Mile 11: “Follow The Plan-A New Approach”

I am trying something I have never done before. I have selected a training plan (Runner’s World Break 4:00 Marathon) and I am sticking to it. Previously, I have loosely followed plans…always running faster or farther than it said to run and, as a result, found myself fatigued and sore, falling short on other key workouts, and then not quite meeting my pace/time goal on raceday. This time, however, I am training for the 2017 Erie Marathon in September and really do not care about my finish time. (Those who know me realize this means that: as long as I PR it, I will be happy.) I was originally registered for Erie so that I could make my first BQ attempt. After taking a brutally honest look at myself, my training, and my most recent marathon performance, I decided that I am not yet ready to make such an attempt. Therefore, I am only running Erie this year because I was unable to negotiate a refund, deferral, or transfer. I selected the Break 4:00 Marathon plan and, upon examining it closely, was concerned about the “easy” paces and the majority of the long run paces. The plan blatantly instructs me NOT to push myself on certain workouts and suggests paces as slow as 10:35-10:50/mi average. There are intentionally hard workouts scheduled throughout, as well, but it really seems to stress these very short and easy runs in between. I have had this approach echoing in the back of my mind since I read Meb Keflezgihi’s training book, “Meb For Mortals”, which you can purchase here: 

I have, however, ignored this advice; despite my great love and respect for Meb, because I keep thinking that the key to becoming a faster runner is to continue trying to run every run fast or faster. So, to me, dipping slower than a 10 minute mile has caused me greater psychological stress than running in the 9’s has caused me physical stress; or so I thought. But this past training cycle, accompanied by my crazy/busy work schedule cumulatively broke me down to a level of fatigue that I have never known before. (Think: irrational, teenage girl with mood swings and tears and “everybody just shut up and leave me alone!” kind of behavior.) In his book, Meb stresses the importance of running the “easy/recovery runs” TRUELY easy and breaks it down like this-(page 180): “You might have some pace per mile you think is too slow, no matter how tired you are. This approach can hold you back in two related ways. First, you might have chronic low-level fatigue because you never really give your body a chance to recover from your hard workouts. Second, when it comes time to run hard, you can’t run as fast as you would if you were truely recovered. As a result, you don’t get as much benefit as you should from your hard workouts and your fitness doesn’t improve as much.”    Meb breaks this down, numerically, as well. On his elite level, where they are known to race the marathon distance in the 4:30’s per mile, he states that this equates to him running his easy/recovery runs at a 6:30/mile pace. WOW, right?! But he then breaks this down to someone who runs a 3:30 marathon, which equates to an 8:00/mi race pace. He states that they should average a 9:30/mi pace for their easy/revovery runs. So then, for me, looking to break 4:00 for the marathon (9:00/mi race pace), a 10:30/mi easy/recovery run pace is actually just right. I just have to silence my mind and allow my body to relax into this. (Meb’s book holds a wealth of information, personal knowledge, and great training tips, broken down from his elite level to the more human/”mortal” level and I do encourage anybody interested in bettering themselves in running/racing to purchase and read it.) So that is one major point of change in my training approach. I have, also, begun to train with one of our very own; “Shep”- a locally famous, runner/track coach. He has 47+years of running and coaching experience. His laid back demeanor and relaxed approach has helped to ease me into this slower pace on some of my assigned long runs.

He has, also, taken an interest in my harder workouts; especially the track workouts, where he has decades of experience and I, in all honesty, have none. He introduced me to the track last week and ran me through my first official ladder workout. Previously, having no one of experience, expertise, or current fitness level to perform these workouts with, I would simply break down the intervals in time/pace and distance, write it all out on a post-it note, tape it to my treadmill, and perform the work on my own. Actually going to the track was a whole new experience for me…and I LOVED IT! Shep and I had run a total of two easy miles from his house to the local high school track. He then put me through a series of dynamic stretches, warm up drills, and strides before performing the assigned speed intervals with me. He explained the markings on the track and timed our laps; reigning me in when I went too fast, prompting me to pick up the pace when I started to slow. Running on the track was like running on a soft but firm cushion of air. My legs felt amazing! We talked alot during the recovery portions and I learned so much. He cut me loose on the final portion of our last interval and told me not to go “all-out” because we still had the two mile cool down run ahead of us, but to go “moderately crazy” just to see what I could do. When I finished that final 400m he asked me what I thought I had done. The workout had called for us to run the 400m in 1:56 and, while I did pick it up in the end, I was still consciously holding back, so I answered “1:52”. I was surprised and pleased to see his stopwatch read “1:46”! I still had plenty “left in my tank”!          

 I have continued to follow this plan, running with Shep twice a week for two weeks now; long runs and speed/track workouts. The easy/recovery days are the ones that I have performed on my own. I have been struggling to keep the pace truely easy and proportionate to what the plan calls for (and what Meb suggests), but I am going to keep trying. I am, however, truely enjoying this “new” method of training.  At this time, I am 3 weeks into the Break 4:00 Marathon plan and I have yet to have a breakdown. I feel fantastic. I have no fear or dread of any upcoming workout. I am not overly fatigued or unable to perform. I am looking forward to each new day and the workout that it holds before me. It is going to be interesting to see how this pans out and what it will equate to on raceday. The stress of a BQ attempt is currently off the table and the goal of a marathon pr, regardless of how small, is the only thing that truely matters to me right now. Little by little, a little becomes alot…& one day that will mean that I am ready. Until then, I am learning to trust the training and continue to take this journey one day at a time, one run at a time, and enjoy the experience that comes with continuing to pursue my dream.

