Planning Your Race Schedule?

The start of a new year is a great time to map out your race schedule. Lots of people take some down time in the winter, which leaves plenty of time for perusing race listings and deciding which starting lines you’ll be showing up to this year.

There are lots of training plans available online, and lots of them are really great – I’ve used them myself. But if this is the year you want a plan designed specifically for you, based on your particular running history and your future goals, I’d love to help you out.

My plans are all custom-designed, and take into account whatever limitations you have on your time, as well as your style and approach to running. I’ll push you to make the most of the time you have, but as a busy mom myself, I understand that there are only so many hours in the day.

If you think you’re ready to hire a coach and attack your goals in a way you never have before, use the Contact form to get in touch with me, and we can chat more (training plan prices listed below).

Happy training!

Plans include unlimited communication via email or text message, and updates/adjustments to the plan as necessary. Nothing is carved in stone, and your needs or your abilities may change during the course of the training, and we will respond to that appropriately.

Pricing for online/virtual training is as follows:

4 weeks      $80

8 weeks      $170

12 weeks     $270

16 weeks     $370

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Recovery and Next Steps After a Big Race

Crossing the finish line of a marathon or half marathon is a moment like no other, and the adrenaline and endorphins practically overwhelm you in the coming hours and days – in the case of a marathon, maybe even an entire week.

But they eventually run out. And at the same time, you’re likely still dealing with the accumulated physical pain and soreness of the race effort. It can, unfortunately, all come crashing down at once, and leave you feeling not only tired and unmotivated, but sometimes even depressed.

To try to combat that crash, proper recovery from a big race is key.

Refueling (with a mix of carbohydrates and protein) and rehydrating (with both water and an electrolyte drink) immediately following your race is one of the most important things you can do. Unless you’re in need of medical attention and simply have to sit or lay down, your muscles will be much happier if you keep moving, albeit slowly, after you cross the finish line. And any stretching or foam rolling your aching muscles can stand will aid recovery, as will icing and/or epsom salt baths. 

In the first few days after your race, gentle exercise is helpful – the key phrase here is gentle. Walking, swimming, easy cycling (no crazy intense spin classes, please!) are all great options. If you feel up to it, very slow, easy running isn’t forbidden. However, I personally follow advice I’ve been given on numerous occasions to take a full week off of running after a marathon. (I neglected to follow that advice after I ran Boston last year, and paid for it with months of sluggish, slow, difficult running.)

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Resting cannot be stressed enough. Obviously we’re not elite athletes and we can’t nap whenever we feel like it, or take a week off work, or ship our children off to sleepaway camp so we can relax 24/7 – there are things that need to be done, and although your world feels like it was forever changed by what you just did, the rest of the world is still spinning and moving forward.

That being said, do everything in your power to sleep as much as you can, and to not overwork yourself if it’s at all possible. Sitting at a desk all day is actually just as bad as returning to a job that requires physical exertion, and office workers should make an effort to get up and move around frequently throughout the day during that first week after their race. And after a celebratory meal (or two, or even three), focus on healthy, high-quality foods that will give your body what it really needs.

When you do return to running, it might feel slow, and somewhat tough, and maybe even a little awkward. But you will literally ‘find your stride’ sooner rather than later, so don’t worry about those first couple of runs. The old adage to listen to your body rings true here. Respect what your body has just done for you, and cut it some slack.

Following a reverse taper is pretty standard – and sage – advice, and these guidelines from Runner’s World are excellent ones. The premise is to run approximately 30% of your weekly training mileage your first week back, 60% the second week back, and then return to a normal weekly training load the third week.

Note that for a full marathon, none of those three weeks should include any sort of speedwork or very hard efforts. Again – be kind to your still recovering muscles and joints. Waiting until your fourth week post-marathon to begin adding in speedwork is the safest bet. For a half marathon, you could begin to add it back in during the third week.

Also note that this reverse taper and recovery phase is not the time to skip cross-training. These alternate activities are a great way to promote circulation without the impact of running.

Aside from the physical recovery, you’ll also need to figure out how to deal with the emotional aftermath of completing what was likely a months-long journey full of many ups and downs and highs and lows – a journey that probably very nearly consumed your thoughts for weeks and months leading up to race day.

Post-race blues are completely normal and should be expected and anticipated. The lack of a huge goal or a training plan to follow can leave a runner feeling somewhat lost or adrift. The most logical response is to sign up for another race, and that response is a good one – but give it a little time, and choose wisely.

