Fort Hill Brewery Half… or Not

Way back in November, I had a goal. I heard about an April half marathon in western Mass, a place Drew and I had been talking about going for ages. April seemed like a decent time for a half – not too hot yet, but (hopefully) not too cold. And a half seemed doable, especially that far out with lots of time to train. And having this goal race would give me motivation to get out there and train… right?


Oh, reader. Alas. For the millionth time: if you’ve been reading this blog for any amount of time, you’d know that reacting to any kind of motivation is not my strong suit. Especially in these post-Bairn days when all roads to anywhere are paved with the best intentions, and yet….

So. What happened this time? I believe I last left you with the vague “my half marathon training is all over the place,” which it was with illnesses, ghost injuries, and suboptimal weather and running conditions. All in all, I only ever got up to 5 miles at any one time during said training. 

If I had an ironclad will I probably could have done it. I have runner friends who run while sick, while injured, and during blizzards. When the sidewalks aren’t clear they run in the road, or chug out the miles on a treadmill. And that’s great! But I think I’ve learned that that’s not me, especially lately. I love coziness, and safety, and lack of injury. 

Running these days is what keeps me sane as the Bairn embraces the madness of toddlerhood, and my sanity can’t afford injury! So when the top of my foot started giving me grief, and when my right hip started protesting, I reeled it in. I iced, I rested. I avoided slippery slush as well as the treadmill that makes my knees unhappy. 

Through it all there was a little voice in the back of my head that said “you ran the Worcester Half, with its hills and heat, while pregnant, having only ran 5ish miles in training. You can do this!” But there was also a louder voice that said “Sure, but had you injured yourself then you would have had months to recover anyway. You need running now. Plus… do you really want to slog through a half if you’re not feeling it?”

I listened to the louder voice. I emailed the race director and asked if I could drop down to the 5k distance. I figured we could still have our Western Mass vacation, and I could still run, but the shorter distance would make for a happier time for all involved… especially when I saw the forecast of upper-20s and freezing rain for race day!


It ended up being the right decision. I ran a faster 5k than I expected, I felt strong, I didn’t get injured, and Drew and the Bairn didn’t need to kill time for 2.5+ hours in gross weather. And we still had a fun weekend!

Race recap and weekend fun post coming soon…

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Post-Bairn Half Training – Week 2

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Alternate title for this post: “Well, that deescalated quickly.”

Sigh no more, readers, sigh no more
My training plan hopes were deceivers ever…

Okay, enough melodrama. TL;dr my plan got derailed pretty severely after my glorious first week. Is anyone surprised? Training plans and I are star-crossed, it seems. Let’s recap:

Monday
Rest | Rest

Like I said last week, I’m awesome at rest days. This one was perfectly timed too, since the Bairn woke up with a fever and we both stayed home and laid low.

Tuesday
3m run | 3m run

The Bairn was still home on Tuesday, and after being in the house with him for two days I was a little stir crazy. (We usually run errands or get out of the house somehow, but I didn’t want to drag a feverish wee one with a snot-fountain for a nose out where he could infect others.) Drew was working from home, and during a break in his meetings I booked it to the gym for a welcome break and a treadmill run.

Good things about this run:

  1. I remembered my ipod and had a bumpin’ soundtrack to get me going.
  2. The gym was practically empty. It was glorious.

Not so good things about this run:

  1. My right knee.

Oh boy. This knee has been the bane of my existence more than once on this blog, and I was not happy to feel familiar twinges. I should have stopped my run once I felt it, or walked the remaining distance to 3 miles, but I was stupidly stubborn (I completed Week 1, and I will complete Week 2, knees be damned!!). I finished the run, stretched, and headed home to rejoin my ailing Bairn, with my knee mostly feeling better. Ish.

Wednesday
2m run or CT | rest and ice

Wednesday the Bairn was feeling better and back at school, so I was back at work. A day of constantly moving from sitting to standing, going up and down stairs every few minutes, and lifting boxes and pushing carts didn’t help my knee any. I had originally planned to do some of my PT/gait retraining exercises to help bolster my knee but decided putting them up and popping some ice on them would probably be the best bet.

