Monday, November 17, 2014

Monday Wrap Up: Crowd Sourcing Race Advice

In the month since the Chicago Marathon, I've said to quite a few people that, if I never ran a faster marathon, I'd still be happy and content. Sure, I might not feel that way 2 years from now, but in the immediate aftermath of the race, rather than thinking about how I could have gone 3:10 if I'd eaten better/slept more/worn shorter shorts, I'm mostly thinking "damn, I am really psyched with that performance."

That said, I don't intend to retire from the marathon anytime soon. I'm registered for Boston in April already, and see no reason why I wouldn't also run a fall marathon next year, as I'm in the habit of doing.

But as someone who's motivated by goal setting, and who finds the most satisfying part of distance running to be the chipping away at a training plan en route to those goals, it's somewhat unsettling, when people ask if I'm going to try to PR in Boston in April, that my answer is "no." I want to have something to work towards, but right now, another marathon PR isn't it.

Naturally, of course, I've been thinking about ultras. I've long said (haha, distance pun) there's plenty of room for improvement for me in ultras; my last ultra, 39.3 miles through the Irish countryside, was not the race I hoped it would be. And both of my other ultras have been afterthoughts following goal marathons. I'd like to take some time to train specifically for an ultra.

I haven't made any firm decisions yet (don't freak out, Mom), but I've done a little research into races that might work for me, considering my travel schedule, my role as permanent wedding guest, and the fact that I have a boyfriend whom I'd like to be able to see from time to time. I think I've targeted a 50 miler in May that fits the bill, and I've talked it over with TG, who alleges he won't break up with me if I add a long run to my weeks on Sundays in addition to Saturdays (on the plus side, he anticipates his squash game will get very good). The race in question is the week after Boston, which means I wouldn't be dragging out my race season either.  Basically, I have Ultra Sign Up open in another tab as we speak and am just trying to work up the nerve to register.

On the one hand, 50 miles sounds like SO MANY MILES. That's nearly twice the length of the marathon! On the other, it's less than 11 more than I've already run (with a broken foot), and the training plan I found isn't really that much more running than the 60-70 mile weeks I put in for the Chicago Marathon.

Anyone want to try to talk me into or out of this plan? Take to the comments, please.

Number of Miles Run This Week: 44. That was an accident. I ran longer than I would have otherwise on Tuesday, since I had the day off work, and then I ran both Wednesday morning and Wednesday evening.  It's unclear if I'll ever run again, though, since this morning the doorknob fell off my front door and I'm currently trapped in here with Dorito... 

Number of Beers Consumed This Week: 6.

Types of Beers Consumed Last Week: Bell's Best Brown Ale, Bud Light, Dale's Pale Ale, Shipyard Monkeyfist IPA.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

On The Run: Team RWB

Today is Veterans Day here in America, and in light of that, I thought I'd take a moment to share a little about an organization with which I've been involved for the past several weeks.

Team RWB is dedicated to enriching the lives of America's veterans by connecting them to their communities through physical and social activities. As the daughter of a disabled veteran, I feel especially compelled to support our service-members, and as a runner and a nonprofit professional, I figured I had plenty to offer. So I reached out to Team RWB in late September to ask if I might be able to get involved in whatever capacity for which they had need. The New York Chapter Captain, Joe Quinn, invited me to join them for their Wednesday evening runs in Central Park.

On the way to my first run, I wanted to throw up, I was so nervous. Like, first date-levels of nervous. As a civilian, I was worried I wouldn't have much to offer the group, conversationally or otherwise, and would feel wildly out of place. Maybe I should just bail and email Joe and suggest I offer pro bono Board development or sponsorship procurement or some other non-profity bit of assistance instead.

In reality, that fear couldn't have been further from the truth. The group that showed up for that first run of mine was roughly 50% military, 50% civilian, and without exception, everyone was kind and welcoming and engaged me and everyone else in conversation. Topics ranged from upcoming races to recent travels to preferred race fuel to my own connection to the military (hi, Dad!).

