Sunday, November 18, 2018

Weather craziness and a 79-mile week

It snowed and sleeted and ice-pelleted and freezing rained on November 15th. In Northern Virginia. What is going on with the weather this year? Because I run outside every day, I am keenly aware of all the weather records we have broken this year:

Un-forecasted heavy downpour
- We had significant snowfall (our largest of the season) on March 21: the first day of spring!
- Summer-like weather started in early May, and we set a new record on May 2nd, hitting 91 degrees
- Nearly the entire month of May was well above norms for heat and humidity
- July was one of the rainiest and wettest on record, with rainfall almost every day
- Early September gave us record-breaking heat, and I raced in 74-degree temps on Labor Day morning
- Summer-like weather persisted throughout September and into the first two weeks of October
- RAIN: By the middle of October, the DC metro area had already received more rain than it's annual average.
- On October 22nd, it was 30 degrees in the morning. Just two weeks prior, it had been 72 and humid.
- On November 15th, we had wintry precipitation all day long, making it the earliest snowfall in the region in 30 years.

I'm not trying to get political or make a case for climate change, but this is NUTS and it's made running extra challenging. I fully realize it's going to rain sometimes, but not all the time. I also expect it to be 72 degrees and humid in the morning-- in August, not in October or May. I can also accept a full day of wintry precipitation-- in January, not in November. Everything is so out-of-whack with the weather and it makes it difficult to plan for training and races. Case in point, the early arrival of summer in May this year was the major contributing factor to me getting so sick over the summer. And I haven't even mentioned the weather at the Boston Marathon yet!

And with that, I give you my week in training, and how I adjusted for the weather.

Monday: 14.4 miles, 8:15 pace
Just two days after the Richmond half marathon, I was ready to go for a medium long run before work. My legs were surprisingly not sore at all from the race. Of course this made me wonder if I
could have run it faster, but then I remembered how much I struggled, so, no.

Tuesday: 7 miles, 8:38 pace
Nice and easy recovery run

Wednesday: 12 miles, including speed intervals
Originally this workout was scheduled for Thursday. However, the wintry mix was supposed to start in the early morning hours on Thursday, so I figured I would bump it up a day since my legs felt good.

One of my least favorite workouts that my coach gives me every cycle!  It’s 20 x (1 minute hard, 1 minute easy), 20 x (30 seconds hard, 30 seconds easy). That’s a constant changing of gears for an entire hour! No stopping or walking allowed- the recovery jogs must be actual jogs. Its impossible to pace with a Garmin, so the entire workout is effort based. Tempo runs and track intervals can provide a nice fitness gage, and if they go well I get excited about my pace. But with this workout, the confidence boost is simply grinding it out and trusting the process. In other words, it’s not a “glamorous” workout, but it’s great for speed and leg turnover.
  • 20 x 1 minute at slightly faster than 5K effort: ranged from 6:03-6:27, averaged 6:10.
  • 20 x 30 seconds hard: ranged from 5:34 -6:19, averaged 5:52.
I am very happy with how I executed this one. I’ve gone out too fast in the past and regretted it, and ended up walking the recovery jogs. 12 miles total, including warm up and cool down.

Thursday: 7.9 treadmill miles, 8:50 pace
I really didn't want to use a treadmill because it tends to beat up my legs rather than help them recover, but I had no choice. It was icy and dangerous out, and the precipitation didn't change into pure rain until about 4:00pm, at which point the streets were coated in slush, snow, and ice. I don't mind running on the treadmill, but I don't like how my legs feel afterwards. Even though I took it very slow and easy, my legs felt more sore and beat-up than they had following the hard workout on Wednesday! UGH!

Friday: 17 miles, 8:03 pace + 1 mile cool down
I had the day off work, and since I had moved the speed intervals up a day, I figured I would move everything up a day which meant doing my long run on Friday. And then I could add in an extra rest day before the Turkey Trot. My coach was on board with this plan. With strong winds out of the northwest, the plan was for Greg to drive me to the W&OD trail in Ashburn, drop me off, and then I'd run home. That way, I wouldn't have to deal with a headwind for most of the run.

We drove 25 minutes there, only to realize that Ashburn (being northwest of us) had much more snow and slush than we did. Most of ours had melted with the warmer rain that fell overnight. The trail was a slushy mess, and I figured there would be points that would be impassable, making it impossible to run home. So we drove all the way back home (in rush hour) having wasted a lot of time, and even $6.00 in tolls! This meant I would be starting my run later than planned which screwed up my nutrition plan and I'd have to deal with the 12-15 mph sustained winds.

Despite all of this, I tried to stay positive. My coach advised me to start at a pace of 8:00 and bring it down to 7:35 by the end. Oh yeah, and it was supposed to be 22 miles! About 9 miles in, I started noticing that my legs were already getting tired. I ignored it and just kept chugging along. I was able to hold on for 15 strong miles, with the 15th mile coming in at 7:46. But then mile 16 was super tough (8:12) and mile 17 was a major struggle (8:45), and then I simply couldn't run anymore. So the 17 miles averaged 8:03 (I also ran the first mile slowly at 8:55).

When I stopped I was two miles away from home so I walked a mile and then, being impatient, I mustered all of my energy for a very slow recovery jog home: 1 mile in 9:42. Everything hurt! I was in a world of pain since I had essentially "bonked" my long run. This hadn't happened to me on a long run in over three years! I've always been able to complete my long runs without issues. My legs hurt much more than they did after the Richmond half and I figured it would take me a days to recover from this. I took an Epsom salt bath, foam rolled, used the Theragun, and took an hour nap.

Saturday: 6.2 miles, 9:35 pace
My legs were still in a world of hurt on Saturday morning. I wasn't sure if my hour-long recovery run would be possible, but I went out and tried, and was able to complete it. Very slowly. Typically my recovery runs the day after a long run are in the 8:40-8:55 range. My legs usually don't feel very beat up. But on Saturday, I had to take things really, really, slowly and gently. Afterwards, I did more foam rolling and using the Theragun, and I applied Salonpas patches. I had them all over my legs and Greg was having a hard time with the Menthol smell!

Sunday: 13.5 miles w/9.4 at 7:30 pace
This workout was originally scheduled for Monday, but everything was still bumped up a day, so I got to do it on Sunday. This was another reason I wanted to bump up my schedule: doing a hard workout on a Sunday and getting to relax afterwards.

The workout was 2 miles at 7:00, 4 mins recovery jog, 4 x 1 mile at 6:40 with 3-min recovery jogs, 2 miles at 7:00. Given the state of my legs, I was naturally apprehensive about this one. But my coach encouraged me to try my hardest and said it was okay to push hard on sore legs. I tend to be super conservative so this worried me, but I decided to just go for it.

I ran 2.6 miles warm up and everything felt pretty good. The weather was perfect, finally. 33 degrees and no rain or wind. The first two miles were slightly uphill, which I ran in 6:58, 6:54. I wasn't trying
to over-achieve and given the uphill nature I told myself I would be happy with 7:05. But naturally I was able to run a little quicker. Then it was time for the 4 x 1 mile. The first two were slightly downhill, and the next two were slightly uphill. 6:39, 6:37, 6:39, 6:40. Yay!

