Monthly Archives: January 2016

Fit Friday: Running Faster

Ultimately the goal of any runner who wants to hit a competitive goal, from breaking a 2 hour half marathon to nailing a sub-15 minute 5k, will have to work on earning quicker feet.  With my current long term goal to break a 1:30 half marathon a ways away and a 20-minute 5k a little closer (this year?), I definitely spend time working on running faster.  Here are my four key elements of training to get faster.running faster

Form.  Running fast is hard work.  It’s even harder if your elbows are swinging way out, you’re heel striking or breaking at the hip.  Developing proper posture, a mid-foot landing and quick turnover were the first things I worked on to start getting faster.  Better form immediately made a positive difference and that’s what I spend time every day doing things to make sure it stays solid.  Mobility and drills specific to my body’s needs on that day, where I’m sore, what was tight on my last run, etc., all add up to a quality default running form.

Turnover.  When I used to run on the gym treadmill, I’d notice a difference between what was happening when I was warming up and what happened when I was working hard.  Turned out it was the change in my turnover rate when running faster that caused these changes.  When my stride rate increased my heel striking stopped, my posture improved and my hips opened up.  Learning how to maintain a stride rate of roughly 180 steps per minute was a challenge and I use at least one workout each week to keep improving because it lowers my risk of injury, makes me more efficient and a faster runner whose head doesn’t bob on the treadmill anymore.

Power.  The more power you put into the ground with each step, the more will be returned to your legs for the next one.  Strength training is the best way to build power.  I owe Crossfit a lot of credit for helping me become a stronger, more powerful and efficient athlete.  Deadlifting, squatting, box jumping and hammering away at those double unders have undoubtedly made me faster.

Practice.  To run fast, you have to run faster.  If I want to hit that 1:30 half marathon, I need to spend some time running faster than the required 6:50/mile pace.  I’m not built for top end speed but I still spend one workout a week chipping away at it.  Building my VO2Max, increasing my turnover even if only for one mile at a time and getting comfortable at higher speeds all add up to my running faster.


How do you work on running faster?  Speed work, strength work or both?

Marathon Training Run 7 (21 Miles)

Marathon training run 7 was a mess.  It was the first long run in my One City Marathon training cycle that really pushed me to the edge of quitting both mentally and physically.  After having all of my earlier long runs go well, I look back and figure I was due for a downer.  While it’s over and taught me a few things, I’m looking forward to improving on it this week.

Training run 7 started, and ended, on cold windy day.  Temperatures were right around freezing and wind speeds varied between 23 and 25 miles per hour pretty consistently.  I started out with a tailwind for Mile 1 then turned around to face it for Miles 2 through 6.5.  During those wind in my face miles I had trouble getting my heart rate down.  I didn’t think wasn’t moving too training run 7fast and even tried slowing down more to compensate for the extra work.  By Mile 5 I finally had that under control when another wheel feel off.

My stomach growled.  Three miles before my scheduled GU and only 40 minutes into a 160 minute run.  Uh-oh.  I was hungry the entire run from Mile 5 on even after I sucked down energy gels at Miles 7 and 14.  Running hungry stinks.  It sapped my energy and caused my legs to fatigue very early.  At least I had the crosswind from Miles 6.5 to 10.

As if things weren’t going badly enough, I was back in the headwind when my knee started giving me some flack around Mile 11 and I spent the next ten miles trying to keep it happy.  Along with the knee pain came extreme muscle fatigue that forced me to see if having my second gel a mile early would help.  It didn’t.  A final turn around at Mile 15 gave me a tailwind for the final six but by that point I don’t think I even noticed.

Everything came apart at Mile 18 and I was happy to just finish without injuring myself. One good mile and twenty crappy ones in the books, I’m looking forward to getting back on track with a three hour run this week.  I’m chalking training run 7’s yuckiness up to doing a not-as-good-as-I-thought job recovering from my back to back half marathons in terms of calories.

With ten days to refill my tank, I’ll be tackling a three hour training run 8 this weekend.  I’m sure it’ll be at least a small improvement for my longest run ever and am still feeling confident that I’ll be ready to rock on race day.


How do you handle a bad training run?  Do you except a few in a training cycle?

Fit Friday: Overtraining Syndrome

Overtraining syndrome is a scary thing.  It can creep up without any notice, especially on us runners, and wreck a training season.  I’m pretty sure I’ve been close to suffering from it but with a few extra days off after feeling crappy I managed to bail myself out.  Not everyone is so lucky.  Here are a few ways to avoid this dreaded injury.

