Sunday, December 6, 2009

Runnin' for the Kids

Background: Running for a Cause
I am the Director of Marketing for a software company called InfinityQS. It's a smallish company with a family-like atmosphere, privately held and with no venture capital funding. As such, we have the freedom to donate as much as we would like to charity. A few years ago, the company decided to make St. Jude Children's Research Hospital it's charity partner. The company pledged to donate $1 million.

As the Director of Marketing and an avid runner, I had the idea of sponsoring the marathon. Since we had already committed to donating $1 million, I figured that $10,000 of that could go to the marathon as a way to involve our employees. I assembled a team of co-workers, including the CEO himself. My fiance also ran on the team as well as my running partner who had moved to Atlanta last spring.

As a sponsor of the race, we were able to exhibit at the expo. My fiance and I flew down on Thursday morning and set up the exhibit. We weren't really marketing to the runners, but we figured we should take advantage of the opportunity to get our name out to the community. Surprisingly, two users of InfinityQS software approached the booth and told me how great the software was and how much it was helping their company. There were a few other people who were really interested in learning about the software, which was nice.

On Friday, the other team members arrived. Our team raised over $3,000 in addition to the sponsorship money, so there was a lot to be proud of. This includes $500 from one of my Runner's World friends, who raised this money in less than 24 hours!!!! I personally raised $485. The CEO came with his son, his sister, and his brother-in-law. He was excited to be there and to see that we had the exhibit set up.

The Race
The race itself was awesome. The forecast was for low 30's and sunny, so I wore tights, a long-sleeved shirt, gloves and a hat. I probably could have done without the hat, but it turned out to be ideal racing weather. At the start line, my fiance (Greg), my running partner (Lindsay) and I lined up in the coral for the 8:00 pace. The rest of the InfinityQS team was far back as they hadn't really trained and had never run more than a few miles at a time.

Given the fact that I only had 8 weeks to train for this (due to the injury) and that my longest run was only 14 miles, I was not expecting a PR. My 1:44:04 was set after weeks in the 50's and a few 20-milers. Plus, that race was flat and this was hilly. I thought I would be lucky to pull of a 1:46. Lindsay and Greg said that they were going to let me be their pacer and try to keep up as long as possible. I thought that I would probably be the LAST one to finish, given Greg's recent 10K time and Lindsay's training on the hills. But I am good at pacing, so I agreed. My strategy was to start out at 8:05 and try to hold on.

Even though headphones were allowed during this race, I didn't use them. I wanted to be able to communicate with Lindsay and Greg and hear everyone cheering them. This ended up working out great and I think I will continue to race without headphones in races where there is a lot of crowd support.

Miles 1-4
I knew that the first mile had a net uphill elevation and the second mile would be a major loss in elevation. So I ran accordingly. My plan was to maintain an even level of effort, which meant slower on the uphills and faster on the downhills. I think that Lindsay was more comfortable with the hills, so she did not slow down on the uphills. She maintained an even pace. Every time we reached a hill, she would get ahead of me, and then I would typically catch her on the downhill.

Mile 1: 8:07
Mile 2: 7:51
Mile 3: 8:02
Mile 4: 7:48

Miles 5-8
At mile 5, I took a "honey stinger" engery gel. This was my first time using the honey in a race, although I had used it in training. I thought it would be easier and quicker than the sports beans. That was true, but some honey might have gone down the wrong pipe, so I was coughing and having a really tough time. Lindsay and Greg went ahead as I drank some water and re-grouped. I caught back up about 30 seconds later.

Everything was feeling surprisingly good and I started to think that maybe I would get a 1:45. There was a 10K timing mat and I crossed it in 49:36. My 10K PR is not too far off from that. I thought how odd it was that I felt so great at that point, but in a 10K race, I would be dying at that pace. I need to figure out why that is. In the results, they "rank" you at the 10K split. I was ranked 16th in my age group at that point. Lindsay crossed it just ahead of me and was ranked 15th. My fiance Greg was somewhere behind me and I wasn't sure how far. He removed his long sleeved shirt at mile 5 and that slowed him down. He later told me that he had me in sight all the way through mile 9. I thought I had lost him at around the 10K mark.

After crossing the 10K, the was a downhill and I sped down it passing Lindsay. I figured she would catch up but I never saw her again. Surprisingly, I was leading the two of them, which I did not think would be the case. My paces continued to surprise me, but everything felt great.

Mile 5: 7:48
Mile 6: 7:58
Mile 7: 7:52
Mile 8: 7:52

Miles 9-Finish
At this point, I was starting to feel a bit worn out. I knew that miles 8-10 were a net uphill. I told myself to hang in there and once I hit mile 10, the elevation would start to decrease. I decided to eat my sports beans at mile 8, which was earlier than planned. It was a challenge to eat them because when you are breathing so heavily, trying to chew something hard like that and swallow is difficult. I said to myself "eating these beans is crucial to your performance. You need them to get through the rest of the race. Just focus on chewing them and not choking them." I ended up shoving about 8 of them in my mouth at once and throwing out the rest of the pack. Once I was done, I was able to focus more on the race.

There was a huge hill at mile 10. It took a lot of positive self talk. "Maintain an even effort. Don't worry about pace here. You will be able to make it up on the downhills. Stay confident, don't overdo it here. Just focus on getting to the top of the hill and maintaining the effort level." I did have to push a little bit harder because the hill was long and somewhat steep, but once I made it to the top, I knew that I had the race "in the bag". Mile 10 ended up being the slowest mile of the race, but I made up for it in the last mile. I knew I had run a great race strategy because I was able to maintain my pace but I was definitely feeling it. The last two miles were brutal, but I maintained my focused and stayed positive. The last mile of the race ended up being my fastest mile. I thought I might be able to get a PR so I gave it all I had.

Mile 9: 7:54
Mile 10: 8:14
Mile 11: 7:52
Mile 12: 8:04
Mile 13: 7:44
Last 0.21: (7:15 pace)

The Finish

I crossed the finish line knowing that I didn't PR, but I was happy at how close I came. I honestly didn't expect to run the race so quickly. Considering how much hillier this course was than Shamrock, I think this is my strongest half marathon. I could have definitely PRed on a flat course.

Greg crossed the finish line soon after me, and I learned that he had me in his sight up until mile 9. Lindsay followed about a minute later.

My finish time was a 1:44:30 which is a pace of 7:59. This is 26 seconds slower than my PR. My Garmin indicated 13.21 miles at an average pace of 7:55, due to all the weaving.

I was ranked as the 16th woman in my age group at the 10K mark, but at the finish, I was ranked 11th. This means that I passed 5 women in my age group after the 10K mark.

I placed 11 of 762 in my age group, beating 98.6% of them.
I placed 82 out of 4278 women, beating 98.1% of them.

I will definitely be doing this race again, and my company will continue to be a sponsor.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Turkey Trot-- Who Cares?

This is not your average race report or average blog. It will likely be long, so grab some Thanksgiving leftovers and settle in.

On Saturday, Nov. 21, I had a 16-miler on tap. My boyfriend wanted to do his long run on Sunday, so that left me without a running partner. Normally I would have been fine with this, but I was so sick of the W&OD trail that I decided to join my running club for their Saturday run. They had a 15-mile route planned, and I figured I would just tack on an extra mile at the end. I looked at the elevation profile prior to meeting up with them and it was hilly. I knew I could stand to get more hill training in, so I was game for it.

When I arrived, there were about 30-35 runners. We started out and I was probably the 10th person in the pack. Surprisingly, no one was talking to me. I found myself running alone, but I didn't really care. The route was hilly. Very hilly. And the first half was more uphill than downhill, so I was very discouraged. I would have been okay with a few hills, but these hills were much steeper than what I was used to (I had to walk several times) and there was no part of the run that was flat. It was just one hill after another. I noticed that my HR had me above my lactate threshold on some of the hills, so I decided to slow down so as to not wear myself out too much. Well, this decision cost me the group and the 5 people who I was following disappeared into the distance. After awhile I got so discouraged so I figured I would turn around. To my surprise, I didn't see anyone else from the club. I KNEW there had been a bunch of people behind me, but I retraced the route and no one was there. I guess they quit once they realized how hilly it was.

I got a little bit lost, but eventually made my way back to my car. I only logged 13 miles, but my legs felt like I had done 22. Everyone was saying how this was the hardest route ever (it was a new route). I was kind of frustrated with myself for only running 13 miles, with my heart rate being so high and yet my average pace was only 10:12. On a flat course, my average HR would have had me going at about 8:40.

On Sunday I did a slow recovery run, joining my boyfriend for the last 5 miles of his long run. My legs felt so heavy. I had to go so slowly.

