Saturday, April 23, 2011

Shiny New 5K PR

I gave away the punchline in the title. I ran a 5K PR last night at the Crystal Run 5K Friday. Granted, it was only a 3-second PR, but when you're talking about a 5K, every second counts. And when you're only seven weeks into post-injury training (maxing out at 23 miles per week so far), I think it's pretty significant.  I ran this exact same race two weeks ago, and I beat that time by 22 seconds.

Crystal City is about 26 miles away from where I live. In rush hour traffic on Good Friday, that meant driving for 80 minutes. Yes, it took nearly an hour and a half to get to the race. There was an accident on the highway so we took other roads, and I am pretty sure that 95% of the 50+ lights that we hit were red. I was seriously questioning if we were going to make it to the race in time and Greg vowed that he would never run another Crystal City 5K Friday. It was very stressful, but Greg pointed out that it gave me something to focus on other than the race. However, when I got out of the car in the parking lot, I noticed I was shaking.

We had enough time to warmup for 1.3 miles and get to the start line.

It was raining steadily. Not a downpour, but more rain than there had been at the previous 5K two weeks ago. It was windy, as it always seems to be in Crystal City, but it didn't seem to be as bad as the April 8 race.   There were only a few times when I noticed it being a limiting factor, whereas two weeks ago, the wind dominated my entire second mile.

This was also the "Red Dress Run" for the American Heart Association and participants were encouraged to wear red dresses. I complied. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to wear my Mizuno Elixirs (which have red in them) because those are lightweight trainers and I wanted to be extra careful about not re-injuring my shins. So the trusty Brooks Adrenaline it was.

Mile 1: 7:06
I got off to a slow start. Even though I started close to the front of the pack, there was still quite a bit of crowding in the first quarter mile, and  I glanced down at my Garmin to see a 7:30. I didn't want to expend too much energy weaving through people, but I had to get my speed up. During this mile, I told myself that I would be my own mental coach. And I was going to pretend that I was two people: myself and my coach. And that the coach had to be positive but pushy, and that I had to listen! I had read a blog earlier in the day that said "speed comes from being relaxed" so my coaching self reinforced that to me throughout the race.

Mile 2: 7:10
I was determined not to let this mile kill my race like it did two weeks ago. There was still the same incline, but the wind wasn't as bad. I drafted a little, too, which helped. The person I was drafting off of was running faster than me so that motivated to keep up with him so I wouldn't loose my wind shield.

Mile 3: 7:08
By this point, I thought I could PR, even if it was extremely slight. I told myself to just hang in there for the first half of the mile, and then really just give it everything I had the second half of the mile, starting my finish line kick before mile marker 3. I remembered from last time how the last 0.05 were on a slippery, curved incline. Losing time would be inevitable so I tried to make up for that beforehand, and during that final 40 feet to the finish line. I kept telling myself to relax but push, and I did. I pushed really hard during the last half mile, and for the last quarter mile, my Garmin was showing that I was solidly in the 6's.

Finish time: 22:18, which was good for 15th female out of 392. My ranking wasn't as high as April 8, but there were five women who ran sub-20:00 last night. And when I raced two weeks ago, there were no women who broke 20.

I'm super excited about my PR and how I mentally coached myself throughout the race. I had a race strategy based on my experience from two weeks ago and I stuck to it.

Greg ran a 26-second PR with a 21:11. He just keeps setting these massive PRs!!!!

Overall it was a great night, and well worth the 80-minute rainy drive for those 3 seconds of the PR. :-)

Here is a link to the Video of me crossing the finish line.

Saturday, April 9, 2011


I was supposed to run the GW Parkway Classic 5K as my first race post injury. The race is scheduled for Sunday morning. However, if the government were to have shut down, there would be no race. My backup plan was the Crystal City 5K last Friday night.

