Tuesday, December 31, 2019

2019 Year In Review

2019 was a good year for me. Any year without illness or (major) injury is a good year, although I do still experience symptoms of my bike accident. It would have been nice to run a marathon PR, but race day weather wasn't in my favor, and I know the training I did will be a strong foundation for future cycles. Running healthy and strong is my first priority and I did that!

15 Races, 129 Race Miles
This is a typical number for me in a healthy year, particularly because I tend to run a lot of 5Ks in the summer. Here's the breakdown:
  • 7 x 5K: New Year's, Semper Fi, Firecracker, Leesburg, Great American, Dulles Runway, Turkey Trot
  • 3 x 10K: Pancake Run, Pike's Peek, Fall Classic
  • 1 x 10-mile: Cherry Blossom
  • 2 x Half marathon: Columbus, Indy Monumental
  • 2 x Marathon: Sugarloaf, CIM
I should also mention my DNF at the Shamrock marathon. I got over that pretty quickly and moved on.

3.5 Personal Records
  • I set a PR in the Cherry Blossom 10-miler by 30 seconds, in 1:09:54. This was my first sub-70 so it was a big deal. 
  • Later in the year, I set a PR in the Columbus half by 29 seconds in 1:31:55.
  • Just 3 weeks later, I set another half marathon PR at Indy Monumental in 1:30:58. My half marathon PR pace is now faster than my 10-miler PR pace, so I un-officially set a PR there too.
  • The 0.5 of a PR is the official/unofficial debate from my Turkey Trot 5K. My chip time of 19:55 was a PR by 3 seconds, but they removed it from the results and used my gun time of 20:00 as the official time. My takeaway was that I got myself in the 5K PR shape while marathon training, which is awesome!
2,695 Miles logged
I set a new record for most miles ever logged in one year! I took 28 days off total, and my longest streak was 122 days in a row.

My highest weekly mileage was 81 when I was training for Shamrock. I ran 37 track workouts and 14 runs that were 16 miles or longer (not including the marathons).

Looking at the yearly mileage graph, I'm happy to see that at the age of 41, my body is allowing me to do more training than ever. Not shown on this graph is the strength training I did. I followed a program from June to October, stopping once my mileage became really high and intense.

In terms of weather, my coldest run was 10 degrees Fahrenheit, when I drove into Arlington to find a non-icy surface. I bought a treadmill later in the year, so I might never run in 10 degrees again! I avoided the heat as much as possible, and my hottest run was 73 degrees-- the Leesburg 5K. The Sugarloaf Marathon wins the prize for the rainiest, with rain pouring down in what felt like buckets for the last 10 miles.

12 U.S. States and 6 Countries
I also set a record this year for the number of places I've visited and run in. I was able to combine two of my business trips with races!

  • Virginia (hometown)
    Oslo, Norway
  • Arizona (business trip + race)
  • Maryland (race)
  • New York (mini-vacation)
  • Washington DC (2 races)
  • Maine (race)
  • Texas (business trip)
  • Massachusetts (business trip)
  • Ohio (race)
  • Indiana (business trip + race)
  • Rhode Island (business trip)
  • California (race)
  • The USA
  • Mexico
  • Denmark
  • Germany
  • Sweden
  • Norway
New Running Gear
I acquired a lot of new running gear and tools this year that have really helped with my training.
  • Garmin Forerunner 245 (after trying the 45 but not finding it precise enough)
  • NordicTrack Treadmill
  • RapidReboot recovery boots (Thank you, RapidReboot)
  • Aftershokz headphones (Thank you, Aftershokz)
  • Nike Vaporfly Next %, x 2 pairs!
  • Lots of clothing from Tracksmith and rabbit
My Book
Finally, my book, Boston Bound, is still going strong. This year it sold about 500 copies, which is amazing for being its 3rd year in print, and I didn't do much to promote it.

Previous Years in Review
I'm running a New Year's Day 5K tomorrow, and I'm excited to see how it goes. Happy New Year to all my blog readers!

Monday, December 23, 2019

The Best Weather Sources for Runners

We've all been there. Checking multiple weather sources in the week leading up to the big race, trying to figure out what to wear and if the conditions will be favorable. Even on a daily basis, a reliable weather forecast is critical to optimizing each run and can answer questions like:

  • Should I carry water with me?
  • Will the ground be icy?
  • Should I wear a hat to keep the rain out of my eyes?
  • Are conditions safe?
  • Should I adjust my pace due to wind, heat and/or humidity?
  • What should I wear?
I've consulted multiple weather apps/sources over the past 15 years, and I have strong opinions on which ones are the best. Of course, that doesn't prevent me from continuing to consult ALL the weather sources when a goal race is coming up, but on a daily basis, I have my standard go-to app because I think it's the best. 

In this blog post, I narrow it down to 5 weather sources, giving the pros and cons of each. 

Weather Source #5: AccuWeather
AccuWeather was my go-to weather source before I became a runner. Now, I only look at it if I am in full-on weather obsession mode and I don't use it regularly.

Pros: You can see the weather forecast 90 days out! This is further out than any other app. While the accuracy of something two months away will be very low, at least you can get a sense of what can be expected for a particular location on a particular date. And it's just fun to be able to look at it because it makes your race feel closer. 

Cons: Too many ads, and the hourly forecast is only available three days in advance (unless you pay for a subscription). I tried downloading the app to my phone about five years ago and I had to delete it because the ads were too intrusive. When visiting the website, the ads are also extremely annoying. I find it to be moderately accurate as early as 7 days out, but definitely not as good as the higher ranked apps below.

Weather Source #4: The Local News
For me, that's Capital Weather Gang at the Washington Post. When I am racing somewhere out of town, I am sure to visit the local news station's website for a forecast video.

Pros: The local forecasters give you more data than the simple numbers you get from most weather apps. They will discuss what's happening and why, and if the race is big enough, will actually tell you what to expect on race morning. The Capital Weather Gang offers in-depth information for the Washington DC area and I use it a lot in the winter to understand the probability of snow and how many inches we will get. 

Cons: Usually the local forecasts don't provide the hour-by-hour details that are needed to truly plan your running outfit. For example, if you are doing a long run, it could start at 30 degrees and warm up to 40 by the end, but you would never know that from a local forecast without the hourly detail.

Weather Source #3: WeatherBug
WeatherBug is Greg's default weather app and it's usually pretty good. 

Pros: Tends to be accurate, hourly forecast available 5 days in advance, has hourly details for the humidity and the wind speed. 

Cons: Not as granular as the higher ranked-apps below. You don't know how much rain will fall each hour, you don't know the percentage of cloud cover, and it's not user friendly. If you want to see the hourly forecast for a day that's five days away, you have to click (or tap if you are using the app) on "Next 12 hours" until your day shows up. You can't easily navigate to it.

WeatherBug hourly for this morning

Weather Source #2: The National Weather Service
The National Weather Service, also known as weather.gov is one of my favorites. It's both accurate and detailed, and the only thing it lacks is an app for the iPhone. 

Pros: The National Weather service has the most detailed hourly forecast by far. You can see temperature, dew point, humidity percentage, cloud cover percentage, chance of rain, wind speed, wind direction, wind gust, and more. If you navigate to the "discussion" area you can also get an in-depth analysis of what is going on. This wonderfully detailed forecast is available 7 days out. Just click "hourly forecast" and select your start date and time. You'll see the hourly forecast for two full days at a time. This site also has no ads. A good use of tax payer dollars!

Cons: The app is not free; it's $2.99. I actually didn't realize they had an app until I started writing this blog, so I might download it. I typically use my phone's browser to look at the forecast. Also, the hourly forecast only updates about twice per day, so if you check more frequently you aren't getting new information. The top ranked weather source seems to be updated every few hours or so.

