What’s Form Got to Do With It?

Inspired by my friend Chris’s conscious effort to improve his running form (that’s him with the beard), I thought I’d talk about my own.

It is not perfect (is anyone’s?), but it’s pretty good and I got some great feedback about it from my coach Jeff Gaudette.  I was actually blushing when he told me he was going to use my video as a good example!

Below is my slow-mo video, taken at ZAP Running Camp in August 2016.  I was running goal marathon pace of 6:50 per mile.

There is a lot of discussion in the running community about what proper form is, why it’s important (or not), and how to improve it.

The simplest way to describe good running form is relaxed forward motion.  Any side to side or diagonal motion as well as extra tension, simply waste energy.  But like running itself,  just because something is simple, does not mean it is easy.

Running puts a lot of force on your body with every foot strike.  If you overextend your leg in front of you, especially with a straight knee, the force will be much greater than if your foot hits the ground underneath your center of gravity with your knee bent to absorb the shock.

You know what else that landing on a straight leg sticking out in front of you does, besides setting you up for injury?  It acts like a brake, stealing your speed with every step.

If you look at my swing phase (that’s when the foot is in the air), my leg does extend in front of me, but by the time it lands, my torso has caught up to it and I land on the ball of my foot with a slight bended knee.

The only way to stop yourself from overstriding is to get your body out ahead of your legs.  To do that, you need to lean forward.  Just slightly.

Leaning forward sounds simple enough, right?  The problem with telling people to lean forward is that too many people drop their head and lean from their shoulders or their waist.  That causes all sorts of issues, the main one being that the lungs become compressed in that position, which is clearly not a good thing for breathing.

The lean should originate from the strongest and most powerful running muscles in the body, which surprisingly are not the legs.  The hips, glutes, and abs are the engine and the legs are merely the wheels.

There should be a straight line from your tailbone to the top of your head, gently angled forward, with your shoulders relaxed and down your back.

Another thing that helps my form is I have flexible hips.  You can see the hip extension when I push off each foot from the ground.  If you were to pause the video right as one foot is about to take off, you will see my back leg in a straight line behind my hips.  Good hip extension acts like a slingshot that propels you forward in a straight line.

Since I lean at the hips and not at the waist, I can take advantage of my full range of hip extension which creates a more powerful stride with less effort.

There is no such thing as perfect form and many elite runners have different postures when they run.  Some stand up taller than others and some land on their heels instead of their forefeet.  But what they all have in common is that they run relaxed, which makes them able to run faster with less energy.

I naturally have a strong arm swing, maybe too much.  It probably doesn’t help me move forward that much and uses a lot of energy.  I have to consciously think about keeping my arms relaxed.

Working on improving your form will help protect you from injury and ultimately make you a faster, more efficient runner.

And who doesn’t want that?!

 

The Rain is Coming

The Southern Appalachians are on fire.  Extreme drought combined with carelessness and arson have set the mountains ablaze leaving the valleys choked with smoke.

When the wind shifts, the grey haze clears and blue skies return.  When it shifts again, the smell of wood smoke clings to our clothes and the ashy air fills our lungs.

Needless to say, this has not been a good month for running.

When I left for my long run yesterday, the skies were blue and the air smelled fresh.  I am back on marathon training again and this was my first 20 miler in many weeks.

The schedule called for 12 miles easy, 6 miles fast, and 2 miles of easy cool down.  I had hoped to run a couple laps around Lake Summit, a pretty 9-mile loop in the county south of us, but by the time I drove down there, the blue sky had turned to haze.

I turned around and headed back to Asheville.

The first easy miles were quite nice.  I jogged through the city listening to NPR podcasts in the sunshine.  I could feel the steady 10 mile run from the day before in my legs a little, but that was the point.  I was supposed to run on tired legs to simulate the conditions of a marathon without actually running 26.2 miles all at once.

When I dropped down to the river and ran towards the park, it was like hitting a wall of smoke.   Ugh, I thought.

