Tuesday, May 31, 2016

TAPER TIME!!!

I'm so super excited about this! I ran 20 hilly miles on asphalt and single-track trail last Saturday, and while it felt exhausting on my already exhausted legs, it didn't feel painful. And I practiced leaning in to the hills and pushing when I wanted to back off. I feel ready.

As has happened at the end of the training cycles of the last two marathons, I feel happy and thrilled that I completed my training plans, regardless of how the marathon turns out.

Of course, I still care quite a lot what happens in the race.

A Goal: 3:25:00
B Goal: 3:30:00
C Goal: PR- faster than 3:33:57 and give myself more breathing room for getting into Boston
D Goal: pssshht, whatever

My excitement for this race is compounded by the fact that it kicks off a 10 day vacation from work and a thrilling adventure with my friend who lives in Washington. So hooray!

So far the taper this time already feels much less painful and useful than last time. I think I peaked my training at the right time, and cross my fingers knock on wood I don't get sick the week before the race again.


Monday, May 16, 2016

Chester County Half Marathon Race Report

I had lofty goals but low expectations for this race. I wanted to run a 1:37:52 (7:27/mile), because that time projects out to a 3:25:00 marathon. I wanted to run a very fast race so that I got in a long run at better than goal marathon pace. I wanted to destroy the hills that this race is known for.



This was going to be difficult because I am in the middle of the four toughest/peak weeks of marathon training. I ran 20 last Saturday, and a total of 23 Sunday-Wednesday. I took Thursday, Friday, and Saturday off from running, but that was it in terms of rest or taper.

Then, I got a nasty head cold on Monday. I didn't want to sacrifice my rest later in the week, so I ran through it. I felt alive by Sunday morning, but far from 100%. Also, I participated in a full-day furniture-moving endeavor on Saturday.

So I went into the race with lofty goals but low expectations. I promised myself I wouldn't let the outcome hurt my confidence for the marathon. I warmed up for one mile before the race and I felt okay, but not particularly energetic. Mile 1 of the race felt fine, but my legs still had a tired and loose feeling to them. I hit the mile a little ahead of pace. By Mile 2 I knew I was in trouble. I was still hitting my goal pace, and my breath was fine, but my legs felt as rubbery and worn out as they normally do after a 17 mile long run. In fact, my entire body just felt tired.

I started bargaining. Get to Mile 4 (where the monster hill began) and then you can slow down. Okay, just get to Mile 5. It did not happen. With each small and large uphill my legs became more and more sapped of energy. I tried to will them faster, but it wasn't a matter of pushing through pain or powering up the hill. In fact, as the race went on, I became less and less consciously involved with moving forward. My eyes closed and I simply stumbled forward as fast as my legs would carry me.

Apparently also stuck out my tongue.
Thanks for the free picture of my pain, ChescoHalf.

By Mile 5.5 I was having another problem. There was snot EVERYWHERE. My cold from earlier in the week resurfaced in a brilliant display of human messiness. My nose became red and raw from wiping at it, allowing me to add another point to my list of whiny complaints.

Shortly after Mile 8, I crested the monster hill and began my stumble downhill to the finish. I made up time here simply because I was too tired to check my descent. Small uphills stopped me from accelerating into a free-limb tumble.

Around mile 10 or 11 I found myself running alone. The woods opened up to farmland on either side of the road. To my right, there was a field of sheep. This is what happened:

*sheep go 'm-a-a-a-a-a'*

"Maa sheep."

*sheep go 'M-A-A-A-A'*

"MAAA sheep."

*sheep go 'MA-A-A-A-A'*

"MMAA YOUR FACE SHEEP!!!!!"

*grumbles*

"Stupid sheep. Humph. Probably not great that I am shouting at the sheep by myself."

I finally hit Mile 12 and checked the time on my watch. It appeared that I was going to set a PR, and I just could not bring myself to care. I sprinted across the finish in 1:40:50.

I set a PR (from 1:42:22), ran the race in better than marathon goal pace (7:41 miles versus 7:49 MGP) so I got in a great, hilly, workout, and I finished. Also, it turns out I got 5th woman, and 1st in my age group. But I didn't find that out until I looked at the results later. After the race I ran 2 slow miles to get to 16 for the day and then left in a bratty, sad huff that I did not set a super-fast PR on a day that I felt sick and tired and a little over-stretched from marathon training. I have a much better attitude now.

I got in a great workout. I did really well for the conditions and my condition. Also, I never felt out of breath the entire race. The hills did not challenge me aerobically. The only problem I had was temporary leg and body weakness and exhaustion, not lack of fitness or strength. Last fall, I had a really great half marathon, and then really struggled in the marathon (my goal event). Hopefully, this time it's flipped.

There were good and bad things about the event itself:

1. It was very well-run (ahaha puns). It started on time, packet pickup was organized and convenient, parking was clear and there were frequent shuttles from parking to the start/finish, and the whole thing went without a hitch that I could see.

