Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The trial and error of marathon training

I'm currently training for the Vancouver USA marathon on June 19th. I have run 3 previous marathons so I thought I'd look at what went right and what went wrong with my training in my two most recent marathons.

My first marathon was in 1998 at the Honolulu marathon. I ran that marathon with Team in Training raising money for the Leukemia society, and they sent me a schedule that I followed pretty much blindly - so, I don't really remember much about training for that one.

Fast forward 11 years, and I was ready to try again at the Portland marathon in 2009. I had been running half marathons pretty regularly and wanted to challenge myself with the full 26.2. Running buddy M and I made up our own training schedule - basically running a few times a week, adding a mile onto our long run every weekend until we hit 20 miles and then we tapered. We ran the marathon in 4:41 - not very fast, but about what we expected with our training. A few mistakes we made during that training cycle:

1) We ran on the same route -the springwater coordior- for the majority of our long runs. It's a great path because it's flat and long - but oh my goodness we got so bored of it after a few months of training.
2) We kept building with no recovery weeks. I know a lot of schedules do this, but I prefer schedules that have occasional down weeks.
3) We only ran one twenty miler.

For the 2010 Portland Marathon, M and I got a handy dandy schedule from Runner's World to follow. We had used a Runner's World schedule previously in the year with the (ultimately successful) goal of breaking 2 hours at the Race for the Roses half marathon so we felt this would be a good way to take some significant time off our previous marathon.

Improvements in our training the second time around:
1) We varied our running routes greatly. I don't think we repeated a route for any of the long runs we did. The burnout that I felt the year before wasn't an issue as we were seeing new things each week.
2) We did 3 twenty milers. We also did 3 different types of 20 milers - one was pretty flat along the waterfront, one was super hilly out in Sandy and one was a good mix of hills and flat out on country roads in Aurora. I really felt confident going into the marathon with this type of training under my belt.
3) This schedule had 3 building mileage weeks and then a down week of moderate mileage for recovery. Definitely made training more do-able and easier to wrap my head around.
4) We incorporated speedwork and tempo work. Every week we either did a speed workout or tempo workout according to the schedule. I do not really understand how or why this stuff works, but it does and I'm a total believer.

We ran the 2010 PDX marathon in 4:07 (me) and 4:15 (running buddy M) fufilling our goal to significantly improve our time from the previous year.

So now, here I am training for the next marathon. I'm following a similar schedule with a few tweaks:
1) added weights into the mix. I do a Jillian Michaels (I am a total Jillian worshiper) dvd 4 times a week. I do the 25 minute workouts daily on top of runs and all. I hope this will help me feel strong through the end of the marathon - I've definitely felt good and strong during training runs.
2) We're doing two 20 milers and one 22 miler. I think getting 22 miles under my belt will make me confident.
3) We've started running with more people. Running Buddy M and I still do the majority of our runs together - but we have met other like minded people, so we often have company for our longer runs which is nice to mix it up.

So, my goal for this marathon is to break 4 hours. I think I should be able to do it. After this race I'll probably take a look at my training and tweak it again for the next one. That's the great thing about running - there's always another race to prepare for!

Monday, May 9, 2011

2011 Hippie Chick half marathon race report

On Sunday, 4 friends and I treked out to Hillsboro to run the Hippie Chick 1/2 marathon. The Hippie Chick used to be held out at Champoeg park, but as Champoeg is small and the race is really popular they moved the race out to the Hillsboro stadium this year to accomodate more people. I've never run the race prior to this year, so I can't compare the venues.

The race started at 8am, which is nice because it's quite a trek from the sticks where I live. They recommended early arrival to avoid traffic issues, and I'm glad we listened to them. My running buddy M and I left our house at 5:45 to drive to another friend's house to meet up with everyone and leave from there. We got to the stadium around 6:40 and relaxed in the car awhile since it was a lovely spring day in Oregon (read: rainy and cold.) Around 7ish we headed towards the stadium and found a big bank of Port-a-pottys which were seriously so clean and NO LINES! Score one for hippie chicks! I took care of business (thank goodness...hadn't been able to at home...hate that!) and we went in to find the bag drop, stay out of the rain and meet up with one more friend before the start. Bag drop was really well organized and we got everything taken care of before we headed out to the start.

The start didn't have corrals so everyone just lined up. There were pacers with signs so you could hang by them if you wanted to run a certain pace. I was hoping to PR at this race, so in hindsight I should have pushed my way closer up to the front - but as it was I was closer to the back with my friends who all had different time goals. It took us about a minute to cross the start line and we were off.

