Saturday, January 14, 2017

Running and Reynaud's

Reynaud's Syndrome: After running in 40 degrees
Do your hands and/or feet turn white when they are cold? If so, you may have Reynaud's Syndrome. Reynaud's Syndrome is a condition that causes your fingers and toes to go numb and turn white when they are cold; and it's doesn't even have to be that cold. The condition is more common in women than in men and there's no known cure, although there are some medications that can help relieve symptoms.

I was born with blue feet. My feet are often extremely cold, even at room temperature. Greg once joked that he didn't need to get a fan for his computer, because I could simply put my feet near the computer when he was using it. I'm also very fortunate that Greg lets me put my ice cold feet on his warm legs, which feels amazing to me, but not so great for him.

While my feet tend to suffer worse than my hands, they are actually completely fine while running. A few months ago, I went to a winery with some friends. It was about 55 degrees outside but because I wasn't moving around, both of my feet turned completely white and it was challenging to walk on them. At the New York City marathon in 2010, my feet turned numb while waiting to race, and they didn't regain feeling until three miles in. But once I'm running, my feet end up being totally fine.

My hands are an entirely different story. If you're a regular reader of this blog, you've probably noticed many pictures in which I'm in a tank top or short sleeves, but I'm wearing gloves or even mittens. You've probably also heard me say that my body gets extra hot when I run, particularly my face, so I'm comfortable racing in a tank if it's 40 degrees, but once the temperature gets above 55, my performance is impacted. I would LOVE to take some of that extra heat and channel it to my hands, but my body's distribution system is way out of wack. In fact, after yesterday's run, my hands were freezing but my face was burning up. I solved both issues by putting my hands on my forehead.

After years of trial and error, I've finally found a solution to running in temperatures from 0-50 degrees. My savior has been Little Hotties hand warmers. When you open them, heat releases and they last for 8 hours. I go through several boxes of those each winter. I rotate having them in front of my fingers or behind them throughout the run. Here is my solution to Reynaud's Syndrome when running in the cold:

  • 45-50 degrees: lightweight gloves
  • 40-44 degrees: heavy gloves or light convertible mittens with hand warmers in them
  • 33-39 degrees: heavy mittens or light convertible mittens with hand warmers in them
  • 26-32 degrees: heavy convertible mittens with hand warmers in them
  • 20-25 degrees: heavy convertible mittens with light gloves under them, plus a pair of hand warmers
  • 5-19 degrees: heavy convertible mittens with light gloves under them, plus two pairs of hand warmers: one pair for the front of my fingers, one pair for the back.
It's important to note that mittens are way more effective than gloves. If it's below 40 then gloves
alone no longer work for me. I recently spent $40 on a pair of Under Armour gloves that advertised
Tank top with mittens + hand warmers
high-tech materials to shelter against extreme cold and wind. They failed miserably (within 5 minutes) when I tried to wear them in 27 degree temperatures. They work for the low 40's particularly if it's raining because they are somewhat waterproof.

Even with the system that I've figured out above, there are a few challenges. First, my fingers sometimes still turn white and numb if the run is longer than 45 minutes. And even if they don't turn white, I lose dexterity throughout the run. Afterwards, I often cannot use my hands until I run them under warm water for 3-4 minutes. Running my hands under warm water is the fastest way to restore feeling and dexterity.

Another problem is carrying water during long runs. I refuse to wear a water belt, and my preference is to carry my water. When it dips below 40, the water becomes cold (even though I start the run with very hot water from the faucet) and I can't hold it. I've tried different solutions for this like insulated bottles, but those aren't as comfortable to carry, especially if I'm already wearing gloves. My solution to this is to park my car along my long run route and stop at a few times for water.

When I ran the B & A Trail Marathon two years ago, it was only 25 degrees so I was unable to hold a water bottle. At the time, I was using Honey Stinger gels, and I needed to be able to drink water when it was time to take my gels, instead of waiting for the water stations. Thankfully, Greg was able to
Blue and white fingers after a long run
meet me at 4 points along the course and hand me a new water bottle. I could hold it for about five minutes before I needed to toss it.

I've noticed that my Reynaud's Syndrome has worsened with age. My fingers turn white from driving if the steering wheel is cold. My toes turn white simply from hanging around the house and doing nothing. I've looked into the medication, but the possible side effects sound worse to me than just dealing with it. It's a circulation issue, so I wonder if this is related to how easily I over heat, even if it's only 60 degrees.  The condition isn't serious, it's basically just an annoyance that I've learned to live with.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Disney World Half Marathon Cancelled: Making Lemonade

Ever since it opened, I’ve wanted to stay at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge. Wild animals, including zebras, roam freely on a small savannah directly outside of your room. Throughout the years, I’ve seen many of my friends’ photos from there on Facebook, and so Greg and I finally decided it was time to go. We figured we'd time it with the Walt Disney World Half Marathon, which we had both previously run 4 years ago in 2013. I registered for the half marathon and Greg for the full. His rationale was that he wouldn't have to train for a marathon during the coldest months of the year: January and February. But last summer, he decided to run the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon instead, and just not race at all this weekend.
Ready to run!

A vacation with zebras and running-- what could be better!?

Given that the Disney World Half Marathon typically has warm, humid weather, my approach to this race was to practice running hard and to enjoy the experience. Even before the forecast came out I hadn't set my sights on a PR. This race was going to be all about mental toughness and enjoyment, simultaneously. But when the forecast came out for the weekend, I have to admit my heart sunk.

I woke up on Thursday morning, and the forecast was calling for thunderstorms and 68 degrees during the race, and then a dramatic drop in temperatures for the rest of the day on Saturday and a very cold and windy Sunday. I was worried that the race would be cancelled and that it would be too cold for the zebras to come out. And that our one day to be in the parks (Sunday) would be miserably cold and windy. I went for my morning run and tried to stay positive, but the weather forecast was definitely bumming me out.

I figured I should have a backup plan in case the race was cancelled. Greg still had his full marathon bib, so my plan was to run 18 miles of that as a training run and then pull off the course. So I packed (or should I say re-packed, since I had done most of my packing the weekend before) for the marathon weather conditions as well: 37 degrees with 15 mph winds. For those of you who aren't familiar with the Disney Marathon weekend, the half takes place on Saturday, and the full on Sunday.

We arrived in Orlando on Friday and I was elated to see 4 giraffes and two zebras at our resort! We
Zebra in upper left corner. Can you see her?
had a pretty good view of them from our balcony, although they were far away. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to get any good photos of the zebras because I couldn't get close enough to them on Friday.

After getting our race packets, we took an Uber to the nearby town of Celebration for a carb-filled dinner. My spirits were pretty high at this point. The weather was gorgeous, I had seen zebras, I had my packet, and everything was all set to go. I was ready to race hard, even though the conditions would be challenging. We went to bed at 7:30. Because the race starts at 5:30, it requires a 3:00am wakeup, and we had no problem falling asleep so early.