On Monday, I had 9 miles planned but my legs wouldn't have it. I decided to take a forced rest day in preparation for the Thanksgiving day Turkey Trot.

On Tuesday, I ran 8 miles and my legs still felt dead. I had to go at a snail's pace. I have recovered from half marathons faster than this. My boyfriend made a good analogy. He said that it was like lifting weights for the first time and you are sore for the next 5 days. But once you are used to it, you aren't sore for more than just one.

On Tuesday evening, I came home from work and my BF's apartment was all dark with candles everywhere. He had taken most of the day off to make us our own Turkey. It was such a wonderful evening with great food and wine. I even made brownies for dessert. At the end of the evening, just as I was ready to fall asleep, he started talking about our relationship and how much it meant to him. We had a conversation about how wonderful everything was and how happy we made each other. And then he came over to where I was sitting and got down on one knee, made the sweetest speech about how thankful he is for everything he's found with me. And then he asked me to be his wife!

He was shaky and my heart started to pound. I instantly said yes, at which point he pulled out the most beautiful ring I have ever seen! He put it on my finger and boom-- we were engaged! I was so excited and bouncy and I just couldn't contain my energy. I love him so much and he had just made me the happiest woman in the world. Never in my life have I been so happy!

My excitement lasted through the night and I only got two hours of sleep. And I could not stop looking at the ring! The next day I was still high on adrenaline. I decided against running because I was using that time to try and sleep, but it didn't happen.

I left work early on Wednesday with the intention of napping, but that didn't happen. I was still too hyped up about the engagement and calling all of my close friends. I even went over to my sister's house to show her and my mother the ring. On Wednesday night, I tried my best to sleep because I wanted to get a PR in the Turkey Trot, but to no avail. I was extremely restless and too excited. I got about 4 hours total.

Going into the Turkey Trot, I told myself that I couldn't use lack of sleep as an excuse for not pushing. I told myself that no matter what, I had to try my hardest and push my hardest even if it wasn't going to be a PR.

My fiance and I lined up at the start line and his goal was to average a 7:00 pace. He continues to surprise me with how fast he can run so I had no idea what he was capable of. My plan was to start out at 7:25 and try to hold on.

The race course is rolling hills with some larger hills in the second mile. The weather was foggy and low 40's. I was quite cold in my skirt and short-sleeved shirt. There was very little visibility, which I think hurt me because I am motivated by seeing the runners way ahead of me.

I ran the first mile in 7:25 which was exactly what I wanted. The second mile was a lot hillier and I ran a 7:44. I told myself to really push in that last mile and I could still possibly PR. I ran it as hard as I could and I maintained a strong effort, but the best I could muster was a 7:37.

Particularly disappointing was the last 0.1 and the final kick. Because of the fog, I couldn't see the finish line until I was pretty much there. I knew I had energy for a final sprint, but I didn't know when to lay down the hammer. My Garmin has me running a 7:17 pace for that last bit, and I am certain I could have run a 6:30 pace for that stretch. However, it would only have taken a few seconds off of my time at most. I found my fiance waiting for me at the finish. He pulled out a 22:02. Very impressive!

I ended up with a 23:40 which is 18 seconds slower than last year. Normally I would have been extremely discouraged but I totally didn't care because I was still on cloud nine about the engagement. And of course, I think lack of sleep was a factor. Placement wise, I did rather well:

I placed 13 of 370 in my division (ages 30-39). This puts me in the top 3.5%.
I placed 74 of 1619 women. This puts me in the top 4.5%.

I placed 1 where it matters most-- in my fiance's heart. :-)

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Battling My 10K Demon

I've blogged about this many times before: the 10K is my weakest distance. I think I finally have a physiological explanation why. It doesn't make sense that I can run a half marathon at about the same pace as a 10K, but maybe it's starting to make sense.

I ran the Veteran's Day 10K today. It was in the low 50's and sunny and the course was flat. These are arguably perfect racing conditions, although I would have preferred more cloud cover. I had run this course twice before-- in Oct. 2008 and Dec. 2007. My PR was set on this course in Dec. 2007 at 49:23. Since then, I had run many 10Ks that were pretty much equivalent to that, despite my fitness getting remarkably better over the past two years.

I decided that no matter what, I needed to get a PR today. I have had six weeks of training since my injury so I had no idea what kind of shape I was in. But even though I am not where I was pre-injury, there is no reason why I shouldn't have been able to break that soft PR. My strategy was to start out at a pace of 7:50 and then gradually speed up if I felt that I could. I was aiming for a PR by about 45 seconds, although I knew I was capable of faster based on some recent training runs.

Mile 1: 7:46
Mile 2: 7:48

These miles felt easy. I could hardly believe I was going at this pace for how easy it felt. I was afraid to run faster, though, and I told myself I would really hammer it home on the second half if I continued to feel this good. During the first mile, my boyfriend ran ahead of me. This surprised me because his goal was to run a 7:45 pace, but he ran ahead at what must have been a 7:30 pace.

Mile 3: 7:52 (includes water station)
Mile 4: 7:48

It started to feel difficult and I kept looking down at my HR monitor wondering why my heart rate kept reading 181. It should have been reading 184-185. I knew I wasn't putting forth a true race effort based on my heart rate, but it felt really difficult and I decided that I would save it for the last mile because I didn't want to push too hard too soon.

Mile 5: 7:55
Mile 6: 7:57

I gave it everything I had during the last mile, but all I could muster was a 7:57. I just didn't have the energy to push any harder. I wanted so badly to get a 10K time that reflected my true abilities, but it just wasn't happening. I looked down at my Garmin as I saw the finish line. I had to make it there under 49:00. I dug as deep as I could and found a 7:22 pace for the last 0.2 and my heart rate finally got up to 184, which is where it should have been for the entire race.

My average heart rate for this race was 180. It should have been about 185. I ran the entire race in my "lactate threshold zone" which is considered your 15K or 10-mile pace. I got a great tempo workout in but I didn't actually "race" this 10K. It wasn't like I didn't try. . . I just didn't have the energy to get up where I needed to be. I keep asking myself if I had run the race based on HR and not on pace if I would have fared much better, but I am just not sure I could have actually maintained a 185. I wouldn't be surprised if I maintained a similar heart rate for my upcoming half marathon.

This is something I am going to ask my coach about: why can't I find the energy to get my heart rate (and speed) up to where it should physiologically be for a 10K? I can get my HR where it needs to be for all other distances-- even the 5K! But for some reason, this 10K just kills me every time.

I am happy that I set a PR, and I feel like I ran it as hard as possible. The evidence being that I faded during the last two miles. Maybe next time I go out at a pace of 7:35 and fade down to a 7:50. Establish that I am going to be at a higher heart rate early on and just stick it out. My boyfriend ran a 46:56, which is a four-minute PR.

Finish time was 48:54, a PR by 29 seconds.

I placed 19 out of 205 in my age group. This is the top 9th percentile, whereas I usually find myself in the top 5th percentile for other distances.

Up next: Turkey Trot 5K. Goal is 23:10.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Brooks Sponsorship, Mileage Ramp-Up

I was pleasantly surprised this afternoon when I received an email from a Marketing Coordinator at Brooks Sports inviting me to join ther "Inspire Daily" (ID) program. I was waiting to qualify for Boston before I applied, but once I realized I wouldn't be able to run a marathon until the Spring, I decided to go for it anyway and just use my half marathon time from March of this year. The application process consisted of me providing them with recent race times (I gave two recent half marathon times) and a quick essay on how I inspire others. I also linked to some of the articles that I had written about Brooks running shoes which compared the different models.

If I accept their offer, I receive huge discounts on Brooks running shoes and apparel. However, I must agree to train and race exclusively in Brooks shoes. Right now, I alternate the Brooks Adrenaline with a Nike Structure Triax to avoid injury and preserve shoe life. I also wear the Mizuno Elixir for speed work and races from 5K-10K. If I accepted the sponsorship, I wouldn't be able to wear these shoes. However, if I got a home treadmill (which I am thinking about doing in about 6-8 months) then there probably would be no issue with me wearing the Nikes on those runs. The goal of the program is for the ID runners to market Brooks products by wearing them publically. I'd have to try some of their new shoes on to see if I liked them. The Infiniti is too wide for me in the toe box, but I haven't tried the Ravenna yet. If they have any Brooks Adrenaline GTS 6 (2006 model) hiding in their basement, I would be ecstatic, as I am curently hoarding them and saving them for marathons and half marathons.