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Maybe I should just go to the treadmill and finish this, I thought.  But I was on mile 11.5 and I was over 2 miles from home, a mile of it straight uphill.

I really don’t want to run on the treadmill and mess up the run.  I’ll just see how it goes.

It was not a great idea.

The plan called for those fast six miles to be 10-15 seconds faster than marathon pace or 6:35 pace.  And that’s AFTER running 12 miles on tired legs.  When I read that, I smiled and knew I wasn’t even going to attempt that.

Because of my recent fast finish in the half marathon, my assigned paces in my workouts have gotten much faster.  The only problem with that is that longer distances are my strength.  My maximum speed probably hasn’t increased that much; I can just keep it up longer.

So trying to run half marathon pace on tired legs at mile 12 isn’t going to happen and I wasn’t going to try it.  But maybe marathon pace (6:50-55) wouldn’t be too bad.

I decided I was just going to do the best I could.

The first mile was slow (6:57) and the second was even slower (7:04).  I was breathing much harder than normal for that pace and every breath forced the smoky air deeper into my lungs.  My legs were starting to feel sore and heavy.

Okay, this is dumb, I thought.  I’ll just do one more fast mile and run the rest easy.

But then the third mile came in at 6:43.  The tension I was feeling about the run and the smoke and my legs hurting simply evaporated when I saw that number.  A visceral wave of pain relief seem to flow over me and for just a moment all my discomfort vanished.

Just three more fast miles.  Finish it.

I turned the corner both literally and figuratively and my resolve strengthened.  As hard as it was to breathe and run each stride, I was not going to quit.  Not this time.

The final three miles came in right on pace:  6:55, 6:52, 6:49.

It was not fun.  It did not feel good at the time.  I don’t recommend running through wildfire smoke.

But I got through it.

This run is like adding another arrow to my quiver.  When it is time to slay the marathon beast, I can pull this one out from my memory and use it to keep fighting.

The forecast calls for the rain to start tonight.  So much rain, in fact, that there is a good chance of flooding.

Hopefully, it will be enough to extinguish the wildfires and wash the air clean.

I never thought I’d say this, but I can’t wait to run in the rain.

Generation UCAN Alternative You Can Make For Pennies

After a disappointing DNF at the Richmond Marathon due to nutrition issues, I’m going back to the drawing board.

Several runners I know, some at the elite level, swear by Generation UCAN, a modified cornstarch and flavoring mix that you add to water.  I’ve thought about trying it, but the $60 price tag (around $2 per serving) has always struck me as excessive.

ucanMy inner skeptic alarm goes off every time I go to the UCAN website (and so does this guy’s in a surprisingly funny and geeky post about the UCAN hype). We are talking about cornstarch, right?  The cheap-as-dirt thickener for gravy that can be found at any grocery store for pennies?

Well, yes and no.

First a little background on UCAN.  It was developed initially to treat people with a rare condition called glycogen storage disease (GDS).  People with this life-threatening condition cannot properly store glycogen and their blood glucose levels fall to dangerous levels while they sleep.

In 1984, it was discovered that ingesting uncooked cornstarch before bed kept patients’ glucose levels in the desired range and dramatically improved their lives, many of them children.

Cornstarch is cheap, simple, and effective.

argo

The only problem with uncooked cornstarch therapy?  After about 4.5 hours, glucose levels start to fall and a second dose is required.  Parents still had to wake up their children in the middle of the night to feed them.

So the scientists came up with a modified form of cornstarch that kept glucose levels stable for 8-10 hours and patients could finally sleep through the night.

Then someone had the bright idea to apply the technology to another group of people who struggle with maintaining steady glycogen levels: endurance athletes.

And UCAN was born.

You can dive deep into the rabbit hole of the science if you like to learn why starch might be better than glucose, fructose, or maltodextrin and you can learn about carbohydrate and fat-burning until your eyes glaze over.

