Thursday, November 22, 2018

I PR'ed My First Masters Race

I really don't like to give away the punchline in the blog post title, but yes, I set a PR in my first race in my 40's.

I ran my 13th consecutive Virginia Run Turkey Trot this morning. I know this course like the back of my hand, and I think that knowing it is the key to running a fast race. The course profile is gently rolling hills, but if you know how to tackle it, it can be faster than many flat courses.

Up until today, I wasn't particularly happy with my fall racing season. The ten-miler I ran in October was well off my goal, and the Richmond half marathon was a struggle. In fact, I hadn't set a PR in any distance since January of this year, when I ran the Houston Half Marathon. Although, in many ways, I consider the Boston Marathon to be my PR because running a 3:26 in intense rain, wind, and cold on a difficult course is definitely a more impressive performance than running a 3:21 on a flat course in ideal conditions.

When the forecast came out for this turkey trot, I was admittedly frustrated. 12-14 mph sustained winds, which meant running directly into the wind for the first half of the race. And at 25 degrees, it would feel biting. As I mentioned in my last blog post, the weather has been my enemy this year. But when I woke up, I was pleasantly surprised that it was 30 degrees! Those 5 degrees of extra warmth meant I could wear a lighter top and be more comfortable. The wind, however, would still be a factor.

I figured I would go for a PR, but not necessarily sub-20. I wasn't going to rule it out, but I have learned that "going for sub-20" puts too much pressure on me, so that wasn't really the goal today. Plus, I am in the midst of marathon training, and ran 79 miles last week. I knew my legs wouldn't be fresh, however I still believed I could PR.

Before the Race
I'm going to include some details here that are mainly for my own benefit, so when I come back and read this post next year, I will know what worked. I had salmon, asparagus, and plain pasta for dinner last night. I ate a turkey/avocado sandwich for lunch and had a cookie for dessert. I slept for about 7 hours, and woke up once for 30 minutes. In the morning, I had an english muffin with peanut butter at 5:45, along with about 8 oz of water.

Since it was going to be a little warmer than forecast, I spent some time figuring out what shirt I would wear and ultimately settled on a t-shirt that was made of slightly thicker material than the standard running t-shirt. It was the Slim Sleeves shirt by rabbit. I likes that the sleeves were tightly fitted and the material seemed to be the right weight.

Greg and I left the house at 7:03 (yes, I remember this) and we arrived at the church parking lot at 7:15. At that point, I drank half a serving of Generation UCAN. We then used the church bathroom (they are always so generous letting us use it) and began the warm up at 7:30. My Garmin shut down and re-started during the warm-up, which was concerning. So I reminded myself that if it did that in the race it was okay. I do not need a functioning Garmin to race a 5K. We warmed up for 17 minutes (2.1 miles) and then I stashed my jacket on a fence near the start line.

We lined up toward the front, since there are always so many kids at the very front that I have to weave through during the first half mile. About 1200 people run this race. It's a neighborhood Turkey Trot, which has been going on for 30 years now. There are typically a lot of fast high school and college students who you wouldn't see at most other local races. We lined up at 7:52 and the time ticked by so slowly. I jogged in place a bit to stay warm. The start was really weird. The announcer gave a speech about the charity and the sponsors, but didn't say "ready set go". Instead, this weird ambulance sounding thing went off (which hadn't been used in any of the previous 12 races) and everyone was confused for a second, but then we were off.

Mile 1
I had a pacing strategy and a mental strategy for this race. I was going to run a strong first mile, but without worrying too much about the pace on my watch. It was an uphill mile directly into the headwind so I focused on relaxing and easing into a rhythm. I wasn't trying to hit any particular pace. My goal was to relax, run strong, not spend too much effort weaving, and get to the first mile marker feeling good. Given that it was somewhat crowded at the beginning, I tried drafting briefly, but people's paces kept changing so there wasn't really a pack to stay behind. Finally, my watch beeped 6:33 for the first mile.

Mile 2
Mentally, I had achieved my first goal, so now the next goal was to continue on in that same fashion, and make it about a quarter mile to the first turn into a neighborhood. I knew once we turned, I would be done with the headwind for good. Sure enough, the turn came, and there was still a bit of a headwind, until we made another turn and the wind was gone. But now it was time for the biggest hill of the race. Every year this hill seems to get less and less steep, which is awesome. I don't even think I slowed down at all on it this year. Possibly because I had a tailwind assisting me. My plan was for this mile to be about 4-5 seconds faster than the first mile, and without really trying to hit a particular pace, I naturally logged 6:26 for mile 2. I noticed that the mile markers were misplaced this year. I auto-lap my Garmin during races so I don't have to worry about it, and it's a good thing too because the markers were misplaced by about a tenth of a mile.

