Saturday, December 20, 2008

The Curse of the 10K

I don't know what it is about the 10K. I have never run one that I was satisfied with. Except for maybe my first 10K, and I was happy just to be in the top 25% of the women.

Today I ran the Christmas Caper 10K as a tune-up race for the Marathon. It will be followed by a 17-miler tomorrow to prepare my legs to run when fatigued. This race was tiny. The official results aren't posted yet, but I would guess that maybe only 150 people ran the 10K, and probably 200 people ran the accompanying 5K. It was a true 'no-frills' race with no t-shirt, and it only cost $5.00. So, even though the field was small, there were a lot of really good runners out there.

The race was not chip timed, and there were no mile markers. It was 40 degrees and overcast, but it felt more like the upper 20's with the wind. Headphones were not permitted, so I had to go without. The race was a two-loop course know as Hains Point in Washington DC. I had run this course as part of the Marine Corps Marathon.

Going into this race, I told myself that my main goals were to stay relaxed, not go out too fast, and not put too much pressure on myself to perform. I figured I would go out at a 8:00 pace for the first mile, and then try and run 7:40s for the rest of the race, in the hopes of breaking 48 minutes. All of my recent races and training runs indicate that this is possible. I ran a 7-mile tempo run at a pace of 8:00, and felt like I had plenty of 'gas in the tank' afterward, so running a 10K with race adrenaline should have been at a noticeably faster pace.

There was no taper for this race. I ran 10 miles with hills on Thursday and then an easy 5 miles on Friday. Additionally, I went to my company's Holiday party last night and was up past midnight. I woke up at 4:00am, which means less than 4 hours of sleep. I'm not trying to make excuses, just trying to factor in all the variables.

I warmed up for about half a mile and then waited for the race to start. I was shivering in my skirt (no tights). The race started and I tried to hold back a bit. There was a 10 mph headwind since we were right next to the water, and so I figured I wouldn't push hard at the start. I didn't know if there would be mile markers, but I wasn't really expecting them given the size of the race. There was a marker at mile 1, but then nothing after that. I ran the first mile in 8:01, which I was pleased with, considering the headwind.

I picked up the pace a bit, but I wasn't sure by how much. There was a woman about 10 feet in front of me wearing a Chicago Marathon jacket from 2007. The year it was really hot. She seemed to be holding a nice steady pace, so I decided to let her pace me. There were no more mile markers, and I didn't have my music to focus on, so I just kept my eyes on that woman and focused on running at her pace. After the first loop, I was neck-and-neck with her. I don't know if she slowed down or if I sped up. We ran together for about a mile and then she got ahead of me again. At about mile 5, she passed this one girl who seemed to be slowing down. And then I passed her as well. Since I couldn't focus on my pacing strategy, I was really focused on what these other women were doing. Shortly after the Chicago woman and I passed that girl, she gunned ahead at a fast speed and flew by both of us. Neither of us could catch her.

I just assumed that a PR would be 'in the bag' because I am in such better shape now than I was last year when I set my PR. So, I kept looking at my watch and assuming I would get to the finish line at 47 or 48 something. But I started to get discouraged when the finish line was not coming, and I crossed in a disappointing 49:36. 13 seconds slower from the PR I set last December. Although this race was a lot more controlled than that one. (I had gone out t 7:30 back then and blew up during the last mile). I really think that if there had been mile markers and I had realized that I wasn't going at my target pace, I could have sped up. But I was so fearful of bonking, that I guess I held back a little too much.

Both of the women beat me by seconds, but the Chicago woman was 40, and the other woman was in her 20's. Which means we weren't competing against each other for an age group award.

The woman in the Chicago jacket said she thought it was a tough course with the wind, which reassured me. Additionally, she had just run a marathon in 3:45 a few weeks ago. That was comforting to hear!

I was definitely not pleased with my time, considering that all of my other races predict something faster, and I am in much better shape than I was last December when I PRed. But I am not discouraged about the marathon because I have had some amazing training runs over the past month.

I did win third place in my age group (30-39), but that's not saying much, given the size of the race. I took home some Balsam & Cedar Oil Diffusers as my award.

If I can get through the 17 miles tomorrow after having done this 10K, I will be pleased.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

17 w/ 14 @ MP

Lately, I have been second-guessing my BQ attempt. Training is going flawlessly, but I am not seeing the gains in speed that I had hoped for. I did just set two PRs in the half marathon and the 5K, but they weren't significant enough for me to really think that a BQ was in the cards for me.

Now, my confidence has been restored.

This morning, I ran 17 miles. The first three were slow warm-up miles and then the remaining 14 were at marathon goal pace. I was aiming for 8:23-8:24 as my target. I did just run 13.1 miles at an average 8:17 pace in Richmond, so it seems like this training run shouldn't be an issue. However, that was in the context of a race, with race-day adrenaline and a mini taper. This run comes after having run 90 miles in the first 12 days of December, including two 12-milers just this week.

It was cold and sunny, with the occasional 15 MPH wind gust. It was about 31 degrees at the start and probably around 36 at the end. I wore the shoes that I am planning to wear in the marathon, my beloved Brooks Adrenaline GTS 6, which have been discontinued for two years, but I have a few remaining pairs, which I reserve for occasions like this. I won't wear the shoes again until race day.

As I began the run, I realized that I was wearing an extra 3-4 pounds of clothing, not to mention the water bottle I was carrying. I felt weighted down and I was wondering if I could actually hit target pace with this extra clothing. After the three warmup miles, it was time to start running at marathon pace. I sped up to something that felt noticeably harder, but still comfortable. I clocked the first mile at 8:32. I typically start all my runs slower and end faster, so I was fine with this pace for the beginning.

1- 8:33
2- 8:32
3- 8:31
4- 8:22

I picked it up during the 4th mile, because I knew I had to, and I was finally warmed up to my new faster pace. It didn't feel easy and I was seriously doubting that I would be able to do the full 14 at this kind of pace. But, I reminded myself that usually my runs don't feel good until I am 5 or 6 miles into the run (which is why I am horrible at 10Ks)! Sure enough, I did start to feel good during mile 5.

5- 8:26
6- 8:24
7- 8:15
8- 8:12

I ate sports beans at mile 5 and mile 10. I typically do not use any sort of fuel on my long runs because I want my body to learn how to burn fat for fuel. But today was an exception and almost like a rehearsal for the race. It was also good practice in eating the beans while maintain the target pace.

9- 8:14
10- 8:19
11- 8:19

Interestingly, I did not have to stop for traffic at all during this run. There were three spots where I had to cross busy intersections and I was extremely lucky that I had the right of way each time. I was looking forward to my forced stop at mile 12, but it didn't happen. Which is for the best, anyway. I threw away my empty water bottle and cranked out the last three miles.

12- 8:22
13- 8:11
14- 7:55

The 8:11 was a surprise. I felt myself slowing down, but I think I must have mentally told myself that I really couldn't afford to slow down, so I overcompensated. And then I knew I could nail the last mile at a sub-8:00. 

The average pace for this run was 8:20, which is the pace of a 3:38 marathon. The total time was 1:56:40. Yay!

The great thing about this run was that my legs didn't hurt or get tired. After having running so many miles in the past two weeks, my legs felt awesome. I think I might have some minor soreness tomorrow, but I will definitely be ready for another 50+ week next week.

Only two weeks of hard training remain, and then I begin my taper. I am so very thankful that I have managed to complete all of these training runs without getting injured. I just need to make it to Phoenix in one piece and the weather has to cooperate! I would actually prefer to race in weather like today (35 degrees) then something in the low 60's, which is what Arizona is typically like.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Peak Week! (Part II)

Back in August, I wrote a blog called "Peak Week!". As the name implies, the blog was about my week with the highest mileage prior to the marathon. With this training cycle, I am mixing my previous program (Pftizinger) with another program (RW Ultimate). I thought I really benefitted from the 55-mile week in the previous program, so I decided to keep it in my training plan. Except for I added a mile to the long run and ended up with 56 miles.

I thought I would do a comparison of both weeks: August 18 vs. December 1. That week of August 18 was one of the last weeks I was able to complete before getting sick at the VA Beach half marathon on the 31st.

Monday: Recovery with Strides
Monday's run is 6 recovery miles, including six 100m strides. Not much change between August and now, as recovery runs are supposed to be run very slowly. In August, I was doing recovery runs at an average pace of 10:25 and now I am doing them at an average pace of 10:15, and my heart rate is actually lower for a faster pace. The pace of the strides is still the same, only strides have gotten a lot easier.

