Training Week 5 Recap

Last week was another solid training week. First off, I am loving my rest days this cycle. I love the hard work of training, but my body is happy to have a day off to recover after 5-6 days of grinding. I did skip my Tuesday class last week (*sad*) because my hamstrings were tight and it was affecting my knees, and I wanted to be able to get my runs in. Class, from past experience, could have helped or made it worse, so I erred on the side of caution.

Wednesday and Thursday Pittsburgh was thrown into the Polar Vortex, so I got up and did my Wednesday run on the treadmill before work. Knee was doing better after some quality time with Orange Spiky (my favorite and most terrifying roller) the previous day. I ran fasted and it went remarkably well. I’ve not had much success running fasted in the past, and I wouldn’t do it running outside, at least not without a little more experimenting. But an occasional treadmill run is worth experimenting with.

Thursday I did my 5 on the treadmill again after work, then realized I only needed 1/2 a mile to hit 130 miles for the month, so you know I went back to the treadmill and ran another half mile. 130 miles in the month of January. Unreal. Loving this ultra journey. Solid run, nothing remarkable except my cumulative mileage.

Kettlebell and warmup mile on Friday. Very nice warmup mile, and really solid class. Even bumped up weight in the last round of the circuit. I felt really strong.

Saturday was my longest run in over a year. I’m really struggling with the Saturday group runs with all the stopping and starting and breaking up the mileage, so I wanted to do this as close to unbroken as I could. I ran with BRF and another friend out at North Park–not my favorite place to run, but I wasn’t alone and I didn’t have to keep stopping. The run went really well. I was strong and pretty consistent. Did start getting fatigued near the end, but held it together well. Spent some QT with the BRF after the run, grabbing lunch and checking out the new Pro Bike + Run location (heavy emphasis on the Bike…). Pittsburgh was thawing out, but not when I was running-temp was between 9 and 12 when we got started.

Sunday, I got up at the crack of dawn to run with some friends. 10 solid miles in the city. 33 degree starting temps felt like a heatwave after the rest of the week. Felt really good during most of the run, though fatigue started to catch me near the end. Definitely felt more sore after the run (and some quality couch time with my cat) so I’m glad I have a rest day. Need to work on more solid recovery practices–this has always been my weakness.

I am LOVING this ultra journey. Loving. The high mileage makes me so ridiculously happy. I feel good going into each run, and for the most part I’m recovering well and quickly.

My N=1 experiment…

So I’ve been experimenting with something for the past month. Quietly, haven’t shared it with many people (until very recently) because I didn’t want it to be a *thing*. I don’t do things because they are popular, I’m not jumping on some bandwagon, I was just genuinely curious.

I’ve been following a Keto diet.

Super controversial right now, especially since Jillian Michaels recently lost her shit about it. I didn’t want to talk about it or draw attention to it. I’m not going to proselytize or loudly complain about things I “can’t” have (it’s ridiculous…I can have whatever I want, I’m making a conscious choice. Why would I complain?). But I’ve heard some compelling things in documentaries and podcasts that made me curious. This isn’t just a diet or quick fix to drop a few pounds (though if that happens, I’m never going to complain). As someone embarking on serious endurance training, I’ve heard about the potential benefits for endurance athletes and it made too much sense to me not to at least try it out and see.

The basic gist of why I tried it, why it makes sense to me: the human body can only store so much glycogen–after a couple of intense hours of exercise, this is used up, and it becomes harder to replace it as you continue to go on–if you can’t stay on top of it (and very few can), you bonk (also known as the dreaded “wall” in a marathon). Even if you do manage to keep up on it, the amounts of sugar and fast-acting carbs you need to ingest, particularly over the course of an ultramarathon, will wreak havoc with most people’s digestive systems (runner’s trots). If you’re fat adapted (which is what happens when you’re consistently in ketosis), you’ll still require some outside fuel (especially in ultra scenarios) but the human body–even the leanest athletes–have enough stored fat to work through to avoid the dreaded bonk. So even if you can’t or don’t fuel at exactly the perfect intervals you can continue moving.