The race has both a half and quarter marathon option, so basically if you are running the half you have to repeat the course twice. I was NOT happy about this. I don't like passing the end point in the middle of a run, and frankly it just seemed kind of lazy to me that they couldn't map out a 13 mile route. But they forgot to ask me before they planned it, so anywhooo...the first two miles were straight down a road in an office park/industrial area. There were two lanes going each direction on this road, but they only had one lane for us to run on, so the first few miles were super congested. Also, since they didn't have corrals or tell anyone how to line up for the start there were lots of walkers in the mix that you had to get around. Getting on pace was pretty difficult. I was shooting to run in the low 8's for the race, so this part of the race frustrated me.

Mile 1 ~ 9:16
Mile 2 ~ 8:31

After this we turned onto some country roads and it spread out a little bit, which was much more comfortable. This was a pretty stretch and I was enjoying myself quite a bit. The course was pretty much flat - slight uphills and downhills, but nothing difficult. In the 4th mile you do a little 1/4 mile out and back and get to see the other runners as you're coming back, so it was nice to see running buddy M looking strong and we high fived as we passed.

Mile 3 ~ 8:12
Mile 4 ~ 8:10
Mile 5 ~ 8:11

At the end of the 4th mile you move along the freeway for a bit and then back into the more office/park industrial areas again.

There was water every 2 miles on the course and they were well stocked and supported. They also had Nuun at certain aid stations, although I avoided that until the end of the race.

Mile 6 ~ 8:14

At this point I looked over to my right and saw my friends Ed and Mike out there cheering on the runners! Total surprise that they came out. They asked how I was doing and yelled support which gave me a lift for sure. It's funny how seeing a friendly face can help you out on the course.

Halfway through mile 6, the quarter milers split off into the stadium to finish and the half marathoners go out to complete the course for a second time. As I said before...NOT A FAN of this sytem.

Mile 7 ~ 8:08
Mile 8 ~ 8:14

The second time down this road was definitely improved because it wasn't crowded at all having lost all the quarter marathoners and the race itself had spread out. But I couldn't wait to get to turn onto the country roads - it was so boring and nothing really pretty to look at, so I was glad to get past it.

I had a few Shot blocks at mile 7 and proceeded to have one at every water station for the rest of the race. This worked well for me, and I never felt like I was running out of steam.

Around this point the mental games started and I worried that I wouldn't be able to hold the pace I was going for. I had no reason to feel this way - it was all mental. My body felt good, my breathing was still pretty easy, I wasn't feeling fatigued - it was all between the ears. I kept telling myself to just get to mile 10. I always figure if I can make it to 10 I can hang on to the end.

Mile 9 ~ 8:20
Mile 10 ~ 8:10
Mile 11 ~ 8:13

As we moved back into the office park area I knew that if I pushed it I would have a PR for sure (trying to beat 1:49:55). I began to pick it up. My sister sent me a message once before I ran a marathon telling me "you will be strong and powerful". I use this often as my mantra when I'm trying to push through discomfort. I started repeating it in my head.

Mile 12 ~ 8:03
Mile 13 ~ 7:48

The end of the race has you going on into the stadium and around a fence. There were lots of spectators here and I high fived another running friend I saw. I rounded the corner and saw that the clock was at 1:49 and some change, I sped up to cross before it went to 1:50.

Mile 14 (.22mi)~ 1:29

I crossed the line and stopped my watch - 1:48:55! One minute PR! I was super happy although I still feel like I could have pushed harder if I hadn't let my confidence flag in middle there. I found my friend Michelle who ran the quarter marathon and we waited for everyone else to cross. After that we went and got our bags, ate our free breakfast burrito - totally hit the spot.
We didn't stick around the race long as it was Mother's day, and some of our gals had to get back for family brunches and such. I got home to my two munchkins standing in the window with adorable homemade presents and my son asking me "did you win mom?". Someday he will understand that Mommy's running is solely for her own personal glory....

This was a good half marathon. It was well organized and I liked that it was a fast course. I didn't like the repeat action on the course, but what can you do. Miraculously, the weather held out for the entire race and it DIDN'T RAIN! Oh, one last thing - the gals and I all signed up for this race because we had seen and coveted the hippie chick t-shirts from previous years. Seriously, they were always really cute and they are Brooks, so good quality too! So...this years shirt is the brightest neoniest green shirt I have ever seen. I think it could be used in lieu of a safety vest in the dark it is so bright. You could wear it hunting and feel safe. The logo design is cute though and the medal is too. All in all this was a very enjoyable day and most of all it's just great to be out there with a bunch of like minded women enjoying the run.