Week Three: 2017 Cherry Blossom 10-Miler Training

Fundraising Update: As part of my Cherry Blossom (CUCB) 10-Miler training and participation on the 2017 CUCB social media ambassador team, I am raising money for the Children’s Miracle Network. My goal is $500. Please consider making a donation to help make miracles happen for kids! Thank you for your support of the CMN.

Last week, I didn’t post an update. Well, I did– if you subscribe (thanks!!) you probably got it– but due to some formatting errors on Word Press, I couldn’t publish anything, at least without re-writing the whole thing. Like, physically transcribing it, not copy-paste. I’m a little OCD about how my posts look, so having one appear in a different format bothers me a lot. Luckily, this week is back to normal and the mystery of the blog post that never was will hopefully be a fluke.

The biggest takeaways:

  • I rocked my first speed work session, completing 6x 400-meter sprints on a treadmill between 8:27 and 7:53 paces.
  • I had an incredibly busy week at work, so I had some problems with planning easy runs early in the morning ahead of days when I could not get it in otherwise.
  • I got my new Lumo Run tech device, which gave me real-time, mid-run analytics on my cadence during my 7-mile Sunday long run. I made that my focus for (some) of my runs in the following days.

Week Three Training

Every once in awhile, it’s a good idea to just take a step back from rushing pell-mell into training without a plan to just remember exactly why you started, who you are trying to be, what you are trying to accomplish. My goals for 2017 are to beat my half-marathon and hopefully my marathon PR’s, but to also stay out of physical therapy by incorporating strength and core work that I have admittedly glossed over in the past. I also want to vary up my training with activities that build my overall cardiovascular fitness because I’m afraid sometimes that I am becoming one of those unhealthy fit people who run a ton of miles but still has a rubber tire around their waist. I don’t like the idea that I may be living a lie, I don’t enjoy the concept of “running to eat” anymore, so I want to step up my own challenge and focus on becoming my healthiest, fittest self with the hopes that my running goals will follow suit.

This week, I learned how easy it can be to have those things backfire on you.

On Monday, cross-training day, I popped in Amy Dixon’s Breathless Body workout DVD, which includes 8 drills of 8 different types of high-intensity, tabata-style workouts. You repeat each exercise 8 times for 20 seconds, with 10 seconds of rest in between each set. In between each new drill, you get 20 seconds of rest. It’s intense. But this is the challenge I felt like I need. I’ve really never been able to get all the way through it before. I am someone who runs marathons for fun, who can run 26.2 miles without stopping. And yet, a 60-minute workout DVD kicks my butt? I cannot allow this to happen.

When varying up your exercise routines, it’s important— yes, even for us super-veteran marathoners— to begin at the level you are at instead of working out where you want to be. I personally think that is why people get burned out on running or losing weight too fast, why the New Year’s crew at the gym leaves by mid-February: because they don’t allow themselves to gradually work up to where they want to be. It gets really exhausting really quickly to do a boatload of exercise that you’re not used to doing! As a marathoner, I have trained my body to expel energy over a long period of time, so doing short bursts of cardio will require extra work from my body that it is not used to doing. I am a novice at tabata drills, so that’s where I have to start. Instead of doing the full 60-minute DVD and all 8 drills, I only did 4 drills and I started out at level one. Eventually, for this very challenging DVD, I will work up to all 8 drills at Level Three. But I was famished when I got to the end of the 4th drill. That was enough: I did not want to get immovably sore.

On Tuesday, we had seriously the most amazing weather here in DC. It was somewhere in the 60’s, and I had full plans to take advantage of the day with a run. While I gave myself kudos for planning ahead and bringing my running clothing with me, I (sadly) got roped into a conference call at work that ran almost up until the MedStar sports medicine running injury clinic. Having missed the January workshop due to work (heads-up, y’all: the next one talking about Nutrition and Hydration for Runners is on February 28 at 6:30PM), I really wanted to attend this one and thought perhaps I could run at home afterwards. I didn’t actually end up running, and here’s why: looking ahead to the week, I had plenty of time and a freer schedule to get in the running I wanted to do. So, I took the rest day from running but instead, went upstairs to the gym and did a lot of core and strength work. The running workshop definitely inspired to keep from just kicking back on the couch and calling it a day. And 30 minutes of something is better than 30 minutes of nothing.

Wednesday evening, another splendid day of weather in DC, I again brought my running clothes with me to work and decided to get out of the office for a planned 6 mile run before it got dark outside. I had woken up that morning feeling incredibly sore from the tabata drills on Monday and probably also from doing strength work on top of already sore muscles. Maybe I should have gone for my run yesterday instead of Wednesday, but I didn’t want to miss yet another day of running. My logic was that I was training my body to respond to the stresses I was forcing on it, and that was the only way I could achieve what I wanted. So, I planned to “just” run at an easy, casual pace.

