BayState Build Up on My Mark

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“I believe in a philosophy that says to win is actually not important. To be successful is not even important. How to plan and prepare is critical and crucial.”

~Eliud Kipchoge

After I raced Best Damn Race half marathon I took an active two-week recovery to decompress both physically and mentally. I wanted to soak in the experience and results from BDR and to work on key points that will improve my running, my strength and my mental approach to marathon training.

Mentally I was getting burnt out just by thinking about it how I was going to tackle marathon training. The magnitude of the task really hit me then – the distance, the time I want to aim for, the amount of hours of training, how to balance out personal, professional and family time – it all seem so overwhelming. I started to feel a bit sick and off balance. My left quad/hammy were not too happy after my two-week active recovery post BDR; I guess I was not fully recovered from the race, so I spent another easy week making sure I could start Baystate marathon build up healthy enough.

 

The Strategy

After analyzing Baytate course, reading the reviews and trying to get a feel for the race, I realized that my strategy was to make Baystate as manageable as possible. The 10-mile Clay Loop in the middle of nowhere in Clermont is the ideal training route for my long runs. The elevation is a little more challenging than Baystate; at least based on the data I’ve obtained, the terrain is tough because there’s no shade nowhere in sight, obviously it’s a clay road, rolling hills, and the atmosphere feeds my mental stimulation as I pretend to be that I am in Eldoret, Kenya, being tough like Eliud Kipchoge and the rest of the #badassery Kenyan runnahs. Hey, gotta do what works for the brain and you! #noshame

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Baystate Marathon Elevation Information

Minimum Elevation: 36 feet (10m)
Maximum Elevation: 136 feet (41m)

Baystate Marathon Elevation Chart

The Build Up

Based on my current fitness, on-going improvement and on what has been working for me, Coach Victoria decided that we should play around with a 30-35 mile per week as build up phase, some quality speed workouts, focus on recovery, and yes, my favorite thing to focus on – FOCUSING ON FEELING GOOD!

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We ended up doing a eight-week marathon training build up, and with only three days left on the eigth week of build up, I was about having a mini-mental breakdown – which I detected it was due to heat and humidity. The weeks followed like this:

  1. WEEK 1 – April 9-14 …..………………. 32 miles
  2. WEEK 2 – April 16 – 21 ……………….. 31 miles
  3. WEEK 3 – April 23-28 …………………. 30 miles
  4. WEEK 4 – April 30 – May 5 …………… 30 miles
  5. WEEK 5 – May 7 – 12 ………………….. 30 miles
  6. WEEK 6 – May 14 – 19 ………………… 35 miles
  7. WEEK 7 – May 21 – 25 ………………… 35 miles
  8. WEEK 8 – May 28 – June 2 ……………. 35 miles

TOTAL MILES for build up cycle …………………………………….. 258 Miles

APRIL MILES………………………………………………………………….. 112 Miles

MAY MILES ……………………………………………………………………..152 Miles (PR MONTH)

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So grateful for hubby’s support and for always capturing the best pics!

JUNE MILES ……………………………………………………………………………………125 Miles

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10-Mile Clay Loop aka “my Eldoret, Kenya”

This is my first time ever executing weeks of consistent high mileage. Towards the last week of May, it was very tough. I set the goal based on how I felt that I could end the month with a 150 miles. Since I was feeling strong and recovering well, I pushed for a PR month – that  demanded a 4-day streak run and I totaled 21 miles just on the treadmill. By the fourth day, I had to take it outside for a 7 miler making it for a total of 27 miles in 4 consecutive days! Yes, I was having a little mental breakdown!

The Foundation

However, with higher mileage on a consistent basis, I was fully aware that I needed to be extremely diligent with strength training, physical therapy workouts and with my recovery methods routine. My body likes everything in moderation. It’s very receptive of everything I do; thus it prevails on quality versus quantity. Based on how I know how to take care of my body, I decided to experiment by doing strength training before all my runs. Over a four-week period, I noticed a remarkable difference in my runs. I felt my muscles being more engaged, relaxed and stronger to push paces. Yes, I noticed some soreness here and there but the strength and power I felt exceeded the soreness feeling. I also think that my runs were working in conjunction with recovery from strength training – more blood circulation on those area, speedier recovery time. This method has also helped me to be accountable for strength training sesh, even if it was for just 10-15 minute worth of strength training. My rule is: if I am going to run, I better do strength training, or I know exactly what means if I lack on it. Those runs has to happen, and so does strength training.

