Over the last several years, I have completed many marathons and many ultras. I start this post with that statement so that I am not misunderstood. I am VERY proud of what I've accomplished. When I started working out and doing the Couch-2-5k plan in November of 2009, I never dreamed I could run a marathon, much less 11 official marathons, 7 official ultras, 2 unofficial marathons, and 3 unofficial ultras since my very first marathon in March of 2011. These are things I never dreamed I could do in just 4 years.
All that said, I am not happy with where I am right now with my running, or my fitness in general. When I started, I did more strength training than running. That was the case up until I had a stress fracture in my foot shortly after my first marathon. I was not able to workout, much less run, for 8 weeks. I missed running more than anything. Ever since then, my focus has always been running. I still strength train, but usually not that hard and definitely not that often. I have just wanted to run all the miles I could, so I never made time for anything else. Run, run, run, run, maybe lift some light weights, run, run.... you get the idea.
My training plans always center on running and I say I'll lift weights, but I don't. I just don't leave enough time in my training plans to get in my scheduled miles AND strength training. As a result, I have gotten fatter and slower. Even worse, I keep running marathons & ultras while I struggle more & more to finish them. I sit around wondering why I cannot get better or lose weight, but deep down I've always known the answer. You can't lose weight or get stronger if all you do is cardio and you don't eat appropriately. When all I do is run, I have a hard time watching what I eat, whereas when I strength train, eating better comes more naturally. I don't know why.
With all of that in mind, I started contemplating how I can go about making the needed changes. When I am training for marathons & ultras constantly, I feel like I can't sacrifice the miles to make time for strength training. So what do I do? I started thinking, what if I kept my weekend long, slow runs, but change my mid-week runs? Normally during the week I am hitting 4-10 mile runs depending on what I'm training for, and they are almost always slow, easy effort runs. So what if I change that? What if I cut them to, say, 3-4 mile runs with much higher intensity (interval and tempo runs)? That would allow me the time I need to get in serious strength training and maybe it would get some speed back by doing higher intensity. Interesting.
So that's the new plan. Lower mid-week mileage, higher mid-week intensity, strength training set in the schedule, and long, slow weekend runs. Oh, and of course rest days, I'll get yelled at if I don't include rest days! Three weeks from the writing of this post, I will start my training for my upcoming Fall/Winter races, so I am writing my training plan according to this new concept. I also started strength/core training this week so that my body is used to it when I start building my mileage again. I'm excited about this new strategy and I look forward to seeing if it works, but I'm very positive about it. I believe using this strategy for this upcoming race season will help me get lighter, stronger, and improve my endurance. If that all holds true and I have stronger performances this year, then next year I can look to hold that and work more on increasing my speed as well. But that's a topic I'll hold off on until I see how this works out for my Fall/Winter races. Wish me luck, and good luck to all of you with whatever you are working on currently!!
Friday, April 3, 2015
|Kristy & me ready to head to Mississippi|
Pensacola Marathon, then continued on from there to train for the Mississippi Blues/First Light Marathons double weekend. My original plan was to do the Blackwater 50k after that (which I did), then take some time off training (which I did not). I have a tendency to burn out mentally and physically if I don't take a break from training for too long. Well, after pacing Will at the Cajun Coyote 100 in December, then the back-2-back marathons went so well I decided to go ahead and carry the momentum into the Equinox 50 Mile. I knew I was rolling the dice on burning out, but I was feeling good and wanted to keep going. All the way up to the day before the race I felt good. I was excited for my hard work to pay off. In those 8 months I had run two marathons, one 50k race, and one 50k training run. In total, I had run 1,017.01 miles in that training.
|Sunset through the trees of Homochitto National Forest|
After pickup, we headed back to our hotel where I got all of my stuff organized and ready and we went to bed a little early. It was going to be an early morning and a long day, so I wanted to get some good rest. I did sleep well, but the morning alarm was my first sign of how the day would unfold. It's good to wake up excited, nervous, or even anxious for a race. I woke up ambivolant about the race and really just wanted to turn the alarm off and go back to sleep. That's a bad sign. Had I finally burnt out? I couldn't know at the time, I just knew I'd paid for the race and driven several hours to get there, so I might as well run it. Yeah, that is really how I felt race morning.
|The forecast a few days before the race|
|Don't worry, it was much worse than it looks here|
|Me, Kristen, and Kristy at the 13.7 mile aid station|
Little did I know when I left that station, but it would be another 5 hours before I would see another person. As I walked, I thought about the day and all that was going wrong. Sure, the weather was bad and making things harder. Sure, the course was crazy hilly and making things harder. But the way I felt when I woke up and the way I'd felt all morning told me that neither of those factors really mattered. I would not have done well on this day even in perfect conditions. I was definitely burnt out and in desperate need of a break from training and racing. I was disappointed in myself for not listening to my instincts.
