Half-Marathon Recap: The Music

I have weird rules for when I will listen to music while running.

  • If the run is 5k or less: no music.
  • If the run is 10k or less and outside: no music.
  • If the run is 10k or less and on a treadmill: a podcast or tv show/movie.
  • If the run is longer than 10k: music!

It’s all about focus. If I’m out for a short run, the music is a negative distraction. I want to concentrate on the run and push myself. Those mid-range runs require some distraction when on a treadmill, but I still find the music a nuisance. I’ve been having some luck with podcasts (Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me!) and movies (last month, my gym was showing Pride and Prejudice, swoon). Baseball, football, and hockey games are also good on the treadmill.

As I got into the longer distances while training for the half-marathon, though, music shifted and served a different purpose. It became background noise that I could tune into at will and then easily push back again. Because it was a long, slow and steady run, I didn’t need constant energy from the music, but it was really nice to have it when I wanted it.

Over the last several weeks, I cultivated a nearly perfect running playlist. I was looking forward to just hitting shuffle and then reviewing my Spotify history afterwards to review and annotate my “half-marathon playlist.” How fun it was going to be to list out those songs and times and match that up against my RunKeeper race data!

Of course, Spotify has removed this feature from their Android app. All I can do now is cherry-pick a few songs I remember and highlight some of my favorites. (You can find the full playlist here.)

  • “Wake Me Up” has been on my running playlists for several months. The pickups in the chorus are excellent for sprinting intervals.
  • “Wonderland” is just an incredibly fun song and Natalia Kills is awesome.
  • “I Want it All” is basically my “song of the summer” and always provides an extra burst of energy.
  • “XO” is ridiculously slow for a running playlist but I happen to be a slow runner and I love this song.
  • “Turn Down for What” is a terrible song that was playing before JCB and I started our 5k race in April so it injects good memories into the run.
  • “Jealous (I Ain’t With It)” is, I hear, a contender for “song of the summer” but mostly it’s super catchy, fun, and I had a great time at the concert. It was super to have this push me through the second trip over the Mass Ave bridge.
  • “Lo Hecho Está Hecho” has an amazing beat and Shakira is a goddess. This song also reminds me of Zi-Cardio at MaZi Dance Fitness and makes me smile.
  • Lorde’s “Ribs” is also terribly slow for running, but it just works for me.
  • “Stronger – A-Trak Remix” is basically the most perfect remix of this song possible and I could probably just run to this on loop for three hours.
  • I put Whitney’s “How Will I Know” on this list on a whim and it paid off big time. It came on around mile 10 and it was such a fun song to have, totally put me in a different head space.
  • Beyonce’s “Countdown” was, completely by chance, playing as I sprinted to the finish line. I couldn’t have planned that better, if I had planned it!

I am going to try to embrace music on my tempo runs more often. It was really fun to have it and I think it would be nice if I could find a way to have that option more often. So, I’m building a summer 5k training playlist. What do you suggest I put on it?

Half-Marathon Recap and Reflections

I’ve been running for a year. That’s really it, just one year.  My first run was in May of last year, 3.16 miles in 34:28. I regularly use RunKeeper, and I was surprised to see that I have only gone out on 53 runs in the last year. My races have been few: a handful of 5ks, two 10ks, and, as of May 25th, one half-marathon. I headed into this year’s Boston’s Run to Remember already pretty proud of myself: to go from a 5k to 13.1 miles in a year, a year which included no running between November and March at that, was something to celebrate. And the race was really just that: a celebration.

A very tough and at times painful celebration. This was not an easy race for me. I don’t expect anything of this distance to ever be “easy” for me, but I certainly learned some lessons this year that will hopefully make the next half-marathon easier.

1. Follow your training plan. I used this Hal Higdon half-marathon training plan, with a couple tweaks from my trainer. Most weeks, I shuffled runs around. Or had extra rest days. Or skipped my rest day. I ignored speed work almost completely. The only thing I did semi-faithfully was build up my distance by hitting my 5, 6, 7, 8, and 10 mile runs.

After my 10 mile run, I was hurting. I was unsure if I was going to be able to run the half. My whole taper week was RICE-ing my (likely) tendinitis and extra yoga classes. I felt very pessimistic about how my body would hold up during the half-marathon and those worries were realized around mile 11 on race day. Indeed, it wasn’t even halfway through the race when my left knee began to bother me, and by the last few miles, my left ankle and right knee joined in.

I actually ran the last two miles more quickly than the previous six though — definitely because I knew the next time I stopped, I was not going to be able to start again. So I wouldn’t be stopping until the finish line!

Next time, I will do better. I will give myself more time to train more slowly for a longer-distance race. Training plans are there for a reason, and building up mileage slowly is a critical aspect of training for most of us. Be patient.