Mile 3
I think this course is mentally easier than a flat out-and-back like the Hains Point courses. If you know the course well, you can break it up into small bits and take them on one at a time. I reached the top of the hill and then focused on really fast turnover to take advantage of the downhill. Now it was time for the quarter-mile stretch that always seems longer than it should to get back out onto the main road. This little portion of the course is uphill and it's annoying because I just want to be back on the main road with the finish line straight ahead. So I told myself to just get through that short part, and then the turn would come. I glanced down at my Garmin as I made the final turn onto the main road with about 0.7 left to go. It read 6:21, so I knew I was executing well, and I could make that last mile sub 6:20, which is what I had planned. I gunned it really, really hard, and logged 6:18 for the final mile.

The Last 0.13
As I approached the finish line, I saw the clock and thought I might be able to squeak under 20. With that in mind I ran as fast as I could, at a pace of 5:35.

After the Race
I finished, and I knew Greg would be a few minutes behind me because he was running it at an easy pace. My watch read 20:01, and I was dying to know if I had officially broken 20, because I always stop my watch a few seconds after crossing. I kept walking until I reached a nearby neighborhood. And then, it was time for. . . ANOTHER WORKOUT! Even though I had just PR'ed my 5K, there was still marathon training to be done! My coach wanted me to recover from the race for about five minutes and then run 4 x 400m with 3-minute recoveries.

Greg knew where I would be and he planned to meet me there with my jacket. So, I started doing these intervals and the first one felt pretty good. I hadn't allowed myself to become stiff, so I ran 1:35 (6:21 pace). The next one came in at 1:33 (6:12 pace), and then I saw Greg on my recovery jog. I ran the third one in 1:30 (6:03 pace) and was really ready to be done at that point. All I could think about was my time and if I had broken 20. I was going to stop out of impatience but I told myself I'd have better Karma if I did the last one. I did so in 1:31, and then my final recovery jog.

There was a line to check the computers for the results. And the computers weren't functioning properly at first. I was in so much suspense. At last, we were able to pull up the results and I found my name and it said 19:58! I screamed! I couldn't believe it. I was sure it would be 20:00 since that's just my luck, but I was elated. I think the people around me thought I was a freak.

I shed a few tears of joy, as this has been a goal of mine for two years and I have worked so hard and run so many 5Ks in pursuit of this goal. And to do it as my first race in my 40's makes it extra special. And to do it during marathon training makes it even more impressive to me! We will have PR cake tomorrow night.

This is a PR by 19 seconds, from my previous best of 20:17, set in May 2017.

I think my key to success today was having a really solid race plan for pacing and for how I would break the race into chunks. And also not pressuring myself to run sub-20. The windy forecast actually relieved some of the pressure, because if the conditions had been perfect, then I would have expected more out of myself. As for placing, I came in as the 4th female.

I'm so happy! I remember always thinking how fast those 19:xx people were. And now, I am one of them.

Turkey Trot history for the years I have data

 Year   Mile 1   Mile 2   Mile 3  Final Kick  Time
 2009  7:25  7:44  7:37 7:1323:40
 2010  7:19 7:197:07  6:1322:33
2011  7:00 7:05 6:42 5:5721:29
 2012 7:127:157:056:1022:18
 2013  7:26 7:30  7:03 6:3822:46
2014  7:01 6:54 6:45 6:1521:30
 2015  6:43 6:43 6:35  6:0320:51
  2016     6:38    6:49   6:38  5:49 20:50 
  2017   6:366:346:275:37 20:21 
  2018   6:336:266:18 5:35 19:58 

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Weather craziness and a 79-mile week

It snowed and sleeted and ice-pelleted and freezing rained on November 15th. In Northern Virginia. What is going on with the weather this year? Because I run outside every day, I am keenly aware of all the weather records we have broken this year:

Un-forecasted heavy downpour
- We had significant snowfall (our largest of the season) on March 21: the first day of spring!
- Summer-like weather started in early May, and we set a new record on May 2nd, hitting 91 degrees
- Nearly the entire month of May was well above norms for heat and humidity
- July was one of the rainiest and wettest on record, with rainfall almost every day
- Early September gave us record-breaking heat, and I raced in 74-degree temps on Labor Day morning
- Summer-like weather persisted throughout September and into the first two weeks of October
- RAIN: By the middle of October, the DC metro area had already received more rain than it's annual average.
- On October 22nd, it was 30 degrees in the morning. Just two weeks prior, it had been 72 and humid.
- On November 15th, we had wintry precipitation all day long, making it the earliest snowfall in the region in 30 years.