When my alarm went off at 3:00am the next morning, I saw a text message from the race officials stating that the race was cancelled due to the potential for lightening. I wasn't surprised or heart broken. I was mentally prepared for this to happen, and I had my backup plan of running the full marathon. Greg was worried that my plan to run 18 miles of the full would be logistically difficult. Not only would I have to wake up early and hang around in the 37-degree windy weather for an hour beforehand, but it wasn't going to be easy for me to get transportation back to the start. I looked at the course map and I realized I wouldn't be able to Uber because all the roads would be closed. Mile 18 was located in the ESPN Sports Complex, and there was no getting out of there. So, we decided we'd try to find somewhere to run later in the day once the thunderstorms passed.

Even though the race entry fee is non-refundable, Disney went above and beyond to make up for this circumstance. Runners had the option of registering for any other Disney race for free, receiving a Disney gift card, transferring to the full if space allotted, or receiving two park-hopper passes. This was a no-brainer for me. Greg and I had planned to spend Sunday at Epcot center, and tickets are $105/each, so the park hopper pass saved us over $200 dollars. And it's actually worth even more because it allows you to go to all the parks.

As for finding another spot to run, I saw on Instagram that people were going to Disney's Art of
Animation resort to run around Hourglass Lake. This is a 1.38-mile loop on a concrete surface around a resort lake. There really wasn't anywhere we could see to run at Animal Kingdom Lodge, so once the weather calmed down, we boarded a bus to the other resort.

When we arrived, we couldn't believe our eyes! It was like an actual race! I would estimate about 150-200 people were running around the lake. There were cheering spectators all around the loop,
Lots of fun things to look at along the way!
and some even had cowbells. Even better, there was an aid station stocked with water, gels, and bananas! It was such a fun experience and everyone's spirits were high. Endurance runners are a dedicated group of people for sure. Many people were even wearing their bibs. For people who were planning to run the Goofy challenge (both the half marathon and the full marathon) doing this was a must! I later learned that there were other locations throughout Disney with these "poor man's" races. On social media, this became known as the Grumpy Challenge.

I decided that instead of racing 13.1 miles, I would do the run my coach prescribed: 18 miles with the last 5 hard. Since Greg is training for a half marathon, he did a timed run of 1 hour, 45 minutes, which ended up being about 12.5 miles. It was nice to run with him because if I had done the half marathon, I would have been alone before, during, and after.

Miles 1-6
The first two miles went by very slowly. In fact, when our watches beeped for one mile, we could hardly believe that we had only run one mile. It was about 67 degrees and insanely humid. There wasn't much pep in my step (which could have been due to the concrete surface) but I was definitely hot. We kept these miles at a pace of about 8:45. We tried to go off the course a few times and run around the parking lots, which were a softer asphalt surface, but that was more annoying than it was worth.

Miles 6-13
After about six miles it started to cool down ever so slightly. It was still really humid, and raining off and on. I actually really liked when it rained because it had a nice cooling effect. The crowd support was amazing and the energy was high. I think we must have started later than most people (we started at 10:00) because after about seven miles we noticed fewer and fewer runners. About half as many as there had been at the beginning.

Disney's Art of Animation Resort Running Path
Instead of drinking UCAN beforehand, I had eaten a bagel with peanut butter and brought a bottle of UCAN to drink at the halfway point. Greg was carrying our water. So at mile 8, I drank my UCAN bottle. About 15 minutes later, I felt a lot better and I think the UCAN really helped. My left hip (which is always a problem when I run counterclockwise) started acting up, so we turned around and ran the other way on the course. There were runners going in both directions and it had thinned out quite a bit, so it wasn't a problem at all to do this. We sped up a little during this portion to a pace of about 8:35.

Miles 14-17
Before I started the faster miles, I was not feeling good. The humidity was getting to me, my legs were not happy with the concrete, and my hip was a little achey. But I figured it might actually feel better to up the effort and change things up. And I was right. I started out by telling myself I only had to do two "hard" miles, which would be 15 total. But then I really got into it. I was running so fast and so many people commented on how fast I was going. People who were staying at the resort were cheering me on from their balconies. I felt like such a rock star! I really perked up. It was especially motivating when I passed Greg each lap, who was my biggest cheerleader.

During these final miles it really started to cool down-- to about 56 degrees-- and it started raining again. It was also quite windy. I think the cooler air really helped me feel better. I decided to stop at 17, even though I had originally intended to run 18, because I felt like I had satisfied the requirements of the workout and I didn't want to kill my legs on that concrete.

My last 4 miles averaged 7:38 and my overall pace for 17 miles was 8:29. Not too shabby! My training runs and my 10K race suggest a marathon pace of around 7:29, so I think my last four miles at 7:38 were a good test of what my actual marathon pace might be.

After the "race"
Greg and I were soaking wet and it was in the 50's so we were freezing as we waiting for the bus back to Animal Kingdom Lodge. We were so happy that we were able to run together and have a fun, race-like experience. And it's probably even better training for a marathon than racing a half marathon: less recovery time, and more mileage.

After we showered and ate lunch, we headed back to the ESPN sports complex to get our park-hopper passes and my medal. Now I can truly say I earned this medal. We celebrated by having signature drinks at the resort bar that night. It was an exhausting but fun day. With all the walking that we had to do in addition to the "race," I logged 36,000 steps on my FitBit!

On Sunday, after a short recovery run on the treadmill, Greg and I went to Hollywood Studios and Epcot Center. Both were fun, and we brought warm clothes so that the cold temperatures and wind didn't bother us too much. I was, however, bummed that I never got to see the zebras again. Friday was really the only day I got to see them. I guess we'll have to go back again when the weather is more conducive to zebra-watching.

One of the coolest things about Sunday was getting to see the marathoners run through Hollywood studios at mile 23. We saw the 7-hour pace group and also the very back of the pack. And then, when we went to Epcot we saw this same group of runners headed for the finish line. It gave me an entirely new respect for people who run/walk and who are out on the course for so long. You could tell that they were in so much pain, but they remained focused and high-spirited!

All in all, we were able to make lemonade out of lemons. I wasn't too upset about the race cancellation and running around the disney resort was much better than doing a long run at home in the frigid weather with icy streets. I'm still bummed that I didn't get to see as much of the zebras as I would have liked, but Greg and I are planning a trip to a drive-through safari park in the spring to make up for it.

Greg and me at Animal Kingdom Lodge (he's wearing his 2013 race shirt!)

Monday, January 2, 2017

2016: The Year Lots of Stuff Happened

2016 was an interesting year for me. One the one hand, I accomplished a lot in terms of running, writing, and my career. I ran the Boston Marathon for the first time. I published a book. I started a new job. On the other hand, I encountered some major rough spots, both physically and emotionally. I guess if I had to sum it up in one word, it would be "eventful." Rarely boring. Both exhilarating and exhausting.

Boston Bound
I published this book in May, just one month after running the marathon. It took me nine months to

write it, but over seven years to live it and blog about it. I wrote it because I believed I had a story
that was worth sharing with the running community, or anyone who struggled with perfectionism and anxiety. Although I am an extreme example of how one's own mind can be the biggest barrier to a person's success, I think that we've all played victim to our mindsets at some point or another. It's this universal struggle that (I think) has made the book so successful, as well as the fact that few books exist about everyday runners who aren't at the elite level. The most common feedback I receive is that people were able to relate to the book, and they appreciated its honesty.

