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).

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!

Holiday Half Marathon Race Recap

Well . . . let’s see here.  It has taken me a bit more time then I had anticipated to post this race recap.

Clearly, this finding life balance thing is still a work in progress.

So, anyway, here I am, a bit late, but still eager to report back on my 2nd year participating in the Foot Traffic Holiday Half Marathon.  I ran this event on December 15th and it was the final race of the season for me (side note: How cool is it that I had a racing season???).

Holiday Half

In 2012, this event was remarkably cold, windy, and damp.  So it was with much joy that this year’s weather played out differently.  It was chilly, for sure, but dry and calm – nothing some strategic layering couldn’t address to keep me warm.

Mr. Move Eat Create accompanied me to the race.  With him handling logistics (such as transportation), I was free to focus on my performance.  My confidence level and thoughts heading in to the race were messy and conflicting.  On the one hand, I was feeling good about having recently noticed improvements in my pace times.  On the other hand, I had been coping with a strange foot pain that had seemingly popped up out of nowhere and I hadn’t completed any real focused or targeted training for this specific event.  Yet I was, of course, still gunning for a PR.  Go figure.

Holiday Half Bib 2013 - edited

With that in mind, here is how things shook out with this race, including the good and the bad.

Cons:

1. The first mile was frustrating.  Frustrating not because of anything I did or didn’t do, but because of the worst route congestion that I have ever experienced.  With no wave start, no corrals, no pace signs to line people up accordingly, and a large, diverse group of runners and walkers, it was a bit of a mess.  I found myself stuck and blocked in for at least a mile and finished mile one a full 1:00+ minutes slower than I had intended and was capable of.  Boo to that.

2.  I’ve mentioned before that I have Raynaud’s Disorder.  Since going gluten-free, my symptoms have lessened significantly in frequency and severity (Yay!), however, they started raging during this day’s race (Grr!).  It was painful and distracting.

3.  In a total running blunder, I apparently had recorded two different race times for my last half-marathon, which had been my PR – leading to great confusion on my part as to what my best time actually was (huge runner fail on my part).

Holiday Half Medal 2013 - edited

Pros:

1. The route is a nice one.  I really enjoy running through old Portland neighborhoods and this had a lot of that.  Plus, the clear sky provided an exceptional view of the magnificent St. John’s Bridge.

2.  Transportation and parking for this event are both wonderful.  I love the shuttle buses that take you from the large free parking spaces to the start line.  Stress free!

3.  Plenty of space (indoor and outdoor with heaters) to meander pre-race, lots of port-a-potties, and a coffee truck on hand for warm, caffeinated beverages.  All very good things.

4.  After much confusion, followed by embarrassment about said confusion, and then initial disappointment, I did discover my true previous PR and, to my delight, I set a new one!  Setting this PR provides me with some validation that the consistent work I’ve been putting in, even if it wasn’t via a targeted training plan, is paying off.  It is always nice to see concrete, measurable improvement and growth in my running, and it was a great way to finish up the season.

My final numbers:

  • Finish Time: 1:47:24
  • Overall Finish: 359/2505
  • Age Group Finish: 31/332

Now my off-season has begun!  Slightly reduced mileage and strength training will be the focus for a few weeks while my 2014 calendar takes shape.  More on that to come!

Preparing For the Last Race of My Season

Tomorrow morning I will race for the last time in 2013 at the Holiday Half Marathon in North Portland.  I also ran this event last year and recall it being a very wet, windy and cold morning.  The extreme frigid and icy weather that we’ve been experiencing the last week or so was making very extremely nervous for the prospects of this year’s race, however, things seem to be easing up.  Thank goodness!  When I went for a training run last night, the 37 degree temperature felt like such a warm relief compared to the days prior!

Holiday Half

Heading in to this last race of the year, I’m finding myself having some mixed emotions.  I’ve been training consistently, and have noticed myself getting a bit faster, but I probably haven’t focused on specific training patterns as much as I should have in order to really deliver a peak performance.  Due to this, my confidence in delivering a PR is not super high, though I find myself still hoping that I might be able to achieve one, nonetheless.  I’ve also been having some weird pain in my left foot that I’m not super happy about.  I don’t think it’s anything serious, but it feels like it needs some tending to after tomorrow’s race is said and done.

I’ve been a bit tired lately and am looking forward to finishing the season strong, and then allowing myself some more relaxed running and cross-training for a month or so to rest and recuperate from this past year.  During this time I will also work on planning out my major 2014 racing events – so I’m sure I’ll be posting more about that soon.  I’m excited to think about what the coming year will bring for my running.

If you’re up and about Sunday morning and think of it, please feel free to send some good running vibes my way!  I’ll, of course, report back about how it goes next week.

Anyone else preparing for their final races of the year?

In Appreciation of The ‘Ugly’ Runs

On Monday I had an ‘Ugly’ run.  You know the kind.  They are diametrically opposed to the ‘Good’ runs.  Good runs make us runners anticipate doing it all over again.  They bring on runner’s highs and leave you with a feeling that anything is possible.  ‘Ugly’ runs, on the other hand, do nothing of the sort.

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My ‘Ugly’ run took place after work, as all my Monday runs do.  I was tired.  My legs were sore from a cross-training workout the day before.  I was mentally drained and physically exhausted.  I was cranky.  But, of course, I still went out for my run.

When I got changed, it was raining and a little chilly from the wind.  Accordingly, I threw on a lightweight jacket over my singlet and shorts.  About five minutes into my run, the rain stopped, the wind came to a standstill and the sun began peeking out.

I got hot.  Like, uncomfortably hot under my long jacket sleeves.

My thighs grumbled at me with their muscle soreness.

I got a pebble in my shoe that I stopped twice to try and fish out, only to push it down further away from my reach.

I felt dehydrated and thirsty.

The spot on my foot where my shoes had been pressing all day at work experienced sharp pains with each foot strike.

Drivers were distracted and cyclists and pedestrians were not in the mood to share the road.

It was most definitely an ‘Ugly’ run.

Reed Field and Path - edited

These are not the runs that leave me feeling exhilarated and powerful.

But I realized after I returned home that they do leave me with a deep sense of strength and resolve.  These are, to be completely and totally clichéd, character building runs in the truest sense.  These are the runs that I think of when a race is hard and I’m wondering if I have it in me.  I can remember these runs and know that I do.

And, while one might think that a run like this would leave me in as poor or worse of a state than I was when I started, it doesn’t work that way.  While I don’t finish feeling thrilled and excited about my running at that moment, I returned home on Monday with a clearer head, a diminished stress level, and a sense of pride in what I had accomplished.

So while I hope that I continue to have more ‘Good’ runs than not, these ‘Ugly’ run have their purpose, too, and it’s one that I’ve grown to appreciate.

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.