Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Half Marathon Training - Why am I doing this? .01

There are some days/weeks that things just don’t seem to go the way you wanted or expected them to. That was last week for me regarding my training. It’s my own fault, so I can’t really blame it on anyone but me, except in this case I had help. I have a tendency to stay up too late in general, but now it’s starting to affect my training. Even while I know that I need a certain amount of sleep to be able to function in general let alone train, I still find myself on the phone or awake at 11pm or midnight almost every night. Being that I have to be out the door at 5am to get my run in, you can see how this would be a problem for me. Just this morning I slept through my alarm and didn’t get my 4 mile run done. If I was going to miss a run, this would be the day to do it since I did my long run on Sunday instead of Saturday, but is beside the point. I may actually have to sign a contract committing to myself that I will not sabotage my own training.

Here are the things that I need to work on:
1 Getting proper rest
2 Eating healthy
3 Hydrate appropriately
4 Work on Core
5 Strength training

I’m sure there are more things that I need to work on, but those are the things that I’m going to focus on for now. The only way for me to accomplish my goals is to stick to the plan and ease myself into each of the new disciplines (I have none).

I already know that I need a minimum of 6 hours of sleep to function, so I will be setting a 10pm curfew on evenings preceding normal training/long runs and a 9pm curfew the night before a track workout (I live an hour away from our training location).

Eating healthy has always been a little bit of a struggle for me. I like my soda and skittles, way too much. I’ll be limiting the amount of soda I drink and instead, drinking at least 64oz of water per day. Lunch will be the more difficult change. I frequently forget to pack a lunch, partly because I don’t want to wake up earlier to do it and partly because I completely forget to do it. When I have packed a lunch in the past it was a processed microwave entrĂ©e, which I know is probably not the best choice. Time to pre-plan some meals I think and put them together Sunday night.

Hydration is something that I struggle with both prepping for a run and during a run. For runs that are 4 miles or less I don’t typically bring any water with me (maybe I should), but I wear a fuel belt with two 10oz flasks for runs that I will be out for 1 hour or more. You got excited when I said flask, but they’re really for water or some sort of electrolyte drink (i.e. Gatorade or something like it). My coach recommended that I drink 2oz of liquid every 15 minutes, but for some reason I have a hard time doing that. Also, at that point it is kind of like closing the barn after the horse has already escaped. I probably didn’t hydrate well enough prior to the run so what little water I drink during the run is like trying to plug a Dam leak with chewing gum. I’m already dehydrated. This is something I’m working on. I probably need a night/morning pre-run check list.

People have been telling me for a while that strengthening my core will make me a faster, more efficient runner. While I believe them, I have just been lazy and haven’t done it. I think about it a lot though. We all know that thinking about it isn’t getting my abs any flatter or stronger though. As a single Mom time and energy are in short supply, so I need to find the right exercise that will get me results in a minimal amount of time. I’ll be getting some recommendations from my coach to do this.

Strength training falls under the same category as core. Time and energy are in short supply. I do have some motivation for this since I do pay for a gym membership and my Daughter has been begging for me to take her to the gym with me for weeks. I did purchase a book titled Running Anatomy that has some really good strength exercises in it specifically to help Runners build the muscles that are the most important for them to maintain good form and prevent injury. Right now, the plan is to photocopy pages from the book since the workouts are recommended to do in certain groups to be most effective.

As you can see by this list, I have a lot of work to do. I know that if I can stick with it though, that it will have huge payoffs down the road in both pace and perceived effort. With that said, I’m off tonight to do some grocery shopping and am also consulting the team nutritionist for the team I run with. Happy Running!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Half Marathon Training - Why am I doing this?

I frequently get asked why I run, or why I choose to train for Half Marathons. I will add my disclaimer that I am by no means fast, as my coach and good friend so frequently points out to me. This hasn't stopped me from doing it though and his tough love approach is pushing me to improve every week. I think it is a combination of my inner competitiveness and my desire to prove to him that I can be competitive with other athletes in my age group on race day as well. He is still getting to know me as a runner, so we are still figuring out how hard he can push me during practice, and what my goal times will be every week. Yesterday was my Fourth track workout, for which I was assigned Three 1600M (1 mile) repeats with a 600M recovery in between. My goal pace was 8:30-8:40 for each mile (based upon my previous weeks assigned 800M pace). As a point of reference, my fastest 5k (3.1 mile) race time was 29:16 which translates to a 9:24 pace. At first I was a little concerned that I wouldn't be able to reach his ambitious goal, but would try it regardless. As a new runner, I am still learning all sorts of things about the sport and even how to operate all of the cool functions on my Garmin GPS watch. Unfortunately I was not able to hit my prescribed splits, but my times were consistent for each of my Three miles. Anyone who knows me will not be surprised by the fact that I was really upset about not being able to hit my prescribed splits, but after talking with my coach, he is adjusting his training schedule based on this performance as well, since his pace may have been a little too ambitious for me at this point.

This is just background as to what my life as a runner is like, but does not answer the question “Why am I doing this?” I don’t think there is one answer to that. It started out as my getting out in the morning to have some time to myself and after the finish of my first 5k on May 14th, 2010, became an addiction and sparked a desire to get faster and make running a significant part of my life. After that first race, I started reading everything I could find online about running, whether it be form, nutrition, training, stretching, injuries, hydration, road etiquette and numerous other things. If I was going to take this on, I wanted to go into it knowing everything I could. Running has also been really good therapy for me. As a single Mom there are a slew of stresses that I have to deal with during the day, whether it’s job stress, stress with my Daughter, or stress with “the ex”. Running is my release. It allows me a set time of the day where I don’t have to hold any other title than “Runner”. It has also been a way for my Daughter and I to bond since I have been so blessed as to have her share my love of running.

I started training for my first Half Marathon in October of 2010 following a training plan that another friend/coach put together for me. I trained for that race mostly alone and battled with Iron deficiency and illness which derailed my training for 4 weeks. Watching all of the progress I had made go down the drain so to speak was frustrating and I had to try and keep things in perspective. I even allowed myself to be flexible with my goal for the race itself. My finish time was not as fast as I had hoped it would be, but when I look at the event and what I got out of it, I’m happy. My training has changed since I returned home from that adventure. I’ve added weight training and speed workouts to the schedule and have surrounded myself with people who share the same passion for running as I have.

This time around I run 5 days a week instead of the 4 I did before, and have added harder and longer speed workouts, but I’m starting to see some payoffs. Training in the summer is an exercise in patience and stamina, but will ultimately make me a stronger, faster runner. My best advice to myself and other for summer training is be patient and adjust accordingly. Heat effects effort. If you measure your workout by effort instead of pace or Heart Rate instead of pace it will be much less frustrating. Top coaches will adjust an athlete’s time/pace goals by 20% to compensate for the effects heat has on the body and perceived effort.

The next installment will cover more day-to-day training and all of the little details, but I’m sure at some point there will be more time for storytelling. Happy running!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

87 days and counting

There are just 87 days until the Women's Half Marathon and I'm starting to question how ready I'll be, at least to run it at the pace I want. I've started going to track workouts with a different group which so far is a lot tougher and I feel more accountable to my coach / friend for my effort and performance. The only downside is how tired my legs are for my runs over the days after. I'm going to try to be patient and take things as they come. Happy running.