The good news is that the race was on a very nice trail. So during my hours and hours of walking alone, I at least had pretty scenary to enjoy. The rain continued to stop and start, stop and start, and so on. At one point, the rain was starting to pick up more and I reached an unmanned aid station on a road. I stopped there thinking maybe someone would come along to check on the supplies or something, or maybe another runner would come along. I was quite worried that I had gotten off course since none of the leaders were passing me.
|I took this picture to document how happy I was when|
the rain really picked up during the last section
The trail was under water, splashing with every step, and soaking my feet. I kept trudging through just reminding myself that it was almost over. Those were some very difficult miles. Finally, I made it back to the finish line having completed the 50k rather than the 50 mile. It had taken me 10:25:05. (Link to Garmin data) I spent some time collecting my thoughts, sitting down, and talking with some other runners and my friends from Forge while I waited for Kristy to show up. She had gone to try to help a girl that had apparently gotten off course. I was told lots of people got off course, but I still can't figure out how. I thought the course was well marked and I had no trouble following it. The only reason I ever wondered about whether or not I was on course was because of not being passed by any runners for so long.
|Me & race director Jeff at packet pickup|
After getting dinner, we went back to our hotel to catch a good night's sleep. The next morning we got some breakfast at the hotel lobby, then headed out. We were just a couple hours from New Orleans, so we decided to head there to have lunch in the French Quarter before heading home to Pensacola. Neither Kristy nor I had ever been to New Orleans (well, I had at 6 months old, but that hardly counts), and we have been planning to go on a trip there, so we figured this was a good opportunity to stop in for a quick visit that might help up in planning a real trip there. Besides, who can say no to taking a chance to get real Cajun food.
It was a beautiful city and we really enjoyed our short visit to the French Quarter. We ate at the Gumbo Shop, which was AMAZING! If you ever get the chance, I recommend it. We took a little time to walk around, but eventually had to get back on the road to get home. It was a very tough race, but a great weekend. I look forward to my next adventure with Forge Racing and making it far more successful than this one.
Sunday, March 8, 2015
|Me & my friend Laurel, who worked the turn-around aid station|
|Kristy, me, Sarah, and Brandon at P'cola Beach|
|The Team RWB crew & Brendan at the WOB run 2/18|
Finally, it was the night before the race. I made pasta & vodka sauce for the three of us, which has somewhat become a tradition whenever I run a race that I don't travel for. I got all my gear together and we hung out for a while before getting to bed fairly early. Brendan & I were running the 50k, while Kristy and several of our Team RWB friends would be manning the turn-around aid station, so we all had an early morning and long day ahead of us. It was a nice dinner and a nice time hanging out with a friend we hadn't seen in quite a while.
I was using this race to work out a few things I would need for the much longer 50 mile distance, so this race took a little more prep than a 50k normally would for me. My Garmins only last about 6 1/2 - 7 hours, so I would need to charge it during the 50 mile. I've always just taken a second watch to switch to during 50k, but for the 50 I wanted to just use one. I had been told you can charge them on the go and they will continue to run, so I got a couple small portable chargers I could carry. I also got the batteries for my new camera fully charged since I planned to take a lot of photos. For my nutrition, this would be my first 50k powered by Tailwind Nutrition. I've been mixing it at 300 cal per 24 oz water bottle, and this is the first way I've ever found that I can actually get in some calories while running. I made 2 bottles to take with me at the start, and made 2 more to send with Kristy to keep in a cooler for me to switch out when I got to the turn-around aid station. Ready to go... time for bed.