So I’ve been playing with this since the beginning of the year. I’ve managed to stay between 20-50 grams of carbs a day most of the time (I tend to go slightly over around my long runs, but haven’t noticed any negative impact from that). I’ve noticed that I can go longer and farther during my runs without fueling, or with significantly less than before. I used to take a gel about every 5 miles (about 1 hour), for any runs over 6 miles (I might take it earlier than 5, but you get the idea). I’ve gone 10 miles without any additional fuel without a performance drop. My last 15 miler, instead of the full 3-chew serving twice during the run, I took 2 chews at a time twice during the run. I’ve done training runs with just a few sips of gatorade in the middle miles and nothing else but water. And I feel good. It’s not perfect, I’m still working out the kinks and figuring it out, but by and large I plan to stick with it and see how it goes. I’ve lost about 10 pounds (again, not my main reason for doing it, but as someone chasing racing weight I will never complain), and honestly, despite how much I love carbs (and I do…) I don’t really miss them. It’s not like I’m saying “never again” to carbs. I had a beer during the hockey game the other day. I will eventually have real pizza again, though I’ve perfected my cauliflower crust and I’m digging it. And on race days anything goes–whatever sounds good I’ll go for. But as long as my training is going smoothly, and I feel good, and it seems to be having the desired effects, I might as well keep this up.

I never imagined this would be something that I would try and like. The idea of “giving up carbs” was foreign to me. I don’t miss them though–I made stroganoff with zucchini noodles last week, and it was amazing. I preferred the zucchini noodles, they gave it a richer flavor. Like I said, my cauliflower pizza crust is pretty near perfect at this point, and while I miss the convenience of having someone else make my post-run pizza, I don’t feel deprived. It’s a little more work (okay, a LOT more work) but I’m not coming home and crashing after my long runs (like I used to) so I don’t even mind it.

Again, I’m not proselytizing, you do what works for you. But this has been working for me and I wanted to share it since I’m a month in. Long run tomorrow–my longest in over a year and I’m really looking forward to it. Training recap on Monday. Happy weekend, friends! More soon

Training Recap: Week 4

This was a really really solid week of training. I hit every work out. Three of four runs were outside, which is always a good week in my life. Pro Bike + Run group run on Wednesday was great–warmer weather than we’ve had with a slightly different route. I crushed (most of) the hills. Saturday’s run was in cold and blowy snow, so it was slow going but I got it done. Flew solo due to a commitment in the morning, though the group run was cancelled anyway. Flopped my mileage so I could run my longer miles with people on Sunday. Explored a new to me rail trail and it was great! So happy to have somewhere else to run closer to home.

I’m trying to be mindful of my weights in KB classes and choose bells that are still challenging, even though I’m running a lot. 1) I want to be stronger. That happens when you challenge yourself. 2) Ultras are made on tired legs. If I’m going into my runs a little sore and/or fatigued it will only prepare me for the challenge that lies ahead of me. (That said, there is a huge difference between being a little sore and fatigued and being really sore and fatigued…keeping my schedule as is and keeping an eye on who is filling in so I don’t completely wreck my runs…)

I’m over 100 miles for the month already, and I still have a few more runs left. I LOVE this! I’ve grown to really appreciate my rest day, and when I tried a runstreak it did not end well for me. But I feel like a streak of 100+ mile months is something fun to shoot for, and will be easy this year.

I’m recovering really well from the runs/workouts. Fatigued and ready for my rest day? Definitely. Sore? Not too much. I might be done by the end of a run, but the next day I usually am ready to go back out. Distance really is my happy place. I feel really good and I think I’m built for this ultra-life. Bigger mileage starting this weekend and I’m kinda pumped to see how it plays out. I have my long run distances mapped out through my first ultra for the year, so I’ve started to see when I can schedule races around them to make it more interesting. I also need to start comparing them to the scheduled group runs to see how I can get the extra miles I’ll need.

