Training for My First Marathon – 9 Weeks in Review

I took a little break from blogging, but The Papillon Runner is back with a facelift!

For the past 2 months, I’ve been training for my very first full marathon, the IMT Des Moines Marathon, and running more miles than ever. My body has truly impressed me with how responsive it has been to what I’ve been doing to prepare and recover from each run. I am so amazed that I ran 17 miles (!) yesterday morning and ended the run feeling strong. As my weekly mileage increases, the weekday runs are starting to feel harder…I’m not gonna lie. I had a hard time getting through a 7-mile run earlier this week (week 9 of training) and ended it right at the 10k mark, but the next few runs went much better. Although I’m at the stage where training is really starting to pick up and I’m running the half-marathon distance or longer every weekend, I’m feeling good about how training is progressing. Here’s a peek into what the past two months have been like:

I’ve gotten into the habit of carrying fuel with me in my Nathan hydration backpack on those long (12+ miles) weekend runs. Two Huma energy gels were sufficient for 17 miles yesterday. These gels go down a bit easier than the Honey Stinger gels and I felt more hydrated, probably because of the chia seeds and coconut water.

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This is how I look after every run – lots of sweaty miles when you’re training for races in the heat and humidity of summer, but I honestly prefer this to the miles I logged last winter. I could never get my hands to stay warm. Taking recommendations for next winter…

 

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Epsom salt and lavender milk foot soaks in my Dr. Scholl’s foot bath. This baby was $30 (purchased it while training for my first half-marathon), but you can find a similar model here. It feels amazing. Wearing compression socks for a few hours afterwards = priceless!

epsom salt bath

I’ve also been trying to keep up with my strength-training, but I can definitely fit in more cycling to log more low-impact miles, and I haven’t done a basic swim workout all summer. I loved incorporating easy swim workouts into my half-marathon training. I am not a great swimmer by any means, but the water relaxed my muscles and I got to work on my aerobic base. So much to do, so little time…

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How do you recover after long runs? Share in the comments!

 

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60-Day Plank Challenge

Still coming off of the high of shaving almost 3 minutes off of my 10K time (down from 55:25 to 52:55), I’m inspired to really focus on my core and hip strength. This morning, I started a 60-Day Planking Streak, which will require me to hold a straight, down-the-middle plank each morning before starting my day. Of course, streaks don’t always go the way we plan, so if I need to plank before bed, that’s fine – as long as it gets done.

Today was Day 1/60, and I held my plank for 1 minute and 11 seconds. I’ll try to add 5 seconds each day, but if I need to repeat a particular time, I will. Eventually, I’ll work on my side planks as well. Those are *much* harder for me, but I’ll get there.

One of my favorite Instagram runners (I need to stay off of that app…) has been on a planking streak for almost 3 months and she’s up to 4 minutes! The improvement in her times has been significant, and core strength has a lot to do with it, I’m sure.

Do you incorporate planks into your strength routine? If so, how often and how long do you hold your planks?

A Gorgeous Spring Day, In Pictures

Nothing new to report here, but I was in my friend’s wedding last weekend and got to go for a run with my best friend the next morning. My husband isn’t a runner, so he rented a Divvy bike from the bikeshare and biked alongside us as we ran.

It was a gorgeous Spring day! I only had 6 miles on the schedule, but it would’ve been a perfect day to run longer. This was my first time running along the Lakefront Trail in Chicago, despite growing up here, and I’ve never seen the lake so blue. Sharing some pictures to celebrate the arrival of Spring.

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Prehab, Calf Knots, and Why I Love Physical Therapy

After a two-week break from running because of shin pain on a couple of runs, I had an appointment with my physical therapist, Todd. Todd is the same therapist who worked with me before my goal half marathon last fall and made sure I didn’t end up in a walking boot again from training incorrectly. He is extremely knowledgeable, and I ask him a lot of random questions when I see him:

Am I wearing these calf sleeves correctly? Can I wear them over the knee, like a fashionable full-leg sleeve, or nah?

Can I use the foam roller on my shins too, or is that weird?

Is Pilates really working or am I just wasting my time?