Although you may feel that training void initially, it’s very possible that after a few weeks you’ll find that easy, no-pressure running is actually kind of enjoyable, and might not be such a bad thing to do for a while. Give yourself some room and some space to think about both your short- and long-term goals, and figure out what races will fit into those plans.

Just as tapering for a big race can prove challenging, so can recovering. But if you’re mindful of the steps, and you respect the process, it will work, and you will come off your recovery feeling refreshed and strong and ready to get back out on the road.

But even though the memories and the post-race glow will fade a bit, never forget what an incredible thing you’ve accomplished, and let that pride carry you through every mile you run in the months and years to come.

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Boston

I plan to keep this blog primarily training-related, but it’s pretty much impossible for me to not write this week about something way more personal – my second running of the Boston Marathon just 3 days from now.

My first Boston was last year, and I’ve written extensively about it on my personal blog, but the short version is that I trained harder than I’ve ever trained in my life, and I went into the race feeling stronger and healthier and more well-prepared than I ever thought I could feel.

And those feelings were justified – I ran the race of my life, with negative splits and an 11-minute PR. I was on top of the world – for about an hour. And then that world collapsed.

I knew from the moment I crossed the finish line that I’d be back this year. And when I realized what had occurred at the finish line not even an hour after I crossed, the desire to go back just became stronger.

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All through the summer, and into the fall, I raced and I ran with my friends, but my mind never strayed far from Boston. And when I got injured in October, I never imagined I’d be forced onto the sidelines for months, putting my training and my race in jeopardy.

But as I struggled through those incredibly frustrating months of not running, and barely running, and running then hurting and having to stop running again – so many times it was so tempting to just throw in the towel and stop pushing. But Boston was out there, and I knew I couldn’t stop trying absolutely everything in my power to get me back to that starting line in Hopkinton.

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Every PT and acupuncture appointment, every 3-minute jog/2-minute walk interval on the treadmill, every endless lap of pool running, every 5am session on the elliptical, every minute spent icing and foam rolling and stretching – it was all leading me back to Boston, so it was a road worth traveling, even though at times it felt like it was going nowhere.

In the short term, it led to an enormously successful 9 weeks of marathon training, including two 20-mile runs – something that seemed nearly impossible to even dream about when the injury was at its worst.

Would I recommend to anyone that they run a marathon with only 9 weeks of training? Never in a million years.

But if someone came to me and said that they had run Boston last year, and despite being injured and having to miss half their training schedule, they really felt beyond compelled to be back there this year, and was it possible to do it with only half a training plan completed – in that case, I’d tell them that yes, it is possible.

Obviously there’s a bare minimum of physical training that’s required to run 26.2 miles, and that distance can’t be covered through sheer will alone.

But if you can fit in that bare minimum of training, and you’re invested in a race with every fiber of your being, your heart and your head will go a long way toward making up for any endurance you may be lacking physically.

I felt a lot of sadness after last year’s events, but I largely buried my feelings, and it wasn’t until the media coverage began in earnest in advance of this year’s one-year anniversary that I realized that I had never truly processed my reaction to everything.

And as I came to that realization, I also realized that the only way I’ll be able to truly, fully process those feelings is to cover those 26.2 miles again. And that is one of the reasons I’ve felt it so necessary to return. This is going to be my 26.2 miles of much-needed therapy.

I hope my abbreviated training allows me to run without too much physical pain, but I fully intend to literally run my heart out, and to allow myself to experience all the emotions that I’ve kept somewhat muffled up to this point.

It’s going to be a marathon like no other, and a Boston like no other, and I’m extraordinarily honored to take part, and to Take Back Our Race.

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A Few Of My Favorite Things

I always like to hear what running products other runners use, so I thought I’d share some of my favorites here. All of these favorites are coming to Boston with me (some came along for the ride last year, too), and they have more than proven their worth.

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First up is my absolute favorite running shorts. Ever. I bought a pair of Oiselle Roga shorts a few years ago, and quickly bought a second pair, because it became immediately apparent that I was going to want to wear them every time I ran.

I have worn these shorts on countless training runs, and through two full marathons (Gansett and Boston), and many half-marathons.

 

 

Boston2013_6They are my go-to shorts, for several reasons – they’re insanely comfortable. So lightweight, even on super hot and humid days. They’re flattering – none of the poufiness of some running shorts.

