Week 1 / Week 9 of Half Marathon Training

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The first week of officially training for a half marathon is in the books. I was a little nervous about plugging into week nine of a twelve week plan. But 20.6 miles later, I’m feeling pretty good.

The week started out great. Sunday and Monday were much-needed rest days after Saturday’s TC5K. I had really let it rip during that race, setting a new PR of 21:12 with 06:50/mile splits. My legs needed those two days off.

Tuesday was my first of two five-milers. Looking back, I think I was a little too excited about this first training run. I paid no attention to pace and ran at my normal speed that I was used to. I completed 5.2 miles in 40:08, with 07:40 splits. I was pretty proud afterwards running that distance at a faster speed. But the next day, not so much. I had went too hard, too soon after a weekend race.

Wednesday was my three-mile run. My legs were sore from the day before. I was a little worried about hurting myself by running more, but I knew I wanted to stick to the plan. The three miles went by like a breeze, a slightly uncomfortable breeze.

Thursday was the other five-miler. Again, my legs were still sore. I was starting to get a little worried. But I knew I just needed to knock out this run and then I’d get a rest day. It was good practice for fighting what my brain wanted me to do: not run. Five miles later, I called it a day.

Friday was a rest day. And with the day-long rain, Saturday became a rest day too.

Then came Sunday — my first long run. At week nine of a twelve week plan, I would’ve been due for about nine miles. But since week nine was also my week one, I adjusted it to seven miles, with a plan to increase each of the remaining long runs by at least 1.5 miles each, hitting ten miles the week before the half marathon.

My legs felt fresh and I wanted to make the most of them. I set a goal to pace myself at 08:40 per mile splits. This turned out to be harder than I thought. A few blocks into the run, I felt like I had the pace down. But almost one mile into the run, my phone alerted me my current pace was at 07:45, almost one whole minute faster than I was aiming for. It became very evident pacing would be one of my biggest challenges as I transition from shorter to longer runs. Eventually I found a more relaxed stride and completed the 7.1 mile run in 1:01:49 with 08:36 splits. Not bad.

This first week was tough. It pushed me outside of the comfort zone, literally. My legs were sore most of the week. Changing pace added a new level of difficulty for me to focus on. But this is where growth happens. In just a short amount of time, I’m already gaining confidence that I can run longer distances.

One week down, three to go.

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Next Up: Half Marathon

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I’ve been contemplating this idea for two weeks. I’ve been back and forth on it. I’ve thought about multiple doubts and reasons why I shouldn’t. And that’s why I did it. Yesterday I registered for the Monster Dash Half Marathon. Oh, and I should probably mention it’s in three weeks.

I pushed myself hard this summer and saw big improvements throughout the triathlon season. My times continually got faster. I set PRs on multiple occasions. My confidence sky-rocketed. The element of fear had almost disappeared. I no longer doubted if I could swim the half mile – I now wondered how fast I could do it. I no longer doubted if I’d have the lungs and legs to carry me through to the finish line. It was a question of how hard could I push it and how fast could I get there. The fact is that I was becoming comfortable. And that’s what led me to the half marathon idea.

When you become comfortable with something, that’s a sign that it’s time to take it a step further or try something new that scares you. That’s where growth happens. I still remember my first triathlon. I didn’t actually know if I could do it, but I knew I was going to try. And when I crossed the finish line I was overcome with a sense of accomplishment that lasted for weeks. Right now, the thought of running a half marathon scares me.

I’m used to sprinting. I’m used to going all out as soon as I leave the start chute and not slowing down until I cross the finish line. That strategy isn’t going to work in three weeks. The longest distance I’ve ran in one outing is five miles. And now I’m about to attempt 13.1 miles. I’ll need to be mentally strong enough to pace myself. I’ll have to run slower than I’m used to. I’ll need to conserve that energy for the long haul.

So how am I going to prepare in such a short timeframe? There aren’t really any recommended plans to ramp-up for 13.1 miles in a month. So I’m doing the next best thing — I found a 12-week plan and plugged myself in at week nine, starting last Monday. The middle of the week runs are pretty consistent with what I’ve been doing almost all summer. And the cross training of swimming and cycling have helped create a strong base. The only part I’ve been missing is the long runs each weekend.

At this point of the 12-week plan, the long run should be nine miles. That’s almost double my longest run of the year, so I’ll need to make some adjustments and ramp up to ten miles for the weekend before the race. Tomorrow I’m going to tackle seven miles.

This is going to be hard. It’s going to be a little scary. It’s going to push my outside of my comfort zone. Do I know if I can run 13.1 miles? No, because I’ve never done it before. But I do know that I’ll never know unless I try.