So another successful week in the books. More soon, friends.

A good place…

My intention for my Friday posts is for them to be more personal, less training focused (though I’m me, so everything kind of comes back to running eventually…). I got away from that in the past year and I think that if I’d done more of it and processed the stuff I was working through I would’ve worked through it better than keeping it under wraps and just bugging my people with it. I’m in a good place right now. Things are starting to come together. I’m absolutely LOVING my training–the increased mileage agrees with me. I’m already at 100 miles for the month and I still have a week left! I’ve had some really good, solid runs lately.

Don’t get me wrong. My anxiety is coming out to play to be sure, but it’s much easier to beat it back. Still working on my time management and getting it all done, but that’s getting better too. Working on getting back to my racing weight, and I’m making real progress in that arena as well. Social anxiety gets me still–trying to make plans with friends, things that get me out of routine stress me out. But I have enough clarity at this point that I know I’m overreacting, that I’m being unhealthy about it and I can kind of force myself through to prove it’s not such a big deal. A skipped workout isn’t that big of a deal. A dietary indulgence isn’t the end of the world. I’m trying to strike the ever elusive balance and not get too caught up in anything. In effect, that’s part of what I’m loving about this round of training–with very little emphasis on speed or pace I get to just enjoy it. My watch isn’t ruling me (funny that I upgraded when I’m obsessing over it less, but hey, cest la vie), it’s just a tool.

Things are good, and I don’t have much more to say, so I’m going to close out for now. I’ll check in again soon.

Training Recap-weeks 1-3

Yowza. This is why I want to write twice a week–once to recap my training, and once about whatever else I feel like. So…I’ll get caught up on that and hopefully not miss it going forward. I’m definitely a paper planner/journal kind of girl, so I am using the Believe training journal (red edition) for this round of training to capture the day-to-day snapshots.

Week 1: I worked out 10 days straight. It was a bit much, but they were all solid runs/workouts and I was never so happy for my rest day when it came. I felt good, but was definitely tired. So thankful for my runcrew this week, they definitely helped pull me through.

Week 2: Another solid week of training from a physical standpoint, but struggled mentally/emotionally. Difficulty finding balance in my routine between household responsibilities, workouts, work, and the other ‘stuff’ I need to accomplish at any given time. Took an extra rest day to give myself that mental space to get caught up on tasks I’d been pushing off. Long run felt like Columbus round two–my legs would just not warm up and cooperate.

Week 3: This was a good week. Too much treadmill running for my taste, but thank goddess for Shameless on Nextflix. I’m about half way through season 3 already, and will likely be mostly caught up by the end of winter. Haha. Long run was fantastic. I felt so good the whole time. Better than I’d felt on a long run in over a month. Felt really good on my recovery treadmill miles the next day too. Focusing more on core and ITB pre-hab as well (still need to get better about stretching and foam rolling, but baby steps…)

Lots more to come. Talk to you soon, friends.

Better late than never…

So I missed blogging last week. Still working on my time management efforts-I’m trying out some tweaks to my schedule so hopefully that will see me posting on a more regular basis. It was also kind of a rough week for me, and even though I know the importance of writing during the rough times I still avoid it. I guess in a way that’s why I backed off it so much last year.

This is a post I really should have written about a 1000 times last year, honestly, but I’m finally doing it. And I’m coming from a better perspective on it, but it’s something I keep coming back to. In reflecting on last year I’ve had to work very hard (too hard) to see how far I’ve come and to take pride in what I did accomplish, because when I look at the list of goals I set for myself I was only able to scratch off one of my running goals. I missed the mark on everything else. And that’s difficult for someone like me to accept. It shouldn’t be. It should come with the territory–I like big, scary goals. If it doesn’t scare you at least a little, then you’re not thinking big enough. So reason would have it that I’m going to miss the mark sometimes if I’m shooting big. And the progress I made was pretty awesome–if I didn’t go for broke aiming for things that scared me I wouldn’t have come as far as I did. So it amazes me, realizing all of these things, that the feelings of failure still hit me so hard, and that’s a lot of what I was struggling with last week. Always my own worst critic. For the most part, I’ve been able to take a step back and realize that I have a choice: I either go big and chase scary things and risk missing the mark, or I play it safe, hit the target every time, but never really find out what I’m capable of. Is that really even a choice? Go big. Risk it and find out. Maybe I’ll miss, but I’ll be closer than I was if I didn’t try. That said, I’m sure that this isn’t the last time it will come up for me, so I’ll take it as it comes.