For my last mile repeat, which was uphill, I told myself I would be happy with 6:45, but then I just gunned it anyway and was able to pull off 6:40. During the 3-minute recovery jog, I realized I was pretty tired, but I told myself I just had to make it through 2 more miles, at a slower pace than what I had just been running. I figured they would be slower than my first two, but I was amazed at how comfortable the pace felt! I guess after having run 4 miles at 6:40, the 7:00 pace felt easy, so I ended up running 6:56, 6:51. So basically, I nailed the workout on very sore and tired legs.

Weekly mileage: 79.2
This is a new weekly high for me. Granted- I moved everything up a day to avoid running the speed intervals on icy roads. But, I only ran 18 of my prescribed 22 miles, so I also cut back on something I was supposed to do. As a reward, I get that rest day that I asked for on Tuesday so I should be somewhat fresh for the Turkey Trot on Thursday.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

The Richmond Half Marathon - Goodbye 30's!

I'll be honest, I had high hopes going into this race. I truly believed myself to be in the best half-marathon shape I've ever been, and my recent workouts had been faster than those leading up to my PR half marathon in Houston last January. Even though I know anything can happen in a race, I was about 90% confident I'd set a PR. I hadn't set a PR in any distance since Houston in January and I knew I had come a long way with my fitness since then. I had run this race 3 times in the past: 2008, 2012, and 2015. My course PR was 1:35:08 from 2015.

The Richmond Half Marathon was my last race in my 30's, before entering the Master's division. At 39 years and 364 days, I was the oldest non-master in the race. So I figured I might as well live up my last day in my 30's and have it on my bib. When I posted photos of myself and my bib on Instagram, many people thought that the race automatically put everyone's age front and center on their bibs! Ha! So let me clarify up front that the Richmond Marathon allows you to put whatever words you want on your bib.

I'm training for the Rehoboth Beach marathon on December 8. And even though this half marathon was technically a tune-up, I still tapered for it and raced it to my full ability. I didn't run extra miles before or after (except for one warm up mile). I didn't view it as a workout. I viewed it as a race that I was well trained and well tapered for. Maybe that was a mistake.

Before the Race
I slept reasonably well the night before the race. I never sleep all that great in hotel rooms with a big race the next day, but I woke up feeling good. I ate my standard bagel + banana with peanut butter (more on this later) and had a serving of Generation UCAN 30 minutes before the race start.

Our hotel was only one block away from the start line, so it couldn't have been any more convenient or easier. I ran one mile as a warm up and then I headed for the start line. I said goodbye to Greg, who then walked about a mile down the course to get photos of me. At the start line, I found two runners who I knew and we chatted a bit.

It was 43 degrees and sunny with 10-14 mph winds. I could have done without the wind, of course, but otherwise these were pretty good conditions. My plan was to start at around 7:00 for the first three miles, and then speed up from there, ideally holding 6:55 for the rest of the race. I had run several workouts in recent weeks that made me confident in this approach.

Miles 1-3
Mile 1
I knew ahead of time that these miles would be uphill and into a headwind. The headwind didn't seem too bad, and nor did the hill. I stuck to my plan of running a 7:00 pace (it was just slightly slower) and everything felt really good, as it tends to feel during the first three miles of a half marathon.

I saw Greg just before the first mile-marker, as well as my former coach. I tried to stay behind groups of runners to be protected from the wind. I had no idea where the 1:30 pacer was. I was trying to run slightly slower than 1:30, and I know those pacers try to run slightly faster than their target so I wasn't trying to run with that group. I simply wondered where they were. They were near me at the start line and I never saw them during the first three miles, so I figured they must be behind me and starting really conservatively.

Mile 1: 7:03
Mile 2: 7:05
Mile 3: 7:00

Miles 4-7
Now that my "warm up" was done, I was ready to kick it into full gear. The wind was now hitting me from the side and it was no longer uphill. I had been eyeing a woman slightly ahead of me for the first
Photo by Cheryl Young, Mile 5
three miles, and she looked strong, so I was happy to keep her in my sights during these miles. She was wearing warm armers, a singlet, and loose shorts. Why do I note this? For some reason, it seems that in every race in which I don't do well, I start out following a woman wearing this exact outfit. And then she runs ahead and I fall back. I remembered this and vowed that I would stay with her and not fall behind.

I saw my friends Allison and Cheryl somewhere around mile marker 5, just as we entered the park. I ran this race in 2015, and I remembered the park well. It was the most challenging part of the course: hilly, and with very uneven pavement. You had to watch your footing and it was a constant up-and-down. However, I fared really well in 2015, and the park didn't slow me down that much at all. And I was able to speed up after it.

Yesterday was a different story. The hills felt harder than they should have. I lacked the energy to run up them at my normal pace, so I slowed down a little and tried to make up for it by running the down hills hard. I hit the 10K timing mat at 43:41, and I had planned to hit it at 43:20, so I was a little off. I didn't let it bother me and I told myself I would speed back up again once I was out of the park.

Mile 4: 6:51 (Now we're talking)
Mile 5: 6:55 (Still very strong)
Mile 6: 7:10 (That was the hardest mile of the race, so it's fine)
Mile 7: 7:05 (Okay, getting back on track)

Miles 8-10
The final two hills before exiting the park were brutal. I slowed down a lot running over them, and the group I was with started to get ahead of me, including that one woman. This was very demoralizing but I told myself I would get my energy back and catch up soon enough.

That didn't happen. I was relieved to be back on the roads with nice, even pavement but the energy was gone. I couldn't hold my pace any longer and I started to feel really bad. There was no one thing in particular that hurt, but I was struggling big time. At that point, I knew a PR wasn't going to be likely so I started to focus on trying to run a course PR, which would be sub-1:35:08.  I knew I would be really disappointed if I couldn't even do that.

I remembered how I felt at RNR New Orleans back in March when I bonked because of the heat. That started at around mile 5, but I didn't stop and I stayed in the 7:30s for the rest or the race. I was in the 7:20s now so, at least my "bonk" pace was faster. I was trying to think of ANY possible thing that would keep me positive about this race. I refused to allow myself to get upset or discouraged.

Mile 8: 7:22
Mile 9: 7:22
Mile 10: 7:26

Miles 11-Finish
Mile 13
I knew that the last three miles of this course would offer a tail wind and a net downhill. This thought perked me up a little and I was able to speed back up to around 7:05 for a short while. Lots of people had been passing me and I decided to set a new goal of not letting anyone pass me. I looked down at my Garmin and my average race pace was 7:11, so if I ran faster than that, then people shouldn't pass me unless they were running a negative split. Which of course, many people do, but the majority do not.

That burst of energy was short lived and I was back to just hanging on again. Now my motivation was simply to get to Greg at mile 12.5. I didn't want him worrying about me. At some point around mile 10 or 11, the 1:35 pacer passed me. I realized that the 1:30 pacer must have been way ahead of me the whole time, and probably went out so fast I never even saw them at the beginning. Having the 1:35 pacer pass me was no fun, but I told myself he was probably going to over-achieve, and I could still get a course PR even if he passed me.

I saw my previous coach again who gave me words of encouragement and finally I saw Greg, just before turning onto the final downhill stretch. I rallied hard at the end, and wanted to take full advantage of that long downhill finish.

Mile 11: 7:24
Mile 12: 7:29
Mile 13: 7:12
Last 0.16: 6:05 pace

The Finish and Beyond
I crossed the finish line and felt horrible. I felt like I needed to vomit, but there was nothing in my stomach so I kept dry heaving. I hadn't drank any water during the race because I didn't feel like I
needed to. And I typically don't need any fuel during a half marathon if I take a full serving of UCAN right before. I felt super nauseous and like I just needed to get something out of my system that wasn't even there.

