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!

1 comment: