Sunday, December 1, 2019

CIM: Training Cycle in Review

I'm wrapping up my training cycle for the California International Marathon (CIM) and I feel great. I'm noticing a huge difference between how I feel mentally between this cycle and my Shamrock cycle in the spring, when I DNF'ed.

Last spring, I was feeling really stressed. I was in the process of interviewing for new jobs and exploring multiple opportunities. I also felt like I had over-scheduled myself in general and I was feeling really overwhelmed trying to fit everything in.

This cycle, I am perhaps the calmest I have ever been. I don't have anxiety about my race, my
schedule, my job, or anything else in my life. And that has made all the difference. For the past several years I have realized how much stress and anxiety were holding me back, but now that my job is less political, I feel particularly chill.

Ironically, I have more responsibility and more work travel than ever before. I'm the Chief Marketing Officer of a tech company, which means I'm not only responsible for marketing, but helping to steer the direction of the business. In November, I traveled to Indianapolis and Providence for work, participating in all-day meetings, gave a presentation to a room full of people, but never once felt overwhelmed. Why? It's because I don't have to deal with politics at work. I don't think that anyone is out to get me, I'm not being micro-managed, and my colleagues aren't creating stressful situations for me. Most of the stress over the past 5+ years of my life has been work stress relating to people, not the work itself. I'm fortunate to I have a job where I'm empowered, trusted, and invested in the future of the company.

The commute is shorter with less traffic (25 minutes in the morning, 35 minutes in the evening) and I work from home about once a week. I don't think I realized how much my previous commute and the work environment was taking a toll on my overall stress levels. I have especially noticed this in my ability to recover from workouts and races. After the Columbus half, I ran a 73-mile week. After the Indianapolis half, I ran a 77-mile week. Both races were PRs and I felt good for the weeks following them.

I'm starting my training recap blog with this because I think the lack of stress has been the single most important factor in my fitness gains:

  • I am sleeping better
  • I am recovering better/faster
  • I haven't gotten sick
  • I have more time (with the shorter commute)
Do not underestimate how much stress can take out of you, and how much a reduced amount of stress can help with your running!

Now, onto the training recap. Below you will see a weekly graph of my training, which tells the story at a high level.

Since recovering from my bike accident on August 5, I have run every day, which makes this a 119-day run streak so far, with a total of 1,033 miles. I have four weeks above 70 miles, with the lower mileage weeks including mini-tapers for half marathons.

I didn't really notice any fitness gains until around mid-October, once the weather started to cool down. But then I had a few breakthrough workouts and races that told me I was really fit. I've chosen 5 key workouts to highlight that give me confidence for CIM. It should be noted that I was REALLY lucky with the weather this cycle. Almost all of these workouts had amazing weather: all below 50 degrees with little wind or rain.

October 24: Tempo/Hills
This workout was a 4-mile tempo, 4 x 30 second hill sprints, 3 mile tempo:
  • Warm up for 2.8 miles
  • 4 miles: 6:54, 6:50, 6:46, 6:46
  • 3-minute recovery jog (10:28 pace)
  • Hill sprints in 7:03, 7:15, 7:28, 7:16
  • 3-minute recovery jog (10:14 pace)
  • 3 miles in 6:44, 6:41, 6:39
  • Cool down for 1.5 miles
My goal had been to start the tempo miles at 6:55 and progress down to 6:40 by the end, and I did that! 

November 2: Fast Finish 20-miler
I did this run on the W&OD trail to ensure I incorporated hills. I ran the first 14 miles at an average pace of 8:09, and then finished off with 6 miles at marathon pace: 7:15, 7:12, 7:09, 7:04, 7:10, 7:09. The marathon pace miles averaged 7:10, which was awesome because my goal was 7:15.

This run was the first indication I had that a sub-3:10 could be possible. Prior to this run, I was thinking getting 3:10:xx would be the absolute fastest I could shoot for, but this run got me thinking I shouldn't limit myself, as a 7:10 marathon pace would land me a time of 3:08.

November 13: 10K wave tempo
This workout was 10 kilometers on the track, with each kilometer alternating 10K pace (6:34/mile, 4:04/km) and then 20 seconds slower (7:05/mile, 4:24/km). The track was the perfect place for this because a kilometer is 2 and a half laps! I had done this workout as an 8K in the past and really liked it, but this was my first crack at doing it as a 10K. 

Splits were: 4:08/4:31, 4:04/4:26, 4:05/4:25, 4:04/4:27, 4:04/4:20

The result was a 10K in 42:37, which is faster than the 10K race I ran in early October! Amazing how much faster I am when it's cold (22 degrees) and there are no hills. The ability to crank out my 4th fastest 10K ever in a training run and not even feel like I worked that hard was huge! Also, this was the Wednesday after Indianapolis, so it hadn't even been a full week since that half marathon.

November 16: 22 miles, mixed pace
Three days after the track 10K, I ran a 22-miler. I did have some wind to contend with on this run, but it didn't slow me down too much! This was one continuous run broken down as follows:
  • 9 miles easy, average 8:21 pace
  • 3 miles of 1:00 hard, 1:00 easy, around 6:45/9:15
  • 3 miles tempo: 7:14, 7:03, 7:00
  • 1 mile easy at 8:54
  • 3 miles hard in 7:08, 7:03, 6:56
  • 3 miles easy at 8:20, 8:20, 8:15
I felt strong and energized, and the hardest part was the three "easy" miles at the end because my legs were toast. Overall, I averaged a pace of 7:55 for 22 miles, which was my fastest 22-miler ever! I had done this workout in the past, but I had never run it so fast.

November 21: 90 minutes at marathon pace
This run was prescribed at 90 minutes marathon pace, plus warm up and cool down. Here's how it went, keeping in mind the perfect weather!
  • 2.8 miles warm up
  • 12.5 miles at 7:12 avg.
  • 1.5 miles cool down
Splits for the marathon pace miles were 7:30, 7:14, 7:18, 7:16, 7:13, 7:13, 7:12, 7:10, 7:10, 7:09, 7:04, 7:00, 6:51 (for 0.5 mile). This workout again made me feel that sub-3:10 is possible if I have a
good day! During this run I tested the Nike Vaporfly Next% in a half size larger than I wore in my half marathons. Thankfully, I had no issue with my big toe getting bruised, so I will wear them for the marathon.

Final Thoughts
Keeping these workouts in mind, the fact that they were all within a month of each other, and that I had 3 races thrown in (all PRs) makes me super confident. So much depends on the weather, and the current forecast, which will likely change, is 41 at the start, 49 at the finish, no wind, 100% humidity. I have heard Sacramento is foggy/humid in the mornings. I don't think that will be a factor, but it's something to keep in mind. My ideal weather would not get above 45 degrees, but I'd give this forecast an 8/10.

I'm signing books at a breakfast put on by Destination CIM on Saturday morning from 7-9am. It's a $20 breakfast and you can get tickets here. Thanks to Destination CIM, Greg and I have a hotel just a few blocks from the finish line, plus a VIP tent at the start line.

Now it's time to avoid all germs and stay chill!

Thursday, November 28, 2019

Turkey Trot PRish

Today I ran my 14th Turkey Trot 5K, but my first Ashburn Farm Turkey Trot.

Every year since 2006, I had run the Virginia Run Turkey Trot in Centreville. I loved this race and it had become a tradition. I was saddened to learn that they were not going to put the race on this year due to the lack of volunteers. But, luckily I live in an area with plenty of trotting options so I chose the Ashburn Farm race, which I had heard good things about.

