Thursday, December 31, 2015

Fall 2015 and The Exciting 2016 to Come

So, yeah, it's been a while. I finally got back on my blogging game after the Pittsburgh Marathon and my minor injury, then I managed to fall off the map again. Blogging is a love hate thing. I really like this medium because it allows me to parse through my experiences, thoughts, and ideas and put them out for the world to read in an organized and detailed manner. But, I also loath the process of sitting down and putting the words on "paper." Its like college essays all over again, but only worse because there is no hard deadline or due date. I find myself wanting to put another blog up, but then deferring it. "I'll start it tomorrow, after the holidays, after my next race, etc. Then, my laptop got stolen out of the trunk of a car in San Francisco, so there goes my keyboard for typing up large word documents. I've now purchased a new laptop and have finally decided that enough is enough. It's been a tough Fall season for me in terms of racing and I think its time I wrap up this year on here so that I can move on from it once and for all. I've got the 2016 Olympic trials in 7 weeks and there is no time like the present to get my mind straight so that I can go into some of there grueling workouts with nothing but focus, hunger, and determination for an incredible Olympic Trials Marathon performance.

My Fall Races, in summary:

TC 10 Mile - The field for this race was STACKED. This year it was the 10 Mile Road Race Championships. With both the marathon and track Olympic Trials coming up this year, people went to the road circuits this year to get in shape, which meant there was a lot of talent and exciting, tactical races going on. Unfortunately for me, my race did not go well. I tried to be honest with myself about where my fitness was, and I went out conservatively. Leading up to the race I was feeling fresh and good, but the minute the gun went off I felt tired and like I was working way too hard. The course is a hilly and difficult one, especially in the first five miles, and I struggled. The biggest issue I faced, though, was mentally. I found myself getting negative, down on myself and my potential, and thinking about how tired I felt and how hard racing felt. All of this was going through my head DURING THE RACE, which obviously is not where I should be focusing my attention. Of course, my finishing time was far slower than my fitness suggested. I spend the day trying to convince myself that it was "just one race" and "I have so much potential," " I am so young" "I can do this." After a year and a half of telling myself this, I was starting to doubt myself.

Pittsburgh 10 Mile - I got in two or three REALLY GOOD workouts after TC Marathon, focusing my attention on pushing hard in my workouts and resting correctly. I realized the workouts are where I need to really grind and teach myself to focus when it starts to hurt. Three weeks after the TC 10 Mile, I flew to Pittsburgh to race another 10 mile. in 2014 I finished this race as the last of the elites and I told myself that I couldn't be that person again. I love P3R and all of the people who organize the Pittsburgh 10 Mile, I wanted to show them that their investment in me as a Team USA Minnesota athlete and as an elite athlete at three of their races now was worthwhile. Mostly, I wanted to be mentally tough through the race. I again went out conservatively in the first mile, but I was able to push in the subsequent ones. I ran some of my best miles and felt so much stronger on that course than I did the previous year. Besides a few moments of doubt in myself around mile 9, running into a headwind that I really didn't enjoy, I was very focused on how I felt, what I could control, and pushing hard. I finished with a 2 minute PR on the course and a 9th place finish. Progress is progress, even when its minute.

Santa to the Sea 1/2 Marathon: I flew home at Thanksgiving to be with my family and Ryan for the holidays and decided to stay home so that I could train in the warmth. The race was two weeks after Thanksgiving and two weeks before Christmas, so it fit perfectly in a five week warm(er) weather stint from Minnesota, which got its first snow fall one hour after Ryan and my departure on Thanksgiving day. I ended up getting a bit of a head cold that I trained through, but that lingered for two weeks and sapped my energy, and then started to have some knee pain. Thankfully, I had my PT on it quickly and he traced the tightness back to my serially-inactive right glute. I drove down to Oxnard, CA on Saturday for a Sunday morning race, and my PT and I have decided that sitting for 5 hours in the car is what did me in for the following day. The race director graciously put me up in a hotel the evening before and then had a driver to come and pick me up and get me to the start. I was feeling a bit tired and my leg/hip a bit tight, but I knew I was fit to race.

I took out the first two miles on goal pace but by mile three I felt like I was dwindling. Then, as I turned a corner I noticed a medial posterior tendon on my knee was tightening up. Then it started cramping up and almost becoming immobile. I backed off on my pace in hopes it would loosen up but overtime I tried to pick up my pace, it would happen again. I wad passed but the second place female around mile four and was unable to pick it up and run with her. In addition to my knee hurting, I just felt completely unable to hold a pace any faster that 5:50/mile. 6 minute pace felt effortless (good news for my upcoming marathon), but 5:45 feels hard. I did my best to stay focused and positive, but by the end I was wondering "how the heck did I ever run 5:40avg for a half marathon?!" I ended up in second place with a decent finishing time for a tempo run and walked away with some race winnings. It was very disappointing and still is. I know I can do so much better, but it was just not in the cards that day.

Training, in summary:

After Santa to the Sea, I took a day off, biked for two days, and had two tearful but successful ART sessions with my PT who got me back to full health. By 6 days post race I was able to put in an easy paced 22 miler. I ran easy for a few days and then began workouts. I have put together a few good workouts to kick of my marathon specific training. One big change I have made is to back off on my mileage. I was running mid-90 mile weeks for eight weeks with just one week down in the mid 70's during a race week. I have decided that I don't want to hit mileage any higher than 85 for this cycle, because it enables me to feel more energetic and recover better for the workouts. I would rather execute the workouts precisely than just get through them while feeling run down. I have noticed in the time following these past two lower-volume weeks and I feel invigorated, able to push paces in my easy runs I wouldn't have even touched three weeks back. I want to find my sweet spot, I want to find what helps me race well, so I am doing my best to be conscious of how mileage and recovery relate with my body and making the required adjustments.

My mental state, in summary:

Following Santa to the Sea I was feeling really down. This has been a tough year, racing wise. I have been relatively uninjured and am getting better at taking care of myself in that respect. But I can't seem to put together a good race. I know part of that has to do with my mental state during a race. I really need to work on thinking about positive things and about what I can control, nothing else. I spent the week following the race really feeling DONE running. I had a recovery run after my first workout back and felt like DEATH. I couldn't hold an 8:30 pace and I stopped at 2 miles and almost walked home. But slowly, I've come around to all of the support I've been getting. I remind myself that my body will go through phases with this training and to listen to it. I remind myself I am young, I have an amazing opportunity to be at the Olympic Trials Marathon in 44 days, and that I do, in fact, LOVE TO RUN. I am now feeling a lot happier with this career, as challenging as it can be, and excited for the future.

2016! Sponsors, Races, Olympic Trial, and more!

I can't believe its almost 2016! I am ready for a new year to start fresh and continue to give this running thing my all. My new years goal: do my glute exercises every day. Achievable and totally important for me.

