Sunday, February 26, 2017

Taper Tips: Taking my own advice

It's taper time and my body couldn't be happier! After my most intense marathon training cycle ever, I'm definitely ready for a little down time before I race 26.2 miles in Myrtle Beach. Now it's time to focus on mental preparation: my pacing strategy, my plan to get through the difficult parts, and my

I'm taking some pages out of my own book and using this time to focus on "the process" of the race instead of the outcome. Although I'm highly motivated to run a fast time, I know that the only way I'll get there is by breaking the race down into manageable chunks, and focusing on one mile at a time. Here are some key points that I need to remember during the race:

  • Energy and "feeling good" comes in waves. Just because you don't feel good at a certain point, or if it gets really hard, doesn't mean the rest of your race is doomed. Just power through it and trust that it's truly a rough patch that will pass. Marathons are full of ups and downs, and it's important to stay positive during the downs.
  • It's going to be hard. It's going to hurt. I need to be prepared for this, and when it happens, I should remind myself that this is what I've trained for. I'm physically prepared to run hard for a really long time, I just need to mentally be able to endure a lot of discomfort.
  • The course profile and wind direction is similar to my PR/BQ from two years ago. 5-6 miles in one direction (tailwind), turn around and run in the other direction until mile 19 (headwind), turn around and run straight to the finish (tailwind). Once I make that final turn, the run to the finish will be difficult, but there should be a nice tail wind propelling me forward -- just like there was two years ago. 
  • Don't drink too much water. I'm going to start the race well hydrated so there is no need to drink more frequently or with more volume than I do during my training runs. (I tend to over-drink when I run marathons).
  • I've set many PRs in windy conditions. The wind is not a major obstacle for me-- it just makes things a little more uncomfortable.
  • The most important thing is that I run my absolute hardest. My personal satisfaction with this race will not be based on my finish time; but rather the effort level I put out.
  • Don't worry about missing a BQ. I can run the whole race at my easy pace and BQ, so I have a huge buffer zone.
  • Run a good story. I'm going to write a blog post afterwards, so I should think about what I want it to say and make that a reality.
Week in Review
I've read many articles about how it's helpful to review your training cycle in its entirety during the taper as a way to build confidence. I've been doing that on a weekly basis with this blog. First I'll recap this past week, and then I'll focus on some highlights of the training cycle.

This week was definitely all about recovering. My blister has dramatically improved, and now the
Tuesday, Feb. 21
wound is completely closed. I've been wearing Injinji toe socks all week and leaving it open during the work day. I finished my antibiotics so this whole incident is behind me. My cold has passed completely, and I've felt energized all week.

Monday: 8.1 miles easy @ 8:32 average

Tuesday: 9.3 miles, including 4 x 2000m at the track. The 2000m intervals were at paces of 6:47, 6:38, 6:41, 6:38. This was the fastest I have ever run 2000m intervals-- faster than my 5K PR pace! I felt really energized throughout the entire workout.

Wednesday: 6.8 miles easy @ 8:31 average

Thursday: 7.9 miles, including road intervals. The intervals were 2 x (1 minute, 2 minute, 3 minute, 2 minute, 1 minute) all with 90 second recovery jogs. It was 52 degrees and humid, so I actually worked up a good sweat! I kept everything under a 6:30 pace, with the faster 1-minute intervals averaging around 6:10. 

Friday: 7 miles easy @ 8:30 average

Saturday: 10.7 mile easy @ 8:24 average. I consider this to be a heat acclimation run because it was
Saturday, Feb. 25: Unseasonably warm
sunny and about 60 degrees. 

Sunday: 3.5 miles easy @ 8:18 average. The best thing about this run was that I logged an 8:04 mile that felt really easy, running directly into a headwind. 

Total mileage: 53.3

I've now been running for 51 days straight, averaging 9.2 miles per day. My longest streak is 58 days, which I won't surpass, but I may end up logging more overall volume. We'll see how things shake out next week. 