We had a wind advisory today with sustained winds at 20-22 mph and gusts of up to 40 mph. Needless to say, these are not PR conditions! Thankfully, the relatively warm temperature of 44 degrees ensured that the wind wouldn't be as biting as it could be. Originally my goal had been 19:40 (an 18-second PR), but when the wind advisory came out, I adjusted that goal to simply pushing hard and hoping to squeak out a tiny PR.

Before the race
I changed up my pre-race routine in that instead of having Generation UCAN 30 minutes pre-race, I took a Maurten gel with caffeine 15 minutes pre-race. The gel had worked well for me during the Indianapolis Monumental Half marathon, and I didn't need all that much fuel for a 5K. UCAN provides up to 90 minutes of fuel, but for a 20-minute race, I figured I could get by with one gel. Plus, I had an English muffin with peanut butter two hours before the race.

I decided to wear a crop top and tight shorts because I didn't want a loose tank blowing around in the wind. Plus, after Indy Monumental, I vowed I would never overdress again. I ended up being the most scantily clad person there, and I got a few people asking me if I was cold. But the outfit ended up being perfect me.

Greg and I warmed up on the course to get a sense of the hill profile and the wind direction. The hills and wind were where I expected them to be. A brief tailwind to start, followed by a long section of headwind and uphill.

This race offers a 5K and a 10K. Overall, there were 3,000 runners and the race had sold out. My usual turkey trot has around 1500 runners, so it was about the same size. Greg and I lined up about two rows back from the start, which unbeknownst to me was a mistake. I should have lined up right on the line-- with the kids!

Mile 1: 6:34
I planned to go out hard because I knew I'd be able to fly in the second half, which would offer a downhill tailwind. So even if I bonked, the course profile would be in my favor. Plus, I am in marathon shape right now so I should be able to hold a hard effort for 20 minutes. The first mile was net uphill, with the second half of that mile being into a headwind, so 6:34 was a very hard effort. As I passed the first mile marker, I realized I was next to Greg, and I hoped I would be able to keep up with him.

Initially, I counted about 5 women ahead of me. I had hoped to place in the top three because this race offers cash awards.

Mile 2: 6:41
This mile was painful. The first 0.8 was more uphill headwind and it was sucking the life out of me. I glanced down at my Garmin a few times and saw a 6:50 lap pace. Yikes. Originally I had planned for this mile to be faster than the first mile, but I realized that this mile was harder, given the sustained 20 mph headwind. At the turnaround, I realized I was in third place. I must have passed two women at some point without having realized it. That thought pepped me up. Greg, however, was now far ahead of me. Wind doesn't ever seem to slow him down!

Mile 3: 6:11
Mile 3 was a joyride! My fastest mile ever, but with a downhill tailwind, of course it would be! All of a sudden I was flying and my pace dropped dramatically. I even caught up to the 2nd place woman about halfway through the mile and sprinted past her, hoping that she would not try to stay with me.  I kept glancing at my watch, wondering if I could run fast enough to PR. It seemed unlikely, because I would need an average pace of 6:25, but I was going to give it all I had.

Last 0.8: 5:49 pace
That was a fast sprint to the finish! I was really trying to nab that PR.

I stopped my Garmin about a second after crossing the finish line, and it read 19:56. So I assumed my finish time would probably be 19:55. Yay! A PR by 3 seconds!

Greg ran 19:24, which is a 25 second PR for him!

After the race
My coach wanted me to run 4 marathon pace miles post race. (He's so hard core). So, about five minutes after I finished the race, I headed back on the course for a marathon pace "cool down". I ran 7:18, 7:12, 7:19, and then stopped at 3 miles because the wind was really picking up. At times, I was running in place. After stopped, I realized if I had run 0.1 more I would have officially run two 5Ks, but oh well. 3 "bonus" miles at a pace of 7:16 immediately after a 5K PR in a wind advisory was good enough for me!

As I was running these marathon pace miles, I started to process the race. My Garmin read 3.08 miles at a pace of 6:28. So is that really a PR? When I ran my 19:58, my Garmin read 3.13 miles at a pace of 6:25. Hmmmm.

Then, the bad news came. My official time was 20:00, for both gun and chip. I knew I had run faster than that! Thankfully, I was still officially in second place.

For placing second, I ended up winning a cash award of $100 plus a plaque. I was very happy with that, and this is something that my traditional Turkey Trot did not offer. I would win the same hat each year.

I asked the timer why my gun and chip time were the same. He said, "Did you place in the top 3?" and when I said yes, he replied with "We erase the chip time for the top 3 finishers. It's a new USATF rule."

"Can you tell me my chip time?" I asked.

"19:55," he replied. “But that won't be recorded anywhere official, since you placed in the top 3.”

I had never heard of this rule and I was't going to argue with him. I was still second place, and I still
ran a strong race, and that's what really mattered.

Final thoughts
After much deliberation, I am going to call this "PRish". Even though my coach encouraged me to consider it a true PR, it's not really.

1. My official gun and chip time are 20:00. There is no record of me running 19:55 expect for hearing the timing guy say it.

2. The course measured 3.08 on my Garmin. Greg got 3.1, so the course may not have been short. But, I know that have run 3.1 miles at a pace of 6:25 in the past and today I ran a pace of 6:28.

What if the course had measured 3.16 on my Garmin and I ran a pace of 6:23? That would not be an official PR, but I would have known it was the fastest I had ever run that distance.

MOST IMPORTANTLY: the race was during a wind advisory. So running that close to my PR and having a chip PR in those conditions is something I'm proud of, and it tells me I am in excellent shape. Had it not been so windy, I think that 19:40 would have been mine.

So, I'm calling this PRish. I'm not going to update my PR board at home or on the sidebar of my blog. I still consider my PR to be 19:58. However, I know that right now, I am in better shape than when I ran 19:58, and that's what is important to me, just 10 days out from a marathon.

Am I bummed about the chip/gun time thing? A little. But given that it was a short course based on my Garmin, and given that they compensated me $100, I'm fine with it!

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Impromptu Indianapolis

Yesterday morning I ran the Indianapolis Monumental Half Marathon. This race was not originally on my schedule and was a last-minute addition due to some well-timed business travel.

About three weeks ago, I found out that I needed to be in Indianapolis for sales planning meetings November 5-7. Business travel during marathon training is always a challenge because I don't know where I will run, and if it's dark I won't feel safe. When I learned about the business travel, I knew
that the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon and half would be that weekend. I figured I would stay in town and do my long run as part of one of those races. Initially I thought I would register for the full and do 20 miles with some marathon pace work incorporated. But I didn't register immediately.

Then I ran the Columbus Half marathon, where I set a PR of 1:31:55, followed by a 73-mile week. I felt great in the week following the half with no lingering soreness. This indicated to me and my coach that I can recover really well from a half marathon, so I could race Indianapolis Monumental with minimal disruption to marathon training. Of course, part of me wondered if maybe I didn't race Columbus to my full potential since I didn't need any recovery time. But then I remembered that I vomited at the end!

So I decided to run the Monumental Half Marathon as an all-out race. This meant tapering during my business travel which relived the stress about finding a place for a hard workout. Perfect!

My business meetings were located in the suburbs-- an area called Fishers. On Friday morning I transferred to the downtown area, checked into my new hotel, and had another meeting near the Soldiers and Sailers Monument. After that meeting, I procured my bagels for the next day from the nearby Au Bon Pain. Then I did a 30-minute shakeout run which felt good, but very cold. It was only 27 degrees.

After that, I met up with my friends Kathy and Meredith for lunch. They are both local to the Washington metro area and it was cool to get to see them in Indy. We then picked up our bib numbers at the expo. I did a lot of walking on Friday-- more than would be ideal the day before a half marathon. Everything is close enough that you wouldn't take an Uber, but yet annoyingly far to walk if you are trying to rest your legs.

