…What to title this.
Taper started sooner ?
What went wrong?
Wheels came off the bus?
I was supposed to run 24 miles yesterday…a longest run ever. Spoiler alert – I didn’t. I’m sad about that but I feel like I made the right decision (for once).
Let’s go back and start at the beginning. Last week’s 22 miles was awesome. Last Sunday we kept it short and did 6 miles but it was a preview of the loop section of the course and overall it felt pretty good. On Monday I noticed a large blister on my big toe. It is on the side of my big toe next to my 2nd toe. I’m not sure when it started because I didn’t notice it after either run.
For various reasons this week my runs were cut short. On Monday I ran 3 instead of 4 miles. On Tuesday I had to break my run up into 2 pieces due to an emergency bathroom break and did
6 5.7 instead of 10. Thursday was better, 7 instead of 8. I felt ok about these decisions. My body is tired and the blister keeps refilling and was altering my gait. I do not want to get a serious injury at this point (or ever!).
Yesterday my trail running buddy agreed to meet me at the start of my run. I had planned to start just before sunrise and she didn’t want me to run the trails by myself. We planned to do 12-14 miles together and I would finish up with 10-12 miles. There was a section of the course that she hadn’t seen yet and wanted to preview. After all of this trail running with me she has decided to run the half marathon.
I got to the trail head early….which was good because my watch decided to be a jerk and not find a satellite or even get past the splash screen. I ended up doing a master reset. Luckily I had all my data synced so I didn’t lose anything besides my settings. I don’t really care about keeping my activity history on the watch. I was able to reset the run settings because I have those memorized from previous resets. I will have to set it up again for biking and kayaking. I should have seen this as a sign.
The first 14 miles with my friend were actually ok. We started too fast and I asked to slow down. We did once we got off the gravel section at the start. My legs were tired feeling and my feet were hurting a bit but we were moving at a pretty good pace. The first 30 minutes flew by and I took in my first fuel. The next 30+ minutes flew by and I missed my fuel. I tried to take it in but then my timing was messed up. Ultimately I missed fueling and I think it set me back. I kept getting messed up by 5-10 minutes which makes a big difference when you are trying to fuel every 30 minutes.
The blister was growing again. I had drained it and covered it with an “advanced healing” bandage. It was supposed to help but I could feel it blowing up. It didn’t really hurt at first but I knew it was spreading out my toes. And then it started hurting. My feet were hurting and I’m sure my gait was changing. I was super tired and my friend was speeding up as we were nearing the end of her 14 miles. I’m happy for her…she is going to crush the half marathon. She has seen all but a small piece of the course now. There are some small hills in that section but she is prepared.
When we finished the 14 I kept going. I took a long walk break because I was behind on food and in some serious pain….feet and legs. I ate and tried to regroup. It didn’t go very well. Getting behind on fuel is not a good idea.
I ran to the finish line of the course and then decided to explore some trails that are on the other side of the park. Those trails were awesome but I was dead. There were a lot of turns and I tried to pay attention as I made them so I could reverse them later. I eventually got to a stream that I just wasn’t willing to cross. It was cold and raining off and on but I didn’t want soaking wet feet. Spoiler alert – I later ended up with soaking wet feet.
I found a different path and followed that. I eventually got to a super swampy area. I even went off the trail to get around things as times because it was a mud pit. I was mostly walking and feeling terrible. Eventually I decided I was risking injury and needed to head back before things got worse. I could always run more of the part I knew if I started feeling better by the time I was back at my car.
Good thing I turned around. Things got worse. I got lost and had to call home to ask which way to go. Then I missed a turn and ended up even more lost. After a while I wasn’t even on a real trail but it was a gravel road. Between using my phone for GPS and calling home I was able to work my way out. It took way longer than I expected to get out of that area but when I came out I was actually pretty close to my car. I expected to come out of the trails at 19 miles and have an easy mile back to my car but I got out at 20 and was only about 0.4 miles from my car.
The rain was cold. I was soaking wet. My feet hurt. The blister felt huge. I had been freaking out from being lost. Everything was wrong. A small piece of me didn’t want to stop but I knew I had to call it. It was not going to get better. Before my last half marathon I pushed to do a longest run ever of 15 miles and it hurt me. I didn’t want to do that again.
I quit….I gave up…..I got in the car and I shivered the entire drive home because I was wet and I was freezing.
The blister had blown up. I drained again and am trying to dry it out. Everything hurts today and I know that doing the back to back isn’t worth it. I need to recover and I need to heal. This plan was aggressive and didn’t really match my beginner status. It’s ok – I’m adjusting. I’m going to move forward. If I can heal up and recover I still think I will be ok on race day.