Next up, Houston Half in January and the Olympic Trials Marathon in February. Then after a break, Dennis and I will refocus my training to some faster, shorter races and even some cross country!

I have also resigned with Bonk Breaker and GenUCAN as fuel sponsors for the 2016 year! I am excited to continue working with them. I have accepted an ambassadorship with San Granola Granola too, a San Francisco-based granola company that makes delicious high fiber/protein and low sugar products which help me with all of the fueling that isn't focused specifically on my training sessions. My favorite way to eat it is on Fage 0% greek yogurt before bed, but its also totally good straight out of the bag or with milk. Check out their website to order it, there's even a sale going on right now! ( I have also gotten word about another ambassadorship I applied for, but I haven't gotten the go ahead, quite yet, to announce it to the world. So, stay tuned!

I am SO thankful for Saucony's support this year, even though it hasn't been my best racing year. They have continued to stand by me and provide me with incredible gear and shoes that help me train at such high volumes. And, look good doing it ;)

And last, but not even close to least, thank you Team USA Minnesota, Patricia Goodwin, Dennis, and all of our team sponsors for believing in me and supporting me this year. I want to show you all I am as invested in you as you are in me!

Aaaaand, the non running updates include: 

California for the Holidays: I was lucky enough to be able to come home to Thanksgiving with my family and Ryan and then stay through the New Year before heading to Houston. It was nice to start the trip off with a fun 20 days with Ryan, and it was really hard to say goodbye when he flew back to Minnesota. I was able to attend my Dad's wedding to my new step mom Jackie and enjoy a cool night in San Francisco. I attended the Nutcracker put on my the San Francisco Ballet on Christmas eve, and then spend a day with my Dad, Jackie, and new step sister Hannah, too. I celebrated Christmas with my mom, brother, and his girlfriend today, the 30th, with small gifts and some delicious, vegetarian cookings. It's nice to spread out the holidays a bit. I will tell you, I have been eating well here.

Houston, TX Up Next: Next week, I will be heading to Houston, TX to join three of my Team USA Minnesota teammates to do a 6 week training stint in warm, humid climate. The amazing Houston Marathon Association, sponsors of Team USA MN, have organized the Modern B&B as a home base for us, which is fully-equipped apartments for each of us and a common kitchen that has made-to-order breakfast every morning. We are close to downtown access, running paths, Rice University, and other great spots that will make this training experience exciting, easy, and enjoyable. We will be racing the Houston Half Marathon on January 17th, too! I am even extra lucky to be spending my 23rd birthday there, on the 11th, and get to have Ryan as my special guest for a week (:

Studying, again...: I am also taking this time away from my part time job at Twin Cities Running company (I miss it so much!) to begin studying for the GRE. I really want to get a job in the food industry in research and development, but a number of interviews have ended in "you need a master's degree." Also, I miss learning and using my brain, so this is a good time to get myself back into school and in the direction that my fancy UCLA degree was projecting me towards before this whole running thing began.

I am so thankful to be ending this year with such great friends, an amazing boyfriend, new Minnesota family and family back home, health, and ability to follow my dreams. Thank you to everyone who makes my life possible and who encourages me. I hope this year brings everyone happiness, that is the most important thing to living a purposeful and fulfilling life, I think.

Follow me on Instagram (my preferred method of socializing): @emrunygordrun

Saturday, September 19, 2015

The fall cycle (in a nutshell) and the lessons I've learned

A lot has happened since my last blog post. If you’ll believe me, I’ve actually written 3 updates to post over the course of the last 8 weeks and found myself so busy that by the time I went to post it, new exciting things had happened and it was old news. Now I face the issue of having far too many things to talk about. Here is a brief summary of my training and life over the past 8 weeks and then a series of things I’ve learned about myself.

After coming back from that post-tib strain/issue I was able to get in two or so weeks of easy running to get a base mileage in. When Megan Goethals and Katy Moen (new Team USA Minnesota teammates!) moved to Minneapolis, we discovered we were on the same timeline for getting back into training. As Dennis started us on our fall training cycle, it was beyond amazing to have people who I could run with for the hard mile repeats, the slightly less hard tempo runs, and also some of the easy days.

Lesson #1: It makes a huge difference having a training partner.

After out first track session of mile repeats (later to be done on a hilly golf course), I realized that it was the first workout of my career under Dennis that I DIDN’T DO ALONE. Despite the pain I felt at 1200m with a lap to go on these repeats, I have never felt more grateful and happy to be in pain. Megan and I traded off leading laps in the workout, worked together to push, etc. Plus we were there to high-five and celebrate a successful workout. On hill repeat days, instead of counting each rep, we play the alphabet game. We pick a theme and determine which letter we would get to (24 = X) and then pick a word that fit the theme on each rep. We did themes like food, candy, positive reaffirmation, and more. Really, having teammates to train with just make the suffering more fun.

On days where we weren’t working out – which was fewer than normal during the fall segment—we have easy running for recovery.  Last fall easy for me was 7:30 pace. Now, it’s rarely faster than 8 minute pace. As my mileage increases and the quality of the workouts within that weekly mileage increases, the recovery days get slower.  I used to be ashamed to look down at my Garmin and see that I was going 7:40/mile pace. Now, on easy days, if I see that it’s almost the opposite reaction; more like, “woah, woah, woah… getting a little excited, time to cool it.” And that’s just fine! Actually, it’s more than fine. Not only am I feeling more rested after my recovery days, I’m remaining uninjured, I am getting leaner while still having tons of energy, but I am also RUNNING BETTER AND FASTER THAN I HAVE DONE IN OVER A YEAR.

Lesson #2: Seriously, I had to slow down in order to speed up.

While training alone out in LA, then home in Santa Clara, before moving out to Minneapolis, I was running my workouts and easy days too fast. I was outside of my heart rate range to make the tempo and threshold work effective and too fast on my recovery days to allow my body to reset and heal. I was digging myself a nice, deep hole. This is why my marathon cycle was sporadic (at best) and my race in May was unsatisfying.

When I started this new cycle in August, I told myself that it was okay if my paces were slower than before or than my teammates. My goal was to get fitter and to be ready and healthy for the February Olympic Trials. So when I was 5 seconds behind on the mile repeats but was running at the correct heart rate for the workout, I counted it as a success. By doing this, I was able to have SO MANY successful workouts. This is the first time in a year that I’ve been able to walk away from 3-4 workouts a week ecstatic about the quality I was able to accomplish. In addition to finishing workouts and completing them correctly, my mental talk and confidence increased too. Not many people can walk away from a workout as the person who consistently ran each repetition slower than all their teammates and gain some mental toughness and confidence. Talent on this team surrounds me, but everyone is focused on a different event. The 10k race is more about speed than then marathon, and for me it’s the ability to be able to string together good, hard efforts and be able to continue chugging along.

