Category: Running

Race Week! Let’s Talk “Goals”

It’s been awhile since I’ve written one of these.

Sunday is technically my “goal” race. The one I have been training for all season.

chadhero

Please note that I use the word training lightly here, since I wouldn’t say it’s been particularly strict or intense. But I have been running. There was a “cycle.” I built up my mileage and I tried to stay consistent. There wasn’t exactly any speed work, but I occasionally ran fast and did a few short races to work on speed. And I’ve even seen a little improvement. My endurance has gotten better, my paces have dropped. I think I am a stronger runner now than I was in June.

But I am not where I want to be – where I hoped I’d be way back when I was plotting my comeback. I’ve come to peace with this and I honestly have no regrets about the way my training went down. Just stating a fact.

So when it comes to setting goals for Sunday, I am sort of at a loss. I can look at projected time calculators and obsess over pacing all I want, but when it comes down to it, I still don’t really trust what my body can do. Racing still feels like unfamiliar territory – that confidence I used to feel on a starting line has not quite returned.

But I also would be lying if I said I had no goals whatsoever. That I would be happy just to finish this half marathon. I did that back in April. This time, I want more.

This is what I do know:

A. I want to race this thing. Whatever that means for Sunday, I want to go into the half marathon ready to run “competitively” (with myself) and know that I ran as fast as I could on that day.

B. I would like to run faster than I did during my first postpartum half back in April (<1:48:28). I think (hope) I’ve got this one in the bag, but you know…anything can happen.

C. Ideally I want to see a 1:3X on that clock when I cross the line. I realize this is a very big range (anywhere from 7:33 to 6:51 pace), but I will not be quite as happy with anything over 1:40. There, I said it.

D. While I would love to PR (<1:33:07), I know I am not in that kind of shape. The unrealistic side of me focuses on the fact that my PR half was run on a snowy day in the middle of marathon training when I was battling a really awful chest cold. I would like to think I could (theoretically–someday) run faster. But my sane, practical side knows that even sick Lauren from 2011 was faster than I am now.

So where does that leave me? Doing a whole lot of babbling over a whole lot of nothing, you could say.

Given how my runs have gone over the past few months, I think a 1:35 is probably a realistically challenging goal. If I can hold a 7:15 pace for 13.1 miles, I will be more than happy. I guess we will see how it goes!

Evan will be running with me, so the other part of my goal of course is to not let him beat me. At our last race (which I promise to recap soon only because it was awesome), I chased Evan the entire way. Finally caught him in the last 0.5 mile, passed him and thought I really opened up the lead in the final stretch. So imagine my surprise when I crossed the finish line and suddenly saw a flash of his bouncy dark hair right next to me. The jerk leaned across the line for the tie. And since E comes before L in the alphabet, he is now listed first in the results for all of eternity.

At least we have documentation of our “photo finish.” So I will leave you with that, and let you be the judge…

Harpoon finish

Back soon with race recaps! Best of luck to everyone racing this weekend!

 

Training & Life Update

It’s National Run@Work Day! Anyone celebrating? My office is hosting our own Run/Walk@Work event next week (just want to be nonconformists, I suppose) but I’ll still be getting in a few miles during lunch today. It’s the least I could do to support the awesome sport of running, you know?

Anyway, it’s been awhile, but that’s kind of the norm around here now. So let’s just jump right in!

Fall Racing

After 100on100, I took a full week off to recover. The event itself really deserves its own post (I keep meaning to, I promise!), but the short version is that it was an amazing, grueling race…in a completely different way than the 200-mile overnight relay.

100on100 start

The highlights: I was really happy with how I ran, I absolutely loved the course (every leg was scenic!), and I am already planning for next year. But more about that later.

I didn’t intend to take a week completely off running after the race, but it took longer for the desire to come back than it did for my legs to feel whole again. And in the end, I think the extended rest was good. Despite training at a lower volume than I used it, I’m finding that it takes a bigger toll on my body these days. That complete week of rest gave me the boost I needed to start ramping up again.

