I’m In!

I can’t believe I forgot to tell you guys! I am officially registered for the 40th annual Grandma’s Marathon in Duluth, Minnesota on Saturday, June 18. I cannot wait!!

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It is amazing the connections that social media brings these days. I spent a year teaching and coaching in Mitchell, SD, and a guy who I coached cross country with knew of a friend who no longer wanted his entry. He got me hooked up with the friend, we sent a couple e-mails back and forth, completed the transfer request on the Grandma’s Marathon website, and now I’m in!

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I am so happy I got in. I really wasn’t excited about any other options. And you want to be excited about running a marathon because it is too far to run if you aren’t into it.

This means I’ll be running Grandma’s Marathon on June 18 and then running the Moose’s Tooth Marathon here in Anchorage on August 21. It is a quick turnaround, but I really enjoyed Moose’s Tooth last year, and I want to own the course record this time around.

I’ll be going for a sub-3 hour finish at Grandma’s, and then running whatever I can at Moose’s Tooth. (I’m not sure how my legs will recover, but we’ll hope for the best.)

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Running has been on the upswing lately. For a couple weeks I wasn’t hitting my paces and feeling pretty run down, but I upped my iron and have tried to be more proactive about resting. Plus, I’ve also had a couple runs on (some) dry pavement, which has made me excited for spring and summer running. (My favorite!) After running in the darkness, the cold temps, and on ice and snow since October, I am more than ready for light, warmth, and dry pavement. It is amazing how much faster I can run when it light out and the pavement is dry.

IMG_2104I’ll be hitting 70 miles this week with 6 days of running and 74 miles next week. I’m feeling really good so far and did a workout at 6:30 pace earlier this week that actually felt easy! (Full recap on my workouts to come on Monday.)

My coach and I are starting to nail down which races I am going to run this spring and early summer before Grandma’s. I am hoping to race a 5K, 12K, and half-marathon before Grandma’s. They are some of my favorite all summer, and they will give me a good indication of where my fitness it at prior to the race.

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A Day in the Life – 16 Months

It has been a couple months since I’ve done ‘a day in the life’ post, but I might start recapping these monthly again as I enjoy going back and seeing how much things change from month to month.

Cullen is 16 months old today, and I am enjoying each month more than the last. Cullen is finally walking (He started at about 14 months.), which is so nice. Everyone made it sound like it is worse when your baby could walk because they will get into everything, but he doesn’t get into any more things than when he was crawling. Now I can set him down and he can walk from room to room on his own, which I really like.

I’m not sure that this is a typical day for us, but then again I’ve quickly learned there isn’t a typical day with a baby.

Tuesday, February 23

7:45 p.m. Cullen goes down for the night. It (usually) has been much easier to get him down at night. (See the end of this post that that is not always the case.)

9:30 p.m. Lights out for me. I need to be better about getting myself to bed at a decent hour (like this) every night.

11:30 p.m., 12:30 a.m., 6:30 a.m. Ugh! Cullen woke up three times this night. No, he still is not sleeping through the night. He can and has, but it isn’t very consistent yet. Craig has to go check on him otherwise when I do, he is up-up, and we’re up for 2 or 3 hours before he’ll go back down. Apparently mommy = let’s play. He will go right back down when Craig checks on him, but being woken up and getting out of bed three times is no fun. Plus we often have a hard time falling back asleep. I was really hoping by this time I would be able to write that he is finally sleeping through the night. He’s been battling a cold the last week, so that doesn’t help.

6:45 a.m. I get up for the day. I know I didn’t get 8 hours of sleep (with all of Cullen’s wake-ups and having to fall back asleep after each one), but I feel mostly well-rested, so I decide to do some computer work.

8:00 a.m. I start making breakfast for everyone. Cullen wakes up for the day.

8:20 a.m. Breakfast – I make quick-cooking steel cut oats for Craig and myself. Cullen has raspberries, blueberries, yogurt, and some bread. This was an awesome combination: steel cut oats with maple syrup + sea salt + dates + pumpkin seeds + a scoop of Earth Balance peanut/coconut butter spread.

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8:30 a.m. I clean up the kitchen and put clean dishes away. Cullen loves helping by taking things out of the dishwasher and handing them to me.

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9:10 a.m. I change Cullen’s diaper and clothes, and then we FaceTime with my parents.

