A friend at work was doing the No Boundaries program through Fleet Feet Nashville. For those of you who don't know, No Boundaries is a program that takes beginning runners and trains them to run their first 5k. It's an awesome program and I was very excited that she was going through it. After she ran her 5k she sent me a picture and she was wearing her program shirt that had the phrase "Running Changes Everything." on the front. The phrase said it all! I decided then to sign up for the next No Boundaries program in the fall just because I wanted that shirt! Silly? Maybe, but the phrase really said it all! And maybe it wasn't the entire reason. I liked the interval idea as well. This is how they take you from not running at all to running a 5k. You start 30 seconds at at time and gradually increase your running time and then decrease your walking time. At that time my only goal was to be a faster runner and I thought that if I could train my body to run faster in those smaller increments that as I increased my running time I would be doing it at a faster pace. That was true, but it wasn't the best way to do it and I'll get back to that in a bit.
So, the training started in September 2010. After paying the money and deciding to go, I did feel a little silly about it. After all, I'd been running for almost 2 years at that point. But, funny thing happened... the first night of training Matt (the coach) went over proper running form. I learned something! And, I felt that little bit of information was worth my $75 right there! The first couple of weeks of training were relatively easy for me, but as the run intervals grew longer and we increased the repittions, it did get harder. I listened to most of what Matt said except for the most important thing which was HR training. I don't think he specifically called it that then, (who knows because I wasn't listening to that part) but he was very clear that if you couldn't hold a conversation while running then you were running too fast. But my goal was to run fast and so I ignored that piece of valuable advice!
I'm going to try to make this long story short (who knew I was so long winded? I didn't until I started this blog!!!), and summarize my No Boundaries training. First and foremost, I met some great people there who I hope to be friends with a very long time. Second, I was running faster! While doing the training I finally ran my Middle Half, the race that started it all! I ran 3-1 intervals (run 3 minutes, walk 1 minute) for the entire thing, and I PR'd with a time of 2:36. I also ran the Ragnar Relay Tennessee. And, I was running faster. The Jingle Bell 5k finally came (this was the run we were training for) and I had my heart set on a sub-30 5k at that time. Matt was pacing us at a 30-minute 5k but he was running straight through and not doing intervals. I was fairly certain I couldn't do that so I stuck to the 3-1 intervals. It started out ok, but I was pretty wore out by mile 2 and just tried to stay as close to Matty B as I could, but I didn't make that 30-minutes. I did PR with a 31:26 though so that was the upside. I can't say that I enjoyed that run very much. I was proud of my time, but as I was running I wasn't enjoying the run, I saw none of the scenery around me, and I just wanted the run to be over with! Not much fun!
After No Boundaries, I continued running through the holidays and planned to start training in January for the Blue Ridge Half Marathon in April. I decided I was going to try to run with the East Nasty group on their Sunday morning marathon training runs. Oh, and I should also mention here that I had won a heart rate monitor from the Fitness Center at work. On the first run with East Nasty I was wearing my heart rate monitor. I had noticed that I was rarely "in the zone" when I was running. I thought I wasn't running hard enough and that my heart rate was too slow but after further examination I realized that pretty much from the beginning of my run on I was way over the top end of that zone! When I went to the first East Nasty training run in January I ran into coach extraordinaire, Matty B! I mentioned the problem with my heart rate monitor and he started explaining how important it is to train in your aerobic zone (Zone 3) and I finally understood what he was talking about during No Boundaries! So, after a nice discussion after training and a few emails later I was convinced to do heart rate training for three months. The first training run was such a disappointment. In order to stay in my zone I pretty much ran a 15-minute mile! This was considerably slower than what I'd been running and what I'd worked so hard to get my pace to be! I, of course, panicked thinking that I was training to be a slower runner and immediately went home and sent an email to Matt. And he responded letting me know that heart rate training was an ego buster, but gave me all of the reasons that I needed to do it. So, I decided to trust the plan and stick to running only in my aerobic zone no matter how slow the pace was. You have no idea how much discipline and patience this took! Here I should mention my good friend, Kay, who spent many hours running with me at my slow pace, and Rachel E. as well! As hard as it was on me, I know that it was harder on them and I really appreciate their patience while running with me! I never could have made it through 3 months of this without them!