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Nutrition

Let’s talk about nutrition. Eat. Eat. And eat. I am constantly snacking, don’t skip a meal and snack again. I feel hungry just about all the time. I mean it. All. The. Time. However, what I eat is quality food that has substance to assist my body with recovery and fuel for the next workout. I don’t eat junk food, unless it’s a Saturday night treat which basically is pizza and wine. For carb loading I tend to concentrate on clean carbs such as potato, sweet potato, butternut squash, oatmeal, gluten-free past, or brown jasmine or basmati rice. Meal prep happens every Sunday afternoon which I allocate time to make my protein smoothie, kale, beet or carrot smoothies and meals for the week. For breakfast, if I have time on a weekday, I will fry an egg and make an egg sandwich with cheese. Or I’ll set aside a small dinner left over portion the night before and that’s my breakfast. For a quick on-the-go, I will grab one of my shaker smoothie bottle and a banana until I get to work and fix my oatmeal.

 

Hydration

Yes, marathon summer training calls for tons of hydration and that better includes electrolytes – not just plain water or you will not be doing your body any favor, I mean, some favor. It takes energy to hydrate and thank goodness I have restrooms accessible at all times throughout the day. Based on my body weight of 104 lbs, the recommended daily water intake is 67 oz of water. But if you’re activity level is high, then it’s recommended to add 12 oz of water to the daily total for every 30 minutes that you work out. In addition to my regular water intake, I set aside a 20 oz shaker bottle and either use Nunn or GenUcan Generation hydration system to helped me out with all the mineral and electrolytes lost. I also add some coconut water intake a couple times a week.

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Bottom Line

I feel confident going into this summer marathon training. My primary basis is to rely on “feel” versus pushing for distance and pace. Of course there’s an importance as to mileage build up and faster/harder workouts, but going by feel and seeing what my body can take or not, it is the key element of my training and well-being. My emphasis this training is taking my workout outdoor. If my body allows it, that’s where I am getting it done, and use the treadmill for recovery runs. Again, going by feel is my indicator and if I must do treadmill workout, then so be it. Flexibility while being consistent will take me to where I want and need to be. I need to get there 100% healthy. And that’s the main goal.

I am coming for you Baystate!

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My fav place to run – Clay Loop

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Extremely happy, all the feels!

“When you plan very well, then success can come on your way.

Then winning can come on your way.”

~Eliud Kipchoge

 

And the Winner is….

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“That thing we call intuition?

It’s your soul.

You can trust it.”

~Unknown

I thought hard and cautiously as to which marathon race I’d like to be my third, and one that will give me the best chance to come close to a BQ or possibly a BQ.

I was aiming to run Revel Series Mt. Lemmon in Tucson, AZ. It’s in mid-November, temperatures could be favorable and it’s gradually downhill. I’d have to focus on some hill/downhill training, which I could get some done here in Clermont, FL.

But then I started doing a little bit of more of research and I came to read a Runner’s World article which listed the top 10 great marathons that will help to BQ. Surprisingly, a runner I know, suggested the one I was more inclined to consider. At number 5 of the Runner’s World list, and out of gut instinct and intuition, I chose Baystate Marathon in Lowell, MA.

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The more I read about it, the reviews, the course, the location, the scheduled time of the year, the average temperature; and yessssss, did I mention the location?? How could I not fall in love with a marathon raced in the state of Massachusetts! It’s my dear state and place. I cannot help but to think that the stars might be aligning just right that I actually earn a BQ (dreaming is allowed) in the state of MA to run Boston!

It’s a midsized marathon that features two loops along the Merrimack River. It is described as “mostly flat”, but with enough variation that will not overtax one muscle group. From some of the reviews I’ve read, it is not really a “flat” course. Also, from my analysis of the course elevation, it compares to an elevation similar to Clay Loop. Yes, the 10-mile of rolling hills loop that I’ve came to love since I first ran in Clermont. Actually, Clay Loop is slightly more challenging than the elevation displayed on the website. So here I am thinking, Clay Loop will be the bread-and-butter of my training!

