Taper Is Here

I’m officially in taper mode. Last weekend I did my longest training run – 22 miles! For the first time, I also got to run it on part of the marathon course before race day. Lifetime Fitness has an annual run on the last 10 miles of the Twin Cities course – The Capital Run. When one of my fellow mother runners told me about it a few months ago, I was all over it!

Bright and early Saturday morning, I met Amy to carpool over to St. Paul. We arrived with time to enjoy our view on the capital building.

capital building

With the lines for check-in and the porta potties growing they waited a few extra minutes to start releasing waves of runners for the 10 mile and 20 mile courses.

Jess and Amy CR

Just after 7 am we were off. The first few miles we hit several stop lights which was annoying but Amy and I chatted with a nice guy who was trying to run a marathon in all 50 states this year. We lost him at a water stop, but enjoyed hearing about his aspirations.

One of the biggest concerns I’ve had about this race is the long hill (3 miles long) that starts about mile 20.

F_2014_MarathonCourseMap_ElevationThe trail we run on for our long training runs has lots of smaller rolling hills, so I’ve gotten in some practice, but a three mile long hill? Eek.

As we ran down it, I thought to myself, this isn’t so bad. It’s not too steep and seems much shorter. The view of beautiful houses didn’t hurt. We ran past the 10 mile turnaround until we hit 10.5 miles. It was shaping up to be a beautiful day. The temps were in the high 40s, low 50s by that point and we were both feeling great. It really was an ideal dress rehearsal for the race. Now I know that if we have similar temps, I’ll likely wear a tank top and capris. We stopped for waters and gels before gearing up to run back up the hill.

I was amazed that when we got to the base of the hill, it didn’t look all that big. Not as big as the course map would have you believe. We powered up, slowing down slightly to a 9:10 pace. Yes, I said slowing down to that pace. When we got to the top, we saw a tent with Swedish Fish and Gummy Bears. We were so hungry our stomachs were growling. We grabbed a handful of candy before we realized it was a running club’s tent and not part of our Lifetime Run. Oops. They were nice and we thanked them profusely before continuing on.

When we made the final turn and saw the capital building in front of us, we had some extra pep in our steps. We were both hungry, but overall feeling really good. We hit 21 miles just as we made it to the tented area with food. Amy went to hit the bathroom and grab us snacks while I finished one more mile.

Our average running pace for the run was 8:48 min/miles. That is purely time spent running. Add in there a few stops for water where we bumped into other members of our running group, you could probably add 10 minutes to that. I’d say we have both sped up this training cycle considering we never stopped talking during the run.

After to stretching and talking to a few other runners, we snapped a pictures, not the most flattering picture of me, not sure what my weird stance was.

After CR

On the car ride home we enjoyed the ice cold Cokes Amy brought, the Reese’s Peanut Butter Pumpkins I brought and the chips from the event. They were delicious!

This was such a confidence booster. Over the next couple weeks I’m going to really think about my race strategy. Do I want to utilize pacers? Wear my own water or depend on the water stops? Maybe if I focus on those things I won’t drive myself crazy thinking I’m feeling marathon ruining mystery injuries.

 

Making Moves

The wait has finally ended, as have our days in a small apartment with none of our own stuff. Over Labor Day weekend we moved into our new house! Of course our camera is currently holding the good pictures hostage.

new house

After closing on the Thursday night prior to the holiday weekend, we drove up with our first load of clothes and such from the apartment. Josh continued our tradition of carrying me over the threshold of our new house. We cleared out our cars and walked the kids around the house again as it had been nearly two months since we were in it last.

New house living room

Ella and I picked up a pizza and we had a little picnic in our new kitchen.

Kitchen picnic

Josh’s parents were nice enough to come up for the weekend to help us get somewhat settled which was really nice. They were even on board with having a ridiculous amount of Mexican food after my 20 miler. Even though I never wanted a hot tub, I really enjoyed the one in our backyard that night.

hot tubbing

Ella really enjoyed playing with her grandparents. She was so sad when it was time to say goodbye.

