Monthly Archives: December 2015

It’s Almost Here: 2016 Goals

It’s time to nail down my 2016 goals.  The new year is right around the corner and I can’t honestly say I haven’t done much thinking about what I’d like to accomplish with my running 2016 goalscareer during it.  While I do have a few solid 2016 goals, the rest are loose and flexible.  Here’s what’s in the works:

Finish my first marathon in March.  I’m excited to have the One City Marathon be my first, especially since a few of my BibRave friends will be joining me at the race.  I have a time goal, too (3:30.00), but since it’ll be my first time covering the distance and I’ve only just begun serious long run training, I’m not ready to commit.  Barring a serious injury that would prevent me from walking I’ll be knocking this one off early in the year no matter what.

Hit new PRs at 5k, 10k and half marathon distances.  Obviously, One City will be a PR at the marathon distance but these others are all on the list, too.  I currently have target races at each distance picked out (see schedule so far below) and have tried to put them on the calendar in a way that prevents me from training for multiple distances at the same time.

Check more states off my 50 States list.  My original goal was to run a half marathon in all 50 states.  Then it was to finish before I turned 40.  Well, I’m not sure my budget and schedule will allow that so with 34 to go I’ve relaxed back to just getting them all checked off.  I hit seven in 2015 and have four on the 2016 calendar right now.

Have fun and stay healthy.   Running is fun and the most important of my 2016 goals is this one.  It’s hard to run if you’re injured.  It’s even harder if it’s not any fun.  I’ll  keep my schedule fresh with different style runs, just for run races and trying new things.  To stay healthy I’ll continue to improve my recovery routine, listen to my body and not be afraid to take a few days off.

My race schedule is starting to fill in.  Here’s what’s on it right now though I’m sure I’ll be making additions:
January 9 – Mississippi Blues Half Marathon (pacing 1:45) – Jackson, Mississippi
January 10 – First Light Half Marathon – Mobile, Alabama
March 13 – One City Marathon – Newport News, Virginia
April 2 – Hot Chocolate 15k – Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
April 9 – Rock the Parkway – Kansas City, Missouri
April 16 – ODU Big Blue 5k – Norfolk, Virginia
September 24 – Heart of Ghent 10k – Norfolk, Virginia
October 2 – Wineglass Half Marathon – Corning, New York

Those are the 2016 goals I’ll be looking to hit as soon as January 1 rolls around and when it does, I’ll be wrapping up with my 2015 goals so stay tuned for a final recap of how this year went.

Meredith

What are your 2016 goals?  What’s on your race calendar?

Marathon Training Run 5 (20 miles)

Marathon training run 5 was lots of things.  It was my first 20 miler ever, checking off a 2015 goal with little room to spare and actually much better than I expected.

I originally planned this run for Saturday but it was really windy and I figured this run would be hard enough without 15-20mph winds helping.  Sunday early morning was kind of an option after a holiday party the night before and with a client to coach at 10am.  I woke up at 5:40 figuring I could snooze for 20 minutes.  When I opened my eyes again, it was 6:30 and I knew there wouldn’t be enough time.  Most of this week is shot with Christmas and traveling, leaving me with Monday.

I packed up one GU and one Carb Boom then ventured out with no idea what to expect on Marathon Training Run 5.  My legs were a little beat up from heavy lifting Saturday, intense speed work Sunday and an early morning bike ride to and from work (2.5 miles round trip) before taking off left me wondering how it would go.  Well, the weather couldn’t have been better and I felt awesome.

I ran Mile 1 easy as a kind of warm-up, see how I’m feeling jog.  I felt good heading into Mile 2 where I was hit with some shoe trouble (too tight, too loose, too tight, just right) that got sorted out by Mile 3.  Breezing right along hovering between 7:55 and 8:00 per mile I ticked off Miles 3, 4 and 5 before I knew it.  My fuel plan was to burn through my GU around Mile 7 while running then stop for water at 7.5 and my Carb Boom at Mile 14 at a water stop.  While covering some softly rolling hills through First Landing State Park, I nailed eating on the run as I was sucking down my GU when my watch beeped 7.5.  Hitting Mile 8 at 1:03 I was sad to find the water fountain turned off.  Luckily, unlike the previous week, this GU was sitting just fine and I knew I’d be OK making it to the water I knew was definitely on at Mile 9.5.