So far, this is one of my favorite review of Baystate marathon from marathon Guide:

Great Race to Qualify for Boston (about: 2015)
Course: 5 Organization: 5 Fans: 3
K. L. from Needham, MA (10/21/15)
11-50 previous marathons

This was my 37th marathon and 1st Baystate. If you want to qualify for Boston, this is the race for you. Course if flat but has enough rolling hills to mix it up a little and give certain muscle groups a break. Water/Gatorade stops were great with fantastic volunteers. I was worried about the traffic before the start so got there in the recommended 90 minutes before and was able to find plenty of parking super close. They even let you in the Tsongas Center which was great since the start was 30 degrees. All in all one of my top 5 favorite marathons!

I allowed all of this information sink-in for a few weeks before actually making the commitment. On Patriots’ Day, Monday, April 16, and Boston Marathon day, this was the day I registered for Baystate. The registration day was no coincidence. It was purposely orchestrated. I knew this had to be the day to register for Baystate. And how fun was that to have Desi Linden winning the Boston marathon!! All the feels, babe!

I will do my very best, as I always do, to make this my “beautiful race”.

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#keepshowingup

“Intuition does not come to an unprepared mind.

~Albert Einstein

“When your intuition is roaring loud,

Follow it.”

~Unknown

 

I Quit Sugar. I don’t think so!

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Sugar, please!

I thought about quitting eating red meat. I did it. I thought about quitting eating chicken and fish. I did it. I thought about quitting eating animal products and byproducts. I did it for two years. I thought about quitting caffeine. I did it for three days.

I never thought about quitting sugar, but I have reduced its consumption. I became more curirous when I listened to audiobook Relentless: From Good to Great to Unstoppable by Tim S. Grover, where he mentions about the difficulty his athletes had in cutting off and/or diminishing sugar from their diet. He knew exactly if his athletes were cheating or not.

So when I saw Lindsey’s posting on Instagram about her quitting sugar for one-week and inviting followers to join in, I was intrigued about the calling. I wanted to know if I could do it and I wanted to know how my body would feel without this substance that some label as “drug”. With good luck wishes from my husband, after he had baked two dozens of gluten-free cookies, I went on a journey of one-week sugar free and minimum added sugar food challenge.

DAY 1

It’s a Monday and four hours into this challenge, I found myself starring at my cup of coffee in shock of its bittersweet taste with a slight feel of dizziness. It was not the sugar-free challenge I was scared of at this point. It was the “don’t take my coffee away from me” possibility that I was fearful of. I had to be creative with this, and on the first day of the challenge, I was grateful to borrow a co-worker’s tiny packet of stevia. I had totally forgotten to bring my container of honey from home.

I pushed through the morning, afternoon and evening. I realized how much sugar is present in just about every food we eat, especially in processed food, which I try my best to stay away from it. Anything with high corn fructose or fructose is a NO in our home. The occasional dizziness feel continued throughout the day, but nothing that I felt I should be concerned about.

DAY 2

It’s Tuesday and this time around I remembered that my husband had got us a sweetener derived from sugar cane called erythritol. Erythritol is known as a sugar alcohol. It occurs naturally in some fruits and fermented foods, but the kind you see added to low-sugar and sugar-free items that is man-made. It has definitely helped with the bitterness of the coffee and worked well with the placebo effect that I added “sugar” to my coffee, although I used only half teaspoon of erythritol.

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My energy was certainly low in the morning and I could not do my morning workout. This part I certainly didn’t like it because I’ve been on a quest to fix this problem and not add more to it. For an afternoon pick me up, I’ve been drinking unsweet ice tea that I make a home with a combination of mint tea, citrus sunset and blood orange rooibos tea. It’s delicious! I was adding a splash of non-dairy Silk caramel coffee creamer, but this time I had to add plain almond milk. As the day went on, I noticed my body and mind feeling somewhat confused. My body was going through a no-sugar reaction for sure.

DAY 3

Wednesday morning I felt a lot more energized and I was up at 4:45 a.m. to get my workout done. I noticed waking up very hungry and I immediately sipped on my bottle of BCAA’s workout mix along with GenerationUcan to help me keep going. I was feeling a lot more focus today and more energetic. Although I also noticed episodes of energy crash. The feel of being always hungry not matter how much carbs I was adding to my diet was starting to get out of control. My sleep had felt more steady, but not this night. I was tossing-and-tossing around and it was difficult to fall sleep and wake up early for my workouts.

