Oct 15

Richmond Week 16: Friday the 13th & #ThisIs45

cake with many lit birthday candles

One more heavy week and then we start to cut back a little. This week was intense, and that’s a good thing, I think. After Sunday’s twofer in what I can only describe as The Suck that is summer-weather in October, it didn’t really get easier.

Monday’s run was mercifully short–“only” 6 miles, but the humidity continued unrelenting, and even though I enjoyed being on the Cottonwood Trail, the humidity really made things hard. I sweat a lot in general, and in those conditions, it’s so much more. I went to Panera afterwards, and I ordered breakfast before I left the trail so that I didn’t time out (Panera stops serving their breakfast menu at 10:30, and it was a little after 10:00 when I was done). I got to Panera and went into the bathroom to change. I got out of the wet tank and sports bra, and when I went to change out of my shorts, I realized that I had forgotten to pack pants. Oops. Worse, the shorts I was wearing were completely soaked. And they were purple. Spandex. And I had an appointment to go to which meant I was going in sweaty, purple spandex. Winning. But that was the right call. I needed to eat more than I needed to preserve my dignity. Pretty sure my dignity is an illusion at this point anyway.

Tuesday was a strength work out: 2 up, 3 miles at mp -10, 1 mile recovery, 3 more at mp -10, 2 down. Because the humidity was still close to 100%, I slowed it down a little bit for the first 3, and then went for it the second time. I did not program paces into my watch this time, so I was trying to run by feel and find my pace. I kind of did it. The first 3 miles were 8:21, 8:20, 8:13 (I was aiming for around 8:20), and then the second one was 8:11, 7:55, 7:57 (I was aiming for 8:13).

Wednesday was my day off. I am more and more glad about these days as the training cycle wears on.

Thursday was a tempo run at marathon pace: 2 up, 8 at MP, 2 down. Average pace was 8:15 (aimed for 8:23). I again did not program a pace into my watch for this and tried to just run by feel.

I flipped Friday and Saturday. Friday was my birthday, and I was really excited about the fact that it fell on a Friday since I was born on Friday the 13th. It was still stupid humid, but I enjoyed those miles around Duncan Park. Saturday was a meet up with my Volée SC teammates. We met in Greenville and though the temperatures were better, the humidity wasn’t. We ran 5 together, and then I ran one more solo. It was pretty great to have company for some miles, especially in the wake of Birdcamp.

Sunday was long run day. 18. Still crazy humid, but nor crazy hot. I felt good but not great. I felt like I can definitely finish my marathon in a few weeks, but I am also ready for this cycle to be over. I think 20 weeks is probably a little too long for me going forward. But I’m doing it, and I’m mostly feeling good, though I am ready for the fall weather to return. I had more success with the ice bath this weekend. 6 bags. Could probably have used a 7th, but I just would have nowhere to put it unless I waited to buy it until after my run. Next weekend, I’ll be at the beach, and that means one thing: ice machine!  (assuming that there’s time before I have to check out. Otherwise it means another thing: Atlantic Ocean (which might or might not be cold this time of year–I have no idea).

Next week, I have my dress rehearsal half marathon in Myrtle Beach. I thought that there would be other people I know running this race. A week out, I think it’s just me. That’s ok. There are worse fates than a weekend at the beach. I will have my team with me in Richmond, and that’s going to be great, whatever happens over those 26 miles.

61.4 this week. Woof.

 

[[Creative Commons licensed image by Flickr user The Shifted Librarian]

Oct 08

Richmond Week 15: Now My Heart Is Full

Running down gravel driveway arms out wide

Bird camp week. That meant that my training plan needed to be a bit more flexible because the GPS is less accurate in the North Carolina mountains, and we were a lot higher in elevation than I’m used to in Spartanburg.

The week started off with eight easy recovery miles on the heels of the 18 miler from last Sunday, and this was awesome because I got to run a bit of it with a friend who I work with and rarely see these days. Tuesday saw me jumping into a 12 mile progression run, which I was supposed to run on Thursday, but since Thursday was Birdcamp, things got moved around. I knew that if this workout was going to happen, it needed to happen early in the week The progression run went really well, and I was able to hit all of my paces. Not only that but I felt pretty good too!

