Saturday, January 26, 2013

Marathon Training Plan

My dad and I are running the Potomac River Marathon on Sunday, May 5. It will be dad's first marathon. He has hinted once or twice (or more) that he may drop back to the half, but I will run the full no matter what. I haven't run a marathon since March 2011, and I really like the distance.

I haven't used a pre-made training plan ever. This time, though, I was feeling less-than-confident. Having a baby and an angry knee will do that to a girl. So I looked through plans online and plugged my numbers into the SmartCoach app but I didn't like what I found.  Either the plans were way too much for me (8-mile midweek runs? no thanks) or seemed too easy. I don't want to run more than an hour or so on a weekday, but I don't mind doing that almost every day.

A lot of plans, especially the "easy" ones, ask for one or two days of cardio cross-training which isn't in the cards for me right now. For one thing, I prefer running to the elliptical or to bike riding because I can run early in the morning or late at night in the garage. I would really like to try something like Zumba, but I also know that I would look ridiculous and my four-year-old probably has more rhythm than I do.

So I did what I always do, which is make my own plan.  In the past my plans have been flexible, more of a guideline for long runs than a true plan. This worked pretty well for me, but I was already fast and strong, at least for me. This time around, the plan has to build me up from 10-minute miles and not a lot of them.

The plan is simple: five days running, Wednesday and Sunday off. Hills on Tuesdays and Tempo runs on Thursdays at 8:30 pace, which is faster than my marathon will probably be this time but manageable.

I printed out a copy on hot pink paper and affixed it to the refrigerator. I think having it out in an obvious place will help me keep it.

(please notice the wonderful Bambino magnet)

Monday, January 14, 2013

Lakeside Trail Race

Lakeside Trail Race
January 12, 2013
8 miles
72/127 overall

Wow. Just Wow. Saturday I ran the hardest race I've ever done. It was also the slowest.

The race started at 10:30, so I had a leisurely morning with the family. We all piled into the minivan to go to the start together. The plan was for Jenn to walk with the kiddos while I ran. Alfie was asleep when we arrived, so the plan changed to dropping me off and then driving around because you don't wake up a sleeping baby, especially one who's had trouble with naps lately.

We arrived at 10:20. I visited the bathrooms and pinned on my number. Then there was a short pre-race meeting (look for white blazes and yellow arrows, the bridges are really slippery, the trail isn't much better, etc.), and then we were off!

I've never run a trail race before, so the first thing I noticed was how compact the field was and how difficult it was to pass, especially in the beginning. I didn't particularly mind being behind five people going a little slower than I would have liked in the beginning, but it felt a bit claustrophobic. Since this is an out-and-back course, the narrow path made for some awkward passes later on as well. I really didn't mind, but it was a first for me.

Also a first for me is dying on the course. In all my years of running, I have never felt so crappy in a race. I trained, I ate and drank the appropriate things pre-race, I should have been fine.  Instead, before the half-way point I felt hungry, empty, and tired. My legs weren't sore or even tired, but my whole body was just done. I am so very glad that I didn't choose the 15 mile course!

After the turnaround, I just got slower. I resorted to 30-second walk breaks every five minutes, which helped but not completely. What was wrong with me? I know that trails are different. I love trails! But these trails, for 8 miles, kicked my butt.

At about mile 6, three guys passed me going really fast, their legs covered in mud spatter. They were finishing their 15-mile run so much faster than me that one of them would win the harder, longer race before I crossed the finish line. In retrospect, that really could have bummed me out, but I was so out of it that I didn't really care. I mostly remember the pattern of mud on their legs.

I could finally hear the finish and see a clearing through the woods, so I sped up. At least I think I did. I told myself to speed up, I know that much. I finished in 1:25:48, 5 minutes slower than my conservative guess, 10 minutes off my goal. This just means that next year I will train harder and snag a much faster time.