Now I’m happy to be back in training. The big race for the fall is the CHaD Hero Half Marathon. It feels a little strange to “just” be training for a half, but the theme of this year has been rebuilding. I really want to work on getting my endurance back, building up a little bit of speed, and making regular training a habit again.

And this race really is the perfect one to train for. The course is practically in my backyard, it’s for a great cause, Evan wants to run it too, AND my parents are coming up from NC to babysit Amelia. So basically all the stars have aligned. Although I’m pretty certain that a PR is not feasible, I really just want to get back into racing distance again. I’ll talk more about goals in a future post, but the main purpose of this is to shake the rust off and finish “competitively” (by my own standards – which basically means faster than the one I ran in April). Oh, and beating Evan would be nice. Or at least not getting smoked by him in the final sprint.

Right now the other race on my calendar is the Harpoon Brewery Octoberfest during Columbus Day weekend. This will be our 3rd year in a row running, and this year I’ve got my sights set on a case of beer. The distance is weird (3.6 miles) and the fee is a bit steeper than a typical 5K, but for awesome beer mugs and post-race drink tickets, it’s more than worth it. Plus, did I mention the cases of beer up for grabs for the top finishers?

harpoon-octoberfest-race.jpg

Training

My goal for this cycle is to build up to consistently running 6 days per week again…easier said than done, it seems! I’ve been at 5 for awhile now and honestly, that feels pretty comfortable. I don’t remember it being so difficult in the past but man, these days it tires me out. In an ideal world, I would also like to get myself back over 40 mpw for the first time since pre-pregnancy. I’ve been sitting pretty comfortably in the low/mid-30s and surprisingly, it feels like enough. If I don’t make it out of the 30s before the half, I won’t stress about it. I know I can complete one on less (though maybe wouldn’t recommend it). However, I would like to feel decently competitive at this race, which means stepping outside my comfort zone for just a few weeks.

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The biggest wrench in my training lately has been the increasingly shorter days. I could write a whole post whining about this, but in the end it just sounds like a bunch of excuses. Short story long – I got into a habit of running in the early morning over the summer and, for the first time in my life, started to enjoy it (but shhhh I still won’t call myself a morning runner). Lately, however, I’m finding it harder to get myself out the door. Not just because it’s early and cold(er), but the dark makes me nervous. It’s not like I’ve never run in the dark before. There’s just something about the pre-dawn darkness at 5:30AM that feels a little more unsafe than 5:30PM.

I don’t necessarily think my greatest threat is other people. I live in a safe, low-crime area (yes, I know, I still need to be alert because anything can happen) that is also pretty rural with very few sidewalks. At least part of every single run is along the major route through town. And in the darkness of the morning, I’ve seen my life flash before my eyes a few times while running along stretches with a thin shoulder as cars speed toward me with their brights on.

I’m not sure what the best solution to this issue is. I wear reflective gear, don’t listen to music, and stay completely alert. I’ve been trying to experiment with running at different times of day, but really my best chance at running more than 5 miles is in the morning. Lunchtime runs are short, the window between finishing work and daycare closing really only gives me 45-50 minutes, and running after I get home is tough because it throws off everyone’s (read: the baby’s) schedule. Plus the dog doesn’t get his walk. Just one more thing to feel guilty about…

Yes, I know, this is a really minor problem that I’m making into a big one. In reality, I just need to suck it up and get it done when I can…just like every other person who fits training into their life. But if anyone has any tips, advice or can commiserate, I’d love to hear it!

Life

Amelia is going to be 9 months on Sunday; 40 weeks on the 27th. Out as long as she was in. These past 9 months have gone by in a blur. She is crawling, standing, and walking with assistance. She hasn’t met a food she doesn’t love, loves going for runs with us in the BOB (she “sings” to herself on our runs) and waves at everyone and everything. Watching someone learn new skills every single day is one of the most amazing things I’ve ever gotten to experience. She has already changed so much from that teeny little newborn and I know it’s only going to keep getting better.

