Category: Motivation

Winter Motivation: Logging Miles

After a slow start, I think it’s pretty safe to say that winter has finally come to Vermont.

winter pond

Overnight temperatures have dipped below zero. The world is covered in a thick blanket of snow. Instead of looking dead and desolate, the land around us now looks fresh and clean. The best part about it is that our distance from the city means that the snow actually stays white — instead of turning a gross black from all the cars the day after it falls.

I think it’s absolutely beautiful.

winter sun

But that doesn’t mean I love to run in it.

Running during the winter has always been tough for me, but this year I find myself struggling more than usual. Every single day I can think of one million excuses why I need to stay inside my {sometimes} warm house instead of getting outside for a run. It’s cold, damp, and often icy. The rural roads have no street lights which means that if I don’t get a run in while it’s light out, I’m kind of out of luck (I didn’t mind running in the dark when I lived in Providence, but I haven’t quite yet worked up the courage to run along remote streets in the pitch black). Dirt roads + snow means that I either need to be content with running very slowly, or confine myself to two basic out and back routes.

And to top it all off, I’m out of shape. The months of limited running were good for my body and my soul, but they sure didn’t do much for my motivation. As with anything, getting back into the habit of regular runs is the hardest part. Once I’ve gotten myself back onto a schedule, the momentum of a training cycle is usually enough to keep me going. But at the beginning — most of the battle is simply getting out the door.

Have I bored you all with my excuses yet?

I know I’m not unique in my struggles. Obviously these are barriers that every runner faces. But the successful runners — the ones that manage to make this sport into a lifelong habit or get out and grab that new PR — those are the ones that don’t succumb to excuses. That do whatever it takes to stay motivated no matter the conditions.

It’s never going to be easy. Running is hard. Training to run a fast marathon — even harder. But that doesn’t mean that I can’t implement different strategies during this cold season to keep myself motivated day after day.

None of this is new or earth-shattering. In fact, most of what I’m trying to do are things you all are probably doing on a regular basis already. But since I have this free place to ramble blog, I figured I would periodically share my winter running strategies with you over the course of the next month or so anyway. Don’t worry, you can thank me later.

First up…

Tracking Workouts & Logging Miles

Most runners that I talk to are obsessed with stats. Race PRs. Mileage. Time. Average Pace. Precise number of miles run in each pair of shoes. Ideal number of peanut butter pretzels needed to fuel each run (just me??).

I record none of these things.

Sure, my Garmin automatically keeps track of a lot of this information for me. Only…I don’t always wear my watch and I definitely don’t upload/check the data often enough to get any useful information out of it.

I used to be very good about logging my workouts. I’d make a training plan and stick to it, making notes when I changed my runs during the week. But as time went by and I started finding plans more restrictive and stressful than helpful, I kind of gave up the entire practice. I already knew the basic things I’d have to do to prepare myself for a marathon, so I just sort assessed how I was feeling every day and went by that. A strategy that got me to starting lines — but not to any PRs.

Exhibit A: My Dailymile training log.

empty dailymile account

When I first signed up for Dailymile I was all about it. I logged my runs every day and found the statistics helpful and motivating. I don’t really know why, but somewhere along the line I just got tired of it. The last workout I logged was in February 2012…and even at the time, I was only recording a fraction of what I was doing. (Yet I’m still getting friend requests…something I don’t quite understand. To anyone who has requested to add me – it’s not you, I swear. I just hadn’t logged into the site for almost a year. Plus, there’s nothing to see there anyway.)

I was fine with this lackadaisical approach to training for awhile. But then the end of the year came and runners all around me were adding up their mileage. Seeing the yearly totals was really cool and I suddenly found myself wishing I could do the same. After all, quantitative running data is the best way to track improvement over time. Not to mention the fact that without data showing what you were doing, how do you know what to change in order to get faster?

So my goal for 2013 is to actually log my mileage. Regardless of whether or not I run a ton of races or gain a bunch of new PRs, I want to know how many miles I ran in the process.

Plus, telling myself that I need to record what I did every day provides extra motivation to actually get my workout in. I don’t want to look back at my training log after a week and see a bunch of unplanned 0s.

