Chi Town Half Marathon Training Week 6

Sunday, February 17: 55 minutes cross training (bike)
My heel was GROUCHY Sunday, courtesy of my long run the day before, so I was happy to do something low impact for a change. I put in a lot more effort on this cross training session than I did the week before, so it felt like a lot less of a waste of time. My heel hurt the whole time, though, which was a bother.

Monday, February 18: Strength training – legs (AM) + 5 miles in 54:39 for a 10:56 pace (PM)
I finished my 16 week marathon training strength training schedule last Thursday, so I started back on Week 1 (of that schedule) Monday morning. This really has nothing to do with the strength training itself, but I think I finally figured out a way an efficient way to keeping track of where I am weights-wise. It saved me a lot of time to have all that information at my fingertips instead of digging through my old workouts to find it, so that was nice. The workout itself went well, too 🙂

I did five easy miles on the treadmill after work. As much as I prefer to run outside, I do appreciate that the treadmill keeps me honest in the pace department. It’s also taking me for.ev.er. to get through my current book, so I’m happy to have a little extra reading-while-exercising time.

Tuesday, February 19: Strength training – upper body (AM) + dance (PM)
This was the exact same upper body routine I did last week, and boy, it’s a doozy when I use appropriately heavy weights! Ha. That being said, last week in dance I noticed some pretty nice definition in my arms for the first time, uh, ever? So I guess the work is worth it 😛

We started putting everything together for graduation next week (this week–today–by the time this post goes up). It looks like the class has whittled down to the people who are going to stick it out all the way through, so we were able to get things set up a bit, which was nice.

Wednesday, February 20: 4.99 miles in 50:00 for a 10:01 pace
I did a Hal Higdon tempo run on Wednesday, and it went SO much better than my last one. I started at an 11:04 pace and increased my pace by roughly 30 seconds/mile (however close to 30 seconds the treadmill could accommodate) every 5:00, peaking at a 9:02 pace that I held for 10:00. I felt strong from start to finish, and my only disappointment with this run is that I couldn’t manage to squeak in an additional .01 miles before my 50 minutes were up to finish on a perfect 5.0 miles 😛

Thursday, February 21: 50 minutes cross training (strength training – legs + 21 minutes bike)
I had to be in the suburbs Thursday afternoon, and there was no way I was going to be able to go to the gym after that. I rolled my strength training into my scheduled cross training workout for the day to get up to 50 total minutes of cross training, even though I’d prefer my cross training to be 50 minutes of cardio cross training, with strength training on top of that. Whatever. This was better than nothing. The inside of my left arm started bothering me on Wednesday, and it was pretty painful today, too, especially when I extended my arm. I’m wondering if it’s some sort of tendonitis? (Well, really I’m wondering if it’s some sort of blood clot and/or tumor that’s going to kill me by the end of the month, but that’s my general assumption with any pain. Hooray health anxiety.)

Friday, February 22: Rest

Saturday, February 23: 9.01 miles in 1:35:26(ish) for a 10:36(ish) pace
My Garmin should count its lucky stars that it didn’t experience a slow and painful death by drowning in Lake Michigan after this run. I’ve had an on-and-off issue with my Garmin this winter where I am 100 percent convinced I have either started or stopped my watch–100 percent convinced because I hear it beep and feel it vibrate–only to discover, when attempting to do the opposite action the next time it’s necessitated (stopping it if it’s started, or starting if it it’s stopped) that what I thought happened had, indeed, not happened, screwing up my stats and making me want to pull my hair out. This happened twice on my run itself: my watch didn’t start when I started running, and my watch also didn’t stop when I thought I stopped it about three miles in when I stopped to pull my Buff off my head and rearrange my hat to accommodate my ponytail.

AND THEN, on top of all of those shenanigans (which, yes, could be remedied by turning on auto-stop, but I don’t trust my Garmin as far as I can throw it, so I’m skeptical about auto-stop’s likelihood of working, to say the least), my watch refused to sync my run to Garmin Connect–it was happy to sync my steps and heart rate data, but not the run itself. AND THEN when I went to manually add it to Garmin Connect, my watch only had my splits for miles 1-5. COOL. What a useless piece of junk.

Anyway, aside from my manifold technology woes, this run went relatively well. I felt like I was going way slower than I wanted to at the beginning, but I had decided before I left that I wanted to do my last three miles at race pace to see if I could handle it (and hopefully assuage some of my concerns that running a sub-2:00 half is completely beyond my ability). I don’t have my exact splits for those last three miles, but I did a 9:2x, and 8:5x, and an 8:5x. The 9:2x was too slow, but the 8:5xs are plenty fast enough to get me a sub-2:00 half, so that was encouraging.

 

Chi Town Half Marathon Training Week 5

Sunday, February 10: 50 minutes cross training (bike)
I should’ve skipped this workout. My cold had me feeling lousy on Sunday, and I had zero energy all morning/early afternoon. I biked a whopping 7.01 miles in 50 minutes, which is what I normally do in more like 35 minutes. Then I went home and napped for an hour.

Monday, February 11: Strength training – legs (AM) + 4.5 miles (tempo) in 45:31 for a 10:07 pace
I did not sleep well Sunday night into Monday, and told myself if I was too tired to get out of bed when my alarm went off, I’d bail on my workout. I wasn’t tired at all, though, so to the gym I went. I was supposed to do squats, but people kept using the rack and I thought maybe it wouldn’t hurt me to dial back the intensity a little on these workouts while I’m still trying to kick this cold, so I did leg presses instead. Everything else was as written.