Tuesday: 12 with 7 Tempo
Tuesday is one of the most challenging workouts in the program: 12 miles with 7 at tempo pace. I did 4 warump, 7 tempo, and 1 cooldown. Here is where I see a real difference. I put in the same level of effort as I did in August, and ended up with a much faster tempo. Both runs were done on a treadmill, so weather was not a factor.

In August the miles were: 8:18, 8:16, 8:09, 8:05, 8:03, 8:03, 8:00.
8:08 Average.
This week, the miles were: 8:06, 8:05, 8:03, 8:03, 8:00, 7:57, 7:50.
8:00 Average.

Best of all, I felt like I had energy left over, and could have continued running at that pace. My 10K PR pace is 7:57, so I am thinking I can probably shave at least a minute off of that, if I don't go out too fast.

Wednesday: Rest!

Thursday: 12 Miles
In August, this run averaged a pace of 9:23. This week was actually slower- averaging 9:30. This was partially because I added "hills" (treadmill inclines) at grades 5%-6% during the run, for a minute at a time. While maintaining my pace. I've been adding hills to all of my medium-long runs, and also running a hilly route for my long runs. I think this has helped immensely, even though my marathon is relatively flat. Hills help with leg strength.

Friday: 5 Recovery
Not much exciting here.

Saturday: Long Run
The program calls for 20 miles, which I did in August at an average pace of 9:32. Yesterday, I decided I would do 21 miles, just to push my limits a bit, and log my highest weekly mileage ever. I ran a much hiller route, and averaged a pace of 9:26. Further, faster, and hillier.

I do have some lingering soreness in my quads today, but I think I will be ready to go again on Monday. Oh yeah, and this run was freezing. It was overcast and about 32 degrees. It took me nearly an hour to fully "thaw" afterwards.

I'm very pleased with my 56-mile week. And if you count the run that I did last Sunday, it's actually 60 miles in 7 days! As for the marathon itself, I only have six weeks until the big day. Right now, I feel pretty confident in a 3:45. I need a 3:40 to BQ, and I am not sure if that will be feasible. I have a few more tune-up races this month and some speed sessions which will help me determine what I am capable of.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Blood From a Turnip

"Setting a PR in the 5K is like squeezing blood from a turnip," one of my wise runner friends once told me. Back in June 2007, I squeezed two seconds out of it, down to 23:30. I hadn't squeezed anything since. . . until today!

I ran the 20th annual Virginia Run Turkey Trot 5K in Centreville, VA. This is a large 5K with about 3,000 participants. This is my third consecutive year running this course, and my course record was 23:32 from 2006. Last year's race was a disaster.

I was really hoping for and expecting a PR today. By how much, I had no idea. All of my training is targeted towards a January 18th marathon, which means that the bulk of my speedwork is only just beginning. Up until now, most everything has been focused on endurance and lactate threshold. A 5K is mainly a test of your VO2 Max, and I haven't been doing that kind training.

The weather was sunny with no wind, and the temperature was a frigid 33 degrees. I wore tights, and actually put my skirt over my tights for the first time ever. It was surprisingly comfortable. I wore my lightweight Mizuno Elixirs which are simply awesome for short races and speedwork. The course was rolling hills, with two longer/steeper hills (but that weren't terrible).

My strategy for this race was to not go out too fast (I ruin almost all my short races this way) and to not look at my watch. I wanted to wear a watch so I would know my time immediately, but I didn't want to look at it. I lined up toward the front, but not the very front. I didn't want to go out too fast so I made sure I was back some. The people around me were talking about running a pace of 8:30, and I was hoping for about 7:30, but I didn't move. The race started and it was really crowded. I didn't want to expend energy weaving through too many people, and I didn't want to go out too fast, so I just tried to stay relax and go with it.

I came to the first mile marker and hit the split button. I wanted to record my splits but not look at them. Well, I "accidentally" saw that I ran a 7:54. Not good. (I would later learn that this was more like a 7:50 because I started my watch too soon). I told myself not to worry and that I could easily run the rest of the race at a pace of 7:20. And that's exactly what I did.

I gave myself a bit of a push and I told myself to just maintain that faster pace. I passed a bunch of people at this point, weaving through them left and right, but I was determined to run at my pace and not let the crowd stop me from getting a PR. I zoned out. I focused on the music in my iPod. There were two long hills. I told myself that I had been training on hills so not to be intimidated.

All of a sudden, I noticed that I was turning back onto the main "drag" that meant that the race was almost over. I didn't even see the second mile marker. I looked at my watch and it read 19:04. Where did all that time go!? It just went by soooo fast because I was so focused, or perhaps I was zoned. Whatever I was doing, it worked.

Someone on the Runner's World forums said that you are supposed to feel like you are on the verge of vommiting during a 5K. So, I reminded myself that the pain I was feeling was normal and good, and that I could survive just a few more minutes of it. I told myself that I could NOT slow down and that I would sprint to the finish. I was grunting loudly. Every 15 seconds or so, I would let out this loud grunt that was totally incontrollable and really embarassing!

As I approached the finish line, I looked at the clock, which read 23:35. I knew I had a PR so I just did this sprint, and passed a few runners in the last 50 meters or so.

My official time was 23:22, with an average pace of 7:31.
This is a 5K PR by 8 seconds, and a course PR by 10 seconds.

I placed 5 of 136 women aged 30-34, beating 96.3% of them.
I placed 56 of 1421 total women, beating 96.1% of them.

After the race, I ran another 5 miles at a pace of about 8:50. Including the warmup and the race, I ran 9.1 miles today.

I'm very pleased with my performance, especially since this is the ONLY 5K where I have ever run negative splits. Maybe the crowd at the beginning was a blessing in disguise.

Time for Turkey! Happy Thanksgiving to all my blog readers.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Half Marathon PR, Long Overdue!

Background 
Going into this race, I felt like a PR was pretty much a guarantee, provided that the weather didn't interfere. I set my half marathon PR of 1:50:43 (8:27 pace) back in January in Houston, and I hadn't even been running in the three weeks leading up to it due to an injury.

Part of my success there was due to the fact that I told myself to relax and have fun with it. I learned that the less pressure I put on myself while racing, the better. I expected a half marathon PR back in August when I ran the VA Beach half marathon, but due to the wicked humidity, and the fact that I was coming down with a nasty virus (that the race worsened, like 10 fold), I ended up with a disappointing 2:03, and I felt like death when the race was over.

On Friday night, I arrived at the hotel that I had booked last-minute. They had forecasted major thunderstorms for Saturday morning, so I figured I would rather face rush-hour traffic with no thunderstorms on Friday than have to deal with that on race morning. The hotel was really nice, and it was located about 15 minutes away from the race. I found a small Italian restaurant nearby and I ordered ziti marinara for carry out and ate it in my hotel room. I am not sure how an Italian restaurant can mess up something so simple, but this pasta was awful.

I also realized that this was the first race that I had ever traveled to where I was alone. Usually I go to races where I know someone who lives there, or I travel with somebody. But for the first time, I was carb-loading alone.

Race Morning 
I looked out my window and there was no rain. All the weather web sites were still forecasting a 100% chance of rain during the race with 100% humidity. Temps were supposed to be in the lower 60's. I ended up wearing a sports bra (no shirt to cling to me if it got wet) and a hat to keep the water off of my face.

I drove to the site of the race and calmly told myself not to panic as I could not find parking. So many roads were blocked off, that I couldn't get to the lots that the race web site said to use. At one point, I found myself going down a dark alley under the stadium and I was all freaked out. I finally found a lot that was really close to the start line, but that the web site hadn't mentioned.

Miles 1-4 
The race started and memories of the marathon from last year came flooding back. The first two miles were on the same streets and I just reminded myself of how it took a while to get into my "groove"
Mile 1
back then, so it was okay to not feel great at the beginning. I really didn't want to go out too fast, or waste energy weaving through people, so I let the crowd set the pace. It felt like a pace of 8:45, and I told myself that any pace was acceptable for mile one, but it ended up being 8:15 and I was pleasantly surprised. All I had to do was to maintain that exact pace for the remainder of the race.

I carried a small water bottle with me for the first few miles. I was mentally prepared for a somewhat steep hill at the end of mile 3, which during the marathon, was the end of mile 19. I was thankful that it was only mile 3 and so glad that I wasn't having to conquer that hill at mile 19 again. After that, we ran on a track through a stadium and then around a large parking lot. This was cool because I could see a very long stream of runners behind me and ahead of me. Everyone was sprawled out around the track and the parking lot. I must have slowed down here, although it didn't feel slower.

