Thursday, November 24, 2011

My First Sub-7:00 Race

The title of this blog says it all. Well, most of it (otherwise I wouldn't need to blog). I was fairly confident in my ability to run a sub-7:00 average pace this morning in my 5K, but I if I did, it would be by the skin of my teeth. Maybe one of those annoying things when your Garmin says you rain a 6:59 average pace, but the official pace is 7:01.

This morning, my husband Greg and I ran the Virginia Run Turkey Trot 5K. This was my 6th consecutive year running this race.

My main goal for this race was to run sub-22:00, but I thought that if I was having a really good day, I could run around 21:45, for a sub-7:00 pace. I had just ran my fastest 5K ever as the second half of a 10K race, so I was fairly certain I could PR at the very least. I actually couldn't really imagine a sub-7:00 average, but the McMillan Calculator indicated that it was possible based on my recent 8K and 10K races. However, those two races were flat and this course has a huge hill in the second mile and a lot of other rollers.

Other goals were to not look at my Garmin after the first mile and to push as hard as I could during the last mile.

The weather was 40 degrees and sunny, which usually means short sleeves and shorts for me. However, I had just purchased new CWX capri tights that felt awesome to run in, so I figured I would give those a try. Yesterday was ridiculously windy, so I chose long sleeves, a decision I would later regret. If it were any other race distance I would have certainly gone with short sleeves, but I figured, "how hot can you really get in 22 minutes?"

Greg and I parked, warmed up for 2.4 miles and then lined up. This race is notorious for slower runners and kids starting at the very front. As I was walking towards the start line, I saw a 12-year-old girl wearing the race t-shirt at the very front. Not one row back-- but at the absolute front. I later saw her walking halfway through the first mile. Every year I lose time in the first mile because of weaving and being blocked by slower runners, so I lined up in the 3rd row back. Next to me were two teenage sisters who looked to be about 12 and 15, both wearing the race-shirt. I figured that if they were going to be that close, so could I.

I was actually warm standing at the start line after having warmed up. I really wished I had gone with short sleeves but it was too late now. I rolled up my sleeves and kept them like that the whole race.

Greg and I were next to each other, and he said he was going to try and keep me in his sight the entire time. He hasn't been training very much lately so he didn't have high expectations for this race.

Mile 1: 7:00
Because of the course profile, you really have to run this race strategically. The first mile is rolling hills, with what seems to be a net downhill. So you have to go out faster than your goal pace, but not too much faster. You also need to do this while weaving around slower runners, who I inevitably found myself behind. (I'm not just talking about people running in the 8:00's, but people who were doing a very slow jog.) I was also entertained by people bonking in the first mile (mainly teenagers) because they completely ran out of breath by going out too fast. Anyway, I was planning for this mile to be around 6:55, but wasn't too discouraged when I logged a 7:00.

Mile 2: 7:05
I didn't look at my Garmin at all this mile, but I did look at it to see my split. I was sooo tempted to look at it during the long hill, but I forced myself to focus on nailing that hill. I imagined I was at a hill workout with my coach telling me to lean forward and pump the arms. I pictured him in my mind watching me and my form, and I wanted to make sure I was doing it correctly. Instead of looking at the Garmin and thinking about how this hill was slowing my pace as I have in years past, I focused on my form and using my arms and I was at the top before I even knew it!

Mile 3: 6:42
I did sneak a quick glance at the Garmin once during this mile and that reminded me exactly why I wasn't supposed to be doing that. This pace was extremely fast. I told myself to ignore that pace and keep putting out a strong effort. Just run! With about 0.3 miles left to go my stomach started to hurt. It was a good hurt though, like I was about to vomit. I think you're supposed to feel this way at the end of a 5K, otherwise you aren't pushing hard enough.

Last 0.1: (6:08 pace)
I kept my eyes on the finish line, got energized by the people cheering me in and gunned it.

Official time: 21:29 with an average pace of  6:56.

This is a PR by 49 seconds, which is very significant for a 5K. I still cannot believe I ran it that fast. And with hills. This is a course PR by 1:04 from my race last year in 22:33.

I placed 15 out of 1983 women
I placed 4 out of 369 women ages 30-39

I am just thrilled with how I raced this. I guess being a little slower than expected in the first mile really paid off in the last mile.

Greg finished shortly after me in 21:44. Not a PR for him, but considering his very light training over the past two months, it's fantastic.

