The anatomy of a solo long run

Earlier this week I was considering dropping to the half from the full. I wondered if maybe I was burned out and should keep running but do less mileage. Then I thought about how far I’ve come since June with a new 5K PR (26:49) and a long run pace that sometimes has me wondering if I’m wearing a jetpack (10:15-10:35ish).

I had a sucky interval run on Thursday; I felt sick the whole time. But yesterday after working on school work at Starbucks, I decided to hit the trails and not get lost. 😉 That’s when I said to heck with my insecurities and laziness.. just DO IT! There’s no sense in wasting all the endurance and fitness I’ve worked so hard at, and I have my first 50K with my husband in May (Jemez Mountain Trail Run in Los Alamos, NM).

I was out late last night, which means I slept in this morning. I sat around my house, downing Pop-Tarts debating with myself if I should run today or tomorrow. 12 miles or 14 miles. I was debating which route to take, and if I should take the dog for a few miles. My brain was a hot mess. Since my husband deployed, Saturdays have just been weird and my least favorite day of the week, so I figured that I might as well do my long run. If anything, I’ll feel better afterwards.

I had plans later in the day so I calculated the latest time I could leave for 14 miles to get back in time to shower and get there. At 11:05, I laced up my shoes and leashed up my dog and we were out the door. Missy is such a great running partner, so we did about 3.8 miles easy as a warmup.

I brought her home, got my GUs and half-full water bottle, and I was out the door for the other 10.2. It was very strange weather here today…. cloudy and cold, even at 11:45. I couldn’t find my earband so I just grabbed a hat I got at my first ever trail race in Illinois. I ditched the gloves, though… my hands get warm fast.

Mentally I was in the game. I knew exactly the route I had to take to get those 10.2 miles, and I could envision myself at different point during the run. It felt strange to be running my long run on a Saturday (I got into the habit of running Sundays) and in the middle of the day.

The warmup was perfect and set me up to get in mostly negative splits. I had a lot of miles in the 9:00’s. That was definitely not my goal; my 7-miler last weekend was slow and torturous, and this week I just wanted to get the miles in and do it at a comfortable pace. However, by mile six I knew I’d be running faster than last week.

The first part of my route today had some shady characters…. a guy purposely slowing down and staring, random groups of kids…. that’s my part of town for ya. However, by the time I hit miles 9 and 10 I was running through a pretty neighborhood that reminds me a lot of roads I ran in Illinois.

When I hit the halfway point at mile 7, I started feeling really good. I always, ALWAYS have a hard time getting out the door, but I get progressively happier throughout the run. By mile 9 I started to feel my quads… and they HURT. It’s been awhile since a run has made me sore, but honestly I’ve kind of missed it. The great part about my route today was that by the time I started hurting, I had a slight downhill. It was probably only 1-2% but it made a difference.

I kept the last few miles strong and finished 14 miles in 2:24 (10:19 pace!!!). I got a new 13.1 PR. I felt so good afterwards. I was cold but one of the best rewards is a hot shower followed by FOOD.

I think this month will be good for mileage. I’m finally out of the post-race slump/resting period and can hit the pavement hard. This month so far I’ve run 34 miles already!

Moral of the story? Get your ass out the door. It’s hard and you don’t want to, but you’ll be so glad you did. Every long run gives you bragging rights. Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today.

Run When: Transmountain Challenge recap.

Run when you haven’t trained in awhile.

When I signed up for the Transmountain training group, I was more hopeful than nervous that it would help push me over the mountain. Aaron had just left and I needed something to keep me accountable, especially for long runs. Every long run was hilly except for when I went to Colorado. I’ve always hated hills, but I ran anyway.

Run when it’s hot and dry.

Desert heat is no joke. 95* and 12% humidity will can make for a slow, frustrating and dehydrating run. But I pushed through and ran anyway.

Run when you’re sad.

My husband’s been gone five months now, and I’ve missed him.. a lot. I’ve been wanting to share this whole experience with him, and he ran his first marathon this month. And I’m sick of sharing experiences with him secondhand. But running is something we have in common (and we’re both ultra-hopeful in 2014), and I ran anyway.

Run when you’re sick.

