Monday, November 28, 2016

Race Week - Reinforcing the Mind

In April,  when I was pondering a return to 26.2, I decided I needed a new focus.  Having completed 25 marathons previously, I've tried many training plans, various mileage goals, boot camps, etc.   I've primarily focused on the physical side of conquering the distance, with limited mental training.  It's interesting that prior to my PR marathon at Top of Utah, 2012, I focused on the physical and the mental.
Top of Utah, Logan was my 24th attempt at the marathon,  so I decided to search google for a book to read up on the mental side of training.  This is still my PR race, so YES, I think the mental training helps.  This is an EXCELLENT book, and it's one that I will be reviewing this week as I prepare for the mental side of racing at St. Jude, Memphis.

In May,  as I pondered my return to 26.2 after 3 years away from the distance, I had no plans to return to my previous mileage (avg. 45 miles per wk, with a peak of 80 miles before Boston 2013).  Nope!  While I loved every minute of it back then, my current thoughts are lower mileage for a number of reasons.  1.  I don't believe high mileage is a healthy thing to do to the body.  2.  At this time, and in May when I decided to run a marathon, I've had zero desire to run high mileage.  With this being the case, I decided I wanted to run limited mileage, run my long runs, and focus more on the mental side of the situation.  This has been refreshing and fun to focus on a new challenge.   This is something that I now believe was a limiting factor when I was racing for PRs.   Even though, I ran, and achieved PRs for around 10+ years, I now know without a doubt, I could have achieved more had I focused on the mental side of training during those years.   

As I began to focus on my return, I started my search for a new book on mental training.  This is the best one I found this summer/fall.   It's great ! 
Many aspects of these 2 books spoke to me.  The Runner's Brain helped me focus on eliminating any negative things that play in my mind.  It talks about the importance of visualization, deleting and replacing any negative thoughts that come up.   I started reading this book in April.  At this point, my long run was 8 miles, and I was running that distance every other week.  As I read, and ran, I begin my mental training practice on the runs, and even some meditation from time to time.   I, 100% believe in meditation, but to be honest, I have yet to achieve a consistent "stillness" that is needed.  I have been able to do some active meditation,  with meditation while running.  I totally accept where I am now and I realize learning to meditate is a journey, similar to the journey of running your first marathon.  It's a process......

As I ran my 8 mile runs with the weather warming up in April and May, I immediately started using affirmations or mantras while running.   During my longer runs, something would pop into my head from my reading, or sometimes something totally new.  Each time this happened, I just kept repeating the words in my head.  If I had a negative thought, I would start saying something positive,  and I would continue repeating it.  Sometimes it worked out great to repeat the words or phrase to the beat of the song that played on my Ipod.  Other times, I would change the words of the song to a running related inspiring chant.   I can not effectively express how much I have grown to believe in this process.  For all of my hard workouts, and all of my long runs up to 20 miles, my focus to FINISH STRONG was achieved.   My goal has been to either maintain my pace, or increase my pace at the end of all of my quality workouts (typically, 2 runs per week).  For the majority of the quality runs, I not only maintained, but I increased the pace at the end.  It works !

For most of these inspiring moments of thought, I would go home and write them down.  I decided in April to write them down and my thought all along was it will be great to review these moments of inspiration.   I decided this week was a great week to blog about it as a way to review these moments. My hope is to reinforce the moments in my mind for Sat.   It's also really cool,  as I read these notes, it takes me vividly back to each of these runs.  It's like a time stamp of the run and the day.

My first notes are on April 19th of 2016.  One this note, I wrote down a 3 year goal.  I will not disclose the goal at this time, but it's something I would like to achieve during the Big 50 birthday year.

My Brainwashing Notes from 2016
These are my run notes (chants, mantras, etc) from my journey back to 26.2, starting on April 24, 2016:
April 24 -
"This is the path to strength, fitness, and fun".  
"A new journey, a new path"

May 2 -
Consistency leads to strength, strength leads to ________ (my 3 year goal)

Sidenote -  from May 10th - I wrote down my weight and measurements.  Weight loss has not been my goal or focus, but I have dropped about 8 lbs. which does indeed help my running.

