Tuesday, April 22, 2014

This.

I was lucky enough to steal a few minutes between meetings yesterday to catch the final two miles of the Boston Marathon and to my surprise, this guy was leading. I was fortunate enough to meet him a few years ago at the Houston elite athlete meeting and was impressed with his low key demeanor and the time he gave to all kinds of runners. After last year's tragedy, it's nice to see the 'good guy' win. I will run this race. But for now, I'll leave y'all with this pic snagged from social media as I have no other words right now:
The pure joy of achievement. The pure joy of sport. 


Monday, April 7, 2014

Muddy Trails 5k: A Race Report That is Really About Goals

So I did this small 5k yesterday. My first 5k in about a year's time, actually. I'll begin this post with a very brief race report, simply because it was just a community 5k (with a total party atmosphere) where I ran an 'okay' time of 20:50 on trails that were about 80% sand, placed 3rd OA Female behind two HS runners coming off track season and won my AG. Luckily I had committed to jumping into the hurt box head first and not fearing the heavy intense burning sensation that a quality effort brings. This was useful because through all the twists and loose sandy spots, I could have easily gotten discouraged as my output didn't seem to match the performance. But I didn't, and I gritted my teeth, focused on getting a good foot strike going on the asphalt home stretch and let it burn.

The first mile I think I hit in 6:15, which may have been a little fast for the trails, but appropriate for the road. I also only wore my Timex and barely looked at it and this was a good decision. The race was well-marked and organized and more competitive in both divisions than in the past. I closed hard after adjusting my goals due to the energy drain of the sand and finished sub 21 instead of sub 20. After being more gassed than I've been in a long time, I quickly recovered and was able to run a nice 30:00ish cooldown after and my legs didn't feel too bad. I guess my inner Honey Badger decided to start resurfacing out there yesterday. So what if I really exerted myself out there, I can handle it! After getting my wind and wits back, I decided I wanted more. Let's discuss.

I'll take a step back to where I arrived as I processed some bigger insights from a small race. After winning in College Station but not feeling very mentally tough, I set a process goal to not give in, or at least bash myself for being uncomfortable. I was not going to be afraid to hurt, to feel my lungs wheezing while I refuse to let up. I know I beat his horse to death especially on the blog but I have had these internalized doubts that I am now 'fragile' and that I shouldn't expect as much from myself performance-wise. I have been doing some training lately where I simply push for an interval, say an 800 or 400 at fast/sustainable pace, jog a short recovery, and hammer again. No judgement and outside stimuli such as a GPS watch, just me working on my nerve and grit. I feel like I'm slowly getting that 'toughness' I prided myself in years ago-how I earned the "honey badger" title from my running friends. Honey badgers don't fear handling hard efforts!

This time around, I knew I would face discomfort and had decided to break the race down mentally as much as possible and run simply by focusing on line of sight. My execution was good, the terrain not so much-only so much I could do with running across a sandbox!  I left the race feeling happy with how I mentally stayed in it, how my body held up, but with an odd sense of uneasiness about what to do next.

So here's where I'm at today: The Chevron Houston Marathon in January I hope to use as a conduit to a BQ. There are a couple ways to enter the race-running a qualifying 10k, 13.1 or 26.2 time for early registration, running as an elite, veteran, or other special case, or entering the lottery system-which is kind of a risk. I had originally planned on running a qualifying 10k within the next few weeks. The CHM committee only asks for a 51:00. I wanted to go out and qualify by running a solid 10k. Yesterday I weighed the options; while I could very easily run a 51:00 and likely with a lot to spare, I realized that just running races to prove to myself that I can still run is getting old. I need more focus and structure to what I'm doing. I guess in full honesty, I am tired of feeling 'soft' and want to get more out of myself. I've basically been afraid to set hard goals because of being burned in the past. Injury history be damned-I tell my athletes to have specific goals wrapped in higher (but realistic) expectations all the time. I suppose it couldn't hurt if I do the same.

 For this race season, I have decided to nix the 10k qualifier and focus on something more specific and geared towards fully restoring my competence on the run. I drove away from Rob Fleming Park with a chimp on my back metaphorically pulling on my ears and poking my eyes and the only way to get rid of it is to work on lowering the 5k time. To many, this doesn't look like the process they'd take, but for a goal to be really motivating (vs. just clearing a soft qualifying time that is less gratifying) it has to have certain ingredients.

Yesterday, holes in my goal-setting processes were exposed and knowing myself, I need to correct this in order to get that sense of mastery back. For me to feel most effective and successful, I need something specific and relatively immediate to work towards. I have to accept what  I've got here and now and go with it-ego and past performances aside.

Here's the really geeky part: I'm working my goals based on theory. I teach this stuff daily to my private athletes and students, why not apply it to get what I want? Lowering the 5k time comes from Harter's Competence Motivation Theory (1978, 1981)-in layman's terms, an athlete gains a sense of competence in what they do by a series of 'mastery' experiences where they are set up to be and feel successful. Therefore opening the door for more progress.