Detailed hourly forecast from Nat'l Weather Service
According to WeatherBug, it's going to be 26 degrees at 8:00am, and according to the National Weather Service, it's going to be 30. I'll be running at that time, so I will probably dress for 28!

Weather Source #1: Wunderground
I have so much love for Wunderground. The app has a wealth of information and the website is even more detailed. It's one of the first apps I check when I wake up in the morning, and I rarely consult any other sources for my training runs. Since Greg has Weather Bug, I sometimes ask him what his phone says, but I trust Wunderground more. Usually the apps agree with each other.

Pros: Hourly forecast is available 10 days out! It's not usually accurate so far out, but it's a good first look. The app will tell you temperature, wind speed, wind direction, and if it's going to rain, it will tell you how much rain will fall each hour. This is important because a light drizzle is very different from a torrential downpour. You can even choose the weather station that is closest to you on a map, and there are loads of them. The website even has hourly historical data. So if I want to know what the weather was when I ran "x race" on "x date" I can go find out. I've already scoped out the weather history for April 20 in Boston and typically it's nice and cool.

Cons: The app sometimes crashes. There are a few ads but they aren't intrusive. Even still, I pay $1/year to make the ads go away fully. 

Boston Marathon 2018 Hourly Forecast on Wunderground
As you can see in the above screen shot, Wunderground is the only weather source I know of that will tell you how much rain to expect. At 1:00pm, it was forecast to dump 0.3" of rain. . . in just one hour!

Boston Marathon 2018

Non-honorable mentions
The two weather sources that I find completely useless are the Weather Channel (also known as weather.com) and the weather app that comes with the iPhone. That app is powered by Yahoo! Weather. The weather app that comes with the iPhone has no detail whatsoever. It will tell you what temperature it is in a particular city, but that's about it. Unless I'm missing something, which would make the app non-intuitive.

The Weather Channel is a reputable weather source and when I had cable TV I enjoyed watching it. Their app and their website, however, always seem to be way off in terms of accuracy. Every time I have consulted weather.com, along with my other weather sources, weather.com has almost always been an outlier with its forecast. And of course, it's overloaded with ads. 

I rely heavily on these weather apps to make decisions about my running. Sometimes I will opt for the treadmill, sometimes I will move my run to later in the day. It's also helpful to know when the sun rises, so I can determine if a headlamp is necessary. Of course, sometimes all apps are completely wrong. None of these sources showed sunshine during CIM, but the sun was out in full force for at least 15 minutes. Also, the rain kept coming and going from the forecast, which shows that the forecasters really couldn't predict if it was going to rain and when. Sometimes even the experts can't predict the weather!

Hopefully this blog was helpful, and if you know of a different weather source that I left out, please mention it in the comments!

Monday, December 9, 2019

My 26th Marathon: California International

Yesterday I ran my 26th marathon! The California International Marathon (CIM) in Sacramento. This race has a reputation for being very fast, and it attracts a highly competitive field. More runners qualify for the Olympic trials at this race than any other. So even though the race isn't as large as New York or Chicago, it attracts competitive runners who want to run fast.

For years, many runner friends had told me that I should run CIM. The race had never appealed to me because of the time zone change and how my body does not like to shift its schedule. Also, I knew there would be a possibility of warm weather. The weather has been good the past few years, but there have also been some warm years, and December in CA is not like December on the east coast. Finally, I knew it was a hilly course and I tend to run my best on flat courses. CIM is net downhill, but there are plenty of up hills to make it a challenge.

But I finally decided to do it so I could understand what all the hype was about. And if it didn't turn out well, at least I could say I did it. I had also been considering Richmond and Rehoboth again, but if either of those didn't go well, I wouldn't have even experienced a new race.

Below is the elevation profile of CIM. Notice all the little uphills that make this course more challenging than it would seem at first glance,

We arrived in Sacramento on Thursday, giving us plenty of time to recover from the long flight and just "chill out" before the race. We stayed at the Citizen Hotel, which we booked through Destination CIM. Destination CIM is the official hospitality partner for CIM and they offer VIP packages.

Post shake-out run, the finish behind me
I slept remarkably well on Thursday night and I found the hotel bed to be comfortable. We fell asleep at 6:15pm, which was 9:15pm east coast time. Our goal was to try to stay on our normal schedule. On Friday, we went to the expo to get our race packets. We had dinner at 4:30pm and were in bed by 6:15pm. But I think my body realized something was off, because I was awake again shortly after, and stayed awake from 7:30-9:00pm local time. I finally fell back asleep, but it wasn't long before I was awoken by the sound of a loud bass.

Even though we had a white noise machine cranked up, the low-frequency bass was still audible and prevented us from sleeping. We called down to the front desk and they said that there was a night club next door. So, I was awake from 11:30-2:00am. By the time the bass stopped, I couldn't fall back asleep because it was 5:00 east coast time, which is when I normally wake up.

Greg and I did our shake out run at 6:00am on Saturday morning since we were wide awake, and the Destination CIM breakfast was from 7:00-9:00am. I was the "special guest" at this breakfast, and it was great meeting up with some runners who follow me on Instagram and who have read my book.

We told Steve, the Destination CIM manager, that our hotel room was really loud, and he was able to get us moved to a quieter room. So after taking a quick, 30-minute nap, we moved all of our stuff into a different room, that was further away from the night club.

We spent most of the day relaxing in our hotel room and again had an early dinner at 4:00pm. To avoid any possible noise, we used the ear plugs that the hotel provided, which was a first for me. Once in bed, I laid awake in bed for two hours. Finally, at 8:30, I took the ear plugs out. I theorized that since I had never slept in earplugs before, it was something "new" that was keeping me up. Once I did that, I was able to fall asleep. Oh, the irony.

The room did end up being a lot quieter, not only terms of the night club music, but in terms of traffic. The first room was on the corner of the hotel so we could hear all the loud cars going by. Even though we now had a quiet room, my body was so screwed up from the time zone change and not having slept the night before that it didn't know what to do. As a result, I ended up only getting 4-5 hours of total sleep on Saturday night on top of the mere 4 hours I got on Friday night. I didn't freak out because I had run strong races on very little sleep in the past. Plus, I had slept very well Monday-Thursday and my adrenaline + caffeinated gels would keep my energy levels high.

Nutrition & Hydration
I made sure to stay extra hydrated Thursday-Saturday, given the flight and the forecasted humidity. I used UCAN Hydrate on Friday and Saturday (one packet each day), in addition to drinking regular water. I also put a packet of the UCAN Hydrate in my hand-held water bottle for the race.

As for nutrition, I kept it pretty simple. I had salmon for dinner the night before, with a side of bread. I ate my large meal at lunch, which was chicken and waffles, plus a large piece of banana bread.

Before the race
In the hotel on race morning
I had been sleeping on and off all night, but I was awake for good starting at around 2:30am. UGH. There was nothing more I could do about my lack of sleep, so I didn't focus on it and I refused to let it be a reason for not working hard during the race.

Greg and I got dressed and left our hotel room at 4:30 for the Destination CIM breakfast in the hotel. I wasn't at all hungry, but I made myself have half a bagel with peanut butter. I took a banana with me for the bus ride. At 4:45, we walked over to the VIP buses. These were coach buses as opposed to the school buses that most runners used. The best thing about the coach bus was the bathroom on board!

After a 40-minute drive, we arrived at the start line in Folsom. We entered the VIP tent, which was heated, and had a nice spread of food, water, and private porta potties. It also had chairs, which meant we didn't have to sit on the wet ground, or stand around for an hour. I highly recommend using Destination CIM to anyone running this race because it was so nice to have the upgraded bus and a relaxing place to hang out pre-race.

