A Little Sunday Q and A

I’ve had some readers and friends ask me some questions lately, that I’d like to share.  I’ve never done a Q/A post before, but hopefully this won’t be my only one!  Feel free to email, Facebook, Tweet, or ask anything in person, and I’ll do my best to answer.  I am by no means a pro on running stuff, but I do like to research and learn more and more about different running related things, so I’m happy to share what I do know!

How do you keep track of your runs and workouts? I keep essentially 3 different records of my runs! I am a bit of a numbers and data freak, and like to know exactly what I did, with who, when, and how I felt.  I keep an old school paper planner record, which includes my mileage, pace, shoes I wore, how I felt, who I ran with, and anything else I may have done on that day, like a chiropractor appointment, yoga, weight lifting, etc.  It also has what the run was (tempo, speed night, long run, etc), and I keep all my races and times in this book as well.

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I keep a record on my phone with the Evernote app, which just has date, mileage, and who I ran with (KC Running Co, Amy, my mom, etc).  I keep track of my monthly mileage day by day, and have all my previous months’ runs and mileages in the same document on my phone/computer. Lastly, I am able to look at my run more in depth with my Garmin Connect app, where I can see my splits, cadence, elevation gains/losses, and heart rate, as well as my route.

Photo Sep 27, 3 07 17 PM Now, I do think it’s important to keep track of your runs or workouts, but it may not be necessary to keep as much data as I do.  Or maybe you want to keep more data! What you ate, what the weather was like, etc.  Sometimes I do note the weather, or if I felt especially bad or good, I jot that down too.  I know some people use specific running plan apps, or have their data in Garmin Connect or Map my Run, Nike, Run Keeper, or some other app.  I know others’ jot down mileage only on the calendar or in a planner.

The best advice I an give you is to keep track of your runs or workouts, one way or another.  Every once in a while I look back through my planner; I see the paces improving, the mileage increasing, and feel the progress in my hands.

Does speed work, speed training, hill work, or utilizing different types of running workouts help increase speed or endurance?  YES! A million times over, YES!  When I started running, I avoided hills at all cost, and I had one speed… run.  I didn’t run faster than I had to, and I often ran slower than I should have been.  As I’ve grown as a runner, I’ve used different training plans that utilize tempo runs, intervals, long runs, etc.

Since I’ve been attending group runs at KC Running Co, once a week we have a speed night. Sometimes we have intervals at the track, sometimes tempo or race pace runs, sometimes hill repeats, sometimes a timed mile or 5k trial.  Each week is different, and I can say with confidence that doing some sort of speed work once a week through the spring and summer has made me a faster runner.  I have PR’d my 5k and 10k, and I can tell my pace per mile is improving month by month.  The workouts are not always easy, in fact, they are often very hard, but with a plan laid out, and with my fellow runners at KCRC there to encourage and push me, I know for a fact that I am faster than I was before I consistently included speed work.

Photo courtesy of KC Running Co.

Photo courtesy of KC Running Co.

I highly recommend adding speed work into your weekly run schedules, even if it is one day per week doing some farleks or adding in a 20 minute tempo or a few strides in a run.  If speed is still scary, try adding in a few hill repeats.  Hill repeats are hard work… try to keep a consistent pace up the hills, and once you get to the top, run around a bit and then jog back down the hill, and repeat that 3-4, 6-8, 10-12 times, whatever you can.  Hills are hard, and they are kind of speed work in disguise.

How do I start running?  This is one of those questions that is so hard to answer.  How do you start doing anything? You have to make it a priority, and start slowly.  You can’t expect to go out and run 5 miles on your first day after never running before.  Personally, I used the Couch to 5k app almost 4 years ago.  There are several different apps that you can use on your phone; the app instructs you to walk, run, etc, in specific intervals.  I found success in this method, because previously when   I would “try to run,” I would go out and run until I was tired, walk until I was recovered, and repeat.  Well, I could run a while (3-4 minutes was a while back then), but I would walk quite a bit, and then when I tried to run again, I was stiff and I found that when I was stiff and it was hard to breathe, I would simply give up.

