Kick Off Your Training Season Right

It’s here, it’s here! The time we’ve been waiting for for months! No, I don’t mean Christmas or summertime or even daylight savings. I mean the challenging, exhilarating, sometimes anxiety-provoking days of race training.

If you’ve got a race or two (or five- cough cough race addiction) lined up for the fall, it’s about that time to buckle down and get your ish in gear. Here are a few tips to kick off your training months with the energy and drive you’ll need to succeed.

  1. Choose your plan (read about the best ones here) & have all pace deets lined up from the get-go. Jot down your different pace goals for each type of run (easy runs vs. long runs vs. race pace runs) so you can quickly glance each time you head out the door- it’s easy to get these numbers and times all jumbled up in your head. Keep these pace goals flexible, however; you’ll likely need to adjust later on.
  2. If possible, start your training plan a few weeks early. I’m just about to start an 18-week plan for a marathon that’s 21 weeks away, leaving me a nice 3 -week buffer. This comes in handy when you A) feel less-than-satisfied with how a week of training went and want a second go at it,  B) need a week of R&R to avoid turning a minor injury into a major injury, C) have a summer vacay and really, really feel that training will cramp your beaching & brunching style, or D) all of the above. No shame. I choose D. Every time.
  3. Find a way to stay motivated- any system that works for you. I like to print my training plan in a one-page table and highlight each day that I complete. The girly girl in me loves seeing all of the boxes turn hot pink, and the OCD in me hates seeing that one lonely, white box that marks a missed run. So simple, yet so motivating.  Or consider setting up a reward system, treating yourself to a massage, new running gear, or those cute new Ray-Bans you’ve been eyeing after every X successful training weeks. Just be careful not to let your prizes keep you from taking a break when your body’s about to crumble.
  4. Modify your training on a weekly basis. If you try to figure it out on the go, you’re more likely to miss some crucial runs and end up overwhelmed and frustrated. Instead, sit down every Sunday and think about the week ahead. Swap days around, if necessary, taking into account your work schedule and other commitments that may make training on some days harder than others. Be realistic; you probably won’t feel up to that mid-week 8-miler on the same day that you have back-to-back-to-back meetings and a hair appointment. Don’t set yourself up for failure!
  5. Book some run-dates. Get the scoop on which of your runner friends are training for races too, and compare training plans. Set up dates to run together whenever you can- the more regular, the better! Have friends training for a longer or shorter distance than you? Work your schedule so you can run your easy runs on the day of their long runs, or vice versa. I run twice a week with two different friends, and this is by far the most fool-proof way to stay motivated and entertained ’til the end.

Most importantly, listen to your body and enjoy the ride! Celebrate every success, no matter how small, and take the time to truly appreciate the good you are doing for your body and mind. Happy training! See you at the start. 🙂

Training Epiphany: Making a Mental Shift

In all the training programs I’ve ever researched, they say that your long runs should be done at an easy pace. You’re building up distance, so what’s important is that you cover the mileage, not that you do so in a certain amount of time.

Of course this makes sense for your first race of any distance, and that’s exactly what I did when I trained for my first half and my first marathon. Long runs took as long as they needed to take, with walk and water breaks whenever my heart (or feet) desired.

Epiphany: training programs should note in the fine print that long runs are to be done at your easy pace when you’re training for a new, longer distance for the first time.

Having read this advice time and time again, for my first through fifth half marathons, I had this mental block that always told me I was allowed to go as slowly as I wanted during my long runs. Who doesn’t love that? A nice, leisurely 10 miles instead of the huffing-and-puffing kind. And there I was, wondering why in the world my finish times were only getting better by small increments. DUH. 

Just realizing that so many months of “newbie” training had my brain stuck on long runs = slow was enough to kick my training into high gear. I had to retrain my brain to see that long runs, now that I know my body can go the distance, shouldn’t be relaxing and comfortable and “get there when you can.” I should be breathing heavily and getting tired and pushing myself to the end. That’s how I’ll get better. Faster. Stronger (at least according to Daft Punk). And hopefully you will too. 🙂

Charlottesville Half Marathon: A Must-Run

Let me keep this simple. If you haven’t yet run the Charlottesville Half Marathon or Marathon, add it to your bucket list. ASAP.

Gun time 2:08:47; Chip time 2:07:55. A second-best, I’ll take it!

