Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Planning Ahead: Summer 2013

In the past few weeks my inbox has been flooded with emails about upcoming races all over the east coast. With the majority of my focus on the Nike Women's Half Marathon in April I haven't given much thought to my race plans for this summer. I knew I wanted to focus on short course triathlons, primarily gaining experience and improving speed. I did sign up for the Keystone State International Triathlon at the end of August a little while ago but that will not be an A race for me as I will be also training for the New York City Marathon then.

Nothing is definite but these are the races I am looking at for the summer:

Assateague Assault Sprint Triathlon (June 3?)

Did I mention ponies roam the beach?!

I would absolutely love to do this triathlon but it is about four hours away. My family goes to the Virginia side of Assateague for vacation every year, which is why I am so drawn to this race. I have never been to the Maryland side but have heard it is very similar. I think this would be a great race to start the season with as it is supposed to be a pretty easy course. There is also a one mile sunset ocean swim the night before that I really want to do.

Mason Dixon Sprint Triathlon (June 2)

From the Keystone State Sprint Triathlon, the same course

If I can't do the Assateague Assault Triathlon I will most likely do this one. It is only 30 minutes from my house and is on the same course as the Keystone State Triathlon, which I did last summer. My only hesitation with this race is the hills. I really struggled with the hills on the bike course and did every ride for six weeks on those hills. I am confident that I am stronger and more capable now but the thought of doing those hills only 2 weeks after school ends makes me unnecessarily anxious.

Doublecreek (June 15)
This is a bike ride that is right near my house that offers 30 mile, 48 mile or 62 mile options. I have wanted to do a supported bike ride for a few years now and think that it would be good practice for me to get used to riding around so many other people. I probably will decide about this one that week based on how things are going. If it fits into training I will do it but I don't want to alter my training for this.

York YWCA Ladies Y-Tri Sprint Triathlon (June 30)

How perfect is this run course?!

I want to do this race mostly because it is about 5 minutes from my house. The swim is in a pool, which I don't like, but it is a cheap and close race that won't take up the entire weekend. The bike is also pretty hilly and will be a good way to measure my progress at climbing. I think doing a triathlon about every four weeks will allow me to practice racing without taking too much out of training.

Steelman Open Water Swim (July 14)
Like Doublecreek this is a very tentative race. Since I quit swimming a few years ago I have wanted to do an open water swim. The swim of both of my triathlons, which were open water, were my favorite parts. The only downside is this race is about two hours away and I'm not sure if I want to drive that far for a race that is not a primary race for me. I'll decide on this as time gets closer.

Millers Mutual Mile (July 17)

I can't get over this sunset from last year's race

I want to do this race because I think it will be fun. I have never raced anything shorter than a 5K and even those I don't do very often. I also really like that this is an evening race. I run considerably faster later in the day and since night races are pretty rare I want to jump at this opportunity. Who knows if I'll even get around to doing this race but I really want to.

Culpeper Olympic Triathlon (August 3)

This is the triathlon I'm looking at being my A race for this summer. It is a little far away (Virginia) but I could stay at my apartment the night before and just drive down early in the morning. I also really like the course. It isn't flat but isn't super hilly either. I also like when this race is. My family normally goes on vacation at the end of July/beginning of August but this year we are going a bit later. This means I can do a triathlon later in the summer without missing a week of training.

These races are all tentative but I am hoping to put at least some of these races on my calendar soon.
Any other races in the MD/PA/NoVa/DC area I should consider? Have you done any of these races?

Sunday, February 24, 2013

To Get There, You Have to Go There

This weekend I had two hard runs on my schedule. A 75 minute "long" run on Friday and a tempo run on Sunday. These came after a solid week of training that included two swims, a brick workout, a one very tough hill workout. I am starting to feel like I am in training. I usually recover pretty quickly but I found my legs a bit more tired than normal this week, which left me questioning whether I would be able to hit my prescribed paces.

My hill workout on Wednesday was unlike any run I've ever done. I've done my fair share of hard workouts but this one left me feeling like I was going to throw up and my legs were going to fall off at the end of each repeat. I've never been one of those people who can stay in the moment an focus on the mile or repeat they are currently running but every time I thought about how many more repeats I had left I wanted to quit. I told myself to run that repeat as hard as I could and I would worry about the rest later. I figured if I went too hard early on and ended up dying it was better than going too easy.

