Monthly Archives: October 2015

Marathon Training Run 2 (17 miles)

Marathon training run 2 is all finished.  I ran 17 miles on Sunday in support of the 30,000 people rocking the Marine Corp Marathon, including some of my Team RWB friends.  After a solid marathon training run 1 and a disaster with my last attempt at going over 15 miles, I took a rest day Saturday to be ready for a good performance over my 2+ hour run.

The truth is I got ready for marathon training run 2 without any serious plan.  I’d run at least 14 but if I felt good, roll on for more and planned a 15 mile route.  Low pressure is right where I need to be at this point in my training cycle.  In my pockets were one pack of fruit snacks, one GU, my ID and a house key.  The water fountains of the Boardwalk are still on so I knew my hydration plan was safe for marathon training run 2another week.  My goal pace for race day is to average 8:00 miles and that’s what I set out to practice.

Off I went on a perfectly overcast, not windy, cool day.  My legs felt great settling in at 7:55 for the first two miles.  I was on the Boardwalk at Mile 3 knowing I’d have lots of opportunities to grab water and waited until I hit 30 minutes to down about four ounces from a fountain.  Everything was going well after that water stop when I chose to skip the fountain at Mile 6.  I had covered some slight elevation changes over soft little hills between Miles 4 and 7.5 and I hit the turnaround point right on pace at 1:00.26.  To start determining my marathon fueling plan, I downed my fruit snacks even though I wasn’t feeling tired or hungry.

I retraced Miles 6-7.5 in the other direction before deciding I felt good enough to go for my longest run yet.  No time like the present!  To get to 17 miles, I added a shoot off where I’d run the next 5k as an out and back at Mile 9.5.  I made my second water stop at that point, had a quick stretch and about four more ounces from a fountain.  There were a few more low rolling hills as I ran out to hit Mile 11 then back on the same route for more water at Mile 12.5.  I was feeling great on still solid legs logging miles between 7:55 and 8:02.  Turning south into Mile 13, I sucked down a GU while making my way back to the Boardwalk.

I had some post-GU water as soon as I could then got back to nailing the last 30ish minutes of my run.  The last four miles of marathon training run 2 were some of the best.  Back on the Boardwalk with two to go, a dog friendly 5k kept me smiling while I cruised through Miles 14 and 15 at 7:58.  Hearing my watch beep for Mile 16 was very motivational and I knew I’d have a strong finish to my longest run yet.  Another 1200M on the Boardwalk, I turned inland towards home.  Seconds later, I looked down to see 17.02 on my watch.  I was excited to be finished but even more excited to feel like I could have kept going.

I owe part of marathon training run 2’s success to having never preemptively eaten something on a run before.  Eating something before I feel like I need it is definitely the answer.  My energy level stayed steady throughout marathon training run 2 and I owe that to keeping my belly happy.  Figuring out my fueling needs will definitely help me have better training runs and eventually, the best One City Marathon I can.

Meredith

How did you figure out your marathon fueling plan?  What’s your longest run?

Mountain Bike Cross Training

moutain bike cross trainingI didn’t run yesterday.  I wasn’t really feeling like it, had wiggle room in my training schedule and opted for a day of mountain bike cross training.  It was an absolutely gorgeous fall afternoon outside by the time I got around to working out so I chose to ride my bike up the Boardwalk to First Landing State Park’s Cape Henry Trail and back.

It was a blast.  I rode 16 miles on roads and dirt trails with pit stops at each of the trail’s fitness stations in both directions.  As soon as I entered the woods I started practicing taking pictures on the move.  This was my third try and isn’t bad for a first timer, right?  After ‘mastering’ that, a four mile warm up put me at the first of these mountain bike cross training stops, a stretching mountain bike cross trainingstation.  I stretched my legs and shoulders then hopped back on my bike.

The next stations were all separated by about a quarter mile each which definitely helped increase the challenge.  My second stop was agility tires (5 times through) then it was step-ups for 2 minutes and push-ups (15).  These stops definitely got my heart pumping and it felt good to use the 90 second bike portions to take some deep breaths.

After that was the sprinter’s chair for 20 leg lifts each time I passed it.  Even though I had stretched, this exercise made it clear how tight my hamstrings still were from the previous day’s deadlifts.  My tight hamstrings got back on the bike to head for my next mountain bike cross training challenge: parallel bars.  I’m not amazing at dips and expected to struggle with traversing this obstacle.  It was nice to fight through and have some unexpected success, especially the second time through.  I’ve been working on getting my push-up numbers higher and think that mountain bike cross trainingplayed a part in powering over this tough one.

