If you are signed up for the Pittsburgh Marathon on May 3rd, no doubt you’ve already started training. You’re probably knee-deep in training by now. You may have already realized that marathon training has many ups and downs. If you’re working through a specific training plan, you may find that you have a difficult time following it to the letter. I’ve followed a strict training plan for my last two marathons but for some reason, I was having a hard time getting going this cycle.
Over use issues had me running very little during December and I ended up gaining a few unwanted pounds. When training started in January I felt slow, sluggish and out of shape. With my work schedule, ski schedule and less than favorable weather, I found I was just running myself ragged trying to keep up with my runs. I would fit the miles in but without enough rest in between, they were less productive. I wasn’t always hitting my required paces per run and it was stressing me out. I felt like I was never going to catch up.
Then I had a “breakdown”. One Tuesday, during a dark, very cold, 8 mile morning run, I broke down crying. I had slept very little, and was just worn out from trying to keep up with life. I wasn’t hitting my desired paces and despite the fact that I was working hard, my watch said I was slowing. I literally stopped, got down on my hands and knees and started sobbing, on the side of the road! I felt like I was failing. This gives you an idea of the kind of pressure I place on myself. I ended up only running 5 miles and honestly felt like I wanted to quit training for the marathon. QUIT TRAINING FOR THE MARATHON!
How I turned it around
After consulting some much more experienced runners, I was told that trying to follow a plan that closely was ridiculous. WE ARE NOT ROBOTS. I shouldn’t expect my body to perform to perfection every run. And If I stepped back and looked at my training so far, I’d probably find that I’m really not off from where I want to be. I was also told that changing up my workouts is perfectly fine as well.
- Instead of straight marathon pace runs, try tempo runs that allow for a warm up before trying to run at race speed.
- Trying moving the miles around so one morning, I’m not forced to complete 8-9 miles before 7:00 am.
- Use a heart rate monitor to rate your effort level, not the time on the watch
- Run without a watch for some runs so there isn’t as much stress about pace
- Skip runs when you absolutely need to if your body feels runs down.
- Focus on Quality runs over Quantity
- Most importantly – BELIEVE IN YOURSELF. Just because a running slump seems to be sticking around longer than usual, it doesn’t mean you suck now!
Basically, to sum this up, run more on feel than what’s written on the paper. The last piece of advice is huge. Sometimes I overlook the fact that I’m a seasoned runner. I’ve run 6 marathons, 7 half marathons and have thousands of miles under my belt. I can run 10 miles without blinking an eye. I have to become a lot more “full of myself” for lack of a better phrase and know that I CAN hit these times and paces, I CAN get quality runs in over quantity.
With this new attitude and the pressure that if I miss a mile/pace here and there, It doesn’t mean I’m a failure, I’ve had a new sense of empowerment. I can control my runs with my positive attitude and a better rested body. I’ve been using a heart rate monitor off and on and I’m learning that some days a really hard effort may only be a 9:30 pace and that’s okay, I’m still working.
Last week, my new empowered, less pressured self ran great. I had three solid runs including speed work and a marathon pace run.
So, as for the running this week….it is non-existent. However, I’ve been doing some major cross training in Breckenridge, Colorado. Skiing for three straight days in elevations over 10,000 feet will keep you in shape. With all the running I do, I was amazed how hard it was to go up a flight of stairs here. There is so little oxygen in the air. That’s probably why they sell signs in every store that say “Got Oxygen?”
This picture was taken at the top of Imperial Chair, that highest lift in North America, hitting 12,840 feet. From top to bottom, hitting double black diamonds and black diamond trails, it took us 40 minutes! We skied about 5 hours a day and my total for the trip was 32,836 vertical feet. My legs got worked to say the least. But I loved every minute of it.
When I get back to Pittsburgh, I’ll be ready to hit training hard again. 67 days until the Pittsburgh Marathon! Wow – when you say it that way, it’s right around the corner.
If you’re following a training plan, feeling pressured or feel like giving up, try giving yourself a break. Re-arrange some of your runs. Focus on the few that really matter (i.e. long runs, speed) and remember, this is supposed to be fun.