Mile 1: 8:15
Mile 2: 8:14
Mile 3: 8:10
Mile 4: 8:23

Miles 5-10
During this whole time, there was not a single drop of rain. The temperature was in the mid 60's and
very humid. I tried not to get freaked out by the humidity, and just told myself to push through. I had my first pack of sports beans during mile 5 and my second pack (with caffeine) during mile 10. I ate about 3/4 of each pack.

Somewhere around mile 10
The course wound through some neighborhoods, and this was not part of the full marathon course. There was no mile marker 5, (or at least I didn't see it) and I told myself not to worry about it and just keep going. I crossed the 10K timing mat at 51:03, which was perfect! This was a pace of 8:13, and exactly on target with where I wanted to be. I wondered if my friends were getting the text messages they signed up for. I would later find out that the timing system was completely messed up.

Mile marker 9 was misplaced and this messed me up. According to my watch, I ran a 6:43 mile, which I knew was not correct. However, there was a downhill during that mile, and I did feel fast, so I figured there was a good possibility that I had run a sub-8:00 mile. I told myself to slow down so that I wouldn't hit the wall during the last few miles. This was a mistake. I came to the next mile marker in 10:21. I had no idea what those two miles averaged at the time, but it ended up being the slowest part of my race.

Mile 5: 8:09
Mile 6: 8:09 (both of these miles averaged 16:18)
Mile 7: 8:18
Mile 8: 8:15
Mile 9: 6:23 (probably around 8:15)
Mile 10: 10:23 (probably around 8:45)

Miles 11-13.1 
I was finally in the home stretch. I told myself that nothing could stop me now! Well, the wind did its best to stop me. By this point, the temperature had risen to about 68 degrees, with high humidity, and the winds were really picking up. I couldn't draft off of anyone because there was no one close
enough to me. I never felt like the wind was at my back-- it seemed like a strong headwind for these last three miles.

I was looking forward to that last mile because I knew that it was mainly downhill. It was mainly downhill, but I was also fighting wind, so it was a really weird sensation. The last quarter of a mile was a steep downhill and I wanted to make the most of it. I lengthened my stride farther than it's ever been and I felt like I was flying. I was afraid of slipping on the wet pavement, but I stayed focus and tried to really hammer it home with the help of that downhill.

I sprinted to the finish line and my legs were moving faster than I have ever felt them go, with the momentum of that hill. I don't know how fast the sprint was because I didn't stop my watch until a few seconds after crossing the finish line, and as of now, my chip time has not been recorded by the race.

Mile 11: 8:23
Mile 12: 8:29
Mile 13: 8:02
Last 0.1: ?

After the Race 
Because I have far too many race photos of me hitting my watch at the finish line, I waited until I was well beyond it to stop my watch. My watch time ended up being 1:48:45, but I'm going to call it 1:48:42 to account for the fact that I waited a few seconds to stop it. (Yeah, I am OCD that way).

Because of so-called weather issues, my chip time is the same time as my gun time in the official results. About half of the other runners have that as well, so I hope they correct it. I am really not a fan of the D-Tag. I think I have complained about it in every blog of every race I have run with it. My VA Beach half marathon splits were incorrect for about a week, and then they were finally fixed. I hope they are able to fix my official results, because this is a PR for me!

I drove back to my hotel, showered and checked out. I then went back to the race where I met some marathoners from the Runner's World web site for a beer and lunch. The marathoners suffered some major heat/humidity. It was actually sunny with temperatures rising to about 74. This was nowhere in the forecast!

Didn't Push Hard Enough? 
When I crossed the finish line, I felt amazingly good. I typically am out of sorts for about 5 minutes after a half marathon. I have never felt so good at the finish line! Nothing hurt, either. I had no
Crossing the finish
soreness or leg aches during the race. I felt like I could have kept going at that same pace for a few more miles, but it would have been hard to speed up. Once again, this is a testament to my endurance abilities over speed. I didn't feel sore or stiff for the rest of the day, and today, there is just some minor soreness.

The good news is that I won't have to sacrifice this week of training due to recovery. I will hopefully be able to log another 50-mile week instead of having to take extra days off for recovery. This was not my "A" race, so it makes sense that I didn't push it. On the other hand, I am really curious what I could have done if I had pushed harder. Or if there was no wind or humidity. I am planning on the half marathon this spring, so this just sets me up for even more PRs!

STATS 
My time was 1:48:42, with an average pace of 8:17. This is a PR by 2:01. I have not set a PR since March, so it felt awesome!

Here are my rankings:

  • 25 of 334 for women ages 30-34, beating 92.5% of my age group. 
  • 126 of 2038 women, beating 93.9% of the women 
  • 423 of 3620 total finishers (male and female), beating 88.4% of all runners. 

I am very pleased with my rankings. Sure, I think I could have run faster, but maybe not because of the wind and the humidity. Next up is my annual Turkey Trot 5K.

Friday, November 14, 2008

The Calm Before The Storm

I used to be relatively lucky with race weather. This year, it's been one weather disaster after another, for the most part! At the Shamrock marathon, I faced some strong winds, at the London marathon, periods of torrential downpour, at a four-mile, a 100-degree heat index, at the VA Beach half, 93% humidity.

Tomorrow, for the Richmond half marathon, they are forecasting thunderstorms, with rain heavy at times. Some forecasts predict that the storms will be over by 8:00am, leaving lighter rain, while other forecasts have the thunderstorms continuing on through the race. What this means for runners is:

- Wet, heavy shoes, with the potential to blister
- Lack of crowd support and entertainment
- Fewer volunteers
- Increased risk of slipping/falling
- Chafing, heavy clothing, etc.

I am worried about all of these things, plus straining my groin like I did in London because those muscles work overtime to help you maintain your balance on wet pavement. I am more worried about getting sick, given my experience at the VA Beach half marathon, which resulted in me being sick for about six weeks. And of course, I am agonizing over what to wear. I packed pretty much my entire running wardrobe! The key item, though, will be my hat with a visor to keep the water off of my face. I've proven on a few occasions that I race well in the wind, so I am not worried about that.

On the plus side, it won't be cold. It's supposed to be in the lower 60's, so I won't need gloves. I am seriously thinking that running in a sports bra without a shirt might be the best option to avoid a soaking garment just hanging on me the whole time. Body Glide will also be key!

My original plan was to drive down to Richmond (90-minute drive) at 5:00am and arrive at 6:30 for the 7:30am race. However, the storms are supposed to be quite severe during that period, which is not safe. Not only is it not safe, but it would take a lot more time than expected, and I wouldn't be able to "relax" and just cruise my way along. Upon hearing the forecast, I booked a hotel this morning, so I am leaving work at 3:30 to drive down there. There will still be rain and darkness to contend with, and a lot of traffic, but it will be safer, and I won't have to worry about that stress on race morning. I think that I would seriously be tempted to not even leave my house in those conditions!

My original goal was 1:47:xx, with an average pace of 8:10-8:13. Based on my speedwork sessions during the past few weeks, this goal seemed to be well within my reach. Heck, even a 1:46:xx was looking like it might be possible. But now, I am not so sure! My main objective will be to avoid slipping and injuring myself, and I am hoping that the weather doesn't dampen my mood. Being mentally "happy" and "excited" is a key element of racing. I likely won't have my iPod, either.

You can track me via text message alerts or emails by going here. I don't think you will need my bib number, but just in case, it's 5567. The race is using the D-Tag system, which is known for incorrectly recording splits. So if I seem to be running really fast or really slow, then it's probably just the D-Tag!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Zipping Along

I gave myself some royal treatment this week. A pedicure on Monday, a hair cut on Tuesday (I have bangs again!) and a sports massage on Wednesday evening. Next Tuesday is my 30th birthday, so I am trying to really enjoy the last few days of my 20's.

Following my birthday, I'll be running the Richmond half marathon on the 15th, and then doing a 5K Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving.

Training has been going well. I ran my "first" 20-miler over the weekend at an average pace of 9:32. It's actually my 4th 20-miler, if you count the runs that I did in July, August and September. I have two more planned before the marathon in January, and hopefully one of those will be 22 miles.

I followed Saturday's 20 miler with 11 miles on Monday morning (including hills), 5 miles on Tuesday (including strides), and then 11 miles on Wednesday morning. That's 47 miles over a 5-day period! Wednesday's 11 miles was interesting:

- 2 miles warmup: 9:50 avg.
- 3 miles @ marathon pace: 8:29, 8:29, 8:28
- 4 x 800 Cruise intervals: 7:38 pace for each, 1:30 recovery jogs.
- 3 miles tempo: 8:03, 8:03, 8:00 (8:02 avg)
- Cooldown

The average pace over the 11 miles was 8:37.