2. Nutrition matters. Every trainer and athlete has some version of this saying: you can’t out-train a poor diet. I completely believe this to be true now. I was perhaps skeptical before; I did not faithfully adhere to this tenet. I will never train for a long-distance race again without making this a visible part of my plan.

Reflecting on how hard this all was, training and the race both, has made diet considerations a matter of practicality actually. Eating for fuel has become more of a natural consideration in my life. Did I have ice cream on vacation in Bar Harbor? Of course. Is it a daily indulgence? No.

3. Go into the race with a goal and a plan. My goal and plan were the same for this first race, actually: to only walk through water stations. It’s pretty typical for a new runner’s goal to be to simply finish, especially when tackling new distances. However, this plan-goal’s specificity gave me something on which to focus my race. There were also ten water stations, fairly evenly spaced, in this race; this plan then guaranteed short bursts of intense focus followed by brief reprieves.

I also carried with me a super-secret pie-in-the-sky goal of running the race in 2:30:00. To do that, I would need to run with just under an 11:30 mile pace, which was about thirty seconds faster than my long runs had been in training. I used my RunKeeper app during the race, and according to that, ran 13.82 miles (wide race!) in 2:42:30, for an average pace of 11:46 per mile. My official time was 2:40:55 over 13.1 miles for an average pace of 12:17 per mile.

Look, honestly, I’m taking that RunKeeper data and sticking that in my brain.

I still consider myself a new runner and, as such, I am still figuring out how to both push myself and pace myself, trying to find that sweet spot of running a steady, “fast” race. I feel pretty good about my pacing in this race though; it seems to fall into a few chunks of steady running:

half-marathon splitsThis race was a success, a very important mark on my life’s timeline.

I set my goal to run this race late in 2013, when I hadn’t been running much and felt like I needed something to work towards. But I only signed up for the race after my job ended. Having this race to focus on, to train for, was an important part of my year. 2014 will always be the year I ran my first half-marathon.

Isn’t it wonderful to have something so grand be this year’s main memory? That’s what running gives me, and I’ll always be grateful for it.

rabbit rabbit it’s september!

September is my favorite month! (December is a very very close runner-up, though.) This whole “back to school” thing still gets me. New pencils, fresh notebooks, clean calendar pages. Time to get after it!

Things I want to do this month:

Already scheduled events:

Month-long endeavors:

  • stock up on pumpkin beers for October (yep, I’ve pushed out pumpkin kickoff to October 1)
  • watch all the football
  • no sleeping in on weekends (how else will I get to do all of these fun things?!)
  • read more books!
  • relearn how to knit so as to be able to make [redacted] for [redacted]
  • all the running, yoga, spinning, lifting heavy things I can handle
  • resume working with Healthworks Community Fitness – summer vacation is over, time to work ya’ll

What’s missing from my list? What are you favorite things to do in September?

Run a Faster 5k

Last night, I ran my first 5k.

Ok, last night I ran in my first 5k raceI have run 3.1 miles in one outing before. But not that many times…

Previous 5k-ish runs:

  • 5/11, in Wisconsin. Distance – 3.16 mi. Time – 34:28
  • 5/19, Sunday morning run along the river. Distance – 3.38 mi. Time – 39:11
  • 5/22, my first Marathon Sports Run Group outing. Distance – 3.5 mi. Time 38: 12
  • 5/29, Marathon Sports Run Group. Distance – 3.45 mi. Time – 39:00
  • 6/5, Marathon Sports Run Group. Distance – 3.43 mi. Time – 38:15

My runs typically got longer in June because on June 30th, a great group of friends and I ran the City Sports Back in the Day 10k in Porter Square. (So I was training!) This was such an incredible experience for me. My Healthworks trainer, Jason, created this amazing running plan for me to follow in June and I pretty much stuck with it. I put in all this hard work and then at the end of the month was able to run 6.2 miles! That’s the longest distance I’ve ever run! And do you know how incredible it is to see your friends standing around the halfway mark with an encouraging sign, a bottle of water, and high fives all around? (Indescribably incredible!) This was definitely one of my top five highlights for the year, absolutely.

Some of us ran, some of us cheered, but we all conquered!
Some of us ran, some of us cheered, but we all conquered!

Oh, I ran those 6.2 miles in 1:12:35. I’ll take it.

So this tangent leads us back to last night. Now that I’ve run a 10k, I know I can run a 5k, no problem. So I signed up for the Camp Harbor View Harborthon 5k. (It’s another workout fundraiser!) The race was great – organized so well, great volunteers, beautiful location. There was an incredible group of sponsors for this race (lots of delicious post-race craft beer and food from b.good) and an awesome group of runners. The group was smaller this year due to the rain — maybe just two or three hundred people, but that just made us so much more awesome!

