The Rest is (not always) Easy

It's a rest week:  This happened.  Greetings from sweltering RVA - where the "feels like" temperature topped triple digits this weekend!  (Whew) It's made for some super sweaty runs, that's for sure.  But enough about the weather - let's get to the training.

This week was a recovery week for me.  When crafting my schedule I had slotted this week to fall 9 weeks out from Erie.  Like any recovery week, its goal was to give my body some time to absorb the last few weeks of hard training (70, 79, 86 miles each week, respectively), and to recharge my batteries a bit before plunging into the last big block of work before taper.   I had been eagerly anticipating the arrival of this week:  I'd sleep in!!  I wouldn't have to do any doubles!!  I had a "short" long run of only 16 miles - what would I do with all that extra time!?!?!

Well, the week finally arrived and while it was nice to sleep in a bit and not have to do any doubles, the week was surprisingly difficult and left me feeling kind of...flat.   This has happened to me in past seasons as well.  I often do not feel as well on recovery weeks as I do during heavy training.  Not sure if it's just my body being jolted a bit out of its regular daily-grind rhythm, or if the sluggishness comes from the body absorbing the gains and making adaptations.  In either case, rest weeks have proven to be not so easy - both mentally and physically - and I have to remind myself constantly that my fitness has not disappeared when I'm dragging my tired legs up a hill in an "easy" 8-miler.   We all know that rest is where the magic happens, where we make our gains from the training.  But it can be so hard to take that much needed rest when it can leave you feeling more tired than you felt before!    I know that it's just a phase, that my body will adapt and I'll feel better once I get the next week going.  We'll get to that in a second, but here's how this past week shook out:

Monday - 9.7 miles (8:09 avg. pace)  Ran this with a friend and I was dragging.  I'd done pace miles (6 of them, 6:47 avg) on Saturday's run and they went terribly.  My legs were still very fatigued on Monday so this run was not great.

Tuesday - 7.5 miles (8:21 avg)  Ran a friend's tempo with him and felt surprisingly good.  Most likely because it was not MY tempo!  I love running other peoples' workouts with them - it's much more fun than running my own. :-)

This also happened.  I make no apologies. :)

Wednesday - REST.  Ahhhh.  I did my core work class at the gym in the morning but it was nice to sleep in and not have to get up at the crack of dawn for a run...though I felt oddly bereft to not have done my early morning wake-up-and-run routine.  I taught BodyPump later in the evening.

Thursday - 10.1 miles (7:10 avg)  Tempo time!  Ran with two of my speedy guy friends from a new location!  It was awesome to run somewhere different where I didn't know the route. It gave my mind a break and didn't give it a chance to anticipate (and dread) the hills. It was a cool(er) morning in the upper 60s with limited humidity so that was awesome, but unfortunately I was feeling the effects of the rest week and still felt sluggish.   Though I was sucking wind big time on the run, I was happy to have a decent 4-mile tempo with splits of 6:21, 6:20, 6:32, 6:26.

Friday - 8.7 miles (8:34 avg)  Recovery run.  I had an opportunity to run the first few with my father and I jumped at the chance.  I haven't been able to run with him that often since I do most of my training in the super-early-morning hours.   It was nice to catch up with him and run easy while enjoying the relatively low humidity.  Still feeling sluggish so my legs were grateful that I kept it easy. Taught BodyPump again later in the morning.

This is my post-run "I finally made it to back to my car" photo.  I had one of those flavored sparkling waters after a super hot run last week and now I am addicted.

Saturday - 16.3 miles (7:35 avg)  Long run with my group.  I was expecting to feel pretty awesome on this run (It's a rest week!  I had a recovery run yesterday!  I'm hydrated and fueled up!), but instead I felt like death from the start.  It was definitely not a confidence building run.  I kept having to reassure myself that yes, everyone has a run/several runs/a week of runs that don't feel great and don't go quite to plan.  I know that my fitness is there, but it sure seemed to be hiding on Saturday.  I struggled through this run but got it done.

Sunday - 8.0 miles (8:25 avg)  Recovery run.  Legs still felt sluggish so I decided to run to the track and do some laps since it was a) flat and b) had no cars to worry about and c) had a water fountain.  It was back to humid and HOT so I was grateful for the proximity to water!  I used the time to listen to my BodyPump track list and practice cueing - had anyone been at the track they would have gotten a kick out of hearing me shouting out loud while I pretended to coach my class!  All while running laps, of course :)  But, hey - it was a good time to rehearse!   Later in the day I taught my BodyPump class at noon and then competed in some parent swim relays for my stepdaughter's swim team.  (P.S. - if you want your Oiselle shorts to double as a bathing suit bottom make sure to double-knot the drawstring. :-) I remained decent, but lost valuable relay time due to shorts adjustment!!)

