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.

hophop2014

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!

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?

What Running Has Taught Me About Patience

I am, by nature, a most impatient person.  And, I really mean that.

Traffic lights feel like an eternity to me.  I’m usually convinced that all the other lines at the checkout are moving faster.  When I find something I want, I feel the need to have it RIGHT NOW.  And, I’m still a bit like a kid on my birthday – antsy to open presents and eat cake.

This is just one of the reasons that running has been so good for me.  Running, you see, has taught me about patience like nothing else ever quite has.  It’s true that when you begin running, you do see some changes and results quite quickly.  Those first few months (with practice and training) can fly by with increases in mileage and speed happening all the time.  That 3 mile run becomes 4 miles and that 9:30 pace quickly can drop to 9:00.  But, the truth of the matter is, that running takes a lot of patience.

Sky and Top of Reed Buildings

Building one’s self into a consistent, skilled runner requires persistence and work ethic that have to be sustained over years to truly accomplish specific goals.  I don’t think I ever realized this when I first started running, probably because I just didn’t think about it much.  But, I’ve been at this for nearly two years now and I’ve come to be humbled by and appreciative of the amount of time it takes to improve as a runner.

Sure, anyone can set out to run a 5k, or hell even a marathon, and get through it with only a few months of training.  But, if you want to drop your pace, run injury free, or build stronger muscles for hills, for instance, it takes time.  Serious time.  I read a lot of running related books and this theme is consistent across all of them.  Elite, top notch runners that one might imagine were just born with the gifts of speed and endurance, all talk about this.  They speak of years of training cycles to slice just a minute or two off of their race times and they clearly acknowledge that nothing is more important to improving one’s running ability than simply working hard over long periods of time.

This has been an incredibly important lesson for me to learn.  I expect a lot of myself and I don’t usually give myself much allowance for mistakes or failure.  I tend to believe that I should have accomplished this or that very quickly, without error, faster than others have.  But, when it comes to my running, I know that there are no quick accomplishments – no super fast results.  I head out, day after day and run miles after miles knowing that eventually, over time, it will result in me meeting more of my goals, and I just have to be patient with it.  Because there’s no other way.

street crossing 2 - cropped

Of course, I do see certain types of results all the time.  For example, I’ve been keenly aware lately how much easier it is for me to run longer, more often.  Runs that once left me exhausted often feel fairly run of the mill these days.  I used to be impressed with myself when my weekly mileage totaled 25 and now I easily hit 40 most weeks.  But, it’s been a gradual process with small advances along the way.

Like so much else that running has taught me, I’m trying to remember this lesson in other aspects of my life, as well.  I had a birthday recently.  My birthdays have always been a time when I tend to reflect on what I haven’t yet accomplished.  You know that process, right?  It’s the “I can’t believe I’m already XX years and I haven’t done XX yet!  I’m so far behind where I thought I would be!”  Well, when this birthday came, I certainly had some of those thoughts creep in, but I do like to think I did better with them this year.  And, I like to think that’s yet another thing I owe to my little running regimen.