Hop Hop Half Marathon Race Recap and A Marathon Training Check-In

Where does the time go?! I mean, seriously, I feel like it was just a couple of weeks ago that I was putting together my training plan for the Newport Marathon and here I am, only about 4 weeks away from the big day. Is this another one of those signs that I’m getting old? The sensation of time going by so quickly, I mean. It must be.   It’s right up there with my new, annoying need to use the zoom function on my computer screen when I’m reading text these days. (Does anyone else feel like 12-point isn’t what it used to be?!)

Enough with the questions and the lamenting about the passage of time, I have a race to tell you all about. Held on the Saturday before Easter, the Hop Hop Half Marathon served as sort of a trial run for me.   Six weeks out from Newport I wanted to test my fitness level, and even more importantly, my pacing. I struggle with pacing myself evenly and I know that this is going to be a key element in my marathon success.

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I’m going to put it right out there and acknowledge that this was a tough race for me. I did not taper, as I was considering this just part of my training plan, and I definitely felt fatigue in my legs and body when pushing my speed. I also got caught up in a bit of self-doubt about my clothing choices at the last minute, which resulted in me hastily adding an extra layer on top, which I almost immediately regretted after the run got going. I overheated and struggled with the ramifications of that for the majority of the race.

Despite all of that, I only finished 31 seconds short of my half-marathon PR AND I did a relatively consistent job (with the exception of one tough mile) of pacing myself evenly, while staying in tune with my level of effort and my actual pace time. There’s also something to be said about the level of mental focus that I had to hone in on, given the challenges I was having.

Hop Hop Half Medal and Bib - edited

The course was the same as last year, which is to say, it was absolutely enjoyable and peaceful. The route took us along the Columbia River, with what was a clear, impressive, and positively imposing view of Mt. Hood for more than half the route, until we made the turn around. The staff and volunteers from Foot Traffic were great and the logistics of the run all seemed to go off without a hitch. I also was super lucky to cross the finish line when I did. About 10 minutes later, as I was in my car and headed home, the sky absolutely opened up and those still out there were treated to some serious rainfall!

It was a tough race for me – a really tough one, actually. But it served its purpose. Looking at it from the perspective of it being one part of a larger plan and goal, I’ll even go as far as to say it was successful in some ways, too. I feel good having that trial run under my belt – and I hopefully learned a lesson about making last minute wardrobe decisions based on pre-race anxiety!

McMillan and Me: Marathon Training 2.0

When I planned for the Newport Marathon last year, I did so in a manner that I imagine is pretty common among first timers. I found a pre-written training plan online (I went with one of Hal Higdon’s), shifted one or two things around in order to fit my particular schedule and lifestyle, wrote it up on a calendar, placed it on my refrigerator, and went to work. I followed it nearly to a T. It worked. I completed my first marathon and even recovered from it pretty quickly (Thanks, Hal!).

Newport 2014

But the truth of the matter is, even though pre-written training plans are infinitely helpful (especially to newbies), each runner is unique and to get the most out of it, training needs to be personalized. There isn’t really any such thing as a one-size-fits-all training plan.

Which is why I knew going into this round of training for my second marathon (which is, by the way, once again the Newport Marathon), that I wanted to do things a bit differently. But . . . do what differently? And then . . . how differently? Anyone who has ever trained for a race likely knows the options for putting together a plan are bountiful. I’ve toyed with the idea of seeking the help of a professional – a paid professional – like a coach or a site that will personalize a plan for you, based on your input. Those are certainly still options on the table for future events, but for this one I decided to put my trust in myself and Greg McMillan.

You McMillanGreg McMillan, a distance running coach and exercise scientist, is the author of You (Only Faster), which is the book that ended up being my primary guide for developing my next marathon training plan. The book provides training plan templates, however, it also guides you through several steps of self-assessment, allowing you to adapt the plans through each phase of the process to best suit your individual body, running style, goals, and needs. For me, this was an ideal approach. It struck a great balance between having a plan developed from scratch just for me (which was kind of an intimidating prospect) and working straight from a pre-existing plan that didn’t take my specific self into account (which is not as effective as I would like).

