From the Couch to the Cradle:
Join me on the trail to my very first 10k
Instagram: @cradle_of_forestry; #C2Grace & #cradleofforestry
About me: At age 18 I ran my very first 5k and hated it. As a broke freshman fatigued and malnourished from a sweaty summer of 3-a-day soccer practices, the idea of waking up at 6:30 AM and running 5 kilometers of city roads pained me (promptly followed by 8AM Calculus). “If you can sprint across the finish line,” my coach remarked, “then you didn’t push yourself hard enough.” Images of my teammate I attempted to pace behind puking as she was running and refusing to slow down or quit creep forward from my harbored memories every once and again. “Is this really worth it?” I continually contemplated that season. For some peculiar reason, I just couldn’t get on board with the idea that I pushed so hard that my body enacted a civil war: brainpower and limbs vs. internal organ functionality. That season of soccer wrongly instilled the idea that if I didn’t go and absolutely run until I defeated myself then I wasn’t doing it right. I never ran a 5k after that until 7 years later in 2014.
Hello, my name is Courtney Long and I have never run a 10k. Over the next 10 weeks I will be blogging about my own personal motivations and struggles in growing from a 5k runner to 10k. Along the way I will share tips from experienced distance runners like the good folk at Foot Rx in South Asheville, and great training resources you can discover on the internet. Run with me and share in this process so that on May 14 you do your absolute best and have an absolute blast participating in the Cradle to Grave 10k.
GOALS: To finish my first 10k in under 1 hour (race pace 6 min/km, or 9 min 41 sec/mile) sans walking.
May 13: Finished.
I did it! And I didn’t meet any of my goals. But that’s okay because I did it!
No, you didn’t miss the race day. I just ran my 10k this morning before work in order to help out tomorrow. Such a beautiful morning for a run. Even though I was resting the past couple of days, I think maybe an easy jog the day or two before would be nice. Especially if your job is sedentary (which mine is not) it’s a good idea to get your heart rate moving in some way.
I’m not a morning runner and that definitely had an impact on how I felt during this one. Even though it was cool, shaded and breezy my face was on fire. I took advantage of the multiple stream crossing to splash water on my head and back of my neck. The rhodos aren’t quite in bloom and some mountain laurel seem as if they’re about to burst. I did see a few stray flame azaleas and many trilliums standing strong.
Pushing myself seemed to be the hardest obstacle. I had to keep coaching myself. “It’s mental, it’s just mental. You know your legs can do this.” And they did. But with all of the training, running had become less about repetitive inspirational spurts and more of allowing my mind to wander. So that was a challenge, because I often get bored with having to tell myself cheesy lines to keep me going.
I read somewhere that after giving birth the woman’s body releases a hormone so she forgets about how painful child labor was. I feel that is what happens with distance runners, and any sport where someone is pushing his or herself. We remember that there was pain involved, but now it’s more of a fond reminiscence. “I’ll never do this again,” is followed up weeks later with, “I can do it faster/longer/harder.”
Good luck to all tomorrow at the race! See you at the finish line
May 9: 5, 5, 5 days!!
Well, I just completed my last long run until race day. Race day for me will be on Friday morning. Saturday I will be caught up cheering on your 30k/10k machines out there! Stoked to see everyone who has come out to push themselves in their own ways and enjoy their public lands. Often when I’m driving long distances in early hours my mind wanders to all the cars on the road and the stories of the people inside them. The same for race days. What is the driving force that brings so many different folks together in Pisgah? That is very reflective of my earliest posts when I asked, “Why do you want to do this 10k?”
Well in these next few days all I can think I can do is keep my muscles loose, go for a short run tomorrow and rest. That Hal Higdon guide I talked about for a few weeks suggests resting the 2 days before your race day. Staying healthy and eating well are my objectives currently.
The catch with running the 10k on Friday is the loss of that “race day” excitement. The nerves that push you, the camaraderie that drives you, the 12-year old girl that runs way faster than you that inspires you to think, “If I can just keep her in my sight then I’m doing okay.”
My most excitement for this race stems from the fact that I love every single moment I’m in Pisgah. I spend 5 of 7 days of the week (sometimes more) in Pisgah and it still takes my breath away. It’s not only the rolling mountain views, the quantity of waterfalls, or the record number of salamanders that makes this place the woods that captured my heart. It’s the detail in areas like Pink Beds valley. Rich in history and diversity, the more you macro your focus the more fascinating the woods become. It’s all in the details and you get to be a part of that rhythm on Saturday. How lucky are we!?
May 5: All about that pace, ’bout that pace…; 1 week, 2 days.
Eeeek! It’s almost here. Your race director Devin Gentry probably doesn’t want to hear me say that but race day is just around the corner! Being up here at the Cradle 5 days a week I can honestly say all runners are in for a treat. Assuming nice weather, there’s an added bonus of lush vegetation, flushed ferns, effervescent rhododendrons and mountain laurels and all around clean fun.
What’s so great about this 10k run is that it is low tech. In fact for the first little bit the race path follows along the paved Forest Festival trail. Even the owner of FootRx, whose job it is to sell shoes and running gear, said that you don’t even need to buy new trail shoes. Your road shoes work just fine. We do suggest wool or wool blend socks because the trail sometimes trends to being wet in areas. Cotton has a tendency to blister, which I experienced on my North Slope trail run a few weeks ago.
