Sunday, February 4, 2018

Vegas, Awards, and Hills

Since running the Houston Half Marathon, life has been a bit of a whirlwind. A few hours after running the race, I flew to Las Vegas for a work event. Upon returning, my training really ramped up with intense hill workouts, and I attended two awards celebrations for 2017 running.

Las Vegas
The last time I visited Vegas, I found it impossible to run outside because of the constant stopping for traffic and the fact that you have to go up and down staircases to stay along the strip. This time, my coach told me about a track that was about 1.5 miles off of the strip. It was the UNLV track and he said that it was open to the public.

UNLV Track in Las Vegas
Thankfully, I didn't have any hard workouts that week because I had just run the Houston Half. But nevertheless, I needed to maintain my mileage base because Boston Marathon training was fast approaching. I was able to go for a run every day before the conference started, and it was nice to get the fresh air. The weather was perfect: mid 40s and sunny every morning! I didn't have to worry too much about my safety, as one of my co-workers is an ultra-marathon runner, and he was happy to accompany me on my runs every day. On one of the days, we even explored the UNLV campus, which was a nice change of scenery.

The conference itself also offered an "Urban Fun Run" to benefit STEM for Her. This was an (approximate) 5K along the strip, complete with multiple staircases and overpasses! It was quite thrilling to run in at environment with all the lights. But as I said earlier, it's not ideal for continuous running so once that was over, my co-worker and I headed out for the track.

I had no trouble adjusting back to east coast time when I returned. I slept over 9 hours on Friday evening and felt fresh for my long run on Saturday. And then I napped for almost an additional 2 hours. I logged 54.6 miles that week, which I was happy with given I was recovering from Houston and on work travel. I also came home $200 richer from the Roulette table! Lucky 14 hit twice!

In the Washington DC area, there are two sets of rankings I pay attention to: the RunWashington rankings and the =PR= Trophy Series rankings.

RunWashington (formerly called Washington Running Report) is a quarterly magazine and website. They don't do subscriptions by mail anymore, but they used to. I remember back in 2006-2009 getting that magazine in the mail and reading through the rankings. All of the runners were so much faster than me and I never thought I'd make the list.

To qualify for the rankings, you need to run at least six local races (they have a list of the USATF certified ones), with at least 3 being in the first half of the year and 3 in the second half. I ran a total of 13 races and was ranked as the 11th female. In my age group, I was ranked 7th.

To celebrate, RunWashington hosted a party in DC on a Thursday night a few weeks ago. Greg and I went with our friends Hannah and Alex. Hannah was ranked as the 6th overall female! The party was held at a bar in DC and it was fun to see people dressed in normal clothes. As fun as the party was, the highlight may have been the ice cream place Hannah found for us afterwards. The place had some crazy unique flavors like goat cheese and sweet potato, and it was delicious.

Hannah, me and Lisa
The other set of rankings I pay attention to is the =PR= trophy series. This is a series of 20+ races primarily in Northern VA. They are all very well organized, easy to get to, fairly competitive, and offer generous awards. For these rankings, runners earn points for winning age group awards and overall awards. If you place in the top 10 overall at a race, you get a certain amount of points. And you can double dip if you also win an age group award at that same race. The more races you run and the faster you run them, the more points you get. Some of these races included For The Love of It 10K, the Mother's Day 4-Miler, the Twilight Festival 4-Miler, and the Leesburg 5K.

I didn't run as many races in this series as I had the previous year, so I was surprised that I won first place in my age group. My award was a long-sleeved zip tee with the =PR= logo on it. These awards were presented at a party at the =PR= headquarters last Saturday night. Greg and I once again went with Hannah and Alex, and also our friend Lisa. This party was centered around an awards ceremony with people's names being called, whereas the RunWashington party was more of a social gathering.

Before I start logging 65+ mile weeks for Boston training, my coach decided it would be best to prepare my legs with lots and lots of hills. All of these hill workouts build leg strength so I can handle the upcoming high volume, and are also great preparation for the race itself. I'm not a huge fan of hill work, but I do think it's beneficial for the reasons above.

Monday's Hill workout
After I got back from Vegas, the next two weeks of training included 2 hill workouts each week. So a total of 4 workouts. Here they are, in order:

  • 10 x 1-minute hill repeats at 5K effort, with the jog back down recovery
  • 5 x 3-minute hill repeats at 10K effort, with the jog back down recovery
  • 8 x 90-seconds hill repeats at 5K effort, with the jog back down recovery
  • 3 x 10 minutes of continuous hills: 75 seconds uphill at 10K effort, and running back down the hill at a slightly faster pace nonstop
The last of these workouts was by far the hardest. 10 minutes of hills at 10K effort without stopping for a recovery is tough. Once I got to the top of the hill, I would want to recover, but instead, I had to turn around and immediately run down at an even faster pace. For each 10-minute segment, I ended up running up the hill 4 times. 

For 3 of these workouts I used a hill that was about 0.25 mile, with an elevation gain of about 50 feet. For the workout that required a 3-minute hill, I used a different hill which was actually steeper at certain points.

The mileage has slowly begun to creep up with 61 miles this week, including a long run of 17 miles. I really hope the weather cooperates in February and I am able to continue training without interruption!


  1. Well done on those tough workouts and the increased mileage! A quick question, if I may: how do you manage to run every day without it taking its toll on your legs? Have you built up to that over the years? I tried to step up to five days a week but got injured, so back down to four for me at the moment.

    1. Hi Jenny. Yes, I built up to it over the years. I have been running for over 15 years and I gradually went from 4 days a week to 5 to 6 to 7. I only started running 7 days a week two years ago. I think it's important to keep the easy days truly easy; that has keep me (mostly) injury free for a long time.

  2. Congrats on the awards! You are in a tough age group and to be recognized speaks well to the work you've put in!

    When I visited LV a few years ago, I didn't even pack my running shoes. The layout of the strip is not runner friendly at all!

  3. Congrats on the awards and the parties! They sound like a lot of fun and Vegas sounds like fun too. I'm glad you found a track so you could run outside while you were there and keep your mileage up. I just started running consistently again post-injury and even my old mileage (45-50) seems like a dream. I hope to someday log 60 mpw and stay injury free and race speedy times! But I agree, it does take YEARS to build up to, and then injuries take it away and you spend months getting back up there. Best wishes entering Boston training!