Buffalo Creek Half Marathon Training – Week 1

How is it August already?! I feel like just yesterday we were still training for Pittsburgh and now we’ve all moved on to training for fall races! Crazy! Since everyone else has been training for BCHM for 3 or 4 weeks I feel like I am SO behind. This capped off the first week of training for me and it was great. When I picked my training plan (Hal Higdon’s Intermediate Half) I didn’t realize how LOW the mileage is. I only ran 16 miles this past week, but I felt like they were all quality. Thanks to this plan, and my heart rate training, I really feel like they all served a purpose and I can feel that they did. That probably sounds crazy, but for the first time in ages I really feel like I am making true progress with my training. That is an amazing feeling. Also. I have 0 running related pictures…so cat pictures it is! Sorry, but not really.
Monday: 3 miles 36:36 12:12 pace Avg HR: 153.  I always struggle with Monday runs, which is why I usually make that my rest day. This time around it’s time to suck it up and get it done. I could NOT drag myself out of bed that morning so I had to wait until after work to do it. It was HOT and sunny out, but I told myself that it was no biggie. Since it was an easy day, I didn’t have to worry about my pace or throwing down some major repeats. It wasn’t terrible, but it reminded my why I love running early; I was tired, and my legs were like lead and it was pretty toasty. I was disappointed when I realized that soon I’ll be doing most of my runs at that time since it will  be too dark to run before work. Major sad panda over here.
Sad Panda

Sad Panda

Tuesday: 5x400m repeats. I did not have high hopes for this one. I wasn’t feeling 100%, and the humidity was brutal. I usually do a 1 mile warmup, but only did about 3/4 of one – I had to make a pit stop home and since I was right by the road I do the repeats on I decided to just get them started. My target heart rate for repeats is 186-190, and I noticed that since the repeats are so short it’s not a lot of time for me to get my heart rate that high. Even with that, my splits were: 7:47, 7:35, 8:07, 7:51, 8:07 . My recovery intervals are .10 . I was really ecstatic to see splits in the SEVENS. WHERE DID THAT COME FROM?! Apparently, there is an inner speed demon that is just waiting to bust out.  Because of the recovery intervals, it’s hard to give an accurate representation of average heart rate, pace etc. but here they are: 1:.69 miles (does not include my warmup because I have to reset my watch) 16:00 9:29 pace. Avg HR: 171 BOOM!
Rub muh belly, please

Rub muh belly, please

Wednesday: 3 miles  33:00 11:00 pace Avg HR: 152  . This run doesn’t have a specific designation (not easy, not speed, not pace, etc) I designated this as a medium pace with the heart rate zone between my easy and long run zone: 155-160. I was met with 80% humidity but it didn’t seem too terrible, and I was able to keep my heart rate in the zone. Actually, it was just UNDER the zone at 152 so that was even better for the pace I was able to manage.
No respect. On the table, on my sweater. You can tell she's concerned about the ramifications

No respect. On the table, on my sweater. You can tell she’s concerned about the ramifications

Thursday: Weights! I finally moved on to the next stage of New Rules of Lifting for Women a few weeks ago and I really enjoy those workouts. The ONLY move I hate is the Dumbbell Cuban Snatch. It feels so unnatural and like I’m not doing it right (even with 3 lb weights) so I decided I’m not doing it anymore. I’ll substitute it for….something. Not sure what, but just not that!
Now we are crossing the lines. On the counter, bird watching.

Now we are crossing the lines. On the counter, bird watching. Obviously the counter was cleaned and a new towel was put down. And he was back 5 minutes later.

Friday: 3 miles 30:00 10 min pace Avg HR 167 . This is supposed to be a pace run and my heart rate should be between 170-174, so again I was a little low but still a really good effort. I was a touch disappointed that it wasn’t as fast as last week’s pace run (9:5x pace) but had I kicked it up a notch and gotten my HR up 5 more bpm I would have been back in the 9’s. It’s amazing to me how those few beats can so drastically effect your pace!
Breakfast is apparently self serve these days...

Breakfast is apparently self serve these days…

Saturday: 5 miles 1:02 12:23 pace Avg HR: 137 I met Jen at North Park bright and early at 6:30! The roads were practically empty (except, I did manage to get stuck behind the ONE other person out…going 5 miles under the speed limit), and it was so nice and cool. I only had 5 on the schedule so we did the first loop together; it was great to be reunited! Our schedules haven’t matched up for the last few weeks and it had been awhile since we tackled any miles together, so we got to catch up which made the miles FLY by! Before I knew it, we were back at our cars and Jen was fueling up to tackle the last 4 miles. Our roles are reversed for this training cycle – during marathon training I was always the one setting of to face the last few miles solo and now it’s Jen’s turn! She crushed it (of course), and used her last miles as a fast finish! Awesome!  It was awesome to be finished with my “long run” (I use long very loosely here since it was only 5 miles) before 8 AM! I literally had the whole day to get stuff done!
Sunday: Rest! I remembered when I was crawling into bed that I’m supposed to use Sunday as another weights day. My bad.
I’m really pleased with this week. I only totaled about 16.5 miles and I’m good with that. It can be tough to look on Daily Mile and see everyone else logging 10 and 20 miles per week more than me but I need to swallow my pride, and focus on me and my goals. For a while I was focused on quantity not quality in my plans, but I’m starting to appreciate that that may not always be the best option for me. It’s awesome to have focus and direction again!! I can’t wait to see what this training cycle brings 🙂
How was your week? Please tell me your pets have some bad manners/bad habits too?

