Swim, bike, run – Getting my feet wet

About a month ago I got an email from Lifetime Fitness about its Commitment Day Festival. It starts with a New Year’s Day 5k and concludes with an indoor triathlon. Knowing we’d likely already be out of pocket for New Year’s Day I decided to register for the indoor triathlon. I’ve never done one, but decided that the start of the a new year was the perfect time to try it out.

This is a very beginner friendly event. Rather that prescribed distance for each portion of the race, it’s done by time. We start with a 10 minute swim, followed by 30 minutes on a bike and 20 minutes running. Between each portion there are allotted transition times which is nice. No need to feel super rushed.

While I have not been following any sort of official training plan, I’ve been incorporating swimming and biking into my weekly routine in addition to my three runs. Over the past several couple of weeks my weeks have looked something like this:

Monday – Swim/Bike

Tuesday – Run

Wednesday – Group class/Bike

Thursday – Bike/Run

Friday – Group class or off

Saturday – Long Run

Sunday – Swim

Not all weeks go as planned but I’ve been pretty good at swimming and biking at least two days per week.

Here’s what I’ve learned about my fitness level for an event like this.

1. Being in running shape and swimming shape are not the same at all. Getting back into swimming has been challenging. Each week I see improvements in my fitness. For example, two weeks ago in 30 minutes I only swam 900 yards alternating between freestyle and breaststroke. Today I swam 1200 yards in the same amount of time, still alternating strokes.

2. Stationary bikes are way more comfortable than Spin bikes. We will be on spinning bikes for the event so I’ve been going into the cycling room when there is not a class. Those seats hurt after more than 15 minutes. I need some padded shorts.

3. My legs are jello when I start to running after biking. It’s such a different motion, my legs are confused about what is going on.

I did a trial triathlon this morning just to see how my body did. I made it a bit longer than the one I’ll be doing just to see how it went, plus 10 minutes in the pool is hardly worth getting wet.

In 90 minutes I completed a 1200 yd swim, rode 6.9 miles and ran 3.5 miles. It felt really good and surprisingly less difficult than I anticipated. That was a relief. I’m excited for the 4th!

We’ll see, I may just like this triathlon thing and register for the outdoor one this summer at the lake across the street from my house.

Twin Cities Training – Lessons Learned

With a successful race under my belt, I always like to look back at my training.

I used the same plan (Less is More) that I did for Nike.Obviously I really like my training plan. It works for my body and I think it’s the primary reason I’ve gotten so much faster. Speed work does the trick! Not to mention, I came through training and the marathon healthy!

I don’t want to go into the ins and outs of specific training plan related things, but rather lessons learned this cycle.

1. Hills during training rock. For the first three months of training, I had some great hill workouts. Our temporary apartment was in a valley of hills which meant I ran up hill both ways during my runs. Once I got more involved with the running group and moved to Maple Grove, I did my long runs with the group at Elm Creek. The trail itself is paved with rolling hills. I really think the rolling hills combined with running in Minnetonka while in our apartment, made a huge difference in my ability to handle the hills during the race.

2. Talking during those long training runs really helps with respiratory fitness. Another benefit of training with the group, I got better at running and talking. To make sure we weren’t running too fast and frankly to keep the runs interesting, we chatted the entire time. As training continued, we found ourselves running 9 min/miles or under while talking. This meant when it came to race day and I wasn’t talking, I was hitting paces I wasn’t sure I would be able to for 90% of the marathon.

3. Caffeine and Alcohol do not agree with my stomach when I’m running for more than 90 minutes. As my runs got longer, I was having serious GI issues. I could not get through runs without stopping multiple times. First I tried cutting out booze for a few days before a run. Still having issues, so I cut out caffeine. I still had issues but not as bad. Once I cut all booze and caffeine for five days before my long runs, the problems stopped. Just to be extra safe, I didn’t have either for the two weeks prior to the marathon.

4. Gels should maintain your energy, not give you a boost. As my endurance increased, I found my need for fuel decreased. By the end of training I was able to run 10 miles without any gels or sports drinks. This wasn’t a goal of mine, but I do think it was beneficial as it helped me learn not to use gels for an energy boost but energy continuance. I never waited until I was tiring to take a gel. I took them at the same time during my runs whether I felt like I needed it or not.

Again, I stuck with what I knew gels wise. GU brand gels are the only ones I can stomach. I took the Salted Caramel, Chocolate Outrage, Vanilla and Peanut Butter Chocolate. As you can tell, I like it to taste somewhat like dessert.

5. You don’t have to hit the wall. For the first time ever, I didn’t hit the wall during the race. I never hit it during my long training runs either. I think this is for two reasons, I kept myself well hydrated and I figured out how to fuel my body. Pre-run, two pieces of peanut butter and jelly toast with water. During run, a gel every 7-8 miles (or every hour). After run, chocolate milk then whatever I’d normally eat.

