Sunday, March 17, 2019

When the third time is not a charm: the Shamrock Marathon

Despite a spectator literally throwing lucky charms on me as I ran, my third attempt at the Shamrock full Marathon was not at all lucky. DNF #3 is on the books. But surprisingly, I'm not all that upset
about it. Considering my primary goal today was to finish strong, and I didn't do that, I'm handling the disappointment quite well.

For those of you who haven't been reading this blog for the past 9 years, I DNF'ed this race in 2010 and in 2012. I was registered for it in 2011, but was injured so that was a DNS (Did Not Start). I chose this particular marathon to get revenge on those DNFs.

My time goal was in the neighborhood of 3:12, which would be a PR by 3 minutes, at a pace of around 7:20. My training indicated that this was realistic.

Race Week
Even though we do everything in our power to make race week go well, it's not always possible. I was focused on eating healthy, avoiding germs, hydrating, and getting plenty of sleep. And while I thought I did all of that stuff well, I was unable to avoid stress in my life. This week was particularly stressful for reasons I won't address right now. I think I handled the stress well, but suffice it to say I had a lot on my mind, not related to running. And admittedly, I started to worry that the non-running stress would affect the race, so then maybe it became a little bit of a vicious cycle.

Greg and I drove down to Virginia Beach yesterday (Saturday). I wore my Boston Marathon jacket to the expo, which was significant to me. I remembered back in 2010 and 2012 when I went to the marathon expo, seeing people in their Boston jackets, wanting so badly to BQ. And simultaneously
feeling so wound up and anxious about the race because on both occasions, the weather was warm.

And now, here I was, with my 2020 BQ already in hand, and two Boston Marathons under my belt, showing up to the Shamrock expo. It was a good feeling. The Shamrock Marathon has great SWAG and a tempting selection of race apparel for sale at the expo. I couldn't resist a Brooks half-zip with the Shamrock logo since I am always looking for mid-weight half-zips. I was kind of worried that if the race went poorly then I wouldn't want to wear it afterwards. But then I decided if the race went poorly, I would associate the half-zip with the 2016 Shamrock half (a PR) since it didn't have a year on it!

After the expo, Greg and I went to check into our hotel. Since we are Gold members of Marriott, we were given a free upgrade to a large suite. This suite had a bedroom, a bathroom, a living room, a kitchen area, and two oceanfront balconies. A sweet suite! As such, I had plenty of room to stage all my nutritional items in the kitchen and my race outfit in the living room.

We then went out to dinner with our friends Hannah and Alex at the restaurant we ate at in 2016. It was fun catching up with them, and they announced that they were expecting their first child in October! I ordered the same meal I had the night before Rehoboth Beach-- chicken parmesan without the cheese. I felt calm, relaxed, and in a good mindset. I wasn't anxious or nervous about the race at all-- I was mainly excited.

Before the Race
I slept for about 7 hours, but it wasn't very restful. It was nice from about 8:30-midnight, and after that, I kept waking up. This is somewhat normal for the night before a marathon, so I didn't stress about it.

Our hotel was only 3 blocks from the start line. This is one of the reasons I love this race-- super easy logistics. We left our hotel room at 7:05 and then hung out in the hotel lobby until 7:15, allowing me to use the bathroom just 15 minutes before the race, which was ideal. I warmed up for about half a mile by jogging to the start line, and then around the start line. At this point, Greg left me so he could walk up a bit to stage his photo shoot.

At the start line, there were two separate Instagram runners who recognized me. It was really cool to connect with people "in real life" instead of just online. I felt pretty good and I knew I was ready to run a strong race. With three minutes left to go, I tossed my throw-away hoodie and watched the clock tick slowly to 7:30.

Miles 1-5
In a marathon, I always allow myself to run the first mile at whatever pace feels right. It's all about finding a groove and establishing a rhythm. I think I did pretty well here, as I was running around 7:35 without really trying. A 7:35 pace felt more like 8:15, so I took that as a sign that this was going
Mile 1
to be a great race. After the first mile (where I passed Greg taking photos), I ditched my throw-away arm warmers. It wasn't all that cold at 41 degrees and sunny, so I didn't need them. They were actually a $2 pair of Walmart socks that I cut the feet seams out of.

It was a little windy during the first two miles, but then we made a slight turn and it was fine. I just focused on staying relaxed and enjoying the race atmosphere. I didn't want to get too much into my head, so I observed the runners around me, and remembered when I ran the half in 2016, and it was pouring down rain with high winds.

The plan here was to be in the high 7:20's, but I wasn't going to force it. I wanted the effort to feel moderate for the first 10K, and I wasn't going to be a slave to the watch. A runner recognized me from Instagram and said hi. And I found myself running with her for this entire stretch. Sometimes she would take the lead, and then sometimes I would be in the lead.

Mile 1: 7:37
Mile 2: 7:34
Mile 3: 7:33
Mile 4: 7:26
Mile 5: 7:24

Miles 6-9
Everything had been going beautifully up until this point. And then we hit a strong headwind. I would estimate maybe 12-14 mph sustained. I was not expecting more wind until about mile 19 when we ran north again, since the forecast showed the wind coming from the north. But the wind was actually more eastwardly than it was northerly so those three eastbound miles were unexpectedly hard. I wish I had been more mentally prepared, but I adapted pretty quickly.  And by adapted, I mean I mentally adapted and didn't get frustrated. I did not physically adapt by slowing down. My plan was to start hitting marathon pace (7:20) at around mile 7, and I didn't want to back off that plan, despite the wind.

I really didn't want the wind to slow me down, and I told myself I could push through it. In hindsight, maybe that was a mistake because I was probably exerting too much effort too soon. You don't want to be straining at miles 7-8 in a marathon, and I was straining. Wind be dammed! I had a target pace to hit!

I was still running with my new friend during these miles. She looked really strong, so I told myself I must be just as strong if I am running that same pace. Ultimately, she she sped up and passed me in the 9th mile, but she was running the half and really going for it at that point.

Mile 6: 7:29
Mile 7: 7:26
Mile 8: 7:38
Mile 9: 7:34

Miles 10-13
Finally we were out of that wind. So now it was time to recover. I told myself that races have their hard stretches, but then you can recover and move on and feel good again. I took my UCAN shortly after passing the mile 10 marker and it went down okay. The great thing about that was that after drinking water with it, I could toss my bottle and not have to carry it any more. Surely that would make everything feel better.

So no more headwind, no more water bottle to carry, just nice and strong running. Well, it still felt unsustainably hard. Mile 11 felt more like mile 22, and no matter how positive I tried being, my body just wasn't cooperating. So. . . how to salvage the race? I thought to myself that it wasn't a PR day, but I could get my backup goal of 3:17:19. That's the date of the race! That would still be within my reach if I could hold a pace of around 7:32. Yes, new goal!

But by the time I got to mile 12, I started doubting that goal. And then I told myself not to even think about my finish time, but simply focus on finishing to the best of my ability. My main goal here was to finish strong, so all I needed to do was to keep running and keep doing my best.

And by the time I got to mile 13, I started to wonder what would motivate me to get to the finish line, since I was already feeling so beat up. I know. . . it would be my fastest "bonk" ever! When I crashed at Indy Monumental, I still ended up with a time of 3:43, so if I beat that, it would be a bonking PR! I saw my friend Cristina (who had run the half) cheering for me at this point, and that really perked me up. For like 20 seconds, things were really good.

Mile 10: 7:30
Mile 11: 7:40 (taking my UCAN)
Mile 12: 7:33
Mile 13: 7:51

Mile 14
And then I crossed the halfway point in 1:39:25. This was about 3 minutes slower than my target. Not a big deal, but I knew there was no way I could run another 1:39:25. Should I drop out? Absolutely not.  I've DNF'ed this race twice and my whole purpose here was to not DNF. I was going to finish
Mile 14
come hell or high water. Yes!

I knew I would see Greg just before mile marker 14, and I wondered if I should stop and consult with him. After all, I wasn't worried about my time anymore, so I could afford to stop for a brief conversation. Somewhere between the halfway point and mile 13.8 I began to wonder why I would be putting my body through the torture of a "bonk". What for? I already know I can run a 3:15 marathon, so I don't have anything to prove. And then it would take two weeks to recover and I wouldn't be in a great spot for the Cherry Blossom 10-miler in 3 weeks.

Hmmm. . . drop out and have a shot at a nice PR at Cherry Blossom, or keep going, have a miserable experience, and then sacrifice two weeks of training for Cherry Blossom. That made my decision clear: I would rather have one strong race than two mediocre ones. I had a marathon PR that I was really happy with, but I felt like I could really smash a 10-mile PR. So, once I got to Greg, we chatted about it, going back and forth.

I actually told him, "Wait here for 20 minutes while I attempt to run again and I will see how I feel." But after going maybe 1/10 of a mile, I realized what horrible shape my legs were in. It was as if I ran a half marathon at half marathon effort. It was pointless to continue. As much as I wanted the medal, and the hat, and the towel and the finish line glory; I knew that today wasn't the day for it.

After the Race
So, within a matter of about 30 minutes, my race took a turn for the worse and ended. After weeks and weeks of hard training, it all came down to 30 minutes that just didn't go my way. But that's how the marathon works and that's the allure of it.

When I think about what went wrong, I think it was probably a combination of the stress I had this week and fighting too hard against the wind so early in the race. Mile 8 is not a time to be fighting in a marathon. It's crazy because I feel like on any given day in training, I could have run this distance at this pace and not have felt so beat up. So potentially there was some mental aspect at play too.

