Thursday, October 30, 2014

Trust Your Training (in retrospect, kind of a #TBT post)

A couple days ago, I posted this on the wall of one of my marathon training groups:

I received tons of helpful encouragement...which isn't surprising. This group is pretty awesome. Their responses also reminded me of something important: the race is the culmination of training...and it's important to trust in that training to get you over the finish line.

So, with 30 - yes THIRTY - days to go until my first full, and with my first 20-miler on Saturday, I've taken a moment to review the highs of this training cycle so far.

I've been running outside. Last year I gave in to the temptation of AC in the sweltering summer months and ran on the treadmill for every run...even my long runs. That meant my first 15-miler ever was done in the gym while watching The Fast and the Furious. (No wonder it seemed so quick and easy; I had lots of eye candy to distract me!) This year, I dropped my gym membership to avoid the 'mill and ran every single training run outside, which has made me mentally and physically stronger.
I've been exploring new routes to keep myself interested; the golf course behind my house is a new favorite spot.
I've been cross-training. I know working on my core and upper body has made me a stronger runner.
Deck of cards workout: done!
I've been dedicated to my speed work. I slipped for a couple weeks, but have been fairly consistent in running the bridge of doing 400s whenever my plan calls for them.
...even if speed work means bridge repeats at 4:30am before work.
I've completed my long runs. Even if some were slower than planned, I got them done. And I've enjoyed them most of the time. Conquering long runs also means I've been finessing and perfecting my fueling on the run.

I've avoided injury and burnout. My plan only calls for three runs a week, and while this plays with my head sometimes, I do think it's the best kind of plan for me, at least right now. I can balance work and catch up on sleep more easily, I can fully recover from each run, and I haven't felt bored or hateful toward running like I have during other training cycles.
My love affair continues.
Looking back at the last sixteen weeks, I know I've come a long way. I still have doubts about certain aspects of my training, but I'm really trying to focus on the positives. Once I have twenty miles under my belt, I think I'll really feel ready to tackle the Space Coast. (If someone can ever feel "ready" for a marathon!)
And before you know it, race month is a weekend away!
And hopefully that "ready" feeling will last me through November, because the hardest part of training is right around the corner!

On race day, do you trust your training?
How do you get yourself psyched up for a milestone run?


Monday, October 27, 2014

A Run Like That

I don't know what got into me today, but I wasn't feeling right. It started after classes had ended, when my planning period began. I sat down to get some grading done and realized it's only Monday.

We had our first volleyball tryout today, which was really fun...but by the time I got home I was feeling a bit melancholy. It took me longer than I planned to get going for my short recovery run tonight; by the time I got outside, the sun was well below the horizon.
I spent a little time watching that lone heron.
The moon was a perfect silver sliver overhead; the trees burned orange with the last rays of the sun. As it grew darker, frogs crossed my path in droves. The night had cooled. I was the only one on the course.

At one point, I closed my eyes and ran with my arms outstretched.

I used the first mile to warm up, to feel a little alive, to shake off whatever was weighing me down.

At the end, I flew. I pushed my last mile into sub-9s and held it there. I felt my mind and body wake up and come alive...I breathed deeply, felt my lungs open, felt the blood rushing through my body. I felt weightless and free.

Sometimes we just need a run like that.

When's the last time you ran just for the love of it?


Sunday, October 26, 2014

It's Saturday! Never Get My Fill of It...

Remember back in elementary school when all the music classes had to put on choir concerts? There's one song from one such concert - it must have been fourth or fifth grade - that pops back into my head with perfect clarity every weekend. Hence the post title.

Scarred for life, guys.

My Saturday was definitely the best day all week long (as the song goes) this week. It started with a very cool and breezy 8-miler with Tracey. I accidentally paused my Nike+ at mile four so I can't see my splits, but we completed the run in just under an hour-thirty, so I know we kept a nice pace for an LSD, and I know we picked it up at the end.
Oh fall, I love you.
Now don't get me wrong, eight miles isn't easy and it's not painless, but it just seems so much easier and more doable since I've been lengthening my long runs. It's so much easier to wrap my head around eight; I didn't even end up needing to fuel.

(Later in the day I caught myself saying "only eight miles" and had to make a conscious effort to stop. I don't want to be that runner. Eight miles is nothing to sneeze at; runners who talk like this deserve all the rolled eyes they get.)