Total:  60 miles 

So with this (not so easy) rest week behind me, I am looking onward and upward to this week when I get back to some heavy training.  I've got 86 miles on the schedule and two workouts:  a fartlek-style workout and a shorter tempo.  I'm looking forward to getting back in the groove during these next few weeks - but I know that sub-3 won't come easy.    It's time to buckle down and get to work, folks!!

Anyone else out there feel worse during a recovery week?   Give me your favorite mantra/saying for getting through the last tough weeks of marathon training before taper!  

This is how it goes

Preparing to launch BodyPump 94 We're back to that time of year where I need to give myself a pep talk before heading out the door.  I have stopped looking at what the temperature is supposed to be for my 5am runs - it's only going to miserably confirm what I already know:  It'll be HOT.   I simply lay out the least amount of clothing possible (while ensuring I am not arrested for indecent exposure) the night before and throw it on at 5am before heading out into the sticky, humid mess that is a Richmond summer morning.    The one upside to summer running is that I've been able to leave the headlamp at home most mornings since the sun is up so early.  Hurray!  One less thing to get soaked with my sweat.

With the kids around all day (I've got 3 of them at home now - my stepdaughter is here for the summer as well) and various activities to get everyone to and from (swim team practice, a morning camp or two for the younger ones, BodyPump teaching for me, etc.) it's been a bit more of a hectic pace this summer than last.  Yet another reason why I'm thankful to be getting my runs in super early!  Even though it's not always fun to drag myself out of bed so early, I'm happy to get it done before the day really starts.  That way, no matter how crazy the rest of my day gets, I know I've gotten my run in!  And that makes for a happier Mama.

We are now 12 weeks out from my goal race:  Erie (Presque Isle) Marathon on September 13th.  I've been steadily increasing my mileage and am comfortably back up into the high 60s.   I've been fortunate to have a few friends around the area to run with a few days a week - they've made both the miles and the humidity seem more bearable.    I've still got a ways to go before race day, but I feel like I'm entering  the portion where I need to turn on the focus, put my head down and get to work.   To give you an idea of where my training is at, let's recap the last week:

Monday:  10 miles w/10 striders (a.m.), 3 miles recovery (p.m.)  -  Yup.  The double runs are back.  76 degrees and 95% humidity made the first part of this run very sweaty.  Second run was done at 1pm in the blazing 93 degree heat. It wasn't optimal but it was the only time I had - I (predictibly) felt pretty lousy since it was so hot, but made it through.

Tuesday:  6 miles easy - Ran this one on the treadmill, nice and easy.  Taught BodyPump later in the morning.   Feel like I have a cold coming on with a sore throat and some drainage.

Wednesday:   10 miles w/5x1000m w/3 min recovery, cut down 200s (a.m.), 3 miles recovery (p.m.) - It was 15 degrees warmer this morning than the last time I did 1000s - 77 degrees at 5:10am with our normal miserable humidity. So given that, and the fact that we had to play sprinkler dodgeball at the track (we'd run a lap, then on the second pass we'd have to run into lanes 2-3 so as not to get whacked in the face by the water!), it made for a less-than-stellar run.

Intervals were: 3:50, 3:49, 3:49, 3:48, 3:41  Avg HR in the 182-193 range for the intervals. Two weeks ago (in 62 degree weather vs. the 77 degrees today) those intervals were 3:48, 3:45, 3:44, 3:43, 3:40.  I followed it up with the 200s - 37, 39, 38, 37 - They felt pretty lousy, but I think that's because the legs were shot! Thankfully the hamstring didn't protest.  Did 3 miles later in the morning at the YMCA, followed by my hip/glute exercises and my core work class.

Thursday:  8 miles, avg. pace 8:15.  Taught BodyPump later in the morning.  Still feeling the effects of fatigue from the summer cold I seem to have caught.

Friday:  4.25 miles, avg. pace 9:03.  Shortened run-turned-recovery-day since I'm still feeling cruddy due to the cold.  So glad I only had 4 miles to do - it was work just to get through those.  Drank gallons of water today and went to bed around 8:30pm.

