It Was Love at First 400m

Lehigh TrackI ran in my new racing flats for the first time this week and it was love. On Wednesday, I went to the Lehigh University track to tackle some 400 repeats. It was a hot, humid evening with storms looming in the distance but the minute I put on my Fastwitches I knew it was going to be a good night.

Megan came with me and our plan was to do 6-8 400m repeats, depending on how we felt. I’m still very new at speed workouts and my pacing tends to be all over the place. For 400m I usually do anywhere from 1:44-2:00- much too wide of a range. Megan told me to try to hit 1:50 even for all of the repeats.

After a 1.25-mile warm up we stretched and got to work. The first 400m I went out a little fast- 1:37. I chalked this up to excitement and trying to chase Megan and just told myself to calm down and take the next one super easy.

Well, the next three were 1:44, 1:43, 1:43. I was feeling good but usually this is the beginning of a gradual slowing down for the rest of my speed workout. We rested a bit, I took a swig of Nuun-infused ice water and we got back to it. Except now, Megan told me to try to maintain the speed I had been doing and hit the final four 400s at 1:44/1:45.

I hit the next three all at 1:40 flat. We were about to do our eighth and final 400m and Megan gave me a challenge- sub-1:40. I was still feeling great and after all, it was the last one so you might as well go balls to the wall because then you’re done.

That’s exactly what I did and ran a 1:34- three seconds faster than my first 400m repeat. Needless to say, I was absolutely pumped and praising my new racing flats for all of their hard work.

We cooled down and did some hurdle walkovers and called it a night. This was my first run in the new Saucony Fastwitch 6 racing flats and I thought there was a noticeable difference. My feet and legs felt light, I was able to maintain a faster turnover, and they seemed to grip the track better than any of my other running shoes. I know it’s still early on in their running shoe life and I’ll have to try them on different surfaces and different runs but so far so god with the Fastwitch 6s. It was love at that first 400m.

Workout summary:

1.3 mile warmup at 8:40/mile pace
8x400m
(1) 1:37
(2) 1:44
(3) 1:43.2
(4) 1:43.6
(5) 1:40.2
(6) 1:40.4
(7) 1:40.8
(8) 1:34.7 (!!!)

400m cool down

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7 Reasons to Get Racing Flats

Between my 5K PR, third place age group win, and the USA Outdoors Track and Field Championships, I’ve had speed on my mind. Now I know I’ll never be able to run an 800 as fast as Kate Grace, her nickname is fast Kate after all, I can’t help but feel inspired by the incredible strength and speed of the runners at Nationals.

In my time off between training cycles, I’ve made a habit of doing at least one speed workout every week. I’ve been going to intervals on the track at work every Wednesday and then I try to make one of my other weekday runs a progression run.

After reading Lora’s post about her coach recommending she buy racing flats, I started thinking, maybe that’s what I need. Last weekend I went to my local running store, Aardvark Sports Shop, to “just look” at what they had. After talking with the owner, he picked out some for me to take some test runs in. But the minute I put my feet into the Saucony Fastwitch 6 I knew they were the ones. They felt like an extension of my own feet and when I went running in them I swear I already felt faster.

Saucony Fastwich 2

Weight: 6.2 oz

Drop: 4mm

If you’re thinking about getting your own pair of racing flats here are 7 reasons that may sway you:

  1. Improve Running Economy– It’s kind of a no brainer that the less weight you have on your feet, the easier it is to speed up your stride. If you need more evidence, studies show the less weight on your feet, the better your VO2 max.
  2. Mental Boost– You will feel faster the moment you put them on (I did!). While this may not be science, feeling fast will give you the confidence boost you need during a hard workout or race to push the envelope.
  3. Elites Where Them– I’m not an elite, and I never will be, but look at the elite field at any major race, are any of them wearing a stability shoe? No. There’s a reason elites where them and it’s because the less weight on their feet, the faster they run.
  4. Shoe Rotation– It’s good to train in multiple shoes. I have two right now in my rotation and I’ll be adding the flats in for speed work and short races.
  5. Increased Muscle Strength in Feet and Lower Legs– This is in line with the theory behind minimalist running shoes. The less shoe you have on your foot, the harder you muscles have to work. This is a good thing! The stronger the muscles, ligament and joints in you lower legs and feet, the better runner you will become.
  6. Better Form– Again, like minimalist shoes, a lighter racing flat has proved to improve running form overall.
  7. They’re pretty!– This is by no means a legitimate reason to ever buy a pair of shoes but there’s something special about putting a pair of racing flats on. With their neon colors and sleek design you’ll be feeling like Shalane Flanagan in no time!

Saucony Fastwich 1

I haven’t run in them yet (besides the test run at the store) but I think I’m mostly going to use them on the track and maybe for racing short distances. As I look toward the beginning of Marine Corps training I’m planning on taking note in my log of what shoes I wore with what workout. I didn’t do this with Big Sur but I think it’ll be beneficial to keep track. I can’t wait to try out my new flats this week, you can be sure I’ll write a follow up post.

Do you run in flats for speedwork or races? If so, what’s your go-to pair?

{Monday Motivation} Don’t Let Fatigue Make a Coward Out of You

Is there anything better than a Pre quote to brighten up your Monday morning? I don’t think so. I also think this quote is perfect as we head into the warm summer months when heat and humidity leave runners feeling more fatigued postrun (sometimes during the run) than we’re used to. But don’t fret, it may be getting hot out there and you may be feeling tired, but you’ll feel stronger and faster when fall goal races come around. So stay strong and happy running this week!

(source: Pinterest)

(source: Pinterest)

{Friday Faves} Reads, Runs, and Raves Track Edition

Tons of great stuff on the interwebs this week, but my Friday Faves seems to be completely devoted to track (runnerd alert, my apologies). I never ran on my high school track and field team (I was a tennis girl) but since I started running in March 2012, I’ve become a certified track nerd and this week the USA Outdoors National Championships are happening out in Iowa. The following faves pretty much wrap up my love of the sport and total geekdom over this week’s festivities.

  • The Evolution of a Fangirl – This post on Oiselle’s blog by Sarah OUaL completely summed up my sentiments toward Nationals this week. Basically, Sarah, you described me in this post. I totally get where you’re coming from.
  • USA Outdoors National Championship- Want to watch Nationals? You can! It’ll be on T.V. but if you for some reason won’t be near a T.V. you can watch it live on USATF.org
  • OMG, a Baby!Lauren Fleshman, track star extraordinaire and stuffed jalepeno aficionado, wrote this awesomely hilarious and endearing post for RW this week. If you haven’t read it yet, you should.
  • Speaking of track, Lora of LV Runs NYC, bought racing flats this week but first she tested out a few to find a pair that fit just right. Look at the pretty colors! – Feet Meet Flats
  • Hurdle Walkovers – I did hurdle walkovers at the Lehigh University track on Thursday night for the first time with Megan, and let me tell you, my hip flexors were singing their praises. Definitely give them a try! (video)

hurdles

When Should You Get a Running Coach?

(source: Pinterest)

(source: Pinterest)

I’ve been mulling over the idea of getting a running coach for a few weeks now. I’ve seen progress in my running over the past year but I know that’s due in part to my inexperience- every race is a PR or close to it. So I thought I’d ask, to improve, should I get a coach?
  1. To get a running coach or not get a running coach, that is the question. Thoughts?
  2. Tons of people were pro-coach…
  3. @FitHappyGirl get one! I love having one and have improved tremendously. Ex 2:03 half from oct 12 to 1:49 this April
  4. Some people said it depends on your goals and finding the right coach (but were mainly pro-coach)…
  5. @FitHappyGirl So important to find one who’s the right fit, philosophically and personality-wise. Otherwise you lose a lot of benefits, imo.
  6. @FitHappyGirl But great to have someone monitor your performance, give advice, and adjust personalized training as you progress!
  7. @FitHappyGirl Absolutely, but a running coach should help you as much with what not to do as pushing the envelope at the right time.
  8. @FitHappyGirl If you haven’t met your goals on your own, try a coach. Make sure he/she works FOR YOU. Then take a leap.
  9. @FitHappyGirl If you have the right coach you’ll love running even more!
  10. @FitHappyGirl i hired @SpeedySasquatch for speed work! so mainly on my own but needed guidance for certain aspect! #justathought
  11. Then there was this…
  12. And you can count on Jason to be the odd man out (just kidding!)…