First, let’s see what overtraining syndrome is.  It occurs when the body is exercised at a frequency and intensity that exceed its recovery time.  How can you tell if you’re over training?  You might become exhausted without any explanation, stall out in both strength and cardiovascular gains or start seeing other, more serious, injuries like stress fractures.  Feeling sluggish after a workout instead of energized and having disrupted sleep patterns are also symptoms.  Of course, the best way to treat overtraining is to avoid it in the first place.  Here are 4 ways to prevent it from sabotaging your plans for a new PR.

1)  Food is fuel.  Make sure your diet isn’t the reason workouts aren’t going well.  Trying Paleo as a marathoner?  Could be it!  Eat enough calories to give you the energy you need to get through the day and replenish post workout.   Stick with quality whole foods and remember that the what you put in is what you get out.

2)  Mix it up.  Your body needs constant change to keep adapting, getting stronger and improving.  If you start to lose motivation or get bored, throw something new into your routine.  Try a spin class or kick boxing while alternating hard and easy days to give yourself excitement and variety with time to recover.overtraining syndrome

3)  Take recovery and rest days seriously.  Your next workout is only as good as your last recovery.  If you’re not foam rolling or hitting mobility drills each day your body is going to get worn out quickly.  Rest and recovery are just as important as exercise and not giving your body enough time to recover from strenuous exercise will inevitably cause fatigue, moodiness and injury.  Take at least one day a week away from the gym or running and be serious about it.  Use the rest day(s) to replenish the things your body has burned through, like carbohydrates, proteins, fluids and sleep.

4)  Listen to your body.  Still feeling sluggish four days after a hard workout?  Are your knees or shoulders hurting more than they should?  Is soreness sticking around beyond two days?  Is your performance slipping?  These are all signals your body gives to let you know it needs a break.  An extra day or two or five off won’t ruin the gains you’ve made.  Take the time to recover your body is asking for and you’ll not only feel better, but come back to better results.


*a version of this post was originally posted on the FitNicePT blog*

Have you ever had overtraining syndrome?  How do you prevent it?


2016 Back2Back Challenge

The 2016 Back2Back Challenge was to complete two races in two states over two days.  First up was the 2016 Mississippi Blues Half Marathon with the 2016 First Light Half Marathon filling in on Sunday.  This was not my first experience with back to back half marathons.  I dipped into those last fall with the Hartford Half Marathon on Saturday and the Ocean State Rhode Race on Sunday.  While both outings on that trip were about the same, this round created two different tales and I learned a two important things.

The first thing I learned was I really need to plan my flight schedule better.  Instead of driving like I did to Connecticut and Rhode Island, I flew.  Turns out flying in on Friday for Saturday’s event wasn’t the best idea.  I was more beat up than I expected Saturday morning and rolling my ankle early on didn’t help much.  After a day to adjust, rehydrate and recover from being in the air, Sunday was a much better day for my legs.  I think I’ve finally admitted defeat when it comes to this and will definitely be giving myself an extra day to recover from flying in the future.  Good thing I booked flights for my next two long distance events (Rock the Parkway and Monumental Half) with that in mind!

The second thing the 2016 Back2Back Challenge taught me was that I’m actually probably ready for One City.  Not 2016 back2back challenge100% ready but I’ll certainly finish while maintaining my ability to walk the next day.  Struggling through the final eight miles of Race #1 on a hard course with a touchy ankle and a tired brain left me feeling unsure about how Sunday would go.  I knew I’d finish but I wanted to see how much I had, how ready I was to push my body to complete to long hard workouts in two days.  With a successful and solid performance in Race #2 I wrapped up the weekend on a positive note while looking forward to hammering out some long marathon training runs over the next few weeks.

The Back2Back Challenge as an event is great.  Both races are well organized though Mobile has better scenery and fewer hills.  The Blues Bus, which takes runners aiming for both races from Jackson to Mobile with little hassle was incredibly convenient.  Massive medals for both half marathons are nicely complimented by a special Back2Back participant medal and plaque that features images of both states and both race logos on a spinner.

I’m glad I completed the 2016 Back2Back challenge.  It was a great way to check off two more states, test my training with 9 weeks to go before marathon day and lots of fun.


Have you run the Back2Back Challenge?  Back to back races?  Which ones?

2016 First Light Half Marathon

The second half of my back to back weekend, the 2016 First Light Half Marathon was a totally different race for me than the one a day earlier.  After struggling in Jackson I was a little bit concerned about how this second race would go.  Happily, everything ended well.