#ChasingBoston #ForTheLoveOfTheRun

Mile 10:  B e l i e v e ;

Running/racing is alot like getting a tattoo. Finding the pleasure in the pain, focusing more on the end result than the temporary discomfort of the moment, and, of course, the personal pride and honor of bearing YOUR mark for the rest of your life. Love them or hate them, tattoos are prevalent and a large percentage of the adult population in this world has at least one. Personal and religious viewpoints aside, as I am not here to argue for or against the opinions or standards of anyone; a tattoo is not something to take lightly nor is it to be done frivolously or on a whim. It is designed to be permanent. Once done, you are stuck with it for your lifetime. (Expensive and extensive laser removal treatments aside.) Lucky for me, I love my tattoos. I got my first one at the age of 24. It was a pivotal moment in my life; a choice made at a crossroads in my life and the decisions I made at that point, and there on after, altered the direction and course of my life in a way that I could only faintly imagine at the time. Emotions were running high for me, as were the daily stresses and fears of the unknown future ahead. Prior to that point I had been a writer, a journal keeper in poetry form…but at this time in my life, words failed me. I could not put what I was thinking, feeling, or facing into written words. And, for the first time in my entire life, I was completely alone. The mark of the tattoo, however, symbolized the beautiful possibilities that lay ahead for me. The changing of myself from the “quiet/obedient/always do what I’m told and am expected to do” kind of person into the “this is who I am/this is what I think/this is how I feel/this is what I am doing” independent kind of person. The temporary pain of having this piece of artwork inked into my skin became a physical outlet; the end product: a beautiful “scar”. On a very personal level, it empowered me to leave the past behind, to move forward, and begin again; creating the life that I was meant to live and love every moment because it was what I had chosen. To anyone else, this particular tattoo means nothing. To me, it holds the feelings, the emotions, the decisions, and the changes that I have faced; all that I have done, the choices I have made, the consequences I have endured, the difficulties I have survived, and the ups and downs, as a result, that I have chosen to find a way to shine through and emerge from as a bigger, better, stronger, more brilliant version of ME.

In the many years since this first tattoo, RUNNING has now taken first place as my physical and emotional “outlet”. Out on the roads and in organized races, I am able to vent my emotions and energy, good or bad, into my physical performance and endurance. There is pleasure found in the pain of pushing my body to it’s limits and seeing if I can go just a little bit further each time. I am by no means an elite athlete, but I have goals that are difficult and steep and one, in particular…


…that is so far out of my reach that it is sometimes hard to believe that it is even possible. I refuse to give it up though. So, here I am; nearly 15 years after my very first tattoo, with many other life events and pivotal moments inked upon my skin as momentos and reminders to myself, with tattoo #18 being, as always, designed by me and placed upon the inside of my right forearm, as a constant reminder.

And while my tattoos have deep seated meaning for myself, I would like to take the time to explain this particular piece of art, as it ties nicely in with my blog and the direction that I am running.

The word “Believe” itself, by definition, means: “To have a firm or wholehearted conviction; to regard something as fact.” For me, it is imperative that I keep believing that Boston is possible, otherwise, what is the point of continuing my running journey to BQ?  So the capital “B”  is for  ✨BOSTON✨.  The semicolon is “a punctuation mark (;) indicating a pause, typically between two main clauses, that is more pronounced.” This symbol is signifigant for where I am now and where I am going. My journey is not yet over; simply paused, briefly, as I regroup, readjust, and begin to execute my plan for closing the gap between myself and Boston. The Pittsburgh Marathon took it’s toll on me; physically and mentally. I have had to take some time to repair my body, as well as, be brutally honest with myself about where I currently stand in the grand scheme of things. I have a large gap in physical performance to bridge before a Boston qualifier is even the slightest glimmer of a reality for me. Therefore, I have altered my plans for fall races and altered my training to focus more on where I am rather than simply where I want to be. Baby steps. One step at a time, one level at a time, I will elevate my performance, little by little, until I am truely ready to go out there and secure my dream. This brings me to the arrow, another symbol. A reminder that taking a few steps back is not the end of the world nor is it the end of my story. The arrow is an object that can not ever move forward without first being drawn backwards. Once pulled so far back though, it is shot forward towards it’s target and, when executed with concentrated thought and precise planning, it reaches its goal, front and center. 🎯  So, despite the smallness of it’s size, this particular tattoo is packed full of meaning for me, and strategically placed where I can look upon it frequently, on a daily basis, and particularly during hard training runs and races. It’s significance will empower me to keep running, keep pushing, keep believing, and eventually when MY TIME is right, I will aim, execute, and reach my goal target; 


My story is not over yet.

#ChasingBoston #ForTheLoveOfTheRun