So the past couple of weeks has been a little relaxed in my running life. I’ve run just enough to keep in shape but backed off enough that my shins don’t eventually lead to my demise.
I went bouldering again at Rumbling Bald last Monday. Tip-toed through poison ivy, admired blooming flame azaleas, and attempted to avoid chiggers at all costs. My project from the previous week is coming along. The last move is a slopey mantle and frustrating. Little steps. Big excitement for the day was sending my forever project at Shady Grove boulder as shown in the photo. Huzzah!
I bring this up because I do feel like I’m in the best shape of my life-mentally & physically. Though maybe not necessarily as strong in climbing or as fast in running. In the past several days I sent a problem that has taken me years of “being strong enough” but not clicking, ran 6 miles for the first time ever, and had my first float down a section of the French Broad. Overall I feel much happier in life and I attribute that to being active and outdoors frequently. There is a spirit in changing of seasons that grounds me in presence of today. Every day, even sometimes down to the hour, new flora open up, new species arise from their tropical homes, new opportunities to learn and grow reach out as far as we are willing to go.
So enjoy your runs. Your training is not just about achieving tangible goals. There are connections we choose to make in other facets of our lives. If you are happy with where you are in your training and able to pause to enjoy a moment and take a deep breath, then who knows what you’ll discover?
Past couple runs:
On Sunday (5/1), my friend Ken, his buddy Mike, myself and their dogs joined up for a run in Bent Creek. It was a packed, beautiful morning and we enjoyed seeing a large group of Brother Wolf supporters with their dogs out for a walk as well. We ran essentially a 5k distance at a leisure pace, making sure to allot swim and cool off breaks for the pups.
Yesterday (5/4) I did a brief run on the Forest Festival Trail, a little over one mile. If I go too long between runs, especially now that I’ve dipped into occasional longer runs, my ankles stiffen up. So those short runs are good for warming up the muscles, unlocking the ankles, and stretching out stiff areas.
And if you need motivation during your run, a little imagination can take you approximately 6.2 miles…
April 28: Happy Accidents; 2 weeks, 2 days until race day.
With the rain storms yesterday afternoon there was a little bit of humidity left over in the forests. My friend Ken and I went for a run in Turkey Pen yesterday planning on doing a 3.5’ish mile looped run. “Exploratory,” I said. “Bring a headlamp,” I said. Neither of us are too familiar with Turkey Pen trails, but fortunately we didn’t need the headlamp and we’re not complete dummies. The original trails I planned out have more elevation gain and within the first few minutes I thought to myself, “Holy geez it’s humid out. These hills are going to be intense.” Happily we landed on the completely wrong trail and followed mellow Riverside instead of the intended Poundingmill to Squirrel Gap.
If you know Turkey Pen well, then yeah, we crossed the bridge when we should’ve gone straight.
How do you get over humidity? Just run a trail with multiple river crossings, dip your head in and enjoy the effects of the sinking sun reflecting off the water.
To abstain from getting too far out than comfortable, Ken and I allowed ourselves an agreed upon distance so if we hadn’t intersected with another trail we knew by mile 2.25 then we would turn and backtrack. IF we had known that Riverside intersects with Vineyard Gap which leads back to the parking lot THEN we would have knocked about a mile out of the run. But we didn’t know these facts and any omniscient being would have laughed at us as we turned around about a quarter of a mile from the Vineyard trail intersection.
Honestly no complaints. To run with someone who naturally goes with the flow and didn’t get upset at my lacking ability to judge the trails better or that the run went longer than planned was very nice. Even the “just go with it” attitude to crossing the river and running with heavy, wet shoes. Many things in life are more enjoyable when you and others can bend with the wind, and I respect those like Ken who can do that.
Total miles: 4.75 miles of running at about an hour. With walking at end we totaled more than 5. This was much slower than our 6 mile run from Sunday but we took our time at river crossings, ran at an easy pace, and enjoyed the opportunity to run in such a lush place that we are fortunate to call home. And we got out before dark!
April 24: Discovery Learning and Week of Training; 2 weeks, 6 days until race day.
Advice from the avid running pros at FootRx: “Discovery learning” is not for race day.
Keep with what you know.
If you don’t usually run with headphones, then don’t on race day. New pair of running socks? Race day is not the time to test them out. You should even keep your diet routine. Race day is not the day to trial new foods, new gear, new thneeds. Have your normal cups of coffee with your normal breakfast. Stay hydrated. Consistency and moderation, as with anything else, is crucial. Carbs are great for energy the night before a race. But if you eat too much or have not been routinely taking in carbs during training then your body may not respond positively to the influx in its system.
Here are some articles with a few eating tips and pre-race advice:
I feel like my training schedule went awol as soon as we opened for the Cradle and my days off adjusted. This blog has been a great outlet to type what I’m doing and when I do it. This in its own way keeps me on track (or should I say, “on trail” heh heh).