Sam and me after dinner
I relaxed and did work in my hotel for a few hours afterwards until it was time for dinner. I had dinner with fellow blogger Sam, whose blog I had been following for years. (I would link it here but she recently retired her blog.) I had never met her in person but I felt like I knew her! We both ordered the salmon which came with a side of fingerling potatoes. Yum!

I returned to my hotel to find a group of about 50-60 kids (aged 10-16) swarming the hotel lobby. The line to get up the elevator was wrapped around the lobby. And of course they were very loud. Thankfully, I had a room all the way at the end of the hallway. But once I got into bed, I could still hear the room next to me being very loud. Thankfully, I was prepared with my white noise maker. I always travel with one, and I blasted it on high and it successfully drowned out all the noise that the kids were making. I fell asleep at 8:45 and slept reasonably well. I was awake from 1:45-2:45, but then fell back asleep until 5:30.

Before the Race
Race morning arrived and I felt pretty chill. Since this race wasn't part of my original fall plan, I didn't feel any nervousness around it. I had already PR'ed my fall half marathon, so anything I did now would be gravy. I believed I could shave about a minute off of my 1:31:55, although I thought if things went really well that 1:29:xx could be in the cards. Here's why I thought I could shave a minute off:
  • 20 seconds for running the tangents and a Garmin distance of shorter than 13.25
  • 20 seconds for improved fueling
  • 20 seconds for 3 weeks of solid training post the Columbus half.
So I believed I should be able to PR by at least a minute, maybe more.

As for the weather, it was much cooler than Columbus: 28 degrees at the start and 31 and the finish. Columbus was in the low 50s. I would have added another 20 seconds for these improved weather
conditions, however the forecast showed a headwind for the last four miles, whereas Columbus had no wind. As for the courses, I think they are both equally as fast. Columbus has more hills, but the Columbus hills are placed in advantageous spots and they aren't that steep. They both have a fair amount of curves and turns. My 13.25 in Columbus was because I personally did a lot of weaving to pass people and avoid uneven pavement. 

Given all of this, I knew I was in a great spot going into the race. And unless I just "wasn't feeling it," or the wind got me at the end, then I had high confidence in a PR. I had run the full marathon back in 2017, and I had a horrible race. Even though that was not my day, I did like the course and I thought it would be nice to get some redemption.

Before the race
Anyway, I did my pre-race routine which involved having my bagel with peanut butter, getting dressed, preparing my UCAN, and spending a lot of time in the bathroom. I left my room at 7:15, which was 45 minutes before the start. The forecast was 28 at the start, 31 at the finish, cloudy, and windy. I decided on compression capri tights and a long-sleeved lightweight shirt. I had been debating short sleeves and arm warmers, but since it would be overcast and windy, I thought it would feel even colder than the temperature indicated.

As I left my hotel, I hid my room key under a table in the hallway on my floor. My capri tights had no pockets for a hotel room key so I needed a place to stash it. I wouldn't be checking a bag because my hotel (the Westin) was literally right at the finish line. I waited in the lobby until about 7:35, drank my Generation UCAN and then I went outside to warm up. Instead of drinking a full serving, like I did in Columbus, I only drank half a serving and planned to take a gel at mile 8. My hope was that this approach would give me more energy and avoid a vomiting situation.

It was really crowded near the start, so I was only able to warm up for about 5 minutes of "real" running. But then I jogged in place in my corral. I wasn't nearly as cold as I expected to be. It was 28 degrees but I guess all the body heat made things feel warmer. 10 minutes prior to the start, I tossed my throw-away jacket. Usually I am freezing when I toss off my throwaway jacket, but I was comfortable.

I immediately began questioning my decision to wear a long-sleeved shirt. I looked around at all the other runners in tanks and arm warmers and I told myself that would have been the right move.

Miles 1-4
The race started and I was mentally prepared for it to be crowded. Indianapolis Monumental is a competitive field, so plenty of people would be running at my pace. A few minutes into the race, the 3:05 pace group caught up to me (which is a 1:32:30 half). I didn’t necessarily think they were running too fast, but I was running too slow for my goal. I wasn’t intentionally running that much slower than goal pace, but it was crowded and I didn’t want to weave around people. So I was stuck in 3:05 land for the first two miles. I didn’t stress too much about it because I knew I could make up the time later.

It seemed as if the 3:05 pacer and 3:00 pacer were too close together because as soon as I broke free of 3:05, I was at the back of the 3:00 pack. As much as I try not to run with pacers, I always seem to find myself caught up in their groups.

After just one mile, I rolled my sleeves up because I was warm! Note to future self: If it’s 28 degrees at the start of a half marathon, that’s too warm for long sleeves. Typically I carry a disposable bottle of water for the early miles of a half marathon. In Columbus I kept this bottle for four miles because the weather was mild. Yesterday, I didn’t carry a bottle because I thought my hands would be too cold/numb to handle it. I also regretted that decision because it wasn’t all that cold and I have a hard time drinking from the cups.

This first portion of the race had a lot of twists, turns, curves and crowding. It was hard to establish a rhythm but I still felt good.

Mile 1: 7:08 (Garmin) 7:02 (Strava)
Mile 2: 7:06 (Garmin) 7:01 (Strava)
Mile 3: 7:02 (Garmin) 7:04 (Strava)
Mile 4: 6:45 (Garmin) 6:46 (Strava)

Note: My Strava splits were different from my Garmin splits for the first 4 miles, so I have included them both. After that, they began to match up.

Miles 5-8
As always in a half marathon, these were the “glory miles”. I felt strong and the fast pace wasn’t too much of a strain. I was optimistic about my ability to stay strong throughout the race. We had a tail wind, which I didn’t feel, but was reflected in my speedy paces. I hit the 10K timing mat in 43:20, which would have put me on pace for 1:31:25.

I spent miles 5-7 gradually making my way up to the front of the massive 3:00 pace group. I passed the 3:00 pacer after mile marker 7 and was convinced I would be able to break 1:30. This was also the point where the half and full marathons separated, so there would be no more 3:00 pacer anyway.

Shortly after the split, at mile 7.5, I took my Maurten gel. I had never used a Maurten gel in a race before. The first time I had tried it was two weeks ago during a 20-miler. I chose it because it was tasteless and was supposed to be easy on the stomach. You also don’t need to take it with water. I had pre-cut the gel so it was easy to open with my teeth and it went down quickly in two parts. I did not have any water with it and that was fine. They make these gels with and without caffeine and I decided to use the one with caffeine since Greg thought it was helpful during his recent half marathon.

Mile 5: 6:52
Mile 6: 6:45
Mile 7: 6:41 (must be that tailwind!)
Mile 8: 6:53

Miles 9-12
Okay, this was it. I knew that it would be time to dig deep as I fought against the headwind. Miles 9-10 were annoying because there were so many twists and turns and the pavement was beat up. I was wearing my Nike Vaporfly Next% and there’s not much stability there to run over uneven pavement. I tried not to dodge it too much because I didn’t want to end up with 13.25 miles again. Every time I thought I had good momentum, there would be a turn or a section of broken pavement. It was mentally exhausting, but I made it through.

I clocked in at 1:09:06 on my Garmin at the 10-mile marker, which is faster than my 10-mile PR by nearly a minute. I knew I was on track to reach my goal so I had to stay strong during these final miles. The headwind became real once we hit the 11th mile. My plan was to find someone to draft off of but all the runners near me were either going too fast for me to keep up with or too slow for me to want to stick with.

This is when I employed one of my most successful mental tactics: running by time. I looked down at my Garmin, which read 1:13:xx and I told myself that I had less than 20 minutes to go. So short! 20 minutes in a workout is like nothing. I kept repeating “you want this, relax,” over and over again. I had to remind myself that I wanted that PR in order to fight through the wind.

