Posts Tagged by half marathon

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!

 

Half Marathon Unplugged Race Recap

Like most of the running world, my thoughts (and heart) are focused on Boston this weekend. I’ve read articles, watched news stories, followed along with many runners who are preparing to run. While I don’t regret my ultimate decision to not register for this year’s race (in fact, looking back at pregnantLC I now wonder what I was even thinking), there is still a small part of me that wishes more than anything that I could be one of the thousands running the streets of Boston on Monday. Or at least be on the sidelines cheering (which is looking less and less likely as race day approaches). Best of luck to everyone running! I will be virtually cheering for all of you!

Last Saturday I ran my first race postpartum…which also happened to be my longest run in over a year. The result? It went way better than expected. Official time: 1:48:28 (8:17/mile). Besides a few small aches in my knees and pelvis/groin by the end, I felt surprisingly good. Not really like my “old” self, but it’s amazing how quickly the muscle memory comes back. Almost like I never took any time off at all.

The downside to all this is that I seem to have irritated my SI joint without realizing it. Despite the fact that it did not hurt at all during the race, I woke up the next morning with what I initially thought was sciatica. Long story short, a week of pain and a little research later, I’m pretty sure I have SI Joint Dysfunction, a problem that is common during pregnancy and after childbirth. More about that later. For now, let’s focus on the fun part, shall we?

The end result was better than I could have asked for, but the entire event didn’t go quite as seamlessly as that. Here’s how it all went down.

Half Marathon Unplugged Recap

Night before, sometime around 9:00pm

I walk aimlessly around the house, trying to gather up everything I’ll need for race day but not quite remembering how this part of the routine goes. I get out a top and running shorts but beyond that I’m sort of lost. Suddenly remember that I have no fuel for the race. And although I never used to take anything besides water/Nuun during the half marathon distance, circumstances are a little different now. I briefly entertain the idea of running out to the store to find something (anything!) with calories…before remembering that this is Vermont and everything closes around 8:00pm. Decide not to worry and go to bed instead.

Sometime in the middle of the night

Darling child, who otherwise sleeps through the night (yes, I realize how lucky we are) has brought another cold home from daycare and wakes up in the middle of the night because she can’t breathe (poor baby). Stumble into the room and try to quickly suck her nose out, which succeeds only in making her mad. Abandon that idea and try to coax her back to sleep. After what seems like only a few minutes later, she wakes up again. This time I “accidentally” kick Evan awake and he goes in to wrap her back up and give her the pacifier.

6:00AM race morning

Alarm goes off. Baby, of course, is now sleeping soundly. Stumble around the house trying to gather up my things and prepare breakfast. Realize we have absolutely no food in the house besides one old, stale bagel (yum). Laugh at how completely unprepared for this whole thing I am. Make the last minute decision to stop at a local cafe on the way to the race for food and coffee.

Gently wake up baby. Feed her and then rush around the house trying to gather up everything she’ll need for the day. Kick myself for forgetting to get Amelia’s stuff ready last night while I was gathering up my own. On a whim, grab a couple handfuls of jelly beans and stuff them in a baggy for the race. Hey, sugar is sugar, right? Somehow make it out of the house relatively on time.

9:45 – 11:00 AM

Make it to packet pick up and then drive over to the start. Find a parking spot right behind the porta-potties and nurse the baby in the backseat of the car while other runners stretch outside. Pump out a few extra ounces to ensure I’m slightly more…comfortable. Nothing like a good nursing/pumping session to really “pump” you up for a race! Manage to make it to the start with a few minutes to spare.

team watermelon preraceTeam Watermelon – cutest cheerleader on the course!

Miles 1 – 4

With very little fanfare, the announcer yells go and the crowd surges. I surge with them, falling in step with the lead women. I look at the small lean runners around me and size them up, assessing the competition. I am light…I am floating…I am fast…for about 30 seconds, anyway. Then I look at my watch, remember I have no business keeping that pace for 1 mile, let alone 13, and crash right back to reality.

For the rest of that first mile, it’s hard to get in the zone. I can’t find my groove. I’m thinking about how out of shape I am, how running doesn’t feel as smooth and effortless as it used to. I find myself wishing I was fit and strong, annoyed that I can’t run the race like my old self. Hating the clunky, awkward feeling of my stride.