My legs were feeling much better than I had expected them to approaching the halfway point and my energy/attitude/enthusiasm dramatically improved after a 20 second water stop at Mile 9.5.  I slid into single digit remaining miles with a smile on my face.  Miles 10 and 11 were both excellent.  I rolled through both around a 7:40 pace without even noticing I had accelerated a bit (negative split?!).  Miles 12, 13 and 14 included a steady incline for a while, clocking in at 7:48, 7:42 and 7:48 respectively.  When I beeped 15.00 miles at 1:57, I slowed to a walk and dined on my Carb Boom while having a quick calf stretch.

With five miles to go I was feeling amazing.  I knew I would finish running a negative split, I had had none of the issues with side stitches I faced during my 18 miler and my pace was not only marathon training run 5faster than my goal, it was steady and strong.  Miles 15 and 16 were easy after a very quick sip at the water fountain and in spite of being able to feel my legs start to tucker out.  I don’t think I ‘hit the wall’ at Mile 17 but that’s when the muscle fatigue set in.  Continuing to move, I finally heard the Mile 18 beep and looked down to see the last mile had been a surprising 7:45.  One final 20 stretch for my calves then I bore down on my final two miles.  I kept saying “Just make it home.”

Well, between where I was and home there are a few cross streets.  Let me tell you, having to stop for traffic at a busy street at 19.4 miles was really, really unfair.  The struggle to get moving for my last 1,000 meters was tough but I did it.  Marathon training run 5 and my first 20 miler ever took 2:36.27.  I don’t know if it was the magic amount of sleep, eating something amazing, cooler weather or two extra days between long runs but I need to figure it out.  Marathon training run 5 was rock solid and I was actually pretty impressed with myself.  After the challenges of Training Run 4, I had been expecting much more suck factor.

Next week’s a light one then it’s on to a few more 20 or 20+ milers as I prep for One City.  I’m feeling good about hitting my marathon goal and already looking forward to tapering.

Meredith

How’s your marathon training going?  Do you like running 20-milers?

Fit Friday: Trail Running Tips

Leaves are falling, animals are packing up and there’s still time for a little bit of trail running before winter officially sets in.  Trail running is different than road running which means getting out on them isn’t only a refresher for your mind, it’s good for strengthening your muscles and challenging your body.  Here are a few tips to help you concur the trails when they’re covered in leaves instead of snow.trail running

Accessorize.  Make sure you’re prepared for trail running with the right trail shoes, sunblock, a hat, sunglasses and even maybe bug spray.  You can also check out running gaiters.  These fashion accessories help keep your ankles and feet safe from stones, sticks and other trail debris while you’re out enjoying nature.

Work on your six pack.  Running on uneven ground that constantly changes gives you an added balance you miss on the road.  The muscles of your core and lower back are what help you stay on your feet.  The stronger they are, the more stable you’ll be.  Stability makes you less likely to get injured and that’s a good thing.  Practicing balance and core strengthening exercises regularly to help your trail running performance.

Start slowly and stay that way.  Trails are uneven, inconsistent and tougher on ankles and feet than the road or treadmill.  With dirt paths, roots to watch out for and lots of other potential obstacles, trail running also requires more mental effort then road running.  Slow down and run by effort and time rather than pace, even if it means walking up hills in the beginning and plan shorter runs than you’d do on the road.  Build comfort over a few weeks by adding ten minutes each time you go work out in the wild.

Safety first.  Gear up with head lamps, pepper spray and some reflective clothing.   Be sure to take an ID, tell someone where you’re going and when to expect you back.  If you can, take your cell phone or a map and be aware of what’s going on around you at all times.  Knowing the rules of the trail, such as yielding to downhill runners, equestrians and cyclists as well as staying on marked trails and running through, not around, puddles will all help you get home safely.

Bring fluids.  Trail running can be unpredictable.  Mud, rain, snow and streams all have the potential to make your run a little more hazardous, making the time it takes you to finish hard to determine.  The last thing you want to do is run out of water, so wear or stash it.  If your route crosses parking lots or picnic areas, drop a water bottle off before you start to run.  You can also use handheld water bottles, mini-bottle waist belts or a hydration pack to make sure you don’t get thirsty.

Meredith

Is trail running a part of your training?  What’s your favorite thing about it?

Marathon Training Run 4 (18 miles)

Marathon training run 4 is under my belt.  It was the first time I’ve ever run 18 miles in one shot and all things considered, it went pretty well.marathon training run 4  It was another unseasonably warm day with temperatures pushing seventy by the time I finished but humidity was low, there was an OK cloud cover and the breeze was pleasant for once.