We have a lot of furniture to buy so we have some empty rooms and incomplete rooms like Ella’s which desperately needs a new dresser. We’ll get there.

Our neighbors have been very welcoming. We even had one bring over muffins. I thought that only happened in movies. It was so sweet. There seem to be lots of kids in the neighborhood and just a 10 minute walk from our house is a great park and a swimming beach which we will be able to utilize more next summer.

Weaver Lake

I’m so excited to be settling in. The return to some normalcy will be great. I may even have a chance to get back to blogging. Imagine that.

 

Twin Cities Training Part II: Cross-training

I am a runner. I love to run. I generally only run. On my non-run days I’m guilty of being lazy. Just like I have been with blogging lately. I have some many updates from Anderson at a year to moving again, etc. Anyway, back to my exercise laziness. I’ve always start my training plans with the best intentions. I tell myself that I will do some weights, swim or bike. Do something on my off days to keep my body in motion and help use my muscles in a new way. Most of the time this falls by the wayside quickly. I know I need to do it and all the benefits, but life happens.

Since joining a gym here, I’ve been determined to actually cross-train. The gym offered Spinning, HIIT and yoga classes. They were oddly scheduled but with free childcare, I had no excuse to try to get to something before the kids naps. Lately I’ve been taking at least one spin class a week and doing the HIIT class once a week. So far Spinning is my favorite. It gets my heart pumping and offers low impact, really no impact, training. When I’m really looking to wear myself out, I take the class after my long run.

The high intensity interval training is fun too, but I feel like there is little focus on making sure form is correct. Because we bounce from movement to movement so fast, I’ve found myself spending more time trying to see what the next move is when we’ve just started one, than looking at what I’m doing. A few weeks ago this resulting in a sore knee, which is a huge problem for my training. Luckily it was fine by the time I tackled 20 miles last weekend. Now that I have my kettlebells, free weights and Jillian Michaels DVDs back, i think I’ll skipping the HIIT class.

I think cross-training has been really beneficial this training cycle. I’m healthy and feel strong. Though I haven’t done as many intervals as my plan prescribes, I feel like I’m maintaining speed. I find myself having to actively monitor my pace during long runs to make sure I’m not running too fast. The last several miles of my 20 miler last weekend, we all between 8:30-8:50 pace. Some of that I attribute to extra conditioning.

My routine is off ever so slightly right now because we’ve moved to our new house and the gym in now 25 minutes away. Our membership is valid through September, so I’m going to keep trekking down to Minnetonka before we join a gym near home. The marathon is a month from tomorrow! I cannot believe it. I have only two more longer runs (16 and 22 miles) until it’s taper time. I’m getting so excited!

My Baby Is One

My sweet baby boy turned one on Monday and obviously loved his birthday crown.

Birthday boy

I am honestly astonished at how fast his first year flew by. It seemed the anticipation of his birth far outlasted this past year. When I groggily woke up to his cries for me around 2 am, picking him up and pulling him into bed with me, I got choked up thinking how much he’s grown and changed.

At a more reasonable hour Josh and I did a little birthday decorating around the apartment (ugh, we’ve now spent three birthdays here). When Anderson woke up and I brought him into the living room to say good morning, he gawked at the decorations, pointing and trying to grab the streamers. He loved it.

He, Ella and I enjoyed blueberry pancakes and some Disney tunes as we waited for his birthday banana cake to finish baking before running a last minute errand to Target. It’s almost as if he realized he could get away with most anything on his first birthday. He ate up his favorite lunch (mac and cheese) before settling in on my lap for a little pre-nap nursing. The apartment was so quiet with Ella in bed and Lucky snoozing on his bed. It was just the two of us, looking at each other, studying each other’s faces, just as we had exactly a year prior.

