First Magic Mile of the Season or Where Was Everybody?

Today in our Galloway class we ran a short run with a Magic Mile. If you’re new to the blog, the Magic Mile is a tool that Galloway uses to predict race performance and recommended training pace. It’s an important element to the Galloway method, particularly when training for the longer distances such as a full or half marathon.

Since I have yet to actually race in any of the races I’ve run (I just run for fun and profit) I can’t speak to it’s accuracy from my own experience. However, pretty much everyone I’ve spoken with who has used it as a race prediction tool has said that it’s worked really well.

Going in to today’s magic mile my biggest concern was running at a time that would keep me in my current pace group, and I accomplished that neatly. I ran a 9:10 magic mile, which gives me a 13:55 marathon training pace, so being in the 14 minute pace group works out perfectly for me.

The thing that worried me today was seeing how many people didn’t make it to class. I don’t know if they’ve dropped out all together, or if they just didn’t think the short run & magic mile were important enough to get up early for, but I’m a little sad that they didn’t make it to class today. In particular, I’m concerned about the people I’m pretty sure have been running in the wrong (too fast) pace group already. I had hoped that their MM time would get them sorted into the proper group, but if they don’t have an MM time, that’s not going to work very well.

A part of me doesn’t understand signing up for and then paying for the Galloway class (It’s a $99 class) and then choosing to disregard the training method. But I suppose it’s really no different than joining a gym and then not going. Our class did start in January, so perhaps what I’m seeing is people giving up on their New Year’s Resolutions.  However, I worry that some of it is because they’ve already hurt themselves by running in the wrong pace group. Preventing injury is a huge part of the Galloway method and the magic mile and recommended training pace factor heavily into that. These folks who insist on running faster than their recommended training pace are increasing their risk of injury quite a lot. I just don’t get it.

On the brighter side, next week, we will finally be joined by the half marathon part of our class. I think it will be fantastic to see everyone, and heartening to have a big group again. Some of my buddies from last year have dropped back to the half for this year, so it will also be really nice to see them again, even on those weeks when we’re not running together.

I am still so thankful that I found was pushed toward the Galloway method. It is absolutely the perfect fit for me and I’ve met some really wonderful people because of it. The countdown clock on the Missoula Marathon page today says 132 days and 18 hours. I’ll be ready!

 

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Running to Finish vs. a Time Goal, Which is Right for You?

This post is a part of my series, Tips for New Runners. It is based entirely on my own experiences as a new runner and may be missing a lot of information. This series is intended to help my readers find what works for them by sharing what worked or didn’t work for me.

During the Galloway Marathon Training class that I took, we got some very different advice on the “time goal.” Jeff Galloway is adamant that a first time marathoner should run to finish. Our class leaders also adhered to this approach. Several of our expert guest speakers, however, disagreed.

Ultimately you have to decide for yourself whether a time goal is right for you for your first race or any race you run. Some runners and run/walkers find that they gain motivation from the time goal. They are competing against others, or perhaps just against themselves and their own limits. Having a goal keeps them on track in their training and pushes them onward during the race. On the other hand, pushing yourself too much can make you more likely to become injured. So in that regard, it depends on your priority. How important is it to you to make it through your training and finish the race healthy enough to continue running afterwards, vs. how important is it that you run your race in a certain amount of time? Only you can make that determination.

I am not a competitive runner at all. I didn’t even start run/walking until age 37. I’m not fast and I don’t anticipate being fast enough to even win my age group any time soon, if ever. What I do want is to keep run/walking for the rest of my life. So for me, avoiding injury is much more important than any time goal.

In fact, I find that trying to have a time goal causes me stress. Toward the end of our marathon training class a particularly persuasive guest speaker told us how important it was to have a time goal in order to stay motivated during the race. Since I was completely inexperienced at running races, I took her advice to heart and tried to set a time goal for myself based on Jeff Galloway’s Magic Mile prediction formula. Whenever I looked at the difference between my suggested training pace (13:46) and race pace (11:46) it started to freak me out. I couldn’t figure out how I was supposed to run 26.2 miles 2 minutes faster per mile than I was used to. Other runners advised me that races are different and I’d get a boost from the adrenaline and race energy and go faster without even realizing it, but I had my doubts. I actually found myself having bad dreams about it.