There were a couple times I was sick and still did the long run, and they were both eight-milers. For one I had been feeling sick to my stomach for a couple days and had only a few hours of sleep the night before. I seriously considered skipping the run, but I woke up on Sunday at 5:15 anyway. I figured since I was up, I might as well run. The other time I was coming down with an upper respiratory infection and at the top of the first hill I had a coughing fit. But I knew the next day I’d get some antibiotics and rest,, so I decided I would run anyway.

Run when you’re on vacation.

I went to Colorado in August and was soooo excited to run at lovely pre-autumn temps at 8,000 feet among trees and mountains and rivers. So of course I ran anyway.

Run when you’re busy.

I was busy with a class and work this summer, and now that the fall has started I am working on, but not limited to: grad classes, thesis, teaching a college class, preparing my teaching portfolio for a competition, and submitting research to conferences. Whew. But I made my mental and physical fitness a priority, got up early, and ran anyway.

Run when you have to start early(er).

There were two Sundays where I had to start at 5:45, and that meant getting out of my house at 5:15. That’s eaaarrrllllyyyy. Even the dog thought I was crazy. But I ran anyway.

Run when you have to do the long run alone.

September 15 I did the Color Run with some girls, which was a Sunday, so I did the long run the day before… a 13-miler on my own. That was more of a mental battle than anything. I finished with a 12-minute pace, and was pretty sure that was a good indicator about how I’d do on the half. I ran anyway.

Run when you feel good.

The last month of my training, I really hit it hard. I kept on top of my mileage, scoring 90 miles in August and 100 in September. I did all my speed workouts at the gym, up to 6.5 miles on a treadmill. I’m not a huge fan of the treadmill, but I ran anyway.

Run when you’re thankful.

Running encourages my relationship with God. It gives me perspective, helps me focus, and reminds me of how our bodies are created for such amazing feats. It gives me time to meditate, think, pray, and take in nature, so of course I ran anyway!

Run when you’re ready.

Sunday morning I woke up with a conservative 2:30 goal in mind. That’s roughly an 11:27 mile. My first half was in January 2012, and it was extremely flat and I finished with a time of 2:19:17. I knew I’d trained way more for this race than I did for that one, but I had a huge 6-7 mile climb in my way this time. But then I thought, my last two long runs were great — the 14-miler (10:51 pace) and the 6-miler (10:12 pace) — so I knew I was more than ready.


We started at 7 AM with cloudy skies (thank you El Paso!) and in the low 60’s. Miles 1-4 were up a steady but slight incline. Mile 4 was pretty flat, and then miles 5-6.5 were TOUGH. However, by the time I hit mile 4, I knew I had this whole race in the bag. By the time reached the top (5280 ft) I resisted the urge to lean over the guardrail and scream. I was so excited that I had run to the top without stopping to walk. On virtually every long run, I walked a small portion of the inclines.

miles 1-6

At mile 7, we started the descent. Oh man, people, THIS is the reward I’d worked for for 15 weeks. I FLEW down that mountain and I felt AWESOME the whole way. The mountain really does look different when you’re not zooming past it at 60 mph. During the descent, I picked up a couple PRs along the way: 10K (58:26) and 5K (26:56).

miles 7-13

Mile 13 was HARD. The descent on a paved road through desert scenery had turned into a flat concrete road, and I really challenged myself to run fast. I was doing the math in my head, and knew I had blown the 2:30 goal out of the water, and probably the unsaid 2:25 goal as well. I predicted I’d finish somewhere between 2:15 and 2:20. I crossed the finish line at 2:19:58! I had put that mountain under my feet and finished a race on my bucket list. BAM. DONE. All the training was 100% worth it. Besides the Illinois Marathon in 2011, this was my favorite race so far. Our bodies can do so much more than we think they can. The battle is in the mind.

Run when you have bigger goals in mind.

What’s next? I signed up for the Turkey Trot 5K with hopes to PR. The first week of November I start marathon training for the El Paso Marathon in February. I’m going to add in more strength training, yoga, clean eating, and trail running this time around, and in 2014 I want to run my first 50k or 50mi with my husband. Now, go get you some!

