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Posts Tagged ‘training’

It’s about time I updated on how the 30-day push-up and abs challenges from darebee.com went for me. I completed them “successfully” in that I stuck to the plan of doing the assigned workouts every day for 30 days in a row. It wasn’t easy by any definition — it took 10-20 minutes per day and if I didn’t combine it with my run or cross-training, then I got sweaty twice a day! I liked to do the strength training in the morning because I found if I waited until the end of the day, not only did it weigh (ha ha, no pun intended) on me throughout the day, I also had a harder time doing the work because I was worn out from the day. So I’d wake up, do just enough strength training to work up a sheen of sweat, hop in the shower to rinse off, and get ready to take the kids to school.

The last day of the abs challenge called for 70 full sit-ups, 300 flutter kicks, and a 4-minute plank! That plank wasn’t pretty (picture me trembling through the last minute that felt like forever) but I did it! The push-up challenge was even harder though. I did every workout, every day, until the very last day. I was supposed to do 50 push-ups in a row on day 30, and I could “only” do 30. I finished the remaining 20 in 4 sets of 5.

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Ha ha – check out my notes on the particularly hard workouts: “tough!!” “wow” and “killer”

It’s been a month since I finished the challenges and I’ve kept up with the strength training about three days per week. I’m really pleased with the results. I still can’t do 50 push-ups in a row, but I feel stronger (mentally and physically), my body shape changed (no six-pack, but I do have more muscle tone), and I notice a difference in my endurance on runs (it feels easier to hold good form toward the end of a run). I’ve long been a believer in strength training and these challenges just affirmed the power of what a short time investment in body weight workouts can do for your overall fitness.

I’m in my third week of training for the Death Valley Marathon and there are just over 16 weeks to go until the big day on February 4. Last week I ran 38.75 miles but only because I did my 12-mile long run on a Sunday instead of Saturday and then the next 14-mile long run on the following Saturday. Usually I only run 3 days per week and cross-train on 2-3 other days. This week I did an 8-mile tempo run, in the evening, in the unrelenting heat of Southern California. That’s when I really felt like I turned a corner and got back on track (so to speak, again no pun intended) with my marathon training. And then yesterday I did 5.0 miles of hill work. I dropped my 11-year-old at ballet and drove with my 8-year-old to the park. While she played on the playground, I ran half-mile laps around the park on the grass, then ran up and down the hill that’s in the middle of the park. While I was there, the cross-country boys and girls teams from a local high school were training there too. Imagine the lithe, nimble bodies of 15-year-olds, contrasted with my 45-year-old mother-of-three body. But you know what? Instead of being humbled by them, I was proud! Go me for putting myself out there and running hard. And you know what else? One of the cross-country coaches gave me the best compliment. He asked:

What are you training for?

I just love that question/compliment. It’s the question I got when I was training for my first half marathon and someone caught up to me at a stoplight and asked me that and it finally made me feel like a “real” runner — when another runner recognized that I was training for a race.

Anyway, I told him I was training for the Death Valley Marathon, and he told me I was “looking good” and gave me a high five. Totally made my day.

Do you do strength training? Do you have any links to share to core workouts posted online? I like Core H (13 minutes) and 8-minute abs.

 

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When I started running four years ago, I followed a fairly natural progression. At first I trained for a sprint triathlon. I enjoyed all three disciplines of swimming, biking, and running. While I continued to train for triathlons, I also ran a stand-alone 5K, an 8K, a 10K and a half marathon over the course of the next year. Once I had trained up for the half marathon and liked it, I figured if I was ever going to run a marathon, that would be the time to do it. Five months later I ran my first marathon and was hooked. And so began three solid years of marathon training:

4:02:39 at the Santa Barbara International Marathon – Fall 2012
3:57:29 at the Mountains2Beach Marathon – Spring 2013
3:52:42 at the Long Beach Marathon – Fall 2013
3:44:26 at the Santa Rosa Marathon – Summer 2014 (BQ minus 34 seconds)
3:36:58 at the Phoenix Marathon – Winter 2015 (BQ minus 8:02)