It was 55 degrees at the start line, with 95% humidity. The forecast had deteriorated quite a bit over the previous five days. I had originally been optimistic about the weather, even though it wasn't ideal. But the temperature & humidity kept rising, and the chance for rain kept decreasing. Mid 50's and rain is manageable, but we were looking at high 50s with 95% humidity, and only a slight chance of rain. I was as prepared as possible, having hydrated very well, with a plan to pour water over myself at all the water stations. I even poured water on my head before the race start so I'd have wet hair. My race outfit was as minimal as possible: shorts and a sports bra.

I finished my Generation UCAN energy drink in the tent, and then we walked to the start line. For the first time ever in a race, I put my phone in my checked gear bag. I had never done that before because I don't like the idea of it getting lost, but I really wanted to get a photo shortly after finishing the race. The start line was self-seeded, and that ended up working out just fine. Greg and I positioned ourselves in the second corral, which was a projected finish time of 3:05-3:25. Yes, they had an entire corral for sub 3:05 runners! Very competitive.

Race Plan
My original goal was sub-3:10. By Thursday, I had backed that down to 3:10:59. Given the humidity, I thought even that was unlikely, so my plan was to start at a pace that would yield a small PR, and if I could speed up in the second half, great! If not, I would still be able to PR. I figured starting out at around 7:25 would give me the flexibility to go faster if I felt good, or stay steady and still PR by a tiny bit. For reference my PR was 3:15:34, which is a pace of 7:27.

Unfortunately, humidity is deceptive-- you don't realize it's affecting you until it's too late. When I ran the Pike's Peek 10K last spring, the conditions were exactly the same- temps in the mid 50's with 95% humidity and overcast. I was about a minute off of my goal during that race, even though I never felt "hot". I beat myself up for not pushing hard enough because I didn't feel like the humidity was slowing me down.

Miles 1-6
The race started and I was impressed at how un-crowded it felt for the number of people. The road was wide, so there was plenty of room for everyone to run their own pace. I didn't find myself needing to weave my way around anyone, so the self-seeding worked beautifully from my perspective. I carried a bottle of water mixed with UCAN Hydrate, and I drank from it every 15 minutes. At the water stations, I poured 2-3 cups over myself to keep cool.

I ran with Greg for the first half mile, and then I pulled ahead slightly. His goal was sub 3:20, and he planned to start out at a pace of 7:40. As I crossed over the 5K timing mat, my watch read 23:00. I thought of the people tracking me and was happy that they would have their first split. However, my chip didn't register at that mat, and at many of the subsequent mats!

Everything felt pretty good to start out, although it didn't feel as easy as Rehoboth Beach had felt. I told myself to trust my training, and have the confidence to maintain my pace. When you get to the next level of fitness, it means you can push harder for longer, so that's what I would do.

When we got to mile 5, the sun came out. WTF!? It wasn't supposed to be sunny. My saving grace for this race was that the sky was supposed to be overcast the whole way. I started to feel the additional warmth immediately and I knew that if the sun stayed out, it would be a very difficult day for me.

Mile 1: 7:27
Mile 2: 7:23
Mile 3: 7:17
Mile 4: 7:24
Mile 5: 7:24
Mile 6: 7:20

Miles 7-13
I crossed the 10K checkpoint at 45:49, which is a pace of 7:23. I ran the second 5K 11 seconds faster than the first. That was exactly what I wanted-- a very gradual increase in speed. The course was rolling hills, with a slight net downhill. The annoying thing about the course was that no sections were flat. It was either up or down, and I found it hard to get into a groove. When I race, I like to set a pace or effort level and cruise along. I tried keeping my effort level consistent and letting the course guide me, but it didn't feel as smooth as a flat course would have.

I wasn't surprised by the amount of uphill, but I was surprised that there wasn't a single flat section. When I got to mile 10, I realized that things felt harder than they should at this point. I was working hard, and I could feel it. In Rehoboth, everything felt relatively easy at mile 10. So, instead of speeding up like I originally had planned, I decided to stay at around 7:25.

Mile 11, Elyse cheers for me!
I took my homemade Generation UCAN gel at mile 11, and at the same time, I saw a friend cheering for me from the side of the course! It was definitely nice to see a friendly face, and a much-needed pick-me-up.

The clouds kept coming and going, and thankfully parts of the course were shaded. But there was no rain, which is what I wanted most, so I kept pouring cups of water all over myself. The temperature had risen a few degrees, too, which made things even more challenging.

Mile 7: 7:22
Mile 8: 7:21
Mile 9: 7:28
Mile 10: 7:18
Mile 11: 7:24
Mile 12: 7:24
Mile 13: 7:27

Miles 14-17
My chip didn't register at the 15K, the 20K, or the half marathon point! I didn't know this while I was running, but apparently the people tracking me thought I was having major problems because my splits weren't coming through. Thankfully, I took a mental note of my half marathon split, which was 1:37:00. Back when I was shooting for a 3:10, my original plan was to hit the halfway in 1:36:00, but
We're all working hard!
I had already started adjusting my goal, so I was pleased with 1:37:00, which meant I could still PR, even if I ran a 1-minute positive split.

My legs were already tired and I was already feeling like I was pushing hard, which is not what you want at mile 13. So I made a conscious decision to back off the effort. I probably could have turned out a few more miles at a pace of 7:25, but I did not want to crash and burn. I figured if I ran 7:35s all the way to the finish, it would still be a solid race.

I finished the last of my water at mile 14 and tossed the bottle aside. It felt good to not be holding the bottle, and perked me up for a bit. There was a slight headwind here, but it didn't cause too much of a problem. Other people talked about this section of the course being really difficult post race, but I think I was so happy to have a cooling breeze, that I didn't really notice the wind as an obstacle.

The 3:15 pace group caught up with me during the 15th mile and I wasn't surprised. I thought I might be able to hang with them for a while, but they passed me pretty quickly. At that point, I knew I wouldn't be setting a PR, so my job was to stay mentally positive and run to the best of my ability. I knew I was well trained. My training was still relevant and would still get me to the finish line.

I had a caffeinated Maurten gel at 16.5, and hoped that would perk me up.

Mile 14: 7:32
Mile 15: 7:56
Mile 16: 8:00
Mile 17: 7:39

Miles 18-21
With 9 miles to go, I wondered how I would ever make it. I had rapidly declined and I had visions of run-walking my way to the finish. I reminded myself that walking would only prolong the pain. Also, I was still running at a decent clip, it just felt really awful. I told myself if I could keep the pace under an 8-minute mile, I'd be faster than I was at Sugarloaf last spring.

Somewhere around mile 19, it started raining. Hooray! It felt so good. But by that point, it was too little too late. The heat and humidity had already done their damage so the even though the rain was welcome, it wasn't enough to get me back down into the 7:20s. It was short-lived, too. After about 10 minutes, the rain vanished as quickly as it had come, and the sun was rearing its ugly head once again.

It was time to enter the flat portion of the course. What a relief to be off of those hills! Sure, I wouldn't have the help of the downhills, but my legs couldn't possibly do any more climbing.

Mile 18: 7:57
Mile 19: 7:54
Mile 20: 7:48
Mile 21: 7:52

Miles 22-Finish
I took my second Maurten gel and hoped that the caffeine would give me a boost. With five miles to go, I remembered how short 5 miles was in training. My shortest training run was 60 minutes, which was around 7 miles, so all I had to do was hold it together for a shorter amount of time than an easy run. The 3:20 pace group caught up to me and passed me. Not a big surprise, and I didn't let it demoralize me.

