Finally. This was the race I've been chasing for a little under two years now. This is how racing is supposed to feel and this is how it used to feel for me. No, it was not a PR but I was not aiming to PR today, I was looking to run smart, get in a great training run, and stay mentally strong throughout the race. I did all three and then some! I finished in 1:46:25, I negative split the race, I didn't go out too fast, I never got in my own head, and I had fun! It was the confidence boost I needed with 6 weeks to go before Cleveland.
I signed up for the Towpath Half Marathon earlier this week when I received my training schedule and saw that I was supposed to do a little over 14 miles this weekend. Once I received the Ok from my coach, I registered and prepared to run half number 15 and my first race of the year! I had a volume week this week so it was mostly about mileage without a lot of killer workouts. My only bigger workout was goal marathon paced hour run on Tuesday and then some easier 5-7 mile runs during the week. On Saturday I did a 4 mile shakeout, something I rarely do pre-race, but my coach scheduled it so I got it done.
The half started at 8am Sunday morning, but between needing to get my bib and get in a 20-30 min warmup, I arrived around 6:40 am and it was a real feel of 18 and lightly snowing with some decen wind. Parking was scarce so I was a solid three tenths of a mile away from the packet pickup and start line and at the base of a hill. My running partner and I walked to the top, grabbed my bib, and then headed back to our cars for about 15 more minutes of warmth. Then we trekked back to the top of the hill, hit up the porta-potties and began our warmup.
I've honestly never warmed up for a race before but I can understand why I should now. We did about 2.2 miles of easy running and it was great because I was comfortable in the cold after the warmup and I felt really loose. With a little under 10 mins to go, we headed over to the start line and got into the pack.
The game plan was to run the first 10k at 8:30ish and then start dropping the pace every 5 minutes for the rest. The first mile was almost all downhill so we worked to hold back but still stay relaxed. We clocked in at 8:10, which wasn't too speedy given the downhill. After that it was pretty flat other than these two suspension bridges, which we crossed twice due to the out an back in the beginning of the race. It's funny though, when I ran these bridges last summer in the ten miler race, I swear they were twice as big. Guess I'm in better shape this time around because they felt like no big deal this time around.
We hit the turn around which was about four miles out and I was feeling amazing. We were a hair over 8:20s and I was just chatting it up with my running partner, telling stories, and mainly just being amazed at how good I felt. After the turn there was a pretty intense head wind because we were out in the open, and the snow was picking up. But for some reason I didn't care. I charged over the bridges again, feeling strong and fighting the urge to pick up the pace too early. Once I came down the second (and final bridge), I noticed my training partner had fallen pretty far behind me. I knew his plan was to hang on to 8:30s as long as he could, and that he intended to stay with me until the 10k, and we were only at about 5.8 miles. So I looked back for him and he waved me on. I said "go?" and he said "yes". So I kept pushing on at 8:20s. Around 6 miles I caught fellow Healthsource of Avon Athlete Ambassador Jesse and we chatted for a bit. Then we hit the 10k and I took off. It was time for my race to really start.
I began dropping the pace (probably too much initially) and was running just over an 8 for 6.2 to the 7 mile mark. I continued dropping the pace and as a result, I was picking off runners like crazy. As a result, just before 8 miles and until about mile 9, I ended up in no man's land -- meaning I was completely alone with no runners with me -- I looked back and saw no one and I could even see runners ahead of me other then the leaders who would come by in the opposite direction every so often. The wind and snow were also just wonderful at that point. Luckily I started catching more people by mile 10 and in trying to catch up to those runners I managed a 7:30. Easily the fastest mile 10 in my running career to date!
At that point we were heading backwards, away from the finish because we needed to complete this extra loop to get the mileage in. That part was mentally tough because we were about 3/4 of a mile from the finish and then had to turn away and run 1.5 miles in the other direction. But I focused in on pace and on trying to catch more runners ahead of me. I caught up to a group of women running my pace around 11 miles and I was hoping to use them for drafting and pacing. But unfortunately, they decided to significantly drop off the pace and so I went ahead with the lone guy in the group. Soon after, he dropped off too and I was in no man's land again.
Fortunately that only lasted until about 11.5 miles when I caught another female runner and she and I worked our way through the back of the pack runners who were on their first loop out. That part was frustrating because we had runners coming towards us and we were trying to pass. Plus the woman I was with wasn't great at passing and would just bounce slowly behind the runners until she could get around. (In her defense, maybe they shouldn't have been running three and fourth abreast.) Finally, it started to thin out at 12 miles. At 12.2 we had a slight hill to climb and at that point, I left my "running partner" behind and never saw her again.
I caught up to a guy and tailed him for a while until there was under a half mile left. There was a nice big hill at that point and I figured I'd kinda take it easy up the hill. But as we started to climb, he looks over at me and goes, "you're running a great pace, go crush this hill." And I just went "ok! Thanks!" and took off. He didn't come with, but for whatever reason, his little pep talk was what I needed. After the hill, there was a flat/slight uphill stretch, and then about a tenth up a hill, with the last probably .05 down into the finish.