DAY 4

It was crash day! I had zero energy to get up and had a horrible headache. Besides the lack of energy and headache, I had symptoms of the flu and body ache throughout. It wasn’t a great feeling at all. After getting up at 5:00 a.m., 6:00 a.m., then 7:00 and 8:00 trying to get something going, it was clearly a no-go. I had to call in sick. I went back to bed and didn’t get up until noon. It is possible it could have been a compilation of stress or busy life, but I can’t disregard that perhaps the no-sugar week challenge had something to do with it. As the day went on, I felt irritated. At 7:00 p.m., I had to go to the grocery store for some sugar free cookies. Ahhhh, I was then satisfied.

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DAY 5

Two more days to the end…, hang in there! I was already vested in this challenge, I wasn’t going to give up now. I got to get up at 5:00 a.m. for my workout, felt energized and ready to tackle the day. I was excited and focused. Today I didn’t feel much of an energy crash, but I had more difficulty falling sleep.

DAY 6

When I finally get to sleep, I usually sleep well. But this time wasn’t the case. I didn’t wake up rested for my long run with Beata. At 4:50 a.m. as I settled in to eat my pre-long run meal, I noticed a text from Beata. She was not running due to a migraine. And that was my out to sleep in. It was cool, I wasn’t fully rested, so I went back to bed. I woke up at 9:00 a.m.  Going to my 7-miler LR, it was already late (10:30 a.m.) and getting hot by the minute. Because of a silly mistake of pushing the “save button” as I removed my top at mile .99, I went on for 8 miles. I could not just run .99 and 6.01. It doesn’t look good on Training Peak, hehe. My energy and focus to get these miles done was motivated by the reward I was going to give myself: pizza and wine for dinner. I am sure these food contains added sugar, but I had already avoided all the added sugar food all week. 8 miles in and I was absolutely done on the last mile. I felt hungry all day even though I had a good meal and I was snacking throughout the day.

DAY 7

Yes, the final day until midnight! I truly felt well throughout the day. Perhaps because it was Sunday and didn’t have to wake up early for a workout. I woke up hungry and had to eat a piece of bread before proceeding with my workout. Throughout the day I felt energized and focused on the tasks that needed done. But again, I was feeling hungry constantly. Trying to get everything set for the next day, got me to bed at 11:00 p.m., super late for someone who needed to wake up at 4:30 a.m. Again, I was tossing-and-tossing around without being able to fall sleep. I was STARVING! At 12:22 a.m., I could not take it anymore. I had to get up and eat a bowl of cheerios with cinnamon, blueberry and a squirt of blue agave. I finally fall sleep, but I didn’t wake up rested for my workout. That was a bummer.

CONCLUSION

I tolerated the challenge and I’m grateful for the experience for now I have a lot more awareness that sugar is about in every food we consume; the worst are the high corn fructose. I am already aware of what I eat, so I believe that all I need is to continue being mindful. The pros don’t make up for the cons, at not least not for my body. I’m not looking to lose weight, so a few extra calories for me is important, especially because I am a runner and only weight 108 lbs. The amount of sugar I already eat, I don’t believe it causes me any harm. I don’t feel the sugar-high and then the crash like some other people might feel due to overdoing on the sugar intake and extra consumption of added sugar food. The energy derived from the sugar amount I consume feels consistent with the level and intensity of sports activity I perform on a daily basis. I don’t feel a high or crash due to sugar intake or lack thereof. To normalize my hunger perhaps I should had add even more carbohydrates, protein and fat (the healthy ones like from avocado) to my diet while on the challenge.

But make no mistake, I don’t consume the usual white table sugar guys! Remember, I’m a vegetarian and I was vegan for two years! I only use organic unbleached sugar cane. Why? Because the popular white sugar is the most processed type of sugar you’ll see. It’s white because it has been bleached using cow bones. And let’s not even mention about the further processing of stripping all the natural goodies from the product and using GMO.

As a result of this experience, I stopped adding sugar to my coffee. Instead, I’m just using the non-dairy Silk coffee creamer and it’s really good just like this! I also stopped adding sugar to smoothies and to super food juice I make every Sunday as part of my meal prep.

But to say that I am happy to practice a less restricted sugar free diet routine is an understatement.