My foot has been behaving and I had a strong "comeback" in October. I am still nowhere near where I was pre-injury, but I am feeling a bit more confident-- especially after a speed session today with 3:00 intervals at a 6:52 pace. My weekly mileage for October was:

Oct. 5-- 23.5
Oct. 12-- 27.5
Oct. 19-- 34
Oct. 26-- 39

My longest run has been 13 miles. My next marathon is the Shamrock Marathon in late March, so I have plenty of time to get my long runs up there. For now I am focused on three immediate goals:

Nov. 15-- Veteran's Day 10K
Goal will be 48:45 (7:50 pace). I know I shouldn't expect any PRs coming off of an injury, but my 10K PR is extremely soft, set two years ago before I had ever run a 45+ mile week. After over a year of consistently running 50+ weeks, I should be able to knock at least 30 seconds off of the PR. . . injury or not!

Nov. 26-- Turkey Trot 5K
Goal will be 23:10. (7:28 pace) Once again, I know I shouldn't be expecting any PRs in the wake of an injury, but I ran a 23:32 in 2006, so one would think that I would be able to shave off at least 20 seconds in the course of three years! My PR is 23:22, and I think this is soft, as well. I think I have a better shot at the 10K PR, but I am still going to go for it in the 5K

Dec. 5-- Memphis Half Marathon
I am uncertain about my goal for this race. On one hand, I might just run alongside my boyfriend. He has gotten extremely fast over the past few months, so I might not even be able to keep up with him! I'm predicting that he will run somewhere around 1:49, and that might be the best I can do on that day as well. I guess the 10K and 5K will be used to determine my goal. There is no way I will PR here, but I would like to have a strong performance.

So things are looking up. I know I have a long road ahead of me as I spend the next 4 months training for the Shamrock marathon. Hopefully I can scoop up some shorter distance PRs along the way.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Plan "F"

I feel like I have hit an all-time low with regards to my running. I never have felt so physically out of shape and so emotionally discouraged about running until this injury. I ended up taking five weeks off with a few run attempts here and there because my physical therapist had cleared me to run and the runs were pain free. But looking at the big picture, it was five weeks with no "real" training. I spent some time swimming and some time on the elliptical, but not nearly enough to maintain what I had built up over the past year of consistent 50-60 mile weeks.

I have been running pain-free for a week now, and each run has made me feel winded, even at a 10:00 pace. I get minor aches in my legs that I think are just from not having run in so long. I am too afraid to check my heart rate, but I feel like I am exerting an 8:45 effort to run a 10:00 pace. Everyone is telling me that I will get it back quickly, but that's hard for me to imagine. Especially since I need to build up gradually and I won't even see a 50-mile week until mid-December. I signed up for five personal training sessions at my gym to work on my strength in the hopes of improving overall fitness-- not just running fitness. 

Regarding my BQ hopes. . . Plan "A" was to run the Hartford Marathon in October of 2008 but I got really sick for five weeks and I wasn't able to run it. During those five weeks, however, I was able to do some running and once I recovered, I was able to resume 50-60 MPW without having to build back up. Plan "B" was to run a 3:40 at the RnR Arizona Marathon in January. However, it was a high of 85 degrees that day and I wasn't acclimated to any kind of heat in the middle of the winter. I maintained my goal pace until the halfway point and then it was over for me and I had my worst marathon experience ever.

Plan "C" was to get the BQ at the New Jersey Marathon in May of this year. However, a combination of hypothermia from the pouring rain and not having enough rest did me in. I think it was mainly the hypothermia, though. 

Plan "D" was to qualify at the Toronto Waterfront marathon a few weeks ago, with a "backup" plan "E" of the Memphis marathon in December in case Toronto didn't go as planned. The foot injury came at the worst possible time and sidelined me from Toronto and made it impossible to train properly for Memphis. 

The best I can hope for is to have a decent half marathon in Memphis (not a PR) and to get the BQ in March at the Shamrock marathon in Virginia Beach. I have to wait 23 more weeks to even make another attempt. My spirit is really drained from all of this. I've had so many strong training cycles and something always comes along to mess up my BQ. I felt like I have had the fitness level to qualify for Boston for the past year, and yet I haven't managed to run a marathon that wasn't sabotaged by weather or illness or injury.

My half marathon from March and my VO2 max test, and my training all indicate that I could have run a 3:35 or faster in Toronto. I'm happy for all of my friends who have been setting PRs left and right this year, but at the same time, it just frustrates me even further because I have only had one good race in 2009, with many, many, outstanding training runs. 

Now that the fall racing season has kicked into high gear, I am seeing so many people run amazing races, and I am not even able to participate. I know that if I did, I would run some of my slowest times ever. I have to keep reminding myself that my day will come, but I am getting so discouraged that I am starting to think that training doesn't even matter. Maybe I am just not "meant" to qualify for Boston.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Wake me up when September ends

Last September I wasn't able to run because I was sick with some sort of virus for weeks on end. After sweating it out in the heat all summer, I always look forward to fall running and the dramatic drop in my times due to cooler weather. However, last September and this September I wasn't able to enjoy it.

My foot injury has turned out to be pretty serious. I had to take three solid weeks off of running and then ease back into it with extremely slow jogging sessions with walk breaks interspersed. There's no evidence that it's a stress fracture because they usually don't show up on x-rays. But my doctor and my physical therapist agree that I have (had?) a stress fracture of the 5th metarsal. Any running that I do for the next 2-3 weeks is not going to improve or even maintain the fitness I had built up over the summer. It's just going to be very slow jogging with low mileage while my foot re-adjusts to running. I'll have to supplement it with swimming and the elliptical machine in order to maintain some semblance of fitness. It's frustrating because I can't be in the pool or on the elliptical for nearly as long as I can run. I have a knee issue that flares up if I do the elliptical more than three times per week.

I feel like I'm never going to get to Boston. I've been working at this for so long and I feel like I'm doing everything right. No dramatic increases in mileage, stretching, taking rest days, not going too fast on my easy days, etc. I even invested in a coach to ensure that I was training at the proper level. And this time I even had a "backup plan" in case Toronto didn't work out. I'm running the Memphis marathon on December 5, but now it looks like I won't be able to train hard enough or long enough for a BQ. I feel like it's hanging over my head. I feel like I just need to get my Boston qualifying time so I can move on to other goals (both running and non-running). I know I can do it, it's just a matter of not getting injured or sick or hypothermia or heat exhaustion.

I hadn't even really thought about my racing schedule for 2010 because I wanted to see if I was going to BQ or not. Now that I know that I'm not going to BQ in Toronto, I think I have a plan for the next year.
- November 14: Richmond Half Marathon. I have no idea what my goal will be. It all depends on how soon I can resume my normal training regime. I might be lucky just to go sub-1:50.
- December 5: St. Jude Memphis Marathon. My company is sponsoring this marathon and I will be manning our booth at the Expo. I'm also raising money for St. Jude-- you can donate here. I don't expect a BQ, but I am hoping for a PR of some sort. Anything under 3:50 would be great. If I'm not feeling like it's going to be a PR, it will be a "fun run" which I'll take very slowly.
- March 20, 2010: Shamrock Marathon. This will be my BQ attempt. I ran my best (not fastest) marathon there in 2008 and my best half marathon there in 2009. It's a "lucky" course and it's almost impossible for it to be too hot that time of year.
- September 2010: I really do want to run the Toronto Waterfront marathon, so I plan on doing it again next fall. I'll try to BQ if I wasn't able to get it in March.
- November 2010: I am going to enter myself into the lottery for the NYC marathon. If I get in, it will be a fun run, with Toronto Waterfront as the race I run for time. If I don't get in, I might run it for charity.

Maybe a BQ is possible in December. I'm not going to rule it out completely. But I need to focus on healing my foot, and I am less likely to do that if I think that I need to BQ in 10 weeks. If I really allow my foot time to heal, I will only have 6-7 weeks of solid training, and I doubt I will get back to where I was pre-injury with such little time.

2009 has been a great year of training. I was on track for record yearly mileage and I ran my fastest training runs ever. I've only had one good race, though. Just one! I remember back when I first started running, I was having good races left and right. And now, I am working MUCH harder in my training, and ending up with just one good race for the year.

Monday, August 31, 2009


I am injured.

One week ago, I felt like part of my running shoe was rubbing against the outside of my right foot. It didn't hurt, but it did feel awkward. I forgot about it completely until later that evening when I went down a flight of stairs in flip flops. The same part of my foot started to hurt.

The next day, I went out for a 10 mile run, including speedwork. I wore a different pair of running shoes (a pair that has more cushion and bounce) and I couldn't feel the twinge in my foot at all. I successfully completed the speedwork, and I averaged a 7:35 pace for 39 minutes. I was so excited about this because it was humid and in the upper 60's, which meant I would be even faster in better conditions. After the run, when I took my shoes off, I felt my foot walking around my house. It wasn't painful, but I definitely felt something as I was walking around. I called my physical therapist, who is typically booked up at least one week in advance, and she was able to get me in the next day-- Wednesday.