I'm not trying to get political or make a case for climate change, but this is NUTS and it's made running extra challenging. I fully realize it's going to rain sometimes, but not all the time. I also expect it to be 72 degrees and humid in the morning-- in August, not in October or May. I can also accept a full day of wintry precipitation-- in January, not in November. Everything is so out-of-whack with the weather and it makes it difficult to plan for training and races. Case in point, the early arrival of summer in May this year was the major contributing factor to me getting so sick over the summer. And I haven't even mentioned the weather at the Boston Marathon yet!

And with that, I give you my week in training, and how I adjusted for the weather.

Monday: 14.4 miles, 8:15 pace
Just two days after the Richmond half marathon, I was ready to go for a medium long run before work. My legs were surprisingly not sore at all from the race. Of course this made me wonder if I
could have run it faster, but then I remembered how much I struggled, so, no.

Tuesday: 7 miles, 8:38 pace
Nice and easy recovery run

Wednesday: 12 miles, including speed intervals
Originally this workout was scheduled for Thursday. However, the wintry mix was supposed to start in the early morning hours on Thursday, so I figured I would bump it up a day since my legs felt good.

One of my least favorite workouts that my coach gives me every cycle!  It’s 20 x (1 minute hard, 1 minute easy), 20 x (30 seconds hard, 30 seconds easy). That’s a constant changing of gears for an entire hour! No stopping or walking allowed- the recovery jogs must be actual jogs. Its impossible to pace with a Garmin, so the entire workout is effort based. Tempo runs and track intervals can provide a nice fitness gage, and if they go well I get excited about my pace. But with this workout, the confidence boost is simply grinding it out and trusting the process. In other words, it’s not a “glamorous” workout, but it’s great for speed and leg turnover.
  • 20 x 1 minute at slightly faster than 5K effort: ranged from 6:03-6:27, averaged 6:10.
  • 20 x 30 seconds hard: ranged from 5:34 -6:19, averaged 5:52.
I am very happy with how I executed this one. I’ve gone out too fast in the past and regretted it, and ended up walking the recovery jogs. 12 miles total, including warm up and cool down.

Thursday: 7.9 treadmill miles, 8:50 pace
I really didn't want to use a treadmill because it tends to beat up my legs rather than help them recover, but I had no choice. It was icy and dangerous out, and the precipitation didn't change into pure rain until about 4:00pm, at which point the streets were coated in slush, snow, and ice. I don't mind running on the treadmill, but I don't like how my legs feel afterwards. Even though I took it very slow and easy, my legs felt more sore and beat-up than they had following the hard workout on Wednesday! UGH!

Friday: 17 miles, 8:03 pace + 1 mile cool down
I had the day off work, and since I had moved the speed intervals up a day, I figured I would move everything up a day which meant doing my long run on Friday. And then I could add in an extra rest day before the Turkey Trot. My coach was on board with this plan. With strong winds out of the northwest, the plan was for Greg to drive me to the W&OD trail in Ashburn, drop me off, and then I'd run home. That way, I wouldn't have to deal with a headwind for most of the run.

We drove 25 minutes there, only to realize that Ashburn (being northwest of us) had much more snow and slush than we did. Most of ours had melted with the warmer rain that fell overnight. The trail was a slushy mess, and I figured there would be points that would be impassable, making it impossible to run home. So we drove all the way back home (in rush hour) having wasted a lot of time, and even $6.00 in tolls! This meant I would be starting my run later than planned which screwed up my nutrition plan and I'd have to deal with the 12-15 mph sustained winds.

Despite all of this, I tried to stay positive. My coach advised me to start at a pace of 8:00 and bring it down to 7:35 by the end. Oh yeah, and it was supposed to be 22 miles! About 9 miles in, I started noticing that my legs were already getting tired. I ignored it and just kept chugging along. I was able to hold on for 15 strong miles, with the 15th mile coming in at 7:46. But then mile 16 was super tough (8:12) and mile 17 was a major struggle (8:45), and then I simply couldn't run anymore. So the 17 miles averaged 8:03 (I also ran the first mile slowly at 8:55).