For now I’m keeping it simple and recording everything into a Google Doc. Each day there’s a row for the number of miles planned, one for the actual number I ran, and one for my time/pace. Totals will automatically add up each week.

 

VCM_base buildingCurrent plan for slowly building a base for VCM training

There’s really not much to it. I’m fairly certain that many of you use much better systems. But I think the simplicity is just what I need to get into the habit. And I’m hoping that once I’ve done this for a few weeks, the knowledge will be addicting enough to motivate me to stick with it….all while it’s sitting there motivating me to get out and run.

To add to the motivation, I will even let you all check up on me here. The link will take you to the Google spreadsheet where you’ll be able to see whether or not I really am getting my runs in.

I’ll let you know how it works.

And with that – I need to get to the gym. It’s lifting day! (Something else I’ve been trying to do regularly for the past couple of weeks. So far I’ve been sticking to that 2x/week goal. But since I’m only on week 3, I suppose it’s a little too early to pat myself on the back for consistency.)

Hunger

I had absolutely no intention of signing up for a spring marathon.

In fact, after a frustrating summer of feeling like I was doing “too much, too soon” and in which I dreaded every single long run, I vowed to give myself a break. Marathons are great and all, but I just wasn’t into them anymore. And if I’m being completely honest with myself, it had been awhile since I truly was.

Nuvision action image storefront 1692316Thank you MCM and Nuvision Action Image for all the free digital race photos (another perk of this awesome marathon!)

Truthfully, the last time I really invested in marathon training the way you’re supposed to was spring 2011. The Boston Qualifying process had just changed, giving me a new goal: I wanted to run a 3:20 marathon. Despite a crazy winter that dumped tons of snow on RI, I worked so hard that training cycle. I hit my goal paces, I loved my speed workouts. I could feel every single run making me stronger. The National Marathon was my reward for all that training — a race I went into knowing I had done the best I could to prepare.

That was the last time I really had that essential trait that makes marathon training and PRs possible: hunger. It’s hunger that drives you to put everything on the line. Hunger that enables you to push your body to the limits in order to see a faster time on the clock. Hunger that makes the hurt worth it.

I tried to reclaim those feeling that summer during training for Marine Corps. But I felt burnt out. Tired. Unmotivated. Slow.

Then I signed up for Boston, the reward race for all that training the previous spring. And a month from the race, I got the knee injury that has plagued my 2012 running.

It seemed like all the signs were pointing to change for 2013. After all, marathons are not the be-all-end-all of distance running. And it’s pretty tough to train for one if you’re dreading long runs (i.e. the cornerstone of training). At this point I’m sort of beyond signing up for marathons simply to complete them. There’s nothing wrong with that, of course, but crossing the finish line just isn’t motivating me anymore. And there are so many other races to run, so many new PRs to go after.

I went into my marathon + relay weekends with the idea that this would be it for awhile. My main goal for the marathon was to BQ…just to have the time in case I wanted to sign up for Boston 2014.

But something funny happened in the course of my back-to-back weekends of racing. Something completely unexpected.

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Instead of feeling tired, burned out, and in need of a break, I came out feeling something I hadn’t felt in a long time.

Hunger.

I felt happier running MCM than I had all year. And Ragnar just reinforced that. I suddenly felt strong again. Capable. Like a runner. Not the weird, awkward impostor I’ve been fighting against all spring.

The hunger gnawed at me. Got stronger during this past week of rest. Until finally, it became a burning desire deep in my heart that I could no longer ignore.

I want to run another marathon.

No…I need to.

I need another chance. A chance to push myself harder than I have in a very long time. To prove to myself that I am not destined to be a 3:18 marathoner forever (because seriously — after 3 races, it’s getting a little ridiculous).

Nuvision action image storefront 1672700

Which is how I found myself staring at the Vermont City Marathon registration page. I weighed the options. Thought about alternative, faster marathons. Marathons where the course lends itself more to a PR.

KBVCM 2013Source

But something feels so right about VCM. It’s a race I’ve been wanting to do for a long time, and the fact that it’s in my home state takes off a lot of the pressure around traveling. I could stay in my own bed the night before. And, more importantly, Evan could be there. If I’m going after a PR, I want it to be close to home. The fact that it’s the day before my 29th birthday sealed the deal. I can’t really think of a better way to end my 28th year.

