Monthly NJ running round up – March 2015

With the snow clearing up (hopefully for the last time this year), racing season begins, more runners can be seen out in the streets, and we are spoilt for choice for races every weekend.

This month the USATF Team Championship kicked off with the Miles for Music 20k – Madeline Bost’s Running Column gives a great summary of the race.

Don’t forget though that the championship isn’t the only appeal of this race, it also successfully raises money for school music programs, and promotes the sport to children and parents by including 5k and 1 mile options.

April is a very busy month for races, with spring marathon season getting underway and several half marathon options being available, and most other race distances being available.

The next USATF Championship race is the Clinton Country Run 15k – a picturesque course with rolling hills – last year this was a Masters Championship but this year is extended to All Divisions.

Progress?

As with every year since I started running, I have goals for this year. My first goal is to simply increase my weekly mileage on a consistent basis – that is already proving tough, but becoming a running coach has definitely helped focus my mind on what I need to do and for the first time I am setting myself a weekly schedule (my old approach of getting out when I felt like it, and when I could, far too frequently left me short of the miles I should have been doing). Having a plan makes me accountable, although only to myself so it isn’t perfect. I can definitely see why people would hire a coach.

This plan is all quite recent and this year has thrown some obstacles in my way (including the weather) so I wasn’t expecting to see any improvements (in fact if I compare to last year, my February mileage was down on last year, which I thought was pretty low anyway – however, March is definitely up). I have also been focused on runs at a conversational pace, or sometimes up to tempo, so, when I was at the start line of Miles for Music on Sunday I had no real expectations.

Of course, I didn’t stick with my race plan (start off slow and pick it up if I could) and I knew I was going too fast, but still couldn’t bring myself to dial in the pace. It really didn’t help that there was a huge head wind (although admittedly a back wind too obviously) and it was cold. I did start to slow and my legs felt weak after about 9 miles. As I progressed to about 11 miles my form was poor – I no longer had the strength in my legs and my feet were hitting the ground with a mid-foot strike rather than my usual forefoot strike. I focused on trying to regain my form and a friend who was watching the race told me afterwards that my stride was clearly shorter in the final stages, and I could feel the calf muscles starting to cramp. This year I feel I should have been more prepared for the distance, so I am guessing that the speed is what made the difference to how my body responded.

Must have been early in the race - thanks Elaine for the great photos

Must have been early in the race – thanks Elaine for the great photos

Looking focused - thanks Elaine for the great photo

Looking focused and confident – thanks Elaine for the great photo

While I am definitely hoping to be faster later in the year, this race was a promising start (despite the demoralizing fact that I was only 16th in my age group!) – this has been my first race of the year every year since I joined RVRR and this was my fastest time – almost a minute faster than last year.

After the 20k, there is also a 5k and a 1 mile event. My 7 year old daughter wanted to do the 5k, so I joined her for that – glad that it was slow because my legs couldn’t take much more. Having said that she did a great job coming in with a clock time of 38:12.

Full results for the races can be found by clicking here.

I’m a running coach!

After talking about it for well over a year, I finally managed to get on an RRCA Coaching course that took place in January. It was a fun and fairly intensive weekend which really revitalized my enthusiasm for my own running as well as wanting to help others either get started or improve their running.

Part of my reasoning for doing this was just to inform my own running – after 5 years I’m looking for more ways to improve and make sure I can keep running healthily, but I also love the idea of helping others enjoy running.

The certification requires you pass the exam with 85 correct answers out of 100, and I somehow managed to get 97 correct on an exam where I felt I could easily have got more wrong (but now I really want to know which 3 I did get wrong). You are also required to get first aid and CPR certified.

About a year and a half ago, I started looking at the USATF coaching options, and there is an initial online “fundamentals” course which I completed, but didn’t take it further. Part of this was because RRCA courses are hard to come by – I had also considered the USATF course but decided I would prefer the RRCA course because it focuses solely on running whereas the USATF Level 1 covers track and field (although I am considering doing that too now).

I think I had a desire to keep busy following the events of February because I set to work forming my own company and setting up a website and now I am owner of Running It Softly LLC.

I still didn’t know exactly what I was going to do, but made a quick decision to set up a (cheap) 8 week group training program leading up to the Highland Park 5k (of which I happen to be a race director). I put the word out on Facebook and within a few days I had 10 athletes ready to go. The first session was on Saturday and to say I’m enjoying it so far would be an understatement.

I’m already looking around for other local races to try to build similar groups for, and I’m really interested in doing a kids series of fun sessions so I’m looking into what I might need to do for that.

Now I just have to work out a way to transform this into a long term plan that could maybe see me making it more than just a part time thing for fun. I may also combine it with a more general personal trainer qualification…

USATF Team Championship starting soon – Miles for Music

I didn’t post an NJ running update for February – snow and ice may have limited activity, although some races managed to take place. Now the thaw is on, and the USATF Team Championship is about to get going.

The first race once again is the Miles for Music 20k in just under 2 weeks (there are also 5k, and 1 mile charity walk/run options but those are not championship events).

If you have found it difficult to get the miles in, there’s good news because the next championship race is 5 weeks later on 4/25 at the Clinton Township Country Run 15k.

A full list of team championship races can be found on the USATF site by clicking here.