Monday, December 29, 2014

It's that time of year...

My resolutions... nah, you didn't think it'd be that simple LOL!

I've always loved writing resolutions.  I can remember when I was 8 years old, getting a diary for Christmas and writing my New Year's resolutions in it. Back then, my resolutions were things like "Be nice to my little sister" and "Get all A's this year" (I'll let you guess which of those I actually accomplished!).  I loved going back to the first page of my diary each year and rereading the resolutions I'd made, to see how I had done.  I figured I should start this blog with revisiting last year's goals.

I had three running resolutions in 2014: to run 1000 miles total, to PR at every race distance, and to run in my first marathon.  I am happy to say that I met all three of these goals... basically.  My final mileage total for the year was 1427.68 miles.  Pretty freaking awesome!   I actually almost exactly doubled last year's miles of 714.42... not sure I'll ever be able to say that I doubled my yearly mileage again.  Wow!  I obviously ran in my first marathon... and second LOL.  The PR thing... so I initially said PR in EVERY distance... 5K, 4 miler, 10K (or quarter marathon), and half.  I PR'ed my half in August, and my 5K in July.  I PR'ed my full in October.  I actually didn't race in any 4-milers or quarter marathons this year, so I suppose I can still say I met my PR goals.  

Out with the old, in with the new... time for this year's running goals!  

1. Be injury-free.  I kind of don't like this goal.  I mean, freak injuries happen.  But I am going to do all in my power to keep from getting injured by running smarter, and adding in more strength exercises.  So I guess my resolution is actually just to be smarter in order to attempt to stay injury-free!

2. Run at least 1500 miles.  This is only a bit more than I ran this year, and I have no doubt that I had no been injured prior to my marathon (and after it) that I'd have ran 1500 miles this year.  I'm going to be smarter about it this year, though (see resolution #!).

3. Achieve a qualifying time for the Boston Marathon (for my age group, a sub-3:40).  Yep, I said it.  I know my loyal readers were expecting this one, and I aim to please ;)  Seriously, though, this is something that I truly want to accomplish. It was my pie-in-the-sky goal for my October race, and it's my "I'm gonna do it" goal for my April race. I just had to grow into it...

I know I can meet this goal, with the right training and mindset. I was all set to start marathon training this week, and just encountered a bit of a hiccup (calf strain) that now has me sidelined for a week or two.  I just keep telling myself that I'll be stronger when I do start.  

4. Continue to run with friends and with joy.  This year has been amazing.  I have met some of the best friends of my life.  I am so very lucky to have so many different friends who run at many different paces.  I have my "Wednesday group" who I run with at 4:30 AM (yes, we are a bit crazy).  I have my adopted MIT coaches who I met at my first marathon and who I now run weekly as well as attend core class with on Sundays.  I have my "fast friends", like Amanda, Paige and Andrea, who I can rely on for quicker-paced runs.  I of course still have Jen, my first true running friend.  And there are so many more!  Running has truly transformed who I am... the joy I get from running with these ladies is amazing.  Honestly, this goal is the most important one to me.  I want running to always be full of friendship and joy.

And there you have it... my resolutions for 2015.  I'm ready to get this party started!

Monday, December 22, 2014

Swimming Keeps Me Sane

Say what?   The title of this blog even makes me pause and look again.  Did I really just say that swimming keeps me sane?  Am I truly no longer a "swammer"?  (I love that word--it's a person who used to be a swimmer in high school or college, but no longer is a chlorine addict!) 

As I mentioned in my last blog post, I decided to undertake a most unusual challenge--one in the pool.  I heard about this swimming distance challenge from someone in a local triathlon group. It was being put on by a local triathlon coach, Tracy Hendershot of Swim With Tracy.  Swim for 4 hours... okay, a bit crazy.  Set a goal of 5K, 8K, or 10K yards... oh, now you've got me.  A goal. I do love goals!  And only one person did 10,000 yards last year?  Hmmm... now you've got my interest piqued!  It didn't take much for me to push the "register" button and sign up for the challenge. 

