afternoon at work that prevented me from running at lunch, and that night, I met my hubby for his birthday dinner at one of his favorite places. We have gotten much better at choosing our meals off the menu, making adjustments to the listed choices like double steamed veggies instead of rice, or asking the servers not to bring the tortilla chips so we aren't tempted. We had a great meal and a nice chat while the Nerdlet was at acting class. I did not regret skipping the run. Wednesday, I got out the door at lunch for 3 miles and then hit the Trinity Trail immediately after work for another 5 to give me 8 for the day. The highlight of this was making it all the way up the hill at Rogers street in one fell swoop, with no stopping and no walking.  I had set this goal for myself a few weeks ago, and decided I wanted to be able to do this before OKC. I ran down the hill and then about a mile out and back onto the trail before I doubled back. Two undergrad girls were out running along the same route, and they started up the hill, across the street, at the same time.  I took a deep breath in and just started churning up.  I knew there was a little bit of a false landing about 2/3 of the way up, and that has been a convenient place for me to regroup a bit in the past. This day, for whatever reason, maybe because my legs felt good after the extra day of rest, I felt strong when I hit that point. And I decided that I could power through. It hurt. The breathing was harder than the climbing, though, and I re-focused my energy on just BREATHING.  I told myself my body would do what I asked it to if I just gave it a little more oxygen. I set my legs to match my breath and dug in and just climbed.  And before I knew it, I was at the top of the hill. Boom. Was it a fast run? Um... no. Was it slightly more than a power-walk, really? Maybe, but at no point in that climb did my MIND give in and say, "okay, you're MOSTLY up, you can dial it back a notch now...' That is the victory I had that day.  I might have done a little dance at the top, and it really made my day when the girl behind me yelled, "Great job" as she stood there with her hands on her knees trying to catch her breath. BOO YAH!

My overall paces for that route were a few seconds faster than the last time I ran it, which I am sure is due to my effort on the hill. In general, I'm very slowly (see what I did there?) ooching my paces a little faster with each run. I'm still a long ways off, but now that I am not focusing on adding distance, I can start to think about what I can do to get that speed back over the summer.  Maybe that won't be possible with the impending heat, but any gains I make during the dog days of a Texas summer will definitely pay off in the fall. And I'm willing to wait. I'm ready to experiment some with this delayed gratification thing. It's not something I do well.  I'm by nature very impatient and demanding. But, I know I didn't fall out of my 9:30/mile pace overnight, so I know there will be a long road back to that.

I wrapped up this week with a solo long run at the lake on Saturday morning, then cheered myself silly at the Dallas Rock'n'Roll half with some of my favoritest people, watching some of our other favoritest people run. I had hoped to run long on Saturday, then head out to LBJ Grasslands to see my sweet friend Alicia make her dreams come true, but for various reasons, some of my own making, some out of my control, I wasn't able to make that happen (sidebar: Go read her blog. Now. She's kinda awesome, and she had a full-out Bubble of Love thing going on. Sad to have missed it, but I know I'll have another chance to see her do something spectacular, because that's how she do.). In any case, I did eke out 4 miles at the park with the hubby on Saturday night, leaving me with 9-10 miles to do on Sunday. I decided to wake up really early and take advantage of the drive to Dallas for cheer squad duty to run a loop around White Rock Lake.

It's been months since I've been out there for a run, and I think I've only every run out there by myself once. Usually, I have at least one other person out there to meet up for the loop (or longer).  That lake is the scene of oh-so-many vignettes from my past running life: great deep conversations, memorable races, LOTS of laughter, and true friendships were born on those paths. It's a testament to how strong these memories are that for the whole 9 plus miles, I never once felt alone.  Even in the dark on the first 1/3 of the loop, as I crossed the Mike Moore bridge, the boats, the Stone Tables. Every landmark brought back memories flooding into my brain. There's where we had the Autism satellite run. There's where we parked for that first 18-miler when Marci and Kris and Mel were training for Chicago. There's where Fi urged me to attack that hill instead of walking. This is the spot where Mellew ran out of water. There's the bridge. Another bridge. HOW MANY BRIDGES? And that time that I dragged Fi and Marci around the lake for Hottest Half, and they pushed me and pulled me and sometimes let me fall back or ahead by myself, to work through what I needed to work through, but were always there for me. How many people do you run into out there, getting their miles in, going in the opposite direction, or sometimes passing you, but all of you sharing the camaraderie of the lake? 