Distance doesn’t scare me in the same way. I’ve always said I’m built for distance, not for speed. It feels like coming home. And I worried at first that I wasn’t going big enough because I wasn’t scared. It hit me though. There is definitely fear there. I’m pushing for things bigger than I’ve said publicly (I’ve shared them with a close few, including my coach, but I want to keep some things to myself for the time being), and honestly, Burning River scares me. It didn’t until I pulled the trigger on registration, but holy smokes once I did…BOOM. I joke that if BRF could do it (and PR no less) a month and a half after hernia surgery, that I can definitely do it…but for as much as he hates it, he’s a better trail runner than I am. Most of the people I know who have done it are better trail runners, and while I know there is a significant amount of road in the front half it still scares me that I might go out there and not make the time cut off. But I’m registered. And I’m going to train my ass off and put it all out there and see what happens.

Another weekend of training. I’ll get caught up on my training recaps on Monday. I promise. Have a good weekend, friends.

Coming home…

I’ve always liked back-to-back races. I’ve always said that I didn’t really like running until I discovered distance. And coming back to distance seriously feels like coming home. I don’t have to be fast, I just have to *go* and I’m good at that. Wednesday night as I was finishing my tempo run on the treadmill, I was on my 5th straight day of running and I felt really good. I said to my coach–maybe I’m built for this ultra-life. Last night, I did my miles outside and it was definitely slow and slogging (for me) but I was still happy. My legs felt great.

I’m just starting this training cycle, and I’m only a couple weeks into this new schedule, but man–running more feels like coming home. I fell in love with running when I trained for my first half marathon (Pittsburgh, 2011). Once I learned ultras were a thing–before I even ran my first full marathon–I knew that I wanted to do that. My mind latched onto 50 miles, and while I’ve delayed it for awhile, I’m ready to tackle it now.

I know I’m in the honeymoon phase–that this isn’t always going to be fun or feel easy, but it still feels like it’s what I was meant to be doing it. I want to make the most of it all and get as fit and strong as possible. I want to soak it all in.

More soon…

Happy New Year!

So once again time got away from me…but I’ll catch you up quickly where we left off…

The race I was going to tell you about was the Bobcat Trail Half Marathon. A real true legit trail race. With a generous time limit, I knew I would finish, even if it was ugly. And with rains the week before the race, I can assure you that it was. I went out by myself, and honestly I loved it. It was cold. It was muddy. I fell a bunch and there were parts that scared the crap outta me (creek crossing up to my thighs? crossing a ravine on essentially a 2×4? single track next to some steep drop offs?) but I did it. When I got scared, I took a breath and pushed through. It was a beautiful and challenging course through Burr Oak State Park in Ohio, and I would love to do it again sometime when it’s not muddy af. But I am SO glad that I did it.

After that I did the Penton Turkey Trot in my hometown on Thanksgiving. This is the race, as some long time readers may recall, that I nearly drowned in on my first attempt. I finally felt ready for redemption. It was AMAZING! It is seriously going to rival Pittsburgh for my favorite Turkey Trot and will be tough to decide each year. The course for Penton is a cross country course–little bit of real trail, grass, some road. It was so much fun! Then I tried another trail race at the beginning of December and while it didn’t go as I’d hoped/planned, I’m glad I went out and tried. Trail is tough, it’s unpredictable, but man is it rewarding.