But what I’m after is a solution that is easy on my stomach.  And starch could be the answer.  UCAN claims that because starch empties the stomach quickly and is slowly but completely absorbed into the bloodstream that it is very gentle on the stomach.

THAT IS WHAT I WANT!  Any source of carbohydrate can give me enough fuel to get to the finish line fast, but if I can do it without my stomach revolting the entire time, I’m in.

But do I really need super-expensive UCAN?  Wouldn’t regular cornstarch work?  After all, UCAN was developed because cornstarch “only” keeps blood glucose levels steady 4.5 hours.  I’m certainly not running longer than that and even if I were, I’m wide awake and could take a second dose.

What does the research say?  Well, UCAN’s own researchers compared Argo brand cornstarch to UCAN and glucose levels with Argo were only 9% lower after SEVEN hours versus UCAN.  They didn’t test (or didn’t publish) results after shorter duration, probably because they are likely to be quite similar until the four to five hour point.

Cheap cornstarch from the baking aisle probably works just as well as UCAN!  The only difference is the duration of the effects which can be solved by taking another dose.

So of course, I had to experiment and come up with my own recipe.

Cornstarch and water mixed together is pretty gross tasting, so you need to flavor it somehow.  At first I tried a teaspoon of lemon juice with a couple of tablespoons of corn syrup and a few drops of vanilla stevia liquid.  It was fine, but I was hoping to come up with something that is all powdered so it’s easy to transport to any race.

Then I found an awesome, all-natural drink mix called True Lemon.  It’s made up of crystallized lemon, lemon oil, a tiny bit of sugar, and a little stevia.  And it’s less than 13 cents for an 8 ounce serving!  Perfect!

lemon

I’ve taken it on a few runs so far this week and so far so good.  No tummy troubles at all, but I’ll keep experimenting with it, especially at race pace.

How does my homemade version compare to lemon UCAN?  A single-serving packet of lemon UCAN (not the scoop) contains 28 grams of carbohydrate, 110 calories, 230mg sodium, and 140mg potassium.

My version is 30 grams of carbohydrate, 136 calories, 219mg sodium, and 87mg potassium plus a small amount of magnesium and calcium.  I’m not going to pretend it’s as delicious as a fresh-squeezed lemonade (neither is UCAN), but it is not bad at all, just a slight chalkiness.

Let me know what you think!

Serves two (8 ounce servings)

DIY Generation UCAN

A homemade version of Generation UCAN SuperStarch for pennies!

5 minTotal Time

Save RecipeSave Recipe

Ingredients

  • 70 grams (8 2/3 tablespoons) cornstarch
  • 1 True Lemon packet
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon Morton's Lite Salt
  • 16 ounces of water

Instructions

  1. Mix all ingredients and pour into two 8 ounce water bottles.

Notes

136 calories 30.6 grams of carbohydrate 219 mg sodium 87 mg potassium

7.6.6
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http://theplantedrunner.com/generation-ucan-alternative-you-can-make-for-pennies/

 

 

 

The Painful Lessons of the Dreaded DNF

If I had known it was going to hurt this much, I might have kept going.

It was as if my stomach had trapped a rabid animal desperately trying to claw its way out.  The pain worsened with every step.  No amount of positive thinking or deep breathing would soothe the writhing beast captive inside despite my best efforts for over an hour.  Rather than continue to escalate the torture, I quit.

I got my first Did Not Finish (DNF) at mile 16.

The possibility of this happening never, ever occurred to me.  I had big goals for this race, but I also was prepared with not quite meeting them.  At least, I think I was.   The idea of actually giving in to the evil voice in my head that says it’s okay to quit never crossed my mind.

Until it did.

There’s no other way to say it: a DNF sucks.

It’s like being dumped by your high school boyfriend and getting the thin envelope of rejection from your dream college on the same day.

My heart feels like a stress ball in the hand of nervous day trader.  The acute pain I felt on race day seems like nothing compared to this constant ache.

