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.

Monday, September 2, 2019

Great American Labor Day 5K Report

This morning I ran the Great American Labor Day 5K in Fairfax Corner, VA. This course is used for several races throughout the year, and I have run it about five times in the past. Last year, I ran this exact race as a tempo run in 22:25. I was just coming back from mono at that time, so I didn't want to push it too hard. It's not known for being a fast course with its constant hills, but since I've run it so much, I find it to be a good benchmark.

This year, I decided to run it because I wanted to get a few 5Ks under my belt right before marathon training started. My last 5K, Leesburg, was one of my slowest 5Ks in a long time (22:08). Partially due to the weather, and partially due to the fact that I hadn't regained all the fitness I lost from taking time off post bike accident. And I went out too fast. I came into today's race looking for some redemption. 

My goals for this race were as follows:
Photo by Cheryl Young
  • Run hard, get a good workout in on the hills
  • Test out the Nike Vaporfly
  • Set a course PR
Before the Race
I didn't sleep all that well last night. I attribute that partially to taking an hour-long nap yesterday. That wasn't really planned; I just fell asleep on the couch and didn't wake up for an hour. My sleep was restless, but I got a solid 6 hours, so I wasn't really worried.

Before leaving the house, I ate an English muffin with peanut butter and mixed up a serving of Generation UCAN with some water to take with me. Greg did not run this race-- he was playing the role of photographer and cheerleader. We arrived about an hour before the race started and picked up my bib. After pinning it on, I used the porta potty and then warmed up wearing my Brooks Ghost.

After about fifteen minutes of warming up in the Ghost, I switched to the Nike Vaporfly. I ran about half a mile in those, just to get a feel for them pre-race. They felt loose. I didn't want to tie them too tightly, though, because I did that on Saturday and my feet hurt afterwards. So I made sure they were secure but not too tight. My heel was slipping in them, but a lot of people said that was an issue with this shoe, so I accepted it as normal and didn't try to fix it.

After the second warm up, I returned to my car and had an Energice ice pop, and put a few ice cubes in my sports bra. I then headed for the start line with about five minutes to go.

It was 71 degrees with a dew point of 70. Thankfully it was overcast, unlike Leesburg. This weather wasn't abnormally warm for this time of year, but we had been treated to a full week of cooler weather leading up to the race. I had been spoiled. 

I thought that I could still get a course PR, beating my time of 21:31 from November 2016, when the weather was ideal. Since Leesburg two weeks ago, I had executed a number of really strong track workouts, all focused on speed. I even noticed my heart rate being lower in general, both during runs and my resting heart rate. I was in good shape, so it would all come down to execution and the impact of the humidity.

Mile 1: 6:39
Mile 1, photo by Greg Clor
The race started and swarms of runners shot out ahead of me. I remained patient, as I prefer to ease into a race instead of gunning it at the start. I wanted to keep my eye on how many women were ahead of me, and there seemed to be about 6 right from the beginning. I started to pass people at the bottom of the first hill, which was about 3/4 of the way into the first mile. 

I had planned for this mile to be around 6:40, if not slightly faster, so I was right on track. I didn't look at my watch too much, but this was naturally the pace I ran. I knew from past experience not to go out too fast on the first downhill. I also had fears of bonking like I did in Leesburg, so I was more cautious.

Mile 2: 6:46
The rolling hills continued throughout this mile, creating a net even elevation. I continued to pass the people who had taken that first down hill quicker than me. As I passed one man, who looked to be in his late 50's or early 60's, he said to me, "You are the one who was screaming. That's really annoying." I was shocked. I know I make loud noises when racing, but no one has ever complained to me about it. If anything, people ask me if I'm okay, or they encourage me along with "you got this" or other such phrases.

I let it sink in for a few seconds and then I looked at him and muttered, "that's really rude." And then I passed him. I took one last quick glance behind me to catch a glimpse of him, so I could make sure he didn't pass me later in the race. I was really surprised that someone would waste their energy in a 5K to tell someone else that they were annoying. It's pretty much impossible to talk when running 5K effort, so you really have to be obnoxious to expend the energy to make such a comment. 

Mile 3: 6:50
Mile 3, photo by Greg Clor
More rolling hills, with the final hill being super long. I was starting to get really tired, but I stayed strong. I did not want anyone passing me at this point, particularly not the guy who insulted me. The shoes were super bouncy. Even though I was low on energy and I felt like I was slowing down, my watch indicated otherwise. This final mile was all about staying strong mentally and continuing to push up the long hill.