Amelia_8months_waving

I still have a love/hate relationship with work. The roller coaster of loving my job and feeling as though I’m doing something meaningful one minute and hating the fact that I work the next has not really faded since I’ve been back. Fortunately, however, the ache of being away from the baby during the day that I felt in those first few weeks is long gone. I see how much she has blossomed in daycare, I see how she interacts with the kids there and I see how much she truly loves her “teachers” and it makes me happy. Makes me think that this is good for her (and for me)…or so I hope.

And in terms of my body? It’s different. Not “back” but not gone either…if that makes any sense. I plan to do more of an update on this later only because it’s relevant to running/racing, but I will tell you that as long as my body is able to run I’m happy. I’ve seen glimpses of that old speed come back during recent races and random runs (like a 6-mile sub-7 evening run that came out of nowhere), and it’s incredibly encouraging. Gradual forward progress. That’s really all anyone can ask for, I think.

 

Cigna 5K Race Recap

Last year, when I was pregnant and relatively naïve about motherhood, I made lots of grand claims (both publicly and privately) about running and training post-pregnancy. It’s my first time doing this whole parenting thing after all, and so I had no frame of reference – no real idea of what life would be like on the other side. I only knew how old LBC felt about training. And Old LBC was pretty passionate about it.

I got a lot of “just you wait” comments in those days. And while I listened to them and knew they were coming from a place of good intentions, I didn’t fully understand. I figured life would be different and my priorities would shift, but I couldn’t imagine a life without wanting to train. Or one where I didn’t care if I wasn’t in great shape or my body was mushy.

Well, turns out a lot of those commenters were right – almost. Life is different, my priorities are different, and for what seemed like a long time, I wasn’t sure I would ever have the desire or energy to actually train again. Competitive LBC seemed to be gone. I felt content with just going out a few times a week for a few slow miles. Not necessarily because I was so incredibly busy (although there were times I felt like I was struggling to keep my head above water). I just didn’t want to do it. And to be perfectly honest – getting back in shape kind of sucks. It’s humbling and at times demoralizing. Part of the fun (for me) is feeling like I’m fast and light and fit and strong. Slogging along for a couple of miles just to say that I completed a run doesn’t do it for me.

I would be lying if I said I didn’t stress about this change in perspective a little bit. But for the most part, I tried to take a step back and let things work themselves out. Tried to give myself patience and time to get back at it again. And you know what? It worked. Slowly, as the months have gone by, I’ve felt that fire burning again. Just a flicker at first. But over the past several months it has grown and grown until it has become a strong flame, pushing me to get up in the dark to pound out miles before work. The training is different, the intensity is less, but it’s coming back. Turns out Competitive LBC never really went away. She was just dormant for a little while.

Which is how I found myself, on a warm evening in the middle of August, after limited training and absolutely no speed work, with a shiny new 5K PR. Don’t ask me how it happened. Even after 2 weeks of reflection, I still couldn’t tell you.

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I signed up for the Cigna 5K with a team from work. Every year we enter a team in the corporate race. I missed out last year because of the pregnancy (running a hot August 5K after work hours away from home was just not appealing), so I felt a little extra pressure to run this year. I somehow roped Evan into the race with me by claiming that we could just run “easy” together. I’m pretty sure he knew I was lying right from the start, but to his credit he agreed – despite the fact that the 5K was only 2 days before 100on100.

I had butterflies in my stomach all day long. I felt like I was back in school, waiting for a cross country meet. I couldn’t focus, didn’t know what to eat, and had absolutely no idea how I was going to run a fast 5K after sitting at my desk all day.

Fortunately for us, it was cooler than normal that evening, with temperatures in the mid-70s. We got to Manchester in just enough time to use the porta-potties, drop Amelia off with my friend and her son who were there to support her husband, do a quick (5 minutes – not enough!!) warm up, and fight our way into the crowds on the line. With over 5,600 participants, this was (by far) the largest 5K I have ever run. We were in the first wave (sub-23:00) and I knew the lead pack would go out fast. So my only goal was to go out strong and hold on.

Before we started I made Evan promise that he wouldn’t hold back for me. Don’t get me wrong – I wanted more than anything to beat him. But I didn’t want him to make it easy. And I had no plans to wait for him if he fell behind (just being honest – he wouldn’t want me to either!).

