Marathon #2: Week 11 in the Books

Monday.  Another Monday.  Another week of training.  Another bleary eyed start to the week.  Today was especially brutal in the sleepy department.  I could hardly stay awake in class, and needless to say, my recovery run didn’t happen.

Tuesday.  It’s amazing what a good night’s sleep will do for a body!  We had a leg workout planned for class today, and since I still had homework to do, I skipped CrossFit.  But hello, legs!  I decided to go all out on my last set of deadlifts and hit a deadlift PR at 135 pounds! Tonight at track, my hamstrings were protesting, and I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to run fast.  The track workout was 8 x 600.  I usually struggle to run any distance over 400 meters at track pace, but I knocked out those 600s without a problem.  Yay!  Maybe I am getting stronger!  The icing on the cake was getting to celebrate my niece’s fourth birthday after track.001Wednesday.  Holy sore hamstrings.  Walking is a challenge.  I’m not sure how I’m going to run tonight, especially after that CrossFit WOD this morning that had me running (or more like shuffling) 100 meters while holding a 45 pound kettlebell… I decided to run a slow couple of miles before our group run tonight in the hope of loosening up my hamstrings.  It worked a little.  Our group run was 4 miles at tempo pace, so I got in a total of 6 miles.  I’m not sure my legs would have carried me much further.

Thursday.  Wow, I am really second guessing the wisdom of that set of super heavy deads.  My hamstrings are still super tight.  But I decided to get my recovery run in as soon as class was over.  I knew if I went home first, good intentions wouldn’t be enough to get me out the door again.  I was hoping to get 6 miles in, but even with walking intervals, I only got in a little over 5 miles.  My legs just couldn’t take it.  And 005I know that just as important as getting in miles is listening to my body.  I don’t want to push myself too much and risk injury.  Plus, it was super hot.  I wound up with this interesting sunburn.  Fun way to go to work…004





Friday.  Finally a rest day.  My legs don’t feel quite as tight and sore, but all the same, I’m glad I can just rest today.  Rest and roll.  That’s all I did.  Seriously.

Saturday.  My legs felt almost normal when I woke up, thankfully.  I’m not sure I could have faced a 13 mile run with sore legs.  It took me a while to wake up, but once I found my rhythm, it was a pretty good run.  It was stinkin’ humid, but there was a nice breeze that made half marathon distance bearable.

All in all, it was a fairly uneventful but solid week of training.  I got in a total of 27 miles.  What do I need to do differently next week?

  1.  Stay the course.  Focus on the goal.  Be determined to get those runs in.  (I see a lot of pep talks in my future over the next few weeks!)

Talk to me:

My niece had a Flash themed birthday party.  Who’s your favorite super hero?

What’s the worse sunburn you’ve ever had?

How to Run a PR

Most of the races I’ve run this year have been a PR for me, a personal record.  I’ve somehow managed to complete the distance faster than I did last time.  How did I do it?

I did it again Saturday with the quarter marathon.  Last year I ran the quarter marathon in 1 hour and 3 minutes.  Saturday I ran that same race in under an hour (59:52), and after completing a 5K just 30 minutes before.  I found myself wondering how PRs happen.  What did I do to run that same race course and distance 3 minutes faster than I did last time?

As I thought about that, I realized that there is some logic to the madness.  I didn’t just go out and run a PR.  There was some preparation involved.

