Monday, January 24, 2011

Beginning to train for the Half (looking for balance)

Here we go...the Lincoln Memorial Half Marathon is about 10 weeks away.  We've selected a training schedule, and it "looks" doable.  However, I'm still struggling to balance work, being a mom and wife, life in general and fitting in my runs.  It's not easy.  I'm feeling a little overwhelmed.

Take last week for instance.  I was supposed to run three miles on Monday, Thursday, Friday, speed work on Tuesday and run six miles on Saturday.  I didn't do anything Thursday and Friday.  The days are getting longer, but it's still not light out for long enough when I get home to run outside.  I still loathe the treadmill.  I have volleyball on Thursday nights, so I can't really do both.  I might need to move my day off to Thursday.  Whatever.  I'm not going to go crazy with all of the details of the schedule.  As long as I get my miles in, and I'm not over doing it, I should be okay on April 2nd, right?  Yes, I know I'm rambling!

Hopefully, before too long, I'll be able to run outside after I get home from work again.  However, I've found that I like doing my speed work on the treadmill.  It measures everything out nicely, and I have no choice but to maintain my speed.  On Tuesday, I did 5x400 repeats at 7:30 pace.  This was the first time doing any speed work.  It was good.  I'm still not sure exactly what pace I should be running and how long my recovery time should be between repeats, but I'm looking into it.  I'm also trusting my body to tell me some things.  I want it to be hard, but I don't think I should be killing myself either. 

Saturday's long run was good, but I was struggling a lot at the end.  I couldn't wait until it was over.  I could feel it in my legs and my lungs.  It almost felt like there was so much moisture in the air, combined with a 20 degree temperature, that my lungs couldn't process it all.  I never really asked Shane what pace we were doing.  I learned my lesson and quit asking.  That removes many of the mental issues I have.  It quiets "the voice". 

Another thing that I've been struggling with lately is weight gain.  After I got through the holidays, I weighed myself and was pleasantly surprised that I didn't really gain that much weight.  I was a couple of pounds over the top of my goal range, but I figured once we started training, those pounds would go away.  Prior to getting pregnant three years ago, I had reached the highest weight I had ever been, which was about 40 lbs over my college weight.  I was a little too skinny in college, so when I lost 25 lbs, I was happy and never wanted to return.  Shortly thereafter, I got pregnant and gained nearly 60 lbs.  Thankfully, it wasn't long before I was back down to my goal weight.  I've remained there for about two years....until now.

My goodness, running must make me hungry!!  I've gained five pounds in the three weeks since my first post-holiday weigh in.  I don't know what's going on, but it has got to stop!  I was happy to not be counting calories while maintaining a decent weight.  But now I've got to start counting again, and I'm not thrilled.  I have to figure out how to fuel myself properly (calories in) for the amount of calories I'm burning during runs (calories out).  Another balance issue!

Balance, balance, balance; why can't it just be easy?  Where is that stupid "easy" button from those commercials?  I could use one right about now.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Getting back on the horse

Metaphorically speaking, of course.  Technically, I never fell completely off, but lately I've been pushing my limits--maybe I'm still dangling from the stirrup?  Whatever it was, I probably needed to get back track, and SOON, before I lost my nerve! 

What I'm talking about is the recovery from the Frostbite Festival 10 mile race.  There's this period after a race that you pushed farther than previous.  We needed to adjust our training to allow ourselves to recover from the race without completely falling off course.  We hadn't experienced this need to recover before, mentally or physically.

Physically, I wasn't too bad.  I was very tired that day after the race, and I suffered some stomach issues that I still don't know if it was race-related, something I ate, or maybe that stomach flu going around.  I had little aches and pains here and there, a little overall fatigue, but mostly, I felt good.  It felt good to reach a new milestone--literally. 

Mentally, it was a little different story.  Up until that day, we had been preparing for a race, that one, and the others that preceded it.  We had discussed taking a little "break" through the remainder of December.  Still running, but not training like we have been.  This was a hard mental adjustment.  First, I was totally fine with taking time off of training, however, I started feeling like a big slacker.  For months, I was focused on a goal, and I'm a very goal oriented person.  Now our next goal was so far away and we're taking time off of focused training, I didn't know how to handle it in my head. 

With it still being very dark, cold and icy conditions, I ran a few evenings on the treadmill.  It was horribly boring as usual, but it didn't seem any harder than usual.  Within the two weeks following the race, I had only logged in about 15 treadmill miles!  Not acceptable, but I told myself that I would focus on training for the half marathon after the holidays were over.  As each day passed, the idea of not running got easier and easier.  I skipped treadmill workouts or cut them short with very little guilt. 

When it came time to the first weekend run with Shane, we decided on five miles.  It's amazing how quickly that little voice in my head gains new strength when I haven't been training.  Before the run even began, I was concerned about how I would do or feel during the run.  My insecurities crept up on me.  When we started our run, I could feel that the ease that I had before the Frostbite Festival was not there.  My legs felt a little weird, and my breathing and the sound of my feet on the pavement were nearly unfamiliar to me.

I was feeling a little strain on my legs and lungs when the GPS alarm let us know that we hit a mile.  I was afraid to ask Shane what our pace was.  If we were slower, then I would be shocked at how my body was reacting.  If we were fast, I would start freaking out about burning out too soon.  It was a no-win situation in my head.  Finally, I asked.  We ran the first mile in 9:16.  My head immediately started throwing doubts at me.  It told me that I couldn't sustain it.  It told me I couldn't do it.  It told me I would never make it.  I pushed forward anyways, but intentionally slowed the pace.  I should have never asked.  I would have been better not knowing.  Ignorance is bliss, they say. 

About half way in the run, Shane asked me how I was doing.  I told him I was okay, but I was battling my head demons and feeling overall fatigue.  My legs felt like I was wearing ankle weights!  It had been a while since I'd had a bad run, I nearly forgot what it was like.  I had really enjoyed almost every single outdoor run in the weeks prior to the Frostbite Festival.  So, Shane and I started talking.   The conversation helped the little voice in my head shut up. 

I realize that I talk a lot about the voices in my head.  When I talk about it, I'm not literally hearing a voice telling me these things.  When I write about the voice, it is representing my self-doubt that I have struggled with most of my life.  There were very few things in life that I felt that I could do no wrong.  Almost everything else, I told myself, I couldn't be good enough.  I commonly used that to force myself to step up.  However, I also used it avoid failure by not trying something in the first place.  I'm not crazy (most of the time), I assure you.  We all have those little voices in our heads, it's part of our conscience and our thought processes.  I just choose to give it a very distinct voice when I write about it.

If I didn't think about it too much, the run got much easier.  My legs didn't feel as heavy, and my breathing was smoothing out.  Before I knew it, we were near the end of our run.  We went a little past five miles and slowed to a walk.  It felt good to slow down, but it also felt good to run again. 

I realize there is a balance that can be achieved.  I can allow myself time off of training, but I need to keep moving somehow in the meantime.  In these darkest days of the year, I will have forgiveness of my horrible (non) training schedule.  It's okay.  I'm not training for Olympic time trials, I'm just enjoying the run.  It's much better that way.