Sunday, May 28, 2023

Spontaneous Fiesta 5K

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I am taking an off season from racing this spring. Thus, my blogging frequency has declined. 

My reasons for taking an off season were to focus on strength training, to give myself a mental break, and to fully recover from Covid. I haven't taken an optional off season since I started racing in 2005!  It's been nice not having to adhere to a rigid schedule and feeling more free with my runs in terms of pace and distance. My goal has been to maintain a base of around 30 miles per week with a maximum of one harder effort per week. 

Of course this is probably the nicest spring I've ever experienced in terms of running weather. In February and March it was unseasonably warm which meant I didn't have to layer up. In April and May it's been unseasonably cool with low humidity. Almost every morning in May has been below 60 degrees, which is unheard of.  The past few mornings have even dipped into the 40s. I could have raced almost any weekend and had great weather! 

I succumbed to my temptations a few weeks ago when my friend Cheryl was racing the Fiesta 5K. The forecast was looking amazing, it was a flat course, and I didn't have plans for that morning. So I made the decision the day before the race to run it with her and I registered on site. 

The race was on Saturday May 6 and held in honor of Cinco de Mayo. I didn't have a goal time or a goal range or a pacing strategy or anything. I didn't come up with a race plan until about 15 minutes before the race. So unlike me! But that's the fun of having an off season.

The one thing I knew was that I did NOT want to run this race at 100% effort. I hadn't done enough hard workouts to prepare for that mentally and I wanted to keep this fun - not painful! Once again, the complete opposite of my usual race mentality.

Before the Race
The plan was to have a banana at home and then take a UCAN gel 30 minutes before race start. After eating half of the banana, I realized I shouldn't be doing that. I recently starting taking thyroid medication for mild hypothyroidism and you are supposed to take it first thing in the morning and then not eat anything for an hour. Otherwise it doesn't get absorbed. This will definitely impact race morning going forward. If I want to take my medication correctly, I will have to wake up even earlier to be able to take the pill, wait one hour, and then eat breakfast 2 hours before race start.

I am not sure if I blogged about it but I was treated for hypothyroidism back in 2019 using desecrated pig thyroid hormone. It was an over the counter supplement and it really worked to get my labwork numbers looking strong. However, I didn't notice any difference in how I felt so I stopped taking it six months later, thinking it wasn't that important. Back in January, my levels spiked with Covid and when they came back down they were still a little high, so my doctor decided to treat me with the prescription meds. 

I was reluctant to this because I don't have symptoms of hypothyroidism except for fatigue during the day.  I always attributed that fatigue to running 50+ miles a week but it's possible that my thyroid could be contributing. I generally don't like taking medication unless absolutely necessary, but I agreed to try it. After having been on it for over a month, I realized (through internet articles) that it wasn't like a vitamin/supplement. Once you are on it, you likely need to be on it for life. It's the same thyroid hormone your body makes naturally and you become dependent on the pill for that hormone. Yikes. Thankfully I haven't had any adverse side effects and I am feeling really good. So for now I will continue with it.

Back to the race. I arrived an hour before race start because I still had to register. I registered and then got in line for the porta potties. The line was not moving at all. After standing there for about 5-10 minutes, someone realized that nobody was coming out of the porta potties and they were actually locked with zip ties! And then it took awhile to find someone who could cut the zip ties. I was happy I got in line when I did because the line behind me was massive. 

I then went back to my car and pinned on my bib and took my UCAN gel. I texted Cheryl and she said she was headed my way. She had picked out green shorts and a red sports bra due to the Cinco De Mayo theme. I matched with the exact same green shorts and red bra! We looked so cute together! 

We warmed up for just under a mile. Normally I would warm up for at least 15 minutes, but I wasn't taking this race very seriously! We did some strides and that got the legs moving. 

Race Purpose
So if I wasn't going to be racing at 100% effort, why was I there? Lots of reasons:

  • Could not resist the perfect 50-degree low-humidity low-wind weather
  • Wanted to spend time with Cheryl
  • Missed the racing atmosphere and wanted to be part of it
  • Wanted run my first tempo since the Houston Marathon
At the start line I decided my goal would be to let Cheryl set the pace and try to keep up with her. I had no idea what kind of speed I had in me, and I had no idea if I would be able to keep up! But I decided I would try to keep up so long as I wasn't killing myself to do it.

Mile 1: 6:55
Cheryl went out harder than expected! My initial thought was that there was NO WAY I would be doing this for 3.1 miles. This was probably because I didn't have a sufficient warm up so it was really a shock to my system. But after a few minutes I settled in and felt decent. The best part about this race was that our outfits matched! We got a lot of comments on our outfits and it was fun trying to keep up with someone who was wearing my same gear. 

Mile 2: 6:55
She was so consistent with her pacing. The course was mostly flat with some minor inclines and declines. Nothing that I would consider a "hill" -- just some gentle slopes. It was not easy keeping up with her, she was running really strong. But I felt like it was manageable. 

Mile 3: 7:15
The headline here is a bit misleading. About a quarter into this mile, my shoelace came undone. I was wearing my adidas Adios Pro Running shoes and just like in Houston, they came untied despite the double knot. This was a different pair than the Houston pair and I tied it super tightly. But I really should have tucked the loops under. Never before has this happened to me in a race and now it has happened twice in a row. 

So I stopped to tie my shoe. It was annoying and Cheryl would now be way ahead of me. Once the shoe was securely tied, I slowly closed the gap between Cheryl. Strava credits me with a 7:02 mile, meaning I spent 13 seconds tying my laces: PRETTY FAST LACE TIE!

Last 0.18: 6:19 pace
While I had been gradually closing the gap during the last mile, I really hammered it during the final stretch in order to be able to finish with Cheryl. It was fun to kick it really hard at the end, and I finished one second behind her. 

After the Race
Cheryl finished in 22:16 and I finished in 22:17. This meant we were 2nd and 3rd overall females! I won a $40 Visa gift card which was exactly the cost of the race registration, so it all evened out!  And then we went out for brunch afterwards. 

This race reminded me why I love racing so much. It's the atmosphere, my friends, the outfits, the energy, and winning age group awards!

I was pleasantly surprised that I could run as fast as I did an have it feel like a tempo, not a race. This means that my "off season" has not been detrimental to my fitness and I've still got it!

Greg, aka my race photographer, was unable to come because he had to work. He's on a new project and he's been working weekends. I think things should be easing up soon for him though!

Monday, April 24, 2023

Marathon Survey: Super Shoes & Training Plans

About a month ago, I sent out a survey to runners asking them about their most recent marathon. 562 runners completed the 14-question survey. I have to admit that I did this mainly for my own curiosity, but I also wanted to share the results with my followers and blog readers. In this post, I will cover two areas of the survey: super shoes and training plans. 

For the purpose of this survey, I defined a "super shoe" as any shoe with a carbon fiber plate. Some runners responded that they didn't know if their shoes were considered "super" or not. When analyzing Personal Records (PRs), I removed responses from runners who had only run 1 marathon from the data set.

Super Shoes: how many runners actually wear them?
The short answer: roughly 30% of respondents said they wore super shoes in their most recent marathon (29.5% to be exact). I would fall into this category as I wore the adidas Adios Pro in my most recent marathon. I've been racing in adidas running shoes for about 7 years - well before super shoes were invented!

In my Instagram story, I ran a quick poll, asking people to guess the percentage of runners who wore super shoes. Only 41% of runners in my story poll correctly guessed that less than half of the marathoners wore super shoes (903 people responded). So most people think that super shoes are more popular than they actually are. 

The most popular shoes in this survey were the Nike Vaporfly and Alphafly. I wore the Vaporfly for one marathon and it resulted in posterior tibial tendonitis, so it definitely was not the right shoe for me. I also didn't find it to be particularly fast - my marathon time was consistent with my training paces, and I had trained in non-carbon fiber plate shoes. Like the adidas adizero Boston running shoes and the adidas adios (non-pro).

But enough about me, let's get to more results and analysis!