And crazy though it may sound, I haven't done a long run in shorts and a tank since October, and maybe my body wasn't "used to" the low 40s. Sure, it's an ideal race temperature, but maybe it was a shock to my system since I am used to running in the low 30s? Unlikely, but possible.

Greg and I made our way back to the hotel. He didn't have my jacket or long-sleeved shirt because he was planning to grab that from the hotel before I finished. We had over a mile to walk, so to avoid being cold, I jogged back to the hotel at a pace of 10:30. As I did this, I saw all the marathoners running toward me. It was sad to see them all still in the game, and I had given up so early. But I stayed strong in my head and knew that I made the right decision for me.

Kind of an anti-climatic weekend after all this build up and planning. It's disappointing, but I knew going into Shamrock that it was a quick turnaround from Rehoboth. Potentially there wasn't enough down time in between but it was worth a shot. All along, I saw Shamrock as just "gravy" after how well I did at Rehoboth. I have my 2020 BQ and a marathon time that I'm super proud of. So I am not dissatisfied. I think I will be dissatisfied, though, if Cherry Blossom doesn't go well. I'm PR hungry, just not marathon PR hungry!

All in all, it was a fun morning. It just wasn't MY morning. And there are many other mornings to come.

Friday, March 1, 2019

The Logistics of Running

One of the biggest challenges of marathon training is the logistics. How, when, and where do you fit in all the miles? For such a simple sport, the logistics can get pretty complex.

I ran 15+ miles before work on Tuesday, and it required a fair bit of planning. I'll use this run to share how I managed to execute it successfully in terms of being fueled, hydrated, safe, and able to go to work afterwards.

The Workout
This was one of my biggest workouts of the training cycle:
  • 15-30 minutes warm up
  • 4 miles, 3 miles, 2 miles, 1 mile tempo (getting progressively faster)-- all with 4 minute recovery jogs
  • 15-30 minutes cool down
I had done this workout once before, when I was training for Boston last spring. I totally nailed it last time, and I was hoping for the same this week.

One of the first logistical things to consider was the weather. This workout was originally scheduled for Monday, but we had a severe wind advisory with 30 mph sustained winds and gusts up to 60 mph. Not only was this weather ill-suited for a tempo run, but it was downright unsafe. So I asked my coach if I could swap my Tuesday and Monday runs, and he said yes. I ended up running on a treadmill on Monday for the sake of safety, and moved the run to Tuesday. Tuesday's weather was delightful: 29 degrees with low winds.

The night before I had selected my outfit. Tights, socks, a sports bra and a half-zip. I actually narrowed it down to 2 half-zips, and made the final determination in the morning based on the actual temperature. I often find that the forecast hourly temperature can change by as much as 5 degrees to the actual, and that is enough to change my wardrobe decision. I decided to wear my adidas Adizero Tempo 8 shoes. I've worn them in half marathons so I knew they had enough cushion to power through something long and fast.

Please appreciate that all of my headings have started with "W" so far, as this will be the last one. While the 1-mile auto-lap feature on the Garmin would have sufficed for this run, I programmed the intervals into my Garmin the night before the run. That way, I wouldn't have to keep glancing down at my watch during the four-minute recoveries to see when it was time to run hard again. Instead, the watch would beep at me, alerting me that my recovery jog was over. I also made sure to charge the Garmin overnight so it would be ready for the long haul.

Route Planning
There's a neighborhood about 2.5 miles from my house in which I typically do speed work. It's a large neighborhood with lots of interconnecting roads that don't have thru traffic. There are definitely cars (especially as the morning rush hour kicks off) but they are relatively infrequent. Since I don't listen to music, I can always hear them coming from behind me, which makes me move closer to the side of the road. Otherwise, I run straight down the middle of the road without issue.

The neighborhood features gently rolling hills. There are no flat portions but the inclines are (for the most part) very gradual. In fact, I wouldn't even call them hills--they are inclines and declines. I don't think I ever gain more than 30 ft within one mile. 

Anyway, because the roads are all interconnected, I determined my exact route the night before so I wouldn't have to make decisions during the run itself. There's a loop I do which includes lots of turns and weaving through the streets that's 5.5 miles. I decided I would run that loop once, and then run a circular loop that's about 1.5 miles for the rest of it. I like to think of it as a 1.5-mile track.  

Sunrise and Start Time
I do not like to run speed workouts in the dark. Even with a headlamp, I am fearful that I will step in a pothole or uneven pavement and fall. When I have done speed work with a headlamps, my paces were slower than ideal because I kept such a close watch on my footing, and not stepping confidently. For an easy run, I'm good to go in the dark as long as I have my headlamp. The sun rose at 6:46, which meant it would be light enough to see starting at 6:26. And I didn't mind doing the warm up in the dark, so that meant I could leave the house as early as 6:05 and have enough light. I set my alarm for 5:40, which would give me 25 minutes to get ready. In reality, I woke up naturally at around 5:00.

I mixed one serving of Generation UCAN with water in my blender bottle and drank it pretty quickly. Technically, you are supposed to take it 30 minutes before you start exercising, but of course I didn't have time for that, and figured it would be 30 minutes before I started the fast portion. The run ended up being 15.6 miles total, but one serving of UCAN was enough to keep me energized throughout.

Because it was only 29 degrees, I knew I could get away with running the entire workout without drinking water, so long as I hydrated well the day before and drank water during the warm up. I filled
Water bottle I used before tossing
a disposable water bottle with piping hot water (so my hands wouldn't get cold holding it) and drank from it periodically throughout the 2.3-mile warm up. And then I tossed it in a garbage can just before starting the tempo miles. If it had been warmer, I would have driven my car to this neighborhood and planted the bottle next to the tire; making sure I was at my car during the recovery jogs. There are really no other hiding spots in this neighborhood to hide a bottle, and I've done this several times on other runs with no issues.

The point in the neighborhood where I wanted to start my run was over three miles from my house, so I drove to a location that was one mile away from my house, which meant I could run there in just two miles. Greg was also running that morning, so we left together in the car at 6:10, drove one mile together, and then I gave him the key. I knew I would be able to finish 2.5 miles from the house, and I figured that would be a good cool down distance.

Apple Watch
If, for some reason, the workout left me so exhausted that I couldn't run home, I wore my Apple Watch to enable me to call Greg so he could come pick me up. So I had my Garmin on my left wrist, and my Apple watch on my right wrist to use as a telephone if needed. I also told Greg I would call him when I was done with the tempo miles, just so he knew when to expect me back home.

Workout Recap
Having set myself up for a well-lit, well-fueled, safe run, I was excited to get going. Greg and I left the house a little later than planed at 6:10. We drove a mile and parked the car, and I gave him the key. We ran 2.3 miles to the tempo neighborhood at which point he continued on and I stopped briefly to throw away my water bottle. 

Then it was time for the work to begin. I remembered how the last time I ran this workout my paces were faster than expected, and I couldn't believe the paces I was seeing on my watch. But that was not the case this time. My coach wanted me to average a 7:00 pace for the first 4 miles, and that was not easy. I felt like I was exerting around a 6:50 effort, and yet my splits were 7:03, 7:01, 7:02, 6:55. So, I got the job done on the first four miles, but they were harder than expected.

Of course my mind automatically went to "OMG, how am I going to run 6 more miles faster than that?!" but I quickly shifted away from that line of thinking. I know from experience that it's never a good idea to project negatively onto what might happen later in the workout or race. It's always best to focus on the mile or interval I'm in currently and getting through that. 

The next three miles were prescribed at a pace of around 6:50. That seemed daunting so I told myself to just run by effort, which I did. It was hard. My legs did not have much pep and my energy level was so-so. I was now running the "1.5-mile track" loop of the neighborhood and I couldn't decide if that was mentally easier or tougher than running the route with all the curves. Splits were 7:04, 6:58, 7:03

I worked hard to hit the first 7:04, speeding up at the end of the mile, and then eased back off at the start of the next mile. Of course that meant I had to pay for it at the end of the mile, speeding up to hit 6:58, then backing off at the start of the next mile. So I would not call this a smooth run by any means, but rather half miles alternating 7:10 and 6:50. Needless to say, these three miles did not average out to the target 6:50, but I knew I had worked very hard, so I was fine with that.

With only 3 tempo miles to go, things got easier from a mental standpoint. Although physically I was starting to feel really beat up. I desperately wanted to stay in the 7:00 range, and worked my butt off to hit 6:59 for the first mile, but then was really wasted in the second mile, running 7:11

At this point (during the 4-minute recovery jog) I decided I was going to be content with how the workout was going and I would run that last mile hard, and not care about the pace. The last mile was 6:56, which (looking at my Garmin data) started out at like 7:20 and then progressed down to 6:35 at the end! Once I was nearing the end of that mile, I told myself to truly "empty the tank" so I really rallied.

Workout average: 11.2 miles at an average pace of 7:21.

I was SO HAPPY to be done with that workout! Now I just had to run home. I was about 2.5 miles away from my house so I started the slow jog back. I called Greg on the way back to let him know I had finished and that I didn't need him to come get me. I ended up running 2.1 miles for my cool down and walked the rest of the way home, which was actually a nice change for my legs. All in all, I ran 15.6 miles!