I crossed and felt so many emotions. I had just executed the smartest race of my entire running career. I also ran mentally strong for the first time in a couple years and I don't think I ever doubted myself. My goal was to finish the race around 1:46 and I nailed it. The best part is that there was definitely gas left in the tank and I'm not even sore from it. I'm getting so excited for Cleveland and honestly for the next time I actually race a half because I know my PR is about to be broken. Today, the runner that I was in 2016 finally showed back up after a two year hiatus. I have my confidence back. With 6 weeks left, let's do this! (P.S. HKCLE10 still saves you 10%)
You know those key training products you just can't go without? We've all got 'em and everyone has a different little arsenal that they've perfected over the course of their running career. For me it's taken 5+ years to identify the perfect training essentials that work right with me. I still find something new every now and then, but the key group of products I use really hasn't changed for the past few years. Which is why for most of them, as you can see on the side panel, I am a product ambassador. It's not for free product, discounts, etc., it's because I truly believe these products play a key role in my training and have been game changers for me in the past. So with 7 weeks to go, aka when I start getting organized to make sure I'm stocked up on all my essentials for the marathon, I thought I'd share my favorite essentials and why I love them.
First up: Nuun Hydration.
In particular, I train with Nuun Performance (Orange Mango). I started using new about 4 years ago because I have such a sensitive stomach and Gatorade/Powerade just completely destroy me. Nuun does not do that to me and it has no artificial sweeteners, which I avoid.
Nuun Performance is a recent addition to the Nuun family and is for sustained endurance, aka longer/more intense training sessions. I love the stuff for long runs, races, and long speedwork sessions. And I learned last summer that it works wonders for battling heat and humidity.
Third: Honey Stinger Waffles.
If you haven't tried these, even just as a snack, you are missing out! They are so good! I used to use them post-long run as a treat, but last summer I switched it up and made them a more integral part of my training.
Now I use them as my pre-run breakfast. I do 1 for a hard workout or 6-10 miler, 2 for a 10-20 miles, and 3 for a marathon. They sit really well. I can eat a waffle and start running 10-15 mins later with no stomach issues or cramps. Plus they provide energy to power you through the workout. And as someone who needs GF flavors, they have plenty variety to choose from!
Fifth: Enertor Insoles.
This company reached out to me a little over a year and a half ago, right as I was rehabbing my IT band, and asked if I wanted to try out these insoles. I figured why not. The difference was apparent after the first run. I could feel the impact lessened when running on them. I even tried a few runs without them to be sure it wasn't a placebo effect. It definitely wasn't. These things seriously help prevent injury and I stand by the belief that they were critical in my IT band rehab.
These are just a few of the many things I use in my training, but these 5 are definitely my "can't go withouts". And I can guarantee you I'll be using these babies at Cleveland!
What are your favorite training essentials? And have you signed up for the Cleveland Marathon yet? HKCLE10 will still score you 10% off your registration!
It's April?!?! How did March go by so quickly? That means there's really only about 7 weeks left until the Cleveland Marathon. So here's your 7 week reminder to sign up! HKCLE10 will still save you 10% off your registration!
March was a great training month for me and a month full of many training records! I hit 196 miles for the month (with a previous personal best of 164) and I broke 50 miles in a week, safely, for the first time (last time I tried that I had the IT band injury). Most importantly, not only did my body hold up through the increased mileage and training but my two highest mileage weeks actually felt the easiest. Both times I had no clue that I logged that many miles until I received my weekly summary at the end of the week.
I think a big factor this time around is having a coach who understands how to safely build volume and how to incorporate key workouts at the right time. But most importantly he understands the importance of recovery. During my 50 mile week, I had scheduled foam rolling which added up to over 2 hours. On top of my scheduled recovery work, I've been incorporating additional recovery work (icing/ice baths, massages, epsom salt baths, stretching, etc.) on my own plus I've been really working on my strength and core training in general to build a strong body that can support the increase in miles. Finally, I've been fueling my body in the best way for me (see my last post) so that I can give my muscles the nutrition to recover.
In terms of actual training, I can definitely feel the training plan working because I notice my comfortable pace is dropping and I have to work even harder to maintain my easier miles. So what are some of my key workouts from March?
I just finished a big step back week and this week begins another build over the month of April. I'm excited for more miles and more training and to use the upcoming Boston and London marathons as my inspiration and motivation for this month. Cheers to more miles and more Cleveland Marathon blog posts coming soon!
Hard to believe March is almost over, meaning there are only about 8 weeks of training left until the Cleveland Marathon! If you haven't registered yet, HKCLE10 still gets you 10% off your registration! My training is still going really well! I just matched my highest mileage week last week (42 miles) but I actually did not feel like I even ran that many miles and I still felt fresh at the end of the week. That means the training plan is working! But rather than discuss the running side of the training or the cross training, I want to talk about fueling. And I don't mean what I eat during the runs, I mean my diet/nutrition in general.
