Rain, Sun, And Oh Heck Why Not A 5k?

Happy Monday.  I hope you all had a wonderful weekend.  Mine was full of rain, productivity, some sunshine and an impromptu race.

Saturday was a chilly, rainy and windy one here in Chicago.  We canceled our team training run because no one wants to run in 30 degrees with rain and 20 mph winds.  I think everyone was unanimously thrilled to think about sleeping in during a rainy day.  For me, I didn’t know what to do with myself having a full Saturday off of work.  So I decided to tackle our home and do some serious spring cleaning.  I am pretty certain I hit just about every nook and cranny of our place and it felt so good when it was done.  I have mentioned before but I have a sick fondness for cleaning.

I also enjoyed a little sleep in time.  Some people have been asking if I have “pregnancy brain” yet and I think this picture says it all……

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Oops!

Since I didn’t get a run in on Saturday and the forecast for Sunday looked fantastic I got talked into registering for a 5k.  It didn’t take much arm twisting because the race literally started blocks from our place.  The Ravenswood Run is a neighborhood 5k that twists and turns through Ravenswood and Lincoln Square.  The race hosts 4,000 participants and benefits the Ravenswood Community Food Services Pantry for the local All Saints’ Episcopal Church.

Packet pickup was held at local Fleet Feet locations which made this a breeze.  And with that small race fee I ended up with a great pink Mizuno technical shirt.  I am always thrilled when this is the case because I certainly do not need another cotton race shirt.  I don’t know about you guys, but they just end up tucked away in closets or up at our lake house for inevitable painting projects.  On the other hand, a good technical shirt can come in handy for the one thing I do on the daily, run!

Sunday I woke up bright and early to sunny skies and chilly 30 something temps.  But with a light breeze and no clouds, I couldn’t complain.  The race started at 8:00am and fellow Team Momentum member Kim met me at our place at 7:40.  There is nothing like wandering over to the start, picking a corral and hopping in with just a few minutes to go.  No worries about parking or port-a-potties.  Perfect!

Kim was the reason I got talked into doing this race.  As of Sunday I was 22 weeks pregnant and not looking to run any more races for awhile (except a half that I am coaching in 3 weeks!).  But she has been working really hard and her pace has improved a lot lately and she was looking for a PR.  Knowing how hard she has been working I was happy to join her and be her pacer.

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Not the best pics but this is the local church benefiting from the run. They host a wonderful food pantry for the needy.

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What I loved about this race was the casual neighborhood feel.  We popped into the 9:00min/mile pace corral without any problems.  Stood on the street with neighbors cheering us on and after a lovely National Anthem we were off with 4,000 other racers.  And for a race of 4,000 can I say how awesome it was that most everyone picked their appropriate corral and that made life much easier!

I’m happy to say that Kim killed it and bested her PR by 31 seconds.  That is a lot for a 5k!  Afterward we were met with tables full of food and drinks and for $10 we could have had a lovely pancake breakfast hosted by the Episcopal church.  Instead we grabbed Louie and I headed back to watch the kids races.  What a blast!  Louie loves kids and running so he was in his element.

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The rest of the day ended with a nap, followed by mass and some lovely walks in the sunshine.  Not a bad end to the weekend.

Congrats to Lauren for finishing her marathon, Miles for his marathon, and Sara for completing her half.  And a big congrats to Team Momentum members who finished the Nashville Half and Crazy Legs in Madison, WI.  Great work everyone!

How was your weekend?  Any races?

Nail Your Pre-Race Prep

One of the most essential parts of race training is consistency.  I talk a lot with my athletes about staying on their plan, wearing the same shoes, using the same clothes, and eating the same foods before a run.  The reason for this is relatively simple; running is a beast of a sport and even on your best days it can sneak up on you and leave you chafed or bent over with cramps.  Finding the right foods and clothes that make the sport work best for you is key.

So it shouldn’t be any surprise that you need to stick with this consistency right up until the race gun goes off.  The reason you practice wearing the same clothes every long run is so that you can wear that exact same outfit on race day and know that it won’t chafe or leave you with a major wedgie starting at mile 15 of a marathon.  You wear the same shoes for weeks up until the race so that when you run that race you don’t discover new blisters all over your heels and toes.  This means, you need to wear that gear you practiced in on race day!