Sometimes, and I’ll be the first to admit this, we treat our medical professionals (especially those who are athletes treating athletes) as though they are all-knowing oracles with supreme insight into every aspect of our running futures. I feel a little silly when I do this, but it never hurts to ask questions and it beats freaking out and Googling every ache to death.

During our visit, Todd was able to point out a few hits and misses with my last three months of running, and it was reassuring to talk to him as I head into spring and summer training. Here’s what I had been doing well:

  • Running consistently throughout the winter, with at least one run outside each week. A good mix of treadmill and pavement runs made the transition to more outdoor mileage in nicer weather much easier on my joints, tendons, and muscles.
  • Wearing the right shoes. Asics GT-1ooo/2000 are the shoes that were made for my flat feet, and the gel-cushion inserts I have work really well for my foot type.
  • Steady mileage build-up. I built up my weekly miles very carefully, avoiding wild swings and building in enough time for recovery.

Areas for improvement:

  • Not enough targeted strength training. I have a very strong back and quads, but I need to work on my hips and glutes. These two areas are the first to give out on longer runs, leading my body to overcompensate and overuse other areas.
  • Recovery. I need to do more foam-rolling and icing after exercising, and wear compression during and after my runs.
  • Replacing my shoes! This is huge. I will wear the same shoes until I log about 500 miles on them. Applying this rule of thumb to someone with very unique needs (flat feet) doesn’t exactly work, as I am a bit harder on my shoes and wear through them more quickly than the average runner with more pronounced arches. I should rotate a couple of pairs as well.

My physical therapist also found a giant knot in my left calf muscle – I had no idea it was there. After some targeted massage work, I felt like I had a new pair of legs! I’m glad that I visited and had someone else look at my biomechanics so I can stay healthy and continue to train. I have some big running goals – they even scare me a little – but it’s wise to do some prehab work and regular check-ins with a physical therapist even when I’m not seriously hurt, before a small issue turns into something larger. One of my favorite running blogs, Run Selfie Repeat, has a great post on why physical therapy is beneficial.

 

Do you currently see a physical therapist? Have you ever visited one?

Relentless Forward Progress

At times, I realize the way that I conceptualize running, in both written and spoken form, is very, very serious and goal-driven. I started running in April of 2014, ran my first 5k in May, and got really excited about how I didn’t give up on running at all by July. It just felt so natural, even though it was by no means without difficulty. I quietly asked God to give me the endurance to just run one half-marathon that fall, and if He did, I’d be content, and probably wouldn’t race anything over a 10k again.

Something tells me that I wasn’t the first person to make such an attempt to negotiate with a higher power, only to completely renege later….

Since then, what I affectionately refer to as “crazy runner brain” has taken over, and I’ve continued to set new running goals every few months. I’d like to think I would’ve been perfectly happy running 9:30 min/miles for years, until the day I discovered that I could run paces in the 8s for shorter distances. Then, I wanted to see if that would translate to a half-marathon completion time of under 2 hours, and it did. Unfortunately, there’s a very fine line between working towards incremental improvement and swan-diving into Personal Record Purgatory, where every run has to be proof that a runner is working towards an even better time in the next race. I think this is precisely how some runners (see: self) find themselves absolutely miserable when their bodies show them signs (delicate warnings at first; blaring horns later) that they need to take a break or slow down.

My sign has been shins that are tired before I’ve even gotten into a good stride, which is atypical for me, but not completely unusual for runners collectively.

Sometimes, relentless forward progress means taking a step back and temporarily taking the time goals out of running. This week, that step back was making a physical therapy appointment, purchasing sensible flats for work instead of wearing the leather heels I know my feet (and probably my shins) hate, doing more biking and Pilates (for overall health and body alignment, not just to run faster times), and getting more sleep. I’d also like to start running at least one or two runs a week without my Garmin watch.

All steps forward.

All progress.

And all are being done to take my mind off of the idea that I might just want to run a full marathon at some point just to see what happens (famous last words), after saying just two short years ago that my longest run would be 13 miles. The human brain is a very curious animal…

 

 

Sometimes, You Just Have a Bad Run

It was almost as if I’d been running for two weeks instead of almost two years. Midway through what was supposed to be an easy 5-miler near the lake on a beautiful, sunny afternoon after work, I felt some discomfort in my shins. I’d been pushing the pace because I saw someone’s shadow behind me for a mile. I moved over so she could pass me, but when she didn’t, I decided to just ran faster. Bad idea. After mile 2, that discomfort turned into a burning tightness that I still felt even after stopping to stretch. SO weird. I don’t think I really warmed up until mile 3, but by then, there was residual soreness that made me a bit concerned. It was gone by mile 4, but I decided to just end the run there.