My legs were a little bit more tired than I wanted after the previous day’s hard 200M repeats when I started out.  I settled right in around an 8 min per mile pace not really too worried if I ended up slower on the first time ever covering this distance.  My first water stop was Mile 4.5 with the plan to fuel at Miles 7 and 14, stopping for water when I could and needed to.  I rolled on to Mile 7 where I took an easy jogging break to throw down a Carb-Boom energy gel.  Unlike GU, the Carb-Boom gels I’ve tried to this point don’t require water.  They’re a little thinner and after this run, I think I’m going to ditch the GU altogether and stick with them.

My next water stop was just before Mile 8 and I knew I’d need more with my GU at Mile 14.  I hit the halfway point in 1:12 feeling pretty good but aware I’d start to fatigue in about twenty more minutes.  The Training Run 4 plan changed from having my GU at Mile 14 to downing it at the Mile 12.5 water stop.  I did just that, chatting for a minute with some fellow runners around the fountain and took in too much water with the thick GU gel.  By Mile 13.5 I was having nasty side stitches along with the expected muscle fatigue.  I fought through the two more miles of those damn cramps then finally took a big walking break to shake them off around Mile 15.  My final 10k felt as good as it could have on very, very tired legs and I was surprised to have run a negative split, finishing in 2:23.training run 4training run 4

Training Run 4 was a tough one.  I’m hoping switching from GU to Carb-Boom, a cooler day and a little more rest the day before my long run will help make Training Run 5 a bit more friendly.  After finishing my longest run yet, I also got some encouragement from the mail.  I received my award from the Harbor Lights 5k on Saturday, too, and put it right up with the others.

Meredith

How do you know when to change fuels?  When do you fuel on long runs?

Fit Friday: Strong Feet are Fast Feet

It’s Fit Friday!  I’ve spent lots of time this year working for strong feet and stable ankles.  Making both more capable has definitely helped my running, jumping and mobility.  Because each foot does so much work every time we take a step, having strong ones gives you a solid base for any task you wish to perform.  Here’s how and why I’ve worked hard to develop stronger, faster feet and ankles that help me run faster and more efficiently.

Strong feet and ankles mean better balance, improved posture and stronger core alignment and engagement.  These are the ways I’ve worked on making mine the best they can be.

Practice standing on one foot without shoes.  Wobble and fight to stay standing on that one foot until you can hold it for at least a minute.  To make it even tougher, and continue making progress, try it with your eyes closed.  Practice keeping your big toe flat and foot long to help develop balance and know that each wobble helps strengthen the tendons and ligaments in your ankle.  You might be surprised how hard this is on your first try, especially with eyes closed, but it can quickly improve with a little work.

Spend as much time as possible barefoot and in flat shoes.  I love my stilettos just as much as the next girl but if it’s bad for my running, I’ll take a step back.  I’m switched from cushy slippers to fuzzy socks around the house and save the heels for special occasions this year.  Wearing a thick sole between the foot and the strong feetground prevents you from feeling what’s going on beneath you.  This ends up making us all very visually dominant for feedback on what’s happening on the ground and that is a very slow process.  By not wearing shoes to earn strong feet you can increase your foot’s ability to respond to the ground it touches, even with a shoe on, making balance better and helping protect you from potential injuries.

Take care of your feet.  Rolling the muscles of your feet on a golf ball, lacrosse ball, Trigger Point set or softball can keep them soft, flexible and relaxed.  After a hard foot workout of barefoot jump roping, sand running or balance work, massage allows blood and oxygen to start helping muscles get stronger by healing.  Remember that each step you take starts at your foot and rolls up through the rest of your body.  Taking good care of your feet can help keep all of your other muscles happy, too.

Start trying to stand on one foot while you brush your teeth and the other while you brush your hair, work on not wearing shoes at home and give them a little extra care each night to have strong feet and ankles that can carry you anywhere.

Meredith

Do you have strong feet?  How do you work on them?

2015 Baton Rouge Beach Half Marathon

The 2015 Baton Rouge Beach Half Marathon was my final race of 2015 and even though I didn’t hit my goal, I had a great time at a fun event.  I flew in Friday morning for the Saturday race, getting right down to business after arriving at the airport.

