The Comparison Trap

The other day, one of my girls said, “I’m in a pain hole and I can’t get out!” We spend a lot of time on our team working to push ourselves when you reach that fork in a race where you can either choose to blast through the pain tunnel or stay where it’s safe and (more) comfortable. She excels at getting into the pain tunnel but post-race can be just plain miserable for her; when she crosses the line, that’s all she has and we end up carrying her back to the tent. As much as we giggled about her pain hole comment (and her question about whether she still had arms), I found myself thinking about it this week as I checked my email for the fifteenth time looking for interview invites (for residency), checked an online message board for the interviews others were getting and scrolled through Instagram looking at everyone’s seemingly amazing training and racing posts. I realized that I’m caught in a comparison trap and I can’t get out. 

There’s a saying about never knowing about the rocks that other people carry and I think social media exacerbates this in a way. Despite knowing that social media is highly curated, it’s hard to avoid the creeping sensation that everyone else is running faster, doing more and generally better than you. For me, daily posts by other runners that include phrases like #neverstop #workharder #rundaily don’t inspire me, they discourage me. I’m nowhere near lazy; I’m busy coaching a team, applying to residency, and keeping life going but if I’m not killing my workouts (or even really interested in doing them), I feel like a failure by the time I’ve done my first internet scroll in the morning. I’m not sure what the solution is but I definitely need to start the process of building a ladder or find some teammates to carry me back to the tent to regroup.

How do you react to the comparison trap? Have you tried a social media hiatus? What is it about social media that makes us automatically filter our lives?

Week in Review: 9.12.16 to 9.18.16

Monday: Workout on the Eastern Trail. 10 by 1 minute hard, 1 minute easy in an 8 mile run. Actually felt pretty strong; relatively cool day, so I think that helped a lot.

Tuesday: Off day, prorated at 7 miles.

Wednesday: 5 mile easy run plus core.

Thursday: 8 mile tempo run with 4 by mile at tempo pace (6:24, 6:20, 6:20, 6:16). Body Pump at noon, easy run with the team in the afternoon.

Friday: 6 mile recovery run that was much needed.

Saturday: 7 miles around the U-32 Invitational. Double wins for the JV and Varsity girls! Such a proud day as a coach; they executed the race plan perfectly and didn’t get pulled out in fast starts.

Sunday: 12.5 mile long run. Thought dew points of 65 were gone but I was wrong. Total grind in the sun and humidity for this one.

Total Miles: 53.5

A bit of a weird week of running. I had two good workouts on Monday and Thursday but spent the rest of the week a little stressed out about trying to continue to train well with my other commitments. Although my schedule is relatively flexible right now, I sometimes struggle to fit in quality mileage for myself around the team schedule. I know the best thing is to get up and do my own run in the morning but then I end up doubling and that seems to grind me down as well. Hoping to firm up my racing schedule in the next week which should help me be more grounded in terms of workouts and motivation.

I’m happy that I went back to Body Pump and am looking forward to getting a couple more classes in this week. It’s so fun to do something a little different than running and challenge muscles that I used to have! My biceps, however, seem less excited about this particular plan.

Good Eats: The Garden Overrunneth

I’ve traveled a lot over the past few months and although I love adventures in new places, I missed my kitchen terribly. Apparently my garden missed me too because I am overrun with produce, especially of the zucchini variety. I also have a metric ton of ridiculously hot jalapenos that I’ve yet to come up with a good use for. Anyway, since getting home from North Carolina, I’ve made a few great dishes to celebrate being back in my beautiful kitchen. The joke in our house has now become, did Sarah hide zucchini in this? And the answer is yes, I probably did. 

Zucchini Rice: This first dish is a DELICIOUS side dish or perfect vegan/gluten free filling for burritos. I did coconut oil instead of butter (to keep it vegan**) and otherwise made it as listed on Damn Delicious. Like other dishes of its sort, you could swap out the kind of bean and corn to change the flavors. For example, kidney beans or navy beans plus italian dressing could make a delicious Mediterranean style dish while garbanzo beans plus curry powder and coriander could take it in a Middle Eastern direction.

Zucchini Chickpea Quinoa Salad: Another vegan, gluten free option that uses up zucchini and is delicious. I made this for a team dinner and quadrupled the recipe which made mixing the ingredients a bit difficult. If I were to do it again, I would do it in two bowls and then combine so that it was easier to stir. The other thing I did was cook the zucchini; I’m not sure why, but raw zucchini doesn’t appeal to me at all. It probably added a little liquid to the salad but it was delicious.