While I’ve also been practicing getting my strict pull-up number to increase, the overhead ladder was not a good one for me and I skipped it on the return route.  My sweaty hands lack the grip strength necessary to complete it but it also kills my left shoulder.  Not worth hurting myself over.  A little further along, I did rock 10 strict pull-ups (2×5) each way on these bars that were nice and slippery, riding away proud of myself.mountain bike cross training

The final station heading out was crunches but I did 30 sit-ups each way.  They were harder than I thought after core work on the parallel bars and pull-ups!

I hit the trail head at Mile 8 then took a turn around the parking lot before heading back into the woods for my second round of fitness stations.  I had a great time doing this mountain bike cross training workout and using the park’s fitness stops for the first time.  This hour and a half workout will definitely stay in my ‘I don’t want to run today’ choice of workouts.

Meredith

Do you bike for cross training?  Ever use fitness stations on trails or in parks?

Thoughts on Back to Back 1

I’ve been so busy sharing race reviews since my first back to back half marathons two weekends ago that I haven’t really had the chance to sit back and think about how it went and what that means for my marathon training.  Back to back 1 was definitely my first foray into running two back to back 1higher mileage days in a row.  I’ve done 15 and 16 miles with a light day between but never so many in 36 hours.  Here’s what I learned!

I’m glad Back to Back 1 is under my belt.  I have number two coming up in January but it leads with the hills in Mississippi where I’ll be pacing the 1:45 group.  My initial thoughts were Hartford was flat-ish and the 500 feet of elevation gain in Narragansett were tough.  Looking back at my Garmin, it claims Hartford was home to 400 feet of elevation gain itself.  No wonder those hills in Rhode Island seemed challenging.  At least for back to back #2 the 500 foot elevation gain comes first and First Light is, comparatively speaking, super flat.

Bring on marathon training.  I had a rough patch before back to back 1 and wasn’t feeling too positive about the long marathon training runs I have on my schedule (like this back to back 1week’s 18 miler).  Having success running 27.5 hilly miles in two days for the first time flipped my switch.  I took recovery as seriously as I could after both races and have felt great since.  My legs weren’t ready to go hard right away but I jumped back into running after only one day off with a easy five mile jog and followed that with a very solid week of training.

Thank you, Crossfit.  Virginia Beach has no hills.  On long runs up to 16 miles, my average elevation gain is between 10 and 15 feet.  In 16 miles, 10 feet.  Back to back 1 featured 400 feet and 509 feet in 13.1 miles, respectively.  Back to back 2 has 500+ feet on day one but much on day two (phew!).  That being said, there are a few places to run hill repeats here, which I do occasionally, and I’ll find a way to work those hills into my long run route but it’s just not the same as having a variety to train on.  I owe Crossfit for making me strong enough to rock up and down hills without too much trouble.  Thanks to the squat rack, bumper plates and box jump for quads, hamstrings and calves that are used to doing serious work.

I’ll be taking this good back to back 1 experience with me into January’s back to back 2 and March’s One City Marathon.  Bring on the miles 🙂

Meredith

Have to run back to back half or full marathons?  What did you learn?

2015 Ocean State Rhode Race

The 2015 Ocean State Rhode Race was a series of firsts for me.  It was the second half of my first back to back half marathon weekend, the race’s inaugural running and the first time I had absolutely no idea what would happen.  The good news is everything went really well over the hilliest course I’ve seen yet.

After a fun time pacing Hartford on Saturday, I showered, downed some fluids and carbs then hopped in the car with Mom.  We traveled from Hartford directly to packet pick-up for the second half of my first back to back half marathons in Narragansett, RI in about two hours.  Packet pick-up was uncrowded in the quiet Narragansett Theater with no expo and it was easy to grab my number, tech shirt and goody 2015 ocean state rhode racebag packed with snacks like Clif Bars and three QuicDisc tubes I’m excited to try.  A five minute drive later, we were checking into the Hampton Inn South Kingston and prepping for dinner in nearby Newport.

I wasn’t sure how good my recovery from Hartford could actually be after sitting in the car pretty quickly after running for over two hours so I threw in a pre-dinner foam roll and stretch session.  As my Mom and I walked around Newport, my legs felt better than expected.  While chowing down on a tasty dish of lobster mac from The Barking Crab, I started to feel positive about hitting my 2015 Ocean State Rhode Race goal of breaking 1:45.  After dinner and a bit more walking on a gorgeous fall evening, it was back to the very comfortable hotel for relaxing and an early bedtime.

