Trent/Waldron Glacier Half-Marathon 2016 – Race Recap

It is always fun to write about a race that goes well, especially when it goes better than you expect!

And if you are like me, and are too impatient to read the whole blog post and just want to know the results, I’ll save you the time and effort.

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The Trent/Waldron Glacier Half-Marathon is held in honor of a mother and son who were killed on a training run. The race starts at Westchester Lagoon and goes out and back on the Chester Creek Trail. It is primarily flat with a few rolling hills on the way out and an overall downhill on the way back. I tell people it is the only race in town that doesn’t end on a hill.

Going into the race, I was optimistic, but not overy confident. I am still three weeks out from Grandma’s Marathon, still in full marathon training mode with only a couple of lighter days going into this race. My coach, Nichole, said my goal time was 1:25. I remember over a year ago when we first started working together that I had to break 1:25 before I could break 3 hours in the marathon, so I desperately wanted to break 1:25 on Saturday. However, I also didn’t know if that would be possible on tired training legs. Not only are my legs tired from marathon training, I am on my feet all day working around the house and chasing a toddler around. So, like I said, while I was hopeful, I didn’t want to set the bar too high and be disappointed.

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If I wanted to finish with a 1:24:59 time, my average mile pace had to be 6:28. This freaked me out because my tempo pace is 6:20, and I only do that pace for 30-40 minutes, so to be able to hold a pace only a little slower than that for twice, nearly three times as long, seemed impossible. BUT I know that the racing atmosphere and mindset makes a big difference.

I spent about 30 minutes warming up with some easy jogging, static stretches, a bathroom break, dynamic stretches, and striders. I had just enough time, and the warm weather helped me warm my muscles as well. I think it was in the mid-60s with sunshine, so I, by no means, thought it was too warm, and if anything that probably about my ideal temperature. There was some shade on the trail, which was also nice.

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When the gun went off, I always have a hard time feeling the right pace. As with almost everyone else, I start out too fast. I did my best to reign in the excitement, but I accidentally ran 6:17 for the first mile. Oops. I was given specific instructions by my coach to go out a little slower than goal pace, so I settled into a better pace after that.

Mile 2 – 6:27

3 –  6:29

I tried to find a balance between checking my watch obsessively and feeling the pace. I felt really strong from the start, which boosted my confidence the race would go well. (Isn’t it funny you can often tell right from the start how the race is going to do.)

4 – 6:34

5 – 6:27

6 – 6:21

I got to the half-way mark at 42:20, which made me really happy. I knew the second half of the course had some downhill portions, which boosted my confidence I could run sub-1:25, but I also knew I couldn’t slack off.

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7 – 6:28

8 – 6:28

9 – 6:30

10 – 6:25

I thought all of the hard work I’ve done, all the sleepless nights that I still got up to train, the bitter cold winter days spent training on the ice and snow. I didn’t let myself think negative thoughts and instead only told myself positive things. Even though I was hurting, I embraced the pain and said, “this is how it should feel.”

11 -6:21

12 – 6:26

13 – 6:27

Official finish time – 1:24:22

When I came up on the finish line and saw the 1:24:XX on the clock, I was so relieved! I hadn’t looked at the overall time at my watch, instead just kept the ‘split’ screen up.

As soon as I crossed the finish line, I closed my eyes, gasping for breath. I had pushed hard, and was so happy because I knew my chances of running a sub-3 hour marathon were even better now!

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My previous PR for the half-marathon was 1:27:20, so I cut off nearly 3 minutes in 6 months of training. I never, ever thought I could run a time like this for the half.

After the race I did a 6 mile cool-down back home, got ready, and then went to work at Skinny Raven. Life never stops!

Craig, Cullen, and my brother, Mike, who is here visiting from Minnesota, hung out at the lagoon watching the ducks while I raced. Cullen LOVES ducks!

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Cullen practiced giving kisses.

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6 Things Sunday

I hope you are having a splendid Sunday. Here’s a little bit of what I’ve been up to lately.

ONE

Grandma’s Marathon is quickly approaching. . . less than one month until the race!