Of the super-shoe wearers:

  • 72% ran a sub-4:00 time
  • 58% set a Personal Record (PR) 
The runners who did NOT wear super shoes reported the following:
  • 37% ran a sub-4:00 time
  • 42% set a PR 
Key takeaways: runners who opt for super shoes tend to be faster and are more likely to run PRs. This doesn’t prove definitively that super shoes make you faster; it could be that faster runners prefer those kinds of shoes. Also, there was a recent study that showed super shoes provide more benefit to faster, more economical runners. 

Training Plans
I also asked these 562 marathon runners how they trained for their most recent marathon? Results were as follows:

  • 25% Used a free plan from the Internet
  • 23% Worked with a personal coach
  • 20% Didn’t follow a plan; they did their own thing. 
  • 8% Used a plan from a book 
  • 6% Trained with a group/club and followed that plan. 
  • The remaining 18% was a mix of “other” training approaches (purchased online plan, purchased custom plan, used an app, etc)
Which group had the greatest percentage of Personal Records?
  • Personal Coach: 40% PR
  • Book Plan: 35% PR
  • Free Internet Plan: 31% PR
  • No Plan/Own Thing: 31% PR
  • Group/Club: 23% PR 
The personal coach was the most effective way to set a PR. This isn’t surprising because a coach tailors
your training to your individual needs and adapts the training as you go along. 

Boston Marathon 2022
I was surprised that runners who didn’t follow a plan had more PRs than those who trained with a group. It’s possible that group runners tend to run more for the social aspects and many might not care about setting a PR. But group runners can also be very competitive and the group atmosphere can push runners harder than they would push alone. On the flip side, sometimes runners who train in groups end up running too quickly in order to keep up. This can lead to injury, burnout, or less effective workouts.

I’ll also hypothesize that the book plans are effective because they come with a book! 🤓 And the more educated someone is about marathons, the better prepared they will be. My favorite marathon book is called Run Faster Marathons by coach Greg McMillan.

These responses show that many training approaches are used for marathons and the distribution is fairly even. Ultimately, you should use the approach that works best for your schedule, budget, and mindset!

If you're willing to shell out the dough for super shoes and a personal coach, you could be on your way to a marathon PR!

Thursday, March 30, 2023

UCAN Edge Gel Review

UCAN Edge energy gels. When I last did a review of UCAN vs. Maurten, I did not include my thoughts on the UCAN Edge gel because it was so new. In this blog post, I will give my thoughts on UCAN Edge, what I like about it, what I don't like about it, and how I use it in my training.

UCAN Edge Energy Gel
Before UCAN released this Edge gel, I used to make my own gels out of the UCAN Energy Powder. For years I would mix the powder with water in a bowl and scoop it into a disposable baby food squeeze pouch.  This approach worked well for me. My marathon PR (3:15:35) was set using my own UCAN gel back in 2018. I even made a YouTube video on this because so many people asked me about it! 

When the UCAN Edge Gel was released in 2020, I was excited to try it. The first flavor was orange. My excitement dwindled when I read the ingredient list. Erythritol, a sugar alcohol, was the third ingredient. I am allergic to sugar alcohols so this was a non-started for me. But when the Strawberry Banana Edge was released, I noticed it did not contain any sugar alcohols. Hooray!

The Benefits of UCAN Edge Gels
My favorite thing about the Edge gels is that they prevent your blood sugar from spiking. Just like the energy powder, the energy source is "LIVSTEADY" corn starch. It's their slow-release energy which means you don't have to fuel as often. From a physiological standpoint, the LIVSTEADY energy allows your body to use fat as fuel instead of pumping it with a ton of easy-to-use sugar all at once. For endurance athletes, consuming sugar every 30-45 minutes doesn't allow the body to get the message that it should be burning fat for fuel. 

To quote my coach, Greg McMillan, from his book Run Faster Marathons,  "I personally use UCAN in my Marathons. This carbohydrate has been manipulated by heat and water so that it is absorbed more slowly to avoid the spike and crash. . . because you feed less frequently and it's easier on the GI tract, you avoid the GI upset that can occur late in the race."

Here are the main reasons why I use UCAN Edge Energy Gels:

  • Fuel less often
  • Train the body to burn fat for fuel
  • Easy on the digestive system
  • Tastes good (the strawberry banana ones tastes like a watery smoothie)
  • Does not need to be consumed with water
The Drawbacks of UCAN Edge Gels
As much as I love these gels, there are a few drawbacks. I don't always use UCAN gels; I sometimes use Maurten ones. I will explain in more detail later in this post. The drawbacks of these gels are:
  • The orange flavor contains erythritol, which can bother sensitive stomachs
  • They are messy; they have a watery consistency and I have sometimes gotten it all over my face, hands, clothes, etc.
  • They are larger than most gels and may not fit into traditionally sized pockets
  • There is no caffeine (which I find to be beneficial during a race)
How I use these gels
My primary use of UCAN Edge gels is for long runs during marathon training. For a 20 miler, I drink the energy powder before hand, and then consume 2 gels during the run.

UCAN Gel fits in larger pockets
Again quoting my coach Greg McMillan, "No-Fuel/Slow-Fuel training, also called low glycogen training, results in greater fat burning, more muscle fiber recruitment, a boost to the aerobic system, a lot of mental toughness training and greater storage of muscle glycogen post-run. All of these adaptions are extremely helpful for a faster marathon." I attribute my use of UCAN to the endurance gains I made around 2015-2016 when I got significantly faster. 

However, when it's time to perform on race day, I turn to Maurten as my primary fuel source. I drink the UCAN energy powder before the race, but I find that the Maurten gels give me that sugar high burst that I need. Maurten gels come in both caffeinated and caffeinated, so I switch between them. They are much more compact and less messy than the UCAN gels, so I can easily stash 4-5 of them in my shorts. 

Because it's important to practice fueling before race day, I do some of my harder long runs (the ones with speed) using Maurten so my digestive system knows what to expect on race day.

That said, I do think the Edge energy gels are a great choice for marathon fueling, and it's what Greg (husband Greg, not coach Greg), used for his most recent marathon PR last spring. Because he didn't need to fuel as often, he went from his typical 6 Gus down to 4 Edge gels. According the the UCAN Website, each gel provides up to 75 minutes of steady energy. I have found this to be true, whereas traditional gels need to be taken every 30-45 minutes. 

Save 10% on all UCAN products by using this link. If you'd like a free sample pack of UCAN, please DM me on Instagram (@elizabethclor) and I will send you a link for that.  

Saturday, March 18, 2023

Spring Break

I have not updated my blog in over a month! That is a long time for me to go without blogging. That's because my running life has been pretty uneventful. I haven't run any races and I am not training for anything at the moment. I'm fully recovered from Covid and I am not injured; but I have decided it would be a good idea to take an "off" season. 

Even though I only ran one marathon, I trained for two marathons, starting in August of last year. This meant way more long runs than I ever want to do again in a 5-month period! I was only doing 1-2 hard workouts a week and the mileage was low for me. But the long runs gave me a bit of mental burn out. Maybe if I had been running my normal 65-75 mile weeks, the long runs would have felt shorter because they would have been a smaller percentage of overall volume. Because I was averaging 55-65 miles a week, the 20s really started to take their toll. Toward the end of the cycle I was starting to dread them and I usually look forward to my long runs!

Strength training in my home gym
I had been registered for the One City Half Marathon the first weekend in March, but I didn't have enough time to train given marathon recovery followed by Covid. I am sure I could have finished the race, but I didn't want to do it without proper training. Of course the weather that day was perfect! 

After One City, I didn't have anything on the schedule so I kept it that way and decided to prioritize strength training. Instead of doing 1-2 sessions a week, I am now doing 3. One of those sessions is an hour-long workout with my strength coach Angela, and the other two are about 25 minutes each on my own. I think I have reached the limit of how much running I am able to do in a training cycle, so the gains I make in the fall will come from being stronger. 

I had planned on taking up swimming again to change things up, but it's difficult to motivate to drive to the pool, change, swim, shower, change, and drive back. If it weren't so logistically involved, I would do it every day. But now that I have a gym in my basement, it's so much easier to work out there. 