Finished 2018 out with one of my favorite 5ks–the Harmony Silvester. Hilly and awful, I love it. This year it rained and I had a stitch the entire time, but it was good. Even with the stitch I actually ran all of the hills for the first time ever, and I sprinted up the last hill to the finish (slow sprint, but I put it all out there). Started 2019 with the Resolution Run 5k with some of my friends, and it was another good time.

Looking ahead…I’m nervous about some of the stuff on the horizon for me. But if your goals don’t scare you, you’re not thinking big enough. I didn’t have trepidation at first, which concerned me, but now that I’m actually into my training–oh yeah, it’s there. Which is good. Feel the fear, do it anyway, and I fully intend to. I’m registered for both 50-mile races. Getting back into distance has been fun. I mean, I for sure have the “oh god, why am I doing this” moment when I’m setting out for a long run, but honestly 15 miles feels less daunting to me than 3 miles sometimes.

One of the things looking back on 2018 that makes me a little sad is that I didn’t blog as much. I think it’s because I struggled so much emotionally with running and training and it was easier to back away than to ‘use my words.’ That said I know better. I know that writing about the hard things makes them easier, that being vulnerable is always better than holding back. I wish I had written more. So this year I’m going to. My goal is to post twice a week, and regular readers can feel free to nudge me if I haven’t posted at least once in the past week. I want to document this training cycle–even when it’s ugly, even when it’s boring, even when it’s hard. Because I know that it will be, and I know that if I write about it I’ll come out stronger on the other side.

Cheers to the new year, friends. More soon.

Playing Catch-Up…

This is unfortunately what I do. I will get better about blogging more consistently. I had a very busy August as we moved into our new home and time has gotten away from me as I work on getting into a new routine here.

So…shortly after moving into our new home–like the next weekend–I did my first trail race in a long time. Peer pressure–and the promise of a sweet medal–got the better of me.  So I did the Two Face race…and it went really well. I actually loved it–much to my surprise. Suddenly I was overcome with a desire to run all of the trail, while still working on my speed for the fall races I had coming up. So I stayed the course and put trail on the back-burner.

I spent the better part of this year focusing on speed, and I was getting really burnt out on it from a mental standpoint. The summer was incredibly frustrating with the heat and humidity–I couldn’t hit my paces, I couldn’t hold my paces, and even though my coach and everyone else was assuring me that it was the weather, I still just couldn’t accept it. I’ve never worked so hard to consistently fall short–to the point I just wanted my big fall race to be over and done with so I could move on and stop thinking about it.

I love the hard work. I love the grind of training and having a plan. Nothing makes me happier than checking the boxes. But three back-to-back training cycles with a singular focus was pretty much my breaking point. I’ve learned a lot about myself this year, I stepped outside my comfort zone, I learned to dig deeper than I ever thought I could and that I’m capable of more than I ever thought. That’s been the beauty of having a coach–and why I knew I needed one. Some people can push themselves without that external influence–I knew I couldn’t. I knew I would keep selling myself short without someone pushing me to try. I may not have hit all the time goals I set this year, but I can say without a doubt that I left it out on the course every time. I gave it everything I had, even when things didn’t go according to plan.

Which brings me to the Columbus Half Marathon–my big fall goal race. I was going for a 2:10 half. I’d been working towards it steadfastly all summer, despite my frustration and waning interest. The weather broke, it all seemed to be lining up–even if I fell short of 2:10 I figured I would at least PR. Then race weekend hit and it was COLD. It was in the 30s the entire time I was running. I didn’t have quite enough clothing with me (I hadn’t run in those temps for months) and my legs never warmed up. I couldn’t get the turnover I needed to hit my paces. But I did the best I could and finished the race. One thing that really helped with my overall attitude towards it was that the whole race is a means of fundraising for Nationwide Children’s Hospital, and mile 11 is the Angel mile–a tribute to the kids who didn’t make it. Having their families out there, cheering me on made it really impossible to be upset about something as insignificant as a race time. Was I going to hit my goal? No. Was I going to PR? No. But I’m healthy, I’m out there doing something that I love. I GET to do this, and not everyone is so lucky. When you put it in that perspective, nothing mattered but crossing the finish line.

