Pittsburgh Half Training: Week 8

This past week marked the halfway point in my training, so I thought I'd reflect on how I'm doing. For background, I'm doing a 16-week modified Hal Higdon plan that has both intermediate and advanced components. I run five days a week, with two easy runs, one speed run, one goal pace run, and one long run. I'm running a higher mileage than on my last plans. My weekly mileage will top out at around 40.

I feel very strong. Throughout this training cycle, I've hit my paces, put in all my miles, felt great, and finished strong. In short, I feel strong, and that's a great feeling! The few times I haven't hit my paces were due to snow and ice.

Training Plan
I've continued my workouts outside all winter and have been lucky to pretty successfully get all my workouts in given the awful winter we had (which is melting away as I type). I haven't skipped a run or cut one short, and I haven't wanted to. I even found a way to do all my speed workouts--finding an ice-free hill for hill repeats was the biggest challenge, but I made it work. I think I can assume that winter training really works for me.

I like my speed workouts, a first for me. I look forward to doing half-mile and mile repeats. I looked forward to doing half-mile repeats this week in the rain. That's pretty crazy for me. I think the key this time is that I'm going at a lower intensity, around 10K pace, so I can stay strong and finish strong each repeat. The "I feel like I'm dying" 5K intensity of shorter repeats is something I really struggle to be comfortable with, and the "I can't do this anymore" voice whittles away at my confidence. So half-mile repeats and mile repeats work well for me. The hill repeats--okay, not so much. I do feel like I'm going to die while doing them, and my inner critic constantly tells me I can't do it anymore. But when I'm done, it's such a gratifying feeling of accomplishment that it's worth the pain.

The mileage seems to be working for me.  Maybe it's just psychological--and maybe that's okay if it's just psychological--but I swear the more I run, the stronger and fitter I feel.

I'm so glad I'm on a 16-week plan instead of a shorter one. I built up a great base in the first eight weeks so that all my long runs in the second half except for the taper week are in the double digits. Because I struggled at the end of my last half marathon, I think getting more comfortable with longer distances will really help me. 

I've been able to successfully get in my cross training workouts of strength training and yoga.

I'm really trying to build confidence in general. Right now, I'm in pretty good shape. I keep focusing on the positives and how well training is going. I need to trust in my training. When last week's Spring Thaw 10-miler was harder than it should have been, I turned my feelings of self-doubt into a productive plan on how to improve. I know I'll have bad runs, but I'll be sure to put those behind me and keep focusing on the positive. I need to start doing positive mental training for race day.

I'm advancing here too. I've been reading a lot about fueling for endurance training and have been fine-tuning my diet. I've started eating more high-quality carbs from whole grains and timing my meals so that my morning meal is heavy on carbs, afternoon is balanced though I have added more carbs, and evening is heavy on protein. I've also started to think about my diet the week and days before race day and also about my fueling during the race. I've lost 4.1 pounds since the beginning of the year. I can feel that I'm getting a bit hungrier as my mileage increases, and I'm allowing myself to eat a bit more and am not depriving myself.

I don't think I've ever addressed sleep on this blog, but I know how important it is. I am very fortunate that I've never had any problems with sleep. My body pretty much shuts off around 9 p.m. (I get up between 4:45 and 5 a.m.) I could fall asleep on a cold, hard floor with a party going on around me. This isn't so great for my social life but is great for getting the rest I need!

None. And the only slight ache or pain was a very mild twinge of discomfort in my right hip following last week's speed workout. It went away after a few days, but it was back earlier today following my long run though is gone now. I'll probably do more yin yoga this week, and I need to keep an eye on it. I wouldn't call it an ache or pain right now, and I don't want it to become that.

Another big change this training cycle is that I have a fantastic runny buddy and support network, more firsts. Amanda and I met last fall and have been running once a week since then. Running with a friend not only makes the miles fly by but also makes them enjoyable. I really look forward to our runs! Also, running with a friend makes it easier to push when you need to. It was with Amanda that I finally met my sub-30 5K goal last year.

I'm also lucky to be part of both a local running community and online running community of people--all of you!-- who constantly inspire and motivate each other, offer help and advice, and share information. I think it's so cool how technology has helped runners of very different fitness levels, speed, and experience come together. I've gotten so much help and support through this blog and Daily Mile, which has really helped me in my training.

So, overall, things are going great! I hope the next half of training is as good as the first. Here's a recap of last week. It was a good one!

Week 8 Grade: A+

50 minutes total body strength training
60 minutes yin yoga, hip series

Easy run: 5.35 miles, 1:08, 12:52 pace
It was 21 and not too cold when I went out. I went across the bridges for a total of six bridge climbs and around the stadiums. I had to dodge a lot of icy patches on the sidewalks from snow melt so went slowly. This was supposed to be a 4.5-mile run, but I misjudged my turnaround point.