Wholly done with the treadmill, I decided to take my chances outside on Monday afternoon for my 4.5 mile tempo run. The sidewalks weren’t perfect, but most of the snow/slush was confined to where I did my warmup and cooldown miles, so I was able to get in a solid 2.5 tempo miles fairly uninterrupted by dangerous sidewalks. I was not able to get through my entire run uninterrupted by precipitation. It started to freezing rain while I was just over 2.5 miles into the run and continued for the next mile. That was not pleasant, especially while I ran into the wind and had it pelting my face. The sidewalks stayed fairly manageable, though, and I got in some great tempo miles: 9:14, 8:53 (!!), and then who knows what for the remaining half mile. It made me feel really good to hit those paces without the assistance of the treadmill.

Tuesday, February 12: Strength training – upper body (AM) + dance (PM)
I got on the bus Tuesday morning, settled into my seat, and realized I had left my bag with my shoes at home. Fail. I spent most of the trip to the gym trying to figure out how I was going to get in my workout without any proper footwear (I only had my snow boots). No one is ever in the group exercise room, and it has weights appropriate for what my schedule called for, so I figured I could go in there in my socks and no one would know. WELL. I got to the gym, and there was another girl in the locker room when I arrived. I almost always have the locker room to myself on Tuesdays and Thursdays, so that was out of the norm. When I left the locker room to go to the group exercise room, wouldn’t you know it: the new girl was in there. Of course. I wasn’t about to go to the main strength area in just my socks, though, especially since I knew the usual personal training clients I see every Tuesday and Thursday morning would be there (it’s one thing to work out in your socks in front of a girl who quite possibly will never show up at the gym again. It’s another thing to do it in front of the people you see literally every Tuesday and Thursday.), so in I plodded, hoping if I acted like I owned the place, my lack of appropriate footwear would go unnoticed. I still got in my workout, which I guess is what really counts.

Everyone showed up late to dance on Tuesday (including my teacher), so for a minute I wondered if I’d have class at all! Once people arrived, though, we continued working on the choreography we learned last week and moved forward with it a bit. It’s really fast! But also really fun 🙂

Wednesday, February 13: 5 miles (with 7×400 w/ 200 rest) in 49:44 for a 9:57 pace
I had a good treadmill run! What?! After a loooong day at work, I was ready to pound out some intervals to bring my stress level down. I did a warmup mile at 5.6 mph (10:43 pace), then did my seven 400s at 11.7 km/h (7.2 mph, 8:20 pace) with an 8.7 km/h (5.4 mph, 11:04 pace) for my 200 recoveries. Last time, I tried to do my intervals at an 8:00 pace, and I only made it through four of my six before having to slow down. I think the 8:20 pace is a bit more realistic, though I wouldn’t mind bumping it up to 8:13 next time to see if I can handle that, too. I cooled down at 5.6 as well for another 1.39 miles to end on a five full miles for the day.

Thursday, February 14: Strength training – legs (AM) + 3 miles in 32:19 for a 10:46 pace
Not much to note about this strength training workout. I thought I had squats on my schedule, and was happy to see I had deadlifts instead. I generally prefer deadlifts to squats, so that was a nice way to start my day.

I got to run outside again on Thursday! You know it’s been a rough training cycle when just being able to run outside is enough to fire you up, haha. I really wanted to keep this in the 11:xx range for a couple of reasons: 1) I want to take my “extra” run of the week (i.e.: one without a specific workout purpose (tempo, hills, interval, long run)) very, very easy and 2) my heel started bothering me on Tuesday and had gotten progressively worse as the week wore on. This wasn’t quite as slow as I hoped for, but my heart rate did stay way down for the duration of the run, so I guess that counts as easy.

Friday, February 15: Super rest
In the interest of kicking this heel pain, I decided to take it as easy as possible on Friday. I worked from home (to avoid walking on my commute), skipped my lunchtime walk (to avoid more walking), and wore slippers around the house all day for some extra support/cushioning.

Saturday, February 16: 10 miles in 1:49:20 for a 10:56 pace
This was a pretty uneventful long run. I left way later in the morning than I intended to (though, story of my winter running. Knowing it’s never going to get too warm to run comfortably outside keeps me from having much motivation to get out the door in the winter.), but I didn’t have anything going on Saturday anyway, so it wasn’t the end of the world. I’m much happier with this run from a pace perspective than I was with last week’s long run, so that’s good.

Chi Town Half Marathon Training Week 4

Sunday, February 3: Magic Kingdom
Intended to run eight miles before spending the day at Magic Kingdom, opted to sleep in instead. Again. Felt guilty about it, especially after how much standing around I did at Magic Kingdom (vs. walking around at Universal). I logged 14,766 steps for 6.25 miles and 13/13 active hours, so again, not a rest day, but also not what I wanted. And also not equivalent to an eight mile long run.

Monday, February 4: 3 miles in 31:35 for a 10:31 pace + Epcot
I finally got a Florida run in, though once again, three miles is not eight miles. This was meant to replace the two miler I originally planned to do on Thursday of this week, and I suppose it did replace it (I ran two miles after all – and then another one), but that one mile doesn’t make up for the seven others that went un-run. I probably should’ve just cut my losses, accepted that that eight miler was never going to happen, and not tried to make up for it by running an extra mile on Monday, but whatever. It’s done, and I need to get over it. There wasn’t convenient running by my hotel (I ran on every available sidewalk in the area and got to 2.85 miles, but at that point I figured I may as well go a little farther to get a full three), so running eight miles would’ve been a headache anyway. After my run, I went to Epcot where I walked way more than in Magic Kingdom, logging an additional 20,459 steps and 8.49 miles.

Tuesday, February 5: Dance
I returned to Chicago a little before noon on Tuesday (boo), so I had plenty of time to get to dance that evening. To my great surprise and even greater delight, we started learning new choreography! It’s not new to me–I did this routine in the March/April 2014 session–but that’s fine. I’m still excited to do more than two routines this time around!

