Spring Half Marathon Training 2018 - Week 4

This week was a stepback week since it was race week! I definitely enjoyed the decrease in volume, although I didn't feel like I had any more time throughout the week than I usually do (how does that work?). My weekday runs ended up feeling worse than my runs have felt in a while, and I started getting sick on Friday, so any confidence I had managed to build up about the Central Park Half kind of dissipated by the weekend. I pounded cold medicine all weekend and woke up on Sunday feeling faily normal, and I ended up having a pretty great race on a pretty tough day on a pretty hard course. It ended up being exactly the comeback race I had been hoping for.

Spring Half Marathon Training - Week 3

This week was a little bit rough. Not for any major reason, I think I some of the newness and excitement of my new training plan was wearing off and it felt like a little bit more of a grind than the last couple of weeks have. There were also a few times I got a little sad over the fact that I'm not training for a full marathon anymore. There is something magic about that distance and I am excited for whenever I get back to it, but I'm just not ready for it now and that's okay. Those bittersweet feelings don't last too long, though, and I tend to get over them when my long runs on the weekends take less than two hours!

My first half marathon of the year is this weekend and I would be lying if I said I am feeling ready.  I feel like I'm in a good place, but I've run two half marathons since the Ironman craziness ended and both were somewhat disastrous and I'm hoping that this weekend doesn't add another one to that list. I can't even remember the last time I ran a solid, strong half marathon, so I'm feeling a little anxious about taking on that distance again. I know I can get through 13.1 miles, but I'm just not sure I can get through them as gracefully as I would like to. I am so desperate to feel like my old, pre-long distance triathlon self again. I'll find out this weekend if I'm there yet and, if not, I have at least 2 more opportunities this spring, not to mention a lifetime after that. It's fine. Everything is going to be fine.

How + Why I Hired a Running Coach

The though of hiring a coach has come into my mind a handful of times over the last couple of years, although never seriously until right before I actually did it. It's an idea I've toyed around with, off and on, for all kinds of different reasons, but until now I never felt compelled to follow through with it.

Some of you may remember that I did work with a coach while I was training for IMNC, but that was a) because, even with a 70.3 and some 26.2s under my belt, I didn't even know where to start when it came to training for 140.6, b) more of a group thing since everyone else I was training/racing with was using him also, and c) more focused on the practical/logistical aspect of doing something I had never done before and had no idea how the hell to approach, rather than the mental complexities that just come with running for me. Hiring a coach to get me to the finish line of a big race felt and still feels like a totally separate thing than hiring a coach to basically hold my hand and tell me that I'm doing okay which, to be perfectly honest, is 90% of what I need right now.

I think the idea of a running coach was different than a triathlon coach also because training for running races has always been kind of rinse-and-repeat for me. I started running using the Couch 2 5k program and I really believe that having that structure and guidance helped me, as someone who was completely new to running, build a foundation and learn how to train up to further distances. Once I made it through C25k I started on the Bridge to 10k program, and from there I was able to build up slowly and gradually to a half marathon and eventually to a marathon. In that way, training for running has always been a linear process in my mind, so even though I've wondered if coaching might help me in other aspects, like speed, I've just never really felt it was necessary (not to mention the idea of lil 'ol middle-of-the-pack me having a coach seemed ludicrous, which is definitely something I considered when making this decision).

Until recently I was training for marathon #7, and I was doing it the same way I have trained for all my other running races: with a spreadsheet filled with a training plan I found on the internet. This approach has worked for me almost 90 races now so, you know, if it ain't broke don't fix it, I guess. Except that this time...something did feel broken. To be fair, it wasn't really the training plan, it was the training itself and the fact that now just might not be the right time for me to run a marathon, but it just wasn't working. Nothing was majorly wrong, but little things kept piling up until I just felt...lost. I'm getting a little ahead of myself here, but one of the first things Katie asked me when we talked was why I wanted to run the marathon I was training for, and I coudn't give her (or myself) an answer. Not right away and not even after over 24 hours of trying to come up with one. I knew why I had signed up for the marathon but I didn't know why I was still forcing myself to go through with it when my training hadn't been going the way I had hoped, other than because I could. I didn't know if the marathon really was my goal for the spring, or if maybe I had other goals that would better suit me right now. I didn't know what was even realistic to expect from myself or what my true current fitness was. As I struggled with that, suddenly the idea of a coach made more and more sense. I didn't need someone to help me figure out how to get from Point A to Point B; I needed someone to help me figure out where Points A and B even were.

So I ultimately made this decision the way I do most things in life: slow at first then all at once.