After I finished my last repeat I layed down in the grass and had multiple passersby ask if I was okay. I hated this workout while I was doing it but I was proud of myself for not giving up and pushing through. I know it will only make me stronger come race day, both physically and mentally.

When I woke up Friday morning for my long run my legs were still tired. I had been confident all week about this run but when I was tired from just going up the stairs I started to get nervous. I changed my plan from just running under 8:40 min/mile pace to focusing on pacing and running negative splits. I figured this would distract me mentally, not be as taxing on my legs, and be good practice for race day.

From last week's run but equally as nice out

Instead of starting my run trying to run at an 8:40 pace I went at a comfortable pace. I knew I had to get progressively faster so I didn't want to push the pace so early on. I also tried to run by feel and didn't look at my watch for the first half of the run. On the second half I checked it every 10 minutes or so just to make sure my pace was dropping enough.

After about an hour I started to get tired. My legs were spent and I was tired in general from not getting a lot of sleep the night before. I don't like teaching myself that quitting or giving in to feeling tired is okay so I picked up the pace even more. I ended up finishing with 8.8 miles in 75 minutes for an 8:31 pace, something I am very pleased with considering how tired I was going in to the run. I also ran perfect negative splits!

Like Friday, when I woke up this morning my legs were still tired. I, again, wondered how I was going to do a tempo run on such tired legs. Instead of being nervous I tried to take the same approach as I did my hill workout on Wednesday. Do my best and focus on the interval I'm running. If the second one ends up being a bust at least I didn't give up. I also thought about this post from Jess. I know that if I want to achieve my goals as a runner I'm going to have to get out of my comfort zone and take some risks.

If you want to GET there, you have to GO there.

I did my warm up and then got started. The first interval didn't feel so great but after checking my garmin stats I realized I was running gradually uphill the entire time. Good to know. There were times when I struggled to maintain an 8:10 pace but every time I saw a number above that I surged. I kept a pretty steady eye on my watch to ensure I never slowed down too much.

Interval #1: 15 minutes at 8:08 pace

For the second interval, though, I covered my watch and ran by feel. Although it was a gradual downhill, it was visible and I couldn't even tell as I was running. When I finally checked my watch I only had 90 seconds left and was very surprised by the pace I saw. I felt good but didn't think I was running that fast.

Interval #2: 15 minutes at 7:51 pace

This week taught me that my body is capable than way more than I let myself believe. Even on tired legs I still had really good runs this week. I need to trust in my training and be more willing to take risks. As my favorite birds say go fast, take chances. Well that is my plan for the rest of training.

Monday, February 18, 2013

10 Weeks & a Tempo Run

My A race for this spring is exactly 10 weeks away. To some extent this seems so soon yet at the same time it seems so far away. When I think about my training so far I realize how long 10 weeks really is. I've been training for 6 weeks so far and while at times I feel like I just started training and am so far away from my goal I also feel like I've been training for so long now. If 6 weeks feels like a long time 10 weeks must feel like forever.

It amazes me how far I have come in the past 6 weeks. I never imagined I would be holding these paces, especially this early into training. When I think that I have almost twice as much time to continue training I get excited by how much more progress I can make.

Site of Friday's long run

At the same time though 10 weeks is a really long time. Even though I have a coach figuring out when/where to do my workouts stresses me out way more than it should. I struggle to get out of bed in the morning and have lost of motivation to be productive after I get home from classes. I know that things are only going to get more stressful at classes and my internship start ramping up.

The past few weeks especially have been difficult for me. I truly enjoy training but it is easy to fall off track when I'm back in school. Seeing that I still have 10 weeks left of training is a nice reminder to recommit to training. This is when it is important to not skip workouts and stay on track.

Cheering on Kate Grace at the Millrose Games while doing homework

This week I am starting to incorporate some workouts into my training. We spent the first part of my training building up my endurance and now we are beginning to focus more on strength and speed.


Yesterday I did my first tempo workout pretty much ever. After a short warm up 2 x 15 minutes at 10K pace with 5 minutes rest in between followed by a warm down. I felt a bit tired and sluggish for the first half of the run but things turned around during the second half.

Turning the corner & seeing this during my warm down..