I’m so excited to be an official Dick’s Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon Blogger again this year. I’ll be back weekly with tips and suggestions for training, hydration, nutrition, and real stories about the ups and downs of preparing for the 26.2 mile journey to the finish line. #GameOnPGH
Question: Do you follow a specific training plan or do you “wing” it?
Winter training in Pittsburgh is, well, what can I say, it’s freaking cold. If I had to choose between very hot and humid or cold, I’d still choose the latter, however there is a certain threshold at which it begins to just plain SUCK!
I’m a morning runner. It works best for my work schedule and my home schedule, but it does have some drawbacks. One of those drawbacks is that I’m typically running during the coldest, let alone the darkest part of the day. I never really thought that much about the negative impact it has one my performance until recently when I started to notice a trend. A not so good trend. The start of every training week starts on Tuesday with a semi-long run at medium pace. Mine happens to be 9:05-9:20.
This morning I had 8 miles on the schedule at the above mentioned pace. It was 19 degrees with a real feel of 16. I’ve run in these temperatures before, but recently, since I’m full into my training cycle, I’m a
little more conscience obsessed with my pace. I did okay for the first three miles but I started to slow. Since I was trying to hit a particular pace, I started to get upset. I was focused on how hard I was working and that led me to think about how cold I was. My legs were numb and weren’t doing what I wanted. The entire run spiraled downward from there. Not only did I not run the entire 8 miles, I was disgusted with my performance and now had a new dent in my confidence.
The cold could have very well played a part in my bad run this morning. It’s unfortunate that I wasn’t cognizant of it at the time. I could have taken some of the pressure off myself to continue to hit a certain pace. So what is the impact exactly?
1. First off – Ideal running temperature is right around 50 degrees. Amen, I couldn’t agree more. The chart below shows the slow down by drop in temperature for an athlete who typically runs an 8:00 pace. Based on the chart below, I should have expected to run 17-26 seconds slower than my normal 9:05 pace, or 9:22-9:31.
2. Feel like you’re breathing harder in the cold? It’s not your imagination. In cold temperatures, your body is less efficient at using oxygen than it is in less than ideal conditions.
3. The body uses carbohydrate stores faster in cold weather, increasing lactic acid in your muscles. Feelings of sore legs and muscles is also not your imagination. I experienced that this morning.
4. Just the process of your body trying to stay warm uses extra energy that would otherwise be used for running.
5. If you’re like me you probably put about 85 layers on to stay warm, which in itself is cumbersome.
With all of these things to consider, I should have given myself a break this morning on my pace and just finished the miles at whatever pace felt comfortable.
My recommendations for running in the cold are the following:
- KNOW YOUR THRESHOLD. Not everyone is the same and some people are more tolerable of the cold weather than others. For me, when the temperatures start dropping under 20 degrees, I start to see a negative impact on my performance.
- Take other conditions into consideration. Wind is going to obviously make it feel colder whereas a nice sunny day at 20 degrees may feel much, much warmer and tolerable.
- Dress accordingly. I have a lot of cold weather gear (pants and tops) and prefer to wear several layers accompanied by gloves (sometimes hand warmers), a hat that completely covers the ears, a buff around my neck that I can pull up over my face and breathable wool socks. This would have more suitable this morning:
- Embrace the treadmill when you need to. Sometimes runners have a negative attitude about running on the treadmill. But I have learned that running on the treadmill may be better than suffering through a really cold morning run or skipping it all together.
Judging by the expected high of 8 degrees on Sunday, long run day, I may need to make a decision about running outdoors or in. I’ve gone 16 miles on the treadmill before, but it’s NOT my first choice.
Stay warm runners and give yourself some slack in the cold.
A while back, after the Indiana Veterans Marathon, I was contacted by Airia Running wondering if I was interested in trying out their running shoes. Of course I jumped at the opportunity, but as you know, I had some over-use issues that prevented me from running on a regular basis. I was trying to maintain some kind of fitness level and at the same time heal from injury. That’s not the best time to try new shoes.
Finally, this past weekend, I was able to test them out. After my 12 mile run, I slipped them on and ran a mile, slowly trying to get a feel for them.
Before I tell you what I thought of the shoes, I’ll give you a little background on what they claim on their website. The company is based out of Sweden and claim to have created shoes that will make you run faster. In short, the shoes force you to run “the way we were meant to run”, which I will get into later in this post. As a point of interest, these shoes took 12 years to perfect!