My alarm went off at 6:20 for the 8am race and I made my way downstairs to enjoy the Hampton Inn’s fantastic breakfast buffet that had started at 5am.  I downed a bowl of cereal, a banana and half a buttered bagel as I stretched and foam rolled legs that felt really good.  Driving to the start at 7am, we made the 3.5 mile trip in roughly 8 minutes.  Once arriving, race day packet pick-up was under way, runners for the full marathon, which started at 7:30, were warming up and a big bank of Port-a-Potties stood at the ready.  A smaller race, roughly 700 runners in the half, meant no backups at the Ocean State Rhode Race Port-a-Potties and plenty of room to move around.

As I milled around, chatted, stretched and stayed warm for the next 40 minutes, I felt 100% ready to rock.  The marathon took off and I locked in my goal to finish under 1:45.  I had been wary of setting any goal at all because I had no idea how I’d feel after getting beaten up in Hartford or exactly how hilly the course would be but during those 40 minutes, I felt good.  With legs itching to run, I entered the corral-less starting area.  A minute later the national anthem was played and right on time, the gun went off.

I enjoyed rolling hills, perfect weather and great scenery as the first miles flew by.  My legs felt good powering up hills of various sizes and floating down with a little help from gravity.   I grabbed water at Mile 4, chatted with two other runners while we ran miles six and seven as a group then separated when I walked through a water station at Mile 8.  By this time, the rolling hills from early in the race had given way to some big climbs with not-so-much downhills and I started to feel the previous day’s 15 miles right around the one hour mark.

As the race continued, beautiful scenery kept coming and so did the climbs.  I was running again on the right side of the road and my knee started to bother me a little bit.  Knowing I was on track to hit my 1:45 goal, I ended up taking a walking break to eat a CarbBoom gel in tasty Pomegranite/Grape flavor I had picked up earlier on the course after Mile 9.  My knee began to get worse by continuing to run on the right side of the road and between Miles 10 and 12, I took a few more 30 second walking breaks to shake it out.2015 ocean state rhode race

In the final mile I was able to run on a flat surface.  My knee immediately felt better and I knew I would have a strong finish.  I cruised in with a ‘let’s see what’s left’ kick for the last 400 at 1:43.16.  There was more than I thought in my tank for those last 400 meters but after 15 miles Saturday, over 500 feet of elevation gain Sunday and a grumpy knee, I was very happy to have anything at all.

The post race area was very nice with tons of food and hydration options.  The medals are nice though only the first place finishers in age groups were recognized.  Hopefully as the race grows this will change.  I also hope that in the future at least one side of the road will be completely closed, giving runners a chance to get off of an angled surface.  In summary, the 2015 Ocean State Rhode Race was a solid inaugural event with great weather, a challenging course and friendly runners.

Meredith

What’s the hilliest course you’ve run?  Do you like flat or a little change over a race course?

2015 Hartford Half Marathon

The 2015 Hartford Half Marathon was the first half of my fall 2015 back to back half marathons and it was a blast.  I had the pleasure of pacing the two hour group to lots of PRs on a beautiful day over a fun course.  The race was a big success with lots of positives that I’d love to see at other races in the future.

The Hartford portion of my back to back weekend began with a ton of traffic heading towards the city making it take longer than expected to get there.  Luckily this hold up wasn’t a big deal because as a pacer my race gear had been mailed to me earlier in the month and I could skip the expo.  When we finally arrived Friday evening, my Mom and I checked in to the Holiday Inn Downtown East Hartford, went downstairs for dinner and spent the rest of the evening before my early bed time hanging out harford half marathonwatching Virginia Tech beat NC State on Friday night football.  The hotel had lots of Hartford Half Marathon spirit, including door hangers that read “Saturday is the big day and I need my rest.”  So cute.  In addition to Marathon spirit, they had a carb loading buffet in their restaurant.  I chowed down on two rounds garlic bread, salad, delicious grilled chicken and tasty sweet potatoes before throwing in the dinner towel.

I rolled out of bed at 6:20 the next morning for the Hartford Half Marathon’s 8am start time.  Breakfast was out at the hotel so I munched on a croissant and a banana nut muffin while I got ready to go then headed out into a brisk (for me) morning as the sun was rising.  The pace team was meeting up at 7:25 to get our signs and access indoor restrooms at Bushnell Theater, about a mile from the hotel.  I jogged to Bushnell Park as a warm-up, walked through a well organized crowd where there were several hydration stations and not exceedingly long lines at Port-a-Potties.  I didn’t need gear check but it was available and convenient, right near everything else you might want.  Grabbing a cup of water, I found my way to the theater where I gathered my signs, met my pace buddy Chelen and enjoyed the nice bonus of using the clean, warm facilities to stretch out and finalize pacing plans.