Those last two races took a tremendous amount of physical and mental energy as I raced to qualify for Boston. When my qualifying time at Santa Rosa did not meet the cutoff to register for Boston 2015, I felt a huge sense of disappointment. I dedicated myself to training for the Phoenix Marathon six months later. It took an incredible amount of focus and commitment to finish that race strong and not give up on qualifying with several minutes to spare. I accomplished that goal, and yet I felt an odd sense of letdown. I think I burned out on training 10-11 hours a week with three runs (a 4-5 mile speed workout, an 8-mile tempo run, and a long run) and two bike rides (20-30 miles each) and strength training (40-60 minutes per week). The training worked, but it left me ready to take an extended break from regimented training.

So, I took the month of March off formal training. I went skiing with my family at Whistler (where I still took advantage of the trails to get a few runs in) and I engaged in marathon housecleaning sessions rather than marathon training sessions.

Rest is great, and there’s lots of research that says muscle memory and endurance make it easier for you to get fit again after a break than it was the first time you got fit. However, I have to say that it took me a good two months of regular training before I felt back on track again, so to speak. I held off signing up for my next race because I just wasn’t sure it was worth putting myself out there. Finally I decided I was just being chicken and I signed up for the Downtown Anaheim 5K a week from tomorrow.

After that, I will start training for my sixth full marathon, the REVEL Canyon City Full Marathon on November 7, 2015. I had such a fantastic run at the REVEL Canyon City Half Marathon in 2014 that I couldn’t resist putting the full on my calendar this year. The challenge now is to train for the net -5,134 feet of downhill on the full marathon course. I take that very seriously and I plan to do at least a couple of long runs on the course to make sure I can handle the pounding on my quads on race day.

What’s up next for you? Have you ever taken a break from running? Do you like to have a training plan in place or do you enjoy the flexibility of some time off from formal training?

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My next big race on the calendar is the Santa Barbara Wine Country Half Marathon on May 10th. I figured it was totally fair to make Mother’s Day weekend all about me and my race, right?

That means I’m in the thick of training for that half, which then rolls right into my training for my fourth full marathon, the Santa Rosa Marathon at the end of August. I ran my longest run on the half marathon plan — 12 miles in 1:56 — last Sunday. For my current plan I’m running four days a week and cycling two days a week (once on my own and once at spin class). I also incorporate strength training two to three days a week for about 20 minutes each session. Pushups and I are still acquaintances but planks are my new best friends.

My training plans are my own personal mash-up of the Half Marathon Finish It Plan (free to download from that link!) from Train Like a Mother and the Intermediate Full Marathon plan from Smart Marathon Training:

    

Crossing off each workout on the training plan gives me a lot of satisfaction, and having a plan keeps me accountable. I can tell you there have been a few days recently where I would have opted not to work out had I not had a solid plan to stick to and a serious race looming on the calendar.

Do you have any races coming up? What training plan do you follow?

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Brace yourself for one final post that draws analogies between writing and running….

When the dust settled on National Novel Writing Month, approximately 13.4% of NaNoWriMo participants had “won” the challenge by writing at least 50,000 words of a novel in the allotted 30 days of November 2013 (41,940 winners out of over 312,000 registered novelists). As one of the winners, I would like to share some tips for NaNoWriMo success.

1. Understand and embrace the commitment. When you sign up for the challenge, you commit yourself to writing for approximately three hours per day, every day, seven days a week, 30 days of November. Maybe you can write faster one day, maybe it takes you longer another day, but my average settled at three hours per day to meet the goal of 1,667 words per day. Three hours per day is — do the math — 21 hours per week. That’s like taking on a part-time job in addition to your other responsibilities. Ask yourself how you are going to make the time. Will you write in the morning before work or before the rest of your household wakes up? After everyone goes to bed? In pieces throughout the day on your commute, during your lunch break, or while waiting to pick up a child from an activity?

1a. Get your support crew on board too. Explain to those around you what your commitment will be. It helped to talk things over with my husband so we were both on the same page about what our priorities were. I also expected more of my children during the month (and continue to do so, since they rose to the challenge well!) My kids are old enough that they can be expected to help sort and put away their own clean laundry, or pitch in with the cooking.