Training continues to go well, and I feel so fortunate to be running injury-free! (Strength training plays a big role in this!) I just wrapped up a 78 mile week, which included a 19 mile tempo run on Saturday. It wasn’t at tempo pace during the entire long run. I had 20 minutes (4 x 5 minutes) of tempo after a two mile warm-up, and then another 20 minutes towards the end. The first tempo segment is always do-able, but that last segment always gets me.

I am usually good about doing all of those little extras: foam rolling, stretching, good sleep, nutrition, etc., but it doesn’t hurt to focus on them even a little more now!

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TWO –

Spring is finally here!

While last weekend was gorgeous. . . low 70s and sunshine. . .this weekend is cloudy, cool, and rainy. Hopefully it will be sunny and warm when my brother comes to visit this next week.

I don’t know what this flowering tree is, but I absolutely love the way it smells.

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THREE –

I organized a postpartum talk for runners at Skinny Raven, and a local physical therapist spoke to the group of 35 women about healing diastasis recti and incontinence. It was so informative, and if you are interested in watching it, we posted it on YouTube. Click the link here.

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FOUR –

I made these Coconut Blueberry Muffins on Friday. Cullen is finally at the age where he can (kind of) help me in the kitchen. Okay, he really just whisked the dry ingredients together while I did everything else. But at least he’s interested in helping me.

When you make something with coconut flour, the recipe always calls for several eggs (6 in this recipe), so I used duck eggs in this recipe. A friend of mine has chickens and ducks and gave us some eggs to use. I was a little weirded out to use the duck eggs in my omelet, so I opted to put them in baked goods. I was actually surprised the duck eggs look just like chicken eggs on the inside, except the whites of the duck eggs are more gelatinous than chicken eggs.

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FIVE –

I will be spending pretty much the whole month of June in Minnesota!

I was just planning on going for two weeks–one week before the marathon and one week after, but my coach, Nichole, is hosting a training retreat two weekends before the marathon, which will be a perfect time for me to hone in on pacing and nail down my mental prep, which is key to a good race. I am super excited to go, and I think she may have a couple of spots interested if you want to go.

SIX –

Cullen has finally been sleeping through the night for a month now. It is a miracle!

One week before Cullen turned 18 months, he–on his own–decided that he was going to sleep through the night. Hooray! Ugh, but what a terrible, horrible 18 months of sleep deprivation. I can’t say that Craig or I have slept through the night 8 hours straight, but hopefully we will soon!

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He is all boy: wanting to play outside all day, splash in the water puddles, and apparently eat dirt.

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Eating Vegan While Competitively Running

For approximately 50 days in March and April, I ate vegan (no meat, eggs, or dairy products). Normally I eat these foods on a regular basis, so this was a big change for me. It was by choice but prompted by my church (Orthodox Christian church) for Lent, as it is seen as a spiritual discipline. (You can read more about it here and here.) I have done this vegan fast in the past but not while running competitively and logging 70, 80, and 95 mile weeks. I knew there were competitive runners and ultramarathoners (Scott Jurek being one of the most prominent) out there who survived on a vegan diet, so surely I could do it too.

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Going into it, I was worried I was going to be hungry all the time. I thought I’d only find myself eating bread, cereal with almond milk, and not-so-tasty soy yogurt. I also knew it was going to more difficult to find protein sources. . . .not impossible but definitely trickier. I didn’t know how it would affect my running, but my faith is even more important than my running, so I had to give it a try.

Before the fast started, I got rid of all of our non-vegan food in our house by eating everything prior or giving food away to friends and family. I stocked up on vegan-friendly foods to make sure I wouldn’t be tempted to eat any cheesy crackers, eggs, or my favorite yogurt because I needed something in a pinch. After a couple of weeks, I got into a groove with making meals, and the biggest thing I learned: as long as I meal plan, eating vegan wasn’t that hard!

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Usually on Fridays, I would plan out my meals for the next week and then buy all of the ingredients we needed. That way when it came to dinner-time, I had everything ready to go and didn’t have to think about what I was going to make. This way I wasn’t reaching for pre-packaged, “healthy” vegan foods such as frozen dinner entrees, granola bars, or an endless amount of chips and salsa.

I really didn’t have a hard time finding vegan recipes that tasted good. Thanks to the internet and an endless amount of legitimate food bloggers out there, I found a lot of recipes to pick from. Often I would Google: coconut milk + broccoli + quinoa (or whatever ingredients I already had on-hand) and see what came up.