Last week’s workouts:
- Monday, 4/18- I took the bouldering pad out to Rumbling Bald for a quick solo rumble. I LURV having Mondays off again because the parking lot was completely empty on such a beautiful late morning. I climbed for a couple of hours and touched every single plant in bloom minus the poison ivy. By noon it started to get mighty hot out there and I was frustrated at my slippery feet on every. single. problem.
- Wednesday, 4/20- I have seen the light that is modern running technology! Typically my method of trail running is looking at the map, using my finger to approximate distance, say “mmm yeah looks good enough to me,” and then go for it. And then maybe get a semi-accurate time for giggles. Wednesday my friend Ken met up with me in Pisgah and we did a variation of the Exercise Trail and North Slope trail along the Davidson River. Ken has a Garmin watch and was able to get the answer to every question you could have about your run. Timing, splits, elevation profile, when you stopped and admired the mayapples in bloom, etc. We did stop and stretch a couple minutes in and Ken forgot to start the watch again so about 1/4 mile is left out of the log, which is seen in a slight drop on the profile image. A little over 3 miles total and a nice addition having the easier uphill grade of North Slope to enjoy.
- Thursday, 4/21- Short run (~1.2 mi.) on the Biltmore Campus Trail behind the Cradle’s Discovery Center. Instead of easing along I thought to challenge myself a little by alternating jogging and sprinting. So from one of the historic buildings I’d sprint, then jog to the next, then sprint to the next and so on. Followed up by some planks and easy stretching.
- Sunday, 4/24- Another run with Ken in Bent Creek. Longest run to date and the key was just to not think about it. Having a running partner (something I’ve never really done) is nice with the mental push aspect. Ken’s easy-going nature makes me less guilty about taking a section easy while also inspiring me to keep trucking in others. We also took Dutchess, Ken’s amiable pooch. We both agree that there is something gratifying about having a dog running alongside, tongue flopping and exuding happiness for being outdoors. This run involved a 1.7 mile uphill stretch from the Arboretum to the Parkway. But man what a fun hill! First of all the area of woods there is idyllic of western N.C. and incredibly satisfying to run in. Secondly, the hill is long but the grade is forgiving. You’re never stair-stepping as with some of the other trails I’ve attempted. Overall 6 miles total with a stop to take in the view at the Parkway.
Now that I know I can do at least 6 miles I want to start working on my pacing so that I can achieve my goal on race day to finish the Cradle 10k in under 1 hour. Here we go!
April 19, 2016: SO MANY UPDATES and a recipe- 3 weeks, 4 days until race day
We had our big Opening Day celebration April 9 and the Cradle of Forestry life took over for a couple of weeks. I still trained, just never seemed to find the time to log my runs and update this blog for any of you who wander here.
When it comes to training, distances and paces I urge you to take a peek at the free version of Hal Higdon’s 10k Training program. You can flip between novice, intermediate, advanced, and walking levels for your 10k. This is where I want to iterate something the guys at FootRx in Asheville said to me: You don’t have to be at a 10k distance until race day. In other words, if the week prior you still are only walking or running about 5 miles, that’s okay! There are the rare few who can quite literally roll off a couch, run a 10k faster than some who’ve been training, and then roll back onto the couch that evening. At a 5k in February I was outrun by a guy in jorts, cutoff t-shirt, and boots. Good for them, but that’s not most people. As long as you are getting out there and moving a few miles, a few times a week then you should do just swell on race day.
Notable Runs from the Past Two Weeks:
- April 10- In a previous blog post I had suggested running in a 5k race a few weeks away from Cradle to Grave Race. A couple of Sundays ago I ran in the Brother Wolf Race at Fletcher Park. This trail is great for training on because a) it is flat, similarly to Pink Beds loop trail and b) fairly quiet and peaceful. My time ended up with a PR at 26:11. And that was with a sinus infection, so I felt fairly satisfied with that time and all the pooch lovins I got that day.
- April 14- I hit up the Pink Beds loop trail to snap some photos for you
all if you have never been up there. I love running that trail and I get so sidetracked by something new and interesting popping up out of the ground, or all the great herping logs. Leucothoe-studded boardwalks, trickling streams, lush vegetation. How can one resist? I only did half of the trail, cutting
across the Barnett Branch trail. There is one section of field on the Pink Beds that I call “Jurassic Field” because for years whenever I pass by I imagine this scene of a T-Rex crashing through the forest into the open field chasing some sort of prehistoric prey. Pink Beds affords a wild imagination, and once the ferns are flushed you will also find yourself entranced.
- April 17- Run in Bent Creek. Bent Creek is sort of far out from me, so I don’t often venture that way. But my run on Sunday may have changed that. As my friend who lives out that way noted, there are so many short trails it is easy to mash them together and go whatever distance you desire. Sometimes on this side of
Pisgah National Forest, I feel like I can go 3 miles or 7 miles and tough luck on the in-between.
Baked Goodies: Chocolate-Chip Banana Bread
- “Best Banana Bread” recipe from Food.com
- This recipe is basic and tasty. If I had any negatives to say about it, was that mine came out a little dense and almost too much banana flavor. The density issue is my fault because I accidentally used baking powder instead of soda like a dweeb and didn’t adjust for the difference. Oops. About 1/2 cup of dark chocolate chips were also mixed in. Usually with banana breads I like to sub some (about 1/4-1/2 cup) of the all purpose flour with wheat flour. I didn’t do it this time but maybe a suggestion? Easy to make and yummy!