As the day of the race approached, much was made about how hot it would be that day, and how we needed to slow down to protect ourselves from the heat. I think that all the concern about the heat saved me from a lot of stress. As I once again let go of the idea of having a time goal, not really knowing what to expect from the heat, I suddenly felt much better about race day. My attitude turned from dread back to excitement.

The morning of the race, my pace group buddies and I chatted about what we wanted and agreed to run a conservative race and focus on having a good time. I am so pleased with that decision. We ended up running  very close to my training pace and the truth is, I had a great race that I will always be able to look back on with pride. It doesn’t matter to me that my finish time is just barely under six hours. What is important to me is that I finished a marathon and I had a great time doing it. It makes me want to run the marathon again next year. If I’d tried to speed it up 2 minutes per mile I probably would have had a very different race, and I suspect that I wouldn’t have come across the finish line as excited and happy as I did. I know myself well enough to know that if I’d hurt myself in the process, it might have discouraged me from running at all after that.

So when you are deciding whether or not to have a time goal, consider what is best for you. Will you be motivated by it? Will it help you get stronger and faster and be a positive force in your training? Or, will it cause you unnecessary stress and take your focus away from finishing and having fun? Your friends, other runners, teachers and experts can tell you what they think, but they can’t see inside your head and know what is best for you. Just do be careful about choosing your time goals at first. Make sure you’re not setting yourself up for disappointment. Be conservative. It’s probably better to set a conservative goal and meet or surpass it. At least, that’s what I think.

Happy Running!

The Sweathouse Half Marathon

The Sweathouse Half Marathon follows a really gorgeous course through the woods and fields outside Victor, MT. It was a hazy day, smoky day thanks to all the forest fire smoke, so the cellphone pictures I took are even a bit worse than they would have otherwise been. I need a decent little camera, I think.  Nevertheless, here is a little peek at the course.

I ran the race with an awesome lady who was in my pace group during the Galloway class and who I run with often on Saturdays. Running with a buddy really makes so much difference, especially when you have someone smart and interesting to chat with. Periodically we were also joined by a gentleman who trained for the Missoula Half with our class, as he was working on finding his best pace. Looking at the posts in our Facebook group this morning there appears to be a strong sentiment that running with a buddy is the way to go. I know a lot of folks like to run solo and find it really relaxing and refreshing to do so. But for many of us, running with a friend helps keep us motivated, entertained and gets us through the rough patches. I am still surprised that I prefer running with others to running on my own. In so many other aspects of my life I’m an introvert and often prefer solitude. The lesson there is, don’t assume you will like or dislike running with others based on your attitude towards the rest of life, at least for me.

Prior to the race I’d been told by a few people that there were only two or three hills of significance, of which one was quite steep but also quite short so I was mentally prepared for that as much as I could be without having run the course before. The steep, short hill is right around mile 10 and was exactly as described. It’s a challenging little hill, but thankfully quite short and very satisfying to conquer.

The course was very, very well marked with orange and green spray painted arrows, and little bits of encouragement as well. I wish I’d taken a few pictures in places where they’d painted things like, “1/2 way! Woo hoo!” or “It’s a short hill! You got this!” but I doubt they would have come out.

My goal for the race was to have fun and run happy, and I think I knocked it out of the park in that regard. I don’t have an official time yet, and I managed to forget to stop my watch until I’d been standing around a little bit at the end, but I believe that my time was very close to 2 hours and 45 minutes. It seems that the 12 minute, 45 second pace is where I am most comfortable at the moment. Interestingly, based on my Magic Miles from earlier in the year, that is exactly what my training pace for a half marathon should be. Given that I’m running to have fun and finish rather than running to compete, it’s not surprising that I am sticking to my training pace. My marathon finishing time was less than two minutes short of the predicted finish at my training pace, so it would seem that Galloway’s predictions are quite accurate for me, once I take into account my total lack of competitiveness and focus on the training pace column.