Slow Cooker Mexican Chicken: Perfect for serving with the zucchini rice as above! I changed this recipe quite a bit because I didn’t have all of the ingredients and am trying to work through some stockpiled supplies but I’m sure her version is totally delicious too. I did fresh jalepenos from my garden (2, cut with gloves on…) instead of the green chiles and left out the liquid smoke. I also used chicken thighs; they have a higher fat content and I think they make a better shredded meat than chicken breast. They are also significantly cheaper, a must for me with crockpot cooking.

Caprese Calzones: I love homemade pizza and any combination of cheese and basil rocks my world, but what I liked most about these was that I could make them before practice and then just throw them in the oven when I got home. I used tomatoes and basil from my garden and they were delicious! I highly recommend splitting a portion of pizza dough into 4 so you can make roll size calzones. It created a much better stuffing to crust ratio!

Finally, the best for last: Homemade Falafel. Holy s&*$. I love falafel but it’s hard to find good falafel around these parts so I often just wait until I’m in a city to have some. I’ve made falafel at home once before and it was a bit of a disaster, so I was anxious about how this would turn out. However, this recipe is AMAZING and I can’t wait to make it again. I did add more flour than she called for which paid off when I started to fry them because they stayed together beautifully. For the frying, I put 4 tablespoons of oil in a skillet on 6/10 heat until it was warm and then started frying. I found that about 2 minutes per side was just perfect. I didn’t make the tahini sauce and instead served them with just fresh tomatoes and lettuce and they were perfection.

** I have a number of athletes who are vegan (much to my chagrin but I pick my battles) and friends who have Celiac, so I’m always on the hunt for recipes that they can enjoy that are healthy and hearty.

I do lots of recipe discovery on Pinterest; want to see what I’m planning next? Follow me here.

Week in Review 9.5.16 to 9.11.16

Monday: 7 mile run with 3.5 at tempo-ish with the team then mini-legs.

Tuesday: 6 mile recovery run around the home course. The heat is really hanging around!

Wednesday am: 8.2 mile run on the Causeway.

Wednesday pm: 5 mile run with the team. Both runs SO hot and humid.

Thursday: 4.5 mile normal run and Body Pump!!

Friday: 13 mile long run with Erin.

Saturday: 5 mile easy run with Will in Maine on the Eastern Trail

Sunday: 8 mile regular run around Old Orchard Beach with striders at the end.

Total Miles: 56.7

Another decent week of training. One would think that after 6 years of coaching, I would know the best way to get my own workout or run in around the team, but it’s still a struggle. I occasionally trip myself up because I think “well if the team is running 7 and I only need 8, I can just add on.” If I’m organized and no one needs anything, it works well. If I’m less organized or an athlete needs something, I wind up short on miles.

I am SO excited that I got to Body Pump this week. I forgot how much I love that class and am going to keep working on going to as many as I can fit in a week. My next hurdle is convincing myself to 1) try a yoga class at Campus Rec and 2) try a totally out of my comfort zone class to mix things up.

It’s still incredibly hot for September in Vermont up here; our home race last Friday was 86 degrees and humid. It’s finally starting to cool off in the forecast so I’m looking forward to feeling better as that happens. Still looking for some fall races to test fitness and have some experiences but it seems like most races are falling on Saturdays which makes it hard with Invitationals.

Week in Review 8.29.16 to 9.4.16

Monday: 7 miles while running around after the girls doing their tempo run.

Tuesday: 11.3 mile long run. First long run in a while, felt good to be out there!

Wednesday: 4.5 mile recovery run.

Thursday: Interval workout on the treadmill in Chicago. 2 mile warmup then 5 by (.25 at regular pace, .25 at tempo pace, .25 at interval pace, .25 at recovery pace) and 2 mile cooldown for 8 miles. Legs after.

Friday: Step 2 Clinical Skills Board, so I took this as a scheduled off day. 7 miles prorated.

Saturday: 7 miles easy on the Essex Invitational Course. A few sprints across the course to cheer.

Sunday: 8 miles on the rail trail in Cambridge.

Total Miles: 52.8

Total August Miles: 176

Happy with the way this week went and enjoying the slight increase in flexibility offered by the 9 day schedule. I knew I had to travel (back) to Chicago to take my last set of Boards on Friday (yay!!!!) and had the option of doing my interval workout on Thursday or Saturday. Since Race Days are always crazy and I feel strongly that the team should get 100% of me, I opted to do it on Thursday on slightly less recovered legs. Totally the right choice!