The Couch to 5k app (or similar) starts you off slowly, walking to warm up, and generally running 1-2 minutes to start, with walking about 1-2 minutes to recover.  It then builds you up slowly, over 8-12 weeks, adding in more running and less walking, until you can run for 30-40 minutes straight.  I repeated some of the weeks more than once, because I didn’t feel confident to move on to the next level.  The app generally has you run 3-4 times per week, but can be tailored to even 2-3 times per week.  I was successful with Couch to 5k, because once I could run 30-40 minutes, I’d signed up and completed a few 5k races, learned a lot more about running, and was able to build up further without the app.

Image courtesy memegenerator.com

Image courtesy memegenerator.com

I’ve heard people also having success by picking a 2-3 mile route or loop, and walking the loop/route 3-4-5 times per week, and slowly starting to incorporate running for a block or street sign to street sign, etc, until they are slowly able to build up to running the entire thing.  Then they pick a 4-5 mile route or loop, and build up to running all of that, then build up more, etc.  Personally, I don’t know if this would have worked for me; I liked the feedback, verbally, from the app, telling me exactly when to walk and when to run.

No matter how you decide to “start to run,” you need to understand it will take a while.  You didn’t learn how to ride a bike, or swim, or drive a car in one day, and you won’t “learn” to run in one day.  It takes time, commitment, and desire, just like anything else.  My advice is to keep with it, don’t get discouraged –  you will have bad days when it feels like you can’t run for 30 seconds.  I have these days, even now, when every step of my first mile feels like a struggle.  But if you keep with it, and run through it, you will advance.  (Another reason to keep a training journal or log, you can look back and SEE the progress, even if you can’t feel it!)

I’d better wrap up this post, because it’s getting quite long.  PLEASE feel free to send questions if you have them, and I will try my best to answer!

2015 Plaza 10k Race Recap

The Plaza 10k took place over the weekend, and it’s time for a race recap!  I ran this race last year, my recap is here.  The Plaza 10k this year was 10k two out of three in the Heartland 30k series.  The first 10k was the Dot to Dot 10k, (recap here) and next week is the final race, the Broadway Bridge 10k.

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Sunday morning came super early, and I, for one, was not quite ready to get up!  Jasper and I enjoyed some chilly temps before I left for the race with Amy.

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Amy and I parked on the Plaza, and walked around for a while to keep warm and get our legs ready for the race.  After a quick bathroom trip, we were ready to go, with over 3000 of our closest running friends.  The Plaza 10k is a relatively young race; this year was the 5th year for the race.  KC Running Co. runs this event, and it’s very well run, organized, and on time.  12033506_10100333975393203_102643097_n

The location for the race, the Country Club Plaza, is just gorgeous, and this is one of the prettiest courses I’ve had the opportunity to run.  We ran on beautiful tree lined streets, by the the Nelson Atkins, the JC Nichols Fountain, and Brush Creek.  There were also lots of spectators and fun signs to read on the way by.  Both last year and this year, I’ve enjoyed the course immensely, and the weather in early to mid September is just perfect.

Photo courtesy KC Running Co.

Photo courtesy KC Running Co.

Photo courtesy KC Running Co.

Photo courtesy KC Running Co.

My number one goal for this 10k was to run it all.  Before the Plaza 10k this past weekend, I have completed 5 10ks, and I’ve walked in all of them except one.  I know I am capable of running 6+ miles, I’ve done it before, but something always makes me walk (usually my mind!).  There was no reason to walk during the Dot to Dot 10k two weeks ago, yet I did.  I had several pep-talks to myself during the week leading up to this 10k and was determined to not walk.

My second goal for a 10k is to get under 62 minutes; I would LOVE to be under an hour, but my goal for 2015 is to get under 62 minutes.  I didn’t know if this would be possible at this race, but I knew my my previous PR would likely be smashed if I could run the whole thing without walking.

Photo courtesy KC Running Co.

 Around mile 2.5.  Photo courtesy KC Running Co.