Greg and I re-united and walked a back to our hotel. I wasn't nearly as upset as I was after the 10-miler from four weeks prior. In fact, I wasn't really that upset at all. I was just happy to be done with it.

My official time was 1:34:29, which is about two minutes slower than my PR from Houston, and 40 seconds faster than my course PR from 2015. It's a very respectable time and I was elated when I ran that 1:35 three years ago. So, to "bonk" and beat that time isn't too bad. Even my coach said that to have 1:34 be a disappointment means I'm really fit. He encouraged me to shake this off quickly and just focus on the upcoming workouts and the Rehoboth Beach Marathon in four weeks.

I could have stewed in disappointment, but instead I focused on my birthday and turning 40, and I vowed that I would set PRs at all distances in my 40s.

Final Thoughts and Takeaways
So, what went wrong here? Why did I under-perform? I have three main theories.

1. I went out too fast.
Rookie mistake, but I think I under-estimated the effect of the wind and the uphill nature of the first 3 miles. If the course were flat and there had been no wind, THEN I would have wanted to start at a pace of 7:00. So, in hindsight, I think I was exerting way too much effort during those early miles, possibly the equivalent of a 6:50. I didn't want to use the wind as an excuse not to push hard, but you're not supposed to be pushing hard in the first three miles of a half marathon.

2. Digestive issues
Due to the dry heaving and the vomiting after my last half marathon in New Orleans, I suspect there is something going on with my digestive system. Since I started running marathons and half marathons I have always eaten a bagel with peanut butter and a banana exact two hours before the race start. And then been able to go to the bathroom afterwards, emptying my stomach. But, I never eat anything before my training runs. Even the long runs-- I just take some UCAN. And my training runs almost always go really well. So, I think that for the marathon I will eat half a bagel instead of a full bagel (I did that for Boston because that's all I was hungry for), and less peanut butter. I'll be sure to eat plenty the day before and continue to have my UCAN before the race. My suspicion is that my body is still working to digest all that food during the race (even though I ate it two hours prior) and that process is sapping energy from my running. Just a theory!

3. Insufficient Taper
When I looked at my training schedule, I actually thought my coach had given me too MUCH of a taper. Just 50 minutes easy on Wednesday, 40 minutes easy on Thursday, and 20 minutes easy on Friday. I felt like I didn't need to back off that much to be rested for a half. But then my friend Lisa pointed out that I had run 76 miles the previous week, and 68 the week before. I ran 10 miles on Tuesday. I was "in the thick" of marathon training, so to be fully rested I would have needed even more of a taper. I didn't think my legs were the limiting factor, rather my energy level, but a taper takes care of both of those things. Regardless, I wouldn't have wanted more of a taper because that would have impacted my marathon training cycle, which is already very short.

I still believe (as does much coach) that I am in very good shape and capable of running 1:30. But one of these factors, or some combination, likely contributed to me not being able to perform yesterday.

40th Birthday
So today I am 40! Greg surprised me with an amazing party last night, and so many of my friends were there. I'm really looking forward to being a competitive Master's runner. Even though I didn't get PR cake, I think my actual cake was WAY cooler:

The zebras are reading Boston Bound.

Greg surprised me with this cake!

Richmond 2008: 1:48:43
Richmond 2012: 1:46:19

Richmond 2015: 1:35:08

Richmond 2018: 1:34:29, photo by Cheryl Young

Sunday, November 4, 2018

I'm turning 40. Here are my thoughts.

In one week, I will be 40 years old! It's taken me about a year to accept this, but I have finally not only accepted it, but I am embracing it.

39 and 11 months old
Because this is my running blog, I don't write much about my life outside of running. But every once in a while, I think it's appropriate, and this is one of those occasions. I want to capture my reflections about this point in my life, and compare them to where I was 10 years ago. 10 years ago, in this blog post, I wrote this:

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

I became much more focused on my marketing career in my 30's. I switched jobs a few times, and I am now at the executive level. Am I any better at marketing now than I was at 29? Not particularly. But I've learned much more about general business strategy, how to develop productive relationships, how to motivate others, and how to navigate sticky political situations. My tolerance for dealing with "crap" (so to speak) has increased, and I've learned that the higher up the ladder you get, the less actual work you do and the more "stuff" you have to deal with. People skills have become way more important, as has understanding the business strategy; not just the marketing strategy.

I've accomplished a lot career-wise. I typically get hired to build programs and frameworks that hadn't previously existed. Everything from structuring the back-end databases and processes, to launching conferences, advertising campaigns, and web properties. What I enjoy most about my career is coming into a situation where something didn't previously exist, and then building it for the good of the company.

Finally, I've learned that for me, the people are what make or break a job experience. I left my previous company because the culture wasn't the right fit for me. At my current company, I most enjoy the relationships I've built with my colleagues, and it makes going into the office fun.

Best marketing team ever!
Right Now: VP of Demand Generation at a large software company
10 Years Ago: Head of Marketing at a small software company

Speaking of relationships, I've now been happily married for just over 8 years. Greg and I met a few months after my 30th birthday. When I turned 30, I was depressed about still being single. I wanted,
more than anything else in the world, to find my life partner. I lived alone and I didn't have many friends that I interacted with regularly. In fact, a few of my close friendships were on the rocks at that time. I had always envisioned getting married in my 20's, and when that didn't happen, I seriously started to wonder if it would ever happen for me.

Over the past ten years, I've become more aware of what I need in a friendship. Above all, I value friendships that are genuine. I want to be around people who make me feel like I can be myself. And I want to feel like they are being their true selves. Shortly after my 30th birthday my best friend and I had a "break up." We went our separate ways and did not speak for nearly 5 years. And then I realized that she had been one of the most genuine, truest people in my life and so I reached back out to her and we reconciled. Even though I don't see her as often as I'd like, I know that I can count on her for anything, and there is nothing I can't tell her.

As for new friendships, I've made many new friends through running! Some of them have come and gone, and others have stayed. The ones who have stayed are the ones who appreciate me for the person I am, quirks and all. I have no interest in petty games (I'm 20+ years out of high school). I want to be around people who are straightforward and genuine.

Right Now: Happily married and invested in friendships with people who want me to be "me".
10 Years Ago: Lonely, and invested in some friendships that weren't fulfilling.

Running: Mental
Running has been a large focus of mine for the past 10 years, and I hope it continues to be. I've made huge mental and physical gains in this area. Here's an except from my blog when I was 29:

I run because it keeps me motivated and it gives me something to look forward to. I feel like I am working toward something every day! There are always new frontiers to reach. New races to experience, new PRs to set. When I can't do that, my whole world feels so pointless.

Running was the ONLY thing I had when I was 29 and I knew it. And because of that, when running
Richmond Half, Nov. 2008
didn't go well, my whole world would seem to collapse. I even used the word pointless! Cringe! Here's another one:

My mother and many others have reminded me that my overall health is much more important than running. Somehow, this concept isn't so easy for me to grasp. Really, the main reason I want to be well is to be able to run. I'm more passionate about running than anything else in my life. I don't have a husband or a family like most people my age, so this is what I have devoted my heart to. It's probably hard for non-athletes to understand this passion, but for me, it's been the organizing principle of my life for a long time. My personality suits me perfectly for running. I'm extremely motivated, goal-oriented, passionate, perfectionistic, with a strong belief in the "effort-result" system. I have a need for structure and control in my life, and running every day provides me with that. 