I preach about eating a proper breakfast each morning before your long run so that over the course of your training you can learn what foods work (and what doesn’t).  Ryan Hall eats pancakes before his long runs.  I used to do that but discovered that somewhere past 16 miles they no longer work for me and my stomach will revolt.  Now I know that a bagel with peanut butter and jelly is key for me.  Therefore, on race day I eat that bagel and peanut butter and jelly.  And I do it 2 hours before the race starts because during my practice sessions I know that my stomach needs that long to digest before I run.  I know getting up two hours earlier for some people sounds incredibly annoying, but it is worth it to not end up searching for a port-a-potty on the race course.  That means, you need to eat the same foods you ate during your practice sessions on race day.

Another factor that often gets forgotten about is the meal you eat the night before.  Believe you me, what you eat in the hours leading up to your run can either make or break you.  It is the fuel that will keep you going and it is the fuel that can leave you sick on the side of the road too.  It is essential to figure this one out!

If you are running a 5k, 10k, or even possibly a half marathon you do not need to carb load.  I repeat, you do not need to carb load.  Your body has enough glycogen stores already to get you through the race.  And if you are running a marathon you do not need to carb load the night before.  If you are waiting to do the loading then, you already missed the boat!  Carb loading should take place a few days before the race and does not require massive bowls of pasta and bread.

Most importantly, you really do not need a heavy pasta dinner the night before your race unless that is what you ate every night before your long runs.  If you didn’t do it before, don’t think that big pasta dinner is going to be your key to setting a new PR.  In fact, a big bowl of pasta will more than likely sit heavy in your belly throughout the night and into the morning when you start your run.  This means, you should eat the same foods the night before a race that you did during your training.

Finally, don’t leave anything until the last minute.  Act like a Boy Scout and prepare yourself the night before.  Rarely does anything ever go as planned.  Remember when Jerry Seinfeld tried to help a buddy out the night before the NYC Marathon and he missed the alarm?  It happens!

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Lay everything out and ready to go the night before.  Make yourself a “flat runner” that includes the outfit you are going to wear (with the bib already pinned onto your shirt or singlet).  Put our your socks, shoes, running belt, head band, GU’s or other fuel, and headphones.  Leave it in the room you are sleeping in so that in the morning you can pop out of bed and get yourself ready in a flash.

Finally, never assume you will find what you need when you wake up.  This is an important lesson we learned during the Boston 13.1 last year.  If you know that you need a bagel and coffee in the morning, don’t assume Panera opens at 6:00am.  Call them and find out.  Ask the front desk when coffee will be ready in the morning.  You know what stinks?  Waking up and running all over Boston searching for coffee because you need it to wake up and get your digestive system going.  You know what else stinks?  Watching the clock tick as you run all over Boston trying to find said coffee!

Do your research and if you must, get that bagel the night before and keep it in your room.  Buy a coffee and leave it in the fridge.  Maybe it won’t be toasted like you prefer it or perhaps the coffee won’t be hot, but at least you will have what you need to get you going.

What are your race day rituals on the night before/morning of?

Just Drive. Just Run. Just Focus.

Over the past few years there has been so much information about the dangers of texting and driving.  We have read the facts and seen the horrific pictures from deadly accidents.  And yet, it surprises me how many people still continue to text and drive.  I have been driving a lot more lately and with that I have noticed how prevalent not only texting and driving is but distracted driving in general.  I see it on the interstate, down highways on the way to work, and a lot on neighborhood streets.

Yet, it isn’t just the drivers.  The other day I was walking down the street and a girl descended the steps from a train and walked right into me while she texted.  She looked up, said nothing, and then continued to walk in front of me and finish whatever she was doing.  Not only was she distracted and possibly putting herself at danger, but we forget common courtesy with these behaviors.  We get so wrapped up in our conversations on our phone that we forget about the people around us, including their safety.

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On Friday I went out for a lovely run.  The weather was incredible and it felt like spring had fully arrived here in Chicago.  As I was running the streets of my neighborhood I came to an intersection where I had the right of way.  But a car pulled up to a rolling stop (I am being generous with that term) and without looking up continued on.  The driver had both hands on the wheel as he texted at the same time.  I didn’t realize that his driver’s side window was open and I shouted something at his car.  He stopped abruptly when he heard me and the look of fear on his face was impossible to miss.  He was shocked to realize that he could have hit me and didn’t even notice I was there.  Fortunately for me I always assume drivers won’t pay attention to a pedestrian and that kept me safe.