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Thursday
30 mins CT | rest

After the previous night’s icing, I thought my CT would either be a gentle bike ride at the gym or the PT exercises I had planned to do the night before. Then I woke up having inherited the Bairn’s snot-fountain of a nose. I didn’t feel right dropping the still-not-100% Bairn at the gym daycare, nor did I want to drip snot all over the gym equipment (nor did I really want to use the gym equipment with the way I was feeling) so the bike was right out.

As the day wore on, I felt worse and worse and really didn’t want to do any kind of physical activity beyond chasing the Bairn around the house. I decided to swap Friday’s rest day for Thursday’s CT and called it a night.

Friday
Rest | Rest

Then Friday happened. I well and truly had caught whatever the Bairn had at the beginning of the week, and Friday was my day to have a fever. My mom, bless her most wonderful soul, braved the germs and came over to help wrangle the Bairn while I sat on the couch, shivering under a blanket.

There’s really no point in finishing the week in this posting fashion, because as you’ve probably already guessed, I didn’t run at all at the weekend. Between dealing with the fever’s alternating chills and overheating sessions Friday night, and taking a mega-Sudafed as a last resort on Saturday night and being kept awake all night as a result, not to mention the Bairn’s coughing and night wakings, I didn’t get much sleep all weekend. Even if I had been feeling up to running, the lack of sleep probably would have kept me from getting the miles in.

So, sad trombone noises for Week 2.

—–

Now the question is, how do I handle this training plan going forward?

In all honesty, I was setting myself up for badness from the start. I really should have been running/training more before diving right into a plan that asked for 3 miles right off the bat. I knew this deep down. I had intentions of doing just that. As is wont to happen in my distracted #mombrain these days, I lost track of time and all of a sudden had just enough time to squeeze in a 12-week plan, with no room beforehand to build up properly. Knowing my body, that’s just asking for an injury.

Before whatever plague this was hit me, I figured I’d sacrifice one run per week to focus on PT exercises for my knees, and to make sure I do the cross-training that’s called for, rather than just 5 minutes here, 10 minutes there. I wanted to do it right… or as “right” as I could at this point.

And then the plague. If this tale of woe sounds vaguely familiar, an eerily similar situation happened a few years back – almost to the day! – when I was taking a Couch to 5-Miler class at work and was making strides (ha!) and feeling great about myself. In fact, looking back on that post, the intro I wrote rings quite a few bells:

“My first week of training was going so well, readers. So well. As I ran my prescribed miles on the treadmill, I was eagerly looking forward to writing a wrap-up post on this blog that showed just how well I had stuck to my training plan (lame, I know), and I couldn’t wait to show up at my second running class with my head held high, having actually completed the “homework” of sticking to the plan. … And then I got the flu.”

More sad trombones.

So what’s the best course of action now? Do I…

  1. Start the training plan over/repeat Week 2 when I’m feeling better?
  2. Jump back in at Week 3, but with some tweaks?
  3. Scrap the training plan and start a 5K training plan, then start this one once that’s done, and then just run the half as best I can? (Having run a half with minimal training I know it’s possible, it’s just not ideal)
  4. Scrap everything, give my race registration to a friend who’s on the wait-list, and just enjoy a weekend in Western Mass without running?
  5. Your suggestion here?

Post-Bairn Half Training – Week 1

Hi! I’d like to introduce you to someone who’s very excited to be here: a version of me who actually completed a full week of a training plan! Was that your jaw I just heard hitting the floor? It’s okay, mine’s down there too.

I mentioned several posts ago that I had signed up for a spring half marathon so that I could have a goal to work toward. I knew I’d need to finagle some kind of legitimate training in beforehand, otherwise I knew I’d be a hot mess. Plus, the training – and thus getting back into some kind of shape – was really the motivation behind signing up.