Suffice it to say that while I was out there on the lake by myself, I had all kinds of company on my run. And, yes, I very often laughed out loud to myself. In any case, I ran strong all throughout, even though I spent the last four miles heading directly into the wind. I fueled with bulletproof coffee I drank on the drive in, and only at about mile 9, when I was about a quarter-mile from the car, did I feel the first twinge of hunger. My legs were strong throughout. And I had zero stomach issues. So WIN!

As soon as I got done running, I headed back to the race course and parked the car just across the street from designated cheer central. TPG and her boyfrann Robert were already there, fully prepared with cowbells, wiener costume and a great sign for Robert's sister. I froggered across the street and joined in. Soon enough, we had Katie, Team K and, for a bit, sweet half-of-LIAR Teal with us. We brought the noise, y'all. Ain't gonna lie - we put our cheer squad up against anyone for the sheer loudness and obnoxiousness. And that's just what we (okay, me, mostly me) are wearing! It was so fun to cheer the runners at the top of the hill. It was a little chilly still, and that wind was pretty rough, and they were rockstars to be out there running 13.1 in that. I kept thinking of the year I ran this race with my cousin, which had to have been the hottest March day in history. Not that I wanted mid-40s and windy, but Texas, y'all... You can't predict ball and you can't predict Texas weather!

All in all, I was pretty pleased with how this week went training-wise. I am even more pleased with how the week went regarding our nutrition plan.  We celebrated a family birthday and I made it through a baby shower with PINK CUPCAKES and I didn't falter once.  I even managed to skip the donuts brought into the office. It's becoming natural for us to eat this way, even out at happy hour & post-dinner yogurt with friends (Pinkberry has greek yogurt smoothies made with fruit and/or PB - you can ask them to skip the agave syrup and the berry puree with added sugar). I'm feeling good all around, except for my arms and wrists, which are experiencing Cowbell-Related-DOMS. Ah... such is the life of the FIGJAM cheer squad!

Week 6:  26.2 miles, including conquering the hill, weeknight run around the hood, park run with my sweet baboo and a solo run around White Rock.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Week 8 & Week 7: Adapting

So, let's start the catch-up with a Week 8 recap, shall we?  A lot has happened since I ran that 15-miler two weeks ago, and it's all been adding up to a decision that I made today.

That 15-miler was an experiment, as it was the first day of a new eating plan that we are using, and I fueled that day on a cup of coffee and 2 tablespoons of grass-fed butter. That was it. That was all. Nothing more. It's called Bulletproof coffee, and it plays into a nutrition plan called No Sugar, No Grains. Essentially, the crux of this plan is to fight the insulin reactions in our bodies caused by high amount of sugar in the standard American diet by removing sugar and grains from our intake. By reducing the sugar as fuel, I'm forcing my body to become fat-adapted and better utilize fat as energy, both for general daily living and during endurance activity.

So for the past two weeks, we've been eating lots of real food, fresh food, and hardly anything pre-packaged or processed. I have struggled for years with my weight, as any of you who have followed me here will remember, and this plan has been very successful for several of my friends who have seen positive results, both in weight loss and in performance during endurance events. I knew that I couldn't continue to do the same things and expect different results, so I determined it was worth a shot to give this a try. With the support of my husband, we decided to try this as strictly as possible until Oklahoma City, and then evaluate and see what results we saw.

I thought I would be having a harder time adjusting to no sugar than my husband would, since I was/am truly addicted to sweets.  I love my cookies, candy, chocolate, ice cream like nothing else. I have always had an irresistible sweet tooth. The hubby, on the other hand, prefers salty and savory snacks to anything sweet. He loves his chips, peanuts, jerky, things like that. But he also has a deadly Coke Zero addiction, plus as a Texan, an affinity for sweet iced tea.  He moved away from using sugar because of the sheer amount of tea he goes through in a week, so instead has been using artificial sweeteners for years. What we have found is that I am barely missing my cookies and candy, but he is having a helluva time without his Coke Zero and sweet tea. He had serious withdrawals for the first week and only in the past week has started to feel better instead of worse.