I was hesitant to even make this post because I know there are so many opinions out there. But so many people have been asking me to make this post--I'm guessing because of the noticable weight loss I've had over the past few months. So I decided to make it (if for no other reason than to share all my food pics), but first, a few disclaimers (I am an attorney after all).
1. I am not a nutritionist, dietician, etc. and I do not have any formal education on diet/nutrition (although I am a biologist, so I do understand fueling and energy usage in that regard).
2. I am not suggesting that anyone follow a specific diet/copy exactly what I eat/etc. I am simply sharing some of my meals and what works for ME.
3. Pictures sometimes distort size/portions. Sometimes an angle may make a meal look smaller/larger than it actually is. Again, please do not copy a portion based off of a picture.
4. I have a gluten allergy so nothing in my diet includes gluten. For me it's a necessary exclusion, but it's not right for everyone.
Whew, ok now that that's all out of the way, let's talk about the good stuff! FOOD! So with the mileage beginning to increase, I know I need to be upping by caloric intake to make sure I have the energy to go the distance and to refuel after depletion workouts. But I also want to be smart about giving my body the things that work best for it to build muscle and avoid the marathon training weight gain.
So what works for me? Well it really breaks down to a few key changes.
1. Protein. I eat a LOT of protein. I try to center every meal around a key protein item.My favorites are tuna, chicken and eggs. But the biggest change I've made is to snack on protein. Whether it's a protein bar, almonds, or cheese, I find that it fills me up and keeps me full.
2. I eat a LOT. It took me about 23 years to learn that you can eat a lot and lose/maintain weight. I eat breakfast, a mid-morning snack/second breakfast, lunch, late-afternoon snack, pre-run snack, dinner, and dessert. For me a typical day looks like: (1) Greek yogurt and granola, (2) oatmeal, (3) salad, greek yogurt, cheese stick, apple, gf crackers, (4) protein bar and almonds, (5) sweet potato chips, (6) varies (see pics below), (7) bowl of cereal with almond milk or fruit and whipped cream.
3. I take in most of my daily calories by lunch time. They always say your breakfast should be the largest meal of the day, and they say that for good reason. When I was in college, I spent a summer living in Costa Rica, training for my next season of college volleyball. When I was there, they ate HUGE breakfasts. Like bigger than you could imagine. Then they'd have a pretty decent sized lunch, but dinner was just a little snack. After a couple weeks of that I was amazed at how full I felt all day, how well I was performing athletically, and how much energy I had all day long. So for the most part, since then, I've adopted that fueling strategy and for me, it works.
4. Fat is my friend. I used to think that high fat content was a bad thing. And it can be. But there are healthy fats. Like nuts, avocado, cheese, eggs, etc. When I stopped fearing these items I found that these things actually keep me full and give me energy.
5. Carbs at the right time. My mindset used to be "oh I run, so I can eat all the carbs all the time." That's wrong. But cutting them out altogether doesn't work either. So for me, its about balance. Pre-long run I carb up, but I also add more carbs in before a hard workout and then eat carbs after a long run or a hard workout. Because I've depleted those glycogen stores and so I've got to restock them. I just don't reload with as many as I had pre-long run. In between those types of workouts, I keep the carbs to a reasonable amount, meaning they are in every meal but they aren't front and center.
Obviously there's more I use in my fueling strategy, but these are the three key things I follow. As for some things I love/staples and things I avoid:
So that's my marathon training diet and it's definitely working for me. I'm excited to see how it works as the mileage continues to increase. Do you switch up your diet for marathon training? What works for you? Let me know in the comments!
Hard to believe it, but two weeks of Cleveland Marathon training have come and gone already! Which means that I've survived my first two weeks of training under a coach! It also means there are under 100 days until the Cleveland Marathon! Speaking of which, have you registered yet? HKCLE10 gets you 10% off of any registration!
The first two weeks actually went really well although I'm definitely dealing with a learning curve of training differences plus the overall change of having to completely give up control over my workouts. But I can already see differences from the physical training and I'm noticing my speed and mental strength are back. So let's talk about how the first couple weeks went and what it's been like for me to train with a coach!
My first week of coaching was pretty basic. I started with learning what my coach considers base runs (i.e. conversational paced; not getting out of breath) and beginning to run for time (this is a big part of my coach's training). He allowed me to stick to what I had been doing throughout January, which was a lot of tempo runs, followed by recovery runs, but had me doing everything for time rather than mileage. Additionally, he built in foam rolling. So a few days per week, usually after key workouts, I have to do 20 mins of foam rolling. This is key, because honestly, if it wasn't on my list of workouts, I probably wouldn't do it.
