Catch Up With Me- I’m Halfway Through Half Marathon Training Plan for State Number 45

Suddenly it’s April and my next half marathon is next month. My current training plan is 12 weeks long so I’m about half way through it. This training cycle has been a bit different than previous ones for various reasons, which I’ll get into later.

First I should back up a bit. I currently have the goal of running a half marathon in all 50 states. The last race I ran was White River Half Marathon, Cotter, Arkansas-44th state which seems like an eternity ago even though it was about four months ago. After the race, I was all set to take my usual mandatory two weeks off from running but then I decided I wanted to run while on vacation in Grand Cayman Island.

My vacation in the Caribbean was one week after the race in Arkansas so I suppose I did have a week off from running even though I was still hiking in Hot Springs after the race. Running in Grand Cayman Island was purely for fun, though. Especially lately I’ve been having so much fun running on vacation so I didn’t want to miss the chance to explore the island by running. Here’s one of my favorite photos taken while running in Grand Cayman Island (it was in front of someone’s house by their mailbox):

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After I got home from Grand Cayman Island, I got to take some time off the more focused, intense running I do when training for a race and just ran for fun when I felt like it and the weather was amenable. It was nice not having to run through the holidays or the unpredictable weather we had in January. Finally in February, I started my current training plan. Everything seemed to be falling into place. I felt good and wasn’t having any nagging pains or other issues. My iron levels seemed to be OK, but honestly that’s a complicated story I won’t get into here. Long story short, my anemia from last fall was under control.

In late February I went on vacation to Kauai and Oahu and ran on both Hawaiian islands, Running in Kauai and Oahu Hawaii, basically having a ton of fun and enjoying the gorgeous ocean views on my runs. Then I got sick about a week into my vacation and developed a cough that was relentless. Nonetheless, I didn’t let it stop me from enjoying my vacation or from running, though I did take one day off from a scheduled run because I just felt too wiped out from the lack of sleep.

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Enjoying the scenery while running in Kauai

When I got home from Hawaii, I still had the cough. For weeks. On end. It seemed although the cold went away, it was swiftly replaced with terrible allergies, causing yes you guessed it, a cough. Finally around the end of March I began to feel better. This was one of the worst coughs I’ve had other than my many bouts with bronchitis because it just wouldn’t stop. Many times in the past when I’ve had a cold with cough I’ve been able to run without coughing then as soon as I stopped, I’d be hit with a coughing fit. This time, I was still coughing when I was (attempting) to run, pretty much the entire time. I’d even have to stop running because I’d just start coughing so hard and uncontrollably.

As I said, though, the coughing finally ceased and around the end of March I could run without coughing for the first time in months. Somehow I managed to mostly still hit my time and distance goals through all of this. According to Strava, my runs were “trending faster.” I was getting multiple PR’s on runs (again, according to Strava). I have no idea how, but I’ll take it.

Now I finally feel like I have April to reach my plateau before the race. I’ve put it out there that I’d like to finish in the top three for my age group in a race this year. I feel like if it’s going to happen, it’s going to be at my race in May but that was based on previous year’s finishes at this race, not based on how my training has been going. Admittedly, my training hasn’t been as great as it could have given how long I had the cough from hell. I guess only time will tell how all of that effected my training. I also know that there are many other factors effecting my age group standing, like who else decides to run that day, the weather and other race-day conditions, and my health that day. For now, I’m optimistic!

Are you training for a race now and if so how has it been going? If not, do you plan on running a race later this year? How do you decide which training plan to follow for a race or do you just wing it and not really follow a plan?

Finally, I have a couple of one-time use codes good for 40% off Honey Stinger products online plus free shipping. Use by April 12. If you’d like one, send me an email (runningtotravel AT gmail).

Happy running!

Donna

 

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What Did and Didn’t Work for Me in Relation to Running in 2018- Good Decisions and Bad Decisions

I got the idea for this post when I was listening to a podcast I often listen to called Marathon Training Academy. On the podcast, the hosts Angie and Trevor were discussing taking action and setting goals for running. At one point, Angie was talking about some things that she did during 2018 that were good decisions that ultimately helped her achieve some of her goals for the year. Likewise, not all of her decisions were the best which ended in not-so stellar results. Marathon Training Academy podcast link

While I was listening to the podcast and running, my mind began to drift to some of the running decisions I made in 2018 and how things ended up as a result of those decisions. I’d say overall, 2018 was a roller coaster for me when it comes to running. Right off the bat in January I wanted to do things a little differently and wrote about it in my post Shaking Things Up a Bit. One of the biggest things I changed is going from running hard three days a week with an emphasis on cross-training (with no easy running days) to running five days a week.

