Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Two Speed Workouts

Going into last weekend's Elf Run, I knew it could go two ways: It would either make me want to extend my break from running or it could motivate me to get back into training. I'm happy to say it ended up being the later of the two options.

While I'm happy with my results for that day, I know I can race a lot faster. Over the course of the next four Great Lakes Running Series races, I have every intention of getting back to running sub-23 times.

In order to meet this goal, I'm doing at least one quality speed session each week. Here are two recent favorites:

Combo Speed Workout
I got this idea from Running Times Magazine a few months ago and really like how it hits several different speeds and distances. Here's my modified version:

- One mile warm up
- Two miles at half marathon race pace (approx 8:00 mile pace)
- 2x800m at 5k goal race pace (approx 7:10 mile pace)
- 4x400 at mile race pace (approx 6:45 mile pace)
- One mile cool down

I take a small recovery break between each of the three speed sections, usually between 400-800m. If you're up for more of a challenge and have some extra time, you can add some strides between the warm up and two tempo miles or additional 400 or 800m repeats.

Death by 400m
This workout is designed to help me pick up the pace mid-race when I'm getting tired but need to pass other racers and also improve my finishing kick. Here's how it works:

- One mile warm up
- 3-4 sets of 4x400m (approx 6:39 mile pace)
- One mile cool down

I take a 400m recovery break between each set. I also usually add in 2-3 strides toward the end of my warm up mile to get my legs moving before the first repeat.

Now it's your turn: What do you do to get faster?

- ST

Monday, November 28, 2011

Training Schedule 11/28 - 12/4

So far, the Holiday Run Streak has been a bit of a bust. I'm hoping to change that this week.

Here's the plan:

Monday

Afternoon: 4 mile easy run; 45 minutes strength training

Tuesday

Afternoon:
6-7 mile combo speed workout (1 mile warm up, 4-6 strides, 2 miles tempo pace, four 400m repeats, 1 mile cool down)

Wednesday
Afternoon: 5-6 mile easy run; 30 minutes strength training

Thursday
Afternoon: Boot Camp Class, 1 mile warm up

Friday
Afternoon: 4-6 mile easy run

Saturday
Morning: 4 mile easy run

Sunday
Morning: 4 mile easy run

What's on your training agenda this week?

- ST

The Elf Run Race Recap

The day before The Elf Run, I decided I wasn't going to race. Following several days of eating too much, skimping on sleep and not running, it seemed like the best decision. After all, I was sure to run slow and my heart just wasn't in it.

But after talking it through with my mother, I changed my mind. A new 5k PR was once again likely out of reach, but that didn't mean I couldn't race. Given my lack of prep and recent laziness, I decided to aim for a sub-24 minute time. Nothing very fast but my hope was that others would be in a similar situation of having overindulged a bit too much over the weekend, slowing their times a bit as well.

Race results
I'm happy to report I made my goal! Here are my results:

Time: 23:36
Average Mile Time: 7:36
Division Place: 3/63 (Top 5 percent)
Women: 21/508 (Top 4 percent)
Overall: 113/792
(Top 14 percent)


Pesky racing pet peeves
The morning of the race was quite chilly. I think my toes froze a bit while waiting to start so I was happy to take off when the race began. There was the usual weaving in and out around people that lined up too close to the front (a top racing pet peeve) but after that it tapered out a bit and I was mostly able to just run.

Until coming upon another one of my racing pet peeves: People that pass, only to slow down right in front of you and then when you pass them, they try to pass you again . . . and then slow down right in front of you. One fellow female racer did this multiple times over the 5k course and after awhile, I'd had enough. I decided my second race goal was to beat her. So I let kept her in my sights until about a quarter mile from the finish then sped up, passed her and never looked back. Lesson learned - always pass with authority and confidence!

While I'm satisfied with these race results, I know I can do better. I'm ready to get back to running sub-23 5k races and to do that, I need to get back into a training routine. No more slacking - my next race is New Year's Eve day and this time, I want to run at my strongest.

Your Turn! What are your racing pet peeves? Also, are you racing before the end of the year? If so, what races are you doing?

- ST

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

It's Time for a Run Streak

Who wants to put on extra pounds this holiday season? Anyone?

Many people struggle to maintain their weight during the holidays, myself included. I'm definitely not one to suggest turning down a second helping of stuffing or an extra Christmas cookie or two. So what's a girl - or guy - to do during a season with so many delicious treats?