Lesson #3: the mental battle and the confidence in and out of the workout play a massive role.

I am also quieting the peanut gallery that surrounds the distance running world. People are filled with advice about how to eat, how not to eat, how to fuel during, after, before, when to sleep, how much to sleep, and it goes on and on. And I am definitely guilty of dishing out my own advice, quite often actually. I think it is really cool that there is lots of literature and conversation about different techniques and methodologies for this stuff. But, it’s now a catchall. I wont find my answers from reading about them. The best thing I can do is do what I know my body likes, not do the things it doesn’t or hasn’t in the past, and avoid making big changes based on what others are saying or doing. Dennis had a talk with me after the Pittsburgh Marathon about this exactly, and I realizing I’m finally getting it. I have to do what works and what’s right for me—in my day, in my fueling, in each repetition of my training (even if that means backing off or running slower)—no matter what. THAT is how I will find success.

The Tuesday before Labor Day, Dennis asked if I wanted to run in a local Minneapolis 10k. He had plans for Megan and Gina to race the 10 and 5k races, respectively, for a few weeks, but it wasn’t until then that he brought up the idea to me. Part of it, I think, was to give him information on my fitness level, but also to keep Megan and I on the same training schedule. I was up for the challenge, being that it would be my first road 10k, and my second 10k ever, I knew I would run a PR and was interested to see how it would go. Also, there was a prize purse, so a top 3 finish meant money, too. Win, win.

Without going into great detail, we did not taper for the race, just moved our weekend long run to the day after the race. Still with 81 miles for that week prior, I was able to go out in an comfortable but effortful 5:33 for the first mile, hold steady and feel GOOD (finally) in the race and then push my way to the finish for a second place and 35:36 finish (5:44 avg/mile). I had backed off a bit for miles 2 and 3, but ended up negatively splitting for miles 4 and 5, which was cool. Finishing, I realized that now that I know what racing that distance really feels like, I know that I can run a bit faster and push a bit harder. I also can walk away confidently knowing that I think I could run that pace or faster at the TC 10 mile. I will be tapered and refined with a few weeks of race specific pace and speed work. I will be ready.

The TC 10 mile is in just over 2 weeks and it is the 10-mile USATF National Road Championships race. Tons of quick professionals are entered and it is going to be a hell of a race. But, instead of going in with apprehension and questions like last year, I feel like I can do this. I have the strength to push and hold onto some athletes that I previously would never imagine I could run with.

Outside of running, I have been working 20-25 hours a week at TC Running Company and loving the community and the staff I work with. I have continued to coach with LifeTime Fitness Chanhassen for the TC Marathoners and 10-milers. The weather is finally cooling off, too, making those training sessions and long runs quite a bit more bearable than the 80% humidity 93 degree days just a few weeks ago. I hear fall in Minneapolis is breathtaking and I just cannot wait to see it develop.

Ryan is getting ready to race the TC 10 mile too, followed by a 50k trail race (that’s 31 miles, guys) up in Duluth, MN on the 17th of October. He has been doing all of my long runs with me, helping me push through the added tempo work that we have at the end, and also celebrating each success with a delicious breakfast and compression sock party. I am really thankful to have him around to help with training but also to help me mentally get through the daily life as an elite runner (aka he has good listening skills and he doesn’t get mad when I ask to go to bed at 9pm).   

More to come, of course! I hope everyone is staying inspired and wakes up every day grateful for the little things in life that keep us happy and whole. I am grateful to live in such a beautiful place surrounded by teammates, friends, and coworkers that are like family. I am also grateful for the support my mom and dad give me, they are my true sounding boards. Lastly I am so thankful for my sponsors. I use GENUCAN and/or Bonk Breakers every morning before my runs and workouts, so I am thankful for the energy they give me to kick butt in my training. I am grateful for Saucony giving me the shoes and clothes I need each day to perform at my best (and man do I go through shoes now, running 85-95 miles a week!). I want to thank Team USA Minnesota for the continued support, from a fantastic coach like Dennis, pro bono health care from Sam Lezon at SWAC, and from the entire community. It is really a gift to be able to run for my career and there is no way I could do it alone.

TC 10 Mile on October 4th
Pittsburgh 10 Mile on October 25th -- I am excited to get back to my "second home" for racing with awesome elite recruiter Ryan Hogan and all the P3R Ladies!

Friday, July 17, 2015

After an extended recovery period post PGH marathon, I am back on the road!

Hey everyone! 

I have been away from my blog for far too long! After my awesome Pittsburgh Marathon blogger gig, I was hoping to step away from it for two weeks while I recovered and then to hop back on board when my training picked up. Unfortunately, a little nagging pain in my foot took me out for longer than I expected. But, after finishing up my third full week of running with two speedier runs, I am officially BACK IN THE GAME and prepping for some fall races! 

Here is a bit of a recap of what’s gone on in my life since the Pittsburgh Marathon; just to bring you all back up to speed: 

1.     Nagging foot thing! As you may have read in my post race blog, the course was SUPER hilly, and my calves told me so even a full week post race. My lower legs ached and the tightness in my calves caused a series of Achilles flare ups in a few different spots. But, nothing to fret about because Sam Lezon was my hero, with his death devices (grastin is literal torture), I was able to overcome a lot of the Achilles tightness. I slowly got back into running, not worrying about taking a day off completely  here and there so that I could let my legs sort themselves out. I even biked a bit, too. After sorting the biggest of upper Achilles pains out in my left leg, I started to notice that my left arch was cramping a lot, up towards my toes. I chalked it up to standing a lot at work (TC Running Company) and thought little of it. Three days passed and the cramping and pain persisted, moving toward my ankle and wrapping around the back of my anklebone. After seeing Sam about it, he figured it was likely tightness in my posterior tibia tendon that attaches from the navicular bone (mid foot) to a muscle in the calf. I gave it a few days off and then started to run again. No dice. The pain got more severe and continued to move around and then one evening it all started to zone in on one second (?) of my ankle: my tibia. First thought was stress fracture. GREAT. So I visited our awesome sponsors Twin Cities Orthopedic and got a speedy X-ray. I net with Dr. Langer to check in and we cleared the stress fracture notion up and decided it might just be some sort of reaction to the torsion strain on my tibia from wearing the wrong shoes. So, cross training it was. I completed 4 full weeks of cross training, some weeks trying to run every other day, some I completely stopped running for. To spare additional details, I got some SuperFeet inserts to assist my hard-working but rather droopy arches and stuck myself back into my Saucony Guides (moderate stability shoe), leaving my beloved but flimsy Kinvara’s (Kinvaras) and Zealots for casual wear. 