The Good

  • The locale. The trails attached to Bryan Park go up and down hills, around lakes, and past nice views. I've never run these particular trails, but they are similar to the rest of the watershed trails in our area.
  • The weather. Two years ago, it snowed during this race. Last year, it was 20 degrees at the start. Today the temperature was already around 50 at the start. The sun was shining, and there wasn't any wind. 
The Bad
  • My pace. Mile 1 was 9:57. As my watch beeped, I thought, hey, that's a good warm-up mile. Now I'll pass these people and settle into a 9:30 pace. It'll be great. Mile 2 was 10:02. And those were my fastest miles by a lot.
  • The weather. Did I mention it was 50 degrees at the start? In January? I wasn't prepared for a heat snap. Really, how can you prepare for that? I drank extra water and dressed lightly in a tank and running skirt, but the heat zapped my mo-jo.
  • My preparation. I ran trails, but not for long runs, and most of my runs the last two weeks have been on a treadmill. That is not the way to prepare for a trail race. At a minimum, I should have run on trails on the weekend, including for part or all of the long run. Next year I will do better.
The Missing
  • Photos. I don't have any pictures from this race, despite the fact that I got an iPhone last week and can finally take good pictures. At the last minute I decided that carrying a phone on a trail race (on wet, muddy, leafy trails) probably wasn't a great idea. There were photographers, but the pictures aren't up yet. I will share once I find them!

Thursday, January 3, 2013

2013 Resolution Run 5k Recap

Resolution Run 5k
Bryan Park
January 1, 2013
Time: 26:08
25/65 overall
8/37 women
2/6 women 30-34

The Good:

  • Bambino's love of racing! He wore Jenn's number as he strolled. At the last minute, he got out and ran across the finish line. So cute!
  • The price. This race is free except for a 10-can donation to a local food bank. You can pay $5.00 if you want a shirt.
  • This is the best way to start the year that I know. The only thing that would be better would be a 10k option. And more people.
The Bad:
  • 26:06 finish time. I was 10 seconds slower in this race than the Thanksgiving race. Darn. I attribute it to this ornery, persistent cold that's held on for weeks.
  • Cold rain. The weather was not lovely, especially with Jenn pushing the kiddos.
  • Very small field. I love small races, but this was just silly. There was only one walker. ONE. More people need to do this cheap race that benefits a great cause. I will recruit people for next year. I will.
The Ugly:
  • I'm not going to lie. There were a lot of snot rockets this time. Sorry. Good thing it wasn't windy.
  • My face! I cannot take a good picture. Please don't think that I'm fishing for compliments or being too hard on myself. I know I'm pretty. I just manage to screw up most photographs of myself. 

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Au Revoir, 2012

  1.  47
    Jan '12
  2. 36
    Feb '12
  3. 19
    Mar '12
  4. 16
    Apr '12
  5. 3
    May '12
  6. 19
    Jun '12
  7. 38
    Jul '12
  8.  66
    Aug '12
  9. 83
    Sep '12
  10.   61
    Oct '12
  11. 66
    Nov '12
  12. 91
    Dec '12
  13. Jan '13

I love looking back on the past. I'm one of those people who watches the same movies and television shows over and over. Tonight, for instance, we watched Harold and Maude for the hundredth time. I read Pride and Prejudice at least once a year. My copy lost its front cover long ago and I refuse to part with it until I have another copy in the house. Each time I rewatch or reread, I see something new.

Things I'm grateful for in 2012
  • Our new house and the life it's given us. Thanks to our new abode, we have at least 40 extra minutes each day. We have walkable and runnable streets, woods a minute away, and a library within walking distance. 
  • My family. Jenn turned our house into a home in just a few months while I lazed around using my large belly as a really useful but not easily replicable excuse. She turned a boring blank slate of a yard into edible beauty. She held my hand (literally and figuratively) through Alfie's arrival and proved yet again what a great mom she is. Bambino has grown up so much this year! He says the most kind and funny things ("I know that. I'm a smart boy." "Thank you for buying a minivan, Mama. I love it." "Parents, I'm going outside to play!" "I'm so glad you're a runner, Mommy. Now you are adorable.") He is a great big brother and has only fallen on Alfie twice. Speaking of Alfie, I am so grateful for her. She's really been around all year, but we finally met her in April. Since then, she has grown and changed and quickly learned that to keep up with brother, she's got to be loud and fast. 
  • The minivan. I love our minivan. It has taken us to Memphis, New Jersey, Alexandria, and several places in between. Bambino can watch movies with headphones, there's room for extra family visiting, and the back-up camera is fun to play with, too.
  • Work. There are many moments when I wish I would win the lottery and never have to work again, especially with a young child around, but I do love my job. I teach bright, eager students about things I love. My coworkers are kind and knowledgeable. And thanks to the move, work is only 5 minutes away at most.
  • Our church. We've attended Saint Andrew's for about five years and it has become a large part of our life. I'm thankful that it is such a nurturing place for our family: Bambino loves the nursery, Children's Chapel, Vacation Bible School, and all of his friends. I love that he loves it, but I also appreciate good preaching and good fellowship.
I'm sure I've forgotten something, or several things. I'm grateful for a lot; my life is pretty great. 