April 4, 2016: Steep Climbs & Running Log- 5 weeks, 5 days until race day
If I can do over 25 miles of 4,000-foot elevation gain in two hiking days , then I can sure as heck run 6.2 miles. Same willpower, just at different speeds. Right? Meh…
Last week felt very much like a rest week with only one long run day and an hour of swimming another. Thursday was almost a short run/workout but with cruddy weather and a mild cold I feared getting worse before the backpacking trip. Ah! Excuses.
There’s nothing like pushing mile 8 of the day up-and-up to victoriously reach the summit of Pilot, enjoy lunch and meet three guys who’ve been on the trail since 5 AM and plan to finish the Art Loeb in one day. Some of you gents and ladies out there are so dang hardcore. I journeyed on the Art Loeb beginning at Daniel Boone to Davidson years ago. Starting at Davidson (Elev. ~2200 ft) to Shining Rock Wilderness (Highest peak ~6200 ft) seemed harder, and indeed it does feel harder. But that was kind of the point.
Fortunately I have a Nigel Thornberry mentality in the woods and this time of year doesn’t disappoint with all of the early bloomers peeking through forest detritus. Definitely appreciated on the ascent up to Pilot and that mini-push up to Black Balsam Knob.
I wish I had something deeper to say about the experience, and I definitely filtered through some fairly deep emotions during this trip. But we each have our own experiences and opportunities to gain from them what we are seeking whether it be motivation, insight, pure fun, or whichever. The point is to get out there, don’t let hesitations or expectations hold you back and just go for it.
I’m ready to hit the running trails again though. The trip definitely rejuvenated my training mentality. My legs felt strong, breathing was so N-Sync my lungs were singing 90’s boy band songs, and my heart rate only went nuts during that crazy, windy, freezing day up in Shining Rock.
We’re less than 6 weeks away from Cradle to Grave! I am signed up for a 5 K race on Sunday which means I will have rest days on Friday and Saturday (according to the Hal Higdon training guide), and lighter runs during the week.
Week of March 26-April 1:
- Monday, March 28- 4.2 miles of trail system at Cradle of Forestry, 44:21 minutes. I love being able to enjoy the Cradle after hours, in the quiet. I was hoping to see some sunbathing rattlers on the Forest Discovery Trail, but alas none were to be found. I hit the FDThill near the end and it was a breathtaker, quite literally. Still, for a Monday after Easter weekend and a long run this felt fantastic after I thoroughly stretched out my hips.
- Wednesday, March 30- ~1500 yard swim, 50 minutes. I honestly lost track of how many sets I did. Mostly in sets of 100 yards. So 4×25 yard laps of freestyle, then substituting one lap of breaststroke, then two, then three, etc. Toward the real heart pumping sets I tossed in a few laps of butterfly. I can’t believe there was ever a day I could swim 200 yard butterfly three times in one meet. Now swimming one lap with any sort of style is out of the question. I did a couple sets of slow paced 200 yard continuous freestyle for some better distance. Swimming can help to hyperfocus on your technique and breathing; that mental training is transitive to running.
- Friday, April 1- ~6 miles of Art Loeb trail HIKING. This was my first day on my Art Loeb/Shining Rock Creek backpacking trip. There is quite a bit of climb those first several miles.
Keep us posted with your running either on Facebook or use the Instagram #C2Grace, or #cradleofforestry
See you on the trails!
March 31, 2016: Fighting Colds & Trail Safety- 6 weeks, 2 days until race day
“You must be training,” an older gentleman hypothesized. “That’s the only reason anyone would go for a run on a day like today.” At that point, I wasn’t training. It was just the need for a quick solo run and, especially in a temperate rain forest, if you wait for the weather to be ideal then you may as well stick to the treadmill. The sames goes for your body. Not every running day will you feel high energy, loose and limber, or mentally strong. But if you push those negatives aside then nearly every running day you will find yourself happy that you went.
I bring this up because right now I have a cold and am fighting the temptation to go home to tea and cuddling with my cats this afternoon versus just a short, easy run in the park. What is the lazy, little “no” devil on my shoulder or an actual need to relax, recover and maybe do an easy workout?
Using the “neck-check” is a good starting tool if you are wondering if you should put on the running shoes. Essentially, if your symptoms are above the neck then you should be good to go. Anything below then maybe take a day or two off. Obviously there can be many other personal circumstances to consider. Check out the Flow Chart on Women’s Running for some good advice. Either way, if you do decide to go out then take it easy and listen to your body.
Jumping back up to the comment about why anyone would opt to be running on such a cold, windy, rainy day in late winter. The answer is exactly because of those conditions, though not directly. I often find myself hiking or running in “not so ideal” weather conditions because I know there will be less people out. When it comes down to it I like to spend my time in the woods with as little human interaction as possible. This inherently comes packed with pros and cons, most of the cons being centered around running by myself (Good article about solo and social running perks). Running with a buddy is always safer and preferred, I am only intending to offer up some advice for new runners who want to dip their toes in.