In my runs with Team RWB since then, I've gotten to know more about some of the usual attendees, as well as to meet new members each Wednesday. While I travel a fair amount, I'm never made to feel bad about missing a Wednesday, and am invited back week after week. In fact, when I emailed Joe last week to let him know I was in San Francisco and would miss the New York run, he connected me to the San Francisco Chapter Captain!

In addition to the weekly Manhattan run, Team RWB has runs in most other boroughs (I have no idea what goes on in Staten Island...), as well as one-off events like Cross Fit and fencing. There is also a monthly new member social, should you be interested in drinking beers (you should be). There are also opportunities to get involved with more particular emphasis on veterans and servicemembers: on Sunday, the Team will participate in the 9/11 Memorial's Salute to Service. Again, all opportunities are for veterans and civilians alike, in fact, what sets Team RWB apart from so many other veterans' service organizations is that it's specifically designed to connect veterans to civilians in their communities. There's a great article addressing this very issue, in which Joe says non-veteran participation is key: "It breaks that 'other' capacity, and you really get to know people. so rather than 'Oh, there's that veteran, he must have been in Western Iraq,' it's 'There's John, he has a wife and two kids; he's part of the community; he's a Mets fan. Oh, and by the way, he's a veteran.'"

If you're interested in getting involved with Team RWB and are based here in New York, I encourage you check out the Wednesday night Central Park run. We meed at 6:30 at the 72nd Street Transverse, overlooking Bethesda Foundation. Or visit Team RWB online and sign up to learn more - Joe provides weekly emails with information about Team runs and other activities. If you're not in New York, check out the website and find the Chapter Captain in your area to get connected.

Thanks to all our veterans and service-members.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Monday Wrap Up: California Dreaming

Shoot, what a nice series of runs I had in San Francisco last week.  I already wrote about a number of them, but Friday morning’s run turned out to be the best of the bunch: I headed even further along Crissy Field, the bay and sandy beach to my right, all kind of interesting birds in the marsh to my left, the Golden Gate Bridge straight ahead, and dogs out for their morning walks all around.  Friday was the only foggy day I had all week in San Francisco, but the cool mist made for a just perfect morning.  I ran 11.6 – more than I planned to, but I couldn’t help myself.

Then I read my book sitting by the Bay Bridge before it was time to leave.

Then I spent 5 hours on a plane.  The worst.

I took Saturday as a rest day and enjoyed a leisurely stroll around the Reservoir back in New York, and then last night, took Mike the Bike on the Roosevelt Island Tram for an evening ride.  With every ride, I get more comfortable, and sooner, and Roosevelt Island was a great place for me to practice riding in traffic without the pressure of actual terrifying Manhattan-type traffic.  Basically, it was like riding my bike in the suburbs when I was little.  It was also a good way to practice getting my bike through the subway turnstile.  Turns out, I need a lot more practice at that.

Number of Miles Run Last Week: 33.  Though I only ran 4 days last week, I was happy to have gotten 2 double digit runs in.  This is probably right about the maximum number of miles I’ll be looking to run in the weeks before Boston training.  I want to start things off next month excited to train, and not burned out already.

Number of Beers Consumed Last Week: 6.

Types of Beers Consumed Last Week: Calicraft’s Oaktown Brown, Cigar City’s Maduro Brown (so syrupy!), Bell’s Best Brown (in case it weren’t apparent, I really love Brown Ales in the fall), Bud Light, Stella, Sierra Nevada.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

On The Run: San Francisco (Again)

Sometimes when I'm traveling for work and am slammed with meetings, the easiest way for me to adhere to my training plan is to just hit the treadmill; no mapping out routes in unfamiliar cities, no budgeting time in case I get lost, no waiting for satellites to load.  It's boring and somewhat depressing, but also, work isn't paying for me to sightsee on foot, so it's not really their problem if the only sights I see are the inside of conference rooms and my own reflection in the mirror opposite the hotel treadmill.