 

 

Focused on Running

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It’s been one month since crossing the finish line at the Chicago Triathlon. I took a few days off afterwards to relax, celebrate and recover. Then I laced-up my sneakers and got back to running.

Sure, my 2017 triathlon season had ended, but that didn’t mean it was time to trade-in the training routine for a seat on the couch. It would be pretty hard to do so even if I wanted to. The daily workouts become habit. A day without one, unless it’s a planned off-day, feels like feels like a day with a hole in it. So I just kept on running.

Outside of a few leisurely bike rides and one visit to the pool, I’ve been averaging 15 miles on the feet per week. With distances between three and four miles, I’ve been bouncing between paces of 07:30 and 08:00 per mile. I’m not trying to push it too hard. Just maintaining fitness with miles on the legs and air in the lungs.

Over the weekend, I participated in the Twin Cities Marathon Weekend 5K. With a full summer of training under my belt I felt really good going into the race. My goal was to hit sub-seven minute miles. I’d done it once last fall, but just barely, with splits of 06:59 per mile in the Warrior Waddle. During the Chicago Triathlon just one month ago, I averaged 07:10 per mile and that was after swimming and biking. I knew sub-sevens were within reach.

I lined-up near the seven minute pace marker in the starting chute. There’s more than 2,500 participants in the event so it’s important to start near the front if you’re looking to run otherwise you’ll get caught-up in the pack until it spaces out. The course started and finished at the Minnesota State Capitol with a loop that went down Selby and Summit Avenues.

All of the cross training paid off. I was able to stick with my pace group throughout the race. And best of all, I achieved my goal, crossing the finish line with a time of 00:21:12 and an average pace of 06:50 per mile (71st place out of 2,503 participants). Sub-sevens and a new PR — heck yeah!

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Goals have also been top of mind over the last month. My goals for next year are starting to take shape and a blog post on that is sure to come in the following month or two. But I’ve also started to think a lot about my goals for two and three years from now. I recently finished reading “Eat & Run: My Unlikely Journey to Ultramarathon Greatness” by Scott Jurek, and am now reading “You Are an Ironman: How Six Weekend Warriors Chased Their Dream of Finishing the World’s Toughest Triathlon” by Jacques Steinberg, if that gives you any clues.

Who knows, there may still be time to tackle one more goal yet this fall!

Race Recap: 2017 Get in Gear 5K

Note to self: remember to drink water the morning before a race. I had no problem crushing some peanut butter toast and a cup of coffee when I woke up. But water, that I forgot. 

Don’t worry, I eventually remembered the water thing about a half-mile into the race when my right calf cramped up. That’s when I said, “Oh yeah, now I remember what I was supposed to do: hydrate.” By then, it was too late. Besides, I knew the only water I’d get would be post-race. The stiff cramp tagged along for the rest of the run, but I did a pretty good job of using mind power to block it out and power through to the finish line. 

The Get in Gear 5K takes place at Minnehaha Falls in Minneapolis, MN. The views there are beuatiful. And once you break away into the course, the surrounding neighborhood is quite pleasant too. 

I was extremely happy with my results. And quite surprised too given the stiff leg. I guess it’s another reminder that when you want to achieve something, stick with it and power through. That’s a pretty solid thought heading into tri season. 

Here’s the details:

  • Distance: 3.10 miles
  • Total time: 23:15
  • Average pace: 7:29/mile
  • Overall place: 67 out of 1425

My Stretching Partner and I

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I’m certainly no expert on stretching, but one of my favorite ways to keep the legs moving after a good run is going for a walk with my dogs. It’s hard to want to do much of anything on tired legs. It’s also hard to resist a dog’s stare and wagging tail that greets you when you walk in the door. After tonight’s run, my dog Nellie and I went for walk, which helped her stretch her legs after a day in the house and it helped me stretch mine too.  It was a win-win really!

Spring has sprung here in Minnesota and the warmer weather is certainly welcomed for spending more time outside. I’ve been able to get three good workouts in during the last five days – two outdoor runs and a brick on a rainy day at the gym.

You might be wondering what exactly a brick is. In triathlon talk, a brick is where you practice two of sport’s three activities in succession to help prepare not only your muscles but also your mind for that weird feeling you get transitioning during a race. For example, after biking many miles, your legs are quite confused when you hop off the bike, rack it in transition, and immediately start running. It’s definitely a challenge to run when all your legs want to do is pedal circles. I can remember each of my T2 transitions from last year’s races. If I didn’t have my bike to lean as I jogged it back to the rack, I probably would’ve tumbled immediately after the dismount line. So, with all that being said, I spent 35 minutes on the bike at the gym and immediately went into a ten-minute run on the treadmill. My legs felt surprisingly good making transition, but then again, the gym bikes aren’t quite like the real bikes one would ride outside and the treadmill isn’t quite like actually running. It still makes for good training though, I hope!

