Friday, September 24, 2010

Mental Preparation and a Simple Workout

Justin keeps telling me how much fun he is having during my taper phase because he's enjoying the easier pace in workouts. I, on the other hand, am scrambling to find things that will keep my mind relaxed and peaceful. I don't want to waste critical mental energy by putting too much thought into a race. To a normal person, this may sound easy, but to a typical runner, we can all relate as to how hard it is to keep the mind in a calm, confident state. The key is to find a healthy form of mental preparation for a race that does not create a stressful mental state before the race. It's important to consider different scenarios that could unfold and to visualize your goal race, but not to the extent that it begins to stress you out.

During this time, it is critical to remember all the work that has been done to prepare you for the upcoming big event and to maintain the confidence level that you exuded before, during, and after those workouts you've already completed. The key for me in these final weeks is to go into a different mental realm, one in which running is not present. This is to ensure that I do not waste key mental energy before race day is even here; essentially, going into this other realm allows me to conserve all the mental energy that I need for race day. Garrett learned that this mental technique is critical to being a successful athlete from a renowned sport psychologist and so I've tried to implement it into my own routine.

The hardest part is to find what activity will take me into that other realm. It has to be something that you enjoy but that is not physically nor mentally taxing. So far, I've found that reading fiction books and watching mindless TV shows such as It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia are good activities for me right now. Cleaning is another activity that helps keep my mind off of my training or upcoming race. Walking to work is also a meditative moment for me. Obviously, for each person, this activity is going to vary. For instance, Garrett performs Tai Chi. Mike Beigay devotes his time to his daughter. Bernard Lagat plays with his kids. For these athletes, they are practicing mental control every day so that come race day, they can experience a time of solidity, mental toughness, and centeredness. This is the feeling that I hope I can exhibit on Sunday.

Now that I've gone on my soapbox about mental preparation, I'll enlighten you with my second to last workout with Justin Breland. It was a simple fartlek of 7-6-5-4 minutes with half the rest of what you just ran. In the end, we turned it into a version of a progressive workout. The splits were as follows:

7:00 @ 6:00 pace for 1.17 miles (3:00 rest)
6:00 @ 5:55 pace for 1.02 miles (3:00 rest)
5:00 @ 5:50 pace for 0.85 miles (2:00 rest)
4:00 @ 5:50 pace for 0.70 miles

My legs felt good, and my mind felt ready. Only 9 more days until the start!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

60 Min Tempo Flop

Goal: 60 min at 615-620 pace
Actual: 50 min at 610 pace

Mr. Stephen Spada is always reliable for a midweek tempo since it's part of his weekly training cycle so I reached out to him yesterday to organize a tempo together. The plan was for this to be my last big marathon workout before Twin Cities in just 12 days. I was surprised to find Jordan in the parking lot when I arrived because he just came back from a two week adventure from DC to California to Providence. Regardless, I was excited for the extra company. We would start from our respective McAlpine locations at 530 and run towards each other and then the tempo from Old Bell and circle through the flat trails of McAlpine and Margaret Wallace.

From the get-go, I never felt comfortable with the pace. My stomach was sloshing and I felt sluggish. It's ironic how much better I felt last week doing a 60 minute tempo AFTER ten miles of warmup! Anyways, what went wrong? It was completely dark in the woods, I had to pull off after five miles to make a pit stop in the woods, and after the pit stop I battled with my stomach cramps the rest of way. Since I've been running for about 14 years now, I know my body well enough to know that it is not worth it to push through an extra 10 minutes. As soon as my Garmin beeped for mile 8, I slowed to a jog and cheered Jordan and Steve on for their final leg.

1 - 6:12
2 - 6:13
3 - 6:10
4 - 6:08
5 - 6:15 (turnaround, bathroom break)
6 - 6:12
7 - 6:12
8 - 6:04

Steve, of course, dominated as usual! It will be exciting to see what he gets at NYC.

I am crossing my fingers that what happened today will not happen on race day. These things happen every so often and I'm glad it happened today because maybe it will get everything out of my system by the time the gun goes off in 12 days. I didn't eat the typical large salad the night before my workout, so this could be why I was experiencing stomach problems. In the end, I can just hope that everything falls into place.

Now begins the real taper time...65 miles this week with a 13 mile long run and a day off. Next week will feature one workout and then it's go time!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Solo 800m Fartlek at McAlpine

Goal: 8x800m with 200m jog rest at 240-245
Actual: 8x2:45 with 1:00 rest at 245-250

Well, this was my first solo workout in Charlotte in a long time. Usually if I'm working out by myself it means that I'm out of town, but this just shows what happens when all of your running buddies are either (1) running the Blue Ridge Relay, (2) running the Davidson half, (3) injured, (4) too fast for you. Again, I switched work out dates around to accommodate for my sore calf and for my newly busy social schedule which included dates with the boyfriend. Instead of working out Friday, I slept in and did this work out on Saturday morning at McAlpine. In an effort to keep my calf as a loose as possible and so as to not worsen its current condition, I vetoed the track and opted for the trails at McAlpine.