Needless to say, I never expected that the book would have sold as many copies as it has. Depending on the day, it's usually ranked on Amazon as one of the top 20-30 best selling running books. I didn't have a sales target in mind when I wrote the book, I just put it out there and waited to see what would happen. I also used my marketing skills to make sure the book received as much exposure as possible. I built up my social media presence, I formed relationships with high-visibility publications, and I even ran some advertisements on Facebook.

The experience of publishing a book and connecting with so many people who've read the book has been truly remarkable. I honestly would have been happy to have just one person read it and say that it helped them, but the impact has been much greater.

I don't write too much about my career on this blog, but I do write quite a few articles on the topic of marketing. The Publications tab on this blog has a list of all of them. I was thankful to have the opportunity to write for some very prominent marketing publications this year, and one of my articles has thousands of shares on LinkedIn.

I changed jobs this year. Although I enjoyed what I did at my previous company, I never felt like I fit in there. The culture just wasn't for me. I frankly wasn't treated very well when I came down with mono, and I was accused of taking advantage of the situation by working from home too much. My skills weren't being maximized and I wasn't able to contribute to my full potential. I'm much happier in my new role, and I believe I've already made a notable impact in less than four months. I'm a marketing vice president for a large software company, and I'm charged with managing the marketing programs that drive revenue for the company. I really enjoy the work atmosphere, and I find myself smiling and laughing a lot while I'm there.

I actually used to work for this company 17 years ago. It was my first job out of college and I was a marketing communications associate, tasked with writing the marketing and PR materials. I was laid off after just three months, however, when the company went through a rough patch financially. I've always been interested in returning.

And of course, running
My running year is best summed up by looking at the 4 quarters.
Shamrock half marathon, March 2016

First quarter: I ran the highest mileage of my life (60-70 miles per week) in preparation for Boston. I also set a massive PR in the half marathon in treacherous conditions.

Second quarter: I ran Boston and then published my book. The majority of my focus in May and June was promoting the book.

Third quarter: I was sick from July 1- September 20 with mono, or some mono-like virus. I made a few attempts to run, but they just set me back even further.

Fourth quarter: I made a huge comeback from mono by gradually adding distance and speed to my runs. And now I'm now stronger than ever!

Because I'm a data junkie, here are the numbers and graphs from 2016.

  • My total mileage was 1,793. If you remove the three months I didn't run, this averages out to 199 miles per month.
  • I ran 10 races. This includes one marathon (Boston), one half marathon (Shamrock), one 10K, two 4-milers, and five 5Ks.
  • I won 8 awards. 4 of these were first place age group, 3 of these were second place age group, and 1 of these was 3rd overall female
  • I set 3 PRs.  Half marathon: 1:33:36, 10K: 42:09, 5K: 20:50. I set an unofficial 10-mile PR during the half marathon and an unofficial 5K PR during the 10k.

Monthly Mileage
It's great to see that I'm building back to the level I used to train at. Running high mileage is a skill and unless you build up to it over years, then you're likely to get injured. I'm extremely fortunate that I haven't had any running injuries in the past three years. My last injury was in 2013 when I had a stress reaction in my shin. Below is a snapshot of my mileage for the past 8 years, since I started tracking it:

I was also sick with mono in 2012 for the same amount of time, but my mileage before and after was much higher this year than it was back then. 2010, 2014, and 2015 were the years when I was both illness and injury free.

I think my biggest takeaway from 2016 is that balance is really important. I was trying to do too much all at once, and it resulted in me getting sick. I've learned that I need to prioritize taking care of my health and I need to keep perspective on things. Worrying and obsessing over things never helps; it actually makes things worse. I used think that I needed to stress over things to ensure they went the way I wanted them to go. I was wrong. I'll have a better shot at having things go my way if I lose the stress and the worry. I won't be a victim of self-fulfilling prophecies. I'll be more rested and more confident. And that will manifest itself in everything I do.

Finally, I'll end this blog with some of my favorite photos from the year.

Realizing that I crushed my PR at the Shamrock half marathon

Meeting my coach in person for the first time, as well as Greg McMillan himself

Finish line of the Boston Marathon

Running with the love of my life
Launching my book

Being treated like a princess while sick

Pacing a new friend in a half marathon instead of being upset that I wasn't in shape to race

First race post-mono, beating my goal by a full minute

Setting a huge PR in the 10K
Making new friendships with Rochelle (pictured), Lisa and Hannah
That orange shirt has seen me through a lot of good times. I just realized that I'm wearing it in half of the photos!

Happy New Year to all my blog readers. Go out and crush it in 2017!

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Ringing in Hope 10K Report: A 2016 Grande Finale!

For the 7th year in a row, Greg and I ran the Ringing In Hope New Year's eve race. This race offers both a 5K and a 10K option, and typically we do the 10K. This year, I'm registered for the Walt Disney World Half Marathon on Saturday, January 7th-- just one week later. I'm also in the thick of marathon training. So, I figured I would simply ask my coach what to do. I sent him the following note a few weeks ago:

"I would like to participate in either the 5K or the 10K, but I don't want it to impact my half marathon. I also don't want it to impact my marathon training, because Myrtle Beach is fast approaching and I know I need to get my long runs up. Can you think of a creative way of incorporating either the 5K or the 10K? Perhaps I could run at a tempo effort, and/or as part of my long run? Maybe the long run can be moved to January 2nd because I don't have to go to work that day? In any event, I'm open to whatever you think is best, given that my top priority is the marathon, followed by the half marathon. This New Year's eve race is more of just a fun thing."

I figured he'd probably tell me to run it as part of my long run, or do the 5K as a tempo. The response I received was not what I expected:

"That’s no problem at all. The 10km will fit in nicely as you’ll get your legs spinning quickly the week before the half marathon. You could run a few miles afterwards also but I’ll think about it more once you get through this week."

So, it was on! I hadn't run a 10K since this race last year, when I ran a 44:18. My PR was from October of last year: 43:56. The good thing about this year's race was that they moved the course to a different location. So even though I had technically run the race six times, I had never run this new course. I had heard good things about this course, which is used for a 5K/10K Turkey Trot as well. I wasn't a fan of the previous course at all, so this change was very welcome.

Most of my gripes about the previous course were resolved, although two minor annoyances still remained. First of all, they placed cones in the middle of the road and forced you to run outside of them, which made it impossible to run the measured tangents. This resulted in a Garmin distance of 6.29. Last year's course measured 6.27. I overhead many runners complaining about the cones and how at the Turkey Trot race, they don't use these cones.

My other complaint was that the 10K runners had to weave around 5K runners for a good portion of the race last year. This year, we only had to weave around slower 5K runners during the last half mile. It was still annoying and made the finish more difficult, but it was an improvement over the previous year's setup.

Race Week: Workout and Goals
On Monday of this week, I ran a set of 4 x 1600m repeats on the track, followed by 3 x 200m. I always run track workouts based on feel and I don't look at my watch until the rep is complete and
I've hit the lap button. My splits were 6:48, 6:43, 6:35, 6:30, 0:40, 0:41, 0:40. My previous fastest 1600m rep time had been 6:38, so during this workout, I ran two miles faster than that. And honestly, it didn't feel all that hard.