Moving on now….what happened yesterday is in the past and can’t be changed.
Today I forced (in the nicest way possible) my buddy to run with me and we did a preview of the Great Falls loop of The North Face course. I was scheduled for 10 miles but wasn’t pressed to hit that number after running hard yesterday. I knew I would hit some hills and do a bunch of hiking in this section of the course.
I was told by someone who had run the course before to check out this section. It’s very different than the rest of the course. I’m quite familiar with the park. We used to hike there often. We had a park pass, lived closer, and would go on weekends to hike and sometimes bike. Even though I knew the trails, I hadn’t ever looked at them with running a race in mind. I wanted to figure out where I would need to hike/walk and be prepared for the different terrain.
I didn’t carry a camera or a phone today but I took many mental pictures.
Here is the course map with a few of my notes added:
In this section of the course some of the hills are big and just not runable for me. Some of the terrain is technical and will involve switching back and forth between running and hiking depending on how my legs feel. Some sections are narrow and I’m bit a concerned about the 50 milers who will be passing me. The section after turn 8 is the most technical. I’m prepared to hold my ground and make sure I’m safe but fully aware that I will have to let faster runners pass me. I can’t quite figure out the timing of where people running the 50 mile race will be but they will be running a similar loop 3 times. Theirs has an extra piece.
We ran a total of 7 miles. I was happy with that. We ended up maintaining the same pace that I ran yesterday. I know on race day I will use a little extra time in this section at the aid station where my buddy is going to crew for me. I will need to reload my fuel and probably my water and that will take time. We need to practice so that I don’t lose too much time.
After we finished running we walked back to enjoy the falls for a few minutes and take a few pictures.
This weekend I covered most of the course. I skipped the easy part in the beginning, one hill, and the section between that hill and Great Falls. I’ve run those parts before so I know what to expect. I’m not sure if I will end up running the Great Falls section one more time during training but I feel like I know what to expect now.
Today I did 22 miles on The North Face course. I started at Algonkian but not at the actual start line…probably a mile in… and ran out 11 miles which got me almost to Great Falls. I didn’t take my phone out until the way back. I decided I wanted some music and that I would actually take a few pictures….ahem, a lot of pictures.
Overall the run was absolutely amazing. I crushed it. No matter what happens on race day I know it’s about the journey and today’s journey was great!
Here’s the course preview:
Week 5 was a good week. I was able to complete all of my scheduled runs for a total of 40 miles. This is very high mileage for me. And it’s going to keep going up.
After dealing with back spasms and missing a run at the end of Week 4, I started Week 5 with a scheduled 4 mile run and I ran very conservatively and knew that if things didn’t feel good I would just go home. It went ok and helped to loosen my back.
Tuesday was another 4 mile run. Nothing exciting. I just got it done. Thursday jumped to 6 miles and I decided that even though some sidewalks still have snow I had to leave my neighborhood. I ran through the hospital and to a neighborhood on the other side and was able to string together enough streets and trails without running the streets in my own neighborhood. Thursday went well – I was able to keep up a faster pace. The weather on Thursday was a preview of the weekend weather. It was cold and windy. I think that kept me motivated to hurry up and get it done.
Yesterday I was scheduled for a longest ever run – 16 miles. (A few more of those longest ever runs are coming up….this is exciting and gives me something to look forward to. At the end of each run I can celebrate a new distance.)
The outdoor temperature was frigid….beyond frigid. It was 19°F but felt like something in the single digits. The wind was brutal. I had plans to meet Kim again because that has been working out really well. I love running with her. I started early to get in my extra miles before we met. From the trail access point I decided to go west into the wind. My plan was to run 2 miles west and then turn back east and head 2 miles past the starting point so that when I got back to the starting point I was at 8 miles. When I realized how bad the wind was I became nervous about my timing and decided to only go 1.5 miles past the starting point when I was heading east. So I was back at the starting point after 7 miles. By then I had seen some running friends who were there for the Saturday Distance Training Program. I also saw one of the coaches sitting at the starting location. I checked the time and decided I had just enough time to do the 8th mile and then meet Kim so I headed west for half a mile and then back to the starting point. The timing worked out well.
For my early miles I ran most of it on the horse trail which is a mixture of gravel and dirt. In some places it also adds extra rolling hills. Kim and I stuck to the paved trail and ended up running just over 4 miles together. As we were finishing one our friends was about to pass us. I asked how many miles she had left. She was planning on doing two more but was easily convinced to do 3 more. That left me with just under a mile to finish on my own. I am so grateful for wondering running friends. I could not do this training without them.