6. Rethink that pre-race pasta dinner. Fearful of my stomach issues rearing their head on race day, I altered my strategy. While I ate a lot of carbs that week before the race, I didn’t go overboard. I needed to make sure I got in protein as well. I decided to have my big spaghetti dinner on Friday night, rather than the night before. I had leftovers for lunch on Saturday and then had a simple dinner of pork tenderloin, sweet potato and salad on Saturday night. On marathon day I didn’t feel overly bloated or full and no GI issues!

7. Cross-training makes me stronger. I have always sucked at cross-training when I’m training for a marathon. This time was different. I swam, did spin classes, walked a ton, did some weight lifting classes. I think all of these made me a much stronger runner.

8. Fall marathons are awesome! I’ve now run a spring, summer and two fall marathons. Fall marathons are hands down my favorite. The weather is great, the leaves are pretty and humidity is non-existent. Already looking for one to run next fall. I’m going to enter the lottery for Chicago, but want to have a backup considering I’ll likely not get into Chicago.

Taper Is Here

I’m officially in taper mode. Last weekend I did my longest training run – 22 miles! For the first time, I also got to run it on part of the marathon course before race day. Lifetime Fitness has an annual run on the last 10 miles of the Twin Cities course – The Capital Run. When one of my fellow mother runners told me about it a few months ago, I was all over it!

Bright and early Saturday morning, I met Amy to carpool over to St. Paul. We arrived with time to enjoy our view on the capital building.

capital building

With the lines for check-in and the porta potties growing they waited a few extra minutes to start releasing waves of runners for the 10 mile and 20 mile courses.

Jess and Amy CR

Just after 7 am we were off. The first few miles we hit several stop lights which was annoying but Amy and I chatted with a nice guy who was trying to run a marathon in all 50 states this year. We lost him at a water stop, but enjoyed hearing about his aspirations.

One of the biggest concerns I’ve had about this race is the long hill (3 miles long) that starts about mile 20.

F_2014_MarathonCourseMap_ElevationThe trail we run on for our long training runs has lots of smaller rolling hills, so I’ve gotten in some practice, but a three mile long hill? Eek.

As we ran down it, I thought to myself, this isn’t so bad. It’s not too steep and seems much shorter. The view of beautiful houses didn’t hurt. We ran past the 10 mile turnaround until we hit 10.5 miles. It was shaping up to be a beautiful day. The temps were in the high 40s, low 50s by that point and we were both feeling great. It really was an ideal dress rehearsal for the race. Now I know that if we have similar temps, I’ll likely wear a tank top and capris. We stopped for waters and gels before gearing up to run back up the hill.

I was amazed that when we got to the base of the hill, it didn’t look all that big. Not as big as the course map would have you believe. We powered up, slowing down slightly to a 9:10 pace. Yes, I said slowing down to that pace. When we got to the top, we saw a tent with Swedish Fish and Gummy Bears. We were so hungry our stomachs were growling. We grabbed a handful of candy before we realized it was a running club’s tent and not part of our Lifetime Run. Oops. They were nice and we thanked them profusely before continuing on.

When we made the final turn and saw the capital building in front of us, we had some extra pep in our steps. We were both hungry, but overall feeling really good. We hit 21 miles just as we made it to the tented area with food. Amy went to hit the bathroom and grab us snacks while I finished one more mile.

Our average running pace for the run was 8:48 min/miles. That is purely time spent running. Add in there a few stops for water where we bumped into other members of our running group, you could probably add 10 minutes to that. I’d say we have both sped up this training cycle considering we never stopped talking during the run.

After to stretching and talking to a few other runners, we snapped a pictures, not the most flattering picture of me, not sure what my weird stance was.

After CR

On the car ride home we enjoyed the ice cold Cokes Amy brought, the Reese’s Peanut Butter Pumpkins I brought and the chips from the event. They were delicious!

This was such a confidence booster. Over the next couple weeks I’m going to really think about my race strategy. Do I want to utilize pacers? Wear my own water or depend on the water stops? Maybe if I focus on those things I won’t drive myself crazy thinking I’m feeling marathon ruining mystery injuries.


Twin Cities Training Part II: Cross-training

I am a runner. I love to run. I generally only run. On my non-run days I’m guilty of being lazy. Just like I have been with blogging lately. I have some many updates from Anderson at a year to moving again, etc. Anyway, back to my exercise laziness. I’ve always start my training plans with the best intentions. I tell myself that I will do some weights, swim or bike. Do something on my off days to keep my body in motion and help use my muscles in a new way. Most of the time this falls by the wayside quickly. I know I need to do it and all the benefits, but life happens.