Be mindful!

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Best Damn Race: Yes and No, but Yes

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“When falling short on a race goal, peace is found knowing and feeling you never gave up, not matter what the odds, and by giving your all.”

~Celia Westbrook

February was a hard month of training and a hard month dealing with health issues. My mom was here visiting us from Brazil, and although I (we) made it work, it was hard to balance out family time and training. Had not been for health issues, I think I’d had done a better job at that.

Despite losing one week of training, I did the best I could to control what I could control. I’d say that for this race I nailed on nutrition because I was already prepping to race without my husband’s assistance carrying my fuel and meeting me at a certain mile marker. I also nailed mental toughness. Hours of mental strength training listening to audiobooks – my last one before this race was Relentless: From Good to Great to Unstoppable by Tim S. Grover, a MUST listen/read to anyone – watching marathons and Kenyans running documentaries, all paid off.

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This race has taught me how to best deal with race technicalities and to really consider the challenges that the course brings. I knew there would be cobblestone/brick roads, I just didn’t think that while running it would feel THIS overwhelming. I ran OUC last year which includes a similar route to Best Damn Race, but this was the worse. OUC counts for 2 miles of cobblestone/brick roads, this one is probably 4 miles worth of it. I PR’ed at OUC (1:50:54) and I ran on the course the whole race. Hence, I was out of running for two weeks after the race due to a horrible case of tendinitis on my left foot that had signs of stress reaction. Yeah, that’s horrible. Whereas at BDR, I minimized this terrain, but it cost me time AND no injury!

It took me a while to see the good things about this race’s performance. Gratitude is everything to me and it enriches my perspective. I could not be happier than knowing that my mom was there waiting for me to cross the finish line and that she would be wearing my medal. That was the best gift of all and I will be forever grateful. Without further ado, let’s run with me in this recap!

MILE 1-5 = 8:57 / 8:50 / 8:37 / 8:41 / 8:43

The weather was a nice 53 degrees; my mom could not believe I was removing my jacket and singlet. I finished my GU mix of water, did a last-minute potty stop to empty the bladder (I’d only pee in my pants if a BQ was at stake), grabbed my mix of GenUcan 10oz disposable bottle, and an overcrowded starting got me in the back of the pack. Hence, dodging through runners and running on the sidewalk trying to minimize running on brick/cobblestone road for the first .50 mi of the race already! More bricks and more sidewalk to come plus getting stuck behind a pack at the entrance of Lake Underhill Park. I tried to keep my cool and a lot of the negative thoughts shut. It was a hard.

MILE 6-10 = 8:25 / 8:21 / 8:21 / 8:15 / 8:20

From mile 6 forward it felt like I saw green pasture. I tried my best to stay below 8:25 pace, but the tough route with more cobblestone road in sight made tough. By mile 10 I had already finished my mix of GenUcan and I felt a steady flow of energy but my legs were definitely about to get tired.

MILE 11-13.1 = 8:30 / 8:31 / 7:53 / .10 @  7:24

Yup, my legs were getting tired and for some reason it felt that I was running a 8:10 pace to only realize it was 8:30/8:31 ughh. From the get go of this race, it felt out of my control and playing catch up in doing the best I could to adjust to where I wanted to be and feel. I’m still trying to figure out why miles 10-12 are the hardest for me. I didn’t feel a crash; otherwise I’d not had ran a 7:53 for mile 13.  At mile 11 I knew my chances to PR was non-existent, but I guess denial or persistence won because I never gave up giving my all.

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I am thrilled and grateful!

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“Satisfaction lies in the effort, not the attainment. Full effort is full victory.” 

Mahatma Gandhi

Dear Unloving February…

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“Do what you have to do until you can do what you want to do.”

~Oprah Winfrey

Such a runner’s high ending January with 150 miles for the month only to get slammed on the face with the reality of a lower month mileage. Not everything is lovely, and although roses are ridiculous beautiful, it has thorns too.

Unfortunately February was not an easy month to navigate through life and training. From the get go, something totally out of my control derailed my progress and shook my physical and mental being. All of the sudden, my focus turned primarily to my health and getting back on track to being healthy again. My training schedule on a day-by-day and so it was everything else to the extent that I could make it on day-by-day. I was made and I was angry that I was harm was inflicted upon me. Sadly to this day, I still cannot publicly share. But I look forward to the day and opportunity to share to many of you.