This workout made me re-think my goal for the 10K. I had originally hoped to run somewhere in the low 43's, but now I figured I would probably be able to run the race sub-43:00, somewhere around a 6:50-6:52 pace. My revised goal was to run a 42:55 or faster and beat my PR by over a minute.

For the remainder of the week, I only did easy runs so that my legs could recover for today's race. I continued my run streak, which started on December 1. I've now run for 31 days in a row, averaging 7.6 miles a day! That's 234 miles in December.

Before the Race
The race started at 9:00, so I ate half a bagel with peanut butter at 6:30am. I then drank one serving of UCAN at 8:15 as Greg and I were driving to the race. It was 30 degrees, partly cloudy, with winds at about 8 MPH. After much debate, I decided to wear CW-X capri tights and a short-sleeved shirt with arm warmers. I figured I could remove the arm warmers if I got hot. Yes, it is possible to get hot in 30-degree temperatures if the sun is out.

We warmed up for two miles and I decided to ditch the arm warmers before even starting. This ended up being a good decision because I felt comfortable throughout the race in short sleeves, arms exposed.

Miles 1-2
I had studied the course elevation profile and tangents pretty carefully. Even though the cones made it impossible to run the true tangents, I did my best while staying on the correct side of the cones. My plan was to run the first mile at pace of 7:00 because it was a 71ft net elevation gain.

The race started and a bunch of runners flew past me. I didn't let this faze me as I knew I would be passing many of them later in the race. I counted the number of women ahead of me. My friend Rochelle was in first place, and I was pretty sure she would win, and there were 4 other women ahead of me as well. I picked off the first of these women about halfway through the first mile, which put me in 5th place.

Mile 2 was also a net uphill, and my plan was to run this at a pace of 6:57, but I ended up going slightly faster in 6:54. During this mile, I gradually passed the other two women who were ahead of me so that by the end of this mile, I was the third female. I knew there was no chance of passing the second place female, as she looked to be about a full minute ahead of me.

Mile 1: 7:00
Mile 2: 6:54

Miles 3-4
I was relieved to be done with mile 2 because I knew that the next two miles were a net even elevation gain, with some gentle rollers. Now that I had the two slowest miles behind me, I gained the confidence to really turn on the gas. And that's when I started passing some men. Probably about 3-4 of them during this part of the race. I also still had Greg in my sights, although he was way up ahead. I had predicted that Greg would run the race about a minute faster than me, but at this point I could still see him, which was nice.

I pretty much just cruised through these miles. The wind was a little bit of a factor during the third mile, but it wasn't too horrible. I felt really strong and I had a nice pep in my step. I also felt like I had a really good rhythm going in my head. Whenever I looked down at my Garmin, I was shocked to see my paces.

Mile 3: 6:49
Mile 4: 6:40

Miles 5-6.29
At this point, my Garmin was showing an average race pace of 6:50, which was my stretch goal. The exciting thing was that the last two miles were a net downhill, counter-balancing the first two miles which had been net uphill. So I knew at this point I was setup for a huge PR and that I was going to crush my goal.

I excel at downhill running and I actually ran my fastest-ever mile during this race. Kind of crazy to set a one-mile PR during a 10K.

The most challenging part of the entire race came at the very end. The 5K runners merged back onto the course with the 10K runners, and because that race had started 10 minutes later, there were quite a few of these runners, going at about a 10:00 pace. I focused on the man who was running in the 10K about 30 feet ahead of me and tried to follow his path. The course narrowed, 5K runners were all over the place and you really had to pay attention to where you were going. In fact, one of the 5K runners decided he was finished about 10 feet before actually crossing the finish line so he started to walk at that point!

In any event, I knew I was actually close to breaking 42 minutes, so I gave it everything I had and sprinted to the finish.

Mile 5: 6:37
Mile 6: 6:21
Last 0.29: 6:08 pace

My official finish time was 42:09. A PR by 1 minute, 47 seconds! WOW!

My Garmin average pace was 6:43, and according to Strava, my actual 10K time was 41:42. A big difference! Which is why the cone placement irks me so much. 6:21 is the fastest mile I've ever run, and I also set an unofficial 5K PR as well: 20:13. Although I should note that the 20:13 was the second half of the course, which was net downhill. All that being said, my current 5K PR pace is 6:39, and I just ran a 10K at a pace of 6:43.
My medal for winning 3rd place

I was the third overall female finisher, and that came with a $100 prize package of gift certificates. Rochelle, who was the first female finisher, won gift certificates to the same places, so we can all go there together to celebrate!

Up Next: Disney
I'm really looking forward to the Disney World Half Marathon next weekend. I think I will be able to run a solid race, in spite of the possibly unfavorable weather conditions. The last time I ran Disney (in 2013) it was 63 degrees and very humid. It was tough, and the extended forecast shows similar conditions, but I'm mainly going to focus on running a hard effort.

After a difficult summer of being sick with mono, I'm thrilled to end the year on such a high note. I'm looking forward to 2017 and hoping to stay healthy.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Let the Marathon Training Begin!

Happy holidays to all of my blog readers! While this season "downtime" for many runners, I'm just ramping up. I'm planning to run the Myrtle Beach marathon on March 4th, so training is now in full
swing.  I chose the Myrtle Beach marathon because:

  • The weather should be cool in South Carolina that time of year, especially with a 6:30am start time.
  • The course is fast/flat.
  • It's early enough in the season for me to also run a late spring marathon, in case I don't BQ.
  • It's also early enough in the season for me to recover in time for the Cherry Blossom 10-miler.
  • It's on the east coast, so I don't have to worry about changing time zones
  • I'm pretty sure I will be able to meet The Tiny Terror, who has been following my blog for about three years now.
The only downside of running this marathon is having to run the bulk of my hard miles during the most logistically challenging time of the year: January-February. I don't mind cold weather, but when there is ice on the ground, I refuse to run, which means opting for a treadmill or running after work when the ice has melted and I can see better. Neither of these are attractive options, but I've been able to train through this nastiness in years past, so hopefully I can do it again. The only thing I can imagine I would have to sacrifice would be speed work if the ground is icy-- because speed work on a treadmill has historically resulted in injuries. 

Current streak vs. longest streak
I've been running 7 days a week since December 1. If all goes well, I will keep this streak alive for the remainder of the month, and then I have a scheduled rest day in early January. I won't be streaking as long as I did during my Boston Marathon training, but I imagine after my one scheduled rest day, I won't have many more until the race. 

Week of December 5: 52.8 Miles
Once I finished my series of three 5Ks, my coach started to pile on the mileage. My key workouts this week were a steady state run and a fast-finish 90 minute run. My long run was 2 hours, which equated to 13.9 miles.

Week of December 12: 55.2 Miles
Another solid week on the books! On Tuesday, I ran a 90-minute progression run with the first 30 minutes at easy effort (8:54 pace) the middle 30 minutes at medium effort (7:48 pace), and the last 30 minutes hard (7:03 pace). I've done this workout several times in the past, but I've never done it as fast as this. My total distance was 11.45 miles at an average pace of 7:51. That's definitely a tough workout to complete before heading into the office!