Meanwhile, I had been experiencing some tightness in my left medial calf, so I decided to get a sports massage on Tuesday night. This was the most painful massage I had ever experienced! She spent 20 minutes on just my calf and said there was a huge knot there. When I went to see my physical therapist the next morning, she was much more concerned with my calf than my foot. She said that there was some mild Peroneal Tendonitis, but that my calf was in bad shape. It was swollen and bruised from the massage and she said that it had probably been just a few days away from tearing. She told me not to run again until my calf felt better.

I took Wednesday and Thursday off as rest days and my calf felt better on Friday morning. Meanwhile, my foot was barely an issue. I decided to run six easy miles on the treadmill. At mile 3.5, I suddenly felt a pain on the outside of my foot. It was much worse than it had been last time. I kept running in the hopes that it would go away, but it didn't, so I stopped after five miles instead of the planned six. I limped my way off of the treadmill, and my foot has been hurting ever since.

I called my coach and she told me how to take care of it. She recommended ice massage, stretching, and foam rolling the Peroneal tendons. I even found a web site that showed me how to stabilize the ankle with taping to prevent lateral motion that would irritate the area. My coach said this was a minor setback--not an injury-- and she thought that I would be able to do my last long run (20 miles) the following weekend. She also thought I would be able to do some light running on Sunday, but given the fact that I was still limping, I didn't attempt to run.

So now it's Monday and it still hurts to walk on my foot. I've been swimming and using the elliptical machine (neither seem to irritate it) but that is no substitution for running. I just want to maintain what I have. At this point, I am not looking to gain more fitness. I just don't want the past 8 weeks of hard training to come undone. I can't predict when it will get better-- all I can do is keep resting my foot and taking care of it. I'll go back to my PT on Friday.

I cried a lot on Saturday. It hurt to walk on my foot, so every step was a reminder that I was injured. I couldn't put it out of my head. My boyfriend actually carried me a few blocks in D.C. on our way to dinner because it hurt with every step, and I could only walk slowly. Maybe it's not meant to be. Maybe I am not meant to qualify for Boston. I always come so close, and then something comes along at the last minute to ruin it. A year ago, I was in the home stretch for the Hartford marathon but I caught a virus and was sick for five weeks. I couldn't run a fall marathon so I attempted Arizona in January. There was an unexpected heat wave, so I bonked at mile 14-- not having been acclimated to the heat. Then, at the New Jersey marathon in April, I was on target for a sub-3:40 based on my recent half marathon. But it was cold and pouring rain, so I ended up in the medical tent with hypothermia. It never works for me, and it's always a matter of bad luck. I do everything in my power to train smart but the "stars" haven't aligned for me. I have been working toward this BQ goal for over a year, and something always gets in my way.

My boyfriend Greg says that if there weren't obstacles then it wouldn't be worth attaining. That's what makes it all the sweeter-- having to overcome obstacles and fight for it. I agree with this but I also feel like I have faced more than my fair share of obstacles. And I see so many people train for one season, run the marathon and get the time they deserve. Heck, I used to do that. My first six marathons were all PRs. And then the injury/illness/weather demons started to show their faces at every marathon.

As of now, I don't really have a "plan of action". I just have to wait. And wait. And wait. I have no idea when my foot will feel better, but I am not going to run on it until I can walk on it. And even then, it will be very easy running. My patellar tendonitis that I had in the spring of 2008 took three months to completely recover from. My biggest fear is that I will have to wait three months to resume normal training, and I will have lost everything I have worked so hard for.

Monday, August 10, 2009

An Award I Never Thought I'd Win

It's been awhile since I have updated my blog, but I have definitely not stopped running! I averaged between 50-55 miles per week in July, with a total of 226 miles for the month. This is my second highest month ever, with the first highest being in March of this year.

I've made some major changes to how I train:

- I train using the Heart Rate Zones that I tested for in my VO2 max test. Instead of training based on pace, I let my heart rate be my guide. This means going slower on hills and slower when it's hot and humid outside.

- I train primarily outside--but this is a luxury that I have for just a limited time. I am a morning runner, so it gets light early enough for me to do most of my runs outdoors before work. However, it's starting to get lighter later now, so I don't anticipate I will be able to do this much longer. It's nice when my boyfriend runs with me in the mornings, because then I can run in the dark and feel safe.

- I am focusing more on speed work. Now that I know exactly how hard I need to be pushing the paces based on my heart rate zones, speed work is much more effective, and I have the confidence to go faster than I have ever gone before. My intervals are typically in the 6:xx range, which I had never seen before this cycle. I do speed work twice a week (typically) in exchange for the medium-long runs I used to do.

Now for the race report. I ran the Leesburg 10K on Sunday. I had originally registered for the 20K, but given that the forecast was for 90% humidity with race temperatures in the upper 70's, I decided that wasn't smart. I raced in that kind of weather at the VA Beach half marathon last summer and I ended up very sick for weeks. I transferred my registration to the 10K and decided to run with my friend Lindsay. Lindsay and I used to train together all the time, but she recently moved to Atlanta. She was in town on business and also to run this race. My boyfriend Greg was also running the race, but he was going to go at his own pace.

My coach told me that she thought I could set a PR even in the hot, humid conditions on a hilly course. This

is mainly because my 10K PR is very soft. In fact, my fastest 10K pace is slightly SLOWER than my half marathon PR pace. It's just that something always seems to go wrong when I try to race a 10K-- the weather, an injury, I don't pace it properly, whatever. Lindsay and I decided to go for a pace of 7:55. We would start the race together and stay together as long as possible, but we agreed we would separate if one of us couldn't hold on.

Everything started out okay. We naturally went out too fast because the course starts with a big downhill. We averaged a 7:46 for the first mile which was faster than we wanted, but of course it felt easy. The second and third mile were both uphill, as well as the first half of the fourth. I decided to ease up on the pace toward the end of the third mile and Lindsay pushed forward.

We reached the turnaround point at mile 3.5 and it was mainly downhill from there. Knowing that it was all downhill going forward gave me an extra mental push, so I caught up to Lindsay, and eventually passed her. By this point, I really felt like I was going to pass out. I kept glancing at my heart rate monitor thinking that I should be able to be working at a higher heart rate, but the feeling of being so close to passing out overwhelmed me. I grabbed a cup from the volunteer and poured it all over myself. It turned out to be Gatorade! As I approached the end of mile six, Lindsay caught up with me and we exchanged a few words. Then she pulled ahead of me and I felt like I had nothing left, so I stayed back. Lindsay crossed the finish line about 15 seconds ahead of me, and I came through at 50:35. This race was a PR for Lindsay, so I was excited for her, but not the PR that I had been hoping for.

They had these wonderful ice cold clothes at the finish line and I grabbed three of them. About a minute later, my boyfriend Greg came through the finish area, setting a three-minute PR! He's certainly gotten a lot faster since the 10K we ran back in June. I told Lindsay I thought she might have won an award because I didn't see many women who looked our age ahead of us. But she didn't think it was possible with her time, and such a large race. The three of us left, and went to breakfast.

When the results were posted, that's when I learned that Lindsay placed first in our age group and I placed second. I was thrilled for both of us! Even though I didn't PR and I really struggled in the heat/humidity, my training had earned me something. Apparently we won awards that will be mailed to us. We were kicking ourselves for not staying for the awards. Typically in these large "Capital Running Company" races, the winning times are in the mid to low 40's. I guess not when it's that hot out. And of course there were many talented runners in the 20K.

I placed 2 of 56 in my age group (30-34)
I placed 31 of 354 women

My average pace was 8:09 with an average heart rate of 182, which is near the top of my Lactate Threshold zone. My coach says that I didn't run this at race effort because race effort would have yielded and average HR of 184 or higher, but I gave it all I had while feeling like I was about to pass out. I felt like I had the fitness to go faster, but not the energy. Plus, when I realized I wasn't going to PR, I didn't have as much motivation during the last mile.

I'll have another shot at a 10K on September 12. Hopefully it won't be as humid or hilly.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Funky Fartlek

I'm back in Marathon training mode now, targeting the Toronto Waterfront marathon on September 27. I created my own training plan, based on the principles and the workouts featured the book Run Faster by Brad Hudson. I've been meeting with a running coach periodically for feedback and suggestions, and she helped me tweak the plan. It's a 12-week schedule, averaging about 54 miles a week, with a focus on speed work.

I also took a VO2 max test, which showed the proper heart rate "zones" I needed to be in for various workouts, based on how my body uses oxygen. The test confirmed that I am naturally built for endurance, because my body is still working aerobically at a very high percentage of my maximum heart rate. The test also gave me approximate paces for each zone, with my "Lactate Threshold" pace being 7:30, suggesting a marathon pace of around 8:15. Physiologically, I running a 3:40 is completely feasible for me, and I could probably even run a 3:35 in good conditions.

