Saturday, June 25, 2011

Hot Day for a 10K

I ran the Ringing In Hope 10K this morning in Ashburn, Va.  This race was the "summer race" for Ringing In Hope, and I had done the winter version on New Year's Eve. It was a different course, but the same group organizing the event. 

Even though the humidity was low, I knew it would be a tough race for me because of the sun. With an 8:00am race start on June 25 and no shade, the strong sun was beating down on me for the entire race. In 2009, I ran the Cherry Blossom 10-miler and it was 55 degrees but very sunny. I bonked at mile 5 and DNFed. Even though the temperature was low, the sun really seemed to affect me. 

Yesterday, I was sure to drink plenty of water. I must have gone to the bathroom 7-8 times. I drank Smart Water because it has electrolytes in it. But apparently, I should have been getting even more electrolytes before and during the race. 

Greg and I got to the race about 50 minutes before the start. We picked up our bibs and bumped into my friend Kathy. Kathy was running the 5K and I thought she'd probably win it. (She came in 2nd!-- great job Kathy!) Greg and I warmed up for 1.2 miles, and then found a shady area to stretch and drink some water. We both carried small waters during the race, too. I thought I was getting plenty of water.

At the start line, I saw Karen, the woman who I've talked about in previous blogs as being about my same pace. Although she runs several races each weekend--something I could never do. In the past three races that we've ran together, we have run near each other for awhile, but I ended up passing her and beating her by just a slight bit. Naturally, I use her to kind of gauge how I'm doing in a race. 

Miles 1-2
I tried to go out at an easy pace. I was targeting a 7:40-7:45 race pace so I wanted to go out at about that. Unfortunately, I ended up running a 7:35 first mile. It just felt really, really easy. Karen was way ahead of me, and must have gone out at a pace closer to 7:15. I made sure to back off during the second mile, which I did for 7:50. The course was rolling hills. It was advertised as flat, but we were always going up a hill or going down. Nothing too steep, but the were some very long inclines. Heat + Hills is just not a good combination. 

Miles 3-4
I pretty much knew I was headed for a bonk when I reached the halfway point. It just felt so hard. I was working harder and harder but going slower and slower. I closed in on Karen a bit, but she was still a good 20 seconds ahead of me. She was wearing a fluorescent yellow shirt, so she was easy to spot. My paces were somewhat encouraging, but I just felt awful. Mile 3: 7:45, Mile 4: 7:53.

Miles 5- Finish
Heading for the finish
At this point, I really wanted to DNF. Or stop and walk. It was just so hard to keep pushing. I allowed myself to ease up in mile 5  for an 8:20 pace or otherwise I wouldn't be able to complete mile 6. I told myself that even though this was going to be a slow time for me, I would still probably win an age group award, because there weren't too many women ahead of me. I expected that a bunch of people would be passing me in these miles, because I was bonking so hard, but only one person did, and it was a man. Mile 6 was 8:11. Still a bonk, but faster than mile 5. Granted, mile 6 had more downhill. I was getting closer and closer to Karen, but I never caught her. 

As I ran toward the finish, Kathy yelled out to me "Go Elizabeth" and the way she yelled it made me think there was a woman close behind. I think this was just my own fears, though. I had worked so hard during mile 5 and 6 to simply keep running and not stop, for the sole purpose of winning an age group award. There was no way I was going to let another woman pass me in the last 0.2. So I somehow managed to complete that last 0.2 at a pace of 7:36.  

Finish time: 49:30, average pace of 7:58.

I was really expecting to be in the 47's for this race, based on my recent hot 5K. Even though I bonked, I was glad that I pushed through and didn't stop. I put out a really hard effort, and I'm pleased with how I did given how awful I felt. Plus, it's a 20-second "hot" PR for me! 

After finishing the race, it took me a very long time to recover. I wasn't coherent and able to talk for about 5 minutes.People were asking me if I was okay and I nodded. But I was also a bit confused. I didn't feel like I was in danger of passing out, but I felt so spacey and "out of it". Greg found me and told me to drink water and find some shade. 10 minutes after finishing, I still hurt as if I was running the race. I can't really describe it. I felt like I was working so hard just to "be". I lied down on the asphalt in the shade, which helped, but I was still really spacey for awhile afterwards.
Receiving my Age Group Award

We headed toward the area where they would be giving out awards so I could claim my 2nd place age group award. I saw Kathy again, and she told me that I really didn't look good, and offered to get me some electrolyte tablets. I took her up on it. Shortly after drinking a water bottle with a tablet, I felt much better. Just in time to receive my award which was a gift certificate to a running store. I decided I would use it to buy electrolyte tablets. Kathy told me that just drinking water wasn't enough-- you need to hydrate with electrolytes for hot races. She said that she doesn't race 10Ks in the heat because it really takes a toll on her and it's more than twice as hard as a 5K.