One of the things I’m currently working through is what shape I want my running to take this fall. I had initially had a thought that I’d start working towards a winter marathon but I’m starting to back track on that. Residency applications are due this week and this fall will be full of travel for interviews. Although I am happy to run in lots of places, it might not be the best set up for a good performance when I’m trying to balance all of that. On top of that, this will (sob) be my last year coaching and honestly, I’m happiest when I can give all my attention to coaching and not be distracted by my own running. I’ll keep chewing on this over the next few weeks but stay tuned!

Recently Read: On Running as a Woman and Olympic Rundown

The good: Jenny Simpson brought home the bronze in the 1500, the first American woman to do so. I don’t know Jenny but really admire her work ethic and her sportsmanship year after year.

The hard but good: A really important piece by Allison Schmitt on depression and the athlete. Although I’m sure the Olympic arena is an even more potent setup for depression and anxiety, it’s an ever-present issue at all levels of competition. Even at our own training camp last week, athletes offered stories about the depression, anxiety and stress that they had either experienced in the past or were currently experiencing. I spend a lot of time talking to people while coaching or doctoring and am acutely aware of how prevalent these issues are but it’s always amazing to hear my girls say things like “I didn’t know anyone else felt this way!”

Not sure I’m crazy about this: There seems to be a current obsession with eating clean, which in my not so humble opinion is just a synonym for disordered eating. One of my favorite blogging runners who I always admired for eating real food and having a normal body while running fast has recently fallen into this trap, shilling her “new style of clean eating” while posting pictures of her shrinking frame and lamenting her recent poor performances. This article seems to perpetuate a similar theme.  I think it makes total sense to make the bulk of your diet based on real foods (grains, fruits, veggies, proteins) but to do a juice fast or “meticulously” plan food just heads down a rabbit hole.

Finally, another important piece that I’ve thought about and talked about with female running friends recently in the light of another set of attacks that have left many of us (or at least, our mothers) on edge. I run alone almost all the time and often very early in the morning. When the attack in Massachusetts occurred, my sister sent me a text imploring me to be careful and I’ll admit, I pushed my morning run to the afternoon the next day because I was a little spooked by the whole scenario. The following morning, however, my alarm went off at 4:30 and off into the darkness I went, a move that was in some part a protest against the idea that I am inherently vulnerable by virtue of being female and a runner.

Week in Review 8.22.16 to 8.28.16

Monday: Minimal running around while the team ran their relay at Windridge.

Tuesday: 6.75 miles with striders on the track.

Wednesday: 7 miles with 4 by half mile hill at interval pace. Legs after.

Thursday am: 6.65 miles recovery plus arms after.

Thursday pm: 3 miles super easy with the team.

Friday: 6.8 mile regular run plus striders on the track.

Saturday: 8 miles with 3 by mile at tempo pace (6:28, 6:30, 6:23).

Sunday: 6 mile recovery run with Will.

Total Miles: 47.2 miles

Not a bad training week. Getting back into a routine at home and definitely didn’t do as much strength work as I wanted but did get in a reasonable number of miles. I’d been thinking of running the Downtown 10K as my first fall race but sadly, they canceled it this week. Downtown 10K is one of my favorite races of all time and is on an AWESOME course, but apparently interest was too low to keep it going.

Also so excited that cross country is back in full swing. As always, it’s a fantastic group of girls and I’m so excited for them to show off all their hard work from the summer. This was my first summer away from the team but they all motivated each other and are just in awesome shape going into the fall.

For the coming week, my two areas of focus are going to be getting in more strength (UVM has Body Pump now, so I’m really excited to get to a couple of classes) and finding a routine again with nutrition. We didn’t have much food in our house (Will lives on junk when I’m gone…) so I had a very random assortment of food over the last week. Unfortunately, I also have to travel back to Chicago for 24 hours at the end of the week for another set of boards (Step 2 Clinical Skills, which is under protest for a really skewed cost (~2000 if you’re lucky) to benefit (virtually none) ratio). The 9 day schedule let me put a rest day on Friday when I’m actually testing but I’ll definitely have to run on the treadmill in Chicago on Thursday.

Week in Review 8.15.16 to 8.21.16

Another whirlwind week!

Monday: 5.5 miles while I got my oil changed with 4 laps of striders on the track at UNC-Asheville. Super hot!

Tuesday: 7 miles with 3 by 5 minutes at tempo effort.

Wednesday: 5 miles of recovery running on the Mountains to Sea trail.

Thursday: 6 miles easy, my last morning in Asheville.

Friday: Travel Day. Winchester, Virginia to Roxbury, VT to meet my girls at training camp! Unfortunate feature was getting rear-ended about an hour from camp.