Last 0.14: 6:00 pace
I gunned it to the finish and was elated when I saw the clock. That course PR was mine!

I finished in an official time of 21:09, which is a course PR by 22 seconds. It's 0:59 faster than my time at Leesburg two weeks ago! I was thrilled.

I re-united with Greg and changed back into my Brooks Ghost for a short cool down. During the cool down, I ran into my friends Hannah and Alex, who were run-walking the race. Hannah is 36 weeks pregnant, and Alex ran a marathon last weekend. Kudos to them for showing up and getting it done!

I ended up winning first place in my age group, and coming in 4th overall. I was very happy with this.

After the Race
Once I finished cooling down, I spotted the guy who had told me my noises were annoying. I had beaten him by 12 seconds.

Me: "Hello. Were you the person who told me I was annoying?"

Him: "Yes. It was so loud. It was like this:" screams right into Greg's face

Greg: "Don't scream in my face."

Him: "You were so loud the first half, but you were ok for the second half.  I was running with you during the second half and you weren't doing it then. It was so loud in the beginning that it affected my race. I actually pulled a hamstring."

Greg: "You're saying her screaming made you pull a hamstring?"

Him: "This conversation isn't going anywhere. Good luck in your future races."

Normally everyone I meet at races is so nice and exhibits good sportsmanship. This was certainly different.

I'll be the first to admit that I make loud noises when I race. They are like mini screams that kind of just come out when I am working hard. Particularly when I am going up hill. As I said above, nobody has ever insulted me for it, although they have sometimes expressed concern.

Vaporfly Thoughts
I had a really good race this morning. Was it because of the shoes? I don't think so. Even though the weather was crappy, I think I had built up a good amount of fitness post bike accident. I had been going to the track twice a week and really hammering it. I also executed the race well by not going out too fast and staying strong on the final hill.

Many runners were wearing the Vaporfly today. I looked down at the start line and probably one in every three runners had a pair. I liked the shoes but I didn't love them. I think I might love them for a 10K or longer. 

My biggest issue with them, aside from the loose fit, was that I didn't feel as engaged with the ground. When I'm running fast, I like to get feedback from the ground beneath me and derive power from that. In this race, I felt like I was getting power from the shoe and not from the road. I'm undecided if I will wear them in my next 5K. I will likely wear them in my next 10K. 

I'm glad I did this race. I think it's good to work on speed before entering marathon training and this race was a chance to do just that. Plus, it's also nice to have a top 5 overall finish and to win the age group.

Sunday, September 1, 2019

Keeping up with the times: Nike Vaporfly thoughts

If you could run just a little faster without having to train any harder, would you? The Nike Vaporfly 4% shoes had me asking serious questions about why I run.

For those of you who have never heard of the Nike Vaporfly 4%, they are supposed to make you run faster. They were introduced in 2017 at a price of $250. When they first launched, they were nearly impossible to find because retailers would sell out of them immediately. There was a ton of hype around them and runners everywhere were trying to get their hands (or feet) on these shoes! A few months ago, Nike released the Vaporfly Next %, which is supposed to make you even faster.

Nike Vaporfly 4% 
Does the Nike Vaporfly actually make you faster? Many runners have supported this claim, saying that they believe the shoes helped them shave some time off of their PRs. My friends who wore them told me that they were really bouncy and had a lot of cushion. Supposedly, you also recover faster from long runs due to the extra cushion in the shoe. Normally a highly cushioned shoe does not equal fast, so I was intrigued. One major caveat about the shoes: they wear out faster than a normal trainer. If you normally get 300 miles on your shoes, you might only get 200 on your Vaporflys (Vaporflies?). They are not recommended for daily use and are mainly intended for the marathon and half marathon.

When they first came out, I decided they weren’t for me. If I set a PR, I didn’t want it to be because of the shoes. I didn’t think I would get as much satisfaction. It’s not cheating, but it’s an advantage that I wouldn’t have had previously. What motivates me most in running is setting goals and accomplishing them. Could I really feel accomplished if I thought that a special shoe was the reason I PR’ed?