I hate to sound like an old lady (although I really am).  But I remember a time when I was in high school and I was dating a boy two states away.  Our parents let us call each other twice a week and talk for 15 minutes, because it was long distance and we had to pay by the minute.  Hard to believe, but I grew up in the age of no cell phones.  How the heck did we make it?  In fact, let me age myself just a touch more.  My first cell phone was a giant one my parents bought me for my long road trips and it came in it’s own bag that also charged through the lighter in the car.  It was huge!  My point is that there was a time not that long ago when we weren’t completely and constantly attached to a phone, and you know what?  We survived.

I am by no means perfect but when I am in the car I make a point to have it be a phone free space.  The phone sits on the passenger seat and despite the fact that I get many texts and Facebook messages during my daily commute, I leave the phone there until I reach my destination.  I repeat this a lot and I truly mean it: How many texts could possibly be worth putting yours or someone else’s life at risk?  The truth is none.  The odds of you getting an extremely pressing or urgent message that must be answered in the next 30 minutes is very rare.  It can wait.

While I see a lot of texting on the interstate or daily commute, the one space where I see the majority of phone usage in the car is in our neighborhood.  We live in a lovely residential area of Chicago.  We fell in love with the tree lined streets and thought it would be the perfect place to start a family.  But this is the spot where cars drive at a slowish pace and drivers spend most of their time on their phones as they move from stop sign to stop sign.

Over the past few decades there has been a huge push towards multitasking.  Doing one thing is great but you are more productive if you can take care of a list of jobs all at once.  Sadly, this mantra seems to roll over into all of our lives.  We hang out with friends and Facebook at the same time.  We walk around on a beautiful spring day and message friends as they do the same thing, instead of meeting for lunch or a cup of coffee.

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While multitasking can be helpful in many areas of our lives, we need to take back the focus.  As drivers we need to put our focus on the road, on other drivers, and most importantly on those who are not in cars.  We have got to get rid of the notion that it is other drivers who are creating the problem or are dangerous.  Anyone who is texting or playing on their phone while driving is putting themselves and others in harm’s way.  As pedestrians we need to focus on where we are going.  And as runners we need to pay attention to the dangers that surround us and not think we are immune to them.  Always assume that the driver is not paying attention and don’t take your right of way for granted.  Until a driver acknowledges your presence, don’t cross the street.

Let’s all focus and stay in the moment.  Remember what is important and not put our lives or others as risk.

Lovely Weekend Full of Miles and Fun

Happy Monday friends!  I hope you had a great weekend.  Mine started out with beautiful weather here in Chicago.  Friday was a day off of work for me and it almost hit 80 degrees.  I got a nice run in and all sorts of organizing that needed to be taken care of.

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Saturday morning Team Momentum had an 11 mile training run, their furthest yet in preparation for the Chicago 13.1 in less than four weeks!  The weather wasn’t quite what it was on Friday but I woke up to mid 50’s and that meant shorts and a tank for the run.  It was so nice to see a larger group show up for our training session and I am proud to say that everyone did an incredible job.

The weather was wonderful on the way out but as we turned around we were hit with some pretty awful winds off of the lake.  My fingers were numb and I was kind of regretting that tank top.  You know that in between weather where it is just too hard to pinpoint what you should wear?  Nothing like getting that for the second half a of long run.

Despite the wind and slower paces on the way back, everyone continued to rock their runs.  In fact some people were posting PR’s compared to last year.  It is going to be really fun to see how it all works out come race day.  But one thing I know is that this group is going to be half marathon ready!

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I do have one minor confession.  I pulled a Salt in the last half mile of our run.  I was chatting with a friend and bringing up random topics as I often do when I am coaching and trying to help others get in those last long miles.  I wasn’t paying attention and somehow rolled off of the sidewalk and took a nice trip.  I was absolutely fine but my hands took the brunt of my fall and so did one of my legs.  It was one of those falls where you know you are going down and it is going to be okay but everything plays out in slo-mo.

