Friday, April 23, 2010

Training Update: 1 Week to Go!

Life has been such a roller coaster for me lately. On April 2, my fiancé and I closed on our new house. It was a foreclosure so there was a lot of work to be done to it before we moved in. We had two weeks before we moved in to get all the walls painted and all the floors replaced (except for the kitchen floor). There is such a long list of things that the previous owners neglected or took from the house, so I've been dealing with that on top of training and my full time job. Oh yeah, and planning a wedding!

We finally moved in on April 16 and everything went smoothly. I am in a whole new running world now. It used to be impossible to run out of my front door because there was construction going on in every direction, and it was all major roads with no sidewalks. There was the option to drive 2 miles to the trail, but it was dangerous to be on the secluded trail without Greg. Because of this, the majority of my runs were on a gym treadmill.

Now, I simply go out of my front door and start running. The area is full of running paths which are all well-lit and near roads, so they seem pretty safe. In fact, a "run-able" area was a key decision factor in choosing a new home. There was one beautiful home that Greg and I really loved, but as soon as you left the neighborhood, you were on a narrow road with no paths. With our new home, I feel safe running alone in the morning when it's still dark out, but usually Greg joins me anyway. Most of the area is constant rolling hills, which I am not used to. The W&OD trail basically consists of a lot of inclines and declines, but not rolling hills. This is definitely a more challenging terrain and I think it will make me stronger. I don't even have treadmill access, so it's outside or nothing!

I feel like at some point in mid-February, I made a huge leap in fitness. It happened very suddenly. I always thought that running improvement should be a gradual process. But instead, I was pretty much running at the same level for awhile, but then I all of a sudden had a massive improvement. The first indication of this was my heart rate. My "easy" pace is dictated by a heart rate of 155-165 according to the VO2 max test I took last June. I noticed that I started going a lot faster at that heart rate, and it still felt easy to me. For the longest time, my easy runs and long runs were in the 9:15-9:40 range. And now they are in the 8:40-9:00 range. Sometimes I log miles that are at at BQ pace (8:25) that are in my "easy" HR zone. This is when it's flat or downhill.

The second indication was a 5-mile race at a pace of 7:26. Considering this was a faster pace than any 5K I had ever run, I knew it was a huge improvement. And then of course, there was the 5K a few weeks ago when I dropped my PR by 1:01. And I have to mention that during both of these races, the weather cooperated. Both were very windy, but wind doesn't affect me nearly as much as heat.

My training has been going well:
Week of March 22: 40.5 miles (17-mile long run)
Week of March 29: 52 miles (19-mile long run)
Week of April 5: 53 miles (21-mile long run)
Week of April 12: 45 miles (15-mile long run)
Week of April 19: 38 miles after I complete my 10-miler on Sunday

My attitude for this marathon has been way more relaxed than any other marathon. Maybe because it's so small. Maybe because I'm just really confident given my training and my recent race times. Maybe it's because I have been so focused on the move and the wedding. I have to admit to taking a peak at the extended forecast and not liking the fact that they keep increasing the high temperature every time I look. :-( But honestly, at this point, it's almost become a farce. I know I am capable of a sub-3:40 and if it doesn't happen it's not going to make me feel any worse about my running or what I've been doing. I'm going to stay relaxed about this marathon and just do my best.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

5K: Massive PR

Last night I ran one of the Crystal City 5K Fridays. I had run one of these last year and really enjoyed it. This race is put on by Pacers Running Stores, so it felt great to be out there wearing my Pacers Ambassador shirt.

I ran my first 5K in September 2006. Since then my times have not changed much. I've made significant improvements in the half marathon and full marathon since then, but my 5K was pretty much static:

Sept 2006: 24:07
Nov 2006: 23:32
June 2007: 23:30
Nov 2007: 24:19
April 2008: 23:58
Nov 2008: 23:22 (PR)
April 2009: 23:30
Nov 2009: 23:40

This was very frustrating for me because I had been working so hard over the years to be a faster runner and yet the 5K wasn't really coming down.

I'm very much of a morning runner, so evening races tend to throw me for a loop. But I made sure to hydrate well during the day and eat foods that wouldn't upset my stomach. Greg and I arrived to the race and picked up our bibs. We warmed up for 1.5 miles. I was worried that my Garmin couldn't get a satellite signal during the warmup. Finally, about 5 minutes before the race start, Greg held my Garmin up in the air and it got a signal.

Race Conditions
The weather was about 56 degrees, sunny and very windy. The wind was the biggest challenge of this course. The course was mainly flat, with a few inclines. My goal was to go sub-23:00, and I was fairly certain I could be in the 22:40s if I tried.

The Race
The race started and I went out fast. My Garmin initially had me going at a pace of 6:30, but I wasn't sure that I trusted it, based on how look it took to get a signal. I decided to just run by feel and not really trust the Garmin. (These splits are according to Garmin)

Mile 1: 6:50

When I realized that I had run a 6:50 for the first mile, I thought to myself "what have I done?" But I continued onwards. It was really tough running directly into wind gusts and I didn't have anyone to draft off of. I just kept telling myself I could turn around soon! The hairpin turns in this race (3 of them) were not fun, but I think I handled them as best as I could.

Mile 2: 7:05

I knew at this point that I had a strong PR "in the bag" and I just had to maintain my focus. I started to trust my Garmin a little more, although the mile markers indicated slightly longer miles than my Garmin. I passed a ton of people in the last mile. I pushed as hard as I could. I kept telling myself: There's a new 5K PR just up ahead. All you have to do is run there to get it. The faster you run to get it the better it will be!

Mile 3: 7:04

When I was approaching the finish line, I gave a final kick and saw a 22:xx on the clock and was so excited!

Official time: 22:21

This is a PR by 1:01, which is huge for a 5K!

Average race pace was 7:12. This is a discrepancy from my Garmin, partially due to weaving, and partially because with all the tall buildings, maybe my Garmin wasn't completely accurate. I don't know how I placed because Pacers doesn't list results by age group and gender. There were definitely some strong runners out there, but I held my own!