To be blunt, running has just not been that fun lately. My schedule is totally unpredictable and I kept trying to find ways to fit a marathon training schedule around TAing, coaching and traveling for a bazillion interviews literally across the country. It just wasn’t working. I didn’t want to run, let alone do a workout and most days, I just wanted to pitch my running shoes across the room. I let go of the idea of a winter marathon a few weeks ago but then found myself in a new predicament: aimless running. With no goal race, what was the point of going out the door to run? After a couple of weeks with no goal, it became evident that I needed something to focus on and I decided to jump back in with a surprise 5K last weekend.
I went in with no goal; I just wanted to go through the motions and get a starting point. I also wanted to support Karen Newman, the beneficiary of the Victory 5K. Karen was one of my first athletic heroes when I started racing again. She would dominate local races with her Olympic singlet on and I remember just being in awe that I got to share the road with someone of her talent. She has recently been battling a return of her breast cancer and the race was a fundraiser to help defray some of her healthcare costs.
Saturday morning was a great day for ducks in Antarctica. It was a chilly 40 degrees and during our warm-up, it started POURING and gusting. We got warm enough while we were jogging around but when I stepped outside for the start, my singlet was instantly glued to me. In fact, I had a few moments during the race where my shorts were so soaked, I wasn’t sure I was wearing any.
The start went off and I just tried to remember how to race. The first mile is essentially downhill and I aimed for a pace that was a click above tempo. During this mile, the rain was dumping down and I mentally kicked myself for not wearing a hat as water was streaming down my face. I went through the first mile in 6:06 (18:57 pace) and although I knew it was above my fitness, hoped that I could still hang on for a respectable finish. The second mile is half slight uphill and half slight downhill on gravel; the turnaround is in the middle of this mile. Although the footing wasn’t too bad, the turnaround was ridiculously tight and I came to a complete stop as I tried to figure out how to turn without falling. On the first part of the return trip, the puddles had started to accumulate and it was getting slippery. I went through Mile 2 at approximately 12:30 (19:31 pace) and realized I needed to stay focused to not totally fall off. The last mile wasn’t as bad as the last mile usually is in a 5K, probably because I was just running on aerobic fitness and not actually redlining. I worked on reeling in the guy ahead of me and just tried to stay upright in the puddles. I rounded the corner for home and pushed it in in 19:28 (6:15 pace).
My initial reaction was to be frustrated (19:28 is slower than my half marathon pace when I’m in decent shape) but I followed that up by being happy that I got through my first race back and cared enough to be frustrated! The nice thing about the 5K is that I can try it again this coming weekend. The Halloween Hustle is all on pavement (I think), so I’m hoping to improve on my time and keep turning my wheels over. My ultimate goal from this training cycle is to break 18 minutes at the First Run 5K (provided we don’t have a massive snowstorm or Arctic blast).
Monday: 3 mile run with the dogs and a mini-lift at 4:30 am before TA extravaganza.
Tuesday: 7.5 mile run with the team with 8 by 400 at various speeds on grass. Hip core after.
Wednesday: 6 mile trail run. Amazing fall day out.
Thursday am: 5 miles with 10 minutes at T pace effort.
Thursday pm: 2 miles easy with the team.
Friday: 5.5 miles easy with 4 by 100 meter striders.
Saturday: Decided I had to pull the bandaid off and find out where I am. Victory 5K in the pouring rain and 40 degree weather, 19:28. Not pretty but not that ugly either. 7.1 miles for the day.
Sunday: Skied for 90 minutes in the am!!! 4.5 mile run and Body Pump in the evening.
Total Miles: 40.8
In a moment of realism, I decided that trying to train for a half or full marathon is lunacy right now. I’m traveling all over this fall for interviews and it just sets me up for frustration and failure to be trying to fit 70 miles a week of training in. What I do have time for, however, are a bunch of 5Ks and 10Ks and to try to regain some speed. Despite having almost no real workouts on my legs, I hopped in a 5K this weekend and was happy to run a 19:28. It felt easy, probably because I come with one gear right now, but I’m happy to have a starting place. I’ll race every weekend over the next four weeks and then focus in on the New Years Day 5K, which I’ve won the past two years. It’s hard to watch everyone else run goal fall races but it’s a huge relief to have a realistic training plan for my schedule right now.
I’ve also decided to scrap my 9 day cycle for now. Although I think it’s ultimately the right fit for me, it is not the right fit for my life right now where my schedule is different from week to week. I also want to be able to explore all of these new cities that I’m visiting and not be tied to a workout or distance when I’m there. For example, I’m headed back to Asheville on Thursday (yay!!) and am looking forward to doing an easy hour and change of one of my favorite loops now that the weather has calmed down. Friday morning, interviews start early so I’ll probably just squeeze something easy in on the treadmill.
Tuesday pm: 4 miles with the team, some moderately fast in their workout.
Wednesday: Interval workout. 10 by 400 on the track (87 to 89 for all). 10.5 miles total.
Thursday: 4 miles easy plus Body Pump.