This spring break has been nice. I've been keeping most of my runs easy, throwing in a few strides here and there just so my legs remember how to turn over quickly. It's a good mental break and it's freed me up to focus on other areas of my life that I typically de-prioritize. 

The good thing about having had so many bouts of mono is that I know I can quickly ramp up training and get into race shape. I only need about 6-8 weeks to get myself to a good place and a few more to be in "race shape". 

Right now the plan is to focus on strength training, mobility and stability. And then I will begin training for my annual July 4th 5K. I might do a few tune-up 5Ks before then. I suspect that this break from racing will leave me super hungry to get out there and grind when the time comes. 

In the meantime, I will continue to blog. I have a few ideas of posts that I have been meaning to write!

Saturday, February 11, 2023

Post-Viral Fatigue Part 5

If you've been following my blog, you may remember that I decided not to run the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon last fall because of the warm forecast. I wasn't concerned about running a slow-for-me time. I was concerned about getting sick. Racing in the heat kills my immune system and I have a history of getting sick for extended periods of time following warm races.

So I played it safe and continued training for Houston. I stayed healthy and had a very strong training cycle. I even PR'ed my 5K in November.

Then came Houston. It was warm. Even though I ran a conservative pace, running 26.2 miles at any pace in the heat is a strain on my immune system. Then we went to Mexico for 8 days, where I did nothing but relax in the sun. I did not have any alcoholic beverages because I was concerned about my immune system and I made sure to eat plenty of healthy foods. I had a few sips from Greg's drinks, but that's all. 

We flew home on a Tuesday. I ran for the first time post-marathon on Wednesday (30 minutes). On Friday, I noticed a mild sore throat and fatigue. No surprise I caught something on the way back from Mexico-- the airports were very crowded. 

On Sunday I took a Covid test and it was negative. On Monday I took another Covid test and it was positive.

I've heard that Covid round two is milder than round one, and that was definitely the case for me. The first time I had Covid (January of last year) my sore throat was extremely painful. I couldn't talk for two days. I took 25 days off from running. This time would be milder, I would be back out there in a week, maybe 10 days max.


Even though my Covid symptoms were mild, there is a huge difference between this illness and last year's illness. Last year I recovered like a normal person. Sure, it took three weeks, but that's not abnormal for this virus. I never felt weak. Walking around always felt normal. The lingering symptoms were the sore throat, cough, and some tiredness. 

This time, with a warm marathon still impacting my immune system - I am not recovering like a normal person. I have my FIFTH case of post-viral fatigue. This means I am weak, my body aches, and it's hard to move around. 

The most accurate description I have seen comes from Medical News Today: "Post-viral syndrome, or post-viral fatigue, refers to a sense of tiredness and weakness that lingers after a person has fought off a viral infection. It can arise even after common infections, such as the flu. People may experience post-viral symptoms, such as fatigue, for weeks or months after fighting off the infection."

Some doctors say that the Epstein-Barr virus plays a role and can be re-activated during these times. I was tested for this in 2012 and I was positive. (I first had Epstein-Barr/mono in 1999). Not sure if that's the case for me now;  the "Post Viral Illness" diagnosis seems to be the most accurate.

I've had these exact symptoms 4 times in the past: 2008, 2012, 2016, 2018. Here's a description that I wrote in my blog post from 2018:

So what, exactly, am I sick with? The best way to describe it is an over-reaction of the immune system triggered by a viral infection. I had a sore throat for the first three days and now my symptoms are: 

  • Dizziness when standing up from a seated position
  • Weakness in the legs and an inability to walk at a normal pace
  • General fatigue, and low energy levels, requiring about 1-2 hours of extra sleep per night
  • Varying degrees of body aches 
Progress with this illness is not linear. Some days, I feel almost normal as long as I stay seated. Other days (like yesterday) all I can do is lay in bed and even moving the slightest bit feels like a huge effort. Because I've had this illness in the past I know not to get too discouraged when I have one of the really horrible days. I basically just see it as a message that I need to continue to take it easy.

So all of this from 2018 applies to me right now. It doesn't matter what kind of virus it is, what matters is the state of my immune system when I catch it. Last year when I had Covid I was not running in the heat because it was January. So I wasn't impacted by this post-viral fatigue. So while it was a far more severe Covid case, recovery was shorter.

I've never had post-viral fatigue that was not preceded by a hot race. This is why I avoid racing anything longer than a 5K in the heat. Although hot 5Ks can cause this same issue, as can consistently running hard workouts in the heat. Last summer I limited myself to only one hard workout a week, and I would choose the coolest day of the week.

The good news is that I now work from home full-time so I don't need to worry about taking short-term disability like I did in 2018. When I was sick in 2016, I actually quit my job because they were not understanding and the stress of the situation was making things worse. I easily found another one. 

There's nothing that I can do to speed up recovery, but there are plenty of things I can do to lengthen recovery. I've learned from past experiences and from doctors that it's best to be mostly sedentary. Even though I could manage a short walk (and I had started walking a few days after the Covid test), walks cause setbacks. Even housework can cause setbacks. 

My primary physical activities are doing the dishes, doing the laundry, taking showers, and going from room to room in my house. A lot of online shopping has occurred. Kate Spade just so happens to have a zebra line out right now, and thus my bank account took a hit! You can see the photo of the zebra bag, with the tassel being the zebra's tail. Other items were purchased as well!

New Kate Spade handbag
Mentally I am trying to distract myself and not think about the fact that I am sick. Because I work from home anyway, the only day-to-day thing that has changed about my life is that I can't be physically active. And yes, that's a big deal, but I've dealt with it before. I had been planning to run the One City Half Marathon in early March but that is clearly out. Thankfully, I don't have any other races on the calendar. You can bet a comeback race is in my future - however distant that may be!

I had my first symptoms on Friday, January 27, so I am officially 2 weeks and 1 day into this.  I have no idea how long it will last, but if I stay patient and don't push myself, it should be about 4 more weeks. Seems like an eternity, but it's the hand I've been dealt. 

Everyone has their strengths and weakness as runners. My greatest weakness is running in the heat. It slows me down more than most and then my immune system suffers. This is why I adjusted my Houston Marathon goal to be 15 minutes slower than the time I trained for. And, as I said earlier, it's why I didn't run Indianapolis last fall. It's not ideal, but that's my weakness and I've learned to manage it to the best of my ability. 

Tuesday, January 17, 2023

Houston Marathon: Smart and Steady

I ran the Houston Marathon yesterday! It was a huge event and I'm happy I was able to experience it. I had run the half marathon twice (2008, 2018) but never the full marathon. This was marathon #32 for me. Wow- I have run so many marathons!

I registered for this race exactly one year ago while I was sick with Covid. I was inspired by seeing so many fast times! Granted, the weather last year was perfect and I knew that Houston weather could be hit-or-miss, but I decided to pull the trigger anyway.

The plan was for both Greg and me to run the marathon and then fly directly from Houston to Cancun and stay at our favorite resort. Since both of us would have just completed a marathon, there would be no need to worry about training while in Mexico and it would be a wonderful way to relax and celebrate. In the past, I have gone to this resort in April after the Boston Marathon. But I have never flown directly from a race to a vacation. So this race-to-vacation plan was a bucket list item!

Race Weekend
We flew into Houston on Friday afternoon. I made sure to hydrate very well before, during and after the flight. Given the forecast, I knew that hydration would be key. I refilled my 24oz sports bottle 4 times on Thursday, twice with liquid IV and twice with regular water. I had about the same amount of fluids and electrolytes on Friday. 

We met my friend Randi for dinner, who I had not seen in 14 years! We had met through running and the last time I had seen her was the NJ marathon in 2009. This was definitely a highlight of the weekend. As we were leaving dinner, a man at the table next to us said, "Did you write the book Boston Bound?" I answered "Yes," and he told me that my book was on his list. So cool!