There's also the issue of staying active during one of the busiest times of the year. Sometimes it's hard to fit in training when there are parties to attend, gifts to be bought and wrapped and cookies to be made.

How it works
So this year, my solution is joining the Runner's World Holiday Running Streak. Here's how it works: Starting on Thanksgiving going through New Year's Day, I'll run at least one mile, every day. Most days I'll do more than just one mile, but the point is to be consistent with getting out there to run.

I'm really excited for a new challenge and I think this is exactly what I need to get motivated again! And being able to indulge a bit over the holidays without worrying about weight gain is just an added bonus.

Who's with me? It's only a mile a day and I'm betting most of you can do more than that!

- ST

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

To Race or Not to Race?

Scheduling races on back to back weekends - ambitious or just plain dumb?

I'm trying to decide if I can do another race one week after Run with the Turkeys or if I need to instead focus my energy on training for the next race at the end of December. The upcoming race in question is The Elf Run - the first in the RACC Great Lakes Running Series. During the series, racers can accumulate points, based on how they place. The best four of five races count toward series awards. While it's possible to skip this one and just do the remaining four races in the series, I would have to run hard at each and every one to have even a small shot at winning one of the series age group awards.

I don't race for fun
You're probably thinking I should just do the race for fun and see what happens. After all, it's just a 5k, right? Small confession: While I have fun racing, I don't race for fun. I race to see how far I can push myself and how fast I can go. Run to just finish the race? Never. When I race, I'm out to win - even if the only person I'm trying to beat is myself.

Risk versus reward
Based on last year's results, I'll need to run sub 22:00 to place in the top three in my division. While not impossible, I'll say it's highly improbable given my 5k PR is 22:53. Will not placing in the top three (or even top five) in my age group be too disappointing/discouraging? On the other hand, if I can pull off a great race, it will be a major confidence booster and take some of the pressure off during the remaining races in the series.

So there you have it - my running dilemma of the week. What do you think I should do? Also, have any of you ever raced back to back weekends? If so, how did you end up doing?

- ST

Monday, November 21, 2011

Run With the Turkeys Race Recap

Here's how Saturday's Run with the Turkeys 5k race went down:

Before the race
4:45 am: Alarm went off. Finally got up around 5 am and drank a large glass of water then stumbled into the shower.

5:15 am: Downed a bottle of Ensure followed by another large glass of water.

5:30 am: Took awhile getting dressed because I couldn't decide how warm/cold it was outside. Shorts or tights? A tank with arm warmers or a long sleeve shirt? Finally decided on my spandex boy shorts, a long sleeve pink shirt and black legwarmers. Packed my bag and did not include my watch or iPod.

6:10 am: Left my apartment to head to the suburbs to pick up Mom, then head to the race!

7:45 am: Arrived in Pleasant Prairie. Picked up my race packet, pinned on my race bib, then started warming up: About a mile of slow running, four strides to get my legs moving and dynamic stretching.

8:25 am: Time to line up. As I was shuffling in place waiting for the race to begin, I realized I was going to run fast. I knew I probably wasn't going to get a new PR, but I was going to race my best and hopefully finish well enough for an age group award.

During and after the race
I ended up finishing the race in 23:12, good enough for a 2nd place Age Group win.

I started the race fast - probably too fast, a definite danger that comes with starting at the front of the pack. There were three women in front of me and during the first half mile I chased down one and pulled up next to the second. I managed to stick with her for the next half mile until getting dropped. As I went around a bit of a curve I managed to sneak a peak at the racers behind me - there were several closing in. Eek.

Over the next mile and a half, I got passed by a few racers. And then I passed a few in return. I was tired and my legs were burning but I pretended I was just doing an 800m repeat. Several of them in a row. Without the 400m recovery.

When I got to the home stretch, I knew it was time to start sprinting. Passed one more person and next thing I knew, I was crossing the finish line! I'm always slightly dazed for the first few minutes after a race, so I walked around a bit while sipping the bottle of water a volunteer shoved in my hand before walking back down to the course to cheer on Mom.

Overall, this was a good day for me. There's nothing like the excitement of a race to get motivated to train hard again. Especially if you look at the results and see that the person who won your age group ran slower than your PR.

Next time, it's on!

What's your favorite moment before, during or after a race?