Saturday am: Easy warmup then 5 by 3 minutes at tempo effort (XC girls).

Saturday pm: 3.5 mile recovery run. Beach abs after.

Sunday am: Easy warmup then 5 by Windridge hill hard. Legs after.

Sunday pm: Hour plus of yoga; tons of hip and back work. Much needed.

Total Miles: 37

I’m back in Vermont! I spent the weekend with my girls at training camp and loved every second. As mentioned above, I did unfortunately get rear-ended while traveling on Friday, which was my first accident in over a decade. I was stopped in traffic and she didn’t see that we were stopped and hit me at a pretty good clip. Thankfully, I had Will’s Honda and although it needs some repairs, no one was injured and besides some sore muscles and a sore wrist, I was totally unscathed.

I’m excited to get back into a groove this week and start following my 9 day schedule on Wednesday. Since I’ve been at 35 to 37 miles for the last 3 weeks, I’ll adjust down to 45 miles for this first week back, rather than pushing for 50.

 

Why I Am Trying a 9 Day Training Cycle

It’s no secret that my schedule is wonky at best. I am occasionally on a Monday through Friday workweek but most of the time, the idea of weekend or workweek is irrelevant. Add in the fact that I start coaching full time this coming week with meets almost every Saturday and half my weekend instantly evaporates. On top of this, I have call requirements and a fall full of interviews, some of which are a long travel from Burlington.

In addition to this scheduling nightmare for the fall, I’m also in desperate need of a better recovery plan. Thanks to the above schedule, my ability to increase sleep is limited and by definition, I’m on my feet all day, sometimes in very awkward positions. How then, to create more recovery time so that I can keep chasing after my athletic pursuits? One option is to increase my intensity but drop my volume. I ran a very successful first marathon on 35 miles a week, so this is a possibility I’ll likely reconsider during residency. The other option and the one I’ll be trying out this fall is the 9 day training cycle. 

The premise is simple: instead of trying to do a speed workout, tempo workout and long run in 7 days, you do it in 9 days. The nice part of this is that each harder effort is followed by both a recover run and a regular run and increases the likelihood you hit hard workouts fully recovered. Because there are more days to play with, the added benefit of flexibility is a good fit for the inevitable travel delays that I’ll experience this fall.

Here’s what my first “week” back will look like:

50 8/24/2016 Hard 8/1:1 x 10 Legs
50 8/25/2016 Recover 6 Arms
50 8/26/2016 Regular 7 Core
50 8/27/2016 Hard 8/3 by 1 at T Legs
50 8/28/2016 Recover 6 Arms
50 8/29/2016 Regular 7 Core
50 8/30/2016 Long 12 Legs
50 8/31/2016 Recover 6 Arms
50 9/1/2016 Regular 7 Core

How do you adjust mileage for a 9 day cycle? As I’ve addressed in comments before, I prorate all of my mileage to get the right day to day load.  In the case of the example above, 50/7 is a daily load of 7.1, so my workouts are (daily load + 1), recovery is (daily load – 1) and regular is 7. Long run will start at about 25% of my total mileage and increase. After this 9 day set, I’ll go to 55 miles per ‘week’ and adjust accordingly.

When do you have an off day? I’ll be taking an off day on the 4th recovery day, which is every 12th day. Right now, I take an off day every other week which can be anything from 8 to 13 days. I think with the additional recovery offered by the 9 day schedule, I’ll be okay with this being on the long end but it will definitely be something I pay attention to when I reevaluate.

How long is my experiment? I’ll be trying this through early October, enough to go through 6 microcycles. If I feel like it’s an improvement over my current schedule, I’ll keep it going through the rest of the fall. if not, I’ll either go back to a 7 day schedule or try something new.

Anyone ever do a 9 day cycle? 

Race Report: Rock ‘n’ Roll Chicago Half Marathon

Only a month late…it’s been a really busy month!!

Midtown

Short Version:

Not the day I wanted but not the worst day either. Very clear areas for improvement but also evidence of a solid fitness base. 1:26:48, 20th for women, 99th overall.

Long Version:

I went into this race with a simple goal of a) running faster than I had at Plattsburgh (1:26:44) and b) getting a good sense of my fitness for the fall. In my head, I anticipated being around 1:24 if the weather cooperated. I was 4 seconds slower than Plattsburgh, so not an enormous failure on point A but certainly way off 1:24.