The next morning, I met up with my friend Carrie for a quick shakeout run. Carrie would be racing the half marathon. The weather on Saturday morning was such a tease. It was 43 degrees with no wind! It was hard to believe it would be 15 degrees warmer the next morning. I kept hoping for a miracle that somehow the weather would just stay cool. But alas, it did not!

Greg, unfortunately, is still injured and is not currently doing any running. We suspect it's a hernia, and we will know more after his ultrasound later this month. Greg and I picked up my bib from the expo and then took an Uber to Whole Foods to get my race morning breakfast and a few other items. Then it was back to the hotel for lunch where we met Carrie again. For lunch I had a chicken panini with pesto sauce. Breakfast was a crepe with bananas and walnuts. (I like to document what I eat the day before a race). I also did a lot of snacking on pretzels and almond butter filled pretzels. And I continued to hydrate with water and Liquid IV.

For dinner we went to an Italian restaurant where I had my standard chicken parm without cheese! It has always worked well for me in the past and it's what I had the night before my fastest ever marathon. Soon it was bedtime and I slept relatively well. I went to bed at 8:00, which was 9:00 east coast time. I was awake for about an hour in the middle of the night, but then slept solidly until around 4:15. I felt rested and ready to go. 

It's much easier to be relaxed about a race when a PR isn't on the line! I was confident in my fitness and my ability to run smart in the heat and humidity.

Before the Race
Two hours before the race started I ate an English muffin with almond butter and I drank about 18 ounces of water with liquid IV. I mixed a full 24-ounce bottle of water with 1.5 scoops of Skratch Labs Hydration drink mix. That equates to about 140 calories + electrolytes. It would be a great way to stay hydrated and get extra carbs to supplement my gels. I also mixed a packet of UCAN energy mix with water and drank about half of that 30 minutes pre-race. The plan was to drink it all, but for some reason it didn't sit very well.

Our hotel was located at the entrance to the start corral. I chose that hotel because of its proximity to the start line. I was able to leave my hotel at 6:35 and enter the corral immediately. I typically like to warm up for about half a mile before a marathon, and there was no doing that inside the corral. But since the weather was warm and I was planning on starting slowly, I figured it was fine. I kept the legs moving in the corral and did some dynamic stretching. 

In the corral, I was approached by several runners who follow me on Instagram. It was really awesome to chat with so many people before the race and it was a big pick-me-up. I also chatted with my friend Cris, who I have known for over 15 years! We communicate a lot online but hadn't actually had a real-life conversation in a long time.

As we approached the start line, I situated myself between the 3:25 and 3:30 pace groups. The goal was to not let that 3:30 pace group catch me. And if I had an awesome day, maybe I would catch 3:25. 

When I registered for Houston, I knew that there was a chance it could be warm. Even though I had fantastic weather in 2018 and the weather in 2022 had also been good, I knew that it was hit or miss. I was much more confident in Indianapolis being cool because that race is almost never warm. But the weather certainly didn't cooperate for Indy last fall (I didn't start because it was too warm).

On my race weather scale, I give this race a 3 out of 10. It was 57 degrees at the start and it rose to 67 by the finish. Skies were mostly cloudy with the sun peaking through here and there. The dew point was 54 at the start and 60 at the finish, which equates to around 75-85% humidity. Winds were 8 mph for most of the race, but picked up at the end to around 12 mph. The reason it gets a 3 instead of a 1 or 2 is because the clouds helped keep things feeling cool, and it could have easily been 65 at the start. For example, it was 68 degrees this morning at 7:00am. 

Race forecast plus my prediction of how it would go in emojis. 

Race Plan
When the forecast first came out, I was definitely disappointed. I had an amazing training cycle and I felt like I was in shape to run a time of 3:10-3:12. I was healthy with no injuries. And this would be a fast course. So the realization that I wouldn't be able to shoot for that time was disheartening. After feeling down for about a day, I got over it and accepted that the race would be about running smart-- not about running fast. The weather wasn't going to change and I couldn't change it. I had to adjust my expectations and strategy accordingly.

So the plan was to start in the 7:50s and take it from there! If I could speed up-- great! But I wasn't going to try and push the pace until the last 10K. 

Miles 1-5
These miles were crowded. And as much as I told myself not to spend energy weaving through people, I did end up weaving through people. Some runners started way too far in the front of the corral and were getting passed like crazy. When I told myself to be patient and not weave, I found myself running a very slow pace. The full and the half marathon were combined until mile 8, so this explains the crowding- very similar to Indianapolis where the half and full diverge at mile 8.

During the second mile, there was an amazing sunrise off to the left, and I almost missed it by not looking left. I took in the view of the sun peaking up through the buildings juxtaposed against the huge swarm of runners crossing the bridge. I took a moment to remind myself to have fun, to remember that "this is it" and to be thankful for the opportunity. 

I carried my own bottle of water + Skratch Labs Hydration mix, but I still went through each water station to pour a cup over my head. This had a nice cooling effect. 

During the fourth mile, I couldn't believe what I was seeing and feeling. My shoelace had come undone! Really?! At the start line I had checked multiple times that the shoes were double knotted and tied tightly. How in the world could they have come undone? I will note that these shoelaces on the adidas Adios Pro 2 were different than on my other pairs of 2's. It was a special edition of the shoe, and really the only thing that changed was the color of the shoe and the fabric of the laces. They must have been so slippery to come undone from that tight double knot!

The funny thing was that when I pulled off to the side of the course I stopped my Garmin out of habit. But then I instantly remembered I was in a race and re-started it! I made sure it was tied very securely.

Of course this incident made me believe that the shoe laces were super slippery and could come undone again, despite the knot. But then I told myself I shouldn't worry about that because there was nothing I could do about it and I didn't want to spend the entire race thinking about my laces. Thankfully, it did not happen again. I always name my shoes in my training log and I have decided to name these shoes after escape artist David Blaine for their ability to magically untie a double knot. Greg thinks I should call them "Shoedini" after Houdini. 

I made up for the lost time in the next mile. Because it happened during mile 4, I had plenty of gas in the tank to run a slightly faster mile 5 without it being a huge effort. 

Throughout these miles and the entire race, runners approached me to say, "I follow you on Instagram!" Some even told me that they enjoyed my content and that I inspired them. That was a huge pick-me-up throughout the race. Even some of the spectators cheered for me by name, "Elizabeth," which was not the name printed on my bib. The name on my bib was "Zebra". So if they yelled "Elizabeth" it meant they knew me. If they yelled Zebra. . . well that was just awesome!

Mile 1: 8:01
Mile 2: 7:52
Mile 3: 7:49
Mile 4: 7:57
Mile 5: 7:38

Mile 7, running with half marathoners
Miles 6-10
Things were going well. It felt like I was out for a long run and not pushing too hard. I timed my fluid intake. Two large swigs every 15 minutes. For a 24 ounce bottle, this meant that I had enough fluid to last me 2 hours. I also timed my gels. I took the first gel at 40 minutes (Maurten caffeinated) and then alternated CAF and regular every 40 minutes. That means I took 4 gels, with the last one at 2:40. I was also getting carbs/calories from my bottle. 

Greg had taken a train out to mile marker 7, so as I approached, I kept my eyes open for him in his fluorescent yellow jacket. The funny thing about him and that jacket is that he has a professional looking camera and he's in a bright jacket, so runners thought he was one of the official race photographers!

It was so great to see him! I wasn't 100% sure he would make it given the uncertainty of the train schedule but he's become a pro at navigating public transportation during races. After seeing him, I heard a voice from behind me yell "Greg Clor!" I figured it was someone who recognized him from my Instagram. Turns out it was a friend of ours- Nicole!

Nicole approached me and I was excited to see her. I had known she was running the race and I figured we might be running around the same pace. We stayed steady and exchanged a few words here and there. At one point, the 3:05 pace group came up from behind us and passed us. She said "I have so many questions!" Of course I knew exactly what she meant. I guess a portion of the 3:05 group started way in the back. Greg later told me he saw a 3:05 pace group in the location they should have been, and also where they should not have been, so I guess there were two of them. Same with the 3:10 group. They passed us a little later.