A sly little smile crossed his face as he doozed off momentarily. Of course as soon as I put him in his bed, he woke up and protested any form of napping that did not include me. I gave in, taking everyone for a walk when the rainy weather cleared.

We had a little family celebration. There was another favorite meal of his (grilled cheese, carrots and blueberries), cake and gifts.

I took my time putting him to sleep that evening. Extra cuddles were necessary for me and for him. I just need a moment longer to hold onto my baby who is growing faster than I thought possible. It feels like he was just the slightly red and bruised baby who was awaiting a name, that I met on a cool summer morning in August.

Maybe it’s the difference between having two to focus on rather than one, or maybe the months are going faster – but time needs to slow the hell down.

Training With a Group vs. Solo

Last weekend I did my longest run since October 2012. It just so happened that it was also a solo 17 miles. Josh had the opportunity to participate in the Tour de Tonka cycling event on Saturday so I happily delayed my long run to Sunday. Unfortunately for me, this meant I missed the weekend group run. I tried to recruit a running buddy, but was unable to do so. Not letting that deter me, I was up at 4 am Sunday morning getting ready.

The sun was just cresting the horizon line when I got out of my car, turned on my Garmin and started down the trail. I decided to run at Elm Creek Reserve even though I was alone, mainly because of the bathrooms (I’ve been having some serious GI issues – but that’s for another time) and the fact that I felt safe running there alone, even when it was dark. During the run when I wasn’t startling wildlife, I started reflect on training alone vs. training with a group.

What I like best about training solo:

1. I can start and finish my run any time I want. This morning I was running before 6 am, so times it’s after 9 pm.

2. I dictate the pace. Sometimes I’m dragging ass and other days I feel like I’m flying. Without having someone else to consider, I can do whatever you want. This is both good and bad for the longer runs.

3. No one to witness embarrassing moments. Gel make you vomit, have to pee in the bushes, no shame, no witness.

4. I have to learn to depend on myself to get through. Other than my first marathon, I’ve never had a running buddy for an entire race. It meant  I had to be used to motivating myself to continue through your exhaustion. I found it really hard to get through my 2nd marathon myself after training with a partner. The last marathon I trained solo and wasn’t used to having someone to chat with which I think was actually beneficial.

What I enjoy about training with a group:

1. Company when running for hours on end. There is only so many times I can hear the same songs or listen to a book when I’m running before I start to get irritated. I’d much rather have someone to talk to. It really helps the miles fly by.

2. Accountability. It’s much easier to get out of bed at an ungodly early hour on the weekend when I know people are waiting for me. They won’t judge me when I have drool crusted to my cheek, or mismatched socks. They’re just happy that I showed and hopefully remembered deodorant in both armpits.

3. You might just learn something new. Running is thought of as a cheap, no frills sport, not so my friends. Well, at least not if you’re doing endurance runs. There’s a lot more to it than a good pair of shoes. From nutritional supplements to new recovery gears, there’s not better advertising or sales person than your fellow runners. I’ve learned so much from other runners.

4. They challenge you. Run faster, run longer, run a new event or try a new type of cross-training, they do it all.

There are days that I love training by myself. I trained for my last marathon by myself and successfully completed the race. This time around I’m so thankful for a group to train with. My 17 miles were great on Sunday. I felt strong and fast. It provided a bit of reassurance that my goal of running a sub-4 hour marathon isn’t a total fantasy. My average pace was 8:41, even if I slowed down to a 10 min/mile average for the last 9 miles, I’d still finished about 3:57:XX. Of course anything can happen on race day, but I’m feeling so much more confident. I really missed my fellow mother runners though.

Looking for a new group? Here’s a few resources I used to find my group.

Moms Run This Town – http://www.momsrunthistown.com
MeetUp – http://www.meetup.com
Road Runners Club of America – http://www.rrca.org/find-a-running-club/
Local Running Stores
Local Fitness Centers
Facebook

Do you prefer to training solo or with a partner/group?