And then it was camp time.

When I went to camp last year, I was in a complete free fall, emotionally. I don’t think that I realized it at the time, but in retrospect, that weekend was the cusp of cataclysmic change. I was trying not to be injured (I was injured). I was trying not to be unhappy (I was unhappy). I was trying not to be terrified (I was terrified). I was trying to be present and engaged with my team (I wasn’t able to be fully present and engaged with my team).

What a difference a year makes.

When I learned that there would be another October camp this fall, I was determined to come back and have a better experience. Last year, I wasn’t really able to run, and the running that I did do was uncomfortable at best. That kind of sucks when you’re at a running camp. But even more, I regretted not being able to get to know everyone as well as I might have otherwise because I was distracted and stressed out and unable to devote the energy and attention to getting to know new people. In short, I wanted a do-over.

And what a do-over it was! I had such a fantastic weekend with my Oiselle Volée teammates, some of whom I have known for years and others whom I just met this weekend: women from all over the United States, women of different ages and paces, women from different walks of life. What I love about the Volée is that it doesn’t matter what differences there are between us, we all love running and are committed to supporting fellow women who also love running. We ran–a lot. We ate–a lot. We laughed–a lot. We did Pilates and core work, and now my abs hurt–a lot. We shared our stories and learned from each other. We also learned from the awesome coaches and athletes at ZAP Fitness. We obsessed about our favorite flystyle and got to see some of the fall and winter gear. All in all, it was one of the best weekends I’ve had in a long time.

One of the highlights was the gait analysis. Mine was TERRIBLE last year. I basically looked like I was folded over in half while I was running; my hips were uneven and unstable, and my entire lower body’s kinetic chain was a complete disaster. I came home last year committed to two things:

  1. Not running for 4 weeks to let my shins heal.
  2. In that time, to strengthen my core to hopefully prevent the shin issues (and other potential issues that come from a weak core) from recurring.

I was very curious what the analysis would reveal this time around.

Guys! Guess what! There is noticeable improvement. For real! I’m not saying that my running form is now perfect–it’s not–but it’s SO MUCH BETTER than it was a year ago! I’m so pleased and encouraged by this progress, and I’m fired up to continue to strengthen my core (and myself). I can’t tell you how happy I was to see that there is progress. So much of the work that I had been doing has resulted in incremental changes that are very hard to see on a day to day basis, but when given the opportunity to look at the difference over the course of a year–WOW. It was pretty amazing, And I realized that it wasn’t just my core and my running form that are stronger. I am stronger. I am happier. There’s still room to grow, opportunities for improvement, but this weekend was a gift that allowed me to see that I’ve come a long way in the last twelve months. For that, I’m grateful.

The Run-down:

Monday: Easy 8

Tuesday: 12 mile Progression–2 warm up, 8 miles each a bit faster ending up at half-marathon pace; 2 cool down

Wed: OFF

Thurs: 5 miles at 3500 feet, climbing to 3760. Easy pace.

Friday: 9 miles at 3500 feet, climbing to 3950. Easy pace; also 3 mile hike, and Pilates.

Saturday: Speed workout: warm-up; 2(800, 400, 400, 400, 400). I loved this. I never get to do speedwork with other people. Thank you #TeamDialedIn

Sun: 3.2 mile prediction run. I predicted 29:13 for myself. My goal was to run that time or slower. I ran more than 90 seconds slower. YES. The the #GRVR 2017. Two more hours. I had aimed for 15 miles before I started. Also before I realized it would be almost 100% humidity with temperatures in the upper 80s. I still might have gotten to 15, but I forgot to restart my Garmin after a pit stop and lost over a mile on my watch. For the Virtual Run to count, I needed to clock 2 hours on my GPS. so I clocked it even though it meant that I actually ran more than 2 hours.Total mileage of the day was 17.6, which I’m happy with given everything that I’ve done this week.