As soon as I got home, I popped open a Naked Protein smoothie. These juices have 30 grams of protein and 420 calories. It's a great way to refuel after a long run when you're short on time. I downed the whole thing in less than 3 minutes. 

Of course all I wanted to do was take an Epsom salt bath and crawl back into bed for a nap, but work awaited me! I did my hip exercises because I cannot afford to slack there, followed by a quick shower, no hair washing. I got dressed for work, put on my make up and was out the door by 9:15. Technically I was a little late to work but I didn't have any early meetings (on purpose) so it was okay.

Workout Analysis
While I would have loved to hit the pace targets that my coach prescribed, I was still happy with this workout. When I did this workout last spring I was faster, but I also wasn't in the midst of an 80-mile week. Plus, I had run on a treadmill the day before and that always makes my legs extra tired for the next run.  The tempo miles averaged out to 7:01, so running 10 miles at that pace is really strong. I think my endurance is really solid right now because I was able to maintain my pace even when I didn't have a ton of energy or leg power.

Most of all, I am happy that I stuck with it. Even though I wasn't running as quickly as I would have liked, I didn't get discouraged or throw in the towel. I focused my effort level and staying mentally strong. After all, workouts aren't about setting PRs and proving fitness - they are about making fitness gains. 

Sunday, February 17, 2019

My Week In Shoes: Shamrock Marathon Training

Life has been crazy busy lately and I realize that I've only written two blog posts this year. That's about to change. It's time for a good ol' week in review + the shoes I wore.

The last time I blogged about shoes was in September. Since my Nike Lunarglide was being discontinued and the Mizuno Wave Inspire no longer worked for me, I was on the hunt for a new rotation. I've now settled into a shoe mix that works for me-- one that doesn't create injuries and allows me to maximize the benefit of my training runs.

I ran all seven days this week, which is typical for me, and I'm at the point in my training cycle where four of those days are harder, "quality" workouts, and the remaining three days are easy. The Shamrock Marathon is four weeks away, and even though this week was tough, the next two will be even tougher as I prepare to peak.

I wore all of the above shoes this week. You will notice that three pairs are Nike and three pairs are adidas. I like these brands because they fit my narrow foot. I've never been able to wear Asics or Saucony, and when I wear Brooks, I buy the narrow width.

On the top row, from left to right are the adidas Adizero Adios, the Adizero Tempo 8, and the Adizero Tempo 9. In the Nike row, from left to right are the Lunarglide 9, and two pairs of the Odyssey React.

These are the shoes I wore this week. Other shoes that are in the rotation that I did not wear this week are the adidas Adizero Boston 7, the Mizuno Wave Sayonara, and the Brooks Ghost.

Monday: 3 x 2 miles at 10K effort in the adidas Adizero Tempo 8
What a brutal day for a workout! In the morning, we were greeted with freezing rain, so I had to wait until lunchtime when the temperature rose from 32 degrees to 34 degrees. I ran from my office to a nearby track. Ideally, I would have done this workout on the roads, but since I am not as familiar with the good running roads near my office, I opted for the track. I was frozen to the core, even though I was dressed appropriately!

I warmed up for 2.4 miles and then ran 8 laps (2 miles) with splits of 6:43, 6:38. Then came a 400m recovery (3 mins), followed by another 8 laps with splits of 6:38, 6:36. Another 400m recovery (3 mins) and then 6:42, 6:40. Whew! I was so glad when that was over and it was perhaps one of the most mentally tough workouts I have ever done. The combination of it being on a track with the awful weather and in the middle of the day was rough. But, I was happy with my paces. Even if you include the two 400m recovery jogs, I ran 6.5 miles at an average pace of 7:05, which is FASTER than the Pancake Run 10K from a few weeks ago. Just goes to show that something was majorly off in that race. My average for the 10K effort miles was 6:39.

I love the adidas Tempo 8 for tempo runs! There's a good amount of cushion, yet I can still "feel" the ground under my feet for a controlled toe off. There's a bit of "bounce-back" but overall the shoe is on the firmer side in my opinion. I also wear the Tempo 8 for half marathons, and have raced a few 5Ks in them too. Unfortunately, they screwed it up with the Tempo 9, making that shoe heavier and bulkier. The Tempo 9 doesn't feel like a speedy shoe to me. Hopefully they come up with a newer model that is more like the 8. And yes, I have stocked up on the 8's!

Tuesday: 11.35 miles at 7:51 pace in the Nike Odyssey React (blue pair)
My coach likes to give me these medium-long runs at a moderate effort. He prescribed a target pace
Nike Odyssey React
of 7:45-7:55 for 90 minutes. In the past, it's been as fast as 7:30! The theory is that the more miles you run at the high end of your aerobic range, the more gains you make. So the effort here felt moderate or maybe I would call it a "hard" easy. Of course, this was all made more challenging with the pouring rain and a temperature of only 33 degrees. Brrr! But I wasn't as cold as I was on the track since I had layered up a bit more. I wore a shower cap to keep my hair from getting soaked. Nothing makes you cold like wet hair, so having this extra protection helped.

I wore the Nike Odyssey React. This blue pair was my first-ever pair of this newly released shoe, and it was nearing the end of its life. I like the Nike Odyssey react for long fast runs, like this one. It's also the shoe I wore at the Rehoboth Beach marathon and it worked great. It has a lot of cushion and loads of bounce and it's fun to run in. Probably the most "fun" shoe I have ever worn, if that makes sense. It's super light weight (even lighter than the adidas Tempo 8) but really supportive and fast. This shoe has it all.

Wednesday: 7.8 miles at 9:00 pace in the Nike Lunarglide 9
A much-needed easy day after two consecutive days of hard running in the rain. Thankfully the weather cooperated, because I don't think I would have tolerated another freezing wet run. When my coach saw this slower pace he asked, "were you tired?" Ummm . . . did you not see the workouts I did the past two days?! LOL. In all seriousness, my legs felt heavy and of course that's natural after so much hard running at a high volume.

Before they were discontinued, I stocked up on the Nike Lunarglide. I have this current pair (2/3 through its life) and one more remaining. Since I am using the Odyssey React for most of my long runs, I use the Lunarglide for my easy runs. It's nice and plush, but feels heavy in comparison to the Odyssey. I also wear the Brooks Ghost on easy days, but didn't wear it this week.

Thursday: Ladder Intervals in the adidas Adizero Adios 3
The workout was 2 x (1 min, 2 min, 3 min, 2, min, 1 min) hard—all with 90-second easy jogs in between. I was a little conservative on the way up the first ladder but then started pushing on the way
adidas Adizero Adios 3
back down. I determined I would really drive on the second set:
1 min: 6:25
2 min: 6:32
3 min: 6:35
2 min: 6:18
1 min: 5:50
1 min: 5:58
2 min: 6:11
3 min: 6:15
2 min: 6:01
1 min: 5:48
The easy jogs ranged from 8:45 to 10:15, depending on the elevation gain or loss. The elevation also factored into my paces above, as I ran a gently rolling course. Overall this run felt really good and I was lucky to have the day off and nap afterwards. Including warm up and cool down, I ran a total of 9.1 miles.

My coach recommended the Adios to me as a racing flat. That's a bit of a misnomer though because it's not exactly flat. I can't run in flat shoes because my Achilles tendon will flare up. The Adios, however, has a 10mm drop which is good for me. These shoes do not have a lot of cushion and they are good for really feeling the ground under your feet. They are super lightweight, which I love. I wore them in my recent 10K, and I have also wore them in 5Ks. I don't think I would wear them for anything longer because I like a little more cushion. I move up to the Tempo 8 for a 10-miler or half marathon. There are many runners who race marathons in these shoes, but I don't. 

Friday: 7 miles at 8:52 pace in the Nike Odyssey React (blue pair)
Nice and easy again as I recovered from Thursday's run and prepared for Saturday's long run. It was 52 degrees and I wore shorts and a t-shirt! What a change from Monday and Tuesday.

This pair Odyssey React was at the end of its life so I took them out for one final spin. Typically I don't wear these shoes on easy days because they are so light and bouncy that they make me want to run faster. But I knew I could squeeze 7 more miles out of them. I typically get 180-200 miles on my shoes, and then they start to break down. That's less than the average runner. I think it's because I have a high cadence (around 190 steps per minute) so I am taking more steps during each mile than the typical runner. Just a theory, but these shoes are now retired and I will be donating them.

Saturday: 16.2 miles w/12 at marathon pace of 7:17 in the Nike Odyssey React (orange pair)
The prescribed workout was 15-30 minutes warmup, 90 minutes at marathon pace, and 15-30 minutes cool down. It was super windy out; which was annoying but good practice for my marathon.
My splits were:

8:33, 8:26, 8:22
7:25, 7:22, 7:19, 7:16, 7:14, 7:12, 7:14, 7:13, 7:14, 7:15, 7:20, 7:18
8:47, 8:33 for the last 0.2

Nike Odyssey React
I was really happy with how comfortable and strong I felt during this run and my target was 7:20. I was really starting to feel it in my left leg during the last three miles, so those were a struggle, but I pushed through! A 7:17 marathon pace would be a time of 3:11!

I can't decide if these shoes are pink or orange. They look orange in the photo, but more pink in person. Anyway, these are the shoes I plan to wear in the marathon. I like to run marathon pace miles in the same shoes I will race the marathon in, so I took them out for their maiden voyage. They worked well for me, so I will probably just do one more long run in them before race day. As I said above, these shoes are light and springy, with plenty of cushion for 26.2 miles.