I really enjoyed these miles with Nicole. I've been following her running for over 12 years but we had never run together!

I saw Greg again at mile marker 10. Miles 7-10 looped around so he was able to walk from one spot to the other pretty quickly. He took photos and a video of me simultaneously. That's talent!

Mile 6: 7:51
Mile 7: 7:48
Mile 8: 7:51
Mile 9: 7:53
Mile 10: 7:46

Miles 11-15
After my second sighting of Greg I started to pull away from Nicole. I felt strong and energized, despite the weather. I trained for a marathon pace of 7:15 so I was optimistic that I would not crash and burn with my 7:50 average pace.

In the 11th mile, I heard a spectator calling out my name loudly. It was my friend Lindsey! Lindsey lives in Texas (about 90 minutes away) and had driven to the race to spectate and cheer. She ran on the side of the course with me for about 20 seconds and that was so fun. We had plans to meet up post-race so I knew I'd get to see her again.

At around mile 12, Cris (the friend I chatted with at the start line) caught up to me. She had started farther back in the corral. We exchanged a few words of encouragement briefly and then she proceeded to run ahead. This was the mile with the one major hill. It was early enough in the race not to be too bad, but it was definitely a change after running flat for 12 miles. I think I handled the hill pretty well - running up a little slower and down a little faster.

I had now seen two friends on the course + Greg twice + Lindsey. This is what made the race so much fun for me. And the fact that I wasn't running at max effort meant that I was able to really savor the experience without being too focused on my pace.

I crossed the halfway point at 1:43:36. I couldn't do the exact math in my head but I knew that put me on track for a low 3:27. My target range was 3:27-3:29, so I was executing as planned.

By this point everything was still feeling very easy and I began to wonder if I should turn on the gas a bit. But then I realized it was only going to get warmer and warmer, and a pace that felt super easy now might not feel so easy later in the race. So I continued on at my steady pace. I executed my fueling and hydration plan perfectly, and I was able to toss my water bottle at 2:00, which was around mile 15. I continued to dump water over my head at each station and I think it worked pretty well, especially when the wind gusted, making the water feel extra cool.

Mile 11: 7:53
Mile 12: 7:48
Mile 13: 7:55
Mile 14: 7:51
Mile 15: 7:46

Miles 16-20
Things were going really well! There were times when the sun poked through the clouds and made me VERY thankful for the cloud cover we had. (Hence a 3 out of 10 and not a 2!) It felt about 5-10 degrees warmer during those short bursts of sunlight. But they were short lived and a good portion of the course was shaded.

These were the glory miles. I felt like I could safely accelerate a little bit and even if I crashed, I would still be very close to my goal range. So instead of targeting 7:50, I tried targeting 7:45. Cris was still in my line of sight and seeing her helped motivated me. She once wrote something in her blog about asking the question "can I give more here?" and seeing her reminded me of that question. The answer was yes! I could give more! And so I did, while trying to stay controlled.

Once my water bottle was gone, I drank water from a few water stations. I was really happy that my digestive system was cooperating. I was able to take all 4 gels easily and get down the water when I drank it. Typically, by this point in a marathon, my gag reflex kicks in and my body rejects fuel and water. But I think that gag reflex is caused by me running at race effort. I have no problem fueling when I train, and I had no problem fueling yesterday. 

Mile 16: 7:46
Mile 17: 7:42
Mile 18: 7:40
Mile 19: 7:47
Mile 20: 7:46

Miles 21-Finish
The race had felt relatively easy up until mile 20. Then my 7:40s started to feel hard, so I didn't attempt to run any faster. I would later look at my heart rate data, which does not display on my watch when I run, and realize that I could have safely run faster. But I had no way of knowing that at the time. My heart rate is usually through the roof in the heat and humidity, but I guess my training really paid off because it was in the low 160s for most of the race. Marathon effort for me is in the high 160s. 

Regardless, I stayed steady. I had found a groove and rhythm in the 7:40s. I think I could have maintained that pace for the final 10K had it not been for the rolling hills. I knew to expect hills during miles 22-25, but they had been described to me as minor. And they probably were minor, but nothing feels minor during the last 6 miles of a marathon. I'm not a strong hill runner, and these hills made me unable to maintain my 7:40s. 

I took three honey stinger chews at mile 22, still in awe at how easily my digestive system was handling all the fuel. I continued pouring water over my head which felt amazing with the wind gusts. The wind wasn't an obstacle for me until mile 25, when we were presented with a strong headwind on a hill. An uphill headwind during the 25th mile of a marathon isn't what anybody wants! I felt like I was hanging on for dear life, but my spirits rose again once I had gotten to the top and things flattened out. 

I think my last mile was really fast but my Garmin data didn't capture an accurate split because of all the tall buildings. I was passing people and I got a second wind out of nowhere. When there was only half a mile left to go I was flying! It was looking like it might be a close call between 3:26 and 3:27 so I sprinted very had to secure my 3:26:xx. I even remembered not to stop my Garmin immediately to make up for the few seconds it was stopped during the shoelace stop!

Mile 21: 7:43
Mile 22: 7:48
Mile 23: 7:52
Mile 24: 7:56
Mile 25: 7:59
Mile 26: 8:02 (but I think it was faster!)
Last bit- Garmin says 6:15 pace, but I'm skeptical with all the tall buildings. 

Garmin distance was 26.49, which is mostly due to weaving and not running the tangents, but partially to tall building interference. I briefly glanced down at my Garmin and saw 3:26:xx and was happy with that.

My official time was 3:26:48, which is a BQ by over 23 minutes! I'll be 45 in April 2024, so my qualifying standard is 3:50:00.

After the Race
I crossed the finish line and started walking. A few seconds later Cris was there next to me and we chatted for a few seconds, but then I quickly realized I might not be okay. Physically I felt fine, but mentally I wasn't all there. I was a little confused and delirious. Cris told me to talk to a medical person if I wasn't feeling well. Thankfully there was a medical person close by and I said, "I am not sure if I am okay, would you please have a conversation with me to make sure I can talk correctly?" And it wasn't long into our conversation that I started slurring my speech. I knew what I wanted to communicate, but I couldn't get the words to come out clearly. This is the exact same thing that happened to me when I had hypothermia in May. It must be the way my body likes to shut down- the ability to talk properly is the first thing to go.

They put me in a wheelchair and brought me inside the convention center to the medical tent. They wanted me to lie down on a stretcher, but I insisted on sitting up. I felt like lying down would really set me back. I still felt physically fine, but I felt mentally really weird. It was like I was high on something. I've never done drugs, so I have no first hand experience, but it felt like I was in this really happy place. I kept making jokes and I told the medical people that I was going to be the funniest patient they had all day. 

They fed me gatorade and took my vitals. They wanted to give me an IV for dehydration, but I said I wanted to try drinking first. My temperature was normal so I wasn't overheated, and I didn't feel dizzy like I have in the past with heat exhaustion. So it was plain ol' dehydration. I was so baffled as to why, though. I felt like I had done everything right with hydration. I've been running for over 20 years and I know how to hydrate. 

I called Greg from one of the nurse's phones. I told him I would be delayed because I was in the medical area, but that I was basically fine. They kept me there for what seemed like an eternity. I had to drink a certain amount of gatorade and they needed to make sure I could pee properly. And then they tested my waking and my cognitive abilities. My first attempt at walking gave me a bit of a panicky sensation mentally, but after some deep breathing I was fine. I felt undeserving of all the medical attention I was

Lindsey and me after the race
getting. Surely there were people who were worse off than me who they could have been treating. 

When I was finally cleared to leave, I walked out into the main hall to pick up my finisher's shirt. I then realized that I had to walk ALL the way back to the finish area to get a medal. It was so far away! And then it took forever to get out of the convention center. I was recognized by an Instagram follower and after a brief chat, I asked to borrow her phone. I called Greg and he told me where he was. It took me over an hour from the time I finished to the time I was reunited with Greg. Greg was with Lindsey and it was so awesome to have them both there. The three of us walked back to the hotel near the start line and then hung out at the rooftop pool. 