My splits make it look like slowed down in miles 11-12, but my effort level was stronger than it had been the whole race due to the wind, and that is reflected in my heart rate date.

Mile 9: 6:56
Mile 10: 6:53
Mile 11: 7:04
Mile 12: 7:02

Mile 13-Finish
Once I had only 10 minutes to go, I was able to really push harder. I could do anything for 10 minutes!

I told myself that mile 13 was a make-it-or-break-it mile. I had my chance to run sub-1:31 and it would be won or lost in this mile. The mile started off slow, but my Garmin pace kept getting faster and faster the closer I got to the finish line, until it beeped at 6:50. I felt so strong running that pace that I wished I had dialed into that gear sooner. I felt like I could have continued on at that pace for another mile, which is the beauty of marathon training.

As I approached the finish line I glanced down at my Garmin and I saw I would be cutting it very close to 1:31:00 and I wanted to squeak under that. I pretended I was running a 100m interval and gave it everything I had.

Mile 13: 6:50
Last 0.15: 6:32 pace

After the Race
I felt pretty good after I crossed the finish line, although I did have the urge to vomit. I stepped aside made the action of vomiting, although I didn't have any water in my stomach so nothing came up. My Garmin read 1:31:01, so I didn't know if my official time would be sub-1:31 or not.

Oddly, I couldn't find anyone to give me a medal so I had to grab one from a pile. I also couldn't find where they were giving out the hats, so I missed out on getting one.

My hotel was literally right at the finish line so I made it back to my floor, retrieved the key from its hiding place, and got my phone. I looked at my tracking and saw that I had, in fact, made it under 1:31 with an official time of 1:30:58!

I quickly changed into warmer clothes and went back out to the race to cheer on my friends. I had the most perfect aerial view of the finish from my hotel room, but I wanted to be part of the action and take photos. I had about 10 friends I was tracking so it was fun to cheer for them all as they finished.

I couldn't stay out there too long because of my 12:00 hotel checkout time and my hands had gone numb. But I had a blast watching so many runners crush their goals. What great inspiration for CIM in four weeks!

I flew home later that afternoon, and when I arrived, the house smelled like PR cake. Greg made me a zebra striped PR cake and it was so delicious!

Final Thoughts and Stats
My official time was 1:30:58, which is a negative split, given my 10K time had me on track for 1:31:25. This is a PR by 57 seconds. That's a lot of time to shave off in just three weeks, but I explained above where that time came from: fitness, fueling, and tangents.

I placed 11 out of 688 in my age group (40-44), which shows how competitive this field was. In Columbus, my age group had 681 runners and I placed 3rd-- with a slower time! I had looked up last year's results and based on those, I did not expect to win an age group award.

I think I could have pushed into that higher gear sooner and run about 20-30 seconds faster overall. And if it hadn't been for the wind, I wouldn't have needed that higher gear to maintain the low 6:50's. Even though I regret not going for it sooner, I still wouldn't have run 1:29:xx. Plus, I want to recover quickly so I can immediately jump back into marathon training. There was no need to destroy myself.

Mentally, my approach of telling myself how much time I had left to go instead of distance was very helpful. I've done that before, but usually it has been in full marathons.

I felt much better during the last three miles than I did in Columbus and I attribute that to the Maurten gel + having a few extra weeks of endurance training. I think I will continue to use my Generation UCAN homemade gel for the full marathon because I know that works, but instead of Honey Stinger chews at mile 20, I will take a Maurten gel.

Over dressed!
My Nike Vaporfly Next% worked better for me in this race than in Columbus in that my big toe didn't get bruised. I think that could be due to the lack of hills. Regardless, I plan to wear a half size larger for the marathon. Since I ran both Columbus and Indianapolis in the same shoe, I can't say that the shoe was a factor in my PR.

I can't believe I overdressed. I always err on the side of being colder rather than warmer. I don't think it impacted my performance but it was annoying to be running in a long sleeved shirt with the sleeves rolled up. The capris were fine because I don't overheat from having more leg coverage.

In closing, I'm really glad I ran this race. It shows me that 1:29:xx is realistic for me within the next year and it makes me confident that my 3:10 marathon goal is realistic. The McMillan calculator predicts 3:11:24, and I still have four more weeks to build fitness. However, if CIM gets warmer than 50 degrees, which it may, I might have to re-adjust that goal. I cannot use a race with 30 degree temps to predict my performance in conditions that are over 20 degrees warmer.

Time to get back to the grind of training so I will be ready to run a full marathon in four weeks!

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Clors in Columbus Part III

Greg and I made our third trip to Columbus, OH this weekend for the Columbus half marathon. We first ran this race in 2014 as the full marathon, and came back in 2015 for the half marathon. Both of
these races were PRs and we loved the overall vibe of this race. Typically I run my half marathon tune-up 3-5 weeks out from my goal marathon. But I wanted to go back to Columbus, so this one was 7 weeks out.

The Day Before The Race
We flew out on Saturday morning and our quick flight arrived shortly after 9:00am. We were able to check into our hotel and change into running clothes for our shakeout run. I couldn't let the streak stop, after all! We ran for just over 3 miles, with some strides thrown in to keep the legs peppy. There was a riverside park very close to our hotel with a nice running path, so it was easy logistically. After the shakeout run, we had lunch at Jimmy John's where I got my standard turkey sandwich.

We stayed at Hotel Leveque, which far exceeded our expectations. In the past, we had stayed at the Courtyard, but it was all booked up when I made the reservation, so I branched out and was wow'ed by how amazing this hotel was. The room was beautiful, and I was pleasantly surprised by the zebra pillows! It had a huge bathtub and a huge full-length mirror and plenty of space to lay out our race clothes. The bed was super comfortable and I slept really well.

Back to our day. After lunch, we headed to the expo. It was the race's 40-year anniversary and Greg's 40th birthday, so that made it extra special. Just like in years past, when Greg picked up his bib, he received a pin that said "it's my birthday" and a second bib that said "it's my birthday", which he wore on the back of his shirt. One of the many reasons we love the race is this personal touch. Greg always feels the love on his birthday!

We walked around the expo for a short bit. Greg ended up with two new shirts. This race has a really good selection of official race gear and he's gotten extra shirts each year.

After the expo, we went to "North Market" across the street from the expo to get bagels. We knew from experience that all of the bagel places in Columbus are closed on Saturday. We had planned to get some bagels at Dulles airport, but our terminal didn't have any, despite my research ahead of time about the food options there.

North Market didn't have bagels, but we got some pretzel rolls that were close enough. We had brought our own travel sized peanut butter containers so race morning breakfast was ready to go. We then returned to our hotel room where we binge watched "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend" on Netflix. I ended up falling asleep for 30 minutes, which was much needed.

Then, it was time for dinner. In previous years, we had eaten at Buca di Beppo. This year we ate at Martini Modern Italian and it was SO GOOD. I had a beet salad and chicken parmesan, minus the parmesan, which can upset my stomach. I had this exact dinner before the Rehoboth Beach marathon last year and it worked well.

When we returned to our hotel, we found two pieces of chocolate on the nightstand, and there was this cool projector that had been brought into the room, projecting stars onto the ceiling. OMG- I loved those stars. It turns out the projector was for sale and I asked Greg to get it for me for my upcoming birthday. When I was a kid, I had glow-in-the-dark stars on my bedroom ceiling. So this reminded me of that. I fell asleep easily at 8:15 and slept for a solid 8 hours, only waking up twice briefly.

Mentally, I was relaxed. I did not have any anxiety about this race and as you can tell, I was focused on enjoying our pre-race day in Columbus. I didn't waste it being worried about my upcoming performance like I used to before I had my mental breakthrough in 2013.