I did have a short rough patch around mile eleven, but it passed quickly. I think I’ve gotten really used to my Saturday morning routine, which includes a coffee break around that point, after the breakfast run, before I run home. I was also quite a bit hungrier after the race than I usually am after a 13ish mile Saturday morning breakfast run. I am wondering how much of that was mental. A local business, Cowboy Troy’s generously provided free pizza and beer after the race, but sadly wheat and I are not friends so I had to pass. We also received a black cotton event t-shirt and a finishers medal.

My Missoula Marathon 2012 medal on the left and my Sweathouse Half Marathon 2012 medal on the right.

As The Accidental Athlete pointed out recently, it’s not really a collection until you have more than one, so I have now officially begun my race medal collection. I hope to get many, many more.

Nearly all the races coming up in my area for the next several months are 5k races. Even though 5ks don’t spark my interest, I may have to run a few just to keep my head in the game, as they say. And if a good opportunity comes up to travel to a not-too-distant half marathon, I still plan to stay ready to do that without having to train up for it.

The next Missoula Marathon is over 307 days away, but I still plan to be there and be ready to have fun and run happy.  I’ll be back to my Tips for New Runners series in the next day or two, so keep an eye out for that. Happy running!

Gearing Up

Next Sunday is the big training run. Those of us who decided to run the actual marathon course, rather than the 13.1 out & back that the class has scheduled are currently working on coordinating rides and water stations. I heard a story today about an experienced local runner who got a PR on a completely unfamiliar course, but he’s a very experienced runner. I can see how an unfamiliar course might be exciting and exhilarating for an experienced runner. For new runners, though, I really think it’s probably a good idea to run the course once before the big one. Mentally, I feel like I need to know what I’m getting into.

Today’s run was a short & sweet 6 miler, with a Magic Mile. Some of the class decided to run the Missoula Mile race today, but I opted to stick to my “no races before the big one” plan. My MM time today was exactly the same as my last one, 9:07. That makes the average of my 3 best & most recent MM times 9:03, which puts me on track for a 5:08 Marathon. I’m not going to make a big fuss about trying to get a sub 5 hour marathon, which is tempting, being so close. But ultimately, my focus really is finishing and feeling good. Maybe I’ll have some other thoughts on that after our long run next Sunday, which will take us about 6 hours and 45 minutes at our training pace.

After today’s run, I met up with friends and classmates who had opted to run the Missoula Mile race while the festivities were still going on. We were able to watch the kids race, which was adorable, and the First Responders race. A collection of local police, fire & even smokejumper personnel ran their own race. Many of them opted to dress in their full gear. The crowd favorite, however, not only dressed in his complete firefighting gear, but ran with his 3 kids. And when I say ran with, I mean he carried them. The oldest was in a pack on his back, dressed in a Spiderman costume, which was awesome. He carried the two smaller kids. He was a bit on the slower side, laden down as he was, but that was a pretty bad-ass run, if you ask me.

This week, I’ll be focusing on getting plenty of sleep, eating well and taking good care of myself leading up to the long run on Sunday. After Sunday we’ll have our pre-race taper. The first Sunday run after the 26 miler is only 3 miles. That will seem really weird at this point, I think. The next two are both 6 milers and then it’s the Missoula Marathon, in just 34 days. I’m feeling good and feeling strong. I’m really looking forward to the race.

Does it Hurt to be Beautiful?

Sunday was a busy day for me and Monday night I went to see The Avengers with friends (It’s AWESOME!) so I am blogging a bit late. Our run on Sunday was a recovery run of 5 miles, with a magic mile. My time was a touch slower than my last MM, which I’m actually fine with.  It was 9:07. Using Galloway’s method of taking the last 4 MM times, throwing out the worst and averaging the rest, I get an average of 9:10, which predicts a marathon pace of 11:55 min/mile or a 5h 12m marathon.  We still have one more magic mile to run before the marathon, so that prediction will probably change a little.