Here is a fun Turkey Trot history grid:

Date  Mile 1 Mile 2 Mile 3 Finish Time 
 2008   Unknown Unknown  Unknown   23:22
 2009    7:25 7:44 7:37   23:40
 2010  7:19 7:19 7:07   22:33
 2011  7:00 7:05 6:42   21:29

The irony of all of this is that my fall training has been the lowest mileage of nearly all of my training cycles. My weekly mileage has been in the mid 30's for the most part, with some weeks in the 40's when I was training for Milwaukee Lakefront.

I can't pinpoint exactly what has caused this sudden speediness and massive PRs in the 8K, 10K, and 5K, but I'm guessing it's a combination of my core strengthening (which I do religiously), my swimming and my pool intervals. (I get my HR up higher in pool intervals than on a track). Of course, my coach has been encouraging these types of activities and the actual track workouts have contributed as well. But that is a topic for another blog post.

Right now, I am going to enjoy Thanksgiving with my family and be super excited about my massive PR!!!!

Friday, November 18, 2011

A Zebra Doesn't Change Its Stripes

I was so excited to know my time that I ruined my finish line photos! I specifically tried NOT to do that this year, but I guess I wasn't as far away from the finish as I thought!

Veteran's Day 10K 2009
48:54 PR
Veteran's Day 10K 2011
45:19 PR

I've been taking it pretty easy this week in terms of running. I know I will need fresh legs for my Turkey Trot 5K next week!

I took a complete rest day on the Monday after the race, and on Tuesday I went for an easy pool run and 900 yd swim. On Wednesday I was back out on the road with an easy 7-miler. Thursday was another easy 7-miler, although the pace was a bit zippier. Today I subjected myself to 5 x 3:00 pool running intervals (harder than track intervals!) and tomorrow I plan to do a long run of 14-15 miles.

In other news, I jumped on the Richmond Marathon bandwagon and registered for the 2012 race at the low introductory price of $55. (Which means no Veteran's Day 10K). It will be the five-year anniversary of my first sub-4:00 marathon, and I'd like to beat my 2007 time by 30 minutes. It's a pipe dream at the moment, but I'm going to work hard all year to try and make it happen. It's not horribly unrealistic for someone to decrease his/her marathon time by 30 minutes over a 5-year period of consistent training.

I do regret that I am missing out on the opportunity to experience a new marathon, but Richmond is one of my all-time favorites. Let's just hope I can hold off a few seconds before hitting that "stop" button on the Garmin!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Birthday 10K PR

I love my birthday-- 11/11. Naturally, I was very excited on Friday when it was 11/11/11. I turned 33 (11+11+11=33). I felt so special!

11/11/11 was such a stripey day!
I took the afternoon off from work to have lunch with my mother, pickup my race packet and buy myself some new running gear. I bought my first pair of running capri pants ever-- CWX compression ones. I also bought two pairs of smart wool socks for when the temperature starts getting down into the teen's.

My husband surprised me that evening with tickets to the Foo Fighters concert. I was so excited. I used to have a tradition of going to a rock concert during my marathon taper. It would get my mind off the race and then I would listen to those songs in my iPod and they'd be "fresh" again. I haven't done that in awhile, so it was nice to have a concert during my pseudo 10K taper. He even hired us a car service so that we wouldn't have to drive, and there were a dozen red roses waiting in the back seat for me after the concert.

I didn't get much sleep on Friday night because no matter what, I wake up at 5:00am. It doesn't matter when I fall asleep-- 8:00pm or 1:00am. I always wake up around 5:00am. To compensate for this lack of sleep I took about an hour long nap on Saturday.

I've said this many times in my blog before, but I think that the 10K is my most challenging distance. The 5K and the 8K are short enough that you don't have to endure the pain for long. The half marathon and marathon are comfortable for at least the first half. But the 10K-- that is a long distance to be running that hard. You have to push hard the entire time and it just always feel like such a long time to be pushing that hard. For years, the 10K was my "slowest" distance according to all the calculators. All of my other race times, including the marathon, were equivalents of each other. But my 10Ks were always notably slower.

Race Morning and Goals
My friend Kathy came over to my house at 6:15 and my husband drove us to the race in Washington DC. My husband decided not to run this one because he's been training very lightly since the marathon. He instead played the role of bag check/photographer/chauffeur/cheering squad.

Kathy and I met up with Dorothy for a 15-minute warmup. Kathy and I decided that we were going to start together at a 7:20 pace and then see what happened. I was fairly confident that I could run the race at a 7:20 pace and was hoping to be able to speed up during the last two miles. But if I couldn't then I would still be happy with 7:20.