 

 

[Photo of author taken by Allie Bigelow]

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Oct 01

Richmond Week 14: Wheels Up

plane landing on runway at sunset surrounded by power lines

I can’t tell you how relieved I am this evening. I have finally had a really good week of running, my first in a while. Maybe my first since Victoria in June.

Let me clarify: I’ve had some “Not Terrible” weeks since June, but summer in South Carolina renders much else pretty much impossible. Amsterdam was a good week, but it was counterbalanced with treadmlll miles plus the ass-kicking of jet lag. The rest of the summer was hard because it was hot and humid. After a few weeks, the body acclimates to hot and humid, but that simply means that hot & humid suck less, not that they’re pleasant.

This week was a good week. A really good week. My hip, which has been bothering me a good bit the last couple of weeks seems to have turned a corner. I’m not sure when, and I’m not sure how, but I’m really relieved. It still gets a little tight from time to time, but nothing like it was three weeks ago.

It also didn’t hurt that today was the first day that really felt like fall. It was 50 degrees this morning. 50. It was also really windy, but I was so glad to be cold for a change that I really didn’t care about the wind even when it was full on in my face. I ran 18 miles today, and today was the first time a long time–like since January 2015–that running 18 miles felt fine. I felt like I could keep going if I wanted or needed too. I felt, again, for the first time this training cycle, like this marathon that I’ve been training for since July might actually happen. And not only might it actually happen, but it might actually go well. My goal might not be so crazy after all. As I said, it felt like turning a corner.

That was a corner that I needed to turn. I didn’t know how very much I needed it until it had happened. My confidence has been foundering these last several weeks. I haven’t talked about it, but I was starting to wonder whether the marathon might be a bad idea, whether my goal time was ridiculous. Whether I would even make it to the end of the training cycle and be able to line up at the start. Even when my long runs weren’t utterly terrible and demoralizing, they were hard. Much harder than I remember from previous training cycles.

I’ve tried to remind myself that the training program I’m following is really hard. Hansons’ plans aren’t for the weak at heart. Even the beginner plan isn’t really intended for a true novice. My plan is not a beginner plan. I’ve been working with my coach for almost 3 years now, and I trust her. I knew that the plan we put together would stretch me past my comfort zone. I knew that it would be a challenge. I knew that I would eventually be running 60 mile weeks and trying to tackle some difficult workouts. I knew that 20 weeks is on the longer side of training cycles. I knew that starting all of this in July would suck. I knew that while the temperatures would get better once the semester was underway, I would also be much busier. I knew that qualifying for Boston is a ridiculously hard thing to do (and it got harder this year with the cutoff to get into the race being more than 3 minutes faster than the qualifying time). I knew all of these things intellectually. I also knew that my coach thought that I could handle it, and I thought that maybe I could handle it too. I knew that I wanted to try.

But there’s knowing, and then there’s knowing.

For the record, I know that too, but I’m learning it again these twenty weeks leading up to Richmond, and as is typical, I’m learning it the hard way.

But this was a really good week. I made it out to the Cottonwood trail a couple times, which is good for my joints generally but also seemed to be good for my hip in particular. I hit my paces on the Tuesday & Thursday hard workouts and didn’t feel like dying afterwards. And today. Today, I ran 18 miles and felt really good pretty much the whole time, even with the wind, even with the hills. It helped that I did better with fueling today. I’m sure that it also didn’t hurt that the Ragweed seems to finally be dying down, and not a second too soon.

I tried to take an ice bath today after my run. For the record, all of the ice in my freezer, plus another bag from the grocery store, plus a whole lot of too-old frozen salmon filets didn’t really work for an ice bath. It was chilly, and hopefully that was not a complete waste of 15 minutes, but it was nowhere near icy. I will try this again next week, minus the salmon and with a second bag of ice. Possibly a third.