My first week ended with around 35 miles, but feeling like I didn't do much at all. Which is funny, because in the past, that's been only about 5 miles shy of where I ususally peak. So that says a lot about what this style of training is doing for me already.
Week 2 was where my coach decided to give me a treat of what's to come. I get my workouts loaded on Sunday, so I knew what the week ahead looked like. And of course my eyes immediately jumped to Tuesday (hill repeats) and Thursday (1K) repeats. I was excited for Thursday, because I love half mile repeats (1K is pretty close to that), and terrified of Tuesday, because, ugh, hills. But I was ready to commit, knowing that he knows what's best and how bad I want to hit my goal in Cleveland.
I started the week off with a base run on Monday (8:15-9:00 goal) at 8:20/mile. Then came Tuesday, hill repeats. I had a 15 min warmup, 7-8 hill repeats (7:00 ish) with 1:30 walk down, and then the remainder of my running time at 8:15-9:00. So I set out and did 2 warm up miles and headed over to a hill that seemed to meet the 6%-10% grade goal.
I headed up the first time for 30 seconds (to the 3rd light in the pic above) at what felt like 7:00/mile, but it was dark so I couldn't really see. I stopped my watch and was surprised to see 6:15. I thought to myself that I would need to slow down if I wanted to survive all 8. So I tried to, but apparently, I'm faster than I thought. My uphills were 6:15, 6:29, 6:05, 6:23, 6:21, 6:20, 6:13, 6:26. And more importantly, I felt great the whole time and had enough energy to finish the workout. I was surprised because I was so afraid of this workout.
Thursday was a different story. Yes, I love half mile repeats, but as my running partner later pointed out, the scheduled workout had me taking a significantly shorter rest period than usual. 15 min warmup, 8 1K repeats at 6:45/mile with 1:30 walking in between. I made it through all 8 at about a 6:43 avg, but wow, were they hard. I made it through 3 and was in shock that I still had 5 to go. I dug them out and they took every ounce of mental and physical strength I had, but I got it done.
Friday was an easy run at 9:30. My coach's training plan has me running the day before long runs to get used to running on tired legs, so I had close to five miles. Then Saturday, I had 1:20 at 8:20-9:00. Despite the fact that there was freezing rain, snow, ice, and cold temps, somehow the run ended up great! I went out at a comfortable 9:15 and then dropped to 8:45 in the first 4.5 miles. Then for the rest I ran at about a 8:25/mile for a total of 9.3 at 8:35/mile. I ended up with a pretty good negative split for the run and a great way to end the week. I capped off week 2 at about 35 miles. Again, not feeling like I ran anywhere near that much.
Getting used to my coach's plan
So like I said, physically I'm doing fine on the plan but mentally, he's made some big changes for me.
1. Running for time - This is number 1 because it's so different. I've almost always been the "Ok, let's go out and run 5 miles", not let's go run 45 minutes. So this is very different to me for two reasons really. The first being my OCD, and getting used to the fact that I'm more often than not, going to end on an uneven number. Sometimes that means I try to sprint the end to hit the even number. But after talking to my coach, I've learned it's ok to take some time over the scheduled number to round it out. For the most part, as long as I hit an even tenth, it doesn't drive me nuts, although I also got permission to take a .9 to a whole mile ha! The other reason it's new to me is I need to get used to figuring out where to turn in long runs. The first week I turned halfway through my time goal, but apparently I went out faster (so I covered more distance) and then hit my time goal about a quarter mile from the end and had to walk back. This will take practice.
2. Running the day before long runs - After the first week of training my coach asked how it went. I said one big change was this. His response? Get used to it. You will almost always be doing this on my training plan. This change means I have to adjust my schedule and run in the morning on Friday because I don't think it's good to be running the night before I do an early morning long run the next day. It's also different because ever since I started running, Friday's have always been a rest day. Like ALWAYS. So this is very different. And of course there's the whole running the day before a long run thing.
3. Warm-ups - Shocking, I know. But usually I just go right into my runs. No warm-up. So having to spend 15 mins before is new. But not really a bad thing because it allows me to warm up (obviously), but also to plan the workout and where I will do it. It also let's me mentally prep myself for the harder portion.
4 - Giving up control - I only get my workouts one week at a time so that (1) I'm not obsessing over them (i.e. paces a few weeks out that I wonder if I can actually hit) and (2) so they don't have to be scheduled and then adjusted based on pace/schedule changes. But as someone who has always done my own schedule and plan, it's weird to not know what's coming next. In a way it's kind of relaxing to not have to worry but also as someone who like to control everything, it's hard for me to let go!
All in all, not too bad, especially since most changes are mentally new and challenging not physically. I'm excited to see what the next week holds and to tackle some more training. One thing is for sure, I always feel very accomplished when I finish every workout my coach plans for me.
It wouldn't be the New Year if the Cleveland Marathon weekend wasn't on my mind. I do one of the events that 3rd weekend in May every year and usually its the half, except 2016 where I ran the full.
