A Running Year in Review: 2013

be happyWhen I started this year off still bouncing back from 6 months off and physical therapy, there’s no way I could have imagined how it would go. The first half of the year took some time to gain steam and was my hardest struggle across 2013. Nothing seems more difficult than having to start from the beginning all over again.

Luckily I forced myself out of complacency by joining The Little Things for Cancer charity team to tackle the Marine Corps Marathon. Now there was a goal to work towards and no excuses.

That effort allowed me to stay strong as I worked back into shape and I celebrated it by taking part in I ❤ to Run‘s March challenge to run every day. That was definitely hard even if “easy” days were just one mile. March was topped off with my first 15K (race at least) ever in the Hot Chocolate San Diego 15K that went much better than I was expecting at the time. I got to set my first PR for it and did better than my training had predicted.

Coming off the positive vibes of the 15K saw me through the next few months as I worked to have a solid base in preparation for marathon training. Without a race near on the calender, hitting those 40 mile weeks consistently was difficult. Eventually I returned to Florida in June so that I could train with the group and coach who had been with me through the past 2 years.

The end of June saw the start of marathon training and the height of the Sunshine State’s summer. With a 3:40 time goal at MCM there could be no slacking just because of warm weather. Summer made me a bit wary of chasing a faster finish time since I trained through fall and winter for Miami, but being Type A and very competitive meant going for it anyways.

Proof that experience helps showed in the fact that handling the mileage load was easier this time around. It culminated with my highest week ever at 64 miles! That was kind of crazy for me as I always remember being the underachiever when I was younger. Marathon training went much better than the first time and I had a solid 18 weeks of running to prepare me for MCM.

I’m pleased (read: mad excited!) with all my running accomplishments this year, but nothing was more amazing than running the Marine Corps Marathon. From all the Marines on course to having a 26.2 mile sight seeing run, I was in awe of the entire experience. Only for it to get even better with a great race where I didn’t hit the wall. There was the thought that one day I would aim for a Boston qualifier, but I truthfully did not believe it would happen at this race.

What made it even sweeter was being able to share that accomplishment with running friends and my family. I’m not sure many other races will compare to having my mother travel up to D.C. just to see me run this race. Or to find out my father was constantly following the updates and posting to Facebook as I progressed through the race. The sheer amount of support from all of my family and friends leaves me without words to properly express my thanks.

Then I got to follow it up a month later with a PR and age group win at the Women’s Half Marathon running 3 minutes faster than my last PR. Huzzah! And of course, a week later letting the rest of my running friends race a half while I tackled the shorter 5K for another PR.

There may not have been a lot of races on my calender in 2013 but they were of such a high quality that I cannot complain. Without any doubt, I am happy with the path I’ve traveled this year.

happinessIf 2013 has taught me nothing else, it’s that there is always a little bit further you can go, a little more you can give, and what you are possible of may just surprise yourself. I wish you all great running and fun races in 2014. On to the new year!

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The Post-Training Guilt

guilt_got-guilt-buttonA bit like the post-race void of emptiness athletes get when training no longer commands their life, there’s also something of a post-training guilt.

It varies from person to person, but this guilt usually appears in one of two ways (or both in my case).

  1. Distance guilt.

During training, 10 miles a day was the norm. You took off days because you should (and were tired enough to need them). Yet even those felt weird because in our training conditioned minds, there were miles to be run. Once training ends and the race is over, we go back to whatever “regular” weekly miles are (usually 30-40 for me).

Then the guilt sets in. What was once 10-milers turns into the more normal 3- and 4-milers. But I feel guilty because 3 miles seems so short (it’s not, but we’re distance runners and we view things oddly). In my mind, I’m usually thinking something like “well obviously I can do 10-milers, so why am I just doing 3.” Herein lies the issues.

Athletes, of any kind, seem to have this built in guilt mechanism when it comes to our sports. We feel guilty having off days, even though we should. We feel guilty having easy days, even if there’s a reason for them (like an upcoming race). We even feel guilty when we compare our workout to our friend’s, like this past weekend I ran a measly 10-mile long run while several running buddies were tackling a 20-miler.

Our minds disregard logic. We need off days. They keep our bodies going optimally. We need easy days. They help our bodies rest and prepare for running awesome races. And we shouldn’t compare workouts, especially knowing that each runner has different goals and are at different places. Those friends? They were doing 10-milers when I was doing my 20s. Because I was in training and they weren’t. Now they’re in training for a marathon that’s 6 weeks away and I’m not. It’s as simple as that.

Talk to a runner about their workout. Notice we often add in words like “just” and “only” before giving our mileage for the day. I did “just 10” on Saturday.

(On a side note: while my distances have been significantly shorter than during training, I seem to have alleviated some internal guilt by going faster. Not intentionally mind you, but maybe in a subconscious attempt to “make up” for only going 5 miles instead of 8, I’ve been running minutes faster than what I did before training. Though this may just be that I’m conditioned too…)

2. Food guilt.

Maybe the worst of all guilts any athlete can have. The dreaded food guilt, which is pretty self-explanatory. We come off of training and racing where we can barely eat enough to cover the exercise we’re doing (or in my case, I can’t. Pattern seems to be that I lose 5-10 pounds during marathon training, no matter how much I attempt to eat).