Training Cycle Highlights and Stats
  • Average training pace this year: 8:24
  • Miles logged this year: 502.5
  • Days run this year: Every day except January 6th
  • Hardest run: 4 miles, 3 miles, 2 miles, 1 mile at tempo effort, with 3:00 recovery jogs- run in 21 mph sustained wind + wet snow and darkness
  • PRs set: 10K in 41:51 on un-tapered legs, 5K in 20:13 (set un-officially during a 10K)
  • Longest run: 22.3 miles at an average pace of 8:27
  • Fastest long run: 20 miles at an average pace of 7:55
  • Number of 20+ milers: 3
  • Slowest run: 3 miles at a pace of 10:04 when there was ice on the road
  • Hottest run: Either of my 2 treadmill runs in Miami while on a business trip
  • Longest marathon pace run: 12 miles @ 7:31 average
  • Highest mileage week: 71.7 (week of January 16th)
Weekly mileage for the last 12 months

I'm ready. Very, very ready.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

A Few Curve Balls

This final week of intense training has been rather complicated. But I guess if there was ever a time for things to go awry, it would be once most of the training is over, but not close enough to the marathon to affect the race. So, now!

Monday: 8 miles easy @ 8:48 average
Running during a "high wind watch"
If you read my previous post, you'll know that I was struggling with an odd pain in my right foot after my last long run. Also on Monday morning, we were experiencing a "high wind watch" which meant that "sustained winds of at least 40 mph or gusts of 58 mph or stronger may occur." Given these conditions and the fact that I wasn't sure about my foot, I didn't think it would be a great day to run my prescribed track workout. So, I did an easy run instead and pushed my track workout to Tuesday. The winds ended up being not all that horrible-- the worst of it occurred over night, resulting in quite a few down trees and power outages. I typically run easy on Mondays anyway, but this week my coach wanted me to do the track on Monday, presumably to give me sufficient recovery time for a harder workout later in the week.

Tuesday: 11.1 miles, including 7 x 1600m
The foot ended up being just fine during Monday's easy run and the weather was practically perfect on Tuesday morning-- 30 degrees with no wind. When I saw 7 x 1600m on the schedule, I almost fell backwards in my chair! 5 x 1600m is the most I've ever done, and that's really intense. So we skipped right past 6 and moved onto 7!

Given that I'd never done 6 or 7 mile repeats, I figured I would start conservatively so as to not be dead by the end. Also, I had been waking up in the middle of the night every night for the past week with a sore-ish throat, so I didn't want to kill myself. My Garmin is not accurate on the track so I have to run all of my intervals by feel. My splits were: 6:57, 6:52, 6:47, 6:47, 6:43, 6:37, 6:39. Surprisingly, this was not as tough as I expected. I probably could have started out quicker and been sub 6:50 for the whole thing, but better safe than sorry. Afterwards I didn't feel tired or have any lingering soreness. This was such a great sign of my endurance! To have run such a long hard track workout and not even feel tired or sore afterwards!

Blister on Monday: Didn't hurt while running!
There was one nagging, problem, however, in addition to the low-grade sore throat: a blister. The blister started as a small bump on my big toe after having worn ill-fitting high heels to work one day. It had been there for over a week, not causing problems, but I researched it and foolishly believed it to be a corn. So during last weekend's long run, I put a corn comfort pad on it, and it blew up in size to be about 5 times bigger!  Thankfully, it didn't hurt while running because I could put band-aids on it and wear Injinji toe socks. I wasn't quite sure how to deal with it during the day and prevent it from rubbing the toe next to it, so I just left it open.

Wednesday: 5.2 miles easy @ 8:34 average
The plan called for 70 minutes, but I cut that back to 45 because my sore throat had gotten a lot worse. Even though I felt like crap when I woke up, the run actually felt good. But then I felt horrible again after the run. I went into the office for an important meeting at 9:00am and went home shortly after. This allowed me to take two naps, which were extremely helpful.

