The Post-Race Void

It’s interesting that we spend all those months of training looking forward to THE Race (caps intended). Especially as the mileage ramps up and the event itself is so close, yet still not quite there, where we want it to happen only so we can spend less time training. Finally, the weekend arrives and all the excitement is focused on having a good time and a great race.

Then suddenly, it’s done. The training is over. No more rearranging our days to get all the miles in. No more planning weekends around long runs. No more intensive mental preparations to make this race the one we’ll always remember (though truthfully, we’ll remember every single one).

You take the few days after off. Instead of running, they’re spent recapping with friends, responding to posts of congratulations, putting up pictures of our triumph, and basking in the glow of achievement. Then it’s time to reverse taper back into a semi-regular schedule. Training no longer, simply running because it’s what we enjoy.

End_of_the_Road_Wallpaper_y3v85Yet even then, it feels like there’s a hole. A gap in our existence. Without another big race on the horizon, we lack the purpose of the past many months. An empty void in our lives. A beautiful void (we’ve been waiting for this moment, for the training and the race to be done), but a void nonetheless. And it feels weird. I think “shouldn’t I be training for something? and “shouldn’t my days be consumed with my workouts and the end goal of a race?” It’s hard to re-adjust to the mentality where my life isn’t all consumed by this event somewhere in the near future that’s steadily getting closer, while never being quite close enough.

It seems weird, but I especially feel bereft after completing the Marine Corps Marathon. I met my goal! Not only did I break the time I set for myself of 3:40 so long ago, I went a step further and ran a Boston Qualifier time. While I did not believe I would never run one, I also didn’t really expect it to happen so soon. I sort of expected more years building up my race experience and improving my training before it happened. Now, I simply have to wait until next fall when registration for 2015 opens.

Luckily, not all is an empty void in my future. I’ve plans for a half marathon just before Thanksgiving. There’s high hopes in my mind coming off this marathon that I can go on to PR my half marathon time as well. Plus, somewhere in the next 2 months I hope to run a 5K as well in the hopes of another PR. (All that success going to my head.)

While that void has been in my mind, it’s been good to get back out and just run. Plus having smaller events and goals to run towards is helping me keep from becoming completely distracted.

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MCM Training: Week 4/18

Huzzah! That’s 4/18 and I’m a month in.

Running Miles: 40

Cycling Miles: 17

Pretty good week. The weekend post long run was thrown off a bit as I did a self defense class at a boxing gym with a friend. While enjoyable, they really focused on fighting back and my body was so sore! Thus, the recovery on Sunday and since has been fun with sore muscles. But now onto last week’s workouts.

Hills: 6.26 miles

4 at pace miles – 8:02, 8:24, 8:10, 8:14

So totally not consistent at all. Yeahhhh, just could not settle myself into a pace and had to constantly keep checking my watch. Also had one of the super fast guys (1:12 half marathon kind of fast) who did his workout in the morning just getting a few extra miles with us afternoon people at a ‘slow’ pace. Way to make me feel like a turtle when my paced miles are like a recovery for him. But at least I wasn’t yelling at him as he ran past me (instead we were arguing the whole time). Silliness at its best.

Intervals: 6.09 miles

5x800m – 3:28, 3:28, 3:25, 3:29, 3:20

This time I was semi-consistent and semi-on pace for once. Sort of. No issues with the workout, though I threw my pace off on the 3rd one. It was fun running with one of the girls coming back from injury (again, fast person – her back from injury is my training pace). While I won’t say it was easy, I definitely felt solid on the workout. Though I’m sure I’ll be cursing myself once I get to more repeats.

Long Run: 12.01 @ 9:01 pace

Look at that, exactly on pace. I was almost worried it would end up being too fast. Sounds crazy but the 12 felt easy. I spent most of the run in a daze without really noticing the miles going by. It was practically a surprise to end up at the park (one of the route’s water stops) and be near 7 miles. I was so excited to sleep in until 5:30! Course, that won’t be happening again for a good few months. I didn’t really feel much strain in my muscles and made sure to have all my recovery stuff.

