Monday, January 31, 2011

Week in Review

52.5 Miles
Half Marathon Race in 1:19:05
1 Day off after the race
6 Runs
Watched Meagan's race

Well, this week was capped off with a fun weekend of racing a half marathon PR and hanging out with my two good friends, Meagan and Ruth. After a pre-race workout on Tuesday with Will, the rest of my week featured GMAT tutoring, easy runs and a flight to Houston. I arrived in Houston to find that the host hotel was ridiculously nice, as you can tell in the photo below. The weekend gave me a taste of what it will be like on January 14, 2012, when I will be making a run at the Olympic Trials Marathon.

The amazing light in the lobby of our hotel
I enjoyed great buffet-style, high quality meals for both lunch and dinner at the Hilton Americas hotel with Ruth and Meagan and several other runners that we had met along the way. We also spent a decent amount of time eating the free snacks and drinking the free drinks in the Hospitality Suite, which was on the 21st floor with full views of the Houston Astros Stadium, the start and finish line of the race, and the cityscape.
Ruth, Meagan and I at the Hospitality Suite
Of course, I also raced, which I already recapped. In summary, while I'm happy that I achieved a personal best time, I am unhappy with the way that I executed that race. I have analyzed it enough by now and am excited to get back onto my training plan that Mark Hadley already has sent to me, as I prepare for the USA 25k Championships.
Finally, I served as the co-pilot navigator for Meagan's Dad John as we navigated our way through the street closures in downtown Houston to see her at Miles 9 and Mile 15.8. As I'm sure most of you have read her blog, she had an off day and felt dizzy and lightheaded at mile 16, which made for a disappointing day. With the maturity that Meagan exhibited after the race when we picked her up in her very own sag wagon, I am confident that she'll bounce back sooner than later and achieve that Trials qualifier time. Most of all, it was great to meet Meagan's parents and to see how much they care about her running and her happiness. I enjoyed navigating us through the expansive city of Houston and seeing Meagan at various points of the course.

Overall, this was a great weekend that can only better prepare Ruth, Meagan, and I for the Olympic Trials in 2012.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

USA Half Marathon Championships Recap

place in top 80% of the field
goal 1: run faster than 1:20:17
goal 2: run 1:18:36 (6 min pace)

27th place out of 44 (37 finished, but 44 started)

As you can see outlined above, I did achieve over a 1 minute PR for the half marathon distance on a course that featured three 180-degree u-turns. However, I came away from this race much more disappointed than I had anticipated. Where to start....

When I arrived in Houston on Thursday night, Ruth and I met up outside the baggage claim and hopped into a shuttle with several other athletes who were competing in the Half Marathon Championships as well. One guy, Jason Orday, actually went to SIUC and we chatted about my hometown for a bit.

There is not much to report between my arrival and race day besides eating healthy and free meals and hanging out with Ruth and my roommate (Ann Alyanak), splitting our time between the Elite Hospitality Suite and our hotel rooms. The race directors set up a nice buffet style lunch and dinner that featured steamed veggies, brown rice, salad, chicken, pasta, and cookies. The food was definitely great, and the pre-race massage was just as enjoyable. I didn't have to pay a single penny for food the entire weekend because they kept the hospitality suite so well stocked with fluids and snack foods. I also met lots of amazing runners, including Jen Rhines, Zoila Gomez, Sally Meyerhoff, and Leah Thorvilson. The best part was realizing that many of these women are not too different from a runner like me, who runs almost 5-7 minutes slower than they do in a half marathon.

On race morning, I woke up at 5am to shower and eat some oatmeal. I headed to the Elite Hospitality Suite to get another gatorade before heading back to the hotel room to waste more time. Ruth stopped by and we headed over to the elite staging area in the GRB Convention Center, which was attached to the headquarters hotel and just outside of the start line. During my warmup, I couldn't help but think that this is the city where Garrett could play some day. It inspired me that I was running in the city of his baseball team!

After a short warmup around the Astros Stadium by myself, I considered my race plan. Originally, I wanted to shoot for sub 1:18:00, but I knew that my training had not been where I had expected it to be for the last six weeks. For instance, I had to drop some key workouts and I never hit 80 miles in a week due to my IT Band problems. Unlike my training leading up to Twin Cities, which left me feeling confident and in control of my goals, my training for this race left me doubting myself and like my goals were out my control. While that statement may sound depressing, I do believe that I was being realistic about how my training had gone over the past six weeks. In that respect, I reassesed my goal to run a PR and to try to hold 6 min pace as long as possible.

Soon, I headed back into the staging area to change into my Nike Zoom Marathoner racing flats. Before I knew it, we were being escorted to the start line with our plastic bags in hands. After a couple of strides and drills, I was ready to get rid of the pre-race jitters and get the show on the road! After Meagan took a cute picture of Ruth and me, we situated ourselves behind all of the really fast professional female runners.

The gun went off. I took off at my seemingly pedestrian pace compared to the front runners' pace. Ruth and I settled into a small pack of maybe 4 women. We tried to recruit people to our pack but the numbers were too thin for the back of the pack. Ruth and I led our small group through mile 3, and then Emily Potter took over the lead for less than half a mile. After the first water stop, we lost our small pack. Ruth and I ran side-by-side as we made our way back to the start line and through the 5 mile mark. I told her that I was glad she was there. Otherwise, it would have been a race completely solo for practically the entirety.

We alternated leads up until mile 8, when Ruth could feel my beginning to falter. She took off, and I fell off pace. At the water stop before mile 9, I accidentally knocked over someone else's water bottle. I didn't want to get disqualified so I stopped to pick it up. Ruth's lead on me went from 3 meters to 15 meters. That was a tough mile. After going through the first 9 miles around 6 min pace, I am most embarassed with how I executed the final 4.1 miles of the race. Instead of focusing all of my mental energy into my competition ahead of me, my thoughts began to slip out of the race. I wasn't looking up and my head was filled continuously with negative thoughts.