Luckily I work at Runner’s World so I have plenty of resources here but it might be good to have an objective person (who I don’t work with every day) as a coach instead. I’m nervous it might be too closing to the start of MCM training to get a coach now but maybe not. I’m also wondering about in-person coaching vs. online. I know plenty of people have had success with online coaching but the main reason I want a coach is to have someone push me, especially when I tend to sell myself short. I’m going to keep doing some research into it and see what I come up with.

Tell me, have you hired a running coach? Was it in-person or online and did you see improvements?

{Monday Motivation} Wake Up and Live

I had a really incredible weekend this past weekend with my mom and sister. They met me in New York City and we stayed in a very cool hotel (The Thompson Hotel) in East Village. We had never really explored East Village before, and we also took a trip over to Brooklyn, another new place for us, and just had a wonderful weekend together. It’s weekends like that I know I’ll look back on when I get older. We crammed a lot into one weekend but sometimes you just have to…

6.17.13- Wake Up and Live

 

Happy running this week!

I’m Running the Marine Corps Marathon!

Marine Corp Medal 2012

Last night I went to see the special theater-showing on The Spirit of the Marathon II. It did not fail to inspire, make me laugh, bring a tear to my eye, and bring the marathon itch roaring back to me. So, I find it extremely appropriate to announce today my plans for my next running move.

Drum roll please! (Just kidding, you all saw this coming.)

I’m running my second marathon this fall at the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, D.C. on October 27!

Honestly, I knew it wouldn’t take long for me to become addicted to the marathon distance. I’m kind of type-A when it comes to this stuff and mildly addicted to the adrenaline/endorphin rush you get when you finish a marathon. When I crossed the finish line at Big Sur, the race director told me it would change my life, and it sure did. So when the opportunity to run Marine Corps with the Runner’s World Challenge presented itself, there was no way I could say no.

Runner’s World Challenge

This will be my third race with the Runner’s World Challenge and I honestly couldn’t imagine running a major race without it. This is going to sound like a shameless plug right now (and it totally is) but Runner’s World Challenge is such a good program. Through the Challenge, you get guaranteed race entry to one of our event races- this year it was Disney, Big Sur, and Marine Corps. You also get a customized training plan to meet whatever goal your little running heart desires, as well as direct access to the Runner’s World experts. But the best part of Challenge is the V.I.P. treatment you get on race day. We have our own prerace and postrace tent filled with food and drink for days, and (probably the best part) we have access to our very own port-a-potties, so you can say goodbye to pre-marathon bathroom lines. You also get to run with the editors (like me!) on race day!

MCM Goals

Besides this being my second marathon, me being the type-A person that I am, I want to improve on my finish time. I finished Big Sur in 4:33, which for my first marathon and such a tough course, wasn’t too bad. But I want to do better. So, I’m setting a goal of breaking 4:15 and following a plan to help me do so. This is ambitious because it means PR-ing by more than 15-minutes but I think given the course at MCM and the typical weather, it’s possible.

I’m going to focus much more on maintaining my strength training and speedwork that I’ve become really consistent with during my time off from training. I also want to focus on my diet more during this training cycle. I didn’t have issues with it last time but I think I need to actively add more protein into my daily diet and just focus on trying to eat clean.