So I didn’t go near the Nike Vaporfly and continued to race in the same shoes I had been racing in. But each time I showed up to a race, more and more runners were wearing the Nike Vaporfly! At Sugarloaf, for example, I looked down at the start line into a sea of Nike Vaporfly. And then another footwear brand released a shoe with similar technology: a carbon plate. I realized that this was the future of racing shoes, and they were only going to become more popular. Soon, each running shoe brand would have their own version.

At the same time, more and more runners are qualifying for Boston, which made the B. A. A. lower their qualifying times by five minutes last year. Runners are generally much faster than they were five years ago, and I do think the Vaporfly has played a role.

With this realization, I figured I should hop on board and give the shoes a try! After all, running is a competitive sport, and I started to feel like I was at a disadvantage for NOT wearing the Vaporfly. How would I feel if someone in my division beat me wearing the Vaporfly? Annoyed! So I bought a pair and will race a 5K in them tomorrow. Watch this space for a race report and more thorough review.

I took them out yesterday for a test run and I liked them. Very springy and cushioned. I just wish the heel was more snug. The latest model, the “Vaporfly Next %” has a snugger heel, but it comes with a lower drop and that’s not good for my Achilles. If they work in the 5K, I’ll try them in a 10k, and all the way up. If they aren’t going to work for me, better to find out now.

Back to my original dilemma: will I feel less satisfaction from setting a new PR by wearing these shoes? No. I’ve accepted that the Nike Vaporfly 4% is one of the most popular racing shoes today, and I’m keeping up with the times. Literally.

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Hot, hot, hot 5K!

The Leesburg 5K/20K race is notorious for having warm, sunny, humid weather. After all, it's in the middle of August, when the DC Metro area is at its steamiest. Last year I ran the 20K as a training run as I was coming back from six weeks with mono. I registered for it as a training run again this year, simply hoping to beat my time from last year.

Photo by Cheryl Young
On Wednesday, I looked at the forecast and saw that the starting temperature would be around 72, heating up to 80 by the end, with the dew point being 72-73. And sunny to boot. Yikes! When I realized that I wouldn't even run a training run in that weather, I decided to drop down to the 5K. Earlier this summer, I ran 10 miles "easy" in similar weather, and shortly after that I purchased my treadmill. Given my immune system issues which are triggered by running hard in warm weather, I didn't think running this 20K was worth the risk.

Even the weather for the 5K was forecast to be miserable, so I told my coach I was going to run it as a workout. He pushed back on that, and told me I should race it all out. He said it would be a good opportunity to run hard and test my fitness. I don't really think I can test my fitness with a dew point of 72, but I agreed that I would run it as a race and give it my all.

As for my bike injury and hematoma, that's mostly cleared up. I no longer have pain with running. The bump is still there in my groin, but it has shrunk down significantly, and at this rate should be gone in another week. I saw the last of the bruise yesterday, too.

Before the Race
Greg and I were a little late leaving our house (6:15) so we were more rushed than we would have liked, but it all worked out okay. I picked up our bibs while he used the bathroom. I ran into my friend Amber, who I had met at the Rock 'n' Roll New Orleans half marathon just over a year ago. One of the reasons I like to do this race, despite the crappy weather, is that a lot of people come out for it. It's a good way to see friends and socialize. It's a fairly competitive race, too, as many local runners use it as a tune up for fall goal races.

Greg and I put our bibs on and I drank my Generation UCAN. I also had an Energice ice pop, which would have been better to have after my warm up and immediately before the race, but the logistics of going back to the car made that impractical.

I started my warm up and Greg headed for the start line of the 20K. The 20K started at 7:30 and the 5K at 7:48. Weird timing, but I liked the precision! I had run the 5K back in 2017, and I knew there was a coffee shop on my warm-up route where I could go to the bathroom. However, the coffee shop was no longer in business, so I found a gas station instead. I like to go to the bathroom 15-20 minutes before I race just to make sure everything is "out" that is coming out. 

On my way back, I was able to see the 20K runners, including Greg, shortly after they had started. Given how hot I already was on my warm up, I was relived that I was not among them. Finally, 7:48 arrived and it was time to get going.

Mile 1
I did not have a goal time for this race. I thought I would be happy to go sub-22:00 in these conditions, but I didn't really have a goal in mind. I knew that the first two miles were mostly uphill and the last mile was downhill, so I made sure not to go out too hard in the beginning.

I knew that Amber was in much better shape than I was, and yet I found myself near her for the first half mile. I looked down at my Garmin and I wasn't going all that fast, and I felt fine, so I just maintained that effort.