Spring Half Marathon Training 2018 - Week 2

One of the reasons I got a coach was to push my limits in a safe and informed way, and the past two weeks, and this week in particular, have definitely pushed me. I know I am totally capable of pushing myself on my own, but it was really easy to make excuses - both for the better and for the worse - when I was on my own. It's a really different experience going into a workout knowing that someone who knows my capabilities and my strengths and my weaknesses prescribed me a workout that will challenge me but still be appropriate for my ability level. I still have progress to make - lots and lots of it - but I guess what I'm saying is that I am enjoying the fact that a lot of the guesswork has been taken out. 

The downside of coaching for me - and I knew this would be an issue so I'm trying to work throuh it while making sure my coach knows that it's not her, it's me - is that completely giving up the reins can be scary. I'm now training at fast paces for maybe 20% of my miles, with the rest fairly easy, and none at my actual goal pace. This is the complete opposite of the way I have ever trained (because it was just me on my own and I didn't know what I was doing...), so shifting to trust that this way works is a lot! Plus, the fast paces are very fast for me. Seeing them on my schedule sometimes makes me scared and uncomfortable, and I was really honest to my coach about that and about how I often doubt my abilities. We had a whole discussion about what I think and perceive about certain paces, and what I think I'm "supposed" to be able to run and not run. I told her how I truly believe all my PRs were flukes because I have no idea how I ever ran as fast as I've been able to in the past, to which she replied that I really need to start thinking of myself as fast, because I am. As a former 12+ minute mile runner, that just sounded ludicrous to me (I was like no but seriously does this girl know I barely finished Couch 2 5k?), but in the interest of trying to shift my mindset about my running, I really tried to take her advice. Running confidence is definitely a work-in-progress for me, and I know it's going to take some time to get to where I want to be on that front.




Kiawah Island Half Marathon Recap


Oy.

Where to start? Just come out and say this might have been my least favorite race ever? Because it might have been. No disrepect to Kiawah or the race organizers - it's not you, it's me.

I signed up for this December race last April, which is the farthest in advance I've registered for a race (not counting Ironman since they don't give you a lot of choice) in quite some time. Last March my cousin came up to DC to run Rock n Roll as his first half, and of course immediately afterward we started brainstorming for his next one. I'm originally from Charleston and all of my extended family lives there, including my cousin, so Kiawah jumped out to both of us. I'd heard so many good things about this race and it had been on my radar for a long time. One of the things I really wanted to do post-Ironman was start to finally start doing some of the races I'd put on hold over last couple of years because they would have interfered with my IM plans, so we decided that Kiawah was a go.


This race was 8 weeks after Ironman Louisville, and initially leading up to the race I had half a mind to get in a mini training cycle and try to PR (1:48). That idea quickly came to a halt after I ran a 1:57 half just 3 weeks post-IM that felt like the hardest race I'd ever run in my life, and I realized my legs just weren't ready for that kind of speed yet. My running in between Louisville and Kiawah was consistent, but not fast. After I let go of that short-lived PR dream, I still held onto the hope that I could run a 1:50-1:55ish (i.e. where all of my non-PR attempt and non-casual training run half marathons have landed in the last few years) and begin the process of getting back to my old times.

Spring Half Marathon Training 2018 - Week 1

This week I started over. I rebooted. I refreshed. I stopped one training plan and started another one. I began what will probably be a long process of shifting my mindset. And I admitted I needed helped doing it - so I got a coach (details forthcoming). 

The view you get when you use the Reflecting Pool as your track
Monday 1/29 - Gym / 11 trainer miles

Tuesday 1/30 - 
7.3 mile interval run @ 8:59
  • 4x5 min intervals @ 7:50 goal pace 
  • Actual 7:49, 7:39, 7:40, 7:40
Wednesday 1/31 - 2000yd swim / 6 mile easy run @ 9:35

Thursday 2/1 - 
7.5 mile interval run @ 8:59
  • 4x4:30 intervals @ 7:15 goal pace 
  • Actual 7:02, 7:12, 7:11, 7:03)
I was really intimidated by this workout. The workouts Coach Katie has been giving me have a lot of warmup, recovery, and cool down time, so it helps to be able to tell myself I only have like 20 minutes of actual hard work, but thinking about those 20 minutes is still scary. Katie's instructions said to see if I could hit 7:15 and I actually texted her to be like, “You mean for like...a second, right?!” She told to just do my best and that she didn't expect me to be be able to do it immediately but that she thought I might end up surprising myself - and she was right! I was shocked that I was able to pull off these paces, and so proud of myself when I was done. It was hard but not even closet to as impossible as I thought it was going to be. This was one of the best runs I have had in a long time and so confidence-boosting!