Just yesterday, I finally bit the bullet and signed up for the marathon itself. I’m not sure that it’s been very clear to my friends or my readers that I hadn’t gotten around to that yet, but I hadn’t.  Part of my dilemma was deciding whether to start at 5am with the walkers or 6am with the runners.  Since yesterday was the last day to sign up at the slightly discounted price, I made my decision and registered for the 5am start. I did this to lessen the pressure I might feel to hurry up to make it to the finish line before the party is over. I also thought it might be nice to get a head start on my friends who are traditional runners, so that I can see them when they pass me, rather than having them jet out in front of me, never to be seen again. I enjoy those times when the traditional marathon training class shares part of a route with us and thought perhaps it would be nice during the marathon itself.

This coming Sunday is our 23 mile training run.  It really doesn’t seem like much more than 20 miles did, so I’m not worried about it.  My Mizuno shoes are breaking in well and have been serving me nicely on the short runs, but I think I’ll appreciate being back in my more familiar Asics for the 23 miler.

I had a little brush with a shin splint in my right leg last week, but it seems to be gone now. For a few days I would have a fairly random pain in my right shin every once in a while during the day. It wasn’t severe or particularly frequent and I think it was caused by the boots I wear to mow the lawn in causing a problem with my arch. It’s hard to be certain of course, but using my foot rubz ball and stretching/rotating the ankle seems to have fixed it right up.

Today I learned that I don’t really have a great tolerance for running in the heat yet. It will come in time, I’m sure. NOAA says it’s 85 out right now and my route was fairly sunny. I didn’t bring water, since I was only going out for a short run and I regretted it.  Halfway through my run I opted to stop at the grocery store and use their drinking fountain before heading back home. I’m not sure if that made my run better or worse, since my stomach got a bit upset on the way back, but that may have had to do with the fact that I ran a bit too fast for a little while, which I explain below.

Finally, before I explain the title of this post and the reason for my overly fast running in the heat, let me just alert you to the fact that I am a feminist. That means a lot of different things to different people and this blog isn’t where I want to go into exactly what it means to me, but part of this post will make more sense in that context.

Does it hurt to be beautiful? That is what the 50 something strange man yelled at me from across the street as I was turning onto the trail that takes me home this afternoon.  So many things flashed through my mind just then.  Is he dangerous?  Is he going to follow me?  Why does he think he has the right to yell at me or judge my appearance?  He must be sorta blind, given that it’s really hot and I feel seriously haggard.  What I yelled back was a simple, Yeah, sometimes it does, before turning and running down the trail. 

I’m sure he didn’t catch any of my meaning. He probably assumed that I meant that I dislike running in the heat, which is true. Or that beauty is hard work, which can be true depending on what is meant by beauty in a given context.  What I really meant, right then was that yes, being hollered at by a strange man on the street did hurt even if only psychologically.

Since this man was unknown to me, I cannot guess at his motivations or what kind of person he is. He may have been perfectly harmless and nice or he may have been a danger. It’s impossible for me to know. What I do know is that his question was unwelcome and inappropriate and that I ran a good deal faster than I should have for about the next half mile, until I was certain I was well away from him.

Dearest readers, if you see a person run by and feel the need to call out to them, cheer them on. I can’t speak for all runners, but I sure don’t mind being cheered on. In fact, I love it. But don’t ask questions or make comments regarding their level of attractiveness. Just don’t.  It’s pretty gross. And that’s all I’m going to say on the topic today. If you want more information on why it’s not acceptable to yell stuff like that out to strangers, please go read a dedicated feminist blog like Feministing, Feministe, or any of the thousands of others.

The Missoula Marathon is in 53 days!  I’m officially signed up and I’m really looking forward to it!

 

And She Just Keeps Getting Faster

A few nights ago I had a dream about running today’s Magic Mile.  I don’t recall most of it, but I do know that I was irritated with someone in my dream who was trying to encourage me to try to run my mile in under 9 minutes.  I told that person, “There’s no way I can break nine minutes, so just shut up about it.”