Ready to roll

A 15-week training plan sounded like a long time, but here we are, two weeks away from putting that mountain under our feet, literally. Today we had the last really long run (14 miles) before we do one more “normal” week, run 8 next Sunday, and then we have one week of taper.

Just in the past few weeks, I’ve really been ramping up my training, following our printout of all the runs to the T… and guess what? It’s starting to show. My running was consistent during the summer, but it was hot and I hadn’t trained for a race in a long time. I was happy with just getting the miles in. Now, I’m hitting paces that make me proud and really feeling good on the runs.


It was a chilly 53* when we started. I’ve become such a pansy to cool/cold weather since moving here. But what can I say, it just makes me fit in with El Pasoans more. 😉 I wore a long-sleeve shirt which was a good idea; I encountered my running high a few times during the run and it always gives me goosebumps.

I felt strong going up the inclines; there were three big hills. Going back over Scenic after I’d already come over the other side AND run to the edge of the canyon (Alabama is straight and uphill) I still felt strong. When I hit mile 7, I knew I had this run in the bag. I didn’t have negative splits like last week, but I was smiling from ear to ear when I reached the top of Scenic on the way back over and hadn’t stopped to walk. I felt like a rock star.

I bypassed the last water stop at mile 11-ish because I had my Camelbak and I was rocking a good pace (around 10:00), so I just kept on runnin’. Around mile 12 my legs started burning, but it was just a sign that I was almost done and I was gonna make it!


I mean, look how consistent those last four miles were! That’s what I want when I race in two weeks.

I confess that when I completed this run, I almost started crying. I’m like Kristen Bell that way: “If I’m not between a 3 and a 7 on the emotional scale, I’m crying. I’m crying if I’m too sad, and I’m crying if I’m too happy.” I just couldn’t believe that I’d come to El Paso HATING running, I mean… HATING it. It was too much elevation, too much like an oven… and now I feel like I’m back to where I was mentally before the Illinois Marathon in 2011.

The other fantastic thing about today was that I felt comfortably vulnerable during church today. When I get there, my body and mind are spent – I’m tired, sore, and still HUNGRY (but caffeinated with a venti extra hot extra vanilla nonfat caramel macchiato), but the transition from runner’s high and to the presence of God is pretty great. I love worship and I really gave Him my all today. I was in a place of complete surrender.


Moral of the story: I’m not gonna be upset. All that’s left to do for today is take a nap, foam roll the heck out of my legs, and feel satisfied because while y’all were sleeping, I was running. Go get you some.

Tail end of summer

This summer flew by so fast. Tomorrow is three months down in this deployment, and that couldn’t make me happier.

I set out in the middle of May to kick butt in my class (check), do well with my research assistantship (check) and lesson plan for the fall (nope!). In May Leah and Benjamin came to visit and I just could not get enough sweet baby snuggles.

June brought lots and lots of 12-hour days because I had work in the morning for a few hours, and then I had class in the afternoon for two hours a day. I will never ever ever take another summer class again. My assistantship has gone so well. I basically got paid to learn how to do corpus-based research and start on my thesis. This week is the last week of the 10-week appointment, so I’ll be submitting my thesis proposal to the department and also to the IRB for approval. This fall I’ll be taking two online classes, working on the data collection/analysis part of my thesis and teaching one ESOL class, and intermediate level class. My schedule will be wide open for the most part, which seems to happen when Aaron’s gone. Rawr.

At the end of June I also started training for a half marathon, the Transmountain Challenge, which goes from the west side of the Franklins to the east side on Transmountain Road. I drive this road all the time so I am well aware of the bends and turns and gain in elevation. Training has gone really well so far. In July I ran 73 miles, and to date I’ve run 32 this month. I missed two of my runs last week because of stress and feeling sick. I’m not sure if it was all the junk I ate the weekend before, or a bug, but it took me several days to feel 100% again. I’m glad I rested because yesterday I had a fantastic run, 10 miles up and over Scenic Drive and back again. It was deliciously cool, only 66 degrees at 6 am, and at one point there was a strong headwind. But I powered through it and finished the run breaking an 11:00 pace. It. Was. Awesome.