That honestly sounds like an entirely different person. I can't believe I wrote that and it makes me wonder what I will be writing on my 50th birthday! What function does running serve in my life now? It's still a passion, but I recognize it as one thing I do. It's not the only thing I am. I do many things in life, and running is just one of them. It's something I DO- not something that I am. It's still frustrating to deal with setbacks, like illness, but I realize that my overall health is way more important than this sport.

I no longer have a need to prove to myself and the world that I can run fast. I simply enjoy the training, and I like sharing my journey with others-- all the while documenting it so I can look back on it.

Right Now: Running is a hobby that I am passionate about.
10 Yeas Ago: Running was all I had in my life.

Running: Physical
I believe that my lifetime PRs will be set in my 40's. I have no idea how fast these PRs will be, but I believe I can keep getting faster, at least for the next few years. In 2008, I ran the Houston Half marathon in 1:50:43. This year, I ran it in 1:32:24. I don't expect to bring it down another 18 minutes
in my 40's but I think sub-1:30 is something I can definitely look forward to. I ran the Richmond Half
Houston Half, Jan. 2018
in 2008, too, in 1:48:43, so it will be fun to see what I run on Saturday.

I believe what will fuel my PRs is the ability to train consistently, without illness or injury. Illness has been a major roadblock for me over the past 10 years, and I think I've finally learned how to avoid (or at least shorten the duration of) the mono-like virus that I get in the summers. I'm working with an excellent coach, who has gotten me to a point where I can run 70+ miles a week in marathon training, while feeling strong and energized throughout. At least in the cooler months.

Overall, my health seems to be about as good as it was when I turned 30. The only difference is that now I am much more sensitive to the heat and cannot recover as well from hard workouts in heat/humidity. I never tolerated the heat particularly well, but it's gotten worse over the past decade.

I anticipate that at some point in my 40's, I will slow down. And when that happens, I may become a 50-state half-marathon runner, or I may create a list of "experience" races to go and do, like Big Sur, or Capetown.

Right Now: Training for a 3:15 marathon, running 70+ miles a week with the help of a coach
10 Years Ago: Training for a 3:40 BQ using plans from books

Blogging and Social Media
Social media has truly evolved over the last 10 years, and so has this blog. What hasn't changed is that I do blog a lot, and I interact with people on social media frequently. I used to be active on MySpace and the Runner's World forums, and I met a lot of runners that way. Over time, things transitioned to Facebook Groups, Instagram, and Strava.

Since I published my book, Boston Bound, my audience has grown. I never used to actively promote my blog or social media presence, but when the book came out, I made stronger effort to reach more people. The main reason is that I never really thought people would care about my journey. If they did, then great, but I wasn't going to try and build an audience. However, the feedback I received on my book was so positive, and so many readers reached out to me about how the book helped them, that I decided to be more proactive about sharing my ongoing journey.

In 10 years, I'm certain the social media landscape will have changed again. But I plan on my blog still being here. And I will continue to write in it whether or not I am running.

Right Now: Blogging 2-3 times per month, posting on Instagram 5-6 times per week
10 Years Ago: Blogging 2-3 times per month, posting on forums daily

Because Greg and I both work full-time, and we don't have children, we are in a good spot financially. In my 20's and early 30's, I was really frugal and typically had buyer's guilt about everything. Anything I bought that wasn't a huge bargain was like a guilt trip.

I remember once when I was 28, walking around New York City in uncomfortable, $30 shoes, with my feet aching. I went into a store and tried on a pair of $100 super comfortable sandals. I bought them because my feet hurt so bad, but the guilt lasted for weeks! Unless it was running shoes, I had never spent more than $50 on a pair. I didn't consider myself particularly frugal or miserly. Instead, I thought that if you can buy shoes and handbags and shirts for less than $50, why on earth would you pay more? It wasn't until I was in my mid-30's that I ever spent more than $100 on a handbag.

Over time, I have let go of the buyer's guilt with the help of Greg, and learned that it's okay to buy something that isn't the least expensive option. Potentially, I have swung the other way with luxury vacations, a few pieces of zebra artwork, and the money I spend on my wardrobe. But I want to enjoy life while I'm healthy enough to do so; Greg and I are of the same mindset here.

Right Now: Financially comfortable, with a more relaxed attitude about spending
10 Years Ago: Less financially comfortable, but way more uptight about spending

Final Thoughts
As I approach 40, and look back on my 30's, my mind is more open than ever. I'll reach the peak of my career and my physical fitness, and maybe even publish another book. I think the biggest change in the "me" now vs. the "me" from 2008 is that I am way more relaxed. I don't care as much about what people think of me, I have a higher tolerance for putting up with BS in the work environment, and I'm focused on positive relationships, and I prioritize taking care of my physical and mental health. I think that's a good place to be.

September 2008

September 2018

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Rehoboth Beach Marathon: 6 Weeks To Go!

How did that happen? All of a sudden the marathon is so soon. I realized that I hadn't posted much about my training, so here's and update.

Post-Race Illness
The day after the Lower Potomac 10-Miler, I woke up quite ill. Only a runner would think, "Yes! That explains why I ran the race slower than I expected to!" So in a sense, it was good news because I had been feeling like the race result indicated I wasn't in as good of shape as I had believed. But with my history of prolonged illness, there was also a huge worry that I would be out for weeks. My main symptoms were extreme fatigue and dizziness, similar to what I experienced when I was sick over the summer.

I did not run or go to work on Monday or Tuesday. On Wednesday I started to feel better, which was a huge relief, so I took a short walk around the neighborhood instead of running and was able to go to work. By Thursday, I was feeling mostly normal, so I ran an easy 10 miles. What a huge relief.

I think I got sick not because of the race, but because my immune system had been weakened by multiple workouts in the heat/humidity. It was in the low 70's with 100% humidity for the first two weeks of October. And even though I know that's a danger zone for me, I kept thinking "this will be the last time because it's going to get cooler" but it didn't. So I ran warm workout after warm workout at high effort levels and my immune system caved.

As for the foot with the Morton's Neuroma, it hasn't been impacting me. I feel it on some days more than others, particularly when I run long. I hope it doesn't become a bigger issue and that the shots will help it go away entirely.

Marathon Training Begins
Thankfully I recovered, but started to feel woefully behind in marathon training after having missed 3 days, and not having run the same mileage and long runs as I did when I was training for Boston. My coach did this by design, though. His theory (and I totally believe it) is that you really only need six weeks of true "marathon training" with long runs, high mileage, and long workouts. In Boston I had a longer ramp-up, but when I look at my mileage, there were really only six weeks of super-charged training, with mileage in the 70+ range. Plus, it would have been difficult for me to run really long/hard workouts any earlier in the season, given the extended summer.

As I said above, I ran 10 easy miles on Thursday of last week, and then 8.3 miles easy on Friday. Greg and I took a train to New York City on Friday, so we were able to run in Central Park. We saw the musical Wicked on Friday night, and then did the long run in the park on Saturday. There's something magical about running in Central Park. Both last weekend and back in February, I had a totally indulgent meal (including a cocktail) the night before, stayed up late seeing the show, didn't sleep well, but somehow managed to run really strong in the hilly park.
Central Park, New York City

The plan called for a 2-hour run, starting at a pace of 8:30 and progressing down to 7:45 for the first hour and 40 minutes. And then for the last 20 minutes, running at a pace of 7:00. My Garmin lost its signal in the park, and was telling me I was going much slower than I was, which of course resulted in me running faster than planned.