My 2016 First Light Half Marathon experience began with a bus ride in from Jackson.  I felt tired but generally OK getting off the bus and heading to the small expo.  A quick packet pick-up first light half marathonwhere I was awarded my back to back plaque sent our group of four to check in to the hotel.  I was surprised to receive my back to back plaque before actually completing the second event.  Created by residents of L’Arche Mobile, the plaques are hand painted and come with a little bit of information about the person who made each one.

A short walk later we were in our historic hotel and ordering pizza for dinner.  Tired after a long day, all four of us went to sleep early and got a solid ten hours before a 6:30 wake up for the Sunday race’s 7:30 start.  My race day plan was to run about 1:45, log some marathon pace miles and enjoy the much flatter course after minor disaster on the hills of Mississippi.  Race morning dawned bright, brisk and with a slight breeze.  I had no idea what to expect from my legs, especially hoping my ankle would continue to feel as solid as it did when I climbed out of bed.

I ran a short 400M warm up to see what my body would do and it actually felt really good.  first light half marathonSeveral minutes later I had woven to the front of the start chute just in time to hear the gun go off right at 7:30.  With no corrals the race started out with lots of traffic that cleared up in the first 1200 meters.  Filled with few turns and lots of long straightaways, the flat course was apparently exactly what my legs/ankle/brain needed.

Rolling through the traffic and into Mile 3 I matched up with a nice gentleman running the full.  Brian (orange hat) had run the full the previous day as well and was shooting for a solid finish, just like me.  We stuck together through the half/full split at Mile 8.5 with the exception of my catching up after walking through a water stop.  Together we clocked an average of 7:30 miles and I was shocked.  I continued to first light half marathonroll on with some speedier than expected miles through the flat straight stretches but did start to feel a bit beat up around Mile 10.  My final 5k was definitely slower.  I easily stayed on marathon pace as I took a quick pit stop to chat with Joey from Run8va (who snapped this photo at Mile 4).  I walked through a water stop at Mile 11 then settled in for a strong finish back down at 7:20 pace for my last mile of the weekend.

I collected my medal and special back to back medal before trying to find some results.  Based on the 2015 results, I figured might have been in the top 10 but I also noted that the crowd seemed faster this year.  My watch had me in at 1:41.47 and the official clock pinned me at exactly 1:42.  Not knowing if I had to be present to collect an award at 10:30, I scampered to first light half marathonthe hotel for a quick shower and foam roll before trotting back to Bienville Park and meeting my troupe.

With awards going to the top ten before getting into age groups, I was lucky enough to be third in my age group at the First Light Half Marathon.  Like the Back 2 Back plaques, the awards were handmade by residents of L’Arche Mobile.  It immediately became one of my favorites because it wasn’t created by a machine and someone took time out to do something for a runner they don’t even know.  The four of us then went back for a little post race R&R and lunch before heading to the airport.

My 2016 First Light Half Marathon experience was wonderful.  The flat, well supported course and handmade medals and awards can make any runner’s day better.  A trot through the friendly city of Mobile was a nice way to wrap up a back to back weekend that didn’t go exactly as planned.


Have you run back to back races?  Which ones?

2016 Mississippi Blues Half Marathon

The first half of my second back to back half marathons weekend, the 2016 Mississippi Blues Half Marathon was a mixed bag of experiences. The event was very well done with great swag and lots of fun in spite of a slightly rainy day and a less than ideal race for myself.

I was traveling with three girlfriends and we arrived early Friday afternoon.  A quick check in at the Jackson Marriott put us on the short walk to the 2016 Mississippi Blues Half Marathon expo.  Number, shirt and goodie pick-up was fast and easy in the uncrowded convention 2016 mississippi blues half marathoncenter.  Along with tech half zip race shirts each race bag contained a BB King CD, a race logo-ed harmonica and coupons for some local spots.  I then picked up my pacer shirt and 1:45 stick at the Fleet Feet booth after winding through a hallway lined with more vendors.

A late lunch at Parlor Market was next then it was back to the hotel for a little R&R.  We scanned the race guide, came up with a plan for the morning and checked the forecast yet again.  It was calling for some serious rain Saturday morning.  In addition to the possibility of getting excessively wet while running the race guide mentioned that the streets of Jackson also had some blues and we would need to be on alert for potholes on the course.  Dinner at the hotel was followed by more R&R before bed.

