Recovery = Reverse Taper Madness

So, two and half weeks after the Twin Cities Marathon and I can safely say I’m starting to get “that itch” again. The past few days I’ve realized that I have way too much energy at time and the only way I am used to burning it is by running.

The week after the marathon, I didn’t run a single mile. Last year I made the mistake of running a 42k Relay with a fun group of runners the weekend following the marathon. I felt like superwoman after BQ’ing my first marathon at Chicago and I knew I was in the best shape of my life. So, I went out there and ran the 2+ mile splits around 6:40-6:50 without blinking an eye. Yeah…THAT was silly. Especially because my right calf had been giving me some grief and I had a minor bout of ‘peroneal tendonitis’ for the next few weeks while I fully recovered. And while it was exhilarating to run my first relay, I knew that this year would be all about real Recovery, with a capital “R”.

 

Last week, I ran a whopping 14 miles. Tuesday’s run was the first one since the marathon. Can I tell you how uncoordinated and clumsy I felt? Honestly! It was like I had never run a day in my life! I know this was all in my head, but my legs felt like they were flying all over the place and my arms weren’t moving as they should. Picture Phoebe from Friends running.  Yeah, that’s what I felt like.

On Friday, I realized that I’d only run 4 miles for the week and went out in the morning. I miss bolting out of bed in the morning to put my running gear on and heading out while it’s still cool to get my workouts done. It’s the best way to wake up, with or without coffee in my belly. And my love affair with the lakefront is seriously distracting me lately. I live 2 miles away from the lakefront so running there, then a few miles on the lakefront, and returning home on foot was out of question. Sometimes I take the bus there to cut back on the miles run, but that just takes more time and coordination. So on Friday, I decided I would definitely run along the lake at some point during the weekend.

….And then I spent my entire Saturday on the couch. I’m not kidding. I was in my pajamas until 7:00 PM. See? Taking marathon recovery to a whole new level this year! I had an ambitious plan for all of the things I’d accomplish that day, but none of them happened and I was depressed about it (but all too happy to be horizontal and watch movies for 7+ hours).

 

I’ve been hanging out with this fuzzy goober a lot. She’s so silly.

Sunday was one of those days that you just want to bottle up and keep for those gloomy winter days in Chicago. The rest of the city must have been thinking the same thing because the path was crowded even around 3 PM. I dropped off some leather boots to be repairs in Lincoln Park and ran south to Division and stopped to enjoy the view.

Does it get much better than this??

It’s amazing how calming the lake can be when you stop to ENJOY it! This past training cycle was ALL BUSINESS and I rarely had the time to just sit and soak it all up. It was like I was experiencing the lakefront for the first time. I sat by the water just north of Fullerton and…thought about nothing. It was great. My bro/Coach ran Rim to Rim in the Grand Canyon the day before and I had yet to “debrief” with him so I called him while I sat there and marveled at what he’d accomplished. Seriously, …7 hours of badass trail running that this flatland runner can’t even imagine. Really looking forward to the photo and video compilation he’s putting together.

I ran 5.5 miles on Sunday. I’m one of those “I have  to run even # miles” people, but that day I forgot all about that sillyness. How could I not be happy with the sunshine, beautiful lake, and a gorgeous fall day in October? Not to mention the fact that I spent 2 hours sitting and chatting away with Chanthana afterward.

So far this week, I’ve run 2.65 miles. Yep, you read that right. Less than 3 miles. But it was probably the most relaxing, fun thing I’ve done all week. While I practically live at the lake or running around the city, The Man had never run along the lake before and I was determined to make it happen. So last night our plan was to run/walk on the lakefront and then go to Chipotle for burritos and beer (we were too excited about that). We’re running the Pumpkins in the Park 5k in Lincoln Park together this Saturday for fun. The Man is my cheerleader at races and I always know he’s going to find me at the finish line. He enjoys running for fun now and that makes me one happy girl.

A view of North Ave beach from the lighthouse pier last night.

At the end of our jaunt last night, the moon came out and said hello. Night running in 75 degree weather? Amazing!

It’s safe to say that recovery is treating me well and I’m allowing my body and mind to refuel. For now, I’m trying to stop those thoughts that tell me “do more, run longer, push yourself” and instead sleep late, eat more chocolate, drink more beer, and watch more TV. Don’t worry–it won’t last long. 