Looking back also means reflecting on how last year's goals turned out. Here were my goals from last year's New Years Resolutions Post:

  • run consistently as long as possible before Alfie's arrival and get back into running six weeks after, if all goes well
  • run a half-marathon in October
  • do a pull-up! come on, it can't be that hard.  

How did I do?
  • run consistently as long as possible before Alfie's arrival: check! I ran often, at my pace, and joyfully.
  • ...and get back into running six weeks after: check! I got back to running about three weeks after because I felt so good.  No reason to wait.
  • run a half-marathon in October- check! Ran with Dad.
  • do a pull-up- NOPE! Every year this is a goal. Every year I fail.
My resolutions for 2012 were all about fitness, and I excelled at the running ones. I've become a more consistent runner, which made this pregnancy, birth, and recovery pretty easy.  The baby weight came off, albeit slowly, and I fit into most of my regular clothes now.

So other than the pull-up, I did well. I've had "do a pull-up" as a resolution for the last several years. I have this goal, but I have no way to get there, so I ignore it until the next year. I think a lot of people feel this way about exercise in general. When you have a resolution like, "I'm going to exercise more" or "I'm going to lose weight" without a clear plan, failure often follows. This year, I will once again resolve to do a pull-up, but I'll also ask for guidance from a real person, not Youtube, about how to achieve it.

All of my resolutions last year were on the surface: do this, do this more, etc., but I want to go somewhere different this year. I want to work on the attitudes beneath the actions. 

2013 Resolutions:
  • Be present.  This is really hard for me. I plan, reflect, worry, and imagine, which are great in moderation but not very effective for being a good friend, partner, or parent. I'll need to remind myself every day, at least in the beginning. Being present will mean no electronics when playing with the kiddos, really listening instead of waiting to speak (I'm bad about this!), and cutting back on the planning. I  procrastinate by making running plans, budgets, weekly schedules, or anything else like that. It's fun because it's theoretical and lets me control all of the variables, but that makes it unrealistic and counterproductive. Be present might become my mantra this year.
  • Run consistently but not exclusively. Take time for strength training, yoga, and other cross training. 
I also have some goals for the year. I think it's better to separate resolutions, which are decisions to do or not do something, from goals, which are achievements towards which we work. 

2013 Goals:
  • Do a $@#@-#$!! pull-up. This is the year. It's going to happen!
  • Run 1,000 miles. I ran 580 or so in 2012, and that was with having a baby. I ran 91 miles in December, so this goal shouldn't be too hard.
  • sub-22:00 5k. This is one audacious goal considering the fastest I've run is 22:04 in 2011 and I had a baby in 2012, but I think it's feasible. I'm in marathon mode until May 5, but after that I can spend the summer getting faster. 
  • Blog regularly. This is my running log, my journal. I need to post at least once a week, and after every race.
That's all, folks! Goodbye to 2012, and welcome to 2013! What are your resolutions?

Monday, December 31, 2012

2012 in Photos

So much has happened this year! I didn't achieve any big running goals, but that wasn't really the point. Our family grew from three to four, we settled into our new home, and we spent lots of quality time with family and friends. I still want to reflect and set goals for 2013, but for now here are some pictures.

 Pre-Alfie photo shoot in our woods
 Cherry Blossom Festival
 Brother and Sister
 Running on the beach
 Fall- Growing Girl!
 Trying for a Christmas Card
 Still Trying
 Eating the Christmas Tree Skirt

 Running in the Christmas Parade. My Little Bandit
 Merry Christmas!
 Enjoying the Lights at Tanglewood

Peekaboo at Roosevelt Island

Sunday, December 30, 2012


As of today, I have run 39 days in a row. Some runs were, well, minimal: a mile or two, often on the treadmill, often at night, just to get them in. Many featured tired legs, a picky knee, and/or a tight hamstring. A few were perfect. Hopefully the lessons I've learned this past month, and there have been several, will stay with me.