We finished before sunrise. I guess that's how you know winter is looming.
Post-run breakfast: a Van's whole grain GF waffle with syrup and an over-easy egg.
After the run, I met Matt after his first SUP race of the day. He had two: one 4.5-miler and another just under three miles. The second race was put on by the city for their annual fall festival, River Fest. There was a big group of Matt's friends racing, so I had company in their SO's while we waited for them downriver. Because of the festival, the park was packed with food, games, and music to entertain us while we waited for awards to be announced.
Matt at the start of the downriver race.
Jared, Justin, Meg, and Matt after the awards. Justin and Meg placed first in their divisions; Matt placed second!
Enjoying the perfect weather!
We finished the day with food truck barbecue and a light nap. All our afternoon activity in the sun really wiped me out.
Photo courtesy of Meg...I had pulled pork and coleslaw. Yum!
I'm looking forward to a very lazy day tomorrow!

Did you run long or race this weekend?
Does your city host a fall festival of any kind?
What's your favorite season?


Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Rocktoberfest 10 Miler

The success of Saturday burned out all my nerves for Sunday's race. I woke up without any anxiety, but unfortunately that also meant I didn't have much adrenaline, either. I felt loose and relaxed, but not especially race-hyped.
Another chilly morning! I got really lucky this weekend.
Mari and I met Kristin at the mall before sunup and she drove us to the race. We got to the venue about 45 minutes before the start time, and my biggest complaint of the day occurred at arrival - the bathrooms were locked. Groups of runners were hanging out near the bathrooms waiting for someone to bring a key, but the race organizers couldn't help us.

You all know how important bathroom usage is pre-race! Luckily, Kristin knew the park pretty well and we were able to find another set of bathrooms on the playground. Unlocked!
At the starting line!
This race can be run two different ways: as a 10-miler or as a 5-mile relay. Kristin was signed up for the relay, and Mari and I were both signed up for the full 10 miles. Obviously this meant we had different racing strategies to consider.

It was still dark when the race began. I clipped my sunglasses to my new belt and that worked really well - they didn't jiggle or bounce at all. I'll post a little review of the belt sometime soon because I'm very happy with it.

Anyway, I ate a Peanut Butter and Chocolate Gu at the starting line and then we were off! We stayed together for the first two miles or so, and even that early on I knew I was in for a huge mental battle. My legs were tired. I reminded myself that they had felt tired for the Sanibel race too but were able to make it to the end, so this was really more about mind-over-matter than anything else.
Part of our really was a very pretty race for the most part!
Around the second mile, Kristin broke off and Mari and I let her go so we could keep an easier pace, keeping in mind that we had twice as many miles to cover!

At the halfway point I ate a Salted Caramel Gu. (I have to say that neither Gu compared to the Caramel Macchiato. I never felt the same surge of energy and I definitely hit the wall later in the race. Part of it was probably my tired legs.)
Kristin got a shot of Mari and me at mile 5!
I felt a few very minor twinges in my hamstrings during the middle miles of the race and began to back off my pace. (Big picture: the marathon is in 40 days! No injuries can happen here!) I was seriously struggling around mile 7.5 and told Mari she could go ahead without me. At which point she said, "No way, we're finishing this together!" She is seriously so positive all the time and was just running for the fun of it...If she had gone ahead, I probably would have walked at some point.
Sticking together.
As it was,  I was able to hold my pace fairly consistently (although I didn't see any negative splits) and finish in a respectable time. I wasn't sure I'd be able to sprint any of the end, but in the last hundred meters I found a little reserve and forced myself to finish strong.
Coming in to the finish!
Besides the tired legs, the other mental battle was the route. While the race wound through a really beautiful park, the loop repeated three times, and the second time we passed it they had already set up for the finish, which meant we had to run right past it and keep on trucking.

(Because it was a loop, the first-place finisher lapped us on the route, which had never happened to me before. And yes, we heard them announce his finish as we got to mile 7 or so, and I was flabbergasted. Talk about speedy!)
I am beyond proud of myself for running both these races back-to-back. Regarding this particular one, I'm proud that I came in within my goal time (my A goal was 1:40 and my B was 1:50), kept a pace well under my long-run pace, and didn't give in to the urge to walk.
I would have loved to hit 1:40, but I'm still pleased with my time. I placed 11th in my AG for both this weekend's races. Weird.
I pretty much collapsed on this bench as soon as I crossed the finish line. My legs were dead.
After the race, we ate at Skillets...this may possibly be my new favorite restaurant, and I'm sure you can understand why.
So many gluten free options! Kristin, who's also GF, especially loves the little label sticks that set our minds at ease!
I'm grateful for a cut-back week this long-run will be 9-10 miles this coming weekend, and then the next weekend...finally...I'll tackle my 20!


Sunday, October 19, 2014

Sanibel Race for FISH 10k

I couldn't have asked for a better race Saturday. I need to be honest here: I didn't have a strategy or plan in mind until about a mile into the race. I knew I wanted to run conservatively because I have Rocktoberfest tomorrow, and I knew I wanted to beat my last time on this course (65:00), but I also knew my PR on the course (58:41) was out of reach. Beyond that, I had no plans.

