Saucony 26 Strong: A ‘Vet’ and A ‘Cadet’

I’m really excited to announce that I’m representing Saucony as part of their 26Strong program this year! On a frigid February morning, I received an email from Saucony asking me if I was interested in helping a first-time marathoner to the finish line of her first 26.2 this fall.

It seems that just when you make a fairly firm decision to take a season off marathon training, the universe conspires against you and presents you with a pretty cool opportunity! 

Saucony 26Strong

The program consists of 13 ‘vets’ and 13 ‘cadets’ from across the country. It’s a smaller group than Saucony had last year and it’s especially exciting for me to be a part of the team this year because it consists of all WOMEN! I’ve met a few of the other vets IRL (Jess, Dorothy, Michele, and Lora) and know a few through the Twittersphere – I’m looking forward to getting to know everyone a bit better!

When Saucony told me that I could personally select my ‘cadet’, I immediately sent an email to my sister, Brittany. It was a no brainer to reach out to her.

The email exchange went something like this:

Me: So ummmmm…do you want to train for your first marathon? I’ll run it with you!

BrittanyI would LOVE to do this but I don’t think I can commit to it until school is over. [Note: she’s finishing her MBA while working full-time. No small potatoes.]

Me: We can do this! As long as you have a decent base, we can begin a full training cycle in August for a December marathon. No pressure…. But if you’re game, I am too! 

Brittany: When do you need to know by? (I knew I had her hooked!) 

Me: Next week?

….Followed up by a phone call a few shorts days later. I can’t remember the details exactly but I think I screamed in her ear something like:

“OH MY GOD ARE YOU SAYING YES?!”

and, after asking a few questions, she responded with something coy & calm like ,”I think I’m saying yes.”

Guys, she said yes.

The truth is that Brittany isn’t really a ‘cadet’ and I don’t quite feel like a marathon ‘vet’. Brittany is not new to running and my 4 marathons hardly make me a vet in my mind.

Brittany is more like a ‘vet‘ than a ‘cadet’, to be honest. She is two years older, approximately 6 inches taller, and has quite the athletic background. Brittany was one of just two girls in her high school graduating class to commit to 12 sports seasons within 4 years…..which means that she never had an off season in her entire high school career. I’m not sure how many people can say that but I think it’s pretty darn cool. She played basketball and ran track all 4 years, played soccer the first 2 years, and ran cross-country the last 2 years. I’m tired just thinking about it. Aren’t you? She’s badass, guys.

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Exhibit A: I stalked my own sister on the interwebs and stumbled on some of her track records from her junior year… (I was aware at the time that she was fast but I don’t think I was able to truly internalize how fast she was running until just recently.)

BrittPooreHSTrack

NBD right? Just a 64.30 personal record in the 400 m and some crazy fast relay times with some speedy ladies. [Brittany contests that “this was a decade ago!”, but I know better. I’m convinced that her legs still have that speed in them and she’s going to completely shock herself in training for an entirely new distance this year.] I was only behind her by two grades, but I was lightyears behind her when it came to athletic prowess. I remember Saturday afternoons when she’d collapse on the couch with a towel wrapped around her head just to nap for a couple of hours (either before or after a practice). I’m not sure I understood that level of exhaustion until I started to train for my first marathon. I remember the excitement of watching her run in the state track meet finals with my parents and twin sister, Lindsey. There was always a basketball game, soccer game, track meet, or cross country meet to go to. Thinking back on Brittany’s 4 years as a high school student athlete, I wonder how she just seemed to get it all done (see napping talent below).

Needless to say, Brittany is prepared for the challenge of running 26.2 miles in more ways than one. (Because, she’s like…really, really, really, good at napping. I’ll have to ask her to share some tips for napping like a pro with us all.)

She’s incredibly determined, hard working, and disciplined in everything that she does. A few weeks ago, our family attended her commencement ceremony to see her receive her MBA diploma. Afterward, we joked that it’s probably a good thing that she has a marathon to train for –otherwise, she wouldn’t know what to do with herself without the obligation of classes (along with a full-time job, duh). She’s always working toward a goal. And it’s one of the things I love about her most. She’s always made the time to commit to things that are important to her, whether they lead to accomplishing professional, academic, athletic, or big LIFE goals.