    Marathon analogy:

When I sign up for a full marathon, I know that I am committing myself to training approximately seven hours per week (running, biking, swimming and strength training). It is NOT fun to run a race undertrained and underprepared. You’ve got to dedicate the time and energy for weeks of training in order to enjoy the race and come out uninjured on the other side.

2. Use October to your full advantage.

2a. Do the writing groundwork in advance. Official NaNoWriMo rules state that you cannot write any of your novel during October, but you may outline your novel and brainstorm character histories and plot lines. Do it! You cannot afford to waste any precious time in November deciding on a storyline.

2b. Cook and clean. Freeze some meals in advance to save time on writing days. Make double batches of soup for dinner and freeze the second batch for later. Get your living (and writing) space in order so that it requires the least amount of maintenance during the month of November.

    Marathon analogy:

Use your training rest days to cook and clean. During taper as you cut back on mileage and find yourself with nervous energy, tackle that drawer of papers waiting to be filed, or clean out your sock drawer.

3. Do not waste time beating yourself up. Save that time and energy for writing. I discovered that I did not enjoy writing first thing in the morning. I value sleep too much to get up extra early to write, and I had too much to do to get three kids dressed, fed, and driven to school to spend any time writing at the start of my day. By the time I sat down to write (sometimes not until 8 in the evening!), I often felt like I was already behind for the day. I had to silence the inner critic that tried to chastise myself for not getting to it sooner. I quickly realized the obvious: the less time I spent worrying about not having written, the more time I had to actually write!

    Marathon analogy:

If you miss a training day, don’t waste any energy beating yourself up, just get out there and run the next day! For some people, missing a day makes it “easier” to miss two days, then three and so on and the training program completely falls off the rails. Or maybe you get sick or injured and you have to miss several days of training. There’s no shame in adjusting the training plan to get back on track. Instead of beating yourself up over lost time, applaud yourself for re-dedicating yourself to your training!

4. Put some words in the bank. It is way more fun to write 3,000 words one day to get a little ahead than to have to write 3,000 words to catch up (although if you have to do that, then DO IT. See number 3 above. Don’t beat yourself up. Catch up!) I wrote a little bit each day, and banked some words on days that I found myself particularly inspired or with extra time to write. That gave me a break on days that I just wasn’t feeling it or I had unexpected things come up.

    Marathon analogy:

There’s no sense in overtraining for a race, but there’s a lot of sense in exercising on days when you know you have the time and energy, and not taking your rest day(s) early. I can count too many times when I thought, “Oh, I could run today but I think I’ll take a rest day to do XYZ and then run tomorrow” and when tomorrow came around, I woke up not feeling well, or had a child stay home sick from school. I never regret doing a workout, but I often regret not doing a workout.

5. Have some go-to plot lines in your pocket. By that I mean, when you’re under a time crunch or you simply don’t feel like writing the next scene in your novel, go to that “easier” plot line that you know you’ll enjoy writing. Maybe by the time you’re ready to go back and fill in the chronological gap in the novel, your brain will have worked out the block that made that scene more difficult.

    Marathon analogy:

Maybe you just can’t face that speed workout on your training calendar, but it’s a gorgeous day to get out on the bike. It’s okay to shake things up and trade days in the workout plan. In fact it’s often smart to listen to your body and your brain, and do what appeals to you that day, as long as you get all the workouts in eventually.

6. Silence your inner editor and critic. One of the great things about NaNoWriMo — that makes the whole experiment worth it — is that it frees you to write for the sake of writing, without having to worry so much about the quality of writing. It’s that worry that stops people from writing anything at all, or causes any writing progress to stall. Now I know it sounds strange, but I think that freeing myself from worrying about the quality actually led me to produce about the same quality that I would have if I had agonized over every word. As a new novelist anyway, I felt that the quality of writing would not have been better if I had been writing, say, 500 words a day rather than 1,667. I’m not saying the quality is great or not great — just that I do not think it would have been better had I taken four months rather than one. Freeing myself from my inner editor allowed me to see where the story would go without my forcing it, and sometimes it surprised me in a good way!