When I stopped I was two miles away from home so I walked a mile and then, being impatient, I mustered all of my energy for a very slow recovery jog home: 1 mile in 9:42. Everything hurt! I was in a world of pain since I had essentially "bonked" my long run. This hadn't happened to me on a long run in over three years! I've always been able to complete my long runs without issues. My legs hurt much more than they did after the Richmond half and I figured it would take me a days to recover from this. I took an Epsom salt bath, foam rolled, used the Theragun, and took an hour nap.

Saturday: 6.2 miles, 9:35 pace
My legs were still in a world of hurt on Saturday morning. I wasn't sure if my hour-long recovery run would be possible, but I went out and tried, and was able to complete it. Very slowly. Typically my recovery runs the day after a long run are in the 8:40-8:55 range. My legs usually don't feel very beat up. But on Saturday, I had to take things really, really, slowly and gently. Afterwards, I did more foam rolling and using the Theragun, and I applied Salonpas patches. I had them all over my legs and Greg was having a hard time with the Menthol smell!

Sunday: 13.5 miles w/9.4 at 7:30 pace
This workout was originally scheduled for Monday, but everything was still bumped up a day, so I got to do it on Sunday. This was another reason I wanted to bump up my schedule: doing a hard workout on a Sunday and getting to relax afterwards.

The workout was 2 miles at 7:00, 4 mins recovery jog, 4 x 1 mile at 6:40 with 3-min recovery jogs, 2 miles at 7:00. Given the state of my legs, I was naturally apprehensive about this one. But my coach encouraged me to try my hardest and said it was okay to push hard on sore legs. I tend to be super conservative so this worried me, but I decided to just go for it.

I ran 2.6 miles warm up and everything felt pretty good. The weather was perfect, finally. 33 degrees and no rain or wind. The first two miles were slightly uphill, which I ran in 6:58, 6:54. I wasn't trying
to over-achieve and given the uphill nature I told myself I would be happy with 7:05. But naturally I was able to run a little quicker. Then it was time for the 4 x 1 mile. The first two were slightly downhill, and the next two were slightly uphill. 6:39, 6:37, 6:39, 6:40. Yay!

For my last mile repeat, which was uphill, I told myself I would be happy with 6:45, but then I just gunned it anyway and was able to pull off 6:40. During the 3-minute recovery jog, I realized I was pretty tired, but I told myself I just had to make it through 2 more miles, at a slower pace than what I had just been running. I figured they would be slower than my first two, but I was amazed at how comfortable the pace felt! I guess after having run 4 miles at 6:40, the 7:00 pace felt easy, so I ended up running 6:56, 6:51. So basically, I nailed the workout on very sore and tired legs.

Weekly mileage: 79.2
This is a new weekly high for me. Granted- I moved everything up a day to avoid running the speed intervals on icy roads. But, I only ran 18 of my prescribed 22 miles, so I also cut back on something I was supposed to do. As a reward, I get that rest day that I asked for on Tuesday so I should be somewhat fresh for the Turkey Trot on Thursday.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

The Richmond Half Marathon - Goodbye 30's!

I'll be honest, I had high hopes going into this race. I truly believed myself to be in the best half-marathon shape I've ever been, and my recent workouts had been faster than those leading up to my PR half marathon in Houston last January. Even though I know anything can happen in a race, I was about 90% confident I'd set a PR. I hadn't set a PR in any distance since Houston in January and I knew I had come a long way with my fitness since then. I had run this race 3 times in the past: 2008, 2012, and 2015. My course PR was 1:35:08 from 2015.

The Richmond Half Marathon was my last race in my 30's, before entering the Master's division. At 39 years and 364 days, I was the oldest non-master in the race. So I figured I might as well live up my last day in my 30's and have it on my bib. When I posted photos of myself and my bib on Instagram, many people thought that the race automatically put everyone's age front and center on their bibs! Ha! So let me clarify up front that the Richmond Marathon allows you to put whatever words you want on your bib.

I'm training for the Rehoboth Beach marathon on December 8. And even though this half marathon was technically a tune-up, I still tapered for it and raced it to my full ability. I didn't run extra miles before or after (except for one warm up mile). I didn't view it as a workout. I viewed it as a race that I was well trained and well tapered for. Maybe that was a mistake.

Before the Race
I slept reasonably well the night before the race. I never sleep all that great in hotel rooms with a big race the next day, but I woke up feeling good. I ate my standard bagel + banana with peanut butter (more on this later) and had a serving of Generation UCAN 30 minutes before the race start.

Our hotel was only one block away from the start line, so it couldn't have been any more convenient or easier. I ran one mile as a warm up and then I headed for the start line. I said goodbye to Greg, who then walked about a mile down the course to get photos of me. At the start line, I found two runners who I knew and we chatted a bit.