I lost one week worth of training. From 32, 36, to 27 miles week, I was lucky that I got 7 miles in for that week. The mental and physical stress I went through was something I had never experienced. Being a runner and working on mental strength was what helped me during those dark days. I did my best to separate the problem and work on a solution. However, no matter how much you work on the solution and staying positive, time is the only component that can help. It really gets worse before it gets better. And it is in those days, hours, minutes and moment that you truly put toughness, hope and action into play. You realize then what you are made of.

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Eleven days later, I slowly started to resume to training again. My fitness was still there, but a lot of work was needed to restart and find rhythm. I was extremely low on energy in the mornings to get my runs and strength training workouts done. I had to really drag myself to get some miles in the bank after work. By then, everything that needed to get done – dinner, shower, taking care of our fur babies, and rest was all behind schedule.

My mom was here visiting me from Brazil and she helped as much as she could. But at the same time, it was hard for me as I needed to make sure she was well and comfortable. I wanted to spend as much time with her as possible, but at the same time, it was hard to find time for myself as work takes just about 90% of your time from family.

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My mantra for February became “Beat yesterday”; just beat yesterday every day, push a little more and you will almost there. Beat yesterday helped me see the light at the end of the tunnel.

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I was now left with only two week of training before my half marathon race – the Best Damn Race scheduled for the first Saturday of March. I believe in taper week to feel and be confident going to a race. My time was running short and I let go of a six mile run on the week before a race because my legs were just tired. I was feeling mentally burnt out and physically tired. I just wanted this training cycle to be over and race. What got me through was the anticipation of racing the best I could on that day and a good two weeks break from mandatory running.

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As the last week of February and taper week comes all at the same time, February month miles was what it was. 82 Miles of hard fought miles and I was still wondering how in the world I was even able to get these miles. It was the hardest month and hardest miles I logged in. These miles are not just number. There is no number to compare and analyze the struggle it was to get these miles in. It was pure grit that it is dug deep and you have no idea that it is there until a situation comes that asks you to dig deep.

So, take that February!

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“Beat Yesterday”

150 Miles Club

“The Road to Easy Street Goes Through the Sewer.”

~John Madden


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Woot! Woot! I made in the #150mileclub It took me a day to digest that I actually ran 150 miles for the month of January. It amazes me that with the right training, right coach and proper recovery, the body can push just a little more each time.

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Now I know exactly how my body feels what is like to run 150 miles for the month, and I’d say, it’s pretty exciting and exhausting. However, the runner’s high takes over.

The month of January started out a little rocky. Coming out of the runner’s high from closing the 2017 year with 1,028 miles, took me some time to get adjusted for it all was going to start again. The difference was: it was going to start harder and tougher than ever before. The grind of waking up early for runs, strength training, transcendental meditation, stretching – and all before work, was getting brutal on my body and mind. Trying to find balance was again a challenge.

I usually don’t bother much as to how many miles I can bank in a month. I usually go week by week, day by day. But when the half of the month starts to approach, then I start to take a glimpse of how many miles I’m about to close the month.

Based on January’s training plan, the weeks were leading me up to close the month at 143. I recalculated numerous times and the miles added up to 143. I just could not believe it! So of course that being so close to 150, my highest yet, I could not let this opportunity go by.

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I started to add the additional 7 miles sporadically throughout the runs. Two miles were added in a LR with my friend Krista, and additional 1 mile cool down on a LR+tempo run and 4 miles on a family run with my husband and puppy, R2-D2. These 3 were my recovery run and a comeback road run for my husband, which was done on a 3:1 interval. The last mile, I ran at my recovery pace. It was 6 consecutive days of running to actually make to 150 miles for the month. The only extra day added was on a Sunday which was the 3:1 run; everything else was already scheduled on the calendar. I just needed to get it done.

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So excited to have mom visiting for a few weeks!

The only drawback of running 150 miles for the month was managing my scheduled to include strength training. It was a lot to manage and I felt failing behind in including strength training and physical therapy workouts. On the plus side, I now have the feel of what will take to adjust to marathon training schedule. It is scary. But it is also exciting.

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Cheers to a new month!

“The measure of who we are is what we do with what we have”.

~Vince Lombardi