Thursday, December 26, 2013

Believe, work, achieve - What I learned from my last birth

I gained a lot from my youngest daughter's birth*.  This was my 4th birth, and the previous 2 had been natural. It was and is important to me for several reasons. I believe it is the healthiest for myself and my baby, it doesn't interrupt or numb vital and fascinating hormone activity going on within a laboring body, and I can labor and push more effectively since I can move my body around. I recover much better and it puts me more in control, aware, and a part of this beautiful and powerful experience that I definitely don't want to numb while I play cards or play on the computer like I did with my first birth. 
Birth is hard work, no doubt, both physically but also mentally. Other than educating myself deeply on all the mechanics of birth, I didn't particularly prepare for my 2nd and 3rd, just used a midwife, and breathed deeply and did my best to keep calm. I had great births, much better than my first medicated and everything but a c-section delivery, but I knew there could be even better. I knew I could have less fear and more control. Fear can crush you.

So I got to work training my mind. I looked into and purchased a Hypnobabies program and learned to train my mind and body calm, but more importantly, programmed myself to believe that all was well, I was capable, and that my birth would go smoothly and that I would handle it well. There is much more to it than that, but the biggest thing I gained was positive affirmations. Daily positive affirmations crush fear. I knew I could do it and that all would be well. I never exposed myself to negative birth stories or videos. Any fear or doubt I exposed myself to could have snuck into my subconscious. Now before you think me irresponsible, I was and am very educated in all things birth and I surrounded myself with qualified midwives, who are so very smart and wise with birthing mothers and babies.  More so than doctors in my opinion save truly high risk situations.  Midwives know what to watch for and see any complications before they are a problem and then care appropriately. I knew they would take care of us if needed, but it was my body that would do this important work and I trained my mind to know that this is what my body was designed for and that it would. 
And you know what?  It did!  I had the most controlled and comfortable birth I had had yet. I never lost it, never wanted out. I did it!

I was so empowered and inspired by this and have taken into other aspects of my life the last two years. Particularly with racing. I simply believe in a particular goal and that my body can do these things and that I'll handle anything I need to along the way, and I do. I work hard of course, educate myself, and surround myself with people who know what they're doing, can help me, and inspire and lift me. Just like with my births. 
Believe you are strong, believe in your goals, post them saying 'I can or am or will do x' before it happens, and keep repeating them and other positive affirmations daily. Surround yourself only with good and go out and work hard and enjoy yourself!


Sunday, December 8, 2013

TriStates marathon - new PR

 So I wrote in an earlier post about wanting to see what some real marathon training, real on the road/track speed work would do for a marathon for me.  I have gotten very strong in muscle and endurance from all the ultra miles I've run over the last year, but I knew my aerobic and lactic acid threshold was not as high as it used to be and my legs needed a refresher course on getting moving fast again.  The training was going to have to hurt and it did, but not as bad overall as I expected.  By the time the 6 weeks was up and it was taper time, my body was ready for it to be done though.  That much time spent doing speed work (3 days/week) for 6 weeks was about my limit.  But almost all of it went well and I was excited to give Tri States a go!  Tri States is a marathon that starts in Utah, runs though Arizona, and finishes in Mesquite, Nevada.  Kind of neat to get to run through 3 states in one day!
Sunset on my way into St George
Now I am a 30 year old wife and mother to 4, but I still feel (and yes I know I am) very young.  I had never been on a long drive solo before, but the way things worked out, I would be on the way down to the race.  I was worried a little about being able to stay awake and not bored, but it actually turned out to be the easiest and best 5 hour drives I'd ever made.  Not that I'd trade my children...but on a road trip?  Ok, maybe I would  ;)

Made my way to the hotel and checked in, again, feeling so grown up doing it all solo.  So grown up I took a teenage girl selfie in the mirror.  I know, I know.

So my husband you see, a co-founder at Altra Running and now over marketing, had been away working at
The Running Event in Austin, TX all week.
I charmed him into flying into Las Vegas Friday night
and taking a shuttle into Mesquite so we could spend the night, I'd do the race, and he'd drive my sore self home.
So, I picked him up at a classy roadside diner 10 minutes from the hotel and that was that, awesome!