Not once did I let negativity creep into my mind. I made sure to smile, to not think about the misery I was in, and to instead focus on my form, and focus on getting to the next mile. At this point, I was no longer in control of my pace. I had no extra gears, the best I could do was to keep moving forward. By my calculations, I was on track for 3:24, which would be a respectable time, a solid BQ, and my 3rd fastest marathon.

I started to wonder when I would see Greg pass me. I guessed it would be somewhere around mile 21-23, and sure enough, I heard him coming up from behind me at mile marker 23. I was happy that he was having a good race and looking so strong. With just 5K left to go, I wanted to stick with him, but he was running in the 7:30's and I was in the low 8's. I simply couldn't make my legs go any faster. I kept reminding myself that I was still in the game. I smiled a lot and counted down the minutes left in the race. For me, it's always better to think about time left in a race rather than

When it came time for the last mile, I thought I could rally and maybe go faster. Nope. Nothing left in the tank! At mile 25.5, I wasn't even sure I would be able to make it to the finish. The race needed to end. Like, NOW. I was totally destroyed.

But, alas, I turned the final corner and saw the finish line ahead of me. There was no final kick. It was a struggle simply to get there in one piece!

Mile 22: 8:19
Mile 23: 8:12
Mile 24: 8:05
Mile 25: 8:15
Mile 26: 8:13
Last 0.3: (7:57 pace)

I crossed the finish line in 3:22:23. As per usual, my math was off when calculating my projected finish time. 7 minutes slower than my PR, and 12 minutes off of my goal time.

After the race
Greg had finished in 3:20:20, which was a PR for him by over 4 minutes! He saw me finish, and we walked through the finish line area together. I vomited, which seems to be the norm for me now, but there wasn't a lot in my stomach to come out.

I was feeling pretty wrecked. As we waited to get our bag from gear check, I started to see black spots, so I sat down on a bench. It wasn't long before Greg got the bag and found me on the bench. We sat there for a few minutes and then proceeded to take the post-race photos. I wanted to ring the BQ bell, but the line was really long-- once again, a super competitive field!

A few Instagram followers introduced themselves to me, and it was really exciting to meet so many people who had been following my journey. During the race itself, there were about 3-4 runners who said hi to me and cheered me on who knew me from Instagram. Definitely exciting bright spots in the race.

Greg and I finally made our way back to the Citizen Hotel and the shower felt amazing. Destination CIM had brunch waiting for us, so we didn't need to leave the hotel to get food, Even though I felt like garbage, my spirits were high. I was just happy to be done, and even though I missed my goal, I stayed strong mentally and ran a very solid race.

Final Thoughts and Takeaways
It seems that many runners struggled in the humidity yesterday. Most people I know missed their goal by a good bit, and slowed down significantly in the second half of the race. Some people, like Greg, can run well when it's in the 50's and humid, but I am not one of those people. I run my fastest when it's in the upper 30's, and I'm comfortable running in the 20's. Generally speaking, if I don't need gloves, I'm not PRing!

My coach's comments were:

That was a tough day for a lot of athletes across the board today. The slow down was crazy...almost to a point where I've not seen that in a marathon before. The conditions really effected most of the field so the way you kept pushing yourself hard through those later miles is so so impressive. I think you can be very proud of yourself and how you handed the race knowing that conditions were going to be tough for your body. I certainly am.

When I looked up my results, I realized that even though I got progressively slower throughout the race, I continued to move my way up in the field!

  • At the 10K point, I was in 2,144th place (includes all runners, male and female). 
  • At the 30K point, I had moved up 44 spots to 2,070.
  • At the finish, I moved up 61 more spots to 2,009th place.

This shows that I did not slow down as much as other runners, and I continued to pass people all the way to the finish. I started out a pace that was 10 seconds per mile slower than what I thought I could do in ideal conditions, and many runners probably did not make that kind of adjustment.

The weather and the sleep situation were unfortunate, and those were the exact reasons why I had reservations about CIM. But at least now I can say that I did the race, and had the opportunity to show my mental toughness. I'm one and done on this race and won't be going back. I prefer flat courses, and if I want hills, I have Boston for that!

Some days, a PR simply isn't available due to circumstances beyond our control. That doesn't mean we can't find satisfaction in our perseverance and effort level. Our race times do not define us.

My training served me well, because running a time of 3:22 in 95% humidity in the high 50's would not have been possible in previous cycles. This is a BQ by over 17 minutes, and I'm proud of it.

That being said, I have more fire in me than ever to run that sub 3:10. My next shot at it will be Boston-- a difficult course with historically bad weather. But I'm going to keep trying my best and putting in the work. I have 100% confidence in my ability to reach this goal, and it will happen when it's meant to. In the meantime, I am going to keep enjoying the ride.

Sunday, December 1, 2019

CIM: Training Cycle in Review

I'm wrapping up my training cycle for the California International Marathon (CIM) and I feel great. I'm noticing a huge difference between how I feel mentally between this cycle and my Shamrock cycle in the spring, when I DNF'ed.

Last spring, I was feeling really stressed. I was in the process of interviewing for new jobs and exploring multiple opportunities. I also felt like I had over-scheduled myself in general and I was feeling really overwhelmed trying to fit everything in.

This cycle, I am perhaps the calmest I have ever been. I don't have anxiety about my race, my
schedule, my job, or anything else in my life. And that has made all the difference. For the past several years I have realized how much stress and anxiety were holding me back, but now that my job is less political, I feel particularly chill.

Ironically, I have more responsibility and more work travel than ever before. I'm the Chief Marketing Officer of a tech company, which means I'm not only responsible for marketing, but helping to steer the direction of the business. In November, I traveled to Indianapolis and Providence for work, participating in all-day meetings, gave a presentation to a room full of people, but never once felt overwhelmed. Why? It's because I don't have to deal with politics at work. I don't think that anyone is out to get me, I'm not being micro-managed, and my colleagues aren't creating stressful situations for me. Most of the stress over the past 5+ years of my life has been work stress relating to people, not the work itself. I'm fortunate to I have a job where I'm empowered, trusted, and invested in the future of the company.

The commute is shorter with less traffic (25 minutes in the morning, 35 minutes in the evening) and I work from home about once a week. I don't think I realized how much my previous commute and the work environment was taking a toll on my overall stress levels. I have especially noticed this in my ability to recover from workouts and races. After the Columbus half, I ran a 73-mile week. After the Indianapolis half, I ran a 77-mile week. Both races were PRs and I felt good for the weeks following them.

I'm starting my training recap blog with this because I think the lack of stress has been the single most important factor in my fitness gains:

  • I am sleeping better
  • I am recovering better/faster
  • I haven't gotten sick
  • I have more time (with the shorter commute)
Do not underestimate how much stress can take out of you, and how much a reduced amount of stress can help with your running!

Now, onto the training recap. Below you will see a weekly graph of my training, which tells the story at a high level.

Since recovering from my bike accident on August 5, I have run every day, which makes this a 119-day run streak so far, with a total of 1,033 miles. I have four weeks above 70 miles, with the lower mileage weeks including mini-tapers for half marathons.

I didn't really notice any fitness gains until around mid-October, once the weather started to cool down. But then I had a few breakthrough workouts and races that told me I was really fit. I've chosen 5 key workouts to highlight that give me confidence for CIM. It should be noted that I was REALLY lucky with the weather this cycle. Almost all of these workouts had amazing weather: all below 50 degrees with little wind or rain.

October 24: Tempo/Hills
This workout was a 4-mile tempo, 4 x 30 second hill sprints, 3 mile tempo:
  • Warm up for 2.8 miles
  • 4 miles: 6:54, 6:50, 6:46, 6:46
  • 3-minute recovery jog (10:28 pace)
  • Hill sprints in 7:03, 7:15, 7:28, 7:16
  • 3-minute recovery jog (10:14 pace)
  • 3 miles in 6:44, 6:41, 6:39
  • Cool down for 1.5 miles
My goal had been to start the tempo miles at 6:55 and progress down to 6:40 by the end, and I did that! 