  1.  Run varied paces and courses.  My weekly runs are never the same pace or the same course.  Sometimes I run 12 minute miles on a treadmill, a super easy run.  At the track I run 7:30 minute miles or faster.  At least once during the week, I’m running 5 miles at about a 9 minute/mile pace.  I’m also running hills, not every week, but regularly, and running varying distances.  Some runs may only be 3 miles.  Longer runs, especially now that I’m training for a marathon, are over 15 miles.  But I think the key to getting a PR is varying pace and course.  Running faster helps you run faster, and changing the course works your muscles differently.  Put that all together and when race day comes around, your body can go faster regardless of what the course throws at you.
  2. Decide you’re going to try for a PR.  For me, there’s something about going into a race knowing that I want this to be a PR that prepares me for the effort that will be needed.  Racing is about pushing yourself to begin with, but when you decide to go for a PR, there’s a bit of extra effort that’s needed.  It may come on that hill when your legs are screaming for mercy but you know if you walk, you won’t make your time, so you keep going.  Going for a PR is motivation for me to keep going.
  3. Know your limits.  Pushing yourself is important for a PR, yes, but it’s also important to know what you can do.  If you’ve never 005sustained a pace that would be needed to get your PR, you may not get the PR.  Sometimes in shorter races, I like to push myself a bit more just to see if I can sustain that faster pace.  I ran my last 5K in just under 26 minutes, and I know that’s about my limit right now.  I’m going to have to work a lot more on speed before I break the 25 minute mark.  But have realistic expectations.  My goal often times is just to beat my last time, even by a few seconds.  I don’t usually go into a PR with a goal of shaving 5 minutes off my time.  Sometimes my goal going into races is just to make the same time I did last time.
  4. Evaluate yourself, the course, the weather.  Some days runners are just “off”.  You may not feel quite your best.  You may be tired.  Allergies may be making you cranky.  Whatever it is, sometimes you just don’t feel like you can run any faster.  And the course may be a difficult one with lots of hills.  It’s hard to maintain a faster pace on a hilly course, at least for me.  The weather, of course, can play a huge role in speed and your performance as well.  Heat and humidity can really slow a runner down.  Rain slows me down, too.  I’m super cautious about not slipping on the water.  Sometimes the best you can do is just finish the race, which is okay too.  Not every race has to be a PR.  Take everything into consideration and decide if this will be a good race to try for a PR or not.

So that’s my guide to getting a PR.  Now, go out and get one!

Talk to me:

What other advice would you give to someone to reach a PR?

What motivates you to keep working toward a goal?


Marathon #2: Week 10, 63 Days to Go

It’s not like anyone lives to read my blog posts, I’m sure, but still I feel like I’ve neglected my little project here.  With time stretched thin, something has to go, and unfortunately, this week, it was blogging.  But, hey!  It wasn’t running!  Here’s how the week shaped up:

Monday.  Another week.  Five more hours of class on no sleep.  Today became my rest day.  I just couldn’t get myself out the door.  But I got some studying done with the help of my sweetheart, Sunny.006Tuesday.  I caught a CrossFit WOD this morning, then…track night.  My favorite, NOT!  But this week wasn’t too bad.  We ran ten 400 meter laps, and the temperature was mercifully a little cooler.  Running 400s is not too bad; it’s the distances longer than 400 meters that make me want to curl up in a ball and die right there on the track.  With a warm-up and a cool down, I ended up logging 5 miles tonight.

Wednesday.  Another 5 miles in the books!  I ran with my intermediate group which ended up being a tempo hill run.  We always run tempo pace compared to my marathon base pace, but keeping that speed while going up hills was a bit challenging after all that speed work last night.  But I did it and came out feeling strong.  Maybe it was that email I got that reminded me the marathon is just 66 days away.  Yikes!  There’s nothing like a reminder that the race you’ve set your sights on is just around the corner to make you determined to run your runs and run them strong!

Thursday.  After all that fast running and all those hills (believe me, Tulsa has some hills!), I decided to make today my recovery run.  I was going to run outside when the sun started to come up, but I woke up early and with the threat of rain, I just jumped on the treadmill, set it at recovery pace, and knocked out 6 miles.