Anyway, I was the 9th overall female (out of 123) and I always like being in the top 10. I typically find myself in the top 4-5%, however, so this top 7th % fits with me not being able to run my potential.

It seemed like I was the only runner struggling to such an extent. Other people were conversational a minute or so after finishing. Greg finished over three minutes faster than me, which is a much larger difference than we usually run for a 10K and Karen beat me. So I know I did remarkably poorly time-wise given my two "benchmark" runners. 

I was so out of it, that I didn't even notice that I was suffering from a major blister/chafing issue until I took my shoe off:

Bloody sock from my shoe chafing my middle toe

Even as I write this, I am a bit dizzy and I don't feel back to my normal self. 

My main takeaways/thoughts from this race are:
- I am glad that I stuck it out and won 2nd place in my age group
- I'm disappointed in my time, but I know it was the best I could do given how I felt
- Fitness wise, I'm in better shape than I was last summer (new "hot weather" PR)
- In the future, I will pre-hydrate with electrolyte tablets and use them during the race
- I will think twice about racing hot 10Ks, unless it's Lawyers Have Heart which I always do.
- I need to "operate" on my shoes to get rid of whatever was rubbing on my toe.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Running Controversies (Part II of III)

And you thought I forgot! This post is a continuation of Part I of the controversial blog series, addressing topics that are often debated among runners. In the previous post, I addressed headphones, barefoot running, and junk miles. Here are a few more.

BQ Times
The Debate: There are actually quite a few debates about the BQ times, and I will tackle two of them. The first is whether or not the women's qualifying times are "softer" then the men's times. Men are obviously built to go faster, but many runners think a 30-minute gap between the men's and women's times is too large. The other debate isn't really a debate, but rather how people are reacting to the new qualifying standards and process for the 2012 event. Many Boston hopefuls are frustrated that their task just got harder, but other runners welcome the new challenge.
My Stance: The movie "The Spirit of the Marathon" provided some history on the Boston Marathon. The qualifying times were set not to make this a prestigious event, but because the number of applications were increasing each year, and they couldn't accommodate anyone. This was before the days of computerized lotteries, so the easiest way to trim down the applicant pool was to set qualifying standards. Over time, those qualifying times have dropped lower and lower as the demand to run this race continues to increase. The prestige factor is simply a byproduct of what the race managers did to control the size of the race.

Given this, it doesn't really matter if there is a 20-minute difference between the top male and female finisher, but a 30-minute difference in qualifying times. Data shows that approximately the same number of men and women (roughly the top 5%) finish within the current qualifying times. This means the number of male and female runners should be about the same. There would be significantly more male runners if they lowered the women's times. As for the new qualifying standards, this falls inline with what they have done historically. The applicant pool of qualified runners is too large (with the race filling up within 8 hours) so they are tightening things up.

How this affects me:
Two years ago, I would have been upset about the faster qualifying times, and even more frustrated that I bonked at the RnR Arizona marathon because of the heat-- and then again in New Jersey. But now Boston isn't really a focus of mine. Trying to attain a goal that was based on someone else's standard wasn't healthy for me, so now I am just focused on running my best races possible. By my standards. Over the past three years, my fitness level has increased substantially and yet I keep bonking in marathons. If I had listened to my body instead of stubbornly trying to run an 8:23 pace no matter what, I probably would have set some nice PRs. So for my next marathon (Milwaukee Lakefront) I am just going to try my best, listen to my body, and if I qualify, great! If I get a 3:40, it will still be the exact same achievement that it was when it was a "BQ time".