So what happened?  Several things that added up to a big mistake.

At the hotel the morning of the race with my family, I woke up a few minutes before the alarm, three hours before the race.  Since I didn’t have access to a toaster, I ate my standard almond butter and jelly toast as a sandwich with my usual cup of coffee.  Everything went down fine and I had no inclination at that point that anything would go wrong.

Later as we got in the car to go to the start, we ended up in some traffic and had the anticipated struggle to find a parking spot.  I don’t think I felt particularly stressed out about this part, but I definitely was more distracted than I would have been on my own.  We found a spot to park at 6:55, fifty minutes before the start, which seemed perfect.

But as we were getting out, I realized that I had forgotten to take the caffeine pill that I normally take 90 minutes ahead of time, so I quickly washed it down with just a sip of water.  I am always cautious of drinking within an hour of the race to avoid having to stop to pee, but I don’t think I had remembered to drink any liquid at all except for the one cup of coffee.

The banana that I usually eat was forgotten in the car.

After jogging my warm up, I got to the start about 15 minutes before the gun.  I put my cold hands in my pocket and felt the fig bar that I like to take about thirty minutes before the race.  Oops. I managed to chew through half and tossed the rest away.  I wished I had a little water to clear my mouth out, but I dismissed that thought quickly and got into the corral.

The gun went off and I settled in with the 3:05 pace group (7:03 pace per mile).  My strategy was to negative split or to run the first half slower than the first.  It is especially important to run the first 4-5 miles slower to conserve your energy for when things get really hard, so I thought the slower pace group would be a great way to stay slower.

But we ran the first mile in 6:56.  That is too fast for 3:05.  That could be okay for 3-hour pace (6:52 per mile), but still, it’s cutting it a little close. I knew they were going too fast at the time, but the fear of going too slow got the best of me at the time and I remember feeling good about the split.

The water stations were every two miles for the first 20 miles and I took at least a sip or two at every one.  (A sip or two is not enough.)

The next few miles stayed consistent:  6:55, 6:56, 6:47 (danger!), 6:52.  I was in a good group of men at this point and the jockeying for position had stopped as the 3:05 pace group finally slowed down to a more reasonable pace behind me.  I was surrounded by people that were going for sub-three.

It was time for my first gel at mile 5.  I tore open the lemon flavor one and it was saltier than the sea.  A faint alarm went off inside my head, but I pushed it away.  Running hard intensifies every sensation so I told myself that it was my taste buds playing tricks on me.

As soon as the overly-concentrated gel hit my nearly-empty stomach, the pain began.

As we hit the nice, long downhill going to the river at mile 6 (6:56), I fell in step with a guy next to me.  I asked it he was going for sub-3.  He said yes and asked me the same.  I was managing the discomfort okay at this point at expected it to settle down at any moment so I smiled and replied brightly, “that’s the plan!”

He said, “Good.”  Then he added, “just so you know, this is uncharted territory for me, so if I blow up, just go on with out me.”

I said, “me, too.”

We sailed down the hill in a speedy 6:42.  I saw my husband and kids at the bottom of the hill and tried to manage a smile for them, but I was really not feeling good at all at this point.

At the next water stop, I thought I was grabbing water, but it was Powerade.  The opposite of what I needed, but I had a couple swallows anyway and stayed glued shoulder to shoulder with my new running buddy.

A woman who had gone out faster than I did was slowly coming back to me and as we passed her, I felt a momentary  sense of relief that I would get through this rough patch.  This was temporary and would pass.  Miles 8 and 9 were a still-consistent 6:53 and 6:56.

As we headed up the only real hills of the course up from the river, I expected to slow some, but my stomach was in full riot mode.  The next three miles were 7:02, 7:04, 7:05.  At one point, I saw my buddy look back for me and I’m not sure I could even manage to shake my head.  He went on without me.