So this winter — my first ever in Vermont — I will put in the miles. I will train through snow, freezing temperatures, and who knows what else. I know it’ll be hard. I’m sure I will struggle with motivation. I will probably question my sanity on multiple occasions.

But on May 26, 2013 (barring injury or other life crisis), I will run my 8th marathon. And I want to stand on that starting line knowing that I did everything I possibly could to run my best race.

Goodbye 3:18. Your days are officially numbered.

 

New Year, New Goals: 2012

One thing that is equally wonderful and awful about having a blog where you openly chronicle your running is that it keeps you accountable for your actions…both your accomplishments AND your failures. Even though I logically understand that no one really cares if I don’t run a certain number of races or get a specific PR but me, it still can be tough to publicly set the bar high and then fail.

But I also think that being open about your goals can be a great way to keep yourself accountable for them, even when motivation might be lacking a little bit. Plus it helps you track where you were and how far you’ve come. My big goal for this year was to run a sub 3:20 marathon, and I’m happy to say that I did it – twice.

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So now, 6 days into the new year, it’s time to finally put my goals for 2012 down on paper the internet. I have a feeling that it’s going to be a pretty fantastic year on all fronts.

The Main Goal

First and foremost, my most important goal for 2012 is to marry EC. This may not seem like it would be a very hard goal to achieve at this point, but let me tell you – figuring out a date is proving harder than I originally thought! No matter what else happens, if I get to the end of 2012 married to my best friend, I will be one happy girl.

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Now enough with the sap. Let’s talk running goals, shall we?

Running Goals

Run a 3:10 marathon. Deep down inside I know I’d be happy with anything under a 3:15. But I might as well aim high, right? A 3:10 would be a pretty big PR for me (for comparison, I PR’d by a mere 9 seconds in my last marathon – this would be over 8 minutes!) but I think with some quality training and lots of dedication, I can do it.

Plus, Susan has a custom-made frame all ready for her post-Boston PR photo, and I really want to be in it with her.

nurseontherun310.jpgPhoto stolen from Susan

PR in the Half Marathon. My current PR was run in the middle of marathon training, through the snow, while I was sick. I’d like to think that in better conditions I have a sub-1:33 in me. And if I really train, I’d love to see a 1:30:xx (or below!) on the clock.

Run faster/PR in shorter distance races. I know I’ve mentioned before that I want to focus on other races besides the marathon, yet when it comes down to it, the allure of the marathon keeps drawing me in. Since I haven’t been able to give up on this torturous distance yet, I would like to train in a way that helps me get faster all around. I know I can’t expect to PR in every distance I run, but I would like to start really racing the shorter races, just to see how fast I can actually go.

Increase my mileage (slowly and safely) I’ve talked about how I used to run much higher mileage than I do now, but then had to back off because of how prone to injury my body can be. And although I still maintain that you can run a fast marathon without running 50+ miles and 6 days a week (my current marathon PR came off my lowest training mileage to date), I think every runner reaches a point where they realize they need to do more if they want to continue to get faster. I could tell during MCM that my endurance was not even close to where it needed to be for a 3:15/3:10 marathon. I think increasing mileage this training cycle can only help me run a faster this spring. And when I say increase, I still don’t mean anything crazy. You won’t see this girl running 70 or 80 mile weeks any time soon. But I would like to shoot for a couple of weeks that are close to/at 60 mpw. If I’m smart about it, I hope my body can handle it.

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Run a competitive relay. My sweaty friend listed this as one of her goals for this year, and I need to jump on the bandwagon as well. I love the 200 mile relay more than any other race, and I have fun running them no matter how fast we go. But I’m a competitive person, and there’s a huge part of me that would thrive on being a part of helping a team place in a relay.