…well, that and the chance to check another town off my Massachusetts running map… and the to have an excuse to travel somewhere new with the Bairn.

Anyway, I’m starting to ramble. All that to say – I dug out the ol’ Hal Higdon Novice half marathon training plan (which I attempted for my first half… you can read how swell that experiment went in this post), counted the weeks backward from race day, and set my jaw in a determined manner.

Last week was Week 1 of 12. And, reader, I nailed it. More or less. Here’s how the week looked:

Sunday (last day of Week 0)

1 mile run | 1 mile run

The first run in the plan was 3 miles. I hadn’t run much more than 1 mile post-Bairn, and that was in early December. I figured hoped a nice gentle mile would be a good way to ease me in to the plan.

When Sunday turned out to be in the upper 40s, I giddily set out for that gentle mile despite head congestion and a plugged duct (that made squeezing into my sports bra fun…). It wasn’t my best run by a long shot, and I didn’t feel great during or after, but I did feel accomplished at getting it done.

Monday

Rest | Rest

I’m very good at rest days 🙂 If Mondays hadn’t been rest days in the plan, I would have tweaked it a bit to make it so. Mondays are my late days at work, and are usually a bit hellish as it’s the Bairn’s first day back at daycare and his bedtime gets pushed late because I get home late and… just ugh. A good day for a rest day indeed.

Tuesday

3 mile run | 2 mile run

This is why I wrote “more or less” up there in the intro. While I completed the week of training, I did make a few small tweaks to take into account my general lack of fitness (see this post). Even after my gentle mile on Sunday, I mentally didn’t feel ready for 3, so I hit the gym for 2 miles of walk/running on the treadmill.

Wednesday

2 mile run or cross train | resistance band work

I figured I could use either some yoga/stretching or strength training during this half training, since my body is destroyed from hefting my growing bairn around all the time. Drew set me up with some resistance bands in our living room and showed me a few routines that would work my arms, chest, and back, and I went to it… in my most stylish cross training outfit ever:

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If you look closely, you’ll see some glow-in-the-dark space otter socks and slippers, plus the sweet goggles that came with the resistance bands.

Anyway, it was a gentle intro workout, as my body was already feeling it after minimal reps and I didn’t want to wreck myself. I’ll work at building it up as the weeks go on.

Thursday

30 mins cross training | Expresso Bike

Remember my good friend the Expresso Bike? I was so excited to hop back in the saddle. I brought the Bairn to the gym, got him registered for on-site childcare, and grabbed a bike. I probably should have started off with an easy lap around the virtual track, but I picked a 1-mile slightly hilly course to make it more interesting.

Yeah… after a half-mile my legs were dead. I hadn’t been on a bike since March 2016, before I got pregnant. And my mostly sedentary lifestyle post-Bairn meant my body was already reeling from 2 runs in a week and some cross training. Plus I was worried about how the Bairn, who is in the throes of some nice separation anxiety, was faring having been deposited in a strange new place. So I finished the course, hopped off the bike, and went down to childcare to pick up the Bairn (who was cheerfully bouncing away in an exersaucer). So it was only 5 mins of CT instead of 30, but it was something, right?

Friday

Rest | Rest

Neither the Bairn nor I felt 100% on Friday, so it was another well-timed rest day.

Saturday

3 mile run | 3 mile run

When Drew and the Bairn settled in to watch the Spurs match, I set off on a 3-miler around the neighborhood, route courtesy of MapMyRun’s Route Genius. It took me down some streets I’d never been down, which is always fun. My first mile was strong, and is now my current post-Bairn best mile time, but the next 2 got slower and slower. Still a decent run, but I need to work on not going out so fast. I think I’m just so pumped to be running again, it’s hard to hold back!

Sunday

4 mile run | 4 mile run

I was curious to see how I’d do with 2 runs in 2 days, and surprised myself by feeling pretty strong. I set off down to the pond, which was iced over and a bit grim-looking despite temps in the upper 40s:

Once again, I set out too fast for my first mile and then got slower as the run went on, but each mile managed to come in under 13:00 per mile, even with multiple walk breaks. I’ll take that!