Plus, I learned a lot – I repeat A LOT – about myself as a runner as I moved through the steps outlined in the book. I tuned into my body and running patterns and learned more about what type of runner I am, including what type of runs are most challenging for me, what types I recover most quickly from, and what types help give me the greatest confidence boost. I’m still applying this information and learning new things all the time.

One of the great parts of this process is that it lines up perfectly with something that I mentioned back in January. You may recall that I wrote about wanting to focus on living with purpose and intention this year. McMillan’s plan has helped me apply this to my running. I am thinking about what I’m doing and why I’m doing it. Some runs may be about going slow and building my endurance, others are about pushing on that VO2 Max, or about simply being in the moment and enjoying a run without a distance or pace goal in mind, but through all of them, I have a particular purpose and that feels really good to me. Quite good, actually.

I tend to excel in most areas of my life when I have a plan, a goal or two, and purposeful steps along the way, so it makes perfect sense to me that I follow a similar trend when it comes to running.

So here I am, five weeks of training under my belt, and about ten more to go. I’ve to say, I’m really loving how this is going so far. In addition to the positives that I’ve already pointed out, I feel like my body is responding well. I’m building back up some of the endurance that I got away from during the winter, but I’m also adding in more speedwork, which hasn’t ever really been much of a focus for me before. I’m challenged by my speed days, but I also find them to be a new satisfying way to push my abilities a bit further. I’m feeling healthy and committed to my training, too, which certainly doesn’t hurt.

It’s still early to be able to say how this will all play out in Newport, but my hat is off to Greg McMillan for pushing me to be Me (only faster).

What I’ve Been Up To in January

As some of you may have noticed, I took the month of January off.  I didn’t necessarily intend for a one week break to turn into four, but it happened.

And, as it turns out, I’m okay with that.  I don’t feel compelled to apologize (something that I do too often as it is), because it was necessary, though I will explain why I needed that time.

The fact is that I needed a little re-boot.  I was feeling a bit overwhelmed, somewhat uninspired, and totally worn out.  Taking a few weeks for some hibernation was important. None of this is to say that I haven’t missed it around here.  Or that I haven’t missed you all, because I have.  So, hello again!

Trees at Rhododendron

I may not have been blogging, but I have been doing things over the last month.  The running hasn’t stopped, of course.  I’ve been at it consistently and with a relaxed outlook – enjoying the time off between training cycles.  I’ve also selected my primary running goals for 2014.  They are:

  • complete two marathons (Newport, OR in May and Portland, OR in October),
  • run at least one of those marathons at a sub 4-hour pace (though I’m really shooting to run both under 4 hours, and I do think that it’s totally possible),
  • PR at the 10k distance, and
  • run at least 1700 miles during the year.

All of this seems pretty darn exciting to me!

I’ve also been filling my brain with lots and lots of information and stories.  I’ve been reading voraciously – 10 books in the month of January!  I’ve learned and escaped and laughed and fantasized with these books in the last four weeks and it’s been wonderful.

Trees from below Rhododendron

I’ve been cooking some delicious food.  Banh mi inspired noodles.  Delicious soups from this bookCauliflower parmesan.  You get the idea.

And finally, I’ve been thinking about what I really want this year to be about.  In a few short words, my primary goals for 2014 are about living deliberately and with intention.  In the words of my fantasy BFF Bob Harper, I need to remember in any given moment that all I’m doing is exactly what I’m doing.  Be present and concentrate on what’s at hand, making choices and plans with intention, rather than constantly battling stress and anxiety about the future.

I hope that this approach will be reflected in my posts this year.  I aim to write and share very intentionally and with deliberate thought towards what’s worth writing, sharing, and reading.  I hope you’ll join me!

2013: A Look Back At Some of My Highlights

New Year’s Eve & Day are my favorite holidays.  I get a little sappy and a lot introspective around this time.  While I believe in regular reflection and goal setting throughout the year, I can’t help but find this to be an appropriate time to take stock of where I am, how I am doing, what I’ve done, and what is next.

santa ornament - editedThere was a time when this process was primarily a negative one for me.  I would stop to reflect on what I didn’t accomplish or what goals and dreams were out of my reach.  In recent years, however, I’ve taken to heart just how important it is to give equal billing to what I have done.  Rather then quickly glossing over accomplishments or milestones in order to continue moving upward and onward, I now recognize the value in celebrating the victories (large and small) that are behind me.  And, while some believe that you gain wisdom mostly by rehashing your mistakes and failures, I also see the learning that presents itself in evaluating what has gone well.

