Conquering The Year of Races

2012 was definitely “the year of races” for me. It started when I was still living in Kansas City and signed up for the Heartland 39.3 Series, which was 3 half marathons within 4 weeks. I was so nervous thinking about this challenge at first, but little did I know it would be the beginning of a crazy year of running. A few other races just kind of “slipped” themselves in my schedule and I ended up running 8 half marathons, 2 Ragnar Relays, and 6 races ranging from 5K-5 mile distances from January through October. It was fun, but busy!

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I spent the late fall and early winter training for the grand finale of 2012 (which didn’t actually happen until January of 2013) – the Disney Goofy Challenge! Goofy is the half marathon on Saturday followed by the full marathon on Sunday. Crazy? YES. Time consuming training? You bet. Worth every minute? OH YEAH!

Training for Goofy was almost as challenging as the race itself. Even though this would be my 3rd marathon and I didn’t have a time goal, it was 39.9 miles in TWO DAYS! I knew I needed to fit in some mileage and back-to-back weekend long runs to pull this off successfully. Oh, and did I mention I also work full-time, teach BodyPump and TurboKick classes 3-5 times a week, and I enjoy having a social life from time to time? Talk about a training challenge!

I gave myself 20 weeks in my training schedule for Goofy, knowing Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years fell within that time and knowing that with my crazy schedule I’d need a couple “buffer weeks” to work around things. Plus I live in Iowa, and you aren’t guaranteed to have nice outdoor running weather after November!

I sat down with Hal Higdon’s intermediate training plan and set up my tentative 20 week plan. I picked this one because it had back-to-back weekend runs, which I knew were going to be crucial to training. My training buddies and I wanted to do three 20+ milers as well and this plan had that too. I marked out what days I was scheduled to teach my set classes, when my friends could do long runs, and tried to work my weekday mileage and rest days all of that.

As you’d probably guess, week by week my training plan was modified. I subbed an extra class here, I cut a run short/added in a run there, my weekday mileage was a mess! Luckily, I was getting in some solid cross-training and my weekend mileage was staying fairly on plan so I still felt pretty confident overall. Plus the weather was staying fairly nice so we were still training outside for the most part! We had managed to complete a 20 mile and a 23 miler in November and were so excited Mother Nature was on our side!

Then December came and she decided not to play nice anymore.

I spent the last six weeks of training mainly on a treadmill. I didn’t get my last 20 miler in, but I did manage to get some 8 and 12 mile back to back treadmill runs in during those weeks. (Yes, those were brutal.) Honestly, I don’t think I even got my “worst case scenario” mileage in some weeks, but I did what I could. Normally, having this happen in training the last six weeks before a race would have freaked me out and send me over the edge with pre-race anxiety. But not this time!

Teaching while training was extremely difficult for me, but I think it also had a huge impact on my success. I know cross-training is really helpful in training, but I’ve always pushed it aside in the past. I even stopped lifting weights while training for my first two marathons, which is a huge no-no! Teaching forced me to cross-train, and even though it took away some of my running time, I believe it made me more balanced overall, made me confident in my fitness level, and helped increase my overall endurance.

Even though I didn’t make all my weekday mileage, I did really well sticking to my double weekend runs.  I think this was crucial in getting my body prepared to run the back to back races.  I even ran back to back half marathons in October as "training".  It wasn’t always easy, and it called for a lot of early bedtimes on Friday and Saturday nights, but it was worth it.

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I knew just finishing the Goofy Challenge would be a huge accomplishment, so I tried to make that the first and foremost thing in my mind when I’d get frustrated or nervous with my training.  I was in this for the experience. I know a lot of people roll their eyes at the “I race for fun!” runners, but when it comes to a Disney race – you race for fun!! Seriously. You get to run through all the parks, you can stop and take pictures with characters if you choose, there are so many people in costume, people on the sidelines, entertainment all around – Disney puts on a pretty dang good race! If you don’t go there to enjoy the experience, you’re wasting your money, in my opinion.

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Key thing to remember with training: Life happens. All you can do is roll with it, make the best of it, and keep putting one foot in front of the other until you get to the finish line.