As I said before, the weather couldn’t have been any more perfect.  I was running steady, and felt good through the halfway 5k point.  In the first half, there is one fairly significant hill, but it didn’t go on too long, and was really not as bad as I remembered from last year, plus I have had a year full of hill training since last year’s Plaza 10k, when the KC hills were still new to me.

Around mile 3.5 or so, I saw Amy up ahead of me.  There was a gradual downhill before turning onto Swope Parkway, and I caught up to her by the second water stop, just after mile 4  I wanted to surprise her, as we’ve never finished a race together before.  I tucked in a step or two behind her, and shadowed her for the next two miles.

In hindsight, I should have popped up next to her, and kept my good-feeling pace up, but Amy was trucking along at a good clip too, so at the time, it felt like a good idea to tuck in and let her lead me.  Funny thing about this photo below, she had NO idea I was there.  None, whatsoever.

Photo courtesy KC Running Co.

Photo courtesy KC Running Co.

I continued to follow Amy through miles 4-6, just as step or two behind her (I have absolutely NO idea how she didn’t feel me right there behind her… she was in her zone, and her music must have drowned out everything else!).  We made it up the long, gentle hill on Swope, and around to Brookside Blvd. With just under a quarter mile of sweet, sweet downhill left, I popped up next to Amy, and she yelled so loudly!  We ran step for step down to the finish line, and finished hand in hand, for the first time ever.

Photos courtesy KC Running Co.

Photos courtesy KC Running Co.

I PR’d by 4 minutes and 27 seconds, beating my PR that I earned 2 weeks ago at Dot to Dot 10k.  I beat my last year’s Plaza 10k time by 7 minutes and 31 seconds.  The official time was 1:03:00, and my goal of 62 minutes was missed by 60 seconds.  Could I have run 62 minutes, I think I could have,  My decision to tuck in with Amy and not truly push through the last 2 miles may have cost me a minute or so on my time, but the feeling of crossing the finish line with her was amazing, and likely won’t happen again for a while! I still remember when Mom and I crossed the finish line of a couple 5k’s together, and it’s really a special feeling.

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I met up with a friend (great job Paul!) while Amy and I were receiving our medals, and shortly after, met up with some KC Running Co. Groupie friends.  We drank our celebratory chocolate milk, got our finish time slips, and had some photos taken.

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A very scary, but amazing thing happened while we were chatting with friends.  A 10k finisher crossed the line and collapsed, and a few seconds later, CPR and chest compressions were being preformed by spectators and EMT’s.  Several minutes later, an ambulance and fire truck arrived, and he was taken away, while chest compressions were still being performed.  I later learned that he was stable at a nearby hospital, but I don’t know who he is, or precisely what happened.  If you could keep him and his family, and those who jumped in to care for him in your thoughts and prayers, I know it will help him continue to fight to be well again.

After everything settled down, we watched the Kids Run, talked with a few more friends, and made our way home.  Later, I was looking through last year’s 10k pictures, and made the collage below, comparing last year to this year.  I don’t generally post transformation pictures, because to me, it doesn’t seem like much has transformed, but looking at a 1 year span, I can see many things are different within myself, both inside and out.  I feel pride when looking at what has changed in the last year, and I also feel hope and joy for the journey that I am on.

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Next Sunday is the Broadway Bridge 10k, the final 10k of the 30k series.  My hope is that the weather is just as gorgeous as it was for the Plaza 10k.  I’m not sure if I’ll be able to pull out a 3rd straight 10k PR, I guess all we can do is wait and see!

Revised 2015 Goals

In mid-December, I wrote a post about my running and fitness goals for 2015.  That was 5 months ago that I wrote those goals down.  It’s time to revise a few of those goals, for many reasons.  In the time since I wrote my goals down, I have lost my grandfather to cancer, separated from James, moved into an apartment by myself, I have been sick with bronchitis twice, undergone allergy testing and began immunotherapy, and come down with piriformis syndrome, which is aggravating my sciatic nerve.