To this end, here are some of the highlights, milestones, and victories that took place for me in 2013:

  • 26.2 miles = Done! – The experience of running my first marathon have been shared in depth here and here, so I won’t say Me with medal 3 - editedmuch more other than that it stands as one of the single best days of my life.  I can’t wait for many more!
  • Goodbye, Gluten – Going gluten-free was not something that I ever intended to do.  It was (and still is) extraordinarily difficult for me, but 7 months later, my vastly improved health stands as evidence that it was what I absolutely needed to do.
  • 1500 miles – It took me nearly right up until the end of the year to do so, but as of last weekend, I have run over 1500 miles for the year.  So cool.
  • 71 books – I love to read and always have.  For me, books are a never-ending source of education, escapism, and inspiration all in one.  I track my literary adventures over at Goodreads.  If you’re interested in seeing what I’ve been reading, please head over and say hello (username: srrose).
  • Facing down an old fear . . .  The dentist! – I’ll admit that, prior to 2013, it had been quite some time since I’d dragged myself to the dreaded chair.  It is an experience that long struck fear in my heart.  Having little or poor dental insurance for a long time had supported me in running away from this fear, but I finally did it.  After several trips to get all caught up, my teeth are happy and healthy!
  • Cultivating creative confidence – This year saw me take some big strides in levels of self-confidence related to creativity and pasta with italian peppers - editedcooking.  I can’t say that I produced the largest quantity of creatively driven output this year, but I found myself trusting my instincts more, feeling stronger in my skills, and being open to experimentation.
  • Keeping THIS going – I know that I’ve had periods recently of reduced posting, but I’m thrilled that I’ve been able to keep this site going.  I love it.  I love the process of it and that I get to connect with so many incredible people around the world because of it.

I’m certain that I could go on a bit longer, but I will end my list on that note.  So, thank you to every person out there who has been a part of all of this with me in 2013.  I’m looking forward to seeing what next year will bring.

Happy New Year!

Shopping Struggles, But Running Saves the Day!

There was a time when I loved to shop for clothes.  LOVED it.  It was fun and exciting and was a way to express my creativity.  These days, however, I loathe the task most of the time.  I don’t know how many of you reading are thirty-something women, but let me tell you, the options out there for us are pretty sad.

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There is a vast wasteland of clothing for women my age who want to look mature AND sexy.  Fun AND professional.  Casual AND put together.  There are shops for professional women that veer toward dull and stuffy.  There are shops for young women who clearly are spending their nights in clubs and their days taking in (what’s left of) the summer sun.  And there are outdoor stores that would be great if I was planning on hiking everyday during my office hours.  But, a store for an almost 33 year old who still feels youthful in many ways, but whose club days are far behind her?  It seems impossible.

This has been a real struggle for me as I strive to fine tune my image at this stage in my life and it’s a struggle that is not showing any signs of easing up anytime soon.  When I work up the energy to go on a shopping trip these days, I usually end up tired, discouraged, and more than a little confused about my personal style and how to find anything that expresses it appropriately.

So, where is the bright light in this sad little rant?

Running.  Running is the bright light (isn’t it usually?).

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More specifically today, running apparel is the bright light.  I love shopping for running apparel.  Give me a rack stuffed with Oiselle and a shelf full of Adidas and I am in my shopping heaven.  Singlets and shorts and capris and jackets and base layers and, of course, shoes.

One of the wonderful things about running is that it gives you a built in, non-arguable reason to buy a new pair of shoes every few months.  And such it was this weekend that it was time for me to pick up a new pair of Mizunos.   So I headed down to one of my local running stores (Foot Traffic) with a mission.  I’ve grown loyal to my Wave Riders and I was thrilled to bring home a new pair.  New color, slightly lighter than my last pair (even better for racing), and just waiting to see me through my next round of training that will start in the coming weeks for the Holiday Half Marathon.

