Breaking The Curse

I have a Spring marathon curse.  I’m blogging about it to prove, in black and white, how ridiculous it sounds and how I have managed to make myself believe it.  I have it engrained in my head that every Spring marathon I run, I suck/bonk/give up/etc.  Yep, the Spring marathon curse.

Prior to 2010, I only ran Fall marathons.  My first Spring marathon was May 2010 (the Pocono Marathon).  It sucked.  The following Fall, I ran Steamtown.  It was awesome.  Next Spring, I ran the NJ Marathon.  Although I did PR by 6 minutes, I considered it a sucky effort.  Then in September, at the Lehigh Valley Marathon, I BQ’d.  See the pattern here?  Bad -> good -> bad -> good…which means my next marathon will be bad because it’s in the Spring.  Someone please slap me.

So why are my Spring marathons bad?  I managed to convince myself that I run slower in the winter, because I’m never fully warmed up.  Therefore my training suffers and I have a bad race day.  This is just ridiculous.  Yes, training over the winter is challenging and can be difficult but it can also be effective…just as effective as summer training.

The only problem, besides the fact that I’m crazy, is this Spring marathon is Boston.  It could not possibly suck.  I’ve waited 10 years to run this race.  How can I allow myself to get sucked into thinking I will suck/bonk/give up/etc. at Boston?

I’m already comparing my long runs and speed work to my last training cycle, overanalyzing to look for drastic improvement.  This can only end bad…especially for someone like me, when training “clicks” or all comes together later on.

I’m done working on the warped thinking.  I’m done comparing my current runs to runs this past summer.  What’s the point of working my ass off for 15 weeks if I’m going to let a silly, made-up curse take me down on race day?  Instead, I will believe in what worked for me last September – hard work and determination.

Do you have a particular distance or race that you feel is cursed?  

Summer or winter training – which do you prefer?  Summer all the way for me.  Oh, I’ll complain about the humidity but I love me a long, sweaty run!  

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WHYY 12K Recap

Well, today wasn’t my day and that’s OK.  Really, it is.  I tend to beat myself up over races but this was only a 12K and I’m going to cut myself some slack.

FACT #1:  I mentally checked out at the turnaround.
This was an out-and-back course (out-and-back on West River Drive is never fun).  My pace was feeling hard and, as I predicted, I was hating life.  I went around the turning point and just let my pace slip.  I was done.

FACT #2:  I lost a bit of speed since my last marathon.
The LVM was 2 months ago and I’m currently toeing the line between maintenance running and maintaining my speed.  I have been training non-stop for the past 2 years and this is the most lag time I’ve had between marathons (Boston training doesn’t start until around Christmas).  I need to allow myself some down time….some time away from weekly speed work.  So it’s only natural that I lost some quickness.

FACT #3:  I really need to get my iPod fixed.  I generally run without music but there are some races where music is a necessity (like today).  My iPod has been broke since the NJ Marathon last May!

FACT #4:  I can’t wait to run an ultra!  I just need to hang in there with the speed work for another couple of months until after Boston.

FACT #5:  I need to reevaluate my goals for the Philly Half next weekend…or maybe I’ll have a better day next Sunday!

Here are the Garmin stats.  A 12K is 7.45 miles so I didn’t do too bad running the tangents.  Clearly, if I held back more in the beginning I probably would have done better.  Mile 6 makes me laugh….yeah, that’s marathon pace!

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The best part of today’s race?  Hanging out with Sara, Trish, and Ann and having a delicious brunch of french toast with Trish afterwards.

Tomorrow is most certainly a rest day too 🙂


Believe

Thank you for all the incredible comments on my post yesterday.  I think Alyssa said it best…

I thought all BQers were naturally speedy and ran sub-4 marathons without even trying.

That’s a myth!  I used to think the same thing.  This is exactly why I wrote that post – to show you that an average runner can BQ!

How’d I do it?  Let’s start with the physical part first.

