Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Fall Marathon Announcement

2014 Indianapolis Monumental Marathon

Super excited to announce that I will be returning to the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon this November 1st for my fall marathon!! After racing it and getting the B standard for the US Olympic Marathon Trials there last year with a 2:41:55, I am returning to the great course and supportive atmosphere in Indy and am aiming for the course record (2:39:22) and the Trials A standard (sub 2:37:00).  I am also looking forward to coming back to Indy to speak at the expo with my dad once again this year.

Here is a the press release that the Monumental Marathon released this morning:

I plan on running 2 to 3 races between now and Monumental, but am still finalizing which ones I'll do, but will let you know once that decision is finalized. :)  

Since the Grandma's Marathon, I have partnered up with Carolina Sports Clinic here in Charlotte, NC to resolve the hip tightness issue that hindered my race in Duluth. We determined it was modest muscle strength asymmetry and hamstring flexibility issues and have been able to successfully correct it, and I have been back at 100% in recent workouts. So I am now fully back into my training and couldn't be more excited to prepare for a great fall race season.  

Monday, July 14, 2014

My Helpful Tips for Young Female Runners

Hey girls! (and guys too if you chose to read this blog) I have decided to shake things up a bit with this blog post today.  Normally I let you know what’s going on in my life running wise with a few other events, like prom, thrown in the mix.  I have decided instead to write an informative post today that I feel may be very helpful for many to read, especially all you fellow teenage girl runners, and young female athletes in general.  These are some of the things that I have learned through my experiences as a relatively high level distance runner who is running higher mileage.

I would like to talk with you about 4 different, though equally important topics:  Nutrition, Supplements, Regular Female Periods, and Running Mileage

When you are a runner, or athlete for that matter, making sure you eat right is very important, something I think is equally important is eating enough.  When running high mileage you burn a lot of calories every day and in order to replace your energy and nutrients you need to make sure you are in taking roughly the same amount that you burn.  Many people have become really concerned with the amounts and types of food they are eating and end up going overboard by either eating too little or leaving out important food groups.

More and more it is becoming the trend or ‘thing to do’ to use different diets for ‘healthier’ eating, such as vegetarian diet, or vegan diet, or even gluten free diet (without being allergic to gluten), I have even seen diets that cut out almost all the salt they can.  While I understand that everyone is trying to find a healthy diet for themselves it is at times unnecessary to try all those diets just because that’s what everyone else is doing, you should choose those diets if that is what works best for you.  There is nothing wrong with being vegan, vegetarian, or gluten free at all, as I have friends and know good runners who are vegans and some who are gluten free, however it is very important that you make sure you are getting in the appropriate nutrients that your body needs while doing so.  Whatever nutrition plan you follow, make sure you are getting in everything your body needs for your higher level for training.   Your loyalty should be to your body first, not a certain diet! 

When you are an athlete who trains a lot you actually need all the different types of food groups.  You need the fruits, the veggies, the proteins, the grain, the oils, the salts, and even the fats.  Sometimes by doing certain diets you could actually end up hurting yourself by not giving the body enough of want it needs without realizing it.  Many runners, especially vegans and vegetarians, struggle to get enough protein or iron in their diet, and if you try to lower your salt consumption too much it could hurt you severely as when you are sweating you lose a lot of the salts in your body and it is very important to replace all lost electrolytes.  These are just a few things of some of the issues you need to be aware of as you look at your nutrition in terms of your training and general fitness. 

For me personally I don’t follow a strict diet.  What I try to do is just make sure I am eating a good amount of food from every food group.  I try to listen to what my body is craving, because cravings take place for a food are actually your body’s way of telling you what it needs.  If you look at what is in the type of food you are craving it can tell you what your body needs.  For example if you are craving potato chips, your body may need salt; if you crave chicken, your body may need protein.  As an athlete in training it is very important to listen to what your body needs.  I know that as teenagers sometimes we become insecure about how much food we are eating especially around friends, I have seen it so many times.  However it is super important to know that you always remember if you are hungry then don’t be afraid to go get something to eat.  It doesn’t matter if that means you eat a bigger meal than your friends or having more snacks than them, if you are still hungry after a meal you NEED to eat more, you have to remember that you are an athlete in training and you have to refuel your body properly in order to stay healthy.