Pittsburgh Marathon Training – Week 9

Week 9 is done, and I completed my longest training run since October of 2013! The weather was messing with me this week – the REALLY nice days were my non-running days (Monday and Wednesday) and the not so nice days fell on my run days. To be honest, I kind of like that because it toughens me up and gets me used to running in less than ideal conditions. If I can make it through those runs, race day should be A-OK. And, if we get shitty weather for race day…then I’m ready for it!

Monday – It was SO nice out that I almost considered going for a run, but, decided to stick to my plan and made it a rest day. I also decided, along with everyone else, to get my car washed; there were at least a dozen cars in front of me and another 7 or 8 in line behind me! I knew it was going to rain in the next day or two but I HAD to get all of that salt and crap off of my car. Then as I sat in line, I started to wonder: am I really getting the wash that I paid for? I went to Get Go and picked the high class $12 wash, but there were so many cars and they were really pushing them through the line that I had to wonder if each car was getting something different, or were all getting the same thing? To be honest, I can never tell the difference between washes; the $12 one is supposed to come with tire shine but my tires never look shiny. And really, as long as I’m getting the undercarriage cleaned I’m happy. Please tell me I’m not the only one who thinks about this in such great detail…? Just me? Good talk.

Tuesday – It was cold and rainy, but still a nice day for a run. It felt nice to get my legs moving after some hard workouts the week before and being cramped in the car all day Sunday.

My mom is so proud

My mom is so proud

4 miles 46:22 (11:35 pace)

Wednesday – Strength.  I’m almost finished with Stage 1 of NROLFW and I’m not sure what to do next. Continue on to Stage 2, using low to medium weights/higher reps or just repeat of few more weeks of Stage 1 until after the race when I can really focus on adding weight and (dear god hopefully) start to actually SEE a change in my appearance. Maybe if I put down the cookies I would see some results now, and could stop bitching about it but….cookies.

Thursday – Speed Day. I tried to make this a tempo run, but with all of the hills around my house that can be tricky so I while I know my pace will creep up a bit, I try to make sure that my effort is still hard. My first mile (warm up) already felt challenging, so how are 3 at a faster pace going to feel??  To be honest, I wasn’t sure that I would be able to sustain the pace for very long but aside from mile 3 I did OK.

That 3rd mile got me, but I pulled it together for my last mile

That 3rd mile got me, but I pulled it together for my last mile

It felt like a lot of work though. I even mentioned on Daily Mile that it’s amazing to me that one day I can average a 10:00 min pace for TEN MILES and on another day I can barely maintain a 10:50 pace for 3 miles. I know there are a lot of factors that go into it but it’s still fascinating!  5 miles 55:12 (11:02 pace)

Friday – Strength. The usual.

I knew they were calling for lots of rain for Saturday morning, and I’m sure there will be plenty more in the coming weeks, so I decided to splurge and get myself a nice new rain jacket.

It wasn’t quite a shell jacket, but it marketed as “storm gear” so I thought it would be great. I’m a total cheapskate so I was a little hesitant at the $80 dollar price tag, especially when I knew that I had seen other shells at a different store for half the price, but I got it anyway in BRIGHT ASS orange. They didn’t have the pretty mint color, or I would have picked that over the ‘road cone orange’.

Saturday – 10 miles in the pouring rain. In my spiffy new jacket.  I figured if the jacket didn’t work as a shell and keep me dry, it was still nice and BRIGHT (seriously, you can’t miss me in this thing) and would be good for chilly days, or days when visibility isn’t so swell. Anything to justify the price.  Since it was a longish run and I didn’t eat well the night before (looking at you, Miller Lite), I decided to eat a Clif Bar for breakfast but that particular flavor (Gingerbread) was not as delicious as I remembered so I couldn’t even finish it. I packed a gel and a water bottle to stash along my route just in case and set out. I was so excited to get back on the roads (all of my normal roads were free and clear of snow and ice!! YAY!) and the first few miles were great! I was dry, the miles were ticking by and life was good! I got to the first challenging part – this section of road is always hard. It’s a loooooong gradual incline that doesn’t look like much but it’s HARD! Since it’s been at least 3 months since I’ve run it I decided my only goal for that stretch was to not walk. I managed that, and kept a decentish pace. I looped back around, past my stashed water bottle/gel and decided to keep going. I felt OK and really didn’t want to carry it if I didn’t need to so I skipped it. In hindsight, taking the gel wouldn’t have been a bad idea – I hit the back half of the loop around mile 5 and the big hills, which are just as tough as I remember, start around mile 7.