Today was an interesting workout that I took from Brad Hudson's book. It was a 14-mile run composed of the following sections:
- 6 miles easy
- 5 miles of 1:00 @ 10K pace/1:00 easy
- 1 mile easy
- 2 miles hard

I didn't want to have to be constantly looking at my Garmin for the one-minute intervals, so I learned how to program a custom-built workout into the Garmin. I downloaded the Garmin Training Center software and built the workout just as prescribed on my computer. And then I transmitted the workout to my Garmin device. It worked like a charm! Once the six miles were over, it started to beep at me every minute, and then once the 5 miles were done, it beeped at me to start the easy mile, and then the two hard miles. I had to keep my music low to hear the beeps, but this system worked great! Here is how it went.

Six miles easy
My boyfriend, Greg, is training for the Army Ten Miler and he had six miles on his schedule today. I ran the first six miles with him, average 9:54 pace. Technically, I should have been going a bit faster because my heart rate never got into the "easy" range (it stayed in the "recovery" range) but it was worth it to be able to run with Greg. We had a nice conversation and the time flew by. Plus, I knew I would be going fast soon enough! Toward the end of the six miles, I did speed up so that my system wouldn't be "shocked" when I started going at 10K pace.

Five miles of 1:00 @10K pace/1:00 easy
I estimated that I would end up averaging an 8:20 pace for the five miles, so I programmed the workout to be 42 segments of 1:00 each. I was impressed with my estimating skills because as soon as I was done with that 42nd segment, I had gone almost exactly five miles.

This was actually fun. I have never done anything like this before, and I was sure I would annoy people on the trail who were actually keeping a steady 8:20 pace, as I flew by them, and then would go at a slow pace. Luckily, I didn't encounter anyone like this. Having the Garmin beep at me was great because I could just focus on running. I interpreted "10K pace" to be the upper end of my "Zone 4" heart rate zone. So, running partially by feel, and partially by looking at my heart rate monitor, I tried to get my heart rate in the 180-183 range during those "10K" segments.

I didn't pay attention to pace, which changed based on the hills and if I was in a shaded part of the trail. (It was really sunny!) All of the splits were recorded and can be viewed here. The fastest interval was a 6:58 pace and the slowest was the very first interval, at 7:57. Aside from that first interval and that super fast one, they ranged from 7:04-7:51. The heart rate was where it needed to be on each one, which is what I was really aiming for.

One easy mile
I was really pleased when I got to this point. I really didn't think I would be able to complete that tough Fartlek portion of the run. I decided to take this mile very easy. Fortunately, there was a water fountain during this mile and I stopped to fill up my bottle. The average pace was 10:33, but it included about 15 seconds to fill up my water bottle.

Two hard miles
I interpretted "hard" to mean at the upper end of zone 4. Once again, I was trying to keep my heart rate between 180-183. I knew that the pace wouldn't be very fast after everything I had just done, and the fact that it was approaching 9:00am and it was getting hotter, sunnier, etc. And there was a pretty substantial hill during this segment. I thought I would be lucky to keep it under 9:00.

But I was determined to keep my heart rate between 180-183. The average pace for the two miles ended up being 8:22, with a 181 average heart rate. I was really shocked by this. I thought I would be completely dead by this point. Especially given the heat and the big hill. But I pushed through, and I was really happy with the result.

I think it's workouts like these that are going to make me see huge gains in speed. The person who did my V02 max said that I could easily go out and run 26.2 miles any day of the week, but getting my speed where I need it to be is the challenge.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Running in the background

After the marathon, I decided that I need a "break" or an "off season" from running. I had been in Marathon training mode since June of 2008 without any down time, except for when I was sick in September. And even then, I pushed it more than I should have. I also realized that perhaps the 18-week training cycle isn't benefiting me much. I ran my 3:51 back in March of 2008 on only seven weeks of training because I had been injured prior to that. My game plan was to take it easy during May and June, and then at the end of June start a 12-week program to train for The Toronto Waterfront Marathon on September 27.

I am registered for both the Toronto Waterfront Marathon and the St. Jude Memphis Marathon (December 5). These marathons are 10 weeks apart. The goal is for one of them to qualify for Boston with a 3:40. I'm going to train for Toronto Waterfront as if I want it to be my BQ, but if the weather is forecast to be too warm, or if I am not feeling ready, then I will drop down to the half and focus on Memphis. I consulted with a coach and she was actually the one who suggested this approach. She told me that if I really wanted the BQ, then I would have to NOT finish the full Toronto marathon if things weren't going well for me. Because then I would have too much recovery time that would intrude into the training for Memphis. I really like this approach because I won't be freaking out about the weather as much. If it's going to be too hot, then I'll just run the half. And I will have only done a 12-week program, so it's not like I have invested quite as much as I have in the past.

May and June have been very easy months of running. I took a week off entirely after the marathon and then started back at 25 miles per week of slow runs. Since then, I have been running anywhere from 25 to 40 MPW, which is a huge reduction from the 55-60 that I had been doing. Most of the runs have been slow because I am trying to use the approach of staying in my the optimal endurance zone.

My only speedwork has been races. Because it's been abnormally hot and humid for May and June, my times at these races have all fallen way short of what I know I could do in better conditions. I ran my slowest 5K ever (24:30) in 75 degree sunny weather with plenty of hills. I also ran a slow 8K and a slow 10K. I put out as much effort as I could given the heat and humidity, but my legs didn't feel a thing because my fatigue was the limiting factor. I plan on running a 4-miler at the end of June, but as of now, the heat index is supposed to be 100 degrees or more, so I might just decided not to run that one.

I've also taken a mental "break" from running. I haven't been spending as much time on running websites and discussion forums. I have a new boyfriend who I have been spending a lot of time with. Although I never felt "burnt out" from running, I just think that I needed to take some down time so that my next training cycle would feel fresh.

Monday, May 4, 2009

40 seconds.

I ran my ninth marathon on Sunday—the New Jersey marathon on the Jersey shore in Long Branch. This was the first marathon I have ever repeated, and I did so because it was well organized, flat, had great weather in 2007 and I had quite a few friends running it. To get to the punch line, I had a horrible race which resulted in me being taken into the medical tent at the end and didn’t come close to my goal. I was hoping to qualify for the Boston Marathon, so I needed a 3:40 or faster.

I’ve been working toward this goal since June of last year. In March of last year I ran a 3:51:49 on about seven weeks of training, averaging 40 miles per week. I figured that if I did an 18- week training program averaging 50 miles per week, I could dramatically improve my time. The problem with this plan was that instead of being just 18 weeks, it ended up being about 11 months.

My original BQ attempt was supposed to be in October of last year, but I was sick for four weeks leading up to the race so I didn’t run it. I immediately resumed training for the Arizona marathon in January, but I didn’t BQ there because of the heat, cramping, and foot issues. I recovered from that in three weeks and immediately jumped back into training for the NJ marathon. When all was said and done, I had been training to BQ for nearly 11 months, with an overall average of about 50 MPW, peaking at 61 in March.

In my mind, this was a good thing, and all of the training would certainly drop my time way down, in comparison to the training I did for my 3:51 back in March 2008. But I now realize that it was probably too much and as, Amy, a runner who I respect very much, said, “You probably missed your peak,” and that I needed an off season.

But my personality isn’t like that. When I have a goal in mind, I work and work and work at it until it’s achieved. I never felt run down during training (except for when I was sick last fall). I was never injured, and I enjoyed every training run. I wasn’t over-trained in the traditional sense of hating running and getting slower times, but my body probably needed a break at some point in order to be able to perform at maximum capacity on race day.

If I had to identify my “peak” it was probably in mid-March of this year, when I ran the Shamrock half marathon and broke my November PR by nearly 5 minutes with a 1:44:04. I felt amazing that day and that half marathon felt easier than any other half I had ever run. I am kicking myself for not doing the full marathon that day, but I guess hindsight is 20/20.

This race had nearly doubled in size since I ran it two years ago. It was a marathon, half marathon and relay with about 9000 runners. The city was just too small to accommodate all of these people. We were told to park in a satellite lot and take shuttle buses to the start. The buses were an hour late, and I was panicking as I stood there waiting, wondering if I would get to the start on time.

The buses finally did come all at once and there was mass confusion as everyone scrambled to get on a bus. Then the bus drivers didn’t even know where we were going or where to drop us off. Because of all this confusion and the traffic getting to the race, the start was delayed by 30 minutes, which meant 30 extra minutes of standing out in the cold. The rain didn’t start until about 15 minutes into the run, but had we started on time, we would have had an extra 30 minutes of dryness, which would have helped me immensely.