Last week I took the plunge and signed up for the El Paso Marathon, which is February 23. It’ll be my second marathon, and I’m so excited. It starts at the top of the road I’ll be running on in October, so the elevation goes down down down for 26.2 miles. When Aaron gets back, we want to run an ultra together. Living in the Southwest gives us a lot of awesome options in NM, TX, AZ for ultras. Yes, we are crazy. And yes, Aaron has a blog! Check it out at The Ultra Road!

I think I’m slightly crazy  to do my thesis, finish up my grad coursework (I’ll graduate in May!!), and train for a half and full marathon while having a deployed husband. Running keeps me sane, though.. it forces me to be accountable, pumps up my self-confidence, and allows me to not feel guilty about eating ice cream.

My next post will talk about running in beautiful cool COLORADO! Heading up there later this week to visit a dear friend. It’ll be Missy’s first road trip, so pray for us. Haha.

Still long distance

I don’t know what’s happened in my brain in the past couple weeks, but I want long distance running to be a way of life. I want to want to run most days of the week, and get antsy on the rest days. I want to challenge myself. I want to run an ultra.

I have to be crazy, but then that just becomes par for the course, right?? Anyone willing to run anything over 26.2 miles, either on the road or on a trail, has to be a little off-kilter. It’s the mental and physical challenge that draws me in, and the sense of adventure. The training for an ultra is simple: run. Lots and lots of miles.

KISS. Keep it simple, stupid. Tell me to, and I can run lots and lots of miles. I have a harder time following a specific training plan for a specific number of weeks with a specific amount of miles at a specific pace. Anything that requires a treadmill is gonna have to wait, because going to the gym is really not in my repertoire right now. I enjoy the gym, I have to make my workouts work for me, instead of being a slave to them. I have a dog who needs to be run or walked every day, so it’s a win-win for us.

I’ve been dwelling too much on my past experience as a first-time marathoner. That was two years ago. Two. It’s about time that I grieved that wonderful experience of training with an amazing running partner. There are few things that I’ve done or experienced that have topped crossing that finish line, let alone under my goal time. But I can make it happen again, with a new partner (my dog and/or my husband) and new goals.

It pains me that it’s taken me this long to figure out what’s been blocking that part of my brain that wants to run. I made all kinds of excuses. It’s hot here. It’s windy. It’s hard to find a [safe] open road to run on. We’re at 4,000 ft elevation. I have to get up super early to beat the sun. I have to take Missy running before the kids start walking to school so she doesn’t freak out. Excuses…

I’ve tried other fitness programs. And in the end, this is not about me being a certain weight or BMI or whatever other mumbo-jumbo is out there. This is about me preserving my body, saving my sanity, and making my training do the work for me, not the other way around. Running works for me. It’s cheap, it’s portable, it’s easy… just one foot in front of the other. The rest is gravy.

Biscuits and gravy. On a sunny Saturday morning after completing 12 miles I honestly wasn’t sure I’d do or not, and by 9 AM to boot. That’s the first long run on a Saturday morning I’ve done, besides races, since we moved to Texas. So, running and I? We’re still together.. and long distance works for us. It makes the heart grow fonder.

Bataan Training: Week 2

I started counting this week on Tuesday, since we did our long run on our day off on Monday.

Wednesday: 3.13 miles

Thursday: 4 miles

Saturday: 7 miles

Total: 14.13 miles

It’s hard to get up early. I hate it. I lay in bed like I’m paralyzed, not wanting to move. But I know as soon as I do, it’s closer to getting done with the run. And then I feel great, especially when looking at the mountains through the eyes of the early morning sun. I should take a picture, but they’re usually a reddish hue with the washed-out moon peeking over the top. The sunrise almost always starts out dark blue topped with bright orange.

This morning, we planned to do 7 miles, five of those in the canyon. I was a little nervous… not gonna lie. We planned our route so that almost the whole 3.5 miles in were uphill. That was a good plan. I felt like an elite runner on our way back down.

Yeaaaahhh. +900 ft in about 3.5 miles. In the Bataan course, we ascend about 1300 ft over four miles. I’d say we’re off to a pretty good start. We had a decent headwind, probably 15-20 mph, and after we turned around it was still coming at us. I don’t quite understand that, but this wind is Texas wind. Just sayin’. We picked up our pace dramatically after beginning to go downhill. My pace before turning around was (gulp) probably between 15:00 and 16:00. On our way back, it increased to 10:00 or so. It felt AMAZING. I felt so strong, like I conquered, well, a pretty big hill. Here’s an illustration for you visual learners:

Hilarious, because it’s true.