I've learned that my legs don't really mind running every day. It's just not that big of a deal, at least with the distances I've been covering. I can see if you're doing hard workouts and very long runs why you'd need a rest day, but not for maintenance (for me). After Tuesday I won't continue the streak, but I will run 5-6 days a week.

I found it easier to run when I had to do it. In the past I've used kids, family, church, work, etc. as an excuse, but they really aren't barriers if you have motivation (and perhaps a treadmill).  Once I had the goal, I simply made the time. Really, make isn't the right verb here. The time is already there- I choose how to allocate it. Ten minutes, or even an hour, isn't that much when it replaces time in front of the television or sleeping in the morning. Sleep is great, but I feel so much more awake after an early-morning run than I do with those extra minutes of sleep.

I got faster running every day, and my mileage increased. Neither of these things occurred on purpose; rather, they came naturally out of more running. Again, that is different if you're already running a lot or hard. In those cases, you run the risk of overtraining, which can make you slower, tired, and contrary. As 2013 begins, getting faster and going farther will probably require more rest. 

Streaking teaches my son that exercise is a permanent, important reality. I love that he now asks me, "have you run today, Mama?" or "are you gonna run now?" I model for him how to be active, not out of shame, mania, or requirement, but just because it's what healthy people do.

I have two more days left to fulfill my goal of streaking from Thanksgiving to New Year's Day. Tomorrow I'll run easy, hopefully outside. Tuesday, the first day of 2013, I'll run the Resolution Run 5k. It's so good to start the year running with other people.  As often as I run solo these days, for me running is fundamentally a social sport. I run faster and happier with others.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Streakin' in a Winter Wonderland

The running kind of streaking, not the naked time. I've run every day since Thanksgiving and hope to keep it up until New Year's. What began with the Turkey Trot will end with the Resolution Run, and I'm running one other 5k (Running of the Balls) in the middle.

I've never streaked before. In fact, this is the first time I've run 15 days in a row.

Why streak? Not to lose weight. I know, hate me if you will, but I'm happy with my weight and don't want to lose any more because I'm still nursing Alfie. Not to get record mileage either, because I think that would be begging for problems. Upping miles while running consecutively for 35 days? Bad idea.

So why? The honest answer is I'm not exactly sure. I've been thinking a lot about dedication lately. Mindfulness. Perseverance. Accountability. Discipline.  Dedication to what? The gods of running? No, I don't think so. Dedication to myself, my body, my emotional sanity. And that Discipline word.  Not punishment, or severity, but discipline:


 noun \ˈdi-sə-plən\

Definition of DISCIPLINE

obsolete : instruction
: a field of study
: training that corrects, molds, or perfects the mentalfaculties or moral character
a : control gained by enforcing obedience or order
b : orderly or prescribed conduct or pattern of behavior
c : self-control
: a rule or system of rules governing conduct or activity
— dis·ci·plin·al  adjective

Those first few definitions are, well, harsh, but 5B and C cover it nicely: orderly or prescribed conduct or pattern of behavior. That's what I want. If running is prescribed, it will become better integrated into my life. If running is a pattern, it weaves its way inextricably into my days.
Definition #4 also has a nice ring: training that corrects, mold, or perfects. At first I thought the second part didn't fit because running is physical, but isn't it both? And if I seek discipline in running, isn't there a moral aspect as well?

So how or where do running and moral character intersect? Runners can be immoral, even about their running (Paul Ryan's liar-liar-pants-on-fire marathon comes to mind), and plenty of non-runners are moral (I cannot picture Mother Theresa, for instance, in a pair of Mizunos).  It takes character to set goals, commit to them, and strive for them despite setbacks; to wake up earlier than the rest of your house just so you can have a run and be showered before the kids get out of bed; to persist at mile 19 of a marathon when your whole body aches and a taxi drives by; to run through shinsplints, bum knees, black toenails, digestive issues, and a cold. It takes character.