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Running in the moment: How to start and finish your race when your training hasn’t been ideal

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My race this past weekend (ok two weekends ago) was such a fun experience. No, I didn’t PR or win any prize money like I had envisioned back when I started training this summer… but it was still a great race that enjoyed from start to finish. The weather was perfect, I had great company for the first 20 miles, and my post-race margarita was one of the best I’ve ever had.

I know there are lots of people who have found themselves in a similar situation. Maybe you missed training due to work, travel, family, weather, or something else. Maybe you considered bagging it but didn’t want to lose your entry fee. Maybe you lost motivation at some point and your training has suffered. There are a lot of things that happen between when you sign up for a race and when you line up on the starting line.

So, there are a few thoughts on how to make the best of your race experience.

1. Try something new. I know, gasp! How dare we defy the old running adage. Well, you can find ways to mix it up without committing a major running crime like racing in brand new shoes. Get some funky laces, wear some bright shades, or even try out a new outfit (just make sure you wear it once in practice before the race).

2. Start off with a slower pace group than you originally planned. Sometimes running at a slower pace in the beginning will help you feel good longer and allow you to push the pace toward the end. It’s a great way to run a fast time, and even if you don’t get your PR you may still surprise yourself and run faster than you expected.

3. Take in the crowd. If you’re usually in your own head during a race, take this opportunity to soak in the support from spectators. I dare you to not get a little pumped up when you high five the local high school mascot. He probably got up at 5 am just to don that ridiculous suit and cheer for you.

4. Race your way into shape. A race can be a great training run and an opportunity to practice your pre-race routine and race strategies in an optimum environment. Choose another goal race in a few weeks and use this race to practice fueling, hydrating, and running part of the race at your goal pace.

5. Plan your post-race celebration. You earned it.

Never Forget.

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My memories of that day and what followed are, of course, centered around my team and running because that’s what I lived and breathed at the time. When the first plane hit the tower, I was getting ready for my 9:30 class and my roommate Suzie shouted out the news to me. I remember watching the footage with the rest of my roommates, then writing a status on my instant messenger along the lines of “A plane just crashed into the World Trade Center”. I didn’t fully grasp that it was a terrorist attack until I got to my first class. At some point I left to go to the bathroom and ran into a girl in the hallway who explained the rest of what had happened. My professor would not, however, let us go home because she thought her class was more important than this terrible tragedy. I’m not kidding.

I had another class after that, but that professor cancelled to let us go home. Since many of the students at James Madison University are from northern Virginia, and a lot are from the NJ/NY area, everyone was worried and wanted to call home. This was a time before everyone had cell phones, and it wasn’t so easy to reach your loved ones. I did have a cell phone, so I tried to call home several times to make sure everyone was okay. My family is from upstate NY and my dad travelled a lot for his job, so I was worried there might be a chance he had been in Manhattan. Luckily I did get through and got to talk to my parents and my sisters. I remember my sister telling me that one of the planes that hit the World Trade Center had flown toward Albany (where we are from) and that the terrorists had used the Hudson River to navigate towards New York City. That gave me chills.

I don’t remember much else in the late morning/ early afternoon, but I do remember when we all started showing up for practice. My coach knew we would be upset, but he explained that running would help us to deal with our emotions more than cancelling practice would. He did give us the option of individually deciding whether to practice, and one of my teammates chose to take the day off because she hadn’t been able to get in touch with her family. The rest of us hopped in the vans and made our way to Masanetta Springs for a classic Coach Rinker cross country workout; long intervals, hills, short rest, no mercy. It was exactly what we needed at that moment.

We had a really good cross country team that year, and were ranked #12 in the country. A few weeks later, we travelled to Roy Griak in Minnesota, which would be our first experience flying anywhere since 9/11. I know I was scared of everything and everyone, and that was a common sentiment at the time. We showed up at the airport hours ahead of time. So many things had changed; there were all these things we couldn’t bring on the plane, you had to show your ID to everyone, security eyed you up and down. The biggest worry was our spikes and whether we could bring them in our carry-ons as we were always made to do (along with our uniforms). Anyone who has ever run track or cross country knows that’s a requirement in case your luggage gets lost!

The race itself went really well for us as a team. I got chills again on the starting line, seeing all of the teams with their multi-colored uniforms, all newly emblazoned with American flags. I actually remember tearing up a  little bit, which was something pretty rare for me at the time. I used to be really good at holding it together and then channeling all of my feelings through my workouts. In fact, that year was my best year of running by far, and I think some of it was due to my need to deal with life and the post-traumatic stress from September 11th.