——

So, Week 1 is complete! Huzzah! Here are some reflections from my first week of training:

Favorite sight while running: a preschool-aged kid dressed as Batman running around his driveway, [I imagine] fighting invisible baddies

Milestone of note: I already have a bruised toenail 😦 I suppose that’s what happens when I dive headlong into a training plan without even a small base settled. Ah well.

Lesson learned: Always have electronics charged and ready to go! Both my Garmin and my iPod were dead when I went to use them this week. The Garmin, meh… at least I have MapMyRun to play GPS for me, but man, treadmill miles are looooong without music.

How was your week?

Any awesome sightings, milestones, or lessons to share?

 

No Marathon For Me

… at least not this year!

My running club held its annual Boston Marathon number lottery last night at our fall cookout. For the first time since I’ve been a member, my name was in the hat. As I wrote a few weeks ago, I was feeling a little Prim Everdeen about it all, but excited that I’d have the ultimate motivation to get back on a training plan. 

Anyone want to guess how well my pre-potential-marathon training plan execution went?

Yep. All I wanted was to build up a small base again, with 5k being my goal. Did I go running at all since coming up with that plan?


Finding motivation is hard right now, guys. On the days I work, by the time I get home I just want to cuddle the Bairn and then sit on the couch and do nothing once he’s in bed. It’s so dark now in the evenings already… I’m not mentally prepared for it to be fall. On the days I’m home, I’m a special kind of exhausted once Drew gets home and frees me from Bairn-wrangling, and the Bairn isn’t quite old enough to be pushed on runs in the jogger yet. And mornings? Ugh. The Bairn is my early morning alarm clock, and there’s no way right now I could get up even earlier. 

I have to admit I’m a little relieved that I didn’t get a number. Disappointed? Yes. But also very relieved. Now I can get back to building a base without the pressure of a marathon looming over me. Plus, all the people who got numbers have been running and training a lot, and deserve Boston way more than I do right now!

So, there’s always next year. But now the question is: what the heck do I use for motivation??

Gotta Have Heart

Hello there and happy Tuesday!

If you follow me on Instagram, you may have noticed recent posts that look like this:

heartzone

Why have I randomly jumped on the heart rate training bandwagon? Well, I’m excited to share that I’ve recently become a Heart Zones ambassador!

Heart Zones Ambassador Badge 2017Heart Zones was founded in 1993 by Hall of Fame triathlete/ultra-marathoner/founder of Fleet Feet Sports Sally Edwards to motivate and empower people to improve their fitness through education, technology, and training. Their goal is to “Get America Fit through data driven fitness that utilizes wearable technology and sound methodology.” You can learn more about their mission here.

I’ve been curious about heart rate training since my first 5k for Beginners class way back when, when one of our classes was devoted to figuring out our base heart rates and how to train with heart rate monitors. It was fascinating to me, but I felt like I wasn’t *quite* serious enough with my running to invest in a monitor.

When Heart Zones reached out to me, it re-piqued my interest in heart rate training, especially these days when I’m trying to get back to fitness smartly. I’m looking forward to using my Blink 3.0 sensor more, and having new running data I can play with and learn from!

heartzones

Have you run/trained with a heart rate monitor? What did you think of it?

Analyzing My Run: The Rainy 5-Miler

Hello again! I thought if I could get my thoughts on my run down faster than I did last week, maybe I’d have something of substance to say. Knowing my brain though, it’ll probably just be more rambling. Let’s see how it turns out, shall we?

(TL;dr – I ran 5 miles in the rain. It was hard. It was slow. Then I ate a doughnut.)

I knew even last night that today’s long run probably wouldn’t be a very good one. I spent yesterday hanging out with B, my best friend from college, and the day involved North End pizza, JP Licks ice cream, some cheeky Union Square donuts, lots of walking in the sun (leading to a very red face/head), good talks, and a Primark bender. I managed to fit the consumption of a bottle of water in there, but on the whole didn’t hydrate a lot or eat very well. So I had already stacked my own cards against me.