Miles 1-10
I need an 8:24 average pace to BQ, and for the first 10 miles, I was perfectly on pace. I didn’t go out too fast and I ran my own race. The 3:40 pacer was in my sight for these miles, but the pace group was going slightly too fast for my liking. Everything felt great. Marathon pace felt like a 9:30 training pace, just as it should be. It felt like all my other good marathons when the first 10 miles were a walk in the park and I could easily hit the pace with each mile:
1- 8:30
2 -8:20
3- 8:17
4- 8:28
5- 8:14
6- 8:21
7- 8:17
8- 8:22
9- 8:31
10- 8:19

Miles 11-15
At mile 11, the pace didn’t exactly feel “easy” anymore so I started to get a little bit worried. I knew I could continue to hold that pace, but based on previous marathons that had gone well, I felt like I was working too hard for it to just be mile 11. But I told myself to “trust my training” and I knew I had trained for this. I crossed the halfway point in 1:49:49, which was just about perfect. It allowed for just a slight slowdown in the second half, but I hadn’t really “banked” time. I had a burst of energy crossing the halfway point with the crowd cheering for all the half marathon finishers. I still felt decent at this point, unlike in Arizona when I felt like I needed to quit the race at mile 16. It’s just that I needed to run at a slightly slower pace. I figured if I could just run sub-9:00’s for the rest of the race, I could set a decent PR and maybe run around 3:45. So the notion of a PR kept me going and I kept thinking positive thoughts.

I didn’t focus on the fact that I would miss the BQ I just told myself to continue at this easier pace and hold it for the rest of the race. At this point, I had lost the 3:40 pace group entirely and I knew they must be going much faster than they should be. Normally my “sweet spot” in a marathon is miles 12-18. That’s when I really hit my stride and that’s usually where the fastest miles are. But yesterday, I started to feel more tired as I hit mile 14 and then 15. I knew this was a problem and by mile 15, I realized that a BQ was highly unlikely.

11- 8:25
12- 8:19
13- 8:27
14- 8:24
15- 8:56

 Miles 16-21
When I got to mile 20, I realized that I was feeling pretty bad and that sub-9:00’s for the rest of the race wasn’t going to happen. The rain was coming down harder and I wasn’t having fun anymore. I knew that one of my friends, Audra, would probably pass me at mile 22, and she ended up passing me during mile 21. She looked so strong and I called out her name. She was going faster than me but looked so happy and she had so much energy in her. She looked like how I felt during my previous marathons at mile 21 when they had gone well.

I remembered back to the Richmond marathon at mile 22 when I ran into a friend and told them how awesome I felt. But today was completely different. She ran past me and I kept her in my sight for about a mile and used her as inspiration until she faded away.

16- 8:46
17- 8:54
18- 9:11
19- 9:03
20- 9:05
21- 9:34

Miles 22-finish
I felt so awful during this last stretch. I knew that if I could just stay in the low 9:00’s I could get a PR. All of the runners looked like they were hurting at this point. As much as I was hurting, I was still passing people and I probably looked a lot stronger than I felt.

The rain was coming down steadily and I was cold and miserable and not having any fun. I just wanted to get to the finish line so badly. I removed my headphones at mile 24 because the music was no longer motivating me. I looked at my watch as I passed mile 25, and it said 3:39. My ability to do math was completely shot to death at this point, but I knew that if I ran a sub-10:00 pace for that last 1.2, then I could still get a PR. I knew it would only be by a few seconds, but I needed to salvage this race. I trained too long and too hard to not even get a PR out of the race.

I was fueled by anger. It had been over a year since I PRed in a marathon and yet the past year of my
life had been consumed by marathon training. I needed a PR so badly, because I knew I would be so depressed if I couldn’t even get that. During the last mile I became delirious. A friend from Runner's World who had done the half was yelling to me from the parking lot way off of the course. I knew it was her and I screamed back “help me! I need you! Help me! I need!” And I pretty much was saying that for the last quarter mile until I got to the finish line. I knew she couldn’t hear me, but for some reason I just kept saying it. I was losing my mind.

I didn’t hit a “wall” like I did in Arizona. In Arizona I felt like at mile 15 I just slammed into a brick wall. This was a gradual slowdown. It felt wall-ish towards the end because it was so hard, but the most walking I ever did was during mile 25, for maybe about 15 seconds. In Arizona, I walked for a good portion of the second half. I was proud of myself for continuing to run, even as the possibility of a PR was slipping away.

22- 9:21
23- 9:25 2
4- 9:30
25- 10:17
26- 9:47
0.2 (9:14 pace)

I crossed the finish line in 3:51:09 according to my watch. This was a PR by 40 seconds. I was relieved that I got my PR, but it was still a “3:51” so essentially it’s the same time. But I need to remember how hard I worked for it to be a 3:51:09 as opposed to 3:51:49, and then those 40 seconds mean the world to me.

The finish and medical tent
I immediately stopped dead in my tracks after crossing the finish line and couldn’t take another step. I don’t really remember much about what happened next but that all the medical people wanted me to sit down in a wheelchair and I refused. The next thing I knew, I was in the wheelchair anyway being taken to the medical tent. I must have been drifting in and out of consciousness because I don’t really remember much about getting into the medical tent. I heard the EMT guys tell the doctor that I was passing out and that they put me in the wheelchair as I was passing out. I thought to myself that these people were nuts and I was perfectly fine.

In my head I felt completely rational and okay, but yet I couldn’t talk and couldn’t sit up straight. I felt extremely weak and helpless. They took my vital signs, and they were all fine. Soon after, my friend Randi was brought into the medical tent and I called out for her, but I couldn’t get her to hear me. Eventually I got her attention. “Did you BQ?” she asked and I shook my head and said “no.” The medical people were asking me all sorts of questions and I just was not able to properly communicate the answers. Turn out I had hypothermia. My clothing was soaked and I was shivering vigorously. Randi told me that my face was white and I had zero color, but that my lips were blue. They said I needed to get out of the wet clothing immediately, but they didn’t have any dry clothing and nor did I. They gave me a huge blanket, which helped. The only reason they let me leave the tent was because they knew I needed to get out of those wet clothes ASAP.

I got out of the tent and it was pouring. My checked back was in the hotel which wasn’t too far away, but I couldn’t make it there. Some guy saw me shivering and flagged down a cop car to drive me to the hotel. I could hardly move and I couldn’t talk.

Final Thoughts
I always put 100% of myself into anything that I go after, so it’s going to be challenging to back off for the next few months and realize that the BQ probably won’t come until my December marathon. And even then, I risk too hot, too cold, or getting sick/injured. It just seems so easy for other people, and I just can’t seem to get my body to do what I want it to do, and what I know it CAN do.

I feel like Goldilocks and the three bears “The marathon is too hot” and then “This marathon is too cold”. From heat exhaustion to hypothermia and nearly a year of training, to shave just 40 seconds from my marathon time. The whole thing is extremely disheartening. I know I need a break from marathon training and an ‘off season’ but I just want this so badly. I know I can do it. Back when I was setting PRs with each marathon everything seemed so easy. But I guess back then, I was setting “soft” race goals for myself and then smashing those goals. Who knows what would have happened yesterday if my goal was a 3:45? Or even to simply break 3:50?

I know that I ran my best race out there. I trained hard, I pre-hydrated, I tapered, I paced the first half correctly, and then I ran so hard I passed out at the finish. I gunned it at the end when I thought I had nothing left for a 40 second PR. So I am proud of myself for how I ran. I’m just extremely disappointed with how it all panned out and that after a year of hard work, and KNOWING that I am a much better, stronger and faster runner, I can’t get a time to reflect that.

I feel defeated, and I feel like the marathon has chewed me up and spit me out. But I love this sport, so I will endure.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Speedwork: Then Vs. Now

I ran 7.5 miles this morning:

  • 2.5 warmup at 9:40
  • 2 miles tempo at 7:43
  • 1:30 recovery jog
  • 2x800 w/1:30 recoveries, 3:43 for each (7:26 pace)
  • 2x400 w/1:30 recoveries, 1:45 for each (7:00 pace)
  • Cooldown at 10:10
I did this workout at the same point, 10 days out from RnR Arizona on January 7 of this year.

The tempo miles were 7:53, the 800's were at 3:45 (7:30), and the 400's were at 1:47 (7:08). Also, my log only shows one of the 400's, so I guess I couldn't squeeze in that last one.

Due to the "meltdown" at Arizona, I will never know what kind of time I would have gotten if I hadn't been so impacted by the heat and cramping.