On Thursday, I ran 7 hill sprints, lasting 75 seconds each, with the jog back down as recovery. Greg joined me for this one. It was only 22 degrees with sustained winds of 20-25mph! Thankfully, the hill we used was situated in the best possible direction: a tailwind on the way up, and a headwind on the
December 16 long run
way back down. Honestly, the most challenging part of this run was the cool down back to our house. The entire 15 minutes were plagued with a nasty headwind, and it was like getting slapped in the face constantly until we reached home.

I almost had to move Saturday's long run to Sunday because of an ice storm we had on Saturday morning. The roads were coated with ice until about 1:00pm, when the sun came out and melted everything. I took a nap at around that time, and when I woke up, I started the run at 2:30pm. This is really late for me, but my body responded well, and I managed 14.15 miles at a pace of 8:33. The great thing was that this 8:33 was truly my easy effort. I always run long runs based on feel and/or heart rate. I keep them truly easy so that I am able to execute my hard workouts during the week. I've never run an "easy" long run this fast so this workout is evidence that I'm starting to get into marathon shape.

Week of December 19: 60.4 Miles
My coach warned me that I would start to feel tired all-around with the increased mileage and he was right. This week was tough, and here's why:

Monday: 70 minutes easy (8 miles @ 8:46 pace)

Tuesday: Road intervals in 5-minute blocks. 1 minute hard (6:16 pace), 4 minutes easy. 2 minutes hard (6:21 pace), 3 minutes easy. 3 minutes hard (6:23 pace), 2 minutes easy. 4 minutes hard (6:45 pace), 1 minute easy. 5 minutes hard (6:37 pace), 3 minutes easy. 4 minutes hard (6:38 pace), 1 minute easy. 3 minutes hard (6:21 pace), 2 minutes easy. 2 minutes hard (6:20 pace), 3 minutes easy. 1 minute hard (5:55 pace), 4 minutes easy. The toughest thing about this workout is that after running 4 minutes hard, you only get one minute to recover! So I ran the 4-minute segments a little more conservatively, which is why they are slower than the 5-minute segments. Including warm up and cool down, I ran a total of 9.6 miles. 

Wednesday: 50 minutes easy (5.7 miles @ 8:51 pace)
December 22 track workout

Thursday: 8 x 1000m cruise intervals with 200m recovery jogs. My coach told me that the goal was to get progressively faster with this workout, and to make sure I didn't go all out on these-- they were supposed to "cruise intervals" which is slightly faster than tempo pace. My plan was to run the first couple in 4:20 (6:58 pace), and get down to 4:10 by the end. I ran these intervals by feel because my Garmin pace gets all messed up on the track. I was incredibly surprised to see what my times were, based on how they felt! What felt like a 7:00 pace was actually a 6:45 pace. I love it when that happens. My splits were 4:14, 4:11, 4:08, 4:07, 4:04, 4:07, 4:06, 4:04. This comes out to an average pace of 6:38 for all of them! That's faster than my 5K PR pace, and I actually ran 8K, with minimal recovery time. This truly felt like a breakthrough workout. Including warmup and cool down, I ran 9.7 miles total.

Friday: 70 minutes easy (8 miles @ 8:42 pace)

Saturday: 16 miles @ 8:33 pace. Once again, I was not able to run first thing in the morning as I like to do. It was pouring down rain for most of the morning, and at only 38 degrees, it was a recipe for hypothermia. I started the run at 10:00am, just as the rain was tapering off, and the weather ended up being pretty decent, with the exception of some windy spots. I have to admit that this run really took it out of me, and I think it was the cumulative effect. Last weekend's 14 miler was a breeze and I didn't feel tired or sore afterwards at all. But yesterday, the last three miles were a struggle. I managed to hold it together, and even speed up, but I felt extremely tired. Afterwards, I napped for about 45 minutes, even though I had slept for nearly 9 hours the night before. And then, even after having a 45-minute nap at 3:00 in the afternoon, I fell asleep at 8:15 last night, and slept another solid 9 hours. I woke up feeling really tired, and so I'm hoping this is just my body adjusting to the mileage. 

Sunday: 30 minutes recovery (3.4 miles @ 8:56 pace) Just a recovery jog to polish off a very hard week.

I really love the variety of my training plan: hill repeats, cruise intervals, road intervals, progression runs, steady state, and more! Interestingly, there has been no tempo running. And that's because research has shown that running slightly faster (cruise intervals) or slightly slower (steady state) than tempo pace is better for your lactate threshold than running at your tempo pace. I'm hoping that my training continues to go well and that the weather doesn't throw too many curve balls.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Running after Mono: Comeback in Review

I like to review things. I like to review my individual races, workouts, training weeks, training cycles,
and years. It helps me gain closure and ensure that I've taken everything I need from the experience,
First race post-mono
whether that's learning, celebration, or analysis.

I wrote a review of my 12-week layoff with mono, detailing the timeline (June 30-September 20) and how I handled the situation. I've had mono three times as an adult, and if I ever have it again, I will be even better prepared to handle it, both physically and mentally. But now onto the fun part-- how I made my comeback and was able to PR the 5K just 2 months after starting to run again.

For anyone who is coming off of an injury or illness, my best advice is not to rush it, no matter how tempting it may be. Taking it slow in the short term will really pay off later down the road. It does not take long to rebuild your fitness. You have a baseline level of fitness that your body will naturally return to once you have some solid training weeks behind you. Always try to train at one step behind your fitness level, not one step ahead of it. What I mean by that is-- when you finish a run, you should always feel like you could have pushed a little harder, run one extra rep, gone a little longer. Always leave a little bit out there, and that applies for most workouts (not races).  As Greg McMillan says- don't chase fitness; let it come to you.

Here's a snapshot of my comeback:

The first five weeks consisted solely of easy running. This was the toughest part. I grew bored of easy runs and longed for some variety. That said, my paces for these runs dropped significantly each week, without upping the effort level. By the time I ran my first race on November 13, I had regained a good deal of my speed, much to my surprise. My goal for that Veteran's Day 5K was to run 22:30 or lower, and I ended up running 21:31.

My endurance wasn't in as good of a spot. I paced a new friend to run a 1:58 at the Indianapolis half marathon, and my legs were pretty beat up the following day, even though the pace felt easy from a cardio perspective.

Mentally, the first seven weeks were the hardest. I didn't really know how much fitness I had lost or regained, and seemingly everyone around me was PRing at their fall races. I had to constantly remind myself that I would be setting PRs myself soon enough-- I just had to be patient and trust my coach's training plan.

Once I got over the hump and was able to begin racing and running faster workouts, I felt like my good ol' self again. I even had the confidence that I could set a PR in the 5K distance, which I did at the Virginia Run Turkey Trot by running a 20:50. Granted, it was only a one-second PR, but it meant that I was back in business from a speed perspective. I followed that up with a 20:58 at another 5K just 10 days later, winning my age group.