I, by a large margin, eat more food than all my friends, because by running 110 miles a week I have to.  I feel that sometimes I am constantly eating but I know that that is just me refueling my body to get it prepared for the next day.  You cannot be afraid to eat more if you need to, even if it is occasionally “junk food” because your body needs those fats as well, it’s just another way for your body to get energy.  However did you know that there are healthy fats you can eat as well that your body actually really needs to help it function properly?  Some types of foods with healthy fats include different nuts and seed; my personal favorites are peanuts and sunflower seeds.  They would be great substitutes for the traditional chips or candy to have a healthier snack.  While eating healthy is important don’t compromise what your body needs, you are an athlete in training, if you need to eat a lot then eat a lot, that’s what I do. ;)

Always remember that your diet and nutrition is as much a part of your training as getting in your mileage is.  It is very important that you are making sure you are giving your body the proper nutrients it needs to be able to recover and refuel in order to keep up the rest of your training.

            Supplements are something that not that many teens think about including in their diet though I have found that they can be super important, especially for female runners.  The first supplement I recommend looking at is calcium.  The average American teenager doesn’t get nearly enough calcium in their diet and as a teenage runner it is very important that you make sure you are getting enough to help strengthen your bones and lessen your chances of getting a stress fracture.  Another good supplement to take with calcium is vitamin D, which also helps to strengthen your bones and is required for the calcium to be absorbed, and typically we don’t get enough vitamin D in our diet or absorb enough from the sun.  While Calcium is something everyone should think about the next supplement I suggest is more geared toward females in particular. 

That supplement is iron.  It has been found out that female distance runners or athletes are more likely to be deficient in iron, which makes sense since iron is carried in the hemoglobin found in your blood and with females losing blood during our period every month, we are also losing iron that we need.  Having a low iron level can actually be dangerous for you because if it gets too low you can become anemic.  Having low iron can leave you feeling weak and easily fatigued which can greatly impact your training and life in general.  Once you mature and start having your monthly period, or once you enter high school and training is getting more intense I recommend going and having a simple blood test done to check your iron levels.  Such a simple procedure as that can end up majorly helping you in the long run.  I suggest getting a blood test done 2 to 4 times a year, that’s what I do, to ensure that your iron level isn’t changing too much or is going in the proper direction if you are trying to raise it up after seeing it’s low.  Just like you should take vitamin D with calcium, you should take vitamin C with iron as it helps your body absorb the iron, whether that means taking a vitamin C supplement as well or drinking orange juice with your iron is up to you.   Something important to remember about iron is that you can’t take it with calcium as calcium blocks the absorption of iron.  I recommend taking them how I do it, when I take calcium and vitamin D supplements I do it in the morning with breakfast, when I take iron I take it with a glass of orange juice and take it about 30 minutes to an hour before I go to bed to insure the foods I had at dinner have digested and that I won’t end up eating anything with calcium in it afterwards.  

Remember that everyone if different and how often they take each supplement (or if they take it) may vary, there is no cookie cutter way to do this and if you have further questions about this I recommend talking to your parents, your doctor, or a nutritionist to figure out the best plan of action for you and your body.     

Regular Periods:
            Now for the section I’m sure everyone can’t wait to hear about – LOL.  While talking about having your period maybe a slightly awkward topic for some girls, it is something I feel needs to be talked about.  Teenage female athletes need to understand the importance of starting your period at a relatively normal age and having it regularly after that.

            I will start with myself as an example; I started having my periods the week before my 15th birthday and have been regular since then and have never missed a period in the two and a half years since I started.  That may surprise many people as many assume running the amount of mileage I do would hinder my starting or regularity of my periods, however they would be wrong, and I think my nutrition and slow approach to adding my mileage (see the next section) has shown you can train at high level and still be healthy in other aspects of your life (like growing and menstrual cycles) as well.

            The normal age range for girls to start their period is 12- 14, however if you have been very athletic all your life that naturally may push back that range to 14-16 years old.  If you have reached 18 and still haven’t started then you should see your family doctor about it for sure.  After you start having your period it maybe be a few months before you start to become regular, so it is a good idea to keep track of when you start and stop having your period as it will help for keeping the pattern and noticing if something different occurs such as longer than normal periods or longer/shorter periods of time between cycles.