I didn’t actually see the ruins of the World Trade Center until January. We were on our way to the Armory for an indoor track invitational. I remember being excited about the meet because I was in really good shape and my coach had put me in the mile, a race I almost never got to run. I was deep in thought when we crossed the bridge and I saw the Manhattan skyline for the first time since the terrorist attacks. There were two giant holes where buildings once were. Something about seeing that actually made it real to me. I got a horrible feeling in the pit of my stomach and burst into tears. It made me so angry that that had happened, and it filled me with pain and fear.

We stayed in New Jersey, but the sky over our hotel was gray and full of dust even that far away from the World Trade Center. It was quite a long process of trying to clean up the rubble left behind. When I got on the bus on the morning of our race I was not feeling great, and seeing the skyline again was a harsh reminder. Somewhere on that bus ride I made the decision to not be angry anymore. I really took a  moment to just think about what had happened and appreciate how our country had come together during such a difficult time. I was overwhelmed by feelings of pride and patriotism, and I decided to take those feelings with me and let them carry me through my race. I remember starting in the back and feeling awful for the first few laps, but somehow I worked my way toward the front. When I heard the bell ring to signal the final lap, I suddenly got the feeling that I was flying! I sprinted the last lap with all I had, and I ended up winning and setting a new meet record. Truthfully I was happy that I had won, but it didn’t really matter to me. I just wanted to run my cool down with my teammates and get some good New York pizza.

I learned an important lesson from all of this, which I guess is my point for writing about it. My coach was right: coming to practice was far better than going home. Your team is there to hold you up when you’re going through hard times together. I’m reminded of that every year on the anniversary of September 11th.

Summer training update

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A lot has changed since my last training update

After Boilermaker, I felt pretty awful, so I took a week of easy running. Really, I had no choice because my body wasn’t cooperating. I think I only did a 10 mile long run that week and most of my runs were untimed. I averaged around 40-45 miles per week for most of June and July.

At the end of July I ran a 5k on a Tuesday night called the Memorial Scholarship 5k. It’s more of a fun run and a way to raise money for scholarships for local runners. I didn’t bother to write a recap because there isn’t much to recap. There were no mile markers so I have no idea what my mile splits were. I ran with another girl for the first mile and after that I was mostly alone with no idea how much I had left to run. My official time was 18:15, which I wasn’t too pleased with, but I was happy to feel good for most of the race. Maybe if I quit eating pizza dipped in ranch dressing I would run a little faster..

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That race was the beginning of two long supercompensation weeks, which I just finished yesterday. I did an 18 mile long run the first week, and a 20 miler yesterday. I added a few double days to bring my mileage for these past two weeks up to 60 miles per week. Supercompensation weeks are just weeks where you increase volume, intensity, and the number of workouts. The payoff is a nice, relaxing recovery week.

Rest days are the best days.

Rest days are the best days.

My next race is the Strider Mile on Saturday morning, which I haven’t fully committed to yet. I’m not feeling particularly ready for a track mile, and the race is early in the morning, plus Em has swim lessons at 9 am so we would have to go straight there after the race, maybe not even cool down.

Ok, the little one is up, so I have to go retrieve her. If you have any thoughts on how I can stop my ranch dressing habit, I’d love to hear them.

We are excited to announce…

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…the re-launch of Piece of Cake Running, our training plans and personalized coaching services.

Last year we took a purposeful step back from Piece of Cake Running. With the birth of our daughter in August 2013, we knew it would be difficult to devote our time and attention to anything besides our little tiny human. Let’s be honest, just taking a shower required a complicated choreography of each of our schedules.

Now that the past year has flown by, we’ve decided it’s time to get things up and running again. So, here’s the deal:

Who are we?

Mollie Turner (AKA “the coach”)- MS in Exercise Physiology, 3-time All-American at James Madison University in Virginia, 7 years of combined coaching experience (high school, college, and everyone else)… I also run for Oiselle (I joined the Elite team in 2011 and am currently a Volée member)

Pete Turner (AKA “the webmaster”)- in charge of all things pertaining to the internets… also the one to blame if anything goes wrong (just kidding)

"The coach" and "the webmaster"

“The coach” and “the webmaster”

Emmaline Turner (AKA “the bug”)- assistant coach with 10 and a half months of life experience

Assistant coach Emma (in training, of course)

Assistant coach Emma (in training, of course)

Do you guys really like cake or something?