Fun Stats
Run With Santa 5K

Three 5K races:

  • 21:31 (second place age group)
  • 20:50 (first place age group)
  • 20:58 (first place age group) 

Average training paces:

  • September average training pace: 10:44
  • October average training pace: 9:08
  • November average training pace: 8:41
  • December average training pace: 8:28 (so far)

Monthly Mileage:
  • September: 18.3
  • October: 135.4
  • November: 163.1

Up Next: Marathon Training
I am now officially training for the Myrtle Beach Marathon on March 4th. I chose this marathon because I wanted to also run the Cherry Blossom 10-miler, which takes place the first weekend in April. I definitely didn't want to wait until after Cherry Blossom to run a marathon due to the potential for warmer weather, so Myrtle Beach fell on a good date. The only downside is that it will be a 7-hour drive (with no direct flight options) but it has a great reputation and it's supposed to be a
fast course. I've heard that it can be windy, but I've been known to set major PRs in windy conditions, so long as I have a strategy for managing it.

After today's 30-minute run, which I haven't done yet, I will have logged a 52-mile week. I'm now running 7 days a week. My current streak, which started on December 1st, has lasted 10 days so far, which contains 70.7 miles.

On Tuesday, I completed a 90-minute run, with the last 15 minutes "hard." I ran the last two miles in 7:08, 6:48. On Thursday, I ran for 75 minutes, with the middle 45 minutes at steady state pace. Steady state is somewhere between half marathon pace and marathon pace. I surprised myself by averaging 7:22 for 6.1 miles. Everything felt really good. My long run for the week, which I ran yesterday, was two hours, which equated to 13.9 miles at a pace of 8:38.

I'm hoping that I continue to be healthy for the remainder of the training cycle and that the winter weather doesn't throw too many curve balls. I know I will need to be creative about moving workouts around depending on snow and ice.

Overall, I'm extremely thankful that I'm healthy and that I've come back so strong, and that the whole mono incident is far behind me.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Run With Santa 5K: Hello Hill!

This morning I ran the Run With Santa 5K. I typically don't run so many 5Ks back to back, but I needed to squeeze in three "ranked" races before the end of the year. Previously, I ran the Veteran's Day 5K on November 13 (21:31), and the Virginia Run Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving (20:50). I am
now officially qualified for the 2016 RunWashington rankings.

This race definitely crept up on me because I was still basking in my 1-second PR when it came time to prepare mentally. There wasn't much time do any quality workouts between the two races, but I did manage to squeeze in 6 x 800m + 3 x 200m on the track this past Monday. I surprised myself with my speed, running a series of 3:18, 3:17, 3:15, 3:13, 3:12, 3:10. The 200's were also speedy: 41, 42, 41.

The rest of the week was all easy running. Typically I do a tune-up workout the Thursday before a Sunday race, but for whatever reason, that was not on the schedule this week. I didn't question it and just ran easy until today's race.

Before the Race
I must have gone back and forth a hundred times trying to figure out what to wear. I originally had planned to wear CW-X compression capri tights, but yesterday I noticed a slight ache in my shin. Given my history of stress fractures in my shins, I thought it would be best to wear compression socks to this race instead of capri tights, which only come down to my knees. I'm not terribly worried about this ache because it is extremely minor. But the location has put me on guard.

With 34 degree temps (and an overcast sky) I knew a long-sleeve shirt would be in order with shorts. There was no wind, so conditions were ideal. I've generally lucked out with the weather for all three of my 5Ks this fall.

At 7:45, I drank my UCAN and I was ready to warm up at 8:00 with my friend Hannah for an 8:30 race start. I really like warming up with other people because it gets me out of my head so I am less antsy about the race. Greg had decided to rest on his laurels with his 44-second PR from Thanksgiving, so he was on cheer squad duty. My step mother also came out to watch, which was awesome. My friend Alison was also there spectating, so it was great to have a full support crew.

I gave my warmup pants to Greg a few minutes before the race started and lined up close to the front with my friends Lisa and Hannah. My main goal for this race was to stay strong during the last mile. The last mile of this race is killer- it's uphill and it's so hard to push when you're spent from the first two miles. Given that this course is more challenging than the Turkey Trot, I did not expect to PR. Although I didn't rule it out either. I really wanted to go sub-21:00, which would put me within 10 seconds of my PR.

I've run this course 4 times in the past as the "Firecracker 5K" in the summer. I've never run it under cool conditions so I was curious to see what it would be like to not be dying of heat exhaustion.

Mile 1: 6:42
I focused on staying strong but relaxed during this mile. It's a net uphill which is good because you
The start of mile 2: downhill!
don't get pulled out too fast. But it also means you are working hard right from the start. I was very focused on running the tangents because my Garmin typically measures this course at 3.16, and I thought I could get that down if I ran the tangents.

Mile 2: 6:23
My favorite mile. All downhill! My plan had been to really use the downhill nature of this mile to bank some serious time, and I did that. I saw my step mother and Greg during the beginning of this mile, and that pepped me up. I also found myself running with Lisa for the first half of this mile. She was amazing. She kept cheering for me and encouraging me. I'm not able to talk during 5Ks so I was not able to return the favor! I surged ahead about halfway through and she yelled at me to go get a PR. At this point, I thought a PR was definitely possible. I just had to hold it together during the last mile. I'll also note that this is my fastest ever mile! I've never raced the mile, so this is my fastest ever recorded time for a single mile.

Mile 3: 6:58
Given how much effort I pumped out here, I was surprised to see how much I had slowed down. The hill isn't particularly steep but it's so long. Pretty much starting at 2.5 and going to 3.1 it's all uphill and some parts are steeper than others. I continued to focus on the tangents and I told myself that I could do anything for seven minutes. I gave it all I had, but clearly I was slowing down. Nevertheless, I was able to pass two women, and nobody passed me.

Last 0.14: 6:22 pace
That last bit of this course continues to be up an incline. As I approached the finish line, I could see the clock tick closer and closer to 21 so I gave it everything I had. I was able to squeak under in 20:58. Goal attained!
Heading toward the finish line

After the race, I re-united with Greg, Alison, my step mom, Hannah and Lisa. I started my cool down and ran into my friend Cheryl so we were able to cool down together. I also really enjoy cooling down with other runners because I find cool down runs to be extremely boring and it's nice to be able to talk about the race with someone.

I checked the race results and to my surprise, I won first place in my age group! Out of 96! I was the 13th female out of 838, and I was actually beaten by an 11-year old girl, and a 14-year old girl.

I was proud of myself for running 3.14 instead of 3.16 like I typically do on this course in the summer. Yay for tangents! If I had run 3.16, I would not have broken 21:00.

Final Thoughts
I was pleased with my performance this morning. I would have liked to have run that last mile a bit faster and set a new 5K PR, but I just wasn't able to give any more than I gave. I do think that running a 20:58 on this course is more impressive than running a 20:50 on the Turkey Trot course, but that's just my opinion. Some people love this course (like my friend Hannah who set a PR by over 30 seconds and broke 19 minutes) and Lisa. Others find it extremely challenging. I'm somewhere in the middle- I think it's a tough course, but not as tough as the Veteran's Day one. It really requires that you push hard through the end and if you went out too fast then that will be difficult to do. Overall, I just had a really fun time. Lots of my friends were there and it was awesome that my step mother came out too. I also enjoyed donning my brightly colored outfit.

