Monday, March 17, 2014

Glad I added a flex week

Happy Monday!  Hopefully tomorrow I will have some incredibly exciting news for you.  But I can't jinx it right now.  I'm trying so hard not to do or say anything that might ruin this for us, because it's a big effing deal.  Instead, I'm going to talk about things that have already happened.  Feels safer.

I don't remember if I talked about it last week or not, but Ammon and I did the Partners Mentoring Youth 5k on Saturday.  This race holds an extra special place in my heart because it was at this race 2 years ago that my running journey really started.  I didn't train at all for it, because I wanted to use it as a baseline in finding out what I could do, and how far I could get if I trained consistently for 7 weeks.  I remember being really happy that I survived that very first 5k, and being very hungry and tired when it was over.  Now, a 5k is about the distance of a mid-week training run for me, but I try to up the intensity a bit.

We like being shoe twins

All of last week I was debating how this race was going to go for me.  I was debating between going for a PR, or taking it as an easy training run.  My plan called for a 7 mile run on Saturday, and I was torn between using the flex week I'd built into my plan to really go for an outstanding time, or to do 2 easier runs on Saturday.  It was a really tough decision, because on the one hand, I really wanted to use that flex week to do a 12 mile run before taper, but on the other hand, I wanted to see what I was capable of in terms of speed, and making progress towards my goal of running a half marathon in 2:30.

In the end, the weather made the decision for me.  We knew going into the race that it would probably be on the chilly side, around 40 degrees or so, and I planned for that.  What we didn't expect was the wind that drove the temperature down to 35 degrees or so.  That wind was ugly, and nasty, and overall just a thorn in my side when we got to the starting line.  Our pose in the above picture was about the only one that we could manage, I was too chilly to move in order to take anything more interesting.  And thus, the cold made my decision for me:  I was going for the gold on this one.  No easy run, my body was cold and needed to be warm.  The only way that was going to happen was by crushing that course, and hopefully, my previous 5k record of 32 minutes and 17 seconds.  Oh, and I wanted to do it while still following my plan of run/walk intervals.  No big deal, right???

So we set off, with my Garmin set to alert me to run for 4 minutes, and then walk for 2.  Those first 2 intervals, I felt incredible!  I tried to go slowly to start, so that I didn't run out of gas by the finish.  This approach never works for me, because in all of the starting line excitement, my "slow" is usually at least 10 seconds a mile faster than I plan on it being.  This race was no different.  I was absolutely shocked when my first split flashed up on my watch at 10:20.  What???  I had been planning on doing about 10:40 to 11:00 on that first mile!  However, I felt AMAZING, and so I decided to keep it up.

At mile 2, the course turned us into a headwind, and then an unfavorable cross-wind.  It hurt a lot, and while my running splits stayed consisted, my walking pace got slower, which gave me a slightly slower split on mile 2 overall.  I was pretty angry at life during mile two.  It was cold, my pants did not want to stay up, and my lungs were hurting.  I remembered hearing all kinds of runners say that the 5k should hurt if you're doing it right, because you should be giving it your absolute best.  There's no real pacing strategy for a 5k:  just go out there and try to hang on for those 3.1 miles as best as you can.  Now that I run longer distances, I totally get what they mean by that.  If you had told me 2 years ago that running a 5k was more about willpower than it was about pacing, or training, I would have given you side eyes, and told you to walk away.  But at mile 2, all I needed to do was remind myself that this was the time to hunker down, forget about the pain, and transcend it.

Going into mile 3, that unfavorable crosswind was still there, but the course gently sloped downward to the finish.  There were more spectators, and I knew that there was a light at the end of the pain-tunnel.  In fact, I wanted to speed up, just so that I could be done with all of the nonsense sooner.  Based on my first two miles, I knew that there was a great chance that I COULD beat my PR if I pushed through the pain and worked consistently hard during my running intervals.  It was getting really hard to maintain a fast walking speed during my walking intervals, because for once, I was finishing with a huge group of other people instead of being at the back, and there was a lot of dodging and weaving going on.  I tried to hug the right side of the course in order to avoid it, but there was a lot of lateral movement going on.  It was really frustrating, and disheartening, because I felt like I had to push that much harder during my running intervals to make up for it.

And suddenly, I was at mile 3.  Only that last 0.1 to go.  I thought about kicking it into an all out sprint finish, but I already felt some nausea start to stir, and I instead decided to just kick up my speed 10%.  When I crossed the finish line my Garmin read 32:01:08, my head was held high, and I felt strong.  I had just beaten my previous PR by 15 seconds.  Boom.  Somehow, in 6 months, and with a run/walk training model, I had managed to beat my previous time that was based on all running, and trying to pace myself out so that I didn't burn out and "have to walk".  It was proof positive to me that there are many ways to successfully train for races, and that everyone has to find a strategy that works the best for them.  I have friends that can go out and run sub-10 minute miles like they aren't a big deal without walking once.  And for them, all running training plans are fantastic.  My body responds differently, and I'm finally finding things that help my body do what it needs to be doing.  Fantastic.

I didn't run the other 4 miles on Saturday that would have gotten me to my training volume for the week.  I did go out immediately after finishing to go find Ammon and cheer him to the finish.  That counts for something, right?  Look how cute and awesome and studly he looks running to the finish line a la Rocky.  Yes, I decided to use the week as my flex week.  I feel like it was absolutely the right decision for me at the time.  Next week I'll be back on track and complete a 7 mile long run.  And I will do so knowing that I am on track to meet my goals in May.

Does anyone else build flexibility into their running or workout schedules?  Does it work for you?


  1. Great job on your new PR!!! That is always such an exciting finish to any run. :)

    I haven't built in a flew week, mostly because I'm following a training guide set by the Running Club I am a member of, but I try to be flexible when I feel l need to. I was sick and ended up needing to take a week off to recover. At first I felt bad for 'skipping' my training runs, but then I slowly started to see that without that week off it's possible I would miss more in the future.

  2. Beating a PR always feels good. So proud of you. I think I'm going to do the Dirty Dash when it comes here in June. And it's just over a 5k, so I'm going to start getting ready for it. I don't think I'm going to set any PRs in that race though. It looks like its just a big party. haha I'm actually pretty excited for it.


I love comments! Please let me know how you feel, and make sure I have a way to get back with you, so we can be friends :-)