Unauthorized Bib Transfers (running under someone else's name)
The Debate: You registered for a race six months ago and now you're injured and you can't run it. Or you got sick. Or you just don't feel prepared. Do you give your bib to someone else and have them run under your name? The debate is whether or not this is "okay". Some runners do this all the time, and other runners would never dream of it. Some large races have a process in place for officially transferring your bib to another runner, but most smaller races don't allow this. And then there is the question of selling your bib to someone versus just giving it to them.
My Personal Preference: This is a no-no. I would never run a race using someone else's bib and I wouldn't give my bib to another runner, even if I were injured. When "Elizabeth Clor" appears in the race results, I want that to actually be me and to reflect my hard work and training. And if I were to run a fantastic race but then someone else's name appeared in the results, I would be bummed. If it was a PR, I'd almost feel as if I couldn't really claim it as my own.
My Stance: As long as the rules don't forbid it, then I don't really care what other people do. Well, unless I got beat out for an age group award by someone who wasn't running under her own name. That might irk me.  Also, in larger races like the Cherry Blossom 10-miler, where they explicitly say that they accept more people than the course can actually hold because they know people will not show up, then I think it is wrong to break those rules. I'm guessing that at smaller races, the race directors don't care as long as the entry has been paid for.

Weather-Related Shut Downs
The Debate: In 2007, the Chicago race course was shut down in the middle of the event because the temperatures were rising into the upper 80's. One person died. This got a great deal of media attention and since then, race directors have been more cautious about holding races in severe weather conditions. This year, the St. Louis marathon was shutdown early as soon as the temperatures got into the mid 70's. The debate is weather or not races should be shutdown when it gets really hot, and how hot is too hot?
My Personal Preference: I've only been affected by this once (last weekend) and the race wasn't even shut down, it was shortened. So I don't really know how I would feel if I was running a marathon and was told to stop at mile 18. My guess is that I'd be relieved. I DNFed at Shamrock because of the heat. I bonked at RnR Arizona because of the heat, and I sure would have loved for someone to tell me it was okay to walk to the finish! I also ended up in the medical tent after the New Jersey marathon in 2009 with hypothermia. I don't think that race should have been shutdown, but if it had, I probably would have welcomed it. As someone who is heat sensitive, my preference is to shut it down!
My Stance: I can certainly see both sides of the coin here. Even though I DNFed at Shamrock, I don't think that race was hot enough to be shutdown. It really has to do with how prepared they are with emergency medical crews to handle any incidents. Even though I would personally welcome a shutdown if the race was oppressively hot, I really think that shutting down the race should be a last resort. There are many other runners who are willing to tough it or who aren't as effected by the heat as me, and I can see how frustrating it would be for them if they were having a good race.

I also don't like the negative press running gets about it being dangerous and people dying during marathons. Most of the people who have died (and there haven't been many) had pre-existing heart conditions.

What are your thoughts on these hot topics? (No pun intended for topic #3).

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Too Hot For Ten!

This morning, I woke up at 4:45am excited to run my 7th consecutive Lawyers Have Heart 10K. In 2005, this was my first large race ever and it inspired me to do more. Prior to the 2005 race, I was a fitness runner, often running 6 miles on a treadmill, but rarely outdoors and never competitively. This 10K got me out on the road and led to a major positive change in my life (competitive running) so it will always hold a special place in my heart.

Every year, the race ends up being hot. Usually it's unseasonably hot and I'm not acclimated to the heat yet so my times are never fantastic. So my goal for the past few years has been to set a course PR. This year, I had to beat 49:50, which I thought was very manageable, given my recent PRs and speed workouts. I was going to target a 7:45-7:50 pace and hopefully end up at 48:xx.

My husband was unable to run the race due to a work obligation, so I carpooled with my friend Chad. I picked him up at 6:00, which should have given us plenty of time to park, pick up our bibs, warmup, and be ready for the 7:30am start. But despite my planning, we still ended up cutting it close on time. We had to take a detour because 66 East was closed due to construction. Luckily I knew a way around it, but the traffic leading up the closure added about 10 minutes onto our trip.

We arrived at the race, parked and went to get our bibs. As expected, I got a medium shirt. That makes 7 medium Lawyers Have Heart shirts, despite the fact that every year I register for a small. And it's not like I'm picking it up at the last minute either. I typically arrive 45-60 minutes before race start, which is a perfectly reasonable time to show up. I just don't understand why they don't order more smalls since they run out every single year. Furthermore, how hard is it to only give people the shirt size they registered for instead of just letting them pick whatever they want once they see that the shirts run big. Oh well, they make good sleep shirts.