And then Avicii comes on my playlist singing, “I can’t tell where the journey will end, but I know where to start.” It’s exactly what I need to hear to snap me out of my weird funk. This race wasn’t the result of weeks of hard training — it’s the beginning of a new journey. I don’t know how long it’ll take to get back to my pre-pregnancy racing self, or if I ever will be that runner again. But I’ve got to start somewhere.

I finally relax, focus on having fun and enjoying the day. The sun is shining and spring is in the air. And I’m running! Life is good.

Half unplugged miles 1_4

Miles 5 – 8

The first four miles of the race wind through neighborhoods before entering the bike path. It’s flat and beautiful. For the first 5 miles, I didn’t allow myself to look at my watch (besides that moment immediately after the start) for fear that a) I would realize I was going too fast and panic or b) I would see how slow I was running and become frustrated. Instead I’ve tried to run completely by feel. Gauging my effort and keeping things relaxed. So when I look down at 5 miles in and notice that I’m averaging an 8:0X pace, I’m pleasantly surprised. A little panicked, since my only real goal had been to keep it under 10:00–okay, fine, 9:00–minute miles. But I feel completely in control of the pace. I figure my body will slow down when it needs to.

After that, my focus is on making it to Evan and Amelia. I know they’re somewhere around Mile 6 with Nuun and jelly beans. I see so many moms and dads on the sidelines with their babies — waiting while their partner runs. I can’t even believe how happy that makes me…how excited I feel to be a part of that group now (cheesy, I know. But true!).

Suddenly I see them on the side of the bike path and I feel a surge of energy. I say hello, quickly take a couple sips of Nuun, grab the jelly beans and continue running. The moment goes by way too fast. As soon as I’ve left them behind I wonder why I didn’t linger longer…there was still a long way to go before I would see them again.

postpartum half 1

I start to get a little hungry so I suck on a few jelly beans. Not quite the race fuel of champions, but desperate times… Unfortunately all the candy does is make me thirstier. After this endless, frigid winter, 60 degrees feels so much warmer than I’m used to and all I can think about is getting to that next water station sometime after the 7 mile marker. I finally make it there, gulp down water and hope I have enough energy to get through the next 6 miles.

Splits: Miles 5 – 8

Half Unplugged miles 5_8Ignore the third column – that’s something Strava calculates.

Miles 8-11

Unfortunately, just one mile later things start catching up to me. I’m starting to feel a little achey…the miles taking their toll. I don’t feel out of energy, but I don’t feel super pumped about running 5 more miles either. And I’m thirsty. So incredibly thirsty. I curse myself for not carrying water with me…or at least taking the Nuun from Evan a couple miles ago. I should have known – I drink a lot of water normally. Add breastfeeding to the mix and my thirst is out of control. I start fantasizing about the next water stop – 3 miles away. I tell myself I just need to make it there. The miles keep ticking by. I try not to look at my watch too much but can tell I’m slowing down a little. At mile 10 I eat a few more jelly beans  to celebrate making it to double digits…and almost immediately regret it (so much sugar, so little water). Just 3 more miles to go, I tell myself. That’s nothing.

Finally make it to the water stop and grab two cups, sucking them down like I haven’t had a drink in days.

Splits: Miles 8 – 11

Half Unplugged Miles 8_11

 

Miles 12 – Finish

The last two miles are the worst. We turn off the bike path and into the park. I notice fast runners coming back toward me in the other direction, and I start to wonder just how far they had to run before turning around. We weave into a neighborhood and up hills that feel a lot steeper than they should. I see the 12 mile marker but we still aren’t turning around. I curse the course designers for putting this stupid little loop at the end. Just make it back to the park, I tell myself.

We finally get back to the park and I check my watch – 12.66 miles. The finish is closer than I thought! I cruise down the hill, round a corner and there it is. I see the clock, still under 1:50, give a final surge and “sprint” to the finish line, smiling at Evan and Amelia as I speed by. For a second I feel like my old self again – running fast and light and free.

I cross the finish line and immediately everything hurts. My quads, my groin…I feel like I’ve run a full marathon, not a half. But I made it!

Splits Miles 12 – 13.1

Half Unplugged miles 11_finish

Post-race

Evan and Millie_postrace pizza

Hobble around for a few minutes to “loosen” up my legs. Hop in the car, nurse the baby (sorry about the sweat, Little One) and make our way to our new post-race tradition: American Flatbread. Eat my weight in pizza and for the first time ever (since I was pregnant the other two times we’ve been there) enjoy a nice refreshing beer.

postrace beerAmelia gave the pizza and beer two thumbs up!