They have a pocket – a real one, not a teeny tiny microscopically small one. And last but not least – they’re seriously well-constructed.

I’ve had these two pairs for 3 years, and they honestly show not a single sign of wear and tear. And I wear them a LOT. They get washed at least once a week; sometimes twice. So really – get yourself a pair – now.

The next recommendation is not for any particular brand, even though the socks pictured here happen to be Under Armour brand. It’s just a genius tip I found online years ago, and one I’ve shared with many runners since, all of whom were thrilled for the info.

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I love a nice pair of armwarmers (Oiselle has some snazzy orange ones that are on my wishlist – they’ll go very nicely with the orange Boston gear I plan to purchase after the race), but sometimes for a long race, I want to have the option to toss my armwarmers aside when I’m done with them – and I’m not going to do that with a nice pair that I’ve spent good money on.

 

 

So instead, I buy the most fun, colorful, interesting $2 or $3 knee socks I can find, cut the toes off, and I have instant, disposable armwarmers. This pair is definitely one of my favorites, and I’ll be a tiny bit sad to toss them to the side of the road, but will also be glad to not have to stash or carry anything.

roosportSince being diagnosed with exercise-induced anaphylaxis a little over a year ago, I have to always run with my phone and epi-pen, which has meant I’ve had to get creative in how I carry things on the run. If I’m not carrying a lot of other things, like Gus, my Auvi-Q epi-pen fits perfectly in the pocket of my Roga shorts.

On race day, though, I need a little more flexibility, so I also carry some small items in my Roo Sport. It’s an ingenious design that eliminates the need for a belt of any sort. I’ve tried various belt-type products, and found some that were ok, but I still don’t like having anything around my waist, so the Roo Sport has been the perfect solution.

Gu is my fuel of choice during the race, and I finally tried the Salted Caramel, and much like many others, I’m completely hooked on the stuff now. I alternate between that and the Espresso Love, and it’s almost as if I’m having a caramel latte as I run. Almost.

I’ve gone through more armbands than I can count, and some have definitely worked out better than others. For convenience and functionality, though, none beat the Momentum by X-1 Audio. I used  – and loved – their waterproof armband and headphones when I was doing a lot of pool running while injured, and figured if those were so great, their other products probably were, too.

mm-ab1-pkThe Momentum is a great design. It is a little tricky getting my phone into the sleeve with its Otterbox case on, but with a little practice, I’ve gotten the hang of it – and without the Otterbox case, it wouldn’t be an issue at all.

And once it’s in, I know it’s safe. I just used it during an extremely wet 20-mile run (torrential downpours and Flash Flood warnings wet), and my phone stayed dry.

The headphone connection is ideal, too. Rather than having to thread your headphone cord in through the case in an awkward way, there’s a connector inside the case – you plug that into your phone, and then the headphone cord itself is easily attached via a port on the outside of the case. So much simpler that way, and less worry about the cord connection getting bent or pulled on awkwardly.

As for the rest of my Boston gear – I’m still deciding between my two new pairs of shoes.

1978467_430075740471451_802863372_oI love the Brooks Adrenaline, but right now I think I’m leaning toward the Saucony Omni. I wore the Brooks for two long runs and they felt good, but I wore the Sauconys for my most recent long run and they felt even better.

I’ll take the Sauconys for one more long run this weekend and make the final decision after that.

I may be in the market for a new watch, as my Garmin is on the fritz. I love it – the 405 – and have run many a mile with it, but it’s been a little glitchy since my October half (when it died at the starting line), and I can’t be relying on a glitchy watch to get me through the Boston Marathon.

I’m very interested in the Bia, but not certain if it will be ready in time – it’s still in development right now, and shipping times are listed at 4 – 6 weeks. It looks pretty amazing, though, and I’m definitely intrigued.

And as long as the weather cooperates, I’ll be wearing – with pride – my Boston 2013 shirt. I may wear it even if the weather doesn’t cooperate.

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Do you use any of these products? 

What are a few of your favorite running-related things?

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Brain Training – AKA Mental Toughness

Being mentally tough counts for a lot – a LOT – when you’re facing down a hard workout or race. I’d go so far as to say it’s at least equally as important as physical ability, because no matter how many repeats you’ve run, or how many miles you’ve logged, if your brain takes over and starts feeding you negative thoughts, things can very quickly go downhill.