- ST

Friday, November 18, 2011

Adjusting Expectations, Avoiding Burnout

I'm less than 24 hours away from another 5k race. Is it bad that I keep forgetting about it?

Usually the week of a race, it's nearly all I can think about. I plan my strategy, eat more carbs and taper training as needed. This week I've hardly thought about the race, have been chowing down on red velvet cake balls and did two speed workouts. These aren't things you should do if you're chasing a top three age group finish or even just a new PR.

The last 5k race I did was in September and I ran 22:53. I'm not sure I can beat that time tomorrow morning. I'm in better shape than I was in September and I know physically I can do it. But mentally, I'm struggling a bit.

After boot camp class last night, I chatted with my friend Sara about how it's been a bit difficult to get back into training after the Haunted Hustle Half Marathon. I thought I gave myself enough of a break , but in hindsight, I probably needed an extra week off before starting another training cycle.

New expectations
I have no intentions to stop training at this point but I am going to readjust my expectations for the next few weeks. Running 35-40 mile weeks would be great, but if I end up only doing 25-30 mile weeks through the holidays, that will be okay. I'll still keep up with my boot camp classes and strength training and maybe add in some cross training, probably on the bike. By scaling back a bit now, I hope to avoid burnout and start the New Year excited to up my training again.

As for tomorrow's race? For a change, I'm not going to over think things. Instead, I'll focus on each mile I'm in when I get there.

And if that fails, I'll just think about eating pancakes after the race :)

Do you ever have trouble staying motivated? If so, how did you get back into training?

- ST

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Meet Team Fatties

This is just a quick post to encourage you to visit Fit Milwaukee and meet my team for the upcoming Icebreaker Indoor Marathon Relay Race!

Hope to see you at the Pettit in January!

The Best Laid Plans

For those of you that know me, it probably comes as no surprise when I say I'm a planner. I like being prepared and knowing what's on my work and social schedule in the upcoming days and weeks.

It's no different when it comes to training. I like knowing when I'm doing my workouts, what type I'm doing and how they'll help me achieve my goals of getting stronger and faster.

Case in point: I have my training planned out through March. Every day of every week.

But some days and weeks require flexibility. This is definitely the case with this week's training. Monday night's easy six turned into a tempo workout. Last night's speed workout turned into dinner and drinks with coworkers. Wednesday's easy six is now speed intervals on the treadmill.

I'd be lying if I said these last minute changes don't throw me off a bit. Of course I feel guilty about not training at all on Tuesday. And I'm worried too about doing another speed session so close to Saturday's race.

But I'm also confident that by listening to my body, I'm doing exactly what I need to do to achieve my goals. So maybe I ran a bit faster than planned on Monday. Physically, I felt great! As for last night, I just couldn't face doing even an easy six. It wouldn't have been the best run either physically or mentally so instead I rested up and am starting today with fresh legs and a renewed positive attitude.

As for the rest of this week? I'll be back on track with my regularly scheduled training.

I want to know: Do you plan on your workouts in advance? How flexible are you with your schedule?

- ST

Monday, November 14, 2011

Training Schedule 11/14 - 11/20

Another weekend is done and over and the madness of the work week has begun!

I'll never fail to find it ironic that I do the most scrambling during the day and it's while running that I can truly relax. Cranking out multiple articles and television scripts at work? Minor panic mode. Cranking out multiple 400m repeats on a Tuesday night? Piece of cake.

Here's my training schedule this week:

Monday

Afternoon: 6 mile easy run; 45 minutes strength training

Tuesday

Afternoon:
7-8 mile speed workout (1 mile warm up, 6-8 x 400m, half mile recovery, 6-8 x 400m, 1 mile cool down)

Wednesday
Afternoon: 6 mile easy run

Thursday
Afternoon: Boot Camp Class, 3-4 mile easy run

Friday
Rest

Saturday
Morning: Run With the Turkeys 5k Race

Sunday
Morning: 6 mile easy run

Do you view your workouts as "work" or "play"?

- ST

Thursday, November 10, 2011

I Won't Give Up

How are you today?

I'm still trying to wrap my mind around the fact that there were a few flakes of snow drifting about as I walked into work this morning. Mother Nature - isn't early November a bit too soon for this type of weather?

So during last night's combo speed workout, I was thinking about how there are times in running when you can choose to stop or keep going. There were definitely some moments last night when I wanted to stop or at least slow down. Between my 800m and 400m repeats, I seriously considered throwing in the towel. My legs were burning and I'm pretty sure it's not natural to sweat so much. Gross.