November 2: Fast Finish 20-miler
I did this run on the W&OD trail to ensure I incorporated hills. I ran the first 14 miles at an average pace of 8:09, and then finished off with 6 miles at marathon pace: 7:15, 7:12, 7:09, 7:04, 7:10, 7:09. The marathon pace miles averaged 7:10, which was awesome because my goal was 7:15.

This run was the first indication I had that a sub-3:10 could be possible. Prior to this run, I was thinking getting 3:10:xx would be the absolute fastest I could shoot for, but this run got me thinking I shouldn't limit myself, as a 7:10 marathon pace would land me a time of 3:08.

November 13: 10K wave tempo
This workout was 10 kilometers on the track, with each kilometer alternating 10K pace (6:34/mile, 4:04/km) and then 20 seconds slower (7:05/mile, 4:24/km). The track was the perfect place for this because a kilometer is 2 and a half laps! I had done this workout as an 8K in the past and really liked it, but this was my first crack at doing it as a 10K. 

Splits were: 4:08/4:31, 4:04/4:26, 4:05/4:25, 4:04/4:27, 4:04/4:20

The result was a 10K in 42:37, which is faster than the 10K race I ran in early October! Amazing how much faster I am when it's cold (22 degrees) and there are no hills. The ability to crank out my 4th fastest 10K ever in a training run and not even feel like I worked that hard was huge! Also, this was the Wednesday after Indianapolis, so it hadn't even been a full week since that half marathon.

November 16: 22 miles, mixed pace
Three days after the track 10K, I ran a 22-miler. I did have some wind to contend with on this run, but it didn't slow me down too much! This was one continuous run broken down as follows:
  • 9 miles easy, average 8:21 pace
  • 3 miles of 1:00 hard, 1:00 easy, around 6:45/9:15
  • 3 miles tempo: 7:14, 7:03, 7:00
  • 1 mile easy at 8:54
  • 3 miles hard in 7:08, 7:03, 6:56
  • 3 miles easy at 8:20, 8:20, 8:15
I felt strong and energized, and the hardest part was the three "easy" miles at the end because my legs were toast. Overall, I averaged a pace of 7:55 for 22 miles, which was my fastest 22-miler ever! I had done this workout in the past, but I had never run it so fast.

November 21: 90 minutes at marathon pace
This run was prescribed at 90 minutes marathon pace, plus warm up and cool down. Here's how it went, keeping in mind the perfect weather!
  • 2.8 miles warm up
  • 12.5 miles at 7:12 avg.
  • 1.5 miles cool down
Splits for the marathon pace miles were 7:30, 7:14, 7:18, 7:16, 7:13, 7:13, 7:12, 7:10, 7:10, 7:09, 7:04, 7:00, 6:51 (for 0.5 mile). This workout again made me feel that sub-3:10 is possible if I have a
good day! During this run I tested the Nike Vaporfly Next% in a half size larger than I wore in my half marathons. Thankfully, I had no issue with my big toe getting bruised, so I will wear them for the marathon.

Final Thoughts
Keeping these workouts in mind, the fact that they were all within a month of each other, and that I had 3 races thrown in (all PRs) makes me super confident. So much depends on the weather, and the current forecast, which will likely change, is 41 at the start, 49 at the finish, no wind, 100% humidity. I have heard Sacramento is foggy/humid in the mornings. I don't think that will be a factor, but it's something to keep in mind. My ideal weather would not get above 45 degrees, but I'd give this forecast an 8/10.

I'm signing books at a breakfast put on by Destination CIM on Saturday morning from 7-9am. It's a $20 breakfast and you can get tickets here. Thanks to Destination CIM, Greg and I have a hotel just a few blocks from the finish line, plus a VIP tent at the start line.

Now it's time to avoid all germs and stay chill!

Thursday, November 28, 2019

Turkey Trot PRish

Today I ran my 14th Turkey Trot 5K, but my first Ashburn Farm Turkey Trot.

Every year since 2006, I had run the Virginia Run Turkey Trot in Centreville. I loved this race and it had become a tradition. I was saddened to learn that they were not going to put the race on this year due to the lack of volunteers. But, luckily I live in an area with plenty of trotting options so I chose the Ashburn Farm race, which I had heard good things about.

We had a wind advisory today with sustained winds at 20-22 mph and gusts of up to 40 mph. Needless to say, these are not PR conditions! Thankfully, the relatively warm temperature of 44 degrees ensured that the wind wouldn't be as biting as it could be. Originally my goal had been 19:40 (an 18-second PR), but when the wind advisory came out, I adjusted that goal to simply pushing hard and hoping to squeak out a tiny PR.

Before the race
I changed up my pre-race routine in that instead of having Generation UCAN 30 minutes pre-race, I took a Maurten gel with caffeine 15 minutes pre-race. The gel had worked well for me during the Indianapolis Monumental Half marathon, and I didn't need all that much fuel for a 5K. UCAN provides up to 90 minutes of fuel, but for a 20-minute race, I figured I could get by with one gel. Plus, I had an English muffin with peanut butter two hours before the race.

I decided to wear a crop top and tight shorts because I didn't want a loose tank blowing around in the wind. Plus, after Indy Monumental, I vowed I would never overdress again. I ended up being the most scantily clad person there, and I got a few people asking me if I was cold. But the outfit ended up being perfect me.

Greg and I warmed up on the course to get a sense of the hill profile and the wind direction. The hills and wind were where I expected them to be. A brief tailwind to start, followed by a long section of headwind and uphill.

This race offers a 5K and a 10K. Overall, there were 3,000 runners and the race had sold out. My usual turkey trot has around 1500 runners, so it was about the same size. Greg and I lined up about two rows back from the start, which unbeknownst to me was a mistake. I should have lined up right on the line-- with the kids!

Mile 1: 6:34
I planned to go out hard because I knew I'd be able to fly in the second half, which would offer a downhill tailwind. So even if I bonked, the course profile would be in my favor. Plus, I am in marathon shape right now so I should be able to hold a hard effort for 20 minutes. The first mile was net uphill, with the second half of that mile being into a headwind, so 6:34 was a very hard effort. As I passed the first mile marker, I realized I was next to Greg, and I hoped I would be able to keep up with him.

Initially, I counted about 5 women ahead of me. I had hoped to place in the top three because this race offers cash awards.

Mile 2: 6:41
This mile was painful. The first 0.8 was more uphill headwind and it was sucking the life out of me. I glanced down at my Garmin a few times and saw a 6:50 lap pace. Yikes. Originally I had planned for this mile to be faster than the first mile, but I realized that this mile was harder, given the sustained 20 mph headwind. At the turnaround, I realized I was in third place. I must have passed two women at some point without having realized it. That thought pepped me up. Greg, however, was now far ahead of me. Wind doesn't ever seem to slow him down!

Mile 3: 6:11
Mile 3 was a joyride! My fastest mile ever, but with a downhill tailwind, of course it would be! All of a sudden I was flying and my pace dropped dramatically. I even caught up to the 2nd place woman about halfway through the mile and sprinted past her, hoping that she would not try to stay with me.  I kept glancing at my watch, wondering if I could run fast enough to PR. It seemed unlikely, because I would need an average pace of 6:25, but I was going to give it all I had.

Last 0.8: 5:49 pace
That was a fast sprint to the finish! I was really trying to nab that PR.

I stopped my Garmin about a second after crossing the finish line, and it read 19:56. So I assumed my finish time would probably be 19:55. Yay! A PR by 3 seconds!

Greg ran 19:24, which is a 25 second PR for him!