My "A" goal for this race was to break 46:00 and my "B" goal was to PR by beating 46:34. To accomplish this, I was going to use the mental toughness strategies I employed at the Run Geek Run 8K. The Veteran's Day 10K course is almost identical to that 8K course (they just add an extra 1.2 miles) so I was trying to mimic my 8K as much as possible. I knew I'd probably end up with a different mantra, but I just needed to be very confident that I could stay on pace and not give up the effort level.

Also, I was going to try to minimize the number of times I looked at my Garmin. I wanted to pay attention to my pace so that I didn't fall off, but I wanted the focus to be on running by feel and being strong.

The weather was ideal. Sunny and upper 40's with a slight breeze. The course was about as flat as they come.

Miles 1-2: 7:23, 7:22
Kathy and I didn't stay together for more than the first few steps. I ended up going a bit slower than the predicted 7:20 and she went slightly faster. About 3/4 of a mile into it, I saw my coach and he told me to relax for the first half and really pick it up in the second half. There was a very slight headwind that wasn't affecting my pace but it was making my 7:20's feel tougher than I would have liked.

Mile 3: 7:20
During the third mile, I started to seriously doubt my ability to go sub-46:00. I was just going to hope to PR. I was at a 7:20 pace and it was tough and there was no way I could speed up. I hit the 5K mark in 23:05 which meant I'd have to speed up to meet my goal.

Mile 4: 7:16
But I was right about that headwind. I turned around and things got much easier. Also, getting over that mental hump of being over halfway there helped. My 7:16 for mile 4 felt easier than my 7:20 for mile 3. My confidence was coming back.

Mile 5: 7:09
Not looking at the Garmin paid off here because I think I would have been freaked out to see how fast I was going. This mile went by pretty quickly. I didn't use a mantra, but I was singing an Incubus song to myself and repeating the same lyrics over and over. It was a good distraction. I also found myself getting closer to Kathy. This was a good motivator for me because she always runs strong and finishing anywhere in her league would be awesome for me.

Mile 6: 7:12
I tried to rally my final kick from the 8K as it was the exact same last mile. I had started out that last mile relatively slow, gone over a bridge, and then really just turned it on through the finish. I didn't look at my Garmin at all during this mile. I was 100% focused on running hard and staying strong.

The last 0.2: 6:30 pace
As I got closer to the finish line, I very quickly glanced down at my Garmin to see the time. I was only able to catch the seconds. It said :37. Dammit! The finish line was way too far away for me to cross in just 23 seconds. I wanted that sub-46:00 so badly! Maybe if I pushed really, really hard I could get it. Although I knew it would be useless because the finish line was still too far.  But as I crossed, I noticed that the clock was in the low 45's. OMG! My watch hadn't said 45:37. . . it had said 44:37. Holy smokes!  I looked at my Garmin data later and it shows a dramatic acceleration during the last 0.2 from a pace of 6:45 to a pace of 5:26. I only held that for a few seconds, but I was in the very low 6's for that final bit. The Garmin can be very motivating! Had I not looked at my Garmin when I did, I would have run the race about 4-5 seconds slower.

First half: 23:05
Second half: 22:14
Final time: 45:19

This was quite the negative split. Part of it was my race strategy, but I think the wind did play a small role. The awesome thing is that the second half of the race is a new 5K PR for me by 4 seconds!!!

Overall, this was a PR by 1:15, which is fairly significant.

I finished 12 of 242 in my age group
I finished 61 out of 1139 women

I ran this race in 2009, while coming back from an injury. I beat that time by over three minutes!

Final Thoughts
This PR was a wonderful birthday present. And now I am super excited about my 5K Turkey trot, given that I just ran my fastest 5K ever--- during a 10K. I am once again reminded of how much of this is mental. I honestly felt like it wasn't my day during the first half of the race, but as soon as I turned it on, I had all this extra energy and I ran the perfect race.

Kathy and Me After the Race

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

15 Minutes of Fame

Shortly after crossing the finish line of the Rock 'N Roll Half marathon in Virginia Beach, a reporter from Washington Running Report, DC's local running magazine, began to interview me.

I naturally thought I might be in the article, but when the online version came out, I realized that I wasn't mentioned. No big deal. (Except for this guy thought it necessary to comment on my race report with solely a link to the online article-- does he have nothing better to do with his time?)

On Monday, I received the print version of Washington Running Report in the mail. I started flipping through it, and much to my surprise, I found a picture of myself from that race!

I'm not crazy about the photo, or the time I ran that day, but nevertheless-- I was there, it was hot, and I carried my bottle of G2 with pride!