But in the end, I finished out my planned repeats. Even though I wasn't sure I could do it, it sure felt good when I did!

So the lesson learned is even if you think you can't do something, chances are high you probably can. A bit of discomfort is temporary so don't be afraid to push yourself a little harder.

And when you're approaching the final half mile during your next race, you'll be glad you did. You might feel like your legs are ready to give out, but you'll know you can keep your pace and finish strong - just like you did during training.

How do you overcome moments when you want to give up during training or in a race?

- ST

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Training Schedule 11/7 - 11/13

After taking a week off, I feel refreshed, recharged and ready to begin training for my upcoming events. Since these races are shorter distances, I'm less focused on building endurance through long runs and more focused fine tuning speed through tempos, intervals and hills.

This week's agenda:

Monday
Rest


Tuesday

Afternoon:
6 mile easy run; 45 minutes strength training

Wednesday
Afternoon:
8-9 mile combo run (1 mile warm up, 2 miles @ half marathon race pace, 2-4 x 800 meters, 4-8 x 400 meters, 1 mile cool down)

Thursday
Afternoon: Boot Camp Class, 3 mile easy run

Friday
Morning: 5 mile easy run

Saturday
Morning: 9-10 mile track workout (1 mile warm up, strides, 6 x 1600m, 1 mile cool down)

Sunday
Rest


What's on your training agenda this week?

- ST

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Getting off the Beaten Path

Just as there are many life paths you can choose, there are many running routes you an take. However, I've noticed I tend to pick variations of the same two or three again and again. These routes have become so familiar, I'm pretty convinced I could run them in my sleep.

I consider it a form of "comfort running" meaning a run that I know almost exactly what to expect, every time. I like knowing where the best drinking fountains are, anticipating familiar uphills and downhills, running faster along my favorite stretches and counting down the street names toward the end of a run. Take the same route often enough and you'll even recognize the regulars.

But there's also the thrill of discovering a new place to run. A portion of last weekend's Haunted Hustle Half Marathon wound through Middleton's Conservancy Lands and it was love at first run. The path went through the woods and eventually opened up into a tall grass prairie area that was so much different from what I'm used to running. The race is over, but I'd take a trip back to Middleton just to run those areas again.

So while there's nothing wrong with comfort running, every now and then I think it's important to step off the beaten path and see what else is out there. There's a whole world filled with great running routes - and I can't wait to start finding new ones to add to my list of favorites.

I want to know: Do you consider yourself a comfort runner? Also, what are your favorite running routes?

- ST

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Winter Training Plan

Just as long runs, tempo runs and speed workouts are all necessary components in any training schedule, so is the occasional rest week. Brief time outs are necessary to give your body - and mind - a break from the rigors of training.

Since I just raced the Haunted Hustle half marathon, the timing is right for a mini break. This week, I'm limiting myself to two 4-6 mile easy runs, one strength training session and boot camp class.

Crossing the finish line at last weekend's half marathon

Winter training plan
During this bit of downtime, I'm writing my training plan for the upcoming months. This plan includes:

Running 40 miles/week - I want to get used to running 40 miles per week this winter so once spring hits, I can increase to 45 and eventually 50 miles/week. Every fourth week I'll cut mileage by 20 percent to 32 miles/week.

One rest day/week - Up until now I've taken two rest days/week. Decreasing to one is mainly an attempt to avoid double workout days during the winter months.

Track workouts - When the weather is freezing and icy and a treadmill workout less than appealing, an indoor track workout is a great option. Also, the indoor marathon relay I'm doing in January is at the Pettit National Ice Center so I want to get used to running on that track.

Combo workouts - If you must hit the treadmill, a challenging combo workout can make time fly. My current workout includes a one mile warm up, 4-6 strides, 2 miles at half marathon race pace, half mile recovery, 2-4 800m repeats at 7:00 mile pace, 4-8 400m repeats at 6:30 mile pace, one mile cool down. This workout can also be varied a bit by swapping in hill intervals for either the 800m or 400m repeats.

Long runs - I won't do another longer race until spring, but I want to keep my fitness up. Long runs this winter will cap out around 10 miles.

Tempo runs - Every four weeks, I'm planning to add an extra mile to my tempo runs.

So now that you know what I'm planning to do this winter, I want to know: What will your winter training plan include?

- ST