Tuesday, May 20, 2014

AMR Strava Prove it Challenge

I'm finally getting around to posting about this challenge.  Dimity and Sarah over at Another Mother Runner introduced this challenge way back in January.  The challenge offered a 17 week training plan for either a 10K or Half Marathon distance.  Training started January 13, and was to conclude Mother's Day, May 11. The "Prove it" part meant that you would accept the challenge to "prove" something to yourself. Maybe it was to run the distance the first time, run it faster than ever before, or maybe even just to commit to getting the miles in no matter how life got in the way.
  I accepted the challenge, and chose the Half Marathon distance. I have run at least a dozen half marathons over the last 8 years, so this seemed like an appropriate choice for me.  What appealed to me about this challenge was that there was going to be a virtual community of support at Strava.  In case you have never heard of Strava, it is a  free mobile app and website that allows you to track your runs ( or bike routes, if you are a cyclist).  You can follow other users, and they can follow you, with the option of giving and receiving "kudos" and comments.  There are also discussion boards within challenges to share comments and questions.  I had never tried Strava before, and at first it seemed like just another thing to add to my social media "time suck".  Once I got started with the challenge, however, I found it to be quite enjoyable.  I liked seeing what other people were doing for their workouts, and I must admit, those "kudos" and  kind comments boosted my ego a bit.  Not only did I have this group of "mother runners" on Strava, but I soon found Strava teams to join with Oiselle and Nuun.  How fun!
  I tried the mobile app on my iphone, but I found that using my Garmin Forerunner 10 watch and uploading the run from that device to Strava was easier for me.  The mobile app was good for checking others' runs during the day, and receiving push notifications when I others had given me kudos and comments.  I am going to continue to use Strava. It is a great way to track my runs, set goals, join challenges and feel like part of this running community. 
  Another aspect of the challenge that enjoyed were the weekly emails with the training plan, and training tips.  The plans were designed by Christine Hinton and I found them to be comprehensive and challenging for me.  They included easy, tempo, interval, hill and long runs. I looked forward to receiving the email on Sundays for the following week, although I had printed out the plan at the beginning of the challenge.  During the month of April, we moved into a new home, and somehow those papers got lost in the shuffle! Knowing that I could just check my email was helpful.  What also was provided in the plan was two 20 min strength training workouts.  The recommendation was to do these workouts twice a week.  I have to admit, I was sporadic at best with getting these in.  Even getting a good stretch or foam roll during the last 2 months has been difficult, giving the stress of moving.  That is probably why I am still having issues with my piriformis syndrome. 
  There were also monthly Webinair hangouts, with different experts answering questions, including Sage Rountree and Greg McMillan.  And to top it all off, there was swag: a "Prove it" t-shirt, a medal, Nuun tablets, Hyland's Calm Forte tablets and Roctane gels!
  Now, as far as me "proving it", I have struggled with this since I completed the challenge on May 9.  I chose to race "virtually", rather than joining an organized race on Mother's Day.  There were no logistically easy races for me around here on that day, and I decided that I would rather relax at home on Mother's Day rather than race.  I decided to "race" on Friday, May 9 after I dropped my daughter off at preschool. No fanfare, no on course support, no cheering fans. This was fine with me.
  If I were to choose a word to describe my training for this challenge, I would have to choose lackluster.  Very few shining moments, mostly "blah" workouts. After struggling with piriformis syndrome in the fall, only coming back to running in early January after Physical therapy treatments and rest, I was ready to take this challenge. 
  But, for good or for bad, I had also registered for two half marathon races, which were to take place in February and March. February was the Love Rox 1/2 Marathon in Richmond, VA with my best friend, Michele. I went into it without expectations, only hoping to finish the distance. I was able to run that race in 2:10 and it was a hilly course.  I was happy with the result, just coming back from injury and it ended up being a great weekend.  The next race was the Shamrock 1/2 Marathon in Virginia Beach, which was also a fantastic Oiselle Team meetup. I had some solid training effort going into this race, and it showed. I was able to run 1:58, which I was very happy about.  I felt like I was finally getting back in shape, and running this Half Marathon Challenge could possible bring me to a PR. 
  I don't want to dwell on excuses, or come up with reasons why I wasn't able to run faster on May 9. But I have to say that April was an extremely busy and stressful month for our family.  We closed on a new house on April 7, and moved for a whole week from the 15th to the 25th.  Most of the move was done by myself and my husband with some assistance from friends.  I also had to go back to the old house to clean, which was exhausting.  On top of this, my son was performing in a ballet with CPYB in Harrisburg. Not only was I driving him back and forth to rehearsals and performances, I had committed to volunteering with back stage costume changes.  Oh yeah, and I haven't mentioned that I started leading a new running group on Saturdays for my local gym and studying for my Group Fitness certification.  To think that I would be able to run a PR was unrealistic at best.  I really should have sat down to think about my goals, and set some realistic goals.
  The day of my virtual race, I set out with the thought that I would just run by effort, not worry about the time. I covered my Garmin watch with a piece of tape over the time. I could still see the distance, so I would know when to stop. I didn't want to be focused on pace, just effort.  I ran through my normal running routes, which tend to be pretty hilly.  The weather was warm and humid, so that may have affected my pace as well. The run was tough. I actually had a really difficult time just convincing myself to finish in the last 2 miles. It did not feel good. It was upsetting.  But I did finish. In 2:08. Disappointing for sure.
  What did I "prove"?   That is such a tough question to answer. I feel like I really haven't proved it yet.  I still think I have better times in me. I would love to get faster than 1:50 in the half marathon. My fastest time is 1:53, which I ran in early 2012.  Is it possible? Maybe. Do I need to really dedicate myself to training? Yes. 
 Which brings me to the next AMR Challenge: 13.Fun.  Starting in July, I will join this challenge, with my focus on a PR on October 19. 
 What will bring me there? First, I need to get my body strong, and injury free in the next 2 months.  I am going to work on my core, with special attention to my hips and glutes.  I am going to go into this challenge much stronger and smarter.  Strength training will be non-negotiable. I will finally Prove It in October.  Who's with me?