So again, I have spent another solid chunk of my time on the injured list, forcing me to constantly assess my ability, future, and potential. Thankfully, I had Jillian, Ryan, my teammates, and my awesome coach Dennis to motivate me to stay positive and see the light at the end of the tunnel. I am young, I am fit, and I have potential. Things will all work out. I am now joyfully jaunting again, thankful for every single pain free run. 

 Dining and watching a movie at the Alamo was cool! But subtitles make it tough
Breakfast we made at my brother's hour in Austin, enjoying the bread mountain's at the Central Market 

2.     I got to visit Austin, Texas with my mom during that whole injury period to visit my brother and his girlfriend. He just finished up his first year of his PhD in neuroscience and he was finally able to have us as guests and show us around the campus and city. I really miss my brother, but he loves Austin and I still get to see him on holidays. 

3.     Ryan and I went down to the farm where he grew up and stayed at the family’s new house (a few miles away) in southwest Minnesota. It was nice to finally meet the final and youngest of the four sisters and to meet his parents and see where he grew up. He taught me how to drive a giant tractor, too! We then continued on to Iowa to one of his college friend’s weddings. We arrived a day early, so I got to meet his whole group of friends back in their college town and I even got a tour of the campus. The ceremony was beautiful and the company was super fun. I will admit though, Iowa doesn’t have a whole lot goin’ on… 

5:45am workout time means hill repeats during sunrise! My marathon runners are tough

4.     I have recently been hired my LifeTime Fitness to coach the Twin Cities Marathon and 10 mile training group from their Chanhassen location! It's about 30 minutes (without traffic, or construction, thankfully) from my house in South Minneapolis, which is a bit of a ways, but I am really thrilled to be involved in the training build up of 35+ athletes! The runners range from goals to finish their first marathons to people trying to break 3 hours! I got to create training programs and hold practice Wednesday mornings as 5:45am and long runs on Saturday mornings! We did a hill workout this past Wednesday with 4-8 400m-hill climbs with downhill recovery and then 4-8 200m hill climbs. Everyone was working hard as the sun was rising behind us and I could feel the awesome effort everyone was putting in, despite the pain and early morning slog. I had a sub-3 hour marathoner say it was the hardest workout he’s ever done, and I had a newbie tell me he didn’t even think he was capable of finishing that workout; and he did, with flying colors! It is so rewarding to be to be a part of this awesome journey. 


5.     It is hot and humid here in Minnesota! I knew this previous to moving here, but I am still learning how to navigate through it. I have to get up early to run each day, usually in just a sports bra. I also have to chill 3 or 4 water bottles each night in my fridge to ensure that I have some cool water to mix my UCAN hydrate into when I finish each run. I notice I cannot stop or slow down during runs because sunscreen and salty, salty sweat falls into my eyes and renders them useless! I also have begun to appreciate showers for their duty more than for how refreshing it feels to clean myself. But, I haven’t figured out how to get into the shower after a hot run and not continue to sweat a bit once I get out. Cooling my body down is tough. Also, because if (of) the early mornings, I have had to adjust my nutrition. Because I don’t have time to get in a full meal before I run, or often even a solid snack, I have started using GENUCAN each morning for runs longer than 5 miles. I used to reserve it for workout days, but I have noticed a scoop in the morning before a hot run makes me feel unstoppable and really helps my energy levels. 

 The 5am starting line at Squaw Valley Resort
Stephanie at her aid station at 63 miles where Zach was able to jump in and pace her

6.     Lastly, I was able to head out to California with Ryan and Jillian for a week of fun. We started with two nights at my Mom’s (mom’s) house (where I was raised) and we got to explore Santa Clara and San Jose. We then packed up and headed to Squaw Valley to meet up with the Tholens' aunt and uncle and their cousin Stephanie Howe’s husband, crew, and friends for a pre Western States 100 mile race dinner. The race began Saturday morning at 5am and ran 100.2 miles to Auburn High School, so we were excited to get prepped to chase Stephanie around on her epic journey. The evening before, we camped out overnight in Ryan’s boss’ (boss’s) cabin in Tahoe that was in the midst of being completely gutted and renovated. I obviously was convinced there was a killer on the loose coming to get us in the night, so I probably slept about an hour before the 3:30am alarm clock. We packed up again, saw the breathtaking start up of the race (beginning with a 4 mile climb up the Squaw Valley mountains) and then booked it down to Auburn to catch Stephanie’s parents and head to a few of the aid stations where we got to watch and later help with crewing for her. At the aid stations they pick up food, water, and any other things they need to get through the long, long race. It was so cool to watch everyone with his or her different fueling habits and race plans. And what an exciting race it was! Stephanie worked so hard and kicked so much butt, I hope to some day accomplish just FINISHING a 100 miler. The atmosphere is so incredibly inspiring. I know I was sick of being awake by the time Stephanie dropping into the high school train to finish up her race in 3rd place just at 19 hours 32 minutes 58 seconds (yeah, hours) mark, so I cannot even imagine hiking and running for that long. We then got to spend the evening (after glorious showers) at Alex Wood’s humble abode (thanks girl, you da best) and finished off the weekend with Stephanie, Zach (husband), and a whole bunch of extended family. Jillian and I noted how hung over we felt just from being awake and active for 23 hours the day before, but Stephanie was walking (slowly, but gracefully) so we had little we could complain about. 

We spent the following week in San Mateo, where Ryan’s work is headquartered. Jillian and I explored San Jose one day, San Francisco another, and also spent some quality time shopping, too, while Ryan worked. Then in the evenings we were able to catch up with both of my parents for meals. One night we cooked my mom sweet potato and black bean tacos (yum) and had a great night in, and another we went to an awesome sushi spot in San Mateo with my Dad, his girlfriend, Jackie, and her daughter, Hannah. My friend Adam Krzesinski was able to make it too and it was so great to catch up with him. We finished our trip off with a half-day trip up to San Francisco walking around the mission district, getting delicious Mexican food from Gracias Madre (thanks, Isaac!) and finishing off with some interesting ice cream flavors from Henry Slocombe’s. Although being back in California was comforting, I found myself missing Minneapolis. This is my new home and I am so glad to be back in my life routine here. 

So what’s next? At this point, we just want to get me fit and working out consistently. I will be racing (right out of the gates) at the LifeTime Fitness Torchlight 5k in downtown Minneapolis on Wednesday the 22nd! It’s an evening race that finishes up crossing a beautiful walking bridge on the Mississippi. It should be hot but it should also be a fun event. It is the USATF Minnesota 5k championships for 2015, so the sub-elite racing team members should be out and ready to roll. Then, hopefully more exciting races to come! I will keep you all posted. Thank you everyone for your continuous support in this incredible journey.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Dick's Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon 5/3/2015

Dick's Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon Weekend! 