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9:45 a.m. We were supposed to meet my friend Erin for a run, but her little guy is sick, so Cullen plays while I do things around the house: fold laundry, sort more laundry, call about tickets to MN this summer, have a snack, reply to a couple e-mails, and make the bed.

Cullen has to be carrying something in his hand when he is up walking around. Here he’s got a mini cucumber in his hand. He doesn’t like all vegetables, but he loves roasted broccoli, cucumbers, and peas.

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11:00 a.m. I don’t know where the last hour went, but now we definitely have to get our for our run. Run 7 miles with the stroller. We run out by the airport, so Cullen can see all of the airplanes. He does great the whole hour we are gone, which makes me very happy.

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I was super excited because for about half of my run, I got to run on DRY pavement. I think it has been since October that I last ran on dry pavement. All winter long, this is what I’ve been running on: slick ice that is not full of ruts and bumps. . . .not so fun pushing the stroller on. I am so over winter!

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12:00 p.m. We return home. Craig is home for lunch, so we chat with him for a while. I grab a few snacks to hold me over until I can get something more substantial. I have my protein shake, a handful of trail mix, and dried coconut.

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12:30 p.m. Cullen and I go upstairs for his nap. I change his diaper, read to him, rock him, and then put him in his crib.

12:45 p.m. I am getting ready to take a shower, but within a few minutes I hear Cullen talking and moving around. Usually once I walk out of his room, I don’t hear a peep. I wait a few more minutes, but he still isn’t falling asleep.

1:05 p.m. I go back in Cullen’s room, rock him, and then lay him down in his crib again. Within 10 minutes he’s down for his nap.

1:20 p.m. I finally take off my wet, sweaty clothes from running. (I often stay in them too long, but usually once I get back from running I am too preoccupied with Cullen or making something to eat.) I take a long, hot shower and actually take the time to shave my legs! It’s the little things. I finish getting ready.

1:50 p.m. I start a load of laundry, grab another handful of trail mix, and then start working on this blog post. I almost always use Cullen’s nap time to get computer work done because it is too hard to do it while he is awake since he wants to punch the keys on the keyboard.

2:50 p.m. Cullen wakes up. I can pretty much guarantee he’ll sleep for 1.5 hours, but that’s about it most days.

3:10 p.m. Cullen and I eat lunch. I grill a vegan burrito which ends up burning–oops. I made a batch of vegan and vegetarian freezer burritos last week, so I would have some quick go-to meals in a pinch. Cullen has some oranges, bread, and three-quarters of an avocado! Seriously, this boy has made our produce bill skyrocket. I used to go to Costco once a month, now I go almost every week!

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3:45 p.m. I start preparing dinner. I usually start earlier than I need to, but I like it that way so I am not scrambling to get everything together in time. On the menu tonight: marinated tofu, roasted broccoli, and sweet potato chips.

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4:30 p.m. Cullen and I deliver soup to a friend who just had a baby, and then we swing by Target for a birthday card for my brother.

5:20 p.m. We return home and Craig is headed to the gym, so we take Sadie for a quick walk around the neighborhood.

6:00 p.m. We get back from our walk, and I pop everything in the oven.

6:40 p.m. Dinner time.

7:15 p.m. I take Cullen upstairs to start our bedtime routine. We always do a bath, but when I ask Cullen if he wants to take a bath tonight, he shakes his head “no.” I ask him a couple more times, and each time he shakes his head “no,” so we skip the bath. We have fun playing with Craig’s t-shirts and being chased around the bedrooms. We brush teeth (He loves brushing his teeth.), put pajamas on, read books, and rock. I lay him in his crib, but I am pretty sure he isn’t tired yet.

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8:00 p.m. I finish cleaning up the kitchen, transfer a load of laundry to the dryer, put things away, fold some laundry, and make sure the house has to be in order before I go to bed. I tell Craig he’s on baby duty.

8:45 p.m. I get ready for bed.

9:00 p.m. I finish this blog post. Cullen finally goes down for the night.

9:30 p.m. Lights out for me.

The end.

Embracing the Intensity

The intensity of this training cycle has been much more intense than what I’m used to. Usually during the winter months I usually only run about 40 miles per week and maybe do a faster paced workout, but only if I had access to a treadmill or indoor track.

And honestly many of the past winters, I really haven’t run much at all:

Winter 2014/2015 – I was recovering my c-section.