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It’s a big year for this woman! 

I’m really excited to help Brittany train for her first marathon. Although, in reality, I don’t think she will need much of my help. I’ll just be there to kick in her in the butt when she needs it.

Sooooo what marathon are we running, you ask? The California International Marathon on December 7, 2014! To those of you who’ve run it, tell us all your tidbits, stories, and tips!

 If you want to follow along…

Here we gooooooo!

-J

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A Small “Aha” Moment

I’ve done a bit of thinking this week. I’ve realized a few things:

I’m not really that jazzed about running, training, or racing lately.

Running doesn’t really feel that great (but the fresh air does).

I have 7 weeks until a fall marathon cycle absolutely needs to start.

I really really enjoy a good spin class and reacquainting myself with some strength work is refreshing.

I’ve never been the kind of running that exclaims “oh my goodness, I LOVE LOVE LOVE running!”. I do love it, but I’m not bubbly about it. I truly enjoy the miles and the work that goes into training for a race. The process of training is rewarding because, as long as you work hard and stay disciplined, you almost come out of the cycle with the feeling like you could conquer the world, or at least run as fast as you possibly can to that darn finish line.

Last Saturday, I ran the Soldier Field 10-Miler. It was my first time running this race and, having no races on the horizon, I figured “why not?”. I’m definitely not in race shape and I didn’t really have an expectations going into it. I thought ‘yeah, maybe I’ll tempo a few miles and just see how I feel’. It turns out that’s exactly what I did. I felt fantastic in my runs the week beforehand, but still not strong. It was a beautiful morning, the Man was running it at a solid effort, and I figured I would earn the beer that we would drink at the beer fest afterward.

I was pretty excited to race. After dabbling in some marathon redemption ideas post-Boston (and realizing that my body was definitely not ready for that challenge just yet), I felt like racing anything would make me happy. I was excited to get to a start line. I haven’t run a true ‘workout’ since two weeks before Boston (ha, that feels like a long time). I started conservatively– the course is a bit crowded in the first 2 miles and, because you enter the dark stretch inside McCormick Place fairly soon in the race, there is a lot of jostling (probably because we were scared to face plant in a dark tunnel). My first mile was was 7:45. Once there, I felt like I could pick up the pace.

I settled into 6:50-7:00 pace (basically long tempo pace right now). I felt like I started to tick off the miles. Mile 2 at 6:59. Mile 3 at 6:49, Mile 4 at 6:48, Mile 5 at 6:47, and Mile 6 at 6:49. I felt like I was a running metronome for the first time in many weeks and it felt darn good. Near mile 4.5 (maybe closer to 5?), Manny and I passed each other. He was on Lakeshore Dr. and I was on the lakefront path headed back north to Soldier Field — out and back course. At this point, even though the pace felt decent, I didn’t feel the need to ‘race’ the remaining 4 miles. I was laboring a bit too much on my right calf and my form didn’t feel all that great. Clearly not in racing shape, people! Those little twinges can be serious if I don’t listen to them. The beauty of going into a fun race with absolutely no expectations is that you can do whatever you want – see where it goes. Once I reached mile 6, I decided to stop and wait for Manny. Yep, never done that before! He was excited to race and he’s really getting fit in advance of his Chicago Marathon cycle starting soon. He didn’t need my help but I figured he might want some company. He saw me on the side of the path and said “what the f&*% are you doing?” as he ran closer. I laughed and just told him to keep running, that I’d help pace him. He hated me for approximately 3 miles. (I always feel like if I don’t feel some sense of hatred for my own coach during a workout or race then I probably didn’t race hard enough. So, I’m considering this a success!)

We paced evenly to the finish and he ran toward the 50-yard line in flying airplane fashion. You know, for a badass race photo. Exhibit A:

AirplaneManny

Impressive, no?

Annnnd, after immediately collecting our things from gear check, we were one of the first to enjoy a Goose Island beer…at 8:45 AM on a Saturday.

2014-05-24 09.04.01Beerz. Sunshine. Running.