A quick cab ride to the hotel, which was home to both the expo and race shuttle service, I checked in and made straight for the fitness center.  I did an easy fifteen minute post flight jog on the treadmill and for the first few minutes my hip/groin/quad felt terrible.  Maybe it was the treadmill or a bit of lingering dehydration from the flight, who knows.  By the time I finished it was feeling better, not 100%, but better and I had some mild concern about the next baton rouge beach half marathonmorning.

After a shower and a nap, I went down to the small expo to get my number.  It was assigned to me right there along with a tech shirt in unisex sizing (way too big), a race logo coozy, a pair of throw away gloves (awesome) and an race info packet.  With a bit of time to go before dinner, I hit the hotel bar for my traditional pre-race beer.  I tried the Tin Roof Brewing Gameday IPA and sipped away while watching runners pack the hotel, many in Marathon Maniacs or 50 States shirts.

In addition to a race shirt, a race course, throwaway gloves, a coozy, a finisher medal and post race treats, the Baton Rouge Beach Half Marathon entry fee includes dinner.  Just outside the expo, a table covered with gumbo, jambalaya and pizza greeted runners and supporters entering the dining area.  There was plenty of open seating as well as coolers filled with soda, bottled water and beer tucked in the corner.  The food was delicious.  It was great to chat with runners from all over the country, central New York and Tampa were both represented at my table and after cleaning my plate, I hit the hay tired, full and ready to run.

Baton Rouge Beach Half Marathon race day kicked off at 5:15am with a blueberry bagel and lots of layers for the 39 degree morning.  I packed fruit snacks and GU in my pockets then walked downstairs to catch the 5:45 race day shuttle.  Extremely limited parking at the race site meant just about everyone was parking and taking the bus at 5:45, 6 or 6:15.  The short ride from the hotel to the race site was quiet as everyone chowed down on their pre-race food and drink.  I got off the bus around 6:05 and huddle together with others waiting to start their warm-ups for the 7am race and keeping those nice warm hoodies and warm-up pants on as long as possible.

Around 6:30 I started my warm-up.  It wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be taking off my outer layers thanks to those brand new gloves.  My nerves subsided when hip/quad/groin felt OK during warm up.  I felt solid but didn’t feel fresh or race ready.  My taper had been non-existent and I knew I’d pay for it.  A mile later, I towed the line as the nation anthem was played, announcements were made and we went off right on time.

The course is a big loop around the lake that takes you through some of LSU’s sprawling campus and through parts of a pretty neighborhood.  The full marathon is a second loop around.  I had expected flat, Shamrock flat, but there were a few small hills that totaled 120 feet of elevation gain from beginning to end.  With the race’s small size, there was plenty of running room for the entire distance and only a pair of tight turns.  Unfortunately, I knew early on this wasn’t my day.

Warm up had felt decent.  It wasn’t great, it wasn’t bad.  It was just middle of the road.  Not the ‘you’re going to nail this’ warm up I had hoped for.  After the ‘meh’ warm-up, things didn’t improve.  I took a misstep somewhere around Mile 4 and that made my injury angry for a while.  Minutes later my left shoe came untied.  When I hit the 10k mark, I thought I could still place in my age group but wouldn’t PR.  At Mile 7, I choked down fruit snacks before grabbing water at the 7.25 mile mark.  I probably should have gone with the GU I had instead, the caffeine would have been nice.  I chugged on at a steady pace for the rest of the race and crossed the Baton Rouge Beach Half Marathon finish line in 1:38.13.  In the end, it was a least a minute slower than I’d hoped for but after stopping to fix my shoe twice and standing still to drink water twice with no taper, it was a very solid run.baton rouge beach half marathon

The medal is adorable.  I love the running chicken logo and also loved the post-race food.  There were lots of choices, from fried goodies to more gumbo and canned beer.  Computers had live results and I ended up second in my age group.  I recapped the race with some of the runners I had met at dinner the night before while waiting for the awards ceremony and chowing down on more tasty Louisiana treats.  After awards I hopped right back on the shuttle for some down time before heading back to the airport.

Definitely a race worth checking out, the fast course, great people and wonderful food make it a fun event that’s easy to navigate and enjoy.  My Baton Rouge Beach Half Marathon was a great training run even if it was definitely not the race I had hoped for.  With a total lack of taper and a grumpy right leg, I’m happy to move on to marathon training and get back on track to PR the half marathon next year.

Meredith

How was your last race of 2015?  What’s next for you?