Today I was able to hit the trails for a 10 mile run. I had been planning to go to the race course but I saw a picture from last week showing that it was washed out. I was concerned there would be too much ice for a comfortable run so I decided to run trails from a closer location. Also the temperature today was even lower – a huge 7°F when I started. I think the windchill was actually negative but the wind speeds were lower so I actually felt more comfortable. I tried not to stray too far from my car just in case I got too cold. I ended up on trail that seemed interesting and I wanted to keep exploring so I went about 3.5 miles from the car before turning back. I knew I needed to add a 3 mile loop to get the full distance so I took a chance on the trail that led to the lake and it worked out almost perfectly. The end of the run was hard. I was tired. My legs were heavy. I hiked a lot. This is probably a good simulation of the race though. I know that’s the point of the back to back runs. I need to learn how to keep moving on tired legs. I kept telling myself to be relentless and to keep pressing forward. One step at time. The sections I hiked were getting longer but I convinced myself to run short sections whenever I could. Overall I was pleased with the run and super happy to be on trails in the woods.
I’m pretty behind on this recap but better late than never, right? Week 4 started ok. I was thankful for a short 2 miles after my back to back 12 and 8 to end Week 3. After that things started heating up. By Thursday it was time for my first long feeling weekday run at 6 miles. I ended up having to suffer through three 2 mile laps due to the snow piles that were still blocking sidewalks and trails, but I got it done anyway.
Kim convinced me to run a race on Saturday. It was a 10k and I had 14 miles scheduled. I got to the race site at super dark thirty and started running before the race. I was hoping to have enough time to knock out all of my extra miles before the race so that when I crossed the finish line I was actually finished for the day. It worked out quite well. I ended up doing 7.7 miles before the race. I use my knuckle lights and safety vest and ran most of the race course and then added another piece at the end to get the extra distance. As I was finishing I ended up seeing Kim pulling into the parking lot. It worked out perfectly. We spent as much time inside as we could before heading to the start line because it was cold.
The race was pretty good. It was a training run for me so we ran the pace that Kim wanted to run. It worked out well because I had awesome company for most of my long run. I was sooooo glad to be finished when we crossed that finish line. My watch said 6.3 miles so I ended up right at the 14 miles that I was supposed to run.
I felt good that afternoon but that evening I ended up with back spasms. They were really painful. I had trouble sleeping that night and was still in so much pain the next day that I decided it was not a good idea to even attempt to run. I ended up missing an 8 mile run.
So I guess overall it was a mixed week. I had some good days and some not so good days. I did what I could and tried to be smart when I wasn’t feeling my best. No reason to get hurt and miss more than one run.
Week 2 – I’m way behind on posting this because things fell apart in Week 2. Literally, some things fell apart. The pieces are slowly being picked up and I’m moving on though.
What went right – well I started off with two 2 mile runs on Monday and Tuesday. And then I got back out on Thursday for my 4 mile run. This was my first increase mileage weekday run and it went ok.
Wednesday night was really really really bad and I needed that run on Thursday to help clear my head for a bit.
After that …well the sky opened up and snow came down and things got wild. The storm started here on Friday afternoon and it stopped sometime while I was sleeping Saturday night/Sunday morning.
We measured 29 inches on our deck which is absolutely insane for us.
I was supposed to run 10 on Saturday and then 6 on Sunday. I went into the weekend thinking I would find a way to make this happen. I came out of the weekend without this happening. I was surprisingly ok with that. I shoveled enough – cross training if you will. I was on my feet for more hours than it would take to run 16 miles. I was out of breath and working plenty hard. We have a huge driveway shared with two other houses. By the time I was finished shoveling for the weekend we had a path for everyone to get out and had helped a couple of neighbors clear the end of their driveways where the plow had put snow. Luckily we are on a snow emergency route and we were getting plowed throughout the entire storm.
So the week did not go as planned but I’m not at all concerned about the missed training.
The challenge has been accepted and Week 1 of training is officially complete.
This week started with three short runs of 2 miles each. Even though my typical short run is 3 miles I’m following the plan and starting with the lower weekday mileage. I have so many 3 mile loops from my house but I had to get creative to run the shorter distance. Those runs all went well. I did them on Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday.
This weekend was back to back long runs with 8 miles on Saturday and 6 miles today (Sunday). I didn’t put enough effort into lining up someone to run with yesterday so I ran by myself. I’m getting used to trail running by myself and so far it’s been ok. I went to a park that I have been going to lately. It connects to a much larger trail system but I elected to stay in the park and try to find the lake there. I’m so glad I did because the lake was beautiful. It was foggy morning and it made for some lovely views of the lake.