Except-- it was definitely way too fast. I clocked in at 6:52, and even though that seems conservative for me, it was not given that there was 40+ feet of gain and it was very warm and humid.

Mile 2
This mile has a lot of turns and I knew to expect them. We ran around a large school and it was mentally exhausting. Even though this mile wasn't as hilly as the first mile, I was running out of steam already! I only glanced at the Garmin a few times and I wasn't surprised to see how slowly I
was running. I didn't have any pep and I was exhausted. I was not feeling this race at all.

Shortly into this mile, I passed a high school cross country guy. A number of them had lined up at the start wearing the same jersey, so it was obvious that their team had come out for the event. As a 40-year old woman, it did feel good to pass a high school cross-country male! That perked me up mentally.

After that, I needed something to motivate me to maintain my effort, so I reminded myself that I wanted to be the first Master's Female. I didn't know if they had an official Master's award, but if they did, I wanted it to be mine. And if not, I wanted to win my age group. There was a turnaround which allowed me to see who was ahead of me. I knew 3 out of 6 of them, and they were all younger. And it's really hard to tell how old someone is when they are in running clothes, especially when you are trying to race at full effort. I just assumed they were all younger than me so that I would still be motivated to push hard. My Garmin beeped at the end of the mile in 7:06. Not pretty, but I was still maintaining my placement.

Mile 3
I knew this mile would be downhill, and I needed that badly. If you execute this race properly, your last mile should be your fastest. Probably by at least 10 seconds. This was not the case for me. I tried my best to simply hang on to the effort level, even though I felt like I was running through molasses and I was dead tired.

The only thing I cared about was making sure no women passed me, and I was confident that they wouldn't if I simply maintained the effort. My time for this mile was 6:55. Not what I would have expected for a downhill mile! Keep in mind, I have run faster miles than this at the end of half marathons.

The last 0.18
As I turned onto the final stretch, which is uphill, I saw that there was a woman about 8-10 seconds behind me. That motivated me to start my final kick early. I didn't want her trying to pass me. It worked and I was surprisingly able to run a pace of 6:32 up that hill. Amazing what I can do when I'm threatened by competition!

My final time was 22:05 according to my Garmin, and 22:08 according to the official results. I know that the distance of my Garmin will usually not match the official results, but the official time should be the same or faster. I always start my Garmin before I cross the start line mat, and I stop it after I cross the finish line. So I don't know how they added an extra 3 seconds, unless they didn't get my net time, just my gun time. This has happened a few times in the past, and even happened at the last 5K I ran through this same race series. But last time, I wasn't even listed in the results at all so I had to talk to them. Since this isn't a PR for me, I didn't care enough to talk to them about it, but it's annoying.

After the race
Once I regained my ability to speak, I congratulated Amber who had finished over a minute ahead of me! I then cooled down and waited for Greg to finish his 20K. I figured I would run him in the last 0.2 miles, but when I tried, he was too fast for me, and I couldn't keep up. Turns out, his last mile was faster than my last mile! He's in excellent shape right now and does much better in the heat than I do.

Shortly after Greg finished, they started handing out the 5K awards and I won first place in my age group, which was the main goal. I do not think I would have placed in my age group at all if I had run the 20K, so I made the right choice.

Final thoughts and takeaways
I kind of bonked today, and I'm okay with that. I think it was a combination of going out too fast, not being in 5K shape (had to take 9 days off after the bike accident), and obviously the heat/humidity. I ran 4 miles at an average pace of 7:05 just over a week ago in cooler weather and on a flatter route.

Prior to this race, I had assumed that my max heart rate was around 190. This was based on running with my new Garmin + HR monitor for the past two months, and seeing it get up to 187 at the Firecracker 5K in July. Well, today it got up to 196!  And it averaged 186 for the last 0.18. This definitely shows that I ran the race to my fullest effort level and I was not slacking.

I ran this race over 40 seconds faster in 2017, but I was in really excellent 5K shape back then, and it wasn't quite as warm that year. It's not a helpful or relevant comparison, so I'll stop there.

I was the 7th overall female and it was a competitive field. The Leesburg 5K is a popular local race and the first two females ran 18:xx.

I'll be running two more 5Ks before I settle into marathon training, and I am excited to see how those go. Hopefully, much cooler!