I went through 3 months of running in my zone and towards the end my patience was running thin but I stuck to it for the most part. I had signed up to do the Mule Kick 5k and I think I was getting a little scared of what I might do in that race so the last couple of runs I did before it were just running and not paying attention to the zone. The Mule Kick day came around and I ran it with Kay and her husband Josh. Okay, well not with them because they were way ahead of me, but you know what I mean. The course was very hilly and thankfully I was prepared for that because I had run a few times in Columbia with Kay and she also included the route in one of our long runs so that I could see what it was. I didn't PR that run, but I did a very respectable run in just over 32 minutes. And the best part? I enjoyed the run! I wasn't dying like I was in the races I did before and I wasn't just wanting to get the run over. I had been successful! I was enjoying my runs again! (Also should note that Kay PR'd this very hilly course and got her first sub-30 5k!!!)
Okay, fast forward to the Blue Ridge Half Marathon that included a 3-mile trek up Mill Mountain and it rained buckets (finish time 2:41 and I ran in right behind the full marathon winner) and then the Country Music Half Marathon two weeks later that I PR'd with a 2:29:51!!! I loved the Country Music Half and it was such an awesome experience. I almost didn't sign up for this race because last year's, my very first half, was such a major disaster! But I'm really glad I did. What did I notice? That after 3 months of heart rate training, I actually enjoyed the run! It was just one of those perfect running days! At least the first 6-8 miles of it was! Miles 8-10 were okay, Miles 11-13 were hell! But, I did make my goal and I actually enjoyed running it and felt pretty darn good after!
After the Country Music Half two of my friends (Rachel E and Rachel K) had a discussion on FB about Smartcoach. This is a training tool on http://www.runnersworld.com/. I had never heard of it so I checked it out. The tool allows you to put in a recent race time, put in your next race date, how hard you want to train and approximate number of miles per week and it spits out a customized training plan. I put in my Country Music half time and planned to run the Doughboy Challenge 5k in Murfreesboro on June 11. The training was relatively simple in miles, the longest run being 7 miles. I was glad to keep that distance in since I was planning on doing the Moon Pie 10-miler on the 18th. The easy and long runs it told me to run at 12:42 min/mile and it gave me speedwork. I was nervous about the speedwork but I loved every minute of it. I really felt I was pushing myself, and based on my conversations with Matty B I knew that doing speedwork once a week was good because I was still running the easy/long runs at a slower pace allowing me to stay in my aerobic zone. The other great thing about smartcoach is that it gives you your projected finish time for the race you are training for. The projected finish time for my Doughboy Challenge was 31:25. Not exactly the sub-30 I was looking for but a new PR if I was able to pull it off.
I followed the training to a T (well, I did typically do my easy/long runs at a faster pace) and while I didn't expect a sub-30 5k, I did feel that I'd be able to beat the 31:25. Monte, my neighbor, was going to run the Doughboy with me. He was very nice and picked up my race packet the night before. I think General Mills did a fantastic job with the packets and we even received a technical shirt which is very unusual for a 5k.
The morning of the race I met Monte over there. It had been very hot, but I think it felt pretty good at race time. The race started at the square in Murfreesboro and was a nice loop with the exception of an out and back through Oakland Mansion. I was nervous as always before a race, and waivering on the commitment to my goal. Was I really in the mood to run a 10-minute mile and could I? Maybe, I guess I'll just do whatever... yadda yadda yadda! It never fells! But, the gun went off and I was feeling pretty good so I went for it! I try very hard not to pay too much attention to the Garmin but I was looking at it often during this race. My conversation with Rachel E. had determined that to run a sub-30 5k you had to maintain a pace of 9:38 minute/mile. That seemed far out of reach, however, during that first mile I seemed to be seeing 9:30ish whenever I glanced down! And, yep, I was feeling pretty good at that pace! My breathing was good; my legs felt good; and I was able to enjoy the scenery around me! Even if I couldn't maintain that pace for the entire 3.1 miles, I felt like a winner right there! There were a few times I looked down and I was going too slow but I kept willing myself to go faster. I had to keep telling myself it's only 3 miles, it will be over in 15, 10, 5 minutes, etc. I think hearing my friends Jill and Rachel E. say that in a few of their dailymile posts and race recaps that I was able to push through. Anyhow, long story short, I ran across that finish line and my Garmin said 29:53! I guess I had started the watch early or stopped it late because my official time was 29:49! I had finally done it! I had finally gotten that sub-30 5k I had been striving for 2 years to reach! And, I was 5th in my age group to boot! It was quite the successful day!
Post Dough-boy with my medal! Nope! I didn't do anything special to get a medal!
That's right people, General Mills gave us all one!
Pretty cool for a 5k!