CCrelay_hand off 1

Hold myself accountable for each training run. I’ve never been great about tracking my runs. I know most runners are a bit obsessive when it comes to recording their data for each and every run, so I probably sound weird when I say I just don’t care all that much. I usually just make a training plan and then keep track of what I did each day by looking at what the plan said. Last winter I got myself into the habit of logging everything into Daily Mile, but then I just sort of fell off the wagon. This became a problem when I tried to look back at my last training cycle to analyze what I did (and didn’t do) and a lot of the data was missing. I am making myself stick to regular tracking this time around.

Keep strength training/core work a regular part of my routine. Though I’ll admit this has slightly less to do with helping me become a faster runner than it does with a certain exciting day that’s coming up. And there you have it – my vanity out in the open.

Professional/Life Goals

Become a certified running coach. This is something I’ve wanted to do for a very long time. The year after I graduated college, I worked as an assistant cross country coach and have been thinking about ways to get back into coaching ever since. I finally decided to take the plunge and sign up for an RRCA coaching class this spring. If all goes as planned, I’ll have my certification by the end of March!

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Find a new job Yes, that whole job hunt thing is still ongoing. Luckily, recent events have made it look like I might get a few additional months at my current position (which makes things a little less stressful), but it’s still only temporary. By the end of the year, I would like to not only have a new job, but one that I actually love (yes, I know, this may be idealistic, but a girl can dream, right?). Bonus points if it helps me move out of Rhode Island.

Start actually saving money. I love running. And racing. And buying new running clothes. The problem with all that is that it’s sort of expensive. Since chances are I won’t be winning the lottery any time soon, it’s time to start redirecting some of those race funds into a savings account. Unfortunately, when you have some persuasive running friends, this is easier said than done.

So there you have it – my main goals for 2012. While there are a few other things that I’m hoping to get/do within the year, those are a little more out of my control. More than any recent year, I’m really excited to see what 2012 has in store.

And as for something that’s more short term – this weekend I’m running my first ever 10K. It seems weird to say that I’ve been running for over half my life and have yet to actually race a 10K. (Can you tell I avoid them like the plague?) My goal for the weekend: to not die. As long as I survive the race, it’ll be an automatic PR. Win.

What is the one goal you are working toward above all others this year?

Taking the Good with the Bad

Anyone who has been in a relationship with running for a period of time knows that you don’t stay in the honeymoon phase forever. Being in a lifelong relationship with the sport means that you are committed to a life of ups and downs. Sometimes the “up” phases (or down phases) can last for months – other times the rollercoaster ride is all part of the day to day.

It won’t be any surprise to you all when I say that my relationship with the marathon training part of running has been in a bit of a “down” phase this summer. While I’m still committed to toeing the line in DC at the end of this month, something has changed within me (name that musical) this summer. For whatever reason, I’m just not loving the process of training as much as I have in the past. It’s not the marathon itself that I’m struggling with – it’s the training. (Yes, I know you can’t get to one without the other.) As a result, I’ve already started dreaming up new goals for after this race is over. (Something I plan to talk more about in a future post).

Despite a marathon training cycle that has been a bit lackluster, my summer of running has not been all bad. In fact, I’ve experienced some pretty high highs – starting with a new 5K PR when I least expected it and finishing with two relays within a few weeks of each other. For all my problems with sucky runs, overall, running has definitely made for a very fun summer.

LB Mt Hood

But more than anything this summer, I’ve learned to take the good with the bad. To appreciate the gift of the great runs, and to tough it up during the bad runs. I know this is all just the nature of this sport.

The thing that’s a little harder to accept is how that can change from one day to the next.

Last week was the perfect example of that. On Wednesday morning, I found myself with a very limited amount of time to run. I realized I could squeeze in 5 miles – if I kept a speedy pace. After a moderate warm-up mile, I figured that since I was going so short anyway, I might as well turn my run into a bit of a workout. I really wasn’t sure what my legs were up for, so I just dropped the pace below 7:00 minutes/mile and started running. I ended up getting faster with each mile (finishing up at 6:34) and ended feeling like I could have run faster and further. That day, I was over-the-top in love with running.