I do not like making excuses at all, but it truly has been a difficult first half of 2015, and though I am not giving up on any of my goals, I am wise enough to know I must revise them so I do not fail them completely.

1.  Run 1100+ miles.  Run 950+ miles.  In 2014 I ran 845 miles.  My initial goal for 2015 was to run 1100+ miles, which is an average of 92 miles per month.  I’ve had a few really low mileage months this year so far, and to reach 1100 miles for 2015, I would now have to run 105 miles per month.  At this point of the year, I do not believe an average of 105 per month is possible.  Will I reach 105 in a month? I sure hope so, but will I AVERAGE 105 per month? I really don’t think this is achievable for me currently.

By bringing my goal down to 950 miles, I will have to average about 83 miles per month for June through December.  This is a much more manageable goal for me, but will still be a challenge.  In case you’re interested, my milage for 2015 so far is January: 90 miles.  February: 55 miles.  March: 93 miles.  April: 50 miles.  So far in May: 44 miles.

2.  Run a half marathon with no walking. with extremely minimal to no walking (perhaps during water stops only). This is still a huge goal for me.  My two half marathons this year so far have been disappointing to me, as far as my endurance is concerned.  As I wrote in my Scout Strong Race Recap, I am going to work very hard this summer on building my endurance, both mentally and physically.  I only have 1 half marathon on my schedule for the rest of 2015, but am thinking of adding another fall half marathon to work on this goal.

My pace per mile has been improving over the last 9 months of running with the KCRC Groupies, and while I’m really happy how my pace is improving, I am not building my mileage.  The last 2 half marathons I’ve run have been my slowest 2 times of the 4 half marathons I’ve done.  Why is that, when my pace has been improving? Isn’t the goal to get faster? I think what is happening is that I am running faster, but taking more frequent walk breaks because fatigue sets in.  How do I fix that? I will run slower on my long runs, and actively make myself keep the pace slower and to increase my mileage, slowly.

I will begin doing a very beginner-focused strength training regimen; my sister is graciously making a plan for me.  I will start with weights and plyometrics at home, getting into the habit of doing these new exercises, and then hopefully begin using the weight machines at my apartment’s gym.  I know strength training will make not only my muscles stronger, but also my mind.  I will also try to incorporate more cross-training, such as biking and swimming.  I cleaned up my bike yesterday, so that I can begin using it on the trails near my apartment.  Biking will help my legs and lungs become stronger, and will hopefully not put a lot of impact on my sore piriformis muscle and sciatic pain, while it heals with the chiropractor’s help.

3.  5k PR of under 30 minutes and a 10k PR of under 62 minutes.  Both of these are still huge goals for me.  I believe each of these will be within reach for me this year.  I PR’d my 4 mile distance with the Trolley Run, and when I glanced at my watch around mile 3, I was at about 28-29 minutes, so I know I am capable of a 5k PR.  For the 10k, I have committed to running the Heartland 30k series this fall, with 3 10k’s in 4 weeks.  I believe with a strong summer of training and building endurance, I can achieve these 5k and 10k goals.

4.  Do a handstand.  Do a headstand.  Still a goal to do a handstand, but I should have started with a headstand!! I’ve been attending yoga once a week, and will continue to do so. I will also practice at home as the year progresses, and I know that strength training will do nothing but help this goal.

5.  Enjoy the run.  I wanted to continue to love the run, and I feel that with lowering my mileage expectations and adding in some more cross training, I will be sure to keep my love of the run.  The very last thing I would ever want to do is to not want to run, to fall out of love with the sport.  By adding in other things, and not focusing so much on adding up mileage or increasing speed, I feel that I will continue to make running a part of my life for the rest of my life.

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Earlier today, I read the following, from a huge inspirational figure I follow in Instagram, Kino MacGreggor’s page:

“The longer you practice or do something, the easier it becomes to be set in your ways.  Keep your mind and heart open with the humble knowledge that no matter how smart or experienced you are, you don’t have all the answers, nor should you… What do you know that you can unlearn and rediscover anew, with the fresh eyes of the present moment?”