Know what works for you
When I’m coaching someone, I often tell them that I made every mistake in the book so they don’t have to.  I really think I did.  Lots of trial and error.  But it made me a smart runner.  I know what my body can handle and what it can’t.  I know which training plans will work for me and which ones won’t.  I know when to back off and rest and when to kick it up a notch.

Listen to your body and keep a training log.  After each training cycle and race, jot down what worked and what didn’t.  Review often and look for any patterns.

Marathon-paced long runs
I love me some marathon-paced long runs!   I wrote a post awhile ago explaining my reasoning for not doing long, slow distance long runs here.  LSD does not work for me.  I gave it a fair shot.  My coaching certification is through RRCA and they heavily stress LSD long runs for everyone – beginners to elite.  I 100% agree with LSD long runs for beginners who need to build an adequate endurance base.  But, if you have a time goal in mind, you need to incorporate some MP miles into your long runs.  For the simple reason that practice makes perfect.

Speed work (FIRST training plan)
I used the FIRST training plan for my last 2 marathons (with modifications – I added in some easy runs for more mileage).  I definitely credit it with helping me BQ.  Before the NJ Marathon, I went to the track here and there but I wasn’t consistent.  I’ve been doing speed work consistently for the past 9 months and the results are astounding.  My marathon pace dropped significantly.  And I saw results quickly.

Consistency is key here.  Pick a day each week and dedicate it to speed work.  It’s easiest to do on a track but any flat, paved path (free of traffic) will do.  And don’t think you have to run all-out…that is a misnomer.  You can do intervals at 10K or half marathon pace.  For my final weeks leading up to the Lehigh Valley Marathon, I kept my intervals at 10K pace because I found myself overstriding (and subsequently hurting my hamstring) when I did intervals at 5K pace.

2-week taper
This training cycle was the first time I experimented with a 2-week taper.  And I will never go back to a 3-week taper again!  For me, it’s more mental than anything.  I had a good 22-miler 2 weeks before the LVM.  The day of the race I kept thinking that all I had to do was repeat the run that I did only 2 weeks before.  It boosted my confidence significantly.

Before you try a 2-week taper, think about how long it takes you to completely recover from a 20 mile run.  If it takes awhile, I would err on the side of caution and stick with a 3-week taper.  You don’t want to have any lingering effects of that last 20-miler come race day.

Train for the worst case scenario
I learned this the hard way during the Pocono Marathon.  Know the marathon course.  Look at the elevation profile.  Ask people who ran the race in previous years (sidenote:  take their advice with a grain of salt.  A big hill to some is a little hill to others and vice versa).  If there are small hills, train for big hills.  It will only help you come race day.

Now for the mental part…

Break it up into small chunks
When I started to get closer to my BQ time, I looked at each marathon as a way to inch closer and closer to my ultimate goal.  My goal for Steamtown was to break 4:00 hours.  Then my goal for NJM was to hit 3:50…and finally BQ (3:45) at LVM.  This made it much more manageable and less daunting.

Believe
Such a powerful word.  Believe in yourself AND in your training.  If you think you can, you can.  If you think you can’t, you can’t.

Be present
This tactic worked well for me at LVM.  Instead of thinking ahead to the later miles (i.e., the last 6.2), I forced myself to focus on the current mile and mastering it.  It can get overwhelming to think of how many more miles you have and how you are going to maintain MP, blah, blah, blah.  It’s a vicious cycle of self-doubt.  If you find yourself going down this road, snap out of it (during the LVM I audibly said “stop”) and regain your focus.

Phew!  I had lots to say.  If you made it through this post, kudos…you deserve a gold star!

A Walk Down Memory Lane

This blog is only about 9 months old so many of you have only seen a brief snapshot of my running.  I want to walk down memory lane and show you how far I’ve come in 10 years.  This post is not about bragging but about showing you that anything is possible…if you want it badly enough.  For me, qualifying and running the Boston Marathon were dreams of mine for the past 10 years.  I’m sure people thought I was crazy talking about BQing when I was still hours (yes, hours) away from my BQ time.  But Boston was always in the back of my mind during every marathon.