I warmed up five miles and then programmed my Garmin to beep at me every 2 minutes and 45 seconds for the interval and every 1 minute for the rest. In the end, the first 4 intervals were directly into the wind, and the last 4 interval were with the wind at my back. Since these were merely based on effort, it's hard to tell how fast they actually were, but I felt smooth and controlled. The garmin told me I was running 250 pace for the first 4 and then 245 for the last 4. This is slower than what I've done in the past at McAlpine, but I was working against both the wind and my own mind since I was solo. In the end, I'll take it because my calves are still in good shape and didn't knot up any more!

Once I finished the workout, I drove back home to do more things that a typical couple does, like learn how to use the TRX training system with my boyfriend and go on a double date with Jay and Lauren. Great times!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Adding the Tutor to the Mix

Goal: 3x2 mile at 610, 600, and 550 pace ave with 2 min rest
Actual: 3x2 mile at 610, 550, 542 pace ave with 3 min rest

While two of my regular training partners are out of commission (Meagan Nedlo has an injured foot and Thomas Eggar is getting trained in OKC), I've been scrambling to find workout buddies during the week. Of course in order to find people, I used every tool in the book to convince two guys to come work out with me. that was a lie; I barely had to lift a finger. To get Lat out, all I had to do was email him and switch my workout day from Tuesday to Wednesday to accommodate his work travel schedule. To get the newcomer Eric Bilbrey out, all I had to do was ping him at work via MS Communicator. Eric also happens to be really smart and talented in tutoring schmucks like myself on the GMAT. I am so grateful to have found both a tutor and a new running buddy! It seems that as this training cycle progresses, I want to give back more and more to people for all the good things that they've done for me!

All in all, it worked out better for me because it gave me more time to nurse my calf back to its normal form. I was out the door at 6am to meet the guys outside of Rebecca Thomason's house so that we could run on the two-mile Dilworth Speed Loop. Since all three of us had run from our respective houses, we were all warmed up and ready to start the workout.

1: 12:20 (613, 607 for 610 ave)
2: 11:40 (551, 549 for 550 ave)
3: 11:25 (542, 543 for 542 ave)

Overall, I was very pleased with this effort because of the consistency of pace throughout each set. I was able to run with both the guys on the first two sets. On the third set, I "gave Lat permission" to take off, and he waited until the second mile to do so. Eric, who had fallen off a couple of meters, pulled himself together in the final 400m to speed past me and try to catch Lat. While the boys had a negative split for the third repetition, I still maintained an even pace, which was exactly my intent. It was great to have company for each of these as it would have been much tougher mentally to do this on my own.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Life as a Minor League Player's Girlfriend

I've decided that the best thing I could have ever decided this spring was to run a marathon. Other than the obvious reason that I love running, the other main reason why I decided to start training for a marathon is that it would serve as a way to preoccupy myself while Garrett played baseball for the Astros. I knew that I needed something to keep me absorbed with my friends' lives, to take up time outside of my normal routine to to keep my mind from missing Garrett. After thinking that he was getting back to the Carolinas on September 1st, to then thinking he was getting back on September 10th (ish) to then thinking he was getting back on September 14th, a combination of great friends and marathon training is really what kept me sane.

In the end, it's the best for both of us. While I'm off running 22 miles at 530am, he's sleeping on a bus en route to Troy from Batavia, NY. He gets to experience being in a playoff Championship Series while I get to run more than 10 hours a week (excluding stretching, drills, driving etc). Running combined with a new job and studying for the GMAT, I'm a pretty busy girl. However, now that Garrett's official arrival date is September 15th, instead of arriving right in the middle of my marathon specific training, he's coming during my tapering stage, which means less time for running and more time for hanging out with G!

Here's what Garrett does:

Here's what I do:
To wrap up one of the final weeks of marathon training, I decided to go out with my longest run yet - 22 miles - featuring a 9.7 mile tempo in the end. Fortunately enough, it was quite easy for me to find some company for this as I met a large group of guys at the Huntersville Business Park - Steve, Jay, Paul, Mike, Bill, Adam, Nathan, and Derrick. I will note that I dearly miss my favorite female training partners - Meagan Nedlo and Megan Hovis - and that it would have been fabulous to have had them out there.

I woke up at 440am to get all prepared, and drove over to Jay's house so that we could carpool together. We arrived 4 minutes early and everyone was already there, ready to go before 530am! Nathan and Bill guided us around the Huntersville neighborhoods before the sun came up and we averaged about 7:45 pace for 10.5 miles. We made a pit stop back at our cars for some gel and water before we all started the various tempos that we had on tap. Bill was kind enough to have marked the course with pink spray paint that was extremely visible to people like me, who had never run out here before. The plan was for me to go on the 12 mile loop with Mike, Bill, Steve, and Adam starting at 630 pace and dropping down to 615. Since I only needed 60 minutes of effort, Mike was going to signal for me to turn at a spot that would cut off about 1.5 miles from the 12 mile loop. My goal was to stay as relaxed as possible and to really focus on my breathing to keep it controlled. In the end, I accomplished just that even though our pace dropped pretty quickly after mile 3.