Friday.  After all the gym time my classes require, CrossFit and running this week, my quads were super sore.  I usually take a few more r016est days when I have a race that week, but not this time.  So I spent some time with my good friends, gemini and super nova ball, rolling out those tight legs.  I followed that with a soak in some epsom salts with menthol.  Lovely!  I’ve never tried this brand before but the menthol is very mild and left me feeling very refreshed and not nearly as sore.009Saturday.  In place of our long run today, we participated in a local race for a quarter marathon time trial.  I decided to double and do the 5K distance followed by t011he quarter marathon (6.55 miles).  My strategy was to use the 5K as a warm up and race the quarter, but I ended up running a bit faster than I’d intended to in the 5K and still racing the quarter.  But I PR’d my quarter marathon coming in at 59 minutes and 52 seconds!  Yes!  To do that after running  3.1 miles, with semi sore legs (they felt a lot better when I woke up), and on a course with hill after hill the last 3 miles, I’m pretty happy.  And I got this nifty water bottle for doing both races!015So…I’m fairly happy with my training this week.  I didn’t try nutrition during the race today as I’d planned; my stomach just wasn’t feeling it.  I think it had something to do with pushing myself in 75% humidity.  Ugh.

My goals for next week:

  1.  Stay focused mentally.  I need to keep those 63 days in mind and remember I don’t have much time left to train.
  2. Really focus on trying new nutrition again.  I want to try some chews to see how that goes over instead of just gels.
  3. And of course…RUN!

Talk to me:

What new and exciting thing happened this week?

How did you make time in your busy schedule to get some exercise in (because I know you did, right? 🙂 )

Marathon #2: On to Week 9

Monday.  Labor Day.  No school!  Yay!  It felt strange coming home from work and taking a nap instead of rushing off to class, but I liked it!  I was looking all kinds of forward to getting a recovery run in and maybe having time to take my bike out for a spin.  I haven’t had time to cycle since school started.  Unfortunately, I tweaked my ankle on our run Saturday, and all day my ankle just felt stiff and kind of sore.  I decided the prudent thing to do would be to rest it.  Nuts.

Tuesday.  No class again thanks to college transfer credit for the subject we’re studying this week.  I’m looking forward to a week off, but my ankle is NOT happy.  Walking is a bit painful today, although my ankle doesn’t seem to be swollen.  I guess I’ll do the RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevation) thing and see what happens.  Another day of training missed.  Growl…002Wednesday.  What do you know?  RICE does work.  My ankle actually feels pretty good today.  Even though I don’t have to go to class, I decided to go in for the gym time.  Since I don’t have to lug my backpack, I decided to run the 2.5 miles to school at recovery pace, do the workout, and run recovery pace home again.  My ankle felt fine after the run, just a little stiff, so I decided to catch up with my weekday running group for a tempo run tonight.  Another 5 miles, but this run was much faster at about a 9:15 minute/mile pace.  I guess there’s nothing like squishing all my runs into one day, uh?

Thursday.  Since I have to work tonight, I slept in today.  I’d like to make up the speed workout I missed on Tuesday, but I’m feeling like my legs need a bit more recovery from my 10 miles plus strength/cardio workout yesterday.  Hopefully, I can get the speed run in tomorrow.

Friday.  Well, so much for getting in that speed workout.  Thursday night’s shift was brutal.  My 12 hour shift turned into 13.75 hours of constant motion.  I got home absolutely exhausted.  After a 3.5 hour nap, I dragged myself to an appointment, feeling sick from lack of sleep.  I made it back home after a few hours, collapsed on the couch, and woke up at 10 p.m., deciding maybe I should just get in my bed.  So much for running today.  Grrrr…

Saturday.  My favorite runs of the week!  The run started off wi001th temperatures in the 60’s.  Love it!  While it was super humid, there was a nice breeze for the entire run that kept me feeling nice and cool.  We went an easy 15.09 miles, and I felt like I could’ve gone another 5 or 6 miles.  I love runs that end like that!  Today, I added mustard to my nutrition plan.  I was a bit nervous, but eating a packet of mustard wasn’t that bad at all.  In fact, following a packet of super sweet Gu gel, the tang of the mustard kind of tempered that overwhelming sweetness.  Good day all around!

