on setting goals & staying motivated

Monday: 4 miles on the treadmill

Tuesday: 4 miles – a hill workout

Wednesday: rest day (kickball)

Thursday: 4 miles on the treadmill

As you know if you’re one of my 12 readers (thank you, by the way!), I was super pumped after the Helvetia Half Marathon. It was a fun race, exceeded my expectations, and I was overjoyed that my friends woke up early to cheer me on. I took it easy the week after, knowing it was a good idea to rest my legs and take some of the running pressure off.

But, then, eight days later, my body wanted to get back on the running train, but my mind didn’t. I found myself dawdling, wondering … What’s going to make me pumped to run again?

The idea of “staying in shape?”

What does that mean, anyway?

I’ve always cared about being in shape, but never had a super clear idea of what that meant to me. A particular number on the scale? (Not really. I don’t own a scale.) Fitting into my favorite jeans? (No. Most of my jeans are kind of loose.) Being able to hoof up flights of stairs without getting winded? (Maybe.) Looking like an athlete in a bathing suit? (I’ll never be in good enough shape for that.)

So, while the notion of being healthy and in shape motivates me in small part, it’s not enough to get me running consistently — or running more than 20 miles per week.

And, thus, I need a new goal. That brings us to this: I signed up for my first full marathon.

Cue the rapid heart rate and butterflies in the stomach.

I’m nervous. Even though the race is in October.

Can I stick to my training over the summer, while the happy hours and lazy park days call my name? Am I mentally tough enough for 26.2 miles? Are my knees and hips gonna hate me?

For now, I’m cautiously optimistic. I’m following a training schedule that allows me to start small, so I’m back to 4-mile runs during the week instead of 8-mile runs (though that won’t last for long), and I’m mixing in track days and hill runs, to keep my legs guessing.

I’m also thinking about shooting for 4 runs per week plus a weights/yoga day, rather than 5 runs per week. I’m not sure; is that foolish? I don’t really know much about marathon training, and most of the programs suggest 5-6 runs per week. But I do believe my weight lifting days help my running base in a way that just hitting the pavement doesn’t.

Tell me: Have you run a marathon? What are your tips/tricks/suggestions/warnings?

I leave you with this picture of me, an accurate representation of how I’ve been spending my post-run evenings:

icing

Ice packs on each thigh. I know how to party.

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Helvetia Half Marathon race recap

Saturday: 13.1!

Sunday: easy 20-minute recovery run

Monday: 30 minutes on the elliptical

Tuesday & Wednesday: nuthin’

Thursday: 45 minute easy run

Leading up to the Helvetia Half, I was pretty excited. I felt good about my last long run before the race, and I tapered smartly (wasn’t hard to do — I kind of love rest days). I ate well (polenta & shrimp at Screen Door, for the happy tummy win) and got plenty of sleep.

The only thing that gave me pause was the truly craptastic weather we had the day before. Gray skies, moonsoon-y downpours and lots of wind.

rain in Portland

Guess it’s called June-uary for a reason. Damn, Portland.

Maybe Portland got the angst out of its system, because we woke on Saturday to blue skies and 62° temps. Hell yeah. My spirits were high.

at the start

Here are my friend, Dillon, and I near the start. See the cheesetastic grins? We’re ready to run.

In hindsight, I totally over-dressed. I got warm right away, tied my top layer around my waist and wished I could lose the running tights.

Miles 1-3: I intended to go out slow. I wanted those first three miles to function as a warmup, to feel easy and fun. I imagined I’d run them at a 9:00-9:15 pace, but kept looking at my Garmin and seeing 8:20-8:30, so then I’d pull my pace back. I’m glad I did because it definitely conserved energy, but now I wonder if I should have just let my legs do the deciding. This part of the course was flat and easy, meandering past open, grassy fields.

  • mile 1: 8:40
  • mile 2: 8:37
  • mile 3: 8:38
Helvetia

Hot & sweaty, and this is probably only around the 4th mile.

Miles 4-6: Heading into the fourth mile, I wanted to pick up the pace and catch the 8:30 pacer. (She had a yellow balloon tied to her tank top so she was easy to spot.) I wouldn’t catch her in this stretch, as I soon realized this was the hilliest part of the course. Luckily, the hills were rolling and let up with moments of downhill and flats in between. I saw my friend, Andrew, right before heading into the biggest hills (spectating on the sidelines with a cowbell and signs!) — it was a huge morale boost. The hill in the 5th mile did worry me a bit, as I saw a 10:40 on my watch. (Note to self: Do more hill training.) I wondered if it’d throw off the rest of the race.

