Sunday, September 8, 2013

Picnic at Mount Pollux and Thoughts on Half Marathon Training

This evening, Seth and I had our long-awaited picnic at Mount Pollux, a conservation area in Amherst.

You can access Mount Pollux from South East Street (if you head south past the South Amherst Commons.) There is a small parking area from which we were able to walk up a short path to where we decided to picnic.

The weather was perfect, sunny and in the mid-sixties. The air was slightly crisp -- it's getting to be fall time. In fact, this is my last weekend before my evening and weekend hours start at work. The picnic was a great way to celebrate.

We were able to situate ourselves in the shade of a big tree and took out our picnic items, purchased at Whole Foods with wine from Hardwick Winery, which we picked up on our adventure last weekend.

Seth picked out rosemary crackers and goat cheese. I got some wine biscuits, brie, and a cheddar with caramelized onion. We also got some Genoa salami and a cranberry pomegranate pepper jelly. We spontaneously added two beef sticks to our order at checkout.

We shared all the items and enjoyed sipping on our Yankee Girl blush wine with the cheese, crackers, and meats. (The rosemary cracker with cheddar and pepper jelly was my favorite combo.) We also enjoyed the beautiful views. I definitely want to come back up here when the fall foliage is at its height.

As a bonus, Seth wore his UMass hoodie, which he wore on one of our first dates in college almost eight years ago. Memories!

This was a great way to "end the summer." I know there are formally a couple more weeks left, but now that my evening hours are starting, it feels like summer is pretty much over. 

Our picnic was also a really nice way to end a very relaxing weekend. Other than our picnic we spent the entire weekend at home, which was great. This allowed me time for my last big run before my half marathon on Saturday. 

I did ten miles this Saturday and felt great. For my last half marathon in fall 2012, I did 4:1 run/walk intervals. However, this time I've been running straight through! This is a big deal for me. I am only stopping to walk to take some quick sips of water or eat a gel. (I find it hard to eat and run.) I've been making myself start out slow and keep to 11:00 miles, which is around 75 seconds slower than my 5K pace. (I can finish a 5K in 29 minutes, change and a 10K in 59 minutes, change.)

I'm feeling really good about this strategy. My ten mile run this weekend felt amazing. I think one of the reasons I've been having success running straight through, when I couldn't last year, has to do with a few things in addition to careful pacing. 

1. When I go out to run ten miles I don't think in my mind, "Oh, wow. I have to run ten miles," like I used to. I break out the distance in my mind. I stay mentally in the mile that I am in. This sounds simple, but it's really very hard. 

Running is so much more mental than any other physical activity I have ever done. It's relentless. The best runs are better than any other fitness I have every done. The worst runs are the wost thing ever. Running has such extremes, and it's easy to go from one to another. 

The mental piece and staying mentally motivated and engaged is a huge piece. I've been doing a lot of practice to this end for this half marathon, and I think it's paying off. I am enjoying my runs more and feeling more successful. I might not be that much faster, but I don't care. I am having a blast on most of my runs. Way more than I used to. 

2. I am employing a strategy called looping. This is where you do multiple lapse of the same route. In my case, I am doing lapse of Echo Hill. The lap is around four to five miles (depending on how many side streets I explore.) I do two laps of whatever distance I need for my long run of eight, nine, or ten miles. 

The strategy of looping is doing a lot for helping me stay mentally focused. The looping does a great job of breaking the run up into manageable chunks. I don't focus on having to run ten miles. I have to do five miles. Twice. The loop I run for my long runs is a loop I run very very often, so it's always easy to tell where I am and how close I am to my goal.

In the past, I had always gone exploring on my long runs. This is definitely fun, but doing an out-and-back route always seems so long. When I'm close to home, doing the Echo Hill loop everything seems "easy" because I am close to home and running in familiar surroundings. Doing exploratory runs is fun, but sometimes it's helpful to stick to what you know!

After feeling good through training, I'm feeling good for next Saturday. 

All in all, this was a nice relaxing weekend with lots of time for running, relaxing at home, and the long-awaited picnic at Mount Pollux!

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