Wednesday, February 6: Strength training – legs (AM) + 6 miles (with five hill repeats) in 1:02:11(ish) for a 10:21 pace
After a polar vortex/vacation-induced week off a strength training, I hit the gym Wednesday morning to get back into the swing of things. I really like that the workouts I’m going through now were written for me to do during taper in marathon season. I’m lifting much heavier than I did during taper, but the workouts are shorter. It’s nice to be able to get in and out of the gym quickly!

I ran outside! In Chicago! In February! It’s a midwinter miracle! I returned to Chicago on Tuesday to dry-as-a-bone sidewalks, and since the ice storm we were promised Tuesday night into Wednesday never materialized, I got to run outside for the first time (in Chicago) since January 18. Yikes. It was so glorious and felt amazing, though it did remind me how much longer everything takes when I run outside. I have to get home and change, which always takes longer than it should (I inevitably convince myself that I can watch “just two short videos” on YouTube or read “just one” Washington Post article, and 30 minutes later, I find myself still on the couch, having watched way more than two videos or read way more than one article, and not one bit closer to getting out for my run.), and there’s the whole waiting-at-intersections piece as well. Speaking of which: at one intersection I apparently didn’t stop my watch, so when I tried to restart it when the light turned green, I actually stopped it, and basically everything was a disaster for a minute and 20 seconds. I took that time off my total Garmin time, because I couldn’t figure out exactly how long I was at the light and how long it took me to run the next block (with my watch stopped), so I took the whole 1:20 where it looks like I’m not moving on Garmin off my time. It took me somewhere between 1:02:11 and 1:03:31 to do this run.

Thursday, February 7: Strength training – upper body (AM) + 3.88 miles in 40:00 for a 10:19 pace (PM)
In my ongoing effort to not phone it in during training, I once again upped my weights for this workout, and it was tough. But tough in a good way. I know I’m not going to get stronger if I don’t challenge myself, but it sure would be a lot less sweaty to not do that, ha.

This run was not good. It was a Hal Higdon-style tempo run, and I hoped to work up to minimally a 9:30 pace (ideally more of a 9:20/9:15 pace) for the middle peak. I did work up to a 9:30 pace, but five minutes into those 10 minutes of peak pace, I had to stop to the treadmill and take a break. This is the third treadmill run where that’s happened. I think part of the problem has been that the heat has been blasting in the gym lately, which certainly doesn’t help matters. But regardless, it does not make me happy that the last two speed workouts I’ve done on the treadmill have both been interrupted by my inability to hang onto the pace I want to run. It makes me feel really discouraged about the likelihood that I’ll break 2:00 (…in just under two months, so I’m admittedly being a bit dramatic with so much time left), and it made for a very frustrating run.

Friday, February 8: Strength training – legs
No rest day for me this week 😦 I wanted to get in my third strength training workout for the week, so I went back to the gym Friday morning. I woke up with some pain that made me anxious (what else is new?), so I took it a little easier on this workout than I normally would have. Knowing I had a long run on the schedule for Saturday also made me want to keep things easy-ish.

Saturday, February 9: 9 miles in 1:39:18 for an 11:02 pace
Blah. I started to feel a cold coming on when I got off the plane Tuesday morning, and my nose was running pretty bad by Friday. Since my symptoms were all above the neck, I didn’t feel justified in skipping my long run, and I knew skipping it would make a particular organ above my neck (i.e.: my brain) feel REALLY bad, since that would mean bailing on two consecutive long runs. So I bundled up and headed out. I’m happy with how all my non-Lakefront Trail miles of this long run went, but for whatever reason, all my miles that were primarily on the trail were 11:00+ (even though there really wasn’t any wind to speak of Saturday morning), and that bugged me.

I’m a third of the way through training, and I’ll be honest: I’m not even remotely happy with how training has gone up to this point. I have yet to log a week where I do every single workout as written. I’ve only outright skipped one workout–two, if you count the rest day that never happened during this past week of training–but everything else has been all effed up from the way I wanted it to work out. I’ve moved runs around, I’ve chopped miles off some runs and added them onto others, I’ve done nine of 15 planned runs (nine of 14 actual runs) on the treadmill. I know a lot of this is out of my control. It’s not my fault no one in my neighborhood can be bothered to shovel their sidewalks. It’s not my fault the polar vortex came to visit.

I know sub-2:00 is an ambitious goal, and I know that plenty of things could conspire against me to keep it from happening on race day. What I did not want to even run the risk of having happen was that I’d cross the finish line with 2:xx:xx on my watch and think, “This wouldn’t have happened if I had trained better.” And while, yes, I’m getting my miles in, I’m definitely not getting them in in the manner or at the speed that I wanted to get them in.

I know I still have plenty of time to improve. I’ll get over this cold eventually (right?). It’ll stop being cold eventually (right?). But I feel like thing after thing after thing has gotten in the way of me having an effective first month of training, and I’m not happy about it. My confidence is shot, and that’s obviously not helping matters, either. I’m feeling negative about this whole sub-2:00 goal right now, and I really hope things turn around in the next four weeks.

Chi Town Half Marathon Training Week 3

Sunday, January 27: Strength training – legs + spinning for 40 total minutes of cross training
The impending polar vortex/Chiberia/soul-searching as to why I didn’t act on those impulses to move to San Diego when I was there for a conference last June led me to move my Monday strength training up to Sunday (so I could move Tuesday to Monday and Thursday to Tuesday, in case I couldn’t make it to the gym on Thursday). I had 40 minutes of cross training on my schedule for Sunday, so I did my Monday leg workout first–which was mercifully easy, because it’s the one originally written for me to do the day after the 20 miler in September–and rounded out my time with 24 minutes on the spin bike at the gym. Why the spin bike as opposed to my usual stationary bike, you ask? Because for the first time ever on a Sunday, I couldn’t get a stationary bike. I thought about hopping on the elliptical, but I really wanted ~more~ of a workout, so I opted for the spin bike instead (and walked away with the consequential butt pain. Why are those seats so horribly uncomfortable?!). It was a bit of a nuisance to get the thing configured so I could reach everything, but I got there eventually.