He brought us home lots of goodies that we went though, including some surprises for race day for me!
So happy to have him join me!

On to race morning.  One of those handy surprises was a pair of prototype Altra's fresh from being shown off but never run in at The Running Event.  Show was over, time to put them to good hard use.  So yes, it's traditionally not good practice to try new things on race day, but I used brand new shoes for the first time in a marathon (technically I ran 5 minutes on the treadmill early that morning, but close enough) and spoiler alert - I LOVED THEM!  You know it's a good shoe when you put it on for the first time, run 26 miles, and never even feel it.  And I've been critical as a tester about other shoes we've made in the past, but this one really hit the spot.  The Altra One2 (One squared), watch for it this summer I believe. 

Pre-race:  Busses picked up from the hotel we stayed at, awesome.  The RD's had the busses leave late enough that we'd get up there with only minutes to spare so we didn't have to stand around in the cold.  Smart. Thanks guys!  Talked to some really cool older runners sitting next to me on the way up.  The weather that weekend was extremely strange and cold for Mesquite.  The picture below is several miles into the downhill race so as you can see, there was obviously snow up top.  Not enough on the road to complicate things any, thankfully, but it was brisk, probably 25 degrees. 
I started with my SLS3 compression socks, Icebreaker wool underwear and new Icebreaker Run Rush wool bra I bought the day before because I didn't want to get sweaty and cold in the cold, tights, Icebreaker wool tank, arm warmers, Old navy fleece long sleeve 1/4 zip top, neck gaiter, headband, 2 pair of cheap stretchy gloves and my Altra Headsweats visor.  And the most awesome Ultraspire Quantum belt I had on, I'll get to that later.  I shed all but the arm warmers and visor by mile 12 or so.  Was I overdressed?  A little, but the layers were cheap and easy to shed and leave at an aid station.  Worth the warmth at the beginning.  Probably never needed the neck gaiter.

Race: So the plan from my friend and coach for this race Mark was to run 7:20's the whole way and then push at the end to get a 3:12.  To bank energy, not time, despite this being a downhill first half and flat and uphill second half.  Well, I'm not a very good student because I started running with the lead lady and eventual winner, and we just went at a pace that felt good for the downhill.  Mile 1 - 6:30 or something like that.  Whoops.  By 4 or 5 miles in I had banked almost as many minutes.  I backed it off at this point just a hair because I could feel my quads twinge a little and settled in to a pretty consistent 6:45 pace.  I knew I was pushing, but things felt good.  I wasn't doing what Mark said, but it felt right.  I just had a feeling going into this that it was going to have to be pushed and hurt the whole time to get a time like I wanted.  I wanted to get a time I wouldn't want to better for a while. Truth be told, I probably didn't have enough trust that I would be able to negative split.

Mile 3 or 4 I think. Chatted with the taller guy on my right for several miles.
He was supposed to race in Houston that day, or maybe it was Memphis, but due to the freezing rain the race was cancelled.  Not wanting to not use the fitness he'd built up for (he wanted to go under 3, was very close last year at that flat race), he found this race and booked flights and a hotel....THE NIGHT BEFORE the race.  He was nervous all these hills would thwart that plan, and I was SO happy to see the results and see that he got his goal!

So around mile 7 the course is out of the small canyon it starts in and starts on one of several long straight stretches of road.  By mile 13 things were flat.  I hit the halfway point in 1:30, 1 minute off my half PR from several years ago (the last time I ran one) with far less effort.  THAT was a good sign despite the beginnings of worked legs I could feel coming on.  I knew I could work through that discomfort and that it was there early because I'd pushed harder. I also knew there were hills coming up and I was grateful to be 6-7min ahead of my goal. 
I hate to do it, but I ran into an empty port-o-potty there at the half marathon start because I figured I had the minute to spare (think I got in and out in under 40 seconds, yes, I timed it).  TMI, or maybe helpful hint, you decide - I grabbed someone's basically full water bottle off the ground before I headed in and while sitting down taking care of business, fished out of my pack and took the electrolyte pill and 2 ibuprofen I was due for.  No fumbling, multitasking at it's best. 
We turned toward a small town and started the rolling hills around mile 15 and came to face these beautiful temptress mountains pictured below.

