Cross Training

I have a love-hate relationship with cross training. It is one of those things that I know I need more of, but struggle to find the motivation or time in my larger work-life-training schedule.

For example, I have a training schedule this week that has me running every day. How do I fit in meaningful cross training in a normal week that also includes work, family, and community involvement?

Finding the time is one thing, but the biggest hurdle for me is a mental one – and one of trust in the purpose and effectiveness of the effort. How do I include productive cross training without negatively impacting my daily running regimen?

Last week I took a bootcamp-style class at a local gym. I was simultaneously proud of my body’s ability to do all those weighted squats in the moment and fearful of the physical implications later – would I be able to walk the next day?? It turned out, walking the next several days was hard
(T observed that I looked a bit like Jar Jar Binks as I walked
liltingly through the house for a couple days). Running was actually easier than walking and I kept to my running schedule, but I definitely lost speed on those runs.

Certainly, my continued use of my legs and devotion to my running practice (even if slower than I’d prefer) helped me recover. Also, certainly, I continued to build muscle. I could feel the strength built in my knees and hips as my muscles healed.

This week, I took a different strength training class – one probably more appropriate for being this far into my training program (with the half marathon less than 2 weeks away). I feel it today, but it isn’t enough to slow me down or keep me from running.

I know these classes are imperative to prevent injury and increase strength. Yet, I continue to struggle to incorporate cross training into my larger running schedule. But I’m trying, which is the best I can do.

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Happy New Year (I Love Intervals)

In this new year, I am going to try something new. Instead of taking you through my training week, I’m going to focus on one part of my training. Of course, I’ll throw in those most important extra bits (and pictures) for fun – but my intention is to stay a bit more focused in my posts.

So, for this first post of the year: Intervals.

In school, the idea of interval training – sprints – really any running at all – could bring me close to tears for fear of it. Me, run fast? Me? What if I failed? What if I couldn’t go as fast as I wanted? What if I trip? What if?!?

Somewhere along the way, though, Interval Day became my favorite part of my training week. If I get two (which I did this week), I’m in heaven! Why, you ask? Let me try to explain.

Intervals prove to me just how much harder I can work, how much more I can push, how much stronger I am. They can do this in just a few short minutes really. For example, I did 3 minute intervals this morning with a 1 minute recovery between. I pushed myself to run faster that I usually do in intervals because I knew they’d be short. The lesson: I’m strong and I can go faster than I think – for longer than I think.

Intervals also break up the monotony of a longer run. Sure, music or a podcast can distract my mind. But a good set of intervals can get me focused and invested in the run itself, without enough time to remember that what I’m doing might be hard – or that it might hurt – or that I have so many more minutes/miles to go. Intervals insist that I focus on the here and now – to enjoy the effort and relax into the breaks in between.

Intervals make me feel accomplished. After I finish a set of intervals – when I worked hard and pushed myself harder than I’d intended at the outset – I feel more accomplished than after I finish a long run. I feel more accomplished because they always make me feel stronger (even if I’m exhausted) and like I can do more. I feel more accomplished because I can measure my improvements with relative ease (Did I increase my pace over last week?). And with this feeling of accomplishment, I find that I care less about how far I went or how many calories I burned because I conquer my fear in these workouts, which feels like so much more than distance or calories.

Squats and Ah-Ha’s

This was a week of Ah-Ha moments, mixed with sore muscles and a surprising long run. 

I chose to use my first rest-day to go to the gym and do my new favorite Spin and Strength class. This ended up being far from a “rest.” Of course I knew that going in, but all the squats and squat jumps made sure I remembered it. 

On Tuesday, I woke up to tired, stiff legs, but I finally had a day with time in the morning and my schedule called for an easy run. So I got on the treadmill at an extremely easy pace and got the run in. After about 10 minutes my tired, sore legs were moving just fine and I had my first “ah-ha” moment of the week: tired legs still move and running on them isn’t impossible. 

Later on Tuesday, I came across my second “ah-ha” moment: running on tired legs doesn’t necessarily “loosen” them up.

Wednesday and Thursday brought far too much time at work and in traffic, so I chose not to try to squeeze in any time on the treadmill. 

Friday took me back to the gym for a Spin & Strength class. More squats. Sabrina would be so proud. Another hike around the mountain on Saturday, and I was ready for my Sunday long-run. 

It has been a lazy, relatively grey week or two here in the desert. The holiday season is here and I’ve been looking for pieces of holiday inspiration. There is a chill in the air and that helps. T has been making fires on weekend nights – that definitely helps when I’m looking for cozy. Today, T put up all the extra Christmas lights after I mentioned that I didn’t think the house was decorated enough for the holiday. 

