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Fartlek Friday

How do you fartlek?! Fartlek is a Swedish word for “speed play” and blends together your typical training with quick burst of intervals. I’ve found it to be a great help in improving my endurance and increasing my speed. A fartlek session is completely variable and dependent on how you feel during the workout. It varies from typical sprints workout since you continue to jog/run after the sprint interval.

I first learned about fartleks while I was playing ultimate frisbee  in college. We weren’t just a casual group, but a competitive team. This means we had a track workout each week on top of our practice three times a week. Our fartleks were timed on the track – 45 seconds jog, 30 seconds run, 15 seconds sprint. Back then I was miserably out of shape and could only manage a very slow jog/walk before my run and sprint. I’m proud to say that I’ve come far since those days!

Using timed intervals is one great way to fartlek, but not the only option. These days I go to the track and use distance to indicate when I should change my pace. The first 200 meters I continue my typical pace, then for 125 meters I pick it up to a quicker run, with the final 75 meters at a full sprint. I’m really enjoying this method because I don’t need any external device to monitor my laps. It also regulates my intervals, which I greatly appreciate, and keeps me honest with  how many I complete each workout.

But some days that isn’t possible. For instance today, as I neared the track, I realized that there was a track meet going on. I was disappointed and realized that I would have to find another method for my fartleks. So I decided to make it up as I went along. While on my route I picked out a pole on the side of the street and decided to sprint from the first pole to another a few behind it.  It wasn’t possible to measure out the perfect distance, but that wasn’t the reason for my workout. After the quick interval I slowed to a jog, catching my breath until I could speed up again. I continued this method of selecting a starting point (usually a pole or tree) then pushing it until one further ahead. Not my favorite method, but I know it was still beneficial.

When it comes to fartleks (or any speed work) It is always a good idea to warm up for 10 minutes and cool down for another 10 afterward. If you go too quickly out of the gate you’re more likely to get injured, and no one wants that! Want other ways to get intervals into your workout? This post explains some other great Fartlek methods.

Do you incorporate intervals into your weekly runs?

Big Sur Marathon Recap

I’m not completely sure how I got it in my mind that I wanted to run Big Sur, but October of last year I took the plunge and signed up.  According to the amazing Bart Yasso, this is one of the most beautiful marathons in the world so how could I miss out on that?  It didn’t really hit me until January that I should probably pick up my training again so I could run another marathon.

Unfortunately, due to my ridiculous schedule, I wasn’t able to train perfectly.  Classes were hectic and I didn’t get in all of my runs.  Fast forward to last week and I finally sorted out my schedule for the race (nothing like saving things to the last minute…).  No, I wasn’t trained properly, but I knew that I could finish within the six hour time limit.  As Saturday morning approached, I gathered a large pile of running accessories and began to pack.

While there was a slight snafu as to where I would be staying Saturday morning, I was able to find room and board to guarantee I wouldn’t have to crash on the floor of someone’s hotel room.  (Thank goodness.)  So I traveled down to Monterey for the expo where I thoroughly enjoyed Bart’s seminar (we’re besties now) and started to get properly nervous.  Somehow it didn’t occur to me that I had to wake up at ungodly early to get down to the start line, something to take note of before race day.

After a fantastic dinner with some great runners, Layla and I returned to our quaint hotel room and proceeded to get ready for bed.  I attempted to fall asleep at 9pm, but that just wasn’t going to happen.  Eventually I fell asleep and just as quickly got back up at 2:30am to prepare.  An hour long bus ride later, Karin, Layla, and I found ourselves hanging out in a ridiculous crowd of people at the start line.  And it was still way too early to be awake.  Check out one of the awesome port-a-potty signs.

It wasn’t until I crossed the start line that I realized what I was about to do.  Alright, maybe that is a lie, it probably wasn’t until mile five or so that I fully understood what I had gotten myself into.  The first few miles were great, my legs were feeling wonderful and I felt on top of the world.  That is until we reached mile six and the wind began.  It was truly a wind tunnel between miles six and nine.  Then at mile ten we started another windy two mile ascent to Hurricane Point.

I think it was at this point that I started to slow down (for the first time at least).  The wind really attacked me and I couldn’t keep up the pace.  But I was enjoying myself.  I found some individuals on my path and used them as pace rabbits.  What I love about runners is how nice (most) are.  I began running beside two gentleman who were using the Galloway method and we discussed our marathon aspirations.  They were great to pace me for a bit, but then I left them on a downhill and never saw them again.

Most of the last ten miles was a blur, I was just enjoying the scenery and talking to random strangers.  The one that intrigued me the most was a gentleman following a 30 seconds running, 30 seconds walking Galloway strategy.  Somehow he was beating me and I couldn’t comprehend it.  This really made me reconsider my running technique, perhaps I’ll try walk/run while training for San Francisco in July.

And then there it was, the finish line!  As I approached the line I decided it was in my best interest to start sprinting, this didn’t lend itself well for finish line photos, but I did pass a few individuals in my final kick.