I woke up early on race morning and headed into the city. Because the course looped through downtown, I parked far away from the start in a garage that I knew I could leave from right after the race. I had to drive to Lexington that day and didn’t want to delay that misery! It was warm at 4 am already, around 70, but not as hot as it had been. Since it’s Chicago, there was also a “breeze.” Although wind is becoming my nemesis in racing, I will admit that it helped to keep air moving on a sticky morning.

Prerace was a BREEZE. I’ve done a number of Rock ‘n’ Roll events and sometimes, the logistics don’t work out well (see, Vegas) and I start the race stressed and grumpy. This one was the opposite. I dropped my bag easily, realized I left my Gu in my bag and was able to get it again with no issue. I walked right up to the start line and found a spot with no issue and the race went off without a hitch. Right before the start, I met a brand new post-collegiate runner who was running her first half and had a goal of about 1:25 so we agreed to run together for the first few miles.

O to 5K

As we got rolling, I didn’t feel terrible but I didn’t feel great either. Way too much celebrating with my Chicago classmates and way too little slept left me more tired and dry than I normally would like to be. Lesson 1: No amount of water or Nuun can compensate for a rowdy night at Journal Club.  We rolled through the first mile in about 6:22 and I was cautiously optimistic that things would continue that way. After the snafu at Plattsburgh with mismarked miles, I was wearing my Garmin for this race but all the tunnels and turns quickly made it irrelevant. Lesson 2: Garmin-free racing works better for me in short races. The first 6 miles of the course wind through downtown and although the scenery was great, it was hard to get into any kind of a groove. To add to this, we kept crossing these weird canals that were extremely painful underfoot in flats. Both McKenna and I remarked “I DON’T LIKE THESE!!” as we went over the first one. We went through the 5K in 20:07 (6:28) and I started to feel a bit better while McKenna started to feel worse. We got separated and I rolled on alone.

5K to 10K

Right around here, I had a momentary panic that this would be my first DNF as my right foot went completely numb. After years of running with a numb left foot and a few episodes of numbness in my right foot lately, there are few things that make me worry more and although I can usually tough out a workout, 10 miles seemed like a long way to push. Once we got onto the straighter section of the course, however, my foot started to feel better and I went through the 10K in 40:42 (6:33). The wind was pretty tough heading south and although I tried to connect with other runners, I had a similar situation developing as I did at Plattsburgh where I just felt…gearless. I was happy cruising along but couldn’t seem to find another comfortable pace. Women were flying by me and I couldn’t do much more than just watch them go.

10K to 15K

As it sometimes goes in a race, my best miles were right before my worst. Towards the south-most part of the course, we turned onto a newly paved out and back and it just felt like heaven. I was floating along, could see the remainder of the women’s field and had a fleeting (silly rabbit…) thought that I might be able to close the last 3 miles quickly. I went through 8.9 miles in 58:13 (6:32). As we turned back onto the main road and made the turn towards home, however, that fleeting thought quickly faded.

South Part of the Race Course

15K to Finish

We connected with the Lakefront Path and started dodging 10K runners and in a final insult to my focus/stride, went through the MOST bizarre race feature I’ve ever experienced: a long tunnel that was blacked out with flashing strobe lights. I’m sure some people thought it was fun, but for me, I couldn’t see my footing and slowed to a jog as I tried not to trip over a) my feet and b) 10K runners. By the time we came out of the tunnel, I was all but done. I tried to gear up and felt like I was crawling. The finish had a great, long straightaway that would have been great for a strong finish but I didn’t have much strong left. I crossed in 1:26:48, which means my last few miles were barely under 7 minute pace. Yikes.

After the finish, I waited for McKenna to finish and we went for a brief cooldown. By the time I got back to my car, the skies opened up with an epic Midwestern thunderstorm and I headed south to Lexington through scary driving conditions.

Thoughts:

The good news is that I am apparently quite comfortable at 6:38 pace as I’ve landed there in almost all my races and workouts lately. This suggests good general fitness and a solid base from which to begin fall training. The bad news is that I am lacking any top gears, which makes sense since most of my training has been unstructured at best. As I said in my training week review yesterday, these last two rotations have been my priority (as they should be), but I’m looking forward to the opportunity to tighten down on my training and incorporate more interval work as I go into the fall. Lesson 3: Speedwork really does make you faster…or at least keeps you from slowing down in the end of a race. 

As always, I am enormously thankful for the support, both official and unofficial, that allows me to continue to run through the various adventures of my life. In this case, the Competitor Group comped my entry for this race (I’m starting to think it’s a curse; anytime they are gracious enough to do this, I race poorly…), Skechers supports me with shoes and gear and Nuun covers my hydration.