Base-Building/Maintaining/Attempting To Not Lose “It” In General

I still have more than two months until our official 16-week marathon training begins for Santa Rosa, so in the meantime, I’m in this Limbo Land (of the non-dancing kind) where I’m not required by Hal Higdon, or anyone else for that matter, to run at all much less any set distances or workouts.  Yet, to be able to start training for an aggressive PR marathon, you have to actually be in pretty good shape when you take that first 10-mile long run step. So I really should be running and covering some distance.

But, because I live in a state of paranoia, I believe that running more/harder than I’m supposed to is a recipe for injury and disaster, neither of which are useful. I’m scared to actively work at getting faster now because speed training seems to be the culprit of any weird aches and pains that I get.

I’m caught in this “why would I attempt to push the pace on a long run now if I don’t have to” vs. “I HATE that it is taking me 1 hour and 20 minutes to run 7 miles.”  I don’t like this place at all. It’s like I’m training, but I can’t actually train the way I want to.

I’m almost to enter into Year 3 of my runnerhood, and this is really the first time I’ve allowed a substantial break in between races, so figuring out the whole “downtime” thing is a pretty new area of study for me.

My last race distance was at the beginning of September.  We continued short bouts of running 3-4 miles until December, and then with the craziness of vacations, holidays, weddings, and sickness, I pretty much didn’t lace up my running shoes for about 6 weeks.  As I’m sure many of you can attest, you lose a lot in 6 weeks of inactivity.  We started running again in 3 mile spurts in mid-January, but it all felt so much harder.  Three miles seemed especially long, and the mere thought of ramping up to 5 miles just seemed like torture.

One Run for Boston is in about 4 weeks, and my leg is 12 miles, so we’ve been adding a mile to our run every weekend.  We ran 7 last weekend, and my feet hurt far worse by the end of it than they should have.

About a month after One Run is the Albuquerque Half Marathon, and about two weeks after that is the Run for the Zoo Half Marathon which happens to fall on the same weekend as our official marathon training kick-off.

As mentioned before, I want to do both of these races, not necessarily to gauge where I’m at speed wise, but more to get in the groove of racing again.

Downtime Dilemma.

I know that with the way I’m going, I’ll be probably hitting very substantial personal worsts in any race/relay that I do prior to official marathon training. I really (really, really) don’t like the thought of running personal worsts. At all.

On the other hand, any attempt to train for and “race” these events will likely interfere with my goal of entering marathon training uninjured and free from burnout.  Santa Rosa (even though it isn’t for another 26 weeks) is my priority, and I’m trying to make decisions over the next couple of months that support that, even if it means running practice races slower than my pride will let me.

I have two months to reconcile this in my head. I know this is way overdramatic, but I’m really not a “racing for fun” type of person.

Other efforts I’m taking during “downtime:”

1) Heavy weights to build leg muscles: Weak muscles result in overcompensation (resulting in injury) in other muscles. But, heavy weights result in tired and sore legs which do not make for great runs.  I’m trying to build muscle now so I don’t have to run 800’s with a sore bum.

2) Yoga: Being limber and stretched out is good. Being tight is bad. The more I can start training with un-tight muscles, the better.

3) Paying a ridiculous amount of attention to every little niggle, no matter how slight: Pulling in my calf? Lower back aches? If I notice it, I’m trying to address it immediately. I want to enter into marathon training feeling 100% because Lord knows it won’t last very long.

And, because it is Friday and Fridays are happy, here is my jam of the moment.  It makes me want to dance in the streets! But not too hard.  I don’t want to injure myself!

Have a fantastic weekend!

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And We Have a Winner!

(Sorry, this was scheduled to go up early this morning, but obviously it did not!).

It’s time to announce the winner of the Spartan Race Entry Giveaway!

In a highly sophisticated manner, I numbered all of the comments and used an online random number generator to determine the winner.

And that lucky person is……(drumroll, of course): Static Seth! Congratulations! I’ll send you an email later on today with the details!

Thanks to everyone who entered! Remember to check out the Spartan Race series for upcoming events.

And happy Valentine’s Day! It appears as if Cry Me a River is the anti-love song of choice, so if you don’t have a reason to celebrate, Justin is there for you.

Committing to Marathon #3

FIRST: Remember to enter to win a free race entry into any 2014 Spartan Race! Right now, your chances of winning are pretty darn high! Winner is announced tomorrow. 

There is some sort of general theory suggesting that no matter how painful pregnancy and/or childbirth might be, and no matter how much someone might swear that she will never (ever, so help you God) subject herself to this torture again in the moment, most women look back 1-2 years later and remember 36 hours of labor as “bad, but not THAT bad,” and many (most?) decide to do it all over again. Multiple times.