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Running in the Canary Islands in my Topo shoes that turned out to be a poor purchase

I wasn’t sure how my body would handle those extra running days but honestly I feel like it was a great decision for me and my body. The training plan seemed considerably harder than what I was used to, but I would say I handled it well and didn’t end up with injuries, other than some caused by running gear that wasn’t right for my body, which I’ll get into later. The training plan I followed for my half marathons in Idaho-42nd stateAnchorage, Alaska-43rd state, and Arkansas-44th state allowed me to finish in times that I was mostly happy with, but again, I’ll get into more details on that later. More importantly, I was able to follow the plan and only rarely did I find myself not having enough time to fit all of the runs in as specified.

Early in 2018 I also began Heart Rate Training, which honestly wasn’t anything that did much for me either way. Maybe I didn’t give it long enough (I’ve heard you really need to spend several months or even a year on it for you to really see changes) or maybe I just wasn’t doing it like I was supposed to. Either way, I’m not sure I would spend a ton of time on heart rate training again unless there was a specific reason I was seeking it out, like I had plateaued and felt like I needed to try something else to get faster or have more endurance.

A decision I made that ended up to be one of the worst decisions I made in 2018 was to try new shoes without fully understanding the mechanics behind them and how they would work for me. I vowed early in the year to try new shoes instead of sticking with the same brand and style for years on end like I previously had, so I tried two brands that were completely new for me, On and Topo. Not long after running with these shoes, I began experiencing calf tightness and pain when I would run. It got so severe I would have to stop and stretch my calves and my feet started falling asleep when I was running. Initially I thought surely it’s not both pairs of shoes that’s causing my problems, but yes, it really was both pairs of shoes. I finally looked into the shoe specifics and learned that both pairs that I was running in had a much lower heel-toe offset than I was used to. You can read all about the details on that here. I switched to running shoes with a 10 mm heel-toe offset and haven’t had any calf issues since then. Lesson learned, no matter what you may hear, minimalist shoes are not for everyone, and that’s perfectly fine.

One of my better decisions was to do more trail running. That not only helped me cope with the hot, humid weather since it was cooler on the shady trails but it also undoubtedly strengthened my ankles and feet. I won’t lie, though, summer was tough to get through. I couldn’t take any time off from running during the summer since I had a race in Alaska in August and after that I had to pretty much jump right into my next training plan for the race in Arkansas in November.

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Rediscovering trail running

In 2018 I ran my first “fun run,” Color Vibe 5k,in September and honestly I can’t say now if I think it was a good decision or a bad decision to run it. I had very mixed emotions after that race, mostly because of it not being a timed race. Apparently I’m too competitive to run a race that’s not timed, and this is coming from someone who has only rarely (three times to be exact) placed in the top three in my age group, one time each at first, second, and third place. I think I need to see an official time if I’m going to run a race, otherwise I’ll just go out and run on my own. I also now have mixed feelings about running a timed 5k in 2019. I’ve only ever run three 5k’s in my life; my first race ever, with my young daughter at her first 5k, and this fun run. Although I feel like I’m long overdue to see what I’m capable of running a 5k at, I’m not sure I want to put myself up to that test. Let’s face it, to truly race a 5k is tough, much tougher than a half marathon, in my opinion. Do I really want to do that to myself? I’m not sure that would be the best decision for me.

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Color Vibe 5k

To cope with the abnormally long summer that stretched well into fall, I began exploring new running routes and other ways to fight boredom on my runs. This in itself was a good decision but I began to develop other issues unrelated to my running route or the heat. Gradually I began to notice my runs were getting harder and I was out of breath more and more. I chalked it up to the heat and humidity but when things finally started to cool off and I was even more out of breath than normal, I went to the doctor to get my iron levels checked. Sure enough, I was anemic once again (I have a history of it). The even worse news is this was just a couple of weeks out from my next half marathon in Arkansas in November. No way were my iron levels going to get anywhere close to normal before the race since they were so low.

I made the decision to run the half marathon despite being able to barely run a mile on training runs without getting out of breath. To my shock and awe, I ended up running one of my fastest half marathons in quite a while in Arkansas, thanks to the downhill course and nice weather conditions. Running that half marathon and especially finishing it strong was definitely a good decision for me. I have no doubt my doctor would have told me to not run the race, had she known, but if I hadn’t run it, I wouldn’t have known what my body is capable of even when it’s not at peak condition.

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Finishing strong at the half marathon in Arkansas

That pretty much ended the year for me as far as running goes. I decided to take it easy in December and let my iron levels come back up so I just ran when the weather wasn’t too bad and I felt like running. Since my iron levels have come back up, I’ve been experimenting with pushing myself even more. I’ve seen some split times on runs that I haven’t seen in years and I owe that to the ability to push through the pain and focus more on the mental aspect of running, some tricks I picked up after reading Deena Kastor’s book “Let Your Mind Run,” which I have an upcoming review on.