One thing I find to be a study in contrasts this time of year: listening to holiday music while running 9.5 miles in the sun. It wasn’t cold enough to require a jacket the entire run. I didn’t need a winter hat. Running here in 50-something degrees when the sun is out is like a nice early-fall run in the Northwest. Here: Happy Holidays!

I’m not complaining. I took the opportunity to run parts of the trail I don’t usually run. I found hills I wasn’t expecting. And I’ll take the sun, blue sky, and brisk air any day over those sweltering summer mornings.

The desert still amazes me. I wasn’t as strong today as I’ve felt on other long runs. I’m not as inspired today as I’ve felt on other days. But that leads me to my final “ah-ha” of the week: So what? Doing the work when I can, not beating myself up for failing to follow a training plan to the letter, and enjoying the accomplishment of what I’m doing when I’m doing it – these are the things I can control and I can choose to enjoy. 

Hills at Sunrise

It has been a while since I wrote my running chronicles, but I have been busy continuing to get into the groove of this running thing.

Just after Thanksgiving, we did a Your Super detox – which was really just a veggie-based smoothie/salad 5-day meal plan. I didn’t run much that week, although I probably could have. It felt like a good excuse not to run, since work kept me so busy I didn’t really have time for anything else.

After the detox, though, I’ve been fairly good about my training runs. Running this time of year in the desert is such a joy. The low,warm light later in the morning. The chilly weather that all my running friends in the Northwest would kill forbecause “chilly” here is sunny, between 45 and 55 degrees.

Last weekend my training plan called for a 10K race. There weren’t any nearby, so I made my own race. And blew my own mind! It was the fastest 10K I’ve ever run and I did it without the electricity of an organized race or other people for me to try to keep up with. I ran on Sunday morning and hardly saw anyone on the trail – even the cyclists I so regularly see there every other time I run. I finished my 10K in 57:39 at a 9:16 pace and I couldn’t have been prouder of myself!

This week, I made more time for my workouts – at least at the beginning of the week. Work continued to be nuts and I didn’t get my Thursday run in. By Saturday, I wasn’t feeling the Fartlek run in my training plan. Luckily, T reminded me that any exercise is better than giving up on doing any at all. So, we hiked the mountain by the house. I gave myself a pep-talk – no need to feel guilty about not doing the run in the program – and paid attention to enjoying the hike.Meanwhile, I remembered that I had planned to use the mountain as a measure of my progress. The hike inspired me to make the mountain a part of my long Sunday run.

This morning, I used that inspiration to get me up that hill! I don’t like hill running. The psychology of it often stops me in my tracks before I even start. It feels so daunting – and even more so when I lookup and see the incline in front of me. But I’d promised myself that I’d start my long run on the mountain and headed up hill (instead of my usual downhill)as I left the house. It was a quiet, serene morning, light enough to run and to find some jaw-dropping views. I succeeded in running the whole mountain. I might have been able to walk it almost as fast, but I “ran” it the whole way.The training plan called on me to take an “easy” pace for 70 minutes, kicking it up to race-pace for another 20 minutes at the end.

My body continues to surprise me. After running the daunting mountain at the beginning and taking an “easy” pace for over an hour, when my watch beeped and told me it was time to find “race pace,” my body found another gear. It continued to respond and I increased my pace even more as I passed the first mile of that last challenge.

This process is not easy. I do not always have the energy or inspiration to get out and run. I rarely have the wherewithal to cross train.But when I’m out on my runs – whether on the road or the treadmill – I make an effort to pay attention to the parts I enjoy, talk myself out of the negative self-talk that is so easy, and draft these blog posts as a further reminder of my accomplishments and joys of these running moments.

Picking up a Turkey and Trying a New Route

T and I decided to go for a 4.5-mile hike yesterday in the Tucson Mountain park – beautiful views and plenty of climbing. I figured it was like doing strength training at the gym with all those huge steps up!

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Today I took my first long run since the marathon. I am still a little sore from the hike yesterday, but I didn’t do much other work this week on the running front and I knew I needed to dive back into the longer run. My original plan was to run my normal out-and-back route from home. Thanksgiving is next week and today is the only day we could pick up our very happy, local, pasture-raised turkey at the Farmers’ Market. It is on the other side of town and the people who came first got the better choices of size (not that I’m competitive about that kind of thing). Luckily, the Farmers’ market is right along a different stretch of the same trail I run on from the house. So, we picked up our very well-cared-for turkey at 8am and I went for my run while T meandered around town and read on a bench at the Market.

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I’m glad I tried something different today. My legs were sluggish and I worried that 90 minutes would be too long after a 2-week break. But, I took the training plan’s direction to run “easy,” listened to my music, and let my mind wander. I paid attention to the differences in this part of the trail system and all the new people on the trail there.