Training for and running the Goofy Challenge was definitely the biggest physical test of my life so far, and even though it didn’t all go as planned along the way, I am very proud of my experience and I wouldn’t trade it for the world!

Okay, maybe I’d trade it for DisneyWorld… maybe.

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The Marathon: What A True Beast

Hi Healthy Happier Bear readers! I’m Meghan from Little Girl in the Big World! When Ashley asked me to share my story her marathons + moderation series I was excited, because after running Disney on January 13th, I haven’t been able to stop thinking or talking about the marathon! What a true beast it is in the most beautiful way!

My journey to the marathon started indirectly in March 2011 when I started the Couch to 5k Program. I started it just to lost weight, but when I got some encouragement from a co-worker who had run a few marathons, I knew a half marathon was doable for me. If you had told me when I stepped out the door those first few weeks that in less than two years I’d be running a marathon I wouldn’t have believed you for even a second. I hated running for all of my life up to that point!DSC01299

But after running Disney’s Wine and Dine Half Marathon as my first half, I knew that running was something that was going to become a part of me. I could write an entire post (and I probably will at some point) on what running has done for me, and I without question wouldn’t be the person I am today without it. Two of the things that are the most important to me are my relatively new commitment to a healthy lifestyle and my ability to continue pursuing goals that I set for myself even after going to college and grad school and securing a job that I’m happy with.

I’m not sure what it was that made me decide to run the Walt Disney World Marathon, but I think it had something to do with the 20th Anniversary medal and the 20-mile spectacular. I wanted to be a part of an entire event, not just a race. So after getting married in July and then having pretty serious abdominal surgery in August, I decided that I was going to make it happen. The surgery went well enough that I knew I’d be able to train after my six-week recovery period was over (I talked to my doctor, who is a runner, and she said it was fine), so I was able to sign up when the race was at 98% capacity. I just made it, and I was so glad.photo 1

But what came next was training, and this is where my moderation came in. Though I definitely had to moderate social time and other activities in my life, the thing that I had to moderate the most was my mind. It has been my biggest enemy and roadblock on my path to achieving goals. It’s not that I doubt myself or that I don’t think I’m able to do something from the get go, it’s just that while I’m in the process I am constantly questioning if I’m capable of finishing a certain run or a certain workout.

My mind is absolutely what I’ve had to moderate on long runs, tempo runs, and speed sessions, because if I let myself believe the occasional negative thought that would come through my head, I probably would have stopped before I had gotten to the starting line. Because I did most of my training alone, I had ample time to think. And while I sometimes thought about work, friends, things I needed to do, my mind would frequently throw in thoughts like, “your hip is hurting! You should cut this run a few miles short!” or, “you don’t need to run this fast to go the time you want. Just slow down a little bit.” Of course I would also doubt myself sometimes as well. There would be times that runs didn’t go as well as I had hoped or things were harder than they should have been, and the idea that maybe I wouldn’t be able to run 26.2 miles. And that was when my heart had to step in.

It was really heart over mind that got me to the starting line, and ultimately the finish line of the Disney Marathon. My heart wanted to do this to prove to myself that I could. I had set a goal with my heart, and I wasn’t about to physically allow anything to get in my way. Even during the race, it was the continued battle between what I knew was true and what my mind was trying to convince me at the time. Talk about mental games! They are sure to arise during training and especially during a first marathon.725248-1064-0017s

But in the end, I did it! I ran 26.2 miles (in reality I ran 26.61 miles because of all of the weaving), I got the medal I had signed up for, and I became a true running addict. I had pushed myself to a point I would have never thought possible earlier in my life, and I did it all by letting my heart continue to believe that it was all possible. It wasn’t pretty, and the race was pretty warm. I didn’t hit my goal times, but I later learned that I probably shouldn’t have set those anyways.725258-1008-0002s

The marathon is a distance to be respected. My advice to anyone that’s training or looking to run their first would be to believe in yourself and to believe in your training. Your mind will try to convince you that you’re weak or not capable at times, but you are! I wrote a recap of some more details of the actual miles along the way, and I kept all my training on my blog. I’m already planning my fall marathon, and I’m really excited to use everything that I learned in this training cycle and race to improve myself on marathon number 2!