June 22-
"Lastest, fastest" - last mile or miles should be my fastest .  (Lastest fastest was just a short easy way to repeat to the music of the day)

July 2
"Strength and Ease"
July - "Iron Strength"

August 5
"EFS - Easy, Fun, Strong

August 9
"with God, I finish Strong !" (calling in some extra help with the hot summer miles)
August 11
14 humid miles - "Steady, Strong, Easy, Enjoy the Moment, Fun"
On this run, 3 dogs came after me, but something super cool happened.  One of the 3 dogs was a German Shepard - as they approached me, the German Shepard became my protector.  He kept blocking a Pit Bull from approaching me.  In fact, the GS was so insistent in protecting me that he fought the PB to protect me.   This actually happened 2 times this summer with 2 different sets of dogs.  I'm definitely feeling like a lucky and blessed gal......

August 13
"God's Strength, God's Focus, God's power.....I'm not done yet" (as in I'm not "washed-up" yet- lol)
Song of the day - Don't Stop Dancing - Creed 
Lyrics that spoke to me - "Children don't stop dancing, believe you can fly"

August 21
"Strong Finish, Finish Strong!"
August 23
at Mile 24, I AM STRONG
at Mile 25, I AM STRONG
(this was a 6 mile run with 3 X 1 mile repeats, but I started working on my brainwashing to have a strong finish at 26.2 miles)

August 26
"God take the wheel." 
"God's Strength"
(16 mile run, half on hills, HOT)

August 27
"The Blessing is outside your comfort zone.  Embrace the uncomfortable."
"Perceptions either create us or destroy us."

September 3
brainwashing continues on this 8 mile run
"at 20 I run my best"
"24-26, I run with ease"
"24-26.2, I run with God's strength" 
(notes after the run - One of the hottest, one of the best....)

September 7
(mile) "18 starts "the easy 8" 

September 24
"Today, I practice strong and steady until the end."
"18-26 - I'm trained, mentally & physically to finish strong."
"18-26 - Strong Finish"
"18-26 - "God granted strength & power"

September 29
** - first cool front - happy me!
Song of the Day - inspiration BIG
"That Power" - Will I Am
"I am strong on hills"
"no fear, no doubt, strong until the end" 

October 4
3X2 mile 
"find it, feel it , focus, calm (find it, feel it - refers to finding my planned pace, and feeling it)

October 6
"I am strong"

October 25
20 mile run
"calm, cool, collected" - (to the beat of the song)
"magnet to Meraux" - (practicing visualization - I was running several small cities,  and my final destination was Meraux.  I was visualizing a magnet pulling me to Meraux.)
"float to the finish"
"finish fast"
"God's Strength"
I practiced the following, on the later miles of this 20 miler, but changed it to be the final miles of 26:
"mile 20 is easier than 19"
"mile 21 is easier than 20"
"mile 22 is easier than 21"
"mile 23 is easier than 22"
"mile 24 is easier than 23"
"mile 25 is easier than 24"

October 27
"last 6, fastest 6"

October 29
9 X800
"I will never slow down the last 3 reps"  (I was running 800s, but this represents, I will NOT slow down the last 3 miles of 26.2)

Nov. 4th
22 miles
"God is with me, I am strong"

Note to Self !



Sunday, November 27, 2016

Stennis Space Center 13.1 - It's Tradition !

I wish I had a data base for my running history.  It would be so cool if I had a database to search "Stennis Space Center" races, and my complete Stennis history would show up.  From my early PRs at this race in the marathon, to the year that I ran the 5k here, to my more recent half marathon results.  Apparently, I need a computer programmer, lol.

I've blogged about Stennis many times.  It's a race I feel compelled to run most years.  This year was no different.  I typically wait until race week to make a decision to run it.  Lately, it's been more of a training run race for me, so I wait and decide by the weather of the day.  When I see lows in the mid 50s, sunny, and nice conditions, I just have to go.....

I mean, what's not to's a cheap race, you can sign up the day before the race at a rate that's cheaper than some 5ks these days,  it's a flat and fast course (my favorite), it's a small race (my favorite), I usually see several friends at this race......
  Some say the course is boring, but I think it's pretty......

I noticed my friend on the course and he took this cool selfie on the run.  We have been greeting each other at Gulf Coast races for many years, from FL-LA.  We're both running the full at St. Jude Memphis next week too.

I'm on the left, with friends on the right. 