Team teaching the new release!  The biceps track was awesome :)

Saturday:  18 miles, avg. pace 7:55.   Thankfully I woke up feeling a bit better!  I was up super early to be running by 5am - I knew I had to get all of the miles done before 7:40 so that I had enough time to grab a quick shower and be dressed and back at the gym around 8am for our BodyPump launch!  No one was around to run with me so ended up using the time to listen to the songs for the new BodyPump release and practice my cueing for the tracks that I'd been assigned to present at launch.  The nice thing about 18 miles is that it gives you PLENTY of time to practice.  I took it easy on myself and ran 4 of the miles on the track just so that I'd have a little bit of flat land to run on as well as access to a water fountain since it was so warm.  I finished up, grabbed a shower and some breakfast and then headed over to team teach the new release!  Our theme was "superheroes" and the members had a great time.  My tracks went well and I stayed to attend the CXWORX (core work) class and about 10 minutes of the Body Combat (kickboxing class) before I took my tired body home.    It was a busy, but very fun, morning.

Sunday:  6 miles, avg. pace 8:14.   Ran early before church.  Felt a bit sluggish on this run (most likely due to yesterday's efforts).  Taught BodyPump at noon and was very happy to be done with my BodyPump teaching obligations for the week.  Whew!   Still battling some drainage and fatigue from the cold but it seems to be improving.

And that's it!  68 miles for the week.  

I'm still guzzling water and trying to get to bed early in hopes of ridding myself of the rest of this cold.  I had a rest day on Monday which helped so hopefully I'll be back to full power soon!

Tomorrow's run is a tempo that I'm nervous about - mostly due to the lingering effects of this cold, along with the hot temps and humidity we'll have tomorrow morning.  (Triple digit temps today mean that it won't cool down very much at night...)  But I'm going to get up early and do my best.  I've got 12 weeks to increase my fitness so that I can chase down that 3-hour mark and I won't get there if I don't put in the work.   Let's do it!

Hope your week is going well!  Anyone else out there suffering from the same miserable heat and humidity as we are in RVA?    


When to stop strength training before a marathon...and a Liebster Q&A

BodyPump strength training It was treadmill again for me this week as RVA got about 7" of snow on Wednesday night.   Thankfully most of it melted pretty quickly and despite frigid temps again this morning I was able to get outside today do my 18-miler.  But since I'm over the snow and the cold, let's talk about something else:  Strength Training!  My strength training of choice is Les Mills BodyPump.   A while back I received my BodyPump (group weightlifting) certification.  This month I've been doing some more teaching at the YMCA as I fill in for an instructor that is out.  It's been an interesting experience for sure.  I'm not used to being an instructor in front of a big group and I've been very nervous to teach the classes.  Thankfully I've used my time stuck on the treadmill to listen to the tracks and memorize the choreography so that I feel more comfortable presenting it in class.  Of course I've had a few mistakes and my classes have been treated to my face turning bright red, but on the whole I think it has gone okay and I'm working to improve each time I teach.

I've been either teaching or taking the class 2-3 times a week for quite a while but as I enter the taper, I began to wonder what I needed to do in terms of scaling back/stopping the weight training before my race.

When Should You Stop Strength Training Before a Goal Race? 

If you've been consistently (1-3 times a week) strength training during your marathon buildup, you'll want to consider stopping right around the time you start your 2-week taper.  Studies have shown that when you stop strength training, a couple of important things happen:

Week 1:  Recovery:  During the first week off, your body begins responding to the training load you've been subjecting it to by repairing your muscles and replacing your energy stores.  You may feel a bit weaker this week as your body uses its energy to heal itself and repair all the small muscle fiber tears.

Week 2: Supercompensation:  This is the exciting part.  After about a week off from strength training, your body switches from recovery mode to supercompensation mode.  What does this mean?  Strength training suppresses fast-twitch muscle fibers to some degree, but when you stop training, they overcompensate to a higher-than-initial level.  This means that during this week your body's muscle fibers hit an optimal state - allowing you to generate more power.  Sounds like a great time to race!!

Long story short?  8-14 days before your race is the best time to discontinue strength training to let your body rebound and strengthen before the big day.

I plan to take a break from teaching (and taking) BodyPump after next week since the race is rapidly approaching.  I'm planning on Friday, March 6th to be my last day. (9 days before my race) I'm hoping that it'll help me on race day and I'll feel the benefits of the extra power in my muscles!

In other news, the super-speedy Marci has nominated me for a Liebster award (bloggers nominate each other and give out questions to answer) and she has given me a few questions.  So without further ado, let's get to it!