Honestly, I didn't know what to expect from myself.  I hadn't swam for more than an hour since I was 20 years old.  I hadn't swam any further than 4,000 yards since then, either.  I wasn't sure how my body would respond once I got past the 2,000 yards or so that it was used to doing.  But I was willing to give it a shot.  I recruited one of my favorite people, Steph, as a counter/support person.  Two of her other friends were also doing the challenge, so it was a perfect chance for her to sit and watch people swim lap after lap after lap. Sounds entertaining, right?  Only a true friend will do that for you.  Steph showed up with her A-game, toting coffee for everyone and wearing a super-awesome supportive t-shirt!

The challenge started promptly at 8 AM on December 14; swimmers started arriving at around 7:40 to get ready to get in.  I had brought various types of fuel, as I was unsure of what I would need.  Back in high school, we did 10,000 yards in practice at least once every week or two, and fueling was never spoken of.  Now, though, I wasn't sure.  I would never dream of running for 4 hours without fuel... so I packed GU gels, bananas, Clif bars, water and GU Brew (electrolyte drink).  I figured I'd try whatever sounded best as I swam.

I had pre-planned how I was going to do the swim. I wanted to take it 1000 yards at a time, so I brainstormed several 1000-yard sets that I could do (e.g. 10x100 alternate freestyle and backstroke). I knew this would make the time go by much more quickly than just doing lap after lap after lap of freestyle.  I wasn't married to my plan, though, as I wasn't sure how many people would be in my lane and what their plans would be.

As it turned out, I shared my lane with a female triathlete who was around my age and an older male who was a former collegiate water polo player.  Both were a bit slower than me, but not much, and both knew proper lane etiquette, so we all did our own thing. They were done much earlier than I was, as they did 5,500-6,000 yards each, so I actually had my own lane for a good deal of the time that I was swimming.  Every so often Tracy would put someone else in my lane for a bit.  I just kept circle-swimming and trucking along.  My favorite set (which I did twice) was 10x100 on :10 rest, odds free/back, evens free/breast.  I also did 5x200, 400-300-200-100 ladder, 2x500.  Fuel-wise, I ended up using a GU about an hour in.  I sipped on GU Brew throughout.  I had a half of a Clif Bar about halfway through, and a banana about 3/4 of the way through.  I never felt like I needed energy... mostly I just felt bored!  Yep, swimming for that long was B-O-R-I-N-G.  I lived for the breaks I would take every 1000 yards, short as they were, just so I could chat with Steph for a couple of minutes.  

With 1000 yards to go, I decided to go ahead and try a challenge set of 5x100 free on 1:30, a set I can barely do during a one-hour workout, let alone after swimming for almost 3 hours already. Not sure what I was thinking, but after two repeats I scrapped that idea and just swam whatever for the final 800 yards.  I think the chlorine was having a weird effect on my brain or something!

The full swim of 10,000 yards ended up taking me 3 hours and 10 minutes.  I was pretty pleased with that time, and if I do this again, I'll definitely have a time goal of sub-three hours. (What, are you surprised?  I gotta have goals LOL!)  My "prize" for this swim: a certificate and a swim cap.  At least I'm not a huge bling person!  For me, this was more about doing something that I just wasn't sure if I could do. I knew when I ran my first 5K, my first half, my first full, that I would be able to finish. This swim, I just wasn't sure about it, especially given the time limit.  I love proving things to myself :)

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Gearing up...

It's been a great 6 weeks... some time off, some running with new friends and friends who I hadn't ran with in awhile.  I love the weeks following a big race.  Running is relaxing.  There is no true plan or schedule.  I took a week off after my marathon, did a group run, realized I wasn't totally healed/recovered, and took another two weeks off.  So, actually, I've only been running again for about three weeks.  During my time off, I swam a few times a week, did BodyPump, and missed running.  I truly do love this sport.  More than anything, I missed my friends who I run with.  The bonds that I've forged with these women are extremely close, despite the short period of time I've known them.  Hours together on the road will do that!  So I was super-happy when I could start up running again, and I'm now back to where I was pre-injury, running four times a week with zero pain (knock on wood!). 

