dog days

My summer running season began the second I crossed the finish line at the Mountains 2 Beach Marathon this May. After three hours and twenty-six minutes of giving everything I had to give, I was a wreck but fortunately not wrecked. I’ve learned the hard way that I have a bad habit of pushing myself one run too far and paying for it with an injury.  I planned, even before the race, to take time off for recovery. I would let my body tell me when it was time to come back. But my mind had a different idea.

Now, ten weeks later, I’m still having trouble getting back into my groove. My performance is ok and I’m not hurt, but dragging myself out of bed to go for my morning run is a big change from waking up ready to seize the day. Some mornings I turn off my alarm and convince myself to make it up later in the week. When I don’t run, I get stuck in traffic, doubling my commute. After a long drive to work with no run to loosen up, I start the day stiff and get home even stiffer.

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The American Tobacco Trail, Durham, NC: miles of forest and fresh air.

In retrospect, I spent over a year preparing for my race. I ran M2B in 2016 and crashed hard at mile 19. I was hoping to BQ and ended up missing the cut off by over twenty minutes. I vowed to return in 2017 and make my time. I turned my failure into motivation and a twenty-minute improvement became a gigantic goal. I lit a fire that continued to burn through my recovery, base building, training, and the race. When I finished, successfully, my year of motivation and hard work ended, instantly. I was left asking, “now what?”

My first week back was a smooth one since I put together my initial recovery plan before the marathon. The day after the race, I forced myself to walk. Just a mile or two at first, and eventually three miles by the end of the week. The movement helped untie the knots I felt through most of my body. One week later, I attempted a five-mile run and survived.

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Scrappy’s Peak, Griffith Park, CA.

In June, I focused on consistency regardless of pace or distance. I built my weekly volume to 25 miles and ran, with a little walking, three to five days a week. I tried a ten-miler but dialed back when I felt soreness deep in my quads. July was solid. I attempted to return to a routine. I ran consistently, hit my weekly mileage targets (40-45), and resumed my Saturday long runs. My final long run of the month was fourteen miles, pushing my weekly total to forty-seven. By the numbers, I was ready to begin a new training cycle.

At the same time, I was still suffering from a general lack of motivation. I expected some post-marathon blahs, but I was still having trouble getting up in the mornings and not looking forward to my runs. Usually, if I stay consistent and push through, my enthusiasm returns. But after eight weeks, nothing had clicked and I knew that I needed more work on my mental recovery. I kept to a schedule, continued grinding out my runs, and hoped that through daily repetition I would return to form.

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Blufftop Trail, Palos Verdes, CA.

I tried mixing up my runs. A work trip to North Carolina helped, especially since I stayed next to the American Tobacco Trail. Two mornings spent in the woods cleared my head and gave me a massive hit of fresh air.  When I returned to Los Angeles, I made sure to spend time running in our woods, Griffith Park, a much drier and browner experience. And I took to the Palos Verdes Bluffs for some of my long runs.

Last weekend, I ran “The Hills Are Alive,” 10K trail race. I planned it to bookend to my summer recovery. What’s nice about the race is that it is a fun run with no timing chips. With a dusty, hilly course, there’s not much of a chance to PR and a very friendly atmosphere. I ran well enough to top my time from last year and to feel optimistic for the fall season.

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Los Angeles River, flat and fast.

This week, I began training for the Manhattan Beach 10K and Palos Verdes Half Marathon. I ran my first speed workout: 5×1 minute repeats in the middle of a nine-mile run. I had not run repeats or a tempo run since May and I was not looking forward to the workout. I survived. In fact, it felt good to wake up my fast-running muscles. Later that day, I realized I was back to normal.  The summer grind added up to slow and steady progress. Coming back was not sexy- it took consistency, dedication and a lot of sweat. Now I’m ready for the fall. Time to focus on training and to set new goals.

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rainy day running

What’s this? Southern California is rainy for the first time in ages. My running vocabulary grew to include wet, cold, and muddy.  I love it.

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After years of training on dry roads and dusty trails, I’ll enjoy the rain while it lasts. There’s a thrill of getting caught in a downpour and showers during my workouts are a treat.

All of my usual haunts are transformed.

Beach runs during an approaching storm are a dramatic change from the usual blue skies.

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Griffith Park offers a misty morning trail run with sweeping views of the cloudy sky.

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Out on the Palos Verdes Peninsula the trails are a mess. I need to scrape the mud from my shoes while the wind catches me out on the bluffs.

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Sunshine is on the way. Maybe just in time so I don’t get tired of the rain and a special start to my running season.

 

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Our family traveled to the Pacific Northwest this Summer. I’ve always had trouble fitting in my runs during vacations but this trip was different. My son Alex joined his high school cross country team and has to maintain a weekly mileage count. So we teamed up and explored all of our stops.

Vancouver Harbor: our first run was seven-miler in downtown Vancouver. It was raining but since rain rarely visits LA it felt like a gift. We had an excellent workout. A network of paths surround the bay- leftovers from the 1986 world fair- and we seemed to join all of Vancouver’s runners this morning.

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Stanley Park: the next day we headed along the same path in the opposite direction. Our route took us north along the Seawall and into Stanley Park.

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Soon we were looking out to the Pacific Ocean and spied Victoria Island in the distance. The fresh air energized us and put some extra spring in our steps.