            From looking at past star high school female runners you see that quite a few actually went to college without having started having periods and now more and more you are seeing college coaches red shirting star freshman their first year and don’t allow them to compete until they have their first period because it can be very dangerous for your health (bone heath especially) to have not started your period yet.  Another thing I have seen is some girls starting their periods at the normal time but then they only have 2 or 3 a year, another thing that is dangerous.  Doctors have said that if there is more than 3 months between each period then you need to go and get an examination done.

It is very important to have yearly checkups with your doctor especially during the teenage years.  You should be able to talk to your doctor about your period if it hasn’t started yet or if it has become irregular.  These problems could be due to low estrogen levels, low iron levels, or too much stress on the body.  Low estrogen levels are dangerous because estrogen is necessary for good bone mineral density and strong bones, so having it low could leave you more susceptible for stress fractures.  Whatever the case maybe it is extremely important to see your doctor to figure it out and get the problem solved because you want to ensure that you are staying healthy first and foremost!

Running Mileage:
            Now to a topic I know really well, how to safely run a lot of mileage.  Lately more teens seem to be trying to run higher amounts of mileage than they used to without giving themselves enough time to adjust to it.  Whether it is because they see me running my high mileage and think that means they would be able to as well, I do not know, however I want to take the time to explain just how I came to running my high mileage.  Hopefully this will help everyone, teens and adults, be able to safely increase their mileage in a way that will help to prevent injuries.

            When increasing mileage you can’t make huge jumps in quantity, you have keep the jumps small and do it slowly to allow your body plenty of time to adjust to the change.  I have been running since I was 6 years old and am now 17 so that’s 11 years of running.  Each year I only add approximately 10 miles to my weekly mileage, normally 5 miles per week every 6 months.  By doing this my body has had plenty of time to adjust to mileage increases and thus explains why I can now handle running 110 miles a week without having a problem.  Your muscular-skeletal system out of all your body systems takes the longest amount of time to adjust to increasing mileage and that is why it is important to give your body enough time to fully and completely adjust to your new mileage every time you increase.   Jumping up too quickly just causes problems.

I recommend that if you want to run higher mileage than great, I love it and think it helps, but be careful and get there slowly over time, that way you can get there safely and get the most out of it and enjoy every step along the way. :)

I have enjoyed writing this blog for you and hope that you find at least some of this information helpful.  I felt like this was an important blog to write and share some of the valuable knowledge I have gained through my experiences.  Us runner girls gotta stick together!

If anyone has further questions, personal or general, or would like me to elaborate on anything for them please don’t hesitate to either comment, message me on my Facebook athlete page (link on side) , or send me an email at  foralanahadley@gmail.com

Have a fantastic week!  :) 

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Grandma's Marathon Experience

Hey guys.  Wow that was quite an eventful weekend, maybe too eventful.  It certainly didn't go how I had planned but after having a few days to think back over everything that has taken place I am ready to learn all I can about my experience and decided the best course of action for the future.

Getting to Duluth from Charlotte on Thursday wasn't that bad especially considering all the other crazy delays other athletes had to deal with.  My dad and I were only delayed an hour on our flight to Minneapolis trying to avoid some storms, however that caused us to go over Nebraska… definitely a roundabout way to get there lol.  Then the rental company accidentally gave us the wrong car but that’s okay because they upgraded us to a Dodge Charger, so I’m not complaining haha.  It was so nice once we got to the hotel though and it was 50 degrees outside, so much cooler than the 90 degree temps we left in Charlotte.

Friday was so much fun!! I was invited to be a part of the women’s press conference for the Grandma’s Marathon, which was absolutely amazing!! I feel honored that out of all the women’s field I was one of the six chosen.  It was a very exciting experience to be up there answering whatever questions I happened to get asked.  It also made me glad I have no problem talking in front of people haha. :)  I also had the privilege of meeting Dick Beardsley on Friday and got to talk to him a little, which was very nice.  I enjoy talking to long time marathon runners and hearing their take on the distance.