And my cute little cheerleader? She was amazing. So good and happy the whole day. And the best race day motivation I could’ve asked for.

 

How Not to Train for a Half Marathon

*Especially if it’s your first one in a very long time.

I’m running a half marathon tomorrow. Not only will this be my first (non-pregnant) race since November 2012 (yikes!), but it will also be the longest distance I’ve run in a year. Considering the previous statement, you would think that I’d have spent a long time diligently training; slowly building up my base to ensure that I am completely prepared for this exciting reentry into the world of racing.

I had every intention of doing this. Or rather, I intended to build up as slowly as a person can over the course of 10 weeks after 6 weeks of limited activity while recovering from a c-section. In hindsight, my April half marathon goal may have been a tad ambitious – not because 10 weeks isn’t enough time to train for a half but…when you’re starting from zero and find yourself with significantly less free time and slightly different priorities well… let’s just say my intentions never actually made their way into the action stage.

Remember when I posted this plan and said that I would use it as a guide for my training? Well, I took the “guide” part pretty literally. I did okay for a little while and then a cold, a heel injury, the return to work and a stomach flu all sort of derailed my plans. So you know, I may have skipped a run (or 10) and just sort of hobbled my way through training as best as I could.

In the spirit of full disclosure and transparency, I present to you my actual Postpartum Half Marathon Training Plan.

Don’t try this at home, kids. Results not guaranteed.

postpartum half marathon plan

There were a bunch of walks and some limited strength training in here too, but you get the idea. In sum: this is not the way you should train for a half (clearly). And you can see where I realized I better get myself in gear and step it up. Would I recommend cramming your long runs into the last two weeks of training before a big race? Nope. But hey, I’m still standing. And since I didn’t die on my 11 mile run last weekend and was actually able to maintain a fairly steady pace the entire time, I’m obviously super prepared for the race tomorrow. Let’s just hope a little race day adrenaline and the addition of a cute little cheerleader on the sidelines is enough to get me through those final miles.

Amelia standing

Assuming I survive*, I promise to be back soon to update you with all the gory details.

*Despite how the above post might sound, I’m actually really excited about the race tomorrow. Okay, so I’m also incredibly stressed. What was I thinking, signing up for a Saturday race 2 hours away from my house after only my second full week back in the office (a week that has been incredibly draining, I might add)?! But mostly excited. I can’t say I have no goals for the race, because obviously I would like to finish, and I’d love if I could somehow do it between 2:00 and 2:10. But I’m not stressing about the pace at all. The plan is to go out there, take it easy, and rediscover the joy (and pain!) of racing again. In some ways I feel like I am starting from scratch – I knew how to race before I got pregnant, knew to dial it back a bit in races during pregnancy, but I’m not so sure how to race now…in this awkward, out of shape postpartum state. If nothing else, it should be an interesting experience. And a good baseline to see where all that time off and a few weeks of minimal training has gotten me.

The Not-Training Training Plan

After a few warm days that teased of spring, winter has returned to Vermont. It’s freezing, the one million feet of snow still on the ground has turned into ice, and more snow is in the forecast for 4 out of the next 5 days. It’s that time of year when I start questioning the life decisions that somehow brought me to this frozen tundra of a state. Thankfully Evan, Amelia and I will soon be escaping the frigid temperatures for a much-needed warm getaway. My little snow baby isn’t going to know what to do with herself when she feels the sun for the first time. But more about that later.

IMG 5530

Instead, let’s talk about training! (it’s been awhile) Or rather, “not-training.” Over that past few weeks, I’ve enjoyed heading out for a short run whenever I felt like it. It’s been nice to ease my way back into this sport. As much as I missed the regularity of training plans and races in my life over this past year, I find that I’m really enjoying this in-between stage — the not pregnant, but not training phase. Just taking my comeback one slow step at a time.

However, there’s a little race that I signed up for in mid-April that’s fast approaching. As tired as I am of this winter weather, I can’t believe it’s already the end of February. Spring (and my return to work) is right around the corner. Which means it’s time to get my butt in gear.

The half marathon I’m planning to run will be a little over a year to the day that I found out I was pregnant with Amelia. I’m not training to race this half. In fact, I don’t even expect to get up to 13 miles before race day. Instead, I’m looking at it as a milestone. To signify the end of one cycle (pregnancy/recovery) and the beginning of the next. This half marathon will be the the start of my training. A goal to keep me motivated during this tough re-entrance into running and a baseline to see where I’m at before fall marathon training begins.