Monday, January 29: Strength training – upper body (AM) + 6.5 miles (tempo) in 1:06:39 for a 10:15 pace
I ventured out into the snow Monday morning to get strength training workout #2 of the week in before work. Days like Monday make me so grateful for the CTA and its operators who get me from Point A to Point B safely in miserable weather. I’ve been feeling motivated to lift heavier recently, and while I didn’t set any PRs during this, I hit all my previous PRs. That felt great!

Speaking of PRs: treadmill PDR for me on Monday! Woo! I’m so glad I discovered that I can read on the treadmill, because that made this run a bajillion times more manageable than it would’ve been otherwise. I warmed up for 1.5 miles at a 10:54 pace, then did 3.5 tempo miles at a 9:31 (I think? It was either 9:30 or 9:31) pace before cooling down for another 1.5 at 10:54, all at a 1.0 incline. I thought about bumping my tempo pace up to 9:2x, but I wasn’t 100 percent sure I was ready to run that far that fast yet, so I kept it at 9:31 for this tempo run. I have tempos every other Monday of this cycle, so there’s still plenty of time to get those middle miles faster (plus the Hal Higdon-style tempo runs I have every other week as well). It’ll be interesting to see how my tempo runs go when I start running outside again. It’s a lot easier to stick to a specific pace on a treadmill than it is running outside! I hope I can push myself appropriately once I’m able to hit the sidewalks again.

Tuesday, January 29: Strength training – legs (AM) + dance (PM)
Three days of strength training in a row is TOO MUCH. Even though I did an upper body workout on Monday (and, admittedly, wasn’t sore from it), I was getting really sick of picking heavy things up and putting them back down again by Tuesday morning. I did set a deadlift PR, though (barbell + 50 pounds – I think that’s 95 pounds, but I don’t know how heavy the barbell at the gym is. I assume it’s 45, because nothing about it suggests that it’s not a standard barbell, but since I don’t know for sure, I track my weight by barbell + known weight of plates), and that was exciting! And hard, ha.

I really hoped dance would be cancelled, but alas. Unsurprisingly, 1) barely anyone showed up and 2) the people who did show up are all regulars in some capacity. I had my fingers crossed my teacher would take that opportunity to teach us some cool random choreography, but no dice. We reviewed/cleaned up what we learned the first week of this session, and since all of us have taken breakdance at some point, did a little bit of breaking at the end of the choreography we had learned up to that point. I don’t know if that’ll stay in the routine or not, but boy! It has been A. LONG. time since I’ve done breakdance freezes, and I expect to have a pretty bruised shoulder as a result. I’m glad I can still do it, though!

Wednesday, January 30: 40 minutes cross training (Fitness Blender)
This one:

 

I do Fitness Blender videos every now and again, but it’s been a long time. I usually do them when I’m taking some time off running and want something easy to follow that I can do at home. Because I had zero interest in venturing outside on Wednesday, I went through Fitness Blender’s videos on YouTube to find a 40 minute, cardio heavy workout. This fit the bill! From a heart rate standpoint, I definitely got more out of this than I usually get out of biking at the gym, so I think it was a really effective (if challenging!) cross training option.

Thursday, January 31: 4.5 miles (with 6×400 w/ 200 rest) in 46:32 for a 10:20 pace
I emerged from house-bound exile Thursday afternoon to go to the gym to do my intervals. I felt really overwhelmed on Wednesday and Thursday and hoped going for a run on Thursday would help me slow down the swirling anxieties in my head and get some peace of mind. It didn’t. Womp. I struggled a lot more on this run than I expected to, and by the fifth interval had to slow down both my hard pace and my recovery pace. That didn’t help my mood at all, unsurprisingly, and instead of reducing my anxieties, gave me a new one: how am I going to manage to do this off the treadmill once the sidewalks are passable again? And if I can’t maintain fast paces during training, how am I ever going to maintain a fast pace during the race? (<- things I do not need to be worrying about more than two months out from the race *eye roll emoji*) Blah.

Friday, February 1: Rest

Saturday, February 2: Universal Orlando
I intended to run eight miles Saturday morning. I did not run eight miles Saturday morning. I ran zero. I did, however, take 17,410 steps for 7.37 miles (according to my FitBit) and logged 13/13 active hours for the day, so I feel like that has to count for something. I certainly wouldn’t call it a rest day, at least.

Chi Town Half Marathon Training Week 2

Sunday, January 20: 35 minutes cross training (yoga)
This one:

Technically that was 37 minutes, but whatever. Close enough for me. I had a crazy schedule on Sunday, so it was a lot simpler to do yoga at home than take the time to go to the gym (and work out at the gym). Hopefully next week I’ll be able to hop on the bike for some more cardio-heavy cross training.

Monday, January 21: Strength training – legs (AM) + 2.98 miles in 30:00 for a 10:04 pace (PM)
Monday morning did not get off to a good start. The first thing I do when I wake up on gym mornings is check the bus’s arrival time, since I get up with exactly enough time to get ready and head out the door to catch the bus. When I saw it was scheduled to come eight minutes earlier than normal, I knew there was no chance I’d make it, which would delay my arrival to the gym. Then I moved to get out of bed and a weird pain in my side that caused me to fly into a panic, convinced I was on the verge of death (this is my usual reaction to any unexpected feeling in my body). I ultimately decided to go to the gym anyway and see what happened, particularly since I didn’t have any other concerning symptoms (nausea, vomiting, fever, etc.). I was so late to the gym based on the bus schedule/side pain panic, though, that I ended up skipping the entire last third of my workout and all the planks I was supposed to do between single leg deadlift sets.