Greg was with me and his Garmin was working. He told me I was going too fast, but I was stubborn and ran the first hour and 40 minutes at a pace of around 7:50, according to his watch. Greg let me run ahead for the last 20 minutes, which I think averaged somewhere around 7:10-7:15. I probably could have hit the 7:00 if I didn't over-run the first 1:40, but oh well, it was still a strong run. Based on Greg's Garmin and my assessment of my effort for the last 20 minutes, I think I ran 15.45 miles at an average pace of 7:46. And it felt really good.

I ended up with 39.5 miles for the week, which isn't bad, considering I took three days off entirely for illness. Here are a few more photos from the trip to NYC:

Week of October 22
On October 8th, it was 71 degrees and humid for my track workout. Two weeks later, it was down to 30 degrees and it stayed in the 30's in the mornings for most of the week. I am not complaining about the cool weather, but it's a shame to miss running in the 60's, 50's, and 40's. I had bought a few new tank tops for the fall season that I still haven't had the opportunity to wear!

Monday: Speed Intervals
Monday, October 22
On Monday, I geared up in my compression tights, half-zip top, gloves, hand warmers, and headlamp. The workout called for 4 x (600m, 400m, 200m - with 200m recovery jogs in between) and 3 minutes recovery in between the sets. My coach prescribed paces that were faster than anything I’d ever done: 600m in ‪2:‬10 (‪5:‬48 pace), 400m in ‪1:2‬2 (‪5:‬30 pace), 200m as fast as possible. My previous fastest 600m was 2:13 and my previous fastest 400m was 1:25. I was unsure if I’d be able to hit these speedy targets, but I decided to go for it.

Actual splits were: (2:15, 1:24, 0:40‬), (2:07, 1:24, 0:40), (2:11, 1:25, 0:40), (2:14, 1:25, 0:40). I cant believe I ran a 2:07 for 600m! That’s a 5:40 pace. Granted, it was too fast and I would have preferred to drop time in the 400m, but still it was a huge PR! 1:24 is also a new PR in the 400m. I’m pleased with how this workout went. And if this type of thing doesn’t improve my speed, I don’t know what will!

Tuesday: Easy Run
I ran easy for 80 minutes, which ended up being 9.48 miles at an average pace of 8:26.

Wednesday: Easy Run
I ran easy for 70 minutes, which was 8.2 miles at an average pace of 8:34.

Thursday: Wave Tempo
Back to the track for an 8K tempo run, alternating the pace each kilometer (2.5 laps for each). This was a continuous run with no stopping or recoveries. I had done this same workout last December and loved it. I was obviously hoping to be faster this time. Last time I did this I was 3 weeks out from the Houston Half, which is my PR. And now I am about two weeks out from the Richmond Half, so I was kind of using this workout as gage to compare my fitness now to my pre-Houston level.

Splits were: 4:10 (6:42 pace) 4:22 (7:01 pace) 4:08 (6:39 pace) 4:22 (7:01 pace) 4:07 (6:38 pace) 4:21 (7:00 pace) 4:05 (6:34 pace) 4:18 (6:55 pace). The result: 8K at an average pace of 6:50 in a time of 33:59. I felt very strong and could have done another 1000m/1000m set at this pace. The fact that I could crank out 5 miles at a 6:50 pace and have it feel only somewhat challenging is a huge confidence boost going into Richmond. Overall I ran 14 seconds faster than I did last December which isn’t huge, but I think my effort level here was maybe a little lower to achieve it, with gas in the tank.

Friday: Easy Run
I ran easy for 70 minutes, which was 8.3 miles at an average pace of 8:27.

Saturday: Long Run
A Nor'easter blew through, bringing strong winds and rain. At temperatures in the upper 40's, I was
chilled to the bone. Originally, Greg and I planned to take a trip to Rehoboth Beach to do the long run on the actual course. About half the course is run on a packed dirt trail and I wanted to experience that before racing on it. But being on the coast, and up north, the area was forecast to receive winds of 20-30 mph, gusting up to 50 and very heavy rains. It wasn't much better here in Virginia, but I figured the weather would be enough of a challenge without also trying to figure out how to navigate the course and run in mud.

I ran 18 miles, which was a nice leap from the previous weekend's 15.4, and handled it well. My legs didn't seem to get tired at all and I felt nice and strong the entire way. I progressed from 8:50 down to 7:35, with beautiful splits: 8:50, 8:24, 8:21, 8:19, 8:19, 8:18, 8:09, 8:06, 8:05, 8:01, 7:57,  7:53, 7:52, 7:50, 7:53, 7:44, 7:40, 7:36. The headwind was biting at times, since I was completely drenched and it was only 49 degrees. I didn't let it slow me down, which is a nice confidence booster in case the marathon is windy.

Sunday: Recovery Run
I ran easy for 60 minutes, which was 6.9 miles at an average pace of 8:41. I was pleasantly surprised that I didn't notice any lingering leg soreness or fatigue from the previous day's long run. Usually my recovery runs are in the 8:50's, but this felt more like a typical easy run.

My overall total for the week ended up being 68.7 miles.

I'm much more optimistic about my fitness and upcoming half and full marathons than I was in my previous blog post two weeks ago. I think I just needed for the weather to turn because my body performs well in cool temperatures and struggles in the heat.

Weekly Mileage

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Lower Potomac 10-Miler

If you've been chomping at the bit for my Army Ten Miler race report, don't worry-- you didn't miss anything! I was a no show and decided instead to wait a week and run the Lower Potomac 10-Miler.

The weather for the Army Ten Miler was nearly as horrible as last year: 73 degrees with 100% humidity. Since I had already run that race in those conditions, and I know that my immune system issues are triggered by running hard in the humidity, I decided it would be best to skip it. There was really no point in over-taxing myself just because I was registered.

My friend Cheryl found a 10 mile race the following weekend (today) in Maryland and I decided I would register for that if the forecast was looking good 5 days out. We both registered on Tuesday of this week and were delighted with the prospect of running in the low 50's after 5+ months of 70-degree mornings.

Before the Race
Cheryl arrived at my house at 4:40am. Greg, who wasn't running the race, volunteered to drive. How nice of him! It took us about two hours to get to the race site in Southern Maryland. On the way, we were passed by a high-speed police chase on the Capital Beltway. A car sped by us at what seemed like 100mph, weaving in and out of traffic, and was shortly followed by the cops, going almost just as fast. It was scary but exciting.

Piney Point Sunrise, photo by Greg Clor
When we arrived, we picked up our bibs, went to the bathroom and then went to look at the gorgeous sunrise over the Potomac River. The view was incredible and I fell in love with the race before it even started. I love running by the water because it's calming and beautiful.

The start area was pretty simple. There was no mat because it was not chip timed. There was a clock, however, which meant they would be tearing off the tags on our bibs as we finished and manually recording the time. I knew this going into the race and was fine with it due to the small size of the race.

I drank my Generation UCAN and then Cheryl and I ran a warm up mile on the course. It was nice and flat, as expected and I felt pretty good.