I’m so excited to bring this phase of life full circle. I loved running while pregnant, have really soaked up my recovery time and am looking forward to the future. There’s a fire burning deep in my heart that I haven’t felt in a long time. I want to get strong, I want to work hard. Any trace of burnout I’ve felt over the past couple of years has completely disappeared. I’m ready to get back out there again. I know it’ll take time, but the funny thing about it is that makes me more excited, not less. I want to be fast again — someday. But more than that, I’m looking forward to the work. To feel that familiar ache in my muscles after a long run, the gotta-puke-burning-lungs sensation during a hard workout, and the mental pain as I fight those demons that tell me I need to quit. In short, absence really has made my heart grow fonder. It’s been so long since I’ve pushed myself that I’m actually looking forward to the pain.

Now, of course that’s easy for me to say as I sit here on the couch with a baby sleeping on my chest. And despite my excitement to work hard again, I’m still not at the place where I’ll choose a run over time with Amelia…and I’m certainly not wishing I was out running long on a cold winter morning instead of in bed snuggling a baby. I am soaking up every single minute that I can with her. But I’m slowly getting glimmers of my old “runner” self back, and I love that too. When I do get the opportunity to run, I’ve tried to enjoy every single moment, even the sucky “why am I so tired after 4 miles??” ones.

DSC 0801

Anyway, that’s a lot of rambling to say: I’m excited about training and want to slowly build up my base, but I’m not considering myself to be “in training” yet. However, since I do have a half marathon coming up in the very near future, I need to make sure I’m actually able to run for over an hour and a half without dying. Enter the “Not-Training Training Plan.”

postpartum half marathon training plan

The sole goal here is to build up my base. To slowly work on my endurance and practice running long. My last double-digit run was over the summer when I was 20 weeks pregnant….almost 30 weeks ago. I would like to get my body back to the place where I can handle double-digit runs before I start actually training (i.e. working on speed, etc). But I want to be smart about it. I’ve been running for 3 weeks and have only gone on a handful of short, easy runs in that time. Chances are I’m being a little more conservative than I need to be. But my injury-prone body has been through some pretty dramatic changes over the past year. So I’d rather be safe than sorry.

The training plan I posted above is meant to serve as an outline only. Weeks 1-3 reflect my actual runs. The rest are runs I hope to complete. It should be noted that I don’t really plan to follow this schedule exactly as it is written — I already didn’t complete the run I had scheduled for yesterday. But I need a guideline to make sure I can actually handle the distance on race day. Like I said before, it’s probably more conservative than I need to be. I’m keeping my overall mileage low and building up as slowly as I can within the time frame. If I feel good one day/week, I’ll run more; if I don’t feel up to it, I’ll do less. This is all uncharted territory for me.

In the meantime, I need to figure out how to transfer this sleeping baby off my lap so I can run to the bathroom. My day is just chock-full of excitement! Hopefully I can squeeze a few miles in later too.

 

The Increasingly Irrational Decisions of LB

As you all know by now, Sunday was supposed to be my first race of the season – and my very first race as a Saucony Hurricane. Instead, it was my first real DNS (did not start).

Not quite as exciting…OR something I’m particularly proud of and excited to write about. Obviously I remained in denial about the situation for as long as possible. So how does one go from proclaiming that a little bit of rest is all she needs to be able to run a race to deciding not to even start?

Well….without further ado, I present to you: “The Increasingly Poor Irrational Decisions of LB” (anyone else seen this show? No? Just me…?)

Friday night

Come home from cross training at the gym. At this point I have spent the entire afternoon Googling some form of the phrase: “pain arch runner” and have managed to convince myself that I have full-blown post-tib tendinitis, my right arch is slowly collapsing, and before I know it, I will be flat-footed and permanently injured. Kick myself for thinking that even cross training was a good idea. Spend a good portion of the evening trying to convince EC that my right ankle is, indeed, collapsing more than my left.

Saturday morning

Wake up. Immediately start icing foot. Get Ibuprofen from nearby drugstore. You know – to reduce the inflammation and all that jazz. Take Ibuprofen and head down to UPS with EC to pick up last year’s uniform that Saucony sent me for the race on Saturday. Fall immediately in love with the ViZiPRO pink and blather incessantly about how excited I am to race in it the next day.