Not too much longer before this whole place is pink and fluffy and full of cherry blossom tourists!
Not too much longer before this whole place is pink and fluffy and full of cherry blossom tourists!

Man, even an easy casual pace couldn’t have saved me from this one. My legs felt stiff and lifeless, every muscle below the waist hurt like hell, and I was just exhausted. On top of that, I was wearing the same shorts and tank I had worn in the NYC Marathon in November, and somehow my clothes were uncomfortably tight on me, probably because a little too much healthy eating backfired on me. It killed my morale.  I almost quit at mile 2, telling myself a run back to my office would give me 3 for the day, but I pushed on and ran 5 miles total. I had barely anything left to give in that last mile. I should not have gotten out there: I should have taken a rest day.

Okay, so maybe next week, I will focus on adding balance to my training schedule.

Thursday evening, while I was feeling fine and much less sore than Wednesday thanks to a monster protein shake, some ibuprofen, 9 hours of sleep, and some foam-rolling, I decided to take a full and complete day of rest. I’m not totally sure I understand what is causing my legs to feel so heavy and tired all the time, but I needed to just chill out and let the dust settle. It was supposed to be my speed work day with the Potomac River Running group, but I had to listen to my body. At least for one day. Rest is a very important part of training, too.

After spending some time on the foam roller and the couch on Thursday, I was feeling a bit apprehensive about Friday’s planned speed work. It’s incredible to me: I have run 4 miles more times than I can remember, and yet, I still have to sometimes conquer doubt that I can do it one more time. For those of you new to training, that really never goes away. That’s my theory as to why Nike made so much money off its three-word slogan Just Do It.

Friday night lights.
Friday night lights.

Almost right away as I started out, I felt like there was life in my legs again. I was a little surprised that my first mile split–8:56– was so fast. I didn’t quite mean to start out at that pace, and I was nervous for the rest of the run. I absolutely hate starting out too fast and burning out. But my next split was a surprising 8:51. I didn’t really decide that I was going to do a tempo run until I finished mile two, but with two fast miles behind me, there was no way I could let myself slow down. I had to just go for it. Mile three was tough but I somehow managed to hold steady and drop 5 seconds per mile off my previous split. Mile four, I was somehow still very much in the game but it was an absolute struggle to eek past an 8:46. Somehow, I got it done and ended the run with an 8:32 split, three seconds under what I need to hit race pace. 8:46 average pace over 4 miles. Awesome. What a difference a day of rest and rolling can make!

On Saturday, having just gone for a hard workout the day before, I knew better than to try for a race pace run again, so I did 5 easy-pace miles at a 9:47 average. I kept working on cadence, but I admit the frustration of my Lumo Run telling me I wasn’t near my goal steps per minute count got to me a bit. I felt like I was running on ice and not zoning out and running, which is about 90% the reason I run at all. I’m not used to thinking about my feet when I run, and I have a natural tendency to loathe being told what to do. Especially when I have done it for years. But I tried to focus on my goal of being injury- and PT-free in 2017 and reminded myself that old habits, while hard to break, are breakable with time, effort, and patience. Hopefully I will get to the recommended 171-180 steps per minute. It was nice to hear the doctors at Tuesday’s MedStar clinic affirm that cadence is a critical part of running injury-free as a low cadence sometimes indicates an overstriding problem.

Sunday morning, thanks to an egregious night of sleep, I overslept my alarm clock for the Potomac River Running long run training group. I was annoyed with myself for that, but I had been working out hard this week, so perhaps the late morning rest was a good investment for the day’s planned mileage. I left for my run around 1PM, planning to take the same route as this morning’s running group took, mostly because I find the miles around Hains Point (part of the CUCB course!) to be bleak and mentally challenging and I wanted that kind of focus (it will hopefully be all fluffy and pink when we run CUCB, but Hains Point is also miles 12-15 in the Marine Corps Marathon and it’s usually always where I hit the wall). It’s surprising to me how many miles you can get out of this peninsula, but it’s definitely not a quick loop, with at least 3 miles from the entrance near the George Mason Memorial and up to the National Mall headquarters office. Perhaps that’s why I always bonk at Hains Point: because it doesn’t look like a 3-mile loop on the map and it just seems to go on and on and on.

Along Hains Point. It's beautiful in cherry blossom season, but otherwise a mental challenge to run around.
Along Hains Point. It’s beautiful in cherry blossom season, but otherwise a mental challenge to run around.

The weather this week in DC has been literally all over the place. It makes it really hard to dress appropriately for a run, but I always err on the side of being too warm when I run in the winter because nothing to me is worse than running cold. On Friday night’s tempo run, I was wearing three top layers in feels-like mid-20’s weather and I froze. Saturday was in the mid-50’s and I felt a little too warm in a tank and long-sleeve. So, I decided to just wear a long sleeve and capri tights on Sunday’s run and bring accessories to block out the cold wind if needed. I decided against gloves, but wore a shirt with thumb holes, wore a headband over my ears (which are sensitive to cold temps), and had on a gaiter that I could easily remove and wrap it around an arm or ankle and use to mop sweat.