But something was different this year. For some reason last summer I started feeling an urge to do the full again in 2018. Usually I don't repeat full marathons. All five that I've done have been different, mainly because I'm trying to do all 50 states. Plus last time I did the full the weather was absolutely insane: snow, sleet, hail, 30+mph winds, rain, waterspouts on the lake.... And then last year in the half I got heat exhaustion pretty bad.
I knew I'd do some event during that weekend, since I always do, but I decided I needed some big sign to convince me to do the full. Then about a month later, I got an email saying I was selected as a Cleveland Marathon Ambassador this year! I was so pumped!
The Cleveland Marathon is so special to me. When I ran the half in 2013, it was my first ever race and the start of my running career. I've seen 2 half PRs and a full PR on that course. It's my hometown race and I love seeing friends on course and cheering. And it's just an incredibly fun race weekend. Which is why I do it every year despite the fact that the weather can be unpredictable. There is no other race that I have repeated more than twice, but 2018 will be my 6th year at the Cleveland Marathon.
As soon as I got the Ambassador email, my mind was made up. That was my sign. I would be doing the full in 2018! My training kicks off in a couple weeks but let's talk about why you should join me for one of the events on May 19th-May 20th (and not one of them has to do with bling, although there's plenty of that too)!
#1 - You have your choice of distances. You can run the 1 Mile, 5k, 8k, 10k, 13.1 or 26.2. Even if you are new to running, you can do this and it's an awesome way to get your start and you couldn't ask for better scenery for it.
#2 - One race not enough for you? No problem. There's a challenge where you can run the 8k and 13.1, 8k and 26.2 or the 5k and 10k.
#3 - You travel through some pretty cool places. If you live here, you know. Cleveland and the surrounding areas are pretty amazing. In addition through travelling through downtown, you hit Ohio City, Gordon Square, Lakewood, Edgewater, Rocky River. All very fun and trendy places. If you choose one of the Saturday events you run at Edgewater Park which has unbelieveable views of Lake Erie and downtown.
#4 - New Course. Well mostly new. Last year, the race directors re-vamped and re-did the course. Spoiler alert: it's even flatter. Just a couple hills here and there on a mostly flat course. And my personal favorite? They took out a nasty beast called the Detroit-Shoreway, aka a four mile, spectator-free, windfilled stretch of hills that used to make up the end of the course. It's gone! Now you travel down Detroit, past restaurants and bars and a street full of spectators!
#5 - Crowd Support. If you're like me, you need spectators when the going gets tough. This race is great for that. With the Shoreway gone, you're hard-pressed to find a part of the course without people cheering. Even in the crazy weather of 2016 there were tons of people out there cheering for us. Although maybe they were there to see the crazy runners? Either way Cleveland's fans rock!
#6 - Post-race fun. There's always a great party at the end with music, good food, and free local beer! And you can bet rain, or shine, or freezing cold, people will be out there celebrating their finish.
So what are you waiting for? Come RunCLE with me in May! It's gonna be great!
Happy New Year! It's hard to believe 2017 is over already, but I'm actually kind of glad to have a fresh start in running and many other areas of life.
2017 was a big running year for me in terms of numbers. I raced more than I ever have. 16 times to be exact and 8 distances: 2 fulls, 4 halfs, a 25k, 10 miler, 15k, 10k, 5 miler, 3 5ks, and a 2miler. I ran in 5 different states and had two PRs (5 mile and 25k). I had several firsts: I ran a marathon for fun, I ran my first race with Bentley, I completed my first 10k and 15k, and I won my first race. Most importantly, my IT band fully recovered and I trained and raced CIM without any issue.
But I can't help but feel like I fell short of the goals I had for 2017. I didn't PR in the full, the half, or the 5k. And in most of the races, the times I ran were well off of my PRs. Granted, I had some issues outside of my control, but other times I just didn't feel like I was capable of running my previous times and was bonking way earlier in races than I ever had. CIM was the exception to that, but I had my weird side stitch issue show up half way through and derail my race.
The big race on my schedule for 2018 is the Cleveland Marathon (and I get to be an ambassador this year!) so I have plenty of time to train. So with 2018 beginning, I've come up with new goals and new plans for how to acheive those goals.
January of 2017 to December 2017
My 2018 Plan -
There are several elements to my plan for 2018 but they all center around one big change I want to make...keep reading to find out.
Cross-training - I've said this every year for the past 3 years. I'm going to cross train this year, I'm going to cross train. I swear I'm going to cross train. And the same thing happens every year, I cross train for a few weeks at the beginning of each training cycle, and then I drop it for one reason or another. But this time WILL be different. How? Well for starters, I've already been cross training for the last 3 weeks straight for at least 45mins-1hr each day. I figured that by starting while I'm not training for anything, it will become part of my routine. The second thing I'm trying are different types of workouts. I rarely do the same lifting/core work/etc each day. That keeps it interesting and makes it more efficient.
