Boston Training Begins! + New Obsessions

Yes, I used the word TRAINING! I officially started training for Boston 2014 on Monday, December 16th.

It’s taken more time to get to this point than I thought it would, but now that I’m here, I’m surprised how easily the miles have come to me the past 4-5 weeks. When I realized that Grand Rapids wasn’t going to happen and that this silly leg was going to throw my plans askew, I (very) slowly worked up the courage to start thinking about giving training another go. And I’m happy to report that I’m back at it and feeling like my normal runnin’ self again. It only seemed appropriate to begin the next training cycle on a gorgeous (warmish) wintery day in Chicago on my birthday. The snow started to fall just as I started my run and it was frigid cold—something I’ll have to get used to again as I put in some hard work over the next 16 weeks.

This fall/winter has been more about courage than I thought it would be. 2013 was a rollercoaster year. Ups and downs and loopty-loops made me happy, sad, elated, and frustrated, but I know that there were more ups than downs. For a year that asked more questions than provided answers, I think I’m stronger now. I wore my Boston 2013 jacket for the first time on my first training run of this training cycle and thought to myself, ‘it’s time to move on’. And so, that’s what I’m doing. Clean slate, open mind, fresh training, and lots of miles ahead of me in 2014.


All bundled up for Boston 2014 training run #1. My face is freezing and I can’t feel my nose. Standard.

In November, I started to think about what I wanted to change and what I want to accomplish in 2014. And as I usually do, I wrote down some big hairy, scary goals and tucked it away in a place that I’ll be sure to look at it everyday. I’m excited to start working toward a goal again.

So, this is what I’ve been up to. At the beginning of November, the focus was on a bit more rest and then a gradual increase in my weekly miles with all slow, easy miles. I started at 20 miles per week and worked up to 35 miles each week for 5 weeks. Literally all of my these miles were easy recovery pace from 7:45-8:40/mi. No fartlek action, no speed, just MILES. It was slow going in the beginning and it was incredibly difficult to be happy with 20 miles total for the week. But I had to start somewhere after lots of recovery so I focused on keeping up with cross-training. It made me feel good just to be running 4-5 x a week again. I wanted to be able to do that without feeling like my legs were going to fall off. Success!

After 5 weeks of easy base-building, I decided to test the legs a bit. I increased my mileage gradually to 40 miles and added two light “workouts” to the schedule. The first was supposed to be a progressive run of 8 miles (4 easy miles, then 4 miles up tempo — not tempo pace, but a bit of a challenge). That plan flew out the window when I started running and the legs didn’t want to stop. I actually ended up running an 8 miles steady-state at 7:20/mi pace. It was a bit unexpected and, at the time, I kept telling myself that one good run doesn’t mean that my legs are ready for full training mode yet. Then, the second “workout” planned for the week was 8 miles with the last 10 miles fast/moderate. I ran the first 6 comfortably at 7:50-8 min/mi and then the legs were ON. I ran the last 1.5 miles of that workout at 6:40 pace. 6! A 6 hasn’t flashed on my watch in ….3 months? I was giddy and surprised and happy to be able to run a quick pace again.

The week of 12/16 was an awesome step in the right direction. 40 miles, 5 runs, two “workouts”, and a note in my training log that said “MY LEGS ARE BAAAAACK!”. At the end of that week, I knew that I’d be able to start putting speedwork on the schedule on 12/30 (and that’s still the plan this week). I’m also really happy with my cross-training this week. I was really bad about adding cross-training into my schedule in August-September and  I know that it has to be more of a priority this cycle.

To recap: Week of 12/16

Monday: 8 miles, 7:26 average (“workout” #1:progression run turned steady state)

Tuesday: 5 miles, 8:15 average + hip strength routine

Wednesday: 1 hour yoga + ART (Rest Day)

Thursday: 8.8 miles, 7:39 average (+1 hr belated bday massage)

Friday: 1 hour spin 

Saturday: 12 miles, 7:47 average

Sunday: 6 miles, 8:30 average

TOTAL: 40 miles 

Annnnd that brings us to this week! All of that good stuff that happened the previous week? Yep, it just kept rollin’. I ran a total of 44 miles this week. FORTY-FOUR! I like that number. And I especially liked how the legs are feeling considering I haven’t been to PT for ART since Wed, 12/18. I’ve been going about every 5 days so this stretch of 12 days is a good test especially with strong mileage and a slow build to more difficult workouts.