I gave up.

This is quite uncharacteristic of me, but I guess this is what happens to me when I'm stuck in no-mans-land and when I'm not that happy about how my training was leading up to a race. The key to success is calm confidence, and I was missing that key ingredient out there on the roads today. My last two miles were 6:11, which is the pace I ran my marathon at. In fact, I closed my last two miles of my marathon at an average pace of 6:04. Today, I was slower than that.

While I suffered, I also got to see Ruth (albeit from behind), race herself to a 2 min PR in the half - 1:18:29 - with almost exactly even splits. Had Ruth not been there, it could have been an uglier day out there for me, and I grateful that she made the trip down south, away from her kids and husband for a couple of days to participate in this championship race. It was also great to see the USA Olympic Trials course for the marathon in 2011. There will be SIX u-turns that are VERY tight. This is in an effort to mimic the Olympic marathon course in London. Why London thought it to be a good idea to make u-turns part of a world race beats me, but so goes it.

The most important thing to come away from this race is knowing what I could have done better and what I will change for next time. Fast is relative, depending on what level you are looking at it from. On a national level, I am nearly 8 minutes behind the champion, Jen Rhines, in a half marathon. That's a big difference. I finished almost fifth to last in a very competitive national race. In order for me to continue making strides in my development as a runner, I need to close that gap and get in the training that will allow me to do so. I need to stay focused during a race, even when I would much rather succomb to my body's tired whispers. Most importantly, I need to trust the work that I've done leading up to it, which is really only possible when you are completely injury free.

On a positive note, I did run a 1 minute PR on training that was not very consistent. Clearly my fitness level is higher than when I ran a half marathon in 2009 at the OBX. Also, I was very close to my 10 Mile PR on a course that was much slower than the Cherry Blossom 10 Miler course. I also was able to scope out the hotel and the course of the Olympic Trials. This will help me be better prepared for when the Trials do come! The race volunteers were also very friendly and helpful, so it is good to know that we will be in such good hands on January 14, 2012.

The plan is to now take a couple of days off, in hopes to get my IT band fully recovered and to make the transition into my next training cycle for the USA 25k Championships in May....

As a side note, some regular runners paid anywhere from $1000-$1500 to run in the Half Marathon Champs with us. Here is a great article about one man's experience.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Mom's Version of Twin Cities

The local running club in my home town, River to River Runners, published my blog and my mom's account of the events from the Twin Cities Marathon in their latest newsletter. Since this is only a print version, I figured some of you might want to read the article my mom wrote. I know it's a little late, but my mom's article is as heartfelt as any mother's recap would be. I hope you enjoy. My parents are Bruce and Maryanne, and both have completed the Boston Marathon on numerous occasions.

In March, 1985, I gave my heartfelt wishes to a good friend who was expecting and adamantly asserted that as she gave birth in October I would be jubilantly running past the cameras at the Chicago Marathon. Two months later, I lost my morning smoothie as I crossed the Lifestyle 10K finish line. It was not the stomach flu. Two days later, I called my friend to join her ranks of soon-to-be four kid families. I put my “Marathon Mom” book away and reduced my daily runs to a measly three miles. Little did we suspect then that it would be this spunky last-born who would be the one waving at the cameras as she exceeded my wildest marathon dreams.

In fact, Chicago was also the race Caitlin earmarked for her 26.2 debut but she had to pull out when friends chose that same day to marry 450 miles away. After some research, she learned the 4th largest USA marathon, the Medtronic Twin Cities (MTC), got rave reviews for its beautiful course, cool weather, fast times, and amazing crowd support. Although it had already closed, Caitlin was delighted that her 2010 Cherry Blossom 10 Miler finish time netted a no fee, elite entry.

Race weekend arrived six rigorous training months later. Bruce and I drove to Madison for an overnight and then picked up Cait who flew in Friday morning with Mike and Bill, two Charlotte Running Club teammates. We happily got an early check-in but then Caitlin’s toe got smashed when a heavy Rummikub game set fell off the luggage cart. She iced her foot a bit and still went for a run with Bruce and Mike while I took in the river walk near us. Upon returning, Caitlin, ever the tease, impishly claimed her toe was really hurting and only after my forlorn face did she confess she barely felt it! After quick showers, we walked the six blocks to the Expo to pick up her packet, including our elite credentials, and Cait compared notes with a runner named Ruth who just happened to be across the hall from us. She also introduced us to Newton shoes which are not just flashy cute but also simulate barefoot running. Dinner with everyone at an Italian deli was the perfect cap to our first day in the magnificent Twin Cities.

We all slept soundly and Saturday morning got out to preview the last four miles of the course. The brisk wind and temps in the low 30’s were a tad cold for us and that day’s 5K and Kid-K events. At noon, we stopped in at the elite suite, and appreciated the buffet spread before attending the USATF rules meeting. Every elite athlete was required to attend; otherwise he/she would be disqualified from the race. An auditorium full of runners were told they needed to bring their IDs to the race in case they were selected for random drug testing. This was followed by a bus tour of the entire course, but Caitlin opted out of joining Ruth for this three hour adventure. Instead, we enjoyed “Toy Story 3” in our room, read and chatted before walking back to the race dinner.

Nothing to write home about, but we had a good lunch, a stash of energy bars, and neither our local Echo Valley apples nor our treasures from Trader Joe’s had run out yet. Besides, getting back early gave Cait time to organize her gear and Bruce time to plan logistics over the phone with her high school coach and longtime mentor, “Uncle Gary” Holda. We were all blessed that he had caught a last minute flight deal to join our small but mighty support crew.

Race day dawned cold but calm. No winds! Caitlin was up and showered before we woke. Once bundled up, Bruce packed her zoom camera and he and Dean drove Ruth, Mike and Caitlin to the bus that would take them to the start. Bruce and Dean wished the runners luck and then picked up Gary from his hotel. The “cheering trio” would have liked to catch the race start but also wanted to avoid driving through Metrodome congestion on streets they did not know. Staking out a spot at 9 miles let them relax.