Sunday: 6.8 miles at 8:51 pace in the adidas Tempo 9
An easy recovery day for me! My legs felt decent post-marathon pace run, and I attribute that to the massage I got yesterday.

The adidas Tempo 9 is the latest version of the Tempo, and as I mentioned above, I was disappointed in it. It's heavier and bulkier than its predecessor, which makes it a poor choice for a speed workout, but a decent choice for an easy run. I don't plan on buying more of these shoes because I prefer the Nike Lunarglide and the Brooks Ghost for my easy runs. But since I had the pair, I figured I might as well use it. I really hope the next version of this shoe is more similar to the Tempo 8.

Total Weekly Mileage: 69
I would have loved to reach 70+ miles, but considering that 4 out of these 7 days were hard workouts, I’m good with 69! The next two weeks will be really tough, especially since we are expecting some wintry precipitation Wednesday-Thursday, but I'm feeling good and up for it!

adidas Adizero Tempo 9

Sunday, February 3, 2019

Pancake Run 10K in Phoenix, AZ

What could be better than a race that’s pancake flat with free pancakes afterwards? That was my thinking when I registered for the Runner’s Den Pancake Run 10K. I’m in Phoenix for business, so I figured it would be fun to check out a local race. Plus, I hadn't run a 10K in over two years! The last 10K I ran was my PR of 41:51.

I flew from Washington, DC to Phoenix yesterday afternoon. The flight was over five hours, which I know isn’t ideal the day before a race. But I wasn’t going to come in early for a 10K and pay for an extra night of hotel. Instead, I focused on drinking plenty of water and using UCAN Hydrate to ensure my electrolytes stayed balanced. I think I did a decent job of this, as my urine was a very light shade of yellow; not dark and concentrated like it would be if I were dehydrated.

We ran for pancakes.
I can’t explain it, but I had a sense of “doom and gloom” about this race. It was weird. I was super excited about this race, and I wasn’t being negative. But I had this strange premonition that it wouldn’t go well. Maybe it was because the last time I ran a race in Phoenix I bonked. Maybe it was because my legs had been feeling heavy due to treadmill running. Maybe it was because I had just been feeling out of my training “groove” for a while due to weather disruptions and random bouts of fatigue. But whatever it was, I just wasn’t feeling the good mojo around this race.

I arrived in Phoenix, relaxed in my hotel room for about an hour, and then went out to an Italian restaurant with a co-worker. I had a pretty standard meal: linguine with marinara sauce and chicken. And I continued to drink water. And then I was in bed by 7:00 (9:00pm eastern time) and I fell asleep almost immediately.

I usually don’t sleep well in hotels the night after a long flight, but last night I slept well. The bed and pillows were comfortable and I only woke up once in the middle of the night for a short period. Everything seemed to be in order. Hydration was good, sleep was good, and I had packed my standard English muffin and peanut butter to eat. As for the weather, I was worried it would be on the warm and humid side at 58 degrees with rain. But if it’s going to be 58, then rain is actually preferred to sunny skies.

Before the Race
The race was about 15 miles away from my hotel, so my plan was to take an Uber. But when I hailed an Uber, the closest one was 8 minutes away. And there were cabs waiting right outside the hotel. I didn’t want to be late to meet my friend Alyssa, so I cancelled my Uber request and hopped into a cab. Shortly after getting into the cab, I regretted it. The meter was going up like 2 dollars a minute. I started freaking out, thinking that this would be a $60 cab ride.

I asked the cab driver why the meter was going up so quickly and he said it was $3 per mile. WOW. This cab fare would cost me more than the race registration fee! This would be 2-3 times the price of Uber. The cab driver offered to exit the highway and drop me off so I could hail an Uber. But it was dark, I was alone, and in an unknown area. No thank you!!!

The race started and finished at a shopping mall. After paying $55, I got out of the cab and proceeded to pick up my bib. I got my bib and shirt (gender-specific Brooks t-shirt!) and found a covered area to pin on the bib so I wouldn’t get wet. The rain was medium-light at this point. Not a huge deal, but I did want a dry location for the bib pinning process. I texted Alyssa and told her where I was, and she arrived shortly after. I had met Alyssa on Instagram, and she was a fan of my book. She told me that she records all of her marathon times on the book’s inside cover!

Alyssa’s mom was with her, and just like her daughter, was super sweet. We hung out in the dry car for about five minutes, and then started our warm-up. Alyssa was truly a lifesaver for letting me stash my phone and warm-up shirt in her car. We ran around the mall twice, which yielded just over 2 miles. During this run, I drank my Generation UCAN and we chatted the time away.

Alyssa and I have almost the exact same PR’s for the 10K and the half marathon. She had run a 14-miler the day before and was thinking this would be a tempo for her. By contrast, I had tapered for this run and had only run 4 miles the day before. I was planning to run it at race effort. Alyssa said she might do that too, just depending on how things felt.

After the warm up, we used the porta-potties and then headed back to her car to ditch our outer layers. I did a few strides while she stretched, and then we lined up at the start line. It was there that I saw my friend Carlos, who I had met last summer at a local race in Virginia. Such a small world that we were both in Phoenix!

My plan was to go out at a pace of around 6:42 (my PR pace) and then speed up from there if I was feeling good. I didn’t study the course map or elevation. I knew it was one big square and it was flat. What else was there to know?

Mile 1
The race started and I felt okay. About 2-3 minutes in, I looked down at my wrist and saw I was running a pace of 7:10. That was a surprise, so I started pushing harder. This first mile felt like the first mile of a 5K, but I didn’t judge it too much and I didn’t speculate on what it would mean for the rest of the race. I’ve learned that the first mile is often NOT a good indicator of what’s to come. I later learned that the first mile was slightly inclined, so perhaps the best starting pace would have been closer to 6:50. But I ran a 6:40. So this was probably a mistake, but starting out 10 seconds per mile faster than goal pace in a 10K shouldn’t spell disaster. Plus, I was hoping my race pace would be around 6:37.

Mile 2
This is when things started to fall apart. My “don’t judge it by the first mile” mentality was gone because I was running very, very hard, yet my pace was getting slower and slower. Alyssa passed me early in this mile and pulled ahead quickly. She was with another woman who looked like she could be in my age group. Crap! My split was 6:55. 

Miles 3-4
I was in full-on “bonk” mode after having run just two miles. Yikes. I felt like I was running through molasses. My energy level was decent, but it was my legs that seemed to be the limiting factor. I simply couldn’t get them to go. They were heavy with zero pep. I kept trying to inject the pep into them by surging, but the surge would only last for about 15 seconds, and then I would slow down again. I tried to focus on the positive. I was running a new race in a new place and I could probably still win an age group award. That’s one of the perks of being 40! My splits were 7:18 and 7:13. I was now running slower than half marathon pace and creeping up on marathon pace. In a 10K. But I didn’t get emotional, I just ran. What else was there to do? That was the fastest way to get the darn thing over with.

Miles 5-6
This was weird. I felt like I had energy to give, but I couldn’t access it. You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink. And my legs were the horse. My upper body felt good and I wasn’t “hurting” like how I normally hurt when pushing to my max. This is why I was able to surge from time to time, but after surging, my legs would give out and I couldn’t maintain it. I was motivated by the idea of still winning an age group award, and not wanting any women to pass me. I was also motivated by the idea of Alyssa starting to worry about what happened to me after the race. I didn’t want her to worry. And I didn’t want Greg to worry, since he was tracking me from home. These little things helped me stay strong during these tough miles. Splits were 7:18 and 7:21.

The Finish
My “sprint” to the finish was a 6:56 pace. Yikes! I couldn’t run any faster than that for 0.25 miles. As I said, it was like running through molasses. Or, pancake syrup! At this race, you can see the finish line from half a mile away. And as I saw runners finish ahead of me, the announcer would say their name, and where they were from, and that made me super excited to cross. As I got closer, the announcer started promoting the events that were happening later in the morning. So my name wasn’t announced as I crossed. Kind of a bummer.

Alyssa was waiting for me. She ran within about 20-30 seconds of her PR! The day after a 14-miler. I was super impressed with her performance.

After the Race
Alyssa and I went to the results tent and looked up our official times. She was the 8th overall female and won 2nd place in her age group. I was the 14th overall female, and won 3rd place in my age group. As I said, there are benefits to being 40 years old. My official time was 44:29. My slowest 10K in over four years. Ah well, this race is in no way an indication of my current fitness.

Alyssa and I with the big pancake!
There was no awards ceremony so we went to collect our awards from the awards tent. Alyssa got her silver medal, but I wasn’t able to get mine because they were still waiting to receive the results of the later finishers. And the salt-in-the-wound was that we kept going back there to get my award, and they still hadn’t received my result. I wasn’t THAT slow!

Alyssa and I cooled down by running one lap around the mall (1.1 miles) and then it was finally time to enjoy the pancakes. And they had crepes too. These were delicious and just what I wanted to warm me up after running in the rain. Finally my results were delivered to the awards tent and I was able to get my bronze pancake medal.

Alyssa then offered to drive me back to my hotel, which was super helpful. It also allowed us to spend more time together and talk about our races.