In retrospect I would do many things different with my training.  I know that I can run a marathon faster than I have these past three times, so I need to rework my strategy.  My goal for May is to focus on speed work.  I’m going back to the track and doing HIIT workouts at least two to three times a week.  I’m hoping to PR at San Francisco in July and potentially do even better in Philadelphia in November.

Sorry about my hiatus from the blogosphere, I’ve missed you all very much.  Now tell me, how is your running going?

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Speed it up

As many of you have probably figured out, I haven’t had the chance to run much these past few months. But I’m proud to say that my running has been steadily getting faster! I’m not sure how that happened, but I’ll take it! Secretly I’m blaming it on the fact that I’ve been spending time with a runner who has a pace of 6 minutes per mile or faster. Osmosis, it works.

At the start of my run on Tuesday I noticed that my pace was faster than normal, so I tried to slow down to guarantee I’d make it through without trouble. Of course telling myself to slow down never works, but I did maintain the pace for the entire time. Then today’s short run managed to be more than 40 seconds faster per mile than my typical pace. Or what I used to consider my “typical” pace. I’m hoping this sticks and I can improve my marathon time for Big Sur (less than two months away, eep!).

I should note that for the past two weeks I’ve incorporated stadiums into my workout. Running the mile to the track, going up and down the stairs, then running back to my apartment. It isn’t much, but I know I need to prepare my legs for some inclines. Next I need to incorporate speed training back into my plan. Yeah, that will happen eventually. (Baby steps)

How has your pace changed over the course of your running career? Does anyone have suggestions on what other workouts will help increase speed?

In other news, Meatless March is going well! I haven’t craved meat anytime in the past week. There have been moments when I nearly forgot that I was avoiding meat, but quickly corrected myself. And since my trip to Chile is on the rocks (probably not happening), I won’t have any issues completing the entire month. Who knows, perhaps this will slowly grow into a lifestyle change…

Getting to know my treadmill

Last week I divulged one of my biggest secrets, I haven’t been keeping up with my training. It was tough for me to admit, but as many people reminded me, I was taking the first step to recovery. (Yes, I sound like an alcoholic…)

Since I’ve been so opposed to running outside due to the weather and terrain, I needed to make a change. So I’m trying, trying my darndest to befriend my treadmill. Last week I ran my treadmill distance record, 6 miles on the darned machine. I didn’t know that I had it in me, but I’m glad that I managed to push through the boredom.

What have I done to keep myself semi-entertained? Anything and everything possible. I had to use a cooking pot as a laptop stand so I could watch a movie on Netflix. I changed up my incline every quarter of a mile to simulate a change in terrain. I adjusted the speed so I had to change my exertion. And I made sure to have the most obnoxious booty-rocking pop music on my iPod.

I’m still having difficulty finding the motivation to get on the hamster wheel, but I know I need to do it. I need to throw aside my aversion and use the darn thing for its intended purpose. And I plan to. (Until I am in a more agreeable climate, 5 days!)

Do you run on the treadmill? How do you keep yourself entertained? (Seriously, I can use all the advice I can get!)

And it is time to announce the winner of the Coolmax sock winner… Congratulations Stina! If you could please contact me with your contact information and shoe size, I’ll make sure to get your goodies on their way.

Hope everyone is having a wonderful Labor Day. Remember to wear sunscreen so you don’t end up a lobster like me!

Thankful Thursday

Now that it is practically the end of the week (only 13 more work hours!), I’m getting excited for vacation and spending time with the people I care about. In honor of Thankful Thursday, here is a variety of things I’m grateful for this week.

Yesterday we ran a ladder at speed training. We’ve done ladders before, but not like this. The sprints were: 200m, 400m, 600m, 800m, 600m, 400m, 200m. Did I mention I’ve never run a 600m or 800m sprint? I was terrified, but I did it. Dear goodness I’m thankful for my legs and lungs for not failing on me. Hopefully these longer sprints will help me continue to improve on my mile time and overall pace.

Today my best friend Lisa will be in town with her boyfriend Guy. I haven’t seen these two since last September! They are on their cross country journey from San Francisco back to Philadelphia and I’m the last stop. We won’t have much time together tonight, but I’m sure I’ll see them when I’m back home.

Which leads me to the most exciting news, I get all of next week off (and paid). I fly out tomorrow afternoon and arrive in Philadelphia at the same time as our friends from New Orleans. Sadly there are no drive-thru margaritas to enjoy, but I’m sure we’ll find something delicious. My entire family will be coming in to celebrate the fourth of July, which means a lot of eating, drinking, and general chaos. I plan to spend the next week out by our pool (becoming less pale), playing with the new pup, and potentially running with my father.

Mardi, the cutest and newest member of our clan. I'm hoping to take him for his first run ever this week.

What are you thankful for this week? How will you be enjoying your long weekend?