P.S. If you want a laugh, you should check out Hillary’s series called “Real Life Moments with Medals“. She had me laughing for an hour straight yesterday!

-J

 

 

My Fall/Winter Wishlist…Because why not?

Since racing Twin Cities and receiving my confirmation for Boston 2013, I’ve quickly come to the realization that I will need to stock up on fall/winter running gear in the very near future. I’ve never committed to a marathon training cycle during the winter, as both of my marathons have been in the fall. I wouldn’t exactly say I’m a complete wuss when it comes to the cold, but ask me again in February or March when I’m battling the Chicago wind chill along the lake or getting creative with my training just to avoid the cold.

I already have some favorite winter running gear, but I don’t have nearly enough to go a week without doing a load of laundry dedicated to running clothes. So, if budget weren’t an issue and I could buy anything I want to get my through this next training cycle, I’d choose these items:

Saucony Women’s NMD Jacket $110

I haven’t invested in a nice running jacket and I think it’s about time I did. I typically layer a Saucony ViziPro half zip with other lighter long sleeve shirts, but I have a feeling the wind is going to be a big factor this winter.

Women’s Vertis Ex Hoody $90

I don’t think I’d wear this during a run, but it looks nice and snuggly for a post-run afternoon on the couch.

Saucony DryLete Loose Fit Beanie $22

I almost bought this hat last year and I honestly don’t know why I didn’t press ‘purchase’ and check out immediately. Looks comfy and I actually like that it’s a looser option, unlike my other more ‘snug’ hats.

Nike Element Half Zip $60

I’m a fan of half-zips for temperature control during the winter. Think “V neck”, not crew neck.

SmartWool Neck Gaiter $25

Ok, this seriously made me laugh out loud. And, for some strange reason, Running Warehouse thinks all neckwarmers or gaiters are only men’s products because they only had one listed in the women’s merchandise. This one looks small enough that I could comfortably wear it around my neck while running or flip it up onto my head to look like a hooligan.

Sugoi Women’s SubZero Zap Tight $80

The warmest tights I own are the standard Nike Thermal tights so I’ll definitely need to get some tights that are meant for really cold temperatures. These look comfy and I actually like the contrast piping.

Zoot ThermoMegaHeat Tight $85

Again, these look really comfortable. And both tights say they’re meant for temperatures below 30 degrees. That should do it for me, right?

What’s your favorite running gear? Do you have anything on your wishlist that I should add to mine for fall/winter running? This “cold weather wuss” (kinda) needs your help!

2012 Twin Cities Marathon: Race Recap & Shiny New PR

Usually, I don’t have a lot of words to describe my race experiences. But I think the Twin Cities marathon is an exception because I feel like I was incredibly aware of how my body was feeling and the thoughts that were running through my own head. I’ve been thinking about ‘what happened’ since 11:18 AM last Sunday morning when I crossed that finish line with my fists in the air and tears in my eyes. Here’s what I’ve come up with:

I ran a 3:17:47 marathon on Sunday, which was a 15+ minute PR from my Chicago Marathon 2011 time of 3:32:53. Twin Cities was my second marathon and I know that my ability to run the distance is only going to develop more in the coming years. It’s mindblowing to think about the miles I’ve run and what my body was able to do on Sunday morning.

The Prep: Race Week

To say that I had the most ideal prep in body & mind for the marathon would be a lie. I spent the early part of the week resting as much as possible in advance of a business trip to San Francisco on Thursday and Friday. I slept 11 glorious hours on Monday night and my body thanked me, but each consecutive night consisted of at least an hour less sleep leading up to Race Day. A Friday afternoon flight back to Chicago meant that I would arrive home around 9 pm before my flight to Minneapolis the following morning at 9:30 AM. Unfortunately, my master plan of arriving one night and departing the next with plenty of sleep in between trips didn’t work out as I’d hoped. Two things happened. One, my flight from San Francisco was delayed by 2 hours, which meant that I didn’t get to bed until 12:30 on Friday night. And second, my flight to Minneapolis was changed by the airline from 9:30 AM up to 7:45 AM. Because of both of these things, I slept for just under 5 hours on Friday night, which arguably is the most crucial night for pre-marathon rest.