The gun went off and everyone surged. I took off quickly, weaving in and out of the crowds. I told myself not to waste so much energy going around people but it was nearly impossible. After what felt like forever, Evan and I settled into a pace side by side. I looked down at my watch and felt a wave of disappointment when I saw the pace: 6:30/mile. Normally at the beginning of a 5K, I am hopped up on adrenaline and go out way too fast. But I was already struggling. 6:30 felt harder than I wanted it to be and I panicked. I needed to get out of my own head.

So I changed my strategy. All that mattered from that point on was perceived effort. I wasn’t allowed to look at my watch except for at the mile markers (there were timing clocks at every mile). I just focused on staying with Evan and keeping an even pace. “Lock it in!” I told myself, repeating it so many times that it became my motto for the race – the words I went back to over and over when I started to struggle.

Mile 1 – 6:19

Turns out the first mile was all uphill (hence the struggle). We turned a corner in the 2nd mile and went down a very welcome hill. Spectators were out cheering and spraying us with hoses. I ran alongside a woman with a hose and got hammered with water right in my face. It was amazing! A temporary break from focusing on the pain — before Evan suddenly started to pull ahead just a little bit. I tried not to let him get far or become discouraged. I still had time. I still had energy. I could catch him eventually.

Normally mile 2 of a 5K seems to drag on forever – the adrenaline from the first mile has worn off and the final mile still feels so far away. I don’t know if it was the slight downhill or the fact that I was sort of chasing Evan, but the mile went by so quickly. I looked down at my watch at the mile marker: 6:18. Nearly identical split to my first mile. Keep it locked in, I thought.

The final mile brought us along the back of the warehouses in Manchester and I knew there would be a hill to the finish. The same one that destroyed me during MCM two years ago. Evan seemed to find a second wind and started pulling further away. My head yelled at my legs to go with him, but my heart wasn’t in it. If I had taken a moment to think about how fast I was running or how close I would be to my old PR, maybe I would have found the motivation. Or maybe I would’ve crumbled under the pressure…who knows. For the first time in maybe ever, I didn’t do any math during a race. I had absolutely no idea what my projected finish time would be until I saw the clock at the line. It was kind of freeing.

After what seemed like an eternity, we finally turned a corner and there it was – the hill I had been dreading for the past mile. I put my head down, lifted my knees and tried to drive my way up. People seemed to be passing me left and right but I only had eyes for one competitor – my husband. Evan may have the leg speed, but I knew I was faster than him on hills. I made it my mission to catch him.

And I did. For a few brief seconds I even pulled ahead. I could see the finish line (still looking so far away) and I tried to sprint with every ounce of energy left in my legs. Unfortunately for me, Evan could see it too. And he was determined not to be out-kicked by his wife in the final sprint. He took off, and I helplessly watched as his back got further and further away.

At that moment I finally looked up at the clock. I was in shock – I saw the 19:xx, watched the seconds ticking closer and closer to my PR and thought maybe, just maybe I could squeak out a few seconds. It was the motivation I needed. I gave one final push, focused on the other backs in front of me (including one female who I had been chasing the entire race), and somehow found another gear. I crossed the finish line absolutely spent but victorious: 19:36, a 10 second PR.

Evan beat me by 3 whole seconds (a PR for him as well!). Which seems like nothing when I type it out. But at the end of a hard 5K, 3 seconds can be an eternity.

Am I happy with that PR? Absolutely! I had no idea what to expect going into the race and would’ve been happy if I had managed to pull off a 20:xx 5K. I pushed hard and ran an even effort. I still can’t believe my splits when I look at them – by far the most consistent 5K I’ve ever run. The PR was just icing on the cake.

I’m happy, excited, and feeling confident…but I’m not satisfied. And really – what kind of runner would I be if I was? I find myself thinking, if I could run that time under those circumstances, just imagine what I can do with X training?? The plight of the runner is to be endlessly unsatisfied, I think. Because the thing is, even if my run was a fluke, even if it was the result of everything magically coming together to give me a time faster than what I could really train to run, I still have that hope. That fire that burns. The will to see how much faster I can go, how much harder I can push. It’s the thing that keeps us running. The thing that makes our runner’s hearts beat.