It was 43 degrees and sunny with 10-14 mph winds. I could have done without the wind, of course, but otherwise these were pretty good conditions. My plan was to start at around 7:00 for the first three miles, and then speed up from there, ideally holding 6:55 for the rest of the race. I had run several workouts in recent weeks that made me confident in this approach.

Miles 1-3
Mile 1
I knew ahead of time that these miles would be uphill and into a headwind. The headwind didn't seem too bad, and nor did the hill. I stuck to my plan of running a 7:00 pace (it was just slightly slower) and everything felt really good, as it tends to feel during the first three miles of a half marathon.

I saw Greg just before the first mile-marker, as well as my former coach. I tried to stay behind groups of runners to be protected from the wind. I had no idea where the 1:30 pacer was. I was trying to run slightly slower than 1:30, and I know those pacers try to run slightly faster than their target so I wasn't trying to run with that group. I simply wondered where they were. They were near me at the start line and I never saw them during the first three miles, so I figured they must be behind me and starting really conservatively.

Mile 1: 7:03
Mile 2: 7:05
Mile 3: 7:00

Miles 4-7
Now that my "warm up" was done, I was ready to kick it into full gear. The wind was now hitting me from the side and it was no longer uphill. I had been eyeing a woman slightly ahead of me for the first
Photo by Cheryl Young, Mile 5
three miles, and she looked strong, so I was happy to keep her in my sights during these miles. She was wearing warm armers, a singlet, and loose shorts. Why do I note this? For some reason, it seems that in every race in which I don't do well, I start out following a woman wearing this exact outfit. And then she runs ahead and I fall back. I remembered this and vowed that I would stay with her and not fall behind.

I saw my friends Allison and Cheryl somewhere around mile marker 5, just as we entered the park. I ran this race in 2015, and I remembered the park well. It was the most challenging part of the course: hilly, and with very uneven pavement. You had to watch your footing and it was a constant up-and-down. However, I fared really well in 2015, and the park didn't slow me down that much at all. And I was able to speed up after it.

Yesterday was a different story. The hills felt harder than they should have. I lacked the energy to run up them at my normal pace, so I slowed down a little and tried to make up for it by running the down hills hard. I hit the 10K timing mat at 43:41, and I had planned to hit it at 43:20, so I was a little off. I didn't let it bother me and I told myself I would speed back up again once I was out of the park.

Mile 4: 6:51 (Now we're talking)
Mile 5: 6:55 (Still very strong)
Mile 6: 7:10 (That was the hardest mile of the race, so it's fine)
Mile 7: 7:05 (Okay, getting back on track)

Miles 8-10
The final two hills before exiting the park were brutal. I slowed down a lot running over them, and the group I was with started to get ahead of me, including that one woman. This was very demoralizing but I told myself I would get my energy back and catch up soon enough.

That didn't happen. I was relieved to be back on the roads with nice, even pavement but the energy was gone. I couldn't hold my pace any longer and I started to feel really bad. There was no one thing in particular that hurt, but I was struggling big time. At that point, I knew a PR wasn't going to be likely so I started to focus on trying to run a course PR, which would be sub-1:35:08.  I knew I would be really disappointed if I couldn't even do that.

I remembered how I felt at RNR New Orleans back in March when I bonked because of the heat. That started at around mile 5, but I didn't stop and I stayed in the 7:30s for the rest or the race. I was in the 7:20s now so, at least my "bonk" pace was faster. I was trying to think of ANY possible thing that would keep me positive about this race. I refused to allow myself to get upset or discouraged.

Mile 8: 7:22
Mile 9: 7:22
Mile 10: 7:26

Miles 11-Finish
Mile 13
I knew that the last three miles of this course would offer a tail wind and a net downhill. This thought perked me up a little and I was able to speed back up to around 7:05 for a short while. Lots of people had been passing me and I decided to set a new goal of not letting anyone pass me. I looked down at my Garmin and my average race pace was 7:11, so if I ran faster than that, then people shouldn't pass me unless they were running a negative split. Which of course, many people do, but the majority do not.

That burst of energy was short lived and I was back to just hanging on again. Now my motivation was simply to get to Greg at mile 12.5. I didn't want him worrying about me. At some point around mile 10 or 11, the 1:35 pacer passed me. I realized that the 1:30 pacer must have been way ahead of me the whole time, and probably went out so fast I never even saw them at the beginning. Having the 1:35 pacer pass me was no fun, but I told myself he was probably going to over-achieve, and I could still get a course PR even if he passed me.