The weekend seemed to come so quickly! I knew that I had put in some good work in this training cycle, and although it wasn't as smooth or as long as I had hoped it would be, I knew this race would be about taking steps in the right direction. I have now been injury free for 4 months and believe it or not, it's been my longest training uninterrupted stint since the Surf City Marathon that I ran my Trials Qualifier at 14 months ago.

Hopping onto the light rail on Thursday April 30th, I was thinking about what I would be experiencing on my ride back home Sunday night returning from the airport. Was I going to be happy, upset, mad, disappointed? Was it going to be because I ran the A-standard for the Olympic Trials, a PR, a solid race, or a terribly embarrassing time? Then, I made myself stop. My emotional state following this race should not be decided by how my 26.2 mile race goes. I am in control of how I respond, meaning I can walk away from this athletic feat happy no matter what. I will put all of my cards on the table, give it my heart and my best effort, and then see what happens... THEN I will choose to find the positive parts of the race, find what needs to be worked on, realize I am still a massive rookie in this profession, and be HAPPY. Plus, I was going to get to spend the weekend with some incredible athletes, awesome event staff, and some teammates, too. I was ready to make the most of it.

Thursday :
I arrived in Pittsburgh at 1PM to light rain but warm temperatures. The forecast was looking up for the weekend and the rain was refreshing for a quick 7x200m pickup workout by the river with Ben and Heather Kampf. It was good to get my legs moving off the plane and they felt really fresh, surprisingly. Ever since my last workout the week before, I had been feeling very sick through out the day. Eating usually helped, but I spent a lot of the day feeling ill, like I was coming down with a bug. On the plane I was feeling really bad, so I was thankful to be off the plane and actually feeling healthy. For the next two days (Friday and Saturday) I would just run easy, finishing each with some strides to keep my legs springy in preparation for the race on Sunday.
 David Monico and I at the Blogger Event
14 year old Emily at the Santa Barbara Track Camp in 2007
The Blogger event at Wigly, a whiskey distillery 
On Thursday evening, the P3R team had a blogger event to welcome all of the marathon's official bloggers to the weekend. We went to Wigly, a whiskey distillery in town, which was also caters with some tasty burritos. Many of the bloggers were there, as well as the media team from Bring Back the Mile, all of the P3R team, and the headlining elite athletes. I enjoyed hanging out with Clara Santucci, the returning women's champion, Tyler McCandless, the top seeded american male, previous winner and event record holder Jeffery Eggleston, Ben, Heather, and David Monico. Funny story actually, David Monico of Bring Back the Mile was the Santa Barbara Track Camp Director when I was a wee little hurdler in high school. I came to the camp after my Freshman year of high school and loved the school and the camp so much that I came back two more times. I clearly made an impression on David, because he remembered me as the girl who broke the hurdle at camp (during 100m hurdle drills) and was able to pull this picture up on his phone relatively quickly. It is so cool to be able to check in with him 8 years later and see how much has changed for both of us. The event was great, and we finished off the evening with a trip to Whole Foods for some breakfast food before calling it an early night.

Friday : 
The morning started with an easy run with Ben and Heather over the river by Heinz stadium (Heinz ketchup is from there!)  and around some beautiful tree covered paths. Then I had some breakfast and got ready to head to the Pittsburgh NPR news station in Central Pittsburgh. Nikki, a really friendly and helpful member of the PR and Media staff at P3R picked me up and we navigated the congested city that was already beginning road closures and preparations for the race weekend, and finally made it to Carson Street (known for its 100+ bars and as the "flattest mile" in the marathon, mile 9). I was lucky enough to be interviewed on an Essential Pittsburgh segment about the marathon weekend. There I got to chat about my story of becoming a marathoner and other fun facts about my life and goals in and out of my running shoes. I was so thankful for the opportunity, it was a blast. If you want to have a listen, check out this link:
I grabbed some lunch with Josh Dedering, who had just landed in the city, in Market Square really close to the hotel. It was a bustling center filled with restaurants that gets very busy during the work week. Then, the finally completed cast of Team USA Minnesota with Jeffery, Tyler, and Clara too, got to attend the VIP cocktail event at the Westin Hotel across from the convention center that was holding the expo. It was a beautiful event and we all got to dress up really nicely and enjoy all of the contributors and people associated with putting on the weekend's festivities. 

Saturday : 
Josh and I got our shakeout in around 830am, 4 miles and strides for me. The park across the street from the hotel was bustling early on with the proud finishers of the 5k race and soon after with the kids from the kids marathon, too! It was a beautiful, sunny morning for everyone and just perfect for some time outside.

I spend it inside though, avoiding too much sunlight which can sap away my energy. I instead watched TV in my hotel room and rolled out my hips and IT bands as maintenance for the race to come. Because the elite dinner later in the evening was planned for 5 pm, Josh and I walked into Market Square again at around 12 pm to find something to eat for lunch. We made sure to get enough carbs while also staying with safe foods. 24 hours out is NOT the time to be exploring new food groups or meal items. I grabbed a Subway sandwich and we ate outside surrounded by little running kids everywhere!

At 4pm we had a technical meeting for the race. This is something that is held at every road race, put on by the race director and other race staff. It covered what the start line and finish line will be like, the general time schedule of where we have to be when, and covers any other rules or regulations that will be enforced on race day. We also got a briefing on the USADA drug testing protocol, which is also a very common thing at events. It was at this meeting at I dropped off my elite fluid station bottles. I had 7 total, some with just water and UCAN Hydrate electrolytes and some with lemonade UCAN SuperStarch for  fuel. I taped 4 gels to the bottles for quick energy on the course, too. Jillian and Ryan (friends from home in some of my previous posts) helped me decorate my bottles (so that they would stand out to me on the tables during the race) before I left Minneapolis. They had plenty of Saucony, Bonk Breaker, and Over The Hedge swag. There was even a perfectly drawn Minnesota state to help me power through the race.

We had a large and delicious elite dinner afterwards that was catered by the hotel and then I spend the evening chatting with my really nice roommate (from the Bay!) Devon Yanko and reading my book before we went to bed around 920pm. I had my bib on my jersey and had everything laid out and ready to rock for a 4am wake up alarm. It was almost game time!

Sunday (RACE DAY!!)
My alarm went off and I was up to have some food. 2.5 to 3 hours out from a race is the closest I like eat before the start. I had a GENUCAN Snack bar and some coffee followed by a Bonk Breaker energy bar before 430am. Around 515am I had a packet of Chocolate GENUCAN Recovery Superstarch, too. I usually fuel with just a scoop from the tub (~2/3 of a packed), but because I was 2 hours out from that race I figured I needed more to last me thought the first portion of the race. Then it was uniform on, bags packed with post race essentials, and a quick walk over the the elite athlete staging area in the Weston Hotel. At 625am we had to give our bags to the volunteers with everything that wasn't essential for the start line (for me, I put on my racing flats and kept on my warm up 1/2 zip and sweat pants) and Ben Kampf and I both headed out on a 2 mile warm up. It was in the mid 50s and really warm, so the goal of the warm up run is just to get the legs moving. We kept the pace light in order to not expend more energy than necessary to prep our bodies for the road ahead.