As for me, my shoulder was still fragile from a bike accident, so I was relegated to walking Summit Street’s majestic promenade and then pacing in the viewing stands at the Finish Line. The cell phone system that was supposed to give us her splits was not working but the guys reported that Cait was in a tight pack with Ruth at 9, smiling broadly at 17, and starting to break away at 20. Because road closures made navigation hard, Bruce was also racing: he dropped off Gary and Dean, parked at the hotel, and ran the uphill mile to the finish area across from me with only minutes to spare. At 2:40 on the race clock he was waving wildly, pointing. In disbelief, I could see a redhead coming down the hill from the cathedral. I screamed: “It is Caitlin! Come on Caitlin, baby! Whoo Hoo! Good job, Cait! Good job!” She was flying in at a blistering 6:03 pace!

As she was escorted through the finish chute, I lurched out of the viewing stands, blinded by tears. Gary ran past just then and directed me through the barricade checkpoint for elite credentials.

He screamed in that distinct Holda voice, “Caitlin! Nice job, Caitlin!”

It wasn’t until we later watched what I filmed during those dazed moments that we heard the race announcer proclaiming, “Under 2:46. So watch the clock now. They’ve got 2½ minutes in which to get that qualifier for the US Olympic trials. We’ve seen two come in so far, Caitlin Chrisman and, we just had Ruth Perkins.”

As Gary enfolded Caitlin in a hug, she gushed, “I negative split!”
Caitlin was smiling in her mylar sheath as I approached. “Yeah, I worked with those girls. We alternated our leads and then at 20, I felt good, and I just went. But, I mean Ruth… Ruth.”

Caitlin squeezed my hand as she looked back toward the chute, her words slurred, “I hope she makes it. I’m gonna wait for her.”

Gary patted her back. “How bad didja feel?” he asked.

Caitlin paced back and forth in her mylar sheath. “I don’t feel bad! I mean, my, my calves, I could feel them in the last two miles. But… I felt great! My last six, six miles, I was like, fast!”

The conversations continued in the post-race tent. Her friend Bill was pumped that he had finished five minutes faster than his goal time and without doubt he was also worn out. It stumped him that, “Caitlin looked like she could have gone another ten miles!”

Bruce and I held each other close. We had watched breathlessly as our grinning daughter delivered a performance so stellar even she was stunned that she had broken her half marathon PR in the second half of her first marathon! Not only that, she beamed as she shared with Ruth that their winning formula was so powerful that “all the girls who came with us qualified!”

Ruth was ecstatic. “I’m so thrilled! We just killed it today!”
Cait agreed, “We did. And like, at the Trials, we have to do the exact same thing.”
Ruth sealed the deal with every racer’s aspiration, “Or better!”

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Week in Review

73 miles
2 Doubles
1 Day off
13 Mile Long Run (3 miles up a mountain)
2 days in Asheville for CRC Board Retreat

This week was definitely a unique one as lots of interesting things happened.

1) On Monday, I got new orthotics from Dr. Bert Fields in Greensboro, to hopefully correct my leg length discrepancy. As the days went on, I could tell my legs were happy to have an updated pair of inserts.
2) For both of my workouts this week, I worked out complete solo, in an unconscious effort to test my mental tenacity and push my mind to the limits. Both workouts went quite well and, most importantly, I did not have any pain in my knee before, during, or after those workouts.
3) Garrett got sports hernia surgery on Thursday in Boston and I was not there. Like any normal person, it pained me a lot that I could not be there for him, but fortunately his mom was there to make sure he had everything he needed after the surgery. Garrett is really strong, both mentally and physically, and he is doing great considering the circumstances.
4) The Charlotte Running Club Board made a trip to Asheville to race the Hot Chocolate 10k and to make lots of decisions for 2011 and beyond for the Club. While we stayed in a sweet mountain cabin and had lots of fun, we also had over 6 hours of debate, conversation, and decision making that made me very exhausted. You can read Allen’s recap here about the retreat.

In terms of running, I was able to run 18 minutes up a mountain on Sunday at Bent Creek, but then convinced Aaron, Billy, and Matt to turn around with me instead of continuing to climb for another 3 miles, as Ben Hovis chose to do. I did not want to risk tweaking my knee or making myself sore for my half marathon in just 6 days, so we turned around and made our way to the NC Arboretum, which featured a very flat trail that ran along a stream.

Considering that my legs have endured two pretty solid workouts and that there is no pain in my leg, I’m feeling ready to go for this coming Saturday’s race. I can’t wait to see Ruth and also watch friends run the marathon on Sunday. This week I'll be focusing on getting lots of rest, eating right, and keeping my mind calm.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Last Tempo Before Houston Half

30 min at Goal Half Marathon Pace (6:00)

5 mile warmup
30 min at 5:58 pace
1.75 cooldown for 11.75 miles total

I ended my streak of not working out alone in five months with two back-to-back solo workouts. While many of my fellow CRC board members are racing the Hot Chocolate 10k tomorrow, I did not want to run this race as a workout and opted to run, by myself, a day earlier in Charlotte instead. This was a good decision because, although I ran alone, I was able to get in a good workout on familiar terrain and in temperatures that were 20 degrees warmer than those forecasted for Asheville tomorrow.

Michelle, Matt, and I all met at my house for a nice warmup together on the Sugar Creek Greenway. We ran 5 miles easy and discussed how Title VI needs to be revised in such a way that men's sports such as Track & Field, Wrestling, and Gymnastics do not continue to be dropped from colleges as funded programs. Matt's alma mater, University of Delaware, is the latest university to drop its running program. Matt has vowed to never donate any money to their sports programs any more.