I thought the route would be slightly up hill on the way out (so slightly downhill on my way back), but it turned out to be consistently rolling hills. I ran by apartment complexes, a nursery, a very smelly ranch with pigs and horses, winding through the north side of town (completely losing my orientation with the city). It was a good thing I was on a trail.

20181118_093939On my way back to the market, I noticed a loose dog in the wash. Just as I was about to get nervous that he would come after me, I noticed a coyote coming up behind the dog. Suddenly, I was worried for the dog. I shouldn’t have been. Once the dog noticed the coyote, he flipped around and chased the coyote off. The coyote wanted nothing to do with him and raced away as quickly as he could.

20181118_093905I did not feel nearly as capable of racing off as the coyote, but I managed to keep going and get back to the Market. I almost missed T on the bench!

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With Thanksgiving this week, I am thankful for all sorts of things, including family and my continued enjoyment of running. I am hopeful that I will be able to more consistently incorporate my training schedule into my week – and make it more of a routine, than homework. For now, I’ll be content with the proof of my improvement in my sore muscles.

Getting Back on the Road and up the Mountain

Just two days after the marathon, I had a minor foot procedure. I scheduled it purposefully for that day – I knew I would be still recovering from the race, letting myself have a break, and it wouldn’t interfere with my training. I was still hobbling around on Monday and convinced that it would take many more days before I felt like I could get around like myself.

After every other major race I’ve done, except for the Half Marathon in Olympia last summer, I’ve come away from it wondering if I would ever really want to run again. Often, I took months or even years away from running. The 2018 Capital City Half Marathon gave me my first experience of finishing a race and wanting to get back and out run the next day. As I approached the Mount Lemmon Marathon, I wondered if I would have a similar experience.

The day after the race, I was sore. Two days after the race, I was more uncomfortable. I convinced myself that I wouldn’t want to run for weeks, but I was only going to let myself take a week off – then I planned to plunge myself back into training for a half marathon at the end of January. So, it came as a surprise to me that I was mentally ready to get back out running before I was physically ready (that darn foot procedure)!

I took Todd away for his birthday celebration over the weekend to Flagstaff. I decided to bring running clothes at the last minute, feeling like I would be ready to get in a quick jog. The sub-freezing temperatures and winds combined with the elevation made me reconsider. Instead, I put those running shoes back on when we got back home in the afternoon.

Since I was feeling so enthused about getting out there again, I challenged myself to run up the large hill in our neighborhood (A Mountain). It is a monster! And I ran (most of) it. I have a feeling that running this mountain will be my measure of progress over the next year of training. While it was hard, it certainly is a beautiful route!

 

Now that I’m back into a training schedule, I am making goals for my goals. I want to avoid rigidly following someone else’s standard plan and to pay attention to my body instead. I have a schedule in my calendar, but I want to use it as a guide, not a mandate. For example, I want to increase my cross training and strength work. So, I chose to check out a new group fitness gym in town this morning.

Here’s to listening, learning, and pushing yourself!

Dopey, here I come!

It Starts With A Marathon Down Mount Lemmon

Yesterday I plunged right into my training regimen for the Dopey Challenge in 2020. You’d think that would have started with my training for this marathon, but for me I was training for the marathon – the completion of the marathon feels like the start of something else.

I chose the Revel Mt. Lemmon Marathon because I thought it would be a good way to start my process of conquering the marathon – to not be afraid of the marathon. It is almost all down-hill and an absolutely gorgeous course. Running 26.2 miles is a psychological challenge for me, so I figured running down hills would make that part easier.

Going into the race, I wasn’t sure that I’d done the training I needed to go. I chose a training plan with long runs based mainly on time, not distance. As a result, my longest training run was just over 15 miles. Also, I chose training routes for safety – and sometimes had to do my long runs on a treadmill due to the scorching desert summer heat. So, I did not train much on hills; I certainly did not train on very many downhills.

But I signed up for the race and followed the plan I chose (mostly). So, I woke up at 3:30am and drove to La Mariposa Resort to grab the shuttle up to the top of Mount Lemmon (Summerhaven). I sat next to a lovely woman from Denver who had a lot of experience in downhill running. She was training with a goal to qualify for Boston in 2020. It was a great way to start off the morning.