Luckily, my schedule in San Francisco this week has left my mornings mostly open, and coupled with jet lag, I've found myself with ample time to run outside before conference sessions and cocktail functions.  My familiarity with the city has also meant I didn't have to do too much research into where to run, so for the last three days, I've tossed on my Kinvaras and headed to the Embarcadero.

The Embarcadero is a great place to run, and I'm certainly not the only person taking advantage of it.  An uninterrupted sidewalk along the bay, it's filled with runners, walkers and cyclists in all directions.  Facing the Ferry Building, you can make a left and run towards the Golden Gate Bridge, or make a right, and loop around AT&T Field.  Despite its hilly reputation, San Francisco along the water is pretty flat, which makes for some pleasant miles.  If you venture far enough west, you'll hit a few hills at Fort Mason, and then plenty more as you enter the Presidio.  But from the Financial District where I'm based for the week, you can get in a solid 10 miles to Crissy Field and back without too many climbs.

Below are a couple of shots from my morning runs this week.  Thanks for the sunrise views, jet lag!


Monday, November 3, 2014

Monday Wrap Up: In Which I Complain About First-World Problems

Not a lot to report from the World HQ of Will Run For Beer.  Last week saw my first double-digit run since the Chicago Marathon, which was nice evidence that I can, in fact, still run double digits.  I was somewhat unsure myself, seeing as though I've spent the past three weeks really cultivating my "eating and drinking with reckless abandon" skills, which left little time for endurance running.  

Last week* also saw, of course, the New York City Marathon.  I was pleased as punch to be spending it indoors in a cozy sweater with eggs and breakfast potatoes and beer and television and not outdoors in Staten Island with those unfortunate pink-and-orange Dunkin Donuts hats.  If you asked me (and many people did), yesterday was not a good day for a marathon, weather-wise, but I am delighted for all of my friends who enjoyed themselves nonetheless.  I do hold a special place in my heart for the New York City Marathon, but even my own parents spent part of the Sunday on which I did run the race indoors with breakfast foods and alcohol, so I don't feel too bad about climate-controlled spectating.
Plus, I yelled loudly enough for Meb that I'm sure he heard me as he ran by outside.
Number of Miles Run Last Week: 28.  Pleased as punch with that number, actually.  I'm starting to get to the "now what?" stage of my post-race recovery.  I'm already registered for Boston in April, but that seems impossibly far away.  I have a few 5ks/Turkey Trots on the docket this month, but those are more social than anything else.  I'd love to line up a 50k for the spring, with the thinking that if I never ran a marathon faster than my most recent PR, I'd be totally fine with that, but there's plenty of room for improvement on the Ultra front for me.  Any thoughts?

Number of Beers Consumed Last Week: 8. While that doesn't sound like THAT many beers, I feel like I drank a lot last week.  Work was killer early in the week, and in addition to marathon celebrations, I had 3 cocktail parties mid-week and a wedding on the docket over the weekend as well (MUCH FANCY!).  I'm going to chalk it up to making up for those missed drinks while I was dry before Chicago.

Types of Beers Consumed Last Week: Bud Light, Long Trail IPA, NYAC Ale (I presume that this is the exact same beer as the 1912 Ale that is served at Manursing, and it's probably like a Sam Adams rebranded for every country club in the tristate area.  Anyone know?), Smuttynose Bouncy House Session IPA, Founders Harvest Ale. 

And now, off to San Francisco.  This is, God willing, my last scheduled trip of the year.  On the one hand, I like having the chance to visit other cities, and drink their beers and run in their streets (and hotel gyms...).  On the other hand, I pay several thousand dollars a month to live in New York and I'd like to get my money's worth. In 2014 alone, I've been to Chicago four times, San Francisco twice, Boston twice, Atlanta, Los Angeles, DC, Portland, San Diego, Philadelphia, Bend, Fire Island, Lake Placid, Miami, Old Forge, and Wilmington.  That I haven't yet reached George-Clooney-in-Up-in-the-Air status on airlines is surprising and discouraging.