I saw my previous coach again who gave me words of encouragement and finally I saw Greg, just before turning onto the final downhill stretch. I rallied hard at the end, and wanted to take full advantage of that long downhill finish.

Mile 11: 7:24
Mile 12: 7:29
Mile 13: 7:12
Last 0.16: 6:05 pace

The Finish and Beyond
I crossed the finish line and felt horrible. I felt like I needed to vomit, but there was nothing in my stomach so I kept dry heaving. I hadn't drank any water during the race because I didn't feel like I
needed to. And I typically don't need any fuel during a half marathon if I take a full serving of UCAN right before. I felt super nauseous and like I just needed to get something out of my system that wasn't even there.

Greg and I re-united and walked a back to our hotel. I wasn't nearly as upset as I was after the 10-miler from four weeks prior. In fact, I wasn't really that upset at all. I was just happy to be done with it.

My official time was 1:34:29, which is about two minutes slower than my PR from Houston, and 40 seconds faster than my course PR from 2015. It's a very respectable time and I was elated when I ran that 1:35 three years ago. So, to "bonk" and beat that time isn't too bad. Even my coach said that to have 1:34 be a disappointment means I'm really fit. He encouraged me to shake this off quickly and just focus on the upcoming workouts and the Rehoboth Beach Marathon in four weeks.

I could have stewed in disappointment, but instead I focused on my birthday and turning 40, and I vowed that I would set PRs at all distances in my 40s.

Final Thoughts and Takeaways
So, what went wrong here? Why did I under-perform? I have three main theories.

1. I went out too fast.
Rookie mistake, but I think I under-estimated the effect of the wind and the uphill nature of the first 3 miles. If the course were flat and there had been no wind, THEN I would have wanted to start at a pace of 7:00. So, in hindsight, I think I was exerting way too much effort during those early miles, possibly the equivalent of a 6:50. I didn't want to use the wind as an excuse not to push hard, but you're not supposed to be pushing hard in the first three miles of a half marathon.

2. Digestive issues
Due to the dry heaving and the vomiting after my last half marathon in New Orleans, I suspect there is something going on with my digestive system. Since I started running marathons and half marathons I have always eaten a bagel with peanut butter and a banana exact two hours before the race start. And then been able to go to the bathroom afterwards, emptying my stomach. But, I never eat anything before my training runs. Even the long runs-- I just take some UCAN. And my training runs almost always go really well. So, I think that for the marathon I will eat half a bagel instead of a full bagel (I did that for Boston because that's all I was hungry for), and less peanut butter. I'll be sure to eat plenty the day before and continue to have my UCAN before the race. My suspicion is that my body is still working to digest all that food during the race (even though I ate it two hours prior) and that process is sapping energy from my running. Just a theory!

3. Insufficient Taper
When I looked at my training schedule, I actually thought my coach had given me too MUCH of a taper. Just 50 minutes easy on Wednesday, 40 minutes easy on Thursday, and 20 minutes easy on Friday. I felt like I didn't need to back off that much to be rested for a half. But then my friend Lisa pointed out that I had run 76 miles the previous week, and 68 the week before. I ran 10 miles on Tuesday. I was "in the thick" of marathon training, so to be fully rested I would have needed even more of a taper. I didn't think my legs were the limiting factor, rather my energy level, but a taper takes care of both of those things. Regardless, I wouldn't have wanted more of a taper because that would have impacted my marathon training cycle, which is already very short.

I still believe (as does much coach) that I am in very good shape and capable of running 1:30. But one of these factors, or some combination, likely contributed to me not being able to perform yesterday.

40th Birthday
So today I am 40! Greg surprised me with an amazing party last night, and so many of my friends were there. I'm really looking forward to being a competitive Master's runner. Even though I didn't get PR cake, I think my actual cake was WAY cooler:

The zebras are reading Boston Bound.

Greg surprised me with this cake!

Richmond 2008: 1:48:43
Richmond 2012: 1:46:19

Richmond 2015: 1:35:08

Richmond 2018: 1:34:29, photo by Cheryl Young

Sunday, November 4, 2018

I'm turning 40. Here are my thoughts.

In one week, I will be 40 years old! It's taken me about a year to accept this, but I have finally not only accepted it, but I am embracing it.