Thursday: 3.6 miles easy @ 8:29 average
Thursday's workout called for road intervals, but I figured that I should play it safe and run short and easy. I probably could have done the road intervals, but it was cold and windy and I didn't want to put my immune system through that while it was trying to fight off this cold/sore throat. The good news is that I felt quite peppy during the run. But afterwards, I was back to feeling blah.

Blister on Friday: Still didn't hurt while running
Meanwhile, the blister had worsened. I wasn't sure what the best approach was to get it to heal, so I kept alternating between band aids with Neosporin and just leaving it open. It was freezing out and I wore open-toed shoes to work!

Friday: 7.8 miles easy @ 8:35 average
I was finally starting to feel somewhat recovered from my cold, so I ran longer than I had on
Wednesday and Thursday. Greg, who had been on a business trip, came home and looked at my toe and was instantly worried. I emailed photos of the toe to Greg's parents, to my coach, and to my friend Stephanie who is a doctor. Everyone agreed that I should see a doctor ASAP because the blister looked infected.

Saturday: 20 miles @ 7:55 average
I planned to go to my doctor's walk-in clinic immediately after this run, so I was sure to get an early start. I put two band-aids on the blister with Neosporin, and secured them with a heavy-duty band aid over top. I put the Injinji toe socks over that and I was good to go. Didn't feel a thing during the run, believe it or not! In terms of the cold, I still had hints of the sore throat, but I felt mainly recovered.

This workout called for: 5 miles easy, 3 miles of (1 minute hard, 1 minute easy), 6 miles at marathon pace, 3 miles easy, 3 miles hard, 1 mile easy. It was only 28 degrees at the start but it would end up being 50 by the end. Greg ran the first 13 miles with me and we each parked a car on different parts of our 5-mile loop. This would allow us to shed clothing and get water. I wanted this to be a dress rehearsal so I wore my race outfit, plus a jacket over it for the first three miles.

Saturday, February 19th: wearing my marathon outfit
We tried to keep it slow and easy at the beginning, but since it was so cold, we couldn't help but going a tad faster than planned: 8:26, 8:28, 8:24, 8:25, 8:23. Then, I had my Garmin programmed for 3 miles worth of 1 minute hard, 1 minute easy. The "hard" portions ended up being around 6:45-6:50, and the easy portions at about 9:00. As luck would have it, we did not get an easy minute before transitioning directly into the six marathon pace miles. Marathon pace felt much easier than the 6:50's but once we settled in, it felt more challenging: 7:37, 7:31, 7:39, 7:33, 7:34, 7:22. Greg ended his run after 5 of these and I guess I must have gotten a burst of energy to finish up in 7:22. I took my UCAN gel during these miles and it definitely re-energized me. I had been struggling a bit before taking it.

I tried to take the next three easy miles nice and slow, but my Garmin kept reading out paces that didn't match what I felt! 8:37, 8:25, 8:30. These felt ridiculously slow, but hard since I had 16+ miles on my legs. Next it was time for 3 miles as hard as I could. I logged a 7:15 and a 7:11, and then decided to quit on the last one. Totally unlike me, but I just didn't want to overdo it. Turns out, after I ran a half mile easy, I had juice to hammer it home, so the final mile was 7:53-- a nice compromise between hard and easy!

It was a huge confidence boost to run 20 miles at an average 7:55 pace and not feel tired afterwards. I didn't have any lingering soreness in my legs either. In fact, I felt so great afterwards that I was able to shower, drink a smoothie, and be ready to go to the doctor's office in just 25 minutes to check out the blister.

The doctor told me that she thought the blister looked infected so she prescribed antibiotics. She told me to keep it open as much as possible and to make sure that the big toe wasn't hitting the toe next to it. I ended up concocting a solution of rolled gauze in between my two toes, held down with tape. She also told me to soak the blister in Epsom salt as much as possible.

Sunday: 3.4 miles recovery @ 8:49 average
Thankfully, everything felt great today. The blister continued to not hurt, the right foot didn't hurt, and I didn't feel impacted by my cold. Phew.