Final Thoughts
In the grand scheme of things, this is just one race that didn’t go my way, so I am not going to analyze it too much. (I know—SO UNLIKE ME!) Here are just a few things I learned and a few reasons why I think this race didn’t go well:

Always check the elevation. If there is no elevation chart, find someone on Strava who ran last year’s race to see the net elevation gain/decline. Yes, this race was flat, but knowing that it was a little uphill in the beginning would have prevented me from running harder than I needed to.

Don’t take a long flight the day before the race. I think a 2-3 hour flight is probably ok, but any longer and I should probably fly out earlier. I had been considering California International Marathon (CIM) in December, so I will have to think long and hard about that.

Focus on having fun. This truly was an “experience” race, and I enjoyed the new scenery and course. It was also cool to meet up with Alyssa after having gotten to know her a little on Instagram.

I regret tapering. I ran 4.3 miles on Friday and 3.9 miles yesterday. That’s a big cutback for me. Clearly, my legs weren’t fresh, and I think I could have run this time even if I had run 10 miles yesterday! My total mileage for the week was only 51, and that's low for me. And my weekly mileage had been on the lower side in January due to vacation and illness. Anyway, I sacrificed even more mileage for Shamrock marathon training and it didn’t even help my race. But of course, hindsight is 20/20.

I do not think the weather was a factor here. This was a flat course in pretty good conditions: 58 degrees, light rain, and light winds at 8-10 mph.

I had fun and this was a good workout and a new experience. Now it’s time to focus on getting marathon ready!

Sunday, January 6, 2019

New Year's Day 5K: A fun start

I ran the New Year's Day 5K in Reston, Virginia earlier this week. I've run a New Year's race every year since 2009, either on New Year's Eve or New Year's Day.

Cheryl, Allison and me in our "rabbit" gear
I prefer New Year's Eve races because then you can have an indulgent meal and a drink or two on New Year's Eve. But my favorite race was discontinued, so New Year's Day it was. There weren't a ton of options to choose from, and I really didn't like the race I ran last year. So I decided to run this one because my friends were running it, and Potomac River Running races are always well organized with good awards. 

The reason I wasn't psyched about this course was because of its awkwardness, which I will describe shortly. It was also only three weeks after my marathon, so I knew I probably wouldn't be very peppy. To add to all of this, I had been battling and on-and-off sore throat for the previous two days.

Before the Race
A few days before the race I thought it would be cool to try and run 20:19. But when I woke up that morning, I revised my goal to 21:19. I had a dream that I ran 21:xx, and that felt about right based on my energy level. Greg woke up with a sore throat and didn't feel well, so he opted not to go to the race. What a bummer because we had matching outfits! And, of course, it would have been nice to spend that time with him too.

Given that I didn't feel 100% either, I questioned if I should even run the race. But, keeping in mind that my primary goal was to have fun and see my friends, I went anyway.  Potentially this was a stupid idea, since I knew my body was fighting off some kind of bug. Racing a 5K would only hurt my immune system, and not help it. But, like many runners, I was stubborn. Even though this wasn't a goal race and I honestly did not care about my time, I still wanted to do it.

I met up with my friends Allison and Cheryl and we ran a 2-mile warm up. It was unseasonably warm-- 60 degrees! Last year it was only 14 degrees for my New Year's day race. What a huge difference. During the warm up, we ran along the course. I had never run this course in a race before, but since most of it was on the W&OD trail, I was very familiar with it.

The Race
I had decided a few days prior that I would not look at my watch during the race and I would run by feel. Since I didn't care about my time, it felt like a low-risk thing to do. As such, I will not be providing a mile-by-mile recap, since that is not how I experienced the race. I experienced it as one big long chunk of hard running.

We started and I went out at what felt like 5K effort. Since I wouldn't be focused on my pace or my watch, I decided I would focus more on the people around me and just "be present". After running on the road for what felt like about half a mile, we made a hairpin turn onto a narrow downhill path. There was no passing on this path because it was so narrow, and there were also tree roots making the pavement uneven, so I had to be careful with my footing. At the bottom of the path, we made another hairpin turn onto the W&OD trail. 

I didn't mind the trail so much but it was rather hilly. It was a paved trail with no tree roots like the path, so it was easier to simply cruise. I thought I heard my Garmin beep at one point for a mile, but then I thought I heard it again like 3 minutes later, and I was confused. I hadn't seen the first mile marker, so I had no idea how far or how long I had been running. It was really disorienting!

Finally we came to the turnaround (another hairpin) so I knew I was about halfway done. But it felt like I was more than halfway done. My instincts turned out to be correct because this course was not a perfect out-and-back; there was more road running at the beginning than the end. So the turn around was probably like 1.75 miles. But I didn't realize that at the time. 

Things got really, really hard after the turnaround. We were now running in to a headwind and it was
mostly uphill. And then, of course, another hairpin turn, up the path with the uneven pavement, another hairpin, and then towards the finish. My goal during this time was to keep the effort hard and not to let any women pass me. Both goals were achieved, and I even passed one woman.

Once I was back on regular road, I got more peppy and accelerated toward the finish. I tried to catch a glimpse of the clock as I approached, but my view was obstructed. All I saw was the 21, which was not a surprise.

After the Race
It turns out I ran 21:35, which was good for first place in my age group and 9th overall female. I was pleased with this, given that the race had a relatively competitive field. I looked at my watch to see my splits. They were 6:54, 6:54, 7:16, and a 5:37 final kick. I was pleased with the consistency of these splits, and wasn't surprised that the last mile was the slowest, given the uphill/headwind. I do have to laugh that I had a few marathon miles faster than 7:16! And my average race pace is pretty close to my half marathon pace. Just goes to show that there are so many factors that impact a race time. 

Basically, my coach and I chalked it up to hard running on a difficult course and fun with friends! I wonder how my experience would have been different if I had looked at my watch. I think I would have been discouraged and spent a good portion of the race feeling like I wasn't running a strong race. So it's good that I just didn't look and ran the race without knowing how I fast I was going.

Ashely, me, Hannah, and Michelle (1st overall)
I cheered for Cheryl and Allison as they finished and then we did a cool down jog. Afterwards, we went to the awards ceremony and then we had brunch along with several other friends. We toasted with mimosas and celebrated the new year.

The day after the race, my easy run felt "off" and my sore throat came and went. But by Thursday, I ran a hill workout and felt really strong and energized. I was confident that I had finally beaten the bug. But by Friday at around noon, the illness came back in full force. On Saturday (yesterday) I had to skip my run entirely because I was so weak and tired feeling. Today I also skipped my run, but I think I feel a little better than yesterday. 

So, as I said initially, maybe this race wasn't the smartest thing in the world. But I could have ended up just as sick even without it. I'm optimistic that I will be fully recovered soon and that I can resume training for Shamrock.

Friday, December 28, 2018

2018 Lows & Lessons

This year was a mixed bag in terms of running. It started out well with a half marathon PR in Houston and my strongest-ever training cycle leading up to Boston. Boston went as well as could be expected given the high winds and heavy downpours, and I was happy with my performance. Then, I was sick for a good portion of the summer and unable to run. I was very cautious about returning to
running, and ultimately was able to resume normal training by mid-August.

My first few races back were flops (a ten-miler and a half marathon), and then I bonked my first long run in over four years! This put me in a little bit of a mental rut. I turned 40 in November, which meant entering the Master's division for most races. Then, things quickly turned around for me when I broke 20 minutes in the 5K, and then set a 6-minute marathon PR in 3:15. So the year started and finished on high notes, with some struggles in the middle.

That's the Cliff's Notes version. In my Instagram story, I posted the best 5 and the worst 5 running moments of the year, and I received quite a few messages from people telling me how much they appreciated me talking about the worst moments.

Often on social media, we tend to sugarcoat things and only post about positive experiences. So I decided to focus my year-end blog post on three "lows" and what I learned from them, and how they made the "highs" so much more rewarding.

March 4th: The Rock 'n' Roll New Orleans Half Marathon
Original race report is here.
In this race, I was hoping to set a new half marathon PR. I knew I was in better shape than I had been six weeks prior when I set my Houston PR, and I thought I would be able to shave about a minute off of that time. After the first three miles, though, I realized that the heat and lack of cloud cover was going to foil my plans, so I purposely slowed down. After another couple of miles, the slow down was no longer by choice-- I was bonking. Despite that, I was able to hold a respectable pace in the 7:30's.

This race confirmed, for the ump-teeth time, that my body doesn't tolerate heat. It was only 60 degrees, which most runners found to be pleasant, but without any acclimation or cloud cover, I was baking. When I ran the Rehoboth Beach marathon in December, I ran both the first half AND the second half in almost the exact same time as this New Orleans race. So even though I was bummed in March, it made my marathon achievement in December all the more sweeter-- knowing that I ran that I ran two of those 1:37:40's!

April 8th: The Crystal City 5K Friday
Original race report is here.
I was just finishing off the strongest training cycle ever, having run 320 miles in the month of March, 7 days a week, averaging 72 miles a week. This included VO2 max work each week, so I felt like had
both endurance and speed. The weather for this race was not ideal (a little windy and warm) but since it was a short distance and I was in such great shape, I thought I could PR. That didn't happen. I bonked, feeling like crap during the final mile, and ran a disappointing 20:47, which was 30 seconds slower than my PR at the time.

I was down on myself but my friend Allison (who is always able to offer me a new perspective) suggested that running a Friday night race after a long, stressful day at work wasn't the ideal circumstance to PR. Some of my Instagram followers pointed out that it's unlikely to PR a 5K during marathon training, but I disagreed with that. I still maintained it was possible to PR a 5K during high-mileage training if you had been working on speed.