Race Morning- Before the Race
This went smoothly. We woke up at 5:20, ate our pretzel rolls with peanut butter and got ready. I wore the Nike Vaporfly Next%. They worked well in the 10K, although I don't think they helped me run faster at that distance, so I figured they would work well in the half marathon.

We left the hotel 45 minutes before the 7:30 start time. It was still pitch dark. We learned from previous races that you want to get into the corrals early. They get crowded. So we got into our corral about 25 minutes before the race started and it was empty enough to jog around in it for a very short warm up. Normally I would have wanted about a mile warm up, but it was 50 degrees, so I wasn't worried about my legs being stiff in the cold.

About that weather. Pretty good! 50 at the start, rising to 52 by the finish. Mostly cloudy, no wind. I was happy with this weather, even though my ideal would have been 10-15 degrees colder. It was in no way "warm"-- but when it's really cold (like 30's), my superpowers come out and I have breakthrough performances.

I drank a full serving of Generation UCAN mixed with water at the start line, and finished it 15 minutes before race start. I fully expected that I would need to use the bathroom again, but surprisingly I did not. In the past, I have run strong half marathons using Generation UCAN only, and no additional fuel. So I didn't have any additional gels with me.

They started singing the Star Spangled Banner, and fireworks erupted at "The bombs bursting in air". It was still dark, so the fireworks were vibrant in the sky. Yet another reason we love this race. When the race started officially, even more fireworks went off and it was so cool! It put me in a great mood and that set the stage for a positive mindset.

Miles 1-4
My plan was to run the first two miles about 15 seconds per mile slower than goal pace. I would typically start a half marathon 5-10 seconds slower than goal pace, but given that these miles were uphill and it would be crowded, I decided to be conservative.

Greg and I started out together and ran together for the first mile. Then he started to pull ahead and I let him go. We like to run our own separate races. At some point in mile 3, I noticed it was getting really crowded around me. And this was a downhill mile, and I wanted to speed up. But I couldn't because people were packed around me. It was the 3:10/1:35 pace group. Clearly going out way too fast, and it was impossible to break through them. Ultimately, I had to slow down, pull off all the way to the side of the course to go around them. It was frustrating, but there was no other way to pull ahead of the group.

Once I had my own space to run in I felt much better and I could still see Greg about 5-10 seconds ahead of me. During these miles I drank from my handheld, disposable water bottle, with the plan of ditching the bottle during the 5th mile.

Mile 1: 7:11
Mile 2: 7:05
Mile 3: 6:51
Mile 4: 6:57

Miles 5-8
These were the glory miles, and they always are during a half marathon. I felt awesome, I stopped looking at my watch and I ran by feel. Once I ditched my water bottle it was easier to run and I was in full-on race mode. Clearly, I was not looking at my watch because I clocked in at 6:42 for mile 6!

I knew that mile 7 would be one big long hill and I expected to slow down. But I didn't slow down that much at all. In fact, it was here that I caught up with Greg and we were running side by side. Usually he kills me on the hills, but this time, I was able to catch him on the hill. And once we were at the top, I knew we were through the hardest hill of the race.

Mile 5: 6:50
Mile 6: 6:42
Mile 7: 7:01
Mile 8: 6:56

Miles 9-12
At mile marker 8, Greg began to pull ahead. I thought I might be able to keep up with him the rest of the way or even pass him, but he clearly found a new gear and took off. The race was starting to get hard for me, but I was able to maintain my effort level and stay mentally positive.

Mile 11 had some good downhill but the pavement was really beat up. This meant I couldn't "fly" down the hill as fast as I wanted because I was dodging all the potholes and ridges in the pavement. I think the Nike Vaporfly was a disadvantage here. There was so much "shoe" between my foot and the ground, and I was worried that I would trip and fall if I stepped on uneven ground. I am much less worried about this if I can feel the ground beneath my feet. I don't feel like I have as much control in the Vaporfly as I do in a shoe that's closer to the ground. It was during this mile that I lost sight of Greg.

Unfortunately, I also ended up gaining extra mileage here. My total Garmin mileage ended up being 13.24, and I am sure it was due to all the pavement dodging in mile 11 and having to pull off to the side of the course to get out of the 3:10/1:35 pace group earlier in the race.

With two miles to go, I was dead. I knew I was on track to PR and I just had to hold it together for two more miles. I would do everything in my power to PR, but I didn't know if it would be physically possible given how tired I was. I probably could have done with some extra fuel at around mile 9, but I hadn't planned for that. My limiting factor was not my legs, but overall fatigue and lack of energy.

There was another long hill in mile 12. I knew to expect it, but I didn't remember it being this bad. I felt like I was crawling up the hill, despite my best efforts to push and run fast. I used all the mental tricks I had "Get your ass up that hill, Elizabeth!!!" and I made it, but I slowed down substantially.

Mile 9: 6:53
Mile 10: 6:54
Mile 11: 7:00
Mile 12: 7:15

Mile 13- Finish
After that abysmal 12th mile, I knew I had to rally if I was going to PR. Thankfully, the last mile had a long downhill, and I knew this, and the pavement would be nice and even. Time to fly. I decided to ignore the pain and run with everything I had. This was it! Whether or not I would beat my PR from January 2018 all came down to this moment, to this final mile. I had to be strong.

Mile 13: 6:44
Last 0.24: 6:22 pace

And... that final 0.24 was not all downhill either! I sprinted like a madwoman when I saw the time on the clock tick past 1:32. I wanted a sub-1:32 chip time and I had no idea if I would make it!

Official time: 1:31:55
This is a PR by 29 seconds.

After the Race
Immediately after crossing the finish line I stopped dead in my tracks and felt like I had to vomit. I walked a short way, saw Greg, and I told him I needed to vomit. So I went over to a trash can and threw up. I did this after Columbus 2015 too, but I attributed that to taking two gels. This time I attributed it to too much UCAN. And maybe running a sub 6:30 pace for the last quarter mile.

After vomiting, Greg started telling me all about his race. He ran 1:30:50, which is about a minute slower than his PR. But, his second fastest half marathon so he was happy with that.

We walked through the finish line chute together and I saw a PR gong. I walked toward it and Greg had no idea what I was doing. Based on how I looked at the finish, he assumed I had not PR'ed. And then I banged the PR gong! It felt awesome. I had never noticed this gong before, so it was my first-ever gong. And then Greg asked me if I PR'ed. I told him yes!!!

We continued our walk and passed the results tent. This is where I learned that I placed 3rd in my age group. Wow- this is such a huge race to win an age group award. They told me they would mail it to me.

I placed 3rd in my age group (40-44) out of 681.
I was the 46th overall female out of 5,332.

We made it back to our wonderful hotel, where I took a long bath in the huge tub. Tonight it will be PR Birthday cake. Two layers: the bottom layer for Greg's birthday and the top layer for my PR.

Final Thoughts and Takeaways
I'm happy with my PR and my execution, but I was about a minute off of my time goal. Although I wasn't expecting to do so much weaving, so pace-wise maybe I was more like 30 seconds off of my time goal. I ran an average 6:57 according to my Garmin (7:01 official) and my goal was to be at 6:54 on my Garmin (6:57 official). I always expect my Garmin pace to be faster than the official race pace, so I take my actual goal, and then subtract a few seconds for the purpose of pacing it.

I learned from this race that I need more fuel than Generation UCAN before the race. It's served me well in past half marathons, but I could have really used some extra carbs at mile 9. Greg took his gel at around that point and got a burst of energy. I, on the other hand, started to fade from lack of energy, even though my legs were peppy. This is evidenced by my heart rate getting a little lower in miles 11-12 race instead of higher. I didn't have the energy to maintain the high effort, even though the fitness may have been there. I'm going to continue with my UCAN before the race, but take a smaller portion, and then experiment with the Maurten gel or the Huma gel at mile 9. I might still vomit, but at least I'll have more energy!