Not too shabby...

Not too shabby…

My pace really suffered for the last 3 miles,  but overall I’m still really happy with this run.

Holy shit, I forgot how hard this is!!

Holy shit, I forgot how hard this is!!

It’s my first time out on the roads since January, as I’ve been banished to the same 4 streets or the treadmill since training started and it’ll probably take me a few tries to get used to them again. The jacket? The $80 jacket? I was soaked by the time I was done. It felt heavy and bulky and my shirt underneath was drenched. I debated returning it, but I already took the tags off (and wore it…obviously) and like I said, it could work as just a lightweight jacket for spring/fall weather but I have plenty of those… and then I still have to buy a shell. I haven’t decided what I want to do yet, but I’m thinking I might try to return it; I’m not even sure they’ll take it since I wore it, but if it doesn’t work I don’t want to keep it. 10 miles 1:58 (11:51 pace)

Sunday – Jen and I decided that we wanted to try the second half of the marathon course so that I could get a feel for it. I have been to Oakland all of 3 times in my life and none of them on foot so I had no idea what to expect. Jen mapped out a 12 mile loop for us starting at CMU and covering a good bit of the Oakland/Shadyside.  I got myself together – the high for Sunday was supposed to be in the 50s and while it was still pretty chilly when I left the house, I figured that by the time I started running and covered 18 miles it would be warm enough to justify shorts. I loaded my fanny pack (now lovingly referred to as the ‘Kangaroo Pouch’), filled up my water bottle and set out to explore The Great Unknown.

The Kangaroo Pouch isn't as bad as I thought...

The Kangaroo Pouch isn’t as bad as I thought…

I found our meeting place with ease and as the wind whipped around my car, I started to worry that shorts and a long sleeved shirt wouldn’t be enough (spoiler alert – I was right). While Jen did her warmup, I decided to stash my phone in my car, because I was worried it would bounce around in the Kangaroo Pouch too much (spoiler alert – this was a bad idea). After a quick picture we were off! Right away, I was cold. My fingers were frozen, my ears were cold and I already couldn’t feel my legs (WHEN WILL I LEARN?!). Being so cold made me miserable, which made me a shitty long run partner. Normally, I never shut up but I was having hard time holding up my end of the conversation and that made me feel bad. Exploring a new area was still a lot of fun though! I will be honest -for a suburban/North Park runner getting used to things like crosswalks was tough. I never knew if I should stop my watch, or let it go…so I did a little of both.  Early in the morning, it wasn’t much of a problem but as the day went on and more people were out it could really throw off your rhythm.

This is the 2nd part of my run - lotsa stops for crosswalks!

This is the 2nd part of my run – all of those hits to the pace are crosswalks! There were a lot!


We went all over the place, and so did I as I managed to trip over anything and everything in my path. Seriously…if it was there, I tripped over it and it started to piss me off. I’m sure there are a lot of people telling their co-workers Monday about “that idiot running in shorts who tripped over a stick”. We also came across a couple walking their pet pigs! We stopped and Jen made a new friend (no picture, because no phone); I’m kind of afraid of pigs (the squealing scares me) so I hung back, but seeing them walk around on their leashes was ADORABLE.  It was around here that our directions seemed a little off, but because I didn’t bring my phone we had no way of knowing where we were vs where we should have been. Since I had no idea where we were vs where we should be, I honestly didn’t even notice something was wrong. We asked a lady walking her dog , and she (sort of) pointed us in the right direction. After that break, we were off again and this time we were both COLD! Stopping and starting again made it so hard to warm up and my hands were like ice cubes. I tried to tuck them into my shirt, but that didn’t do much especially when I was holding onto my freezing water bottle. We eventually found our way back on course and headed back towards CMU. I stopped at my car to get my phone, and Jen showed me where I could use the bathroom and refill my water before I set off for 6 more miles (technically 5.75 since we were a little over 12 when we stopped). After she left, I realized that I forgot to write down the directions for my loop so I wasn’t sure what to do. I thought about driving home and finishing 6 on my normal route, but knew that once I got home it would never really happen. I figured that if I stayed around CMU campus/Forbes I would be OK; I looped around some of the building and the back part of CMU, went aaaaaaaaaall the way down Forbes and back, up Moorewood and back down and was still a mile short.

Paces were kind of all over the place, but not much I can do about that.

Paces were kind of all over the place, but not much I can do about that.

