Saturday, December 20, 2008

The Curse of the 10K

I don't know what it is about the 10K. I have never run one that I was satisfied with. Except for maybe my first 10K, and I was happy just to be in the top 25% of the women.

Today I ran the Christmas Caper 10K as a tune-up race for the Marathon. It will be followed by a 17-miler tomorrow to prepare my legs to run when fatigued. This race was tiny. The official results aren't posted yet, but I would guess that maybe only 150 people ran the 10K, and probably 200 people ran the accompanying 5K. It was a true 'no-frills' race with no t-shirt, and it only cost $5.00. So, even though the field was small, there were a lot of really good runners out there.

The race was not chip timed, and there were no mile markers. It was 40 degrees and overcast, but it felt more like the upper 20's with the wind. Headphones were not permitted, so I had to go without. The race was a two-loop course know as Hains Point in Washington DC. I had run this course as part of the Marine Corps Marathon.

Going into this race, I told myself that my main goals were to stay relaxed, not go out too fast, and not put too much pressure on myself to perform. I figured I would go out at a 8:00 pace for the first mile, and then try and run 7:40s for the rest of the race, in the hopes of breaking 48 minutes. All of my recent races and training runs indicate that this is possible. I ran a 7-mile tempo run at a pace of 8:00, and felt like I had plenty of 'gas in the tank' afterward, so running a 10K with race adrenaline should have been at a noticeably faster pace.

There was no taper for this race. I ran 10 miles with hills on Thursday and then an easy 5 miles on Friday. Additionally, I went to my company's Holiday party last night and was up past midnight. I woke up at 4:00am, which means less than 4 hours of sleep. I'm not trying to make excuses, just trying to factor in all the variables.

I warmed up for about half a mile and then waited for the race to start. I was shivering in my skirt (no tights). The race started and I tried to hold back a bit. There was a 10 mph headwind since we were right next to the water, and so I figured I wouldn't push hard at the start. I didn't know if there would be mile markers, but I wasn't really expecting them given the size of the race. There was a marker at mile 1, but then nothing after that. I ran the first mile in 8:01, which I was pleased with, considering the headwind.

I picked up the pace a bit, but I wasn't sure by how much. There was a woman about 10 feet in front of me wearing a Chicago Marathon jacket from 2007. The year it was really hot. She seemed to be holding a nice steady pace, so I decided to let her pace me. There were no more mile markers, and I didn't have my music to focus on, so I just kept my eyes on that woman and focused on running at her pace. After the first loop, I was neck-and-neck with her. I don't know if she slowed down or if I sped up. We ran together for about a mile and then she got ahead of me again. At about mile 5, she passed this one girl who seemed to be slowing down. And then I passed her as well. Since I couldn't focus on my pacing strategy, I was really focused on what these other women were doing. Shortly after the Chicago woman and I passed that girl, she gunned ahead at a fast speed and flew by both of us. Neither of us could catch her.

I just assumed that a PR would be 'in the bag' because I am in such better shape now than I was last year when I set my PR. So, I kept looking at my watch and assuming I would get to the finish line at 47 or 48 something. But I started to get discouraged when the finish line was not coming, and I crossed in a disappointing 49:36. 13 seconds slower from the PR I set last December. Although this race was a lot more controlled than that one. (I had gone out t 7:30 back then and blew up during the last mile). I really think that if there had been mile markers and I had realized that I wasn't going at my target pace, I could have sped up. But I was so fearful of bonking, that I guess I held back a little too much.

Both of the women beat me by seconds, but the Chicago woman was 40, and the other woman was in her 20's. Which means we weren't competing against each other for an age group award.

The woman in the Chicago jacket said she thought it was a tough course with the wind, which reassured me. Additionally, she had just run a marathon in 3:45 a few weeks ago. That was comforting to hear!

I was definitely not pleased with my time, considering that all of my other races predict something faster, and I am in much better shape than I was last December when I PRed. But I am not discouraged about the marathon because I have had some amazing training runs over the past month.

I did win third place in my age group (30-39), but that's not saying much, given the size of the race. I took home some Balsam & Cedar Oil Diffusers as my award.

If I can get through the 17 miles tomorrow after having done this 10K, I will be pleased.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

17 w/ 14 @ MP

Lately, I have been second-guessing my BQ attempt. Training is going flawlessly, but I am not seeing the gains in speed that I had hoped for. I did just set two PRs in the half marathon and the 5K, but they weren't significant enough for me to really think that a BQ was in the cards for me.

Now, my confidence has been restored.

This morning, I ran 17 miles. The first three were slow warm-up miles and then the remaining 14 were at marathon goal pace. I was aiming for 8:23-8:24 as my target. I did just run 13.1 miles at an average 8:17 pace in Richmond, so it seems like this training run shouldn't be an issue. However, that was in the context of a race, with race-day adrenaline and a mini taper. This run comes after having run 90 miles in the first 12 days of December, including two 12-milers just this week.

It was cold and sunny, with the occasional 15 MPH wind gust. It was about 31 degrees at the start and probably around 36 at the end. I wore the shoes that I am planning to wear in the marathon, my beloved Brooks Adrenaline GTS 6, which have been discontinued for two years, but I have a few remaining pairs, which I reserve for occasions like this. I won't wear the shoes again until race day.

