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.