The run down for the week:

M: easy 6 Cottonwood

T: 3x 2 miles at 8:13/mile with 2 warm up and 2 cool down

W: Off

T: 8 miles at 8:23/mile with 2 warm up and 2 cool down

F: 6 cottonwood

S: 6 Duncan Park

Sun: 18 Pretty much everywhere in Spartanburg.

Total: 60.

So it’s wheels up for the next 41 day. Now is not the time to flinch.

[Creative Commons licensed image by Flickr user Glenn Beltz]

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Sep 25

Richmond Week 13: Working My Way Back

Number 13 in black against concrete surrounded by red brick

Are we there yet?

No. But we’re getting there. Week 13 out of 20, and this week was a pretty good one. My hip is still cranky, but it’s a little bit better than it was. I found a couple of stretches in yoga class that seem to get into the spot that is at the heart of the problem.

But the downside is that the ragweed is in full bloom. Does ragweed bloom? I don’t know, actually, but the ragweed is in high production mode, whatever the mechanism, and it’s got me popping pills–sinus Tylenol and prescription Imitrex like there’s no tomorrow. Sunday night’s headache was so bad that not only did it make me hurl (sorry if that’s TMI), but it also put me to bed at 9:30pm even though I was pretty sure that going to bed that early would bring on insomnia later on. I did wake up briefly at 11:30, and again around 3:00, but I had no problems falling back asleep. But the point of all of this is that it’s headache season, and I really hate headache season. Sunday’s headache was especially bad.

I’ve been able to make it to the Cottonwood trail a few times a week for the last couple weeks, which is helpful. The softer surface is welcome on my legs, which are feeling the effects of training, and the last few times that I’ve been there, I’ve gotten a glimpse of the Great Blue Heron who lives there. Great Blue Herons are my most favorite bird.

The speed and tempo workouts were pretty good. I managed to hit my paces in both and not overdo it too much. I did misread the assignment for the mile repeats though, and I only did 5 instead of 6. But in the grand scheme of things, one less mile isn’t going to matter. And the scary long run went pretty well. I was really nervous about this one since the last time I had a long run with tempo miles sandwiched in, it was a disaster (or I was a disaster), and then I learned, the night before, that instead of 16 total miles with 8 at tempo, I was to run 16 total miles with 10 at tempo. And my Garmin decided not to cooperate (as it turns out, I set the repeats to 1 meter instead of 1 mile, so that was my fault), so I had to find the pace myself. That’s probably a good thing though it was annoying at the time.

The run down:

M: Easy 8.

T: 6x 800 for 8 total

W: OFF

R: 5x 1 mile for 11 total (should have been 12)

F: easy 6

S: easy 6

Sun: 3 easy, 10 at marathon pace, 3 easy = 16

all in all: 55, so on we go.

[Creative Commons licensed image by Flickr user Leo Reynolds]

Sep 17

Richmond Week 12: Two Steps Back, One Step Forward.

pygmy hedgehog from behind

Week 12. It was a bit of a rough week, but I think it ended up okay. I hope it did.

I took a few days off after my long run in Williamsport. I was worried about my hip, which has been getting cranky from time to time at the end of hard workouts, and it got cranky again last weekend.

So after talking to my coach, we decided that I wouldn’t run at all until Thursday, and then I would go easy for a few days and see how I felt. I felt okay, so today, I picked up the Progression Run that I was supposed to do on Thursday in place of my long run today. I was kind of nervous about it, but like the rest of the week, it was okay. My hip is a bit tight tonight, but just a bit. So I will proceed with caution. I will continue to be vigilant about warming up before my runs. I will continue to roll it out and do the core & hip work. And I will cross my fingers that this was a wake up call rather than yet another set-back.

The Details:

M: Off

T: Off

W: Off

Th: easy 5

F: Easy 6

Sat: Easy 6

Sun: Progression 12. (A progression run is one where after the warm up, each mile is run a little faster than the one before it. My first mile was too fast, but after that, I did a really good job staying in the windows: 9:12, 9:15, 9:06, 8:46, 8:32, 8:23, 8:13, 8:01).