|Amy, Megan, and me before the race. They both ran with|
me during the P'cola Marathon and were running their first
50k at Blackwater
|Start of the race|
As I continued on, I started to notice an issue with my shoes. I'd had a pair of Mizuno EVO Cursoris that I had worn over the last couple years, but they had worn out. They stopped making them shortly after I got them, so it took some work to find a new pair. Well, this new pair was rubbing the top of my foot funny. It wasn't necessarily hurting, but it was going to as the miles piled up. I needed to do something about it, but there just wasn't anything to do until I got to the next aid station so I could get a band-aid to cover and protect that spot, so I just continued on.
|New friends Taylor (left) and Brittany (right) coming up|
on the second aid station
When we did get to the second aid station, Paul was there. I asked him for a band-aid, which he happily got for me and offered to help. I told him I was fine, I just needed to sit down, get my shoe off and fix whatever was going on with it. I sat down on the bumper of some one's truck and took my right shoe off. It still wasn't really hurting, so I was a little surprised to see a little blood on my sock. Glad I stopped, that would have definitely become a problem. If I already had blood just about 8 1/2-9 miles in, who knows what it would look like after 50k. I got my sock off, cleaned the spot a little and put the band-aid on. This resolved that issue for the rest of the race, so I was able to put that out of my mind. I thanked Paul and got back out on my way.
|Picture taken by my buddy Jamie at|
one of my favorite spots on the trail
|My Team RWB friends working the aid station|
|Kim from the NWFL Trail Running group on her way|
to the turn-around
|A different angle of my favorite spot I talked about earlier,|
although it still doesn't capture the beauty of this spot
|Still just trucking along, enjoying a gorgeous day|
|Goats next to the road during the short paved section at|
the manned aid station
|Jamie offers me what I like, just at the wrong time|
|I was tired, but I was kind of goofing around with this photo|
|The final stretch of trail|
|Coming up the final hill. Kristy was|
shooting from the top, so this
is a much bigger hill than it looks
|Tired, but finished|
|Some of the Northwest Florida Trail Running group that|
either ran, or supported at the race
Saturday, January 17, 2015
|Me with the Main Maniacs (Steve, Chris, and Tony)|
|Bringing Will in for his finish at the|
Cajun Coyote 100 Mile
|Some of my Team RWB group that I|
run with on Wednesday evenings.
|Forecast for Saturday, it ended up|
being pretty accurate.
|Me, Chris, and Houston at the Maniac reunion/dinner.|
|Race morning #1, all bundled up.|
|At the 20 mile mark.|
I did really well staying with the group and I was feeling mostly good through 16 miles, but at that point I decided to drop off of the pace group and start doing some walking. My feet were really starting to hurt with the crappy roads. I knew that with another marathon the next day I'd better take care of my feet rather than let them get worse, so I started taking walk breaks and being even more conscious than normal about where to place my feet to avoid bigger rocks and cracks in the roads. A few times I did hit bigger rocks and I did end up with bruises on my right heel and ball of my right foot, but that wasn't anything bad. The problem at this point was mostly mental, though. My feet were hurting thanks to the roads, and I had a strange pain in my left shoulder. I didn't know what that pain was, but it was getting a little worse and a little worse. So I'm going to trudge through the rest of this race, but how am I going to finish tomorrow? If I feel like this 17 miles into the first marathon, what am I going to feel like 17 miles into the second? I just walked, ran some, and tried to stop the negative thoughts, but they just kept coming like waves. I was powerless to make them go away. Walk, run, negative thoughts. That was my existence at that moment and I couldn't change it.
|Marathon Maniac group photo before Miss. Blues Marathon|
All that continued until about mile 24.5. I suddenly had the thought, "maybe I should just run the half marathon tomorrow." The very instant I had that thought it pissed me off that I even thought it. This was not an acceptable thought. I need to get my confidence back if I want to complete the race the next day. No more fucking around, I need to get this done, and get it done running. I ran the rest of the way with no walking at all. It was tough, my feet were killing me, my shoulder was killing me, and I was still freezing my ass off, but I was NOT going to walk again. I had to prove to myself that I could do it. I ran from the mile 25 marker to the mile 26 marker in 11:23, then the final 0.32 miles to the finish at a 10:34 pace. I came through the finish line with a smile on my face and my confidence back. That last almost 2 miles of running had gotten my confidence back. I felt better about finishing the next day. Sometimes we just have to give ourselves a strong push to get get ourselves back where we need to be mentally. My feet still hurt and my shoulder was killing me at the point the volunteer put my giant, glass medal around my neck and another gave me a space blanket to help me warm up. I walked out of the finisher's area to find Kristy, who I had seen at the end, but laid down on the sidewalk instead. I had finished 26.32 miles in 5:23:06 for an avg pace of 12:17 (click here for Garmin data).