I was nervous and tired and frustrated that I couldn’t do anything to change my schedule or to squeeze in a few more hours of sleep.

Within 8 hours, I had landed at O’Hare, arrived home, unpacked, packed, ate a huge bowl of pasta, slept, and made the commute back to the airport for yet another flight. And before I knew it, I was in Minneapolis. The pre-race nerves and anxiety suddenly hit when the wheels touched the runway.

So much had happened in the previous weeks, days, and even hours, that I didn’t even have the time to get nervous, much less think about the marathon. In fact, it wasn’t until the Wednesday of the same week that I even thought about “strategy”, pacing, hydration, nutrition or otherwise.

After devouring some hashbrowns, eggs, bacon, toast, and a liter of water at the airport while I waited for The Man to land (yes, we took separate flights), we went straight to the expo to pick up my bib & chip. I was determined to get in and out of that expo as fast as I possibly could. I’m not a huge fan of expos, mostly because I don’t need to spend time sampling random energy drinks, gus, or performance products that I know I won’t buy or use. I was there long enough to meet up with Brady, grab some Gus, and decide that I didn’t want to buy anything (thank goodness).

The first thing I did after checking into the hotel was to close the curtains and black out the entire room. I texted Coach earlier that day and asked him if he had time for a pep talk. He called me right as I laid down to rest. I was in this weird physical and mental state that involved exhaustion, apathy, anxiety, and nervous energy.

All week, I wrestled with an internal debate that went something like, “Wow, why am I so calm? I’m not even nervous. …Wait, that’s weird. I should be nervous about my second marathon! Am I not nervous because I doubt myself? Because deep down I know that I can’t run under a 3:20, or 3:18 for that matter?!” All week, I played this game with myself and questioned whether or not my calmness was a symptom of extreme confidence or incredible self-doubt. [I feel like a lot of runners probably know what I’m talking about. But Lora put this feeling into words in a way that I simply cannot in one of her latest blog posts. She called it the chicken vs. egg debate between confidence and self-doubt.]

But Coach laid all of these thoughts to rest with his pep talk. He’s the king of analogies (most of them corny as hell) and he probably gave me four or five that made me feel comfortable in my preparation. He also reminded me that, this past March, I returned from a business trip to Madrid just ten hours prior to Rock ‘n Roll DC and managed to run a 5+ minute PR. I was, in fact, prepared for a challenging travel schedule coupled with an “A” race weekend.  It was old territory for me and I needed to remind myself of that experience. I was in Minneapolis, I had sufficient time to rest, and the hard work had already been done. All I had to do was allow myself to soak up the experience (or so I kept telling myself!).

So, I slept. From 12:30-5:00 PM on Saturday, I put my legs up and closed my eyes. I think I managed to get about 2 hours sleep but I felt like myself once I woke up and showered to get ready for dinner with the crew. There were 8 of us running Twin Cities and I was excited to enjoy a good dinner (and one good beer!) and some fun conversation before calling it a night.

Race Morning

5:30 AM alarm set. I slept SO well the night before the race—it was probably the deepest sleep I’d had in over a week and my body soaked it all up. I wake up, throw everything into my gear check bag, drink my coffee, eat my oatmeal, bundle up, and head over to the Metrodome where the runners were free to relax and prepare before heading to the corrals at the Start. It was so nice to see friends and laugh to calm my nerves before heading to the start corrals. I felt like my heart was pounding fast and I kept sighing to slow my breathing. I was excited and HAPPY about getting to the start line. We dropped our gear backs and headed into the coldI. It was something like 30 degrees when we started, so I wore a few light layers. I had a Saucony singlet on with Nike armwarmers, topped with a super light long sleeve throwaway shirt, and a cheap windbreaker jacket from a previous race. I’m a wuss when it comes to the cold, but I knew I’d warm up quick and I’d be able to take off the jacket and the throwaway shirt pretty quickly. I had a pair of cheap gloves that I’d wear the entire race.