39 and 11 months old
Because this is my running blog, I don't write much about my life outside of running. But every once in a while, I think it's appropriate, and this is one of those occasions. I want to capture my reflections about this point in my life, and compare them to where I was 10 years ago. 10 years ago, in this blog post, I wrote this:

I started thinking about how I'll be 30 in less than two months and I'm just not happy with how I spent my 20's. I know that you're not "supposed to" have regrets. I don't know what I would have done differently, but I just feel like my life has been going in circles and circles for the past 10 years. I'm learning a lot, and I'm growing and changing. But yet my actual lifestyle is the exact same. I don't feel like I am maximizing my potential, and that I am far too "comfortable" in my lifestyle. Being comfortable makes it very difficult for you to want to make any dramatic changes to your life.

I became much more focused on my marketing career in my 30's. I switched jobs a few times, and I am now at the executive level. Am I any better at marketing now than I was at 29? Not particularly. But I've learned much more about general business strategy, how to develop productive relationships, how to motivate others, and how to navigate sticky political situations. My tolerance for dealing with "crap" (so to speak) has increased, and I've learned that the higher up the ladder you get, the less actual work you do and the more "stuff" you have to deal with. People skills have become way more important, as has understanding the business strategy; not just the marketing strategy.

I've accomplished a lot career-wise. I typically get hired to build programs and frameworks that hadn't previously existed. Everything from structuring the back-end databases and processes, to launching conferences, advertising campaigns, and web properties. What I enjoy most about my career is coming into a situation where something didn't previously exist, and then building it for the good of the company.

Finally, I've learned that for me, the people are what make or break a job experience. I left my previous company because the culture wasn't the right fit for me. At my current company, I most enjoy the relationships I've built with my colleagues, and it makes going into the office fun.

Best marketing team ever!
Right Now: VP of Demand Generation at a large software company
10 Years Ago: Head of Marketing at a small software company

Speaking of relationships, I've now been happily married for just over 8 years. Greg and I met a few months after my 30th birthday. When I turned 30, I was depressed about still being single. I wanted,
more than anything else in the world, to find my life partner. I lived alone and I didn't have many friends that I interacted with regularly. In fact, a few of my close friendships were on the rocks at that time. I had always envisioned getting married in my 20's, and when that didn't happen, I seriously started to wonder if it would ever happen for me.

Over the past ten years, I've become more aware of what I need in a friendship. Above all, I value friendships that are genuine. I want to be around people who make me feel like I can be myself. And I want to feel like they are being their true selves. Shortly after my 30th birthday my best friend and I had a "break up." We went our separate ways and did not speak for nearly 5 years. And then I realized that she had been one of the most genuine, truest people in my life and so I reached back out to her and we reconciled. Even though I don't see her as often as I'd like, I know that I can count on her for anything, and there is nothing I can't tell her.

As for new friendships, I've made many new friends through running! Some of them have come and gone, and others have stayed. The ones who have stayed are the ones who appreciate me for the person I am, quirks and all. I have no interest in petty games (I'm 20+ years out of high school). I want to be around people who are straightforward and genuine.

Right Now: Happily married and invested in friendships with people who want me to be "me".
10 Years Ago: Lonely, and invested in some friendships that weren't fulfilling.

Running: Mental
Running has been a large focus of mine for the past 10 years, and I hope it continues to be. I've made huge mental and physical gains in this area. Here's an except from my blog when I was 29:

I run because it keeps me motivated and it gives me something to look forward to. I feel like I am working toward something every day! There are always new frontiers to reach. New races to experience, new PRs to set. When I can't do that, my whole world feels so pointless.

Running was the ONLY thing I had when I was 29 and I knew it. And because of that, when running
Richmond Half, Nov. 2008
didn't go well, my whole world would seem to collapse. I even used the word pointless! Cringe! Here's another one:

My mother and many others have reminded me that my overall health is much more important than running. Somehow, this concept isn't so easy for me to grasp. Really, the main reason I want to be well is to be able to run. I'm more passionate about running than anything else in my life. I don't have a husband or a family like most people my age, so this is what I have devoted my heart to. It's probably hard for non-athletes to understand this passion, but for me, it's been the organizing principle of my life for a long time. My personality suits me perfectly for running. I'm extremely motivated, goal-oriented, passionate, perfectionistic, with a strong belief in the "effort-result" system. I have a need for structure and control in my life, and running every day provides me with that. 

That honestly sounds like an entirely different person. I can't believe I wrote that and it makes me wonder what I will be writing on my 50th birthday! What function does running serve in my life now? It's still a passion, but I recognize it as one thing I do. It's not the only thing I am. I do many things in life, and running is just one of them. It's something I DO- not something that I am. It's still frustrating to deal with setbacks, like illness, but I realize that my overall health is way more important than this sport.