When I ran the Richmond Half marathon last November, four weeks out from Rehoboth, I was not happy with my performance (1:34:29), but then I crushed the marathon. And I've had tune-up half marathons go really well, but then I've run crappy marathons shortly after. They are two different races. It's encouraging to know that my fitness is in a great spot, but there are so many other factors that go into a marathon other than fitness.

Most runners see their tune-up race as just that: a tune up. I prefer to view this a half marathon race in its own right, because viewing it as a tune up puts it in the context of something bigger and more important. Who knows how the marathon will go? I am celebrating this PR today!

PR Cake (top layer) + Birthday Cake (bottom layer)

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Fall Marathon Training Update

I realize that I have not blogged about my training much since the summer. It's been going well, and I am long overdue for a recap.

My two goal races are the Columbus Half marathon (next weekend) and the California International Marathon (December 8). I'll also run my 14th consecutive Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving. Usually I run my tune-up half marathon closer to the full marathon, but I really wanted to go back to Columbus. I ran a strong marathon there in 2014, and it was my first Boston Qualifier. I went back in
2015 and set a huge PR in the half marathon. It's a fast course that's well organized with easy logistics, and only a short flight.

The California International Marathon (CIM) has been on my list for some time, but the long flight has always discouraged me. Long flights tend to exhaust me and put me off my game, but so many people have said that CIM is a fast course and that I need to experience it. In the spirit of running races I'm excited about instead of the most convenient fast race, I decided to go for it this year. Even if it doesn't go well, at least I can understand what all the hype is about. Greg and I are going to fly out on Thursday morning, which should give us plenty of time to recover before the Sunday race. We're both running it!

The training has been going really well in terms of executing all of the workouts according to the plan, almost always hitting my desired paces, and staying healthy. Usually at this point in training, though, I am looking to see some kind of fitness gain. While I have definitely gained endurance, I haven't run any speed workouts that are any faster than previous cycles. I realize that the purpose of a workout is to build fitness, not to prove fitness, and that it's important to trust the process and trust the plan.

That doesn't mean I'm not looking for progress along the way. It excites me when I run a workout that exceeds my expectations and I realize "whoa... I just got way faster!" It could be because I've only been training consistently since early August, or it could be because it hasn't cooled down to my sweet spot yet, which is anything below 50 degrees. Also, many of my workouts have been short track intervals (100m, 200m, 300m repeats) which are so short that they really don't indicate marathon fitness like a long tempo would.

As I mentioned in my 10K race report last weekend, I think I raced really well, and it would have been nice to have the confidence boost of a PR if the conditions had cooperated. There is, however, confidence to be gained with strong execution, and I have demonstrated strong execution many times over the past two months.

Training Stats
If you've been following my blog, you know how much I love to analyze my training data. My current running streak is 70 days long, with no days off. It's a total of 571 consecutive miles, which comes out to an average of 8.2 miles a day. This run streak began in early August, as soon as I was recovered from my bike accident.

Unfortunately, I am still not 100% recovered from that accident. I have a hematoma in my groin, and it occasionally hurts for no apparent reason. If I am still experiencing intermittent pain after the marathon, I will get some imaging done on it. I'm not going to do anything about it between now and then, so I might as well give it more time to go away on its own.

This graph shows my training by week since the streak started.

In terms of individual workouts, my longest run so far has been 18 miles, which I ran just two days after the 10K, on a Tuesday before work. My legs were definitely tired by the end, but I got it done at an average pace of 8:12.

Yesterday, I ran a workout that was 40 minutes easy, 30 minutes at marathon pace, 10 minutes easy, 30 minutes at marathon pace, 10 minutes easy. That's a total of 2 hours. In the first 30 minutes at marathon pace, I ran 4.15 miles at an average pace of 7:14. For the second 30 minutes at marathon pace I ran 4.12 miles at an average pace of 7:17. My legs were trashed by the end!

My goal is to be right around 3:10 at CIM, so I would need a marathon pace of 7:15. Aerobically, this pace felt manageable for a longer period of time, but having so many miles on my legs from a hard week of training was definitely making it feel hard by the end. I also need to keep in mind that at CIM I will be wearing faster shoes and the course will have more downhill than up. Cold weather would also be nice!

With 1 week until the Columbus half and 8 weeks until CIM, I think I am in a good spot: building fitness, not seeing material gains yet, but feeling strong and healthy for more intense training to come.

Tuesday, October 8

Sunday, October 6, 2019

Fall Classic 10K Race Report

After my clever title for yesterday's post, I am fresh out of creativity today! As the title states, I ran the Potomac River Running Fall Classic 10K this morning. It was the inaugural running of the race as the "Fall Classic" although that course is used multiple times throughout the year as other races. I had never run this course before, although I had run a 5K that overlapped with some of the course.

Let's back up. Way back in the spring, when I was planning out my fall race schedule, I had the Boo! Run for Life 10K on tap for today. There are lots of things I love about the Boo! 10K. Its a pancake flat course with no turns, so it always yields 6.21 miles exactly. I set a PR there in 2014 and 2015. I've set other PRs on that course as the "Veteran's Day 10k" too, back in 2009 and 2011. And also the "Jingle All the way 10K". So yeah, it's fast.

Even though I was registered for the Boo! race, I decided earlier this week to switch to the Fall Classic. Here's why:
  • Boo! is in Washington DC, which tends to be 4-5 degrees warmer than the suburbs in the mornings. The Fall Classic is about 25 miles west of the city, which tends to be slightly cooler. This wouldn't make a difference if it were a cool morning, but 64 vs. 60 can make a real difference. 
  • The Fall Classic in Ashburn has gently rolling hills, which can be fast, and is better preparation for my marathon, CIM.
  • The Fall Classic is part of a race series, which would earn me points in the series.
  • The Fall Classic has better prizes: gift cards to Potomac River Running. I was the 2nd place female finisher at Boo! back in 2015 and I didn't win anything other than a certificate.
  • The Fall Classic would be logistically easier, as it's closer to my house and you can park near the start/finish.
All of this being said, I figured that my time would be slower at the Fall Classic due to the curvy nature of the course and the Garmin likely reading more than 6.21. But, since didn't think I would PR in warm, humid weather, I figured that time didn't matter as much as the other things. 

Anyway, my race was 62 degrees with about 85% humidity. Dew point 57. I think it only ended up being like 2 degrees warmer in the city, but whatever, I had made my choice. This race wouldn't be about my finish time but about effort and execution. I was kind of sad about this because I do believe myself to be in shape for a PR. And I don't often run 10Ks. My PR is from February 2017, so I feel like it has overstayed its welcome. 

I did not, however, rule out the possibility of a PR, I was just being realistic. I was still going to run as hard as possible. But that looks a lot different in 62 degrees vs. 22 degrees. 

Before the Race
As I said earlier, this race is pretty easy in terms of logistics. It was a 20-minute drive, followed by packet pickup at the running store. Greg wasn't running the race but he did run the warm up with me. I warmed up for about 1.5 miles on what I thought was the end of the course. The course is a loop, and I had studied the course map beforehand. As I warmed up, I was mentally preparing myself for this route to be the finish. As I warmed up, I drank my Generation UCAN.

I then went back to the car and changed shoes into my Nike Vaporfly Next%. Followed by going to the porta potty, and then running another half mile in the Vaporfly to get a feel for them. Previously I had written about the Nike Vaporfly 4%. I didn't love this shoe because the fit was sloppy. So I tried on the new "Next %" at the running store, and they fit so much better. Then, I tried on the original Vaporfly to compare. At that point, I realized that I could slide the original Vaporfly off of my foot without untying them! I figured I probably shouldn't run in a shoe that was so loose it would slide right off even when tied tightly. So I bought the Next % and used them in this 10K.