Aren’t they beautiful?

If only all of my shopping trips could be so fruitful.

A Move Eat Create Medley: Looking Back At Some Favorite Posts

It occurred to me the other day that I’ve been at this blogging thing for a bit over a year now.  I decided to take a few minutes to look through the content I’ve been putting up and to see which posts have been the most popular.  Like any good blog-mom, all my posts are special to me, and it was interesting to see which ones seem to have most resonated with others.

Here, in no particular order, are the top contenders.  Missed any of them?  Click through the links to get caught up and see what they are all about.

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Me nearing finish 4 - edited

The Surprising Benefits of Running Unscripted

I’m a planner by nature, you see.  A scheduler.  A write everything down in lists and calendars and always arrive 10 minutes early kind of gal.

I don’t generally do well with unstructured time, parts of a day carved out to just ‘relax’ (whatever that means), or scheduled plans that are changed at the last minute.

A short bridge on one of my running routes

A short bridge on one of my running routes

This is true in pretty much all parts of my life and up until recently I thought it was absolutely true in regards to my running self, as well. I’d always pretty much been running with a plan.  There was, of course, the four months of marathon training that I planned out and followed without fail.  Even prior to that very specific training, I would plan out my runs pretty precisely.  Google Maps was a big help in this, allowing me to draw out where I would run to achieve just the right amount of distance.  I’d map it, commit it to memory and head out, not deviating from my route or schedule.

All of that planning was great.  It helped me become a strong runner and got me successfully through a marathon.  But in the two months since that achievement, I’ve been a little less structured in my training – and I’ve been amazed at how well it’s going.

Of course, I still have some structure (I AM still me, after all).  I still go long every Saturday, hit intense strength training on Sundays, and fill my evenings after work with a variety of runs and bits of cross training.  I still commit to 4-6 days per week of running, plus cross-training on at least 4 days, always with one full day off of training (generally Fridays).

I love rounding this curve.

I love rounding this curve.

But, all in all, it’s a bit more free form.  I’ve been running long enough in my neighborhood by now to know it intimately.  I know the streets and the turns, which sidewalks are smooth enough to go fast on, and which ones feel like a little obstacle course with their broken cement and tree roots taking over.  I know where the hills are and which stretches always seem to create some sort of wind tunnel that I can’t understand from a meteorological standpoint.  I know which streets to take on a hot day if I want more shade and I know where to find drinking fountains if needed.

I love that I have become more familiar with distance now, knowing it by experience and feel. I don’t need to map my routes, because I know where to go for 5 miles or 6 miles or 8 miles.  I know if I want to hit 10, I just turn and add on a 2 mile stretch at a specific point along my way and when I’m going long, I know how to create loops to get me to 15, 16, 17 and so on with enough diversity of environment and elevation changes to keep it interesting.  It’s all become so natural.

My base mileage is getting strong.

This pleases me.

Reed Field and Path

A path at Reed College in my ‘hood.

My long runs are consistently longer – but they don’t necessarily feel like it.  They just feel fun and good.  Hard when I decide to make them hard and refreshing when that’s what I need, too.  My shorter runs have inched their way along also, growing in subtle increments and making my consistent weekly mileage creep upwards.

My slow, easy pace has dropped and my recovery time is shortened.

It’s all just fantastic.

There’s something quite satisfying about just building that base to be a bit more than it used to be and in feeling the positive impacts of that in my body and mind.  It’s certainly increasing my confidence as a runner.  I find myself having a bit more insight into what I can do, should do, and shouldn’t do.  If I feel the tell-tale signs that a rest day is needed, I take it.  And then I get back out there the next day and see the benefits it provided.  Maybe before too long, I’ll get up the nerve to tackle some track workouts (still something I’ve never done).

I’ve honestly never felt more like a true runner then I do right now.  I see how much there is for me to do to improve, but I also accept how much I already have.  And this time for me, a little more relaxed and a little less rigid, has been remarkably valuable to all of that.  I can foresee my lessons being learned right now only benefiting me when I do lay out a new specific training plan for that next big race.  I wonder what race that will be?