If I had a pie chart for the percentage make-up of my running thoughts, my safety on a trail would be less than the time I think of food & recipes (about 60%) but greater than how much I think about my running form and technique (about 15%)-so around 25%. For women especially who want to trail run alone, your safety in the woods should be strongly taken into consideration.
I have spent evenings in South African wilderness rotating 2 hour shifts during the night keeping the fire lit and monitoring our perimeter to ensure we weren’t surrounded by lions. The thing I still am most paranoid about in the wild is people.
There are hazards, of course, and you should first be able to accept those potential hazards then mitigate them as much as possible. Afraid of getting injured miles into the wilderness? Then limit solo runs to shorter distance days or do laps on a popular loop trail near a road. My trail runs have never been over 5 miles (no more than 2.5 miles away from my car). So I never feel too deep into the middle of nowhere to be unsettled with the idea of limping back.
Fortunately, we don’t live in heavy mountain lion country like many places out west. Most wildlife here run at the sound of your footsteps. Always remain cautious of venomous snakes on the trail or alongside. When you Google tips for running alone there will always be the articles aimed to scare and blatantly suggest, “Don’t run alone.” But if you’re like me and just need to step away from society and into the healing forests for a while (plus a little stubborn), then empower yourself to get on the trails!
Here’s a list of suggestions for running alone:
1. If you have a dog, take a dog. Or take your friend’s dog. I’ve personally never run with a dog, but it is something I look forward to one day when I can be a more responsible dog mom.
2. Run in well-trafficked places. It is a nice feeling to never see another person while trail running but until you get to that level of comfort then go places you know there will be people. Davidson River Exercise trail, Bent Creek, Arboretum, or a place you know well already.
3. Maintain your trail smarts. Listen to your gut. Not every person is a good person. I’ve definitely run up to eerie abandoned campsites and promptly turned around and cut my run short. Many running websites actually suggest carrying runner’s mace that velcros to your wrist. The possibility of someone attacking you can be dark to consider, but it’s best to refrain from being naive that nothing can happen. You don’t have to constantly monitor your perimeter on a schedule like a YMCA lifeguard but remain a sense of alertness.
4. Tell someone where you’re going. In honesty I use to not do this when I was younger (and really stupid). But this is probably the most important thing I can do nowadays. Most of the places I go more than likely will see foot traffic in case of an emergency. It’s also respectful to the people I live with. Just offering a quick heads up to your friend/spouse/family member about what trail(s) you’re going to and an estimate to how long you will be gone. Plan ahead, and if you change those plans due to other conditions then update your contact if you can.
5. Take your phone, don’t wear headphones, wear an i.d. tag. I take my phone but never have service in the woods. It’s not a reliable source for me. I usually don’t wear headphones anyway but this is good advice so that you can remain aware to activities going on around you. I.d. tags can be attached to your shoes with pertinent information to emergency contacts or medical history. These are common suggestions I found on other running sites.
If you are seeking groups to run with there are many great WNC running groups. Use MeetUp as a source or look into Run828 Foundation on Facebook. Their NC Mountain Trail Runners go for a group run on Monday evenings at Bent Creek.
March 28, 2016: Keeping the Push & Training Outline-6 weeks, 5 days until race day
“The heights charm us, but the steps do not; With the mountain in our view we love to walk the plains.” -Johann von Goethe
The quote above I use frequently as a reminder to myself to not let the sloth inside of me take over. For this race it can be taken metaphorical and literal. For the 10k, the Pink Beds loop trail is very flat and easy trail running. For this purpose the weight of the tendency to refrain from more challenging trails is heavier. But not doing these trails keeps us”in the plains.” The steps we take to the heights are challenging, but they make us stronger physically and mentally.
Last week for me was probably more about cross training and remaining active than it was about running. Which ultimately may have been a relief on my shins. But I have to say, there is much admiration for men and women who can just go out there and get things done. Despite crazy schedules, or various degrees of exhaustion or other engagements; they just go out there and do work. Motivation was not flowing through me last week and I have some adjustments to tweak to get back on track. More on that later this week.
Week of March 19-25
- Sunday, 3/20: Approx. 4 miles, 45 mins. at DuPont State Forest; Access onto Sheep Mountain trail and connected to Pine Tree then to Cascade trail. If you do the little spur of Cascade trail down to the road and back then it gives you a little extra distance. Pretty trail and only moderately hilly. As with anything in DuPont keep an ear open for mountain bikers!
- Tuesday, 3/22: 2 miles, 23:29 minutes. I made a figure 8 with the 0.5 mile loop with the Art Loeb and Davidson River Exercise Trail, doing the 0.5 mile loop twice.
- Thursday, 3/24: 1 hour climbing at Blowing Rock boulders. I had limited time before a meeting at ASU and wasn’t sure 1 hour would be enough. But oh man the next day my arms and back muscles were sore. One enjoyable perk in climbing is that it really helps stretch and utilize muscles that don’t often get attention. Make sure to hit up your area climbing gym for a break from running every so often!
- Friday, 3/25: Fitness Blender work out on YouTube, 32 minutes. I don’t do these often but I knew that I needed a solid workout of some sort if I wasn’t going to run. Overall this was fun, quick and I learned a couple of new moves to incorporate for future sessions.