At the Press Conference

Saturday morning I woke up in a great mood to 50 degree foggy weather, which was just perfect weather for racing a marathon.  I listened to my music on the bus ride to the starting line and had this calm mentality knowing I had my game plan ready and had faith in my training.  I ended up walking to the starting line with some fellow Charlotte runners and that helped to maintain my happy attitude.  I felt really good during my warm up and as I took of my sweats and placed my bag into the elite vehicle my calm mentality slowly turned into excitement and those last 5 minutes seemed so long waiting for the gun to go off.

Once the gun went off and the race started I got right into a nice smooth groove and went right into my pace.  Now I didn't feel the greatest once I got started but I locked into my pace so I wasn't very worried as I knew I was strong enough where that didn't really matter.  My goal for the race going in was to get under 2:40, I was hoping for 2:37- 2:38 and planned on hitting 6:00- 6:05 per mile.  I came through 10 miles in 60:03, right on pace and I was super happy.  However that’s when things started to get rough.  After 10 miles I started to feel a little tightness in my right hamstring.  As the miles went on the tightness got worse and moved to my hip then my pace started to slip off.  Every time my pace slipped off I pushed harder to get back in it, but that just caused the tightness to continue to get tighter.  It was incredibly frustrating after such a great beginning to the race, mentally I kept trying to push myself to go harder and faster but my body just couldn't do it. 

Right before the 19 mile point my right hip seized up and caused me to start limping.  I decided to go off to the medical tent at 19 miles to get it checked out with the intention of getting it stretched out and heading back out to finish the best that I could.  After talking and working with the PT at the medical tent I was even more frustrated.  While she told me it was all strictly muscular and I wouldn't need to see a doctor about it but she didn't recommend continuing on due to the pain I was feeling just sitting and standing.  So with a heavy heart I had to make the decision to drop out of the race, while I wanted to at least finish the race I couldn't take the risk of severely hurting myself.

The next day on the drive from Duluth to Minneapolis my dad and I took the time to break apart my race now that enough time had passed to be able to look at this race and take aside the emotion.  There is just so much to figure out now; what caused this to happen, what am I going to do to get it healed up, when should I start up training, what races am I going to do now.  So many questions came from this race.  Now I needed to start working on the answers.  It’s cases like this that makes me so happy that my dad is also my coach, I found it easy to tell him exactly what happened and he has the knowledge to help me the best way he can.

Going into this race I was hoping to have a great race and that would help me to see my options for races in the fall.  Now that I don’t have race to show for the amazing shape that this past training cycle put me in, my dad and I are currently looking at all possible options to find the one that makes the most sense for me. 

Now to get to the main problem, my right hip, I previously had a problem with it getting tight before in a couple track workouts.  However I was able to stretch it out and do some repeats going the opposite way and it let me finish one workout and get a few more repeats of another.  We figured it was the turns on track that caused the tightness so I stopped doing my speed on the track and went to doing them on the road and I never had a problem with the tightness while running on the road.  Now that it acted up so severely during Grandma’s Marathon we took a closer look at everything I do in training to try to figure what is the real reason behind the tightness.  The possible reasons we have found are ones that can be fairly easily fixed for future training. 

One reason is not focusing as much as I should have on ancillary training, such as my core.  I have unintentionally neglected working out the lower abs making them a weak link,  the lower abs are extremely important in helping to lift the hips up when running especially in distance running where you want to remain running tall.  Another possibility is constantly running on the same loop but almost always in the same direction.  As I run through neighborhoods, the roads slightly tilt down to the curb and could cause one leg to have to work harder than the other.  Another reason is not being as flexible as I should be, that is always something I have struggled with and could definitely cause some tightness.  The last reason is not stretching and loosening my legs enough after the travel to Duluth from Charlotte.   

All these reasons could be nothing by themselves but have them all together could be the cause of my tightness, so while there is no telling which of these things actually caused the tightness I think the best option in to get rid of all the above possibilities. My dad and I have added some exercises to my core circuit to work out the lower abs, hip flexors, and hamstrings; that should help with strengthening the weak areas and cause them to not be as susceptible to injury or tightness.  One simple thing I am starting to do now is switching up what direction I run my loop in now so that was an easy fix.  I am also going to start taking my stretching very seriously and work on increasing my flexibility.  I am now on a level where all the small things matter in training not just the workouts and I need to make sure that I have all of them covered as this just shows me how important they are.  I have also started making contact with a sports clinic in my area as my dad and I feel it is an important contact to have in the future as this experience at Grandma’s has shown, in case things happen and I need some work done on my legs or maybe even upper body.