2. Mile markers were almost non-existent (or maybe my eyes were just closed?)

3. The course was beautiful (I think? again, mostly closed eyes), running on country through woods and fields. Lot's of birdsong/mockery.

4. The other competitors were weirdly unfriendly. I asked one girl lined up in front at the start what she was looking to run, and she crossed her arms, snapped "we'll see," and then walked off. Do I really LOOK like I'm about to steal the win from you? I mean, I WAS going to try for 7:30 miles, but now that I know you're running 6's, I guess I better step it up. Also, I was chatting with the leader of the 1:40 pace group and another guy told me there was "no way" I would hit my goal time. Turned out to be true, but shut the fuck up guy, you don't know my life. Everyone seemed very grumpy? Not the usual experience I have with fellow runners.

5. The spectators were absolutely fantastic. I love all of them. There were sooooo many for such a small race and they made so much noise! My favorite were the firemen with the fire trucks sitting and spectating. They had their sirens on the entire time and every time a runner would pass they would blow the horns. Thanks guys!

Thursday, May 12, 2016

UCP 5k Race Report

I had been very remiss in posting due to a lack of anything to say. But recently, a lot of wonderful things happened, and I didn’t post for fear that telling of them would make them spontaneously not true anymore. Superstition is a funny evolutionary relic. I won’t list it all, but suffice to say I am grateful for the times in life that feel like coming up on the pivotal moment in a feel-good sports movie. Anxious and disbelieving and hopeful and coiled into a ridiculous ball of energy ready to bounce off of everything.

Anyway. On Thursday, April 28th I ran the UCP 5k. My company sponsors the race every year and a lot of my colleagues run it. My goal was to run the race in 21:04, or 6:46 pace. That projects out to a 3:25 marathon. I thought I might be capable of that since I’ve been doing 6x800meter repeats each week at about a 6:20 pace. I ran 20 miles the Saturday before the race, but I took two days off and only ran 5 and then 2 very slow easy miles the other days. On Thursday I felt not particularly bouncy, but at least not fatigued.

Last year I got 7th place and 2nd woman from my company. I didn’t have a great day last year, and ran it in 22:34. If the same people showed up this year, I thought I could compete for 2nd or 3rd woman if I met my goal time. However, when I lined up on the start line and asked some speedy-looking ladies what they expected to run, they replied “-2:19”. Actually, they said around 18:00, but the effect was the same. I revised my goal to meeting my goal time and getting first woman from my company.

The first tenth of a mile of the race is a sloping downhill. Most of the people who show up for the race are signed up through their companies, and don’t train for races. So when the gun goes off, there is a stampede down the hill, then a petering off of pace as the course levels out. In previous years, I’ve joined the stampede, but this year I managed to hold myself back and carefully edge up to my goal pace on my Garmin. I will admit that it is very satisfying to start passing all the guys that I work with around the half mile mark, running steadily while their legs suffer from overly ambitious pacing. My Garmin predictably beeped off the first mile before the mile marker, but I forgot to look again at the actual time when I passed it. However, I felt strong. My breath came easily and while the pace felt hard, my legs were holding it well. Thoughts fleeted into my mind such as “I don’t know how much longer I can hold this”. But I kept remembering that I was only running three miles. All of my training has been so focused on distance recently that I think my brain forgot we weren’t trying to hold that pace for three hours.

The turn-around is slightly past the halfway mark. At that point, my Garmin lost itself a little. It was raining and cold, so I’m assuming it was just throwing a temper tantrum. It didn’t register mile 2 until way after the mile marker. Just before mile 2, I finally caught up to a girl I had been following the whole race. We ran together for a little bit, but she was slowing so I forged ahead. The fatigue and aerobic limit hit me very suddenly around 2.5 miles. I was feeling strong, and then suddenly I could barely breathe. I did a good job keeping the pace under 7 minutes by remembering I did suffering a lot worse this past winter. However, because my Garmin was confused, I thought I was running a lot slower than I was, and I thought there was no way I would make my goal time. Just before the hill back up to the finish, a girl blew past me. I had no motivation to step it up and try and stay with her. I absolutely could have tried harder.

I crested the hill and saw the last few yards to the finish. The race clock read 20:01. I was so shocked I almost missed a step. I pepped up and grinned so hard to the finish that my frozen face hurt. Typically I sprint to the finish line, but this time, I just bounded it in with my hands in the air. 20:14. 6:31 miles. 7th overall woman (same place as last year, ha) and 1st woman from my company.

I high-fived two runner guys that I work with, one of whom set a PR as well, and then spent the next 15 minutes babbling about how happy I was. 20:14 projects out to better than my goal marathon time! I had NO IDEA I was (am) capable of running that fast. Next year, I’m going to run it in under 20 minutes. Also next year, I’m not going to fade in the last half mile, and I will sprint it in.


I have a half-marathon this Sunday, and then two final weeks of training before The Almighty Taper for the Seattle Rock n Roll Marathon. I am so excited. I think I’m going to be ready.