But let me start from the beginning. (It's a very good place to start.) 

Kristin planned to meet me at my house with Kristina - her babysitter and an old student of mine - at 5:30am, then I would drive to the race, which didn't start until 7:30. We wanted ample time to get there. So at 4:50 I got up and had iced coffee, put on the day's racing outfit, and had a Glutino poptart.
I knew it would be a good race when I woke up to this!
When we got into the car, this is what greeted me:
Matt couldn't make this race, but he made sure I knew he was thinking of me!
We headed out right on time and got to the race venue early. We already had our packets, which were full of some pretty fun stuff this year, so we had time to use the bathrooms, eat an Espresso Love Gu, and get everything ready before lining up.
Our race packets included a backpack, water battle, t-shirt, frisbee, B12 shot, and protein powder sample.

Kristin and me pre-race.
Really excited at the starting line!
In the first mile, my legs felt a little...sore? Achy? I don't have a good word for it. They felt like I'd been doing anaerobic exercises recently, which I haven't been. They didn't really hurt or even feel weak, but they didn't feel fresh. Still, I kept a nice pace for that first mile and just reminded myself over and over to take it slow in the first half.

It was then that I decided to chase 62 minutes. It's a nice round number that means a sub-10 pace, which would be just fast enough to feel accomplished without burning myself out for Sunday's race.

I hit the 5k clock around 32 minutes, at which time I felt I'd been moving along at a leisurely pace and was taking it too easy. I made the conscious decision to put a little more fuel on the fire. 

At this point, I began to pass many of the people who had sprinted ahead of me around miles 2 and 3. This always seems to happen; I get a kind of sick pleasure out of being "slow and steady" and watching so many people burn themselves out. That's terrible sportsmanship, but it's true. I'm proud of myself for knowing how to stay on pace and keep the bigger picture in mind.

Around mile 4.5 I saw Kristin coming along the turn-around and she high-fived me. (At mile 5.5, I returned the favor and cheered for Kristina as she came up the road.) I usually slow down 2/3 into a race, and for this one that distance corresponds to a dirt road from mile 4 to about 5.5. This time, I didn't let myself slow. In fact, I kicked it up and kept a faster pace at that point, even holding it to mile 6. When I knew I was close, I dropped the hammer.
Rounding the final turn...
As usually happens, once I cranked up the pace at the end, those around me followed suit. The dash to the finish was neck-and-neck-and-neck.

My sprint at the end was the epitome of ugly form was atrocious, my lips were pulled back in a snarl, and I was taking the biggest, ground-eating-est strides I could. But I had to. The clock read 1:01:50 when I rounded the corner, and I wanted 1:02 so badly I could taste it.
Boom. Mission accomplished. Negative-split race and right on time!
 Let's take a moment to appreciate this face:
Matt calls this my "Terminator Face."
Here's something important that occurred to me as I grabbed a water: my last race in April was a 10k that I ran as an end to my training for the winter/spring before taking a little time off. I ran it to enjoy it, and came in at 65 minutes. (This seems to be my usual when I'm not trying.) Running harder - but still holding back from what I knew I could do - boosted my confidence for the marathon. I know a 10k is less than a quarter of the marathon distance, but just remembering what it feels like to run a good race has helped tremendously.
And funnily enough, I felt I didn't get enough of a workout. 10k seems...downright short, really.

One other cool thing that happened at the finish line was that an older guy sought me out and told me he'd been trying to read my tattoo most of the race, and he really liked it and found it motivating.

Kristin came in at 59:43, meeting her sub-60 goal, and Kristina - who was running her first 10k ever - placed first in her age group! All-in-all, we were very happy with our performances.
Post-race breakfast!
Meg (you may remember her from Ragnar, too) met us at the finish and we went to breakfast at one of Sanibel's many kitschy restaurants.

After returning home and taking a very brief nap, I hung up my medal and we went out to meet Kristin and her husband Stephen for an Oktoberfest lunch at a local pub. We enjoyed drinks and bar food; it was the perfect way to cap off the day's festivities.
This year's medal is definitely the cutest!
My solid race has me beyond excited for tomorrow's...Or, you know, by the time you're reading's!


Thursday, October 16, 2014

Something Old, Something New

Tuesday's recovery run was the perfect example of why "recovery" means "easy pace". I took Sunday and Monday off after my 15-miler and my legs felt amazing, but after two miles Tuesday they were wobbly as hell.
Wet phone = melty runfie.
I guess as awesome as my legs felt, they were still a little tapped from the long run. At least the view was pretty, and there was a nice drizzle.
Anyway, I'm super excited for this weekend. Tonight I picked up my race packet for Sunday's race and seeing the medal on display and getting my bib just reminded me of how much I love racing.