 With 1 week to go until St. Jude, I wanted to run 8-10 miles, but with Stennis on the calendar, I just couldn't resist going to it.  13.1 was a little longer than ideal, (in my opinion), but I decided if I ran it at a slow pace, that would be ok.   It was a gorgeous day !  The North wind was blowing, but it was not too bad.   For much of the race, I was running near a young guy.  I noticed around mile 7-8, he was starting to struggle, but he was holding on well at this point.  At mile 8, we had our last short stretch that was into the North wind.  As we made the turn, I told him to get behind me and I would block the wind for him.  I'm tall (5'10) and he was short so I was hoping he would have a nice shield here.  I know the course well, and I knew if I could assist him with this part, we would soon have the wind at our back for the remaining miles of the race.  I also remember several years when I was "racing"  this stretch is brutal with a north wind blowing.    For the next mile, he stayed behind me.  As we made it to the turn with the wind at our back, I was excited for him, thinking he had made it through the toughest part.  We didn't get to chat as we ran, but it is always a great connection when you can help a fellow runner.  I wanted to ask him so many questions, but with him behind me, that wasn't an option.  Over the last 4 miles, he gradually dropped off of my pace (9:40ish).  I looked behind several times because I REALLY wanted him to hang on.  After several looks back, he was eventually out of my sight.

During my training this summer and fall, I've been working on picking up the pace for the last few miles.  Today, with only 1 week until the race, and running the extra miles, I focused on running slow.  Even with the intention of running slow, over the final two miles, I gradually picked up the pace.  Obviously, with the intentional slow pace, it was very easy to pick up the pace, but I loved how it felt so natural to pick up the pace over the final miles.   Having practiced this for several months now, my hope is that I can maintain or increase the pace at the end of the race next week.

After the race, as I was walking back to my car, the guy from the race got my attention (before I noticed him).  He said, "thanks for helping me today."  That makes me so Happy !  It's such a great feeling when you can help another runner with pacing, or assisting them when they are struggling.  This, in itself,  was worth the trip to Stennis.   

I ended my day with an overall pace of 9:39 average which is perfect for my final long run before St. Jude.  When I made it back to our camp in LA, my husband treated me to a massage to help me get "race ready."  Currently, the weather is looking great for St. Jude.  I'm excited and ready ! 
I took the scenic route back to the camp.  It was a beautiful drive through the LA marsh with fall colors at their peak.  Such a great day !   Well, it was a great day until Alabama beat Auburn anyway.  Dang it ! 

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Yasso's 800s and final 24 hour double run

It's so hard for me to believe that I'm 2 weeks away from my return to 26.2 after a 3.5 year break.  Yikes !    Actually, I'm excited !   I couldn't have asked for better training for my return.   I ended up doing much more than I thought I would for this marathon.  When I decided to raise money for St. Jude and return to the marathon in the early Spring, the only goal was to finish the race for St. Jude.  As mentioned before, as I got into the summer training, I felt great.  I felt so encouraged I added in the much tougher than originally planned, Yasso's 800s.  This past Tues. I did the full workout -       10 X 800 with equal recovery time.  As I've been working up to the 10X800 workout, I've realized that "muscle memory" is a real thing.  I've been happily surprised with the ease that I've returned to this "not for the weak" workout.  I should say, I haven't returned at near the same speed as before, but I'm faster than I expected to be after the extended hiatus.  As I've been working up to the full workout, the 800s have been around 4:00 or just under, with 4:00 minute recovery. 
So fortunate to have this nice track in St. Bernard, LA
Thankfully, for this final workout, the weather in South Louisiana is finally tolerable, even nice some days.  The final Yasso's workout was great !  I averaged 3:55 for the 10X800 workout.  This was 9.5 miles with 5 miles of speed work.   I think I may have already mentioned this, but if not.....I have NO plans to attempt a 3:55 marathon.  My peak mileage was 42 miles and that was only 1 week in the 40 MPW range.  Unless things have totally changed for me during my break, this mileage (FOR ME) doesn't equate to a sub 4:00 marathon.  Sub 4:00 is not my goal anyway.   This marathon is about giving the 26.2 mile distance a try again, and this one is about St. Jude. 

My husband and I raffled a guided fishing trip and we raised $4300.00 for St. Jude.  This is what this race is about for me.  Dufrene's Guide Service  - check it out if you like to fish. 

Yesterday, and today, I ran my final, 2 runs in 24 hours, 8 mile and long run combo.  This is a new experiment for me.  I enjoy trying different training plans, different ideas, different workouts, etc.  This time, starting with my 18 miler, then for my 20, 22, and now my final 16 mile run, I've ran 8 miles before the long run, in roughly a 24-26 hour period of time.  I'm thinking, and hoping,  this will add some strength, and maybe some strength in the final miles of the race.

Friday lunch time run - 76 degrees with a cold front on the way for my Sat. run.