Marathon #1:  Marine Corps Marathon 2004 – 5:12
My goal was to finish.  I treated this marathon like a party.  I stopped and chatted with Matt, I stopped for pee breaks, I stopped for stretch breaks.  I seriously spent a half hour stopping.

Marathon #2:  NYC Marathon 2005 –  4:36
A huge improvement but I should have done some hill work.

Marathon #3:  Marine Corps Marathon 2006 –  4:58
I had a terrible training cycle and my head just wasn’t in it.  I was ready to quit at mile 10.

Marathon #4:  Marine Corps Marathon 2007 – 4:11
I told you I loved the MCM!  I was finally beginning to make some progress here.   I was ecstatic with this time!

Marathon #5:  Philly Marathon 2008 – 4:12
Oh, I was pissed about this one.  It was 15 degrees at the start…I never warmed up and my lungs burned since I wasn’t acclimated to the cold yet.  Just awful.

2009:  I took a year off marathoning to get married, buy a house, and honeymoon in Europe 🙂

Marathon #6:  Pocono Marathon May 2010 – 4:13
I was livid about this race.  It was much hillier than I thought (this is the sole reason why I always train for the worst case scenario).  I hated the marathon and the course.  I had a great training cycle but hit the wall HARD at mile 19.  Up until mile 19, I was on track for a sub-4:00 but I fell apart mentally.  At this point I was SO SICK of finishing in the 4:1x range.

Marathon #7:  Steamtown Marathon October 2010 – 3:58
Redemption!  Finally, a sub-4:00!  This was a great marathon too.  Gotta love the downhills.

Marathon #8:  New Jersey Marathon May 2011 – 3:52
We all know what happened here…

Marathon #9:  Lehigh Valley Marathon September 2011 – 3:43
BQ BABY!

How did I manage to shave off 30 minutes from May 2010 to September 2011?  Hard work and determination.  I’m not naturally speedy.  I didn’t run track or cross country in high school or college.  I didn’t hit the running genetic jackpot.  I’m just an average runner who dreamed big.  That’s it.  If I can do it, so can you.

Tomorrow’s post will focus on what I did physically and mentally to shave those 30 minutes off.

Do you have big running dreams?  Share them!

Keep It Simple Stupid

9/9/11
3 miles easy / 28:04 / 9:21 avg pace
*And with that, training cycle #9 is complete!

My college chemistry professor always used to say K.I.S.S. or Keep It Simple Stupid.  When answering a test question, he told us the answer (or the way to go about solving it) is usually simple but we often make it more difficult than it needs to be.  The first time he said this in class, I thought he was speaking directly to me since I have a tendency to make things harder than they need to be.

So how does K.I.S.S. apply to my marathon?  It actually applies to my strategy and goal for the race.

Strategy
Keep my average pace between 8:30 and 8:35.  This is exactly what I did during my 22-miler and it worked out well.  Keeping a more consistent effort throughout is the way to go.  That also means no speeding up and doing 8:20s during the middle miles!  I’ll have a pace band, a usual, but will only use it to compare my total time against a 3:45 marathon time.

Goal
I have no A, B, or C goals.  My goal is run a 3:45 and qualify for Boston.   Plain and simple.

Mother Nature is being a bitch again and is bring historic (weather.com’s words) flooding to Philly and also the Lehigh Valley area.  To say that I’ve been freaking out about maintaining MP on 12 miles of flooded towpath is an understatement.  The LVM has been great about updating us on course changes.  The latest and greatest:

The LVHN Marathon is scheduled to go as planned.  Due to Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee, our region has received more than 10 inches of rain in the last 10 days.
*The first five miles of the marathon and relay course have been redesigned to place runners on hard surface roads….
*The race surface will be damp, wet and possibly muddy in some areas.