So what do I need to do differently next week?

  1.  Keep getting my weekly runs in!  Unfortunately, I missed another run this week, but I’m determined to stick to the training plan and get those runs in next week.
  2. Try peanut butter crackers and mustard in a race situation.  Next Saturday, instead of our weekly long slow distance run, we’re running a race.  I’m doing the 5K distance followed by a quarter marathon distance (6.55).  A shorter race should be the perfect time to see if I can manage eating a cracker and a mustard packet on the run.

Talk to me:

What progress are you making in meeting your goals?

Which would you rather eat:  mustard or pickle juice?

My Pick for Protein Bars

I don’t know about you, but when I started looking for the best protein bars out there, I got quite overwhelmed.  I mean, holy cow!  There’s a plethora of bars, all claiming to be the best one.  And so many flavors!  How do you began to even choose one?

As an endurance athlete, I actually need a bit more protein than the recommended daily amount for women. And because I’m away from home so much and often times participating in several different types of physical activity in a day, I decided to try protein bars to supplement my diet when I’m on the go.  By the way, WebMD suggests the daily protein requirement for most men and women is about 10% to 35% of your total daily calorie intake, which comes to about 46 grams of protein for women and 56 grams for men.

To choose a bar, I began by looking at the bars that had the highest protein content and the lowest sugar content.  Then, I looked for the shortest list of ingredients.  I wanted something that had more natural ingredients instead of a bunch of processed “stuff” in it.  My choice came down to Quest, Six Star Protein, and Pure Protein.001I’ll be evaluating each bar on price, nutritional content, and taste, and then, I’ll tell you my overall pick.

  1.  Quest Bar004
    • Price:  Quest bars were the most expensive at over $2/bar.
    • Nutritional content:  Quest bars have 180 calories, 8 grams of fat, less than 1 gram of sugar, 23 grams of carbohydrates, and 20 grams of protein.  There are about 13 ingredients on the ingredient list, and I can pronounce all of them.  (That’s kind of my litmus test for how real the ingredients are!)
    • Taste:  I’m trying the double chocolate chunk flavor.  The bar is chewy with a texture almost like a brownie.  The chocolate tastes real but not overwhelmingly sweet.  There is a bit of the artificial sweetener (stevia) aftertaste, but it’s subtle.  I actually find these bars quite yummy!
  2. Six Star Protein002
    • Price:  This was the least expensive bar at about $1.
    • Nutritional content:  This bar has 190 calories, 8 grams of fat, 6 grams of sugar, 15 grams of carbohydrates, and 20 grams of protein.  The ingredient list is a bit longer, but again, I can pronounce everything on the list.  I do not see an artificial sweetener listed on the ingredient list.
    • Taste:  The flavor I am trying is peanut butter chocolate.  It looks like a candy bar with the chocolate coating the bar, and it’s chewy like a candy bar.  The flavor, however, leaves something to be desired.  It doesn’t really taste like chocolate or peanut butter.  In fact, there’s not much of a flavor at all.  Taste wise, I’m not a fan of this bar.
  3. Pure Protein003
    • Price:  This bar came in at a little over $1.
    • Nutritional content:  Pure Protein has 180 calories, 4.5 grams of fat, 3 grams of sugar, 17 grams of carbohydrates, and 21 grams of protein.  The ingredient list is similar to the other two, with ingredients that I can pronounce, and for this bar, I do not see any artificial sweeteners listed.
    • Taste:  This flavor is chocolate deluxe.  This one, too, looks like a candy bar with a chocolate coating.  But the inside is more of a cake type texture.  It definitely has a chocolate flavor but there’s a bitterness to it that’s not very appealing to me.