Holy embarrassing! My hands got skinned up and later in the day it reminded me of being a little kid and falling at the play ground.  I had a nice case of gravel burn.  Later I confessed to the rest of the team what happened and they asked me how I fell.  All I could say was, “Like a figure skater!”  It was a classic Sarah moment.  In fact the day Rock proposed to me we went out to lunch right before he popped the question.  As we left the restaurant I tripped over an imaginary something and fell to the ground.  I ended up with scraped hands, knees and ankles.  Fortunately the blood didn’t deter him and the day wasn’t lost.  Later he confessed that he thought that might have ruined his big surprise.  All I can say is that Rock knew right from the beginning what he was getting himself into!  I tend to walk into walls, even in my own home.  I am a serious klutz.

Minus the bruised ego and hands, the rest of the weekend was great.  Our new crib arrived and we got it assembled and the baby’s room is coming together.  Can you believe we are at 21 weeks along already?  We don’t know if it is a boy or a girl and we are waiting to find out on the big day.  But I would love to hear your guesses.

Sunday is always the perfect off day for me.  Lots of sleeping in and a cinnamon roll with cream cheese icing to kick off the day.  There was some church in there along with errands  and house cleaning.  And of course, lots of fun time with Louie who continues to grow and run like the wind.

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How was your weekend?  Did you manage to stay upright for your long run or races?

A huge good luck to all of the Boston runners including Michelle S., Mother Racer, IrishRunnerChick’s husband, and Wasn’t Just The Wine Talking!

Setting Race Goals

One of the best motivational factors you can use during your training is goals.  For most of us, goals help keep us going.  We runners are a driven bunch and we are often driven by numbers.  They can be a useful tool but it is key to set out towards achievable and realistic goals.  It is also important to have a back up plan or two.  As many of us know, even the most seasoned runner never knows what will happen on race day.  We need to plan on both the best and the even not so best situations.

Usually we have a time goal in mind for most events.  While this is great, it is important that you know what your abilities are and what a realistic time would be for you.  There are several resources, including websites that will help you figure out your projected finish time for a given distance based on a previous race or time trial.  These are extremely helpful but are obviously not exact.  However, I think this can be very useful to determine what a likely finish time would be for a race, especially a longer distance like a half or full marathon if you have never done one before.

I once coached a runner who had done a moderate 10k pace and expressed interest in running a 3:30 marathon.  This would be her first marathon and her former times had her running an average pace of 9:00-10:00 min/miles.  While this was a great long term goal for her to possibly work for, I felt that it was very unrealistic for her to believe that would be her expected finish time during an 18 week training session.  Using a resource to determine what her finish might be was helpful for painting a better picture of what we should expect.

While PR’s or certain finish times are great goals to have in mind, there are plenty of other goals you can set for yourself.  One of the most common I hear is the plan to not walk.  This is a great one and if you have been following a training plan, it should be relatively achievable.  Other things to aspire for might be to fuel properly so that you don’t hit a wall, to take in the sights of a particular race, or to just plain have fun.

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Whenever you set goals for yourself I recommend having an A, B, and C goal to aspire for; otherwise known as Best Case Scenario, Next Best Case Scenario, and Better Than Not Scenario.  By doing this you are avoiding setting yourself up for failure.

Say you set out to train for a particular distance and you have a time goal in mind.  After all of your training, race day arrives and shortly into the run you realize that your body is just not doing what you had hoped of it.  Two miles into a race you see that you are going to fall short of your goal.  If that is your one and only plan for that race, it will be a major let down.  In fact, it would be easy to let yourself give up.  Mentally, you need something else to fall back on.

However, by having a B and C goal to aspire for, all hope is not lost.  You can still make something happen with this race.

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The key to setting those B and C goals is to have a plan to make them work for you under almost any circumstance.  While  a PR is a great A plan, a good B plan would be to finish under a “next best time” or perhaps to jog the whole way and not walk.  Then you need to set a “less than desirable situation goal.”  Perhaps this one would be to smile the whole time, or to high five any kids you see along the course.  The C situation should be something that you will likely achieve, even under less than ideal circumstances.  And yes, finishing no matter what is an excellent goal.

By having a game plan with an A, B, and C scenario you are setting yourself up for a successful race that will help get you all the way to the finish and with a positive attitude.

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What kind of goals do you like to set before a race?

Pick A Plan And Stick With It

Two of the most important steps to race training are picking an appropriate plan and then sticking with it.  First you need to find a plan that works for you as an athlete and your goals.  Then it is essential that you stay the course and follow that plan.  I’m not suggesting that you have to follow the plan to the letter but it is important to follow it as closely as you possibly can.