Still getting adjusted to the days I bike and/or run. While the cycling itself isn’t straining (unless it’s windy) it is a different type of exercise and I think tires me a little more than running. After that self defense class, I obviously need to work on more than just my cardio more often. Another good week of training! From here my mileage will just keep ramping up.

MCM Training: Week 3/18

Another one bites the dust! 3/18 complete means I’m 1/6 of the way through. That sounded so much closer in my head…

Running Miles: 44

Cycling miles: 19

Hill Workout: 5.23 miles

3 miles at pace – 8:05, 8:18, 7:57

I’ve noticed on anything that requires repeats (hills and intervals) that my first mile at pace is always too fast. As you can see from the mile splits above (I’m supposed to be at 8:20). It felt (and likely was) extremely hot and humid this past Monday. I really needed to be better hydrated for this run. Added to that I was at the bike shop longer than I had planned, so I didn’t get a pre-workout snack like I was planning. So while I was able to complete the workout, I came out feeling pretty wrecked from it. Outside of being better prepared for the heat, the only workout related struggle was maintaining the correct pace.

Intervals: 5 miles

4×800 – 3:24, 3:32, 3:29, 3:19

And starting the first repeat too fast strikes again. In this case it’s my Garmin that threw me off. It was showing a pace of like 7:05-7:10, but repeat time was faster. On the second repeat, pace was at like 6:50-6:56 and yet was slower. So confusing. While the splits weren’t as close as I would have preferred, my legs felt fine and I settled into an effort level that I felt I could have done several more repeats. Hopefully I’ll be able to channel that again later in training.

Long run: 16.08 miles @ 9:17 pace

Little bit slower this week, but that was by choice rather than feel. Did the early 3 with one of the newer girls training for her first marathon (and so at a slightly slower pace). We made it back to start with the main group at 6AM and I latched onto one of the guys who usually runs a bit faster than me, but was going for 12. Figured I could run with him and then throw an extra mile on at the end. Pretty nice morning out, though we did end up being a little slower on the miles by about 5-10 seconds. I wouldn’t say it was easy, but I could have picked the pace up a bit for closer to 9:00/mile no problem. We got back to the start with me needing another mile, which I did at a 8:30 pace.

I was a bit surprised as I expected the long run to be a little more difficult just because until training I haven’t really broken 12 miles. Again the week felt pretty solid. Had to make some adjustments for things like taking part in a Run for a Cause on Thursday, but I just did my speed work in the morning. Also got in a little bit of cycling. The one thing I’m noticing over and over is the hydrating. Going to start carrying around a gallon of water or something to be better about it. On a side note, tried the sports beans instead of a gel on the LR and that was way better for me. Not nearly as heavy and the lack of syrupy-ness was nice.

So that’s week 3, now onward!

Tips: Find a Supportive Community

Whether it’s a running group, your friends on Facebook, a program like the recent What’s Beautiful by Under Armour, or a tracking community like DailyMile, finding a community that supports you is a way to help keep your head in the game and eyes on future goals.

Regardless of your plans or level of activity; regardless if you’re a walker, runner, biker, triathlete, or any other type of active person; having a support network can be so effective. You don’t have to be training for a race or trying to reach a goal weight. Though of course, if you are, support totally helps.

It’s that sometimes, especially when you’re just getting started, it’s hard to not fall back into old habits. To say I’ll work out later, or tomorrow, or next week. Being involved with a community doesn’t just offer you supportive words and knowledgeable coaches (potentially); engaging yourself with a community helps keep you accountable.

Outside of being horribly sick, I won’t skip a workout (no matter how tired I am or how much I don’t want to) if I’ve already committed to meeting someone for it. It’s easier now because I’ve made my exercise a lifestyle. But in the beginning it was easy to slip back into old habits. Not running one day turned into a week and then two weeks. By not just joining a community, but making friends with the members of it, I’ve created a network of people who not only want me to succeed at whatever I choose, but who will nag when me I start falling off the  path without good reason.

And it’s nothing against family members and friends who aren’t involved in their own fitness journey. It’s just that sometimes, the mentality these members of your normal social circle have is not what you need. There exists a fine balance between not pushing someone past their limits (most important when they’re first starting out) and allowing them to take it easy while making excuses for a lack of progress.