It's been since April that I've raced, and part of me has been thinking I'm kind of over it. I had to skip a bunch of my usual fall races because we've been trying to spend wisely, and I don't really mind making that sacrifice.

But wow, am I excited to toe the starting line twice this weekend!

The something old race is the Sanibel 10k I've done twice before (in 2012 and 2013). I love the route and the cause. The something new race is the Rocktoberfest 10-miler. I've never run a 10 mile race before (the 15k I did last year was close I guess), so it's not only a new race, but also a new distance...automatic PR, right?
This may be the lowest bib number I've ever worn...and it's my lucky number, too!
More than 50 members of the Sub-30 Club are in PA for the Runner's World Festival. I couldn't make it this year, but luckily someone had the bright idea to send flatties in our places. Flat!Ali is already enjoying pho and good company thanks to Patricia!
Apparently Flat!Ali can eat gluten. Lucky.
I also picked up a belt to try out over the next few weeks before the marathon. I'd like to be able to put my phone in the belt and have room for Gu...I've been chafing under my armband and the velcro is giving up, too, so I definitely want to avoid wearing it for like...six hours of running.

On a different note, this week has been rough...not running-wise, but work-wise. Sometimes I just feel like I'm missing the mark. Once in awhile, especially when report cards loom, all I can think about is sleep. (Yes, quarter 1 ends Monday. Isn't that crazy?!) This is a candid Matt took the other night:
I'm literally asleep and Archie is sleeping perched on my eyeball.
When Matt showed me this I nearly died laughing. I was so exhausted I fell asleep and stayed asleep for over an hour with the light on and the bird on my face!

After a couple good nights' sleep, some wine, and an incredibly therapeutic bridge run with Kristin, I'm feeling much better.

When is the last time you raced?
 What's the weirdest place/position you've slept in?
What makes you feel better after a rough week?
 Photos of you sleeping: cute or creepy? I'd say creepy 99% of the time but this one is acceptable because it's really more of Archie than myself.


Sunday, October 12, 2014


Saturday at 8:30am, my confidence was fully restored.

I rolled out of bed at 4:15 and had a poptart and Caramel Macchiato flavored Gu, the pre-LSD breakfast of champions. I was out the door and into the pleasant 71-degree morning by 5:15.
The guys at Fit2Run were like, "Uh...stocking up?" I got two of each so Matt and I could both try them. Caramel Macchiato is my new favorite flavor. It's not too sweet and has a nice coffee-flavored kick.
My plan was to run my parents' neighborhood three times. The main road is a 3-mile loop with one offshoot that adds two more miles. I wanted to be done by 8:30 so I could make it to Matt's race in time to see him finish, so I was aiming to complete15-16 miles in three hours.
I ran the first five miles without any music; it was just me and the wild that is the golf course. There were quite a few frogs, but most of the creatures out at that time were of the silent variety; I saw bats, deer, and a bobcat.
A mama and fawn stopped grazing to watch me pass.
At mile 5.5 I paused for Gu (Peanut Butter this time) and water, then went back home to use the bathroom. It was my one and only "pause" on this run. I was beyond happy that I was able to run basically the entire thing.
My paces were so consistent, I couldn't have been happier.
I took the same loop backward for the second round. There are two water stations right near the sidewalk and I paused once along each repeat for a sip, and snacked on Lifesavers as I went.
Sandhill cranes taking a leisurely stroll.
Water-stop selfie.
By the time I finished the second loop I was bored and didn't want to have to cover that one random offshoot a third time, so I turned into a subdivision and ran two miles there, then completed the 3-mile loop one more time.
By the end it was starting to warm up, but I was filled with confidence. I knew there was no way I'd fail to finish this long run, and in the three hours I had planned!

The last mile was my fastest and included the one big hill on the run!
I cleaned up and drove to Matt's 10k SUP race; I got there with plenty of time to see him finish. 
Matt coming in toward the end.
There were two dolphins playing right near the last quarter mile.
This was the last in a series of races and Matt placed first for his division for Saturday's races! (He came in 4th in this 10k, and 1st in the sprint race right after, and the points averaged out to first place.)
He looks thrilled.
I had literally no pain post-run except in my right kneecap, but it was gone by the next morning. Considering this was the distance that left me injured last year, I'm pretty excited that this year 15 miles can go in the books as a success.

Beast mode: on. Training: full speed ahead!

How did you spend your weekend?
What kind of wildlife do you see on your runs?