As soon as I finished my first marathon in Toledo last April, I just knew I'd return again in 2015.  I loved the race so much.  From the amazing women I met on the course, to the course itself (mostly flat), to the pretty route, to the super bling (finisher medal + first time marathoner medallion + glass mug), I knew I couldn't ask for more in a race.  Plus, I found out a few months later that Glass City is one of the top courses in USA for BQing, meaning a greater percentage of runners BQ at this race as opposed to other races.   That pretty much sealed the deal for me!  Oh, and did I mention it's CHEAP?!  Only $65 if you register before New Year's Day.  That rate is more typical of half-marathons, so this is a true deal.  I hype up this marathon to anyone who will listen... I kind of feel like I deserve a free entry, for all the people I've "recruited" to go in 2015 LOL!

Thus, I am "gearing up" (hence the title of this blog) for a huge spring marathon.  I could hardly wait to write up my training plan.  Things aren't really changing a ton.  I will still be running four times a week.  One run will be dedicated speedwork on the track or treadmill, or a tempo run (likely alternating weeks).  One run will be nice and easy, a full 2.5-3 minutes slower than my marathon race pace (something missing from my last training cycle, I know).  One run will be at my "happy comfy pace" (around 30-45 seconds slower than my marathon race pace).  And of course, one run will be long and easy (the "easy" part was missing from my long runs this past cycle).  I won't be going much more than 40 miles during my peak week of training, just like always.  I do plan on two 20-milers this cycle, as opposed to just one, which is what I did the last two cycles.  I will be adding in one swim per week with the local Master's team.  I've loved getting back into the water (more on that in a bit), and I know that cross training is extremely important for running.  I'm lucky that I have the talent in swimming and can use it to my advantage as a runner.  I will continue to do BodyPump once a week, because I love it AND because I can tell how much stronger I've gotten (especially my arms/upper body!) since I started it in June.  And lastly, I will continue to do the weekly core workout at my local running store, also because I love it and I know it's helping out a ton (a strong core is extremely important to runners as well).

So my training plan is laid out for the next 20 or so weeks.  I also have my racing plan all set.  I have two races that I plan on doing between now and April 26 (marathon day).  One is the Granville Winter Run.  This is the 15-miler that I did last year. It's on February 15th.  In Ohio, February is never a wonderful month, weather-wise. It's cold. It's usually snowy/slushy/icy.  And this race, if you recall, takes place in the beautiful, picturesque city of Granville, which is about 25-30 minutes east of Columbus... and which is known for its hills.  Not just nice little rolling hills,either   Big, crazy hills.  Very unlike where I train!  So why on earth am I running in it?  Really, it's the sheer badassery involved. I love pushing my body to its limits, knowing that few can really do a race this crazy.   Two 7.5-mile loops of insanity.  I will definitely need to get in some hill training before this one. My goal will of course be weather-dependent, but as long as the ground is clear and the wind chill is in the teens or higher, I'm hoping for a decent PR from last year. 

The second race is MUCH different.  It is actually going to be my very first out-of-state race!  I'm going to be traveling to Virginia Beach to race in the Shamrock Half Marathon on March 22nd.  This one took some planning.  My friend Andrea and I wanted to find a fast marathon in the middle of March to set me up for my full.  We looked into several, including one in New York and the Rock & Roll Half in Washington DC, but this one was the winner.  It's flat and fast, exactly what I like in a race.  The weather should be perfect.  The big thing is the distance... we'll be driving, of course, and obviously I'll be gone all weekend, so that will mean my hubby has to hold down the fort.  I'm happy he said okay, as I know this is going to be an epic weekend.  Andrea is one of my biggest mentors when it comes to running, and I cannot wait to spend three days with her and running what I hope to be a big PR.  That's the goal... to give me a big confidence boost so that I'm ready to rock my marathon five weeks later.  

Andrea and me, after a long run this past summer

I do have one more "race"... it's not really a race, but an event.  Next Sunday, I'll be participating in a distance swimming challenge.  Four hours, maximum distance is 10,000 yards.  I haven't swam that kind of yardage in a workout in about 17 years.  I haven't swam for more than an hour at a time in about 16 years!  So yes, this is truly going to be a challenge, especially since I'm going for the full 10,000 yards.  Crazy, I know... but I really want to push myself on this one.  It's all about the pacing, and staying relaxed.  Kind of like distance running!

Well, there you have it!  I'm super excited to begin this training plan.  I'm just starting it, of course, so the excitement level is high.  I hope I can stick with it, as I'm pretty sure that if I can, the results will make me a very happy runner.