At 6:00pm, it looked as if the government would in fact shut down. No decision had been made and they were still arguing over what they were actually arguing over. Plus, one of the articles I read said that even if they DID agree to something, there wouldn't be enough time to write something up and make it official by midnight. So I went ahead and raced Crystal City, telling myself I would cry and throw stuff if the government didn't shut down and I could have raced the Parkway. I thought about finding another 5K on Sunday as a backup instead. But none of the ones I found were as appealing as the Crystal City race. And then I would be kicking myself for not running Crystal City. 

There are quite a few reasons I would have preferred the Parkway over Crystal City. After all, I don't shell out $45 for just any 5K. The Parkway Classic is special to me. I registered for this race long after it closed, thanks to my affiliation with Pacers. And when I did, I was super excited about it. I love this race because the course is fast, it's well organized, it's point-to-point and I've participated most every year since 2006. The weather forecast for Sunday at 8:00am was overcast and 53 with nearly no wind. Ideal. Crystal City, on the other hand, was rainy, slippery, windy at points, and with quite a few hairpin turns.

When I woke up this morning, I did cry and throw stuff. The Parkway Classic is on and the Government didn't shutdown. I made the wrong choice.

I want to run the Parkway Classic!!!!! Badly. But I know it's not smart because I am just returning from multiple stress fractures. And I might be disappointed with my time, having just run a 5K less than 48 hours prior. Dammit!!!! I just feel so stupid. I should have known that those politicians wanted to look like heroes at the last minute. I should have just found another 5K backup and had more faith that the Parkway Classic would run. And why, why did the government have to wait to the very last minute to make this decision! Seriously!!???  You couldn't have come up with this on Friday morning? 

Anyway, my race was so-so. I ran a strong first mile, had a difficult time in the second mile, but then came back strong during the last mile. And the point 0.1 might have been my slowest ever for a 5K. . . . 

The course: relatively flat, but with inclines and declines, about three hair-pin turns and several "curve-arounds" with a curvy uphill finish.

Mile 1: 7:08
This was my goal pace for the race, and I was elated that I ran exactly on pace for the first mile.

Mile 2: 7:24
What I didn't realize about mile 1 was that the wind was at my back. It wasn't an overly windy night, but with all the tall buildings in Crystal City and the gusts that would come, it got to be very tiring. There was about a half-mile stretch during the second mile where I was running directly into the wind and the course was on an incline and I just felt like I was in a losing battle. At one point, my hat flew off  my head, and I was barely able to catch it. I ran the rest of the race holding my hat. I was actually in the 7:30's for most of the mile, but as it ended, I was able to pick up the pace a bit and net a 7:24. 

Mile 3: 7:12
I was highly discouraged by my second mile split and knew my goal of a 7:08 average was shot. But I still wanted to run strong so I forced myself to push. I passed several people in this mile, which was very encouraging. 

Last 0.1: Slow.
Slippery Surface Finish
I didn't stop my Garmin as soon as I crossed the line, so I am not sure exactly what my pace was here, but my problem was that this finish was around a curve, that was going uphill, on a slippery wet brick surface. Because the surface was more slippery than the rest of the course due to it being brick and it was on a curve, I was afraid to take this fast and slip so I actually slowed. My Garmin data shows a spike at a 14:45 pace during that last 0.1. 

Official time: 22:41, 20 seconds slower than my PR.

I wasn't thrilled, but I also think it's a decent time, given my highest mileage week was 18 miles and prior to that it was even lower. I was also happy that my shins didn't hurt. I never take that for granted. I think that the wind in the second mile, combined with the slippery pavement and hairpin turns really affected my momentum. This is why I think that I would have run maybe 15-20 seconds faster on the Parkway. No hairpin turns, the pavement wouldn't be wet, the forecast doesn't have the wind. The last stretch is on a long straightaway so you can see the finish line and have a strong final kick. That last 0.1 last night was my slowest portion of the race, simply because of the wet brick surface going on a curved uphill. 