Yes, I could have done that CMU loop one more time but the thought of going past my car again almost made me cry. Yes, I’m being serious.  I was in a strange place, alone, cold, tired, was sick of tripping over everything, tired of crosswalks and am more dramatic than a 15 year old so there were almost tears. I had checked my phone, saw how late it was, and decided that 17 was enough. Despite all of that, this was a really good run. I have been so nervous about the 2nd half of the course and this showed me a good bit of it, and that I am (or will be, rather) ready to tackle this in 45 days! A HUGE THANK YOU to Jen for mapping this all out and being our navigator!! 17 miles 3:24 (12:00 pace)

45 days until race day feels like a long time, but when you take the taper into consideration, there are only a few long runs left! Up next are 2 20 milers, a step back, then a 22 miler and then taper time!! Holyshit. My biggest concern now is really nailing down my fueling strategy for race day. Unless they are forecasting a hot day, I’ll be relying on the course aid stations for water so I need to work on getting my gels down the hatch before I actually get to the station (and getting the water IN my mouth, not down my shirt). I also have to work on pre-race food too…I always have a cinnamon raisin bagel w/peanut butter, but given the time between eating that and the race starting I’m thinking I’ll need a little bit more. Probably a Clif Bar on the ride down to the race; don’t worry, I’ll make sure it’s a good flavor this time 😉

How is your training going? Do you rely on race aid stations or are you a BYOW person? How are you at drinking from the paper cups – down the hatch or down the shirt??

Pittsburgh Marathon Training Week 8

Week 8 is over and we are officially halfway there (wooo-ah! Livin’ on a praaaaayer….no? Ok, then)!!!  Holy crap! I try not to remind myself of that and to just focus on the week at hand but, I definitely started to get some butterflies and nerves when I realized it was week 8. I’m the type of person that does better when I break things down into smaller time frames, so I really try not to look to far ahead (unless it’s for scheduling/logistics purposes) otherwise I will start a major freak-out.  This was another strong week, and required a little bit of tinkering to get the miles in but I am happy to report that they are all done! I had a Sunday day trip to my brother’s house planned, which meant I had to shift all of my runs/weights around to fit it all in. This resulted in me doing my NROLFW two days in a row (total no-no), but it was that or nothing AND doing my first running double. Since I don’t go “totes hard at the gym, yo” I figured this would be ok. We are  also getting close to peak week(s) here, and I have an 18 miler coming up this weekend. Can’t. Wait.

Monday – Rest Day. Nothing hugely exciting….

Tuesday – Outside run!! 5 miles 58:00 (11:41 pace) . It was raining,  but that was OK by me!! For one, it wasn’t snow!!! And two, I honestly love running in the rain. There is something so calming and peaceful about it. It was still a little chilly out, but IT WASN’T SNOW! My legs were still a little tired and heavy from the beating they took over the weekend (10 mile race/16 mile long run…Rocky Balboa style) so I was in no hurry to go fast.

Wednesday – Strength! I’m pretty sure I say this every week, but, I’m still not seeing the progress in the mirror and I know that’s all on me. Which is fine. The good stuff though, is that I’m seeing the progress in other ways. Each week I’m able to increase the weights I’m using, and even if it’s only 5 pounds it’s something; AND I was able to do 10 REAL pushups. That was a first for me. I’m not sure that my form on those was 100% perfect, but my trainer said it was so they count.

Last one didn't count, fool

Last one didn’t count, fool


Thursday – Double up with my “speed” in the morning and weights in the afternoon. This was supposed to be a 5 mile progression run, but turned into a 4 mile regression run.  This is one of those ones that felt tough from the get go. I was on the treadmill and had to stop about a mile in because my stomach just decided to wake up and join the party. I got started again and the pace just felt hard and I was only at a 5.3 speed. I had to slow it down and then finally walk which I haven’t done in forever. My basement is always nice and cool, but it felt HOT and that started to irritate me. I told myself just to forget about the pace, and just get the run done. I kept the speed at about 5.2 for a while then put it back up to 5.3 and just kept alternating those speeds until I was done. Between the bathroom break and walk break, I wasted a good bit of time and I had to stop at 4 miles or risk being late for work.  4.25 miles 49:00 (11:29 pace) Weights in the PM!

Friday – This was a true “double” and a major first for me. Because I would be away Sunday, I needed to do my long run on Saturday; which meant that my Saturday run was moved to Friday. The only problem was that Saturday’s run called for 10 miles. Ruh-Roh. That is certainly NOT the type of mileage I am capable of before work, and it’s definitely not happening after work so the only other option was to split the miles up and do some in the morning and some at night. I started out on the treadmill Friday morning, and was a little apprehensive since yesterday’s run had gone oh-so-well, but told myself just focus on getting something in. Do a minimum of 3 miles, but, do more if you can. 4 is good…5 would be AWESOME! I turned Law and Order on and got to work. 3 went by quickly enough, so I told myself that 1 more mile was totally doable. I passed 4 miles and told myself that I went this far…might as well just go for 5. Of course, the last mile is the longest but I finished it strong. Imagine my surprise/delight  when I went to record the run in my planner that I was only scheduled for NINE miles! WAHOO! I know it’s only 1 lousy mile, but mentally, that was huge. Knowing that I only needed 4 more instead of 5 left me feeling very confident!  I came home, and the sun was shining so I got dressed and headed out to finish 4 more miles. I wanted to keep these easy so I wore my heart rate monitor, and thanks to the article that Jen posted I figured out where I should try to keep my heart rate for this run. *For a really awesome & thorough post about training by heart rate, read Nichole’s post. I’ve read it once and am re-reading it to make sure I get all of the info. I am almost positive I’m going to give this type of training a shot after this marathon. Go read it now. Well, finish reading this, THEN go read that post.*  Until I was running, and then I forgot the numbers, but I decided that keeping things in the 140s-150s would be acceptable. I was able to do that, and again, it helped me mentally – it was easier/more fun to try to keep my heart rate down that it was to watch my pace get slower 🙂
I think I did it right.