Once we reached the 5 mile mark, I bid my farewell to Matt and Michelle as they made their way back to uptown and as I began to prepare for my 30 minute tempo. Going into this workout, I was really nervous that I would not be able to hit my goal times. This is very unlike me to not possess a calm confidence and peaceful state of mind before a workout, but every now and then it is hard to keep such thoughts quiet. I decided it would be best for my mental psyche to not look at the splits as I ran from Freedom Park, onto the roads, back into Freedom Park, onto Sterling, and on the Sugar Creek Greenway and then back down Sterling.

In the first mile, I felt fairly relaxed but I was still doubting I was hitting my times. After the second mile, I peaked a glance at my overall time and was pleased to find that I was hitting right below 12 minutes. Here, my confidence seemed to get a boost and I continued to press forward, trying to ignore the fact that the wind was much stronger than I had anticipated. For the fourth and fifth miles, I really had to dig in as there were some decent sized hills and my legs were starting to feel the fatigue build up from Wednesday's speed workout, my weight lifting, and the current workout. For some odd reason, I thought it would be more fun to go through Sterling than to run through Freedom Park. Making this decision meant that I would spend my entire 4th entire mile uphill, versus flat in Freedom Park. In the end, I'm glad I did this because focusing on driving my arms forward on the uphill took my mind off the fatigue I was feeling in my legs.

5:54 (flat)
6:00 (slightly uphill)
5:53 (flat and wind at back)
6:07 (uphill, turnaround, wind)
6:00 (flat)

I finished up and was pleased to find that I had finished at 5:58 pace for 5 miles, which is exactly where I want to be for the half marathon in 8 days. Considering that I am usually babied when Jordan does all the work in my hard effort runs, I am exceptionally pleased with my ability to push myself to maintain an honest pace as well as with my determination to keep going after mile 4 when I really wanted to just stop and call it a day. I think that running 13.1 miles at this pace is something that is within my reach, if all things fall into place perfectly. On another positive note, my IT Band and knee caused me absolutely no pain or discomfort. In fact, I didn't even notice anything in that region.

After the workout, I ran almost two miles back home and began to stretch for a while before packing. I'm about to head off to Asheville for the Charlotte Running Club Board Retreat. This is where we are going to make a lot of decisions about the future of the club, outline our vision, and determine our 2011 Social Calendar. Don't worry, your membership fees are not paying for the house we are renting...The board members are splitting the cost. We feel this is an important activity that needs to be completed in order to keep our club moving in the right direction and to continue meeting the needs of its members. In fact, Larry Seavers provided us with some great information on how we could throw one really HUGE annual social, with a band, at a low cost to members. I think this could be a good one!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

7x3 Min Solo on the Dilworth Speed Loop

6-8x3 min with 2:30-3:00 min rest at 5k pace (5:29)

4 mile warmup
7x3 min with 2:45 min rest at 5:20-5:28 pace
~2 mile cool down for 11.3 miles total

Upon hearing that it was supposed to be almost 60 degrees today, I opted to run my workout later in the day. Since my normal cohorts - Jordan and Meagan - were out of town selling their brands to various running stores, I was to run solo for this workout. To my surprise, the last time I worked out by myself while in the city of Charlotte was in August. I was a little nervous about working out by myself, knowing that I was going to have to push myself all on my own, without the motivation of Meagan flying by me to propel my legs forward. To replace their fabulous company, I decided to let Mr. Garmin do all the work and to beep at me when 3 minutes was over and then again when my 2:45 rest was over.

I enjoyed an easy 4 mile warmup from my house to Freedom Park on the Sugar Creek Greenway. I passed by Rebecca's house, looked for Jordan's headlamp on the porch, and then continued on to the start of the 800m loop. I did a couple of strides and drills to test out my IT Band. Everything was working properly and without any glitches, I began my first interval. Of course, I technically went out too hard. I think I split 5:19 pace and was somewhere below 80 for the first 400m. I powered through the 800m with about a 1-2 second difference and hoped that I'd be able to continue this speedy trend for the entirety.

Luckily, I was able to maintain my form, composure, and mental tenacity throughout the workout. I felt strong on all of the intervals, except for number 6, where I seemed to be overly sensitive to the sudden increase in wind speed. I focused a lot on the portion after the 400m mark because at that point the course begins to have a slight incline that definitely could impact the pace. I tried to go out a little bit easier on the first 400m and then to make a conscious effort to pump my arms to drive my legs to push harder. This mental tactic seemed to work quite well as I came through all of my 2nd 400m splits about the same pace as the first 400m splits.

I wanted to do 8 intervals, but I could feel the effects of the lifting I had done the previous day as part of physical therapy and I could feel a slight discomfort in my knee. I didn't want to run one last interval to find myself stranded two miles from my house, so I played it safe and began my way back home.* As a side note, Will Isenhour made this mistake in May last year, and his knee gave out...I didn't see him running again until three months later!

I am happy that this workout went well but I wish I had gotten in another one of these workouts a couple of weeks ago. Due to sickness, travel, and IT Band related issues, I had to drop a couple of these workouts. Besides minuters and 6x5 min, I haven't really focused too much on speed. I'm hoping that my strength and endurance will allow me to achieve a new half marathon PR in just 10 days.

*Note: After this workout, my knee felt good and I stretched a lot. However, this evening I feel more discomfort than normal (not pain though), kind of like a tightness or pulling sensation on my knee. I will continue to ice!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Regime for IT Band

So at least three or four people have asked me how to either (1) get their IT Band to stop hurting or (2) what exercises should one perform in order to strengthen your Glutes. Since (1) and (2) are inevitably tied to the other, I figured I would shed some of the knowledge that I've gained over the course of the past two weeks to help my running friends either prevent an injury or cure an injury.

The keys to improving your IT Band ailments are to:
1) Foam Roll for 3-5 minutes 3x daily (Perform Better has the best one here)
2) Perform Body weights 3x a week (I only do legs, plan below)
3) Ice 20 minutes every hour
4) Stretch your glute

*Remember, if it hurts, do not run through it. There is a difference between pain and discomfort. Make smart decisions and stop running if it feels like someone is stabbing you in the knee, if it feels like your leg is going to blow up to pieces, or if you are limping. Taking one or two days off is much better than running through pain and having to take 4-12 weeks off.