All of these goals pale in comparison to the reason I’m really excited to run Marine Corps which is my parents are going to be there! They have been at almost every race I’ve run since I started running in March 2012 but were not able to come out to California to see me finish Big Sur. But my mom has assured me she’s already booked the hotel for MCM and they will be there, on the course, to cheer me on at my second marathon. I’ve also heard MCM is a great race because of the military presence and patriotism throughout the entire weekend. While we don’t have any Marines in my family, my grandfather was a Navy and Coast Guard veteran and my cousin’s boyfriend (who’s basically part of our family) is also a Coast Guard veteran and my dad is in the Air Force auxiliary. The military has always been a part of my family’s life so I think running MCM will be a great way to honor that tradition.

While I will never forget my experience at Big Sur, it was my first after all and you never forget your first, I have a feeling Marine Corps is going to be really special. Training begins on July 8, let’s do this!

{Monday Motivation} There’s Something Magical About Running

I saw this quote last night and absolutely loved it. I’ve always known running was magical. The longer you go, the more magical it feels. But I’ve started to get faster in recent months and yesterday I set a 5K PR of 24:59. As I was coming into the final 800 of the race, I really started to open my stride. I was probably going around 7:45 pace and I felt like I was flying. Last week I ran a progression 5-miler and finished at 7:45 pace. I told Megan about it and she said to me, “You know, there’s something so incredible about 7:45 pace.” She was right, it’s magical. Happy running this week!

(Source: Pinterest)

(Source: Pinterest)

Mantra Me that PR

My own personal pacer, Megan, and me postrace.

My own personal pacer, Megan, and me postrace.

I set a 5K PR today and I have my new running mantra to thank.

On Thursday, I set out for my usual 5-mile lunchtime loop run. I had done intervals the day before and wanted to take it easy to prep for my race this weekend, a 5K. So, I started the run around 9:04/mile pace and I was feeling pretty good.

It was an overcast day and it was one of those runs where I was able to just let my mind wander, not worry about the work waiting for me when I got back, and just enjoy the miles. My second mile pace dropped down to 8:37. Huh. I guess I’m feeling pretty good, I thought. I decided to try to just maintain the 8:30ish pace for the remainder of the run and finish feeling good and fresh for my race.

Third mile: 8:34/mile. Ok, not too far off the previous one but getting faster and still feeling good. Fourth mile: 8:24/mile. This mile gave me pause because I thought I was on my way to a pretty solid progression run so at that point I set the intention to finish strong and fast (hoping for a 7:?? for my fifth mile).

This is when I came up with my new run mantra- “Last mile, strong mile. Kick it in.”

I wanted the 7:?? For my last mile. I really wanted it. So I channeled my inner Mary Cain, known for her incredible final kick, and kicked it in… “Last mile, strong mile. Kick it in.”

When I finally went in for the last 200m of my run and heard the beep of my Garmin for mile 5, I looked down at my watch- 7:45/mile.

I was really proud of myself after this run and it truly taught me the importance of having a mantra that you can fall back on to help you kick it in during that last hard mile.

Saucon to Boston 5K

So today when I went to run the Saucon to Boston 5K, I told myself, if it starts to feel too hard and I’m beginning to feel too uncomfortable I’ll just remind myself of my mantra. Well, I used it today and it worked.

I went to the race with Megan and Kelsey. I didn’t really know what I wanted to do with this race. It was local, we signed up last-minute, and it was very small but it meant a lot to me to be able to do a run dedicated to Boston and the victims of the bombings. It was a beautiful morning, a little warmer than I would’ve liked, but it just felt great to get outside with friends and the local running community.

We did an easy warmup mile and Megan told me if I wanted to PR she would pace me for the race. Secretly, I really wanted to set a new PR but I hadn’t really done my normal race day prep so I wasn’t sure if my body would cooperate. I was feeling pretty good on our warmup so I told Megan I was all in, let’s set this PR.

My previous 5K PR was set at the Boston Marathon B.A.A. 5K on April 14, the day before the Boston Marathon. My time there was 25:23, a 5K PR by more than 2 minutes. I knew my next PR wouldn’t be that big this time, but I really wanted to break the 25-minute mark.