Carrying on regardless, I pulled myself out of bed at 7:30, donned my kit (including a hat which would serve the double purpose of a) protecting my fried scalp and forehead and b) keeping the rain out of my eyes), took a bite of the pieces of doughnut I had left over from yesterday, and headed out into the drizzle with the aim of doing 5 miles.

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Stopped for a breather in the drizzly lagoon

I had done a 3-minute : 1-minute run-walk interval for last week’s 4-miler, then rode the struggle bus pretty hard doing 2:1 at the track on Tuesday, so I opted for the middle ground – 2:30 : 1.

5milerThe first few were grand – I was running downhill, I  passed Shammie Steve and thus wanted to look good… and then I just kind of petered out. My mile times got progressively slower for the first 3 miles (though I did manage to negative split the last 2… I think I was excited knowing I’d be done soon!)

5miler2Foregoing the MapMyRun Route Genius, I took my run down to the pond and around the lagoon, and then sort of improvised as I went from there. Highlights include seeing a goose family with some awkward-stage adolescent goslings, playing inadvertent tag with a robin (he was sitting on the path and when I’d get close, he’d fly a few yards farther down the path, only to have to fly again as I approached. I finally scolded him gently with a “Mr. Robin! You should get how this works this by now!” and he at last fled to a nearby tree), and seeing a bunch of Shammies.

In fact, I decided to add some commentary to my Garmin stats:

5milercommentaryI especially enjoy what happened at the 3rd and 4th arrows… trying to squeeze some more distance into the final stretch home, I decided I’d run “down” a street I’d never been on before, only to turn the corner and see that “down” was so wrong. The street went straight up. Arrow 3 shows my gob-smacked walk break, i.e. stopping cold to stare at the hill in disbelief, and then pulling out my phone to take a picture:

Hills never look as bad in pictures, do they? But this one was a monster.

Hills never look as bad in pictures, do they? But this one was a monster.

The run down the other side was fantastic, though!

I did learn on this run that Simon is very hard to hear when running along busy roads that are wet – the passing cars drown out his beeps completely. If you look at the data in the last data-ful image, you can see my intervals are pretty regular. Then the fat 2nd arrow was when I turned onto a main road and lost the plot the ability to hear the beeps. It felt like that interval was particularly tough and seemingly endless, and then I realized I had run for 2 running chunks without a walk break. Oops!

The gleeful run down the Monster Hill brought me to another main street, so after one last quick pause while waiting to cross an intersection, I abandoned the intervals and just kept running. In a moment of desperation and weakness, I even tried to revert back to my old flingy-shins running style in the last half-mile, in hopes that it would make my life easier, but I think I was still mostly keeping proper(ish) form. I guess that’s a good thing!

I somehow dragged myself to the Mile 5 beep and shut Simon down immediately. I walked the rest of the way home, stretched, pounded a glass of Nuun, and then shoved the remaining Union Square donuts in my face. Follow that with a shower, a homemade iced latte, and a delicious (and much healthier than doughnuts) scramble, and I felt much better. But that run was hard, man. How the h-e-double-hockey-sticks am I going to be able to do a half marathon in two weeks??

[Cue quick panic]

Looking for the shiny, one thing I really enjoyed was (figuratively) running into friends during this run, and reflecting on how much better it made the run seem, even for just a few seconds. I used to have the luxury of having a faithful running buddy when Colin still lived down the street; running with someone, especially on long runs, really makes the run seem shorter and less terrible. Now that I’m mostly on my own, runs can feel endless. I bumped into three separate clusters of Shammies along the way, plus Shammie Steve at the start, and seeing them gave me a great boost.

(Related, so did stopping to pet a big, fluffy, friendly dog belonging to one of those Shammies!)

How was your weekend? Did you run long or race?

Doughnuts – good pre-run fuel and/or post-run recovery snack, or nah?

Am I going to survive a half in two weeks?? Or am I completely crazy?