Total: Just under 30 miles for the week.

 

[Creative Commons licensed image by Flickr user Denis Defreyne]

Sep 09

Warming Up. And Melting Down. Or Richmond Week 11.

river sceneI usually try to post positive things about my running. But today sucked. And it sucked hard.

I’m in Pennsylvania this weekend for a wedding. I was supposed to run an easy 6 today and a hard 16 tomorrow, but since tomorrow is a travel day, I swapped. This isn’t the first time, and it should have been fine. I can’t tell you why it wasn’t.

Well, that’s not exactly true. I can tell you that I haven’t been sleeping all that well since school has started back. Part of this is the readjustment of routine. Part of this is stress from other things going on. Part of it this week was travel. In addition, my nutrition was off yesterday (see: travel). Part of it was that I’m in a place I don’t know, and I was a bit keyed up about where I would go to run 16 miles.

I found a route: a really nice paved trail that is actually really close to my hotel, but for some reason, Goggle decided I should go the long way, and by long way, I mean that instead of jumping on the trail a couple blocks from the hotel, it took me two miles away to the far end parking area. Even though I was on foot. Whatever, I had extra miles to burn, so I don’t really mind this part. But those two miles sucked. I felt terrible. My brain felt foggy. My skin felt clammy, and I was sweating a lot though it wasn’t warm out. I felt dizzy, and that sometimes happens early on, but it usually passes quickly. It didn’t pass quickly this time. By the time I got to the parking lot, I was a mess, both physically and emotionally. I couldn’t concentrate on my audiobook; I couldn’t stop sweating, and I started to panic. I found a place to sit down, and I turned off my watch. I thought about texting one of my running friends, but I couldn’t figure out what to even say. Something was clearly wrong with me, but I couldn’t begin to describe what it was. And did I mention that I was two miles away from my hotel at this point?

Running is usually the thing that makes me feel better. And this morning, when it was suddenly a thing that was making me feel worse, I freaked out. It was obviously that the hard 16 wasn’t going to happen this morning. So I had a decision to make: do I call it and walk back to the hotel? Or do I try to salvage something of the morning?

I decided to try to salvage the morning. I told myself that if I still felt terrible after a mile, I could stop. I took a gel, found a playlist, and collected myself with several deep breaths. I tried to be appreciative of the cool temperatures. I tried to appreciate the sunshine. I tried to feel gratitude for the fact that I could be out there on that trail on this day with nothing more to worry about than a dizzy spell. I thought about my friends who are dealing with more serious issues. I thought about what some of my running heroes might do. I remembered a recent post by Devon Yanko, who described a similar moment in a recent race, and though to myself, I guess this is my version of a plot twist. I found that if I kept going the trail opened up to a lovely view of the Susquehanna river, and that there was a loop of about 4 miles that I could do. I decided to try to run that loop three times. I stopped to take a few pictures along the way. But most of them had my finger in them (see below), and I had no idea until a few minutes ago.

greenery with finger

I did those three loops, and I made it back to my hotel where I crumpled into a mess on the floor of my hotel room. I took a really long hot shower and took full advantage of the shower beer. I still don’t feel great, but I feel somewhat better. My left IT band hates me, but I can deal with that.

I’m trying not to be to hard on myself for not getting the hard workout done. The workout that I did was its own kind of hard. I’m profoundly grateful for the three women who I saw this morning on the path and who smiled and waved at me. I doubt they could see how much I was struggling inside, but those small gestures were huge to me

I’m taking a few days off. Part of this is travel and the coming high wind advisory. But most of it is because there’s clearly something wrong. My hip is tight and sore. This discomfort isn’t terrible, but it’s also not nothing and has been progressing over the last couple of weeks. I’m trying to be smart and tell myself that a few days off now is better than more later. This would be much easier if I were giving advice to someone else. I give great advice to other people when they’re in these situations. But I’m going to rest for a couple of days, let things blow over both literally and figuratively, and I’ll see where I am on Thursday.