Training this Week:
**For walkers or runners that have the goal to lose weight read this article. This addresses a few reasons why many runners do not find themselves losing weight even though they are logging several miles a week.
FOR EVERYONE: Consider signing up for a 5k race about a month before Cradle to Grave. A leisure race on April 10th is the Run for a Paws benefiting Brother Wolf. If you are in WNC then check out the Asheville Track Club site.
Week 2 or 3 for the Hal Higdon training program. We started a little early and the Hal Higdon is an 8 week program. But if you’re ahead, then great! This offers more adjustment time to ease into more miles. If you’re walking, the only day you are really going for distance is on Saturdays (or the “Saturday” of your weekend), increasing half a mile each week. The other days really are more important for the length of time you are walking, easing in increments of five weekly.
Runners, keep your shorter runs in the 2-3 mile range. Longer runs 4-5 miles. And if nothing else, just at least run/walk combo for 35-40 minutes.
We hope everyone is enjoying their training and these beautiful, sunny days. Keep motivated and keep pushing forward. You got this!
March 23, 2016: Strength and Stretching- 7 weeks, 3 days until race day
Our bodies are all different, there is good and bad in this. Any sort of physical activity amplifies this simple biological concept that no two beings are the same. When we are running it becomes evident that we all have our different hot spots-areas that tend to become sore, tendencies toward injury, etc. I have mentioned my own personal hip pains and I will include the junky mess that is anything below my right knee. The right ankle is incredibly stiff and hurts for at least the first quarter mile, no matter how I try to warm it up prior to the run. Then there is usually a big “pop” and the pain eases. Then there’s the dreaded athlete’s shin splints, which again is only in the right leg. My tibialis, fibularis and extensor muscles are distressed from what I can imagine is poor running technique.
We all have our little pains and it’s important to identify when to back off a little, where to concentrate stretches, and how we can strengthen muscles to prevent future injury. So here are a handful of articles:
- Strength Running – an article by Jason Fitzgerald
“The best strength exercises for runners have two characteristics:
- They prevent injuries by focusing on the specific needs of runners (hip and glute strength)
- They are compound, multi-joint movements like squats (the machines in the gym do NOT count)”
STRETCHING: When it comes down to it, countless sites have different opinions on the “Four Best” or “11 Best” or whatever number of stretches that are best for runners. Then you sprinkle in the question regarding dynamic vs. static stretches and when is best to incorporate them.
- Dynamic stretches – Indeed it seems to be more agreed upon that you should do a few minutes of dynamic stretches before your run. Bouncing while doing an otherwise static stretch does not make it dynamic and has been cited as causing more harm than good. Dynamic before your run, static after your run.
- Calves – Your powerhouse muscles of running. Take care of these babies.
- “There are two main causes of shin splints: the first is too much impact to the lower legs, which is primarily created by heel striking. The second main cause is overuse of the lower legs while running. Overuse injuries primarily happen when you push off with your toes to propel yourself forward.”
We hope that everyone is enjoying their training for the 30k & 10k and any other race you may be a part of in these next few weeks! Remember to take those rest days as needed. Even if you may not feel sore all over, sometimes your muscles still require those recovery periods.
March 21, 2016: Chemistry Life Lesson & Training Outline-7 weeks, 5 days until race day
“Be malleable,” my mind flashed after I ran by an empty aluminum can of beer during my trail run in DuPont on Sunday. I’ve been reading an awesome book about elements on the period table titled The Disappearing Spoon by Sam Kean so, yeah, my mind went there.
Malleability is a physical property of metals influenced by the strength (or weakness) of metallic bonds and temperature. Metals that are highly malleable, such as aluminum or gold, are hammered or rolled into thin sheets without easily fracturing or breaking. Metals like bismuth are harder and will break under these compressive stresses.
So- being malleable. Being a person who is open to suggestions for change. Of course I reflected on what this means in my life on this earth, but running is a facet in that. A malleable runner is one who tries to be open about improving running technique, is okay with not always hitting the fastest trail times or longest distances every single run, and can be honest about where he/she is in reaching goals and adjusting those goals. When we harden ourselves, we become brittle and pressures will only chip away at us. We fall apart rather than taking on a new form.
Ultimately I think this allows running to be more enjoyable to me. If I am feeling weak that day then I don’t have to hit my scheduled distance. If my run takes longer than planned then I don’t get down on a slow pace, but rather enjoy the increased time spent outdoors. Eventuallythe ease of distance and improvement on pace will come. But I have to enjoy running otherwise it is not a sustainable way to remain active.
Training for this week:
Remember that your weekend, or the most feasible day for you, is when to take your long run(s). I did mine on Sunday at 4 miles. If you are following along with the Hal Higdon training then you would follow Week #2 in your novice/intermediate/advanced/walk category. I am flip flopping between novice and intermediate. Generally speaking keep up with a walk, run or combo of both at least 3-4 times a week. Make sure you are giving yourself 1-2 rest days, whichever feels most comfortable for you. If you are walking, don’t worry so much about mileage as much as how long you are out walking. On the weekends you can really push for a suggested 3 miles. Remember the importance of cross training (swimming, weight lifting, biking, paddling, etc.) a couple of days a week.