I was surprised I made it through this workout as well as I did. I did not expect to be able to complete all three tempo miles at the end, but I did, and I even sped up on that last mile. I'm also seeing heart rate improvement in terms of my HR being lower than it used to be for the same paces.

All I need to do is steer clear of injuries and illness for the next nine days, and I will be ready to set a nice half marathon PR.

Friday, October 24, 2008

If it ain't broke. . .

When I first started training to BQ (qualify for the Boston marathon by running a 3:40), I figured a good approach would be to add more mileage to my program. It seemed like the most logical thing to do because almost all running literature says that the more mileage, the better your endurance at the marathon. As many of you know, I spent the summer following a plan that involved a lot more mileage than I was used to.

However, most of these extra miles were run at a slow pace. Speedwork was done once every 7-10 days. In the past, I used to do speedwork twice a week, and I am pretty sure that's how I was able to eventually decrease my marathon time from 4:46 to 3:51. The difference in training mileage between the 3:51 marathon and the 4:46 marathon is not that much. I think that I just got faster and faster the more speedwork I did.

I came to the realization that I need to continue to favor speedwork over mileage if I want to run a 3:40. This contradicts what most experts and most fast marathoners would advise, but every person has unique training needs based on his/her natural strengths and weaknesses. I believe that my natural strength is endurance, and my natural weakness is speed. Most people who run 5Ks and 10Ks at my pace have much slower marathon times. And most people who have similar marathon times to me run much faster 5Ks and 10Ks.

Most people say that the McMillan Running Calculator is only accurate for people who run 70+ miles a week. If you aren't running that much, then the calculator will tell you that you are capable of a much faster marathon than you can actually run. If you plug in your fastest 5K or 10K, or even half marathon, chances are that your marathon equivalent is faster than you can actually run. In my case, my 10K, half marathon, and marathon PRs are all equivalent. (All set within 4 months of each other). 49:23, 1:50:43, and 3:51:49. Actually, I should be able to run a slightly faster half marathon based on my full marathon time!

What this all means for me is that a high mileage program won't necessarily help me run a faster marathon. I definitely want to keep my weekly mileage above 45 for the bulk of my training, so I am not saying that a low mileage program is in the cards. But sacrificing speed work for the sake of increasing mileage doesn't make sense in my case. I am fairly confident that if I could run a 47:00 10K, then I could get my 3:40 BQ.

I found a program that has slightly lower mileage than my previous program, and I have merged the two together and created my own plan. I will be doing speedwork at least once a week, and my long runs will sometimes have "fast finishes" where I finish the run at tempo pace for the last 15 minutes. This new program also incorporate Marathon Pace running, whereas the former program rarely had me running at marathon pace. It was usually slower than Marathon Pace, and occassionally faster. Here is a sample workout that I completed yesterday.

1 mile warmup: 9:50 pace
2 miles at Marathon Pace*: 8:32 average
4 miles Tempo: 8:06 average
2 miles at Marathon Pace: 8:28 average
1 mile cooldown: 9:45 pace.

10 miles total, with 8 miles of speedwork that averaged 8:18.

*I realize that my marathon goal pace is 8:24 to BQ, but since I am not at that fitness level yet, I am making "marathon pace" slightly slower.

I've learned that what works for most people in marathon training won't necessarily work for me. Every runner has unique training needs due to genetics and natural strengths and weaknesses. My new plan will have higher mileage than what I've done in the past, although not as high as I was running over the summer. I also think I can remain injury free by keeping the speedwork at the appropriate paces, stretching and continuing with my core strengthening. Also by rotating two different types of shoes as well as both treadmill and asphalt. Just 12 weeks to go until Rock 'N Roll Arizona!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Race to Beat 2007 Mileage

In 2007, I ran 1,596 miles. I assumed I would easily beat that number in 2008 because there were some injuries in 2007. Little did I know that there would be even more injuries and illness in 2008! In 2007, I was very consistent. My monthly totals were always around 150, and there were only two months that went drastically below that.

I currently am at 1,190 miles for 2008. In order to beat last year's mileage, I need to run 406 miles between now and December 31. Looking at my training schedule, I have approximately:
- 120 miles remaining to run for the rest of October
- 210 for November
- 220 for December

In a perfect world, this is 1,740 miles. However, given the possibility of injury or some other stroke of bad luck interfering, I could be cutting it close. I'll be happy just to beat it by a few miles! Unlike 2007, when I was very consistent, this year, I have been all over the map with my mileage. My highest mileage month has been August with 210 miles, and my lowest was May with 39.5.

When I first started using the "Advanced Marathoning" plan, I kept most of my runs slow-- averaging 9:30. I did this so I could avoid injuries and safely ramp up the mileage. Now that I have such a strong endurance base going into this RNR Arizona training, I am going to increase the speed on most of my runs, although not by too much (I still want to avoid injuries and stay in the most effective heart rate zone). According to the McMillan calculator, my PRs for the shorter distances match up almost perfectly to the longer distances. So, I think I have this endurance thing nailed, and will strive to get my speed up.

I am finally feeling 100% recovered from being sick, and it's been so extremely nice running in this gorgeous fall weather.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Moving Ahead

I am registered for the Rock 'N Roll Marathon in Arizona in January. I've had my sights on this race for awhile because it's supposed to be a relatively flat course with good weather, and part of the Rock 'N Roll series. I also have a lot of friends and co-workers who live in Phoenix. Even though I was completely traumatized by the Rock 'N Roll VA Beach half marathon (organized by the same company), I still think that the Elite Racing series is fun and well-organized. I registered for this race about a month ago, and it was supposed to be my "back-up plan" if I didn't qualify for Boston at Hartford, or my "fun run" if I did.

Since I am not running Hartford, RNR Arizona will be my first BQ attempt. I will resume training this week, and try to regain the fitness I lost during the time I was sick. I feel completely recovered, aside from some lingering chest tightness, which the doctor said could last up to 12 weeks. I'll use the same program, but switch it up a bit to fit in some races. I haven't set a PR since March (unless you count the 20K), so I am really itching to race some shorter distances this fall. I wasn't able to do this in the Spring because of my knee injury. And over the summer, all of the races were extremely hot, resulting in slow times. I've been working my butt off all summer. Now it's time for some PRs!!!!!


Shoes, Shoes, More Shoes!
I purchased my first pair of Mizunos-- the Elixirs. I had been using the Brooks Axiom for lightweight trainers and racing shorter distances, but they aren't as light as the Mizuno's and they are a bit too wide for me. The Mizunos fit my feet perfectly and they feel like they have more arch support. I suspect that I won't be able to run more than 6-8 miles in them without getting foot pain, knee issues, etc-- because they aren't as stable as I really need. However, they are extremely light and will hopefully help me in the 5Ks and 10Ks.



Retail Therapy?
Speaking of shopping, I came to the realization today that I don't like it! When I was a teenager and a college student, and even in my early 20's, I loved shopping for clothes. I could spend hours at the mall trying things on. Now, I find that I have very little patience. I hate the crowds, I hate having to try things on, and I am overwhelmed by the vast quantity of stores at the mall. (Everyone knows that Tysons Corner is HUGE). I also tend to get a bit of buyer's guilt when I spend money on myself for things that aren't absolutely necessary. I try to be frugal, but I also want clothing that is flattering and that I will enjoy wearing.

Body Woes
My dilemma is this. Since last fall/winter, my thighs have expanded. I hope it's muscle because of the running, but I don't know for sure. All I know is that my thighs are bigger and most of my pants are now tight and don't look good. Oddly, my waistline has not expanded. All of my pants still fit in the waist but they are just so tight in the legs-- which also makes shopping hard. If I get a size 2, I am swimming in the waist, but the legs fit well. If I get a size 0, the waist fits nicely, but the legs are too tight. I'm happy with the way my body looks, so this frustration has more to do with getting pants to fit than the fact that my legs are bigger. Over the summer, I got away with wearing skirts and dresses almost every day. But I can't do that as much as it gets colder.

Enough rambling for one evening. I'm just so happy and thankful to be well again, that I'm not even "mourning" Hartford anymore. I'm moving ahead.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Sick September

I'm about to throw myself a huge pity party, so get out now if you don't want to read something negative and downbeat.