I was nervous and unable to use the bathroom at this point. Most runners will tell you that the morning bathroom session before a race can be a crucial factor in how a race unfolds. Usually coffee and some liquids get things moving, but not today. But, I have had plenty of races and workouts where that wasn't an issue, so I put it out of my mind. I did a systems check: body wasn't hurting anywhere, legs felt poppy, not tired, energy level was good. I headed to the start line to watch the hand cycles head off and hopped in for some last minute strides before they herded us all behind the starting mats. at 7:00am, the gun went off and the races began.

We started with the 1/2 marathon runners too, the course splitting off just after mile ~10.5. It was important at this point to go out EASY. It's easy to get carried away and take off with the speed of the half marathon racers, but with 26 (hilly) miles ahead, we needed to save our energy. Dennis and I had discussed going out conservatively so that I wouldn't crash and burn in the second half (the hillier) part of the race. There was a pacer designated for a 2:43 race time, so Ben and I decided to stick with him for the first 5 or so miles and then to re-evaluate how we were feeling. The pacer's watch didn't load at the start line (surrounded by 40,000 other gps watches looking for signal) so he took it out quite a bit faster than many of the girls had expected he would. Miles 1 and two were almost completely flat and between the start and the 11th mile marks, we crossed 5 bridges, most of which had a bit of a hill to them. I was feeling strong and like I was cruising through 8 miles. The signs were funny and the water stations and cheering sections were bursting with energy. I was taking fluids from my elite bottles because I was already feeling thirsty. I drank more than I had in training, which I think was the start to the issues I faced later on the race.

Ben and I had put a lead on the 2:43 pace group, but around 9 miles in we all regrouped and worked together. It was myself and another elite female named Emily, which made for double the cheering. People really get excited when they can cheer for us by name, and with two Emilys in close proximity, they just didn't know what to do with themselves. We caught up with another female marathoner just off Carson St near mile 9. as we approached the third water station in mile 10, someone managed to bump my bottle off the end of the table. I started to panic and hand about two seconds worth of "I'm going to cry" fear. This bottle had my first gel on it, which I desperately needed before the big, treacherous hill just over the other side of the bridge. I couldn't stop to get it and even with the efforts of the volunteer to grab it and try and catch up, I knew it wasn't going to happen. So this is what racing is like, there are always curve balls and the experience I'm looking for in races is how to deal with it all. Luckily I had Ben there, quickly asking what kind of gel I had on my bottle and handing me one he was carrying with him. I am so lucky to have such an selfless training partner who will not only run with me for the whole marathon, cheer me through the race, but also give up his fuel for me. I owe him one. I took half his gel and put my head down to get over the bridge.

We then split from the half marathon and took a sharp right up THE HILL. It was a mile long stretch climb, totaling about 300 feet of climbing at once. I had already taken water and three fluid stations, one containing GENUCAN, and 1/2 of a gel and my stomach was not very happy. I kept my cadence up on the hill, but my lower intestines started to signal to me (to put it politely) right around the top of the hill that it was time to find a restroom. Here came another wrench in my race causing me to make another decision I had never been face with before: Do I stop to relieve myself or do it just do my best to hold it in and ignore it until the finish. With more than half the race to go, I think I may have chosen incorrectly. I stuck with it, thinking "It's not toooooo bad." When that hill was over, I imagined everyone's description of rolling meant little hills that were easy to recover.. not exactly. The next 10 miles were up and down grades of varying length. Some up for over a mile, and some switching between up and down, but I guarantee the amount of totally flat was slim to none. Again, this was a race filled with its own unique challenges. I knew being in my head about how tough the uphills were would not in any way benefit me for the race to come. I went through the half marathon at 1:21 exactly, on target for a 2:42. I didn't let this bother me, because I knew that with the course I had already seen, that it wasn't going to be a PR kind of day. I just wanted to race for place now, and teach myself step by step that my mental attitude can be trained to be what gets be through the race.

I felt mentally focused and strong through 16 miles and then really focused on staying there through 20. at 21 Ben was telling me how strong my down hills were and that I just had to hang tough through 23, the last 1 mile climb before the big down hill into downtown. My hips were aching, from the climbing mostly, and at this point I knew something was going on in my shorts that was not pretty. The crowds through Homewood and Friendship were so great. I was told that these neighborhoods have been rough in the past, but you wouldn't know it if you were running through there with me. Everyone was working together to make great cheering sections and water stations. You could really feel the heart that these Pittsburgh residents had. I used this to get me through to slowing, tough parts and to keep me positive about what was lying ahead. In the end, my Garmin data says I climbed 1549 feet in 26.6 miles, more than some of my 26.6 mile bike rides I completed in Los Angeles!

At 23 the downhill came and I started to really feel awesome. I took my last gel at 23.2 (HUMA gels rock, I have forever been converted). I was gaining on the other Emily when the hill began to flatten out and it was around 24 that Ben and I both thought I could do it. Then, back to my lower intestinal problems. Things started to get reallllllly bad. Like, uncontrollable. If I picked up my pace, I was afraid for my integrity, and if I kept my pace the same, I was afraid to be running to the finish at my newly slowed pace. My hips were aching and my calves were screaming but I did the best I could to try and catch her. Unfortunately, she got her last wind, too. I had to finish with the strength and control that I had remaining. We can back in on Liberty and slowly the streets became more and more filled with smiling, cheering faces. I knew mine was not as happy as theirs, but I knew that this race had been what I was working for for the past 6 weeks and the Pittsburgh fans were here to help me through it. I hit 26 miles and took my sharp turn to see the finish line on Avenue of the Allies. I finished, just how I had started, with Ben by my side and a smile on my face, to a 2:47.29.