Total mileage: 59.1

If it hand't been for the sore throat, I probably would have been in the upper 60's, but I know I made the right choice. I've now been running for 44 days straight without a rest day, averaging 9.5 miles a day. I think this bodes very well for my marathon in just two weeks.

I'm  happy to have survived this week in one piece, and to have logged two very challenging workouts hitting my target paces. My mileage will gradually taper off over the next two weeks so I can go into the Myrtle Beach marathon feeling rested and ready to run hard.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Marathon Running: The Pressure to Succeed

In my book, Boston Bound, I address the idea of "expectations" when it comes to racing: what I expect from myself, what others expect from me, and how that impacts my performance. I've been thinking about this topic lately with the Myrtle Beach marathon just a few weeks away.

Saturday, February 11 on the W&OD Trail
I used to approach marathons with an enormous amount of pressure on my shoulders. I would have put in all the hard work of training, and then expect a certain outcome. What's more, I would feel pressured by other people to run a particular time. Whether they were my friends, my teammates, my coach, people I knew through social media -- I didn't want to let them down. I had to prove to myself and to them that I could run a certain marathon time.

My biggest breakthrough, which occurred after about 15 months of working with a sports psychologist, was the realization that I actually didn't care about what other people thought about my marathon time and my running. It was a huge epiphany, and it was liberating. Up until that point in my life (which was almost 4 years ago) I was intensely focused on how other people saw me.

It was the summer of 2013. I was registered for the Chicago Marathon, which was a bucket list race. I had been sidelined with an injury for most of the summer, and would likely only have six weeks to train for the race, after a six week layoff. When contemplating if I should actually attempt to run Chicago, I realized that my desire to have that experience surpassed my desire to run a fast time. And if I ran a "slow" time, I simply wouldn't care about what other people thought. I wanted to run Chicago, and so I decided I would. And that I would run it to the best of my ability on the training I was able to fit in, and be happy with my effort.

Fast forward to 2017, and I have many more people "following" my running. More friends who run. More people reading this blog. More followers on Instagram and Twitter. And many of them, over the past month, have told me "you're going to kill this marathon" or "I can't wait to see what you do!" Far more eyes are on me now than have ever been before. But I don't feel the pressure I used to feel.

I'm not running this marathon for anyone other than myself. And while I have a time goal in mind, my focus over the past few months has been on the training. Being able to log 70+ mile weeks consistently is a big deal. I'm proud of how I've approached this cycle, particularly after dealing with a 3-month illness last summer. Even if I totally bonk at Myrtle Beach, it will in no way diminish the achievement of waking up every morning and getting out there. As long as I give 100% of myself on race day, then I'm satisfied.

I, do however, reserve the right to be disappointed in my time if something goes wrong. Disappointment is natural and as long as I keep an overall positive outlook, then I'll be fine. As March 4th draws closer, I plan to focus on executing the rest of my training plan, staying healthy (nutrition, hydration, sleep, recovery), and visualizing my race plan. That said, here's how my week shaped up.

Monday: 9.8 miles, including road intervals.
After having raced the For The Love of It 10K just two days prior, I wasn't sure if I was ready for a tough workout so soon. This workout was originally scheduled for Tuesday, but I knew I would be

Monday, February 6th
stuck on a treadmill on Tuesday and Wednesday due to a business trip, so I got it out of the way on Monday. The workout was 12 x (1 minute hard, 1 minute easy), 12 x (30 seconds hard, 30 seconds easy).

I had actually run this workout about four weeks prior, but I didn't execute it all that well previously. I failed to look at my coach's notes to see that the 1-minute segments were supposed to be at "slightly faster than 5K effort" so previously I had run them at a pace of around 6:00. This made for very tired legs and snail-paced recovery jogs. So on Monday, I ran most the 1-minute segments at a pace of around 6:15, and I fared much better. The 30-second segments averaged about 5:55. So I was still quite fast, but not so much so that I killed my legs and had to run-walk the recovery jogs. As a result, I logged 4.8 miles in 36 minutes, as opposed to 4.7.