I just had to stop for a minute and let my feet rest. I wanted to take my Orange Mud pack off, but my shoulder was hurting so bad that I couldn't, so I just laid with it on. Kristy found me and I gave her my space blanket because holding it around me was bothering my shoulder. I laid down and she took a picture of me. It captured pretty well how I felt. I was hurting, but I was happy. I got up and I asked Kristy to help me get my pack off. When she pulled it back of my shoulder, I almost screamed it hurt so bad. What the heck was wrong here?? I had no idea, I just hoped it would get better before the next day.
|Dinner with some fellow Maniacs Saturday night at|
Dreamland BBQ in Mobile.
The weather on Sunday was MUCH nicer than Saturday. The start was 46 with a windchill in the high-30s, and was set to warm up quite a bit. Much more my style. I needed much less for clothes for this race, which is good, and my asthma would be much less of an issue. All I wore for this one was my Team RWB short sleeve shirt, Marathon Maniac arm sleeves, compression shorts, Adidas shorts, Zensah calf sleeves, Injinji socks, pink Marathon Maniac Buff, RoadID, Garmin 610, and Mizuno EVO Cursoris. I decided to go with the EVO Cursoris shoes for this one instead of my VFFs since my feet were still hurting from the bad roads the day before and I didn't want to risk there being bad roads again. I actually felt pretty good and loose. My feet were sore, my legs and hips were a little tight, but not bad, and my shoulder felt mostly pretty good. I got my Tailwind Nutrition for the day mixed in my bottles, and I started to make my way over to the start area. Unlike the Mississippi Blues Marathon, First Light Marathon was very bare-bones and low frills. I like races like that. Simple, laid back, most of the money going to charity. There was not ever chip timing, literally just a chalk line drawn across the road for a start line. People were already gathering at the start area, mostly Maniacs, and there was a DJ there playing music. Most everyone was running the back-2-back challenge, so everyone was moving around getting loose and having a lot of fun.
|Marathon Maniac group photo at the First Light Marathon|
I felt pretty strong at the start. I was keeping my pace easy with splits pretty consistent in the 11:45-12:30 range, and I didn't really feel a whole lot of soreness. I was just chatting with people and having fun. Just enjoying the day. I was doing the same plan as the day before, drinking some Tailwind every two miles, but also drinking more water from the aid stations as well since I was taking a little longer between stations. It really was a nice day and a pretty nice course, so it was easy to enjoy things.
As I said, my plan was to run straight through as long as I could, then re-evaluate from there. I went about 8 miles before I decided I really wanted to walk, so I decided I would run to 9, then walk a little. I got to the 9 mile mark and started to walk. I walked about 0.2 miles before I started running again, so I decided I would do that each mile. Walk 0.2, then run 0.8. I'd see how long I could hold that pattern, and figured if I could do that at least through the 18 mile mark I'd be in pretty good shape. It seemed to be working pretty well. I was really tired, but not all that sore, so the walk breaks gave me a chance to recoup some energy every mile. I wasn't bothering with trying to keep my walk breaks fast, I was just walking and letting my energy come back. I was mostly holding between 12:30-13:20 per mile with this strategy, which was perfectly fine for me. One thing I did at this race is kind of funny looking back, but really did help me, was using the virtual pacer on my Garmin. Kristy had asked me to text her if I thought I would finish later than the 6 hour mark, so I set my pacer at 13:40 and basically tried to race it. Each mile I would do my walk, then see if I could make time up against that pace. I knew going in that finishing slower than 6 hours was possible, but I didn't want to, I really wanted to stay somewhere in the 5 hour range.