Race Strategy

Let me just preface this section by saying that I can be pretty technical when it comes to pacing, fueling, and hydration strategy. I like to have a firm plan going into any race, but I have to know it’s achievable. Throughout this past training cycle, Coach determined a conservative and stretch time goal, but we never talked about it in our phone conversations leading up to the race. Because Twin Cities was only my 2nd marathon, I still feel like I’m in ‘fresh territory’ and my body will continue to surprise me until I reach times that are extremely competitive (and maybe even then?). Once I ran my 10 x 800s at an average pace of 3:13 (while my goal was 3:18 for each repeat), I knew that I was in a good spot and I began to become comfortable with 3 hrs, 18 minutes as a time that I could fully commit to. 

….But then I sat down to actually write out my pace strategy. I’d begin with a conservative 8:00-7:50 pace in the first few miles. I’d get comfortable and remain patient. I’d let those people pass me because I’d be back to catch them in a matter of miles. Runners could rush past me in their early-mile excitement because I’d be doing the same thing at miles 22-26. But as I kept entering paces and recalculating, the paces seemed unreal. Could I really run a 7:00 min/mile that late in the race?! Would my legs be able to carry me that far, that fast? I didn’t give myself any excuse to recalculate the numbers again, I printed the spreadsheet, and took off for my business trip to San Francisco.

I carried the spreadsheet with me, but didn’t take one look at it until Saturday when I arrived in Minneapolis.

I split the race into sections just as I did at Chicago last year. I’ve become really comfortable with a negative split racing plan over the past year and I always seem to find that kick at the end. Every race that I’ve achieved a PR has been because I’ve been able to negative split by at least 1-2 minutes. Mentally, it’s easier for me to remain patient in the first miles knowing that I will be running much faster paces later on.

I made sure I had 4 fields on my Garmin home screen: time, distance, lap pace, and average pace. I printed my pace band and ‘laminated’ it with packaging tape before wrapping it around my wrist right next to my Garmin (see? pretty technical). I kept my eye on my splits at each mile marker and let the miles come to me.

The Race

After saying bye to Matt and Chanthana in our corral, Mile 1-3 flew by, as they always seem to in a distance race. I looked down at my Garmin and realized I was running a lot faster than I should have been (surprise surprise…). I kept telling myself that I’d be back to get those people later and that my patience would pay off in time. I was relaxed and listening to my music, although I couldn’t tell you for the life of me which songs were pumping through those headphones.

Near mile 4, the course runs alongside several small lakes and the roads narrow. I remember thinking that it was more congested than I anticipated but just tried to stay steady. At mile 5 I took my first Gu and grabbed a few sips of water. At that point, I couldn’t believe that we were already 5 miles in. (I planned to take a Gu every 5 miles I had in every one of my long runs and thought “wow, only 3 or 4 more Gus to go!” It’s always helpful for me to split the race up into sections, not only physically but mentally).

Around Mile 9, I realized that I’d likely have to make a pit stop in order to get to the finish line without peeing myself. And this marks the beginning of the section about peeing your pants and the crazy thoughts that can go through a runner’s head. I’m no stranger to peeing my pants. I did it during the Chicago Marathon, my first marathon, last year. My decision to say ‘yes’ to my body doing something that I likely hadn’t done since I wet the bed at age 3 came out of pure determination that day. I HAD to get to the finish line in under 3:35 and I didn’t care what I had to do to make that happen.

But at Twin Cities? Let’s put this decision-making process in perspective. It was THIRTY DEGREES at the start line. There were periods of light wind. And I was wearing booty shorts. So, let’s be serious. Those last 14 miles would have been pure cold torture if I had decided to pee my pants.

Next stop: an empty port-o-potty around Mile 12-13. I can safely say that the pit stop took all of something like 14 seconds because I have never been more determined to pee faster that I did on Sunday (and my splits help prove it too!).