My guess is about half the marathon runners are attempting to qualify for Boston.  At least I’ll be in good company.

So that’s it my friends.  I’ll post a quick update on Sunday (you can also follow me on Twitter).  Thank you for all the well wishes this week.  I will recall many of them during the race for motivation!

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Hurricane Irene

We survived Hurricane Irene!  It wasn’t much of a hurricane by the time it hit Philly.  Other than lots of rain, the wind wasn’t too bad.  Luckily, we didn’t lose power or suffer any water damage to our house.  I can’t say the same for my beloved running trail.  It was swallowed up by the Schuylkill River.  Hawk and I went on a little walk yesterday to survey the damage first-hand (I’m a bad blogger and didn’t bring my camera).  Yikes!  I feel terrible for the people that live around there; they had to evacuate.  So I should quit my complaining about finding an alternate running route for the next few days.

I dubbed this past weekend my “getting caught up on life” weekend.  If I’m gonna be stuck inside, why not tackle my to-do list?  On the top of my list was cleaning out my closet and finally hanging this up…

I love it.  It got this back in December and picked out the perfect spot for it (yes, my closet – it’s a large walk-in and I figured it would be out of the way).  I hung half marathons on the end and marathons in the middle.  That’s a lot of races!

My favorite medal would have to be the NJ Marathon.  Pretty classy for Jersey (I kid, I kid).

Hawk didn’t seem too perturbed about the hurricane.

Matt had just finished a day of painting and laid on the floor to take a nap. Hawk couldn't resist.

Matt and I were well stocked with essentials.

Aforementioned painting took place in the kitchen, hence no outlet covers.

We tried to watch the movie True Grit but could not get over Jeff Bridges talking out the side of his mouth.  We literally could not understand a word he said and turned off the movie.  House Hunters was way better anyway.

In running news, I moved my tempo run to Saturday because of the hurricane and ended up doing an easy run.  My legs were NOT in the mood for more MP miles the day after a 22-miler.  So I kept it easy and my super Type A self didn’t seem to mind.  Imagine that.

If you were trapped in the house this weekend because of Irene what did you do?  
Do you watch House Hunters or (even better) House Hunters International?  We are obsessed. 

Please keep voting for RTLR for CBS Philly’s Most Valuable Blogger (click here to vote)!

Three Things Tuesday

8/16/11
11 miles tempo / 1:33 / 8:27 avg pace
*1 mile warm-up and 10 miles at MP (8:35).  Splits:  8:09, 8:07, 8:11, 8:14, 8:18 – I felt like I was running too fast so I checked my splits and slowed down for the remaining 5 miles – 8:38, 8:37, 8:29, 8:28, 8:25.  

Isn’t it supposed to be Three Things Thursday? Hmm, not sure. Oh well, go with it.

Redemption Tempo
This morning I got a second chance to do a tempo run that I attempted 2 weeks ago. It didn’t go so well the first time but I was able to get some redemption today. The trail was soft and mushy from all the rain, which made it even harder to maintain MP but that’s OK with me. I always want to prepare for the worst case scenario and then, if it’s not so bad, I’ll be pleasantly surprised. Does that make me a pessimist or a realist?

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Garmin “Pace Smoothing”
Maybe you all knew this but I found out there is a way to minimize how much your pace fluctuates on your Garmin. When I was training for NJM, I was getting annoyed at how often my pace would go from 7:30 to 10:00 to 9:00, etc.  Even though my effort was consistent, my Garmin pace wasn’t. My Garmin is only 2 years old (I have the 305). I looked up the problem and it directed me to something called “pace smoothing”.

Per the Garmin manual, pace smoothing averages your current pace over a certain amount of time to avoid errors in GPS position and speed due to varying satellite signal recognition.  When you turn on or increase pace smoothing, the pace shown on your Forerunner is steadier. It did help, although I still think there could be something wrong with my Garmin since I never had an issue until this year. But I’m too dependent on my Garmin to part with it and get it looked at!