I drank two more bottles of gatorade and my pee was still a dark shade! But I think that by today I am finally back to a good electrolyte balance and hydration level. 

Final Thoughts and Key Takeaways
Where to begin? If I could summarize the race in one sentence it would be this:

I ran a smart race in challenging conditions with even pacing and a slight negative split, and it was a BQ.

Here are some other thoughts:

Effort Level: My average heart rate was 160. Typically my average heart rate in a marathon is around 165-166. When I ran the Boston Marathon last spring it was 171. In Boston, it was elevated due to post-Covid heart rate issues. In Houston, it was low because I didn't run it at race effort. I think I could have been slightly more aggressive during miles 10-20 (maybe in the low 7:40s) and still held it together at the end. Physically I underestimated myself, but not by much. I probably could have eked out a 3:24, but in the grand scheme of things, two minutes is not a big deal- especially since it's not a PR. 

Hydration: As for the dehydration, I don't think it impacted my performance because I felt really strong until mile 25 with that uphill headwind. And then I felt strong again during mile 26. But if I had it to do over again, I am not sure what I would have done differently in terms of hydration. One clue is that whenever I have blood drawn, the blood doesn't flow about 80% of the time. Apparently I have big veins but once the needle goes in, they can't get blood to flow. I am often pricked in both arms, and in some cases multiple times in the same arm before they can get blood. I was recently told that they need to use the largest needle on me. So maybe my normal state of being is dehydration. Carrie suggested that this could be a vitamin D deficiency that prevents the electrolytes from being absorbed properly. I'll definitely look into it.

Negative Split: The last time I ran a negative split during a marathon was in 2015 at the B&A Trail marathon. So that's nearly 8 years and 12 marathons of positive splitting. And usually I try to negative

split! I ran the first half in 1:43:36 and the second half in 1:43:12. It's just a tiny negative split and might  be more accurately described as an even split, but I'm proud of it. My fastest portion of the course was miles 15-22, and for a warm race, I'm very happy with that.

Weather: The weather was challenging, but I had trained really hard so even my "medium" pace yielded a respectable time and sizable BQ. 

Community: Throughout the weekend, I met probably 20-25 people who follow me on Instagram. Everyone was so nice and supportive and told me that they really enjoyed my content. This was surreal to me because I never expected my Instagram account or my book to take off the way it has. I am fortunate to be part of such an amazing community of runners, and to have such great friends like the ladies I met up with throughout the weekend.

What's Next:
A vacation in Mexico and a week off from running! I'll definitely be swimming in the very long pools and maybe doing some light core work, but that's it. I am not running another marathon this spring and I haven't decided yet if I will try to run one in the fall. I'm definitely hungry to race another marathon because this one went so well, but I'm mentally done with the training. 

Thanks to everyone who supported me in this race, and it was really awesome meeting up with Carrie, Nicole, Cris, and Lindsey!

Sunday, January 8, 2023

Pre-Houston Marathon Thoughts

The Houston Marathon is one week away. Yikes, how did we get here so quickly?

2022 Review
I didn't even have time to do a 2022 recap on the blog. I'll do it quickly right now and then we can move on to Houston.

2022 was a pretty good year for running. Not my best in terms of yearly mileage or a PR-setting, but after dealing with Covid and an SI Joint issue in the first half of the year, I gained major momentum starting in June. Working with Greg McMillan has introduced a new training approach and by the end of the year I was feeling WAY stronger and fitter than at the beginning. My biggest highlights were:

  • Running the Boston Marathon in a respectable 3:33 after dealing with an SI Joint issue that sidelined me for 10 days prior to the race.
  • Setting a 5K PR in 19:41 in November.
  • Setting a 5K course PR at my summertime 5K which is a big deal because I run that same race every summer. My time was 20:57.
  • Winning Run The Greenway 5K (the largest race I've ever won), and then getting hypothermia.
  • Placing 5th at a competitive 15K race in DC.
I ran 2,298 miles in total which is more than 2021, although not as much as 2019 or 2020. With Covid in January, the SI Joint problem in April, and the Africa trip, I had my fair share of breaks from running. 

Houston Training: Mileage
Now, onto Houston. Looking at my training log, my mileage for this cycle was on the lower side for me. But, given that I have been marathon training since late August, it was definitely a long cycle. Not running Indianapolis meant no extended break in November, although I did take a few down weeks around that time. 

Just looking at the graph objectively, it seems that I didn't train all that hard for Houston. Typical marathon training cycles for me include multiple weeks in the 70s and I didn't hit 70 even once. I only went over 65 three times! But mileage is just part of the story. In exchange for this mileage I ran some really intense workouts and I'll share what I consider to be my best four.

Top Workouts For Houston
When I was training for Indianapolis in September and October, I was discouraged because I didn't have any workouts that made a PR (sub-3:15) seem realistic. I was putting in the work but my paces were slower than I would have liked. And then there was the Hartford Half marathon, which was anything but confidence building! But once the weather was cooler on a more consistent basis, starting in mid-November, things started to change. 

It all started with the 19:41 I ran at a Turkey Trot in late November. That race indicated that I was faster than I had realized, and it motivated me on future runs. I ran a 20-miler a few days later and once I hit mile 20, I felt like I had plenty of gas left in the tank. My legs had so much pep at the end of that run. And then, throughout December, the quality of the workouts increased significantly. 

9 x 1000m with 90-second recovery jogs (Nov. 29)
My coach gave me this workout because I had been struggling with this effort level in previous workouts. I had done this workout in September and in October, and both times I wasn't thrilled with my speed. I decided to get off the track and take this workout to the roads. With that 5K PR behind me, I decided to really push on this one, and my splits were very consistent around 3:59-4:01 which is a pace of 6:25-6:28. During prior sessions on the track, I had been around 4:09-4:10.

19 Miles with 12 at marathon pace (Dec. 2)
This run was 5 miles easy, 10 miles at marathon pace, 2 miles easy, 2 miles hard. The 10 marathon-pace miles averaged 7:12. WOW. But even more of a surprise were those final two miles which were 6:58, 6:48. Running a 6:48 mile at the end of 19 was huge for me! If only the marathon had been on December 2nd, with that perfect weather in the high 20s. I definitely think I could have run a PR marathon that day, even un-tapered. 

6 x 2 miles at marathon pace with 2:00 recovery jogs (Dec. 22)
For whatever reason, I was more intimidated by this workout than any other workout of the entire cycle. Two-mile repeats just sounded hard, and there were a lot of them. Plus, I did this workout on a Wednesday which was before a work day. Splits were 7:30 | 7:26, 7:18 | 7:12, 7:22 | 7:11, 7:13 | 7:10, 7:10 | 7:06, 7:10 | 7:06. Yes- the last two sets were the exact same! Once again, if the marathon had been on December 22 with temps in the 20s, I am pretty confident I would have PR'ed!

3 x 5K at Half Marathon Pace with 5:00 recovery jogs  (Dec. 29)
This was another intimidating workout, so I told myself not to focus on pace - just effort. I ended up running the 5Ks in 22:11 (7:07), 21:32 (6:56), 21:34 (6:56). With this workout I was most proud of my ability to stay strong during that final mile when I was sooooo ready to stop! This was a killer workout and I handled it well, both mentally and physically.

In addition to these workouts, I did many 20-milers. I think it just feels like more 20-milers than normal because I ran my first 20 in September and I continued on with them through the end of December. I'm mentally burned out on the long runs, at this point and I don't think I could do another one unless it was the actual race! 

Houston Goals
If my workouts are any indication of goal race pace, I'd be targeting 7:12. But adding a bit of realism onto that, I'd bump it to around 7:18. The marathon is always harder than training. Adding even more realism, we have the weather forecast, which is problematic as of right now. If this forecast holds, it will be 55 degrees at the start and 65 at the finish. With a good amount of humidity to boot. 