Training plans are created in a way to help build you up as a runner.  Mileage typically increases in a periodized manner that teaches your body to handle the increases in distance as well as recover when necessary.  By following this schedule your body acclimates to the miles and also receives just enough recovery time to hopefully avoid injury.  Most training plans also have a set maximum distance which will get you as close to the finish as needed to complete your given race.

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This is not to say that you shouldn’t make adjustments in your plan to accommodate for injuries or other life stresses. Sometimes when our bodies are exhausted we need to change the plan a bit to allow for a bit more recovery time.  Most of us also have busy lives and we shouldn’t completely change our schedules to follow a training plan.  For example during my last training session I had very busy Thursdays which called for long runs between 10-12 miles.  It would have been quite difficult to fit them in so I swapped them out for my Wednesday training which called for a short run or the option of an extra day off.  Wednesdays became my long day and I used my busy Thursday as a day “off.”  Training plans are not set in stone and you can alter them to fit your schedule.

Injuries also happen and we need to rest our bodies when needed.  Taking a few days or a week off typically won’t hurt your training.  In fact, if you are injured you need to take that time to heal.  Rest your body and come back when you are ready.  However, under normal circumstances it is best to stick to your training as much as possible.  The schedule is set to prepare you for the big day.  There is a reason why each run is prescribed in your plan.

It can be easy to wake up on a Saturday morning and think “To heck with this,” and roll back over.  Perhaps you will get those miles in next week.  But this can have a negative impact on race day.  For one, all of those long miles are excellent preparation for the big event.  As you run a marathon you can feel reassured as you come to 16, 18, 20 and even 22 miles because you have likely already covered that mileage numerous times before.  Knowing what to expect and that you are capable of those miles can be extremely helpful.

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Additionally, if you skipped a run during training it can really wreak havoc mentally.  Nothing is worse than struggling through a race and beginning to question your preparedness.  “If only I did that 17 miler, maybe I wouldn’t be struggling now.”  Odds are you would still be struggling but it is always best to leave nothing there to question.  The mind is a powerful tool.  It can be your best friend or your worst enemy.  By sticking to a plan you will know you have already done the bulk of the work and are race ready.

What makes you feel most prepared for a race?

We’re All In This Together

Last Saturday after our group run we had a great speaker from Fleet Feet come by and speak to our training group.  Matthew Abitbol is an accomplished marathoner with 50+ marathons under his belt. One of the things he mentioned that we need to keep in mind during races and especially during endurance runs like the marathon and half marathon is the “we are all in this together” mentality.

In almost any endurance race we do, pain as well as physical and mental exhaustion is inevitable.  Regardless of whether this is your first race or if you are an elite, that pain is going to happen.  You are going to feel tired, and your mind is going to start playing tricks on you.  Whether you run a 5 hour marathon or finish in under 3 hours, we are all feeling the same things.  Some of us just finish with that pain a lot faster than others!

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By keeping this in mind, we can use this mentality to pull us along.  As we start to feel exhausted and waver, we can remember that every runner around us is feeling these same things to some extent.  Knowing this can be encouraging and help us to avoid that process where we start to rationalize why we might want to slow down or even quit.

Abitbol pointed out that this was a huge factor in the success of many runners during last year’s Chicago Marathon.  The energy of last year’s marathon was electric and the statistics proved this helped.  Last year’s number of finishers was well above the average, seeing far fewer DNF’s than other marathons typically have.  The mood of the race and the runner’s helped set the pace and push athletes towards the finish.

Rock experienced this himself last year during Chicago when his hip flexor revolted and he had to walk the last few miles.  As frustrated as he was, he refused to back out of the race.  He had trained for this and he was going to finish darn it!  While he hobbled his way toward the finish numerous runners stopped to give him a pat on the back or offer help.  Looking back it was a frustrating race for sure, but the attitude and camaraderie helped push and inspire him until the end.

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All of this is important for us to keep in mind as we train and approach our races.  Things are going to get rough.  Our bodies are going to ache.  Our minds might try to think of dozens of reasons why we should quit.  But using the “we are all in this together” mentality can be a great reminder that we are not alone.  Put another way, misery loves company and we are definitely in good company.  Keep on pushing on my friends!