Race Strategy and Goals
My coach advised me to start the race in the low 6:50's. My goal was to run 1:08:xx, which is a 6:54 pace or faster. How did I arrive at this goal?
  • I ran the Houston Half Marathon in January at a pace of 7:03
  • Then I trained for Boston and advanced to a new level of fitness with 75+ mile weeks during training and one run that included 10 miles at an average pace of 6:50: (4 miles, 3 miles, 2 mile, 1 mile) with 3-minute recovery jogs in between
  • I figured back then I could have run a sub-6:50 ten-miler
  • I did take six weeks off over the summer due to illness, but I've been working my way back
  • Some of my recent workouts had gone really well, despite the heat and humidity
My coach was on board with my goal and said not to limit myself, indicating that I could potentially run faster. If I didn't run 1:08:xx, I thought that breaking 1:10:00 was definitely attainable. And although not a given, breaking my PR of 1:10:24 from April 2017 was likely. I was very confident that I would be eating PR cake.

Furthermore, this would be the first "big" race since Houston that had decent weather. I was in tip-top shape for RNR New Orleans, but I melted in the heat. And then, of course, there was Boston. Followed by illness and a series of warm or rainy 5Ks. I hadn't had the opportunity to run a really fast time since January and I had worked so hard since then. Surely I was faster now, even if I had to take off six weeks in the middle of the summer. Finally I was able to test my theory and see if I had, in fact, made substantial fitness gains since January. 

Miles 1-4
There were about 70 participants in this race, so Cheryl and I lined up toward the front. Last year, the
Mile 1
women's race was won in 1:12:xx, so I figured I had a shot at winning this year. But of course, you never know who is going to show up.

I felt good right off the start line. About half a mile in Greg was taking photos, and I was in high spirits when I saw him. Oddly, my Garmin was not reflecting my perceived level of effort. Even though my coach said to start out in the low 6:50's, I figured I would run the first mile in about 7:00 just to be conservative and warm up a bit more. Well, I ran a disheartening 7:09. Sure, I could have run a 7:00 pace if I was running strictly based on the Garmin, but I actually race more by feel-- using the Garmin for feedback periodically. And I guess a 7:09 pace felt appropriate for the first mile. I didn't judge it and I didn't get discouraged. I knew that the first mile is never an indicator of how the race will go and I felt energized, which was more important than watch time.

Two women had shot out ahead of me at the start line, which meant I was in the third position. Based on their distance ahead of me during the first mile, I didn't think it was likely I would catch them. 

During the second mile, I found myself running with two men who were clearly running together. I passed them, and then they passed me, and then I passed them. It was nice to be running with other people since the race was so small, but the leap-frogging was exhausting. They asked me where I was
from and I grunted "DC". Clearly this was their conversational pace, but it was not mine.

I was running in the mid 6:50's which is right where I wanted to be and I was feeling strong. I definitely felt like this was maintainable for the rest of the race, I just needed to continue to push. The course was flat with a few inclines and declines. It offered a nice view of the water and I appreciated the lack of a loud crowd. It was serene. Every time I thought I had sped up enough to pass the two guys for good, they would pass me. This was perhaps the longest leap frogging session of any race ever, and it wasn't until the 6th mile that they pulled ahead for good.

Mile 1: 7:09
Mile 2: 6:56
Mile 3: 6:54
Mile 4: 6:54

Miles 5-7
At the halfway point, I was still feeling good, but I definitely couldn't speed up anymore. I realized it would be challenging to simply maintain the pace, but I thought I could do it. I thought my 1:08 was probably not feasible, but I was still in the running for 1:09. I kept working hard.

There was an unexpected bridge (hill) during mile 6 and I welcomed the change. In fact, powering up that hill made me feel strong and energized. It forced me to find a different gear and it pepped me up. The two men were a good ways ahead of me at this point and I enjoyed the solitude of running alone. I was still in third place at this point, and after the turnaround, some of the others cheer for me, telling me I was going to be "on the podium." I didn't care all that much about my placing, as this race was all about testing my fitness and seeing what I could do in good weather conditions.

Somewhere after the turnaround (mile 6) my left foot started to go numb. And before I knew it, the entire foot was numb and tingling. I couldn't feel it as I ran. I was already exerting max effort so having another obstacle was not good. I knew why it was happening, at least. Three weeks ago, after the 5K, I was diagnosed with a Morton's Neuroma in my left foot. I didn't have pain, but it felt like there was a lump of something in the ball of my foot. I had a Morton's Neuroma in my left foot 11 years ago, and this felt similar, so I went to the podiatrist, and an ultrasound confirmed I had a Neuroma. A Morton's Neuroma is a thickening of the nerve tissue below the toes. The toe next to my big toe is swollen, and so is the area directly underneath it. 11 years ago, this was treated by receiving a few rounds of alcohol sclerosing injections. This injection essentially shrinks the Neuroma down so that it no longer becomes an issue. My doctor told me I could continue to run on the foot, and gave me an injection after he received the ultrasound results, and then again on Thursday.

I was a little worried that getting a shot in my foot on the Thursday before a Sunday race was a bad idea. I even considered moving it to Wednesday, but I just didn't. When I got my first shot two weeks prior, I didn't have any lingering effects so I figured it would be fine. What could happen, right?!

The ball of my foot was numb for about 12 hours after the shot and then returned to normal. My foot felt fine all day Friday and Saturday. So now, at mile 6 of a 10-mile race, it all of a sudden decided to go numb. And not just the neuroma area, the entire foot! I couldn't feel the bottom of my foot at all.

Mile 5: 6:56
Mile 6: 7:04
Mile 7: 7:00

Miles 8-10
Mile 8 is where my "B" goal of sub-1:10 slipped away. I had to stop. I could not continue running on a numb foot. I banged my heel into the ground and tried doing things to restore the feeling, but nothing was working, and I didn't want to be stopped for too long. So after about 5-10 seconds, I resumed running, at a slower pace than before, and just dealt with it. It was sucking my mental and
Heading toward the finish line
physical energy out of me and it was so hard to push at 100% effort when I couldn't even get the feedback from my toe-off. But I was so close to the end of the race and I wanted a success story so badly. The average pace on my Garmin was 7:01, so I could still PR if I maintained it.

But I couldn't return to my previous pace once I started running again, and logged a 7:20 mile (including the stop). Mile 9 was 7:10, but did not include a stop so both of those were probably the same running pace.

With just one mile left, I told myself to run as hard as I possibly could. And I started to get feeling back in my left foot. Thank goodness. It wasn't 100% back, but at least it was something and it enabled me to focus on pushing hard instead of the numbness. I logged a 7:02 on my Garmin, and then sprinted the last 0.05 to the finish at a pace of 5:49. I was happy that I pulled it back together for the last mile, but it was not enough for a PR.

Mile 8: 7:20
Mile 9: 7:10
Mile 10: 7:02

Final Thoughts
I finished in third place and my official time was 1:10:45, which is 21 seconds slower than my PR. And I blame my foot for not PRing! But, even without the foot issue, I still don't think I would have run 1:08:xx or even 1:09:xx. I think I could have salvaged a small PR if it weren't for the foot, but otherwise, I have to admit I'm not in as good of shape as I was last January.

It all depends on how you look at training. In December of last year, I was running long, hard workouts. Much longer and harder than what I've been doing the past six weeks. My coach is very gradually building me back up, and my longest workout has been 5 miles, which is short compared to what I was doing last December. So in that sense, I haven't been putting in the same work that I was putting in before the Houston half.

Looked at another way though, I think the Boston training cycle brought me to another level. Take my Houston half marathon fitness and then add 3 months of daily training (90 days with no breaks), 65-80 miles per week, 3-4 hard workouts per week. I was in the shape of my life in April and I think that training gave me a new "baseline" so even without all those intense workouts, I felt like I still should have been in the same shape (if not better) than I was in January.