In the first mile and a half, I knew I had seriously overdressed. That was surprising to me– I usually always get this one right, and here I was seriously miserable and very soon, too. I was also focusing on my cadence, which had me feeling like I was running through puddles. I’m not used to striding this way and, as a result, I tripped over my feet and went flying. Thank God there was railing– I caught myself against it to keep from literally falling into a flooded ditch, which would have actually been a very serious fall. That was scary, so I stopped and regrouped for about 2 minutes. I could feel myself mentally checking out between being too hot so soon and having to focus on cadence when I really just wanted to run and zone out.

Honestly, it wasn’t so much that I was having to stride differently than I was used to. I’m always willing to work on mechanics. But I also run for the psychological benefit, too, and I felt like I needed that more. There are some things in life that just cannot be “made better” with a long run. Like many, I’ve suffered a few significant losses that, to say they were important to me would be an understatement. What I lost was part of who I am, who I wanted to be, what I wanted out of life. Running has helped me, at least by giving me something to help me cope while I go through whatever process I need to go through, but it’s not the solution. And sometimes it’s just impossible to leave it all off the trail, even to just do what you have to do for the day. So, I ran a little bit. Then stopped to cry. Then I ran some more. And stopped to cry some more. For 5 miles, all I did was run then stop. Then run, then stop. There was an honesty about those miles that I wish I could put words to, but I’ll keep the figuring that out to myself.

At mile 6, however, the sun was out and the weather still in the mid-50’s and I was absolutely 100% about to burn up. My sleeves were rolled up to my elbows, the gaiter was long gone, the headband was over my ears and almost about to join the gaiter and never be seen again. But I had been a mess since mile 4 and there was just no way to cool off. I didn’t bring water with me, having believed I had hydrated enough before leaving home for a cool run in the mid-50’s, and I realized the reason it felt so hot despite the temps was because there was no wind. I would like to note that, for the NYC Marathon, the high of the day was around 52 and I was a little more on the cold side that day in a tank and arm warmers, so a long-sleeve shirt should have been on point. At one point, I lifted my shirt to let in a breeze and, when I covered it again, I realized my torso was like an incinerator. There was just no way I could run with it covered anymore and make it all 9 miles.

Here’s my opinion on running without a shirt: it has been probably the most empowering thing I have done while out running. It kind of feels like I’m breaking some rules, which is a thrill, so I feel totally badass. But I have only tried it one other time, and I thought once was enough. Not because I think people stared at my flab (actually few to no people even glanced) or that creepy men leered or women judged. I just don’t like to feel like I am making  some sort of statement when very literally, my only reason for ever going shirtless is simply because I am very very very very hot and have somehow misjudged the weather and wore too much. And I personally enjoy just being out there feeling like I am in my own world and not feeling so, well, obvious. Luckily, my shirt was long enough that I was able to loop it around my shoulders with my head still in the hole and I just let it fall behind my back so at least my torso could get some air. But the overall experience really was surreal, given that Friday’s temps were cold enough for triple layers.

Once I got to mile 9, I was still about a mile away from home. So, I decided to just make it a 10-miler. I’d have to walk anyways, so either way I would get the distance. Why not just run it? It was slower than my previous mile splits, but an extra mile was something I could be proud of, consider that this run was one hell of an emotional roller coaster.

In the end, this week, I am proud that I kept pushing my limits when I could. I planned ahead as best as I was able, which is what I wanted to work on, and I kept my head in the game despite the roller coasters from the weather, my life outside of running, and taking the good runs with the bad ones. I wrote in my training journal, “Don’t be afraid to kick your own ass!” and I definitely think I did that this week.

Next week, week 4, is a slight relaxation in miles and intensity. I’m looking forward to another speed work session, hopefully keeping the focus on building strength and using my Lumo Run exercises to improve my mechanics, and maintain my eye on the prize of staying injury-free.

3 thoughts on “Week Three: 2017 Cherry Blossom 10-Miler Training

  1. I love hearing your thoughts on your training. You are so sensible! I totally agree that you need to train at the level you are at- not where you want to be. Let the fitness come to you and don’t chase it. In terms of cadence, running a lot of really short intervals (like 30 seconds) really helped me instead of consciously training to change my gait. And this: “nothing to me is worse than running cold.” I would rather underdress than over dress. Nothing to me is worse than running warm! 🙂

    1. Thanks Elizabeth! That’s an excellent idea, to run cadence intervals. It’s been hard to work on increasing it. Frustrating at times because I am changing the way I’ve been running for years. Just hoping the work I’ve been doing doesn’t mean I’m heading toward injury. I just want to increase a little at a time.

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