More Mileage - After talking with other runners in my club and seeing the kind of mileage other runners I know log, I've come to the conclusion that I do not log enough miles in my training to run the times I want to run. I know I need to do this carefully to prevent injuries, but I plan to slowly build up and to add more runs per week to safely increase the mileage.
Physical Therapy - I've been going to Healthsource of Avon for 3 weeks now and I haven't had a side stitch since getting adjustments and starting PT with them. Their workouts are also helping me to strengthen my obliques, which I'm working into my cross-training. And I'm learning to breath properly which improves my running and prevents the stitch.
Nutrition - Starting with my CIM training, I completely switched up my diet and while I was being more strict on myself than I previously was, I didn't even notice so its not like I was miserable. But the payoff was incredible! I dropped about 12lbs in my training and I had so much energy. So I plan to continue that diet permanently, but I also intend to work on improving it even further, with better nutrition through more fresh fruits and veggies and good sources of protein. I plan to hit the Cleveland Marathon at my ideal race weight.
Coaching - My biggest change for 2018. This year I am hiring a run coach. I've done all of the above in some shape or form but I've never had a real coach before. My training partner has served as an unofficial coach for the past couple years but what I need out of a coach, I can't ask him to do and he doesn't necessarily know how to form daily and weekly training plans, provide cross-training, diet and nutrition plans, and adjust to my needs/performance. From seeing other runners succeed with coaches and talking to other runners, I think that a coach can provide a big payoff for me in 2018. And since running is such a big part of my life, I'm going to make this investment in it this year.
So those are my plans for 2018 in a nutshell. I don't start my Cleveland Marathon training until late January but my cross-training is in full swing. What are your goals for 2018 and do you have any plans to mix it up this year? Have you used a coach before?
It's been a while since my last post but seeing as I am now a 5 time marathoner and I have a lot to say about marathon number 5 (and state number 7 in my quest for a half or more in all 50), it seems like a great time to post!
On December 3rd I finished the California International Marathon. While I was shy of my goal (sub-3:40), finishing in 3:55 due to issues outside of my control -- which I will discuss later -- I learned a lot about my mental and physical toughness in this race, my current fitness level and how to run a smart race. On top of that I had an amazing trip, meeting runner friends from all over the country, pro-runners, and my Nuun Hydration team and fellow ambassadors, plus taking in all that Sacramento and the surrounding areas had to offer! It was definitely one of my favorite running trips.
The trip started out the Wednesday before the race bright and early with a 5:30am flight to Sacramento. When I arrived in CA, my parents grabbed me from the airport and we took a quick tour of a few wineries before heading to my parents resort at Angel's Camp. My goal on this trip was to stay off of my feet and not sight see too much like I did in Oklahoma which led to dead-legs on race morning. When we arrived in Angel's Camp I went for a quick, easy 3 mile run. Angel's Camp is elevated and hilly so I was careful to find the flatest route possible. The next day we drove back into Sacramento, checked me into my hotel and toured Old Town and then headed to Folsom to see the city where the marathon would start, shop, and have dinner. Then it was back to Sacramento for me until after the race.
On Saturday I tried to stay off of my feet as much as possible. I went back to Pushkins for another breakfast and then headed to the expo for a Nuun Ambassador event. Beforehand I checked out the elite bib reveal and snagged some pics of some of my favorite elite runners! I also spied Neely Gracey at the expo. The Nuun event was great because I was able to actually meet Nuun Ambassadors from all over the country, be featured in a live Nuun webinar, and got some Nuun swag! Afterwards I pretty much lounged in my hotel the rest of the day and got everything ready for the race.
Race morning started very early with a 5am bus ride to Folsom. I noticed it was pretty warm out (about 45) so I knew we were going to have good race weather. The bus ride passed quickly as I made friends with my seat mate. When we arrived in Folsom we headed to the portapotties and were in and out quickly. I got back on the bus to stay comfortable and got every last detail organized. With about 30 minutes left I headed back to the bathrooms, dumped by gear check bag, and then met up for one last photo with Instagram friends. With about 12 minutes left I got into the corral and seeded myself between the 3:37 and 3:42 pacers. The wheelchair athletes took off with 5 minutes to go. Then before I knew it we were off too.
The first mile rolled downhill. I told myself to hold back but stay comfortable. I tried not to get sucked into going to fast with everyone else and let the 3:37 pacer go ahead (a good choice because I never saw her again--not sure what pace she was running). The course rolled pretty seriously in the beginning. There was a lot of down but there was also a lot of up too. But I still felt fantastic. I went through the 5k at about a 7:55/mile so I made myself back off a little and by the time I hit the 10k I was at an 8:02/mile. I could not believe how little effort I was using to run these paces. The uphills started to get more significant but I still felt great. I also felt so free because Nuun was on the course so I didn't have to carry a handheld for once! I was taking in the sights, the great crowd support, and the perfect weather. The only complaint I had was that the water stops were somewhat difficult to get to with all of the runners and the stops being on one side of the street.