Due to my schedule/the sidewalks, I swapped Wednesday’s workout for Monday’s and did a 30 minute tempo run on the treadmill after work. My tempo runs done by time will all be Hal Higdon-style, as I call them (gradually increasing to a fast pace held for five to 10 minutes, then gradually decreasing to a slower pace). My goal for this was to do five minutes at an 11:00ish pace, five minutes at a 10:00ish pace, 10 minutes at a 9:00ish pace, and then come back down (five at 10:00ish, five at 11:00ish). The treadmill, however, sabotaged my plans! Five minutes into my intended 9:00 pace, the treadmill dropped me down from 6.6 mph to 6.5 mph. I suppose it’s possible I did something to make this happen, but I can’t imagine how I would’ve dialed the speed down a tenth of a mile per hour without noticing. I ended up doing five minutes at 6.6 mph, 4:30 at 6.5 mph and then, upon realizing my error, :30 at 6.6 mph before dropping down to 6.0 (10:00 pace) for the down side of this tempo pyramid. I discovered that Hal Higdon-style tempo runs are far more tolerable on the treadmill than normal tempo runs, so that was nice.

Tuesday, January 22: Dance
We reviewed everything we did the week before, thank goodness. I had forgotten most of the second half of the choreography and needed a refresher. I also talked to my friend who’s been in class as long as I have about how this choreography was different than what we learned last time,. It turns out this is to a different part of the same song, hence the different dance. That’ll do it!

Wednesday, January 23: Strength training – upper body (AM) + 4.5 miles (with four hill repeats) in 48:19 for a 10:44 pace (PM)
Normally I do my upper body strength training on Tuesdays, but since I had my biometric screening at 11 and wouldn’t be able to eat until it was over, I didn’t want to do anything that could make me hungrier than I was in the first place. So I waited until Wednesday, even though I always have late nights on Tuesday. This workout was pretty high rep (15, rather than the usual 10-12), so I couldn’t lift quite as heavy as I wanted to. That being said, I lifted for longer than usual, so I assume it all evens out.

My run on Wednesday was totally different than I expected it to be when I wrote my training plan. I intended to do six miles with four hill repeats, but that assumed I was going to run to my normal hill where I do repeats, which is a couple miles away. Due to the perpetually icy sidewalks, I was relegated to the treadmill. I had extremely limited interest in doing more than two warmup and cooldown miles on the treadmill, since don’t need to get to the hills on the treadmill: they’re available whenever I want to change the incline. Because of that, I decided to cut this run down to 4.5 miles for the sake of my sanity and up Thursday’s planned three miler to 4.5 miles as well, which all told added up to the nine I wanted to do across those two runs anyway.

In a predictable turn of events, I did my math wrong and warmed up longer than necessary (1.75 miles). I then did four hill repeats, with .25 miles at a 3 percent incline followed by .25 miles at a 1 percent incline (my normal incline setting on the treadmill). After that, I cooled down for a mile.

Thursday, January 24: Strength training – legs (AM) + 4.5 miles in 51:01 for an 11:20 pace (PM)
I had squats on my schedule Thursday morning, which always makes me a little nervous due to equipment availability. Thankfully, the gym was basically empty, so I had no trouble using the rack and getting in the rest of my workout.

Another day, another treadmill run. I thought this was going to be a disaster. The music in the gym was so loud that I could barely hear the podcast I was trying to listen to, which caused some serious mental fatigue. My #1 problem with podcasts is that I can only listen to them when I’m doing something mindless (folding laundry, running on the treadmill), because if I need to be able to focus on what the host says. Unsurprisingly, when you can barely hear what the host is saying, it becomes really hard to focus! My headphones were almost dead anyway, so I gave up about two and a half miles into my run and tried to convince myself that enduring this would help me build the mental stamina I’ll need to not throw in the towel when the going gets tough during my half marathon.

And then, a breakthrough.

It occurred to me that years ago, I had commented a blog post where the blogger mentioned reading on the treadmill. I couldn’t comprehend how she could do that. I found the bouncing of running (even of elliptical-ing) makes reading next to impossible. She responded that she had a Kindle, so she could bump the font size up, which made it possible to read on the run. I wondered if Libby had similar functionality, and lo and behold, it does!! GUYS. I CAN READ ON THE TREADMILL. ALL OF MY PROBLEMS HAVE BEEN SOLVED!!!!

I’m not being dramatic when I say this has changed everything about treadmill running. I know my entire problem with the treadmill stems from the fact that I find it so crushingly boring. I can do interval-y workouts on the treadmill just fine, because I rarely stay at the same pace for more than a few minutes. I spend the whole time staring at the screen, sure, but there’s a big difference between staring at the screen waiting for it to go from one quarter mile to the next so I can change my pace/incline and staring at the screen willing 1.12 miles to magically turn into 4.50 miles so I can stop running. Nothing–not the TV, not music, not podcasts, not even audiobooks–provided enough distraction to keep me from starting at that damn odometer, wondering how half a mile outside breezes by but half a mile on the treadmill feels interminable.

But reading a book does! Reading keeps my mind off the odometer, but most critically, it keeps my eyes off the odometer. I’ve found that distances tick by a lot faster both inside and outside when you’re not glued to your distance tracking device, be that your treadmill’s odometer or your GPS watch. I rarely have a problem keeping my eyes off my watch, but now that I’ve found a successful way to keep it off the treadmill odometer, I think I might be able to survive the rest of this training! Woohoo!