We all poured out of the hotel room at 6:20 for the race’s 7am start to find the forecasted downpour was actually a light rain that wasn’t too bad.  The race did not have corrals but went off right on time.  Begin hills.  Right off the bat the course heads out across some slow climbs that only get tougher as the miles pass by.  I was right on track at the 5k mark but didn’t have anyone sticking with me as the crowd thinned out.  That turned out to be a blessing when I rolled my ankle in one of those aforementioned potholes that was masquerading as a puddle around Mile 4.  At that point I knew I wouldn’t be able to hit 1:45 and didn’t know what to do with no aid station in sight.

I shook my ankle out with a stop and lowered my sign.  Soaked from the rain and bent from the wind, it ended up snapping shortly after.  I carried my broken sign and fought to get back on track when I stopped at the Mile 6 water station to see if there was a way I could get in touch with the race director.  I ditched my stick and debated removing my pacer shirt.  With no option but to continue, I rolled on at a slower pace with guilt weighing heavily.

After another ankle breather walk break things took a turn for the better around Mile 7.5.  The 1:55 pacer was ahead of his time and we settled in next to each other passing Mile 8.  We chatted a bit when he told me he was looking to hit the final 5k hard.  I told him I would rock on with the 1:55 sign, taking full advantage of the chance to finish supporting other runners while protecting my ankle for the next day.  I was back in business when he handed me his sign, let me know what his watch read and took off.  Immediately I had two runners with me.  It felt great to be cheering them on as we entered the last stretch.

The last four miles were filled with more hills but my ankle started to feel slightly better with some chatting, left side of the road running and a few walking breaks to eat up time.  At Mile 10 a few runners checked in with me to see how we were doing time 2016 mississippi blues half marathonwise.  I was happy to hear everyone was well on their way to hitting their goals.  At Mile 12 a girl who had been right with me since Mile 10 started to struggle.  I stuck with her to the end and even with two short walking breaks she broke 2 hours for the first time.  Another runner, Eric, was happy to speed past me at Mile 12.5 to come in under 1:57 with a big smile.

I crossed the finish in 1:54.49.  After a rough start to the 2016 Mississippi Blues Half Marathon it was rewarding to gather a group in the last few miles and watch them succeed on such a tough course.  The rain had held off, the finisher medals are huge, the challenging course was a great workout, I nailed my second chance pacing time and by the time I showered my ankle felt almost normal.  Course support had been solid with water stops every 1.5-2 miles, Cliff shots at Mile 9 and several cheer groups.  I would have liked more music on the course, especially since this year was dedicated to B.B.King, though with the wet weather it might not have been the safest thing.  I definitely recommend this event but recommend even more being prepared for the difficult course.  Great organization, super friendly people, awesome swag and solid course support make it worth the trip.


How do you deal with getting injured during a race?

Fit Friday: Cold Weather Running

Like it or not, winter is here.  Here in Virginia Beach it even flurried on Tuesday morning!  With it came the cold weather running most of us deal with all winter long and it can be a total de-motivator.  Here are some of my favorite ways to conquer the cold, stay on track with my training (when there’s no snow) and head into spring ready to rock.

Layer up.  When it’s zero degrees out following the rule ‘dress like it’s 20 degrees warmer’ still means extra clothes.  Breathable, sweat wicking fabrics with vents are your best bet for staying warm without overheating.  Remember, you can take a layer off if you get too warm (though I like being warm and rarely do).cold weather running

Gear up.  Gloves, an ear warmer, shoes with as little mesh as possible and a dry change of clothes are all a must when prepping for cold weather running.  Additional winter running tools include reflective vests and headlamps for the waning daylight and YakTrax for managing very snowy conditions.

Warm up.  When the weather’s nice, warming up outside is typical.  When it’s cold, I warm up indoors.  A stretch and some burpees or jumping jacks gets my muscles moving before slipping out the door.  The cold doesn’t feel so chilly after my blood is pumping and I’m are ready to work before going outside.  If you’re not solo and are waiting for a group, stay in a warm building or toasty in your car instead of standing around letting your body get cold again.

Watch the wind.  There’s always a steady breeze here but winter winds can be brutal.  Running into the wind is always tough but it can also cause sweat to freeze and your core temperature to drop a little bit more.  Start your run into the breeze then you won’t have to deal with cold, damp clothes getting even colder on the second half of your run.

Stay hydrated.  Cold weather running might not feel as sweaty as when it’s hot but just because you don’t feel it doesn’t mean your body isn’t burning through fluids.  Skip the ice cubes and put warm water on your route or carry it between layers to prevent freezing.  Also check any water fountains on your route to make sure they’ve been left on once temperatures dip below freezing.