The lake was small – about a mile of trails around it but it was really beautiful.
The trail to get to the lake was super technical especially with the wet, muddy conditions. I’ve decided that mud must stand for muscle. The more mud I run through the stronger I feel.
After running around the lake I headed out a little farther on the trails. When road running I tend to push the distance on the way out so that I don’t have to run all the way back to my house but in the case of trail running I’ve decided not to overshoot because in case I take a wrong turn on the way back. I can always add distance by going out again. This approach worked well yesterday and I ran a few out and backs on trails back near the beginning of my run to get the right distance.
Yesterday I fueled with a combination of GU and Fig Newtons. I recently started trying the Fig Newtons and so far they are working well. I alternated the GU with the Fig Newtons. I can comfortably carry 4 Fig Newtons in my pocket which is 2 fuel servings. I need to figure out the best way to carry more.
Today my buddy came with me and we tried out a new park. I needed to run 6 miles. The new park had really nice trails. They were well maintained and not very technical which was nice after yesterday. Unfortunately the park is quite small and we had to run a couple of extra loops to get the right distance. We found a small stream crossing that led to a little pond. I decided to take the hard route across the stream.
Since we knew the park wasn’t very big we decided to explore the trails by turning right at every intersection. There were a few tails off the main loops that led us to dead ends but it helped us get to the right the distance and explore the entire area. My buddy runs way faster than I do and is terrible at pacing. We started off fast but then I slowed things down. At times he would speed up and I would have to pull him back. But overall it was good. It’s fun when he goes and it was nice to have someone with me to explore new trails.
I only managed to do one day of strength training this week. I really want to get in at least two so I need to work on that.
Here’s to moving on to Week 2!
Last race of the year was a couple of weeks ago.
I started with a smile.
And I ended with a smile (almost).
And in between I just ran.
Now onto 2016 ….hoping for an ultra big year!
I think this race was about redemption. I wasn’t overly happy with my last race. But it wasn’t about time. I wanted to have fun and run happy because I did not focus on that enough at my last race.
Prior to race day I reached out to my friends to see if anyone wanted to run some warm up miles….for various reasons no one was interested so I happily warmed up alone. Apparently my friends saw me running around the block near the race site but no one beeped, which is probably good because most of the time I ignore beeps….they tend to come from creeps. I ran 2 slow warm up miles and then headed to the track where I ended up finding almost all of my friends.
I had a mild panic attack about 10 minutes before the race when I couldn’t find my buddy. He was there as I was walking around the track with a friend and then he was gone. I needed him to hold my extra clothes. I ended up borrowing a phone to call him. He swears he was coming but I was worried so I asked him to hurry over and grab my stuff.
The race was pretty packed on the track but I started with a reasonably fast pace and most people were actually running. I wasted some time and energy running to one side for my buddy and then back to the other side to high five a friend.
The entire race I focused on one foot in front of the other and smiling! I just wanted to have fun and I absolutely did. I ended up slowing down each mile but I really didn’t care. It was two weeks after my half and I was just getting back into running and I was happy. A friend from DTP passed me along the course. She was running with another friend and I didn’t even try to keep up. They would have burned me up.
There was one big hill on the way back and decided to just walk it. I thought I would save some energy that way. After that I just worked my way to the finish line. I had a big smile for my friend as came back onto to the track, a wave to the crowd when they announced my name, and smiles as I ran around the track.
I made my way to the finish line and raised my arms.
I did this before I stopped my watch. I wanted the happy, arms up picture instead of the head down stopping the watch picture.
After I was finished I stayed to cheer for some friends. I got a little bit of food when everyone was finished and then headed home. I had such a bigger runner’s high on the way home that I decided to run 2 more miles there.
It felt great to just have fun at a race and not worry about running my best time ever. I did set a new course record by about 90 seconds. I’ve only run this course twice though and the first time was during the summer in 99.9% humidity.
So my race day finally came. And <spoiler alert> – it didn’t go the way I wanted. I think I put way too much pressure on myself to run fast and then for some reason I didn’t. And I walked a lot. I’m trying not to dwell on it and I’m trying to learn from it.
So here’s what I learned –
- NEVER EVER EVER train for 20+ weeks for a half marathon. That is way too long unless you are starting from the couch….then it might be ok. But I was coming off Cherry Blossom 10ish miler and another half marathon. I took a short break in between but would have been better running a race in August or September. Of course my goal had been to race Perfect 10 but when I had the foot issues I backed down from that. Anyway, it was too long to really mentally and physically stay in the game for 13.1 miles. I wish I had discussed this more with my coaches in the beginning and had taken a different approach.