I knew despite how my stomach was feeling, I had to continue to fuel or I would definitely be doomed.  I opened a peanut butter gel (that was thankfully the correct concentration) and managed to get it down, but violent churning continued.

The 3:05 pace group passed me at the top of the hill.

Now, had I been thinking rationally, I wouldn’t have let that get to me.  My pace was still just about perfect for a negative split and if not that, there was still a really good chance of finishing way faster than I ever have before.

My mind would not let me go there.  I had stopped thinking about finishing and had started looking for an escape.

Maybe I could make it to the half.

I did, but with my slowest mile that far in 7:10, with a half split of 1:31 and change.  Seeing 1:31 at the half should have been a good sign, but it got to me.  I was hoping to cross the half in 1:29 or 1:30 and just that extra minute felt like a slap.  That thought, of course, is absolutely ridiculous and a 1:31 is probably even smarter than 1:29, but at the time it felt like my dream was slipping away.

My family had planned to watch me at mile 16, so I just needed to get that far.  More runners continued to pass during miles 14 (7:07) and 15 (7:13).

The last mile I ran was the long windy bridge across the James River.  Since the packs I had been with had long gone, I tucked behind one guy and braced myself against the wind.  I cringed when I glanced at my watch and saw our 7:45 pace.  I was done.  I just had to get across that bridge to safety.

The last mile was a defeated 7:52 and I hit the stop button and crumpled to the curb.

I sat for a moment, drank some water, and assured concerned volunteers that I was okay.

I called my husband.  Because of traffic, they had decided not to try to go to mile 16 after all and they were closer to the finish.  I told him that I could walk and meet them.

While we were talking, I heard a volunteer shout to the racers, “Great job!  You’re on 3:08 pace!”  In my sad, angry, and dejected state, I muttered, “Fuck that.”

And right there shows me now the most important thing I got wrong.  I was holding so tight to my A goal, that I was not being reasonable.  Right now, I’d be thrilled if I had managed a 3:08!  Yes, I had a B goal and a C goal and even a D goal, but I had not really allowed myself to be truly okay with them.

In the end, I know if I had chosen to continue, my stomach issues most certainly would have only gotten worse and I would still be upset about missing my goals.  If I completed the whole race simply to finish, not only would it have prolonged and intensified the torture, but I would have given up any chance I may have to try again this season.   I cut my losses before any damage was done to my legs.

My heart is another story.

I will be processing this for a while, but even though I quit, I am not giving up.  I am considering either Kiawah in December or Charleston in January.

Even though I made mistakes, what I do not regret is sharing my experience.  The good and the bad.  Maybe I should also feel some embarrassment on top of everything else because I failed so spectacularly in front of others, especially my children.

But I do not feel embarrassed that I didn’t succeed.  I think there is some failure and some success in everything we do and perspective matters.  I made some dumb mistakes and I will do better next time.  And maybe someone else can learn from this as well.

I have been on this unreal trajectory with my running where I have PRed in every race I have attempted until now and as much as I hate going through this, perhaps it needed to happen.   I will learn some real lessons that will make me a better runner.  And a better example for my kids.

One thing is for certain:  now that I know what’s it’s like to DNF, that voice telling me to quit will never be as powerful again.

 

 

Belief is One Thing, Proof is Another

There is scientific evidence that belief is a very real factor in performance.  If you believe you can do it, you will.

This is not to say that by simply believing that achievement is possible.  I’m not going to jump off a building believing I can fly.  Belief is built by doing the work, every day, and respecting the process.

I have no doubt that I have the physical capability to run a sub-three hour marathon.  Zero.  It is in my legs and it is in my heart.  I know it’s a big statement when that would be more than 11 minutes faster than I have ever run the distance before, but I have never been more prepared.

Based on my half marathon PR a couple weeks ago, the fancy running calculators give me a predicted finish time of 3:00:23 to 3:02:24.  But I know I can do better than that.

All I need to do is prove it.