The miles were flying by and I couldn't believe it when I saw mile 10. "I'm already in double digits?! I'm going to break 3:40!" Despite some bigger hills in between, I saw mile 13 show up shortly after and then I was crossing the timing mat at 13.1. "Did I really just run across the half marathon in 1:46 at a minimal effort?! Maybe I can negative split and finish in 3:35!" I pushed on feeling great until I hit 13.8.
Then I felt it. The side stitch. The stupid, annoying, nagging, incredibly painful side stitch that had reared its ugly head during my first 18 miler in my training. The one that literally brought me to tears in my training. I tried to breathe deeply and work it out but it wasn't happening. By the time I crossed 14 it was stabbing pain and I couldn't catch my breath. That caused me to hyperventilate and freak out, making breathing more difficult. At that point I called Mike (my running partner/training coach) and talked to him. I needed someone to calm me down. He and Joanna (his wife) talked to me and calmed me down to the point I could get running again.
Around 16 I called my mom because I was still wheezing and hurting. I ran the next three miles (slowly) with her on the phone just listening to me run. Something about that calmed me down enough to keep moving. I hung up with her around 19.5 (after a lot of tears and anger--why does this always happen to me? I was having a great race!) and put on my music and kept moving.
Mile 20-24 were a mix of ok and hurting. I was at the point that I could go a mile before I had to slow and work out the cramp/stitch. At mile 21 I noticed a girl on the left side of the road sort of limping and she took off running again. Something told me to go check on her. I jogged over to her and asked if she was ok. Her name was Sara and she was having a similar race where an injury showed up and messed with what was shaping up to be a great race for her. I shared my experience with her and we ran together for a little while. She had to back off and told me to have a great race. I told her I knew she'd catch me at some point because I was hurting pretty bad. Afterward I kept pushing through and before I knew it we had crested the last hill and we were back in the city at 24 with 2.2 miles to go.
I cramped pretty bad but I could tell from my watch that even with a lot of walking, I was going to break 4 hours. I worked out the cramp and called Mike again. He reassured me that I would break 4 and I was doing just fine. I ran with him on the phone until 24.5 and then hung up and pushed myself to finish strong. One more big cramp at 24.8 and I had to slow again to work it out. I told myself at 25 I would take off and finish the race even if I thought my side was going to tear. Right as I was about to start running I heard "huh-uh, no! Let's go!". It was Sara. I took off with her and we cranked up the pace. We were passing runners right and left. She was directing me, and firmly ordering me to stay with her. I gave it everything I had and just hung on to her. My side was aching but I just focused on staying with Sara. 25.5, 25.7, 26. We were in the home stretch. Sara jestured that we would turn left, make another left shortly after, and then it was a short sprint to the finish.
We made the first left turn at 26 and I could see that we only had about .1 before we turned again. We rounded the second left and I could see the finish. Not even .2 away. Sara kicked it up and I went with her. We sprinted in and I saw the clock as we crossed. 3:55. We were in 5 minutes under 4 hours. Sara and I both turned and hugged each other after we crossed, thanking each other for making the last mile great. There was no way my last mile would have been that great without her there. We were meant to finish that race together from when we met at mile 21.
The official time was 3:55:28. I was a little disappointed given how the first half of the race went, but given how I felt throughout the last 12.2 miles, I'm pretty darn proud of finishing that race and breaking 4 is always a win in my book. The more I started thinking about it, the more I realized how great of a race this was for me even with the issue. This was my 3rd fastest marathon (just 11 seconds off of my Detroit time) and it was a post-IT band injury PR. I went from the DNF in Utah, to a 4:05 in Oklahoma City, to a 3:55 at this race. And speaking of the IT band, it never hurt or bothered me in this race! Even with all of the hills! Finally, I finished this race strong and made a new friend in the process. Last time I ran a 3:55 I turned around for a huge PR in Cleveland. Cleveland is already scheduled, so it looks like I'm ready for a repeat!
Update since the race:
I enjoyed the rest of my trip in Sacramento/the surrrounding area by eating great food, touring the Sequoia Forest, and tasting a lot of wine. Since returning home I've made it to Healthsource of Avon where they checkout out my side/back/hips and determined that I am all out of alignment which causes the side stitch and breathing issue! It likely is due from overcompensating for that bad IT band while it healed. So I have a diagnosis, which they are going to help me fix. They are also going to teach me how to breath better while running and help me strengthen my IT bands in the process!
I had the awesome opportunity to review the super cute, comfy and functional headbands by Maventhread. In the name of transparency, I received 4 headbands from the company for review. I made sure to thoroughly test out the headbands in different kinds of uses, distances, weather, and to wash them, before writing this review.