I ran this year’s Charlottesville Half Marathon on Saturday, my second time doing this race. Although it doesn’t have all the bells and whistles that some of the bigger races do, this course will forever be one of my top-ranked. Here’s why. Continue reading

How to Choose Your Perfect Race

As someone who’s currently tossing and turning, deliberating over fall marathon choices because I want to run them all, (Marine Corps Marathon or Niagara Falls International- EEK!), I thought I’d share my steps in choosing the perfect race. Whether it be your first or your hundredth, from 5K to ultramarathon, the following steps and resources can really help to break it down & make the choice a bit more clear-cut. Now if only I could take my own advice… 🙂

How to Choose Your Pefect Race

How I Shaved 9 Minutes Off My PR

Exactly two weeks ago, I was carbing up (#1 reason I run, btw), double-fisting water and cherry juice like crazy, and packing my bag with all my race day necessities for Saturday morning’s Rock ‘n’ Roll DC half marathon. Although my typical race-day-eve butterflies were up and at ’em, I was confident knowing I was going to PR. And not PR like I had in my past 3 half marathons, cutting 37 seconds here, 1 minute 2 seconds there. PR like I meant it. Shave off real, solid, meaningful minutes.

And I did. From 2:11:23 to 2:02:48. Almost 9 whole minutes! Wanna know how I did it? Without super-intensive speed training or questionable food supplements or wheelie sneakers? Read on, my friends. It’s simple. Pinky promise. Continue reading

8 things you’ll be glad you packed for race day 

Spring race season is upon us! In preparation for this weekend’s Rock ‘n’ Roll DC half marathon (anyone else running?!), I’ve had a growing pile of my must-have race day items on the floor all week (one of the very few times such a thing is acceptable in my living space). Aside from the obvious necessities such as your bib & safety pins, shoe tag, and any gels or other fuel you know & love, here’s a list of the top things I’ve learned to always tote along to races.

For pre-race:

  1. A magazine you’re willing to part with. Depending on the size of your race & how well it’s organized, you could be waiting up to an hour or more between arriving at the start and actually hitting the course. Having something to read while you’re waiting helps take your mind off of the challenge ahead & eases anxiety, especially if you’re running solo. We all know running is as much mental as it is physical. Save your brain power for the course.
  2. Warm, cheapo clothes from Goodwill or Walmart. Stay nice and toasty while you sit, stretch, & wait for the race to start. When you’re ready to run- ditch the extra layer. Many races now also have goodwill or other clothing donation bins at the start for this exact reason.
  3. Tissues. There’s nothing worse than having to wait in line for 40 minutes to use the porta potty before you cross the start line. Oh wait, yes there is. Having to wait 40 minutes to use the porta potty that’s likely already been used by some 1,000 people, only to find it’s sans toilet paper. And you’re about to run some not-so-normal number of miles. Need I say more?

For post-race:

Have these things either in your gear check bag or with any loved ones (AKA pit crew) who’ll be meeting you at the finish line.

  1.  Chapstick. Trust me. You will not want to wait until you get home.
  2. A fresh shirt. You’ll be super sweaty (unless you’re one of those magical goddesses who just doesn’t sweat, in which case I’m uber jealous) and get chilly immediately.
  3. A jacket/hoodie. For the same reasons as above. Especially if you’ll be facing long lines for the metro/traffic or heading to a celebratory brunch, the last thing you want is another reason to be miserable. And cold makes me miserable.
  4. Face towelettes. You’ll clearly be taking obligatory post-race photos with your pit crew and/or other racing friends and selfies gnawing on your hard-earned medal (why do people do that? I’m actually not guilty of doing so, but I feel like it’s a thing?). You may as well look less sweaty and eliminate that horrible salty face feeling. And again, brunch.
  5. Deodorant. Self explanatory. 

Hope this helps to make you feel just a tad more prepared to show up and nail your race! Any other items on your must-have lists? Please share! 

Find Your Perfect Race Training Plan

So you’ve decided to train for a race. You’ve done all the volleying back and forth (do I have enough time? can my body handle it? do I really want to give up my weekend mornings for the next 8-16 weeks?) and settled on YES (which, fortunately, is the best answer 🙂 ). You’ve picked out the perfect race based on your calendar, travel plans, and of course, a preview of the finisher’s medal (that’s why we all run races anyway, isn’t it?). Now, it’s time to pick a training plan.

Here’s where I save you hours of grueling internet research and temporary cross-eye from scanning a million tiny charts of numbers, squinting to determine what sets them all apart. Who has the best running training plans? Hal Higdon.

Hal Higdon is a trainer and former Runner’s World contributor who’s created a fantastic selection of training plans for anything from 5Ks to marathons. Finding one that works for you is like finding something you like on The Cheesecake Factory’s menu: with so many options, there’s got to be something perfect. Continue reading