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Sep 03

Richmond Week 10: Back to School

Young girl with hands covering her face and an expression of despairWeek Ten was hard. I didn’t really expect it to be hard. That was probably naive of me. Classes started this week, so there are suddenly many, many more demands on my time and attention than there were even a week ago. This shift isn’t a new thing. I’m entering my eleventh year at Converse, after all, and my professional responsibilities haven’t increased in any significant way.

But this is the first time that I’ve entered a new semester in the middle of a marathon training program. I had tried to do this last year but was derailed before I could even begin with a nagging injury. In 2015, training didn’t start until the term was well underway (the marathon, Los Angeles, was in February).

I’ve now completed ten weeks of this training cycle. The cycle is twenty weeks long. The next several weeks are going to be intense and probably pretty tiring. Cumulative fatigue is the hallmark of the Hanson’s Marathon Method, the training strategy I have been following for years now. The idea is to  get used to running on tired legs. So for example, as of Saturday, I’ve run 40 miles this week. Sunday has me running 16 more. But here’s the deal: I’m training to run 26.2 miles. Most of those miles are going to be on tired legs. Even with a taper factored in. So we practice. We get our legs accustomed to the feeling of running fatigued. More importantly, we get our brains accustomed to the feeling of running tired, and we learn how to distinguish between physical fatigue and mental fatigue. Barring serious injury, the mind, it is said, will give up and give in well before the body. I’m trying to internalize that truth. I’m training to be resilient psychologically as much as I am physically.

The weather was noticeably cooler this week, and that’s been a welcome change. It’s still incredibly humid, but it’s amazing how much difference even ten degrees can make. My mileage jumped up from 50 to 56, which feels significant. Also, my left hip, which has been tight over the last several weeks, became actually painful in the end of Thursday’s tempo run. The marathon pace miles felt pretty good, or at least they did when I was running marathon pace and not marathon pace -30 seconds. (I’m still figuring out how to read my Garmin apparently). But the last mile of my cool down was painful enough to have me consider stopping. I did and swung it out, which helped, and I’ve been rolling it like it’s my job. That has also seemed to help, and I’ve not had any further issues. Fingers crossed.

The breakdown:

M: Easy 6–took it back to the Cottonwood Trail.

T: Mile repeats. 8:12, 8:09, 8:02, 8:00, 7:52 (target was 8:13). In the rain, which I actually really enjoyed, in no small part because the rail trail was pretty much completely empty.

W: Off. I almost made it to the pool. In fact, I made it all the way to the parking lot before realizing that I forgot my ID and had to go back to get it. Once home again, I didn’t make it back out. But it’s okay to rest on rest days. In fact, it’s better than okay; important even.

R: Tempo 8:08, 8:34, 8:21, 8:11, 7:58, 8:02 (target was 8:23).

F: Easy 6. Had thought about going to the Cottonwood again, but it was pretty wet, so easy 6 around Duncan Park.

Sat: In previous weeks, this would have been fewer miles than Friday, but not today. Easy 8, which felt pretty good. Slow, but I have a good book to listen to and dragons to keep me company.

Sun: 16. This was okay. I wasn’t sure how I would feel on this run since my hips and legs have been noticeably more sore the last few days. But I was okay. It got hot by the end, and I was definitely ready to be finished as I got closer and closer to home, but today was fine. With more dragons.

Onward.

 

[Creative Commons licensed image by Flickr user Geoff Livingston]

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Aug 27

Richmond Week 9: Total Eclipse

solar eclipse totality with cloud halo

Week 9 was a hard week. It opened with a solar eclipse, which I had traveled to Columbia to view in its totality. I wasn’t sure whether I should make the trip give the looming semester and the hectic week before, but YOLO.

I got up early Monday morning, and it was still really hot. I went back to the Columbia Canal Riverfront Park and there were already people there staking out their spots for the eclipse that afternoon, some 6 hours away.