*I recognize that "last week" technically ended on Saturday, 11/1, and therefore, it is this week that saw the NYC Marathon, but here at WRFB HQ, we act like fancy Europeans, and our weeks run Monday-Sunday.  And by "our," I mean "mine and Dorito's

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Wednesday Wrap Up: I Almost Died Again

Last Friday morning, I went out for my run before work, as usual, and headed towards Central Park.  I ran across 57th Street and turned uptown on Third Avenue.  The light changed, and I ran through the crosswalk at 58th Street.  I got about halfway across the street before, suddenly, I was lying on the ground, in the middle of the street, in the dark.  I was pretty sure I was going to die.

After a second or two, I realized I was still alive, but wouldn't be if I didn't get up before the light changed again, so I collected my keys, stood up, and crossed the street.  I reached the corner and stopped to examine myself.  A bruised and skinned knee, two skinned palms, a skinned shoulder, and a banged up elbow.  2 blocks into my run.  Genius.

Fortunately, I recovered from my injuries and was able to attend - you guessed it! - another wedding over the weekend.  My trip to the suburbs also afforded me a run among the changing leaves, two breakfast dates with my dad, and a champagne hangover.

The whole reverse taper is happening, slowly but surely.  Running still feels way harder than it should, and my "long" run last week was a whopping 8 miles.  My sincere hope is that it gets better just as soon as I have time to sleep well and eat properly, two things that haven't really been working for me since the marathon, since work has been so busy.  
Looking ahead, I have - guess what! - another wedding this weekend!  It's my last of the season, unless anyone I know goes the surprise nuptials route.  Then it's off to San Francisco for business, which (God willing) is my last business trip of the season.  As always, though, I'm looking forward to some miles there.

Number of Miles Run Last Week: 22.  

Number of Beers Consumed Last Week: 3.

Types of Beers Consumed Last Week: Long Trail IPA, Full Sail Pilsner, Bud Heavy.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

How'd You Do That?

Since the Chicago Marathon last week, a lot of people have asked me how I got down to a 3:13 marathon from a 4:22.  I'm still not convinced I didn't accidentally take a short cut, because it seems really fast to me, but the results indicate I ran the whole thing. 

The marathon is different for everyone, everyday.  I've had what I thought was awesome training and ended up with a shitty race, so a large part of my answer to "how'd you do that?" is "I got lucky." 

Another part is "I picked a good race;" Chicago is notoriously flat and fast and held at a time of year when the weather gods might very well be kind to you, as they were to us on Sunday. 

But luck and weather aren't exactly great tools to rely on when you're looking to improve your time.  I thought it might be interesting to share what else I think helped me get faster, and get your feedback on what's sped you up, or conversely, what hasn't worked.  So, here are some things I did differently in the lead up to Number 18, and my best guesses at how they impacted my performance:

1. Mileage.  I had multiple 60+ mile weeks this season, and one week with 78 miles.  In the past, I've typically had 3 weeks of 50+ miles.  So the volume of my training definitely increased this season.  But along with it, so did the amount of running I did on tired legs.  Some of that is a function of volume: your legs are probably more tired when you've run 40 miles going into your long run than when you've run 25.  But this season I also moved around the day on which I did my long run a lot, so I almost never had a full week of recovery between long runs, and sometimes just had 2 or 3 days between them.  I actually specifically thought about that, my practice at running tired, in the later miles in Chicago.  It was a good reminder that I could, in fact, keep going at a strong pace.

The flip side of this, of course, is that with increased volume and decreased rest, you're upping the odds of injury.  This season, I was smart about it.  That was not always the case...

2. Speed work.  The single biggest factor in my getting faster, especially as I was trying to BQ for the first time, was speedwork, and I've kept at it weekly during training since then.  Mile repeats, 800s, tempo runs.  If you want to run faster, you need to run faster

3. Strength training.  I added a thrice weekly lower body strength training workout to my regimen this year in a desperate attempt to fix whatever was wrong with my hip.  I can't claim that this was a panacea, but adding squats, lunges, and clam shells has made a noticeable difference not just in my leg strength, but also in my balance.  So if I ever decide to run a marathon on a ship deck, I'm covered, I guess...