I think I did it right.

I knocked out the 4 miles and was surprised when I saw that my pace was still in the 11:30s. To be honest, I was just worried about surviving this so to see that I was still holding a somewhat decent pace was icing on the cake! AM 5 miles 56:55 (11:09 pace)/PM 4 miles 46:24 (11:35 pace).

Saturday – I moved my long run up and Jennifer was awesome enough to meet me out at North Park for the second half of my 14 miler. The plan was that I would run 7, then meet Jen and we would do 5 miles at race pace with a mile warm up and cool down. I took the first 7 nice and easy, and again used my HRM to make sure that I was truly keeping it easy.

Nailed it. I think.

Nailed it. I think.

I knew that if I went out too fast, that I wouldn’t be able to keep up with Jen and she might have to leave my body in a snow pile somewhere.  I parked at the JC Stone Field and ran to the boathouse, cut through the parking lot and back to the field. I suck at math so I seriously misjudged my turnaround point and had to run a little extra to get that 7. I refueled with a Gu and Jen and I got to work on the last 7. My Garmin also decided to have  some type of seizure and kept beeping and flashing so we had to stop so I could reset it. Thanks to that, my times are mileage are a little wonky but luckily I was able to get the data from Jen. We finished the warm up and starting cranking out the miles. Splits were 10:39, 10:39, 10:55, 11:02 & 10:48… I don’t want to say they were easy but I felt very strong the whole time. We climbed the hill behind the boathouse, ran to Ingomar, turned around and climbed the hill again all at race pace miles, and really cranked it up for the last two tenths of a mile to simulate a fast finish. Yeah. We’re kind of a big deal. Kidding….sort of. We ran a mile cool down to our cars and passed Nichole along the way! I know I say this all the time, too, but it so nice to actually know some of the other runners out there and cheer each other on when we pass. Love it. I also have to say, that without a running partner, I NEVER would have attempted this kind of run; putting race pace miles into a long run sounds terrifying but was actually a lot of fun. Hopefully we are able to sneak a few more of these into our weekend runs because they are awesome!!  We also tried to take a picture after, and there was a guy stretching by his car, so we tried to discreetly take our selfie and we were soooo busted. You kind of had to be there, but it was hysterical. 1st 7 miles 1:21 (11:23 pace). 2nd 7 miles 1:18 (11:09 pace).

So, I tried two new-to-me things this week and really enjoyed them both. I really see the value in adding doubles to a training schedule, but if I were to add those to a training plan in the future I would probably start out on a smaller scale like 2/2, 3/2, etc. 5/4 (or 5/5 like I planned) was a little extreme, but necessary. 

I can tell that we are elbows deep in training because my hunger levels are off the chart. I am trying to make sure that I eat lots of good, healthy foods but…Girl Scout Cookies. I also really need to start nailing down my fueling strategy for race day, but I HATE feeling like a pack mule on my runs carrying all kinds of crap. I know that on race day, I’m going to leave the water bottle at home and rely on the water stations since there are so many on the course, but I still need to carry my gels. And that means using my runner’s fanny pack. Oh goody. I can’t wait.

This should accentuate my muffin top nicely. Wonderful.

This should accentuate my muffin top nicely. Wonderful.

My New Strength Program – The New Rules of Lifting for Women

I’ve mentioned my new strength training program a few times without actually talking about it. I did that for a few reasons, but mainly because I wanted to give it a few weeks to make sure I liked it, would stick with it, etc. I was also kind of hoping to have some results (lost inches, or pounds) to brag about, but that hasn’t happened yet. I’ll get into why I think I haven’t in a little bit.

When it comes to strength training, weight lifting, whatever you want to call it, I am a total moron.  I don’t know or understand how to devise a plan: how many sets, reps, how much weight to use, how long to do it for? Do I add in cardio? WHAT DO I DOOOOO?! Basically, I just want someone to tell me exactly what I should be doing. 