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Marathon Training and CrossFit

Hi everyone! I’m Meg and I blog at RunFitKin about my life as a runner, crossfitter and wife/puppymom (and hopefully person-mom within the next year!) Being a runner the majority of my life, I’ve always viewed myself as someone whose strength and ability was built on running around an oval or on a cross country course.

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So when my husband approached me about trying this crazy new workout program called CrossFit, I was nervous to step outside my comfort zone. I was also intimidated. At the time I was struggling to even do push-ups on my knees! I knew that I would be frustrated with my lack of strength but John was encouraging and we took the leap, mainly because he wanted to lose weight and I wanted to get out of a running slump. I found out a couple of things right away.

  1.  Everything is scaleable, it didn’t matter that I couldn’t do a pull-up, there were bands to help me. It didn’t matter that my flexibility was limiting, there were mobility exercises to practice to get me more limber. It didn’t matter that I didn’t finish first in all of the WODs, my “boxmates” (fellow class members) were always there to cheer me on.
  2. I was the best runner out of everyone. Now this was important to me, especially in the beginning because I have a big ego. I have a “medium size fish”, little pond mentality going on over here. Being good at running showed me that everyone has strengths and weaknesses in CF. The slower runners at our gym were some of our strongest athletes. I wanted their skills and they wanted some of mine, together we gave each other tips and cheered each other on and challenged each other to do better. We believed in each other through and through. It made me find my fire for running again.
  3. I started to believe anything was possible.

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Which brings me to my marathon story. When I moved to Seattle and realized that adults don’t really run XC or track, I was sort of at a loss. I ran a few 5ks, then my first half marathon. I told myself I could never do a full marathon; half was tough enough. But then curiosity got to me, and I signed up for the 2009 Vancouver Marathon. My training was all over the place and I DNFed at mile 10, knowing that I wouldn’t be able to make it through all 26 miles without serious pain. I wasn’t ready.

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Fast forward to 2012. After a big PR in a half marathon in 2011, just 4 months into crossfitting, I could feel the difference in my core. My mentality was stronger and I had much more confidence in myself. I was ready to try Vancouver again in 2012. I used the Run Less, Run Faster training plan, which pairs hard miles with cross training. I used Crossfit instead of biking or swimming and found myself hoping to BQ on my second attempt at the marathon.

While the BQ didn’t happen, I did finish my first marathon sub-4, after injuring myself in mile 14. My physical therapist has told me that it was no fault of Crossfit or even a lack of training that got me injured, she believes I’d been overcompensating for weak hips and glutes for years.

I returned for another marathon after some strength work both in PT and in CF, and hit a 15-minute PR in the race. While training I also gained a few PRs in lifts at Crossfit. I was proving to myself that I could maintain Crossfit strength and run pretty well (though still no BQ).

I won’t pretend that you can be top notch at both sports simultaneously. When training for marathons or attempting to be competitive in half marathons, Crossfit takes on a cross training role for me. I will go twice or three times a week and prioritize my mileage over Crossfit. I will commit a Crossfit sin and cherry pick my WODs. For instance if something is going to burn out my legs on a morning of a track workout, I’ll skip the WOD so that I can bring a strong performance to the track. This is how I manage to keep my love of Crossfit in moderation with my love of running.

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When I’m not training for big running goals, I focus on Crossfit. I can now run a happy pace and hit “good enough for me” times on half marathons and sometimes surprise myself at shorter distances. The advantages I have gained from doing both sports has me convinced that this is the formula for me. My next big goal, which is a very lofty one, is a sub 1:30 half marathon. I plan to do  Crossfit about twice a week and average 40 miles/week.

While there a program called crossfit endurance, I’m still not sold on it. I may experiment for my next full and see if CF endurance can get me to 3:30 (or below). I have not seen many women be competitive runners and competitive crossfitters. I would love to learn from anyone who has that experience!

Have you tried crossfit?

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Give Yoga A Shot

Hello Healthy, Happier Bear readers!