I B-lined for the porto-potty and discovered that my worry of going to the bathroom in my shorts was exceptionally worse that I had expected. Heather came to my rescue with my change of clothes and I did surgery to clean myself up. I regrouped with my teammates and soon got a call from Dennis and I was forced to think about how I think it went overall. Here's what I said (generally):

1. I felt strong before the hills and I stayed positive and focused through most of it. With only 13 marathon specific workouts (including easy long runs), 11 of which I actually completed, and questionable health at the beginning of the cycle, I was happy I could come away with a 2:47. Like I mentioned before, too, this was my first long stint of training injury free and consistency is really important in any distance training cycle, especially a marathon one.
2. I also just joined Team USA Minnesota and started under Dennis Barker's training. My last training cycle for a marathon was as a triathlete, maxing at 58 miles per week, running no faster than marathon pace for most workouts and spending lots of time on my bike. This method of training is so new to me and so many teammates and people alike have been telling me that it will take time to adjust. Moving to Minneapolis is the best thing I've done yet for my training, because having my coach with my at my workouts as really gotten me into the right training zones to get into shape and to get faster.
3. The course was tough, everyone will tell you that, even my badass roommate who does trail ultras. The day was not a PR day for anyone, meaning everyone ran more slowly.
4. The weather was beautiful, but PR weather is cooler. Without any wind to keep us cool, many people were much warmer than they would ideally be, and
5. Having relieved myself in my shorts (unknowing just how much I had) at mile 12 and not being able to run faster at the finish was a huge factor in my time begin slower than I had hoped. I was told by many that it was a right of passage into the road running world. I'm in the poop club now, guys. It could be due to taking in too many liquids in the first part of the race or from fueling with GENUCAN during the race (which I had not practiced all that much). I also mentioned feeling under the weather for over a week on and off, which could have played into the unfortunately crappy (haha) situation, too.

So, hey, no race will ever go as planned or expected. I was able to walk away with 8th overall and 5th American in a field including some incredible athletes. I got to enjoy the hard work that the P3R organization put in and I got to explore the streets of beautiful Pittsburgh. And at 22 years old, I know that this is not a sign of slowing down, more of a sign that my fiery passion to be the best I can be is only growing bigger. With 3 or 4 more weeks of training and some different fueling practices, maybe I would have run differently. But, can't take it back now and instead I must use this learning experience to springboard me into my next series of races in preparation for the 2016 Olympic trials marathon. This is only the beginning.

I wanted to give a huge thank you to:

--> Ben Kampf for running the entire race with me. It was nice to have Ben at my side for the race because he helped me focus. Thanks for being the great training partner that you are, especially on those long, tough hauls. I need your positive attitude and great conversation to get me through the tough times

--> Ryan Hogan the elite athlete coordinator for being such a cool guy while also being the most thoughtful, organized, and hilarious coordinator I've worked with.

--> Patrice Matamoros, the CEO of P3R and amazingly positive and sparking event organizer that she is. Thank you Patrice for all of your belief in the American Development Program, Team USA Minnesota, and in me. Thank you P3R and all of the volunteers for this incredible race weekend.

--> Dennis and Pat for believing in me and coaching me. Team USA Minnesota has quickly become my family and I know I can thrive with a bit more patience and many more successful workouts.

--> My parents, Heather, Jillian, Josh, Ryan, and all of my friends for being my therapist and helping me through the mental road blocks I experienced in this cycle and through race weekend.

--> All of my sponsors! Without them I wouldn't be able to train the way I do. Saucony gives me the best shoes and gear I could ever ask for, Bonk Breaker with the delicious bars to fuel my training and life, GENUCAN for the amazing Superstarch products and UCAN hydrate. the RRCA for supporting me through the Road Scholars Grant. And Team USA Minnesota for the training team, coaching, and services to maximize my training and performance. Shout out to Sam Lezon, master chiropractor and physical therapist who, hands down, is the reason I was able to stay healthy and running strong injury-free the past two months.

I was surrounded by so much love this past weekend, in Pittsburgh by the incredible 40,000 racers and the fans and from Minneapolis and California by all of the people close to my heart. You all are the reason I was smiling during the race.

And thank you so much, RUNNERS OF STEEL, for following my blog through the Pittsburgh Marathon build up. I hope you all ran with your hearts and enjoyed every second of this amazing, life-changing weekend. 
A board at the marathon expo where runners write their reasons they were racing


Wednesday, April 22, 2015

PGH Marathon Cycle, in review #GameOnPGH

The time has come.. all of your hard work has been put in. Early mornings, tiresome doubles, tempo runs, track workouts, repeat after repeat after repeat. Everything had a purpose; an end. Now, nothing you do can help you any more except some solid rest, relaxation, and total body regeneration. The Dick's Sporting Goods Pittsburgh weekend is upon us and I am getting so excited. 

So, I've talked about hydration, fueling, recovery, and everything that goes with those topics, but I haven't posted about the one thing that this awesome blogging gig is about... RUNNING! 

I figured, now that the big workouts are over (for the most part), I could take a look back on some of the big, the bad, and the confidence-building workouts that really highlighted this cycle. With a bit of background on the workout and its ideal efforts, I will tell you about how it felt,  how much I liked the workout, and why.

3 (or 2) x 5.5mi on River Road - Saturday 3/21 : I alluded to this one in my previous blog post about recovery. It was 25F with 15 mph winds along the Mississippi River Parkway and I was fresh off the plane from Jacksonville/Savannah. Heather and Ben Kampf ran the workout, too. The goal was to simulate marathon effort and run tired through three sets. I ran one right around the 6 minute goal pace, but in my mind I knew it was not going to last. What I am learning a lot about myself via this workout and the ones to follow is that my mental attitude is really what makes or breaks the workout.  Rep two was far slower than goal marathon pace, so we called it quits. I left this workout defeated, asking Ben if this running this is really what I am meant to do. But, I still got in 15 miles total. 

Like it or Love it Score: Not even a little bit of love for this workout, I felt bad during and after. I think I would appreciate the River Road loop more if I wasn't so dang tired. 

15 progression run - Saturday 3/28 : On the Tuesday prior I had another failed marathon paced workout on the treadmill (also mentioned in my Recovery blog post). Dennis and I started tracking my resting heart rate, I started taking iron supplements, and I got back on track with Rasa's nutrition plan. After 3 days rest I went out on the Lakes in West Minneapolis and did a "progress-by-how-you-feel" long run. I started with a 7:40 warm up and progressed quickly into the high 6's (6:45, 6:38, etc) eventually working my way into the 6-flat range for a few miles. It was chilly, but the lake paths are beautiful and I started to feel more like my old self. I was far from where I wanted to be at this stage out from a marathon, but hey, If I can feel good at 6 minute pace, the that's a start.                           Like it or Love it Score: It was a solid "like" on this one. I felt better running faster than previous weeks, but my mental attitude was still in the upper-end of the gutters. 

Ron Daws 25k race - Saturday 4/4 : I had a promising workout of 10x1200m just faster than marathon pace (in shorts and a t-shirt!) on the U of M track on the Tuesday prior to this race. I felt like I was still putting in too much effort for the goal pace, but things were coming along and I was mostly happy to have completed a workout as planned! Saturday, Jillian, Ryan, and I raced a hilly 25k race (15.5 miles). We set off at low 6-minute pace and I felt so fresh! We talked through the first two smaller loops (on the right of the map) before starting into the second loop that had the infamous "Pukes Peak" hill. Each loop wrapped around the Dominick Road, which was twisty and hilly. I felt like I could push the hill and still recover on the flatter, more downhill portions. I am admittedly not the greatest hill runner to begin with, but I felt like this was doable (yay!)! We gained around 850ft in the race and I won with a 1:37.37, the Minnesota state record for a 22-year-old. 