For several years, I’ve heard a lot of chatter about The New Rules of Lifting for Woman  by Lou Schuler, but I always ignored it because I thought that it may be too extensive, or I would have to join a gym…and the excuses went on.  I Googled the book, found a bunch of reviews, decided to go for it and ordered it off of Amazon.  If I read the book and ended up not finding it to be a good fit, or I didn’t stick with it then..…let’s just say it wouldn’t be the first time I spent money on a diet/exercise book only to have it collecting dust a few months later 😉 .  But, because I had done a lot of research beforehand I had a pretty good idea of the principles of the book, and the workouts they had you doing; so as soon as the book arrived I wasted no time in getting started.


Gizmo approves


The premise:

As I’m sure we’ve all heard by now, women can and should be lifting heavy. No pink Barbie weights, although, I am seriously embarrassed to admit I do in fact own a set of pink 2 lb dumbbells! 

You thought I was joking, didn't you??

You thought I was joking, didn’t you??

Not only should we be lifting heavy but we also need to be eating a lot more in order to support this kind of program. You are provided with a formula to calculate your caloric needs, but I found a much easier way online – this spreadsheet is fantastic! Just plug your numbers in and the calculations are done for you! My math hating brain was happy! Along with the daily calories, it also breaks down the macros for you so you know how many grams of each macro you should (try) to consume *.  There are also sample meal plans and recipes to help you out, if needed.  Or course, protein is listed at the most important/largest macro in order to help you build up the muscles, and a post workout protein shake is required (which I haven’t been doing).  You are encourage to take before/after pictures (I never got around to that, but I’m thinking I’m still going to. And keeping them locked away to never see the light of day) and measurements to help you measure progress. because you may not lose numbers on the scale, but will still lose inches.  I did take those, but to be honest, I’m hesitant to share. Mostly because I’m so self conscious and am just not sure how I feel about putting it out there. Maybe at the end of the whole program…maybe.  I’ve also been tracking the weights that I use each time so that I remember and so I can see that progress as well. That is hugely motivating because that is absolutely progress I can SEE. That I will definitely be sharing as I complete the stages.

The plan. Ideally. :

You are given workouts that should take you the course of 6 month from start to finish, and can take a little longer depending on how you approach the program. He tells you 3 days is ideal (with a rest day in between workouts, which is why I’m always so hesitant to double up on days when I move workouts around) 2 will work and 1 isn’t enough. Because my main focus right now is marathon training, I opted for 2 days so that I can keep my Monday rest days…you know how much I love them! Right now, in Stage 1 there are 2 workouts A & B (clever, right?).  You alternate back and forth between those workouts; if you do 3 days a week (A, B, A) it will take you six weeks to complete and if you do twice a week it will take you 8 weeks. As you work your way through Stage 1, you decrease the number of reps and then increase the number of sets. As you move through the program, the idea is that your weights should be increasing too*, as well as your rest time between sets. Right now my rest time is 60 seconds and that feel like just enough; I’ve flipped through the other stages and the rest time can get up to 120 seconds.

The plan, in reality:

This is where  my asterisks come into play. The short version is, I’m following the plan…but I’m really not. In the very last couple of pages of the book, the author sneak this line in “Don’t try to train for a marathon and complete this program at the same time“. Ooops. To be fair, he’s kind of right. To build the kind of muscles he’s talking about, and to see big results, you need a fair amount of protein which by default (and necessity) lowers the amount of carbohydrates you consume. To train for a marathon, you need to eating a large amount (50-60+ % depending on your viewpoints) of healthy carbohydrates which aren’t going to build muscles, but will certainly fuel your runs.  The reason stated in the book is “There’s just no point in trying to make your body smaller and more effecient at the same time you’re trying to make it stronger and rev up your metabolism”. Having said all of that, I also think that in the weightlifting community in general, there is a bit of disdain for endurance running. They aren’t fans of it, and some people have no problem letting you know that. That’s fine, bro. You do you. Most runners though, know that they need to be incorporating SOME kind of strength training into their plans. I’m already typing out a novel, so here, here, and here are some handy dandy links that remind us why strength is a crucial aspect to running. One of my goals this year is to stay injury free, and I know that strength training will play a huge role in that. So I’m not following the nutrition plan closely, which I know means I won’t see the best results possible, and I know that and am fine with it. 

The other aspect is the heavy lifting part. I’m definitely lifting heavier than I think I ever have, but I’m still not lifting heavy enough and there are 2 reasons for that. The first reason is due to a combination of lacking some equipment and being concerned for my safety. I do all of the workouts in my basement with whatever equipment I have and I’m missing some things. My dumbbell/weight plate collection isn’t very expansive; so sometimes I could probably go heavier, but can’t because I don’t have a heavier weight. I’m slowly adding to that – buying sets as I need them but seriously cannot purchase a set of cast iron 12 lb dumbbells if my life depended on it. Every time I go to Dick’s, they are out.  I also worry about my form for things like deadlifts so I will play it safe with a lighter weight to ensure that I don’t hurt myself.  I do my workouts alone and my only supervision is a fat cat.

I'm sure you're jealous of my mauve remnant carpet in my basement. Back off. You can't have it.

I’m sure you’re jealous of my mauve remnant carpet in my basement. Back off. You can’t have it.