I’m Danielle, one of Ashley’s fellow Greatist Ambassadors and I blog over at Live, Run, Grow!  In sticking with the Marathons and Moderation theme I thought I’d talk a little bit today about my recent marathon training and how scaling back a bit on the actual running and incorporating yoga into my training really helped me!

I ran my first marathon a little over a year ago.  Being a relatively new runner at the time (I began running in May of 2011 and the marathon was January 2012) I didn’t know much about running, training or incorporating cross training into my program.  I basically downloaded the recommended training plan, put on some sneakers and ran.

My training went great…up to 16 miles.  That’s when everything would start to fall apart.  As soon as I got over 16 miles it felt like someone was stabbing me in the butt (which I later learned was because of a muscle called the piriformis) and the arches of my feet killed!  Every step I took felt like I was stepping on broken glass.  I even called my husband towards the end of my 20 mile run crying telling him I didn’t think I could do this and I didn’t even want to go to the race, I was in too much pain and I’d rather not go than not finish.

Well, I DID go, and I DID finish.  My feet hurt and I was sore for days, but I knew the second I crossed the finish line that it wasn’t my last marathon.

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Fast forward to the fall of 2012, I was beginning to up my training for my second marathon, but this time I was going for the Walt Disney World Goofy Race and a Half Challenge – that is the half marathon on Saturday and the full marathon on Sunday (and just for good measure I threw in the 5k on Friday!).  I was worried about the long runs after what I had experienced last year and especially worried about having to train with back-to-back long runs to be ready to run a half and full back to back.  On top of that I was starting Yoga Teacher Training and the program ran October through December…exactly the timeframe that I’d be doing my marathon training!

I was really concerned about the effect that 3-4 vinyassa yoga classes a week would have on my running…would my legs be too tired? Would they be sore after a hard class?  Would I have the time to fit in the yoga AND my runs??

The beginning of my training was similar to the previous year, but I was still dreading getting up to those 18 and 20 mile runs.  I really mentally prepared myself for them…I knew what was coming and I was ready this time, pain or not I was determined to tackle those runs without any tears this year!

Well, my 18 miler came (following a 9 miler the day before) and around mile 16 I turned my game face on and waited for the pain to come…but it didn’t!  I was amazed, but didn’t want to get too excited, it was probably just a fluke.  A few weeks later I did 10 miles on a Saturday and then headed out for 20 the next day…NO PAIN!  I got to my house at 20 miles, paused for a minute…and then kept going!

As I ran those extra few miles I began to think about my training this time around and realized that I really hadn’t been experiencing the same aches, pains and soreness I had the last time around.  My foam roller wasn’t getting used quite as much (although it still did get a lot of love!), I didn’t carry around a golf ball to roll the arches of my feet on, and my body didn’t need as many rest days after my long runs.  The difference?  All the yoga I had been doing!

I finished the Goofy Race and a Half Challenge a few weeks ago feeling great and not experiencing any soreness at all!

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I even stopped and did some pushups with the green army guys at mile 21!

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Because of my experience, I am a true believer of the benefits of yoga for runners and love to be able to share them with others now that I am a certified yoga instructor (I even feature yoga poses for runners on my blog!).

When I began running and started doing some research on training I was surprised to learn that stretching was such a controversial topic!  Many believe that stretching before a run can lead to an injury…and I’m sure for a lot of people this is true.  If you don’t stretch often and your muscles are cold and tight it’s easy to push too far and hurt yourself.  But, if done correctly, incorporating yoga into your regular routine can actually stretch and strengthen the major running muscle groups and help to prevent injury!

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This past weekend I even took a workshop with Sage Rountree who is an internationally recognized authority on yoga for athletes.  She’s written several great books on the topic and regularly contributes to Yoga Journal and Runner’s World (keep an eye out for a great pre-run routine from her in February’s Runner’s World!).

One of the interesting things I learned from Sage is that a lot of athlete’s have a type A personalities (of course they do, that’s why they’re so competitive!) and it’s hard for them to take a step back from their usual full speed ahead training and do something like yoga, but in the long run (no pun intended!) it’s often that step back that gives your body the time to recover so that you can continue to move forward!

So, that’s my Marathons + Moderation tip for you – give yoga a shot!  You just may be surprised at the results!

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