That will be my mantra on the tough miles when my legs are screaming to slow down.  Prove it.

When my hips begin to ache and there are still miles to go.  Prove it.

When the very act of breathing starts to feel like a desperate panic, I will breathe deeper and keep going.  Prove it.

When I catch sight of my husband and my kids cheering me on from the sidelines, I will remember they are learning what passion, drive, and accomplishment looks like.  Prove it.

Just two short years ago, it took me over four hours to run a marathon.  Breaking 3-hours is really an arbitrary time goal that is no more of an accomplishment than 3:01 or even 5:01.

But for me, that magic number symbolizes the impossible.  The ridiculous.  The unbelievable.

It symbolizes climbing a mountain that I never thought was climbable.  It means years of putting my head down and taking a single step over and over and over again until one day I see the view from the top of that mountain and look back at how far I’ve come.

Sure, there are other mountains bigger and steeper and higher.  But this is my mountain.

As we pack up and get ready to leave for Richmond in the morning, I know I’ve done all I could have to prepare for this race.  I’m feeling good, but anxious, and more determined than ever.

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The weather is looking a bit cooler than I would prefer: a chilly 36 degrees on the starting line, only warming up to the low- to mid-forties by the end of the race.  But a little too cool is good for racing and it’s certainly better than being too hot.  Boston this year was about 30 degrees warmer.

I have no more runs on the schedule, other than a quick 15 minute jog tomorrow and a warm up on race day.  The work is in my legs and in my mind.

There is nothing left to do now but prove it.

 

If you’d like to track my progress in the race click here and enter my bib number 498.

 

ZERO 5K Race Report. New PR!

Have you ever noticed how little kids run?  They shoot out and sprint everywhere they go and quickly fade to a walk.  They have no experience with pacing or patience and just give it all they’ve got from the beginning.  It’s a beautiful image of joy and freedom, but it’s a really stupid way to race.

It might seem like racing a 5K would be easier than running a marathon  After all, 3.1 miles is just a fraction of the distance of 26.2, right?  Well, a 5K is easier only because it’s shorter, but the intensity is so much more.

It’s like the difference between dunking your hand in a pot of boiling water for a split second versus sitting in a hot tub for three or four hours.

Like any distance longer than a half mile, going out too fast at the beginning will cause you to slow dramatically at the end.  Staying even in your pace leads to a faster time overall.  But in order to keep your pace even, you need to increase your effort significantly as your legs and lungs start to burn and beg you to slow the f^@& down.

I ran my 5K tune up on Saturday like a five-year-old.

Despite my poor pacing, I ran the course 32 seconds faster than I did in May at the EarthFare 5K,  eleven seconds faster than my gravity-assisted PR at Downhill at Dusk in June.

I certainly wasn’t expecting to set a 5K PR with heavy marathon legs.  All of my speedwork in the last few weeks–months, really–has been marathon-specific, which is a much slower pace than 3.1 mile race pace.  I have had very little practice running in the red zone of my ability and didn’t know what to expect at my current fitness.

This was the inaugural year of the ZERO 5K in Asheville and it also happened to be on the same day as the infamous Shut In Ridge Trail Race in Asheville.  Many of my speedy teammates were racing Shut In and I was the only Maggot on the starting line.

When the starting gun went off, I raced through the velodrome to complete a half lap, then got on the trail section of the course.  Two men passed me at this point and I glanced at my watch.  5:40 pace.  Oops, that’s ridiculously too fast.  I tried to reign it in, but I was feeling fresh and didn’t want to be a slave to my watch.

First mile: 6:03.  Way too fast.  That is not a pace that is sustainable for me for three miles, but I have to admit that I loved seeing that split flash on my watch.  Hmmm, maybe I could keep that pace up, I told myself.

Of course not.

Just as there are running demons in your head that tell you to slow down, there are overly-optimistic cheerleaders waving their pom poms in your brain shouting, “you’re so awesome!  Keep it up!” when they have no idea what they are talking about.