Competitive LBC is back. She isn’t the same as before, but she’s in there. And that’s enough for now.

Garmin results: 6:19, 6:20, 6:19, last 0.1 – 6:14 pace (19:38)

Official results: 19:36 (6:19), 3rd in AG and 15th female

Seeing as the winning time was 14:38 and the first female ran a 16:36, I am super excited about those stats. And our female corporate team came in 10th overall. An awesome evening at the races!

 

Run With Swagger

I have a bit of a problem. The image of the runner I am in my head doesn’t exactly match up with reality.

when-i-runYeah, I know. It’s an old meme…but go with me here.

It wasn’t always like this. For many months, I had no trust in my body. No faith in what it was capable of…at least, athletically speaking. I felt weak and clunky and out of sorts when I ran.

And then I raced a 10K. My first ever, and the first real test of my speed since Amelia was born. I never wrote about it here (what’s the statute of limitations on race recaps?), but it was the first time in a long time that I felt strong, confident…competitive.

That morning I went out without my Garmin. It was hot and humid and the race start was pushed back so that by the time the gun went off, I was no longer warmed up and the watch wasn’t connected to satellites. I ran blind, without thinking. My only plan to make it hurt. The first woman took a commanding lead from the start, so I just told myself to keep her in my sight for as long as possible.

I held onto 2nd place for the first half of the race. Until the turnaround point, when a pack of 3 women who were running much stronger than I felt passed me. I tried to stay with them, but my lack of training and endurance were catching up to me. I told myself to just hold on for one more mile. And then another.

Somewhere deep inside I found that internal fire that used to burn so bright when I raced. I ended up passing one of those women in the final mile to finish in 43:10. Good enough for 4th (woman) overall and 1st in my age group. I was back.

Since then, I’ve no longer felt like weak, out of shape, postpartum Lauren. There’s a little swagger in my running stride, and in my head I’m pre-pregnancy Lauren. The Lauren who trains for hours and hours every week and is fit enough to run marathons.

Except I’m not. I have some speed back and am slowly gaining stamina, but I’m certainly not in the shape that I was. And definitely not putting the time into training that I once did.

And yet — part of me wonders if that matters. Not the training part, because obviously if you want to get faster and stronger you have to commit. You have to put in the time. The mental image of myself, I mean. You could argue that confidence in running is a good thing. You never improve if you don’t believe in yourself. Will never reach big goals if you don’t trust that you have what it takes to achieve them.

Then again, confidence can make you do some dumb things. Can make you forget rational thoughts for awhile and take on things that you might not be quite ready for.

In less than two weeks I am running the 100on100 relay for the very first time. This relay has been a dream of mine for a while now – 100 miles down the scenic Route 100 in Vermont. It’s going to be hilly, it’s going to be hard, but I am convinced that it’s going to be a blast. And in all my excitement, I kind of maybe volunteered myself for the hardest legs of the course. In the span of 12ish hours, I will be completing 18.9 miles, the last leg straight up Killington. Cumulatively, this will be much farther than I’ve run in…well, I can’t remember how long.

runner 2 descriptionNot going to lie – that runner profile makes me stupidly excited

But I’m not really worried. Maybe I should be. I’ve been fighting a nasty cold for the past week, which has made running difficult (read: almost nonexistent). My training for the race hasn’t been what I had hoped. And, as if the relay itself isn’t enough, I’m running a 5K the Thursday before with a team from work. It’s going to be an exhausting weekend for sure.

But, I have been running. I may not be putting in hours and hours a week, but my runs have been strong and consistent. I train on hills all the time. I’ve practiced running in the early morning humidity and the late afternoon heat. I think know I will be fine if I just pace myself. I guess we’ll find out for sure in 9 days.

The old LB is back. Maybe not physically, but in spirit. And that’s a start, right?

Put Up or Shut Up

Sometimes you need to give yourself a little tough love.