    Marathon analogy:

There will be tough training days where your legs feel like lead or your lungs burn. Instead of asking yourself why you’re so slow, congratulate yourself for getting out there and putting the time in. That workout was what your body needed and could handle that day (maybe you were starting to get sick and didn’t know it, or you had overtrained the day before). Beating yourself up over a bad workout (or a bad race, for that matter) isn’t going to serve any purpose other than to sabotage your fitness efforts.

Final thoughts on NaNoWriMo? I’m glad I participated. I’m glad I “won.” Whether or not I ever complete the novel (it has at least another 50,000 words to go, and I have yet to decide whether it merits investing the time and energy to complete it), I learned many wonderful and helpful things:

1. You are a writer if you sit down and write. (Just as you are a runner if you put one foot in front of the other no matter the running pace).

2. There is value in committing to a project and seeing it through. (My first marathon still ranks as one of my favorite races, even though it wasn’t my fastest — it was just thrilling to train properly and finish the race).

3. It’s okay to put a scary goal out there, to say it out loud in front of witnesses. It’s motivating to share your goals and dreams with others. There might be naysayers, or people who do not realize what that commitment means, but there’s power and momentum to be gained by putting it out there anyway. You might feel vulnerable and exposed, but you might just receive unexpected support and assistance.

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During the course of a normal week I work out 5-6 times. Three runs: speed workout, tempo run, long run. Two to three cross-training workouts, most often bike rides but sometimes a swim thrown in (more often if I’m training for a triathlon). I change up the different days that I run but lately it’s been speed on Tuesdays, tempo on Thursdays, long run on Sundays. If need be, I can push the tempo run to Friday and still have a rest day or cross-training day on Saturday before the long run on Sunday. EXCEPT. The universe has conspired to teach me a lesson. That lesson is: carpe workout. Seize the workout!

Three weeks ago a few family members, including me, had a sore throat. I decided not to push it on Thursday and I took a rest day in the hopes that the rest would help me fight off whatever bug was going around. Sounds wise, right? EXCEPT. The next day my middle child spiked a fever and started vomiting. I felt so bad for her. She’s always the hardest hit when anything is going around. At the same time, I felt bad for me because there was no way I was getting out for my long tempo run. I compromised by cutting down the mileage and running on the treadmill while I listened to an audiobook.

Fast forward two weeks. Yet another sore throat was making the rounds of the family, but I didn’t think much of it because there wasn’t a fever associated with it. I didn’t run on Thursday as usual for my tempo run because we had company coming that afternoon and I wanted to concentrate my effort on cleaning — it takes a lot of energy to sweep and mop this joint, even if I’ve just done it two days before for my husband’s band friends to come over. EXCEPT. I should have learned from the fever/vomit episode. That Thursday night my oldest daughter’s sore throat became so bad that she started having trouble swallowing and speaking. (Mail my mother-of-the-year award to: 000 I’m-really-sorry-I’ll-know-better-next-time, I-owe-her-some-ice-cream, USA). My husband took her in to see the doctor and of course the rapid strep test came back positive. The doctor casually mentioned that my daughter might get worse before she got better (code for: you let this go so long she’s got a serious infection and she’ll have some fallout as the antibiotics start to kick in). Sure enough, my daughter spiked a fever (when I swear she didn’t have one before) and looked awful. Even though she’s old enough to stay home on her own for an hour or two, there was no way I was leaving her home alone so I could go out for a 10-mile tempo run. And no way I was doing a 10-mile tempo run on the treadmill in the afternoon. I tried. Really I did. I had my running clothes on, I had my running pack on with my sports drink in the bottle, I had my iTouch loaded. I just could not bear to run for an hour and 40 minutes on the treadmill after an already stressful day.