I was reminded of the importance of this during my run yesterday. I planned to go 7 miles, with 4 at tempo pace. Three and a half miles in, I hit a wall of wind, and it was pretty constant for the remainder of the run.

Trying to hit tempo paces when running into a steady headwind (with a few uphill climbs, as well) makes a challenging effort feel nearly impossible, and there were more than a few times that I wanted to quit.

But instead, I ran 8 miles, with 5 at tempo pace. The tempo pace wasn’t as fast as I would have liked, but I didn’t quit, and I didn’t let up – I ran harder than ever, and at the same time as I was hating it, I was also kind of secretly enjoying it. There’s definitely some pleasure to be gotten out of knowing you’re rising to the challenge rather than throwing in the towel.

Mental-Toughness-520That’s why an essential part of any training program is to train your brain, and flex your mental muscle. Tax it with tough workouts – when things aren’t going well, don’t back off – push through it and work harder.

And as you’re pushing through the tough spots, and the doubts try to creep in, figure out what you need to do to put up a roadblock to keep them out.

When the going gets tough, I call to mind past performances – either on training runs or in races – where I kicked ass and got it done. I remember how proud and accomplished I felt.

When I feel like I can’t take another step, I remember how rotten I’ll feel if I give up.

When I’m feeling like I’m giving it absolutely everything I’ve got, and I can’t possibly keep it going at that level for any longer, I remember that I’ve felt that way before, and every time, I dug a little deeper and found that I did in fact have a little more to give.

When I think the end will never be in sight, I remember finish lines – especially the big ones – and I’m inspired and motivated to keep going, because no run lasts forever, and the struggle makes the finish that much sweeter.

I visualize. I repeat mantras. I talk back to the voices in my head that are telling me I’m done. I tell them that I’ve proven them wrong before, and I’ll do it again.

mentaltoughnessfuelinemptytankWhat works for me may not work for you, and like anything, it takes practice to figure out the best strategy for your training. But once you find it, use it – over and over again. Fighting those mental battles is a necessary part of race day, which makes it a necessary part of race training.

Don’t let the negative voices get the upper hand. I’ve learned the hard way – if you give them an inch, they’ll take a mile.

But if you show them who’s boss, you’ll get that mile back – and then some.

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Pacing Yourself – Literally

A running watch is an invaluable tool. It can guide you through a workout, keep you on pace, and allow you to download and review everything you ever wanted to know, data-wise, about your run.

When I first started running, I had nothing. Not even a stopwatch. I’d measure out a course with my car, and run it. I’d take a glance at the clock before I left, and another glance at the clock when I got home, so I had a general idea of how long it had taken me.

About two years later, when I really got into racing, I thought it might be helpful to have some sort of watch, and I had heard about these Garmin things, so I hinted very strongly to my hubby that I’d love one for Christmas, and he delivered.

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This was my first Garmin – the 305. Enormous – like a small computer on my wrist – but a total workhorse, and I logged many, many miles with it!

One run with that thing on my wrist, and I was hooked!

The instantaneous feedback was addicting – as was the ritual of returning home and downloading all those numbers to my computer, and recording them in my running log.

It also, of course, helped me tremendously. I learned a lot about how to properly pace myself during training runs and races. And I also learned that if left to my own devices, I did a very poor job of properly pacing myself. I needed to look at my Garmin almost constantly to keep myself on track, or my paces were all over the place.

I’ve often had people ask me how to get better at pacing yourself, and the truth is that it honestly just takes time and practice. And a Garmin or other running watch is definitely a part of that practice.

However, just as important is to occasionally leave the Garmin behind and listen to your body. (So as not to run totally blind, I usually have my Garmin on, but flip it upside down on my wrist so that I’m not staring it in the face. That way I do have the data to refer back to after the fact. Yes, you can easily flip it around and look at it while you’re running, but after the first few times, you’ll find that it’s pretty freeing to not be a slave to the numbers, and you won’t even be tempted – honest).

If you’ve been running for a while, you should have a very good sense of what it feels like to run an easy pace, to push yourself past that easy pace, and what it feels like when you move into a tempo-ish pace, or even further, into race pace. Your body will send you very definite signals, but oftentimes we’re paying such close attention to the numbers, we aren’t able to tune into those signals.

But if the watch isn’t available, your other senses kick into high gear, and you’re much more aware of your breathing, and the fatigue you are or are not experiencing in your muscles.