After the race
My coach wanted me to run 4 marathon pace miles post race. (He's so hard core). So, about five minutes after I finished the race, I headed back on the course for a marathon pace "cool down". I ran 7:18, 7:12, 7:19, and then stopped at 3 miles because the wind was really picking up. At times, I was running in place. After stopped, I realized if I had run 0.1 more I would have officially run two 5Ks, but oh well. 3 "bonus" miles at a pace of 7:16 immediately after a 5K PR in a wind advisory was good enough for me!

As I was running these marathon pace miles, I started to process the race. My Garmin read 3.08 miles at a pace of 6:28. So is that really a PR? When I ran my 19:58, my Garmin read 3.13 miles at a pace of 6:25. Hmmmm.

Then, the bad news came. My official time was 20:00, for both gun and chip. I knew I had run faster than that! Thankfully, I was still officially in second place.

For placing second, I ended up winning a cash award of $100 plus a plaque. I was very happy with that, and this is something that my traditional Turkey Trot did not offer. I would win the same hat each year.

I asked the timer why my gun and chip time were the same. He said, "Did you place in the top 3?" and when I said yes, he replied with "We erase the chip time for the top 3 finishers. It's a new USATF rule."

"Can you tell me my chip time?" I asked.

"19:55," he replied. “But that won't be recorded anywhere official, since you placed in the top 3.”

I had never heard of this rule and I was't going to argue with him. I was still second place, and I still
ran a strong race, and that's what really mattered.

Final thoughts
After much deliberation, I am going to call this "PRish". Even though my coach encouraged me to consider it a true PR, it's not really.

1. My official gun and chip time are 20:00. There is no record of me running 19:55 expect for hearing the timing guy say it.

2. The course measured 3.08 on my Garmin. Greg got 3.1, so the course may not have been short. But, I know that have run 3.1 miles at a pace of 6:25 in the past and today I ran a pace of 6:28.

What if the course had measured 3.16 on my Garmin and I ran a pace of 6:23? That would not be an official PR, but I would have known it was the fastest I had ever run that distance.

MOST IMPORTANTLY: the race was during a wind advisory. So running that close to my PR and having a chip PR in those conditions is something I'm proud of, and it tells me I am in excellent shape. Had it not been so windy, I think that 19:40 would have been mine.

So, I'm calling this PRish. I'm not going to update my PR board at home or on the sidebar of my blog. I still consider my PR to be 19:58. However, I know that right now, I am in better shape than when I ran 19:58, and that's what is important to me, just 10 days out from a marathon.

Am I bummed about the chip/gun time thing? A little. But given that it was a short course based on my Garmin, and given that they compensated me $100, I'm fine with it!

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Impromptu Indianapolis

Yesterday morning I ran the Indianapolis Monumental Half Marathon. This race was not originally on my schedule and was a last-minute addition due to some well-timed business travel.

About three weeks ago, I found out that I needed to be in Indianapolis for sales planning meetings November 5-7. Business travel during marathon training is always a challenge because I don't know where I will run, and if it's dark I won't feel safe. When I learned about the business travel, I knew
that the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon and half would be that weekend. I figured I would stay in town and do my long run as part of one of those races. Initially I thought I would register for the full and do 20 miles with some marathon pace work incorporated. But I didn't register immediately.

Then I ran the Columbus Half marathon, where I set a PR of 1:31:55, followed by a 73-mile week. I felt great in the week following the half with no lingering soreness. This indicated to me and my coach that I can recover really well from a half marathon, so I could race Indianapolis Monumental with minimal disruption to marathon training. Of course, part of me wondered if maybe I didn't race Columbus to my full potential since I didn't need any recovery time. But then I remembered that I vomited at the end!

So I decided to run the Monumental Half Marathon as an all-out race. This meant tapering during my business travel which relived the stress about finding a place for a hard workout. Perfect!

My business meetings were located in the suburbs-- an area called Fishers. On Friday morning I transferred to the downtown area, checked into my new hotel, and had another meeting near the Soldiers and Sailers Monument. After that meeting, I procured my bagels for the next day from the nearby Au Bon Pain. Then I did a 30-minute shakeout run which felt good, but very cold. It was only 27 degrees.

After that, I met up with my friends Kathy and Meredith for lunch. They are both local to the Washington metro area and it was cool to get to see them in Indy. We then picked up our bib numbers at the expo. I did a lot of walking on Friday-- more than would be ideal the day before a half marathon. Everything is close enough that you wouldn't take an Uber, but yet annoyingly far to walk if you are trying to rest your legs.

Sam and me after dinner
I relaxed and did work in my hotel for a few hours afterwards until it was time for dinner. I had dinner with fellow blogger Sam, whose blog I had been following for years. (I would link it here but she recently retired her blog.) I had never met her in person but I felt like I knew her! We both ordered the salmon which came with a side of fingerling potatoes. Yum!

I returned to my hotel to find a group of about 50-60 kids (aged 10-16) swarming the hotel lobby. The line to get up the elevator was wrapped around the lobby. And of course they were very loud. Thankfully, I had a room all the way at the end of the hallway. But once I got into bed, I could still hear the room next to me being very loud. Thankfully, I was prepared with my white noise maker. I always travel with one, and I blasted it on high and it successfully drowned out all the noise that the kids were making. I fell asleep at 8:45 and slept reasonably well. I was awake from 1:45-2:45, but then fell back asleep until 5:30.

Before the Race
Race morning arrived and I felt pretty chill. Since this race wasn't part of my original fall plan, I didn't feel any nervousness around it. I had already PR'ed my fall half marathon, so anything I did now would be gravy. I believed I could shave about a minute off of my 1:31:55, although I thought if things went really well that 1:29:xx could be in the cards. Here's why I thought I could shave a minute off:
  • 20 seconds for running the tangents and a Garmin distance of shorter than 13.25
  • 20 seconds for improved fueling
  • 20 seconds for 3 weeks of solid training post the Columbus half.
So I believed I should be able to PR by at least a minute, maybe more.

As for the weather, it was much cooler than Columbus: 28 degrees at the start and 31 and the finish. Columbus was in the low 50s. I would have added another 20 seconds for these improved weather
conditions, however the forecast showed a headwind for the last four miles, whereas Columbus had no wind. As for the courses, I think they are both equally as fast. Columbus has more hills, but the Columbus hills are placed in advantageous spots and they aren't that steep. They both have a fair amount of curves and turns. My 13.25 in Columbus was because I personally did a lot of weaving to pass people and avoid uneven pavement. 

Given all of this, I knew I was in a great spot going into the race. And unless I just "wasn't feeling it," or the wind got me at the end, then I had high confidence in a PR. I had run the full marathon back in 2017, and I had a horrible race. Even though that was not my day, I did like the course and I thought it would be nice to get some redemption.

Before the race
Anyway, I did my pre-race routine which involved having my bagel with peanut butter, getting dressed, preparing my UCAN, and spending a lot of time in the bathroom. I left my room at 7:15, which was 45 minutes before the start. The forecast was 28 at the start, 31 at the finish, cloudy, and windy. I decided on compression capri tights and a long-sleeved lightweight shirt. I had been debating short sleeves and arm warmers, but since it would be overcast and windy, I thought it would feel even colder than the temperature indicated.

As I left my hotel, I hid my room key under a table in the hallway on my floor. My capri tights had no pockets for a hotel room key so I needed a place to stash it. I wouldn't be checking a bag because my hotel (the Westin) was literally right at the finish line. I waited in the lobby until about 7:35, drank my Generation UCAN and then I went outside to warm up. Instead of drinking a full serving, like I did in Columbus, I only drank half a serving and planned to take a gel at mile 8. My hope was that this approach would give me more energy and avoid a vomiting situation.