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I love coming to this lake after work. It is the highlight of my day. Of course, it’s easy to get a little overzealous….

I iced when I got home, did a bit of foam-rolling, and had some toast and chocolate milk before Brett and I headed out to get groceries. I did some strength-training the next day, and a good warm-up today before my 6-miler: lunges, crossed-leg toe-touches, squats, and some running form drills. I also walked for a couple of minutes before I started to run. I really needed a redemption run after that 4-mile fail, and went through all of the drills I could think of to ensure it happened. Luckily, I got the good run I really wanted this weekend, but I’m trying to learn how to disconnect my emotional state from the quality of a run. I moped around the next day after that run, just because it happened to be one run where I didn’t feel great. Running is about building mental toughness and resiliency, but a tough run does not mean that you’re weak or inadequate. I’ve been extremely fortunate to be able to run without any problems at all throughout the entire winter (hey girl hey!) and my body is moving very well. Lest I forget, I was in a BOOT this time last year (I always hearken back to #datboot when I start to take strong running for granted).

In other news, I scored a Pilates DVD set that includes 2 resistance bands for the price of one Pilates or Yoga class at my favorite (and very expensive) yoga studio.

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I’ll be sure to post a review after a few at-home sessions. I’m hoping some Pilates and tea at home will become my new post-work ritual, especially on those days that I can’t fit in a run after work to clear my head.

How do you get over bad runs?

Capital Striders Annual Dinner + This Week in Running

What a week it has been! A lot of fun, and a little bit of unpredictability.

I’ve only gotten core work done this week as far as strength-training goes, but I’ve done lunges and squats before every run this week, so I think that counts? This hasn’t been the best week for IronStrength, so I’m going to prioritize that workout next week.

On Friday, I attended the Des Moines Capital Striders annual dinner, and had so much fun!

Most dinners I attend are philanthropic in nature and require a nice dress and heels, but for this dinner, Capital Striders running club members had to don their favorite running gear/race shirt, and a medal from their favorite race 🙂 It was a really cute idea. I wore my Chicago Rock n’ Roll race shirt because that’s the first race I’ve ever done in 90 degrees and still managed to PR. I also wore my medal from my second half-marathon, which was last October, because it’s the first half in which I finished in less than 2 hours. I also tried to channel one of my favorite athletes, Sanya Richards-Ross. How did I do?

Sanya

Talking about my newbie spoils from the past year with other runners in my region during the social hour and dinner was a ton of fun! I also met the hosts of the Run Iowa podcast, and did a segment of their podcast show with them, which was really cool.  We talked trail running, our favorite races, and some of our hard-earned personal records. Very nerdy usie, but I digress…

RunIowa

I also won a Nathan hydration pack as a door prize, which is a lightweight backpack that you can use to carry water, keys, your phone, etc. It’s an absolute must for longer runs without water stops. I remember when I attempted my first 8-miler in the summer heat without water…my husband (then fiancé) had to drive to me and bring me a water bottle. Needless to say, I’ve gotten smarter. I can’t wait to test it out and post a review.

Nathan

I just finished today’s 6-miler to close out this week of running, and it was a fairly solid week.

This week’s running:

Tuesday: 4-mile treadmill run + core exercises (Russian twists, bicycle crunches, planks, mountain climbers)

Thursday: 3.1-mile speed workout. Hit some paces I haven’t seen since I did track workouts last summer. During this run, I ran the downtown loop near my office and used traffic lights to signal the end of an interval.

Sunday: 6.2 miles total. Ran a 5-mile out and back loop with Nala, dropped her off at home, and finished the last 1.2 miles solo.

This week, I really need to tighten up my nutrition. I did fine during the week, but the Chinese we had last night for dinner has been sticking to my stomach. I felt so heavy during those 6 miles this morning! Looking forward to a new week and another chance to get it right.