About six months later, I not only PR'ed the 5K, but broke 20 for the first time during marathon training. In fact, When I ran the Crystal City race, I was about 16 days out from Boston. When I ran the Turkey Trot in November, I was 16 days out from Rehoboth. I was at the exact same point in my training for both races. I learned that Allison's theory of a weekday night race not being ideal was spot-on, and that it was possible to PR a 5K in the midst of high-mileage training.

November 16th: A long run failure
Original blog post is here.
This run hurt. It was meant to be 22 miles, starting at a pace of around 8:00 and progressing to 7:35 by the end. The snow we had gotten the day before screwed up my original route plan, and resulted in a much later start than anticipated, throwing off my fueling plan. To top it off, it was a very windy day.

I could tell by mile 11 that I wouldn't be able to keep up my pace for the remainder of the run. I felt
like I was exerting way too much effort for the paces I was running. I slowed down a lot in the 16th mile, and ran a very tortured 17th mile, culminating in me stopping completely. I walked a mile, and then did a very slow jog for another mile to get home. My legs were wrecked, and the next day I ran my slowest recovery run in years because my legs were in such a bad state.

The previous weekend, I had missed my goal at the Richmond half marathon. And four weeks prior, I had been way off of my goal at the Lower Potomac 10-miler. So, mentally I was feeling a little defeated. I did trust that I was putting in the work and that I still had a shot at a great marathon, but I didn't have any training runs to support that belief. Furthermore, the fact that this training cycle got a late start meant that I didn't have a lot of long runs under my belt. In fact, only an 18 miler and a 20 miler up until that point. And the race was three weeks away!

I learned a lot from this experience. First, bonking a long run doesn't equate to having a bad marathon. Although it certainly made me respect the distance and the effort level. Second, you don't need a lot of long runs if you are consistently running high mileage. I only had 3 runs over 15 miles leading up to Rehoboth Beach: 18, 20, 22.

I also learned that the treadmill is not my friend. The day before that long run, I had done my easy run on a treadmill. And even though I kept it to a pace of around 8:50, my legs started feeling sore and achy about halfway through it. I had run a very hard workout the day before, so instead of giving my legs the chance to recover, I beat them up even further on the treadmill, and then proceeded to tackle 22 miles the following day.

Other low moments and final stats
Getting sick over the summer with my mono-like virus was obviously a huge low. Thankfully (or not) I had come down with this summer illness multiple times in the past and I knew the quickest way to recover was to simply do nothing for a few weeks. No running, no walking, no going to work, no leaving the house. With this approach, I was able to go back to work after 4 weeks and I was able to resume normal running after 6 weeks. This is short compared to the 3 months I spent sick in 2012 and 2016.

My total yearly mileage as of today is 2,350. This is my second highest-mileage year ever, and it includes six weeks off due to illness. Last year I ran just over 2,500 miles.

Here are my weekly and monthly graphs for the year:

Weekly Mileage

Monthly Mileage 2018
Happy new year and thank you to my blog readers!

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Up Next. . .

Before I start talking about my future race plans, I'll briefly recap my recovery and my final reflections on the Rehoboth Beach Marathon.

The Perfect Weekend
If someone were to ask me to describe the "perfect" weekend, I would say it would have to include the following:
  • Greg
  • Friends
  • Take place somewhere beautiful, like a beach
  • Plenty of good restaurants/food options
  • Nice accommodations with a comfortable bed
  • Good weather 
  • A marathon in which I PR, and feel good enough to celebrate afterwards
  • Blogging to capture it all
So when I think about two weekends ago, it was about as close to perfect as it gets. It was like a mini-vacation with Greg and friends that also involved a marathon in which I crushed my goals. The food
PR Cake
was amazing. The beach view was gorgeous. The three of us friends hadn't gotten together as a group in over ten years! I think it's important to take time to recognize all of this and be grateful for my health, my husband and my friends. And the fact that sometimes I luck out with the weather.

My shoulders, which hurt more than my legs after the race, felt more normal about 48 hours after the race. However, I think I strained them pretty badly, as it's harder than it should be to lift heavy things in certain ways. 

When walking around, all of the lingering soreness had disappeared three days after the marathon. But I stuck to my coach's plan and took 8 full days off. My first run back was on Monday of this week, and it was 30 minutes easy. It felt stiff and awkward and I had minor aches here and there, but nothing significant. I ran 30 minutes again on Tuesday and it felt much better.

I ran every day this week, with my longest run being 60 minutes at a pace of 8:30. That run felt pretty good, but I could feel my legs beginning to tire during the last five minutes. Somehow my coach magically knows exactly the right amount time for me to run!

I've slept really well for the past two weeks, and I've found that when I am not in marathon training mode, I have a ton of energy to do stuff around the house. So I cleaned out a bunch of closets, organized areas of the house that haven't been organized in over 8 years, and became super productive. Since it's the holiday season, there has been no shortage of sweets and alcohol, so I've been indulging pretty heavily! It's been a fun two weeks just basking in the joy of my race and having the time and energy to do stuff I've been "meaning to" do for a long time.

Spring Race Plans
Holiday party: stayed up until 1:00am!
Last October, I signed up for the Sugarloaf marathon as my goal race. My initial thinking was to find the coolest possible marathon in mid-may so that I would be done with racing at that point for the season and then take June, July, and August as very easy months. Greg also signed up for it, and so did our friend Chad. It's supposedly a beautiful race in the mountains of Maine and the three of us are staying at a cute mountain condo.

But then, I had second thoughts as to if I really wanted that to be my goal race. Even though I was committed to doing it, I could drop down to the 15K option, or run the marathon as a "fun run." Initially when I had done my research, I learned that the average low for the day was 42 degrees. Pretty good! But then, last week, I did more research and realized that the sun rises at 5:00am, and the race starts at 7:00am, and is not shaded. So the average temperature at start time is actually around 50 degrees. And it just gets warmer from there.

Now, if it's overcast or rainy, that would be perfectly fine, and of course you can never truly predict the weather. But I realized that if it was sunny, or even partly sunny, I would probably be screwed with that 7:00am start. In Rehoboth beach, it was in the mid 30's and partly sunny, and I would not have wanted it to be much warmer. As I've gotten older, I have become more and more sensitive to the heat so my coach and I agreed that I should try and pick a goal race earlier in the season with a good chance for cool temperatures.

There were quite a few constraints. I didn't want to do a race that required a flight, since I'm already flying to Sugarloaf. We have a trip to NYC planned in mid-April, so that weekend was out. Greg is registered for the One City marathon in Newport News the first weekend in March, and I have a half marathon bib for that, so that was a factor too. Ultimately, I narrowed it down to these two options:

Option 1: B&A Trail Marathon the last weekend in March
With this option, I would be able to run the One City Half marathon as an all-out tune-up race, since it would be 4 weeks prior. I would have 16 weeks in between marathons, which would be plenty of time. The B&A Trail marathon is less than 2 hours away from my home, and I've run it twice before. I would not be able to run the Cherry Blossom Ten-Miler, though, as it takes place on the following weekend.

Option 2: Shamrock Marathon on March 17th
With this option, I would run the One City half marathon as part of a longer run (20-22 miles) and have 14 weeks between marathons. I would be able to run the Cherry Blossom 10-Miler three weeks later, although I wouldn't be in peak condition.

I went back and forth between these options. I think that I have a better shot at a faster time at B&A because I'd have two more weeks to train, and there is less chance of that race being windy. It's also easier to get to than Shamrock, which is about a 3.5 hour drive. I would also have the opportunity to run a tune-up half marathon, and I wouldn't have that with Shamrock because there aren't any half marathon options in mid-February within driving distance.

So, I was leaning toward B&A because that seemed like the smarter option. BUT, I just couldn't get excited about it. And I felt kinda bummed that B&A meant no Cherry Blossom, when I already had my special seeded bib. And then I pictured myself registering for Boston and selecting my BQ race, and it would be "the B&A marathon" (provided that I PRed) just like it was for the 2016 race. And something about that just felt kinda "blah." Been there, done that.  I have already run a great race on that course.

I have unfinished business with the Shamrock Marathon, given my two DNFs in 2010 and 2012. And it would be exciting for me to run really well in that race. Ironically, I DNF'ed in 2010 due to the heat, and I'm now seeing it as an attractive option because of its low probability of being too warm. But, considering that the average race temperature is typically in the low 40's, I'm not going to worry about that. Any race can be unseasonably warm and the best I can do is look at the probability of that
Shamrock Marathon 2008 in 3:51
happening. The race will likely be windy, but I will take wind over heat any day.

So, Shamrock it is, because it's the more exciting option! If I was really dead-set on getting a PR I think I would have gone with B&A, but since I just got a big PR, now I want the satisfying feeling of running strong at Shamrock. For the record, though, I did run a great marathon at Shamrock in 2008-- it was a PR by 5 minutes! And that was the race that made me believe I could qualify for Boston if I trained hard enough. So, it's not all bad memories and mojo at that race. Plus, I set a huge half marathon PR there in 2016, so more recently the race has good mojo! And . . . if that weren't enough, the race falls on March 17th this year so I should have the luck of the Irish on my side.

Between now and then I have a 5K on New Year's Day (which I am using mainly as a way to get back into the feeling of pushing hard) and then a 10K in February. As I said earlier, I will run the One City half marathon as part of a longer training run. Regarding Sugarloaf in May, I will definitely be participating in that event in one way, shape or form.