Friday: 8 mile run in the rain and cold.
Saturday: 6 miles at Manchester.
Sunday: Power hiked Camel’s Hump with Will. 45 minutes up, 30 minutes down. Both of us are sore today!
Total Miles: 46.5
I’m starting to embrace whatever the day offers me for fitness. Part of me wants to be back on a strict training plan, with big race goals and high mileage, and part of me is loving the fact that when I woke up yesterday and it was 40 and sunny and crisp, I decided I wanted to go for a hike and did that instead. As I wrote last week, I’m struggling with a comparison trap and trying hard to get myself out of that rut. I did get a super successful workout in on the track last week and am happy with my effort in that. I’m also really loving getting to Body Pump a couple of times a week. I’m sore but definitely getting stronger again.
For this week, I have a marathon pace workout today (fits with the team workout…) and a long run Thursday plus Body Pump, some doubles and a hike up Mount Mansfield on Sunday.
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!
I had a brief opportunity to live the pro life this fall but as anyone who’s been reading this blog for more than a few months knows, that didn’t result in a huge breakthrough but instead left me disappointed and a little heartbroken after Philly. All’s well that ends well, but upon reflection, I thrive when my schedule is busy and struggle when all I have to focus on is training.
One of the biggest questions that I get from people in real life and people on the internet alike is how I fit training in around the horrendous schedule that is medical school. Third year has been the absolute hardest of the years in terms of scheduling (and thankfully I’m officially a 4th year Friday at 2 pm), but I’ve still managed to hang on to a fitness base and ramp up for spring races. Part of this is a systematic approach to a training cycle, which goes something like this:
Begin with the end in mind. My goal race for the early Spring is the Plattsburgh Half Marathon in early May. It’s sponsored by Skechers and many of the new Northeast athletes are getting together to aim for a sweep. I don’t need it (or expect it) to be a PR, but I do want to put in a good performance. To run a solid half, I need to have some reasonable long runs under my belt, spend time at tempo pace and get in some general speed work. Whenever you approach a goal race, it’s also critical to know what that race will demand course-wise. For Plattsburgh, the course features a LOT of sharp corners (not unlike the middle miles of Vermont City Marathon), so I need to be prepared to have my momentum disrupted and get refocused quickly.
How will I get from here to there? Between now and May, I’m also scheduled to run the New England Trail Championships in April. While this isn’t a goal race, it’s a great opportunity to challenge myself for approximately the same amount of time I’ll likely be on my feet for the half marathon. Because it’s on trails (a river trail with reasonable footing but dirt nonetheless), I’m making sure to get in plenty of trail work on my recovery days and will be hitting Balboa Park next week for both recovery runs and a trail tempo workout.
Where will I go from there? After the Plattsburgh Half, my next scheduled event is the US Mountain Running Championships which are WAY out of my comfort zone. It’s safe to say that from May on, I’ll be running a lot more vertical feet than I usually do but even between now and then, I’m working on increasing the vertical feet I run every week. I’m limited on the treadmill, but when I do a recovery run, I do it at a serious grade. When I’m able to be outside, I choose the hilliest routes I can find. Once the half is done, I’ll be heading to the mountains for a workout at least once a week with long runs on the Long Trail. Why not start this before Plattsburgh? Because the muscles and skills that let you go uphill fast are not the muscles and skills that help you race on the roads.
On a week to week basis, my Sunday night is spent looking at my goals for the cycle and deciding how my week will work towards those goals. On a macroscopic level, I always know where I am (base building versus strength building versus specific training) but microscopically, it’s all dictated by my schedule and where my legs are at. It takes some flexibility and a lot of faith, but it always works out in the end.
Week of 3/8/16: Goal of 45 miles with 2 workouts (continuous tempo and hill intervals)
Chest and Back
Tempo Effort (continuous)
Recovery Run (on trails)
Biceps and Triceps
Interval Work (30 second hill repeats)
Long Run (90 to 120 minutes relaxed pace with strides after)
How do you approach your training cycles? Do you have a bigger picture and tweak it week to week or take things a week at a time and see how you feel as races approach?
Well, the Trials are a wrap and it was an incredible day as promised. The heat was severe as many athletes dropped out throughout the race and even the seemingly infallible Shalane Flanagan suffered towards the end. In the end, the men’s side came out to be Galen, Meb and Jared Ward while the women’s side will be Amy Cragg, Desi and Shalane.
Monday: 4.25 mile run on the frozen golf course to start getting my legs ready for my spring adventures.
Tuesday: 5 miles early on the treadmill. Workout attempt fail #1. Hip core after.
Wednesday: 6 mile hill run on the treadmill.
Thursday: Post call, off day.
Friday: 6.2 mile plod and study.
Saturday: 10 miles feeling great on the treadmill because it was -8 out!
Sunday: 4 miles easy plus arms.