  • Warm up (1.68 miles): 8:58
  • 15 min tempo (1.83): 8:10
  • 15 min tempo (1.92): 7:50
  • Cool down (1.29): 9:53
The first tempo interval I focused on going right at a 8:10 pace (my prescribed 10K pace) so that I would have enough energy for the second interval. During the first interval it was snowing quite a bit and blowing in my face. The second interval felt considerably better, probably in part because the snow had stopped and I knew I was almost done. Since I was staying at the boyfriend's house I didn't have my car with me and had to run to and from the trail. Unfortunately this meant my warm down included more than a mile straight uphill.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Things I'm Loving

Happy Saturday everyone! I thought I'd share some of the things that I have been loving lately. Enjoy!

Brooks Adrenaline 13

About a month ago I went to get a new pair of running shoes with the intention of trying out a new style. Long story short I ended up buying another pair of Adrenaline's and love them as much as my last pair. I've only been wearing them for my long runs and they keep getting better each time.

Trader Joe's
Since I have been spending more time in Columbia I thought I would take advantage of the better grocery stores there. I went to TJ's last week and bought so much produce and other yummy foods for less than I normally spend when buying less at the store near my house. Win!

NYC Running Mama

This girl is seriously amazing. I always check her Twitter and Instagram feeds when I need some motivation since she is always doing really impressive workouts. Her love of running and working hard is contagious and you can't help but cheer her on towards her goal of completing her first Ironman and running a sub 3:10 marathon.

That it's getting dark out later

I actually really do like winter but I hate getting out of class and it's completely dark out already. I am happier when there is more sunshine plus longer days equals more time for running.

I have heard so many good things about this show that I had to check it out for myself. After learning a bit more about it I suggested to the boyfriend that we watch it. We have already finished the first season and I am itching to start season 2.

Believe I Am

I got my Believe I Am journal for Christmas and have been using it to help me train for the Nike Women's Half Marathon. I get such a feeling of satisfaction from writing in all of my workouts after completing them. There is something so intimate about putting pen to paper and spilling your feelings in your own journal that no one else sees.

My internship
This semester I am interning at Corrigan Sports for school credit and it is turning out to be really great. We are currently working on planning the upcoming Oakland Full & Half Marathon in March. I love not only being part of such an awesome team but helping put on such incredible and popular events.

Garmin 310XT

I got this for Christmas from the boyfriend and love it more and more each time I wear it. I constantly find myself wondering why I didn't upgrade earlier. This watch is incredible and is definitely helping my training.

Ever since I tried my first pair of Oiselle shorts back in the fall I have been completely obsessed with all things Oiselle. I drool over the pretty clothes that everyone seems to have now and am inspired by the amazing community of runners they have created. Seriously, I can't get enough.

Back in the fall I decided to start cooking my meals. Before I was eating the simplest of meals and foods and relied a lot of microwaveable dinners. With the help of Pinterest I have since tried more recipes than I can count. Some were very simple and others very elaborate. Cooking my own meals gives me a greater sense of appreciation for the foods in which I'm eating.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Recovering Right

When I was first starting half marathon training I layed out how I was going to achieve my sub 2:00 goal based on the things that I have neglected in the past. There were quite a few things that could use improvement and most of them had something to do with recovery. Even though I know I should, I have been really struggling get in much stretching, foam rolling, Nuun-ing, etc. I have been experiencing this nagging ache in my left thigh ever since I went skiing a few weeks ago. It isn't anything to be worried about but it is a bit annoying. I had a minor panic attack about it but have since realized that my leg is actually not going to fall off. Shocking, I know. But this little freak out reminded me that I need to pay more attention to how I am recovering after my runs. So I decided that instead of giving up something for Lent I would commit to recovering right. How you might ask, well let me tell you!

Stretching & Foam Rolling

I always forget to stretch, and foam roll, until something starts bothering me and this training cycle is no exception. Luckily nothing hurts enough that it is a problem but it's a good reminder that it is never too late to add in some stretching and foam rolling to your weekly training. Since I finish a lot of my runs at school and then have class for a few hours afterwards I often don't get much, or any, stretching in afterwards. Just because I don't have room to sprawl out and do a bunch of elaborate yoga stretches doesn't mean I can't squeeze in a few simple stretches after each workout. Even a little bit of stretching will go a long way. Then on the weekends when I have more time I am planning on doing a 15-30 minute stretching and foam rolling session after my long runs to really get to my muscles properly.