Friday, January 25: Rest

Saturday, January 26: 7 miles in 1:19:00 for an 11:17 pace
Woo indoor running! 😐 The temperature was ridiculous and the sidewalks were still dangerous, so despite the bright and shining sunshine, I took my run inside. Again. Instead of going to my gym, I bought a guest pass to one closer to my house (my gym being convenient when I’m on my way to or from work, but not convenient at other times, like Saturdays. This gym is on my way to nowhere, but it’s closer to my house than my normal gym, so I decided the price of the guest pass was worth it.). This gym happened to have the same treadmills my gym has, which was a nice surprise – no learning curve on that front. I have such a hard time guessing what’s a “good” pace for treadmill running, so I went conservative and did 5.4 mph on a 1.0 incline. Once the treadmill timed out at an hour, (5.39 miles into my run, which makes sense, given the whole 5.4 mph thing) I went upstairs and finished the remaining 1.6 miles I had on the indoor track. It was 13.8 laps to a mile, which seemed like it’d be really difficult to monitor since the track didn’t have any markings indicating where .8 of a lap finished, but I had my Garmin on, so I was fine. Or at least fine enough. I certainly would’ve preferred to do this outdoors, but I’m glad I got the miles in regardless.

 

Chi Town Half Marathon Training Week 1

Sunday, January 13: 30 minutes cross training (yoga)
This one:

I’m being a little less prescriptive about my cross training for this cycle. Ideally, I’d like to bike (or elliptical, or otherwise engage in some sort of cardio) for my cross training, but sometimes that’s not feasible–and sometimes, I just need yoga. Sunday was one of those days.

Monday, January 14: Strength training – legs (AM) + 4.25 miles (tempo) in 43:08 for a 10:09 pace
I more or less kept up with strength training after the marathon ended, but now that I’m officially training, I’m no longer considering strength training to be “strongly recommended, but technically optional.” So I went to the gym Monday morning for a pretty simple leg workout.

I made my much-dreaded return to the treadmill Monday afternoon. Since so many people in my neighborhood seem to think that shoveling their sidewalks is someone else’s responsibility, I didn’t feel comfortable trying to go for a run outside, and I especially didn’t feel comfortable trying to do a workout outside. Thus, the treadmill. It was pretty miserable, I won’t lie. Spending your entire run staring at your distance, acutely aware of how much longer you have to run, is wildly unpleasant. (And since, at least as far as I can tell so far, you can’t program workouts into the treadmill, I don’t have much of a choice but to keep an eye on my distance so I can adjust my speed accordingly.) I survived, and actually felt like I got in a great workout, but I wish it weren’t so soul-crushingly boring. I did this tempo run as a “normal” tempo run (i.e.: warm up for a mile, 2.25 miles at tempo pace, cool down for a mile) as opposed to a Hal Higdon tempo run (gradually increase speed to the middle of your run, hold that pace for 5-10 minutes, gradually decrease speed to the end of your run). I thought I was being ambitious with my tempo pace (9:30), but I held on just fine, which was very encouraging.

Tuesday, January 15: Strength training – upper body (AM) + dance
My third trip to the gym in 24 hours! I’m not actually working out any more than I was during marathon season, but when I trained for the marathon, I ran outside on Mondays and had a change of scenery. It was weird to go to the gym so many times in a row. I got in a great upper body workout, but I lifted heavier than usual on some of them, so I anticipate I’ll be sore tomorrow.

Dance was NUTS. After telling us last week that we’d only learn two songs this session, we dove head first into new choreography in class on Tuesday. This was only the second class of the session, one we usually spend reviewing what we learned the week before, so I was surprised 1) that we were already learning something new and 2) how quickly my teacher was blowing through the choreography. Class was non-stop, and I was really impressed that the new people were able to keep up at all. Incidentally, I’ve learned choreography to this song before (from the same teacher), but the choreography is completely different than what we learned the first time (“the first time” being April 2013.)

Wednesday, January 16: 4 miles (with 5×400 w/ 200 rest) in 40:50 for a 10:12 pace
(Side note: I have such a hard time remember to type “January” instead of “June” on these things, because I’ve never tracked my training like this outside of marathon training!)

I decided that I’m only going to do speedwork outside if I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I can do it all on non-icy sidewalks. Since I didn’t have that guarantee on Wednesday, it was back to the ‘mill. I found this workout to be a lot more tolerable than the tempo run I did on Monday, because I barely had time to settle into a pace before needing to speed up or slow down during those 400s. It’s hard to get bored in that situation!

The treadmills at the gym can switch between displaying your distance in miles or kilometers mid-workout, so I ran a warmup mile, then changed the display to kilometers, since it’s easier to keep track of 200s from the kilometer view than mile view (200 meters is .124 miles, but the treadmill display only goes to the second decimal (i.e.: 1.25), so it just seemed a lot simpler to do it in kilometers). What I did not consider, nor realize until I switched from miles to kilometers for the first time, was that all the metrics would change to kilometers, including my speed. No longer did the treadmill tell me my minute/mile and mile/hour pace: instead, it showed me my time in minute/kilometer and kilometers/hour. Believe it or not, I’m pretty unfamiliar with my minute/kilometer and kilometer/hour paces, haha. I switched back to miles for a second to determine that my recovery pace (11:06 minutes/mile) translated to 8.7 km/hour, and my 400 pace (roughly 8:00 minutes/mile) translated to 11.9 km/hour. Good to know for the future! It also took me for.ev.er. to figure out how to efficiently move from one pace to the other. The treadmill has a function that allows you to jump to your last pace (so when I was running 11.9 km/hour, I could tap the screen to immediately drop down to 8.7), but you had to hit it just right to get it to work, and it took me until my fifth interval to figure out what “just right” was. But I got it, and now I’ll know how to use it next time.

Thursday, January 17: Strength training – legs (AM) + 3.01 miles in 34:10 for an 11:22 pace
I had a hard time getting up Thursday morning, and kind of wanted to just curl up in the locker room and nap through my workout time instead of, you know, working out. But that seemed both uncomfortable and generally frowned upon, so I drug myself out to the gym. I thought I was being really badass and lifting heavier than ever before on all the exercises for the day, until I consulted my lifting PR spreadsheet halfway through and realized in fact I was lifting lighter than any of my PRs. Fail. I was lifting heavier than I’ve lifted in a while, though, so I figure that’s something.