So which is my choice for protein bars?  I like the Quest bars best.  While the nutritional content is similar for all bars, taste wins out for me, and Quest bars had the best taste.  One disclaimer that I need to make is that I did not try other flavors of Six Star or Pure Protein.  However, after discovering Quest bars, I did try other flavors of Quest.  I found that I like the ones that have some type of chocolate in them–cookies and cream, mint chocolate, chocolate brownie.  I did not particularly care for the fruity type flavors like strawberry cream, apple pie or the cinnamon roll flavor.  To me, those flavors tasted way too sweet and not enough like the fruit for my liking.

Talk to me:

Do you have a favorite protein bar?


Maybe I Should Just Quit

I’ve had a thought in the back of my mind over the last week or so.  For the last few days, though, it’s moved to the front of my mind, and I’ve actually spent some time thinking about it.  And after a weekend of super tough shifts when breaks and sitting down for 5 minutes were the stuff of dreams (well, there was that one bathroom break when my eyeballs were about to float), I’m finding myself thinking even more about it.

The thought has entered my head of quitting marathon training.  Yep.  I’m hanging my head in disappointment that I’ve had the thought, but there it is.  I’m thinking of quitting.

I’ve been thinking about feeling tired, trying to run 25-30 miles a week, working full time, keeping up with 20 hours of physical class time plus homework and study time, cross-training, maintaining a house, keeping up with friends…I have a full schedule.  It’s tiring.  And I find myself wondering if it’s worth it?  Is running another marathon really worth all the effort and extra time?

As I’ve entertained the thought of quitting, I’ve been thinking about other people I know who are going through tough times.

I think of a couple of friends who are battling cancer.

I think of my refugee friend from Sierra Leone who tells of hunkering down in her house while bullets flew through the windows.

I think of my Sudanese friends who hid in the fields while their village was raided and burned.

I think of people I know who’ve lost babies.

I think of people who are working two or more jobs just to kind of make ends meet.

I think of people who would probably love to run but for some physical condition never will.

I think of my cat when the vacuum cleaner appears.  (Hey, even cats can have tough days!)003Don’t you love how hidden he is?!

Those people are really having a tough time, and they just can’t make things better by deciding to quit.  When I think about my little bit of fatigue as I chase down my dreams, well…how can that compare to losing homes and jobs and people you love, or having a big, noisy monster chase you in your house?

So will I quit marathon training?  NO!!!  I may want to quit and may think about quitting and whine and complain because I’m tired, but I won’t quit because…

  1.  I refuse to throw in the towel when the going gets tough.  This toughness in temporary.  I know in November, my schedule will ease up.  And I grow in the tough times.  When my strength to just be patient is gone because I’m worn out, I find myself praying more, depending on Jesus to give me the patience I just can’t find on my own.  Growing my faith is a good thing!  So no throwing in the towel.  My hat stays in the ring, and whatever other cliché you can come up with to say, “Heck, no, I’m not quitting!”
  2. I’m a competitor.  I never would have said that of myself at 180 pounds, but finding my inner athlete underneath all that fat ignited a spirit of competition within me.  I’m not the type of competitor that always has to win and is always competing with other people.  I’m a competitor against myself.  I want to test my limits, to reach that athletic goal, to beat my best time.  And that’s part of why I know I won’t quit marathon training.  I ran my first marathon in 4 hours 37 minutes and 22 seconds;  I know I can do it in 4 hours 30 minutes.  I KNOW I can!  And by George, I’m going to train my tail off and keep trying until I get there.
  3. In the end, it will all be worth it.  So the ending may not look like what I want it to, but just following through and persevering will be worth it.  There’s a strange sense of satisfaction in finishing something tough that makes me look at life and say, “Bring it on!”  So whether I run a 4:30 marathon or not in November, I’m going to have the satisfaction of knowing I didn’t give up when I cross that finish line.  One way or another, I’m gonna do it.

So there you go.  I’m in this marathon training thing until the grizzly end.  And strangely, reminding myself of why I won’t quit has given me renewed determination to keep on training.  I CAN DO THIS!  (I hope.)