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Rehoboth Beach Marathon Race Report

I did it. I ran the Rehoboth Beach Marathon and I attained my goal! My first two races in my 40s have both been huge PRs, and they were both within a 3-week time period.

Before the Race
My longtime friends Jenna and Jenny both ran this race. Jenna in the full, Jenny in the half. The three of us used to race together all the time over ten years ago. I ran my first four marathons with Jenny, including the Miami Marathon back in 2007. In fact, it was Jenny who inspired me to run my very first marathon. So the fact that I would be sharing this experience with two long-time friends (who do not live locally) was special to me.

Greg and I drove to Rehoboth Beach on Friday morning. The drive took just over three hours. I made sure to hydrate well, which meant drinking a 24 oz bottle of water mixed with Generation UCAN Hydrate powder. And then another 24 oz bottle of water without anything in it, but plenty of salt in my meals. I know that I typically cannot take any water in the later miles of the race, so pre-hydration was key. I had drunk the same amount of water with UCAN hydrate on Thursday, too.

We arrived in Rehoboth Beach at around 1:00, ate lunch, got my bib and relaxed in our hotel with HGTV. We don't subscribe to cable at home, so HGTV is always a treat for us when traveling for races. We then met up with Jenna for dinner. Jenny arrived too late for us all to have dinner together. I had an appetizer of beats, garlic knots, and chicken parmesan (with spaghetti) without the cheese. I had never had chicken parm the night before a race because of the cheese, but I realized that if I removed it, I would have my ideal pre-race dinner: pasta with red sauce + chicken. Jenna and I chatted about our goals and our training. It was good to catch up with her, as we hadn't seen each other since Boston.

After dinner, Greg and I went back to the hotel and I realized I was really tired, and wanted to get into bed right away. It was only 7:30, but I was tired and I had been tired all day long. I fell asleep almost immediately. We stayed at the Boardwalk Plaza hotel and the beds were extremely comfortable. I'm very picky about my hotel beds, and this was one of the most comfortable mattresses ever.

Typically, I don't sleep well the night before a marathon. I wake up frequently and don't sleep deeply. But on Friday night, I slept shockingly well. I only woke up one time, and it was only for 20 minutes. I slept for 8 solid hours, with 1 hour and 30 minutes of deep sleep, according to my FitBit. This is pretty much unheard of! When I woke up, I was still tired. I wanted to stay in bed and I didn't want to get up and eat and get ready. This is so unlike me. Normally I am raring to go, and I can't wait to start the race morning ritual.

I didn't feel excited-- I felt sleepy and sluggish. I just wanted to relax in bed! The thought even crossed my mind that I could be getting sick. Instead of worrying, I just told myself I would perk up once I got into my race outfit. I wore CW-X capri tights, a singlet, arm warmers, convertible mittens with hand warmers inside them, and sunglasses. I made my UCAN gel, stored it on my hip pouch, and put my Honey Stinger chews into the front pocket of my pants. With about hour to go before race start, I finally started to feel a bit more energized.

Our hotel was less than half a mile from the start line. At 6:30, I went out on the boardwalk and did a quick jog to the start area and back. This gave my Garmin time to locate satellites (it can take up to 15 minutes in a new location) and it allowed me to get a sense for the weather. I wore a throwaway jacket over my outfit and was quite comfortable during the warm up.

Sunrise before the race
It was 32 degrees with no wind. No wind! At the beach! Very abnormal, and perhaps a nice payback for the wind I endured at Boston last spring. I knew when I signed up for this race it would likely be windy, and there was a chance it could be very windy. But instead, it was abnormally still. Who's ever heard of only 3 mph winds at a beach? My body seems to run about 10 degrees warmer than the average person's, so 32 degrees was absolutely perfect for me.

I went back to the hotel lobby, where I finished drinking my Generation UCAN and went to the bathroom for a final time. Then, at 6:45, I set out for the start line with Greg. This race is relatively small, so there were no corrals, just a start line with pacers holding up signs. I lined up about 7-8 rows back, near the 3:15 pacer. I noticed that other runners were shedding their top layers, and many were in singlets and arm warmers. That inspired me to shed my jacket as well, which I thought I would wear for the first 4-5 miles.

Miles 1-6
The race started exactly on time at 7:00 and we were off! My plan was to stay in the low 7:30's for the first 6 miles, but I could run the first mile as a warm up, as slowly as I wanted. My goal in the first mile was to establish a rhythm, relax, and settle in.

Greg had positioned himself at around mile 2.5 and I knew to expect him there, taking photos. Of course everything was feeling great at that point, and I loved having him there to support me. After
Mile 3
about three miles, the half marathon runners turned around and the full marathon runners continued onto a gravel path. I knew that a good portion of this race would be on packed gravel, and I didn't love that idea, but I wanted to run a December marathon, so this was it.

The first mile on the gravel was discouraging. I had to watch my footing because it was uneven in places, there were lots of twists and turns, so I had to pay close attention to the tangents. It felt like I had to put out more effort to run the pace I had been running on pavement, and it didn't feel "smooth". I made these observations without judgement and accepted them. I wasn't sure how long we'd be on the trail until we hit road again. I stuck with my pacing strategy, and didn't run below 7:30 during the first six miles:

Mile 1: 7:43
Mile 2: 7:33
Mile 3: 7:32
Mile 4: 7:33
Mile 5: 7:39
Mile 6: 7:32

Miles 7-11
We came upon a bridge in the middle of the park. At first I thought it would be better than the gravel, but then I realized it bounced and was a little slippery. Thankfully it wasn't raining. The bridge only lasted about a quarter of a mile and it offered a nice view of the park and the ponds within in.

I noticed that there were no women anywhere around me. I was running with a few guys who seemed strong and I hoped I could stick with. Due to the size of the race, I suspected there could be times when I couldn't see runners in front of me. And I don't like that because I worry that I have gone off course. Since there were so many twists and turns in the park, it was even more likely that this could happen.

It was a little bit hilly during these miles, but I focused on keeping the effort consistent and not worrying about the pace. Even though I was now "allowed" to run under a 7:30 pace, I wasn't going to force it. I wanted the progression to feel natural, like how it does when I do my long runs. Now that I see my splits, I realize that the downhill mile got my legs turning over quickly and was the catalyst to faster splits.

We exited the park and returned to road running during the 10th mile. It was a relief and I was thankful to be off the bumpy gravel. The 10-mile timing mat was oddly situated in an area where we had to make several turns, on pavement, with sand all over the road. The sand was slippery, so I had to slow down a bit out of caution. The combination of sand and sharp turns was particularly annoying, but thankfully it was over quickly.

Then we passed a Dairy Queen, and there were little cups of soft-serve available for runners to take! I didn't have any, but perked up at the idea of having ice cream after the race.

Mile 7: 7:31
Mile 8: 7:09 (downhill)
Mile 9: 7:21
Mile 10: 7:21
Mile 11: 7:19

Miles 12-16
Throughout this race, I had been carrying a 24 oz disposable water bottle with a Koozie around it. I had initially filled it with piping hot water so it would be comfortable to hold, and hoped that adding the Koozie would shield my hands from the coldness of the water as the water cooled down. Every 15 minutes I drank from the bottle, getting 2-3 large swigs. By mile 10, it was getting really difficult to hold onto because it was so cold, but I figured out a way to hold it that (between thumb and forefinger, and squeezed) that allowed me to keep it until mile 12, when I would take my UCAN gel.

My plan was to take the UCAN gel one hour and 25 minutes into the race, and no sooner. I was tempted to take it sooner so I could drink the water with it, and then ditch the cold bottle. But I remembered that I did that in Boston and wished I had waited a little longer. The gel (which is the UCAN performance energy mixed with water, put into a disposable baby food pouch) went down well. I took it over the course of a half mile, and finally ditched the baby food pouch and the water bottle.

This meant that I didn't have to "do" anything else in the race other than run. What a relief. I didn't have to carry the water bottle, and I knew the only extra fuel I would need would be the chews at mile 20. And I don't need to drink water with those.

Somewhere in mile 11, runners from the other side of the course yelled out "Go Elizabeth!" They were Instagram followers, I assumed, and that perked me up. On Instagram, I had posted that I would love to run "Pi" - 3:14:15-- as my "Pi in the sky goal" and have PR pie. So there were a few points during the race when I heard "Go get that pie!"

I crossed the halfway point in 1:37:42. My plan was to hit it at exactly 1:38:00 (3:16:00 pace) and then negative split. But even if I ran a positive split, I would still be setup for a PR and fast time. So I was 18 seconds faster than planned. That was a little scary, but I had confidence in myself. I was now on track for 1:15:30.

Queen of the Gravel!
During the 13th mile, we had entered the park again, and ran the same gravel path as before. I realized that I had passed about 10 runners during the last mile or so (all men), and now there was nobody in front of me. I was happy to have passed all those people, but it was a little scary to not see any runners up ahead. Finally, I caught up to a guy running about my pace and we stuck together throughout the rest of the gravel portion. It was really helpful to be running with him, because there was no one else around. No one else in sight. We didn't talk to each other and I wish I had found him after the race.

That morning, my friend Allison had sent me a text telling me to "dominate that gravel." I wasn't a fan of the gravel, so I told myself I was Queen of the Gravel. Over and over again, I kept telling myself I was dominating the gravel and I was Queen, and that fun thought kept my spirits high until we finally exited the park at mile marker 17.