Soon it was time to line up. I saw my friend Lisa at the start line and we chatted briefly before the gun went off. 

Miles 1-2
Based on the elevation profile, I wanted to run these miles at goal pace, or maybe slightly slower. There were some gently rolling hills but nothing major. One woman shot out ahead of me, but I didn't see any others so I was pretty sure I was in second place. These miles were a little windy. The
Mile 1
headwind was annoying, but it also had a cooling affect so I didn't mind it too much. I focused on staying relaxed and settling in.

When I came to mile marker 1, I had already run 1.05 miles according to my Garmin, so I hoped that the marker was simply misplaced. But then when I hit the second mile marker, my Garmin was still ahead on distance, so I was mentally prepared for my Garmin to yield more than 6.2 miles. But I knew this going into the race based on Strava data and the curvy nature of the course. 

Mile 1: 6:49
Mile 2: 6:47

Miles 3-4
I was content with how I handled the first two miles. Ideally they would have been closer to 6:45, but I still had four miles to go, and anything could happen. Shortly after I hit mile marker two, there was a water station. I poured an entire cup over my head in an effort to cool down. I wasn't "hot" per se but the air was thick and sticky. 

I knew that these miles would both be net uphill, so I needed to stay strong. I maintained my placement; nobody passed me and I didn't pass anyone. I had no idea how far behind me the third female was. 

Mile 3: 6:56
Mile 4: 6:52

Miles 5-Finish
I did not get discouraged by how slow miles 3-4 were, as they were uphill. However, I was envisioning them being closer to 6:50. The good news was that the final two miles would be net downhill.

But first, we turned into a neighborhood, ran about 0.05 miles into it, did a hairpin turn, and came back out. I guess they needed to add 0.1 mile somewhere, and this is where they did it? It was super annoying but it wasn't a surprise as I had studied the course map. At that point I was kind of wishing I had run the race in the city, but then I wouldn't get my nice downhill finish!

Heading toward the finish line
I was confused at the very end because we didn't finish like the course map had indicated. We didn't turn where I expected to turn so that threw me off a little. But ultimately that meant fewer turns overall, so I think it was for the best.

My original plan was to run these miles hard and go sub 6:40. I did run them hard, but sub 6:40 wasn't happening. I was at a point where I was struggling to maintain my effort.

Mile 5: 6:49
Mile 6: 6:44
Laso 0.29: 6:38 pace

Official time: 42:52, good for second place female. First place ran 40:02, so there was no catching her.

After the Race
Before I had a chance to mentally process the race, I knew I needed to do the post-race workout prescribed by my coach. He wanted me to stop for no longer than 5 minutes, and then do a Fartlek of 3 x (3 mins, 2 mins, 1 mins) all with 90 seconds of steady running in between. Wow. Greg, who had been taking photos, went back to the car with me and I changed out of my Vaporflys and into the adidas which I had warmed up in.

I thought there would be no way I could run fast after just finishing a 10K, but I was pleasantly surprised:

3 minutes at 7:34
2 minutes at 7:03
1 minute at 6:54
3 minutes at 7:11
2 minutes at 6:58
1 minutes at 6:36

I stopped after two sets because my legs were toast. I think that was the point, as this is part of marathon training. But I have my limits! All of that yielded an extra 2.62 miles at an average pace of 7:58. The awards ceremony started about five minutes after I finished, so I was glad I stopped when I did.

Final Thoughts
I feel good about this race. It's annoying that the weather was what it was, especially since yesterday morning it was in the low 50's at 8:00. But I can't control the weather and I made the best of it.

I missed my PR by 1 minute, 1 second. But considering this course was "longer" than my PR course, the pace was about 6 seconds per mile slower. So, kind of close, which is good.

New zebra socks
Before the race I had looked at Strava data from about 5 different runners on this course. The distances ranged from 6.25-6.27. I paid very close attention to the tangents so I think I ended up with 6.29 because this course was different at the end then what the Strava runners ran. Plus, as I said, the
mile markers seemed off from the very beginning. I don't really care though, since I wasn't going to PR. My point is that my pace is closer to my PR pace than my time would suggest.

Greg wanted to look up the Boo! Run for Life 10K results and find out what the winning time was. I told him not to. If my time was faster than the winning time, I would probably be kicking myself. I made my choice to run the hillier, curvier, "longer" course, and I'm good with it.

I'm very hungry for a PR. I think I'm in excellent shape, but I don't really know since all my tune-up races have been in 60+ degrees.

I like the Vaporfly Next % much better than the original version. I don't think they made me a ton faster in this 10K than I otherwise would be, but I could see how they would really help during a 10-miler and longer. I'll probably continue to wear them in future 10Ks, but I think I have settled on my adidas Adios for the 5K distance.

Next up is the Columbus half marathon in two weeks. Please, PLEASE, let there be good weather. The half marathon PR is also dated: January 2018. I think sub-1:30 might be too ambitious but I think 1:30:xx is totally in the cards if the stars align.

Saturday, October 5, 2019

Rapid Reboot Recovery Review

How many "R" words can I fit in a blog title? Today I'm sharing my thoughts on the latest trend in recovery for endurance athletes: compression boots. Specifically, the Rapid Reboot brand. I absolutely love the name they came up with since puns are my absolute favorite. When you wear these boots, you are re-booting your legs by increasing circulation and speeding up your body's natural recovery process.

I first became interested in these compression boots about a year ago when I started seeing runners on Instagram wear them. Either at recovery clinics, or in their homes, many runners were singing the praises of how fast they would recover from workouts with these boots. The price tag (anywhere from $800-$1500, depending on the manufacturer and model) was steep and I had kept myself injury free and recovering well by getting massages every one to two weeks.

But this fall, I knew my training would be more intense than ever. I'm about a month ahead of where I was in my training last year at this time, and my marathon is on the same date that it was last year. So, that means an extra month of even harder work. I reached out to Rapid Reboot, a brand name I loved for its creativity, and asked them if they would give me a pair to review on my blog and my Instagram. They agreed, so here we are!

I don't often review products on my blog, and I only review products that have helped me in my training and racing. Rapid Reboot sent me the boot and hip combination set. They are not meant to be worn at the same time, so I rotate. They came in a duffle bag and were very easy to un-package and setup. There's a main control unit, which plugs into the wall, and you plug either the boots or the hip piece into the control unit.

Below is a photo of the main control unit. You can select your time (10, 20, 30 minutes), the amount of pressure, and which areas to focus on. Once all of the options are chosen, you hit start and the boots or the hip piece begin to fill up with air.

It feels exactly like getting your blood pressure taken, with the pressure increasing and decreasing in a back-and-forth way. You don't need to set the amount of pressure very high for it to work, and I start to get just a little uncomfortable at 100 mmHg, so I never go above that. It's like a massage in that it feels good, but hurts a little bit, letting you know stuff is happening! It works because the compression stimulates blood flow, which is exactly what eliminates the accumulation of waste products from training. The faster that can happen, the more training load you can tolerate, the fitter you will become.

Do I think they help speed up recovery? Yes. I ran a 16 miler last Saturday and used the boots on Saturday afternoon and Sunday. On Monday, I was able to run 10.7 miles with 8 at marathon pace in the middle without any lingering soreness from the 16-miler. Would I have been sore without the boots? There's no way to answer that question, but I will say that the 16-miler took a lot out of me because it was warm and humid, and I ran a hilly route.