I'm committed to running this race and finishing it, no matter what the weather is. But I'm not willing to risk my health and I must do so safely. So goal pace for me is looking like 7:50-7:55 (3:28 finish time). It may seem like I'm selling myself short, but I know what happens to my body when the temperature gets above 55 in a race and it's not pretty. So I will be thrilled if I can finish that race in under 3:30, without risking my health to do so. 

Am I bummed about the weather? Yes and no. Yes - for obvious reasons. I won't be able to showcase the fitness I have worked to build over the past four months with a new PR. But no because I'm excited just to get to the start line healthy, knowing that I crushing this training cycle. That's really what's most important and as long as I stay healthy and finish the race I will have a good day. I won't be running another marathon this spring, so I'll need to embrace whatever the day gives me.

I don't train for marathons and build fitness for the sole purpose of setting PRs. I train so I can test my limits, practice mental toughness, and get fitter - no matter what the time on the clock ends up saying. I know that I am in the best marathon shape of my life, or at least the equivalent to what I was in March 2021. And at 44, that's a major accomplishment. 

Onwards to Houston. 

Sunday, December 11, 2022

Jingle All The Way 15K

This morning I ran the Jingle All The Way 15K in Washington, DC. The 15K is a fun distance, but rather uncommon. The 10-miler is much more popular here in the DC area with the Army Ten Miler, the Cherry Blossom 10-miler and the GW Parkway 10-miler. As such, I had only run one 15K previously!

My other 15K was in January 2015 in pouring rain. Part of the course was flooded and I ended up running 9.5 miles according to my Garmin. My main goal there ended up being to survive without getting hypothermia. I was underdressed for it being in the mid 30s with rain, and I was happy just to finish in a time of 1:12. 

I did run this Jingle All The Way race back in 2007 when it was a 10K. But never since! 

I chose this race for a few reasons. First, I had a free entry. Well, not exactly free - I had registered for a 10K in March of 2020 that got cancelled. The race management company didn't start up racing again until 2022, and the choices for deferral were a 4-miler in March, or this race. So I chose this race. Seems crazy to finally be using a registration fee from nearly three years ago!

This race was also my tune up for the Houston Marathon, which will take place in 5 weeks. I typically prefer to run a half marathon as a tune up, but those are difficult to find this time of year and I didn't want to travel. 

Before the Race
I slept very well last night. We recently bought a new mattress from WinkBeds. And it makes such a difference. I didn't find my old mattress to be uncomfortable, but I think the memory foam trapped too much heat. So both Greg and I have been sleeping better than ever for the past two weeks!

For breakfast I had some almond butter pretzels and a Maurten Solid, along with plenty of water. We left the house at 7:10 for a race start of 8:30. There was no race day packet pickup, and one of my friends had gotten my bib from DC yesterday. I had driven to her house to get it. She ran the 5K so I didn't end up seeing her on the course.

We parked and then I got a text from my friend Anna saying she was also running the race. Perfect! Greg and I walked to where she was parked and we warmed up together. Greg is unfortunately still injured so he was on photo duty. 

I somehow got the timing wrong and didn't have enough time to run my full warm up of two miles. When it's cold I typically need at least two miles to get the legs to move fast. I only ran 1.1 miles, but I included strides. I also jogged in place at the start line. I took a Maurten CAF gel 10 minutes before the start. 

The weather was really nice. I give it a 10/10 on my race weather scale. 42 degrees, completely overcast and almost no wind. I debated giving this a 9 because with the overcast sky, it was extremely cold when I finished and I could not wait to get warm. It was like 42 with a "feels like" of 32! But for running, I think it does get a 10 out of 10. 

Strategy and Goals
My goal was to run a sub-6:50 pace. My 10-mile PR is a pace of 6:47, so I figured if I could do that today, I would be very happy. I think my 10-mile PR is my strongest PR out of all of them. And the McMillan Calculator agrees. The 10-mile distance is truly my sweet spot. 

I would count this race as a PR if I was able to beat my 6:47 pace from that 10-miler. My strategy was to run even pacing and just hold on to the sub 6:50 as long as possible. The course was pretty much flat, so I didn't have to factor in hills. 

Miles 1-3
The race started in a pretty narrow area, which was surprising. But after about a minute of running things really opened up. I felt amazing at the race start. I was running a pace of 6:50 and it felt totally manageable. Almost like half marathon pace! I was very encouraged. Sometimes the first mile feels stale, especially with a shorter warm up. But this mile felt amazing and it flew by.

Miles 2 and 3 also felt really good. I couldn't tell exactly how many women were ahead of me, but it didn't look like too many. Historically there have been many fast women at this race, so I thought I would be lucky to place in the top 10. I definitely knew I was in the top ten during these early miles. 

Mile 1: 6:50
Mile 2: 6:48
Mile 3: 6:42

Miles 4-7
I was pretty shocked by that 6:42, but I had told myself in advance not to let a fast split psych me out. Who knew what I was capable of? I took a Maurten gel at 4.5 and it went down easily. It was around this time when I passed a woman who had been ahead of me. I had been gaining on her for the past mile and I finally passed her. I was feeling energized and confident! I don't have too much to say about these miles, other that I tried to hold a steady pace and think positive thoughts. 

Mile 4: 6:47
Mile 5: 6:49
Mile 6: 6:50
Mile 7: 6:51

Miles 8- Finish
After mile 7 things suddenly got very hard. My energy level was high, but my legs started to feel heavy. All of a sudden, they just didn't want to move at the same pace they had been. I tried to fight it and really lean in, but I had to work much harder to maintain my pace. And I wasn't able to run as fast as the first seven miles. 

This is when I started to regret my tempo workout from Thursday. On paper, it hadn't seemed like that big of a workout, but when I was finishing it, I realized my legs were getting tired, and that was not a great sign for a Sunday race. That workout was 15 minutes at marathon pace (7:12), 10 minutes at half marathon pace (6:51), 5 minutes at 10K pace (6:32) and 1 minute at 5K pace (6:21). All with 2 minute recovery jogs. This ended up being just over 5 miles, which was pretty long! 

So during the 8th mile, I was regretting that workout as my legs did not want to move. Regardless, I stayed positive and focused on retaining my place in the field. I knew my goal of a sub-6:50 pace was slipping away, but placing well in a competitive field would be a nice confidence boost. 

Things went from bad to worse after I hit 9 miles. It was only 0.4 to go, but my legs were not having it. I didn't have any final kick and that was my slowest portion!

Mile 8: 7:01
Mile 9: 6:57
Last 0.41: 7:11 pace

After the Race
I met up with Greg and we looked up the official results. I ran a time of 1:04:35 and was the 5th overall female. A top five finish at this race? I'll take it!

We watched Anna finish and then I wanted to leave pretty quickly. I did not want to stick around for my award because it was really cold and my Achilles were hurting. Racing sometimes causes a flare-up, and sometimes not. They feel decent now, but they were definitely on fire after finishing. All I could think about was getting home to my new bath tub.

Final Thoughts and Key Takeaways
I'm happy with how this race went. I definitely think I could have run a sub 6:50 pace for the whole race if my legs had been fresher. They were the limiting factor, not my energy level. And I had averaged a pace of 6:48 all the way up through mile 7! 

Mentally I stayed positive and I kept pushing hard even when my body wanted to slow down. Great mental toughness training for Houston. 

Most importantly I had fun. This was a festive race with a scenic course in DC. It was a unique distance and a great challenge. Now back to training for Houston!

Friday, November 25, 2022

The Turkey Trot is Sacred.

When others were suggesting that I run the Philadelphia marathon after Indianapolis and Richmond were a bust, I gave a firm "no." I will probably never run the Philadelphia marathon. Why? It's only 4 days before Thanksgiving! That would mean no Turkey Trot. And the Turkey Trot is Sacred.

I have been trotting since 2006. From 2006-2018 I ran the same 5K race. It holds so many memories for me. In 2019, they didn't have enough volunteers so they didn't hold it. I was saddened by this, after having run the race for 13 consecutive years. But I found another one that I liked and ran it. It offers both a 5K and a 10K. I ran the 5K in 2019 and the 10K in 2021. There was no Turkey Trot in 2020.

