A New Challenge

I’ve been struggling with one fussy left hip the past few weeks. I can feel it ache when I lay on my left side in bed, it’s vocal during portions of easy runs, and it, in general, feels like it needs some TLC. Like most runners, I don’t like to rest. I feel like that’s all I’ve done since the Twin Cities Marathon over two months ago. My mileage is somewhat laughable and enormously inconsistent. All I want to do right now is jump into a solid training cycle and challenge myself again. My heart says yes but (right now), my body is saying no.

So, this week. I am going to NOT run. I am going to cross train and strengthen. I went to a 90 minute vinyasa yoga class during lunch today and felt incredibly challenged. Lunges that I did two days ago are still locking up my quads and there are definitely muscles that needs to lengthened and strengthened. I feel like I’m going to go stir crazy, break down, and hop on the treadmill for “just a few miles”. I don’t want to. I want my hip to be kind to me and stop bumming me out.

I foam rolled and stretched right when I woke up this morning. Foam rolling the area seems to help for a bit, but then the muscles lock up again (I sincerely hope this is a muscular issue, as opposed to a skeletal one). I’m more conscious about how I sit when I’m working. I’m hoping this is something that a deep, sports massage can take care of.

Ok, I lied. I might go for a birthday run this weekend. But it definitely won’t be the 12-13 I was hoping to log.

Self-imposed challenge accepted.

Here We Go Again!

Today marks the first day of a 15-week marathon training plan toward Twin Cities on October 6th. It will be my 2nd marathon. I’m going to force my head to sit straight on my shoulders and do the following starting today:

I’ve been playing games with myself since Memorial Day weekend when I didn’t run the race I was hoping to run at Bayshore. I missed my goal by 1:16. It was the first half marathon since last April that I didn’t run a personal record. I knew this day would come. Before each half marathon, I’d ask myself (and others), “what’s going to happen if I don’t run a personal record this time?” and “how am I going to feel?”.  Yes, I assumed I’d be disappointed and that the first post-race beer wouldn’t taste quite the same if I failed. Bottom line: I knew that I’d get down on myself despite knowing that every race is a different beast to conquer and you never really know how the race will turn out despite a consistent training plan and whole heck of a lot of determination.

These past few weeks, I threw an internal temper tantrum and the only person it affected was me. I was bummed. I ran but I wasn’t happy about it. I went through the motions but didn’t enjoy the miles. I rarely experienced a “runners high” and my disappointment carried over into my work. Easy runs seemed really difficult because of my bad attitude. I found reasons to be unhappy about other things because running wasn’t giving me the kick I needed anymore. I’ve learned a lot about myself since running Bayshore.

I know this post probably sounds dramatic. So what if I missed my goal by a minute?! I still ran a great race! Jenny (Version 2010) would have smacked me in the face for not celebrating my accomplishment. But we all go through these highs and lows. It was just the first time that I experienced a “low” that caused my motivation to waver. I allowed my disappointment to get the best of me, but  I always know that I’ll get myself out of the funky part of not performing well. I’m hardwired to get back into action and stop pitying myself.

It just took time and a pep talk to make sure I’m ready and willing to have fun again. So that’s what I’m going to do.

I’ll run my first speed session of the training cycle tonight and see what my legs (and heart) are made of. I’ll push myself because I know that I can. And I’ll celebrate those small victories because they are what make the big ones possible. I can be an extremely impatient person, but running makes me patient. I’m going to “exhale ‘can’t, inhale ‘can’, and LACE UP” because I’m happier when I do.

When was the last time you were in a funk? How did you get out of it?


Taper Thoughts: Carmel Half Edition

T-A-P-E-R! You’re finally here. And I like you. I invite you into my life. Bring on the laziness, the hydration, the stretching routine, and the weirdness of running a lower mileage this week. Sometimes I don’t like you, but you’re my friend right now. The legs agree with me. They need a little down time because they want to HAUL ASS at this weekend’s half marathon. They know they can run a personal record, but only with some rest beforehand.

In all seriousness, I am embracing the rest this week. I’ve been eating well and indulging a little bit here and there. Yesterday, I spent the entire day in a Wicker Park coffee shop working and this chocolate croissant was just calling to me.

I couldn’t resist it. Buttery-chocolatey goodness and Intellgentsia coffee? = PERFECTION.

I tend to use a taper week as a time to do things I wouldn’t normally do. Given that I’m dedicating less time to running this week, I’m finding other ways to keep myself busy. A friend asked me if I’d go with him to Fleet Feet to get some running shoes and I, of course, say YES! I love helping others decide on the right gear and the folks at Fleet Feet know their stuff. Plus, I need to stock up on some Nuun and Gu before this weekend’s race.

I’ve also been trying to be consistent in my cross-training so that I can avoid injury as much as possible. I popped in a Rodney Yee yoga DVD (yes, I’m that nerdy) the other night at home and stretched out some muscles that really needed some love. And, in the process, I worked to strengthen others that have gone unused. The Total Body routine seriously worked my back with all of those back bends (upward bow and wheel poses). My arms are even sore from holding myself up!!

Taper’s always a good time to knock some things off the To Do list too. I did 3 loads of laundry the other night, went grocery shopping, and did some other things around the apartment that I’ve been putting off. Ok, so it’s less fun and exciting than eating chocolate croissants and doing yoga, but it had to be done!

Most importantly, I’ve been working on committing my race strategy to memory. I can get pretty technical with a pace strategy, but it seems to work for me and, in general, I don’t have a tough time sticking to the plan.

My pace for the end of the half = HAUL ASS

I segment a half marathon into 5k or 3-mile increments and decide on pace according to my goal time. I’ve consistently run a PR in the half marathon by using a negative-split strategy. And the race itself feels almost like a longer version of the progressive tempo runs that I do throughout my training. Sometimes I made adjustments if the elevation presents challenges at a certain portion of the race. For example, I give myself a target pace range during a hilly part of a race course rather than a hard pace target. That way, I don’t psych myself out and get discouraged that my pace is off target.

I have to say, I get nervous just looking at the pace targets above. I wasn’t nervous for the Rock ‘n Roll Half Marathon because I had just flown into D.C. from Madrid and I just wanted to run a good race. I told myself that if I ran a PR, I ran a PR but that it wouldn’t be the end of the world if I didn’t meet that goal. But this time around, I’m setting my sights on a strong 1:36, which is 2 minutes faster that my current PR.

It’s easy to think about these things and bury yourself in nervous anxiety. But then I think about the hard work that I’ve put into this training cycle and how much faster I’ve been running my speed workouts–and I realize, I have it in me.

I’ve worked hard. So here goes!

How do you keep your mind and body busy during a taper week? Do you have certain rituals or superstitions that help you prepare for race day?