Undress.  ASAP!  Swap out sweaty running clothes for dry ones you have handy.  I usually wrap up in a big fluffy beach towel.  Your core temperature drops quickly after cold weather running which can lead to chills that take a long time to shake.  Get warm and dry as soon as possible by drinking a warm hot chocolate, putting a hat on wet hair and swapping out sweaty sports bras for something more comfy.

And don’t forget, when cold weather running becomes unbearable, a run or two on the treadmill won’t be the end of your running career.


What do you love about cold weather running?  How do you prep for a cold run?

Marathon Training Run 6 (21 Miles)

One City Marathon prep continued this weekend with marathon training run 6.  Technically it should be run 7 but last week’s 10 miler was nice and easy with no excitement worth sharing.  Training run 6 was a really good one even if it was a bit slower than marathon training run 5.  Here’s what I learned this week!

After my first ever twenty miler two weeks earlier, I went into training run 6 feeling confident I’d be able to rock it.  With some complications from the weather my training leading up to this long run was mostly lifting and some easy running.  I packed up one GU, one CarbBoom, planned a route and set off for a run I figured would be somewhere between 20 and 21 miles long.

I went with time for this run to keep myself relaxed.  With a goal to finish the race in 3:30 I’ll eventually have to run for a longer length of time than I ever have before.  Time to start training run 6stretching it.  Since my 20 miler was so solid, I decided that I would run training run 6 for time instead of distance.  I scheduled fuel at Miles 8 and 15 with water stops at Miles 4, 9.5, 14.5 and 18.  With a bit of a headwind and a funky acting watch, my first six miles were a little slower than expected but I wasn’t worried.  The day before my 20 miler I had done some fast track work and with only very easy running leading into this one, I knew my legs wouldn’t immediately be firing on all gears.

I chowed down my GU while on the move at Mile 8 and really settled into a groove after my Mile 9.5 water stop.  Rolling into the halfway mark on a beautiful day I was feeling good.  My legs were moving along a bit faster after covering some easy little hills in Miles 8-11 and I was excited to hit a negative split again on these longest training runs yet.  Fuel again at Mile 15 calmed my grumbling tummy.

My legs started to feel fatigued after my Mile 18 water stop and I paused for a quick calf stretch before finishing my last three miles.  I knew I’d make it another 20 or so minutes and when 2:30 hit I was ecstatic.  Fifteen minutes and less than two miles to go!  It would take me a hair longer than 2:45 to cover 21 miles but I was OK with that and finished in 2:45.47.

My fueling plan, one of my biggest concerns heading into marathon training, held up for training run 6.  With one more dose of food I definitely felt like I could have covered another 5+ miles.  I have plenty of big long runs coming up that I’m actually looking forward to.  Training run 6 didn’t feel so long when I was out there and the feeling of accomplishment when I’m finished is a great reward.  That said, marathon training hasn’t been as horrible as anticipated, maybe because of the great weather we’ve had, and I’m feeling good about being ready to rock One City.


What’s your favorite part of marathon training?

Fit Friday: 2015 Running Goal Review

Earlier this week I posted about what I’m looking to accomplish in 2016.  Now that 2016 is here, I’ll get going on those while taking a little time to review what I did in 2015.  With no further ado, here’s my 2015 running goal review!

Race in 5 states.  Beat this one.  I’m not sure if DC counts as a state but I did hit Arizona, Kansas, Maryland, Louisiana, Connecticut and Rhode Island.  The recap for each race is IMG_20151228_155034here.  In 2016 I’ll be checking off a few more states and maybe heading back to revisit one or more of my faves from the past.

Run 1,500 miles.  I wrapped the year up with 1,553.66 miles and enjoyed most of them.  I’ve definitely gotten faster.  I’ve learned a lot and stayed injury free for the entire year.  I haven’t set a mileage goal for this year for a few reasons but more on that later.

Break 1:35 in the half.  Didn’t hit this one for a myriad of reasons.  Flying, unexpected heat, failure to adjust to the humidity, poor 2015 running goalfueling, not tapering at all.  All of those played a role and I’ll be better in 2016 because of it.

Run my first 20 miler.  Nailed this one.  There’s an entire post about it here but the summary is that I was a bit nervous taking off, finished successfully and am looking forward to moving on with marathon training.

There it is!  My 2015 running goal review.  I changed a lot about my training philosophy in 2015.  That lead to both successes and failures but the lessons are learned.  I hit most of my 2015 running goals and have expectations to repeat the year.  I’ll start accomplishing with One City in March and roll on for a great 2016.


What were your 2015 running goals?  Did you hit them?