I'm scheduled to do this workout again on Tuesday, but with a total of 6 miles instead. It might be too intense a workout just 5 days out from the race, but I will see how I feel and maybe only do the tempo portion.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

To BQ or not to BQ: That is the BQuestion

My taper for the NJ marathon has officially begun, as I just wrapped up a 21 miler.

I would say that my "real" training for the NJ Marathon started last summer, when I first decided to train for a 3:40-- the Boston Qualifying time for my age group. Since then, I have had bad luck with getting sick and bad weather at races so I haven't really been able to "showcase" my hard work.

My average mileage in November-December was about 50 miles per week. It included a half marathon PR of 1:48:43 and a 5K PR at 23:22. Neither of these times indicated that a BQ was possible, but I gave it my best shot at the Rock 'N Roll Arizona marathon. Had the weather not been so hot, I think I probably could have pulled off a 3:45, but instead I bonked and ended up walking most of the last 10 miles.

Weekly Mileage
It took me three weeks after that marathon to feel recovered enough to resume normal marathon training. I decided that I would try to average 55 MPW instead of 50, and peak at 61 instead of 56.

Week of 2/15:  52.0
Week of  2/23: 57.0 (long run of 20)
Week of 3/2:    58.5
Week of 3/9:    61.0 (long run of 20.5)
Week of 3/16:  47.1 (includes a half marathon at 1:44:04)
Week of 3/23:  58.0
Week of 3/30:  52.0
Week of 4/6:    60.0 (long run of 21)

Speed work
I have been doing speed work once a week. The long tempo run used to be a staple of my marathon training program, but I removed it this time in exchange for intervals. Speed is my weakness, so I decided to do 12x400's and other shorter intervals. I've been doing my 400's at a pace of 7:04, and I did a set of 1200's earlier this week at a pace of 7:09.

To BQ or not to BQ- That is the BQuestion
Based on this training and based on my half marathon time, I am very confident about my ability to qualify for the Boston Marathon. What I am not as confident about is getting the right weather conditions. I've learned that I do best when it's completely overcast. And on a sunny day, it needs to be in the upper 30's or cooler for me not to feel like I am overheating. When I ran New Jersey in 2007, it was ideal race conditions-- about 50 and completely overcast.

If the weather is not going to be in my favor at all, there is a chance I could run the half marathon and then try for Cleveland two weeks later.

Sunday, March 22, 2009


If you've been following my blog then you know that I have been really packing on the miles. Beginning last July, I started to run 50+ miles a week, and just recently had my highest mileage week ever at 61.

I've remained injury free throughout all of this training, but I've also wondered if maybe I wasn't training fast enough. Everything that I have been reading has been telling me to do most of my runs slowly, with speed work just once a week. The only PRs I have seen from this are an 8-second PR for the 5K (November) and a 2:00 PR for the half marathon (November). I was very thankful for these, but considering all of the other races I have run since June, I was disappointed overall.

Everything changed today.

Race Mindset
My original goal for this race was a 1:46:43, because I wanted to PR by exactly 2:00. My previous two PRs had both been by 2:00 exactly, so I wanted to continue the tradition. I thought this was a stretch though, and told myself that I would be happy with anything in the 1:47's. (Previous PR was 1:48:43)

I have a new running partner who I met at the gym a few months ago. We've been doing all of our long runs together and running next to each other on the treadmills. She ran the National half marathon yesterday, and said she was going for a 1:52, which would have been a 6-minute PR. She called me after the race and told me that she ran a 1:46:29! I was thrilled for her! And at the same time, it opened my mind to the possibilities for me. She was only going for a 1:52, and she ended up with something much faster. She totally surprised herself. I really wanted to have the same thing happen to me so I told myself I would just believe in my training and run based on "feel" and not based on a particular goal pace.

I had dinner with a group of "Big Cats" the night before the race. I told them that my goal was a 1:45. I wanted to get myself in the mindset that I was even faster than I thought I was.

Race Morning
The weather for this race was 39-42 degrees and sunny with no wind. PERFECT! I was wearing a skirt and a tank top, with gloves and arm warmers. I threw the arm warmers off about a minute before the race started, and ran the race in just a tank, a skirt and the gloves. I overheat very easily and I definitely made the right choice by not wearing a long-sleeved top.

My iPod was 80% Fall Out Boy and 20% Anberlin. Every 5th song was Anberlin and the rest were Fall Out Boy. I have just been so obsessed with them lately and I really thought that they could keep me pumped for the entire race.
I was extremely jittery at the start line. I had two friends with me and we were all in the first corral. The 1:45 pacer positioned himself about 5-10 feet behind us, and I began to worry that maybe I was starting too close to the front of the pack.

Miles 1-3
The first mile is always tough because there is no prior pace "feedback" to go off of. I did not wear my Garmin for the race because I know I am good at pacing longer distances. I decided to just go with what the pack was doing, and I ran the first mile in 8:04. This was a little to fast for my 1:46:43 goal, but perfect for the agressive 1:45 goal.

Mile 1: 8:04
Mile 2: 7:56
Mile 3: 8:07 (slowest mile of the race)

I was actually quite surprised at these paces. After the first mile, I decided I would run based on "feel" and run based on what I thought half marathon pace should feel like. I didn't want to back off of my 8:04 pace, I just wanted to use instinct to pace it.

Miles 4-7
I took my first pack of sports beans after passing mile marker 4. They were hardened from the cold and not easy to chew. I told myself to "relax" while chewing them so that I wouldn't choke, but to not slow down. Eating these beans was one of the biggest challenges of the race because I am a mouth breather and my mouth is wide open when I am running at a fast pace. I ate about 2/3 the pack and tossed the rest.

I didn't take much water during this race. I knew I didn't need as much as I would on a hotter day, or during a marathon. Plus, I had pre-hydrated for the past two days. The water stations were always near mile markers, so it was annoying to be drinking water AND hitting the lap button on my watch.

The 1:45 pace group had caught up to me at about mile 3. I kept the pacer in my sight for about two miles. I knew that the pacer would probably get them in just under 1:45, and that if I ended up with a 1:45, it would be a 1:45:59. So I told myself to not get discourged if I couldn't keep up with the pacer. I never want to "use" the pacers to pace my race, but I like to have an idea of where they are.

I crossed the 5-mile timing mat at 39:59. Just under 8:00! I was thrilled.

Mile 4: 7:53
Mile 5: 7:57
Mile 6: 8:02
Mile 7: 7:57

Miles 8-10
This half marathon course is the second half of the Shamrock full marathon course that I ran last year. So for most of the race, I was "re-living" that marathon experience. I came up to marahton mile 21, and I remembered that this was where I found Brent walking on the side of the road. And then I remembered watching the 3:50 pace group slowly fade away in the distance.

I kept wondering when I would "bonk" or when the 1:45 pace group would catch up to me. I knew that running these sub-8:00 miles was unrealistic for me. My fastest 10K was a pace of 7:57, so doing that in a half marathon just seemed unrealistic. But I pressed on. It was "comfortably hard" but I didn't get to a point where I started to hate the race. I told myself that I had so much time "in the bank" that if my last few miles were rough, I would still make my 1:46 goal.

Mile 8: 7:58
Mile 9: 7:56
Mile 10: 7:49

Miles 11-finish
I crossed the 10-miler mark in 1:19:45. This was a new 10-mile PR for me (previous was 1:21:23). And it

was at this point that I realized I was averaging sub-8:00 miles. And that if I wanted to average 8:00 for the race, I had a 15 second "cushion".

I honestly just kept thinking I was going to bonk. I really didn't think I could keep up with these paces. It wasn't that the paces felt to difficult physically, but mentally I just didn't think it was possible for me to be doing this. I decided to keep pushing and not slow down, telling myself that if I did bonk at this point, I would still get a good PR.

The last two miles of a half marathon are typically very painful, but this was not the case with me. My legs didn't hurt and I didn't feel like I was dying. I guess this was a good thing and a bad thing. A good thing because it means I could have run even faster. And a bad thing meaning. . . why didn't I run faster!!! :-) I just wanted to press on at that sub-8:00 pace which felt perfectly do-able.

Hitting the "lap" button at my watch at mile 13.

Mile 11: 7:46 (fastest mile of the race)
Mile 12: 7:51
Mile 13: 7:54
Last 192 yards: 0:48 (pace of 7:20)

I did a sprint to the finish line and got my medal. I felt awesome! I went to get my bag and my runner's high was quickly shot down because they couldn't find my bag. But they eventually did (after I almost panicked) and I got my cell phone out to start calling and texting people. My fingers were numb (even with the gloves) so that was tough. I made my way back to the car and was just in shock over the whole thing. I still am!
Official Finish Time: 1:44:04
Pace: 7:56

of 614 in my age group, beating 95% of them

of 3662 females, beating 96% of them
679 of 6285 total runners, beating 90% of them.