As I was getting to mile about 13 or 14, I caught up with Kim & Laura. They were not doing the double, so they were very encouraging about my effort to do both races. They are very nice people that I love seeing during races, so I was happy to see them there. We kind of played leap frog for a couple miles. I would pass them, then they would pass me, until they finally got in front of me and stayed there. They never really got far out of my sights, though. I was still feeling pretty good and not really slowing down much when I got to the 18 mile marker and the aid station that was there. Now this was a great aid station. I had some oranges, some beer, some Skittles, and some nice jokes with people volunteering. This station really helped give me a boost. I also drank a 5 Hour Energy at this point to try getting my energy back up. I had held my 0.2 walk/0.8 run through the mile mark like I had wanted to. There was a huge hill at this point (which the volunteers referred to as Fireman's Hill since there is a fire station at the top) that was fairly steep and about 0.64 mile long. I decided I'd walk that whole hill, run the less than 1/2 mile to the 19 mile mark, then get back to my 0.2/0.8 strategy and do that the rest of the way no matter what. I was determined at this point, and I felt like I was doing really well and could finish strong using that strategy.
I got to mile 25 and started my 1/3 of a mile walk, then got back to running. I felt pretty good still. I was completely exhausted, but really wasn't hurting as much as I expected to be. There had been a handful of Marathon Maniacs that I had been playing leap frog with over the last several miles, and we were all encouraging one another, which really was helping. I ran out the last mile at around an 11:30-11:45ish pace, which is awesome after all of those miles. As I was getting close to the finish line I saw Kristy and she tried to get a picture of me, but didn't manage to get it. I was enjoying having lots of people there cheering me to the finish and telling me I looked great. As I got to the finish line at 5:36:24, I had a huge smile on my face. I had not only completed day two of my first back-2-back marathons, but I had only run it 13:18 slower than the first day!! I never would have guessed I could have done that! I was completely exhausted. As I was still running to the finish, I knew I could have kept up the 0.2/0.8 plan for several more miles if I had had to, but as soon as I stopped I really how used up I really was. I walked over to the back-2-back challenge table to get my extra medal for completing both races and saw my friend Jamie and another maniac sitting in chair behind the table.
I grabbed my medal and went to sit with them. The empty chair was on the far side of Jamie, but as I was walking past him to the chair, he grabbed it and set it down in front of him. I had to stop and think for a second to manage to turn myself around and sit in the chair he had placed just behind me. I was so exhausted, but I was so proud. I honestly had not felt this much pride in an accomplishment since my very first marathon in March 2011. I had completed 2 marathons in 2 states in 2 days. WOW! The First Light Marathon ended up being 26.36 miles in 5:36:24 for an avg pace of 12:46 (click here for Garmin data). In total for the two days, I had run 52.68 miles in 10:59:30 for an overall avg pace of 12:31. I only lost on average 29 seconds per mile from day 1 to day 2. I was so proud. I honestly thought I might cry. I sat chatting with Jamie, Christy, Kristy, and Julie Weidner (another fellow Maniac who had run the double). After sitting for a while, we decided it was time to get up and get headed for home. I got up and all the tightness and soreness finally really hit me. I could barely walk!!! We slowly and gingerly started making our way back to our car at the hotel for the hour drive home from Mobile. On the way, we saw Kim & Laura and congratulated them on their finish and they congratulated me.
We got back to our car and headed home. I'm glad it was a fairly short drive from Mobile, AL to Pensacola, FL since I was tired and sore. I knew it would take me a couple days to get over the soreness and get caught up on energy, but I felt so great about my weekend. I'd see people I hadn't seen in a long time, made new friends, and accomplished my first big goal of the year. I have to give a big shout out to Ryan Knapp, who coached me through my training. As I said, I had felt very under-trained, but it turned out I was perfectly ready to go and I had done better than my best expectations. I'm not sure I could have done it without his help. I also am grateful to my friends who recommended Tailwind Nutrition to me. It really helped me get through both of these races. Looking forward, a few things hinged on how this weekend went. As I said early one, I had committed to running my first 100k in December at the next Cajun Coyote, and in pursuit of that goal, I planned to run my first 50 mile at the Spring Equinox 50 Mile on March 21. I felt like if this back-2-back weekend didn't go well I would skip the 50 mile and try to use that time to get into better shape and recoup for the 100k. Well, this weekend went great, so I am sticking with the plan of the 50 miler in March. I'm also going to add the Soldier Marathon and the Pensacola Marathon as a back-2-back weekend in November as part of my training for the 100k.