Some of my favorite vegan recipes:

Twice-Baked Mexican-Style Loaded Sweet Potato

Butternut Squash Burrito Bowl

Sweet Potato Chickpea Budda Bowl

Gnocchi + Perfect Tofu + roasted broccoli

Simple Vegan Pizza

Anything-You-Have Coconut Curry

30 Minute Coconut Curry

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Near the end of the 50 days of eating vegan, I started to track my food in My Fitness Pal as I am trying to get down to race weight for the marathon. I also monitored my macros (percentage of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins) to make sure my categories were close the the correct percentages. I wasn’t surprised, but I quickly learned I wasn’t getting enough protein in my diet. I tried to amp up my diet with tofu, quinoa, protein powders, beans, and nut butters. However, while they are good sources of protein, they also add other calories from carbs and/or fats. For instance, I might eat a half cup of quinoa, which is a good source of protein, but there is also a lot of carbohydrates in it as well, so while I would add protein to my diet, my carbohydrate intake would also increase.

I did my best to get enough protein in my diet, but I know I fell short most days. However, I didn’t find myself hungry all of the time, which means I was filling myself with wholesome foods and a good amount of fats and proteins.

All in all, I was surprised it wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be to eat vegan. I had to take the time to meal plan, but that is something I do most weeks anyhow. I am glad I was able to successfully nourish my body and refuel with a wide variety of vegan foods for running up to 95 miles one week. While it took some forethought, it wasn’t impossible.

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Recruiting the Transverse Abdominis – Postpartum PT

I had my second physical therapy appointment for my postpartum running issues and questions. My take-away from this appointment: it is really hard to recruit the transverse abdominis muscle when it hasn’t been firing correctly for some time!

If you remember, I haven’t had any major issues or pain since having Cullen; I mostly wanted to find out if everything in my core was functioning properly, if there was anything else I should/could be doing to improve my running, and to find out what could be done for the soreness around my c-section scar on a long run–usually anything over 13 or 14 miles is when I started to feel it.

I met with Lori of United Physical Therapy here in Anchorage last week, and during this appointment we worked on recruiting the transverse abdominis muscle, which is the deepest abdominal muscle that runs perpendicular to the spine. To be honest, I vaguely remember studying this muscle in anatomy class in college, but it seems forgotten. I never hear it referenced when talking about core strength in a fitness class, and it has only been brought to my attention during postpartum references.

Here’s a great diagram of the different abdominal muscles.

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{Source}

No matter if you have a vaginal delivery or a c-section, your abdominal muscles are affected. However, having a c-section causes even more damage to those muscles. After having my c-section, my doctor reassured me that my abdonminal muscles weren’t cut, but I kept thinking, “How is this possible? The uterus lies underneath all of the abdominal muscles.” After talking to Lori, she shared this article with me that explains it better.

Although the abdominal muscles themselves are not cut, the fascia which connects them is cut and this allows the doctor to pull the muscles apart in order to get to the next layer of fascia. Who knows how many extra nicks happen during c-sections and where they happen. The key is with all of the incisions/severing of the body, all of the nerves are also cut. Separating the muscles causes nerve damage, loss of blood supply, and damage to the muscle itself. Without proper retraining of these muscles it is extremely difficult to get access to the muscles. Without being able to access the muscles it is very difficult to tone them, leaving them flabby or pooch like tummy.

That makes sense, and maybe this is why my stomach has still looked a little flabby.

In order to learn to recruit the transverse abdominal muscle, Lori had me lay on my back, knees up, and do a kegel on the exhale. It was really hard to tell that my transverse muscle was engaging, but as I practiced it more, I could start to feel it. It also helped when I would place my fingers just inside my hip bones where I could feel the muscle contract slightly. It was truly the smallest movement but that’s all it is.

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Prior to seeing Lori, I had read blog posts, watched YouTube videos, and scoured the Internet for anything to help me determine if I was recruiting the transverse abdominis. I did exercises like the bird dog exercise, but the thing is I could have done these until I was blue in the face, but I still wouldn’t have been recruiting the transverse abdominis. My other ab muscles would have been overcompensating and doing the work before the transverse. I needed someone to show me and coach me through this recruitment process.

