100 miles in one month: Mission accomplished!

I’m not one for New Year’s resolutions. It’s not that I’m not a goal-oriented person. But it always makes more sense to me to set personal goals on my birthday than on New Year’s. (This could be because I think New Year’s is the most overblown, overhyped holiday out there. But I digress.)

That said, I LOVE a good challenge, especially when there is a competitive edge to it! So I am happy to announce that I completed my friend Matt’s annual 25/50/75/100 Mile Challenge for the month of January.

The rules are simple: You choose your goal (could be 25, 50, 75 or 100 miles) and commit to completing that mileage by Jan. 31. Every time you finish a run, you log your miles and report them to Matt, who keeps a daily leaderboard that he posts in a private Facebook event. Several dozen of his friends signed up for the challenge, and it’s so fun to see all the participants proudly reporting their miles each day — especially because not everyone is a hardcore runner. It’s inspiring to see people who insist they aren’t runners crush their goals!

Since I am training for yet another marathon, I knew reaching 100 miles would not be a problem for me, but I thought I’d get there sooner than I did. I hit 100 on Jan. 26, after being sick with a nasty cold/cough the week earlier that ruined my long run plans for last weekend. And as I said, having a friendly competition is a powerful motivator! I knew my friend Kree (Matt’s wife) would be at 100 miles on Jan. 26, so I made sure I met my goal that night — even though it was Friday night and I totally did not feel like getting on the treadmill. But I ran those last five miles anyway!

Then the next day, I ran 16 miles in keeping with my marathon training plan — so I am now at 116 miles for January. I should be able to finish out the month somewhere in the low 120s. I was hoping to be in the 130s, and I probably would have been had I not gotten sick. But what can you do? It is cold and flu season, after all.

January is my least favorite month by far — it’s cold (though we’ve had some mild days the past week), the holidays are over and spring and summer feel SO far away. Having a goal definitely makes the month go by faster — which is probably why I just can’t quit spring marathons!

Speed work makes the dream work

…. or something like that.

As I mentioned before, I’m following Hal Higdon’s Advanced 2 marathon training plan as I prepare for the Rehoboth Marathon. It’s far more challenging than the plan I’ve followed previously, incorporating hill repeats, speed workouts and a total of three 20-mile long runs leading up to the race. (My old plan had me running one 20-miler before the taper.) But let’s talk about those speed workouts.

This is my first time doing Yasso 800s, which are supposed to be a way to predict your marathon finishing time. They’re named for Bart Yasso, longtime race services manager at Runner’s World magazine and a seasoned marathoner and ultramarathoner. (I’m reading his book now — review to come!)

Basically, Yasso realized that he could gauge his marathon time based on how long it took him to run 800 meters, or a half-mile. If you can run, say, 800 meters (two laps around your typical high school track) in four minutes, you will likely bang out a four-hour marathon. Training to run a 3:30 marathon? Then run your Yasso 800s in three minutes and 30 seconds. You get the idea. Here’s the whole history of Yasso 800s and how Bart came up with the concept.

With the plan I am following, I’m running my 800s every third week. I started with four repeats three weeks ago and will progress up to eight repeats. In between each 800-meter sprint, I jog for 400 meters to recover. I’ve been shooting for 800s in 3:35. My Boston qualifying standard is 3:40, but I’m trying to give myself a solid cushion, so a 3:35 marathon is my ultimate goal! It means I need to knock seven minutes off my marathon time– definitely not impossible.

I’m not going to lie — speed work is not my favorite thing to do. In fact, I think it kind of blows. So I’m hoping this is as effective as the pros say! Three weeks ago, I went to the track at the local high school and ran my 800s as the football team practiced in the background. Tonight, it was pouring, so I ran my five repeats on the treadmill. Works just as well.

Not everyone believes in the total accuracy of the Yasso 800s — this article notes there’s no scientific data to back up its legitimacy as a time predictor. So we’ll see! Regardless, it’s certainly challenging my body and helping me to mix up my training.

The Annapolis Ten Mile Run: My favorite race of the year

It’s fitting that I kick off this blog by talking about the Annapolis Ten Mile Run, which I ran for the fifth time on Sunday.

The A10 is the first major race I ever did, and I believe it’s what made me a marathoner.
Back when I signed up for my first A10, on a whim, in 2013, I was a loyal gym-goer and a regular treadmill runner who was a little intimidated by the idea of running in a race with thousands of other runners. What if I totally sucked and embarrassed myself? But I decided to take a leap and run it anyway.

The day before the 2013 A10, I spent the day on my now-husband’s boat, carbo-loading with beer after beer. My sister partied so hard that she ended up in the Chesapeake Bay. Needless to say, when I woke up the next morning, I was in rough shape. But I powered through. I mean, I almost puked around mile 5, but I finished strong and wanted to sign up for the following year’s A10 almost immediately.

Lesson learned: No more than one beer (OK, maybe two!) before a long race! I’ve mostly stuck to that ….

In the years since, I’ve run countless 10-milers, a dozen half-marathons and three marathons. I like to say the 2013 A10 was my gateway drug. It made me fall in love with racing, and it made me proud to be a part of Annapolis’ wonderful running community.

The weather could not have been more perfect for the 2017 A10. And any runner knows what a difference the weather can make! A hot, humid day can really slow you down– and since the A10 is always the last weekend of August, well, there have been some muggy race days. On Sunday morning, the temperature was in the high 60s, the sun was shining and there was no humidity whatsoever (a rarity for a summer day in Maryland.)

The A10 follows the same route every year. Runners start at the Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium and head through historic downtown Annapolis before running over Weems Creek and the Naval Academy Bridge. Then, you run miles 4.5-7.5 through the Pendennis Mount neighborhood before heading back toward the bridge (yes, you run over it twice. And yes, it’s steep and challenging!) Runners finish at the stadium.

The race is hilly, but I think the difficulty is what makes it appealing for a lot of runners. But aside from that, the course is so scenic. Running over the Naval Academy Bridge may kill your quads, but you’re rewarded with the most beautiful view at the top. The crowd support and the volunteers are just awesome, too. One surprise this year– a group of nuns in full habits who were out cheering on the runners around mile 9.5. Maybe they thought the runners needed some extra prayers!

The Annapolis Striders, the local group who organizes the race, also don’t skimp on the swag. Aside from the hoodies runners got as the finisher’s premium, we also got hats and these fantastic commemorative bottle openers:

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I finished the race in 1:15:37, my personal best for the 10-mile distance! I felt like the race went by SO fast, probably because I know the course so well at this point. I truly loved every mile.

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My friend Kree and I. We both PR’d!

I’m actually running another 10-mile race in two weekends — the Bottle and Cork Ten-Miler in Dewey Beach, Del.– so we’ll see how my times compare. That’s a much flatter course, but the weather can be just as hot and sticky.

Thanks to the Annapolis Striders for putting on another quality A10! I’ll see you next year!