Most IT Band problems stem from an inherent weakness in your gluteus medeus or your hamstrings. In order to test the strength of your glutes, you can do 20 single leg hops on each leg and count to the number that you begin to feel fatigued on one leg compared to the other. This will tell you if one leg is weaker than the other and then you can tailor your lifting program to incorporate 2-3 more reps on the weaker leg (ex 3x10 on left leg, 3x12 on right leg).

A lot of the exercises can be done from the comfort of your own home. All you need is a bench, a theraband, and a rope. I've included some of my exercises below with a youtube video that demonstrates basically what the exercise is.

3x15 each leg Clam Shells
3x15 Fire Hydrant Exercise (dog peeing on a bush)
2x20m Side Walk with Theraband
3x15 each leg step-ups
3x15 walking forward lunge (don't let your lead knee go over your ankle)
Side leg lift with circles each leg

For the stretches, just ask me on a run because those are harder to explain, but basically you want to do any stretch that stretches the side of your leg or your glutes. Or you can youtube stretches and you can find some physical therapist that has posted a video with good stretches...Hope this helps!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Week in Review

74 Miles
9 Runs
4 Days of Pain Free Running
1 Bruised IT Band
1 (Temporary) third roommate in Jordan

So this week started off with a snow storm, followed the next day by ice, and then followed the next day with ice remaining on the sidewalks of uptown. Needless to say, there were three days that I spent on the treadmill because my physical therapist warned me that running on a slick surface could make my IT Band condition worse instead of improve. Fortunately for me, I had company for 13 miles on the treadmill with John, Jay, and Meagan in the morning and a double later that evening. Given the icy conditions of the sidewalks and roads, I am glad that I had a Pura Vida gym membership so that I could still get my runs in without worrying about re-injuring my IT Band.

With the ice, that meant that I had to drop one workout (8x3 min) and just do two workouts within two days of each other: 3x2 Mile and tempo + long run. Given that I ran my first discomfort free run in over two weeks on Thursday, both these workouts went better than expected and were good indicators that my goals for the Houston Half Marathon are still within reach. While I did have a scare on Sunday after my tempo, with a stabbing pain in my knee, I iced and heated in hopes that it would be fine by Monday. I was right as I was able to walk down stairs pain free and run across the street the next day. I also updated my orthotics (they were over two years old), which will again correct my leg length discrepancy. I'm hoping this will help prevent me from having issues again.

On a personal note, Jordan ran with me three out of the four days this week. He also became our third roommate for the weekend as Meagan was out of town winning the 13.1 Los Angeles race. John, Jordan, Garrett and I all enjoyed a lazy day of calf massages, blog updating, tv watching, and eating together. It was a fun way to enjoy my last weekend in Charlotte before I head off to Asheville this weekend, Houston next weekend, and Las Vegas the following weekend.

I will also note that several people have reached out to me offering advice on IT Band recovery, which has been really helpful! On the same note, however, several people have asked me what I've been doing that allows me to continue running 70+ miles without pain. Look for a blog post early this week with my keys to IT Band recovery!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Long Run + Tempo with Jordan

10 Miles, 5k tempo, 2 mile cooldown

10 miles, 3 miles @ 17:31 (5:47, 5:58, 5:45), 1 mile cooldown, IT Band Messed up

Jordan worked out with me on Friday, worked out with John Compton, Richard Falcone, and Ben Hovis on Saturday, and decided it would be "fun" to work out with me as well. You can question his sanity, but I won't since his decisions are obviously benefiting me. We left my house and ran around Freedom Park, on the Booty Loop and back up to our favorite workout loop, the Dilworth Speed Loop. I was rocking my new Craft running tights and Gore head band that I bought from Jordan. Craft is definitely my new favorite brand for winter running gear. Their tights make me feel almost like I've got nothing on. Obviously, they provide that warmth, but the material is so smooth that it feels invisible on my skin. I'm a believer.

Anyways, there isn't much to report on the first 10 miles of our run as nothing really happened besides talking about training and increasing your VO2 Max for the marathon. Once we got to Rebecca's, Jordan stripped down to a t-shirt and shorts because the weather was so nice and I took off my gloves. We ran a lap and a half of the Dilworth speed loop. My goal was just to run 5:55-6:00 pace in an effort to simulate the final 5k of my half marathon in just 13 days.

Guess what? We went out too fast (5:47), but I felt relaxed and controlled. When my Garmin beeped, Jordan said, "Is that the mile?" I responded, "Apparently..." I thought he was doubting the Garmin's accuracy, but really he was just confirmed that we were running fast. He responded "We're ROLLING!" To further highlight our first mile, a rather attractive blonde took the time to roll down her window and cry out "nice pace!" to us. I figured we knew her. Jordan said we did not. She just thought Jordan was hot probably.

The second mile was mainly uphill, so we slowed down a bit to 5:58. There wasn't much to report except that I was thinking about how badly I wanted to run faster in the last mile. During the third mile, Jordan put on his personal trainer hat and spoke words of encouragement to keep me motivated to finish strong. He told me that we had four minutes left, two minutes left, and then told me to focus on objects like a fire hydrant. We finished up with a 5:45 and I bent over to catch my breath. I was shocked that we had run a pace close to the pace we ran just two days ago in the 3x2 mile workout on the same loop. After I regained my composure, we began the jaunt back to Rebecca's. It was exactly 1 mile there, and my entire body felt absolutely perfect. There was no pain in my knee, no (apparent) tightness in my IT Band or glute, and I felt strong.