Tuesday: 7.2 miles @ 8:58 average.
After a horrible night of sleep in a Miami hotel room, I made my way down to the crappy basement gym. They only had 3 treadmills, so I had to wait awhile, which ultimately meant cutting my workout a little short. Unfortunately,  it wasn't possible for me to run outside because it was dark out and I didn't know where I was going. Miami isn't exactly the safest place for a woman to be running alone in the dark.

Wednesday: 8.6 miles @ 8:52 average.
Treadmill again, but this time I woke up about an hour earlier so I had plenty of time. Even though I arrived at the fitness room at 5:20am, I still had to wait for a treadmill. And I was thankful that nobody was waiting for a treadmill while I was using it. I noticed that this run made my legs tired and sore. I'm not used to the treadmill. And even though I was going at a slower pace than normal, my legs still suffered. I actually suffered through this entire run because that little fitness room was about 75 degrees with no fans.

Thursday: 14.3 miles, including a long tempo run.
As luck would have it, the hardest workout of the week (yes, even harder than the long run) fell on a morning with sustained 21 mph winds, heavier gusts, and wet snow. It was also dark when I started at
Thursday, February 9th
5:15. I briefly considered moving the workout to Friday, but I didn't want to subsequently move the long run to Sunday. So, I put on my big girl pants and just did it. I can easily say this was the hardest workout of the entire training cycle: 4 miles tempo, 3 miles tempo, 2 miles tempo, 1 mile tempo, all with 3 minute recovery jogs. Ouch!

The first four miles actually went according to plan: 7:18, 7:12, 7:08, 7:07. Portions of this were directly into a headwind, and portions were a tailwind, and there were plenty of turns which prevented me from running into a direct headwind for more than half a mile at a time thankfully. The next three miles also went well: 7:06, 7:07, 7:02. After I was done with those, I felt quite accomplished and also ready to be done. I had lingering soreness in my quads from the treadmill, so they were nearly dead, and the wind was starting to make things really mentally tough.

Things fell apart during the next two miles: 6:55, 7:22. The first mile was mainly tailwind, so that was nice, but then the second mile was directly into a headwind, and even when I tried to turn around, it was still hard. And I knew if I ran too far in one direction with the tailwind, that last mile would suffer. Because ultimately I needed to finish pretty close to where I started. I ran the last mile in 6:57 and was so happy to be done. I was actually surprised I had one more mile left in me at that pace.

Afterwards, I took an ice bath. And this was all before having to put in a full day at work! My coach told me he was glad that the weather was so challenging because I got a psychological workout.

Friday: 5.2 miles recovery @ 8:59.
The plan called for a 60-minute recovery jog, but I cut it short. After about 30 minutes, my legs were really feeling the combination of a hard tempo that was preceded by a treadmill beating. I knew I had a long run the next day, and I didn't want to be too beat up for that.

Saturday: 22.3 miles @ 8:26.
Long run! Another point-to-point long run with Greg for the first 9 miles, and then running all the way home. I had a lot more energy than I expected on this run, although my legs were not happy starting at mile 16. My training plan had prescribed 22-24 miles, and I had been shooting for 23, but I arrived home at 22.3 and thought that was plenty! My energy level was pretty good, but shortly after I took my shoes off I felt a sharp pain on the bottom of my right foot. WTF?!  I took an ice bath and an hour later it was still hurting.

I tried not to freak out. I had been 100% pain free during the run so I figured this was just a muscle spasm of some sort. Later that night, Greg and I went out for dinner and I noticed that I had the urge to walk on it (like walking helped) so that was a good sign.

Sunday: 3.7 miles @ 8:38
I waited until around 11:00am to run instead of doing it first thing. My foot was feeling about 70% better when I woke up so I figured giving it a little time would help. My coach suspected it was the beginnings of Plantar Fasciitis and recommended stretching and icing. I also decided that if it hurt while running I would stop. Thankfully, the run went pretty well. My legs were surprisingly not at all sore from the long run and I actually was going at a pretty zippy pace for a recovery run. My foot was noticeable, but not bad- like a 2.5 out of 10 on the pain scale. I think this is something that I can keep under control with regular icing and stretching. And I'm guessing it happened because of a blister on my other foot, which may have caused me to alter my stride. It just needs to hold out for three more weeks!