It was really crowded near the start, so I was only able to warm up for about 5 minutes of "real" running. But then I jogged in place in my corral. I wasn't nearly as cold as I expected to be. It was 28 degrees but I guess all the body heat made things feel warmer. 10 minutes prior to the start, I tossed my throw-away jacket. Usually I am freezing when I toss off my throwaway jacket, but I was comfortable.

I immediately began questioning my decision to wear a long-sleeved shirt. I looked around at all the other runners in tanks and arm warmers and I told myself that would have been the right move.

Miles 1-4
The race started and I was mentally prepared for it to be crowded. Indianapolis Monumental is a competitive field, so plenty of people would be running at my pace. A few minutes into the race, the 3:05 pace group caught up to me (which is a 1:32:30 half). I didn’t necessarily think they were running too fast, but I was running too slow for my goal. I wasn’t intentionally running that much slower than goal pace, but it was crowded and I didn’t want to weave around people. So I was stuck in 3:05 land for the first two miles. I didn’t stress too much about it because I knew I could make up the time later.

It seemed as if the 3:05 pacer and 3:00 pacer were too close together because as soon as I broke free of 3:05, I was at the back of the 3:00 pack. As much as I try not to run with pacers, I always seem to find myself caught up in their groups.

After just one mile, I rolled my sleeves up because I was warm! Note to future self: If it’s 28 degrees at the start of a half marathon, that’s too warm for long sleeves. Typically I carry a disposable bottle of water for the early miles of a half marathon. In Columbus I kept this bottle for four miles because the weather was mild. Yesterday, I didn’t carry a bottle because I thought my hands would be too cold/numb to handle it. I also regretted that decision because it wasn’t all that cold and I have a hard time drinking from the cups.

This first portion of the race had a lot of twists, turns, curves and crowding. It was hard to establish a rhythm but I still felt good.

Mile 1: 7:08 (Garmin) 7:02 (Strava)
Mile 2: 7:06 (Garmin) 7:01 (Strava)
Mile 3: 7:02 (Garmin) 7:04 (Strava)
Mile 4: 6:45 (Garmin) 6:46 (Strava)

Note: My Strava splits were different from my Garmin splits for the first 4 miles, so I have included them both. After that, they began to match up.

Miles 5-8
As always in a half marathon, these were the “glory miles”. I felt strong and the fast pace wasn’t too much of a strain. I was optimistic about my ability to stay strong throughout the race. We had a tail wind, which I didn’t feel, but was reflected in my speedy paces. I hit the 10K timing mat in 43:20, which would have put me on pace for 1:31:25.

I spent miles 5-7 gradually making my way up to the front of the massive 3:00 pace group. I passed the 3:00 pacer after mile marker 7 and was convinced I would be able to break 1:30. This was also the point where the half and full marathons separated, so there would be no more 3:00 pacer anyway.

Shortly after the split, at mile 7.5, I took my Maurten gel. I had never used a Maurten gel in a race before. The first time I had tried it was two weeks ago during a 20-miler. I chose it because it was tasteless and was supposed to be easy on the stomach. You also don’t need to take it with water. I had pre-cut the gel so it was easy to open with my teeth and it went down quickly in two parts. I did not have any water with it and that was fine. They make these gels with and without caffeine and I decided to use the one with caffeine since Greg thought it was helpful during his recent half marathon.

Mile 5: 6:52
Mile 6: 6:45
Mile 7: 6:41 (must be that tailwind!)
Mile 8: 6:53

Miles 9-12
Okay, this was it. I knew that it would be time to dig deep as I fought against the headwind. Miles 9-10 were annoying because there were so many twists and turns and the pavement was beat up. I was wearing my Nike Vaporfly Next% and there’s not much stability there to run over uneven pavement. I tried not to dodge it too much because I didn’t want to end up with 13.25 miles again. Every time I thought I had good momentum, there would be a turn or a section of broken pavement. It was mentally exhausting, but I made it through.

I clocked in at 1:09:06 on my Garmin at the 10-mile marker, which is faster than my 10-mile PR by nearly a minute. I knew I was on track to reach my goal so I had to stay strong during these final miles. The headwind became real once we hit the 11th mile. My plan was to find someone to draft off of but all the runners near me were either going too fast for me to keep up with or too slow for me to want to stick with.

This is when I employed one of my most successful mental tactics: running by time. I looked down at my Garmin, which read 1:13:xx and I told myself that I had less than 20 minutes to go. So short! 20 minutes in a workout is like nothing. I kept repeating “you want this, relax,” over and over again. I had to remind myself that I wanted that PR in order to fight through the wind.

My splits make it look like slowed down in miles 11-12, but my effort level was stronger than it had been the whole race due to the wind, and that is reflected in my heart rate date.

Mile 9: 6:56
Mile 10: 6:53
Mile 11: 7:04
Mile 12: 7:02

Mile 13-Finish

Once I had only 10 minutes to go, I was able to really push harder. I could do anything for 10 minutes!

I told myself that mile 13 was a make-it-or-break-it mile. I had my chance to run sub-1:31 and it would be won or lost in this mile. The mile started off slow, but my Garmin pace kept getting faster and faster the closer I got to the finish line, until it beeped at 6:50. I felt so strong running that pace that I wished I had dialed into that gear sooner. I felt like I could have continued on at that pace for another mile, which is the beauty of marathon training.

As I approached the finish line I glanced down at my Garmin and I saw I would be cutting it very close to 1:31:00 and I wanted to squeak under that. I pretended I was running a 100m interval and gave it everything I had.

Mile 13: 6:50
Last 0.15: 6:32 pace

After the Race
I felt pretty good after I crossed the finish line, although I did have the urge to vomit. I stepped aside made the action of vomiting, although I didn't have any water in my stomach so nothing came up. My Garmin read 1:31:01, so I didn't know if my official time would be sub-1:31 or not.

Oddly, I couldn't find anyone to give me a medal so I had to grab one from a pile. I also couldn't find where they were giving out the hats, so I missed out on getting one.

My hotel was literally right at the finish line so I made it back to my floor, retrieved the key from its hiding place, and got my phone. I looked at my tracking and saw that I had, in fact, made it under 1:31 with an official time of 1:30:58!

I quickly changed into warmer clothes and went back out to the race to cheer on my friends. I had the most perfect aerial view of the finish from my hotel room, but I wanted to be part of the action and take photos. I had about 10 friends I was tracking so it was fun to cheer for them all as they finished.

I couldn't stay out there too long because of my 12:00 hotel checkout time and my hands had gone numb. But I had a blast watching so many runners crush their goals. What great inspiration for CIM in four weeks!

I flew home later that afternoon, and when I arrived, the house smelled like PR cake. Greg made me a zebra striped PR cake and it was so delicious!

Final Thoughts and Stats
My official time was 1:30:58, which is a negative split, given my 10K time had me on track for 1:31:25. This is a PR by 57 seconds. That's a lot of time to shave off in just three weeks, but I explained above where that time came from: fitness, fueling, and tangents.

I placed 11 out of 688 in my age group (40-44), which shows how competitive this field was. In Columbus, my age group had 681 runners and I placed 3rd-- with a slower time! I had looked up last year's results and based on those, I did not expect to win an age group award.

I think I could have pushed into that higher gear sooner and run about 20-30 seconds faster overall. And if it hadn't been for the wind, I wouldn't have needed that higher gear to maintain the low 6:50's. Even though I regret not going for it sooner, I still wouldn't have run 1:29:xx. Plus, I want to recover quickly so I can immediately jump back into marathon training. There was no need to destroy myself.

Mentally, my approach of telling myself how much time I had left to go instead of distance was very helpful. I've done that before, but usually it has been in full marathons.