I turned 30 this week. A brand new decade. A time to put my youth and wild party days behind me and finally become a mature adult.

dirt cakeWhich is why I celebrated with dirt cake…just like I have every year since I turned 7

Obviously kidding about that last part (not sure I ever had those days). I actually feel surprisingly okay with turning 30. While I am far from having my life completely together (does anyone ever?), I feel pretty good about where I am. And I certainly don’t feel any older…age is just a number, right?

But it’s sort of impossible to enter a new decade without doing any sort of reflection about the important things in life. And yes, I include running in that category — not just because I’m now officially in a more competitive age group. (yikes!)

For the past 5 months, I’ve sort of been waiting around for things to just magically fall into place. I even said that in an email the other day to Aron, the Runner Formerly Known as Runner’s Rambles (whose baby is only a week younger than Amelia and one of the cutest kids I have ever seen. I’m already negotiating the arranged marriage. You know, for when Amelia is finally allowed to marry at 30). I was lamenting (as I so often do) about how tough it has been to adjust to my new schedule, how it can be hard to fit in running, and how I can’t really fathom having the time to train right now.

I know there’s an adjustment period, but things will somehow all fall into place one day, right?

Stepping back, I realize how silly that notion is. Sure, in some way things have come together with time. I’ve gotten into a new routine, adjusted to being a mom and being back at work, and have even felt better on recent runs than I did when I first started back up. Eventually I’m sure I will get to the point where I don’t even remember what my old life was like.

I’m also making an effort to be patient with myself and focus instead on enjoying as much of this first year as I possibly can. It’s already going by so much faster than I had anticipated.

But the truth is — when it comes to training, things don’t just fall into place. Not really, anyway. Any runner who has trained for and run a PR effort knows that they didn’t just sit back for a few months and wait for everything to come together on race day. It takes work. It takes re-committing to your goal every single day. Putting in time and effort to achieve it.

This is something I’ve thought a lot about lately. For the past few months, I wasn’t sure if I was ready for that again. I’ve been wondering if I even wanted training to have a place in my new life, or if I just felt like it was something I should be doing because it has been a part of my life for so long. You all have been so patient and encouraging as I have tried to figure it all out (and sort of whined about the process on the blog).

There is absolutely nothing wrong with giving it up — whether the break is forever or just a few years. Babies are only babies for such a short time. It’s not something I ever want to sacrifice in the name of running. The loss just isn’t worth it.

But I’m finally at the point where I think I can manage both. As long as I focus on quality training and not quantity, I know I can put in the work to start getting back into shape again. I mentioned in my last post that the itch was back, and over the past couple of weeks it’s only gotten stronger. My mileage is still low, but I’m starting to see little glimmers of speed again. Just enough to make me crave it. To finally feel ready to work to achieve it.

I think I just needed time. My re-entry to postpartum running was not really the joyful, easy return I had envisioned. Things felt weird and off for so long. And the comeback is humbling. When you’re pregnant, it’s easy to slow down and hold back because you know you are doing important work growing a new life every day. But this in-between stage of no longer being pregnant but not really in any shape to push hard is just strange. It’s slow and awkward and clunky. And humbling. Did I mention how humbling it is to have to basically start from scratch again?

But that’s where I am. So it’s time to stop just talking about getting back into shape and actually do something about it. Time to put up or shut up, if you will. This post serves as my official declaration. My commitment to less talk, less over-analyzing and waffling and more action. Training begins now.

Garmin 405 v 220Shiny new toy!

To help, I’ve got a brand new training toy and an exciting race on the calendar — the 100 on 100 relay in August! This is a race I’ve wanted to do for a long time and I’m so excited that we finally have a team together. I’d also love to go back and defend my title at this trail race in July…and of course am still toying with the idea of a fall marathon. I don’t expect to be in PR shape by then, but since this November will mark 2 years since my last full, I think it would be a good idea to run one just to shake the rust off. We will see. The actual race I want to train for is still TBD. I may be ready to start putting in the work, but I still have some commitment issues.

Now who wants to come babysit Amelia?

Amelia_ready for summer

 

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