Then I took one step down the stairs of Rebecca's porch and it felt like someone stabbed my in the outside of my left knee. As soon as my leg bent to a 45 degree angle, a stabbing sensation rocked through my leg and brought back the memories from two weeks ago in California. I said some profanity and exclaimed that I think I messed up my leg. I was not sure until I attempted three steps of jogging and could barely pick up my leg. I had to stop and, at my second attempt, I told Jordan that I did not think I could run home. He was a good sport and said he'd run to my house (2 Miles away) and come pick me. And so began the trek home...I walked about 3/4 of a mile, stopped every now and then to stretch my IT Band, and waited for Jordan on the street corner like an exhausted prostitute in running attire.

When Jordan picked me up, he had a bag of ice ready in the car and I thought to myself that I'm lucky to have such a nice friend (and training partner). Apparently when Meagan goes out of town, Jordan just likes to hang out with John and I so that he doesn't think about how much he misses her.

Now I'm sitting here icing and stretching. I'm confident that I'll be able to run tomorrow, but know that I will need to take off at least 3-5 days when I finish the Houston Half.

Friday, January 14, 2011

3x2 mile at Dilworth Speed Loop

3x2 Mile at Same Pace or Faster than last time (5:40-5:45 pace)

4.1 miles warmup
3x2 Mile at 11:33 (5:47/5:45), 11:33 (5:46/5:47), and 11:30 (5:50/5:40)
2 miles cooldown

Before I start with anything else, admittedly, this workout went much better than I had expected. Considering that the last week of the year I had to take two days off due to an IT Band pain in my knee, I was skeptical of whether my leg would hold up during this workout. Fortunately, things seemed to be looking up for me because last night I ran for the first time in over two weeks entirely pain free. Jordan and I ventured up and down hills throughout the Dilworth neighborhoods, which also indicated that my IT Band was feeling better since it was holding up over hills. I will credit my Physical Therapist at Carolinas Rehab for getting me back to a pain free state.

Regardless, Jordan nursed his Achilles back to normal health and was game for working out with me. Typical of Jordan, he immediately agreed, without a second thought, to working out with me on Friday night. We warmed up on the Sugar Creek Path and through Dilworth for four miles and then dropped our stuff off at Rebecca's porch, even though she is in Africa. From our Thursday run, Jordan and I were expecting three patches of ice that were about 5-10m in length. At these parts, we would be forced to run defensively and with tentative, slower steps than on the other surfaces.

For the first interval, my breathing felt more labored than it should be and I hoped that I could maintain an average of 5:45 for the entirety of the workout. It was frustrating to slow down on the patches of ice, and I told myself that I would be running faster if the ice wasn't getting in my way. However, I did not want the ice to be an excuse for not hitting my goal times, so Jordan lead the way for us to still hit an average of 5:45.

After we finished this set, Jordan and I both agreed that my breathing was labored so he told me to focus on pushing the uphills on the second set and to focus on the downhills on the third set. This method would hopefully get my mind less focused on the pace, and more on my form and other, less stressful things.

By the second and third sets, I was more relaxed and tucking in behind Jordan as he did all of the work. I didn't really like focusing on the uphills because it seemed that the majority of the loop was uphill as opposed to downhill, but it did help me keep rolling. We finished up and I was really pleased that 1) I had hit my goal times and that 2) my IT Band hadn't bothered me at all! On the third set, we ran both the slowest split of the day (5:50) and the fastest split of the day (5:40). What was great about the workout is that each set was around the same total time, but each was run with a completely different strategy which allowed my mind to practice more techniques and allowed my body to adjust accordingly to changes in pace.

After we picked up the remainder of our warm weather gear, Jordan and I cool down 2 miles back to my house, where we stretched, ate dinner, and hung out with John and Anne Marie. We watched Inception on Bluray.

15 Days until USA Half Marathon Championships!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Week in Review

78.3 Miles
7 Runs
18 Mile Long Run @ 7:10 pace
1 Manageable IT Band, albeit bruised
1 Physical Therapy Session
1 Doctor's Appointment
1 Hour Massage

As you can see above, I probably spent more time this week doing rehab related activities than actually running. I have spent 8 days attempting to nurse my IT Band back to its normal strength, which means that I have foam rolled and iced 3 times a day for the past 8 days. I also have spent a lot of time stretching and stregthening my gluteus medeus, because much of my IT Band discomfort stems from the fact that I have a weak butt and weak hamstrings. That being said, I am still amazed that I was able to hit my target weekly mileage without injuring myself more. I ran within myself on every run and recognized the need to stop at any point if pain persisted. Luckily, pain was not a factor on any of my runs this week so I wasn't left stranded in the middle of Charlotte with a wounded knee.

One thing that helped the runs go by so fast this week was the company from a NYAC runner, Heidi Hullinger. She ran with me for 3 runs this week and provided lots of new topics of conversation. She even joined Meagan and I for a 6x5 Min workout that went really well for all three of us ladies. While my 7 Mile Tempo did not go as well as I had hoped, I walked away with a positive attitude and with a spirit of looking ahead. I made up for my somewhat disheartening tempo by running 18 miles with Will at an average of 7:10 pace at McAlpine. I still have the fitness level, I just have a weak leg that is screaming at me to start lifting again.

I'm hoping that with Physical Therapy 2-3 times per week, a massage weekly from Byran Bullock at Zen Massage, and a couple of sessions of Active Release Therapy from Ryan Danner will help bring me to a speedy recovery.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

7 Mile Tempo at McAlpine

60 Min Tempo at 6:15-6:25 Pace (adjusted due to surface)

7 Mile Tempo for 44:09 at 6:18 pace

After visiting my Physical Therapist, Angela, at Carolinas Rehabilitation on Thursday, I had developed a large bruise 7 inches long on my IT Band after a Scraping therapy session. Angela used the Graston tool to scrape along my IT Band 9 times. While I was warned of bruising, I will admit that it made foam rolling a bit more painful. The morning of this tempo, I was flaunting the awesome bruise below. Good thing it is winter so I didn't scare any people away with my discolored leg.