I've essentially been sick all month long with some random chest virus that I got around the time of the VA Beach half marathon. Apparently, a virus can stay in your system for up to three months, and attack at anytime. So just when I thought I was getting better, I hit a relapse the weekend of the 13th. I rebounded within a few days, was able to run a 19-miler which felt decent, and a relatively fast set of intervals a few days later. And then, another relapse starting on the 26th. I had to leave work, despite having no sick time remaining, and I spent the rest of the day in bed. Saturday, Sunday and Monday have been rest days, too tired to even leave the house. Forget about running!

When you live alone, being sick means you don't interact with anyone. Thankfully, my mother came a few times, but aside from that, I've just spent way too much time alone. Which then of course leads to me "thinking" about the situation, and then my life in general, and a complete downward spiral.

I started thinking about how I'll be 30 in less than two months and I'm just not happy with how I spent my 20's. I know that you're not "supposed to" have regrets. I don't know what I would have done differently, but I just feel like my life has been going in circles and circles for the past 10 years. I'm learning a lot, and I'm growing and changing. But yet my actual lifestyle is the exact same. I want some sort of change-- I want to move. But I don't know where, when and how. I don't feel like I am maximizing my potential, and that I am far too "comfortable" in my lifestyle. Being comfortable makes it very difficult for you to want to make any dramatic changes to your life.

I run because it keeps me motivated and it gives me something to look forward to. I feel like I am working toward something every day! There are always new frontiers to reach. New races to experience, new PRs to set. When I can't do that, my whole world feels so pointless. Until I can figure out what major life change I need to make, I have running to keep me going. To keep me moving forward, when everything else in my life just goes in circles and circles.

My one goal for the year (to qualify for Boston) is now down the tubes, and the marathon itself doesn't even look possible at this point. This was the one thing that motivated me every single day-- since the day I registerd for the race back in February. Even when I was running marathons in the Spring I knew that those weren't really the "A" races. And then, just six weeks away when everything was going perfectly, I get hit with a chest virus that has now lasted a full month. Is this supposed to be the grande finale of an entire year's worth of work?

I just wish I had some answers here because I am extremely confused.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Heartache

The goal I set for myself nearly a year ago of qualifying for the Boston Marathon this fall is officially washed out. I had to shave 11 minutes off of my personal best from March, and since I was injured throughout April and May, it was contingent upon me following my training plan to the letter. I've now missed over a week due to a viral infection that I caught during the VA Beach half marathon, and the runs I was able to do last week weren't all that great. Missing all this time might have been acceptable back in June or July, but not at this critical time. With just six weeks to go, training is critical, and even my book says to revise my goal if I miss 10 days or more. Which I have.

I knew I should have stopped running at mile 6 of the half marathon. Something felt really "off" and yet I kept going. Mainly because I knew I had to get back to the finish line, and I only had 7 more miles to go. But it really did me in, and I haven't felt the same ever since the race.

After a major setback into the illness on Sunday, and a failure to complete even half of my long run, I decided to stop running until I can get a proper diagnosis from the doctor. My heart rate was 10-12 BPM too fast and I was completely fatigued by the end of it. I spent the rest of the day in bed. At this point, I will be thankful to simply complete the marathon. I've been to the doctor twice and yet I'm still having pressure/tightness in my chest. Specifically, on the left side around the area of my heart. At first, the doctor suspected it was a virus of the heart, but she ruled it out through my EKG, which was normal. It's not overtraining, because that wouldn't involve chest pressure-- and people who "overtrain" typically lose their motivation and desire to run. (And I haven't!) I won't speculate anymore in this blog as to what I have, because I don't want to un-necessarily frighten my blog readers. Hopefully I will have some answers on Wednesday when I go to see my sports medicine doctor.

My mother and many others have reminded me that my overall health is much more important than running. Somehow, this concept isn't so easy for me to grasp. Really, the main reason I want to be well is to be able to run. I'm more passionate about running than anything else in my life. I don't have a husband or a family like most people my age, so this is what I have devoted my heart to. It's probably hard for non-athletes to understand this passion, but for me, it's been the organizing principle of my life for a long time.

My personality suits me perfectly for running. I'm extremely motivated, goal-oriented, passionate, perfectionistic, with a strong belief in the "effort-result" system. I have a need for structure and control in my life, and running every day provides me with that. Even when I wasn't running because of my knee injury, I still was able to exercise, and now I am not.

I've had a lot of disappointments in life because I believe that I should be acknowledged for my hard work and dedication. I can name quite a few examples of it now, but I won't go into it. I thought that with running, I would be exempt from that. Since the judge is 100% objective (the clock) and I'm only competing against myself, really, then dedicated marathon training should yield results. So far, it always has. And it's provided me with a huge sense of accomplishment and fulfillment.

But now, I feel like all I really got out of it was this illness that could potentially prevent me from running this marathon, or worse, marathons in the future.

No wonder my heart aches.

Monday, September 1, 2008

93% Humidity + 78 Degress = BAD RACE!

The title of this blog pretty much sums up my experience at the VA Beach Rock 'N Roll half marathon yesterday. I've now run this race three times (2005, 2006, 2008) and each time, I have not managed to finish under 2:00. Yet nearly all of my other half marathons have been well under 2:00.

I have a love-hate relationship with this race for sure! I love the hype, the beach, the flatness, the expo, and the relative proximity to my house. I hate the weather!!!

The D-Tag
I am very skeptical about how reliable this Chrono Track system is. At the 20K a few weeks ago, there was a large group of finishers whose results didn't appear until four days after the race. At the expo, they had a test station set up to test the D-Tag, and lo and behold-- it wasn't working! "You'll be fine tomorrow," they assured the runners. "We just can't get the test system working."

I also don't like how this tag doesn't really work with elastic YANKZ laces. The way the laces are shaped, you can't really put the tag underneath them without the laces falling incorrectly. So, I used the cable tie that was meant for the gear check bag to affix my tag to my laces. I later learned that my splits were recorded incorrectly (I certainly did not run the first 5K at a 7:50 pace), and that my finish time is also off (I was actually 8 seconds faster, according to my watch). I don't care enough to have them correct it, though.



Before the Race
In 2006, the pre-race drama of getting to the satellite parking lot was really what killed my spirit and motivation. But this year, I was able to park just a few blocks from the start line at my friend's beach condo. I got there nice and early and walked to the start line. I was hoping to meet up with a few Big Cats and other friends. Luckily, Dave (ADRNLEN) found me.

I've only raced without a tank top once before, but I frequently train in just the sports bra. I figured I needed all the help I could get with the heat/humidity combo. I said goodbye to Dave and then made my way to the corral. I definitely liked the "wave" system. In past races, there have been corrals, but it seemed like everyone started at the same time. This year, there was a minute and a half between when the corrals were released. As a result, I felt like there was no crowding on the course.

Miles 1-4
I started off at what felt like an appropriate, sustainable pace. There was a slight downhill here, so that contributed to me going out a little faster than planned. I was hoping to go out at an 8:15, but logged the first mile in 8:04. It felt good, though, and I figured I should try and maintain it before it became too hot and humid. I carried my own water bottle with me (a small one) so that I could skip the first three water stations.

Mile 1- 8:04
Mile 2- 8:14
Mile 3- 8:23
Mile 4- 8:25

Miles 5-9
During mile 3, I had poured water all over myself and some of it got into my shoe. In past marathons, I've had this same water-in-the shoe feeling, but it always dried out after awhile. This time, it wasn't. My left foot started to feel really wierd and numb-like, and I came to a point where I felt like I had to stop and take the shoe off. I did, and I shook the water out of the shoe and shook my sock as well.

Afterwards, that same sensation came back and about half a mile later, I was forced to stop again. When I stopped for the second time, I realized how completely tired and winded I was. And I couldn't get going at the same pace again. My upper back was hurting, I felt a bit crampy in my stomach and I was extremely fatigued. I walked a little bit, and then started running, but I felt horrible.

Starting at mile 7 I was thinking that I wouldn't be able to finish the race. I wanted to get off the course and sit down. I was wondering if it was the 55-mile week I had just come off of, or perhaps running 11 miles the Tuesday before the race. But really, it was just the humidity zapping me. I was drinking plenty of water, and I had pre-hydrated for two days with Electrolyte-enhanced Smart water. I also ate two packs of sports beans during the race, which contain electrolytes. And yet, something still felt wrong.

Mile 5- 8:43
Mile 6- 9:28
Mile 7- 10:34
Mile 8- 10:22
Mile 9- 9:35

Miles 10- 13.1 
I kept looking around me to see if the people running near me were in my same corral. There was a huge mix. I saw some people from corral 2. Some from corral 10. I saw the 1:52 pacers (I know-- an
odd finish time to have a pace group) and I knew there was no way they were going to finish in 1:52. All I wanted to do was get to the finish line.