Half-mile repeats: 5 miles, 1:01
I was excited for this run, even when I woke to a steady, soaking rain. It was 37F, and I really like doing half-mile repeats. I had three miles of half-mile repeats in 5:03 or less with quarter-mile recovery. Splits were 4:52, 4:49, 4:51, and 4:46. Tacked on two easy miles for warm-up and cool-down. Felt really strong and really enjoyed the run, despite getting soaked. It was the first time in months I've run on the trail, which was mostly clear except for one patch of ice. There were deep puddles everywhere that I couldn't avoid, so my feet were soaked. Plus, the Brooks LSD Lite rainjacket I wore was a big fail. I got the jacket last year after reading tons of positive reviews. I have since only worn it in light rains and as a windbreaker. This was the first time I've worn it in heavy rain, and it gave me practically no protection. My hair and tops were completely soaked. I swear that every time I buy a brand other than Lululemon or Athleta, it fails in some way. I have two Lulu rain jackets, one for running (but it's black so I can't wear it in the dark mornings) and one for casual wear, and both are exceptional quality that keep me completely dry. Yeah, I think I'll continue paying more money for gear that's well-made, works well, and is durable.

In the evening I did a hip-opening flow yoga video from Yoga Journal. 

Easy run: 4 miles, 53:22, 13:21 pace
I woke up to a snowstorm. It was 20F with snow falling heavily when I went out. So much for the clear trail! Nothing was clear yet because it was so early. There were three inches or more on the ground when I went out, and it was a slow slog to run through it. I didn't mind too much since it was just an easy run, but it really slowed me down.

Later I did 45 minutes of strength training.

Rest day! I did the Essential Yoga for Runners video from Runner's World.

Pace run: 7 miles, 1:18, 11:10 pace
I was so excited for this run! Amanda had to switch her long run day to Saturday and ran the second part of her 14-miler with me. We met at the JC Stone Field at North Park. It was 26 degrees and not too cold, but it was windy. I had five miles at race pace (11:00) on the schedule. After a warm-up mile at an easy pace, we started our five miles, going out to the Boat House then to Babcock and back because the part of the loop on Ingomar Road is closed. Splits were 10:39, 10:39, 10:55, 11:02, and 10:48. We talked the whole time, the pace felt very doable, and I felt great. The pace only got tough and I couldn't speak at the end on the second big hill climb near the Boat House. My heart rate was right where it should be for most of the run except for hill climbs. We finished strong and then did one more mile for cool-down. We also saw Nichole run by as we were finishing. This was a really fun run, and I really felt awesome.

One shopping note: The hat I've been wearing all winter, the Lululemon Run With Me Toque, went on sale Thursday, so I was able to pick it up in the pretty Ultra Violet color for just $24. Score! Because I wear a lot of blacks and greys, I love the pop of color the hat gives me.
Crooked selfie that we were trying to discreetly take until another
runner asked if we wanted him to take our picture. Funny!
In the afternoon I did 15 minutes of strength training. We took Django on a short walk to West Park in the Central Northside in the afternoon. It was supposed to warm up, but was still pretty cold when we were out.

Django relaxing after his walk. He's wearing his Django Django collar, named for him
from my friend who makes dog collars. She uses really cool fabrics. Check them out!

Long run: 11 miles, 2:15, 12:17 pace
Because Amanda wasn't able to run, I decided to do my long run with Steel City Road Runners. We met near the trail by my house. A lot less people come to their Sunday group runs than their Saturday runs. There were only two runners going at 12:00+ pace--Adam and Julia. They are both running the Pittsburgh Half Marathon as their first half marathons and were doing shorter runs, so I only ran five miles with them. We went across the bridges, through Downtown, back across the 16th Street bridge, and out toward PNC Park. After I said bye to them, I went across the Fort Duquesne Bridge to Point State Park, back, around the stadiums, and back and forth over the bridges until I got all my miles in. I was a little bummed to be running much of the same route I always run, but I got in 10 bridge climbs, so it was good practice on the bridges. This was a solid run and I felt fine the whole time. My legs felt a bit tired at the end, but nothing major. I didn't feel the major fatigue I sometimes do on double-digit runs. I tried taking the first of my two gels a little earlier--a little over 30 minutes instead of waiting for 45 minutes. And, on the portion of the run I did with Adam and Julia, I took some walk breaks with them. So, I wonder if a few walk breaks in the beginning and fueling a bit earlier helped stave off fatigue on this run.

After the run I did Recovery Yoga video from Runner's World.

It warmed up a lot in the afternoon. We took Django on a walk, and I think it's the warmest it's been all year. I think Django was really happy to be out in the sun and it not be bitter cold. This week's supposed to be nice. Finally!

Happy running and working out this week!

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