Total Mileage: 71.1

Overall, this has been my most challenging week yet. I think that having just one day to recover from my 10K plus two days of treadmill running really beat up my legs. That wind on Thursday didn't help matters, either. And I have a huge blister to deal with! Thankfully, my energy levels remained high and I feel healthy. The foot is definitely a "watch out" and I will be making a visit to my sports chiropractor early this week.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Racing a 10K During Marathon Training

This morning I ran the "For the Love of It" 10K.

I'm in the height of my training cycle for the Myrtle Beach Marathon, which means I've logged 70+ mile weeks for the past several weeks. The past seven days were no exception. From last Saturday through yesterday, I logged 71.3 miles.

Because the Disney World Half Marathon was cancelled, I wanted to run another tune-up race prior to the marathon on March 4th. But because it's February in the Washington DC metro area, there were no half marathons within a reasonable driving distance. Given that I had already taken time off work for Disney, I didn't want to take any more time off for a race that required a flight. So I had to settle for a local 10K. But that's not a bad thing! This 10K is part of the =PR= trophy series, giving me points that accumulate throughout the year. Plus, many of my friends were running it.

My coach didn't want me to sacrifice my mileage volume for this race, and he also wanted me to practice running hard on tired legs. So he intentionally gave me zero taper. Actually, I refer to it as the anti-taper.

The Anti-Taper
The anti-taper is running 71+ miles in the week leading up to the race, including a set of 10 x 800m on the track, a 21-miler, and a half marathon distance two days prior. Here's how it went down:

Saturday: 21 miles @ 8:18 average

Sunday: 3.4 miles recovery

Monday: 7.8 miles easy

Tuesday: 2.4 miles warmup, 10 x 800m with 400m recovery jogs, 1.5 miles cooldown. I averaged 3:13 for my 800's, which is supposed to predict a 3:13 marathon finish time, but I'm not convinced!

Wednesday: 8.1 miles easy

Thursday: 13.1 miles easy. I was actually prescribed a 2-hour run, but I cut it short at 1:52 once I reached a half marathon. My legs were tired, and I figured that was plenty.

Friday: 6.6 miles recovery. I took this one very easy at an average 9:01 pace.

Before the Race
In terms of my goals for this race, I knew I was in better shape than when I ran a 42:09 on New Year's Eve. And that was a "long" course according to my Garmin. So I had those two things going for me. Working against me, however, was that this course was more challenging and that I didn't have a taper. Given all of this, I hoped to run a sub-42:00, but I wasn't sure how my legs would hold up on the hills.

Race morning arrived and Greg and I did our usual routine. When we arrived to the race, we went to the bathroom and warmed up for about 20 minutes. It was about 20 degrees and sunny with a very slight breeze. I thought this was perfect racing weather and I figured I might even get warm with the sun being so strong. I wore CW-X compression tights and a light-weight half-zip.

The start line was not shaded and my friends and I were commenting that we were actually warm. Greg was particularly worried that he had overdressed. I ran a 5K last February in sunny 14-degree weather and I actually felt hot at times, so I wasn't surprised that 20 could feel warm with direct sunlight.

Miles 1-2
The race started and I noticed that quite a few women totally sped past me right out of the gate. It was hard to believe that such a small race could attract so many fast women, but it did. This was a competitive field, and I think it's because it's one of the few races in the DC area in February. I noticed that I was running a 6:35 pace, so I reminded myself to run my own race and not worry about what these other women were doing.

In terms of the elevation profile, I had studied one of my friend's Strava data from last year. I've run this course as a 10-miler, but as a 10K, I didn't know when the ups and downs were. I knew to expect that the entire course would be hills-- almost no flat sections. But it's nice to know when to plan for the ups and downs. Based on my friend's Strava data, I knew that the first two miles were net uphill, so I figured I'd aim for around 6:50, depending on how it felt. Both miles clocked in at 6:47 so I knew I had set myself up well.