Tunnel of Trees in St. Bernard, LA

For the 24 miles (8 miles Friday at lunch time and 16 Sat. am) in just under 24 hours, I averaged around 9:33 average.  A cold front arrived :) during the night, with a strong north wind.  I rode with Chad to the gym and ran the 16 miles back to our camp.  This way the wind was at my back.  I figured being 2 weeks out from the marathon, the wind aided run was a good idea.  That's what I told myself anyway......

Now it's taper time for me.  I ended this week with 38.5 miles.  This next week I will run 25-31 miles. 

All I need now is some COLD, no wind, no ice, no rain weather in Memphis, TN on Dec. 3rd.  I'm ready !  I'm excited ! 

Monday, November 7, 2016

Time is zooming - 3 weeks !

I can't seem to keep up.  The training weeks are flying by.  My last blog was about my 20 miler and the 9 X 800 workout.  I seemed to recover really well from that.  My 22 miler was planned for 10 days later,  so I ran it this past Friday.  I had been running a balance of hills and flat, but it ended up with my 18 and 20 mile runs were on flat roads.  The 18 was flat because I wanted to run the race in Mandeville, LA.  The 20 miler ended up being in South LA just because that's the way my schedule ended up.  I was in LA when I needed to run the 20, so it was flat, flat, except one bridge.   I was determined that my next long would be on hills.  It was, and it was challenging !  I suppose most 22 mile runs are challenging no matter what the terrain.  I also wanted it to be challenging because I know Memphis is going to be hilly.  I'm not sure "how hilly", but I know it's rolling hills for most of the race, from what I'm told.

I'm continuing my trial of running 8 miles before my long run, so I ran 8 miles on Thursday.  Thankfully, I was able to recruit my friend Kelly to run the 8 miles with me.  So Friday, before the time change, I waited for daylight, and headed out for my run.  I don't like running in the dark anymore, and thankfully, my schedule is flexible and I can do it.  I had to wait until 7AM for daylight to arrive.  By waiting for daylight, I knew the last hour, or more, would be warm.  It was !

This pic and the one to the right lower, are in the same area
.  One the way out !
One the way back !  The fall colors didn't show up like I wanted. 
This is a flat area at the middle miles of my run.  I love my country road running!   This pic has many of my favorite "country" scenes - dirt road, green cow pastures, hay barn, farm house, fence posts, and barbed wire.  Just need the cat, dog, and cows to show up and it would have been perfect. 

Audrey's horse poses for a pic.  He wanted to run !

Audrey's dogs cheering me on .....Go Ginny Go ! 
 I ended this week with 34 miles (I peaked last week at 42 miles).   Friday when I finished the run, I didn't have much time.  I had to pack the car and drive 2 hours to South LA.  Getting in a car after a hilly 22 mile run was not on my wish list.   I felt beat up the rest of the day, but that was to be expected with the distance, the hills, and the warmth at the end.   I ended up running the 22 miles with a 9:57 average.  I've been working REALLY hard on NOT slowing down at the end of my quality runs.  This run was the first one that I totally failed, but the last 2 miles are up hill and fairly intense, so I'm choosing to look on the bright side.  The bright side is this.....  As mentioned my 20 miler was flat.   My average pace was 9:55 for the 20.  This 22 mile run was hilly and my average pace was 9:57.  So even though I slowed down a LOT in the last 2,  up hill miles, I'm focusing on the terrain and factoring in the temps. and calling it a great run.

For this marathon training, I'm doing some things that are similar, but I'm trying several new things.  One being the 8 mile runs the day before my long runs.  I'm also trying my longest run being 4 weeks out instead of my typical 3 weeks before the marathon.  Today, I also decided that this week is going to be a step back week which will be different than my typical 3 week taper.  This week,  I'm going to cut my weekly mileage back (probably 20-25 miles) and my long run will be 8-10 miles.  Then next week (2 weeks before the marathon), I will do a 16-18 mile run, and the Yasso's full 10X800 workout, and increase my weekly mileage again.    I will do the long run early in the week, so it will be more like 2.5 weeks out.  Then I will do a shorter taper after next week.

I have no idea how all of this will work out as far as racing, but it doesn't matter......
I'm enjoying the training.  I'm adjusting it as I feel it's needed.  I decided on the "step back" week today, after running a 5 mile run and knowing that I'm NOT recovered from the 22 miles on Friday.  It just feels right to "step back" this week, get some full recovery, and then pick it back up again next week.

Another good reason for a step back week is that Wed., my Mom, sister, and I will leave for a quick trip to Dallas, TX.  From what I've read, it sounds like a run around White Rock Lake will be on the list, but I'm still researching the area.   Happy Running !