Who doesn’t like cake? It’s delicious. But our nom de guerre comes from the desire to spread the movement of running in it’s simplest form. It doesn’t have to be complicated by fancy gadgets and special diets. It’s putting one foot in front of the other. Anyone can do it. 

We’re not into cookie-cutter training programs. Your training plan is developed just for you, based upon your experience, and your personal goals.

So, if you’re in the market for a coach or need a training plan for an upcoming race, we would love to help, whether you’re new to the running game or a seasoned veteran. And if you know anyone who might be interested, please let them know about us. We offer a free month of online coaching if you refer a friend. Sharing is caring!

Boilermaker 15k Recap

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Ah, Boilermaker. It’s been 11 years since I last saw you, and you were just as awful as I remembered.

Let’s start with the course:

The Boilermaker 15k course elevation map. It's even more painful than it looks.

The Boilermaker 15k course elevation map. It’s even more painful than it looks.

It’s a point to point course with four miles generally uphill, and five miles generally downhill. There are two major (steep) hills in the first four miles, and one steep/ mile-long hill after the 10k point. There is also a smaller hill in the last mile (which feels worse than it looks). But the last 0.3 is downhill. Yipee!

My race plan was to run the first four miles conservatively (around 6:30 pace), and the last 5.3 miles aggressively (around 6:10 pace). My recent workouts indicated that I would be able to run about 6:15 average on a flat course, so I figured anything between 6:15 and 6:30 would be okay. I really wanted to get under 60 minutes, which is a 6:26 average.

And now… my splits. Get ready for it.

Mile 1 6:33
Mile 2 6:39
Mile 3 6:37
Mile 4 7:06
Mile 5 5:48
Mile 6 6:13
Mile 7 7:08
Mile 8 6:24
Mile 9 6:48
Last .3 1:40

Total: 1:01:09

boilermaker 2

boilermaker 3

When I saw my fourth mile split, I was worried that the heat might have been getting to me, but we had just reached the top of the biggest hill, so I just figured I could get that time back on the downhill. Unfortunately I completely blew my load on the fifth mile. I felt really good until we started running that very mile-long uphill (just after 10k). I went from feeling very positive about my race to suddenly feeling like I wanted to walk, but I quickly shoved that thought out of my mind and trudged up the hill.

The last 5k was really rough. My only saving grace was seeing everyone else around me looking pretty beat up as well. On the last uphill I was passed by two women, but I saw one woman ahead that I was able to catch. I was in survival mode at this point, but I hate being passed so close to the end. One more woman passed me near the ninth mile marker, but I was able to catch her before the finish line. I actually think I should have started my sprint for the finish line sooner, but I guess I’ll have to remember that for next time.

Pain face during the last 5k. I was really wishing it was a 10k at this point.

Pain face during the last 5k. I was really wishing it was a 10k at this point.

I have run hundreds of 3k/5k/6k races but only a handful of 10k/15k/half marathon and above, and my inexperience with these distances is apparent. I have so much trouble pacing, expecially when it isn’t a flat course. I keep thinking that if I had stayed a little more relaxed in the middle, maybe I would have been able to run closer to 60 minutes, but I’m not really upset over it. I’m definitely looking forward to some shorter races for the rest of the summer. I have a 5k coming up in July, a mile in August, and a 4k cross country race in the beginning of September.

I do want to mention that the entertainment and spectators along the course were fantastic. There were 20 water stations, which was incredibly helpful on such a hot day. And the post-race party was one of the best I’ve been to, especially for such a large race. There are no beer tickets- you just walk up to the table and take whatever you want. It made for a very fun cool down.

Have you ever run the Boilermaker? What is your favorite race distance? Are there any distances you’ve really struggled with?

About that Runner’s World (Oiselle) article…

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Oh my goodness.

Yesterday I read this article in Runner’s World (Oiselle Wants to Be a Different Kind of Apparel Brand) which led to then reading this very long thread of complaints on the site Get Off My Internets.

I’m all for venting your frustrations in an anonymous online forum if it makes you feel better. I’m embarrassed to admit that I used to spend way too much time reading threads on the Letsrun messageboards. The problem is, there are a lot of things written on these boards that are entertaining, but many of them are false.

For example, every year since the freaking beginning of the internet, Letsrun puts out an April Fools page. One of the stories was this gem, about Leo Manzano turning down a deal with Oiselle for a sponsorship with Hanes. Someone on the GOMI thread posted a link to this story and everyone thought it was real. Eventually someone with some sense alerted them that it was an April Fools joke.

