Thursday, July 23, 2015

Chasing a Dream: The 4:15 Marathon (Part 1)

I've been chasing a Marathon PR for three years! Every since running my first Marathon in 2012, I have been trying to recreate not only that time but that feeling! I ran with such joy in my heart that day.  I swear I cried tears of happiness for 26.2 miles.  

I made this picture college right before running my 5th Marathon to remind me of where I had come from. 
I ran two more marathons right after that, all 3 in a 9 month period, which I know wasn't smart but I was on a high. My 4th was the following year and still I was struggling to recreate that first experience, but I am proud to say I finished happy waving at my kids for the first time, my heart full.

I took the following year "off" from the Marathon, and started road biking and did my first Duathlon.  I trained over the winter running and biking and ran a fun half marathon with friends at Pelee Island, in the Spring.  A few weeks later I did my first Duathlon, an Olympic Distance! It was an amazing experience and thanks to a small race I even placed first in my age category (there were two of us lol but I will take the props wink) and 3rd over all female! 

I got a little cocky after that and signed up for a half iron duathlon in late August.  I continued training, stepped it up and also travelled with my bike for 6 weekends straight with my family on our summer travels running and biking and wearing myself out.  I ended up backing out for the first time in my life on a planned race.  I was done. Burnt out.  It was the best decision for me, and I spent the rest of the fall finding the joy again.

I took my time deciding to sign up for another full.  I told myself I wasn't even allowed to think about it till December.  When December rolled in, I really really thought about it.  I had been out doing runs, garmin free, just reconnecting with my body and soul running. I needed to rediscover why I loved running so much.  It didn't take long to remind myself, because I am a runner, an endurance girl at heart.  I love the way my body feels when it's running (injury free) and I am free! So I did it and hit submit on the OTTAWA MARATHON 2015! I was going back to where it all started! 

I took my training one step at a time, trying not to look to far ahead and just work at the week in front of me.  I was not used to winter running.  That first year of winter training wore me out and made me hate the winter.  The year prior training for a spring half I admit I ran in the snow ONCE!!! It's much easier to run 21km on a treadmill then 32km.  

The funny thing is I found myself ENJOYING the snow runs! They forced me to ditch the pace watching and just focus on getting through the snow and roads.  It allowed me to let go of the pressure I put on myself and just focus on the moment.  I found myself smiling through the snow covered roads. 

Another benefit to running in the snow was that I think it helped me get stronger! I think it was one of the keys to that first Marathon success. I often would ditch the planned distance and just run for time.  If the plan was 10 miles I would run for about 1:35 using effort and time vs. distance.

In terms of training I did do some things differently this time around.  I am a 3 day a week runner, it is what works best for my body.  I struggle with foot pain and more then 3 days gives me pain in my feet.  So I bought a 3 day a week plan, after looking at a variety of plans on line.  I liked this one because it had a lot of recovery built in.  It had the dial back every 3 weeks but it would dial back to 10 miles! I nice recovery run.  The first long run started at 10 miles too, which is my base endurance.  The other two runs in the week were an "easy run" and a "work" run.  The work run varried from a tempo run, Mile repeats, or Hill work.  I bought the 4:15 plan, and it had pace goals for all the runs.  I admit I did not follow them.  They were to slow.  Instead I focused on my effort, putting out a mile speed effort, or tempo effort.  During the winter I did my short runs for the most part on the treadmill, I can't run speed work in the snow :(  I used the incline to simulate being outside.  One day I did my mile repeats on a 2% incline and OMG it was hard!  Once the roads cleared I stayed outside and worked my pace.  The other thing I did differently this training period was adding fast finish long runs into my training.  I would do the first half to 3/4 of a long run at a LSD pace and then pick it up and practice my goal marathon pace.  I got used to running on tired legs.  I did two 20 mile training runs this time.  In the past I have done 3, I struggled with what to do and should I go further, but in the end I stuck with the plan.  I'm glad I did as I didn't feel over trained or stressed. 