Honestly? I was just happy for it to be over. I’d originally had a goal for EQT as well–and by the time I was done in Columbus I didn’t care. I decided that my times didn’t matter anymore, I just wanted to enjoy myself and running for at least a month. No pressure. No times to think about. Just go out and run with my friends and have a good time. So that’s exactly what I’ve been doing. I almost didn’t even start my watch for EQT–I just enjoyed running through my city. I took in the views in a way I don’t when I’m worried about my pace. I took Jello shots when offered near the finish line–I never would have even noticed them if I’d been worried about my time. It was great.

Which brings me to this week…I met with my coach to talk about next year. I’m so excited about next year. I’m going back to my roots, my first love–distance. Playing with speed has been fun, and something I want to continue to work on, but distance is how I fell in love with running in the first place. I’ve always wanted to do ultras–I’ve dreamed of doing 50 miles for years. Then I discovered that I didn’t really like trail (or so I thought…) so I kind of gave up on that. But my world opened up this year. So next year–bring it on.  A marathon PR and 2 50-milers are in the works, and then I’ll change gears and work on speed for a fall half marathon. It seems I’ll be less likely to burn out since I’ll shift gears before the fall, and my plan will be more varied training for longer distances–I’ll get to do some trail, some stairs, some city roads, hills, speed. The variation will be good for me mentally. I’m excited to have a few more weeks of “freedom” before I’m back in training, but I’m equally excited for the possibilities next year holds.

One more thing to catch up on…my race this weekend. But I’ll save that for my next post (coming soon, I promise…)

Burning River–The Crew Experience

This weekend I had a great experience serving as race crew for a couple of my dear friends. Sarah is an experienced ultra runner, my BRF  was doing his first point-to-point ultra race and second 50-miler. For races like this runners are able to have “drop bags” with supplies that will be taken to various aid stations so they can change things out or get fresh items, and at other stops they can have people meet them to provide that support and some encouragement. I had the privilege of being the support person meeting them at several points on the course to make sure they had what they needed. Quickly refilling water packs and bottles, touching up bug spray and sunscreen, swapping out shoes, helping with band-aids and anti-chafe balm, reloading snack supplies and getting them back on the trail as quickly as possible was my main mission–then once they were on their way I’d pack back up and drive to the next stop, picking up anything that they might need along the way.

I spent a lot of time waiting. Talking to other crew members. Made some new friends. It was great. I had a great time. My friends did well–BRF not only finished but managed a 5-minute PR on a tougher course. Sarah finished (her only real goal). And I…really can’t wait to start running distance again. This year has been good for me and I’m glad I stepped back to work on speed, but damn I miss running distance. I’m excited for my own 50-miler next year (yes, you read that right). I hope I can crew for my friends again at some point as well…I really like taking care of people and being part of the event. I love the atmosphere of trail events even though I’m not really a trail runner (at least not yet, never say never…).

The weekend was full of good friends, and food, excellent beer, laughs, hot tubs, hotel sleep overs, lots of driving and happy feelings. I came home exhausted but so so proud of my friends and glad to have played a small role in it. It definitely sparked some things in my mind and now I’m looking forward to the things on the horizon–next year is going to be interesting, that’s for sure. I am biting the bullet and doing a trail race myself for the first time in over a year (got suckered in by a sweet medal I couldn’t resist and my enabling friends).  I’m trying to reign in my newfound enthusiasm until I get through that 10k in a couple of weeks, but I’m definitely approaching it differently than I was when I signed up.

In the meantime, I need to shift my focus to the main event for the fall–don’t get me wrong, I have a lot of fall races lined up because I’m me, but my big goal race is the Columbus Half Marathon and I have another big goal. Time to buckle down and focus on getting that done.

More soon…