Like it or Love it Score: I have plenty of love for this course. Its daunting and impossible to get into a groove, but I finally felt fit! I also loved having people to race with. Jillian pulled Ryan and I along through 9 miles and Ryan was there to push the finish with me. 

17 miles, 10x1 mile on the track at marathon pace - Tuesday 4/7 : Dennis and I made sure my heart rate indicated that I was recovered, and this day it looked like I was good to go! Dennis called in the morning and said that the weather on the UM track in the afternoon would decide my fate. Gina, Ryan, and I warmed up in the spitting rain and windy conditions, but my legs felt fresh and poppy; ready to go. Usually at afternoon workouts my legs take a while to wake up, but I was moving right out of the gates for this one! We arrived at the track and Dennis prescribed 10 x 1 mile at 5:50/mile. I looked in horror at Ryan, normally Heather's 800m training partner, partially because I didn't think I could complete this workout and partially because I didn't want to sentence him to the torture. He was all in, so I was too. We did the first two and mentioned to each other how we didn't feel like we were working hard. The wind was rough during the first curve, but the wind was strong enough to give us a push on the other turn. We stayed in 5:47-5:54 range with 1 lap jog recovery. Repetitions 4, 5, and 6 felt like more effort, but as I began to acclimate to the pace, it felt so easy to run each lap at the same interval times. One after another, even when the wind turned down the straightaway, we were able to come through consistently and it felt amazing. Another workout successfully completed, this one really feeling like "OKAY, I can actually do this marathon thing!" 

Like it or Love it Score: Love. It was tough, but it was a huge confidence builder! 

Fred Kurtz 10mi race and 24 miler (7:13/mi) weekend double - Saturday and Sunday 4/11 and 12:
The weekend following that track workout, Dennis and I had planned for me to run a local 10 miler. The course was an out and back, mostly on a loose gravel trail that was generally flat. The start was seeded, meaning the slowest runners left first and the fastest last (in hopes we would all finish around the same time). I was the third to last athlete to leave, 9 minutes after the penultimate female athlete started. The day was sunny and not too cold, I got to race in shorts! We started on a sidewalk near a school and ran about half a mile and then took a hard left onto the trail. The gravel was tough (tougher than expected) to run on, because the faster you moved, the more slippery it felt. I paced with some men around 6 minute pace and felt smooth through 5. We then started passing the runners who started before us, which added an extra challenge to the course. By the time we took the right back onto the sidewalk, masses of people were crowding the path and made it very challenging to push it home. In the end, I had to coast it in to a 61:15, 6:08 pace. I completed 15 miles for the day.

The next morning (Sunday), Ben, Jeff (Owner of Mill City Running Company), and I met up bright and early to go on a 24 miler! Heather, Matt, Ryan, and Jillian joined in for a few miles, too! This run was about being on my feet for a long time, another race effect I was trying to get used to. The pace didn't matter which meant that whatever felt relaxed was fine. We ran up the Mississippi River Parkway to the U of M hospital, across the Stone Arch Bridge (with the beautiful cityscape), and then around under Target Field to the lakes and back home on the Minnehaha Parkway paths. For being the day after the race, my legs were a bit heavy and my heart rate indicated that I wasn't recovered, but I was happy to be running with my friends, seeing the city, and feeling good at the low 7-minute paces. I got to know Ben and Jeff more, experience the crowded lakes (walkers, joggers, runners, bikers everywhere because of the nice weather) and I was able to practice hydrating and fueling along the way with the bottles of UCAN Hydrate that Ben and I hid around town the evening before. 7:13 per mile average and I had a big breakfast and compression socks waiting at the ready. 

Like it or Love it Score: I ran 39 miles in 2 days! So much running = so much love. Running fast for a 10 mile win and then 24 miles easy with friends was just what I needed to have a good aerobic effect. 

4x2.4 mile loop of DEATH - Wednesday 4/15 : The loop name, coined by Dennis himself, is related to the daunting hills that make up with 2.4 mile loop. It stats with a gradual down hill past a golf course and the a right turn into a gradual uphill which becomes much less gradual into the end of the first mile, then some more solid downhill work winds down to three quick left-hand turns which a steep climbs. The only flat portion comes just after the second mile for about 0.15mi, then it's a hike back up the hill to the finish. The goals were: 1) to go at marathon effort, but we both knew that the watch would be slower, and 2) to practice the downhill. Downhills are seen as periods to rest and recover, but when done right (on the balls of your feet and engaging the core to open the stride) downhills can also be used to gain some time without killing your quads. I came though the first rep (pictured) under 5:55/mi pace, SO EXCITED! Even more so, I came through the second one just 1 second slower! I felt fresh, like I could recover, and that I could strategically use different parts of the course to achieve different efforts. Dennis and I were both thrilled about my times for 4 reps. I walked away from that workout with more confidence on my hill running abilities and knowing I had another rep in me. It goes to show that my aerobic fitness was coming around! 

Like it or Love it Score: Loved that I could accomplish something on a challenging course. 

18 mile easy (7:09/mi) - Sunday 4/19 : As my final long run, I did 18 miles at a relaxed pace out to and around Lake Harriet. I placed water at 6 miles and at 11 miles I put out GENUCAN (my first try mid run). I was cruising along feeling fresh and happy at low 7 minute pace and didn't want to take any fuel in. But, with the marathon coming up, I figured I should give GENUCAN a chance, because it would be the best thing to take in about half way through my race. In 9 oz of water I dissolved 1/2 scoop of PomBlu with half a packet of the UCAN Hydrate. Although it was thick and a bit rough to take in, I felt incredible finishing the run, flying in under 7 minute pace in my last few miles. 18 miles flew by and felt like a solid, but not exhausting, easy run. I guess after 24, 18 is a bit more manageable. My body recovered really quickly from this run, too! I am so happy to be able to end my long effort with something that felt so manageable. 

Like it or Love it Score: YEAH, LOVE. easy long is my fave. 

So those are the big runs of my cycle. There were others, but there are the ones that really stick out in my mind; as failures, achievements, or memorable in other ways. I can't wait to put the Pittsburgh 26.2 on this list and really complete the build up with a great race in a great city with absolutely great people. I climb on the plane in just over a week! 

I'll finish off my cycle with a 7 mile marathon pace workout with 2x 1 mile surges and a 10 mile "Long Run" with a Team USA Minnesota Recruit on Saturday. I can't wait to get to Pittsburgh, I know I am ready to rock.