He lacks the opposable thumbs to assist me in getting a heavy barbell + weight plates on my back for squats, and is a terrible spotter so I play it safe and increase the weights sloooooowly.

The 2nd big reason is that when I do my A workout on Wednesday, I have a speed day on Thursday so I don’t want my legs to be totally trashed for that; likewise, my B Days are Fridays and I am heading into a high volume (for me) weekend with long runs and mid distance hill work. Right now, getting those runs in is so much more important to me than being able to deadlift an extra 15 lbs.

So, all in all, I’m seeing results…but I’m not, and I knew that was going to happen.  I’m increasing weights, but not at the best rate and I am a little disappointed that the most physical change I can see is a that I finally have a smidge of definition in my biceps, but oh well. Once the marathon in over in May, I’ll be able to commit to the recommended 3 days per week, and the nutrition plan much better than I can now. Hopefully by doing that I will start to SEE the muscles!

So…why do it then?

If you’ve stuck with my this far, first, THANKS – you deserve a damn medal! And second, you’re probably wondering why in the hell I even bothered with this program if I’m not really going to follow it. Excellent question. The big reason is that I just needed a plan to follow. I honestly was having so much trouble trying to figure it out on my own, and was getting frustrated. At least with this, all of the guess work has been taken out. I’m also hilariously weak, so I wanted to ease into the program to get me used to the moves and making sure I have good form before I follow the program to a T and lift all of the heavy things.  And as I mentioned before, but it was 8,645 words ago so you may have forgotten, the other biggie is injury prevention. Strength training absolutely helps with that and I want to get to this start line 100% healthy and strong. At the end of my training for Nittany Valley, I was starting to experiencing some knee pain that I’m pretty sure was related to some very weak hips. Since I’ve started NROLFW, I’ve noticed that pain  is *knock on wood* practically gone! That alone makes this program 100% worth it.

So. There it is! The strength plan I’m kind-of-sort-of-but-not-really following for the Pittsburgh Marathon. What do you think? Am I nuts? Is this a bad plan?   This post is already longer than War and Peace, so I’ll lay out Stage 1 in detail in the next post.

What strength plan do you follow?

Pittsburgh Marathon Training – Week 5

Hello, Friends!!  Another week down, and that means another (late) weekly recap! I have to first thank everyone for the positive pep talks last week! I was really feeling crummy about my training, but you guys really helped me snap out of my funk!  You’re the best!!!

The bitter temps that we’ve been experiencing here are nothing to mess around with, and made the later part of last week a bit tricky. I hate to be a whiner and complainer but ohmygooooooooooooood am I sick of winter. Then again, we could be in Boston so I shouldn’t cry too much!

Monday – Rest Day, and dentist day. Booooo. I finally got the permanent crown put on my tooth from root canal back in October. There were some insurance things to juggle and it ended up that if I waited until 2015 to get the permanent crown put on it would cost me less in the long run. We all know how cheap I am, so this was a no brainer!  Now that you all know the state of my teeth, we can talk about running!

Tuesday4 miles. I really had 0 hope for this run. I had been in a serious slump, but the weather was decent and I decided to forget about pace, heart rate and whatever else just go. Maybe it was the lack of pressure; maybe all I needed was to type out that I was having some training trouble (I wrote me recap that afternoon, but hadn’t published it yet). I don’t really know, but HOT DAMN was this run amazing! I would peek at my watch every now and then and would see a 10 in front of my pace and a couple of times I though “maybe my Garmin is dying. No way am I running these paces right now”. I try to never be that negative, but with the way things had been going, it’s kind of hard to blame me, right?! I finished 4 miles with a 10:34 (!) pace, and I still felt like I could have done a little more! I was so thrilled to finally have a decent run under my belt! As I was doing my cool down walk, I kicked myself for not wearing the stupid HRM. I would have LOVED to see my numbers compared to last week, especially because these miles felt effortless compared to what I was doing before.

Wednesday – Should be strength, but it was a nice day and Thursday’s high was supposed to be 9. Eff that. I am not running in that shit if I don’t have to. So I didn’t!  Even before I started, I told myself to not expect too much. I ran fast (for me) the day before and it was OK if Tuesday ended up being my speed day and Wednesday was a little (or a lot) slower. I started out and decided that it’s been a while since I attempted a Tempo Run, so I went for it. I clocked the first mile a tad faster than I expected, but not wicked fast, so I told myself to try another mile and see what I could get out of it. Still faster! And still feeling really good – strong, in control, even breathing, steady heart rate (I think)! I cranked out another mile and was shocked when I saw a 9:44 mile. I used the last as a cool down, even though it was a little fast for that.



Overall I was really happy when I saw my average pace for this run. Again, I didn’t wear the HRM and wished I had because it just felt SO good! It was nice to see some of the speed that I KNOW is in these legs, but just can’t seem to consistently find. 4 miles 41:16 (10:19 pace).