Compression Socks

I have two pairs of Pro Compression socks but I don't wear them nearly enough. Like with stretching and foam rolling I normally only wear them when I actually need them rather than for their everyday recovery properties. When I run on harder surfaces such as concrete and pavement more frequently my calves and shins get very cranky and with the weather lately I haven't been able to really hit the trails which means I've only been running on the road. I think my legs are actually getting used to the additional pounding but there are still some days where my shins hurt to touch. Just wearing my compression socks for a few hours makes a huge difference. Since the weather is colder and it is still boot season I will wear my socks under my boots as a way to wear my socks but not look like a total loser. Just a partial one.

Hydrating Properly

For as long as I can remember people have been telling me I need to drink more. I'm not sure why but I don't get thirsty very often. There have been days (more than I'd like to admit) where I had nothing to drink the entire day. The ironic part is that I get extremely thirsty when running and drink way more than normal. And to add to it I lose a lot of salt when I sweat and often end up dizzy after long workouts in the heat. I have been working on drinking enough in general for years now and will probably always have to work on this but I have been slacking off now that the temps are colder and I feel even less thirsty. To get back on track I plan on carrying a water bottle with me everywhere. Just by having it with me I will end up drinking more water. I'm going to start using my Nuun tablets more often so that even if I am drinking less what I am drinking is better quality.

Any tips? I could use all the advice I can get!

Sunday, February 10, 2013


After 5 weeks of being back in training I already feel I made more progress than I expected out of the entire 16 weeks I will be training for my upcoming half marathon. My goal going into training was to break two hours. With a current PR of 2:03 set back in October while training for my first marathon I believed that sub-2:00 was realistic as well as challenging. From the beginning I decided I wanted to shoot for as far under two hours as possible. I will be happy with a 1:59:59 if that is the best I can give come April 28 but I have always believed I could do a little better. I didn't have a time in mind, all I knew was that I wanted to train hard and smart and see what I could achieve.

When I started training back in the beginning of January I considered 6 miles a long run and was comfortably running around a 10 minute mile for most of my runs. I was excited about training but also scared. So much of what I was going to be doing would be new and I had hardly any control over my training. I knew when I decided to work with a coach that I was giving up the ability to decide how often/long/hard I wanted to run on a given day but I was okay with that. I knew that in order for this to work I would have to trust Mike 100%. My resolution for 2013 is to take more chances and even though I knew things might not work out how I wanted them to I decided it was worth taking that chance.

My biggest concern was running 6 days a week. I have always run 3-4 days a week and was worried that jumping to 6 would be too much. I quickly learned that I actually love running almost every day. Running has become a part of my daily routine and the days that I am not running I get anxious about getting out for my next run. I never imagined I would be that person. As training keeps ramping up I will eventually stop running so many days in favor of some pre-season triathlon training. While I am truly excited about putting more into my triathlon training this year I am going to really miss running six days a week. Who am I?!

This past week I ran 7 times for a total of 34 miles. This is both the greatest number of runs I have done in a week as well as the greatest number of miles. I have been training hard for five weeks and now am running comfortable 9:00-9:30 miles. What used to be somewhat challenging for me has become easy. On Friday I had a 75 minute run scheduled with the goal of keeping my pace under 9 minute miles. Despite how much I have improved in these past few weeks I was still nervous about this pace going into the run. I knew it wouldn't be easy but I was shocked by how feasible it was. I finished my run with 8.8 miles for an 8:30 pace. I then did a ridiculously easy two mile recovery run later that afternoon for a total of 10.8 miles for the day. This is the highest daily mileage I've hit since marathon training.

Later that day I was informed by Mike that I had a breakout run and I couldn't agree more. When I see other people doing 8-12 mile runs at this pace I think that is so fast. I'm still not even sure I believe that I can hold that pace. During my run on Friday when I looked at my watch and saw 8:3X I thought something was wrong with my watch. I didn't believe that I could really be holding that pace for so long. After some quick math I realized that if I were able to hold this pace for 13.1 miles I could run about a 1:52 half marathon. I don't want to jinx anything but I am now more motivated than ever. I know what I am doing is working and I know that if I keep training the way I have been, I will achieve big things. I just have to stop doubting myself and believe in my capabilities.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Minutes vs. Miles