Mile 12: 7:26
Mile 13: 7:18
Mile 14: 7:21
Mile 15: 7:16
Mile 16: 7:21

Miles 17-21
Since I had ditched my water bottle, I figured I should take some water from the water station that came up as we were exiting the park. I drank a few sips and my stomach instantly revolted. This is why I use UCAN- my stomach doesn't want to take in anything at all after about 13 miles. Not even
Mile 18
water. I decided that I wouldn't attempt any more water throughout the race, and that I had pre-hydrated well enough to be fine through the end.

It felt amazing to be back on the roads again. I started looking for Greg, and it wasn't long before I spotted him with his camera. I was feeling really good and I wanted him to know it so I waved at him and gave him a big smile. I passed quite a few runners during this section of the race, all men, and I had yet to see a woman anywhere in my vicinity.

Up until mile 18, the pace had felt comfortably hard, and now it was beginning to become a little uncomfortable. I reminded myself that I could still maintain my pace even though it wasn't going to be easy. It was time for the mental toughness to come into play.

I had some Honey Stinger chews stashed in the front pocket of my tights. They were unwrapped, which made them easy to access given my numb hands. In Boston, I wasn't able to get to my chews so I ran out of gas during the last three miles. I reminded myself of that, which motivated me to expend the extra energy to get the chews out of my pocket and put them in my mouth. It doesn't sound like that difficult of a task, but at mile 20, you don't want to have to do anything other than run.

I sucked on them for awhile and finally chewed them slowly, and then digested them. My stomach was okay with this very slow consumption process, and I didn't need to take any water to help them go down (like a traditional gel).

I enjoyed the last bit of road before beginning on yet another gravel path. As I approached this other park, I saw my friend Jenny and her husband coming out of the park. They were running the half marathon. That was a huge pick-me-up. I knew I would be running about 2 miles out on the trail, turning around, and coming back. This allowed me to see the leading marathon runners, which was really motivating. Someone told me I was the second female, but I counted at least three ahead of me.

Mile 17: 7:17
Mile 18: 7:22
Mile 19: 7:18
Mile 20: 7:27 (on gravel)
Mile 21: 7:28 (on gravel)

Miles 22-finish
This gravel trail was more even than the previous one, thankfully. I didn't have to watch my footing as carefully, and there were no twists and turns. It was pretty much just straight out and back. My pace slowed slightly once I got on the trail, but it's hard to say if it was because of the gravel, or because it was so late in the race.

Mentally, it was difficult to be running out on the trail and away from the finish line. Watching the leading marathoners and the slower half marathoners on the other side of the trail was a good distraction. But if I focused on that for too long, I noticed I would slack on the effort, so I had to stay focused on maintaining my pace. It seemed like the turnaround point would never come. The trail just went on and on and on.

Mile 26
Finally, the turnaround came, along with a timing mat, so I knew that Greg and others tracking me would have another split. There hadn't been any timing mats since the halfway point. I noticed that the 3:15 pace group was still about a minute ahead of me. I thought I could possibly catch them, but that wasn't my goal. I wanted to run my own race.

It was now time to start counting down the minutes until I finished. Just 30 minutes left! That's not too long at all! Just stay strong and keep pushing for 30 minutes! When I reached the 24th mile marker, I started doing the math on when I would finish. I figured 15 minutes = 2 miles, and of course I had to factor in the 0.2.

I thought to myself that if I just "hung in there" instead of pushing hard, I could end up with a 3:17, which wasn't nearly as appealing as 3:16. Based on my math, I wasn't sure if 3:15 was in the cards, but then again, my math skills aren't so great when I am exerting 100% effort. So that motivated me to keep pushing and to not slack off. I knew that no matter what, I had a strong PR in the bag, and I could have just glided my way to the finish feeling comfortable. But instead I decided to continue making myself feel uncomfortable by pushing really hard. This resulted in me passing a good number of runners during that final stretch.

With about a mile and a half to go, we exited the park, and I was able to speed up. It was easier to run on road than gravel, and I was so close to being done! I started looking around for Greg, and I saw him about half a mile from the finish line. I waved to him, but was far more focused on pushing hard than smiling for the camera. Shortly after passing Greg, I came to an intersection filled with cones and barrels, and it was unclear which way to go. I was only 0.3 away from it, and I couldn't see it.
Heading for the finish
And there were no runners ahead of me to follow. I yelled out "Which way?!" and someone pointed me in the right direction.

Where was the finish line? I was still a little nervous that I was running off course, which distracted me from giving a final kick. But finally I was confident that I was on course, made a turn, and boom- the finish line was right there. I wish I had known how close it was, or had been able to see it further in advance. I think I could have had a faster kick at the end, but instead I actually ran a little slower than my pace for mile 26.  This is my only negative feedback about the race. The last half mile is confusing directionally, and I would have liked to have seen the finish line at least a quarter mile out.

Mile 22: 7:23
Mile 23: 7:37
Mile 24: 7:28
Mile 25: 7:39
Mile 26: 7:17
Last 0.2: 7:30 pace (wish that was faster!)

After the Race
As I crossed, I looked at the clock and realized I would be comfortably in the 3:15's. According to my calculations, I was thinking it would be on the borderline of 3:15 and 3:16, but I guess that last 7:17 mile solidified a mid 3:15's time for me. 3:15:34 official! This is a PR by 6 minutes and 20 seconds. It's a Boston Qualifying time by 24 minutes and 26 seconds. This means I'll be in the very first group to register for the 2020 race.

It's so crazy to think about the seven years it took me to go from 3:51 to 3:40 and get that first BQ. 3:40 seemed so hard for so long. But once I broke through, I was able to make significant gains.

Shortly after crossing, I was met by Jenny and her husband. And then Greg came and found us. It was such a wonderful reunion. I was elated that I had run such a strong, well-executed race. It was a lot to
Jenna, Jenny, and me
process and all I could think about was getting into warm clothes. After I got my jacket from Greg, we waited for Jenna to cross. She ran 3:37, which was a BQ for her. Meanwhile, Jenny's husband went to get a car to drive us all back to the hotel. It was only half a mile away, but none of us felt like walking it.

I noticed that my shoulders hurt a lot. In fact, my shoulders hurt more than my legs and I had no idea why. It couldn't have been the water bottle, since I was used to carrying that. Was I maybe relying on my arms to keep my balance on the gravel paths? That was the only thing I could think of. Both shoulders were in pain, and I couldn't raise my arms without them hurting.

We looked at the results, and saw that I won my age group! And I was the 6th female finisher.  They had a separate "Masters Winner" who ran 3:06, and therefore was pulled out of the age group awards. So, even though another 40-year-old beat me, she won the Master's award, and I won the age group award.

There was no awards ceremony, but Greg was kind enough to pick up my award for me while I relaxed in the hotel room in an epsom salt bath. Later that day, I felt well enough to walk around the boardwalk area, where we had a delicious lunch and some homemade ice cream. I think ice cream and french fries are my favorite post-race meal. My legs felt pretty good and I was able to walk at a normal pace. My shoulders, however, would hurt whenever I tried to move my arms in certain ways. So weird.

Final Thoughts and Analysis
I'm so, so, so very happy with my new PR!
  • My time of 3:15:34  is a PR by 6:20, and a BQ by 24:26
  • I ran the first half in 1:37:42 and the second half in 1:37:52. This is just 10 seconds slower in the second half, so almost perfectly even.
  • In March, I ran the Rock 'n' Roll New Orleans half marathon in 1:37:41. Just goes to show that heat (60 degrees) is not my friend, and my body loves cold weather
In reflecting about how I was able to shave off so much time, I think it was because I have been building this fitness over the course of nearly two years. I ran 3:21:54 at the Myrtle Beach Marathon
Age Group Award
in March 2017. Then, in the fall of 2017, I had a pretty good training cycle for Indianapolis Monumental. I believed myself to have gotten to "the next level" and in shape for 3:18. But instead, my body just didn't show up and I bonked.

Then, I once again got to the next level with my Boston training cycle, running 75+ miles per week. I ran 3:26, which wasn't a PR on paper, but given those insane conditions, it was a PR performance. I would say the equivalent of 3:16. 

Because I had established a new baseline level of fitness with my Boston cycle, I only needed six weeks of true "marathon training" to get back into marathon shape this time. This allowed me to peak at just the right time. So, even though a marathon PR of 6 minutes seems huge, it's not that big of a leap when you look at the times I was physically in shape for in Indianapolis and Boston. If I didn't have such an amazing Boston training cycle, I don't think Rehoboth would have been as fast. Consistent training over a long period of time is what leads to fitness gains in the marathon.

Today, the day after the marathon, my shoulders are still in a world of hurt. My legs feel pretty good. In fact, they feel better than they did they day after I bonked my long run three weeks ago! How I managed to hurt my shoulders is a true mystery, but both of them hurt substantially when I move my arms. It's quite painful, and I have no idea how it happened. But my legs are totally fine!

I am beyond thrilled that everything came together for me. Less than three weeks ago I broke 20 in 5K for the first time. And yesterday, I broke 3:20 in the marathon. After nearly a year of PR draught and disappointing race times, it finally all came together for me at the end of the year, once I turned 40. Patience and trusting the process is very important in this sport. You can't get discouraged with races that don't go well-- just keep on doing the work.