The trip took a lot out of me. I guess that should have been expected given that I had been going nonstop since Amsterdam and was still dealing with the dregs of jet lag. Plus it was really hot. Really hot. But the totality was really cool. Completely worth seeing even if it kinda wrecked me.

This week saw me do 800s in 90 degree heat, a 6 mile tempo run, and an 8 mile tempo in the middle of my 15 mile long run today. I also finally got back out on the Cottonwood trail for a few miles to try out my shiny new trail shoes, which I’m super jazzed about. I know that running trails is an important element of a successful training cycle for me, but I often struggle to make myself drive there when to run on the road, all I have to do is go out my front door. But the soft surface, the irregular foot striking, the change of scenery–all of these things are important–so I’m glad I finally got myself back out there.

The break down:

M: Easy 6

T: 6x 800 w/ warm-up & cool down. So HOT. I ended up walking a lot of the recovery intervals because it was over 90* and heat stroke seemed like a bad idea. 8 Total. Interval target was &:7:20-7:39 (7:15, 7:17, 7:25, 7:15, 7:16, 7:14)

W: OFF.

R: 2x 2 miles at MP-10 (8:13) w/ warm up & cool down. 9 Total (7:56-57; 8:01-7:50)

F: Easy 6 on the Cottonwood

S: Easy 5

Sun: 15 w/ 8 @ MP (8:23) 8:12, 8:06, 8:14, 8:05, 7:57, 8:01, 8:03, 8:13

All in all: 50 miles.

[Creative Commons licensed image by Flickr user nrg_crisis]

Aug 20

Richmond: Week 8, Welcome (back) to Swelterville

eight ball in foreground, cue ball behind with cue lining up on left

Week 8 required more flexibility with my training schedule. I flew back from Amsterdam on Tuesday, and the trip took 20+ hours from the time that I left my hotel room at the Amsterdam Renaissance until I unlocked my front door. Most of that time was spent sitting or waiting, or sitting and waiting. But the crucial detail is that it did NOT involve sleeping.

And then I was back into the soup that is South Carolina August heat and humidity. I hadn’t missed it. But all things considered, it wasn’t TOO terrible. Thursday was tough, but it was going to be tough where ever I did that workout. Jet lag did me no favors, but generally when it hit, it hit later in the day.

The break down:

M: 5x 1000m

T: OFF

W: 10 (2 wu & cd + 6 at MP)

R: Easy 6

F: easy 5

S: 15*

S: “easy” 6

My long run this week wasn’t terrible. It was hot, but I got out the door early enough that it didn’t completely kick my ass. For this I am grateful. The previous two 15 milers were each a struggle, especially the one that I ran in Spartanburg 2 weeks ago. This one wasn’t easy, but I didn’t enter into that last mile thinking “there is no way that I can run 11 more miles in a couple of months.” It would have been really difficult to run 11 more miles on Saturday, but it didn’t seem like the mountain of impossibility that it did a couple of weeks earlier. I’ve still got 11 weeks to go, and things are going to get harder before they get easier. But I feel more confident today, and I know that the challenges ahead are at least as much mental and psychological as they are physical.

Earlier this afternoon, I read a blog post by Lauren Fleshman, one of the runners whom I admire most. There, she writes: “To pursue your individual potential as an athlete requires a willingness to face your shadow, to see things in yourself that are ugly or “other” before you are ready to, and respect them.” The specter of failure is one that lingers in the periphery of my vision when it comes to the marathon. Earlier this year, in Phoenix, in Columbia, and in Asheville, I did my best to dig deep and get ugly, to embrace the suck and not give in to the voice that says, “You can’t. This hurts. You should just stop.” And I surprised myself with my tenacity and my ability to endure discomfort.

Lauren Fleshman asked, “Are you afraid of the dark?” And if I’m honest, my answer is “Sometimes.” But what I’m learning this summer is that the darkness is itself neither dangerous nor unsafe. It is something to respect, something to explore, but there is a power in darkness that is valuable and important. When I ran Tread Nightly in week 4, the darkness was unnerving at first, but once I got used to it, adjusted to the different perspective provided by a headlamp and a flashlight, it was really interesting. I could really zero in on my breathing and the feeling of my feet on the trails. The sounds of the cicada and the rustle of leaves and trees were a welcome change from the usual soundtrack of traffic that usually accompanies me.