Camp Harbor View began in 2007 as a summer camp for Boston teens (ages 11-14). The founders began with an initial goal of raising $10 million over 25 years, and have already raised $46 million! I’m so glad I powered through the rain deterrent and went out there – here’s another organization I’m ready to really invest some time in to support. A handful of the campers were there volunteering, and every “thank you for running” I heard was a little pinch to the heart. Real people benefit from the fact that I ran a race yesterday – and that you supported that effort. In just a few days of fundraising, my friends and family contributed $265 to this wonderful cause (you can still donate here until 8/1). That feels better than any post-run endorphin-rush. Thank you all so much!

So, I can add another run to the list above.

  • July 25th, Camp Harbor View Harborthon 5k. Distance – 3.1 mi. Time – 33:15

Last night’s pace was 10:43, which is the best pace I’ve had since I started running again in May. This is just barely true though. I went on a 5.5 mi run on 6/19 that had a 10:45 pace – so I know I can do better with only 3.1 miles. This race serves as my baseline for my next three-month project: Run a Faster 5k. I’ll spend the next three months focusing on cutting time off my pace for this distance. Then, I’ll run another official 5k in late October or early November to compare. Lucky me – I have a trainer who runs who can help me really push through this.

My goal is to run that three-months-from-now 5k with a 9:30 pace. (I’ll have to sign up for something without too many hills!) I’ll write periodically about the training plan I’m using, how my runs are going, and any other interesting races I participate in (I do have a few coming up). I have been using RunKeeper to track my runs. It’s been great to see those comparisons, but it will be really great to actually write about those runs and be able to compare them on something besides a pace level.

Check back for updates!

Breaking Down Becoming a Bostonian

Most importantly, current countdown status…

9.5 more days of work, 15 days until I leave Chicago for a brief layover in Wisconsin, and 19 days until my flight to Boston… 19 days!

I am ready for this move, better prepared and more excited than any of my other big moves. While that definitely sets me up for success, it also introduces room to take on too much, too quickly. It doesn’t feel as intimidating or overwhelming as other big movies I’ve made, but my logical brain keeps pinching me to remind me that this is a lot.

The job, for starters, is very different than what I do now in some key ways and is going to require something of a paradigm shift for me, in how I think about work and “going to work.” There are going to be long days and a lot of new information and while I am one hundred percent excited and on board with that, it would be irresponsible to deny that it’s going to be an adjustment and that it’s going to take a lot of energy (and caffeine).

Though it’s been a favorite weekend getaway spot for me, living in Boston will just be different. I have to figure everything out from scratch again: what is the best time to leave to catch just the right train to work, where do I get my morning coffee, which local craft beers are my favorite, where will I get my I’m-too-tired-or-lazy-today-to-cook Thai food, etc.

In order to approach this all with a plan, and to avoid the compulsion to blog about every nuance too, I’ve broken the project down into three main areas of focus, one for each month.

October’s Focus: Start work and find a gym.

This is pretty straightforward. I start my new job on October 1st and by the middle of the month, I’d like to have signed up for a gym membership. I already found a place near the office which has a little bit of everything: basic gym equipment, friendly personal trainers, group fitness classes, and a beautiful view of the city. I’m hopeful this will work out well. If I can get into a work-gym-home routine by the end of the month, I’ll be well prepared to deal with transition issues (homesick for home, homesick for Chicago, etc.)

November’s Focus: Explore Boston.

When I was in Boston last November, Caitlin and I went to a great Degas exhibit at the Museum of Fine Arts. And in May, I went to the Boston Ballet’s staging of Don Quixote. I’ve had a taste of the arts offerings in Boston. November is the time to dive in with a subscription to the ballet and explore museum exhibits in Boston. These weekends will be spent poking around Boston and the surrounding areas then, pushing past some of the obvious entertainment options and finding the things I will love for many years to come.

December’s Focus: Christmas in Boston.

I love the winter holiday season. I love sending Christmas cards and baking holiday treats and white lights and snow and ice skating and gift giving. I have every intention of being in Wisconsin for actual Christmas, but until then, December will focus on exploring how Boston celebrates Christmas. I will fight any homesickness with holiday shows, boutique shopping for gifts, and ice skating – somewhere, there must be ice skating somewhere!

Of course, I will have my constant autumnal touchstone of Packers football during these months. I have already found my Packers Bar and will be trekking there for most games. Wherever I go, whatever “-ite” or “-ian” I become, my fervent dedication to the Packers will never abate, and shall bring me much comfort when I’m feeling overwhelmed.

I’m not exaggerating. The most important countdown I actually have right now is 3 days until Packers football starts!