I'm not sure when my next 5K will be, as I am now officially starting to train for my next marathon. Greg and I have a tradition of always running the Ringing In Hope 10K/5K on New Year's eve, but that's the weekend before the Disney World half, so I am not sure if I can squeeze in a 5K while also running high mileage. Another interesting tidbit is that Strava tells me I ran portions of this course faster in the summer of 2015, when I ran a 22:05. I must have started more conservatively back then and had more in me for that final mile.

Finally, the shin behaved itself and I didn't feel it at all during the race or afterward. Phew. I'll continue to monitor it because I would hate to get an injury so soon after coming back from mono.

Oh, and public service announcement: if you are looking for a holiday gift for a runner, check out my book Boston Bound. It's appropriate for runners of all abilities, and addresses the mental aspects of running.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Every Second Counts: Turkey Trot 5K Report

This morning I ran my 11th consecutive Virginia Run Turkey Trot 5K. That's right, I have an eleven-year streak, which is impressive, considering I have never been ill or injured on Thanksgiving. Knock on wood! I discovered the race in 2006, and have been back every year since. I met Greg in 2009, so this was Turkey Trot #7 for him.

Virginia Run Turkey Trot 5K

If you've been reading this blog, you know that I spent 12 weeks over the summer with mono. Zero running, zero exercise. I started running again on September 20, but I didn't resume speed work until about four weeks ago. And even at that, it wasn't very intense.

On November 13, I ran the Veteran's Day 5K, where I smashed by goal by nearly a full minute, finishing in 21:31 on a hilly course. There wasn't too much time for speed work between that race and this one, but on Thursday, I ran road intervals of 2 x (1:00, 2:00, 3:00, 2:00, 1:00), all with 90-second recovery jogs. I was pleased with how the run felt, and it seemed as if I was getting close to hitting the paces I was last spring. The follow Saturday (last Saturday) I ran for 80 minutes, with the first 70 minutes being easy, and the last 10 minutes "hard." The hard minutes averaged a pace of 6:51, which helped boost my confidence. And then on Monday of this week, I did a little tune-up workout with 4:00, 3:00, 2:00, 1:00, 1:00. So now that I think about it, my coach was able to squeeze in a decent amount of speed between the Veteran's Day race and today.

Going into this race, I made the following assumptions:
  • I would be fitter than I was for Veteran's Day, because when you are coming back, you make gains quickly
  • The course would be slightly easier, with the last mile being a net downhill instead of up a huge hill
  • The course would measure shorter on my Garmin
Garmin distance is important because when I am trying to project a finish time, I know that my Garmin will read something longer than the official race distance. I like comparing apples to apples, and I use my Garmin to pace myself when running. For Veteran's Day, my Garmin showed an average pace of 6:46. I knew that if I ran the exact same pace today, I'd end up with a 21:14 (or thereabouts) instead of a 21:31. I also got a FitBit for my birthday that tracks my resting heart rate, and in the past 10 days, my resting heart rate had gone down from 51 to 47. Not surprising, given that you make gains quickly when coming back from downtime.

So given these three elements of being fitter, having an easier course and having a shorter course, I thought I would land somewhere around 20:55. And that got me thinking. My all-time 5K PR was 20:51, set on this course last year. So, why not try to push it a little and go for a modest PR this morning? Which is exactly what I did.

My pacing strategy was to take the first mile at 6:38, which was 4 seconds faster than last year, and then try to run around the same paces I did last year for the rest of the race. Another important aspect of my plan was the tangents. Usually when I run this course, my Garmin measures 3.13. But last year it was 3.14. I know I am thinking about seemingly insignificant things here, but hey-- when you are trying to PR by a matter of seconds, it all matters! So this year, I told myself to pay very close attention to the tangents and to not waste energy weaving around kids during the first mile.

Before the Race
Greg and I arrived at the race, parked in our usual spot at a nearby church, and went to the bathroom in the church. There was a man standing outside the church who seemed very happy to let us in and use the bathroom. He kept emphasizing to us where the bathrooms were and he gave us a huge smile. I think he was literally there that day for the sole purpose of letting use the bathroom. He even said "that's what I'm here for." It was really awesome.

We warmed up, with a plan to be in the start corral about 5 minutes before the race started. A little bit of panic set in when the course marshal told us we couldn't cross the street to get into the corral-- we had to walk all the way around, which meant weaving through a huge crowd. And when we finally crossed the street, we were at the very back of the corral, so we had to weave through another crowd to get up to the front. This happened to other people who wanted to be close to the front and they were annoyed as well. This race has over 2,000 people, and many of them are small children, so getting stuck in the back was not an attractive option!

The weather was perfect. Low 40's and overcast with just a very slight breeze. I had actually debated between wearing CW-X compression capris and shorts. I feel like the compression helps my legs move quickly when it's cold out. But ultimately I settled on shorts because they weighed less! I needed every possible advantage if I wanted a shot at a PR.

Mile 1: 6:38
Unlike most years, there were not a ton of 8-years olds lined up right at the front. This meant I didn't have to do a lot of weaving like I usually have to do in the first mile. I got pulled out pretty quickly on a slight downhill and when I looked at my pace halfway through the mile, it said 6:20. Oops! Time to slow down a bit, which was easy because the rest of the mile was a slight incline. I also noticed a tangent in the first mile that I had never noticed before, so I made sure to run to the inside of the curve. When I hit the first mile marker, I was pleased that I had executed according to plan, but I did not feel good. I was already tired. 

Mile 2: 6:49
I didn't have the same "pep in my step" that I did at the Veteran's Day race. I felt tired and a little sluggish. There's a sizable hill in this mile. It's not terribly long, but it's on the steep side, so getting up it is always a challenge. It wasn't this hill, however, that slowed me down. It was the first part of the mile, which was flat-ish. I was just tired and not able to maintain that 6:38 pace. During this mile, someone yelled "Go Elizabeth!" at me and I wondered who it was.

Mile 3: 6:38
As I continued on, people kept yelling "Go Elizabeth" at me, at which point I realized that the girl next to me must have been named Elizabeth. Whatever- I'll take it! I knew this mile was a net downhill, but that it ended on an incline-- the same incline that was a decline and pulled me out too fast. I was hoping to really kill it during the mile like I typically do on this course. Usually my last mile is significantly faster than the first two. But today, I was pushing as hard as possible, but my Garmin pace was stubbornly refusing to budge. During the last half mile, I started to think that I wouldn't get my PR. It would be close, but likely wouldn't happen at this rate. Regardless, I still pushed with everything I had.

Last 0.13: 5:49 pace
Amazingly, I did have another gear in me, which I hit as I passed mile marker 3. I revved and revved and revved. Someone passed me at lightening speed and it motivated me to kick even harder. I saw the clock as I crossed and I stopped my Garmin: 20:50.

I knew this feeling. It was like being at the Columbus Marathon with a Garmin time of 3:40:00 and hoping the official time matched, which would mean a BQ. Greg and I made our way to the results area and typed our bib numbers in the computer. I held my breath. And the official time was. . . 20:50!  I did it! I PR'ed by one second!

Back in 2014, I ran this race in 21:30. I had missed my then-PR of 21:29 by one second. I wasn't terribly disappointed, but it's much better when it goes the other way!