Currently my right hip feels so much better after taking an ice bath on Saturday and icing it on Sunday, as well as using all my different rollers.  After taking Sunday and Monday off I was able to start running on Tuesday and will continue to do easy running for the next week to salvage the great shape I was in and try to get back into training shortly.  I plan on going to get my hips worked on this next week at a sports clinic to help make sure the tightness stays gone and check for any other hidden causes.

I want to thank you guys for all your support and well wishes as I greatly appreciate it.  I will keep you updated on how training is going and on any future news as I decide on my summer and fall racing plans.  Have an amazing week!!

~Alana :)     

Sunday, June 8, 2014

June 8th Update

Hey guys, I’m back!  Sorry for not checking in last week, I’ve been super busy with studying for finals lately.  Luckily I only have one more final which is tomorrow in Anatomy, after that I will be officially done with my junior year of high school!

It’s crazy to think that Grandma’s Marathon is in 13 days now!  I’m on my final countdown, only 1 more full hard workout left in this awesome training cycle.

May 26th – June 1st

Wednesday: 2 mile warm up, 4 x mile w/ 2:30 recovery, 2 mile cool down- started off pretty good but ended up having tightness in my right hip from the turns on the track.  Tried switching directions to help the tightness but it didn’t help so I had to cut my repeats down to 4.  I guess my legs have decided I belong on the road not the track lol :)

Saturday: 24 mile easy paced long run- felt really good on my run but had to deal with unexpected rain most of the way which made the trail very slippery over the board walk sections.  Still was a good run even if my dad and I got a little muddy ;)

Drill Circuit

A little muddy after my long run

June 2nd – 8th

Monday: 2 mile warm up, 16 x 600m w/ 1:30 jog recovery, 2 mile cool down- did my 600s on the road and felt really strong. 

Thursday: 2 mile warm up, 6 mile tempo, 3 mile cool down- was warmer and more humid than normal but still had a good tempo.  Makes me look forward to the cooler temps of Duluth I get to race in.

Sunday: 5 mile warm up, 10 mile tempo, 3.5 mile cool down- great last long run before the marathon.  Was a rough workout having to deal with stomach issues and cramps but I toughed it out and had a really good negative split run in the end! Sometimes being a female runner can suck though lol :P
16 x 600m on the road

Hot 6 mile tempo

FUN FACT: in the last 8 weeks since my half marathon I have run 888 miles!! I feel so strong and ready for this marathon! Bring it on!!!!

Sunday, May 25, 2014

May 25th Update

Hey guys! Another week as flown by and it’s Sunday again.  I swear the weeks just seem to go by faster and faster every week.  It maybe because it’s the end of the school year but oh well haha.

Just 4 more weeks until Grandma’s Marathon in Duluth and I can start to feel the excitement building up as my workouts get better and better.  All I have to do is get through the rest of the school year and then bam marathon time!

May 19th- May 25th
Total Mileage: 112
Number of runs: 13
Number of workouts: 3

Monday: 2 mile warm up, 16 x hills w/ jog back down, 2 mile cool down- 350m hill at a 4% grade, great strength building workout to work on my stride power for the marathon :)

Thursday: 2 mile warm up, 6 mile wave tempo, 3 mile cool down-  alternated each half mile between marathon pace and 8% faster, to average the normal 4% faster than marathon pace.  I love doing wave tempos!

Sunday: 21 mile tempo long run = 5 miles easy, 10 mile tempo at marathon race pace, 6 miles easy- keep feeling stronger every time I do this run! Hit a good negative split this one. I really enjoy this type of long run.

Monday Workout: hill repeats

Thursday Workout: 6 mile wave tempo

Sunday Workout: after my 21 mile tempo long run

I hope that everyone has a great Memorial Weekend!!! I know I have had an awesome start to mine with some fun at the lake with my siblings and cousins on Saturday.  I tried kayaking for the first time and loved it! Now to spend my Monday with my friends to start the long studying process for finals :P

Fun at the Lake :)

Sunday, May 18, 2014

May 18th Update

Hey!  I can’t believe another week has flown by!  The end of the school year and Grandma’s Marathon are creeping closer and closer every day. 