I should note I am far far from any kind of expert, I am not even close to Boston Awesome and this is what worked for me and helped me get a little better this time around :) 

The other thing that I did this time around is I still focused on my strength work!  In fact, I made strength the main focus from Sept till Dec and worked on my posterior chain.  I worked hard building my glutes and hamstrings, as well as core.  I am quad dominate, and tend to not activate my glutes well when running.  All of which leads to IT band and knee issues. Once my marathon training began I still made it a priority to get TWO full body strength workouts in. I didn't go heavy, I used my TRX mainly and did a lot of single leg work.  I did not do 2 other days of cardio cross training like years past.  I wasn't on the bike two days a week, instead I did strength.  I also was somewhat better at getting one yoga like class in a week.  I added other cross training in here and there, when I had time and felt like it.  I truly believe this played a big role in running injury free for the first time! I didn't have any IT band or knee issues! I did have a small "issue" with my foot, that lead to limping and cutting a run short and needing to cross train a long run with a bike.  I had new inserts and tied my shoe to tight and it caused bruising and pain for a week.  Other then replacing that one long run with a bike, I made all my long runs on my plan, and switched out two of the shorter runs for cross training during my training when I was feeling pain in my feet.  I think I did a pretty good job of staying dedicated but also listening to what my body needed.

The highlight of my training was my first 20 mile run, which I did away from the flats of Barrhaven and in the very hilly cottage roads of Norland.  My Husband and kids drove out to the half way point and had signs, water refills, and BODY GLIDE (which to my children's horror I stuck down my pants lol).  I set off feeling renewed and ready for the next 10 miles.  With about 8 miles to go, I saw my parents on the side of the road waving at me.  As I ran by my Dad slipped a pic of my grandfather and I in my hands and said run the rest of the way with him.  CUE THE WATERWORKS! I grew up watching my dad run at the lake and my grandfather would be waiting for him with water and a leg rub down when he got home.  I was charged up with emotion and memories and picked up my pace.  At 5 miles to go, I was running up a bitch of a hill when I saw my dad start to cross 3 lanes of highway traffic to get to me.  (I was silently praying go Daddy go, don't get run over!) he made it and high fived me! I powered up that hill! 3 miles to go and I was tired, and starting to get sore.  Running down the steep slanted hills really hurts my knees.  I was beginning to think do I really have it in me to do this?  That's when I saw my mom up ahead and she pulled her pants down and MOONED ME! I was dying of laughter! I might add that it was pretty cold and windy that day!  My parents were there for the last mile spaced apart cheering for me.  I ran the last 8 miles or so of that 20 miler faster then I have ever run a 20 miler! Even with all the hills.  I ended that run, so full! I was so full of love and support from my family.  I said that as of that moment I had gotten everything I could possibly ever want from a run/race.  I am so blessed.  3:19:46 was my time.

Signs from the kids and the pic of my Grandfather and I 
My second 20 mile training run was run at home and in the heat.  I wore my camel back because at the time I thought I might wear it for the race.  It was a chance to start practicing the hydration for the race, now that the bitter cold and snow was gone.  I have to say this run wasn't nearly as fun without my family there to cheer me on, but it was very good practice for the long and solitary moments in the Marathon.  I did get to check in every now again, via text with my good friend Janice also out running her last 20 mile run.  It was fun to take those wee mental breaks.  I focused that day on practicing my starting pace, keeping it slow and not speeding up.  I tried to hold a steady pace and then pick it up and practice that race pace again.  I remember struggling with very tired legs, and tightness in my knee in the last 3 miles.  I remember crying when I only had one mile to go.  I pushed hard that day and did it just a tad faster then Norland in 3:19:01.  

My last 20 mile training run! 
So if your still with me after all that babble, wow, thank-you! You must be a runner! I think we like these race reports :) So that's was it, last 20 miler in, I was ready....the training was in the bank so to speak.  Two weeks taper to mentally get through and then the big day.   Would I recreate the joy of my first marathon and maybe just maybe squeak in under 4:17 for a PR? I'll let you know in yet another gripping long winded post.

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