Miles 3-4
I was leap frogging with another women during these miles. She was quite strong, but I think I passed her for good during the 4th mile. There were also several women in sight who I was trying to catch, but I couldn't quite reach them. I knew my endurance was solid and I was confident that I could hold a strong pace throughout the race. We ran over a timing mat at the 5K point, and the results later showed that my split was 20:50. The exact same time as my 5K PR!

Miles 3-4 were net downhill, and my splits reflected that (6:30, 6:29) but it seemed as if there was much more uphill than down. In fact, it really felt like this race was net uphill. In the other popular 5K and 10K courses that I run, I usually notice long stretches of downhill. This was never the case- or so it seemed! I noticed long uphill stretches, but never fully rewarded with the reverse!

Miles 5-6
At this point, I knew I was on track to PR, I just had to keep it together and not fall off. But mile five
Mile 5: Ouch this hurts!
was brutal. So painful! I felt myself really slowing down and there was nothing I could do about it. The hills seemed to go on forever. They were so long. We would turn a corner and I would expect to see a downhill, but it kept being up. Up, up, up! I had to really rely on my mental toughness here. My legs were exhausted and I started cursing my coach for not allowing me to taper! I felt like I was going to totally bonk and miss my PR substantially. I logged a 6:52, which was definitely respectable given how awful I was feeling.

The last mile was supposed to be a net downhill, but that didn't happen until the very end of it. I looked down at my Garmin about a 1/3 of the way in and it read 7:11 for my pace. Oh man! I was running so hard and giving 100% of everything, but that Garmin would not budge out of the 7's! Finally I saw some Garmin movement about halfway through the mile back into the 6's. The last part of that mile was definitely downhill, but there were a lot of twists and turns as we made our way through a high school parking lot and onto a track. I ended up with a 6:40 for the 6th mile, which meant I must have been going super fast during the second half of it.

The last 0.26
This race finished on a track. We ran almost an entire lap, which was cool. It felt amazing (mentally) to be running on a flat surface, but it didn't feel much easier physically. Before arriving at the track, a woman passed me and I didn't have anything left in me to try and fight. I was spent. All I wanted was to try and squeak in a tiny PR at that point, which I realized was still possible.

With about just under 100 meters to go, I could see the finish line clock at 41:2X. I tried doing the math in my head to see if I could reach it under 42, but then I just told myself to give 110% and run my absolutely hardest possible. I was super motivated to get a sub-42 and it was right within my sights! I was able to find another gear and gun it for the finish line.

41:51 official! A new PR by 18 seconds. It was even a Garmin PR too!

Text with my coach

After the Race
Greg cheered me into the finish and told me that he ran a 40:58, which was a PR for him too. My friends Rochelle and Hannah also set big PRs, with Hannah going sub-40 for the first time and Rochelle winning the race. Hannah's husband also PR'ed with a sub-43. For a course that was so challenging, we certainly all pulled out some stellar performances. Greg and I cooled down for just over a mile and then went to check out the results.

I won first place in my age group and was the 11th overall female. The awards ceremony was thankfully held inside the school so we didn't freeze while waiting for the awards to be presented. A small group of us went out for a celebratory brunch afterwards. It was definitely a fun and proud morning for us all.

The crazy thing is that my 5K PR pace and my 10 PR pace are now almost the same. According to my Strava data, I ran a 20:24 5K during this race. My 3.1 split was 20:50- my official PR. After the marathon I plan to race a 5K so I can really see what I am capable of there.

Most of all, I'm really excited about what this means for the Myrtle Beach marathon in four weeks. The fact that I ran a 41:51 on such a hilly course on tired legs definitely indicates that my stamina and speed are at an all-time high. Combined with the rest of my workout paces, I now have the confidence that I can run a 3:20 or faster.

But there's more work to be done! I have another tough week ahead of me, and I'm guessing a relatively short taper for the marathon itself.