This training cycle all of my runs are scheduled by time rather than by distance. In the past I have always made my plans around how many miles I want to run but after a few weeks basing my runs off of time I'm pretty sure I will never go back to my old ways. There have been many times during the past weeks where I have thought about how much better it is to be running by time. Example:

Two (?) weeks ago I had a 75 minute long run scheduled that was supposed to be run at faster than a 9:00 min/mileage pace. When I woke up that morning the streets were covered with snow and the last thing I wanted to do on my last day of break was run inside on a treadmill. My dad and I drove down to the trail to get the run done anyway. He biked alongside me in case I had any trouble with the snow (he really is the best long run buddy. And dad). The trail was not only snowy but also slippery. I was running significantly slower than planned but felt like I was working a lot harder. By the end of the run I felt like I had run 10-12 miles not 7.5. On my way home I realized that had I planned on doing 8.5 miles I would have suffered out on that trail for another 10 minutes taking more out of me than necessary.

Sometimes things go wrong. Every day is different and should be treated as such. Some days I feel tired and sluggish while other days I feel like I could run forever. By focusing on how long I'm running rather than how far I'm running I can adapt my runs each week to how I'm feeling to avoid burnout and recover properly from each run.

The only thing that has been a bit challenging has been the mental part. For such a long time I ran about 10 minute miles so a 40 minute run would equal 4 miles. Since starting training I have gotten a bit faster and now a 40 minute run means about 4.4 miles. This shouldn't sound like a big deal but it really makes a difference with long runs, which I already struggle with mentally. I am trying to make some changes to help get my head in a better place this training cycle but that is for another post.

Moral of the post: running for time instead of miles is the way to go. At least try it before you bash it. Then report back with how much better you like it. And for any of you that worry about following a training plan that is based off time and thinking that faster or slower runners are doing more/less and therefore this only works for other runners, let me just stop you there. I am not following a generic training plan. I am being coached and so my runs are catered towards my needs. Even if you don't have a coach though you should still try running for time. If you write your own plan just figure out how long it takes you to do a run, say 6 miles, and instead write in that time.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Choosing the Rest Day

This week has been hectic to say the least. I started both my spring semester and my internship at Corrigan Sports (they are in charge of the Oakland Running Festival and the Baltimore Running Festival). While I didn't have that much actually going on I also have been working on moving back in to my apartment. With each new semester brings a new schedule to figure out and adjust to, which has proven to be the most stressful. The weather this week didn't make things any easier. Monday was icy, Tuesday a heat wave and sunny, Wednesday stormy, Thursday windy, and Friday windy and snowy. Tuesday was the only day this week that was ideal, or even normal, for training. The only downside was that the combo of ice/rain on Monday and warm temps on Tuesday made the trails a complete mud pit.

Due to the weather I ended up switching around some of my workouts, which only proved to add more stress to my week. I know this may not sound like an incredibly stressful week to many but I don't do well with change and like to stick to my routines. Despite not having much actual work this week I've been busy cleaning, unpacking, and getting organized for the semester. I normally plan for the first week of the semester to be a rest week so I don't have to worry about a heavy load of workouts on top of everything else. I spent a good deal of time (way too much time) this week trying to figure out when to fit in workouts in my schedule that worked with the weather.

Lucky for me I have off on Friday's. I slept in yesterday and woke up to a light dusting of snow. I wasn't sure whether I wanted to do my long run on Friday or Saturday but decided on Friday since I was meeting my mom for some stuff I left at home and we were meeting right near one of my favorite places to run. I ended up leaving my Garmin at my apartment on accident so I had to use the mile markers on the trail and my basic sports watch. I figured I went about 8.55 miles in 75 minutes. This run was not easy but it was a really great run. I pushed myself the whole time and was spent by the end.

Compression sleeves, legs up, sweet rest day

I had every intention of doing my scheduled run today but after almost two weeks with no rest day and 5 straight days of new semester stress I opted for the rest day. Mentally and physically I am exhausted. I had some heel pain and shin pain throughout the week that both only lasted one day and don't seem to be a problem. Still, I don't want to push it. Even on the days when I don't want to run I can normally find a way to motivate myself to get out there. Today though I truly don't want to. It is important to me to like training for events and not dread my runs. If taking an unplanned rest day is necessary to keep me motivated and enjoying training then it is not a lost day.