I kept up the same effort level during mile two and realized one of the guys in front of me was slowing down.  I could catch him!

As I got closer, I thought I could use him as a wind block, so I drafted behind him for a few strides before I realized he was still slowing down.  I passed him mid-way through mile two and headed for the turn around.

Second mile: 6:25. A 22-second slowdown. That is huge in a 5K.

I tried to pick it up and I could still see the lead man in front of me.  The gap was too much for me to come close to catching him, but I wanted to have a strong final mile.

Since I don’t practice this pace often at all, I’m not familiar with what my breathing pattern should be.  It’s hard, obviously, but there has to be a balance between hard breathing and all-out hyperventilating.  I thought about that for probably way too long but kept pushing to the finish.

I rounded the last bend in the velodrome and could see the race clock click 19:09.  I only had a about 50 meters or so to go and I gave it as much as I could.

Final mile: 6:25.

Final tenth of a mile: 27 seconds or 4:57 pace (yay!).

So after a too-fast first mile and a dramatic slowdown, at least I was able to keep steady and kick at the end.  I’ve got a lot to learn about 5K pacing and hope to work on getting better at them after the marathon recovery.

Sneaking under 19 minutes would be a big accomplishment for me, so that’s the next goal I’m working for.

I just have to learn to run like a grown up.

 

 

 

Is it Crazy to Race During Taper?

Tomorrow begins the last full week before the Richmond Marathon.  After two months of dry, warm weather, the forecast for November 12 calls for a 55% chance of rain with a high of 57 degrees during the race.  If I had to be picky, I could do without the rain, but the temperature and cloud cover is pretty close to perfect for racing.

The taper cycle for this marathon is different than any I’ve had so far because I’m racing twice in the last three weeks.  The first was the French Broad Half Marathon and tomorrow is the inaugural Zero 5K happening in flat Carrier Park where I train most days.  I had originally planned to race the Vance Rocket Run 5K tomorrow, but after jogging the course and its SEVEN hills, my coach and I came to the decision that it was not going to be beneficial for Richmond and pounding out those downhills could actually contribute to a little more muscle damage that I’m not willing to risk at this point.

Flat and fast it is.

So why am I racing a 5K a week before my marathon?  Shouldn’t I be tapering and resting and only doing a little marathon-specific work?

Yes and no.  The point of a fast 5K right now is to open up some speed in my legs that I haven’t felt in a while.  The faster speed of a 5K also pushes me into the racing red zone for just a little while, practicing one more time what I will feel like when I am pushing myself harder than I ever have before in the last few miles of the marathon.  Yet the 5K is short enough that I will be fully recovered by race day.

In other words, this is mental strength training.

I do not expect to PR at this 5K since I have not been putting in the kind of speed training specific to the 5K.   But you never know.

My PR is 19:33 (6:17 pace) from the Downhill at Dusk 5K back in June and as the name implies, it was mostly downhill, so I have gravity to partially thank for that time.  I know that I’m am much fitter now, but I have a lot of marathon miles in my legs.

Another nice benefit to racing during taper is that I have something to distract me rather than just getting bogged down by the taper tantrums.  Most marathoners struggle with taper because it is such a shift from our normal running routine.  We feel nervous and cranky and heavy and we miss our runners’ high.  We doubt our training, worry about eating too much and gaining weight.

Having this shorter goal has helped shift my focus to what is right in front of me.

Another nice distraction from taper anxiety has been this week of coaching at Runners Connect. I truly love the community of athletes we are growing and I’m enjoying being a part of so many runners’ journeys.

But I have never sat in front of a computer so much in my life!  I’m still working in real estate and plan to continue doing so for the foreseeable future, but I typically do not spend hours upon hours staring at a screen.  My eyes are tired at the end of a coaching shift and by butt feels suction cupped to my chair.

So today, I  installed my high-tech stand up desk.

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My glutes feel better already.