I had a few hiccups getting used to the fueling for my runs. The bulletproof coffee worked great on my 15-miler.  In fact, I ran for more than 3 hours without any other fuel, got home, drank some water, took a bath, piddled around the house and then at around 2 pm decided I should probably eat something. The coffee stuck with me that long. It was kind of shocking, especially for my first long run. I am used to running without fueling beforehand for shorter runs, so that took no adjustment. Even my longer midweek runs of 8 & 9 miles went off without a hitch with the new fueling.

Then came last week's planned 18-miler. I headed out on the first leg of 8 miles, heading south from the house, with the plan to stop at the house for more water and change directions for a 5-mile out-and-back to finish the planned mileage. This would be the longest run for me since my last 50k in November 2011.  I had my bulletproof coffee while I planned out my route, then got dressed and headed out. My legs felt pretty good, despite 16 weekday miles. But two miles in, my mind just shut down. I couldn't wrap my head around spending the next 4 hours running through three towns. The Freshman was home for spring break, and while both boys were still snoozing when I left, I just felt like I wanted to be anywhere but on the road. I sucked it up and ended up with 6 miles for the day, most of it a slow walk. Again, the legs felt fine, but the mind was not in the game.

This is my "Not gonna happen" face. 
I had taken Monday off, to spend time with the kids, so I rationalized that I would try again that day. The time change completely derailed me, and I didn't get out the door until well past 9 AM.  I had the coffee and butter again (three cups of coffee in 8 days - more coffee than I've had in the past 20 years!) and headed out, determined that I had to get these miles in.  All was well until about mile 6, at which point my stomach decided that I would not be doing any more running that day. I managed to make it home at mile 8 and once I got settled a little bit, decided I would go ahead and try to run the other 10. I refilled my water bottle, grabbed some nuts and headed out the door, in the other direction. This time, I made it two miles out, to a nice little area at the trailhead. There are a couple of benches and a brand-new bridge. It was a beautiful morning. I checked in with my girls on our group chat, and with their encouragement, headed out further onto the trail. Without them, I would have just headed home after that little stop. But, even with them, I only could bring myself to run another half mile before I turned home.  I ended up with 13 miles for the day.  My rationale was that when I took Sunday and Monday mileage together, I had my 18 plus a bonus. 

This is my "Can I be done now?" face. 
I have lovely views on my paved path.  Thank you, City of Arlington!

But I know that's not how it works. I know this. 6 + 13 does not equal 18.  When I got home, I reviewed my training plan and found that I had a cutback of 13 miles scheduled for this week. I figured that I could switch out the weeks, taking the cutback a little earlier and give myself a little more recovery, and give myself one more chance to hit the 18 miles before ramping up to the first of 2 planned 20-milers. So that was the plan I went with all week.

As the week went by, I couldn't get the planned 18 miles out of my mind. My whole mantra this training cycle has been to get that day's miles done on that day. Don't worry about tomorrow's miles until tomorrow. Just plan the work and work the plan. But I couldn't follow my own advice. I fretted about it all week. I bailed on my midweek mid-distance run because not only was I tired from doubling up Sunday and Monday, but because I got in my own head. That whole "get out of my own way" thing? Yeah, I couldn't do that.

So this brings us to today.  I woke up late, partly because of the stupid time change still and mostly because of the megadose of Benadryl I had to take last night.  Texas weather is a bitch this time of the year, and this week it brought in crazy allergens that made me sneeze all day and filled my sinuses so much it hurt to touch my face. In any case, I woke up way later than planned to, but I got dressed, had my bulletproof coffee, and headed out. 

Right before mile 6 today. Still all smiles. 
I felt good. Check that. I felt GREAT.  Skipping a couple of the weekday runs meant my legs felt fresh and strong. I was moseying along just fine, hit the turnaround at mile 5 and stopped for a couple of photos. Just had to get home, refill the water bottle and head out in the other direction. All systems go. And then I hit mile 8.  I realized that when I got home, I still had another 8 miles to go before I would be done. And on race day, I would have another 8 miles to go after that. And it suddenly dawned on me that I was tired. Not physically so much, but mentally tired. I didn't have the energy for another 8 miles. I thought about why I wanted to this full right now.  I thought about why I needed to do this full right now. And the only thing I could think of was that I had committed to it. And suddenly, that wasn't enough.