I had been warned that the cold would make it harder for my IT Band to feel good, so I took the necessary precaution and warmed my leg during my drive to Mcalpine to meet Stephen and Megan. The temps at the start of our run were in the upper teens, which did not bode well for me. Megan and I met at the main entrance and ran to meet Stephen halfway on the way to Old Bell. After catching up with some good conversation (I hadn't seen Stephen or Megan in over a month), we started our tempo.

With the start of the tempo, I didn't feel too bad. I was glad that my knee actually was pain free, and I wondered if it was due to the IT Band Wrap I was wearing that has been endorsed by Scott Jurek. Stephen was our fearless leader as he lead me through the first three miles in a 615 pace average.

Once we got onto the asphault portion of the trail, however, every good thing unraveled. Little did we know that the next two miles of aspault would be covered with black ice, making it very difficult to go fast. This also put much more wear and tear on my IT Bands and I could feel them getting more and more fatigued with each slippery step. I told Stephen that they were getting tired, and we kept trucking along. We ran our slowest mile here (6:27) and I didn't want the rest of the miles to be that slow. At the 4 mile turnaround, I made a very conscious effort to pick it back up to a respectable pace, which we did. However, I felt like I had spent every ounce of my energy on those two miles of ice, and my legs were working much harder than they should be.

After 6 miles, I informed Stephen that I would be ending early, at the 7 mile mark. He was a good trooper and when we stopped, he informed me that I didn't feel too good on my last tempo before Twin Cities and still ran a sub-2:42. I think that Stephen and I both work well together because we know how to listen to our bodies and minds to know when enough is enough. We also know that it is pointless to spend too much time talking or thinking about a workout that was below our own expectations. The best thing to do is to recognize a weakness for the day and to move on. I know that I ran 26.2 miles 8 seconds faster than I did in this tempo today, but the important thing is that I did get a good effort in. I hope that I can run 6 min pace or faster at Houston, but the key will be to get my IT Band feeling normal again.

I enjoyed a long 4 mile cool down with both Stephen and Megan, where I learned more about Stephen got into running. He went from a 2:42 to a 2:38 to a 2:32! That's pretty much amazing. Megan is less than 100 days from the Boston Marathon, where she will revisit the city where she ran a blazing 2:37:xx marathon at the 2008 Olympic Trials. I believe that all the hard work she's been putting in will definitely pay off come April.


Wednesday, January 5, 2011

6x5 Min at McAlpine

6x5 Min at sub 5:45 pace with 2 min rest

2.64 miles warmup
6x5 Min at 5:37-5:42 pace with 2 min jog rest
~1 mile cool down for 10 miles total

I recruited Meagan and Heidi to run this workout with me so that I would have some company at McAlpine. Heidi runs for NYAC, graduated from Duke XC/TF in '04, and heard about the CRC through the Club XC race. Jordan of course showed up to support his girlfriend and to pace us ladies through the mud.

I was worried about my IT Band rubbing against my knee, so I took all the necessary precautions beforehand: I alternated ice/heat (ending with heat), stretched, and performed my strengthening exercises that I found on youtube. I even curled up on my heated blanket to ensure that my entire IT Band received enough warmth to be ready for the soon-to-be assault on my body. Finally, I tucked a hand warmer into my capris so that my IT Band connector would be warm.

After a 20 minute warmup, we made our way to the 1.75 mile marker at McAlpine in an effort to avoid all hills (big or small) and all cambered surfaces. The plan was to make our way towards Old Bell, turn around and then head back onto the first two miles of the XC Course, skipping the hill. Jordan and I lead the way for the first 2, and I felt strong and consistent on these. My breathing felt a little out of whack, so I'm not sure what that was all about. By the 3rd and 4th intervals, Meagan and Jordan had created a 5 meter gap on me, so I made a surge to finish back up with Meagan by the finish. I was not as lucky on the 5th and 6th ones, as Jordan and Meagan made a sizable gap on me of at least 10-20 meters. I was still maintaining my original pace of 5:40, so I'm guessing she was running 5:30-5:34 pace.

For each of the intervals, I tended to finish about halfway in between the 1.2k and 1.6k marks, a little past 1.4k. I felt the worst on the 5th and 6th intervals because my IT Bands on both sides just felt very weak and fatigued. It could be from the exercises I've been doing, or just from general weakness in those areas. It could also have been from the increased number of turns and the uneven, soft surfaces that were causing me to utilize my IT Band more for balance. ALl said and done, considering that I felt no pain in the side of my knee and that I hit a faster pace than my goal Half Marathon pace, I am really pleased with this workout.

Meagan should be very happy and confident about her workout as well because not only did she rock the 6x5 min portion of the workout, but then she knocked out a 20 min tempo afterward. While her decision to run the Houston Marathon is still to be determined, it is clear that she is definitely strong enough to post some fast times within the next couple of weeks. It will be fun to watch, even if from behind!

1: 5:40 pace (.88 miles)
2: 5:37 pace (.89 miles)
3: 5:37 pace (.89 miles)
4: 5:40 pace (.88 miles)
5: 5:42 pace (.875 miles)
6: 5:42 pace (.875 miles)

Now I'm off to see Dr. Price, in hopes that he can give me some more pointers to getting my IT Band back to normal!

Monday, January 3, 2011

2010 in Review

While I was at Wake Forest, when my teammate Merry and I were having a bad season, we would muse that when we looked back on our college days, our best and our worst races would not be the defining moments of our collegiate experience. Instead, we both agreed that we would remember the overall experiences with our friends that were most memorable. Experiences like road trips to meets (like getting so lost in the Boston ghetto that we were late for a meet and had to have the race postponed for us), experiences like Student-Athlete Semi-Formals (where the track team always was the first on and the last off the dance floor), experiences like the Annual Sketch Party (where teammates' feet feel through the ceiling in the attic) - these experiences are what I remember most and I revisit these memories often.

In the same light, I could choose to list whatever accomplishments I achieved in the year 2010, but breaking a PR does not compare to the friendships that I've acquired. It does not compare to the trips that I've taken...nor does it come close to having my parents there as I debut in my longest race ever. Unlike college, where I had the rare opportunity to travel to places like Stanford or Oregon to race against some of the best, I kept the majority of my 2010 racing within a 200 mile radius of Charlotte (with the exception of two big races - Cherry Blossom and Twin Cities).