Thursday – I was a little torn. Because I switched my run to Wednesday that meant I would have strength two days in a row – something that should normally be avoided. In a perfect world, I should have done my work out on Wednesday as soon as I finished running but that didn’t happen!  I thought about it, and decided that I either do it 2 days in a row or I have to bump it down to 1. I have been sooo consistent with strength, and I didn’t want to mess with that so I hit the weights. I made sure to do it first thing in the morning so I would have a full 24 hours of recovery time before Friday.

Friday – Strength.  I love that I’m starting to see progress with this program ( it really deserves a whole post that I’m going to work on!). Not necessarily in my physical appearance, but I have been steadily increasing the weights that I use and definitely feel that I’m getting stronger! If I could clean my diet up a bit, I’m sure I would see some physical results as well!

Saturday – Jennifer and I did what all of the other cool kid runners did and moved our long run to Saturday. (I had gone back and forth over registering for the Valentine’s Day 10k or 15k and ultimately decided against it. ) The snow was supposed to hold off until later in the day, but it started flying before we even made it to North Park! It was cold, but not unbearable.

I wore ALL of the pink in order to be festive!

I wore ALL of the pink under a shell in order to be festive!

We decided to run the JASR course for some practice, and because it fit perfectly into our schedules – Jennifer needed 8, and I needed 13. The first 4 or 5 miles were a little treacherous with all of the snow – the salt crews were out, but we were slightly ahead of them! They caught up to us on McKinney which made half of the climb bearable, but they didn’t get to the downhill portion and it was so slick we had to walk down a section of it! Luckily, our PW buddy drove past again and threw some more salt down for us so we didn’t slide down on our butts! Other than that, it was a good run! After we parted ways at mile 8, I set off for 5 more miles. I was starting to fatigue a little bit, but was beginning to pass some of the 15 and 10K runners (I was running the opposite direction…not going that fast, hah!) so I tried to look fresh and strong. It must’ve worked because someone that I passed asked me if I was running the 15K – I WISH! If that was the case, I would’ve been in first place 😉 ! The last two miles were really tough, but I shuffled along and tacked on an extra .1 to make it a half marathon. 13.1 miles 2:45 (12:38 pace) . I was drained after this run, and I decided that it’s definitely time to start adding my gels into training. This is a whole ‘nother post as well, but I try to do some of my shorter long runs (12 miles or less) without gels. It’s not very conventional but it works for me! 

Sunday – All of the LOLs!! It was COLD – 5 below 0 with a ‘feels like’ of -23WHO DOES THAT?!?! I had 8 miles on the schedule, and I wasn’t too keen on doing all of that on the treadmill. I stuck my head outside, and to be perfectly honest, it wasn’t sooo terrible. Still effing cold, but possibly do-able. I knew there was a good bit of snow/slush on the shoulders of the roads so I figured my best bet was to stick to the cemetery. I layered up to the point where I was unrecognizable and looked like Randy from A Christmas Story.



Two pairs of pants, a baselayer, my blue jacket, and a hoodie. I added my headband, and one of those 6 in1 balaclavas that cover your mouth. I tried to take a picture, but honestly couldn’t get my arms up that high, hah. One of the great things about having a husband over a foot taller than me, aside from being able to reach ANYTHING in the house, is being able to steal his hoodies when I need to. I grabbed a heavy one and set outside; I was definitely dressed well. Almost too well – that hoodie was HEAVY and I was very warm. The problem turned out not to be the cold, but the wind. We all know that they don’t maintain the roads in the cemetery (I may have mentioned it a time or…..12), and in some places there was no snow in the road and in others there was 7 or 8 inches that I was trying to trudge through. My little rubber snow spikes that my Dad sent to me broke so I wasn’t even able to use those! It was incredibly slow going, and I was getting frustrated. I wrapped things up at 2.78 miles (12:23 pace) with every intention of finishing things off on the treadmill. My shoes needed to dry out first, and I wanted to run drive out to my Mom’s for a visit so I figured I would do it when I got home and it would all be A-OK. Until Tall One reminded me about dinner at his parent’s house. Shit. Sooooo needless to say, the other 5 didn’t get done. I’m irritated, but not going to lose much sleep over it. It’s the first time I’ve cut a run short this training cycle, it wasn’t a long run, and as long as I don’t make this a habit I’ll be fine!

Another way I figured out it was cold as @#$* outside? Wilbur finally figured out how to hide:

I still see you

I still see you

All in all, this was a good week! My attitude was much better, and my runs were much better and stronger. I also think one of the reasons for that is that I’m starting to eat MORE. In an effort to lose the stubborn 5 8 post holiday/off season pounds I was slashing the calories a little too much. My strength program advocates eating more to weight less so I cautiously added more, and almost instantly my energy levels went way up. Who woulda thunk it?! Scale still hasn’t moved, but I’m working on it…  It doesn’t look like the weather is going to ANY better this week, so I’m going to make the best of it and do whatever I need to to get those miles in!