At my current paces, I am looking at no faster than a 5:45 marathon on race day, and if I'm honest with myself, probably slower than that.  I am still working through this nutrition plan. Training for a marathon is hard.  This I know. Training for a marathon, and running a marathon, is hard enough when your heart is in it 100 percent. But when there is a doubt in your mind about the reasons for it, it ends up being a chore, not a labor of love.

Right now, I have a lot of irons in the fire that demand my attention, and I just don't have the energy required to dedicate to a full training cycle. The minute I decided that I didn't have anything to prove to anyone and allowed myself to think that I could drop to the half at OKC, I felt a huge weight lift off my shoulders.  I cried about it a little, especially after talking to my Sister I Choose about it. But she and MK knew all the right things to say to me about this decision, and they were so fully supportive and encouraging, that I quickly knew that this is right call for me.

I still plan to stay on this eating plan through OKC before evaluating it and determining how feasible it is as a long-term solution for us. I still plan to run the half at OKC and hope to hit a course PR for the half there. It is one of my favorite courses, half or full, and it is always one of the highlights of my racing year.  I have been working on hills in the neighborhood around work, and I plan to continue that, because hills make you STRONGAH.

I want to get back on Reveille, but with the full looming, I was looking at delaying that until after OKC, whereas now I can get my new pedals put on and do a little more riding this spring. I won't be dreading my long runs, but instead will look forward to them.  The only reason I do this is because I love it. When it became a chore, it was time to re-evaluate. When I'm truly ready for a full again, if I ever am, I will know it. And there will always be races when that time comes. And if I'm not ever up to a full again, well that's okay, too.  It doesn't make me any less of a runner. It doesn't make me less of a person.

So, there you go. I'm not just adapting my body to be more efficient, I'm adapting my mind as well. In the long run, this is all good.

Week 8:  22 miles, including the 6-mile "long" run and a 9-mile midweek run with two monster hills that kicked my azz but felt really good.

Week 7: 29 miles, including today's 10-miler and a Monday 13.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Stay Tuned

 I owe you a Week 8 recap.

It's just that it's spring break and the boy is home.

And I'm on a deadline for a knitting project (please turn out like I hope!!).

And it's hard to blog when you're using both hands for knitting.

Meanwhile, here is a photo of a baseball player to tide you over.


Also, did I mention the time change kicked me square in the azz?  Even a day off on Monday didn't really help. Sheesh.

Monday, March 03, 2014

Week Nine: Not Made of Sugar

So I'm in no danger of melting in the rain. Even if that rain is actually sleet. And snow. On Texas Independence Day. The day after it hits 82. Because Texas, y'all.

The Savant & I put off our run on Saturday until after 10, due to some crazy schedule mixup with Scouts. By the end of four tortuous (yet somehow fun) miles, we were both drenched & overheated. We ended up doing run-walk intervals & fun things like high knees & butt kicks to break up the slog. It just had gotten too hot too quickly. It was even too hot for the sunroof. Crazy. 

Then today, we woke up to 33 degrees and quickly getting older. I layered up and hit the streets. By the time I hauled myself out of the house it was 28 and slightly misty, with the wind picking up. I'd wanted to do two long out-n-backs but that idea was squashed when I discovered the park fountains were turned off. Never mind that they were working yesterday; the threat of below-freezing temps meant Parks Dept workers had gone around & shut them all off. That led to me having to circle back to the house after 6 for water. 

Right after I rehydrated and took time to slather lotion on my face to prevent windburn, the slight drizzle turned to sleet. We didn't get the thundersleet my neighbors to the north got, but it it was enough to make noise as it hit the ground & foliage. What to do? Take a break and wait for it to pass? Or "manlady" up & git er dun? 

I'll end the suspense. 


Week 9: 32 total miles, including 15 mile long-run in mid-twenty degree temps, sleet and tiny little flurries of snow, 4 miles of intervals, an 8-mile weeknight run through the hood, and a day off to give blood. 

Confidence is building, even if speed is not.