Winter 2013/2014 – I was coming off the Kenai Marathon and then found out I was pregnant in February.

Winter 2012/2013 – I was dealing with an upper hamstring/glute issue, so I wasn’t able to run much.

Winter 2011/2012 – I think I ran most of this winter, but probably only around that 40 miles/week range.

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Now that I’m working with Nichole this winter, my training is definitely at a different level. I hit 70 miles a couple weeks ago and will hit 75 miles in a couple of week. I do 1 – 2 hard workouts each week in addition to my long run. I have never done doubles before, but usually have 1 or 2 doubles each week now. Needless to say, it is intense!

I sent an e-mail to Nichole a couple weeks ago expressing my lack of motivation and slight exhaustion on most of my runs. I said I wasn’t used to this intensity and was thinking that maybe I need to back off on the mileage for a while. After I sent the e-mail off, I told Craig (who I often refer to as my assistant coach) what I had written to Nichole, and he basically said I need to suck it up and just keep training. Ha! I love his honesty.

When Nichole wrote me back, she said this is typical and she actually wants me running on somewhat tired legs most of the time. I was surprised she said this because this is not how I’ve trained in the past. But this is exactly why I wanted to hire a coach: someone to develop a plan much different than I’ve done in the past and something that challenges me in a way I haven’t been challenged before.

IMG_2058But these are also the things I love about training hard: feeling completely spent after a hard track workout, muscle soreness from lifting two days later, and a long run that wipes me out. Of course I don’t want to feel like this all the time, but I do have to remember to embrace all of these daily training runs. While it is easy to get tired of the same thing day in and day out, this is what I truly enjoy doing. (I know this because of the times I’ve been injured or haven’t been able to run at the intensity I want to, I miss it. . .A LOT!)

I know it takes months and months (if not years!) of consistent training in order to be at the top of your game. As we approach spring and summer, and I am able to race again, I know all of my training is going to pay off. The early morning runs I slogged through on too little sleep, the long runs that felt never-ending, and the second run of the day that felt like I didn’t even have a break from the first (Actually I strangely like double days.) are going to seem all worth it when I cross that finish line.

Training to Race

I don\’t remember many quotes I read, but there is one quote that has stuck with me after reading it on blog a couple years ago. The quote went like this:

“We aren\’t racing to train; we are training to race.”

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I was reminded of this quote as I was scrolling through my Instagram feed recently. I came across post of a woman doing an easy run around a 7 minute/mile pace. My first thought was, “Wow, that\’s fast! I don\’t even do my easy, training runs at that pace.” As I looked at this women\’s pictures more, I discover her most recent marathon time was just shy of 4 hours. (That\’s a pace of 9 minutes per mile.) I started to wonder. . . .is she racing to train?

My point of sharing this example is NOT to judge her for what she\’s accomplished. There could be a lot more to the story. . .maybe during this 7 minute paced workout she was feeling particularly speedy. Or maybe her 4 hour marathon isn\’t her best time. . .maybe she was running with someone else.

Anyway, I do think some people do their training runs too quickly. Instead of doing these easy runs at a comfortable pace, they do every training run as fast as they can. And let me tell you, that is not going to make you faster! You need these easy runs to help your legs recover a little in between the hard days.

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Even I\’ve had to tell myself that it is okay to run slow on my easy, recovery days. As much as I want to boast that all of my runs are speedy, they are far from it compared to the paces I race at. For example, here are the last 5 easy-paced runs I\’ve done and my average times: 8:51, 8:24, 8:20, 8:36, 8:18. These are not fast, ground-breaking times; they are relatively slow. Now granted it is winter, and I am never able to run as faster during the winter due to the ice and snow. (The roads have literally been covered in ice all winter long here.) Plus my muscles don\’t respond as well during the cold months compared to the warmer temperatures in the 60s and higher during the summer. However, these are quite slow compared to the paces I run for hard workouts and during my races.

For comparison, these are the average paces of my currents PRs in each of the corresponding distances.

5K pace – 6:13

10K pace – 6:27

Half-marathon pace – 6:38

Marathon pace – 7:05

Now compare that to my average easy run pace during the winter: 8:20 – 8:50

That\’s 1.5 minutes per mile slower than my marathon race pace and up to 2.5 minutes per mile slower for my 5K time.

