I Choose To Run.

Oh running, how I love thee! But seriously, I have had a new appreciation for running lately.  See normally yoga is my go-to when I need to relax, just be with my body and sweat a little.  But with yoga teacher training wrapping up soon I’ve been studying and every time I step on the mat I find myself quizzing myself or carefully observing the way a teacher is cuing us or the way they transitioned poses.  My time on the mat is much more about learning these days and running has become my go-to to when I need to sweat and zone out.

Running is truly about enjoyment and a little me time these days and that is a huge shift from a year ago and even just a couple of months ago.  When I’m training for races I’m all about the numbers.  How many miles am I running? What is my pace per mile? What is my long run distance?  What is my tempo run pace? How many weeks until race day?  You get the idea.  The other day I was thinking about my running now and how it’s changed from October when I ran my last race.  What does running for fun look like for ME?!

It’s a lot less miles. Lately, I’ve been running about twice a week pretty consistently.  Each week I’ll try to squeeze in a third run but with a busy work schedule and yoga teacher training that doesn’t  always happen.  Plus, extra snuggles with Michael wins out sometimes on really cold mornings.  Most of my running happens at 5:30AM or mid-day if I can swing a lunchtime run.  My go-to distance has been 4 miles coupled with abs and stretching.  In fact I haven’t run over 5 miles in months and I’m really ok with that.

Pace wise things are kind of all over the place.  When I run at 5:30AM and the temperature is barely breaking 30 degrees my pace is pretty slow for me, like a 9:30 or even a 9:45 pace.  But it feels like I’m cruising.  Other mornings I’ll check my pace post run and it’s a solid 8:45min/mile.  The beauty of running in the pitch black so early is that it’s a pain to constantly check my Garmin so I just set it and go.  It’s refreshing.  At lunchtime I find myself cruising.  I’ll run 8:15’s easily and always seem surprised when I check my pace.  Now days I’m definitely running at the pace my body needs, not what a training plan says I should be running at.

The best part about running lately?  How strong I feel.  I’ve been doing a lot of work in yoga to open my hips and build strength in them.  My core is stronger and my upper body leaner and stronger too.  I feel as if my form as improved greatly and the drive from my knees and hip is much more powerful.  It makes the miles easier, that’s for sure.

Part of me is already plotting and planning for my next marathon but the other half is quietly enjoying this time on the pavement and embracing the strength and freedom I have on the road.  Running for fun, for relaxation and a little me time is most certainly a reminder that running is a choice.  I choose to set goals, to cross finish lines, to stick to training plans, to be hard on myself when I’m not running fast enough, to add tempo runs and long runs to my calendar and to stress about something I love.  But I’m also learning I can choose to run for fun, to run because I love to sweat, to run because I love the peace and quiet I feel in my body and mind when I’m out running before the sun comes up.  I’m learning that no matter what choice I make at a given time, I am a runner.  A runner in my heart and soul, no matter what I choose.

What does your running look like lately?  Has it changed and evolved?


Marathon Training Plan for Chicago 2011

A few of you have asked me how I have been training for Chicago Marathon (10 days away!) and what plans I use and if they are posted.  I love hearing your feedback and since I love talking about the Marathon and training it seemed like a perfect post to write for a Friday.

Before I share I’ll give you some background on why I choose a plan structured like this.  I ran NYC Marathon in 2009.  I was about a year out of college when I started training for the marathon and had been training regularly throughout that year.  I ran cross-country in college and often had 40 or 50 mile weeks.  I felt strong and confident about my abilities.  So I choose a plan that had me running 6 days a week with mileage starting around 40 per week and peaking at 55 miles a week during monster month. I admit, I trained dumb.  I forced myself to hit the pavement when I was exhausted, tired and sore.  I pushed through runs when my body was screaming for me to stop.  I knew I was pushing my limits but I kept pushing.  A month before the marathon I had searing pain in my knee.  I got back from a 14 mile run and could barely walk.  Something was wrong.  I went to a sports medicine doctor who told me I had a severe case of iliotibial band syndrome.  I received Synvisc injections every couple of weeks to help the swelling and control the pain.  I went to PT 4 times a week, wore a compression brace and spent the last month training on the elliptical.  I missed my longest training run and was thrilled to just finish a 13 mile run pain-free that last month.  I was able to run the marathon, and had a pretty good race.  My time was 4:03:51. I wanted to qualify for Boston and likely could have if I had trained smarter and been kinder to my body.  Lesson learned.

So when I decided to do Chicago part of my motivation was self-redemption. The marathon beat me when I did NYC. I needed to prove to myself I could beat it. From November 2009 to June 2011 my training was easy runs during the week, a long run (no more than 10 miles) on Sundays and copious amounts of yoga. The IT band syndrome was gone and I was running better than ever.  I needed to stick to this general training idea but increase my mileage for marathon distances. I researched a lot of plans on Runner’s World and ultimately chose the Runner’s World Smart Coach.

I choose the Smart Coach for 3 reasons:

1.  It had 4 days of rest or cross-training.  This would allow me to keep practicing yoga, heal my body and get in cross-training time on the elliptical.

2.  It will adjust if you miss some runs or need some time off.  You can do this by simply clicking on the workout and marking that you missed it.  I liked this feature as it took the guess-work out if I got sick or injured.

3.  You can adjust your goal time and it will automatically adjust your target paces for training runs and speed workouts. I liked this feature because it made the plan flexible and would make it easy to keep training correctly should my goal time change for any reason.

Here are the 3 basic workouts the plan consisted of:

Tuesdays: An easy recovery run ranging anywhere from 2 to 9 miles.

Thursdays:  A speed workout or tempo run.  A speed workout consists of a warm up, 3x 1600m’s with a 800m jogs and a cool down.  A tempo run consists of a warm up, 3,4, or 5 miles at tempo pace and then a cool down.

Weekend:  A long, slow distance run.  In the beginning runs started at around 12 miles.  The longest run was 20 miles.

Since I did purchase the plan from Runner’s World I don’t want to disclose the whole plan.  Instead I’ll show you snippets of it.  Keep in mind my goal time for the marathon is 3:35.  That is an average pace of 8:12 min/mile.  My tempo runs, speed workouts and long run paces are determined off my goal time.  The plan totaled 16 weeks.

Here is the first 4 weeks of the plan.  The focus was on building endurance and mileage.

Training Plan Weeks 1-4

Notice that the last week was a rest and recovery week with no long runs.  I really liked this, it allowed me to recover and come back even stronger for the next 4 weeks.  After this we continued to build again for 3 weeks.  The third week we hit 20 miles for our long run.  The 4th week was another rest and recovery week so the runs were only about 7 or 8 miles each.  After that we began monster month.

Monster Month

This month seemed long and daunting when we came to it, but in the end it was pretty manageable.  By the time it came we were in really good shape and able to tackle these runs well.  Non-running days however did involve lots of rest and I dropped a day of yoga during this month since I was constantly tired.

The final three weeks of the plan are the taper.

3-week Taper

I really liked this plan and feel very confident, healthy and strong going into the Chicago Marathon next weekend.  Additionally I think that incorporating yoga three to four times per week  and trying to cross-training in the early weeks was beneficial.   Variety is the spice of life! I would recommend the Smart Coach plan to any of you runner’s out there.  It can be adapted to 5k’s, 10k’s, half-marathons and any other race distance.  I will post an update after the marathon with a recap and let you know if I accomplished my goal time and qualified for the Boston Marathon!

What training plans do you use? What is your weekly mileage? How many rests days do you take per week?