I was incredibly thirsty, too, and was drinking multiple cups of water at each station. I felt sooo sluggish and awful. I was soaked in sweat and the water I kept pouring on myself. I was seriously predicting a finish time of 2:15, but luckily I was able to hold it together somewhat.

Mile 10- 10:25
Mile 11- 10:25 1
Mile 12- 10:02
Mile 13- 9:52
Last 0.1- 9:58 pace.

The Finish
It was kind of pathetic that the last 0.1 was a 9:58 pace and it felt like a sprint. But that's what it was! I was so happy to be done with the race. I felt awful afterwards, and it took me about 15 minutes to feel "right" again. I got to a point where I had to sit down and was seeing black spots. But that didn't last for long. I kept hearing runners say that they had never felt so awful after a race before. At least this validated that it wasn't just me who was having problems.



I made my way back to my friend's condo where I took an ice bath. I didn't understand how my legs could be so achy with that pace. I do training runs faster than that and my legs feel 100% afterwards, and the next day.

Stats
Finish time according to my watch: 2:03:36 (9:25 pace)
Finish time according to the D-Tag: 2:03:42
Average finish time: 2:31
Average finish time for women: 2:39
10K split according to my watch: 53:06
10K split according to the D-Tag: 51:59

I placed 3410 of 16016 overall finishers (top 21%)
I placed 1157 of 9224 women (top 12%)
I placed 279 of 1902 women in my age group (top 14%)

I'm pretty satisfied with how I placed. And I know I put out all the effort I could muster. Whereas in 2006, I just gave up mentally. I'm still going for a BQ in October.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Peak Week!

I "peaked" with my marathon training this week-- meaning that I ran more miles this week than any other week of the program. I'm definitely feeling it right now! Here is a recap of my week.

Monday- 6 mi
The week started off easy with six miles at a "recovery" pace of 10:30. As I approached the end of the run, I did six 100m strides. The purpose of this type of speedwork isn't to get your heart rate up, but to improve your form. The faster you run, the better your form needs to be. So, I ran these strides as fast as 6:55/mile pace. When this was done, I did some core work and upper body strength training. No matter how many miles I am running, I do not want to abandon my core training-- I believe it is crucial to injury prevention. On Monday evening, I went for a sports massage. I have been getting sports massages every two weeks since June, and I think they are helping to keep my muscles loose.

Tuesday- 12 mi w/7 at tempo
There is some controversy as to whether or not 7 miles is too long for a tempo run. Especially when embedded inside a longer run of 12 miles. I did this run on the treadmill. A 3.5 mile warmup, 7 tempo miles, and then a 1.5 mile cooldown. The tempo miles felt challenging, but they actually got easier as the run progressed. I increased my speed throughout the course of the run. The tempo miles were:
8:18, 8:16, 8:09, 8:05, 8:03, 8:03, 8:00. Average 8:08 pace. I was tired at the end, but felt like I could have gone for longer if I had to. This run has helped me set a half-marathon goal pace of 8:10 for the VA Beach Half next weekend.

Wednesday- Rest!
I was pleasantly surprised that I had no lingering soreness or aches from Tuesday's run. I never used to recover so quickly.

Thursday- 12 mi
Another mid-week 12-miler. I started this run on the treadmill, because it was still dark at 5:00am. And then after 6 miles, I took the run outside for the second half. I started out at a pace of 9:50, and sped up to a pace of 8:48 by the end of the run. The average pace was 9:23.

Friday- 5 mi
Another recovery run at a pace of 10:30. I didn't feel like I could go much faster. My legs felt like bricks. They were so heavy and tired. The two 12-milers had really taken their toll. Apparently, this is normal for intense training. I am training my legs how to run when they are tired. After the run, I spent about 15 minutes stretching and using the foam roller. Afterwards, my legs felt better. I also did some core strengthing exercises, and upper body weights. It's not good to do too much weight lifting on recovery days, because then your body uses some of its "resources" to re-build the muscles you worked. But, I want to maintain a minimum of 2 times per week with weights.

Saturday- 20 mi
As I set out on this run, I was not too optimistic about how it would go. My legs felt heavy and tired. 8 miles into it, I simply couldn't imagine completing the full 20. But I kept reminding myself that I was supposed to feel this way, and the this run was supposed to be slow. Thankfully, the weather was nearly perfect. Upper 60's and cloudy. The parts of my run that are typically hellish due to the sun were really nice because the clouds were out. The run averaged a pace of 9:32, which is perfectly within range for my marathon goal pace.

Miles 1-5: 9:50, 9:48, 9:53, 9:51, 9:41
Miles 6-10: 9:49, 9:38, 9:32, 9:23, 9:25
Miles 11-15: 9:28, 9:21, 9:21, 9:23, 9:25
Miles 16-20: 9:32, 9:25, 9:28, 9:07, 9:07

During the last section, I was thinking: I can stop at mile 17 and take a break. (Arrive at mile 17 and keep going). Okay, 18 miles is good, I know that I will have to stop then for a break. (Arrive at mile 18 and keep going). Okay, 19 miles is all I can do. Once I get to 19, I am walking. (Arrive at mile 19 and keep going). Hell, I'll just finish the damn run!!!

The last time I attempted 20 miles, I started having ITB issues at mile 16. I was only able to run 19 miles instead of the full 20. I am pretty sure it was because of the shoes. I love my Nikes, but I have found that they aren't supportive enough for runs longer than 12 miles. Today I was in the Adrenaline GTS 8, and everything was pain-free. I never take a pain-free run for granted. And I am happy to say that this entire week was pain-free and injury free. Just some really tired legs!

Total Mileage: 55

Next on tap is the VA Beach RNR Half marathon on Sunday, August 31. You can track me live, and I will be providing details for that in a bulletin later this week. I am bib 5257, and I expect to finish around 1:47:00.


Before my 20-miler this morning, waiting for the sun to come up!

Monday, August 11, 2008

The Leesburg 20K

This morning I ran the Leesburg 20K. My first 20K ever! The weather was abnormally nice for this time of year with very low humidity and temperatures in the lower 70's. The majority of the course was shaded, which also helped.

As many of you know, I am closely following a prescribed marathon training plan for my BQ attempt in October. This weekend, the plan called for 15 miles, with 12 of them being at my marathon goal pace. I ended up running 16 miles, with 12.4 of them being at my marathon goal pace exactly: 8:25. An 8:25 marathon pace equates to a 3:40 marathon, which is a BQ!

Before the Race
The race was located about 30 miles west of me. I picked up my friend Lauren on the way (she's run this race every year for the past few years) and she briefed me on the course. I did NOT use my iPod for this race. I knew that it would be a crowded course, run on a narrow trail, and I wanted to be sure I could hear people around me. I can hear even with my iPod, but for some reason, I just thought it would be better to leave it at home.

We arrived at the race, picked up our bib numbers and "ChronoTrack" RFID tags.

New Timing System
This new RFID system was being debuted at this race. I wasn't particularly pleased about this. I have my own personal timing chip, which saves me a dollar off of my entry fee. But now with the RFID, I don't get that discount. But what bothers me more is that this technology has not been tested and used as much as the ChampionChip system. In fact, when the Houston Marathon announced that they would be using the RFID tags instead of chips, so many people complained, that they decided to use the chip after all.

The RFID tag is called the "D Tag" and it's a piece of paper that comes attached ot your bib. You make a "D" shape with it and attach it to your shoe. It's much bigger and bulkier than the timing chip, and with my YANKZ laces, it took me awhile to figure out how to affix it. Luckily, Lauren did it for me and she made it secure.

Currently, the online results show that anyone who finished between 1:58 and 2:23 was not timed. There is a huge gap in the results, and I am suspecting it's because of this new timing system. I hope they get it figured out and that all those runners don't go un-scored.

Anyway, after putting the tag on my shoe, I ran a warmup mile on the course. I then met back up with Lauren and we headed to the start.


The Course
This course is an out-and-back. When you go out, it's a gradual incline the entire way. I don't recall any part of the course that was flat. And of course, on the way back, there is a gradual downhill the entire way.

Miles 1-4
I knew that the first half of the course would be much more challenging than coming back. One of my friends said to me "If you can't negative split on this course, then you'll never be able to." I almost always try and negative split, so with these conditions, I expected a very heavy negative split.

My strategy was to run the race based on effort. I had my watch and I was recording my mile splits, but I didn't let that dictate my pace. I wanted to practice putting out an effort that "felt" like marathon pace. So I pretty much ignored what my watch was saying and I ran based on effort. I was going for an effort level that was just slightly slower than my tempo pace.