This is a PR by 4:39.The McMillan Running Calculator Predicts a 3:39:29 marathon, giving me 1:30 "wiggle room" to qualify for Boston.

This is one of the most significant milestones in my running career. I think the only one that rivals it was my 3:56 marathon, which was a 9-minute PR and my first sub-4:00.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Peak Week! (Part III)

In the past, I have written about my "peak week" while training for the Hartford marathon, and then for the Rock 'N Roll Arizona marathon. I was following a similar training program for each, but this time I have really mixed it up.

For the past few weeks, here is my weekly mileage, starting with the Monday of each week:

Feb. 9: 42.8 miles
Feb. 16: 52 miles
Feb. 23: 57 miles
March 2: 58.5 miles
March 9: 61 miles

For Hartford, I peaked at 55 and for Arizona, I peaked at 56. This time, I pushed it to 61, and gave myself more weeks in the 55+ range.

Monday: 6 miles, "recovery" pace of 10:05.
Tuesday: 12 miles, average pace of 9:17
Wednesday: Rest
Thursday: 11 miles, including 5x1 mile at 7:42 pace, with 1:00 recovery jogs between
Friday: 6 miles, "recovery" pace of 10:05
Saturday: 20.5 miles, average pace of 9:31
Sunday: 5.5  miles, "recovery" pace of 10:05

The 1-mile repeats on Thursday replaced a tempo run. I am trying to increase my tempo pace, so instead of running 5 miles at my former tempo pace of 8:00, I ran them at a 7:42 pace, but jogged for one minute in between each mile. This workout was challenging but manageable, and there was no soreness the next day.

Next week will be a "cutback" week to about 48-49 miles. I am running the Shamrock half marathon on Sunday and I want to give myself a bit of a taper at the end of the week. My goal for Shamrock will be a pace of 8:09, which is a 1:46:43. If I don't hit this goal, I will have to reconsider my BQ attempt in New Jersey.

As for the Garmin, the best part about it is the automatic upload to the computer and the charts and graphs. I especially like the heart rate data. Yeah, the watch is big, but I am used to it. I ran 8 miles "free form" last Sunday and it gave me the freedom to go wherever I wanted without needing mile markers.

I've noticed a significant drop in heart rate for equivalent paces over the past six months. I haven't noticed significant improvements in my race times, so I am hoping that will change soon!

Friday, March 6, 2009

Got Garmin?

When it comes to running and pacing, I've always been "anti-Garmin". There were three main reasons why I never had any interest in this device:

1. It was way too huge for my wrist
2. I enjoy the challenge of pacing myself with mile markers, and I get a great deal of satisfaction out of being able to pace a perfect marathon.
3. I become numbers-obsessed very easily and I could envision the Garmin controlling my run. I could see myself becoming a slave to my Garmin and if it didn't work one day for some reason, getting all bent out of shape about it.

Recently, I have been looking into heart rate monitors. I use the sensors on the treadmill to view my heart rate, but I am positive that my heart rate is lower outside, where I am not as affected by the heat and humidity of the gym. I also wanted to collect heart rate data for long runs and speedwork to see where everything fell.

Someone suggested to me that I get the Garmin with the Heart Rate monitor, but I immediately refused. In fact, many fellow runners have been trying to convince me to "Go Garmin". Finally, they won this battle and I lost. I broke down and bought a Garmin.

I know that they are a lot smaller now than they used to be. So I was optimistic that this 405 might fit my wrist (even though most watches don't even fit my wrist). And the Garmin would allow me the freedom to run wherever I wanted and automatically know my distance. I wouldn't be restricted to the trail (that has mile markers). I am running the Toronto marathon in September, which is measured in kilometers, and my watch can only take up to 30 splits, which isn't enough for 42K. So I needed a watch upgrade anyway. I also wanted to be able to track my splits and take heart rate data at the same time, and I think that most HR monitors don't have a "split" button.

The Garmin came today, and I am specifically blogging about it before even reading the directions or running with it. These are my pre-Garmin thoughts and concerns and I wanted to document them before I actually went out and used the thing.

I did, however, try it on for size. It's absolutely massive on my tiny wrists:

The non-flexible part of it is longer than the width of my

This is as tight as it gets.

It's so bulky and heavy on me-- I can't imagine ever racing in it. Or even doing speedwork with it. But I am going to give this thing a chance, since it comes so highly recommended. But no matter what, I still think that I will race with my watch. . . . with the exception of the Toronto Marathon.

The heart rate monitor strap also doesn't fit. Even on its tightest setting, it is too big and slides down. I had expected this, though, after trying on other HR monitor straps. I will try to safety pin it and if that doesn't work, the Garmin web site sells a smaller version of the strap.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

14 out of 114 on February 14

As you may have guessed from my previous blog, I ultimately decided against running the "Last Chance for Boston" Marathon. I wasn't confident that I could PR (although there was a decent chance that I could have), and it took three weeks for my hip to fully recover from the marathon. Here is what my training has looked like since the marathon:

Week of January 19: 20 miles (all slower than 9:45)
Week of January 26: 25 miles (all slower than 9:30)
Week of February 2: 35 miles (all slower than 9:20)

I didn't do any speedwork for those three weeks, and my first speed workout was on Tuesday of this week, which was 10 miles, with 3 at tempo pace. I did this on a treadmill at a resort in the Bahamas!

Before I even ran the marathon, I had registered for a the George Washington Birthday 10K on February 14. I figured that four weeks post-marathon would be a good time to gauge my fitness before jumping full force into marathon training again. Seeing as how I wasn't going to run "Last Chance for Boston" and that I felt fully recovered from the marathon, I figured I would go ahead and do the 10K.

The weather was perfect. Upper 30's and sunny. I actually got hot in my long-sleeved lightweight shirt. I thought to myself that it was perfect marathon weather! I got to the race, warmed up for just over a mile, and then lined up at the start line. I didn't expect to PR (49:23) considering that I hadn't been doing any speedwork in over a month, but I was hoping for a sub-50:00 just to prove to myself that I wasn't completely out of shape.

I passed the first mile marker in 7:48. Perfect! I really wanted to just hold that pace and continue on for a PR. But things got tough as the race was a lot hillier than I expected. And very curvy with lots of sharp turns. I passed the next mile marker at 8:07, which I couldn't understand. It didn't feel like I had slowed down, so I told myself to speed up but not too much.

The race thinned out and I focused on keeping up with two runners just in front of me. We kept passing each other back and forth. I passed the 4th mile in 9:07, which I knew had to be a mistake. Unlike in past races where I really let this mess me up, I just kept going and told myself that the mile marker was off-- I wasn't that slow.

Just before the finish line, we had to run over a bridge. A long uphill followed by a long downhill. I got passed by a few runners on this uphill, but I maintained my pace. I glanced at my watch and realized that I wouldn't PR, and that my time would probably be 50:xx. Knowing this, I didn't give the final kick that I could have, and just coasted down the hill and maintained my pace up until the finish. I just didn't see a need to push the pace at the end when I knew I wasn't going to PR.

I crossed the finish line with a watch time of 50:48. I was kind of bummed about this, but I didn't beat up on myself too much. I then heard people talking about the course being too long. That actually made sense to me because mile 4 was 9:07, and mile 5 was 7:58, so it's not like mile 5 was shorter than it should have been. Within minutes, the announcer came on and said that the course was too long. He said it was 6.4 miles. I was relieved because that meant that I definitely met my goal of sub-50:00. But then I got sort of mad because I realized I might have been able to PR. If I hadn't been so far off the PR, I would have given it the final kick and probably PRed by just a few seconds.

Now the race results are posted online and it says "Today's event was measured at 6.4 miles. Pace has been calculated at 6.4 miles." All that's listed is my gun time of 50:57 and then my pace of 7:58.

Now my only question is. . . is the adjusted 7:58 pace based off of my gun time or my chip time? This matters to me because if it's gun time, then it would not have been a PR. It would have been a 49:30. If it's chip time, then it would have been a PR by a few seconds. The 10K is my weakest distance, so even a PR by one second is a huge deal!

Based on my 5K and half marathon times from the fall, I should be able to easily break 49:00 in a 10K, but for some reason, I just can't seem to do it!

I placed 14 out of 114 in my age group
I placed 201 out of 659 total runners

According to Mike (Crazy Legs), I was the first finisher with headphones! It was a nice surprise to see Mike and Katharine (Freaky McRunner) after the race. I didn't know ahead of time that they would be there.

I guess the main takeaway from this race is that I did get a good tempo run in, and I have confirmed that I haven't lost much speed in the past four weeks of light training. I ran an extra 5 miles after the race for a total of 12.7 miles for the day.