Another criticism I read (and one that was frequently repeated) was that Oiselle clothes fall apart in the wash. I’ve never had something from any company fall apart in the wash. I’m not saying it can’t happen, but I’m also not dumb enough to believe something written anonymously on the internet. You wouldn’t believe the things my students used to “write” in their “papers” that were copied and pasted from something a random person wrote on Ask.com. Anyone can write anything on the internet. I’m doing it right now.

I’ve been on the team for three years. There have been a lot of changes in those three years. Some people have left and a lot more have been added to the team. And some of those people are probably annoying in their own unique way. Maybe I’m one of them. I post a lot of photos of my kid, I know this. At least I don’t post photos of my kid’s poop on Facebook. I don’t understand grown adults who are obsessed with Disney, but I’m sure they have their reasons. There are some people who are reeeally into taking selfies in their new outfits every day. Or close up photos of their GPS watches. Or photos of their watches while looking down at their legs and feet. I don’t think it’s fair to lump everyone on the team together and say we’re all the same. In fact, the point of the team is to bring people together- fast runners, slower runners, ultra runners and 800 meter runners. I like that part of the team.

Lastly, about the Flock memberships… unless you’ve ever been in the position of being an emerging elite athlete, you really don’t know what it’s like. It’s difficult to get a sponsorship unless you’re already an NCAA champion. I was in that position ten years ago and it was very stressful. I ended up on a great team with a great coach, and I had a lot of things taken care of for me (free shoes, uniform, coaching, travel, access to facilities, massage, sports medicine, etc) but I also had to balance that with working to pay rent. I wasn’t working full time, and couldn’t afford health insurance. Even if you are working full time and have health insurance, there are a lot of expenses that come with training and racing at a high level. It’s tough to stay with it year after year, and I’ve seen a lot of talented runners quit because they couldn’t make ends meet. That Flock membership money could help someone pay for their health insurance. Or it might help with travel to a big meet. I think it’s impressive that the first round of memberships sold out so fast, and I hope that money gives someone the push they need to stay with it for another year.

I could go on and on, but I won’t. I’ve had some of these thoughts on my mind today and felt compelled to share them. If you have any questions about the team or want to know more about the Flock memberships, I’ll be happy to answer.

All opinions are definitely my own.

A little (long) race coming up… and SportRx

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I don’t know what I was thinking when I signed up for the Boilermaker. First, it’s a 15K. Second, it’s in July. And third, it’s in Utica, NY.

I’ll tell you what part of the problem is… peer pressure. Also, it was one of those “the race is about to sell out” moments, which makes you feel like you have to have something you didn’t even care about a few seconds ago. I never took an economics course, but I think it’s one of those supply and demand deals.

I was standing outside of DSW (yes, DSW) typing furiously on my phone while contending with frantic texts from my sister. My husband was giving me one of those looks, like, what the hell are you doing? but also trying to pretend like he didn’t notice. Let’s just say he was thrilled to find that I had signed us both up for a 15k race in the middle of summer.

Sigh.

So, I’m running a 15k this weekend!!! I would love a PR, but I’m going with a more conservative race plan so we’ll just have to see how I’m feeling on race day.

sportrx

I have been testing a new pair of running sunglasses from SportRx for the past two months.

I have to say, I am a big fan. I’ve always preferred Oakleys for running, and in college I wore a lucky pair of purple Oakleys in my biggest races, until they were tragically stomped on at the track one day (RIP, purple Oakleys). Luckily, with help from Rob at SportRx, I was able to find a pair that suits me.

sportrx2

So, here’s the deal. I usually wear contacts, but my eyes get dry (especially in the summer) and sometimes I prefer glasses. Well, that doesn’t work for running, particularly in the bright summer sun (hello, July). Your regular eye doctor probably doesn’t have a huge selection of stylish, comfortable running shades. This is where SportRx steps in to take the guesswork out of finding prescription eyewear.

You can browse their website by sport, by brand, or by category (they have sunglasses, goggles, and regular glasses) to find the style you like best. They have a huge selection, with multiple frame colors and lense colors. The ones I am wearing are the Oakley Fives Squared in grey smoke with green polarized lenses.

This is not my best modeling moment, but we needed a close-up. I blame the photographer.

This is not my best modeling moment, but we needed a close-up. I blame the photographer.

How do you smize while wearing sunglasses? It’s impossible.

Disclaimer: SportRx gave me this product to review. Regardless, I only recommend products I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.

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