Mile 1: 8:28
Mile 2: 8:34
Mile 3: 8:35
Mile 4: 8:36


Miles 5-8
After four miles, I was really wanting the turnaround to come. I was really getting tired of this uphill battle. There was just no relief. Not a single area that was flat! At mile 6, there was a steep downhill, which was a nice change, but I knew that it would become a steep uphill on the way back. Meaning, I wouldn't be quite "out of the woods" after the turnaround.

I ate my sports beans at mile 5. After eating those, I finally felt "good". I don't necessarily think it was the extra energy that helped. I think it was that I finally got into the "groove" of running this race. Speed is not my thing-- endurance is. I typically feel more comfortable during a run once I am 4-5 miles into it.

Finally, I reached the turnaround and breathed a sigh of relief. I figured that my shot at averaging goal pace was lost. Most all of my miles had been slower than my target and I figured there would be no way I could make that up on the way back. But I told myself I still needed to run based on effort level.

Mile 5: 8:48
Mile 6: 8:07 (steep downhill)
Mile 7: 8:21
Mile 8: 9:00 (steep uphill)

Miles 9-12
This was the best part of the race. I literally felt like I was flying through the miles. It felt so easy. I think I could have even pushed harder, but once again-- I wanted to base my effort on perceived "marathon pace". It was such a nice reward to finally be running fast and feeling strong. I started to get a bit of my ache on the side of my knee near the IT Band insertion point. But it held out pretty well until the end.

Mile 9: 8:25
Mile 10: 8:05
Mile 11: 8:07
Mile 12: 7:54

You can see the huge RFID tag on my shoe!

The Finish
I knew that to be at Marathon pace, I had to finish in about 1:43. I looked at my watch and I figured I could finish in 1:44, and still average my BQ pace. The last 0.4 was actually uphill, so I slowed down a tiny bit, and finished in 1:44:26. I don't know how I placed because there are probably 100+ runners who did not get scored. (At least for now, there is a huge gap in the results).

As soon as I realized that I did hit my marathon goal pace average, I was very pleased. I also had "gas in the tank" to go run another 2.5 miles after I dropped Lauren off at her home. Totalling 16 for the day, 47 for the week. At this point in my training, marathon pace should feel challenging, but not like a full-effort. That's how I paced myself, and I ended up meeting my target. Of course, this would yield a 3:40:40 marathon, but hey. . . if I do BQ, I am expecting it will be by the skin of my teeth! If this race had continued for another 0.7 miles and I had maintained my pace, I would have set a half marathon PR.


In terms of injuries, the run was pain free for the most part. At one point, I felt a slight ache on the outside of my knee, so I stopped to tighen my PAT strap and that took care of it. The knee issue that I was dealing with at the beginning of this program seems to have disappeared 100%.

Congratulations to Lauren, and it was great seeing you today!!!!!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Training Mishaps

 

When I began this training cycle, I thought that the only thing that would get in my way would be me getting too sore from too many miles. I was wrong. In fact, I am significantly less sore with this training than I have been in the past. I think the key factors are that I am purposely running slower, and I am keeping up with the strength training. My knee is not perfect, but it's been holding up pretty well, with some minor twinges here and there.

There have been two rather painful and frustrating roadblocks this week. This week was my first 50-mile week, and all 50 miles are complete! But not without some drama.

On Monday, after that insanely hot/humid weekend last weekend, my gym's air conditioning was broke. I walked in and the place felt so hot. I would have taken my run outdoors, but it was still dark, and I hadn't planned on that mentally. It was really hot and humid outside, as well. This was the worst possible day of the week (actually the worst possible day in the past two weeks) that the AC could have died-- a speed workout! The program called for 10 miles with five of them at "tempo" pace.

My strategy was to start with the fan on low and my shirt on, and then when the fast miles started, I would turn the fan to high and remove my shirt, to run in just a sports bra. This strategy didn't work, because the tempo miles were still extremely hot. I began at a pace of 8:16, which normally would be on the slow end of things, with the hopes of speeding up. I only held that for two miles and then gradually had to slow down. I averaged 8:23 for the five tempo miles, which isn't too off-base, but I felt like I was putting out an 8:00 effort. When I was done with the tempo, I still had a few slow miles left, which felt virtually impossible. Finally, I was finished. I was literally drenched in sweat, and my face was beet red. My face stayed red for the next two hours-- even at work! I drank two 24-oz sports bottles of water during the run, and still somehow managed to lose two pounds.

The next day, when I only had to run 4 very slow miles, the AC was working again. Figures!!!

Yesterday, I headed out for 18 miles. I was a bit nervous about this run, because these 18 miles would bring me to 50 for the week-- territory that I hadn't approached since last October. The run went fine, and I was amazed how my legs didn't get sore or anything. But at the beginning of mile 15, a bee flew underneath my sunglasses and stung me right below the eye!!!  I let out a scream and tossed my sunglasses onto the ground, breaking them. (It's okay- they were cheap). With my runner's instinct, I immediately stopped my watch, too!  

I was sort of crying, but I couldn't tell because there was so much sweat on my face! There were quite a few runners and walkers around, but no one stopped to see if I was okay. After a minute or so, I asked a walker if she could tell me what it looked like under my eye. She said it was red, but it didn't look too awful. I tossed some water on it from my bottle, and waited a few minutes, and then continued on. It hurt though. Badly! I hadn't been stung by a bee in over 10 years. I forgot how much it hurt. Especially right under my eye. I ran those last three miles at a much faster pace than I had been going just to get the darn thing over with. I ended up averaging 9:23 for the 18 miles-- exactly one full minute slower than marathon goal pace.

I only live 2 miles from the trail, but it took me 10 minutes to get home, because I literally hit every single red light. The sting lasted a good 9-10 hours and I was miserable. But today, it's fine and I am here to tell the tale!

This coming week, I am planning on running 54 miles!  I'm a bit antsy about Thursday's 11-mile run, with 6 miles at tempo pace, but let's just hope the AC doesn't break again!

Monday, June 30, 2008

Treadmill Marathon World Record Attempt

Last weekend, I had the pleasure of watching Michael Wardian attempt to break the world record for the fastest marathon run on a treadmill.

The event was held at Pacers running store in Fairfax. My good friend Michael Hayden is friends with Wardian, and he flew into town just to support Wardian in his efforts! Michael Hadyen and I got a chance to hang out and catch up while watching Wardian's treadmill efforts. It was really amazing to watch. He needed a 2:21, which is a treadmill pace of between 11.3-11.4 MPH. I can't even get the treadmill up to 9.0 MPH when I do my speed intervals!

Anyway, I took quite a few photos of Wardian, as well as some video footage. One of my hobbies is video editing, and here is what I came up with.



Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Shoe Acquisition Syndrome

I'm a shoe whore.

In my closet, I currently have:

4 pairs of Brooks Adrenaline GTS 6 (two brand new, one in-use, one "dead")
1 pair of Brooks Adrenaline Trail Shoes
1 pair of Brooks Adrenaline GTS 7 (gave me lateral knee pain, I don't wear them.)
1 pair of Brooks Adrenaline GTS 8 (these are okay, but the fit isn't quite right)

1 pair of Brooks Trance (thanks Mike Hayden)
1 pair of Brooks Axiom (for racing)
1 pair of Asics Gel Evolution (because my PT recommended them)

Most of these shoes are fairly new, with less than 50 miles on them. This is because I have been in search of the "perfect" shoe ever since my GTS 6 was discontinued, and it takes about 50 miles to determine if a shoe will work or not (once you decided you liked it enough in the store to buy it). I track shoe mileage in my training log, so I know exactly how much each has been used. The typical life of a shoe is 300-500 miles. But mine typically only get 250 before they lose their support.

Someone recommended that I try Nike shoes, because they run narrower than most. My problem with the new Adrenaline GTS 8 is that the fit is sloppy, particularly in the heel cup. Additionally, it has far too much cushion, like running on a mattress. I like the shoe enough that I am going to continue to wear it, it's just that it's not quite right.

I had no intention of buying new shoes anytime soon because I have plenty! But I passed by a running store yesterday and could not resist the urge to just try a pair of Nikes, or even another pair that the store recommended. The guy at the store pulled out a pair of Nike Air Zoom Structure Triax +11.

I put them on, and they fit like a glove! I ran up and down the block while the guy at the store watched. He said that I looked well supported in them. They felt amazing. The fit was perfect. The ride was smooth and responsive, with just the right amount of cushion. I had no pain in my feet or legs.  As it turns out, these shoes are 0.3 ounces lighter than the Brooks Adrenaline, and every little bit adds up over a long distance, such as 26.2 miles. In other words, these shoes have the potential to make me go a little bit faster.