After I got my packet, I went over to where Chad was registering on-site, and he told me that they changed the race to the 5K. Really!?  The person who gave me my bib didn't tell me this, and it was pretty critical information. We didn't know why, but after the race, I ran into my favorite race director, Kathy Dalby, who said that the city officials told them that morning that they were only allowed to do a 5K because of the weather. It was a combination of heat, humidity and smog that made city officials fear that runners would have difficulty breathing.

I was thankful that Chad told me about the switch because otherwise I might not have known. After the race, we overheard some runners saying that they had no idea they were actually running a 5K. The announcer made his best effort to communicate this, but there were many people who weren't paying attention. Before the race, I also overheard some people getting angry that they paid $45 for a 5K. Relax-- it's for a good cause and the change was made for your safety!

Chad and I went back to my car, put our bibs on and warmed up. We only had time for a 0.6 mile warmup, but I was okay with that given that I wanted to stay "cool" and not warmed! I had mixed feelings about the change, but I didn't really have time to think about it too much. I had to focus on running a strong 5K and think about what my goals would be. I decided that I wanted a "hot weather" PR, which would be sub 23:21. I also had a stretch goal of sub-23, but given the weather, I didn't think that was likely.

The start line was extremely crowded, and there were quite a few people in the front that clearly didn't belong there (yes-- you wearing the race t-shirt and pinning your bib number to the back of that shirt). I lined up in the area marked 7:00-8:00 pace, but I don't think most people were paying attention to the signs.

Mile 1 -  7:20
When we took off, I started at what felt like 5K pace. I didn't really have a strategy. I was just going to do what felt like 5K pace and see how long I could hold onto it. I had been planning on wearing a heart rate monitor for the 10K, but once it got changed to the 5K, I decided to ditch it because the purpose of the monitor had been to make sure my HR didn't get too high too soon. But I knew it would during a 5K and didn't want the numbers to scare me.

Speaking of Garmin data, whenever I looked down at my Garmin, I saw this "approaching turn" message that I had never seen before. Somehow, without fail, my Garmin knows when I am racing and decides to act up in ways that it never does when I am training. I have been wearing this Garmin for two years and I have never seen the "approaching turn" message. It was annoying because I couldn't see any data under it, so I just stopped looking at the Garmin.

Mile 2 - 7:27
We got the ice cold sponges at the beginning of this mile and I loved it. That's my favorite part about the race! I put mine on the back of my neck, my forehead and my wrist and finally I tossed it aside. I had also carried a small bottle of water for the first mile which I ditched in order to get a cold sponge. It was so nice to be turning around so early in the race. During this mile, I was really thankful that it was a 5K. It was just so hot with no shade and the sun beating down on me.

Mile 3 - 7:22
The idea that I was only running half of what I expected really fueled me to keep pushing. I remembered how many times I had struggled through the last mile of this 10K and told myself that I only had two miles behind me, not five, so I should be able to be strong. I told myself I could still meet my goal if I kept the pace under 8:00. I was fairly certain that it would be a huge struggle, but my pace really surprised me. In nearly every past LHH, my last mile was always the slowest. This time, it was different! It started out on the slower side, but once I realized that I was less than half a mile to the finish line, I really picked up the pace and just flew down that final hill, passing quite a few people.

Last 0.1: - 5:59 pace
Okay, I don't really believe that this was my pace. That last 0.1 is under a bridge so I am pretty sure my Garmin was affected by that. I also recall the first 0.1 reading in the 9:00's, so this was compensating for that. And based on my finish time and average pace, my first mile had to have been closer to 7:15. Anyway, I did have a very strong sprint to the finish line and I was super excited to see that the clock was under 23 minutes!

Finish time: 22:43, with an average pace of 7:19.

I placed 18 out of 391 women ages 30-34 (top 4.6 percent)
I placed 111 out of 1633 total women (top 6.8 percent)

After recovering from that final kick, I met up with Chad who had run exactly two minutes faster-- a 20:43. Congrats, Chad!