Since joining a gym here, I’ve been determined to actually cross-train. The gym offered Spinning, HIIT and yoga classes. They were oddly scheduled but with free childcare, I had no excuse to try to get to something before the kids naps. Lately I’ve been taking at least one spin class a week and doing the HIIT class once a week. So far Spinning is my favorite. It gets my heart pumping and offers low impact, really no impact, training. When I’m really looking to wear myself out, I take the class after my long run.

The high intensity interval training is fun too, but I feel like there is little focus on making sure form is correct. Because we bounce from movement to movement so fast, I’ve found myself spending more time trying to see what the next move is when we’ve just started one, than looking at what I’m doing. A few weeks ago this resulting in a sore knee, which is a huge problem for my training. Luckily it was fine by the time I tackled 20 miles last weekend. Now that I have my kettlebells, free weights and Jillian Michaels DVDs back, i think I’ll skipping the HIIT class.

I think cross-training has been really beneficial this training cycle. I’m healthy and feel strong. Though I haven’t done as many intervals as my plan prescribes, I feel like I’m maintaining speed. I find myself having to actively monitor my pace during long runs to make sure I’m not running too fast. The last several miles of my 20 miler last weekend, we all between 8:30-8:50 pace. Some of that I attribute to extra conditioning.

My routine is off ever so slightly right now because we’ve moved to our new house and the gym in now 25 minutes away. Our membership is valid through September, so I’m going to keep trekking down to Minnetonka before we join a gym near home. The marathon is a month from tomorrow! I cannot believe it. I have only two more longer runs (16 and 22 miles) until it’s taper time. I’m getting so excited!

Training With a Group vs. Solo

Last weekend I did my longest run since October 2012. It just so happened that it was also a solo 17 miles. Josh had the opportunity to participate in the Tour de Tonka cycling event on Saturday so I happily delayed my long run to Sunday. Unfortunately for me, this meant I missed the weekend group run. I tried to recruit a running buddy, but was unable to do so. Not letting that deter me, I was up at 4 am Sunday morning getting ready.

The sun was just cresting the horizon line when I got out of my car, turned on my Garmin and started down the trail. I decided to run at Elm Creek Reserve even though I was alone, mainly because of the bathrooms (I’ve been having some serious GI issues – but that’s for another time) and the fact that I felt safe running there alone, even when it was dark. During the run when I wasn’t startling wildlife, I started reflect on training alone vs. training with a group.

What I like best about training solo:

1. I can start and finish my run any time I want. This morning I was running before 6 am, so times it’s after 9 pm.

2. I dictate the pace. Sometimes I’m dragging ass and other days I feel like I’m flying. Without having someone else to consider, I can do whatever you want. This is both good and bad for the longer runs.

3. No one to witness embarrassing moments. Gel make you vomit, have to pee in the bushes, no shame, no witness.

4. I have to learn to depend on myself to get through. Other than my first marathon, I’ve never had a running buddy for an entire race. It meant  I had to be used to motivating myself to continue through your exhaustion. I found it really hard to get through my 2nd marathon myself after training with a partner. The last marathon I trained solo and wasn’t used to having someone to chat with which I think was actually beneficial.

What I enjoy about training with a group:

1. Company when running for hours on end. There is only so many times I can hear the same songs or listen to a book when I’m running before I start to get irritated. I’d much rather have someone to talk to. It really helps the miles fly by.

2. Accountability. It’s much easier to get out of bed at an ungodly early hour on the weekend when I know people are waiting for me. They won’t judge me when I have drool crusted to my cheek, or mismatched socks. They’re just happy that I showed and hopefully remembered deodorant in both armpits.

3. You might just learn something new. Running is thought of as a cheap, no frills sport, not so my friends. Well, at least not if you’re doing endurance runs. There’s a lot more to it than a good pair of shoes. From nutritional supplements to new recovery gears, there’s not better advertising or sales person than your fellow runners. I’ve learned so much from other runners.

4. They challenge you. Run faster, run longer, run a new event or try a new type of cross-training, they do it all.

There are days that I love training by myself. I trained for my last marathon by myself and successfully completed the race. This time around I’m so thankful for a group to train with. My 17 miles were great on Sunday. I felt strong and fast. It provided a bit of reassurance that my goal of running a sub-4 hour marathon isn’t a total fantasy. My average pace was 8:41, even if I slowed down to a 10 min/mile average for the last 9 miles, I’d still finished about 3:57:XX. Of course anything can happen on race day, but I’m feeling so much more confident. I really missed my fellow mother runners though.

Looking for a new group? Here’s a few resources I used to find my group.

Moms Run This Town – http://www.momsrunthistown.com
MeetUp – http://www.meetup.com
Road Runners Club of America – http://www.rrca.org/find-a-running-club/
Local Running Stores
Local Fitness Centers

Do you prefer to training solo or with a partner/group?