Starting Over: Training for a 5k

If I’ve forced you to keep up with this site through the years, you know a majority of my posts are about various races I’ve competed in. They are a huge motivating factor for me. Regardless of how little or how much I’m training–there is usually something on the horizon for me to compete in.

I used to find a race, run it, find another, repeat, etc, but since I started triathlon and learned there were “seasons,” I’ve thought about planning out these things a year in advance & being choosy about what I do. Have I mentioned how expensive these races are? I had to cut back!

My first race was a 10k in Austin in June of 1999. I had only been running for a couple of months and had probably never run that far, but I really enjoyed it. Right after that I held my own at the world famous Luling Watermelon Thump 5k (ok, maybe not WORLD famous, but I have the wooden watermelon plaque to prove my dominance that day). I loved the 5k distance. It is short enough to run almost all out, but you have to manage the pacing so that 7 yr olds aren’t passing you at the end. This happens to me at least 40% of the time.

For some reason, in the running world “challenge” is equated with “distance.” So over the years I ran longer races. I read charts that said with my 5k and 10k times, my 1/2 and full marathon times should be much faster. But they weren’t. I could never follow the training. I was never even doing half the training I was supposed to. Any excuse would derail that dreaded weekly long run. I *cough cough* have a cold. I was out late the night before. I had to be done by brunch, so I didn’t have time. You get the picture. I would search the internet for any research that would tell me why the long training run was not necessary. Or find a training plan telling me I only had to do a long run every OTHER weekend. I enjoyed running the marathons til after mile 16, and only then did I think “Oh guess I should’ve done that long run in training.”

Triathlons provided me with much needed moderation. I got to do a little bit of 3 different sports, which kept it fresh. I got a speedy bike and felt the ease of pedaling into a steady pace and going for hours. I took swimming lessons to work on my stroke, so even though I never gained much speed–at least I wasn’t floundering. I went to workouts with real triathletes who worried about their heart rates and swim speeds. My laundry doubled as I tried to manage all of the outfits and gear that go along with training for all these events. I had almost zero injuries. I didn’t work out enough in any one sport to “burn out.”

I added weight training at about the same time, which made me proud of big legs and big arms. I spent two hardcore nights a week at the gym. I was the annoying girl jumping over hurdles, doing Olympic lifts, & lunging all over the place–basically looking like a solo Crossfit class in a 24 Hour Fitness. But like anything, it grew old after awhile. The trainer was too expensive & all the heavy lifting was making my legs, glutes and shoulders sore for a few days out of every week. Also, I just hate the gym. My membership is SO CHEAP that I can’t give it up, but I hate being indoors for a workout. Or if I’m indoors, I want to be at home.

I began to grow frustrated that I was spending so much time doing different stuff, and I wasn’t mastering any of it. Story of my life! Last year I biked, lifted occasional weights & ran two slow and steady marathons. Marathons are so much fun because of the fan-fare & the epic factor & that burger and beer you engulf when it’s over. But I was tired of slugging along.

This past spring, I felt sick for 2 months, got a puppy, my work schedule kept changing & my workouts were basically the last thing on the list. Some days all I could do was make sure the dog got a walk. I wondered if all my muscles were shrinking as I sat on the couch and watched another Real Housewives episode. I tried to remember back when running was the only thing I did to stay fit. I would go out for 60 minutes 5 days a week like clock work. I could run slow and long or short and fast. I remember trying to PR for my 5ks & never getting under 22 minutes. I really really wanted to.

When things started to return to normal this summer, every run felt like a struggle. I loved it, but it was like starting over. I left the pace watch at home & just ran for time. I tried my best not to judge and instead congratulate myself for getting out there. I competed in a duathlon and had lots of fun, but I still had this urge to RUN FAST.

So over the weekend, I searched and found 2 dozen 5ks happening in Southern California next month. The beauty of 5ks is that they are everywhere! Small ones, large ones, cheap ones, flat ones, hilly ones, etc. I found one that claimed MacGyver was going to be there in person, and this sounded like the race for me. Also, you get a free pair of socks.