What about you guys? Do you reflect back on the previous year to figure out what worked for you and what didn’t work? This is the first time I’ve done this for an entire year, although I’ve done it for individual races before.

Happy running!

Donna

 

 

 

Update on Half Marathon Training Plan-Round Two

After my debacle of a half marathon at the Superhero Half Marathon in New Jersey in May 2017, I decided I needed to find a new training plan for my next races. I felt like my endurance had dropped so much that I would start off fine at races but then I couldn’t maintain the pace and by the end I was just defeated. However, for the race after the one in New Jersey, Marshall University Half Marathon in West Virginia last November, I stuck with the same plan but made other changes like my running shoes and different stretches and did much better in WV. Still, I felt like I could do better and I needed to make some major changes in my training plan.

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Post-race Marshall University Half Marathon

For many years I had been following a “run less, run harder” kind of plan where I would run three days a week. One day was a hill or tempo run, one was speedwork, and the other was a long run. There were no easy or recovery run days. On other days I would lift weights, do yoga, or ride my bike. I think it worked pretty well for me for the first several years but I probably got used to it and my body wasn’t challenged enough any more.

I discovered a half marathon training plan that seemed considerably tougher but not so hard that I didn’t think I’d be able to complete the runs. With this plan, there are five running days consisting of two relatively easy days with strides at the end, a tempo or fartlek run, a speedwork day, and a long run. I still do yoga once a week, do strength training at the gym, and ride my bike once a week when I feel like it won’t be too much for that week.

The first real test for this training plan came at the Famous Idaho Potato Half Marathon  this past May. If you didn’t read my post on the race, I’ll cut to the chase. I felt like I did much “better” than at my previous several races. I usually am more interested in my age group placement than my actual finish time. Although I really enjoyed the course at the Marshall University Half Marathon in West Virginia, I finished 11th of 66 in my age group. In comparison, at the Famous Idaho Potato Half Marathon, I finished 7th out of 59 in my age group. I would say both races are pretty comparable as far as difficulty with the race in Idaho being a bit hillier so it seems like a fair comparison and there were similar number of women in my age group at both races. I’ll take this as an indication that my current training plan is a good idea for me and I’m going to stick with it.

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Post-race potato bar at the Famous Idaho Potato Half Marathon!

I’ve been running through the heat and humidity for my next race, which is in Alaska, so hopefully the hot weather training will only help. I had forgotten just how much harder it is to run through the summer months. The last time I trained for summer races was in 2015 when I ran Spearfish Canyon Half Marathon in South Dakota in July and Dixville Half Marathon in New Hampshire in September so I was training throughout the summer. My fastest finish at any half marathon was at Spearfish Canyon and I finished second in my age group at Dixville, so I’d say my summer training paid off. We’ll see if that holds true in Alaska next month!

How about you guys- how many times do you use and re-use the same training plan for races?

Happy running!

Donna

 

New Training Plan for my Next Half Marathon

As I’ve mentioned before in a previous post, I’ve started a new training plan for my next half marathon, which will be state number 42 and half marathon number 44. I’m in the fifth week and so far it’s going well. For my last several half marathons I had been following a plan that includes only “hard” runs, so no easy runs, and you only run three days a week. For me, I was cycling on Sunday, running tempo runs on Monday, lifting weights on Tuesday, yoga on Wednesday, either hill repeats or speedwork on Thursday, core work on Friday, and long runs on Saturday. So even though I was “only” running three days a week, you can see I was still doing a lot overall.

For this new training plan, however, things have gotten a lot tougher. I cycle on Sunday, run 40-45 minutes followed by strides on Monday, alternate doing tempo or interval runs on Tuesdays followed by weight training, yoga on Wednesday, fartlek runs 40-45 minutes on Thursday, run 30-45 minutes followed by strides on Friday and do core work, and long runs on Saturday. This plan is also longer than I used to train for before a half marathon. I used to train for 10-12 weeks, depending on how far apart my races were but this plan is for 14 weeks. I’ll be doing more long runs than I used to do but the beginning long run distance is the same. There are also no cut-back weeks, where I cut back on my mileage for that week, like I used to do.