Talk to me:

What do you tell yourself when you need a pep talk?

How do your pets react to the vacuum cleaner?

Marathon #2: Is It Only Week 8?

Monday.  Need I say it?  I came home from work exhausted and went straight to class.  It’s like that movie Groundhog Day.  My week starts the same every-single-week, but it is what it is for now, and this too shall pass.  Any who, I saw on the intermediate running group’s schedule that tonight was speed work.  Since I’m planning to do speed work at the track tomorrow, I decided to run on my own and get a true recovery run in.  I jumped on the treadmill, set it at recovery pace, found some old sitcoms on Netflix, and got my 5 miles in.  Boom!014Tuesday.  The CrossFit WOD called to me today.  It looked super hard, but I really wanted to see if I could do it.  There was a 25 minute time cap to complete 100 deadlifts, 100 push-ups, 100 squats, 50 tricep dips, and 10 rope climbs.  I did it in 24:17…and then couldn’t move for the rest of the day!  Then, because I’m in a personal training program part of each class day includes some type of workout.  Today, we took a field trip to an MMA fitness center for a cardio kickboxing class.  Just what sore legs need…(can you hear the sarcasm dripping?).  Still, though, I w025as planning to go to the track as usual for speed work.  But a storm came up.  I don’t know if you can tell how hard the rain was coming down in this photo, but it was pouring, and the weatherman mentioned the potential of hail.  I wimped out and stayed home.  In hindsight, I wish I’d gone, though.  The storm only lasted a short time, and I hear that the rain cooled things off nicely, making for a decent track night.  Shucks.

Wednesday.  Leg day for class.  And I still can’t move without something hurting already!  Tonight, I ran with my weekday group for a tempo run.  The pace felt amazing.  Another guy and I ran a couple of extra miles to get an even 5 in, and we finished those last 2 miles at a pace under 9 minutes/mile.  Sweet!  BTW, don’t you love how color coordinated my clothes were for the run?  (I’m drowning in sarcasm this week.)027Thursday.  Arm day at school.  I thought my skin was going to pop over my biceps and triceps.  Holy smoke!  No run today, though, since I have to work tonight.

Friday.  I was going to make up my speed workout from Tuesday today, but Thursday night’s shift was brutal.  No break, on my feet the entire time, and I didn’t finish my paperwork until an hour past my shift.  My primary concern when I got off was food and sleep!  And then I had a massive project due for class plus some additional homework.  After about a 3 hour nap, it took me until 10:30 p.m. to get everything done.  So much for running.

Saturday. I was not feeling it today.  We had 12 miles on the schedule which just seemed an impossible distance.  I hit the sno004oze a couple of times when that alarm went off at 4:30 a.m., but finally coaxed myself out of my comfy bed.  The weather was perfect today with temps around 70 degrees for a change, and I felt almost chilly in my tank top.  That changed quickly, though, when feet hit the pavement!  I felt tired for the entire 12.39 miles, but overall the run went well, despite the magnitude 5.6 earthquake that none of us felt.  How could that be???  My new Speedzter arm band with all it’s fun colors made the run a little better, too.

So I missed a run this week.  I’m mad about that, but it’s been a tough week mentally, too.  I’m wondering if it’s all worth it???  But more on that another day.  On the positive side, I was pumped to see the pace I set on Wednesday without feeling like I was working extremely hard.  That’s how I know speed work and strength training is paying off; I can sustain faster paces for longer distances much more easily.  Where do I go from here?

My goals for next week:

  1. Stay the course.  Get those weekly runs in!
  2. Go to the track!  I’ve been doing so good.  I don’t want to start missing again.
  3. With a 16 mile run on the schedule for next week, I think it would be a good time to try adding in some mustard to my run nutrition.  Feeling a bit nervous about that…

Talk to me:

How did your week go?

What do you like to eat for breakfast?