Leaving the music behind is an essential part of this process, too. Having the perfect pump-you-up song blasting in your ears is no doubt going to change the level of effort you’re putting forth, and is also going to distract you from truly being aware of how you’re feeling.

You may find all of this really difficult at first, but with some practice, you’ll likely find a wonderful thing happening – your body will settle into its natural pace. We do all have a natural pace that we tend to come back to when out on just an ordinary, moderate run, and if you stop paying such close attention to your watch, you’ll very quickly learn what pace that is for you.

And when you feel like you want to take it up a notch, past that natural pace, your body will respond, and you’ll experience that response on every level. You’ll know that you’re working harder – not because it feels torturous, but because you feel alive.

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You feel every fiber of your being engaged in the effort, and it feels amazing. Hard, yes, but also amazing, to really be aware of everything that’s going on in your body to move yourself forward faster and further.

And after practicing during training, try it for a race. Maybe not when you’re aiming for a big PR, but for a race where you want to just finish knowing you ran well, but didn’t necessarily leave it all on the course.

I guarantee you that if you do this often enough, you will learn how to hold a consistent pace over short or long distances.  No data, no music – just you and the road. Listen, be aware, and pay attention, and your body will learn what to do.

I’ve run some of my best races (some that even ended up being huge PRs) without my Garmin. And I’ve certainly run some of my best training runs the same way.

I still love my numbers, and I still obsessively review the data that I download after a run or race. But I’ll never stop occasionally running naked. It’s made me a better runner, and it’s also taken my appreciation for the sport to a whole new level.

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The Power of Cross-Training

It’s all too easy to let an injury set you back. All too easy to use it as an excuse to slack off and not replace pounding the pavement with alternate activities.

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And some slacking, I think, is allowed, especially as you adjust to the new reality of not being able to run. For diehard runners, this is not an easy adjustment.

Running defines our days, our weeks, our months, our years. Without it, you feel in limbo – uncertain of how to plan for anything when you can’t plan your runs and you can’t plan for races. Everything feels like it’s on hold.

But the most important step in the process is to accept that yes, running may be on hold, but that doesn’t mean everything else has to be, too.

1896919_405817029563989_78866882_n(1)Once you’ve accepted that, you can move on and figure out how you’re going to fill the spaces that running once occupied.

And once you begin to fill those spaces, you will feel better. I guarantee it. No, a bike ride or a swim or a pool run or hours logged on the elliptical are not the same as a run – but they are the next best thing, mentally and physically.

My ‘down time’ from running has been anything but. I’ve been lifting weights, I’ve been hitting the elliptical and the rowing machine, I’ve been taking bike trainer classes, I’ve been swimming so much I constantly feel slightly waterlogged.

1560446_390762994402726_828642427_nNone of it gives me the same emotional rush that I get from running, but all of it helps me remember that even though I can’t run, I’m still a runner, and I’m still an athlete, and every weight I lift and every stroke I pedal and every lap I swim is a step back toward rediscovering that running self that I feel so lost without.

And the good news – the best news – is that all the cross-training not only fills the void, but it goes a long, long way toward maintaining the fitness that I worked so hard to build up.

My return to running has been frustratingly slow in terms of miles logged, but what it hasn’t been is slow in terms of paces run.

Before I got hurt, my average ‘easy’ run pace was in the low 8s – 8:05 to 8:15 or so. During this rehab period, my easy run pace has been around 8:20.

Pre-injury, my long run pace was usually somewhere in the neighborhood of 8:20 or 8:25. My two most recent long runs (an 8- and 10-miler) were run at an 8:18 and 8:35 average pace, respectively.

Those paces don’t feel effortless, by any means, but they do feel comfortable. And to return to those paces so quickly after nearly 3 months of no running is absolutely a testament to the effectiveness of cross-training.

It saved my sanity, and I have no doubt that it saved me weeks and weeks of struggling and huffing and puffing my way through those initial comeback weeks. Runs that could have felt nearly impossible had I not cross-trained so wholeheartedly and with such dedication, instead felt wonderfully easy and fun.

If you’re down with an injury, don’t count yourself out. Remember that what you do now has everything to do with what you’ll be able to accomplish once you do lace up your shoes again.

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The best cross-training options are pool running, swimming, biking, and elliptical. But if those aren’t all accessible to you, do whatever you can. Get your heart pumping, and keep yourself moving.

The road back from injury isn’t an easy one to travel, but put yourself in the driver’s seat and take charge, and it will be a much more productive and enjoyable journey.

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