This morning, I took them to the gym for a treadmill run. My plan was just to test them out and break them in for 2-3 miles, and then switch the the Brooks Adrenaline. Even with the Brooks Adrenaline GTS 6, I have to do a few short runs to break them in and prevent blisters the first few times. Well, to my surprise, I just didn't want to take these babies off my feet. I loved how they felt. I ended up running 8 pain-free miles. No chafing, blisters, or anything. I can't even do that with my beloved GTS 6 on the first run! I even did some 100m strides (per my training program), accelerating to a 7:00 pace, and the shoes were very responsive and supportive.

I'm in love! When you run as many miles as I do, a good running shoe makes all the difference in the world. So, I would rather have a closet full of barely-used shoes than a bunch of injuries and/or uncomfortable runs. I do, however, plan on using all my Brooks Adrenalines, including the GTS 8. But as part of a rotation with my new Nikes.

 

Saturday, June 14, 2008

"Let's Just See What Happens" is NOT a goal!

Today I ran my 4th consecutive Lawyer's Have Heart 10K in Washington DC. I was in no shape to race a 10K this morning, but seeing as I have never missed a year of this race since I started racing, I figured I should still get out there.

On Wednesday morning, I woke up extremely fatigued with muscle aches. I had to cut my workout short, and I felt so tired that I didn't even go into work. The same thing on Thursday and Friday. It felt like I had the flu, or mono even, because I was so extremely lethargic and exhausted. Only there was no accompanying sore throat or congestion. I didn't work out Thursday or Friday, and I was fairly sure that the 10K race wouldn't be possible for me on Saturday. This was really de-moralizing because it was my first "official" week of marathon training with my knee recovered, and I spent it sleeping.

I woke up this morning thinking I would do the race. I didn't feel fatigued like I had the past few days. Then I checked the weather and learned that it was already in the mid 70's and humid. I decided that it would probably be best to just do a slow long run on the treadmill. But then I stepped outside and it didn't seem too horrendous, so I decided I should do it.

And then I told myself that no real good could come of the race. I knew I would get tired quickly in the heat and not even come close to a PR. So what would the point be? It was a disaster waiting to happen, that would only end in me feeling badly about my time. Well, this went back and forth at least 10 times until I finally decided that I wanted to go to the race. I would stop by the gym for a 1.5 treadmill warmup, and then do a 1.5 cooldown on it afterwards, so I could make up for some of the miles I missed earlier in the week.

I decided not to wear my iPod for this one. And I'm not sure why. I think that if I had it, it might have actually helped motivate me. A few weeks ago, I was thinking that my target goal would be a course PR: sub-50:59. Not a distance PR because I have been doing almost no speed work, thanks to my knee injury. But now with the mystery illness and the muggy heat, my plan was simply to use the race as a tempo workout. And my goal: "let's just see what happens."

"Let's-just-see-what-happens" really doesn't motivate you when times get tough in a race. I went out at a pace that I considered conservative (8:30) with plans to speed up later in the race. I clocked an 8:20 for the second mile, so I was on target for getting faster. But then the heat really started to get to me, my back began to ache (like it had been earlier in the week), so I slowed back down to an 8:30 for the third mile. I have to add here that I saw a woman running in velvet pants. Yes, navy blue velvet pants. My only thought was that she was using this race as some kind of hot weather conditioning.

After the third mile, I sort of decided that I was done with the race. I was really tired, I knew I wasn't going to get a course PR, and I didn't even have a goal other than "let's-just-see-what-happens." I clocked an 8:49 for the 4th mile, and told myself that I just had a nice 4-mile tempo run. (Actually, my "tempo" pace should be a lot faster, but given the heat, it was certainly tempo effort).

During the 5th mile, I walked through a water station, and just couldn't get going again. I didn't really want to. I couldn't believe I was walking during a 10K, but it felt so good to walk! After nearly a minute, I reminded myself that I was in a race. Oops. I began to run again, but at a very easy pace. I was so hot and tired that I just wanted to get to the finish line.

My last two miles were both at a 9:38 pace (including the walking). This doesn't really make sense to me because I walked during mile 5, but not mile 6, so the pace shouldn't be the same. But it was. I crossed the finish line in 55:25 for an average pace of 8:55. Yeah, I ran the Shamrock marathon at a faster pace. It was pretty upsetting to make the realization that I couldn't even run 6.2 miles at the same speed as I ran 26.2 in March.

I know that I lost two months of solid training because of injuries and am just now getting into it. And that I had been sick for most of the week, But still. This is the slowest I have ever ran this race, by over two minutes.

To regain some confidence I have registered for a 4-mile race next weekend. It's an evening race, and I typically don't have much energy at night, but I need to redeem myself! I'm not terribly disappointed because I did end up running a total of 9 miles today, 4 of which were at a tempo effort. Additionally, my knee was pain free! I used the taping technique that my physical therapist showed me, as well as the patella strap. I'm feeling pretty good now, so I hope to be on track with week two of marathon training.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

The Road to Boston Passes Through Hartford

Hartford, CT, that is. In order to run the prestigious Boston Marathon, I must first qualify, and I plan on doing that at the Hartford Marathon on Saturday, October 11, 2008. I need to run the race in 3:40:59 or faster.



Why do I think I can qualify?
This will be my 8th marathon, but my first attempt to qualify for Boston. I'll need to shave 11 minutes off of the time I ran last March-- the 3:51:49. Looking back on my training log leading up to this race, there was only six weeks of consistent training. I was injured for the second half of December and the first part of January. I only trained from late January to early March, and then I tapered. If I extend that out to an 18-week training program, I think I will see a faster result. Additionally, my weekly mileage (a large factor in marathon performance) was about 40-45 when training for Shamrock. The program I plan to undertake has me running an average of 45-55 miles per week.


Why Hartford of all places?
At first, I thought I would use the Steamtown marathon to qualify. It has a net decrease in elevation, and most of the race is downhill. But then I thought twice about that. I would have to do a lot of downhill training, and there isn't really proper terrain for that around here. Additionally, all of my marathons have been flat or slightly hilly. I know what I am getting into with a flat course, so I figured I should veer away from Steamtown and find something flat.


My next thought was going to Chicago. About as flat as they come! I earned myself a position in one of the faster starting corrals, so I wouldn't have to worry about weaving through people in the first few miles. Plus, I was supposed to run that last year but I ended up dropping out due to injury. But then I realized that Chicago would be somewhat of a "production" with the travel, getting to the start line, etc. And I wanted something a bit lower key.


So, I did my research and I discovered Hartford. It's a quick flight (which I assumed would be inexpensive, but it's not) and I was able to get a hotel right next to the start/finish area. It's a small enough for there not to be crowding on the course, but large enough to have crowd support (about 1500 runners). It's flat, and has a great reputation. I convinced my friend Jenna to run this one with me, and we are hoping that our friend Randi will join us as well. Also, the race is on a Saturday, which I prefer to a Sunday race. Hartford in October should be ideal race weather (upper 40's - lower 50's in the morning), but I guess you can never be sure!


What are the possible roadblocks?
Injury. My knee is about 99% recovered (I ran 8 pain-free miles yesterday). In order to stay injury free, I plan on monitoring my resting heart rate in the morning when I wake up. I will continue with my core strengthening routine, as well as lower-body strengthening. Most importantly, I will listen to my body for signals that I am doing too much. If I don't get injured, I am fairly confident I will qualify.


What about a training philosophy?
I'm approaching this marathon very differently from those in the past. In the past, I was very goal-focused, and now I plan to focus more heavily on the training, itself, as its own reward. I am only doing two races between now and the marathon (one of them is next weekend) so I won't have that kind of "high". Instead, I am highly enthusiastic about my training, acknowledging the benefits of training-- not just the "reward" of getting a good time. I'll probably blog more about my training than I have in the past-- simply because training will take the place of all the races I used to run. And I need support from you all! Anything can happen on race day, so if I focus all my energy on that particular day, I could be really let down (bad weather, illness, injury, etc.) So I need to stay focused on the benefits I am getting from simply training.


Track my Training!
If you go to the right hand colum on the page, there is a link to view my training log. You can click on that and get an up-to-date view of what I've been doing. Right now, all you will see is someone who's been gradually ramping up miles with short/easy runs, accompanied by a great deal of cross training. A month from now, this will be a bit more exciting!


The program starts tomorrow. I'm standing at the unofficial start line of my BQ journey. Wish me luck.