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.