Once you transition back into a regular running schedule, there’s still this massive craving (for me) to eat everything in sight. But I’m no longer running the ridiculous miles per week that I was, so the balance is thrown off. Admittedly, my food guilt is much less than my distance guilt no matter the situation. I love food too much to be guilty all the time about eating it.

But at some point post-training, you have to decide that eating everything in sight has to stop and you return back to your regular eating schedule too.

This may seem slightly random, but I’ve noticed my distance guilt rearing it’s head in the last couple of days. Even this morning when I went out for a 4-miler, in my mind I was going through my route options because I felt like I needed to run at least 6 or 7. Hopefully, hitting some solid mileage weeks that aren’t reverse taper will help me settle back into the non-training mentality.

Do either of these guilts hit you?

Tips: Rest & Recovery

I feel the need to reiterate the emphasis on rest days and recovery after workouts.

Played the part of the irresponsible athlete over the weekend. Sunday was a full day at Disney World in the hot Florida summer with not nearly enough water to drink. I guarantee I was more dehydrated than usual. Then of course we got back and I went for a short run without really making sure to re-hydrate myself before or after the run the way I should have.

Jump to Monday’s workout in 90+ degree weather with some high humidity percentages. Again, the workout itself didn’t take as much out of me, but I once again failed to hydrate during the day the way I should have. Not just to recover from Sunday, but to prepare for the hot workout Monday evening.

As such I was in a much worse condition than normal for the Tuesday and Wednesday runs. More tired and I didn’t feel like the rest I was getting was enough to keep me going, much less support marathon training activity. I’ve been good friends with my compression sleeves and socks, even though the workouts themselves haven’t been that difficult.

So two big points. Rest! Slept a little longer, didn’t push as hard on the two 5 milers I did, and chose to opt out of the cycling I had intended to do. While I may want better fitness, I know that I had already strained my body in a way I shouldn’t with this heat. So I skipped the bike workout and focused on keeping a water nearby.

Finally, recover! Because I figured the workout on Monday wasn’t “that bad” I made the decision not to have my usual recovery drink. By the way, that’s the Nuun Hydration (http://nuun.com/) tri-berry drink for post-workout. I should have. Likely if I had, my Tuesday and then Wednesday would not have been quite as bad.

It’s important to pay attention to not only hydrating yourself, but having the tools to recover properly after a workout. Things like electrolytes are important. My favored recovery drinks are chocolate milk and a 16 ounce bottle of water with a Nuun tablet thrown in.

I’m not saying you have to empty gallons of water post run, but you need to recognize that hotter months require different needs than cooler ones.

Here’s a nice guide from Runner’s World that talks a bit about hydration and recovery drinks. They explain some of the how and why, so you have the theory behind the practice. Here’s another article from RW that talks about what kinds of drinks you should aim for based on the activity you’re doing. While they may reference it to running, you can make times and effort comparisons to other sports.

So just to reinforce: be mindful of your body and the conditions. Rest as needed (extra if necessary! Modifying a plan for how your body feels is perfectly fine) and make sure you’re taking the proper steps to recover. Especially if you are in training and have continuous weeks of workouts planned.

I’ve had the rough reminder that I need to be more careful. Now back to training.

Not So Many Summer Races & Why Summer Training Works

If there’s one thing I know in relation to summer is that the race choices thin out. A lot. Not to say that there’s nothing to run, but there are usually more in specific areas of the state (at least in CA & FL) or the more northern states (for the country as a whole). Marathons are their own thing, but the pickings for 5Ks, 10Ks, and half marathons are much fewer and farther between.

Which makes sense. It is summer, meaning it’s hot and there are a lot of additional concerns (such as heat stroke) especially as you get into the southern states. In my search for either a southern California or central Florida race, the pickings are relatively slim. Of course, I’m also trying to pick ones that mix in well with my training schedule, so I may be asking too much.

Besides, while road races may dwindle down during the summer it is a much stronger time of year for triathlons. Admittedly, I haven’t committed to doing even my first tri (which will be a sprint). But still, lots of those races happening nearly every weekend. So if I do decide to try something different and take part in a multi-sport event, that would be a little diversion from marathon training.

While I’m a bit dismayed that I’ll be looking closer to marathon race day for some smaller races to test myself out, there are some positives.

Many do not like training through the summer. I completely understand this as it gets very hot and in some places, like Florida, very humid as well. This completely wreaks havoc on expectations and just general fitness. But at the same time, there are some distinct benefits from training through the summer season.

The most important is of course that you’re training! Getting out and doing something, even if it is at a slower pace or shorter distance to compensate for heat still means you’re doing work and helping out your body. I do want to emphasize that it is extremely important to be careful and aware of conditions when you train during the summer. Heat stroke and de-hydration are just two of many things you need to keep in mind and consider.

What I feel is a factor we don’t always look at is that summer training, even if it doesn’t match your level in the other three seasons, prepares you so much. Sure, I may be slower during the summer. But once those temps start to cool off and we roll into fall I’ll be awesomely conditioned to race.

So while I’m sure I’ll start cursing training through the summer soon, I’ll be happy for it come fall when I’m already in racing condition.