Race Time

This was a no-frills race- no chip time, about 100 people, no corrals- but I almost like those races better than the bigger ones. We lined up kind of close to the start and when the gun went off, Megan and I set off, dodging running strollers, people running with dogs, and little kids. Despite the obstacles, we were able to get into a break and ran the first mile in 7:56.

I wasn’t feeling 100 percent, my breathing was heavy, and my arms kept creeping up instead of staying in the optimal 90 degree position. But Megan, being the awesome pacer she was, kept reminding me to take a deep breathe and relax my arms. She said we’d run the next mile a little easier since we got a bit too excited at the start.

This was an out-and-back course on a gravel rail trail so when the turnaround point was in sight I could feel my body settle in- this is it. We kept trying to pick people off and Megan continued to remind me to keep my arms relaxed and ease my breathing. It all helped but by mile 3, I was starting to enter the pain zone. I had yet to look at my watch, I didn’t want to know where we were in the race or what my pace was, but at 2.58 miles, an 800 to go, I looked and saw we were on pace to PR. Megan yelled at me for looking but I feel like that’s when I was able to kick it into gear. I didn’t feel great but I reminded myself of my mantra: “Last mile, strong mile. Kick it in.”

The finish line was in sight and Megan turned to me and told me to open up my stride and that it was “balls to the wall here on out.” I did as I was told and gunned it to the finish coming in at 24:59, squeaking just under my goal of breaking 25-minutes. I was ecstatic and so proud of myself! Was it fun? No, not really, I felt like crap most of the time. But I did it, thanks to Megan and my mantra.

Thumbs up for PRs!

Thumbs up for PRs!

Postrace

We walked through the finishing chute grabbed our waters and went to pick up our shirts. Not too long after Kelsey joined us. She set a PR too of 25:50, nearly a 3-minute PR! Her race strategy was the keep us in sight for as long as she could, and it clearly worked.

I never knew the benefit of having a mantra because I never had my own. I tried to use other people’s mantras but I truly believe a mantra is something that can only be manifested on a really tough run. Mantras are so deeply personal in that respect, but I think that’s why they work, right? “Last mile, strong mile. Kick it in.”

What is your running mantra and how has it helped you?

{Friday Faves} Runs, Reads, and Raves

I haven’t written a Friday Faves post in quite some time but this week, the Interwebs impressed me enough to bring back the weekly tradition. So, I hope you enjoy this post and the things I found interesting this week.

1. “How you choose to celebrate [life] is up to you.” From this incredibly inspiring video by Arc’Teryx.

2. The Runner’s World iPad issue for our July Boston Marathon special is on sale on iTunes now. The issue is digitally enhanced with audio, video, animation, and more content not found in the print issue. Honestly, it’s really incredible and if you have an iPad, I promise you won’t be disappointed. You can buy it in the iTunes store now.

July Cover

3. Confusing What Can “Work” with What Works Best: Revisiting CrossFit Endurance via Jason Fitzgerald of Strength Running. I really liked this post and the one before it. It tackles the contentious issue of whether or not CrossFit Endurance is a good strength training regimen for runners. Short answer: according to Jason, it’s not. And I have to agree with him.

4. This was basically the best race recap I’ve ever read solely because of this question: Where’s the poo? – My First Second Marathon, Race Day via Sarah [Mac] from Running Starfish (and Oiselle!)

5. If you’re like me you like coffee, a lot. But there’s a never ending debate going on: Dunkin’ v. Starbucks. The Boston Globe decided this week would be coffee week and they decided to get to the bottom of this great rivalry, of course in GIF form. – People of Dunkin’ and Starbucks via the Boston Globe

6. This past Wednesday was National Running Day and I celebrated the way I celebrate every other day, by running. But I went to intervals and decided to channel my inner Mary Cain because who could forget this moment from last weekend?

Mary Cain Montano