Week of 12/23: MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Monday: 8 miles, ~8 min pace. 4 miles easy , 3 at 7:20, and 1 mi cooldown.

Tuesday: 5.5 miles, 7:39 average.

Wednesday: REST + Christmas!

Thursday: 10 miles, 7:37 average. (including 8 x 1 min surges at 6:20-40 pace with 1 min recovery)

Friday: REST – family time

Saturday: 14 miles, 7:29 average pace! Really not sure where that pep in my step came from but this felt GREAT!

Sunday: 6 recovery miles, 8:30 pace.

TOTAL: 44 miles + 2 rest days

I wasn’t confident that my legs would come back so soon after a lot of recovery in September and October. I ran zero miles the week of November 3rd. Since then, I’ve run 21, 23, 30, 35, 29, 40, and 44 miles each consecutive week. 7 weeks of patience is paying off, I think.

Now, the hard work really begins!

New (Gifted) Obsessions:

Roll Recovery + Garmin Forerunner 220

#Runnerd Christmas presents: Roll Recovery & Garmin Forerunner 220.

My family was spot on with the Christmas presents this year. Two gifts that I will use literally almost everyday. The Roll Recovery is a torture/recovery tool that I’ve had my eye on since Hood to Coast when Robyn showed me her torturous ways and encouraged me to inflict pain on myself (all in the name of recovery of course!). It was especially handy in a relay scenario because having the time and space to foam roll is virtually impossible. I do my fair share of foam rolling and I really love the Stick but this thing is the real deal. I’ve been able to trigger point muscles that are pretty difficult to reach with a foam roller. Obsessed!

Garmin Forerunner 220Purtyyyyyyy.

Annnnnd the Forerunner 220. I’ve had the huge BRICK AKA Forerunner 305 on my wrist for 2.5 + years. Mind you, I have tiny wrists and this thing is massive compared to my frame. When I took the 220 out of the box, I couldn’t believe how light it was. I wore it almost the entire day and didn’t really notice it. I fits tighter and because it’s so light, it feels like wearing a normal watch (which would be impossible with the ancient 305). I took the watch out to time the satellite lock on Christmas afternoon and it locked onto a satellite in less than 35 seconds. Before my 14-miler yesterday afternoon, I turned the watch on and, I swear, it locked onto the satellite signal in less than 10 seconds. That’s impressive considering the signal lock seems to be much slower in the city than it is in the suburbs. Just knowing that I won’t have to wait 5-8 minutes for the satellite signal each and every time I run, makes me giddy. I’m sure I’ll have more positive things to say about the 220 the more I use it.

So with a new outlook on training, a newfound sense of courage after a crazy 2013, and some new training tools, I think 2014 is going to be a great year.

Did you get a lot of running specific gifts from friends and family members this year? What are your new obsessions?

Do you find it difficult to start a new training cycle? What are ya training for next?!


Lately: COLD, Base-Building, & Strength-Training

2013-12-12 10.31.39

The temp at 10:31 AM today. That’s just…..cold.

First, can we talk about how Chicago is currently enduring January-like weather?! We’ve officially entered the season when I constantly check the weather to decide what time of day to run. And unfortunately, I’ve had to do the majority of my running inside lately. I have a hard time getting outside to run in anything colder than “feels like 10 degrees”. And while we haven’t had to deal with that much snowfall yet, footing is still tricky. Until my quad is back to 100% I’m being super cautious and sticking to the treadmill. And I’m going to have to come to grips with the fact that I’ll need to embrace the treadmill this winter in order to get some strong Boston training in.