I really didn’t expect to have a very good Magic Mile today.  Due to various factors, I didn’t sleep all that well last night.  Also, during the first part of my mile, I had to stop and pickup my shirt that had fallen off (it was my over-shirt that had been tied around my waist, so that’s not as interesting as it sounds).  As I reached the half mile marker on my run this morning, I checked my timer and it was already over 5 minutes, so I felt sure I was going to run my mile between the 10:03 pace of my first mile and the 9:28 pace of my second MM.

As I took my final walk break, I glanced at my timer again and was so surprised by what I saw, that I don’t actually remember what it said, but it was no where near what I expected.  At that point, I took off.  I got a bit of a mental boost from seeing that I was faster than anticipated, and as I crossed the finish line and stopped my timer, I was absolutely astonished to see that I’d come in at 8:55.  I asked another runner to verify that I was actually reading my timer correctly.  I honestly did not expect that kind of time improvement again.

We have two more Magic Miles scheduled, and the directions at the Galloway site suggest taking your 4 most recent MM’s, throwing out the worst and averaging the other 3.  So it’s still too soon to make Galloway’s most accurate prediction for my marathon time and pace.  This MM alone puts me on pace for a 5 hour and 3 minute marathon, which I feel great about.  If I could break 5 hours, that would be pretty darned exciting for me.

After my run today, I joined many other runners from my class and the “traditional” class in the meeting space The Runner’s Edge lets us use.  There were snacks and holiday gift bags with gels & fizzes in them.  I also took the time to use the foam roller on my  IT Band and have decided that I will be buying my own foam roller asap.  It hurt like the dickens, but it relaxed my IT Band right up.

The marathon is 90 days away now.  Our next long run is 17.5 miles, a week from today.  I’m already looking forward to it.  It may kick my butt like the 15 miler did, but I’m okay with that.  Every time we add miles, we push our “wall” out that much farther.  For now, I’m happy with pushing it out to 26.2 in time for the marathon.

 

Not Gonna Lie, 15 Miles Kicked My Butt

As you may have guessed today’s training run was a 15 mile run.  The first 10 miles felt great.  Miles 11 and 12 were good but I started to feel a bit slow, and the last two or three were tough.  I was very glad to be with my running class, as I’m once again not sure I could have convinced myself to finish that run on my own, but of course I’m glad that I did.

Partly due to a poor night’s sleep I dropped back to the 15 minute pace group for this run, and I am also glad that I did that.  We were a little bit fast, overall, so really it worked out so that I was at a good training pace according to Galloway’s recommendations.

Right now I can feel that I’ll be a bit sore tomorrow and my right IT band is a bit tight.  I’ll work on rolling that out as best I can today, and I’ll try not to sit down for too long at a stretch to help keep things from stiffening up too much.

But what I know for sure, right this minute, is that I can do a half marathon and then some. That’s a good feeling. And there is plenty of time between now and the Marathon in July to build up to the full 26.2 miles.  97 days, to be exact.

Next week is a 4 mile run with a Magic Mile, and then the following week is our 17.5 mile run.  Two weeks later, we’ll run our 20 mile run, and then our schedule changes a bit so that there are two short (5 and 6 mile) runs before the 23 miler.  We will be running a full 26 miles prior to the marathon, as well.

At this point, I anticipate that after a post-marathon recovery period where I run short distances for a few weeks, I will likely continue to run long runs pretty frequently, and endeavor to stay in shape for a new goal race next year.  It may seem a bit insane, but I think I’m setting my sights on the 2013 Pengelly Double Dip.  It’s a shorter race than the marathon, but quite challenging in its own way, and I could still do the 2013 marathon afterward.

Even though today’s run kicked my butt, I still learned that I can run(/walk/run) 15 miles.  And the way I see it, if I can do 15 miles, 17.5 & 20 won’t be that much harder, and if I can do 20 miles, then 23 & 26.2 won’t be much harder than that.  The Galloway training method of adding miles on slowly, in small chunks, really works well for me and lots of other people as well.