As I began the run, I realized that I was wearing an extra 3-4 pounds of clothing, not to mention the water bottle I was carrying. I felt weighted down and I was wondering if I could actually hit target pace with this extra clothing. After the three warmup miles, it was time to start running at marathon pace. I sped up to something that felt noticeably harder, but still comfortable. I clocked the first mile at 8:32. I typically start all my runs slower and end faster, so I was fine with this pace for the beginning.

1- 8:33
2- 8:32
3- 8:31
4- 8:22

I picked it up during the 4th mile, because I knew I had to, and I was finally warmed up to my new faster pace. It didn't feel easy and I was seriously doubting that I would be able to do the full 14 at this kind of pace. But, I reminded myself that usually my runs don't feel good until I am 5 or 6 miles into the run (which is why I am horrible at 10Ks)! Sure enough, I did start to feel good during mile 5.

5- 8:26
6- 8:24
7- 8:15
8- 8:12

I ate sports beans at mile 5 and mile 10. I typically do not use any sort of fuel on my long runs because I want my body to learn how to burn fat for fuel. But today was an exception and almost like a rehearsal for the race. It was also good practice in eating the beans while maintain the target pace.

9- 8:14
10- 8:19
11- 8:19

Interestingly, I did not have to stop for traffic at all during this run. There were three spots where I had to cross busy intersections and I was extremely lucky that I had the right of way each time. I was looking forward to my forced stop at mile 12, but it didn't happen. Which is for the best, anyway. I threw away my empty water bottle and cranked out the last three miles.

12- 8:22
13- 8:11
14- 7:55

The 8:11 was a surprise. I felt myself slowing down, but I think I must have mentally told myself that I really couldn't afford to slow down, so I overcompensated. And then I knew I could nail the last mile at a sub-8:00. 

The average pace for this run was 8:20, which is the pace of a 3:38 marathon. The total time was 1:56:40. Yay!

The great thing about this run was that my legs didn't hurt or get tired. After having running so many miles in the past two weeks, my legs felt awesome. I think I might have some minor soreness tomorrow, but I will definitely be ready for another 50+ week next week.

Only two weeks of hard training remain, and then I begin my taper. I am so very thankful that I have managed to complete all of these training runs without getting injured. I just need to make it to Phoenix in one piece and the weather has to cooperate! I would actually prefer to race in weather like today (35 degrees) then something in the low 60's, which is what Arizona is typically like.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Peak Week! (Part II)

Back in August, I wrote a blog called "Peak Week!". As the name implies, the blog was about my week with the highest mileage prior to the marathon. With this training cycle, I am mixing my previous program (Pftizinger) with another program (RW Ultimate). I thought I really benefitted from the 55-mile week in the previous program, so I decided to keep it in my training plan. Except for I added a mile to the long run and ended up with 56 miles.

I thought I would do a comparison of both weeks: August 18 vs. December 1. That week of August 18 was one of the last weeks I was able to complete before getting sick at the VA Beach half marathon on the 31st.

Monday: Recovery with Strides
Monday's run is 6 recovery miles, including six 100m strides. Not much change between August and now, as recovery runs are supposed to be run very slowly. In August, I was doing recovery runs at an average pace of 10:25 and now I am doing them at an average pace of 10:15, and my heart rate is actually lower for a faster pace. The pace of the strides is still the same, only strides have gotten a lot easier.

Tuesday: 12 with 7 Tempo
Tuesday is one of the most challenging workouts in the program: 12 miles with 7 at tempo pace. I did 4 warump, 7 tempo, and 1 cooldown. Here is where I see a real difference. I put in the same level of effort as I did in August, and ended up with a much faster tempo. Both runs were done on a treadmill, so weather was not a factor.

In August the miles were: 8:18, 8:16, 8:09, 8:05, 8:03, 8:03, 8:00.
8:08 Average.
This week, the miles were: 8:06, 8:05, 8:03, 8:03, 8:00, 7:57, 7:50.
8:00 Average.

Best of all, I felt like I had energy left over, and could have continued running at that pace. My 10K PR pace is 7:57, so I am thinking I can probably shave at least a minute off of that, if I don't go out too fast.

Wednesday: Rest!

Thursday: 12 Miles
In August, this run averaged a pace of 9:23. This week was actually slower- averaging 9:30. This was partially because I added "hills" (treadmill inclines) at grades 5%-6% during the run, for a minute at a time. While maintaining my pace. I've been adding hills to all of my medium-long runs, and also running a hilly route for my long runs. I think this has helped immensely, even though my marathon is relatively flat. Hills help with leg strength.

Friday: 5 Recovery
Not much exciting here.

Saturday: Long Run
The program calls for 20 miles, which I did in August at an average pace of 9:32. Yesterday, I decided I would do 21 miles, just to push my limits a bit, and log my highest weekly mileage ever. I ran a much hiller route, and averaged a pace of 9:26. Further, faster, and hillier.

I do have some lingering soreness in my quads today, but I think I will be ready to go again on Monday. Oh yeah, and this run was freezing. It was overcast and about 32 degrees. It took me nearly an hour to fully "thaw" afterwards.

I'm very pleased with my 56-mile week. And if you count the run that I did last Sunday, it's actually 60 miles in 7 days! As for the marathon itself, I only have six weeks until the big day. Right now, I feel pretty confident in a 3:45. I need a 3:40 to BQ, and I am not sure if that will be feasible. I have a few more tune-up races this month and some speed sessions which will help me determine what I am capable of.