Here’s the details on my two recent outdoor runs:

Monday

  • Distance: 3.04 miles
  • Total time: 24:40
  • Average pace: 8:07/mile

Friday

  • Distance: 2.90 miles
  • Total time: 23:17
  • Average pace: 8:02/mile

I’m quickly approaching a sub eight-minute mile and not far off of the seven-and-a-half-minute miles I averaged during last fall’s training runs. For further context, at this time last year, I don’t think I had even started running yet. Looking back in my Nike+ Run Club app (that app wails by the way!), my first run of 2016 was at the end of April with nine-minute-plus miles. I used to think keeping track of all these running activities might be silly, but now I see the value in being able to track progress. Luckily the app makes the tracking part easy.

Trinona is only nine weeks away. I’m happy to be ahead of the game compared to last year. I also know now that April is here, it’s time to pick up the pace. My goal for next week: get back in the pool!

Reasons to Smile

Today’s outdoor run was my first in about three weeks. A few things contributed to the lapse: catching a cold that knocked me down for a bit, the weather changed back to normal Minnesota winter conditions and then just tackling the mental battle to get back to it again. Outside of the week of being sick, I was still able to stay active, but it was in the gym doing cycling classes and general strength training versus running outside. As the weather warms, I hope to get back to running five times per week. I also need to get back into the pool, but that’s another blog post.

Back to today’s run. The sun was shining, making it look warmer than the 34° F air temperature felt. I got a stomach cramp less than a quarter-mile in, but I’m blaming that on the granola bar I shouldn’t have ate just minutes before leaving the house. I also took a slight detour about halfway through the run to descend down a side trail and run straight back up it (200 feet ascent in about a quarter-mile distance). I thought the climb would wear me out for the rest of the run, but it actually felt like it was getting easier after leveling out. It was fun.

Here’s the details:

  • Distance: 3.30 miles
  • Total time: 27:34
  • Average pace: 8:21/mile

The last few days have been humbling. A few more generous donations were made to my Team Save the Children fundraiser, bringing my total to $851. When I signed-up for the team back in December, I was nervous if I’d meet the $500 fundraising minimum before the race in July. Now we’re on pace to double that – making an even bigger impact in the lives of children around the world that urgently need help. The support from friends, family and people who I’ve never even met has been truly amazing. I hope to make them all very proud on race day!

Another Warm Winter Run

Warm winter. The two words contradict eachother. But for this Minnesotan, especially in February, they make for a welcome surprise.

I’ve never been a big fan of treadmills. Don’t get me wrong, I like the off-season opportunities they provide for cardio, but the experience just isn’t the same as actually running. Its really just knowing when and how quickly to lift your feet versus actually propelling yourself to a destination.

This morning I woke up to temperatures already pushing 40°F. I had to check my phone twice to make sure I wasn’t dreaming. It was a great day to lace up the running shoes and hit the pavement. 

Here’s the details:

  • Distance: 2.94 miles
  • Total time: 24:22
  • Average pace: 8:16/mile

I’m thankful to be completing comfortable outdoor runs this early in the year. Last year, I didn’t start running until late April. Looking back through my Nike+ Run Club app, I was at a 9:06/mile average pace on that first run – almost one minute slower than today’s pace. 

Now I’m excited for what this two-month head start on training will bring. It feels good to be ahead of the game.

First Outdoor Run of the Year

Minnesota winters don’t always lend themselves well to running. Well, unless you like running on snow and ice in sometimes sub-zero temps. But today was a different story. With 40°+ temperatures, the conditions were great for a run under a setting sun. 

I jumped at the opportunity for my first non-treadmill run of the year. The ice that once covered the paths and sidewalks was mostly melted away, leaving just a few puddles to dodge, jump over or be a kid again and splash right through. And the fresh air was, well, a breath of fresh air. It was just good to be outside. 

Here’s the details:

  • Distance: 3.06 miles 
  • Total time: 25:19
  • Average pace: 8:19/mile

I was pleased to see I hadn’t lost too much of a step from where I left off in the fall. For most training runs last year, I had averaged around a 7:45 pace. Certainly some work to do. But hey, it’s only February! 

Oh, and the highlight besides being outside: getting to spend some more time listening to Run the Jewels’ RTJ3 album. They’ll definitely be a part of my running playlists this summer.