Second, running is becoming fun again! (Wahoooooo!) I ran 35 miles last week, which means I’ve been able to increase my mileage every week for the past month (20-35 miles per week, along with cross-training). I’m going to level it off this week at 35 miles and include some fartlek action just to keep things interesting and to see how the leg reacts. I have been playing with the pace a bit this week, but haven’t dipped below 7:40 pace in two weeks. I’m working a lot on my form and focusing on smoothing my stride. I’ve always felt like I have a pretty solid stride but the slight difference between the left and the right certainly caught up with me over 100s of miles this year. It’s been nice to regroup. And it’s a huge relief that 35 miles doesn’t feel like a big ol’ sufferfest right now. I think ART sessions each week have made a big difference–I’m not sure I’d be running comfortably without it to be honest. Woop woop for finding a solution!

Third, I’m working on building strength in weak areas. I lost sight of my strength training in late September and I think it played a huge part in the breakdown. (How I could forget about doing that Jillian Michaels’ 6 Week 6 Pack DVD each Wednesday is beyond me!) I’ve always tried to be consistent in my strength and cross-training but sometimes it’s easier than others. (A peak at some of the strength routines I’ve done in the past.)

My PT and I discussed my weaknesses in November and came up with a few routines that should prevent future injury. A sampling for ya!:

Dynamic Warm-up: before every run

Dynamic Warm-Up

Walking Deadlift / Knee Hugs / Quad Walk / Cradle Walk / Groiners / Donkey Kicks / Iron Cross / Scorpion / Lunge Matrix / Leg Swings / Lateral Leg Swings

Most of these are pretty self explanatory. I notice a big difference when I commit to doing a full warm-up (takes less than 8 minutes) than when I decide to skip it.

Hip Strength Routine: 3 x weekly

Hip Strength Routine for Runners

 I use a TheraBand for #s, 1, 4, & 11. If it feels too easy, I swap out that band for one with greater resistance.

Again, some of these seem so simple and easy but when you do it as a whole routine, you walk out of the gym feeling like you have old lady hips (in a good way?). Doing all of this with your own body weight + a medicine ball/kettlebell is a serious workout for muscles that are typically neglected while training.

If you do one set of 15 reps for each exercise, this should take you at least 25-30 minutes.

Core Routine: 3x weekly

Core Strength Routine for Runners

This is Predawn Runner’s Promethius Core Routine for runners. I’ve been using this routine for almost 2 years now. It’s quick, challenging (more so than it seems), and I feel like it gets the job done. Once I feel like I’m easily doing 2-3 sets with each exercise at 1 min, I do 2 sets with each exercise at 1:30 (using the timer on my phone).

Do you strength train? What’s your favorite exercise? 

Is there a difference between the strength training you do during the on/off seasons?


Happy, Quiet Paths Outside the City

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This is a quiet path in my hometown. Little snow flurries flew as I ran through the woods the day before Thanksgiving.

It was a chance to get off the streets of the city and ‘into the woods’. It came at the right time. A change of scenery and, to some extent, terrain. I was happy to take advantage of a series of paths and trails that run through my hometown. It felt a bit like I was running over the river and through the woods. I always seem to forget that hills exist outside of Chicago. It felt like an adventure even though I considered these same paths to be pretty boring when I lived nearby.

Last week, I ran a total 30 miles, 5 runs. I haven’t run more than 30 miles in one week since the week of September 9th. (what….). That week, I ran 45 miles with two strong workouts and a long run to prepare for the Grand Rapids Marathon. I was on my way to peak week. And then, the breakdown abruptly happened.

Last week, my legs welcomed the miles and my lungs craved some hard work. I probably would have scoffed at 30 miles a few months ago. Today, I’m celebrating it.

I’m getting back to basics.

The base mileage is slowly coming along, with a very gradual increase in miles each week. Along with weekly ART sessions, the easy miles feel like therapy to my legs. I’m sure that the ART treatments will taper off a bit as my legs fully recover. Slow, but steady improvement. The PT said on Monday that he can already tell a difference in the texture of my muscles in my left quad and hip (and it’s only been 3 sessions).

The future is still scary. I want to dominate the Boston training cycle and hope that my body can cooperate. I’m trying to take it day by day and continue to be patient so that April is a celebration of hard work and discipline. I can’t help but bounce around race ideas in my head for late fall 2014.

My brain is in it and my body is coming around to the idea of full training mode again. I think…