As for Greg, I knew he was in great shape and I had predicted a huge PR for him. Well, he got a 44-
First place AG award: a hat!
second PR, which is massive for the 5K. He clocked in at 20:09, which means sub-20:00 is clearly within his grasp.

I won first place in my age group, which earned me a hat identical to the one I won in 2014.  I was the 13th female out of 1164, which I was thrilled with. Not to look a Gift Turkey in the mouth, but they were giving away Ninja blenders and restaurant gift cards as raffle prizes, but the winners only walked away with hats! That's okay. I'll be back again next year and hopefully keep adding to the hat collection.

Key takeaways
Even though you don't want to over-think things, the small things matter. If I hadn't been as diligent about the tangents, it could have cost me a second or two, and I would not have PR'ed. According to Strava, both this race and last year's race had a 5K effort of 20:41. I was able to run a faster "official" time this year because of the tangents.

I am running yet another 5K next weekend. I think all of these 5K's now will set me up with a nice base speed to begin marathon training. Next weekend we are back to a longer, hillier course, so I don't anticipate a PR. But you never know!

And for fun, here is my Turkey Trot history for the past 7 years:

 Year   Mile 1   Mile 2   Mile 3  Final Kick  Time
 2009  7:25  7:44  7:37 7:1323:40
 2010  7:19 7:197:07  6:1322:33
2011  7:00 7:05 6:42 5:5721:29
 2012 7:127:157:056:1022:18
 2013  7:26 7:30  7:03 6:3822:46
2014  7:01 6:54 6:45 6:1521:30
 2015  6:43 6:43 6:35  6:0320:51
  2016     6:38    6:49   6:38  5:49 20:50 

Happy Thanksgiving to all my blog readers!

Sunday, November 20, 2016

10 Things Runners Remember from 10 Years Ago

I celebrated my 38th birthday on November 11. It seems like just yesterday I was 28 and just starting to get into long distance running.

I ran my first marathon in 2006, and even though running still involves simply putting one foot in front of the other, quite a few things have changed. If you've been running for 10+ years, enjoy this bit of nostalgia. If you haven't, then maybe you'll learn a bit of history!
Stopwatch, white shoes, sports beans!

1. Stopwatches with lap buttons
If I remember correctly, the Garmin GPS watches were just starting to come out in 2005, and it took them a few years to go mainstream. Back in 2006, I was using my trusty Timex stop watch in races and for long runs. I did all of my long runs on the W&OD trail, which has mile markers, so I would press the lap button at each milepost. The same was true for races. I had no idea what pace I was running until I approached the mile marker and hit the lap button on my watch.

2. Mainly white running shoes
If you walked into a running store 10 years ago, all the shoes would be white with small pops of color accents. The more popular models offered a choice of up to 4 color accents, but the shoes looked pretty much the same: all white. Nowadays, the walls of running shoe stores are covered in bright colors and you'll be hard-pressed to find anything that's mainly white. It used to be that runners were cautioned not to buy shoes based on color, but now runners actually have a good range of colors for any given shoe.

3. iPods--not iPhones
10 years ago, many people were running with iPods, myself included. I used the iPod Mini for awhile, but then the shuffle came out and I loved how compact it was. Nowadays, I see some people still using Shuffles (which is what I use on the treadmill) but the majority of runners who run with music seem to be using their phones to do so. Oh, and also using the phones to track their route, take pictures, and a number of other things that could not be done with a simple iPod.

4. The Boston Marathon didn't fill up
You could BQ in February and then run Boston just two months later! What's more, you could BQ in the fall of 2005, and that time would be good for Boston 2006 AND Boston 2007. There were no "cut-off" times because there didn't need to be. 10 years ago, running marathons was not nearly as popular as it is today. It was a lot easier to get into Boston back then because there simply wasn't as much competition as there is today. Part of me wishes it would go back to being the way it used to, but another part of me enjoys the fact that it's more challenging now.

5. The ChampionChip
Back in the day, most all races were timed using a chip that you would affix to your shoe. That chip was replaced by the D-Tag somewhere around 2009, which I absolutely hated because it was so bulky and it had accuracy issues. But then the B-Tag that attaches to the race bib came along in the past 3-4
My ChampionChip collection
years which is both accurate and convenient.

Some races still do use the D-Tag and a shoe chip, but they are few and far between. Also, I'm only familiar with races in the Washington DC metro area and large-scale marathons. There may be races in other parts of the country that still rely heavily on the timing chip. I had my own personal ChampionChip that I purchases from the Rock 'N' Roll Virginia Beach half. I used this to register for local races and it would save me $2 on registration. Some races also provided souvenir chips that would not work for future races. I have these from the Houston Half Marathon, the New Jersey Marathon and the Marine Corps Marathon. Before the ChampionChip, there was the ankle strap, and I ran several marathons with that. Super uncomfortable!

6. Social Media wasn't mainstream
Some people were on MySpace, but not nearly as many people were on MySpace talking about running as there are today on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Strava, and numerous forums. So chances are, if you went for a training run, the only person who knew about it was you and maybe the people you lived with. There wan't as much "inspiration" going around so runners had to be more intrinsically motivated to get out there and run.

7. Sports Beans or gels?
Fueling options were limited 10 years ago. There were only a few brands of gels and the alternative to that was Jelly Belly Sports Beans. Today we have plenty of options available: UCAN, Shot Blocks, Tailwind, Honey Stinger Waffles, and probably a bunch of others I don't even know about.

8. Lottery? What Lottery?
Races used to be easy to get into. Chicago, Marine Corps, Houston, Cherry Blossom -- just to name a few. None of these races used to have lotteries and you could register for them as late as a few weeks prior! It was nice because you didn't have to commit to a race so far in advance. You could basically just wait until you felt ready to race and then go for it. Also, if you were injury-prone (like I used to be) it made sense to wait until a month or so before to register.

9. The Philadelphia Distance Run and the National Marathon
The Philadelphia Distance Run 2006

In 2006, the Rock 'n' Roll series had like 4 or 5 races to choose from. I remember San Diego, Arizona, and Virginia Beach. What we know as Rock 'n' Roll Philadelphia used to be called the Philadelphia Distance Run. Today's Rock 'n' Roll DC used to be the National Marathon. As part of the Rock 'n' Roll series, these races are now more expensive and commercialized, but you know that the race will be well-organized.

10. Brightroom Event Photography
It used to be that a company called "Brightroom" dominated the race photo industry. You could preview your photos online at a decent size (see photo to the right) without the huge word PROOF over your face. You could buy printed copies of your photos for a reasonable price. At some point, Marathonfoto emerged onto the scene and gained a monopoly over the industry. They are now able to get away with charging and arm and a leg for race photos, while sending horribly-formatted marketing emails. While their prices have gone down ever so slightly over the past two years, I predict that they will soon either need to reduce their prices more or face new competition. Smaller race photography companies exist, they just aren't mainstream yet.

Who knows what running will look like 10 years from now? Overall, I like the technological advances that we've made and the fact that more people are running marathons. But it is nice to reflect on "back in the day" when things were much simpler.

Well, not everything was much simpler!