So, I learned the bitter lesson: carpe workout. Seize the workout! If you CAN workout on a Thursday, don’t put it off until Friday, no matter the reason. If you don’t you just might end up doing 10.6 miles on a Saturday, with 8 of those miles at marathon pace (8:35 if you must know), followed by 20.4 miles on Sunday (whether or not you need help with the math, that’s 31 miles for the weekend). That Saturday 10 miles turned out to be a lovely run, actually. The weather finally cooled down here in SoCal and it was just glorious to go for that run. EXCEPT. The next day I still had the 20-mile run on the schedule. I wasn’t so jazzed about that. Turns out, it was another glorious day, and I just got out there and did it. And while it was the slowest 20 miles of the five 20-mile runs I’ve done for this training cycle, it was strong and good training for running on tired legs.

And now, I enter the amazing three weeks of taper. I used to loathe taper. Now I embrace it. It’s a time for me to focus on my nutrition choices (given that I’m not working out quite as hard) and to embrace the extra time and nervous energy, which I generally put into making up for any cleaning tasks I let slide during the intense weeks of training. Three weeks until the Long Beach International City Bank Marathon! I’m excited, intimidated, resigned, and just plain happy I don’t have strep throat.

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It pleases me immensely to report that my scheduled 18-miler at 9:20 pace is in the bag, D-O-N-E in 2:47 at an average pace of 9:17. My confidence needed that boost after a rough week of less than stellar speed work and tempo runs.

In retrospect I should have planned my Friday night meal better. I am a big believer in using your long runs to practice race conditions and that includes choosing a Friday night carbo-loading meal similar to what I plan to eat before the marathon race. I generally like chicken or fish plus brown rice or pasta. Somehow I got lucky this time and even though I didn’t pay attention to my Friday night meal (in the excitement of my uncles and cousins coming over to visit I grabbed a meal on the go that consisted of my mother-in-law’s roast beef and my pantry staple of whole grain crackers with some Gruyere cheese), I didn’t bonk on my weekend long run.

Carbs are not your enemy

I did do one thing right though. Before bed, I went through my long run checklist and got everything ready. Coffee ready to make, oats soaking in the pan, clothes in a pile, sunscreen, iPod Shuffle charged, Garmin charged. I also filled my water bottles with Fluid sports drink. This time instead of running one way toward the beach and having to carry an extra water bottle in my hand, I planned to divide the run into three 6-mile segments. Three miles down the trail and three miles back to my car to get another full sports bottle. Three miles up the trail and three miles back. New sports bottle. Take gel. Run another six miles.

That system worked quite well although I must confess that as I was leaving my car for the third segment of the run, I had a little trouble staring down those last six miles. I don’t like to stop for water along a race course (I carry my water with me) and I don’t like to stop for water during a training run either. Once I stop it’s hard for me to get going again. Mind over body and somehow I got my legs trucking again and hit the pace for those last six miles.

Now, lest you think I’m getting taking myself too seriously or getting too big for my britches in light of my successful long run, I leave you with a completely unrelated, humorous story at my expense. Last week I attended the kindergarten roundup meeting for the school district. Somehow my “baby” will be old enough to attend elementary school in the fall. She’s ready. I’m not sure I am, but that’s another matter. Anyway, after the meeting I went up to the superintendent for the district to ask her an important question about how to get an intradistrict transfer from our home school to the school where my older two daughters go. It was only when I got home, and my husband asked, “What’s that on your shirt?” that I realized I was wearing this little memento from Teddy Bear Week at my daughter’s preschool:

Blue ribbon courtesy of Billy Frank Alexander.

Blue ribbon courtesy of Billy Frank Alexander.

That’s right friends, I’m the Most Loving Bear and proud of it, no matter what the superintendent thinks!

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In all honesty, I can’t say that the half marathon is my favorite race distance. I love a 10K (6.2 miles). An 8K (4.97 miles). Those are long enough to tax me and yet short enough that I can really race them. A 5K (3.1 miles) is nice too, but it’s over before I even start to get in my groove. I’m not that speedy, you see. Endurance is my strong suit. And yet, for me, 13.1 miles presents quite the challenge.