How to “pace smooth” (at least on the 305 model):  mode –> settings –> running –> speed units –> smoothing.  I’m using “most” for the least amount of fluctuation.

Are you addicted to your Garmin?  Can you run without it?  Even better question, can you RACE without it?  No way Jose…I’m addicted!

T-Minus 30 Days

In 30 days I’ll be running marathon #9, trying to qualify for Boston.  I’m in a much better place right now then I was for the NJ Marathon.  I’m training for an actual BQ time, instead of just trying to wing it.  In hindsight (it’s always 20/20) I should have never tried for a 3:45 at NJM.  I trained for a 3:50 and I should have stuck with the plan.  Always stick with the plan!

If I could come up with a race day wish list (key word being wish, not magic) here’s what I would request:

1.  Obviously, perfect weather.  For me, that’s overcast skies with temps in the high 40s/low 50s.  Or, for September, I’d be happy with no humidity 🙂

2.  An 8:34 pace will feel just as easy at mile 23 as it does at mile 5.

3.  I have no dehydration issues and resulting quad cramps.

4.  No phantom chafing!  You know…the kind that never happens on a training run but rears its ugly head on race day?!

5.  I look photogenic in a race day picture.  Hey, this is my wish list…

6.  And the big one – I cross the finish line with the biggest smile on my face because I am finally a Boston Qualifier!

What are some things on your race day wish list?  What do you consider “ideal” race day weather?

A Short Long Run

7/15/11
13 miles / 1:52 / 8:39 avg pace

After doing a few weeks of 18 and 20 mile runs, I’m not sure I can even count today as a long run.  I have to admit, it was a nice break to only have to run 13 miles!

My neighbor, Maximus (his alias), joined me for the first 10 miles.  He also ran the first 10 with me last week (the hot and nauseating run).   I’m generally a solo runner but it’s nice to have a running buddy sometimes to make the miles fly by.

Today I stuck to my hilly loop.  Generally I start and finish on the hilly loop but cross the scary bridge to get some middle flat miles in. Remember this scary bridge?

Me and the bridge made amends after my bloody 15-miler that resulted in a stitch.  I’m still terrified of falling so I try to avoid crossing it if I can.  I just didn’t see the point today so I got a double dose of hill work.

Onto the details.  Splits…

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And elevation.  OK, it doesn’t look that hilly but trust me there are some tough ones in there, namely after miles 4 and 9.

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Do you like hills?  Would you prefer a hilly race or a flat race?  If it’s a shorter distance race, I obviously prefer flat but for a marathon, some hills are preferable.  NJM was pancake flat and I feel like I fatigued faster since I was constantly using the same muscles over and over.  

Lehigh Valley Marathon: Week 6 Recap

I hit the big 5-0 last week and, overall, had a great week with the exception of Friday’s steamy 20-miler.

MON:  8 easy
TUE:  7 speed (fastest 800s to-date!)
WED:  7 easy
THU:  rest
FRI:  20 long
SAT:  rest
SUN:  8 tempo

Now I’m noticing a pattern with my dehydration. My left quad was sore Friday to Monday just like it was during the NJ Marathon. During the marathon I got pretty dehydrated, just like Friday’s 20-miler. Since I’ve never had any issues with my quads I definitely think there’s a link. For me, the NJM and Friday’s 20-miler are what I dubbed “stage 2” dehydration – headache and nausea. As opposed to my usual post-long run “stage 1” dehydration – just an annoying headache. Seem like stage 2 creeps in and so does the quad soreness.  Thankfully the soreness goes away after a few days but it’s a pain in the ass.

Since this is starting to get on my nerves, I’m going to increase my water intake the night before and the morning of a long run. I must admit I’m pretty bad with this. During my long runs though I’m a model hydrator…drinking water like crazy, Shot Blok-ing, and electrolyte popping!

What are your must-haves to prevent dehydration during the summer? I tried nuun a few times. It didn’t see any real difference and I thought it was gross!

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