What is your "go to" running route?   I've got a few standard loops around my house but my favorite is probably a 5-mile out-and-back that goes out to what I fondly refer to as the "Road to Nowhere" - nicknamed as such because right now there's nothing being built off that road.  It's quite peaceful and while it's got some hills to get there and back, the actual stretch of road on the Road to Nowhere is probably the flattest area around my house.  So I head out there for speed work and anytime I want to run a route that a bit easier on the legs.

What is your favorite blog to follow? Oof.  This is a tough one.  I have so many running blogs I like! (RunnerMarci, KrisLawrence, ArkansasRunnerMom, Camille Heron, MilesToTheTrials, RunnerUnderPressure, SaltyRunning)  Since I feel like I can't single out one particular running blog, I'll give you my favorite non-running blog:  WaitButWhy    If you haven't had a chance to check this out - GO NOW AND CHECK IT OUT.  But (fair warning) it may keep you busy for hours as you read through all of the posts.  It's fascinating stuff and it's perfect fodder for those super long runs with friends (trust me - bringing up something discussed on WaitButWhy (like artificial intelligence, or what makes you YOU) will make the miles fly by).

What is the best advice you have ever received? My parents have always given me the advice that "the harder you work, the luckier you get".  Thus far in my life, I've found that to be true.

Who is/are your favorite training partner(s)? In life or in running?

LB and I post-Shamrock Marathon in 2013 - new PRs for us both!

In life, my favorite partners are my husband, kids and best friends.  I'm lucky to have one of my favorite people in the world (my friend LB) as a running partner as well!  She lives in NY so I don't get to see her often, but we've done several races together over the years and when we do get to meet up we always make sure to schedule at least one long run together.  On a more local basis, I love my training partners on my MegaRunners team.

What is your dream job? As weird as it sounds, I'd love to be a running coach and training-partner-for-hire.   One of my favorite things to do is to help others with running - with their plans, their goals, and their workouts!  I really enjoy pacing people in races, running workouts with friends as their pacer/motivator, or just keeping someone company on a long run if they need a little extra boost.  It's so much fun to run other people's workouts with them and be an encouraging voice. If I could turn that into a job I would do it in a heartbeat.

What is your favorite local race/event? why? While I have to give a shout-out to our amazing Richmond Marathon, my favorite local race I love to hate is the Patrick Henry Half Marathon.  It's a tough course and it's held in August - and (as luck has it) usually in terrible weather.  We've run in extreme heat, pouring rain, and even a hurricane over the years and somehow I still keep running the darn thing.  I've got a streak going now though, so I'm planning to run it again each year for as long as I can.  Since it's local, my parents often run it too which makes for a really fun race day no matter how miserable the conditions are.

What music/songs are on your workout playlist? Since I often use my treadmill time to listen to and memorize by BodyPump tracks, I've got quite a few songs from that on my playlist.  But here's a couple of others I've been listening to lately:

- Get Over It (OK Go) - Fast paced and fun! - Bad News (Bastille) - This one has a great beat for practicing your running cadence. - Kiss You (One Direction) - Yes, I know, I know.  It's a cheesy boy band song.  BUT the up-tempo beat and fun sound never fails to make me pick up the pace. - The Phoenix (Fall Out Boy) - This one is also a BodyPump song but it's so fun. - Shut Up and Dance (Walk The Moon) - This is on my "tempo run" playlist.  A great fast paced, catchy song. - Suddenly I See (KT Tunstall) -  Lynn Jennings used this song in the background of a montage of her running career that she showed to us at running camp in Craftsbury, VT.  It gave me goosebumps to see footage of all of the amazing races she'd run in and I'll forever associate this song with her, and her hard work and dedication.

What food/drink/habit/item/etc. could you never give up? It would be a sad, sad day if I had to give up coffee.  Or wine.

What inspires you most to keep running and training? I'm constantly inspired by other speedy runners who have worked hard and made big improvements in their times.  I'm also in awe of the masters runners out there who continue to run well into their 70s and 80s.  I really, really hope that I'm them one day.   I love running, but I sometimes question why I train - why I push myself and log all these miles when really, I'm nowhere near as fast the elites.   But at the end of the day, it comes down to this:  I believe God gave me a talent to run, and I want to do whatever I can to make the very most of this talent while I'm here on this Earth.   For me, that means training hard, helping others become better runners and enjoying the journey along the way.

Thanks so much, Marci, for the questions!!  I especially love the last one and want to put it out there to anyone reading:

What inspires you most to keep running and training?