My quest to complete a half marathon started when I finished my first Olympic distance triathlon in December 2011. I felt competent on the swim and bike but felt there was significant room for improvement in running. The Olympic distance includes a 6.2-mile run. For that triathlon, I completed that 6.2 miles in 55:35, a decent 10K time after the swim and bike portions of the race (enough to earn me first out of those in my age group, no matter that there were only two of us 40-year-old females!) I later completed a stand-alone 10K in 51:29, again a decent time, especially considering I was recovering from a groin injury at the time. At any rate it was good enough for a spot on the podium for 2nd place in my 40-44 age group in the local race. Still, I wanted more. I wanted to be a runner. (What constitutes a runner is a whole ‘nother blog post. On the one hand I’d say anyone who puts one foot in front of the other at any pace faster than a walk is a runner. On the other hand, I didn’t feel like a runner until I started training for the half marathon and other runners started recognizing that I was training for something.)

In January 2012, I signed up for a half marathon training class with a local running shop. My goal was to work on my running form and speed.  I knew from the start that I wanted to complete a half marathon in under two hours. I stated it out loud to anyone who would listen (not because I was overly confident, but because I wanted to hold myself to a training and racing goal). The 16-week program entailed five weekly runs, with three to four mile runs during the week and progressively longer runs on Saturdays. While I hit a bit of a speed bump with that groin injury, the training worked for me and on race day in May 2012, I came across the finish line at 1:55:10. I had blown away my sub-2 goal.

That’s not to say that any of it was easy. During the last weeks of training, I felt creaky. I acted like the Tin Woman, starting out slowly and gradually oiling up my joints on the long runs until I hit a 10-minute pace if I was lucky. Tapering helped rejuvenate me, and by race day I hit an 8:47 pace, for an average of 6.82 mph for the 13.1 miles. I was thrilled. I left it all out on the course. I wasn’t joyful for every mile. I was thankful I made it through. I was happy to hit my previous personal distance record of 12 miles, and push through that last 1.1 miles to hit 13.1. I was tired, I was spent, and I was completely thrilled that I’d done it. I thanked the girl who finished before me, the one in the neon yellow tank top who inspired me to keep up the pace and finish strong. She had no idea she was pacing me, but she did and I’m grateful, even if I couldn’t pass her at the end. I finished in the top 9% for my age group and gender, and 17th percentile overall. I was thrilled. I don’t care how you define a “runner,” that qualified in my book!

When I crossed the finish line, I was totally done. I hadn’t exactly enjoyed the race. At the 5-mile mark I had wondered what I had gotten myself into. At the half-way mark I was shocked how many people were still crowding the course. At the hill at 11 miles I truly questioned why I had ever wanted to run a half marathon in the first place. Then I hit 12 miles and knew I could push myself that last 1.1 miles. I finished and was utterly relieved. It was hard to keep moving and walk to grab some electrolyte water and bananas and oranges.

I met my husband and three girls at our designated spot, then met up with my coach Stephanie for some hugs and arnica gel. From there it was a long walk back to our car (the parking lot was full by the time my husband and girls arrived at the start of the race). I watched the marathoners at mile 24 and tried to shout encouragement to them. I am not sure I succeeded. What do marathoners want to hear at mile 24? My thought was, “Looking good! You’re doing it!” It’s not that you can do it, you ARE doing it. Then I made it back to our car, parked nearly a half-mile away at the local gas station, and saw this:

13.1 in the dirt

Badge of honor on my dusty, dirty car

I almost cried. The enormity of the accomplishment hit me. The reward of the half marathon was knowing that all my training time and effort had paid off and I had earned that 13.1.

Nearly four months later, on my 41st birthday, I found the following surprise (and then had to wash my car because I was shamed into it by the loveliness of the gift from my husband):

13.1 sticker

My awesome birthday gift, a 13.1 custom sticker

Am I glad I ran a half marathon? Absolutely. I’m glad I trained hard and accomplished my goal. What advice do I have for others who want to tackle this distance? Set out your goal(s). Do you want to finish, meet a time goal, or blast away a personal record? Have you run other distances in preparation for 13.1 miles? Be realistic. Have a plan in place and follow it to the best of your ability.

Have you run a half marathon? What advice do you have for others who want to race 13.1 miles?

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