Summerhaven was chilly, but we were able to gather inside their visitor center while waiting for the rest of the runners to shuttle up the mountain. There were plenty of clean port-a-potties and even a food truck with coffee, tea, and hot chocolate (if you remembered to bring money with you to buy it). The race organizers also provided water and Powerade before the start. The swag bag included everything you might need, including a Mylar blanket, gloves (useful, but cheap enough to throw away on the course), tabs for leg cramps. I had last minute pep-talks from my husband and running coach friend. Everything a person needs, except I forgot the breakfast I planned for myself on the counter at home. I had to come up with a new strategy because I did not bring any other food with me and didn’t have any money to buy anything at the food truck. I decided to drink more Powerade at the beginning of the race than I originally planned and to use more of the gels distributed at the water stations along the route, getting one everywhere I could and eating them as I needed to along the route.

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The race started about 15 minutes late because it took them longer to bring everyone up than they thought. The start of the race was about a 5-minute walk up the hill from the visitor’s center. The course was all on one side of the road, with Sheriff’s deputies ferrying people up and down the mountain on the other side. I was nervous, but thought to myself that I was at the top already – there was a beautiful sunrise – and I might as well run (or walk) down.

20181103_060517The first mile was a smooth, not too steep, climb. It then evened out for another mile of flat running, catching up to an approximately 2-mile steeper climb. I ran the first hill, but chose to walk the 2-mile climb. I was in no hurry and didn’t want to wear myself out so early. My goals for this race were to (1) enjoy myself; (2) finish; (3) take pictures; (4) not want to give up running by the end; and, (5) beat my 5:34 time at Disney World in 2015.

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Once I got to the top of the climb, I was ready to run. And I ran so much faster than I thought I could or would. I felt great. I didn’t feel like I was sprinting, but I was running 8:30 to 9:45 miles! I would stop and take pictures. I had to stop twice over the first half to use the bathroom (I guess I successfully hydrated myself on Friday!). But I was still making great time and running sub-10-minute miles. So, the first half felt good.

Somewhere around the half marathon mark, my legs started wondering why I was running a marathon. I had the breath, I had the energy, by my quads and hips started yelling at me. They did not want to respond as quickly as I wanted them to. They wanted to walk (or just stop completely). This was also probably around the time the sun was fully up and the temperature increased. I was grateful for those pep talks in the morning: I could do it; I was strong; never doubt. I was also grateful for perspective on pain. This pain was temporary – I know so many other people who dealt with pain like this on a daily basis with no end in sight. My pain would end and I could continue.

20181103_09273720181103_093457Even still, I started walking more and running less. My mile splits went from sub-10- to 11-, 12-, 13-minute miles. I never considered stopping, but I wondered if I could meet all my goals. I focused first on enjoying myself. This was meant to be fun – I was meant to want to do this again. The scenery helped – the people helped. It was not a crowded course, but just enough people willing to chat about how pretty it was – or how hard a downhill course is (I think one quote was “If anyone tells me again how easy a downhill marathon is, I’m going to punch them in the face.”). One of the Sheriff’s deputies leading cars up the mountain broadcast-ed “You’re amazing, young lady” over his loud speaker as he passed me. (No, I didn’t mind it; Yes, I enjoyed the “young lady”).

20181103_111726I was emotional. I teared up when I got pep talks in the morning before the race. I teared up when the deputy gave me a pep talk. I teared up just running down the mountain in several spots for no apparent reason. I am tearing up now writing this. But I did not tear up as I finished. For the last mile I repeated to myself “You’ve got this.” Out loud, sometimes. I even said it out loud to other women near me, just to prove it true to myself. I ran more than I had in the previous 5 miles and pushed myself to run more as we approached the finish line. I could hear it and that made it real. There were no spectators on the course – the only people we had cheering us on were the people attending to the water stations. But the last quarter of a mile we started to see our people again and they were cheering us on. I think they were. I don’t really remember that now. All I knew is that suddenly I had the energy to pick up the pace and really RUN across the finish line. I finished strong and that made up for all the walking I did in the last half. My legs decided they could do more for me in the last quarter mile, even if they didn’t feel like cooperating in the previous quarter of the race.

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And, I accomplished all of my goals: I had fun, I finished, I took a lot of pictures, I want to do it again, and I shaved 36 minutes off my previous marathon time with a final finishing time of 4:58:10.74.

Today, I am sore when I stand or walk. I am hobbling. It takes me a minute to get up to speed. But I feel great. This too will pass and I will run again. Unlike my experience with every other long race, I’m excited to get back to the training. I know what I can do to prepare better: more miles, more squats, real cross training. I’m not sure whether missing the breakfast I’d planned had any impact on my late-race challenges, but I will eat breakfast before my next marathon just to improve my preparedness anyway. Unlike my first marathon, I know I can do this again.

20181103_141432I don’t want my races leading up to the Dopey Challenge to be about time – those need to be about building confidence, building strength and endurance, and continuing to have fun. But for the first time, I can see myself doing more marathons after the Dopey and running those with the goal of improving my time.