(I am obviously at the life stage where 75% of my facebook friends are either pregnant or have a child in the newborn/toddler range).

While I have yet to bring myself to the whole childbirth thing, I think that this general theory also applies to marathons.

While there is nothing like the pride I experienced crossing the finish line at Chicago, my body HURT so very bad in ways I didn’t think possible starting at about mile 22, I was violently sick to my stomach all day, and I couldn’t walk like a normal person for about a week. Stepping up from the street to the sidewalk? Forget about it.

I thought, “wow, that was a great accomplishment, but this distance isn’t for me, or even humans in general.” Yet, despite all this, I registered for Boston the next day.

The whole cycle did a repeat 4 months later.  Except, when I crossed my second 26.2 finish line, I knew that I would do another one in the (far off) future when I could forget about blisters and chaffing.

Slide3Who’s idea was this anyway?

I didn’t apply to get into Boston this year.  I could have used my Chicago qualifier again, but I decided in September that a trip to Boston in April wasn’t in the cards. Closing on our house probably had something to do with this.

Turns out, it wouldn’t have mattered.  My qualifier wasn’t fast enough to get me in. Truthfully, it was a blow to the ego.  I had never thought of my time, 1 minute and 5 seconds under, to be a “squeaker,” but in the end, it wasn’t even that.  It was just plain insufficient.

So, it was with renewed enthusiasm that I made a commitment to not only run another marathon, but also attempt another BQ and run a time that would, without any shadow of a doubt, get me into Boston 2015.

And perfect timing really, because all of that pain that I described above (soreness, sickness, blisters, chaffing, fatigue, aching feet, etc.) is now a very abstract memory.  Like, I don’t even remember what it feels like to seriously contemplate whether it would be less painful to just chop your feet off than run another step on them.

However, I suppose saying that I’m going to run a 3:27 marathon (that’s my goal, which is a big fat YIKES) is the easy part.  Training for it is much harder.  But before I can even begin to train, I need something to train for.

STEP 1: Choosing The Marathon

For me, choosing the right marathon felt similar (if not more intense) to figuring out what we wanted in a first house.  For both, we had a list of non-negotiables along with a list of things we could compromise.  Except, with a house, we could fix almost anything with enough time and money.  I can’t exactly remodel a marathon course to fit my needs.

So, what was I looking for?:

1) Held in June, July, or August: Since I’m going for a BQ, I need the race to be prior to September’s registration, which essentially eliminates all of the big fall races.  Add on 4 months of training, plus about 2 months of base-building, and I’ve crossed off all late winter/spring races off the list too.

2) Mild Summer Weather:  Since I’m looking at a summer race, it needed to be in an area that has at least some chance of not being ridiculously hot or humid.  This really limited us to the Coastal West part of the country, or the far Northeast.

3) Needs to compliment our strengths: That means a relatively flat course without a huge elevation gain and something at sea level to take full advantage of our training in the mountains. Mentally, I’d prefer a course that wasn’t 2 loops of a half course, and a substantial marathon field (1000+) because I do well when I have the energy (and competition) of other runners off which to feed.

4) Within close-ish proximity to New Mexico: to keep travel costs down. We’re talking second tier on the Southwest Airlines sale scale.

There were slim pickings after all of the elimination.  Slim pickings.

It came down to Eugene, OR and Santa Rosa, CA.

E vs. SR

These marathons were ridiculously similar.  Both are designed as “Boston Qualifier” fast and flat courses, both are held in smaller towns, both run on bike paths and scenic nature routes, both appear to be well-organized with lots of positive reviews from fast runners, and both offer post-race pancakes which is actually sounding really good right about now…

But neither offer substantial spectator support throughout the entire 26.2 miles (unlike Boston or Chicago), and both have courses that do a bit of back-tracking. And, considering my first two marathons were World Majors, these two are pretty small without the bells and whistles you get from having Shalane Flanagan somewhere ahead of you.

While Santa Rosa’s course seems a bit harder (runs on a slight uphill during the last few miles, and portions run on gravel) and the the field is considerably smaller (capped somewhere around 1600), in the end, the fact that that Eugene moved it’s date from mid-April to July this year (meaning potential hiccups), and the 2 hour drive from the Portland airport helped us in our resolve to choose Santa Rosa.  Eugene is also the weekend before my sister’s wedding, so Santa Rosa fit better into bridesmaid duties.

With a bottle of wine and a jacket (and rumors of a Lululemon bag!) included in the $125 registration fee, Santa Rosa also appears to offers more bang for the buck.  Plus, the fact that it is only 1 hour from San Francisco adds about 10 points. I’m not sure if I’ve ever mentioned it (HA), but I’m obsessive over San Francisco. And wine.

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So, I will be attempting a Boston qualifying time at the Santa Rosa Marathon at the end of August (and hoping to meet some of you California folks!).