What I liked most about 2010? All the new friendships that were formed. Fortunately for me, some of the best female talent is centered right here in NC, so I had lots of competition in Meagan Nedlo, Molly Nunn, Addie Bracy, Megan Hovis, Kelly Fillnow, Alice Rogers, Alana Hadley, and many many more. Megan and Addie have already qualified for the Trials and I know that Meagan, Molly, and Alice have the determination and talent to do the same in just a few weeks. I have enjoyed racing against and running with all of these women in 2010 and look forward watching their 2011 accomplishments unfold on the roads. With many miles on the roads, through rain, sun and sleet, I have gotten to know each of these women and know that these relationships will carry on into many more new years.

Although I just mentioned some people above, to list all the people who I have gotten to know better is probably a bad idea because someone will inevitably get left out, but I can list people in groups. The standard Thursday Dowd run boasts so many runners that I actually look forward to seeing them every Thursday in the hours of dark-thirty. I got to know some of Charlotte's finest masters runners this year and had the opportunity to work out with them on a regular basis. I've shared sweat and water with some of the best sales and technical representatives in Charlotte. I've road tripped with Aaron, Jay, and Matt to races and long runs. I've had the Thunder Road Marathon Champion, Jordan Kinley, slow down countless times to pace Meagan and I. I've continued to meet more and more members of the Charlotte Running Club, all individuals which are making an impact on our running community.

I've continued to build upon my relationship with the founders and board members of the Charlotte Running Club. As our Club evolves, I watch as our relationships evolve as well. We accomplished a lot in 2010, but we know that there is so much more to be done in order for us to make some noise regionally. I've shared in fun CRC socials that have ranged from taking a shot of tequila to celebrate CRC's first birthday, to singing karaoke, to racing in a prediction run. At all of these events, I was able to put one more face to a name, and to help one person find a running buddy. I was able to connect with my current coach, Mark Hadley of Maximum Performance Running, who has helped me move achieve some fast times.

What do I most remember about the summer? Running in super hot, terrible weather and then heading to the Hepp Hovis Training Facility to eat and swim. Those are some of the best days! Nothing like running together and then hanging out for a couple of hours with your legs surrounded by a body of water. We are all forever indebted to the Hovis' for their graciousness in allowing us into their home. These summer long runs aren't remembered for the sweltering heat, but for the company and food that was shared afterward.

These are the long runs that helped propel me to success in my debut marathon and to make my dream of making the Olympic Trials a reality. Without the company of many friends on so many long runs, I doubt I would have been able to have as much fun as I did during the Twin Cities race. The slew of texts, facebook messages, and voicemails that I received from friends and family after this race might be up there as one of my top memories from 2010. The support, love and friendship radiated from each of those messages, and I was so proud to be able to call Charlotte my home. To make the moment even more special, I was able to share in this entire experience with my parents and high school coach at my side. Not only did they bounce around the course, but they took pictures, provided words of encouragement, and gave me a hug as soon as I crossed the finish line. Did I mention that my parents and coach are 58 and 61 years old? I'm pretty sure they have more energy than me sometimes. I couldn't have asked for anything more.

Personally, I celebrated my third anniversary with Garrett while we were in Costa Rica with my family. I've continued to learn more and more about Garrett's family and have enjoyed every moment with them, which is quite often in comparison to how often I see my own parents. I have been blessed to have a second family so close to me in North Carolina. However, since my family is all over the place (and since I've gone to some good races), it has given me the chance to go so many places this year! The list is great! Costa Rica, California (three times - LA, SF, LA), Boston, Illinois, Orlando (twice), Minneapolis, DC, Nashville. I traveled quite a bit this year, but it was totally worth it.

While I may have just slated 2010 to be one of the best years ever (which is was), that doesn't mean there weren't any lows - there were definitely some, but the best is to always learn from those experiences. I had a terrible race soon after the Marathon at the Huntersville 10k, where John and I thought there was prize money but instead we won a blanket. I did terrible on my GMAT (and probably did not put in the amount of work that was necessary). When I list these things now, they seem so menial (especially considering that my best friend Merry is fighting poverty in the Dominican Republic), so it's probably best to just stop writing anything. 2010 was one of the best years I've had since college, and I hope that 2011 will bring the same happiness to all.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Week in Review

49.6 Miles
6 Runs, 1 Double
2 Days off
1 tight IT Band

Well, this week started off quite well for the first three days and then quickly deterioated with the snap of a finger. I was excited at the idea of hitting 80 miles for the first time since before the Twin Cities Marathon, but those hopes were dashed when my knee hurt really bad on Wednesday. On Thursday and Friday, I took completely off and allowed my knee time to get back to its normal size. I popped ibubrofen, iced four times a day, and limited my walking.

By the time Saturday rolled around, after doing a couple of trial runs in my hallway, I felt confident that I could perform my duties of sweeper at the CRC Hangover Prediction Run. I ran easy for a little over 30 minutes to realize that there was no pain, just a really tight IT Band that I needed to roll at least five times a day. After this, Garrett showed me band exercised that would help strengthen my IT Band and my Hamstrings.

On Sunday morning, I was unsure if I would be able to run on my leg for over an hour, but was pleasantly surprised that I could put my left IT Band through not only 1 hour and 46 minutes of work, but also put it through 30 minutes at an average of 6:26 pace. Meagan did a fantastic job of putting in this effort, especially after doing a workout the day before.

Do not fret, I iced and rolled later in the day. Just because the leg seems to be back to normal does not mean that I go back to my old ways. Rolling and stretching have become a part of my daily regime and I will be seeing a physical therapist for more exercises to prevent this from happening in the future. I'm hoping that next week's week in review will showcase a weekly mileage of 80+. Houston is in just 4 weeks!