  • mile 4: 8:32
  • mile 5: 9:18
  • mile 6: 8:21

Miles 7-9: I ate a gel around mile six, and I felt a surge of energy in the seventh mile. I was actually really surprised at how good I was feeling. I wasn’t breathing very hard; my legs felt nice and springy. From here to the finish, I stopped looking at my Garmin and just let my legs take me. In this stretch particularly, I focused on passing people. There were a few people who just weren’t having it, and we alternately passed each other back and forth for a few miles. It was fun to feel my competitive streak in the middle of the race, and it made these miles go by pretty quickly. The course’s last hill was somewhere in the seventh mile, I believe, and it was pretty much flat from there to the finish.

  • mile 7: 8:19
  • mile 8: 8:13
  • mile 9: 8:01
Helvetia

This is somewhere near mile 10. I must’ve been feeling good if I was hamming it up for the photographer.

Miles 10-13.1: I saw Andrew and another friend, Jenny, around mile 10. I knew they’d be there, and it was another huge boost. It signaled I was on the homestretch. I started picking up the pace (though, if you look at the numbers, my pace didn’t change all that much until the last mile, so I know my legs were getting fatigued at this point). The course turned right onto a gravel path in mile eleven. I ate a second gel while I rode out the gravel. It’s not the easiest surface to run on near the end of the race, but not terrible either. I finally passed the 8:30 pacer during this leg of the race, and just kept telling myself that I wanted to finish strong. When I headed into the Hillsboro Stadium, I was giddy. I knew I’d beat my goal time (under 2 hours) and I was ready to stop running. :)

  • mile 10: 8:14
  • mile 11: 8:18
  • mile 12: 8:08
  • mile 13: 7:51
  • mile .1: 6:46 pace (that’s nearly a sprint for me!)
Helvetia

With Jenny & Andrew and their awesome signs. Thanks, friends!

Official time: 1:50:26, Garmin pace: 8:22 (since I ran 13.2 miles with taking long corners, I think), official pace: 8:25

The verdict? The race was well-organized, not too big (just 2,500 participants) and the course was really nice. Not a super fast or flat course, but not as hilly as folks make it sound. Oh, and, having spectators rocks. I’m pretty sure I need Andrew and Jenny and Dillon to come to every running event I do from now on. Not too much to ask, right guys?

If you’re wondering if you should do the Helvetia Half next year, DO IT. And tell me other half marathons I should sign up for this year. I’ve caught the 13.1 bug.

repeat after me: yoga is a good idea

Monday: speed workout (6 x 400s-ish with a warm-up and cool down)

Tuesday: yoga (On Demand)

Instead of going to the track on Monday, I jogged over to a nearby park. There’s a soft bark trail around the periphery of the park, and one loop is about a quarter of a mile. It’s gradually downhill on one half of the loop, and uphill on the other — it’s not ideal for running your best times, but it’s good practice for fighting fatigue, and it’s easy on the knees. (Something I learned from the trail race: my legs really appreciate running on softer surfaces.)

My Garmin was having trouble with its auto pause function — randomly starting up again while I rested between laps — so I don’t really trust the lap times. I completed the six loops in anywhere from 2:00 – 2:18 each. I was breathing really hard and pacing myself pretty terribly — starting out too fast and dragging by the end of the loop. Still, it’s nice to have a benchmark for the next time I run the loops.

And, big news: on the 1.5 mile cool down, I decided to tackle a hill that I used to jog in the old running days (when I only jogged every couple weeks and spent most of my time inside on the elliptical). This hill used to feel so killer. Like, I had to cut myself deals and negotiations to make it to the top (If you make it without stopping, you can get fro yo tonight. With cookie dough on top! RUN!) During the cool down, it felt like no big thing. I mean, it’s still a hill; it requires effort. But it didn’t kick my butt. Proof positive that my workouts are doing me good!

On Tuesday, I felt some tightness in my hamstrings so decided to do yoga. I’d like to find a nice (and affordable) studio, but for now I do yoga at home. (I’m embarrassingly inflexible; it’s probably a good thing that I pose in the comfort of my own living room.) I sort of have to drag myself kicking and screaming onto the yoga mat, but once I’m there, it feels pretty fantastic.

I’ll leave you with a picture of Portland’s weather forecast. (Even though I’m heading out of town later this week, I’m glad for lots o’ sun before I go.)

Portand weather

Sunshine & blue skies all week in Portland. Huzzah.