Anyway, we need to find some sand to run on. You’d think it’d be easy here in the high desert, but no such luck. We need a big sandy hill, so for a couple long runs we may need to take a little trip to White Sands itself. I want to be prepared and know what I’m in for with this race. 25% of people drop out during because they’re not prepared. I want to be part of the 75% for sure.

I stumbled upon a (cheap!) half marathon right at the perfect time in our training. It’s in January on post… only $20 for active duty military and $35 for all others. I’ve never run a half in a race before, so it’ll be a new experience for me.

Overall so far I feel strong and confident. I’m so glad I’ve gotten over that slump I felt for the first few months of being here. We are SO killing our 19-miler in Illinois… it’ll be flat, for the most part, and at 700 ft above sea level. Maybe we’ll take on Grandview Drive. 😉

August 8-14 Training

Aaron and I are signing up for an 8K that we’ll be racing on September 10. Other than that and my death march marathon happening at the end of March, I don’t have any other races on the schedule. However, I’m still trying to stick with the 3plus2 idea of Run Less, Run Faster and do three runs per week: hills/intervals, tempo and long with two days of cross-training/weight-lifting sandwiched in.

It allows me two rest days per week, which for me right now are Friday and Sunday. I don’t work on Fridays, so I like to have the day off of working out too so I can “sleep in” (until 7:30ish, haha).

I’ve been going to the gym in the morning because 1) Aaron goes on post for PT anyway, so then I can head to the FREE gym and 2) the sun is just too bright even at 7 AM!

Monday: 3-mile hill run on the treadmill in 37:00… it kicked my butt! Went up to 6%-8% incline. The quads were burning!

Tuesday: 30-min weights workout and 5.1 miles on the bike in 24:00. Felt good!

Wednesday: This was the day I was arguing with myself about even going to the gym.. but I did. 3-mile tempo run with 1-mi warm and 1-mi cool, and two walk breaks. 53:07.

Thursday: 30-min weights workout and 4.31 miles on the seated bike in 24:oo… took it easy.

Friday: rest… maybe some yoga.

Saturday: long run planned for tomorrow evening… 8 miles.

Sunday: rest.

Total mileage, with the long run: 25 miles.

>Week in review, June 6 – June 12

>This week, I’d say I was pretty active, adding in a couple different activities…

Monday: rest
Tuesday: ~3-mi hike with Megan and Patrick
Wednesday: 2.6 tempo run with Gabi, and then a 1 hr 45 min trail ride with Becca. We didn’t bike that whole time.. see a previous post for a review on that. It was tons of fun.
Thursday: rest, my butt hurt. Whining, I know.
Friday: rest
Saturday: 10-miler with Gabi this morning; I love those runs where you’re sore later. Longest distance we’ve done since the marathon in April.
Sunday: I’m going to plan some sort of cross-training for the gym.

I really really really love the idea of Run Less, Run Faster of doing three key runs per week, and sandwiching in two cross-training workouts. Because of the intensity of the runs, you need a day between each run to recover. However, the runs don’t wear you out so much that you need to take the next day completely off.

I want to get faster, and I want to keep my tempo and long runs at decent paces… Maybe 5-7 miles for the tempo and 8-14 for the long runs for right now. If I do a 3-mi interval run each week, that would give me 16-24 miles per week, plus cross-training. I have no race planned at this point, so I just want to keep up a good base so when I start training for the half around September/October, I can really kick it in the butt!

I admit that my eating has not been the best. I don’t think I’ve been eating too much from day to day.. it could possibly be the opposite. It’s summer, and I don’t have to take my lunch so I have a hard time being motivated to cook. Also, the movers come in less than three weeks and I don’t want to have a ton of food to throw away. I’m really bad about thinking I need to keep a full cabinet and fridge all the time. I don’t have to cook, necessarily… but I do need to make sure I’m getting enough fruits, veggies, and proteins instead of filling my calories with leftover Texas cake and ice cream.