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Vancouver was a perfect city for running although some of the locals cautioned us to test perfection in February…

Seattle: at our next stop we stayed in the Queen Anne neighborhood, a hill just north of downtown with a great view of the skyline:

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Since we were on a hill, there was plenty of elevation change and even a few flights of stairs. As in Vancouver we marveled at the green surrounding us. Our run took us mostly through residential streets plus a cemetery and was a great way to explore the city.

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Portland: our final destination and another great running city. Portland is compact enough that on our first run we crisscrossed the Willamette river, explored downtown, and made it back home in time for breakfast.

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Exploring while running is a great way to understand the character of a place, and Portland’s neighborhoods were very green and a pleasure to run through.

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Adding running to our trip made it one of my favorite vacations ever. As a bonus I was able to train with Alex. It won’t be long before he leaves me gasping if I try to keep up with him. From now on I’ll remember to pack my running shoes when I travel.

summer running

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This summer, my best time to run is early morning along the beach. No complaints there. I spent most of July exploring the South Bay from Palos Verdes, through the beach cities of Redondo, Hermosa, and Manhattan, and as far north as El Segundo.

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After running a marathon at the end of May, I spent June in recovery mode building back my weekly mileage. In July, I put together a string of consistent weeks and feel like I’m back to normal. I started the month with a 5K and surprised myself with a new PR. For the rest of the month I stayed consistent with five runs and a long run each week.

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The Strand bike path is flat and fast. I found that I could work on my running form without worrying about traffic or the irregularities I encounter on trail runs. It’s also ten to twenty degrees cooler than the rest of LA, a definite advantage for summer training.

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The bike path ends at RAT beach and the Palos Verdes peninsula. From the top of the bluffs you can see all the way north to Malibu and most days are just right for running.

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This summer has been a nice break from dedicated training. Three half marathons and then a marathon took up almost an entire year. Now I’m ready to get back to setting goals and racing. I’ll be starting with a trail 10K next month and targeting the Manhattan Beach 10K in early October as a goal race.

midyear report

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A month since running my first marathon and my training is back to normal. I still have not figured out my running goals for the second half of the year but I got back to six days running with two workouts and a long run.

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2015 was my breakthrough year for running. I finally started to figure out the path to better training and racing without being injured. I ran more miles with more consistency than ever before and broke the 2000m barrier.

My first run2run post laid out my 2016 goals:

  • 2500 miles
  • Marathon: Mountains 2 Beach, 5/29/16
  • Half Marathon PR
  • 10K PR
  • 5K PR
  • No injuries!

We’re half way through 2016, a great time to check in on those goals.

2500 miles: I’m just shy of 1200m this year and on track to hit 2500. If I decide to run a marathon in the fall I may come up short because of the taper and recovery weeks but that does not bother me at all. I’ll take the two marathons.

Marathon: Got this one off my back when I completed the Mountains 2 Beach marathon in May. Preparation for this race was my entire focus this year and it was worth it. I came through exhausted and ready for more.

Half Marathon PR: In January I ran the Griffith Park Half Marathon and knocked three minutes off my previous best. This race was my confidence builder for the marathon and one of my best runs ever. The day after I finished, I signed up for M2B.

10K and 5K PR: Since I was training for the marathon this year I did not run any shorter races. I plan to run both distances this summer. I’m confident I can PR the 10K since some of my tempo run paces were 10-15 seconds below my best 10K race pace. The 5K might be more challenging since I’m not doing any race specific training, especially if I sign up for another marathon.

No Injuries: race results seem like a bigger deal but his is my most important accomplishment in 2016. I include a dynamic warm up before and a strength routine after every one of my runs. The results are fantastic- longer and faster running with shorter recovery periods. Sometimes the exercises are a grind and that’s when I remind myself what it felt like to be unable to run because of injury.

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I’m heading into the second half of 2016 feeling motivated. Up next is my first 5K of the year, consistent training, and if things go according to plan, a chance to cross off the rest of my running goals.

 

goal free running

Three weeks since running the Mountains 2 Beach marathon and I’m starting to feel like I’m back to normal. Volume, frequency, and pace are well below my training levels and that’s ok.

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Until I feel ready I’m running goal free. I decide my route the day of my run and let the pace come on its own.

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I usually find myself running the Strand along Redondo, Hermosa, or Manhattan Beach. Even on warm days, like today, the sea breeze keeps conditions just right.

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I can tell that my marathon recovery is coming to a close. I’m back to five runs this week and my legs are starting to feel fresh. Time to start thinking about the rest of 2016.

recover and reset

It’s been two weeks since I ran the Mountains 2 Beach marathon and it seems like so long ago. To myself: c’mon, get out there and start running!  Then from my body: hey, not so fast!  One of my training goals was to listen to my body and break a habit of riding my post-race enthusiasm to injury.

So I waited. I did not run at all for 10 days and then I started some goal-free workouts this week.

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My first run back was awful. Legs felt like lead, aches and pains that were fading away spoke up: you are not ready.  I took another break and finally had a decent run, a relaxing out-and-back along the Greenbelt.

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June in Southern California brings overcast and cool mornings and that’s perfect for me. The day after running the Greenbelt I felt good enough to follow up with a short run along the Strand.

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When I’m training I run solo so it was fun to take Alex today. He’s able to keep up with me and it won’t be long before I need to keep up with him. I’m looking forward to us running some 5K and 10K races later this year.

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I’m still not feeling 100%. This week was a good start and it left me wanting to run some more. I should be back to normal soon.