Total Miles 35.4
Running is such a fickle beast. Last week, every run felt amazing. This week, every run was a ploddy achy struggle until Saturday when I felt great again with no explanation for either end of the spectrum. So it goes. For this week, I’ll be doing my normal running mileage plus adding in an afternoon workout of either snowshoe running, trail running, stairclimber or walking/jogging at 15% grade as the weather and snow allows.
Friday: Didn’t get good sleep on Thursday night so thought I could run after mid-call but didn’t get home until after 8 so unplanned day off.
Saturday: 5 mile progression run on the treadmill before long call.
The benefit of working early mornings is that you get to see some incredible sunrises. Saturday morning’s show.
Sunday: 8 miles on the treadmill plus arms.
Total Miles: 38
Really happy with this week of training. I added a couple new races to the coming months including a return to the half marathon in May and had an awesome tempo run on Tuesday that made me feel like I was getting back to normal. Starting a new clerkship isn’t easy and Medicine is a 6 day a week schedule but I don’t have to be in until 7 and get out early afternoon on some days, which is definitely a recipe for better running.
Now that the snowshoe race for the All Terrain series got changed to the Northeast Snowshoe Championships in March, I need to get my spring training schedule ironed out. Ultimately I’d like to put in a decent performance at the half in Plattsburgh but I also need to have serviceable performances at the trail run in April and the mountain run in July. Given that this is a bit out of my usual comfort zone, Will and I are doing some research to figure out how to get me ready for these events. As that gets ironed out, I’ll share what we’ve learned on here.
No, this isn’t a political post even if I’m from Vermont and Bernie Sanders was in fact a bit of a track star. This is about that burn that we all chase as endurance athletes, the one that part of us shrinks from and the other part of us reaches for.
It’s not that I can’t get good lung burn when I run but I’ve been doing it long enough that it’s rare for me to really hurt during most workouts. On Saturday, however, I remembered what it’s like to suffer. I started the day by skiing. In a normal year, I ski most days of the winter and besides the first couple days, I’m generally happy except on the steepest of hills. Thanks to surgery this winter, however, I’ve only been on my skis a handful of times. As such, I put myself in a bit of an exhausted hole by the end of the races on Saturday morning. Then I head out to run on my snowshoes. I wanted to try it before the race and with another melt on the way, it seemed like Saturday was my best bet. I set off at a good clip (read: in motion) across the fields at MMU with the plan of running our new XC course a couple of times. By the time I had climbed the first big hill, I was gasping for air and looked down at my watch: 4 minutes. Shit. As the run went on, I got more efficient and learned how to run hills without totally going into oxygen debt but one thing is for sure: snowshoe running is no joke. I’ll be thrilled if I run 11 minute miles next weekend.
And this wasn’t even deep snow!!
On the way home, I was invigorated in a way I haven’t been after a run in a long time. Yes, I was humbled and exhausted, but I was also so excited to be challenged and to find a new way to expand my fitness.
What activity have you done lately that humbled you? What’s your surefire way to make your lungs burn?
Saturday: All of the snow activities. 15K of skiing at the race then 20 minutes of snowshoe running.
Sunday: Sore! Yoga first thing then a lovely easy 5 with Megan.
Total Miles: 36.4
Total Miles for January: 138
Happy with this week and hopeful that I’ll crack 40 for next week. The weather is still all over the place up here and it’s left some very icy sidewalks but I’ve still been able to be outside a few days a week. I’m not sure the snowshoe race is going to go next weekend with temperatures in the 50s tomorrow but I’m keeping my fingers crossed (although if yesterday was any indication, 7K is going to be incredibly painful!)
I’m not someone who does well without a plan or a goal in any aspect of my life and running is no exception to this. While I don’t always have my eye on the next goal, I can’t go very long without another goal on the horizon to get me through workouts. This particular tendency has created an issue recently because I just don’t know what’s on the horizon. I have some idea of what my 4th year will look like now (and man, the summer does NOT look pretty), but it’s hard to pick a race when I’m surviving day to day.
Recently I’ve had the itch to get some races on the calendar and decided that instead of doing my usual marathon or half marathon, I’d totally shake it up. This capitalizes on my current crazy schedule where mileage isn’t a reality and gives me something new to dig into. A couple of years ago, USATF NE came up with the All Terrain Runner series that gave runners the opportunity to show off their skills across a variety of terrains and distances. I’d toyed with doing it last year but because the events are so different, it really doesn’t work with a year where you have traditional goal races. This year, however, it’s the perfect fit for me.
It all kicks off next weekend with a 7K snowshoe race (provided we get more snow…this winter sucks). I spend a lot of time on the snow and even a fair amount of time on snowshoes but I’ve never tried to run, which guarantees an entertaining time next Sunday. I’d like to get out and practice running over the next week but may have to head to the back of Mansfield for a chance at snow.
I’m also signed up for the trail and mountain components and plan to race the outdoor 10,000 and road 5 miler. We’ll see about the cross country and ultra component. The trail race is a USATF NE Championship and the mountain race (Loon) is the US National Championship, so that adds some extra motivation!
What out-of-your-comfort-zone races have you done? Bets on how many times I fall in a 7K?