I quickly found a 4 week 5k training plan for intermediates & started it this week. I have only done 2 of the speed workouts, but it turns out–I can still run fast! And it is so much fun! I pump up my inspirational music & go out way too fast, but it feels good. I don’t really play air guitar, but I have mastered doing the “air egg shaker” when my songs come on. It’s still hot here, so it reminds me of those late evening summer runs back when I first started so long ago. I come home sweaty and feeling like I really did something out there.

I want nothing more than a whole year of 5ks, culminating in some amazing PR that even I thought impossible (it will happen a year from now, and MacGyver will put the medal around my neck). I still believe in moderation. I have a home gym now–with a mat, a bench, and some free weights and although the workouts are much less intense looking (yesterday I did squats while watching and SINGING to Into the Woods), turns out my legs and arms are STILL big. I moved into a place with a pool, but I enjoy skipping the laps in favor of just sort of floating around. My bike is hanging up next to me in my office, looking SO SAD–but it will eventually make it into one of those cross-training days.

To all of you who attempt to infuse working out into your days, I feel all of your frustration, guilt and lack of motivation when you can’t do everything you wanted or hoped for. Maybe your body isn’t feeling it. Maybe you are sick or exhausted. Maybe your time and energy has been sucked away by the rest of life, and the workout will have to wait for another day. When this happens to me, I do what I can and wait patiently for the motivation to return. It always does. I was going through workouts spending every minute planning what I would do as soon as I finished. I mostly thought about what was for dinner or if there was a shortcut that would make the workout any shorter. These are not FUN workouts. Today, though, I did a fast run–doing 4 min fast/2 min slow over and over & for once, I had no time to think about what would happen after the workout was done. These are the kind of workouts that really clear the mind & help me remember why I love to do this. I was on such a “runner’s high” I had to write all of this!

Race Report: Boston 1/2 Marathon & San Diego Mud Run

I think this is officially the year of the organized races for me.  I need to cut down–these things get to be expensive!  But luckily, they continue to be fun.

I took off last weekend for a quick trip to New York and Boston.  I got to see some friends (very quickly) and drive to Boston to run with my running buddy Aransas.  It’s always great running with her because we seem to be on the same page with running & are usually into running similar paces (sometimes she can be a speed demon, and so can I…but luckily not so this past weekend).  Our half was basically our way into training for the year.  It forced us to build in some long runs, which I’m really bad at.  They always seem so daunting, and because of that–I’ve never really trained well for any marathon.  Sure, I’ll get in a couple of long-ish runs–but nothing like what my initial training calls for.  I’m trying to change that this year–mostly so I don’t end up injured on race day.

Anyway, it rained the 24 hours before the race, so I was a little worried about a soaking wet run.  Luckily, it stopped for most parts of our run–and cloudy and 50s is perfect running weather.  This was outside of Boston–Newton, MA, where we got to run the 13 miles around beautiful, colorful houses, a small lake, fall foliage, etc…and I got to talk to Aransas and catch up the entire way.  I probably shouldn’t be traveling across the country for a long run, but I do have to say it mixed it up a bit.  We ran slowly, which is good–I’m not into being speedy quite yet (I have a few months to get there), but we got the miles in with little pain/struggle.  I’m way excited about the marathon in March now.

Yesterday I drove out to San Diego with three of my friends for my first ever “mud run.”  There are apparently lots of these events around (people are weird like that…we like to jump in mud), and all I can say is—register me for ALL of them.  I really loved it.  It was a 5k, but there were lots of obstacles thrown in throughout the course–hurdles, tunnels, hay to jump over, walls to climb, “snow” to trudge through, and lots and lots of mud pits.  Hilariously amazing!  My teammates did not ALL love it, but that was due to lack of training.  Next year team, we’ll get it together!  There are a couple going on next year, and I can’t wait to do one.  This one was sponsored and held at a mega church–a bit odd, but actually really well run.  Plus we got to stop at Sonic on the way home.  Cherry limeade=yes!!!

I’m keeping the races going with a Turkey Trot 5k on Thursday morning–burning off calories in advance!  It also just helps me to focus on the holiday at hand–giving thanks that I’m healthy enough to run these races & see all the beautiful scenery that surrounds me–this one thursday is around a lake/park, so I’m sure I will enjoy both the crowd and the sights!