After jostling through the first 11 miles through rolling hills and winding roads, I was so happy when things started to open up at Mile 13. I didn’t feel like I had to move around anyone and the crowd had thinned out so that I could just run my own race and not worry about the possibility of tripping over someone. (I had taken off my windbreaker layer at Mile 10 after the sun peaked out). At this point, I felt amazing. I felt like my legs wanted to go faster than my pace band told me to. I was supposed to be running 7:35s, but my watch consistently rattled off 7:2x miles. I tried to slow myself down and remain patient. But something clicked near Mile 15. I realized that I only had ~10 miles to go. TEN MILES!? “I can totally do that!”. And that’s right when I saw the best spectator sign of the entire race. It read: PAUL RYAN ALREADY FINISHED. It made me and the other runners around all laugh. I agreed with the woman next to me that said, “that is the best sign…by far!”. I was so happy to BE so happy at this point in the race. My legs weren’t giving me much grief besides a slight niggle in my left calf (which is the opposite of the one that’s bothered me a bit this past training cycle, oddly enough). I felt like the miles were going by quickly and I was able to pass more people the closer I came to the finish line.

I continued to take my Gus at 5-mile intervals and sipped on water at stations that weren’t overly crowded. I think I stopped at 5 water stations during the entire marathon and each time I only took a few sips. I had hydrated nonstop since the previous Wednesday and felt comfortable with what I’d taken in. The water I sipped on made the dry throat (from the coldish air) disappear.

I don’t really remember Miles 15-19, to be honest. It’s like someone came in and erased them from my brain. I know they happened, but I couldn’t tell you a single thing about that run by the river until I reached the bridge at Mile 19, when I finally shed the final throwaway shirt (I told you I’m a wuss when it comes to the cold!). Once you cross this last bridge, it’s a straight shot into St. Paul and the finish line. Those last 6 miles are all mental and I told myself that there’s no way I’d stop or slow down. At worst, I’d continue running a 7:2x pace. At best, I’d gradually increase the pace until the last mile when I’d give it everything I had.

I had planned to take my last Gu at Mile 23, but my stomach was on the verge of giving me problems so I opted to skip it. At Mile 22, I knew I had to conquer the biggest incline of the entire race. It’s not actually that steep (you only climb 175 within about 1.5 miles) but it seems much bigger than that so late in the race. This was the first time that I saw people start to walk. I knew that I wouldn’t be walking. All I had to do was keep my legs moving and stay in my own head. I was running step-by-step with this one dude for about a mile at that point when I gave him a high five. It’s so much easier for me to maintain a steady pace when I’ve been doing it with someone at my side (mind you, that’s the only time I actually like to run with people!) and I think it gives the other person a boost too.

I remember looking down at my Garmin at Mile 24-25 and seeing 6:58 flash as the lap pace. I was right on target (or faster) and all I had to do was hold on to it through the finish. Brady, who lives in Minneapolis, had given me a ride from the expo to my hotel on Saturday and told me she’d be standing at the cathedral just 400 m from the finish line. I reached the cathedral and looked for her (no luck!) before heading into the final downhill section. I felt like I was Roadrunner and I couldn’t stop my legs. The downhill actually hurt my knees and ankles and I felt like I had to make me legs move faster than they actually could. I clenched my fists as I crossed the finish line nd began to cry immediately. My pace when I finished was 6:27….and I looked at my watch. All 4 numbers were good.

LET THE FREAKIN’ WATERWORKS BEGIN! I was speechless. I put my hands on my knees, tried to breathe through the tears, and…..I didn’t know what to do with myself. The finish line had been pulling me toward it the entire race. There wasn’t ONE mile when I felt like I couldn’t achieve a 3:18 time. It was a mixture of the weather, the months of hard work, the pre-race meals, and the extreme determination and grit to run the paces listed on my wrist that allowed me to run at 15 minute personal record on Sunday. Once I reached the start line that morning, there was NO WAY it wasn’t going to happen. I had worked too hard to not see sub-3:18 on my Garmin.

 

I passed 600 people from the 5k mark to the finish. My patience in the first 3 miles really paid off. I literally remained steady between miles 4 and 20 (that’s just insane!!!) And then? Then it was GO TIME! I just had to run straight to St. Paul and have a volunteer put that medal around my neck.

 

There were only a few miles that I didn’t run at pace or faster according to my pace strategy. Mile 7 was off by two seconds, I made a pit-stop at Mile 13, and Miles 22-23 were only off by a few seconds following the ‘big hill’. I don’t think I could have run a better race.

It’s hard to think back to last Sunday and not be happy. I’ve been reliving the moment all week through the finish line videos and the few photos Brightroom was able to capture of me.