One of the bigger names in the international scene of Sport Psychology, Dr. Martin Hagger, takes the concept of S.M.A.R.T. goal-setting to a different level. In a TED talk he introduces the S.M.A.R.T.E.R. acronym (perhaps a bit campy, but a good mental device nonetheless). I put my own spin on this for myself and my athletes in setting goals that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-Focused, ENGAGING, and REWARDING. Notice the last two. SIDE NOTE: watch the TED talk linked to Haggers name, it's quite informative on how top athletes think.

While a BQ is obviously a specific goal, it is fairly lengthy in time scope and more races where I am set up to feel successful vs. just hitting a certain time is needed. With my performance yesterday (and don't get me wrong, it was a solid time), it was running a sub 20 5k again, nothing fancy, that I really found this engaging, and definitely attainable as I re-learned how to push myself recently. I even have one scheduled on 5/10 so I can focus on running the 200s and 400s needed to do so.

 Why do this? Simply to increase confidence, and to reap the benefits of connecting with short-term goals. From there, I will evaluate others and make necessary adjustments. As you will see below, I have another STG set up for running my first 15k in June.

 To put it all in perspective, I got a little geeky creative yesterday and drew up a "road map" of some possible processes and directions for my ultimate goal. I have this posted up in my bedroom to keep me focused, and also give me permission to challenge myself again vs. feeling kind of lost in the space in between now and January. For each race, I have written 'why do it' to further establish a sense of purpose for each event, even if enjoyment or trying something new is the reason.  There are also no connecting lines on this lovely piece of legal pad chicken scratch for a reason to allow for flexibility.

Try this at home. Or dont! 

So there you have it. Yes, I ran a race, but more importantly, it helped me really define how to get from now to Boston. I know there will be obstacles to overcome, but here we go..time to go to the next level!

Stay the course.








Sunday, March 30, 2014

Short Course Trail Racing Tips Plus a Race Entry Giveaway

It's race week for me again!

Saturday is the Muddy Trails Bash in The Woodlands, a popular trail 5k/10k through a community greenbelt/trail system held in the afternoon. I'm excited for the challenge of running hard on dirt through the twists and turns of Rob Fleming Park and my legs and lungs burn a little already just thinking of it! I also don't know what to expect weather-wise as the race starts at 4 PM; can't control any of that but I can get ready for running uptempo on a surface that is far from technical, but still demands a little control to run it efficiently.

This season I am mixing up road and off-road events both for injury prevention but also for a fun challenge. Like I've mentioned before, 2014 is really all about maximum enjoyment and giving it my current best-whatever that happens to look like.

A fast 5k is challenging enough on pavement, and putting tree roots and turns in there you have to manage your pace and effort accordingly. As I plan ahead for how I should best approach the race (FYI, I have not done a 5k in almost a year!!) I thought I'd throw in some of my best tips for those taking on trail races. Since I haven't done an ultra at this time, I will stick to the shorter stuff that I know.


  • First and foremost-do some off road work before attempting something with 'obstacles' (or just simple terrain changes). If nothing else, it's nice to have a familiar feeling while you race. 
  • Get used to running more by feel than pace. Especially for races where there are numerous hills, turns, and my "favorite"-tree roots. If you try to maintain a goal pace-you may end up frustrated and disappointed. Go with what the course gives you: accelerate in open spaces or straightaways, adjust and manage effort and energy for the landscape. I tend to go for effort and placing vs. running a PR... That would be really hard.
  • Just like in cross-country running or cycling-pick a 'line' in front of you and let it guide you through the course. I like to have my eyes slightly down, to where I can see in front of me but am constantly scanning the ground. 
  • Keep your stride underneath you. It's so much easier to adjust to the surface if you're in control of where your legs are going. 
  • A little core strength (or even better a LOT) goes a long way and saves energy. There is considerable lateral movement whether you are dodging trees or trying to pass others. Working on lateral strength stabilizes your movement considerably. 
  • Shoes. Choose wisely. If the trail is more dirt and dips with minimal rocks and climbing, a racing flat for efficient runners may suffice. I think I am going to go with my Saucony Virratas this weekend because they are light, responsive, and seem to grip the ground well on light trails. Bottom line-wear a familiar pair that you don't mind getting a little scuffed or muddy-or both. 
  • Lastly, enjoy running in one of it's purest forms. Get lost out there (ok not really!) and take in a more natural setting. Trail running is challenging but can be one of the funnest race formats around. 
There you have it. More pseudo-wisdom from Adrienne! Now about that giveaway....

Ok, in full disclosure this is a type of event I have NO experience with, but I know people who have done Spartan Races in the past and have really dug them. So when the Spartan crew reached out to me the other day with a FREE ENTRY to give away to one of their events, I was happy to pass it along.

Here's the deal: I'm holding an "epic race experience" contest over the next two weeks and will announce the winner on Sunday, 4/13. All you have to do is post a comment providing a tale of your craziest race experience to date. It does not have to be a trail or obstacle event, just something entertaining or unexpected. Be creative, but honest! Our judges will decide which story is worthy of the prize (ok, yours truly, but I'm trained in psychology and can spot a lie a mile away... ;)). 

For more info on the Reebok Spartan Race Series, it's various locations and distances, check out this link

Go big or go home in Spring 2014! 

Stay the course.