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Taken after running with my daughter in the Canary Islands

So why the big change anyway? Well, last year I started feeling like I was stuck in a running rut so I started making some changes. I tried new shoes with a brand completely new to me and I’ve continued doing this since last summer. Another thing I did that was extremely hard but I was able to do is change my running gait. I also read “Runner’s World Your Best Stride” by Jonathon Beverly and reviewed the book here. This book is full of information and includes tips, suggestions, stretches, and exercises that I’m trying to incorporate into my daily routines. The final thing to add to my running repertoire is the new training plan. Oh, and I almost forgot I’m also doing Heart Rate Training.

My next half marathon isn’t until May so I still have some time left in my training before the race. I guess the true test will be how I do at that race, but honestly if my finish time is pretty much like it has been in the past, I won’t think it was all for nothing. I realize there are many factors involved in race day such as the weather, the course, and just how you’re feeling that day.

So how’s it going so far you may ask? Surprisingly very well. Honestly, I expected to be far more tired than I have been or have little nagging aches and pains pop up, but (knock on wood)I haven’t had any of that so far. I even managed to get in every scheduled run when I was on vacation in the Canary Islands recently. Running in Gran Canaria and Tenerife in the Canary Islands was an adventure at first until I figured out where to run, but once that was done, I loved it, hills and all.

So until my half marathon in May, I’ll keep plugging along as I have been and enjoying the signs of spring all around me. I don’t know about you all, but I’m always happy when winter is over.

Oh, and I almost forgot, I still have one code left for 37% off Honey Stinger for anyone not part of the HSHive. I can send it to you if you just let me know. It’s good until April 1.

Happy running!

Donna

 

 

Shaking Things Up a Bit

Last winter when I was training for a half marathon in Utah in February and I had to run my peak miles during some of the worst weather where I live in North Carolina, I was cursing my choice of a race in February and vowed to not make that mistake again. If you want to read about my race in Utah, the Dogtown Half Marathon, you can find it here. For those of you that aren’t aware, I’m running a half marathon in all 50 United States and ran my 41st state in West Virginia last November, the Marshall University Half Marathon.

I should state that my husband and daughter always go to races with me and since my daughter is in middle school now, I plan my races around her school schedule. She’s currently in a year-round school, which means she’s basically in school for nine weeks and out for three weeks throughout the year. One of her current breaks is during February, hence my decision to run a half marathon in February last year. I’ve ran all of the southern states except New Mexico, if you consider that a southern state, and I refuse to run in a state like Minnesota or Nebraska in February.  Call me crazy or call me a wimp, but I’m done running races in February and all other winter months for that matter.

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Photo taken last January. For a southern gal like me, this isn’t good running weather!

This all means I’ll go from running a race last November to my next one which isn’t until May. That’s a pretty long time to go in-between races, but that’s the way it’s going to be as long as my daughter has this school schedule. When she’s in high school, she will no longer be in year-round school, so I’ll have the option of running during the early spring again, as long as I can find a race during her spring break, which should be possible.

Sooooo, what have I been doing during this long break between training plans? Well, I’ve still been running to keep up my fitness level, but it’s been more “run for fun” kind of thing. I haven’t been doing any speed work of any real kind although I’ve done a little bit of playing around with increasing my speed on some treadmill runs and doing some sprinting here and there. I’ve also bought some new shoes in preparation when I do start my next training plan next month.

As I mentioned in a post last year, I tried some new shoes in a completely different brand and style than I had ever ran in before and that worked out well for me. They were Newtons and while I definitely like them, my next pair of new shoes aren’t Newtons. See, for years I had been running in Asics Gel Nimbus shoes and really liked them so I kept buying them for many years. However, after reading Jonathan Beverly’s book, “Runner’s World Your Best Stride: How to Optimize Your Natural Running Form to Run Easier, Farther, and Faster–With Fewer Injuries,” I began to re-think some things. My full post on Beverly’s book can be found here.

For 2018, I plan on incorporating more of the concepts from Beverly’s book such as not always wearing the same shoes, not always running on the same routes, not always doing the same stretches, etc.. In other words, shake things up a bit. I know many runners have the mentality, ‘if it ain’t broke, why fix it’ but for me, I think I need to mix things up. My 20-something and even 30-something body didn’t need much variety and got by just fine without switching things up, but I feel like my 40-something body needs variety if I intend on running forever (which I do).

My last few years-worth of training plans have been the same, namely running three days a week, cross-training twice a week including cycling and yoga, strength training one day and core work one day. On the days where I ran, there were no easy runs but every run was either a tempo run, hill repeats, speed work, or long run. This next training plan I will start in a few weeks includes running five days a week, so I’ll have to double-up and go to yoga class for example after running earlier in the day to fit it all in. My plan is to at least try it and if it’s too much for my body (i.e. if I’m getting injuries) I’ll cut back to four days a week and try that.

Wish me luck! How often do you guys shake things up with your running?

Happy running!

Donna