While I’ve been a tried-and-true three-days-of-running-per-week runner basically since I started running in 2011, since I’m trying to do something I’ve never done before (i.e.: run a half marathon in under two hours), I’m training like I’ve never trained before, and thus will be running four days a week rather than three for two-thirds of this cycle (I’m doing two weeks of four days followed by one week of three days). I’ve mostly avoided four days of running per week because it’s always felt like too much, so if I’m going to do that this time around, I want to be sure to take my extra run very easy. That’s certainly what happened on Thursday!

Friday, January 18: 6 miles in 1:06:20 for an 11:03 pace
The forecast had threatened a Friday night/Saturday morning winter storm all week, so I decided to switch my long run from Saturday morning to Friday afternoon. Six miles isn’t too overwhelming of a distance, and I needed to be in the suburbs early Saturday afternoon, so getting it done on Friday seemed like it would make Saturday a lot easier. It was really cold, and the wind was biting, but the sidewalks were (relatively) clear. When I left for the suburbs Saturday morning around 10 a.m., most of the sidewalks around me hadn’t even been shoveled yet, so I feel like I made the right decision. Running through five-ish inches of unshoveled snow wouldn’t have been much fun!

Saturday, January 19: Rest

 

 

Toyota Rock ‘n’ Roll Las Vegas Half Marathon Race Recap

Boy is this race tough.

I arrived in Las Vegas late Friday night (well, late Chicago time), long after the expo had closed. I went to the expo Saturday morning as a result, which proved to be good decision. It was the least crowded I’ve ever seen that expo (I went in 2016 and 2017, even though I didn’t run the race in 2016 due to my booted foot) and it made the whole experience 100 times more enjoyable than usual. 10/10.

rnrlasvegas2018packet

Having learned a lifetime’s worth of lessons the hard way during last year’s race, I made a point of trying to be more intentional about my nutrition and hydration leading up to Sunday night’s run. I carried a water bottle with me everywhere in Vegas and kept it light at breakfast (around 11 a.m.) with two small pancakes and two scrambled eggs. At 3 p.m., two hours before I thought I would start running, I had a bag of off-brand Pirate’s Booty (“Sailor’s Loot,” lolololol) and a bag of animal crackers I got at the expo that added up to somewhere in the neighborhood of 300 calories. That all worked out WAY better for me in the stomach department than last year’s pancake binge at breakfast and couple of handfuls of Munchies as I headed out the door to the race, so I’ll file that away for any future late afternoon/early evening half marathons 😛

It was much colder in Vegas than I expected based on the past two years (I don’t think it ever got out of the low 60s while I was there, and at night it was down in the 40s. There was actually a freeze warning on Monday!). I figured I’d be fine for the race in shorts and short sleeves, but when Rock ‘n’ Roll sent out an email a few hours before the race warning about high winds, I started to panic. I didn’t have any throwaways, anything that I could adjust while running (a jacket, arm sleeves), and I was in the second wave, while the other person from this year’s group who was running the race (four of us went to Vegas, but only two of us ran) was in the first wave, meaning we’d arrive well before I started running. I worried I’d be overly cold. I ended up begging a long sleeve shirt off my running buddy, but once again, lesson learned. I can’t forget to pack my arm sleeves in the future!

I’ve run enough Rock ‘n’ Roll races over the years (eight, counting Sunday) to feel comfortable saying that Rock ‘n’ Roll is, hands down, the worst race organizer when it comes to corral enforcement. Even after Ironman bought Rock ‘n’ Roll, your corral assignment seems to be a weak suggestion at best. While other Rock ‘n’ Rolls I’ve run have been laughable when it comes to corral enforcement, Vegas truly set the bar for unbelievably terrible corral management.

Vegas has a pre-race party, and my assumption, especially since I was never told otherwise, is that the pre-race party is optional. In my entire running career, no one has ever made attendance at any events surrounding the race (other than packet pickup, of course, but that was taken care of at the expo) mandatory, and when attendance at any event surrounding a race is mandatory, you’re informed well in advance, usually multiple times.

I had no interest in going to the pre-race party. I didn’t need to check any gear. There are abundant bathrooms in every hotel up and down the Strip with running water and flushing toilets, making a pre-race portapotty stop unnecessary. The last thing I want to do immediately before running a half marathon is attend a concert. Why on earth would I prioritize going to Rock ‘n’ Roll’s pre-race party when there is literally no reason for me to be there?

My running buddy didn’t have interest in the pre-race party either, so we left our hotel (Harrah’s) around 3:30 and started walking south to get to the start line, which was slightly north of MGM on the east side (the MGM side) of the Strip. When we got to Harmon, we saw a stream of runners heading towards the start line, so we, along with everyone else walking south on the Strip with us, joined the stream.

WHAT. A. MESS.

As we walked, it became quite clear that most of the people in the stream were in the blue (first) wave of the race. My running buddy had been assigned to the blue wave, so that was fine, but I was technically in the green wave. As always, Rock ‘n’ Roll was bold, italicized, red font serious about not allowing people into corrals that did not correspond with the color on their bib, but was there anyone checking our bibs where we got in the stream to make sure we all belonged there? No. So I was able to sneak into the blue wave 1) without meaning to and 2) without realizing I was getting into the wrong wave.