I’m reminded of a blog (which of course I can’t find now) where a women looking to start her fitness journey and lose weight made the decision for the first 6 months to not inform her family and friends of this new goal. Not that they would not be supportive to some degree, but were more likely to (in that family poking sort of way) put her down and bring attention to the lack of progress. She understood that and didn’t fault them, but made significant progress on her mentality and confidence, more so than her weight, before informing her circle of family and friends. That she wanted to focus on how far she had come with each month of her journey while those around her were more likely to focus on how far she had to go.

When I first started running again, I had absolutely no plans or intentions to run a half-marathon, much less a marathon. But like I mentioned above, it was easy to push running and working out behind other activities. It was easy to make excuses not to. So I was horribly inconsistent. But that’s not what I wanted to achieve.

Thanks to a friend, I was aware of the tracking website DailyMile (linked to at the top of this post). I joined and friended him. And I started to track what I was doing. I posted my workouts and tried to mention my next workout plans. Even if no one commented, it was on the internet now. Someone could. And that, in my mind at least, made me more accountable.

Because I feel horribly guilty when I say I’ll do something—especially exercise related—and then don’t.

Then, well over a year later, someone mentioned I should look for a local running group. Then, I wouldn’t just have friends and support via my computer, but also in person. Plus, competition is always nice in a friendly sort of way. Hopefully having running partners could help push me farther. By this point, I had decided to run my first half marathon. Having not just the support, but also others with more experience and knowledge of my chosen sport made it easier to address problems or ask questions.

While I love the internet, you can’t believe everything you read on it.

I can say without a doubt that while I still use DailyMile regularly (and love my internet friends), having a support group in the form of the Brandon Running Association has been amazing. Not only has it provided me with running partners, people of like minds, and coaches willing to help a newbie out, it’s broadened my experiences. I spectated my first triathlon thanks to them. I started cross training with cycling and swimming (even if I am kind of inconsistent and reliant on good weather).

I not only improved myself (in the first year of running with the group, I managed to cut 27 minutes off my half marathon time), but I also challenged myself. It’s thanks to them that I finally committed to doing my first marathon. After the first half, in my mind at least, I knew I would one day run a marathon. But it likely would have taken me much longer to work up the courage and determination to that without a group.

Me with fellow runner and training partner Caribbean Steve (left) & 5K walker Marty (right) on a race morning.

Me with fellow runner and training partner Caribbean Steve (left) & 5K walker Marty (right) on a race morning.

And I know that I can always hit up the group and find someone willing to go run with me. Knowing that they are there makes all the difference. So do yourself a favor and look for communities to support you. Google groups if you want something local, make a Facebook group if you want to do a challenge with friends, or even join a site like DailyMile where you can not only track your workouts, but also connect with others. And who knows, maybe it will turn into more than just those people you exercise with.

Tips: Nutrition

Previously I touched on the importance of hydration, especially as we’re running full on into summer. Another equally important part of your routine to consider is nutrition.

While eating healthy is always good, that’s not necessarily what I’m talking about here. It’s more in relation to making sure what you eat is fueling the activity level you maintain.

Post workout isn’t just your recovery drink, but how you enable your body to continue through the day. Sometimes I am horrible at this, but I’m trying to get better. Worst thing, especially when you’re busy, is to not fuel yourself properly and end up crashing hard.

Try to always carry some kind of small snack with you and plan meals ahead of time. Spontaneous decisions are okay, but you’re more likely to make the effort to cook and eat if you already have everything planned out.

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I keep a protein bar in whatever bag I have (gym, purse, etc) at all times just in case I get the munchies. I make a habit each week (or several times a week) to buy some veggies to chop up and snack on. My favorites are cucumber, green pepper, and tomatoes. I also visit the local farmer’s market that keeps a nice stock of nuts and trail mix items. Generally I go for raw almonds and dark chocolate covered espresso beans (cause I’m weird).