All of this to say that I’m trying to think of those experiences and the struggles ahead as deposits into the Ugly Account, reserves that I can draw upon in November when the specter moves from the periphery on to center stage. Because it will move to center stage. That’s not a question. The question is whether or not I will be ready for it. I hope that I will.

[Creative Commons licensed image by Flickr user SmSm]

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Aug 14

Richmond Week 7: Amsterdam

Number 7 spray painted against a concrete wallA work trip forced me to take my training on the road this week. I went to Amsterdam for a conference, and that required me to make some adjustments and be a bit flexible. But it was also a wonderful opportunity to get out of the heat and swelter of the South Carolina summer and provided a much appreciated change of scenery.

Because I would be traveling from Monday afternoon until sometime Tuesday morning, I decided to make Tuesday my rest day (it’s usually Wednesday). That was a good plan.

Wednesday became an SOS day. That required me to find a place to run where I could go for a 1.5 miles at a specific pace and then jog for half a mile to recover (My target pace was 8:13/mile, which is my goal marathon pace minus 10 seconds per mile). And then repeat that three more times.

I posted a query on the Oiselle FB group asking if any of my teammates had suggestions for somewhere to run, and of course, a couple of people recommended Vondelpark, which as it turned out was perfect. It is two miles from my hotel–exactly the distance of my warm-up–and there was a two-mile loop that went around the perimeter of the park, which also had plenty of port-a-lets and water fountains. It also had plenty of cyclists, most of them pedaling along at a leisurely pace. As it turns out, I did three of my runs, all of my SOS workouts, at the park.

I did the rest of the runs, three of them, on the hotel treadmill. I’ve never really run of a treadmill before. I’ve walked on them a lot, but if I can run, I always run outside. I opted for the mill the first time because I had an early morning meeting, and I didn’t want to get lost (I had only been in Amsterdam for a couple of days, so I didn’t have a sense of where anything was, and I didn’t want to be late to the meeting). The second two times on the mill were for similar reasons. I did this week’s long run at the park–six and a half loops–which felt like a lot, but I liked the access to water and bathrooms, even if I didn’t use the bathrooms, I liked knowing that they were there.

I don’t know that I would want to run in Amsterdam all the time. It was great if I was up early, but once the tourists woke up and started wandering about, it took a bit of dodging and weaving, and the cyclists don’t mess around. Finally, there’s a lot of smoking–both tobacco and other substances. I don’t know if I will ever understand the impulse to smoke while riding a bicycle. That just seems like a bad idea. Cyclists were generally okay once I got to the park, though there could be a lot of them. But on the regular roads, it’s a bit trickier due to intersections and other traffic. Plus, the later it got, the more pedestrians there were to deal with. By mid-day the streets were pretty crowded, unless it was raining. It only really rained my first day, but there were a couple drizzly spells, and it rained really hard on Sunday morning, hence the treadmill.

The Breakdown:

M: 6x 800m (target was 3:40-3:45; 3:40, 3:37, 3:30, 3:36, 3:32, 3:36) with 2 mile warm up and cool down.

T: OFF

W: 4x 1.5 miles (target was 12:20; 12:02, 11:53, 12:02, 12:06) with 2 mile warm-up and cool down. Vondelpark

T: Treadmill 4ish. Was probably more like 4.25.

F: 15 miles. Vondelpark loops and loops and loops. Well, 6 loops, more or less.

Sat: Treadmill 6ish. Was probably 6.5.

Sun: Treadmill 5ish. Was probably 5.4.

Maybe worth mentioning that I have foam-rolled a bit while abroad, but I’ve mostly been walking. A lot.

Total miles: 50.

 

[Creative Commons licensed image by Flickr user Leo Reynolds]

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