I have to admit that I am discouraged by this race. I was energized, I felt good, I pushed to the best of my ability, the weather was nice, but my time wasn't where I thought it would be. I have the Richmond half marathon in 4 weeks and I was hoping for a big PR there, but that's looking less likely, but I won't rule it out. How much fitness can be built in four weeks? And will my foot get numb again? At least I know not to get a shot 3 days beforehand.

I'm more optimistic about setting a marathon PR in December because I still have 8 weeks to train. At this point, I would still like to shoot for 3:15, but that's TBD.

I'd be lying if I said I wasn't disappointed and frustrated. Yes, there are some positive take aways here. And I'm trying to focus on them. I need to focus on them. At the same time, it's been almost a year since I set a PR and I'm turning 40 in a month. I had high hopes of crushing it this season after a spring plagued by bad weather, and now I have to accept that it might not be possible. I won't stop trying though.

After the Race
Cheryl finished shortly after me and reached her goal, running her third-ever fastest 10-miler. I was so happy for her. We stayed for the awards ceremony and then drove to Solomon's Island for a delicious brunch. My spirits were high, because all in all, it was a good experience. I enjoyed the course, the relaxed atmosphere, and I had fun. It was good to spend time with Cheryl and Greg and a great way to spend a Sunday morning.

As for my foot, it became tender after the race. On the bottom of my foot, where the neuroma is, it feels like I'm walking on a bump and it's not comfortable. It should calm down by tomorrow because it felt the same way after the 5K three weeks ago and then calmed down. I really hope this doesn't become a bigger issue.

It was a two-hour drive home (no police chases this time) and it felt so wonderful to hop into an Epsom salt bath. I'm more motivated than ever to work hard toward my goals and show some sort of running progress this fall!

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Boston Qualifying Times Are Now 5 Minutes Faster

On Thursday of this week the Boston Athletic Association (B. A. A.) announced that they have changed the qualifying standards for the 2020 race. Each age/gender group must now run 5 minutes faster to qualify. They made this change due to the increasing demand for the race, with 2019 qualifiers have to run 4 minutes and 52 seconds faster than their qualifying standard to gain entry.

I'm not surprised by this change, and since the "buffer" has been increasing each year for the last three years, it is doubtful that anyone running less than five minutes faster than their standard would be accepted anyway. With these new standards, the B. A. A. won't need to turn down as many applicants. They turned down about 7,200 qualifiers for 2019. If I were in that group, I think I would be pretty disappointed. My prediction is that for the 2020 race, runners will still need to run faster than their qualifying standard, but maybe only by a minute or so.

My personal experience
I didn't register for the 2019 race, despite having qualified by over 18 minutes. As I've mentioned in previous posts, I plan to run Boston every two years so that I have the opportunity to experience other spring races. When I first started trying to BQ at the age of 29, I needed to run 3:40. When I turned 35, instead of getting an extra five minutes, the qualifying times were lowered so my target remained 3:40. Now that I am turning 40, they times have again been lowered, and so my BQ target remains 3:40. Thankfully, I have gotten faster with age, so I don't need the extra 5-10 minutes.

Age groups in the race results vs. age groups in qualifying
I ran in the 18-39 division; there is no 34-39 division
One thing I find odd is this: in the official Boston Marathon results, and on my finisher's certificate, the youngest division is 18-39. It is not 18-34. So if 35-39 year-olds are competing against the 18-34 year olds, why does that group get an extra five minutes on their qualifying time? For the 2020 race, 18-34 year old women will need to run 3:30 or faster, and 35-39 year-old women will need to run 3:35 or faster. So on one hand, the B. A. A. is saying that 35-39 year olds should compete in the same age group as the younger ones, but on the other hand, they are saying that they can gain entry into the race by running 5 minutes slower. I think that they should either eliminate the extra 5 minutes that the 35-39 age group receives, or create an age group category for 35-39 year olds in the race results.

BUT, if the B. A. A.'s rationale is that they want to "throw a bone" to the 35-39 age group or increase participation in that demographic, I guess that's a different story. A common misconception that runners have is that the B. A. A. bases their standards on fairness. I'm sure they consider that, but there are many other factors at play beside them trying to create "fair" standards. For example, older runners tend to have more disposable income and likely spend more money in Boston on race weekend. I'm not saying that the B. A. A. is catering to these runners, because the data shows that an approximately even number of people qualify in each age group. However, it would be within their right to do so.

Is it fair?
Take a look at the 18-34 men's standards vs. the 18-34 women's standards. For the 2020 race, the men's time decreased from 3:05 (185 minutes) to 3:00 (180 minutes). The youngest men’s group now need to run 2.7% faster than they did in 2019 because 5 minutes is 2.7% of 185 minutes. The women's time decreased from 3:35 (215 minutes) to 3:30 (210 minuets). So the women only need to run 2.3% faster in 2020. A 5 minute decrease is 2.3% of 215 minutes. This is not exactly fair and equal, but as I said above, fairness is not the B. A. A.'s only consideration.

Why are so many people BQing now?
Marathons have become more popular over the years and people are running them faster than ever. World records are still being set. I think this is due to a number of factors:
  • More easy-to-access online training resources
  • The increasing prevalence of downhill courses (like the Revel series)
  • Improved technology (Nike Vaporfly 4%)
  • Social media - people sharing their training online and inspiring others
  • Social media - people being motivated to tout their accomplishments online 
  • The marathoning population has more experience
There was a sharp increase in the popularity of the marathon around 2010. All the people who started running marathons around that time have now been running them for 8 years, which is what some say is when you peak at the marathon distance. Think of those people as the "baby boomers" of running and now many of the baby boomers are fast enough to BQ.

Training to BQ
If Boston didn't exist, would people be running as fast? Let's talk about time goals for a minute. Should you train by effort, to the best of your capacity, and then run the fastest time you can? Or should you target a specific time (potentially driven by the BQ standard) when it might not line up
with your fitness level? I'm of the opinion that runners should choose a goal time based on their abilities, and that goal would probably be more clear about 4-6 weeks out. And then you'd have a long-term goal of qualifying for Boston or hitting some other milestone.

Part of the reason it took me 7 years to qualify was because I always thought the very next marathon had to be the BQ race. I didn't allow myself to gradually chip away at my time, so I stalled out in the 3:50's for years. I fared much better when I decided to train to my fullest capacity and let the time be what it would. I learned to have patience. My marathon time came down from 3:48 to 3:43 to 3:40 to 3:35. And then down to 3:21! Instead of chasing the unicorn, I let the unicorn come to me. I think long-term "big goals" are great, but that with each cycle, we need to be in tune with our current fitness level and capacity to train.

I think many runners disagree with me here. They set their goal times based on the BQ standard-- "I'm training to run a 3:29 because I want to BQ". And I get that. My point is that you can encounter a slippery slope if you train for an externally-set milestone rather than what your fitness indicates.

My next BQ
As I said above, I hope to run Boston in 2020. I need to run slightly faster than 3:40 to do so. Considering I do many of my easy runs at a pace that would yield a 3:40, I am fairly confident about my ability to BQ. However- nothing is guaranteed and if the weather throws me a curve ball or if I am having an off day, I could bonk and not attain the 3:40.

I'm running the Rehoboth Beach Marathon on December 8. As of now, I am targeting a time of 3:15. If all goes as planned, I think that time is well within my reach. If it doesn't happen then, I am running another full marathon in May. 