1: 642
2: 645 (after this split, Mike took off for mile 3 and we all stayed with him)
3: 558 (panic moment)
4: 603
5: 612
6: 603 (Beigay gapped Steve and I here)
7: 607 (Steve and I working together)
8: 601 (from mile 7 and on, i was on my own because I turned a different way)
9: 600
.69: 406 (600 pace)
Average: 6:11 pace
Average for 7.7 miles: 6:02 pace

As you can see, we went out very relaxed for the first two miles and then dropped a hammer on the third mile. Admittedly, I did have a slight panic moment for about 2 seconds and then I focused on what I wanted to accomplished today - feeling almost effortless with controlled breathing. That must have helped me because I felt great the rest of the way. Steve, Mike and I settled into a nice grove together for the first 5 miles and then Mike began to gap Steve and I. From miles 6-7 Steve and I worked together on a big highway. Really, Steve just blocked the wind from me and I took advantage of my spot behind him. For the last 2.7 miles of the tempo, I was on my own since I went on a different route to shorten the course. I felt GREAT on this portion of the run. Once my watch hit the 60 minute mark, I slowed to a jog and ran enough miles to log 22 for the day.

Overall, I am extremely satisfied with this workout. I think that Mike is really going to shine at Twin Cities and it will be a fun trip to share with so many Charlotte people that have been an integral part to my marathon training this fall (Mike, Bill and Adam). A huge thanks to Nathan Stanford for taking pictures of us and for providing bananas and Gatorade.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Marathon Specific Phase at a Glance

With just one week left in my marathon specific phase, I was curious to see the breakdown of what I've done since July 26. In a nutshell, I've hit pretty much hit all my targeted paces on workouts and did all of my long run distances. One thing that I did skip out on was doing Marathon Pace tempos for a couple of miles in my long runs. Most of these decisions were based on how my body was feeling.

Mileage since 7/26 with long runs

7/26: 80 miles / 20 mile long run
8/2: 78 miles / 19 mile long run
8/7: 80 miles / 21 mile long run
8/14: 70 miles / 14 mile long run (down week with a 10k race)
8/21: 83.7 miles / 19 mile long run with a 15 mile Marathon Pace tempo
8/28: 80 miles / 18.5 mile long run
9/6: 83 miles / 22 mile long run with a 10 mile MP tempo

I'm really pleased with the consistency shown with the mileage and long runs above. This week will feature my third long run over 20 miles, so I will will have a solid base under my feet come race day in 24 days. I also hit my weekly mileage by doing only one double a week, so the majority of my runs were over an hour. I've been fortunate enough to have stayed healthy throughout this entire phase. Currently, I'm nursing some tight calves back to life, so I'll continue to monitor that to ensure I continue to stay healthy. It's all about making smart decisions now.

After this week, my mileage will dip back down into the 70's and then starting the week of 9/20 I will begin tapering for the big day. I'm excited to travel with Mike Beigay and Bill Shires. Although it saddens me very much that Megan Hovis and Meagan Nedlo will no longer be participating, I'll have a good time with the guys.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

San Francisco Recuperation Run

After Tuesday evening's sequence of events, it was time for a run away from home and away from any cars if at all possible. Luckily, I am away from home as I am visiting my sister and her best friend, Athena, in San Francisco. What was originally supposed to be pseudo getaway for Garrett and I, the weekend has just turned into a girls' only fiesta since Garrett got moved up to the Tri-City Valley Cats on Tuesday night (!!!!!).

I'm so pumped for Garrett in this recent development, especially because this is the first time that he had to just jump on a plane to go to the next level. However, I learned my minor league girlfriend's lesson for the season: Never book a vacation on the date that the season is "supposed" to be over. I knew going into it that this could happen, but I guess when it actually happens, the reality of the situation hit me: everything is unpredictable, nothing is planned. If a minor leaguer's life is unpredictable, then the girlfriend's life is almost just as unpredictable. It's tough to book tickets to visit a minor leaguer in season because one instant he might be in Lexington, Ky and then the next instant he might be on a plane off to Lancaster, California. So goes the life. (Side note - I'm not complaining by any means, I'm lucky to have such an awesome boyfriend and super proud that he is getting noticed by the Astros' Player Development, but the lifestyle is definitely a roller coaster ride)

Back to the original reason for this post. So, now I'm in San Francisco with Athena and Vanessa for the next four days and I couldn't be more exicted. I ran this morning an easy six miles through the neighborhood of Glen Park, and found a nice scenic park to run through to avoid any cars. Tonight, I am going to Embarcadero for Happy Hour with Athena and friends and then we are picking up my sister from the airport.

What's on tap for the next few days? Two Farmer's Markets on Saturday, one night of debauchery on Saturday, five runs, lots of shopping, a jaunt through Haight Ashbury, and a reunion for Matt Jaskot, Jordan Kinley, and me. Am I pumped? You betcha! An escape is just what the doctor ordered (if I had gone to see him), and I plan on taking full advantage.