Eventually, it occurred to us that all of the bib checking/”security” to get into the corrals must have been located somewhere in the pre-race party, but if that was the case, that was never communicated. This is what my pre-race information sheet said:

rnrlasvegasgreenraceday

Now, I will concede that it says to arrive at the Start Line Village by 3:30. Fine. But NOWHERE in this document does it say that you have to go to the Start Line Village prior to the race. It’s commonplace for races to suggest that you arrive by a certain time, but to my understanding, unless that time is when your corrals close, you don’t actually have to arrive then. I’ve read that whole document through several times, and I cannot find anywhere where it says that you must go to the Start Line Village (aka the pre-race party) in order to get into the corrals. It’s pretty obvious that Rock ‘n’ Roll has no problem highlighting text they don’t want you to miss, so if going to the Start Line Village was a requirement, why wouldn’t they put that in this document?

On top of that, the document does specifically say that “Entrance to the GREEN START CORRALS will be on Las Vegas Blvd north at Harmon Ave.” Now, call me crazy, but when I read a sentence like that, I assume that I enter the corrals on Las Vegas Blvd. (the Strip), not from the pre-race party.

“But Bethany,” you argue, “you were getting into the blue corrals. Maybe they had different instructions!”

They did, but those instructions still didn’t say anything about mandatory attendance at the pre-race party to enter the corrals:

rnrlasvegasblueraceday

Once again, the instructions here are to enter the corrals “on Las Vegas Blvd.” That’s not the Start Line Festival. That’s not Harmon, where we found the stream of people. That’s the Strip.

So, fine. Let’s give Rock ‘n’ Roll the enormous benefit of the doubt and say that their pre-race documentation was accurate and clear, and I’m just an idiot who makes too many assumptions and can’t read for comprehension. Putting all of that aside, the corral situation was STILL a disaster, even if you followed the directions about entering them, because they filled in from the back, with no delineation between any of them. There were no gates, no ropes, no volunteers, nothing. The entire thing was completely self-policed, and you know how THAT always ends up going. My running buddy was supposed to be in Corral 10, but by the time we reached what appeared to be Corral 12, it was so crowded that we couldn’t have moved up any farther even if we wanted to.

I’m not aiming to break any world records at any of these Rock ‘n’ Roll races, least of all at Vegas. But it bothers me to no end how Rock ‘n’ Roll talks such HUGE game about being strict about their corrals and then not only doesn’t enforce them, but at this race in particular, doesn’t even make an effort to show where one corral ends and the other begins. Inflatable corral markers only show you the general area associated with your corral, not its actual boundaries. It’s abundantly clear to me that Rock ‘n’ Roll does not care one little bit where anyone actually lines up at any of their races, and I just hate how they talk about corrals like it’s The Biggest Deal, and then do nothing to follow through on that claim.

Now that I’ve gotten those 900 words out of the way…

rnrlasvegas2018startline

I knew this race would be a challenge from the get-go, so I had extremely low expectations for myself. I kind of wanted to do better than I did in 2017, but I also kind of didn’t care. I was quite surprised to hit the first mile in 10:46, since I assumed I’d be running mostly in the 11:xx range. I came through the second mile in an 11:29, however, which was much closer to what I expected.

I thought about really getting into the spirit of just enjoying myself and taking pictures along the course whenever I felt so inclined, but I ultimately decided I didn’t feel like stopping at any of the big photo ops (the Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas sign, anywhere along the Strip, etc.) and just kept chugging along. Even though I started well before I was supposed to, based on my corral assignment, I passed a decent number of people and never felt like I was in anyone’s way (though having the entire Strip just for us did help in that department).

You run past the finish line (on the other side of the road) around mile five-ish of the half and full marathons at this race, and I was THRILLED to see the 10K finishers wrapped in heat sheets in the finish area. Knowing I’d get one of those after the race and not have to shiver the whole way back to Harrah’s was a huge relief. I also noticed that the finish line had a smoke machine, the “smoke” from which was blowing all over the road. I had a bad reaction to that at a race once (like, hard-time-breathing bad reaction) and was worried that would happen again, but I made it through all right.

We made it up to Fremont Street and then turned south onto Las Vegas Blvd. again a bit past mile nine, which, in my opinion, is when the race really gets tough. I said this last year, too, but the most deceptive thing about Rock ‘n’ Roll Las Vegas is that the entire course is on a barely-perceptible incline. You can’t see it, but you can certainly feel it, especially when you start going up again on the southbound trip to the finish line.

rnrlasvegaselevationmap

When I hit mile 10, it occurred to me that I could play my 5K game from the marathon again. I had checked my watch at the 5K mark, which I came through in 35:xx. When I hit the 10 mile mark, I added 35 minutes to my time and got to 2:28:xx. I decided I’d try to run the last 5K faster than the first 5K: a bigger challenge than I think I realized when I set it, due to the incline situation.

My mile times weren’t dropping quite like I wanted them to, especially for how hard I felt like I was working. When I got to mile 13, I realized it was going to be awful close to cross the finish line before 2:28:xx, so I did what I could do find another gear and managed to get in at 2:27:52. That counts! (And is around seven minutes faster than I did this race last year, so yay.)

The smoke machine situation was not ideal at the finish line. Due to the wind (which wasn’t even half as bad as Rock ‘n’ Roll’s email made it sound–my Garmin logged an 8 mph wind, compared to the 18 mph wind it logged during Hot Chocolate the week before), the smoke blew into the finish chute rather than up harmlessly into the air. I felt it irritating my throat (not too badly, thankfully), and a bunch of people around me were coughing. You’d think, if they sent out an email threatening to not even put up start/finish line signage (which they did use) or course clocks (which they did not use) due to the wind that it would occur to them that perhaps smoke machines would be a bad idea, but apparently that didn’t cross anyone’s mind.

I hobbled through the finish area on achy legs, gathered my food, hydration, and heat sheet, met up with my running buddy, and returned to Harrah’s to thaw out.

rnrlasvegasmedal2018

(For all my criticisms of Rock ‘n’ Roll, I do have to hand it to them in the medal department. I love this one. The “cards” fold in, which I think is cool. You can’t really see the black detail at the bottom in this picture, but it’s a bunch of buildings from the Strip.)