I no longer have a need to prove to myself and the world that I can run fast. I simply enjoy the training, and I like sharing my journey with others-- all the while documenting it so I can look back on it.

Right Now: Running is a hobby that I am passionate about.
10 Yeas Ago: Running was all I had in my life.

Running: Physical
I believe that my lifetime PRs will be set in my 40's. I have no idea how fast these PRs will be, but I believe I can keep getting faster, at least for the next few years. In 2008, I ran the Houston Half marathon in 1:50:43. This year, I ran it in 1:32:24. I don't expect to bring it down another 18 minutes
in my 40's but I think sub-1:30 is something I can definitely look forward to. I ran the Richmond Half
Houston Half, Jan. 2018
in 2008, too, in 1:48:43, so it will be fun to see what I run on Saturday.

I believe what will fuel my PRs is the ability to train consistently, without illness or injury. Illness has been a major roadblock for me over the past 10 years, and I think I've finally learned how to avoid (or at least shorten the duration of) the mono-like virus that I get in the summers. I'm working with an excellent coach, who has gotten me to a point where I can run 70+ miles a week in marathon training, while feeling strong and energized throughout. At least in the cooler months.

Overall, my health seems to be about as good as it was when I turned 30. The only difference is that now I am much more sensitive to the heat and cannot recover as well from hard workouts in heat/humidity. I never tolerated the heat particularly well, but it's gotten worse over the past decade.

I anticipate that at some point in my 40's, I will slow down. And when that happens, I may become a 50-state half-marathon runner, or I may create a list of "experience" races to go and do, like Big Sur, or Capetown.

Right Now: Training for a 3:15 marathon, running 70+ miles a week with the help of a coach
10 Years Ago: Training for a 3:40 BQ using plans from books

Blogging and Social Media
Social media has truly evolved over the last 10 years, and so has this blog. What hasn't changed is that I do blog a lot, and I interact with people on social media frequently. I used to be active on MySpace and the Runner's World forums, and I met a lot of runners that way. Over time, things transitioned to Facebook Groups, Instagram, and Strava.

Since I published my book, Boston Bound, my audience has grown. I never used to actively promote my blog or social media presence, but when the book came out, I made stronger effort to reach more people. The main reason is that I never really thought people would care about my journey. If they did, then great, but I wasn't going to try and build an audience. However, the feedback I received on my book was so positive, and so many readers reached out to me about how the book helped them, that I decided to be more proactive about sharing my ongoing journey.

In 10 years, I'm certain the social media landscape will have changed again. But I plan on my blog still being here. And I will continue to write in it whether or not I am running.

Right Now: Blogging 2-3 times per month, posting on Instagram 5-6 times per week
10 Years Ago: Blogging 2-3 times per month, posting on forums daily

Because Greg and I both work full-time, and we don't have children, we are in a good spot financially. In my 20's and early 30's, I was really frugal and typically had buyer's guilt about everything. Anything I bought that wasn't a huge bargain was like a guilt trip.

I remember once when I was 28, walking around New York City in uncomfortable, $30 shoes, with my feet aching. I went into a store and tried on a pair of $100 super comfortable sandals. I bought them because my feet hurt so bad, but the guilt lasted for weeks! Unless it was running shoes, I had never spent more than $50 on a pair. I didn't consider myself particularly frugal or miserly. Instead, I thought that if you can buy shoes and handbags and shirts for less than $50, why on earth would you pay more? It wasn't until I was in my mid-30's that I ever spent more than $100 on a handbag.

Over time, I have let go of the buyer's guilt with the help of Greg, and learned that it's okay to buy something that isn't the least expensive option. Potentially, I have swung the other way with luxury vacations, a few pieces of zebra artwork, and the money I spend on my wardrobe. But I want to enjoy life while I'm healthy enough to do so; Greg and I are of the same mindset here.

Right Now: Financially comfortable, with a more relaxed attitude about spending
10 Years Ago: Less financially comfortable, but way more uptight about spending

Final Thoughts
As I approach 40, and look back on my 30's, my mind is more open than ever. I'll reach the peak of my career and my physical fitness, and maybe even publish another book. I think the biggest change in the "me" now vs. the "me" from 2008 is that I am way more relaxed. I don't care as much about what people think of me, I have a higher tolerance for putting up with BS in the work environment, and I'm focused on positive relationships, and I prioritize taking care of my physical and mental health. I think that's a good place to be.

September 2008

September 2018