Aside from tradition, the Turkey Trot is sacred because it almost always has good weather. I have only experienced "bad" Turkey Trot weather maybe twice. My ideal racing temperature is around 35 degrees, and late November mornings in this area average around 35 degrees. In addition to good weather, I am usually coming off of a marathon training cycle so my fitness is sharp. Nearly all of my 5K PRs have been set at Turkey Trots, and I rarely expect to PR that distance outside of a Turkey Trot.

This year, I didn't run my goal marathon due to abnormally warm weather. That meant that my fall goal race was actually the Turkey Trot. 

Goals and Strategy
I really didn't have a great indication of my fitness. I knew I was in good marathon shape because I had logged several marathon pace runs, with marathon pace averaging 7:15. But as for my top speed - I wasn't quite sure. I ran a track workout one week before the 5K, and it didn't give me a ton of confidence. I was supposed to run 1600m at 5K pace, and then 1200m also at 5K pace, followed by 800, 400, 200.  Well- the 1600 was 6:38 and the 1200m was a pace of 6:34. This did not bode well for setting a PR, which would require a pace of under 6:26. 

I figured my ultimate goal would still be sub 20:00 (and maybe a sub 19:58 PR) but more realistic was something around 20:20.

The first mile of this course is uphill. The middle mile is mostly flat. The last mile is downhill. It's fast if you know how to pace it properly.

Because I ran this race in 2019, I had Strava data to refer back to. My splits back then were 6:35, 6:41, 6:12. And I had just run a half marathon PR two weeks earlier in 1:30:58. So my strategy was to try and make that second mile faster and keep the first and third mile the same. That middle mile is basically flat, but I ran it slowly in 2019 because of a sustained 20mph headwind. Without the wind, I had a decent chance of being faster there. 

Before the Race
I had a Maurten Solid about 2 hours before race start along with some water. I didn't have insane urges to keep going to the bathroom like I normally do on race morning. I went once, and that was enough. Maybe it was because I felt pretty chill about this race, I didn't have "butterflies" in my stomach. 

We left the house at 7:10 and arrived at 7:35.  The race started at 8:25. I started my warm up at 7:55, with a plan of running for just over 20 minutes. I took a caffeinated Maurten gel at 8:10 (15 minutes before the race start). My feet were going numb during the warm up and things felt a little stiff. But after some faster running, everything started to feel decent. 

I wore my adidas Adios Pro 2 shoes. I had been wearing the ASICS Metaspeed Edge for my summer 5Ks due to the lower stack height and that close-to-the-ground feel. But I noticed that those shoes make me heel strike while watching a video of a track workout. They also don't feel as bouncy as the Adios Pro 2. Another option was the New Balance Super Comp Pacer. I wore this shoe for the track workout I mentioned above. Clearly they weren't doing me any favors and the fit was sloppy around the heel. I did enjoy the ride and the lightweight feel, but I needed something more locked in for racing. 

After the warm up, I put my jacket in the car and headed to the start line. Greg is recovering from his groin injury, so during this time he was figuring out the best place to take pictures. At the start line, I said hi to my friends Hannah and Cheryl. 

On my race weather scale, this gets a 10 out of 10. I would actually give it an 11 if I could. And I can because it's my scale, so it gets an 11 out of 10. I couldn't dream up anything more perfect. 35 degrees, partly sunny, no wind. Not even a hint of any kind wind. I wish I could put this weather in a bottle and save it for all races!

Mile 1
Mile 1: 6:34
I had studied this mile closely in my Strava data from 2019 and I had run it during my warm up. As I said above, this course can be very fast if you pace it properly. I went out very quickly, probably around 6:15 because I knew that once the hill started, I would be slowing down. About a quarter mile in, it was time to run uphill. I kept my effort level hard and powered up that hill. I focused on engaging my glutes swinging my arms, and getting to the top. It's not a very steep hill, but it does last for most of the first mile. I kept telling myself that the race would get much easier once I was at the top. 

I saw my split was 6:34 and this was perfect. I wanted my split to be about the same as 2019, and I had run this one second faster. Yes!

Mile 2: 6:29
I should mention that I was not at all focused on where I was in the field of women. I saw my friend Hannah at the start line and knew she was ahead of me but other than that I wasn't sure how many women were ahead of her. There was even a turnaround point and I didn't even think to look at the runners on the other side - I just stayed focused on pushing really hard.

I told myself that this was the most important mile because I had the opportunity to shave some time from my 2019 split. The final mile would be downhill and I would rely on gravity. But this mile- this mile required focus, the ability to push really hard and tolerate discomfort. I think many runners are afraid to push really hard during the middle mile of a 5K because you still have over a mile to go. But if you know that the last mile is going to be all downhill, you have the confidence to push super hard in the middle mile, and that's what I did. I passed a few people during this mile.

I was so excited when I saw that my split was 6:29, which was 12 seconds faster than my 6:41 from 2019. WOW. 

Mile 3: 6:07
At this point, I knew I was likely to PR. And I had to keep telling myself not to get emotional, not to get too excited. I still had work to do. If I let myself get too happy about this, I would coast along. And it's not a PR until you cross the finish line so I actually had to get there, and get there fast. I'm an excellent downhill runner and I flew by quite a few runners. I could really feel the shoes propelling me along too- this is where the carbon fiber plate really shines. 

Mile 3
The Finish and Beyond
I ran the final kick at a pace of 6:07 which shows I was happy to keep things steady versus finding another gear. As a result, I didn't have to dry heave at the end. I think my dry heaving comes not from the overall effort of the race, but the fact that I go 100% balls-to-the-wall during the last few minutes and then suddenly stop. With my pace steady, didn't have the urge to dry heave.

But my first thought was "I could have run that race faster". Is that true? Maybe I could have pushed even harder on the final mile. It sort of felt easy because it was all downhill. I guess that's' the beauty of a course that starts uphill and finishes downhill. You get the hard part out of the way without killing yourself and the rest feels easier than it should for race effort.

Greg looked up my result online and found that I ran an official time of 19:41. Well, this was surreal. This was not something that should have been possible! I couldn't even run a sub 6:35 mile on the track last week. Imposter syndrome immediately kicked in. It was the shoes. It was the fast course. It was the weather. It was everything BUT me because I am not a 19:41 5K runner. Nope. That time is too good for me. Was the course short? My Garmin had 3.09 but on Strava, other people who ran the race had distances of 3.1.  And my average pace according to Garmin was 6:23, so this would still be a 19:50 at 3.1. So yes, I did PR. How did that even happen when I felt like I could have run a faster last mile!? Wow.

I guess this is what happens when you train for a marathon for 3 months and then instead of the marathon, you run the 5K. So yes, I deserve this time. Yes, I earned it. (I'm slowly starting to convince myself that this time isn't "too good" for me). 

The results had me listed as 4th female, which was a bit of a bummer because there was prize money at this race. But then my friend Hannah and I realized that there was only one female ahead of her, and she should have been second. Unless we somehow missed her? This is still under investigation, but it's possible I was the third overall female. I don't care all that much, a 17-second 5K PR is enough of an award for me.

Does this make bib number 69 my lucky number?!  Maybe!!

Later that day, my friend Meredith texted me and told me she ran the Virginia Run Turkey Trot (the race I ran for 13 straight years). WHAT!? I thought that race was not being held. I'm on their email list and never received an email about it. I'm in the community Facebook group and it was never mentioned! But apparently, yes, it happened. So next year it's back to my traditional Turkey Trot race. I can't believe I broke my streak and missed it this year. Would I have run a time of 19:41? Maybe not, but there's something really special about that race.

Now for the really important part: the cake. I settled on a Dairy Queen Blizzard cake. I know it's cold out and ice cream isn't as appealing as it would be in the summer. But let's face it, I will never PR when it's warm out so if I ever want a PR Blizzard cake, now is the time. We haven't gotten this cake yet, but we plan to get it tomorrow and decorate it with 19:41. 

Cheryl and me after the race