On days I go running directly after work my body has given brutal reminders on the importance of warming up after hours of sitting at resting heart rate. I’m evidently not 20 years old anymore. Don’t immediately jump into max speed or direct uphill (like I dumbly did last week on Pressley Cove) without sustaining gentle increases of your heart rate.
And a little science humor for your day.
March 18, 2016: The Mental Game, Brownies and Running Logs- 8 weeks, 1 day until race day
“Soccer is 90% mental and 10% physical,” my dad use to recite over and over. He was my high school varsity coach and as an English teacher a walking book of inspirational quotes. We can obviously substitute soccer with almost anything else and the adage still rings true. Much of what we can become relies on where we stand mentally. My relationship with my mental attitude is both love and spite.
Many endurance runners iterate that the key to running faster and performing well is RELAXATION. Be in the moment and try to separate yourself from constant evaluation as you run. When I first started testing out longer runs it was very hard to not do this; to not focus on all the little extra pains and steps, erratic breathing and burning chest. But as I persisted then I began letting my mind wander. At parks I designed imaginary natural play areas. In the woods I listened to the babbling streams, looked for sunbathing snakes, and identified trees. Often I process personal growth and recent life events.
In Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, the secret to flying is to not fall. As soon as your mind is distracted from the indubitable fact that you are indeed falling then you being to float and soar. Instant acknowledgement that you are hundreds of feet in the air causes you to plummet again. The secret to running is to distract your mind from your physical state and this takes practice and repetition. Which leads me to my dad’s next saying, “Practice, practice, practice. And when you’re sick of practicing then practice some more.”
However, there are moments I personally enjoy being attuned to my physical state and that is when I am running a hill. Then I break away from wandering and snap into, “Don’t give up” mode. I remind myself how to adjust my stride, my breathing and I give myself one heck of a pep talk. This is super exhilarating to me, but some days is the hardest mental push to overcome. But if I can conquer that hill, then I can conquer anything.
The “Bet You Didn’t Know” Gluten Free Brownies: I nicknamed this brownie recipe because the original recipe doesn’t call for gluten free at all, and I do not typically adhere to a gluten free diet. But nobody could tell it was gluten free, so that’s a plus. I also opted to add in some dark chocolate chips. Overall, the brownies were YUMMY and I highly recommend giving this recipe a go.Bob’s Red Mill gluten free flour is a good choice if that’s the route you want to take. I have occasionally bought different flours that may be PKU friendly, testing them out here and there in some recipes. My baby nephew has PKU, a rare genetic disorder, and if you’d like to learn more about it then check out www.pku.com/understanding-pku. These necessary diets are strictly low protein, requiring one to measure everything. Ever since he has been diagnosed I have become wildly aware of what I consume.
Week of March 12-18
- Saturday, 3/12: 1.5 miles at Flat Rock Park; split up with sets of core work-mostly plank variations and boat twists. Pull-ups and leg lifts when back at home.
- Monday, 3/14: LONG RUN DAY! 3.7 miles on North Slope loop trail, PNF. Beautiful trail with some lovely uphill; 45 minute run. Intense post *glutes stretches and planks.
- Wednesday, 3/16: 2.4 mile walk/run on Pressley Cove trail, PNF; 40 minutes walk/run. Practically uphill one way and downhill back. My suggestion is to thoroughly warm-up on service road 477 before entering the trail as it immediately heads uphill. Admittedly, I spent a lot of time herping on this trail and discovered a sanctuary of dusky salamanders. I more appreciated playing outside on such a lovely early evening in the mountains. That time isn’t reflected in the 40 minutes.
- Thursday, 3/17: ~3 miles, mostly around Osceola Lake, Hendersonville. From my driveway and back it’s just shy of a 5k. I was experiencing some fairly intense latent emotions from something that happened a couple weeks ago and needed to just run, hard. I didn’t time this run but am pretty sure I set a PR. I channeled some inner aggression and listened to music to set a good rhythm. Therapeutic.
*As soon as I started hitting over 3 miles my hips began experiencing excruciating pain the evening after. By warming up my hips prior to my run and focusing on stretching my glutes afterward I’ve almost eliminated this pain.
March 14, 2016: Shaping Motivation-8 weeks, 5 days until race day
Whenever I think about what motivates me, I remember two words that the Dalai Lama responded with in 2010 when asked by a CNN reporter what the first thing is that he thinks about when waking up each morning. The Dalai Lama captivates with a mastery of using few words that leave you pondering. His simple answer, “Shaping motivation; shaping motivation.” Further in the interview the Dalai Lama recites a Buddhist proverb, ” ‘We are ourself as a master of ourself.’ So everything develops on one’s own mental attitude.” Much of what the Dalai Lama applies this to is our empathy, love, compassion, ability to forgive and understand one another. But I have held onto those two words as a reminder that everything I do must first start from within and strengthening the mind. Shaping motivation. So how do we apply this to running?
Well let me first ask you: Why do you want to run a 10k? To become healthier, to lose weight, a stepping stone to a marathon, to amp up your survival skills, to run for a cause, to think through questions in life, to cross train for another sport.