After lying on my back, Lori had me try the same thing on my side, and then on my hands and knees in a table top position. In each position, I really had to focus on what I was doing. Now that I’ve had a few days to practice at home, it has become easier, but it is still difficult.

My exercises this time around include:

  1. Engaging the transverse while laying on my back with my knees bent.
  2. In this same position, I engage the transverse while beginning to lift one foot off the ground, but I have to make sure I don’t engage the upper abdominal muscles. (This is easier said then done.)
  3. Next I can progress to a bridge on my back and work on lifting one leg, but once again I can’t recruit the upper abdominal muscles.
  4. Finally, working on a three-legged downward dog.

The first 4 aren’t necessarily hard, but it is hard when you aren’t used to recruiting the transverse abdominis. The three-legged downward dog is really hard for me. It always has been! Lori said it is because other muscles in my groin are so tight, so I also have to work on loosening those.

All in all, I am really glad I went and sought help for my postpartum core. I would high, HIGHLY encourage you to see a physical therapist if you have any questions or concerns post-baby. You shouldn’t be dealing with issues months, even years down the road. And you may be like me, I read everything there was to on the Internet, but having someone show you the proper exercises and teach you how to engage the proper muscles isn’t something that the Internet can do.

Finally, if you live in the Anchorage area, please come hear Lori speak at Skinny Raven on Saturday, May 14. I can assure you it will be well worth your time. You can find this event under The Runner’s Plate Facebook page.

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95 Miles + Countdown to Grandma’s Marathon

And so the countdown to Grandma’s Marathon begins. . . .46 days!

I am nervous, excited, apprehensive, and did I say nervous? Especially when I start to think about how fast I have to run in order to get a sub-3 hour finish time. It calculates out to be an average pace of 6:51 minutes/mile. . . for 26.2 miles!!

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I truly believe I can run a sub-3 hour marathon, but there are a lot of things that could go wrong and cause me not to reach my goal. I like sharing my goals with people to keep myself accountable, but I’m truly worried if I talk about it publicly too much I’ll put too much pressure on myself, and I will falter. So that’s all I’m going to say about that. In order to focus on this goal, I actually need to talk about it less. It is like at the start of a race when I just want to be left alone by myself and focus on what I need to do.

This past week was the highest mileage week since having Cullen. Last summer I hit 75 miles, so this 95 miles was quite a bit more. I did run 100 miles during the summers of 2012 and 2013, so this type of mileage isn’t completely new to me.

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It was a good week of training overall, and I wasn’t too tired most days. Thursday was the toughest day, but other than that my runs went pretty well.

Monday

7 miles – easy

Originally I was supposed to do a double on this day, but my coach said to scrap the second run and save my energy for the next day’s tempo workout.

Tuesday

AM – 13 miles – tempo workout

2 x 20 minutes @ 6:20 pace (goal pace)

The first segment was all over the place. I forgot my watch, so I was going by feel, which was not effective. Splits – 6:11, 6:47, 6:27. But then my friend let me borrow her watch, and I nailed the splits – 6:19, 6:20, 6:19.

PM – 4 miles, easy | average pace – 7:30

Easy run in the afternoon, this time (surprisingly) without the stroller. I flew on this run!

Wednesday

AM – 8 miles, easy | average pace – 7:43

Ran a hillier route but felt good overall.

PM – 5 miles, easy | average pace – 7:51

Stroller run.

Thursday

15 miles, easy | average pace – 7:54

This was probably the toughest workout of the week. I think the two double days definitely left my legs feeling tired. If I didn’t have a coach telling me what to do, I probably would have only run about 5 miles.

Friday

8 miles, easy

I was supposed to run 9 miles this morning, but I didn’t have time before Craig had to leave for work.

Saturday

22 miles, long run

I had to get up at 4:30 a.m. in order to get the miles done before training group at 8:00 a.m. Luckily it was just starting to get light out when I started, which made me forget how early it really was.

Sunday

AM – 7 miles, easy

Pushed Cullen in the stroller. He’s only good for about 5 miles these days, but we did see a moose, so that was exciting for him.

PM – 6 miles, easy

I actually felt really good. It probably helped I wasn’t on my feet all day.

Total: 95 miles