I still haven’t completely planned out my marathon training.  It will probably involve a few longer road races between now and March–but not so many that I’m exhausted.  I’m training using a “3 day a week” plan, which involves only 3 runs a week (though all of them highly focused and pretty fast)–the others can be rest and cross-training–so I don’t have to totally let triathlon training slide.  And hopefully, don’t burn out on the running that way.

My trainer and I worked out together on Friday–he’s trying to get me to sign up for more sessions, so I got a freebie in there (it worked).  I’m not able to sign up for many at a time & don’t know if I can do it for very much longer–but we are both out of town on and off, so it will be spread out over the next few months.  It is one of those expenses I can’t seem to give up because having a trainer really helps me bring focus to every single one of my workouts.  I push myself 3-4 workouts a week, I get to let someone else push me the other 2!  I’m also going to find at least one run a week with a club just to help me keep my pace up.  So that’s my training for now.  My big focus over the next month is going to be nutrition, which I hate.  I don’t eat crazy bad foods, but I don’t put nearly as much time into nutrition as I do to exercise & I really do want to be a complete package kind of athlete.  So the goal is just to put more time into thinking about food–weekly shopping, cooking more, etc–especially now when the training isn’t so overwhelming.

So, soon I promise–I will lay off these race reports!  Unless you wanna run a mud run with me?!?!  Sooo much fun!

Running Report: Nike Human Race 10K & Running Goals

Well, triathlon season is over, so why not celebrate by…doing a 10K 5 days after my last triathlon?!!  Ok, I’m not famous for having the smartest ideas–but it sounded fun at the time.

My last few triathlons have all ended with a 5k, which meant that my long runs haven’t really exceeded 6 or 7 miles…not much need with a 5k.  So, I have not been training for 10ks…but luckily, I’ve been racing for the past 10 years or so, which means my legs have lots of “muscle memory.”  This memory sometimes forget how FAST I’ve run before, though!

Midnight is not a good time for me.  I’m usually in bed by 10:30, and almost all of my races have been early morning–so this was definitely different.  I ended up having a Diet Coke and a Balance bar at around 9:30 or so to give me a little bit of a boost.  I was running with my friend Ryan and his friend James–running with guys is different, because they could care less if you actually run WITH them.  Girls, we can chat on our runs–with guys, you just listen to your music and run…much like when I run by myself, except we get to carpool and talk about the race together.  We had to be out there an hour early, which is ridiculous–we literally had to stand at the start line for an hour, so I was definitely ready to get this thing started!

There were pace markers to start the race (7 min miles, 8 min miles, etc) to help create a smooth start, but they did not work.  It was obvious right away that my group was not only composed of 8 min mile runners, but also 12-15 min a mile runners.  I don’t hate on slower runners (I am a slower runner to those who run 6 min miles!), but run with your pace group!  We spent the first mile trying to get through runners–but it was packed (L.A. traffic on a bad day)…so spent most of the mile jogging.  This is OK at a marathon because you have 25 more miles to speed up to your pace…but in a 6 mile race, it is a big waste (and you have to give up the hope for a personal record).  After awhile, I felt claustrophobic, so I left Ryan & sped up & maintained a decent pace for the remaining miles.

I could definitely tell it was midnight: 1) are those prostitutes out on these sketchy roads, high-fiving me?, 2) the smell of fast food messing with my mind and my stomach in mile 4-5, 3) drunken boys along frat row at USC, 4) my legs, my stomach, my breath–instead of getting better towards the end (I can usually finish a 10k pretty strong…like I’m waking up), I felt myself wanting to go to bed.  I was able to sprint at the end, but my shoe lace came untied–I got yelled at for stopping right at the finish line to tie it, but being yelled at really doesn’t affect you when you’re tired, it’s 1am, and you just ran 6.2 miles.

It was a good start to the next several months, which will focus on longer distance races.  I’m running a half-marathon in a few weeks–which I haven’t trained for, but will add 2 long runs to my training before then…and then L.A. marathon in March.  I’m sure I’ll throw in another 1/2 & a 10k in there, too, but mostly excited to try my new program–which has you running only 3 days a week–but at a faster pace, which I definitely need for a decent marathon time.  There’s still cross-training to do, so I can bring out my bike on the weekends.  It’s going to be fun.

In Summary= I will not be running at midnight again.