When I first got the shoes and opened the box, i thought, man, are these things going to get dirty fast. I suppose they will go with everything, but the bright white won’t last for long especially if your running through Pittsburgh’s raining seasons, which I do. So, if you’re fanatical about keeping your shoes clean looking, this may be one downside. I was also thrown off by the way the toe box angles up, but when you run, this isn’t really that noticeable.
One of my favorite things about these shoes is how darn light they are. I typically train in Brooks Adrenalins (stability shoes) and they are heavy, even by normal running shoe standards. These are even lighter, or feel lighter, than my Brooks Pure Flow racers. I consider that a bonus.
When I first put them on, they felt too big. I tried to walk around in them despite the fact that the website very clearly states – THESE SHOES ARE NOT FOR WALKING IN. Clearly, because they feel very awkward to walk in. Amazing, when you start running, they don’t feel awkward anymore – they feel kinda normal. They didn’t feel big when I started running either.
I didn’t run that far in them, but enough to notice a difference in my running mechanics. The biggest thing I noticed was a fatigue in my calves. They do claim to change the way your body works while running and may cause muscle soreness in unusual places until you get accustomed to them. As a matter of fact, they recommend running several shorter runs before attempting anything as long as even a 10K. They also DO make you run the way you’re supposed to run. Strike on the ball of the foot and roll off the big toe.
I liked these shoes when I ran in them a little more then I originally thought I would. But like most runners, have a “fear” of trying new shoes and messing with my stride. I’m having a hard time figuring out when I’m going to give these shoes a real chance. I’m in the middle of training and trying to adjust to new running mechanics sounds a little scary. But when the marathon is over, I may give these a serious chance. If they really can make me run faster, why not.
The shoes retail for $190, so slightly higher than your run of the mill running shoes, but not a ridiculous price. If you want to research and read more about these, visit the website Aria Running.
Looks like more snow is in the forecast this weekend runners. I better get those Yaktrax ordered!
It’s been a while since I’ve written. You want to know why? I’ve been sulking. The start of training wasn’t what I expected or was mentally prepared for. To be a little more clear, or I guess honest, it’s sucked. I lost some fitness, gained a few pounds and just felt completely out of shape. My runs have been slow and I feel like I’ve had so much pressure on myself to perform at the level I left off at in October. Between giving my body a little break and coaxing my knee back to 100%, I just didn’t run all that much through November and December. My performance right now is expected.
When marathon training starts, it can be hard to get back into a regular running routine. The early morning runs before work, dragging yourself out of bed before the sun comes up on the weekends can be just downright cruel. However, we you feel lousy every run, it becomes twice as hard to motivate yourself to get it done. The most important lesson I’ve learned over the past couple years:
Running has many ups and downs – remain persistent and it will pay off.
I’m not going to say that a miracle happened, I’m not running 8:00 minute miles all of a sudden, but I FEEL better. I was under pressure to run a marathon pace run Saturday morning and I decided to ski instead.
When I got home, I changed right into my running clothes and headed to the gym. (I felt like jumped into a filing cabinet in ski clothes and jumped out in running gear) Then it took me a few minutes to figure out what cartoon that was from my childhood; Hong Kong Phooey. Classic. I decided I was going to do what I could. Take the pressure off and just do this because I really love the way it makes me feel. It was a good 5 miles. Which fueled my desire to get up and run this morning. Okay, I’m exaggerating a little. It was cold, rainy and a little icy, but I wasn’t dreading it as much.
Today’s run was great. I felt like my old self a little. Still not as fast as I was a couple of months ago, but I tackled the hills like I haven’t in a while (I actually think I’m getting it) and used my new hill mantras borrowed from a friend – “even effort”, “belly breathe”, “it’s a hill, get over it”. I lost my momentum a little towards the end of the run and despite pushing, couldn’t quite get as fast as I wanted, but hey, it’s week two and there’s time. No pressure, right?
I did a lot of whining over the past two weeks and I’ll tell you, I am a big baby when I’m not running well. Thank god for my running support system to pull me through. By breaking my runs down, telling me there’s plenty of time, and reminding me of my ultimate goal, I stuck in there and hit all my runs. I owe a lot to those who’ve been through it before and to remind me that I have too and it will pass. So happy I’m not in this alone.