Hydration with this heat and humidity is also a key issue. Sunday night I had a prolonged SVT episode and to make it stop I jumped in a cold shower. (To snap the heart out of the rhythm it needs to be “shocked” in some way.) Because my iron is better now, I think the problem was hydration and possibly lack of balance of vitamins and electrolytes. Also, the occasional drink can slow heart rate, and if I’m already dehydrated, my heart freaks out. Live and learn, I suppose.

This entry is quite long enough so I’m going sign off and enjoy the rest of my day. Enjoy the cooler weather while it lasts!

>Week in review, May 30-June 5

>Here’s a snip of my training for the week…

Wednesday, I did a 3-mi interval run and then BodyFlow.. Friday was the 10-mile bike at the gym. Tomorrow I hope to tag on another 8 miles from an early-morning run.

I can feel myself getting faster, but the work that goes into becoming faster is tough. Sometimes I would rather run 10 miles at a comfortable pace than run 3 or 4 at a hard pace. Does that make me a long-distance runner? I’m not sure, but that’s what I would call myself.

Adjusting to the heat and humidity is something I haven’t quite figured out yet. Last summer I wasn’t ever running this much per week… maybe a max of ten miles in seven days. Sometimes I’d rather run in sub-freezing temps.

Anyway… I don’t really have a set training plan for this month. I want to keep doing one interval run, one tempo run and one long distance run every week, and two days of cross-training (per Run Less, Run Faster). I also want to swim a little more if time allows.

Here’s to another happy and healthy week, complete with spending time with friends, swimming, relaxing, Glee-ing, and we are one more week closer to my husband coming home.

Oh, and don’t forget to join me in prayer and fasting for Carson this Tuesday!

>Week in review

>This week has been a successful week for me.. I’ve been eating well most days and working out most days. Yesterday I went to the grocery store and went crazy in the produce section. Endive, avocado, tomato, strawberries, watermelon, onion, pineapple, carrots, snap peas, and leafy lettuce all found a place in my cart. I pureed some of the fruit and made ice cubes to put in my low-cal lemonade. I also got some 40-cal popsicles so I’m not tempted to run over to McDonald’s or DQ for ice cream. I have a horrible horrible sweet tooth, so hopefully those things will help.

As far as workouts go, here’s what my week looked like…

Sunday: 2 miles at the gym before church.
Monday: Rest day, but went with kids to Peoria Zoo. That was a workout in itself.
Tuesday: 4-mi tempo run before work. Yes, I did say before work. Felt great to be up with the sun.
Wednesday: BodyFlow class for an hour, and then ran 3 miles with Tim up and down Grandview.
Thursday: Rest day.. first real day of summer break!
Friday: BodyFlow for an hour
Saturday: Gabi and I are planning 7-8 miles tomorrow morning.

What a great week for working out! I got rid of those two pounds that were bugging me. My goal is not to lose more weight, but to tone up and be confident at the pool.

I also did a little yoga sporadically after my runs, just to stretch everything out. This included some oblique crunches. I HATE AB WORKOUTS. Do ya hear me?! HATE ‘EM. But I’ve been doing them, and by golly, I’ve noticed even the slightest change. Only a few more weeks before the hubby comes home!

I’ve found that since the marathon, I’ve been working out not because I feel obligated (well, maybe a little after eating all that ice cream…) but because I want to. Because I like the endorphins and confidence a good workout brings. I like feeling lean and strong, and I like feeling sore muscles the next day because it means that I did something.

Besides the 5K next weekend, I don’t have a big training goal right now… the closest race is in December in Las Cruces, a half marathon. I’m just going off of some principles in the Run Less, Run Faster book. The idea of doing three key runs and two cross-training sessions per week is amazing to me. I’m going to go off my current training paces with a goal of getting faster. Training paces in this book are based off of a recent 5K time (mine was 27:56).

5K pace: 8:57
Short tempo: 9:16
Mid tempo: 9:31
Long tempo: 9:46
Marathon pace: 10:22
Easy: 10:51

The great thing is that these are the paces I naturally settle into when running different kinds of runs. On our run tomorrow, I’d like to shoot for 10:00 pace.

So far, I’m embracing summer. Now, if only the weather could agree…