Fit Friday: Zero Drop Shoes

Happy Friday!  I’m in route to Baton Rouge for my final half marathon of 2015 and with that I’m looking back at how my running has evolved.  One of the biggest changes I’ve made is transitioning to a lower drop shoe.  I’m not at zero drop quite yet but I’m also good on shoes for a while.  Running in a flatter shoe has help me and getting into zero drop shoes can benefit every runner.  Here’s a little more about it!

Running in a pair of zero drop shoes doesn’t mean you’re running all but barefoot down a hot pavement road on race day nor does it make you a minimalist runner (I’m not).  Running in a zero drop shoe means your shoes are flat from the back to the front and your foot is parallel to the ground when standing still.

Most of us start running in shoes built with more cushioning under the heel than the forefoot.  The height difference between the shoe’s raised heel and lower toe is measured in millimeters (mm) and called the ‘drop’.  This measurement can very from 0mm to 15mm depending on the zero drop shoesshoe with the most common range between 8 and 12mm.  As the barefoot, minimalist and natural running movements have gained momentum, shoes with massive drops are starting to disappear as the potential benefits of zero drop shoes gain attention.

Why?  Many studies have found that running miles and miles with our heels dramatically higher than our toes can lead to big time injuries by creating additional heel strike forces, heavier landings and excessive foot movement.  Ever tried running in high heels?  Putting the foot in an unnatural position for the task you’re asking it to do is begging for trouble.  Running and biomechanical expert Jay DiCharry believes that running in a flatter shoe is ideal because it lets the body stay in a natural position without having to compensate for how the shoe might try to make the foot move.  This anecdotal ‘study’ is a great example.

Switching to zero drop shoes can decrease the landing forces on your hips, knees and ankles and worked in with stretching can make you less susceptible to injury.  Sounds great, right?  Be careful.  Transitioning to a pair of zero drop shoes isn’t as easy as picking them up at the store.  If you’re currently in a shoe with a big drop, start making the change to a flatter shoe by decreasing your drop by only a few millimeters.  Trade your 12mm drop shoes for an 8mm pair and give your body time to adjust to a possibly new movement pattern and different stride rate.  I’ve gone from 8 to 4mm and only run barefoot on the beach.

I’ve definitely found that being in a flatter shoe has improved my running and while a flat shoe might not be for everyone, there’s no good reason not to give it a try.

Meredith

Do you run in zero drop shoes?  Why or why not?

 

Half Marathon Race Week

It’s half marathon race week!  The Baton Rouge Beach Half Marathon (love their logo) this Saturday is my last half marathon before rolling into 100% marathon training and I’m expecting a solid run.  After half marathon race weekhitting the PR I was aiming for at the Harbor Lights 5k, I’m looking for a repeat in Louisiana.

Training has been really good all around and my legs feel ready in spite of something funky I did to my right quad/knee/hip that bothered me until I warmed up the last few days.  At the first appearance of pain, panic immediately set in.  An injury that occurs during half marathon race week?  NOOOO!  I ruled out a femoral stress fracture (my worst nightmare) and think I figured out what caused it: my front bike brake sticking and stretching my right leg down and out faster and harder than it should have been to prevent a crash.  The pain disappears with a little movement which means it’s Just a little muscle strain, pheeeeww.  It’s feeling much better today, thank goodness, and am positive I’ll be 100% come race day.

In sticking with tradition, my half marathon race week workouts kicked off with a 10 mile tempo run Saturday that went well after my hip got sorted out during warm up.  Monday featured long intervals, Wednesday has short ones and Friday a short recovery run after flying.  Tuesday and Thursday will be rest days.  Carb heavy meals Wednesday and Thursday will fuel me and not trying any crazy Cajun foods before racing should give me a happy tummy on race day.  During the race I’ll have fruit snacks and GU packed in my pockets, hopefully I’ll remember to eat them!

The flat and fast loop course in State 16 should welcome the fast performance I feel ready to turn in (I even studied the course map).  It looks like I’ll be able to hug the inside of turns and not pick up too much extra distance which will definitely help me hit the PR I’m aiming for.  My only hang up is that previous races after flying races haven’t all been great.  Luckily I think I’ve finally learned my lesson and landing around noon Friday should give me plenty of time to get my ground legs back.

I’m ready to race my last half of 2015 and my final race before One City!

Meredith

What are your half marathon race week traditions?