At 7:45 Chelen and I took our 2:00 signs out into a slightly warmer day where a large group of runners joined us.  We chatted with excitement as our 2:00 group moved towards the non-corralled start.  As we stood with our group, the weather just kept getting better and many participants noted how the previous year had been just terrible with rain and cold.  Feeling very lucky to be out on a nice day with a great group of runners, I listened while a Hartford policeman sang the national anthem in outstanding fashion and before we knew it, we were off.

The course began with a slight incline then moved into soft rolling hills with a few big climbs and some nice downhills throughout but nothing too serious.  The half marathon split from the full about a mile in and traffic eased up while Chelen and I chatted with our group.  All of a sudden we were rocking through the timing mat at Mile 5.  A check of our watches told us we were right on two hour pace.  During those miles we had passed numerous well stocked Hartford Half Marathon hydration stations with both water and Gatorade, some very hartford half marathonenthusiastic cheer groups and several small banks of Port-a-Potties lining the course.

Over the next eight miles, rolling hills continued as we ran through more of Hartford’s adorable neighborhoods and a beautiful park.  Nice cool breezes and shady streets popped up at the perfect time to keep everyone cool while course support never waned.  Suddenly Mile 12 appeared.  It was such a beautiful day, I wasn’t quite ready to be be done running but I had two runners working hard for PRs and was honored to help push them through the finish.  My official times were 2:00.34 gun time and 1:59.28 chip time which both made me really happy since I hadn’t noticed immediately when I crossed the start in our big group.

The finish was, like the start, very well organized.  A green event, the Hartford Half Marathon gave finishers a nice reusable bottle filled with water instead of the typical bottles you see in the chute and rather than picking up 17 different post race fueling items, finishers were handed a reusable bag filled with protein and carb treats.  I met my Mom, changed out of some sweaty clothes and had a nice cool down walk back to the hotel that included seeing the first and second place male marathon finishers speed by.hartford half marathonOnce back at the hotel, it was a quick foam roll while downing a protein shake and two Cliff bars, a nice long shower, compression on and in the car to Rhode Island for Sunday’s Ocean State Rhode Race.  I would definitely run the Hartford Half Marathon again.  It’s a fun course with beautiful scenery in a friendly town with lots to do.  The race was one of the most well organized I’ve been a part of with weather that couldn’t have been better.  It was a pleasure to pace four runners to PRs and is an experience I sincerely enjoyed.

Meredith

What’s the best organized race you’ve run?  Have you run the Hartford Half Marathon before?

Fit Friday: Racing Shoes

Choosing to wear racing shoes for a road event is a decision runners can wrestle with.  There are tons of options.  It can be hard to know if you really need them.  Here are the reasons I sometimes choose a racing shoe and why one might be right for you.

The basics:  Training shoes are heavier, thicker and more supportive than racing shoes (flats) or lightweight training shoes.  Normal trainers come in weighing anywhere from 8-10 ounces per shoe while lightweight training shoes range from 5-7 ounces per shoe and racing flats can be as light as 3-4 ounces.  The reason those other types of shoes weigh less than your regular trainers is because they’re built with less material for cushion and support.  Here are the pros of running your next event in a racing shoe:

  • A lighter shoe is that your muscles don’t have to work quite so hard to pick up each foot, leading to less fatigue.  Studies have shown that each ounce you remove from the weight of your shoe can increase your speed by up to one second per mile.  Take off three ounces, that’s three seconds per mile and almost 30 seconds off your half marathon.racing shoes
  • Lighter racing shoes can also make you feel faster.  They’re special for race day.  Just like your lucky underwear or breakfast, your shiny shoes might not only weigh less but make you feel sexier, faster and more positive.

Unfortunately for some runners, lighter shoes won’t have much of an impact and can actually cause problems.  Before you trot off to the running store for a pricey new pair of racing shoes make sure your body is ready for the additional stress.

  • The limited cushioning in racing flats or lightweight trainers mean they don’t provide a lot of buffer between your foot and the ground you’re running on.  This lack of support, motion control and stability can be problematic for those who need them.
  • Light racing shoes might not be for you if you’re worried about an injury, tired, sore or are one of those who need lots of support and cushioning.
  • Consider what you’re wearing them for.  A 5-, 8- or 10k isn’t very long and doesn’t give you lots of time to get hurt.  For a 10 miler, half or full marathon, your regular trainer, lightweight trainers and performance trainers are probably a better answer.

If you do decide to give lightweight trainers or racing flats a try, talk to your coach.  Then be sure to spend some time in them before you race.  You wouldn’t wear brand new shorts on race day and it’s not a good time to experiment with new footwear, either.  Racing shoes can be a big change from your regular runners and your body will need time to learn how to adjust.