This week I ran 59 miles, and looking at my schedule, I will be running 60-70 miles a week throughout October. (Except for next week, because I am tapering for the Army Ten Miler). The "real" marathon training will begin on October 28th, just 6 weeks out from the marathon. I anticipate running very high mileage during those six weeks combined with 3-4 high-intensity workouts per week.

April 2020 seems like a long way off, so I'll definitely be enjoying my journey there.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Run! Geek! Run! 5K Race Report

After having run three races as training runs this summer, I was itching to race something full-out. Since getting sick for six weeks last June (combined with my history of summer illness) my new rule is to not fully exert myself in warm and humid weather. But today it was finally cool enough to race!

This race has been on my schedule since July. I knew I would want a "comeback" 5K once the weather got cooler, basically just to practice racing again, so this was it. This race used to be an 8K in
Washington DC. Now it's a 5K in Alexandria, VA. I ran the 8K back in 2011 and really enjoyed it, so I figured I would check out the 5K.

On Monday of this week, the weather for the race was looking iffy. The forecast called for 70 degrees with 95% humidity. I briefly contemplated bailing out, but decided I wouldn't make any decisions until the forecast solidified. As the week progressed, the temperatures dropped, and rain crept its way in.

In terms of goals, I wasn't quite sure what to expect. On the one hand, I hadn't been doing any 5K-specific workouts. I had two hill sprint sessions under my belt and a few short fartlek sessions (timed road intervals). But that was it. My hard workouts had been primarily focused on building lactate threshold, running between marathon pace and half marathon pace. None of these workouts were good race predictors, particularly at the 5K distance. My best-case-scenario goal was to be very close to my PR (20:17), but realistically I expected somewhere around 20:30. I definitely wanted to be sub 20:45, and probably would have been disappointed if I didn't hit that goal.

Before the Race
Race morning arrived, and I had everything set out as usual. I ate my typical english muffin with peanut butter, and mixed my UCAN with water to take 30 minutes before race start. Greg decided not to run this race, so he went as my cheerleader and photographer. When we were about 10 minutes
Warming up
into the drive, I realized I had left my UCAN on the kitchen counter. I had had it in my hand, but had briefly set it down and didn't pick it back up again. I was really frustrated with myself for this because I literally had the bottle in my hand right before we were about to leave. Oh well, I had run plenty of 5K races without UCAN before, and at least I had eaten my breakfast.

It was raining pretty heavily when we arrived. I didn't bring a top layer to warm up in and I was soaked waiting to get my bib. I pinned it on inside the car and soon it was time to warm up. Once I started running, I literally warmed up. It was about 62 degrees with a slight breeze. The rain let up slightly during my warm up and I hoped it would remain light throughout the race and not be coming down in buckets. I've raced two 5Ks in pouring rain and it definitely added an extra layer of challenge. I've also raced half marathons and full marathons in pouring rain, and I think it posed less of a challenge at those distances, because you're not going so fast that you worry about slipping on something.

I warmed up for 2.5 miles, which included some strides and drills. I then met up with my friend Cheryl, who was running, and Allison, who was spectating. We headed to the start line and started scoping out the field. Cheryl and I were the only two women up front, but we were soon joined by a woman in a Boston Marathon shirt.

Mile 1: 6:34
The race started and things felt pretty good. The course is mainly flat, with the first mile being a slight decline of 14 feet, according to Strava. I didn't have my normal "pep" off of the starting mat, so I
Mile 1
figured I would ease into my pace and just focus on staying relaxed. The woman in the Boston shirt shot out ahead and was probably about 10 seconds ahead of me. I didn't realize it at the time, but looking at the photos, I learned that I was running alongside another woman. About half a mile in, I realized that the Boston-shirted woman was running about my same pace, and wasn't widening the gap any further. When my Garmin beeped a 6:34 mile, I didn't really have any emotional reaction. Initially I had planned to go out at a pace of 6:28-6:30, but things felt hard enough.

Mile 2: 6:39
It was during this mile that I realized that I didn't have a lot of pep. I had a positive mindset and I was telling myself to push and reminding myself that I could run faster, but my body was locked in at the pace it was going, and I couldn't convince it to move any quicker. This course is an out-and-back and I slowed almost to a walk at the hairpin turn, due to the pavement being wet. Thankfully, the rain was pretty light, and not the downpour I had feared. I remained in second place throughout the mile and believed that my position was locked in.

Mile 3: 6:36
Heading toward the finish
Shortly after the second mile marker, the Boston-shirted girl ahead of me stopped running. She pulled off to the side for some reason. I continued on at my steady pace, still not able to convince myself to push any harder, and she resumed running about five seconds later. The gap between us was now a lot smaller-- probably 4-5 seconds. Still, I doubted I could catch her because I felt like I couldn't go any faster. I really wanted to catch her, but I didn't think it possible. But about half a mile later (about 2.5 miles into the race) she stopped again. I hated to be opportunistic since she was obviously hurting, but I figured since I was going to pass her, I might as well do it so quickly that if she were to start up again, she wouldn't believe that she could catch me. I somehow found another gear and pushed harder and ran faster as I passed her. She said something encouraging to me and I grunted back, as that's all the energy I had for communication.

I held a steady pace until about a quarter mile from the finish line. At that point, a spectator yelled that another woman was right behind me. Shoot! That meant I had to push harder, I simply had to! I wasn't going to lose the win in the last quarter mile. So, I somehow found it in me to rally more energy, which had previously been lacking, and I sprinted my way to a win in 20:34. I later learned that the second place female finished 8 seconds after me, and was not the woman in the Boston shirt who had stopped. According to my Garmin, I ran the last 0.13 at a pace of 5:52.

After the Race
I watched Cheryl finish about 30 seconds after me and then re-united with Greg and Allison. I then approached the Boston-shirted woman and asked her if she was okay. She said that she had just run the Berlin Marathon the previous weekend and was fighting an illness. She ended up placing third, which is a huge accomplishment considering she had to stop!

I then cooled down for two miles with Cheryl. We proceeded to collect our awards and then headed
Podium finish
for brunch. I won a bobble-head trophy and a gift certificate to a local restaurant.

Final Thoughts and Takeaways
I really wish I hadn't left my UCAN fuel at home. I lacked "pep" in this race, despite a significant taper and I think that's the culprit. However, I don't know for sure, and my result could have been the exact same if I had taken the UCAN.

I think that unless I am training specifically for a 5K, then I don't have the ability to shift into a really high gear- both mentally and physically. If this had been a four-mile race, I think my average pace would have been exactly the same. I felt like I could have continued on at that pace for quite some time, but I just couldn't bring myself to go much faster. I often feel this way in 5Ks when I am not training specifically for them. According to the McMillan calculator, this race predicts a 1:11:23 10-miler, but I'm pretty confident in my ability to run sub-1:10:00 in two weeks.

I don't have any training runs or races that indicate a sub-1:10:00 is possible, but my gut tells me I am in better shape now than when I ran my 1:10 PR in the spring of 2017. The 10-miler is also my sweet spot and the distance that I think I race the best.

It was a really nice pick-me-up to get a win and to break tape. Particularly after having taken so much time off this summer. But I'm still hungry. I'm hungry for 60+ mile weeks and PRs and the cool weather that makes those possible. I feel like I've been on the verge of being back in full swing for a while now, and I'm anxious to actually BE back in full swing.