Trying to peel ear warmer and neck gaiter off to throw to Jer I think.

Those mountains above were big and pretty and I would have loved to be in them exploring, but I was there focused, with work to do.  Ran into my husband about mile 15 and he didn't recognize me with my visor backward.  I didn't like the darkness of the brim on a cloudy day so I turned it around.  I made very little small talk when I'd pass by him, but was grateful to have him around.  

So I mentioned how this course had uphills the last 10 miles, right?  I was really proud of how smooth and strong I was running, not feeling any need at all to walk or slow down,
But there were definitely some good hills for a road marathon
Lots of long straights too.  My mind was still doing ok though.
Although I believe I started complaining a little about the hills at this point.  I was still charging up them steady, but they were a bit annoying.  The worst were still to come.
While the scenery was generally not super impressive, we went over this bridge and into neat sandstone walled roads like below.
My only real complaint with the course is that there was, for me, a faster paced marathoner in relation to the rest of the field, a 30 minute stretch with no water.  Almost 20 miles into the race.  I was relying on aid stations for water because they were typically around every 2 miles.  That's just fine, but I was totally dying for one by the time this 4+ mile stretch without one was over.  Yikes.  I hope those behind me did ok.  I worried for them.
So by mile 22 my mind was starting to get ancy.  Body was still doing ok, I was losing a little bit of time from my bank, but I was still on track to run 3:08-3:09 by my calculations.  I was starting to catch up with the lead woman too.  Eventually closed a 4 minute gap from her down to about 1.  Last long straightaway at about mile 24 and I can see to where we must turn off before the finish because clearly there's a big steep hill way up there and there's no way we go up that at the end of a marathon.  Right?  Right??  Ok, I see people not turning off before it.  I bet it's that street just partway up the hill.  Nope.  The turnoff for the last .2 was at the very top of a very steep hill.  Kind of cruel if you ask me :) and that's ME talking, who loves uphill.  But this was a road event, walking doesn't apply the same as it does in ultra and I really wanted that sub 3:10, but oh baby, that last 0.5 miles my body was absolutely toast.  Legs were heavy and tired, stomach was pukey, it wasn't fun to push, but I had to now for fear of now not even getting that 3:10.  I think the course may have been a tad long, don't know, don't race with GPS, not that watches are always accurate, but either way, I got through the finish line at 3:10! 
2 minutes under my goal time, 16 minutes faster than the SOJO Marathon 7 weeks earlier. 
I did it!  I had a couple of friends run similar times in St George this year and that sounded like a real fast marathon time to me, they inspired me to want to train for it and do it and I did!  This goes a lot along with the recent article I wrote about simply believing and working hard.  I hit the training times, knew I could, and knew I could manage my nutrition and that I was strong and smart and could do this.  I love that a friend Jen made me think about the fact that I never wanted out.  I never wanted it to just be over or thought "why am I doing this" as I have in other races.  I handled it.  I was prepared.  I love the time I achieved.  Do I want to go under 3 hours?  Silly question :) Of course I do, but I don't have a burning itch to right now, maybe winter of 2014 after ultra season is over like I did this one.  I really feel like I needed the focus only on this kind of training and race if I'm going to go for that goal.  So we'll see.  Right now I'm just super happy that I was able to push a strong pace the whole time and not be scared of it, not have my body break down badly until the last half mile where in the past it's been mile 16-18 (I mean my legs hurt at 13, earlier than usual, but nothing I couldn't handle).  I'm happy with the weather that turned out to probably be a blessing.  Temps in the high 30's low 40's for much of the race is better than 70's.  Turned out to be a great day!  So thankful my body has been so good to me. I try to take good care of it and I could do better but it's really hung in there with my mind and allowed me to train and race hard and have fun.
BAM!  Happy to have done what I trained for
I let Jer hold me up when I finished and then we went and sat down on the curb.  Small race, not a whole lot of post race pampering, but that's ok, that's not what I went for.  Had a very hard time getting back up, like had to be lifted up, couldn't even engage enough muscle to be pulled up things were that sore.  Stomach hung in there ok after, not great, but ok.  I've had a rough time with my stomach after the last couple races, it just wants to shut down like the rest of my body.  We collected my 2nd place overall prize of a cowbell and headed back to the hotel for an hour where I promptly landed like this.  Jumped Hobbled in between the hot tub and cold pool for some contrast bath while shivering away, then a quick shower and a LONG snowy in southern Utah drive home.  Those are never comfortable.  We had to get back to our kids, but when will I learn it's worth it to stay the night of a race before heading home. 