Meredith

Do you have special races shoes?  What do you love about them?  Dislike?

My First Back to Back Half Race Week

The time has come for my first back to back half marathons.  I’m excited for the challenge and anxious to see how marathon training ready I am.  After a terrible long run last Wednesday, I took four days off from just about everything.  I rode my bike to and from work on Thursday, walked 3 miles on Friday and just goofed around all weekend.  This is probably not the best way to prepare for back to back half marathons that are 10 days out but it’s what I did and I’m feeling pretty good right now.

I ran two easy, windy miles yesterday before Crossfit that told me a few things.  My calves still needed some attention even if I wasn’t running much because they were awfully tight.  My legs as a whole felt fairly fresh and ready to go back to work.  Another easy two miles today has me set up for a short speed workout back to back half marathonstomorrow before hopping on the road north for my first back to back half marathon race weekend.

The weekend kicks off with pacing the two hour group at Saturday’s Hartford Half Marathon.  As a pacer my race packet was mailed to me which means I’ve already gotten my race shirt, number and pacer tank.  I love pacing and am especially excited because this fun job will keep me running easy as I head into uncharted back to back half marathon territory.  I’ve done big interval workouts the day before or after a long run but never two long runs in a row and I’m ready to see what I’ve got.

After crossing the Finish Line in Hartford, it’s off to Narragansett with a short car ride to rock the Ocean State Road Race.  Not only will I be checking my second state of the weekend off the list (numbers 14+15, 15/16 if you count DC), I’ll be supporting a race I believe got treated poorly.  You can read more about that here but I’m happy with my choice to run in a place I’ve never visited before.

The weather for both races looks perfect with temperatures in the fifties, winds around 10mph and little to no chance of precipitation.  I’m know it’s early in the week but after another hot summer and a rain related rescheduled race, here’s hoping!  My between race plan is to keep my feet up in the car, wear my compression gear, drink fluids (water and electrolytes), reload carbs, get quality protein and plenty of shut eye.  No matter what, I’m ready and excited.

Meredith

Have you run back to back half marathons?  Which ones?  What advice do you have?

Fit Friday: Taking a Little Break

It’s not the best timing in the world but I’m taking a little break from my workouts.  I’ve been thinking about taking a few days off for a couple weeks and after a rough long run Wednesday, I knew it was time.  I haven’t taken multiple days off since May and now my body is forcing me to make up for lost time.  Maybe Jordy has the right idea.a little break

The last two weeks I thought I might need to take a little break because I noticed I was feeling extra tired for no definitively good reason.  At the end of last week I chalked it up to hormones and noticed a slight improvement when they settled down.  Between the first time I thought about how a little break might do me good 10 days ago and yesterday, I’ve felt for the most part pretty good.  That just made me more confused.  My speed and Crossfit workouts have been solid.  I haven’t had trouble sleeping, a new injury or any excessive soreness but I’ve been experiencing some serious muscle fatigue not far into my longer runs and added doses of fuel haven’t made it better.

Two weeks ago I started my 12 miler on the treadmill.  By 40 minutes in my neck was killing me from looking at the TV, I was getting bored and could feel my form falling apart.  I got off as fast as I could and went out into the rain for another 45 minutes during which I couldn’t settle into my stride or cadence and struggled with the very high humidity.  This time I pinned my poor performance on the weather and a bad treadmill session but took the next day off anyway.

This week I couldn’t avoid the truth any longer.  Wednesday’s long run was scheduled not only to avoid the approaching rain/hurricane mess but also to give me plenty of time to recover before my first back to back half marathons.  Good thing.  Wednesday’s 16 miler was a disaster.  I hit the wall around mile 8 and never got back on track, even after water stops and a GU.  Hitting the nine mile mark, I knew it was definitely time for a little break before racking up serious miles next weekend.  As the run rolled on, my legs screamed and I started to alternate 800M walks with 800M jogs.  The last two miles were brutal.  I can’t remember the last time my legs felt so horrible.

When I finally got home, I pulled on my BioSkin compression gear as quickly as possible, put my feet up above my heart and scarfed down some carbs.  I foam rolled for about 35 minutes in three sessions over before bed and repeated having quality time with the roller yesterday.  Just relaxing, making the decision to take a little break has helped me feel better.  It’s not the best timing for an extra few days off but I’m doing it anyway.  Feeling fresh, letting my muscles really recover and getting a mental break from running is exactly what I need to succeed next weekend.

Meredith

How do you know when it’s time for a little break?  A big break?  Do you schedule them or go by feel?