So first off, if you follow my running and have ever seen my "flat runner" posts, you know that it's rare that I'm ever seen running or doing anything active without a headband! I'm always looking for good headbands that look cute while staying in place when I'm running or working out, because we all know its a huge pain to have to try to fix a headband that slides off while running, especially with headphones in. For the most part, I had only tried the basic headbands you pick up at your local big box retailer so I was excited to try a better quality product.
Maventhread's headbands are very wide, but can be folded, scrunched and adjusted to your preferred fit or look on a given day. I tried a couple different "sizes" and was happy with how it felt in each size. I also love that you can pull them over your ears which works great in colder weather when its still a little too warm for a heavy ear warmer.
The headbands are very comfy. Many times when I was running with them I completely forgot that I was even wearing the headband until I looked in the mirror. Obviously that means that these headbands do not slide. I'm not exaggerating. After each workout, the headband was exactly where I positioned it prior to the workout. I honestly cannot say that I've ever had another type of headband do that. I tested them on a 10 mile long run, a long tempo run, and during speedwork and they stayed put for all of the workouts. While they stay put during workouts, they are not too tight either. I've definitely worn others which have caused headaches due to fitting too tight.
Look and Feel -
Maventhread's headbands are super cute and super soft. When I opened the package, the first thing I noticed was how soft the headbands were. They are also super cute and come in options to fit your style. There are two sets sold on their website (although I believe a third option is coming soon) the slate 2 pack (the grey and geometric) and the bodhi (floral and striped). I liked the design of all 4 headbands and if I had to choose a favorite, although its tough, it would have to be the geometric one. I liked that I could wear them for workouts, lazy days, running errands, and just when hanging out with friends; a big difference from the purely athletic ones I've used in the past.
Of course quality is a big factor for me because I'm always looking for products I can use all the time without needing to replace them after a few uses. Maventhread describes its headbands as high end without the high end price. I definitely agree with that statement. I've washed the headbands a few times and they all still look and feel like they did when I first opened the package.
So what's the verdict? I would definitely recommend these headbands and I'm definitely going to be stalking their website for the next style when it comes out! I was glad to try a new style of headband and these are pretty much the only ones I wear now (unless they are in the wash)! I definitely recommend checking them out!
Just a few short months after I started running with my vizsla pup, Bentley, we ran our first race together! Bentley and I heard about the Wet Nose 5k after we helped a friend who works for the Geauga Humane Society/Rescue Village (who put on the race) write an article about running with your dog. She suggested we might want to come run the race as it would time up well for his first race. I was hesitant because I was racing the Hat Trick the day before (5 miler, 5k, 2 miler, back to back to back) and worried about overdoing it. So I waited until after I finished the Hat Trick to make my decision--and after I completed the Hat Trick (with a shiny new 5 mile PR) feeling good, I decided we would run the Wet Nose 5k as a recovery run.
We arrived at Orchard Hills Park in Geauga County early so that we could register for the race. I could tell from the drive in that it was going to be a hilly race, but knowing we would be taking it easy, I wasn't too worried. We signed up, met some doggy friends, and got into the corral. Bentley was raring to go, since he knows what the running leash means, and on top of that there were probably 30-40 other dogs there all pumped to be running.
When the gun went off, Bentley freaked (as I expected he would), but the other dogs were unphased which helped him take off. We sprinted up the hill and out of the park, with him chasing all of the other dogs. The first mile was downhill and I pretty much just let Bentley go because he was having a blast and I felt good. Bentley ran with the other dogs so well, running next to them, but focusing on what he was doing. We logged the first mile at a 7:25 mile, his fastest mile and way to fast for my tired legs. When we hit the turn around, we got to climb a massive hill, which helped slow him up. Once we crested the hill I was winded but Bentley decided to take a conveniently timed potty break. Other runners were laughing when they passed by, joking that I trained him to do that at the top of the hill.
After he finished his business (and I flung the bags at my mom) he sprinted off at a 5:45 mile as we turned onto the trail portion of the race. I was cracking up because it was as if he knew I'd want to catch the runners who passed us and make up the time we lost (guess I've trained him well). After a few minutes of sprinting, we settled back into a comfortable 8:00-8:10 mile. The trail portion was rather surprising because it was more of a true trail (I had to watch my footing) and it was incredibly hilly and lasted for 1.5 miles. But the time passed quickly with Bentley there to distract me and pull me up and down the hills. We worked well together with me pushing him through the flat portions and him pushing me up the hills. We managed to pass 3 more runners in the last mile and hang on for a 3rd place female, 4th dog, and 6th overall finish!
Running with Bentley is always fun, but racing with Bentley is a whole other experience. I can honestly say that I never really though about my legs feeling tired, or worried about the hills, or was concerned about the trail portion because I was having too much fun with Bentley and paying attention to him. We ran way faster (7:53 avg.) than I was planning but I felt fine after and took a lot of time off afterward to recovery. I can't wait for Bentley to get faster so we can do more races because if our first race (while running on tired legs) was any indication, I have a feeling PRs will fall the more I race with this pup!