Ever been to a Primark? If so, are you as obsessed as I am?

A Week of Little Victories

Sometimes when your running has been suboptimal – like when you’re trying really hard to run with proper form but are finding you can’t fun as far as you used to without taking lots of walk breaks – looking for the little victories makes it all feel a bit better. Like Fallon says, look for the shiny!

Well, I managed some shinies last week, which I’ve been trying to focus on instead of the things that make me feel frustrated (like the aforementioned lack of fitness):

1: Completed a set of GRG intervals!

The first time I tried Day 1 of these intervals (10x 1 minute running, 1 minute walking) I could only manage 5 of the 10 sets. On Tuesday, I churned out all 10 and felt pretty chuffed with myself!

I went down to the track to join the Shammies at their weekly speed workout, but knowing that I’d be doing my own thing in Lane 6 instead of going along with their intense, 5ish miles of speedy hell. I managed 5 sets before wanting to quit (including Set #4 which was ridiculously speedy and I’m not sure why), but I didn’t want to let myself quit. I wanted to finish all 10! So I took a water break and got back out there:

*The paces are nice, round numbers because they’re not based on exact-exact science. I basically hovered my cursor over the running bits and tried to figure out as close to an average pace as I could. I should have set Simon to record laps so I could have measured that way but, to be honest, I didn’t know how at the time. So this will have to do!

2: Attended my first run club track workout in what felt like forever AND beat my Blerch!

(See Shiny #1.) I really didn’t want to go out and run when I got home from work on Tuesday (cue the Blerch beckoning to me from the couch with a can of cider), but let Drew be the voice of reason; he kept saying “It’ll be good to see everyone, just go and you’ll feel so much better.” And he was right! I missed my peeps, and running alongside them is a great motivator. Take that, Blerch!

3: Ran 2 complete miles using proper form!

Remember the suboptimal thing I mentioned in the first paragraph? So, while my “proper form” running does make me go faster than my old, flingy-shins way of running, I don’t have the fitness level yet to keep that momentum going for long. Previous running style let me go 6+ miles without needing a walk break (if I went slow enough, that is), so the fact that I could just barely make a mile without needing a break was getting me down a bit.

On Thursday I set out for an easy 2-mile jaunt, without really any goals in mind – I just wanted to run. As usual, I started out a bit too quickly and was trying to slow myself down while holding the proper form. At maybe 4/10 of a mile in, I realized that I was running nicely, but holding an incredibly comfortable pace. I wondered if I could hold that pace for the full 2 miles and – not counting stopping at crosswalks and such – I could!

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Look at that (mostly) steady pace line! That run gave me such a mental boost… finally I found that I can run properly without having to speed away like a bat out of hell. That speediness would be nice to maintain to be sure, but it’s something that will come with time and training. AND, my slow-and-steady(ish) pace with the new form is more than a minute faster than my shin-flingy form, so that’s definitely a shiny!

(Not so shiny? My knees felt a bit dodgy after the run. I stretched when I got home, then popped some ice packs on just in case… while I chowed down on my PB + banana sandwich:)

(Shiny footnote: the knees seem to be behaving themselves now… fingers crossed it stays that way!)

4: Did a core/arms workout!

I’m terrible at cross-training consistently, so anytime I manage a non-running workout I’m pretty pleased. Drew and I were going to go to the gym on Friday after work, but forgot that they were closing early for the long weekend. Instead, I busted out some push-ups, planks, a quick bit of weight-lifting, and even some of the exercises GRG had given me re: my breathing and lazy glutes. (My glutes were a bit angry with me later in the day, but they got over it.)

5: Completed a long run!

I’ll do another silly “analyzing my run” post about this, but I banged out 4 miles on Sunday, bringing my weekly mileage up to a dizzying 8. After all my 10%-rule talk in my last post, apparently that is now out the window, as I jumped from 5 to 8 weekly miles in one go. C’est la vie d’une coureuse, oui?

What’s been shiny for you recently?