I am very, very happy with my race performance. I set a new "hot weather" 5K PR by 38 seconds, I met my stretch goal of sub-23, and I didn't bonk. This might be the first LHH where my last mile was strong. I contribute my success to:

  • Drinking plenty of water on Thursday and Friday
  • Being more acclimated to the heat because summer came really early this year
  • Having the confidence from the half marathon that hot races don't have to be disastrous, if you have the appropriate expectations
  • Knowing what 5K pace "feels" like when uncertain what pace to target 
  • Just getting faster overall :-)
The day ended on a down note when I got pulled over for using my cell phone while driving on M. Street. Greg had just called and of course I wanted to tell him about the race, and since they are legal in Virginia, I hadn't even thought about it. Apparently all I have to do to get the fee waived is go buy a hands-free device and send the receipt to the DMV. There are no instructions anywhere online as to how I need to do this, so if anyone has experience, please let me know. I'll probably just end up calling them and being put on hold for 3 hours.

But screw the ticket- I had a good race in spite of the weather!!!!!

Friday, June 3, 2011

Ladder Intervals

Mizuno Elixir 3 Lightweight Trainer
This morning I ran my first interval workout on the track since my stress fracture injury this spring. The last time I had done "land" intervals was mile repeats back in early January. I wanted to wait until my shins were 100% pain free and "awareness" free. It was also my first time wearing my Mizuno lightweight trainers since the injury. I had been training and racing in my Brooks Adrenalines, which are heavier than what I usually race in, just to be on the safe side.

The weather was such a relief. 53 degrees and low humidity. We haven't had weather this nice in nearly a month!

Injury & Intervals
Throughout February, March and April, I did pool intervals once a week. They were hard. Even harder than land intervals on a track because I pushed myself to the absolute max, really wanting to make sure I maintained my fitness. I had even received comments from the lifeguards and other swimmers to the affect of "don't have a hard attack" because my breathing and grunting noises were so loud. My friend Dash calls this the "primal scream" and I pretty much screamed while pool running. As evidenced by my PRs and training paces post-injury, I maintained my fitness, if not actually improved it by doing pool intervals.

This morning, I harnessed the mental "game" I used to stay strong during the pool intervals to give it my all. I kept thinking to myself that I worked so hard in the water, I needed to work just as hard on the track to maintain what I had built.

My husband and I ran to the track for our warmup, did the intervals and then ran back.

The Workout
I chose an interval set that looks somewhat easy on paper, but yet always surprises me at how difficult it is when I actually do it: ladder intervals. I took this workout from Hudson's Run Faster book and I've done  it a handful of times over the past two years. The workout is 1 min, 2 mins, 3 mins, 2 mins, 1 min, 2 min, 3 mins with equal duration recovery jogs. I forget how fast the book says to do them, but I do each one as fast as possible, keeping in mind that I don't want to burn out before the intervals are complete.

I usually use my HR monitor and aim for 187-189 starting at the second interval, but my HR monitor was acting all wacky this morning, telling me I was at 200 during the warmup. The HR data is all over the place, but based on effort, I know I was on target, if not above!

 Interval   Duration  Distance (miles) Pace
 1  1:00 0.16  6:10
 2  2:00 0.32 6:11
 3 3:00 0.46 6:29
 4  2:00 0.32 6:18
 5   1:00 0.16 6:17
 6  2:00  0.31 6:24 
 7  3:00 0.45 6:36

Total Distance (including warm up and cool down): 6.5 miles

I could tell I was accustomed to pool intervals because as soon as my watch beeped I just stopped and stood still for about 10 seconds before starting to walk/jog again. (In the pool I just go completely limp.) I don't care about what the recovery paces are. I go as slow as I need to go, and walk the first bit, just to make sure I recover and am prepared for the next one. My former coach said that I should do whatever it takes to recover in between intervals so I could make sure I hit the heart rate targets I needed in subsequent intervals.

As for my intervals. . . I was amazed at my paces! I've never done intervals this fast!

The most recent workout I could find in my log was from June 2010 (I could have sworn I have done this workout since then), so I used it for comparison. The weather for last year's workout was 65 degrees, so about 10 degrees warmer, but still with low humidity. The weather alone account for some of the difference, but certainly not all of it.

Here are my paces from June 2010 for the exact same workout:
7:03, 6:45, 6:50, 6:49, 6:47, 6:43, 6:52

Back then, I think I was pretty excited to be sub-7:00. So I think that a course PR in the 10K next weekend should be attainable. It will be my 7th consecutive Lawyers Have Heart 10K, and I hope to beat last year's time by at least a full minute.

My shins were 100% fine and the lightweight trainers didn't cause any problems. I couldn't be happier with how my return to interval running went!