- Race less – run for for fun more often. I need to take the pressure off races and stop worrying about PRs. I need to focus on smiling and running happy. I need to have fun. I’m the only person that cares about the clock. As I crossed the finish line on that Wednesday everyone was cheering for me. I didn’t enjoy it because I was too concerned about sucking. NO ONE cared. I ran 13 point FREAKIN’ 1 miles! I should celebrate that. Even though I’ve done it before it’s a not a given that I was going to be able to do it that day. But I did. Every finish needs to end with a smile, arms up, and a celebration. Every finish matters.
- Taper longer….this was a risk I took based on a discussion with one coach. I do not blame my coach. It seemed like a good idea to go for another longer than race run 1.5 weeks before the race. I did get to my longest run ever and running 15 miles was a goal that I had but in the end I think that was a trade off and I should have gone for the race PR instead of the 15 miler. I am super happy about the 15 miler though and know that will mentally help for my next big goal.
- Stop fighting the pain. If something hurts do something about it. I probably played around with my foot too long. Treatment sooner might have changed things. When something went weird with my knee I should have had it looked at right away. It still hurts on and off.
- Focus more on a diet and recovery – being a runner doesn’t stop when you hit stop on your watch at the end of a workout. I need to ice, foam roll, and eat better. I do feel better about eating after running. Eating Clif bars after a long run or a track workout seemed to really help. At the beginning of the summer I was really struggling to make it through a week. All of my Thursday runs were very sluggish. I think eating right away really helped.
- Don’t burn up too soon – peak at the right time….this goes back to training for too long. I think I worked too hard in the beginning of the training cycle and it was not sustainable for me.
- Don’t wear black…I have no idea why I thought it was ok to wear black on a potentially sunny day but I ended up being really warm during the race and was wishing that I was not wearing black. This was really most likely a mental thing. When I think I’m hot then I’m hot. I have to tell myself that I’m not hot and things go much better. I thought the black was hot so I was hot and then I couldn’t get out of that thought pattern.
- Test a hat in the wind…all summer I was wearing a hat to keep the sun out of my eyes. On race day it was super windy so I decided to forego the hat (because I was afraid it would fly off)….which meant the sun was on my super big forehead and in my eyes. This was uncomfortable for about half of the race.
- Run happy in the conditions you are given …before the race the director said something about running the best race you can in the conditions you are given. Not all days are equal. I got a windy day with some sun that felt hot at times. I ran on a trail with conditions that were a bit tougher than I expected. At times it felt like I was all alone because there was so much distance between me and other racers. I really can’t compare this race to any others. Given all this I probably ran pretty well.
- Smile, freakin’ smile – this is self explanatory. I need to work on this. I’m doing this for fun….it’s not supposed to feel like torture!
What went right during this training cycle –
- I found some awesome running buddies and I made some great friends. This is super important to me…most days of training I had a blast because I got to run with friends.
- I got to cheer people on along the way to their journeys. I really enjoyed cheering my friends to their first (or second or third or fourth) marathons. It was a pleasure to run next to them.
- I was inspired by many other runners. Watching the first time marathoners fight their way through their longest runs ever was super inspiring. It makes me want to run longer.
- I ran…and I ran a lot and most days that I was good.
- I PR’d the 10k distance. So at least I got one of them! I am happy about that.
What i’m working on –
- Drinking….water! So I finally got that hydration pack and trained with it all summer and all fall but most days I carried a full pack home with me. If my pack was depleted when I got home it was mostly due to the water that I drank while driving home. I need to actually drink out of the pack. I try to stay super hydrated all the time. (TMI but I’m glad I don’t pass many co-workers to get to the restroom….I go a lot.) I think always being hydrated helps with running but I know I’m getting dehydrated during long runs…..the water is right there…I need to work on actually drinking it. Towards the end of the training cycle I was trying to take a sip at every mile.
- Fuel…I’m relying mainly on GU for fuel. I take one before long runs and usually track workouts. I don’t eat breakfast before running. I was taking the GU about every 4 miles. I would like to learn how to take something else. And real food would be nice. I think if I could eat before I start I might avoid bonking.
- Low heart rate training ….I’m just starting this and it’s super hard.
- And one last thing….I really am working on not being so hard on myself. I am….I swear….I’m trying.
And as far as a real race recap…..I ran, I walked, I ran some more, and I finished. Altis Endurance set up a great race. It was well organized. There were no timing chips but they recorded your time as you finished so everyone ran gun time. I was near the start so I think it would make my time different by like 2 seconds….but who cares? Trail runners don’t care so much about time.