I am beyond myself excited (27 weeks and 1 day).  Training will officially start at the end of April, and I am looking forward to every 800 repeat in 90 degree temperatures and every 20 mile long run that I have coming up.  What pain? What torture? All I remember is the amazing feeling of looking down at my Garmin, and knowing.  I hope to have that feeling again.

The rest of our 2014 racing schedule looks pretty dismal, especially compared to all of the fun we’ve had over the last 2 and a half years. But I do need to get back into the racing groove with at least a couple of half+ distances because it isn’t second nature to me anymore.  What do I eat for breakfast? How many trips to the porta-potty do I need to make before lining up? These are answers I don’t think I have anymore.

1) Albuquerque Half Marathon: I really don’t like this race.  But, with the uninspired course, the heat, the smell of farm, and the small race size, it should help build up some mental toughness.

From 2012

From 2012

2) Shiprock Half Marathon: This is a HUGE maybe. Initially, I was thinking that the full version might be my goal race, but I don’t think the course lends itself to not-quite squeakers like me.  I do want to run it eventually because it is one of the best races in the state.  Plus, I’d get to see 50-states Dan in action as he crosses New Mexico off his almost complete list.  BUT, it is on the same weekend as…

3) Run for the Zoo Half: I love Run for the Zoo.  I ran my first ever 5-K here in 2010, and I haven’t missed a year since.  It really feels like everyone in Albuquerque is involved in some way, and I love all of the high fives you get from friends, co-workers, family, etc. as you turn into the last stretch.

So, there we have it.  One big race with the sole goal of qualifying (and wine), and some small local races.  And with any luck, the 2015 schedule will include a bus ride to Hopkington, a battle with Heartbreak, and a left on Boylston.

So, who wants to come join me in some running and wine drinking in Santa Rosa?

The expo is held at a winery, a bottle of wine is included with entry fee, and you actually run through a barrel room.  GOOD TIMES! 

Hope you have a wonderful three day weekend! Remember to spread some LOVE and eat lots of chocolate!’

*Also, thanks to the Santa Rosa Marathon facebook page for supplying most of the photos! 

Spartan Race Entry Giveaway

Here’s the thing: I have never done an obstacle/adventure race.  I’ve wanted to.  I even added one to my 2012 Bucket List for when a particular race announced an Albuquerque date. But then that date got pushed back a year, and now, two years later, it isn’t even on their calender.  So, my encounter with mud pits and barbed wire (at least in a controlled environment) has yet to happen.

When the Spartan Race, one of the more popular versions of the endurance obstacle race, asked if I would host a giveaway for a free race entry on my blog, I was honestly hesitant since I’d essentially be advocating for something that I know nothing about.

So, I put it out to facebook (which is really how I solve all of my life problems these days). It turns out that a bunch of you have already thrust yourselves up giant walls before getting bombarded by giant q-tips and seemed to really enjoy the process! So, I figured if I could save a blog friend the cost of a race entry, then it would be worthwhile.

And I have to admit, the Spartan Race looks like a lot of fun (though maybe “fun” isn’t the most accurate word to use for a race that requires obscene amounts of burpees)! They host events all over the country (except for in New Mexico) with several international stops.  Depending on which race you do, the course can be anywhere from 3-12 miles.

Spartan Events

They are particularly looking to promote the Las Vegas event on April 5th.  Torture yourself all day, party all night.

Since I can’t tell you firsthand what the race is like, I suggest you read Colby (and Tina’s) recap of their Fenway Spartan Race experience because they make it sound like you may be missing out on a fulfilling life if you don’t participate in one.

And then this video.  Definitely doesn’t look like a wimpy “mud run” race.

So, as mentioned above, I am hosting a giveaway for one free entry into any Spartan Race in 2014. I was offered a free race entry for myself in addition to the one that I am giving away so I could tell you all about it, but we won’t be able to get to any of the races.

So, how do you get this free entry?

1) Comment below with your favorite anti-love song to help counteract all of the Valentine’s Day amazingness that is sure to start clogging your life over the next couple of days (google it…there are lists upon lists of anti-love songs!). 

My favorite is Before He Cheats by Carrie Underwood.  I don’t typically like any of her songs, but I think if I was slighted, I might take a Louisville slugger to someone’s headlights. (UPDATED: I heard You Oughta Know by Alanis Morissette on the radio this morning.  So much anti-love goodness in that song!).

And, if you would like an optional second entry, you can do one of the following:

a) follow me on one or all of the following: facebook, twitter, instagram, or blog and leave a comment about it OR

b) if you already follow me on all of those, you can leave a comment saying that I already infiltrate your life for a second entry.

Contest will close Thursday evening and the winner will be announced Friday morning.

Good luck!