 

Training Log – Week of February 22-28, 2016

The last full week of February was not as busy as the week before, so I got some solid workouts in! Even though I ended up working a little late Friday and bringing work home with me over the weekend, everything on my to-do list has been completed 🙂

Monday, February 22 – Rest Day

Tuesday, February 23 – Kettlebell Strength Workout and IronStrength Drills (40 minutes total)

Wednesday, February 24 – 5 mile treadmill run

Thursday, February 25 – Rest Day

Friday, February 26 – 3.2 mile run with a stair workout

Saturday, February 27- Core drills

Sunday, February 28 – 5 mile run with this little cutie below and Ironstrength 20-minute workout.

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Standing Desks for Runners

These days, you don’t have to look too far for the latest studies (valid and reliable or not) on modern health risks – ten minutes after signing into Facebook, you’re likely to scroll through at least a dozen shared posts detailing the perils of…well, probably everything you currently do on a daily basis.

My husband, Brett, usually mocks these posts (and okay, I’ll admit…I join in on the fun…it’s how we bond sometimes…), but after reading about how a sedentary desk job can affect various facets of your life, and after feeling phantom, unpredictable foot pain on several runs last year, I found myself convinced that sitting all day is more problematic than I previously thought it was. After all, I would walk miles and miles in college and grad school across sprawling campuses, and transitioned into running pretty easily, so why would my body suddenly rebel against me like this? Methinks a big girl job or two that involves sitting all day at a desk might play a role in this.

The research on standing desks is mixed, but experts across various disciplines agree that staying in one position all day – in this case, sitting for 8 hours or more, every workday- increases your risk of heart disease and some cancers, and weakens key muscles. Welp, which muscles, might you ask? The muscles that you use for running. And unfortunately, running before or after work is not enough to counteract the damage being done.

So when my boss offered the chance to try standing desks at our workplace, I was definitely interested in participating! Not only does a standing desk feel like a mini-office space renovation (seriously, it really opens up a room), it’s a way to fit some movement into your day. Like I said, the research is inconclusive on standing desks, so I’m not convinced you have to stand the entire day to reap the benefits. I have a raised desk and tall chair, so I can sit or stand whenever I want without having to adjust the equipment, although I have tested the adjustable desk and I like that option as well.

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My current practice is to stretch and stand (again, the key is to get some movement in) for at least 45 minutes to an hour after an hour of sitting.  Standing at my desk is starting to feel more normal, and it’s becoming easier to send out a few emails and get some work done while standing for over an hour. Of course, meetings that run a bit long make this goal a little less attainable. I have noticed a little muscle soreness while transitioning, but nothing severe enough to make me discontinue this budding habit.

If you’re not convinced, or your workplace is slow to adopt this new office trend, here are some options for making sure sitting all day doesn’t affect your running:

  • Taking short walk breaks every couple of hours to fill up a water bottle or chat with a colleague about a project
  • Using your break or lunch time to go for a walk (great if you have a huge building or access to a tunnel or skywalk!)
  • Standing at your desk to stretch and do some quick drills, like high-knees or quad stretches)

Do you have a standing desk at work? Do you like it? Let me know in the comments.

 

Training Log, February 8-21

Welcome to my training log for the past two weeks! I like to read other bloggers’ training logs to get a sense of how they structure their workouts and posting my own keeps me accountable. I’ll also try to post at least one workout or run each week on Instagram as well.

That said, getting sick, working 10 hour-plus days, and traveling has led to a less-than-stellar workout schedule, but I managed to fit some activity in. I didn’t run or lift weights while I was sick because the last time I tried to bang out five miles while feeling sick, I ended up feeling worse, and I needed to get better as soon as possible to adequately manage a very busy and tense couple of weeks at work.

February 8-12: complete week off from running and weight-lifting

February 13 – yoga at home (Jillian Michaels – Cardio Yoga)

February 14- Valentine’s Day!

February 15 – 4 mile run

February 16 – Full Ironstrength workout

February 17 – Kettlebell strength workout

February 18 – 4.5 mile run with coworkers

February 19-21 – out of town for a bachelorette party! I didn’t get to fit my usual weekend run in but did lots of airport walking and an “exotic dance” class with the bride and fellow bridesmaids ….that has to count, right? 🙂

How did your training go last week?