2011 Hurricane UniformThis picture does not do justice to the wonderful brightness of this pink

Head to local running shoe store to explain my plight to the staff and look at inserts. Because obviously, even though I haven’t run with inserts for any of my adult life, I must need them now. You know – to support that dropping arch of mine. I have my gait quickly analyzed and the staff member tells me that I definitely over-pronate, but if anything – it’s more on my left foot than my right (What?!? He must not be seeing things correctly). I try on a couple of different types of inserts and even run up and down the street in one. I’ve made my decision – I will buy inserts and I will race in them tomorrow. All my problems will be solved.

Thankfully, I have EC with me. And with a few moments to reflect and speak rationally about the situation with him (combined with some hesitant remarks from the staff when I stated my plan out loud), I decide to hold off on the inserts…for now. I would still race, but without the extra support. And then if things didn’t get better, I’d go back and buy a pair.

(On a positive note, we did get EC fitted in a brand new pair of running shoes of his own. So the trip wasn’t a total bust)

Saturday afternoon

After running a few more errands, EC and I get back to my apartment. I put on compression socks, keep my feet up, and proceed to keep up a routine of icing for the rest of the day (along with taking another Ibuprofen). RICE at its finest. Still in denial, I look up the course map and start talking about places EC can stand to watch. You know, my foot is actually feeling a lot better. In fact, it’s practically good as new. I will definitely be running tomorrow.

Operation RICE for my stupid right foot is underway

Saturday evening

EC begins the long, tedious process of talking some sense into me (easier said than done). I brush him off, telling him that he doesn’t need to worry. I will start the race tomorrow and if I feel any pain at all, I will drop out. We both know this is a lie. He continues making logical statements. I continue arguing against them with increasingly illogical ones of my own:

But I need to run this race. I spent money on the registration. It wasn’t cheap, you know!

But the race sold out. If I don’t run, that means I’ll have taken a bib from someone else that could’ve run. I feel too awful!

You know – it would be different if I had broken my foot or something. {yes, clearly talking about a more severe injury that you could have is the rational thing to do in this situation}

It’s not like I have some serious injury.

But I’m not even limping around!

Look – it is SERIOUSLY fine. My foot does not hurt {stated as I ran around in circles in my apartment like a madwoman}.

I can’t just sit around tomorrow. I need to do a long run. Which obviously means that I need to do this race.

But I won’t even get my t-shirt….

Finally, with a few more tears than I’d like to admit, I accept defeat. What finally convinced me? Statements about prevention….and poker.

You’ll have to wait until my next post for the poker talk (I bet you’re excited!). But for now, we can focus on prevention. Something I strongly support in most aspects of my life (you know the old axiom – “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”). But when it comes to running – something I easily forget when I’m blinded by crazy.

Because even though my foot really was feeling better than it had, I knew that it still wasn’t 100%. I might have been able to make it through the race, but not without further damage. As EC so wisely said:

It’s not about the injury you have now. It’s about the injury you can prevent.

Which got me thinking about the question my old coach used to ask us when we were struggling with running through injury.

Would you rather run today, or run for the rest of your life?

While I don’t think racing a half marathon on a sore foot would have kept me out of commission for the rest of my life, the sentiment was the same. And could be re-phrased to something more like this:

Would you rather run today, or run on April 16th?

I needed to choose April 16th.

If this had been my goal race, there wouldn’t have been any question about whether I would run it. I would have gone out there and willed my foot to take me through one last run, knowing that I could ice and rest it for a long time after. But Hyannis was not my goal race. Sure, it would’ve been a great training run, and I was itching to race after many months away from it. But I needed to keep my eyes on the ultimate goal. Sometimes, when you’re in the midst of training, it’s easy to get caught up in what you need to do right now. And think that if you don’t do this long run, your training is out the window. Your hopes of running a marathon are over.

When in reality, sometimes NOT running is much better for you in the end.

saucony guide 5

Now it’s Tuesday. I’m a couple of days removed from the situation, and am thinking much more rationally. Even though I’m still bummed about my big fat DNS, my life has gone on (what a surprise). I’m happy I didn’t choose to injure my foot further by being stubborn. And I’m hoping that the extra rest and cross training I am doing this week will help things heal, and allow me to race not once, but twice this coming weekend.

Next up – what marathon training and poker have in common. Or, I should say, my irrational approach to training and poker…

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