A similar thing happened again on Friday evening. Do you ever get the feeling that if you could just run fast enough, wings will sprout from your shoes and you’ll fly away? (No, just me?) Well that’s how I felt on Friday. The plan was to just go out for a run and not think about pace. After about a mile, however, the only thing I wanted to do was run fast. Since this doesn’t exactly happen everyday, I figured I might as well embrace it. All I wanted was to feel like I was flying. I was pushing the pace, but I wasn’t tired. I was floating in the clouds. It was one of those runs that left me thinking – THIS. This is what running is all about!

And then the weekend came. I slogged through a recovery run on Saturday, cutting it shorter than my original goal because my legs just weren’t feeling well. And on Sunday, when my goal was to run “just” 13 – 15 miles, I woke up with a head that was not in the game. Despite my awesome runs from earlier in the week AND the cooler temperatures, going out and running for a couple of hours did not sound the slightest bit appealing. But the miles had to be run, so I dragged my butt out the door, thinking that if I could run 20 the week before without any real problem, I could certainly run 15.

Unfortunately I had already set myself up to fail before I even started running. And even though I really focused on changing my attitude at the beginning of the run, my body was just not cooperating. My breathing felt way too heavy, my heart was racing, and my legs were filled with lead. Why, when I was running a much slower pace, did my body feel like it was working harder than it did when I was running sub-7:00s earlier in the week? Why was this cut-back run feeling so much harder than my 20 miles did the week before?

IMG_1888.jpgIf someone had been following with a camera on my long run, I’m sure this is what I would’ve looked like.

I never did settle in or find my groove during the run. Instead, highlights of the morning included: forcing myself to run for an hour before taking a break, stopping in front of a random stranger’s house and half-heartedly pretending to stretch out my tight calves while I stewed about the situation, and tricking myself into taking the long way home – which gave me 5 more miles for a total of 13.1 for the day.

I know we’ve all been there. Sometimes, for no real reason, running is tougher than we want it to be. But other times, everything falls into place and you feel like you could run forever. Part of being a runner means learning to take the good with the bad. Not every run is going to feel effortless, just like not every run is going to be torturous.

This summer I must sound like a yo-yo – one day I’m talking about how tough running is, and the next, I’m loving it.

BP_LB_Blessing

But that’s the reality of the phase I’m in right now. I’ve gone through long stretches of time where every run feels great, and I’m more in love with the sport than ever. But sometimes my motivation and desire to run changes every day, and I can’t really figure out why. All I can do is take things one run at a time, knowing that each time I lace up my shoes, I’m stronger for it.

Despite that, I can admit that it’s not really fun to feel this way – I wish I could ride the high of running forever. And sometimes the fact that I don’t actually makes me feel like an imposter. Because real runners love running all the time, right??

Sure. And dark chocolate doesn’t have any calories…

An Exciting Opport(nuun)ity

We interrupt our regularly scheduled blogging for a brief announcement:

I’m In!

No, I’m not suddenly running the NYC Marathon (just wait till 2012), but I like to think that I have the opportunity to do something even more exciting -

HTC-graphic-blog

I’m running Hood to Coast this summer with Nuun and one two teams of fabulous female bloggers!!

When I started scheming up ways to get on a team with Becky and EC after watching the Hood to Coast movie, I never in one million years thought I’d actually get the chance to run the relay a short few months later. To say this is a dream come true is an understatement.

I am still jumping up and down and giddy every time I talk about it.This is without a doubt the coolest opportunity that has come from my blog since I started it last year. And I know I couldn’t have gotten it without your help.

So thank you (so very much) for your outpouring of support, both for this contest and always. The community of bloggers is one of those great, unexpected perks of blogging – I never realized such an awesome community even existed before I started my own blog. And now it’s one of the best things about it.

I absolutely cannot wait to visit Oregon for the first time with Nuun in August. I can’t think of a better way to see this scenic state than by foot (and while crammed into a smelly van)! And I’m so excited to be running this truly epic relay with some bloggers I’ve already met (like Emily and Susan) and a group of bloggers I can’t wait to get to know.

Of course I’ll be updating you throughout this experience (both on the blog and via Twitter), but for now, if you want to read a little bit more about what the weekend will entail, you can find it on Nuun’s blog here.

I hope you all are ready – the relay excitement is growing stronger than ever!

In other news, I was able to borrow a computer, so hopefully I’ll be back to regular blogging tomorrow.

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