Well, there it is.  Had a great race and a totally awesome performance for me, almost perfect - if I'd gotten that 3:09 I'd probably call it perfect...maybe ;)  None of this would have been possible without the following:
Mark for writing out 6 weeks of speed work for me to follow.  Would not have done this without your help Mark!  Thanks to you and Zac for running some of the training with me too.
Altra shoes off course!  The One2 is a dynamite shoe!  Light, flexible, but good cushion, a little more than the original, but a lighter shoe.  Super soft barely there upper.  No foot pain, lower leg pain, blisters, nothing!
Ultraspire for the Quantum belt.  Zac wore one at Leadville and thought their smallest wouldn't fit me.  Thankfully I must have more hip than he does because that belt didn't move an inch!  Holds 2 flasks in the back (or several gels or 24 hour energy in each flask pocket) and a front zip pocket that could hold 5-6 gels, no joke.  I believe I started with 5 in it and my bag of pills and it wasn't bouncy or buldging.  No hooks, velcro, no closures, just soft air-y belt all around you step into and pull up.  I can wear it lower than traditional belts too, I like that.  I will totally be using this tri's, road races, and for well supported/dropbag ultras in the future.
Vfuel is and was my gel of choice.  Goes down easy, peach cobbler and vanilla are tasty, and I like the 10mg of caffeine, keeps digestion going.  Never any stomach upset.  Because of the higher energy output in this race, I took a gel more frequently, every 30 minutes.  2 V's, a higher caffeinated GU, V, V and a 24 hour energy about mile 16.  I strangely don't notice a big surge from caffeine despite my size and lack of daily usage, but I think it kept me steady.  Also got to try GU's prototype electrolyte pill that has ginger root in it!  Ginger is said to be good for upset stomach or nausea and I didn't have much but had a little something going on around half way, took one, and didn't have anything stomach wise after.  Not saying it was all the pill, but I am excited to test them out more.
And my family of course!  But I will say that these runs were a lot easier to fit in because I ran most from my house and they were shorter duration than ultra stuff so I did most while the crew was sleeping.  I am thankful for the means to be able to enter and travel to a race though

So there you have it.  TriStates was a good race that I would recommend.  Thanks for reading!  Hope your New Year is off to a good start!  Would love to see a comment!

Friday, December 6, 2013

Speedwork + marathon = ?

So in September I jumped into the Sojo marathon wanting to see what a years worth of much higher mileage yet no speed work would do for me in a road marathon. Would the strength translate into speed?  I found yes, but during the race I wasn't sure how it would turn out so when I was running the last 6 very fast I knew I could have done more. So I decided to recruit friend Mark to write me a 6 week real marathon training schedule. 3 runs a week, all structured, all faster than I was used to. Tempo runs, intervals, track work, Yasso's. Hard threshold work!
So this is the 'what can I do in a marathon if I train speed' race. Tri States Marathon starting at Utah Hill which is 26 miles NE of Mesquite. One turn the whole course, downhill the first half but then some decent rollers the next half. Oh, and around 20 degrees. 
I don't think this is as fast of a course as others, and I don't love the idea of downhill aided courses but truth be told, that's what most races around home are. I am happy with how training went. My goal pace I trained at was 3:12, so that's the goal. My current PR is 3:26 so I would definitely like to be under 3:20. Sojo felt comfortable for the most part. I'm guessing this won't be. I'm hoping for a time and performance I am so happy with I won't feel the need to better for a while. I can't wait to get back to the trails!  Here goes nothing!