The moral of this post is encourage you to take the time to slow those easy runs down (if you don\’t already) and give your legs a break from running fast. You should be able to carry on a conversation with someone pretty easily during an easy run. If you are only able to spit out one or two words at a time, you are running too fast. These easy runs are to help build endurance while giving your legs a break from the hard workouts. Honor the rest so you can run fast during the next workout and perform well on race day.

Happy running!

Wanted: Race Entry for Grandma\’s Marathon 2016

Life has been full and busy but good. During the week Cullen and I stay busy running errands, my training runs and gym sessions, walking Sadie, and time together at home. During the weekends I have been working at Skinny Raven selling running shoes.

I had to work Super Bowl Sunday, but one of my coworkers was so kind and brought food for us to eat!

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Running has been going okay. My motivation has been waning a little bit especially when I didn\’t hit a couple key workouts.

The first workout was a long run with 2 x 3 miles @ 6:30 pace for a total of 16 miles. I first ran 5 miles to the gym, and then hopped on the treadmill for the 2 x 3 miles intervals. I didn\’t think 6:30 should feel that hard, but I was dying. I made it through the first 3 miles, but during the second 3 mile set I had to stop half-way through. I took a break and then continued at an average pace of 6:45 for the last 1.5 miles. I was pretty bummed after this failed workout because I had been doing so well in hitting the prescribed workouts.

The second workout that didn\’t go well was a 4 x 1 mile at sub-6:00 pace. I knew it would be tough, but I also thought it would be doable. I got through the first one in 5:57, but I knew within a few minutes into the interval that it was going to be tough. The second mile was 6:00. I hung on for as long as I could during the third interval, but my breathing just got too labored, and I couldn\’t catch my breath anymore. I kept bumping the pace down, but after 0.75 mile I hopped off the treadmill and cut the interval short. I never do something like this! I always complete the set even if I am not hitting the right pace. I felt awful for stopping. I should have at least decreased the speed some more, but for some reason I just gave up. (So not like me!) That interval was about a 6:20 pace and the 4th and final interval was 6:30 pace.

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This shortness of breath happens when I push myself really hard (hard workouts, races), but I also started to wonder if it was due to low iron again. I have been taking my iron supplement every day, but I was looking at my multivitamin and realized it only has 6 mg on iron (the daily value is 18mg). All of last year I had been taking a prenatal vitamin since I was still nursing, but since I\’ve stopped nursing Cullen I changed back over to the general women\’s multivitamin. The prenatal vitamin has 30 mg of iron in it, which is quite a bit more. I\’ve switched back to the prenatal vitamin, so hopefully that\’s what my body needs.

And now for a few fun pictures of Cullen. . . .

My friend watched Cullen the other day and she gave him a stock pot filled with a little bit of water to play with. He, of course, had a ball with it. I thought this was genius since Cullen is always wanting to play in Sadie\’s water bowl. He apparently thought he needed to try and get his entire body in the pot.

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This teenage moose has been hanging around our neighborhood all winter. His mom left him this past fall, so he probably doesn\’t know what to do with himself anymore. Cullen was mesmerized by the moose and had to go over to our fireplace and get the stuffed moose off the mantle and bring it over to the window-too cute.

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Alright people, I need your help. For the past couple of months, my coach, Nichole, and I have been trying to figure out which marathons I am going to run this year. After much discussion with her, Craig, my family, and input from friends, I decided I was going to run Grandma\’s Marathon in Duluth, MN and Moose\’s Tooth Marathon here in Anchorage. So a few weeks ago, I went to the Grandma\’s Marathon website and lo-and-behold the race is already full! Say what?!? It is still 6 months out, and while it is a popular race, I didn\’t think it was that highly sought after! Nichole had one of her other athletes try to get into the sub-elite field with a 2:57 marathon time, but the race organizers said they were sticking with their 2:50 standard. (We thought maybe this could be an option for me as well, but nope.)

The only other way for me to run the race is to swap entries with someone who doesn\’t want theirs anymore. And that\’s where you come in. I know there\’s a handful of you who live in MN and are connected to the running community, so if you know of anyone who no longer wants their registration for Grandma\’s Marathon this year, let me know! You can comment below or e-mail me at: michelleann[dot]baxter[at]yahoo.com (Also, I would love to run the race with my sister, so two entries would be ideal!)

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Grandma\’s Marathon – 2012

My second time running the race and where I finally qualified for Boston.