20130502_162544While I do NOT substitute any of these items for meals, I do use them to for snacking. Fueling myself in the hours between meals. If I have a smaller meal because I eat snacks, that’s fine. I’m still getting all the stuff I need.

It’s important to keep a regular schedule of consuming nutrients for the singular fact that you want them to feed your exercise and daily life. I don’t run or function nearly as well when I’m skipping meals or not eating properly.

Eating well not only helps keep your body in the right shape to exercise, but helps combat exhaustion and illness. Sometimes you can’t avoid them for many reasons, but maintaining your nutrition is a good way to give your body and yourself the upper hand.

20130507_212212I emphasize this topic because I’ve unfortunately felt the effects of bad fueling and nutrition while training. For the first few weeks of marathon training in 2011 my energy levels plummeted because not only was I not increasing my calorie intake to keep up with my increased exercise, but I wasn’t making sure it was the right things I needed to be eating. Once my eating schedule smoothed out and I was filling my vitamin and nutritional gaps, I had a better ability to handle my schedule of exercise and life.

I definitely advocate making healthier choices (and there’s so many ways to do it!) in your food, but make sure what and how you eat is set to help you be your best.

Tips: A Regular Routine With A Bonus Rant For Summer

Summer-Wallpaper-3With my area (at least) jumping headlong into summer with warm and sunny days, I find it important to talk a bit about setting up a regular running schedule. I admit the idea has an ulterior and completely girly (*ahem* I mean female) motive behind it which you can read about further along.

Now when I wasn’t training for anything in particular I mixed my runs between early morning and later evening. When I was in marathon training, 90-95% of my training happened in the earlier morning hours between 4-7AM. Only the longer runs of 18+ miles potentially went later into the morning and might last until 9AM. Generally speaking I liked both of these methods, but leaned more towards the mostly early morning.

The biggest reason for this being that you could get anything from a 4 miler to a 20 miler done and still have most of your day to go. That made it much easier to get more done in a day and not feel like I was rushing to get my run in before the end of the day.

Likewise, it felt better for my body to be on a largely regular schedule. While this may make it harder to run in certain conditions, the bulk of races occur earlier in the morning. Depending on the race length, it could start anywhere from 5-6AM (usually marathons and half marathons on occasion) to the 7-9AM range (mostly 5-15Ks). Training in this time range therefore made racing in this time range feel more natural and part of my regular routine.

Of course there are some races that don’t follow that standard like dusk, evening, and night races (some towns do a midnight race for the 4th of July). Not to forget things like ultras or relays which will spread your running across one or several days and could be at any time of day.

At the moment I’m not doing very well at sticking to a routine and I need to work on that. I run pretty much during any time of the day. Early morning if I wake up to do so, if not anytime after that from midday to the early evening. This is bad on my part as I’m sure I’ll do better if I settle into a more regular routine (preferably in the morning).

The benefit of setting this schedule, especially if you lean towards the obscenely early or late time frames, is to make the best of the temperatures in each time of day. I’m still learning this area, but in Florida hitting those early runs made it so your run was complete before the temperatures got too crazy. 90 degrees by itself might not seem so bad, but throw in crazy humidity and it’s safer to just avoid it. My running group shifted Saturday morning long runs up by at least a half hour during the summer months to help avoid the heat.

So as the season changes and the warmer temps settle on us, be smart about your routine.

So that’s the end of the actual tip portion, now onto the girly and completely silly rant…

Rant time! As it gets warmer and sunnier, especially if you’re running at a time of day when the sun can beat down on you, this means tan lines. And unfortunately, running clothing tan lines don’t match up (at ALL) with summer friendly clothes. By that, I mean shorts, tank tops, and most importantly, beach wear!

This is one pro of running in the early morning or late evening; you can avoid the bulk of the strongest summer rays. Or if you’re like the current me running whenever, you have to take some kind of action to counteract looking silly when you hit the beach.

And no, the suggestion of running in my bikini is being vetoed. That only happens, potentially, if I’m running on a beach. Truthfully, I’m too lazy to more than consider hanging out by the pool. I just accept that runner tan lines are part of being a runner.

This post brought to you by some awesome raspberry iced tea.