Whatever the reason, I hope that it is for YOU because otherwise you will have a hard time staying motivated when relying on external stimuli. If you stick with it, you also may find those reasons change. When I first started running I was coming from a place of failure. I had failed at a potential opportunity, was starting over and felt completely leveled. Becoming more comfortable with distance running allowed time for me to step into my mind and work out the doubts I had created for myself. I recited confidence-building mantras, pushed through prior limits, and took time to breathe in that alleviating mountain air. Life pieced back together eventually but to my surprise I continued to run; literally not metaphorically. My best runs always begin from motivation that starts within, and this can take daily shaping.
Motivation comes from within, but inspiration we can seek from external sources. From the music you choose, blogs you read, podcasts you listen to, or pictures of people being super-humanly hardcore and imagining that as yourself (admittedly, this is my method and I am often standing triumphantly on an exotic peak with my fists in the air). What excites you and gets you amped to get out there and run your very best?
Another source of inspiration can be to go volunteer at a race-any race! On Sunday the Cradle took to the Biltmore for the Asheville Marathon. Watching those men and women pushing themselves (we saw them at mile 8 and again at mile 23) through pouring rain and pain can floor you with humility. Surely we can endure 6.2 miles of majestic springtime Pink Beds vegetation and grandeur.
This week in training: I will update my final times and mileages later this week but here is an outline of what the week should look like for you with just under 9 weeks until race day.
You should be somewhere between 2-3 miles during your runs or walks this week, which should occur at least 3 times a week. Remember that your weekends are for longest distances. Make sure to rest 1-2 days. Dedicate one day to cross training with a duration of 35-60 minutes.
As you will see later, I have already broken a lot of these rules. But I am comfortable where I am and feel like I am improving on maintaining a less lackadaisical pace. Picturing myself as a female Rambo dodging fallen limbs, roots and leaping over puddles helps.
March 11, 2016: My week of running-9 weeks, 1 day until race day
The internet is full of training schedules by so many running pros. Marathon runner and author Hal Higdon is a phenomenal resource to help get started with a training schedule. Check out his 10-k Training Guide. This link will take you to the novice schedule, but take note that there are options for intermediate, advanced, and walkers.
My personal running style fits somewhere between novice and intermediate. A couple of things to take away from Hal’s guide: the importance of cross training and rest days. Notice that for every level (minus advanced runners), Hal suggests complete rest for the two days before any race day. Also, note that your weekend run should be your long run. There is no need to be running at max distance every time you go out. Allow your body time to adjust, rest and strengthen.
My schedule will change once the Cradle opens on April 9th, but for now my target is to run on Tuesday & Thursday, Wednesday work on flexibility and core strength, cross train (AKA frolic in the woods) on Saturday, and long run on Sunday.
I am probably the most basic runner since the invention of advanced technology. I (almost) never listen to music except for the rap songs I make up in my head as I go and I (almost) never take a device to log my run. Taking my cell phone along was more motivated by the idea of selfies with herps than it was to actually log my times. But for the purpose of this blog, I will do my best to track my runs.
Week of March 5 (10 weeks ’til race day)-11:
- 3/5: Ran in the Oskar Blues 4-miler. First race above a 5k. Felt not quite race ready. Time 38:04
- 3/8: Ran Davidson River Exercise Trail. Distance 1.5 mile loop. Time ~10-12 minutes. In attempts to improve my race pace I have started to push a little harder on my shorter runs. I run this trail a lot and it is flat and easy, much like the Cradle to Grave 10k in the Pink Beds will be.
- 3/10: Davidson River Exercise Trail + 0.5 mile loop. Distance ~2.0 miles. Time: 17:13.
March 10, 2016: 9 weeks, 2 days until Race Day
You can do this.
Whether you walk the entire 10k (6.2 miles), run/walk, or achieve your own personally set goals. You can do this.
I just wanted to say that from the get-go. Now allow me to back up a little. Technically, I am not coming off the couch and heading into this race. But I am gearing the next several weeks toward the off-the-couchers to the already enthused runners. My running schedule is erratic at about 2-3 times a week; sometimes less if I prefer to go hiking or find a climbing buddy for that day. I am a mildly motivated, semi-athletic shorty in her late 20’s. Everyday to run begins with a personal pep talk and dreams of all the victory cookies I can eat with ease of mind if I just go for a quick jog.
So how do I motivate myself to keep going? How do I allow distance running to be enjoyable? And what cookie recipe do I follow? These are all questions I will explore throughout the next few weeks as I become more disciplined, master my pro running form, and bake all the delicious treats time will allow (“baking treats” can often be substituted with “drinking beer”).
So let’s get started.
When I first began training for the Hendersonville Turkey Trot in 2014 I started with, “Just make it 30 minutes.” I knew I wanted to be able to run my 5k in 30 minutes or under and so I made it a point to go no less than 30 minutes each time. A lot of those minutes were spent walking. But each week I noticed that my distance coverage increased steadily. The point here is not to say that you should begin this way, but rather set obtainable goals for YOURSELF and not what you think others are doing. Where are you comfortable and go with that. Ultimately it affords a much more worthwhile process. I also ran the race with my sister, who had already participated in a few races herself. She helped me push myself. We celebrated our personal bests with one another. I don’t even remember my time that first race because ultimately it was more important to me that we crossed the line together.
Start small. Big things still happen from small beginnings.