Last week, I thought I’d be ready to get back to some decent base mileage. I wanted to start putting in the work. But my legs haven’t really felt that fresh and I’m not mentally ready for a training cycle to begin. And, for once, I’m listening to that voice in the back of my head that says, “hey, Jenny, it’s not all about running!” I’ve been happier going to spin and yoga in the past few weeks than I have been running. If my body doesn’t want to run 50 miles a week, I’m not going to make it … at least not right now.

I read this quote today and it practically jumped off the page at me:

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I am choosing to be smart and happy for the next 6 weeks. I have the opportunity to be smart and I’m taking it. I’m not obligated to run high mileage weeks and it won’t get me anywhere right now. I keep reminding myself that it’s not all about the numbers and that taking a few weeks of relatively low mileage won’t hurt me. I’m excited to focus on getting (and most importantly, feeling stronger) so that I’m ready to run (and race) my heart out this fall.

Do you find it difficult to take time off? What prompts you to take a step back?

– J

Squashing the Post-Boston Blerch

Oh hey there! It seems I either forgot I have a blog or had no inspiration to write. I think both happened, to be honest. 

Now that I’m a month removed from the sting of Boston, I’m beginning to get more excited about running and racing the rest of this year. I spent a few weeks feeling pretty bummed about my race. It took me awhile to process and, I think, for good reason. Marathon training and racing can be so tough because you have to work your a** off in order for the fitness gains to follow and then you still have relatively little control over how the race actually goes. Not to mention you spend months avoiding even entertaining the idea that you won’t meet your goal — you have to think you will run your goal time when you spend hours, days of your life training. Because that’s how you get through it. You hope and believe it will happen.

And then, when I didn’t run my goal time, I let myself feel bad about it for a relatively short while. And now, just this week, I feel excited to just … run, with no real attachments or concrete goals. 

On Thursday, I went to a spin class in the morning. I haven’t gone to a class in awhile and I was looking forward to creating a pool of sweat under the bike. It was just what I needed. A longggggg hill along with plenty of sprints & jumps — and an hour later and I felt like a million bucks. And then, I realized that The Man had a workout to do after work. And I thought, “yeah, I could join him”. So, we ran to the lakefront together and started his workout shortly after. We ran 4 x 3 min “surges”. I let him set the pace on the first repeat and then we alternated. (So I guess I’m now I’m a rabbit-coach-girlfriend.) And damn! That dude can run! I wasn’t expecting to see a “6” on my watch that day, but it appears he has a lot more pick-up than I do these days. Note: He may or may not have given me the middle finger on one of those repeats. But this only means that I’m doing my job as Coach, right? I’m not sure I’ve ever gone to a spin class AND run in a single day before. It was my first ‘workout’ since Boston – and while it felt a wee bit creaky, it felt so good to run fast again. 

Sunday’s run was even more fun. I didn’t really have much of a plan, but I thought I’d run 10-12 miles. I had an extremely lazy morning after sleeping for approximately 10 hours (what kind of heaven is this?!) before heading out. It was a GORGEOUS day, fairly warm with a breeze off the lake. The lakefront was BUSY. It’s officially the season of dodging tourists on Segways (I must have seen 50 of ’em on this run) and yelling at cyclists that are riding slower than I am running (no, I’m not kidding). I promise I was happy to see a busy lakefront but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t let a few curse words fly. I ran 2 miles to the lake with Man and then ran south. After mile 5, my legs started to feel super energetic. I had so much ‘get up and go’, I was shocked. By mile 8, I felt amazing and I thought it would be fun to see what the legs could do the last few miles. My last three mile splits were 7:01, 6:50, and 6:34 (say what?!), so I basically ran an impromptu 11-mile progressive. CUE RUNNER’S HIGH. I’m not sure where the pep came from but I’m glad it returned. I was beginning to think most of my runs would continue to feel like running through sand.

Annnnnd because I’m just letting the good times roll, I signed up for the Soldier Field 10-miler this weekend. I’ve never run a 10-mile race before, so the automatic PR will be joyous. I’m planning on skipping the free post-race beer and heading to a beer fest that afternoon instead. Run hard, beer hard right? 

Speaking of beer, here’s a fun fact for you:

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So, post-Boston “blerch” has been squashed & I’m looking forward to a fun summer and fall. Who’s with me?

-J