Would I spend my own money on them? Someone asked me this on my Instagram and I said yes. I can justify the cost by getting massages less frequently (although I will still get them after races). Also, I am 40 years old and I know that recovery will start to get harder over the next 5 years. Might as well get a recovery tool now in preparation! I'm of the mindset that if I want to keep setting PRs in my 40's, I need to take any advantage I can, like the Nike Vaporfly!

I really like the convenience of being able to do this at home, and the fact that I can multi-task. I currently am wearing the boots as I write this blog.

Add a comment below if you have questions, and use discount code Elizabeth for 10% off on the Rapid Reboot website.

The hip attachment- goes around glutes and hips.

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Dulles Day 5K on The Runway

I ran the Dulles Airport Runway 5K this morning, which was my 3rd 5K in six weeks. I ran the Leesburg 5K on August 18 and the Great American Labor Day 5K on September 2. Each of these races was faster than the one before it, and I am now done with the 5K until my Turkey Trot.

Before the Race
The race started at 7:30, and is only 4 miles from our house. I expected it would take no longer than 10 minutes to get there so I planned to leave the house at 6:35. We ended leaving at 6:40, which I thought was still okay, since I already had my bib. All I needed to do when I got there was to warm up for 20 minutes.

Unfortunately, there was crazy traffic as we approached the Air and Space Museum parking lot. This Dulles Day race has both a 5K and a 10K, which were sold out at 2,500 runners. That's a lot of cars all trying to get to the same place at the same time.

At 6:50, I started to get nervous because we were still stuck in traffic. At 7:00, I hopped out of the car, and ran to the race start while Greg (who wasn't running the race) parked. We were only half a mile from the parking lot, but I wanted to start my warm up at 7:00, so it was a good opportunity to run. One of the traffic cops said "it's better running than it is driving!"

I was wearing my Brooks Ghost shoes and carrying my Nike Vapofly shoes in a bag. To get through security faster, I took the shoes out of the bag, scrunched up the bag in my hand, and went through the "no bags" line. After security, we had to walk through the Air and Space Museum to get out to the race course. I continued to jog slowly, but a museum official told me I needed to walk. Bummer! Oh well, it wasn't long before I was outside again and I continued my warm up.

I didn't know when I would see Greg, especially since he would have to wait in the longer bag line.
He had a cooler with ice and my Energice pop. After about a mile, I waited in a porta potty line as I changed into my Nike Vaporflys. Then, I warmed up for a mile in them. I heard the announcer say that they were delaying the start by 10 minutes. I'm pretty sure this was because of all the traffic.

Based on my last 5K, I determined that I prefer the Adidas Adios Boost for the 5K distance. However, the runway is concrete, so I figured the bounce of the Nike Vaporfly would be advantageous. I plan to return to my Adidas for the Turkey Trot.

I still hadn't seen Greg, so I hid my Brooks shoes behind a car parked on a grassy area and lined up. Just a few minutes before the start, I saw Greg and he offered me the Energice pop, which had since melted. I drank about half of it. I lined up in the second row, and I heard the man in front of me say, "my plan is to walk, and then run, and then walk." (He's not shown in the picture).

My goal for this race was to beat my Labor Day time by 20 seconds, which meant sub-20:50. I thought that was reasonable, given that I'd have two extra weeks of training under my belt, and the runway is flatter than the Labor Day course. The reason why I haven't been trying to come close to my 19:58 PR is primarily the weather. All of these races have been very humid, which equates to slower times. This morning, it was 67 degrees with 90% humidity.

Mile 1: 6:43
Mile 1, photo by Cheryl Young
The race started and the man in front of me, who was in the first row, literally walked off the start line. I bumped into him a little bit. I knew he would be slower, but I didn't think he would actually start off with the walking! Anyway, once I got going, I focused on the number or women ahead of me. There were four of them. At first, it seemed like maybe I would be in a position to win the race, but towards the end of the mile, the first two women had pulled ahead quite a bit. I passed the two other women, putting me in third, but then another woman passed me, leaving me in 4th place at mile marker 1.

My plan was to run this mile in 6:40. Based on my race report from 2015, and my Strava data, I knew that the first mile had an incline with a gain of 25 feet. My goal pace was around 6:37, so I planned to run negative splits, speeding up during the last "down hill" mile. My actual split was 6:43 and it felt really hard. I didn't have a lot of "pep" and I wasn't sure if that was because of the concrete, the humidity, or if I was just having a blah day. I pushed on.

Mile 2: 6:48
I really struggled here. I ran this mile next to a kid who looked to be about 10 or 11 years old. He was strong and he pulled me along. I had been planning to run this mile at goal pace of 6:37, but that was not happening. I just did my best to stay strong and not let any women pass me.

I think this course is mentally exhausting. There is not much to look and you can see almost the entire course. There is no variation to keep you engaged, so it's easy to coast. I don't consider myself a particularly strong hill runner, but I think I got some power from those hills two weeks ago that I wasn't finding today.

Mile 3: 6:42
I kept pushing on, just trying as best as I could to maintain the hard effort level. The kid I was with
Mile 3, photo by Greg Clor
dropped back so I was on my own. With about a quarter mile to go, I saw Greg taking photos. That coincided with the downward slope of the runway, so I was able to pick up the pace. I knew I had secured 4th place female, so now it was just a matter of what my finish time would be. I had originally envisioned this mile being sub-6:35, but that didn't happen.

The last 0.13: 6:02 pace
I saw the clock and I thought I could get under 21:00, so I sprinted as hard as possible.

I ended up with an official time of 21:02.

Although this race was faster than my Labor Day race, I wasn't as happy with it. I know I gave all I had to give, so I'm not disappointed in my performance. It was simply a "meh" day with "meh" energy levels on a "meh" course. I don't think it's an indication of my fitness level, and I'm still confident in my ability to run a 10K at a faster pace than I ran today in early October.

After the Race
I reunited with Greg, we chatted for a bit, and then I ran 1.4 miles to cool down. The awards were wonky. Instead of age groups of 20-29, 30-29, etc. they were 21-30, 31-40, 41-50. Since I'm 40, this meant I was one of the oldest women in my age group, instead of the youngest like I have been for the past year.

I had read my 2015 blog post a few days before the race, and as a 36 year old, I missed getting an age group award because a 40-year old beat me. I was annoyed by that. This year, I was that 40 year old who took first place in the 31-40 category. And, one of three women who beat me was 42! So if they had done normal age group brackets, I would have placed second. So this age group thing screwed me over in 2015, but worked to my advantage this year. Also, I was inspired by a 55-year old woman
who beat me. She ran 20:30 and was the third female. When I am 55, I hope to be running that fast!

I won a $25 gift certificate to the Dulles Airport Marriott restaurant. Yay! Thankfully, we live close to the airport so it will be easy for us to use this.

Official results:
  • I placed 1 out of 232 women in my age group, 31-40.
  • I placed 4 out of 772 total women
  • I placed 22 out of 1,446 total runners

Final Thoughts
  • I ran 4 5K races this summer: Firecracker, Leesburg, Labor Day, and Dulles Runway. Of those races, I think I ran to my full potential at Firecracker (21:26) and Labor Day (21:09). Leesburg was a total bonk, and today was "meh". It's a good reminder that you can't always feel 100% at every race.
  • My average heart rate today was 168. For my previous three 5K races, it had been 172. I am not sure if the hills in those races forced me to a higher heart rate, or if today I simply didn't have the energy needed to run at that effort level.
  • To the above point, my heart rate suggests that if I had been feeling more peppy, my fitness supports a faster time. . . probably in the realm of my original goal of sub-20:50.
  • I've now run this race twice and I don't think I like it that much. The concrete is hard on the legs and the lack of variation makes it difficult to stay engaged. 
  • In 2015, I ran 21:35, which I think was a much better performance given my fitness level at the time. You can read the full 2015 report here.