I am currently 5 weeks away from my marathon in June and am getting more and more excited as it gets closer to race day.  I finished week #2 of my 2 week micro- cycle, which included 2 hard workouts. 

May 12th – May 18th

Total mileage: 113 miles
Number of runs: 13
Number of hard workouts: 2

Wednesday: 2 mile warm-up, 8 x mile with 400m jog recovery, 2 mile cool- down - first time I have done 8 mile repeats and it was definitely a hard long workout.  Am building up my strength and hope to do them faster next time 

Saturday: 24 mile moderate pace long run @ McAlpine Greenway - It was nice to be out on the trail for my run and I really enjoyed the cooler starting temperatures.  I felt really good on my run and was able to get into a nice groove and click off the miles :)  

Saturday Workout: 24 mile long run

This week has been pretty good school wise as well.  On Thursday we had our Spring Chorus Concert, and then on Friday my friends and I went to see the play The Diary of Anne Frank, as put on by our school’s theater department.  It was so much fun and I enjoyed spending time with my friends outside of school! :)

Hope you have a great week! I’ll be back next Sunday to keep you updated. 

Sunday, May 11, 2014

May 11th Update

Hey!! Hope y'all had a great past week.  Can't believe the school year is almost over and summer is closing in on us fast.  Unfortunately this also means teachers are in full blast preparing us for finals in less than a month so I've been busy with homework lately.  Luckily I had a break from all the work this weekend. :)

This week I decided that I wanted to share with you what one of my training weeks looks like as I work toward making my dream of being an Olympic Marathoner a reality. 

I am currently working hard to improve my marathon times so that I can be more competitive in higher level marathons, attract the attention of sponsors, develop my career as a professional marathoner, and have the amazing honor of representing the USA in major championships and races around the world. 

I follow a 14 day (2 week) micro-cycle training schedule which includes 5 stress workouts.  This is what I did this past week, 6 weeks out from my goal marathon (Grandma’s Marathon on June 21st) and week #1 of my 2 week micro-cycle, it included 3 main stress workouts (Mon/Thu/Sun). 

May 5th – May 11th
Mon:      AM – 5 mile easy run
               PM – 2 mile warm-up, 16 x 600 @ 12% faster than MP w 200 jog recovery, 2 mile cool-down
               Ancillary – Core Circuit
Tue:       AM – 5 mile easy run
               PM – 10 mile easy run
               Ancillary – Drill Circuit
Wed:     AM – 5 mile easy run
               PM – 10 mile easy run
               Ancillary – Core Circuit
Thu:       AM – 5 mile easy run
               PM – 2 mile warm-up, 6 miles Tempo Run @ 4% faster than MP, 2 mile cool-down
               Ancillary – Core Circuit
Fri:         AM – 5 mile easy run
               PM – 10 mile easy run
               Ancillary – Drill Circuit
Sat:        AM – 10 mile easy run
               PM – 5 mile easy run
               Ancillary – Core Circuit
Sun:       AM – 20 miles: first 5 miles easy, middle 10 miles Tempo @ MP, last 5 miles easy
               PM – Nap!!!! about 3 hours ;)

Total:    112 miles in 13 runs
*MP = marathon pace

Acceleration sprints during my drill circuit

Monday Workout: 600s

Thursday Workout: 6 mile tempo

Sunday Workout: 10 mile tempo / Long Run

Note #1: With temperatures getting into the 80s this week my coach modified my paces on my Monday and Thursday workouts to take the heat into consideration.  This is an important thing for everyone to do as we are getting closer to summer, as you need to allow your body time to adjust to the heat increase.

Note #2: In the past 4 weeks since my half marathon in April I have logged in 440 miles. This averages to 110 miles each week, 13 runs each of those weeks.  While I am only 17, I have worked up to be able to run this kind of mileage and handle this type of schedule over the last 10 years I have been running.

I am extremely motivated in my running to make my dreams of being a successful Professional Marathoner and Olympian a reality.  I really appreciate all the support you give me and the interest you have taken in my quest there.  Let’s get training! 6 weeks until Grandma's Marathon :)

P.S. Happy Mother's Day to all the amazing moms out there.  Don't forget to hug your mom today if you can :)