This training cycle, I started journaling my runs. I was afraid I wouldn’t have time or make time for this, but I’m really enjoying it. First, when I’m frustrated, it helps me “get it out” by documenting how I was feeling and what went wrong. This may come in very handy when I fall into he next slump (I hope this one is really over), so I know that there are better days around the corner, you just have to hang in there through the bad ones.
Question: are you training for a Spring Marathon right now? How’s it going?
I’m not sure if this is going to exactly be a “how to” blog post as it is going to be an exercise in convincing myself that bad runs happen and I need to get over it an move on. Its the first week of marathon training. I’m pumped up, but honestly, not as much as I normally feel when a training cycle starts. I typically love the winter, but it’s been cold. Not normal, yeah it’s winter cold, cold like I feel like I live in Minnesota cold. Between that and the darkness, I feel a little like laying in my bed most days – which seems to be going around from what I’ve heard.
So, today was my first marathon pace run. I typically love these runs because they’re great confidence builders. They make me feel like I can handle the pace and go the distance come marathon day. Except when they go bad. Like today. Let me set the stage. 4:45 alarm goes off and my first thought it, I must be insane. I grab a cup of coffee, and poke my head out the front door to check the temperature. Yep, still winter, still very, very cold and oh wait, extra bonus, it’s windy. So 28 degrees carries a real feel of 17 because of the wind. PERFECT – *rolls eyes*. I go upstairs and start piling on the layers, like 5 layers. I feel like my mobility will surly be hampered buy all these clothes.
Drive to the industrial park and start my run. First mile is an 8:45 (mind you, it’s downhill) but it’s still nice to see on the watch. Off to a good start, I keep going. I won’t give you the blow by blow, but miles 2,3, and 4 are decent, not superb, but decent. Then the pace slowed, A LOT, in miles 5 and 6. I was pissed, I was disappointed. But I have to get over it.
I’m a person who hates excuses. I’ve always tried to be the kind of runner who didn’t fall back on excuses every time a run goes south. But here’s the thing….there are factors, undeniable factors that affect performance. There’s no way around it. So to make myself feel better, I examine these “factors”.
Factor 1: I’m not supposed to be doing my marathon pace run today. Its supposed to be on Saturday with a rest day today. I moved it because I’m skiing tomorrow. More importantly, I ran Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. my legs needed a rest day.
Factor 2: I’m functioning on little sleep. Between the running and the busy work calendar, I’ve been getting 6-6.5 hours a night. This is not good. I know it’s not good. My legs don’t like lack of sleep and they rebel. I think they actually have a mind of their own and say “I’ll show her, trying to get by without resting us enough”. Well, they won today.
Factor 3: It’s freakin’ cold. I know what you’re thinking, this girl complains when it’s really hot and now she’s complaining about the cold. Totally two different problems here. Hot = can’t breathe, Cold = freezing butt, hand and other muscles – breathing however, is great. Truth be told, I like winter running. I like winter running when it’s above 25 degrees and the sun is shining, but I can’t always have that and I need to stop whining.
It’s okay to analyze the factors that could impact your run, in fact, I encourage it. They aren’t excuses, sometimes, they’re facts.
I’ve looked back at my journal and over the past several weeks, I’ve done other MP runs. I hit my pace several times, so I know I can do it. This is what’s so great about tracking your runs. Being able to go back and look at more successful runs sheds light on the fact that, yeah this one sucked, it happens. I highly recommend journaling, using a spreadsheet or whatever you can to log a variety of things pertaining to your runs. I track:
Date, Distance, Pace, Shoes, Route, Cadence, Temperature, Wind Speed, Daily Weight, How I Felt.
I hope, and you may find, that you see a pattern that will help you identify things that make the run good or bad.
Something kind of cool about today’s run is that I used a headlamp for the first time. I could actually see the ground in front of me before I hit it. I took this before my run – I was still smiling.
I hit the road again Sunday for my long run. I NEED to keep my attitude positive, so I’m closing the door on this run. I did the miles, I kept going even though I slowed down, and didn’t quit. I have 15 more weeks to improve my pace. I’m not hitting the panic button.
Have a great weekend runners!