Have I mentioned yet that I REALLY want to run the GW Parkway Classic tomorrow?????  It's going to take all the restraint I have to not go and run it. I just have to remind myself that even though the risk of re-injury is very small, if I were to get re-injured, I would seriously never forgive myself. And after having raced last night, I don't think my performance would be what it could have been if I hadn't done Crystal City.  I'm so frustrated!!!!!!! And I know it sounds horrible, but now I am just insanely jealous of everyone who does get to run the Parkway. 

I am still blaming myself and feeling like I am so stupid for deciding to race last night. I really wasn't in the mood for it. I felt sluggish all day. BLAH! :-( 

The good news is that I was one of the top ten women: 9 out of 396. This is the top 97th percentile, so I guess I really can't complain about that. 

My next race is the Crystal City 5K on Friday, April 22. Hopefully I'll do better, but I feel like everything these days is just out of my control. All I can do is try my hardest.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

In a Heartbeat

I've now been running for five weeks since my four-week layoff due to stress fractures. My focus has been on easing back into running, monitoring my symptoms and staying healthy. My weeks have been:

March 7: 10.5 miles
March 14: 9 miles
March 21: 11.8 miles
March 28: 18 miles

As for pace, I've been running what has felt like a natural, easy pace. But this natural, easy pace is slightly faster than what is was pre-injury. Before the stress fractures, my average training pace in January was 9:03-- and that includes over 10 miles of speedwork. In March, my average training pace was 8:53, and that includes only 3 miles of anything that could be considered "speed". Given that, my perceived "easy" pace seems to have dropped by about 15 seconds per mile. I attributed this to having fresh legs. You're obviously going to feel better when you are only running 10 miles a week as opposed to 50.

Even though I almost always wear a heart rate monitor, I decided not to wear one when coming back from injury. I also don't wear one in the few weeks following a marathon. The reason is that I don't want to get upset by how high my heart rate is for paces that used to be easy for me. I want to be in denial about my suspected loss of fitness! I thought that wearing a HR monitor would be highly discouraging so I avoided it for a month.

But on Friday evening, I decided to use it. I was really hoping that my heart rate wasn't going to be ridiculously high, causing me to be in a bad mood the rest of the evening and probably the entire weekend. But I was prepared for the worst. I was prepared for my "easy" pace to have a heart rate in zone 3 (marathon pace zone) and I would just have to deal.

My husband and I went out for an easy five miles. Much to my surprise, my heart rate was actually lower than it had been pre-injury. We ran 5 miles at an average pace of 8:45 and my average heart rate was in my "recovery" zone.  As I was running, I kept looking down at my Garmin in disbelief. At first maybe I thought it wasn't getting a correct reading, but it was rising with the uphills and lowering with the downhills. And based on effort level, it did feel easy.

On January 7, I ran 5 miles at a pace of 9:22 and my average HR was 149. in Friday, I ran 5 miles at a pace of 8:45 and my average HR was 149. Whoa. The elevations for these runs were roughly equal. I'm skeptical. Very skeptical. Yes, I have been doing a good amount of cross training but if this data is to be believed then that's a significant increase in fitness!

Last weekend I decided I was ready for my first tempo run. I ran 2 miles at a 7:16 pace. 7:16 has never been my tempo pace, but it just felt tempo-ish. Of course, I didn't have my HR monitor to know for sure.

Today, I ran a 2.5-mile tempo, with the HR monitor. Once again, the average pace was 7:16. My avg. HR was right in the middle of my tempo zone. It got higher towards the end, but my max HR was still well within my tempo zone (zone 4).  Don't get me wrong-- this was a very challenging workout. Especially because of the wind. It was a huge mental struggle as I wanted to stop after just one mile. But I kept reminding myself how important these workouts are.

So I'm thinking I should trust the HR data and be elated that I have actually gained fitness during my layoff. Of course, I haven't raced yet. But all signs point to a strong return!!!!