4. Cross training.  Again, while not necessarily new this season, committing myself to cross training just once a week (generally in the form of SoulCycle) over the past couple of years has, I think, helped stave off injury while maintaining cardiovascular endurance.  Plus, doing something other than running makes us use other muscles and reflexes, and in the final miles of the marathon, weird-ass shit can happen and suddenly in order to keep moving forward, you have to start doing high knees or hold your arms above your head or utilize your body holistically, and that includes engaging non-running muscles.

5. Nutrition and weight.  I've lost about 7 pounds in about as many months doing absolutely nothing difficult.  I eat less crap (think fresh fruit instead of Doritos from the office vending machine if I need an afternoon snack).  I do less mindless grazing (making actual meals for dinner instead of cheese and crackers, then hummus, then cereal, then peanut butter...).  And, since the Social Diet way back in March ("social" component being short lived), I've been keeping a food diary. 

I feel like that's some big taboo secret, but in all honesty, it's easy and it works.  I never set out to lose weight, but being more cognizant of and intentional about what I was putting into my body had the added bonus of taking a few pounds off.  It is remarkable how good one feels when one's diet is not 80% processed cheese (conversely, I demanded TG order us a Papa John's pizza after Abbe and Baker's wedding a few weeks ago, and OMG processed cheese has a time and a place and it is 1am and in a hotel room after a wedding.)

6. Massage.  I'm not a big foam roller (don't yell at me), but that doesn't mean massage is off the table.  I demanded a lot of massages from TG this season, and I want to be clear that I don't mean the sexxxxxxy kind.  Typically, they involved lots of yelling ("Stop pushing there!" "You're hurting me!" "Oh my God, seriously, stop!") and were not at all relaxing for either of us, but ultimately, I think they did help speed up recovery.  

If you don't have a boyfriend with whom you'd like to fight, I am also a big proponent of a quick chair massage at the nail salon.  10 minutes will work out the knots you've tied yourself into sitting at a desk all day and then hunching up while you're running.  Which reminds me...

7. The Standing Desk.  I stand at my desk.  As you'll recall, it's a pretty shoddy set up, constructed mostly of boxes of expired liquor donations and annual reports (the nonprofit life is a glamorous one), but it gets the job done: not only do I feel better not being all crammed up and bent over, but since I'm standing there, I'm much more apt to engage in some stretching of my IT bands or quads while I'm on a conference call or something.

8. Cats.  I have a cat who wakes me up at 5:00am with his teeth and claws, which means I have no desire to hit snooze and stay in bed with that vicious monster.  Get a cat, never miss a morning workout.

Something I don't think has an impact on my speed?  The dry period. 

Whereas not drinking beer is overrated...
For races at which I have big, hairy, scary goals (Chicago, Boston), I stop drinking alcohol 4-6 weeks beforehand.  In part, making a commitment like that sets the tone for me, mentally, that This Is A Serious Undertaking.  Physically, the thinking is that I'll sleep better, make better eating choices, and be better hydrated.  Truthfully, I don't know that any of those things actually happen, for me.  I get a lot of sleep (7.5 hours a night at minimum. #childfree) regardless.  Not drinking has the effect of freeing up calories for indulging in something else.  And drinking Diet Cokes instead of beers at a bar doesn't have the hydration impact I should be going for.  And when it comes to the race itself, the relationship between sobriety and speed seems to be a crapshoot: I drank a beer the night before Rehoboth and had a good race on crap training, and didn't touch the stuff for 5 weeks before the Hamptons and tried to DNF at mile 13.  I keep doing it because the mental part is actually important to me, but I definitely wouldn't put it on the Must Do list, if you were asking me to make you one.

So, that's what worked and what hasn't for me.  What about you?  Try any of the above?  Have something else in your arsenal that works like rocket fuel for your racing?  Convinced that foam rolling is for chumps? Share your thoughts in the comments.