 

All smiles and tears at this point.

Well….that’s HAWT. #not (200 m from the finish line)

 So fresh!

Twin Cities was my 2nd marathon. I think I’ve learned a lot about racing in the past two years. And so far, my body hasn’t given up on me. Most importantly, I think my mental strength always seems to give me that boost on race day, whether or not it’s there for me in the months leading up to a race. Next up is Boston 2013 and I’m already looking forward to it. I’ll remember my Twin Cities finish line moment when I’m training in the bitter Chicago cold. The hard work is always worth it when you reach that finish line (and drink a post-race beer!). Cheers!

-J

Twin Cities Marathon: New PR!

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I’m slowly but surely putting my thoughts together about this past weekend’s marathon. For those of you that don’t already know, I PR’d by 15 minutes!!! It may be awhile before I put the entire experience into words, but, for now, I’m happy living on Cloud 9 and reliving the race through the few photos Brightroom was able to snatch of me. Hope everyone racing recently had great experiences!

Twin Cities Marathon: Race Ready

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The hard work has been done. Now all I have to do is rest, fuel, and get to that start line. Tomorrow is going to be an amazing day!

Inspiration: Running Song Playlist

A lot of people are surprised I listen to music during the majority of my runs. In fact, it’s very rare that I am not wearing my iPod even for one run every once in awhile. I don’t think listening to music is a “crutch”, but an added perk to my running experience, if you will.

This year, I haven’t been that diligent in updating my running playlist. Last year I compiled my favorite songs following the Chicago Marathon and I noticed this year that a lot of my favorites haven’t really changed. The list below, however, are the new additions that I’ve been addicted to lately. Some of them are slower than you might expect for a running playlist, but I find that most of them work for my cadence. And if they don’t have a “good beat”, they usually have an emotional component that makes me motivated to run faster.

Enjoy! (Links to songs on Spotify included)

What kind of music do you listen to when you run? Do you prefer running with or without music?

First Gold: Marathon Inspiration

I can’t believe I hadn’t seen this video before this week! If you or someone you know is running a marathon this weekend (ahem…) or in the future, you should definitely watch this. Talk about grit, discipline, and internal motivation to GET IT DONE!

-J

Final Race Day Prep: Mental, Emotional, and Physical

Ok, race day is a few days away and today was the first day when my scatter/taper-brained self had difficulty concentrating on work all day. I took out the race map and my pace strategy over lunch and went crazy with a highlighter and several different color pens. Yes, I do that. But only for really important things like marathons. Sue me.

I was sitting there just looking at my target paces for each segment of the course and thinking, “Really? Is that right? Can I run that pace that late in the race?”. And quickly, I turned my attention away from those thoughts. Because, yes, I CAN  run those paces. I’ve been in full training mode for at least 16 weeks and it would be silly to doubt my abilities at this point. I’ve proven it to myself day in and day out. Now, it’s just time to show others what I can do.

Last week, I was distracted by a big event, my twin sister’s wedding. At the time, the wedding prep and the marathon thoughts seemed like too much to handle. My body and mind felt sluggish and I started to get sniffly. Yep, I was congested and had a cold just two days before the wedding. But by the time I arrived at the salon on the big day, I was feeling back to normal (thanks to lots and lots of Airborne and Nuun!) . The day was gorgeous and the ceremony & reception were so “Lindsey and Nick”. I blubbered through my Maid of Honor speech like a fool, drank delicious beer, danced to 500 Miles by the Proclaimers played by an Irish rock band, and ate pizza at a bar until it closed at 2 AM with my family.  I relished in those tiny moments. Ya know, moments like my dad lighting my sister’s celebratory cigar outside the reception. Now THAT is something you don’t see everyday!

All of a sudden, the night was over and we were heading to bed. It’s amazing how quickly a big day can go by if you just float your way through it.

I think next weekend is going to be just like that. I’ve been thinking about this darn marathon for 4+ months and I’m going to hustle, fight, and float through Sunday morning just like I’ve done all summer along the Chicago lakefront. I might have a different version of this story post-race, but for now, this is the one I’m going with.

If you want to track me during the race, you can register here! My Bib # is F735. 

-J