I felt much better during the last three miles than I did in Columbus and I attribute that to the Maurten gel + having a few extra weeks of endurance training. I think I will continue to use my Generation UCAN homemade gel for the full marathon because I know that works, but instead of Honey Stinger chews at mile 20, I will take a Maurten gel.

Over dressed!
My Nike Vaporfly Next% worked better for me in this race than in Columbus in that my big toe didn't get bruised. I think that could be due to the lack of hills. Regardless, I plan to wear a half size larger for the marathon. Since I ran both Columbus and Indianapolis in the same shoe, I can't say that the shoe was a factor in my PR.

I can't believe I overdressed. I always err on the side of being colder rather than warmer. I don't think it impacted my performance but it was annoying to be running in a long sleeved shirt with the sleeves rolled up. The capris were fine because I don't overheat from having more leg coverage.

In closing, I'm really glad I ran this race. It shows me that 1:29:xx is realistic for me within the next year and it makes me confident that my 3:10 marathon goal is realistic. The McMillan calculator predicts 3:11:24, and I still have four more weeks to build fitness. However, if CIM gets warmer than 50 degrees, which it may, I might have to re-adjust that goal. I cannot use a race with 30 degree temps to predict my performance in conditions that are over 20 degrees warmer.

Time to get back to the grind of training so I will be ready to run a full marathon in four weeks!

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Clors in Columbus Part III

Greg and I made our third trip to Columbus, OH this weekend for the Columbus half marathon. We first ran this race in 2014 as the full marathon, and came back in 2015 for the half marathon. Both of
these races were PRs and we loved the overall vibe of this race. Typically I run my half marathon tune-up 3-5 weeks out from my goal marathon. But I wanted to go back to Columbus, so this one was 7 weeks out.

The Day Before The Race
We flew out on Saturday morning and our quick flight arrived shortly after 9:00am. We were able to check into our hotel and change into running clothes for our shakeout run. I couldn't let the streak stop, after all! We ran for just over 3 miles, with some strides thrown in to keep the legs peppy. There was a riverside park very close to our hotel with a nice running path, so it was easy logistically. After the shakeout run, we had lunch at Jimmy John's where I got my standard turkey sandwich.

We stayed at Hotel Leveque, which far exceeded our expectations. In the past, we had stayed at the Courtyard, but it was all booked up when I made the reservation, so I branched out and was wow'ed by how amazing this hotel was. The room was beautiful, and I was pleasantly surprised by the zebra pillows! It had a huge bathtub and a huge full-length mirror and plenty of space to lay out our race clothes. The bed was super comfortable and I slept really well.

Back to our day. After lunch, we headed to the expo. It was the race's 40-year anniversary and Greg's 40th birthday, so that made it extra special. Just like in years past, when Greg picked up his bib, he received a pin that said "it's my birthday" and a second bib that said "it's my birthday", which he wore on the back of his shirt. One of the many reasons we love the race is this personal touch. Greg always feels the love on his birthday!

We walked around the expo for a short bit. Greg ended up with two new shirts. This race has a really good selection of official race gear and he's gotten extra shirts each year.

After the expo, we went to "North Market" across the street from the expo to get bagels. We knew from experience that all of the bagel places in Columbus are closed on Saturday. We had planned to get some bagels at Dulles airport, but our terminal didn't have any, despite my research ahead of time about the food options there.

North Market didn't have bagels, but we got some pretzel rolls that were close enough. We had brought our own travel sized peanut butter containers so race morning breakfast was ready to go. We then returned to our hotel room where we binge watched "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend" on Netflix. I ended up falling asleep for 30 minutes, which was much needed.

Then, it was time for dinner. In previous years, we had eaten at Buca di Beppo. This year we ate at Martini Modern Italian and it was SO GOOD. I had a beet salad and chicken parmesan, minus the parmesan, which can upset my stomach. I had this exact dinner before the Rehoboth Beach marathon last year and it worked well.

When we returned to our hotel, we found two pieces of chocolate on the nightstand, and there was this cool projector that had been brought into the room, projecting stars onto the ceiling. OMG- I loved those stars. It turns out the projector was for sale and I asked Greg to get it for me for my upcoming birthday. When I was a kid, I had glow-in-the-dark stars on my bedroom ceiling. So this reminded me of that. I fell asleep easily at 8:15 and slept for a solid 8 hours, only waking up twice briefly.

Mentally, I was relaxed. I did not have any anxiety about this race and as you can tell, I was focused on enjoying our pre-race day in Columbus. I didn't waste it being worried about my upcoming performance like I used to before I had my mental breakthrough in 2013.

Race Morning- Before the Race
This went smoothly. We woke up at 5:20, ate our pretzel rolls with peanut butter and got ready. I wore the Nike Vaporfly Next%. They worked well in the 10K, although I don't think they helped me run faster at that distance, so I figured they would work well in the half marathon.

We left the hotel 45 minutes before the 7:30 start time. It was still pitch dark. We learned from previous races that you want to get into the corrals early. They get crowded. So we got into our corral about 25 minutes before the race started and it was empty enough to jog around in it for a very short warm up. Normally I would have wanted about a mile warm up, but it was 50 degrees, so I wasn't worried about my legs being stiff in the cold.

About that weather. Pretty good! 50 at the start, rising to 52 by the finish. Mostly cloudy, no wind. I was happy with this weather, even though my ideal would have been 10-15 degrees colder. It was in no way "warm"-- but when it's really cold (like 30's), my superpowers come out and I have breakthrough performances.

I drank a full serving of Generation UCAN mixed with water at the start line, and finished it 15 minutes before race start. I fully expected that I would need to use the bathroom again, but surprisingly I did not. In the past, I have run strong half marathons using Generation UCAN only, and no additional fuel. So I didn't have any additional gels with me.

They started singing the Star Spangled Banner, and fireworks erupted at "The bombs bursting in air". It was still dark, so the fireworks were vibrant in the sky. Yet another reason we love this race. When the race started officially, even more fireworks went off and it was so cool! It put me in a great mood and that set the stage for a positive mindset.

Miles 1-4
My plan was to run the first two miles about 15 seconds per mile slower than goal pace. I would typically start a half marathon 5-10 seconds slower than goal pace, but given that these miles were uphill and it would be crowded, I decided to be conservative.

Greg and I started out together and ran together for the first mile. Then he started to pull ahead and I let him go. We like to run our own separate races. At some point in mile 3, I noticed it was getting really crowded around me. And this was a downhill mile, and I wanted to speed up. But I couldn't because people were packed around me. It was the 3:10/1:35 pace group. Clearly going out way too fast, and it was impossible to break through them. Ultimately, I had to slow down, pull off all the way to the side of the course to go around them. It was frustrating, but there was no other way to pull ahead of the group.

Once I had my own space to run in I felt much better and I could still see Greg about 5-10 seconds ahead of me. During these miles I drank from my handheld, disposable water bottle, with the plan of ditching the bottle during the 5th mile.

Mile 1: 7:11
Mile 2: 7:05
Mile 3: 6:51
Mile 4: 6:57

Miles 5-8
These were the glory miles, and they always are during a half marathon. I felt awesome, I stopped looking at my watch and I ran by feel. Once I ditched my water bottle it was easier to run and I was in full-on race mode. Clearly, I was not looking at my watch because I clocked in at 6:42 for mile 6!

I knew that mile 7 would be one big long hill and I expected to slow down. But I didn't slow down that much at all. In fact, it was here that I caught up with Greg and we were running side by side. Usually he kills me on the hills, but this time, I was able to catch him on the hill. And once we were at the top, I knew we were through the hardest hill of the race.

Mile 5: 6:50
Mile 6: 6:42
Mile 7: 7:01
Mile 8: 6:56

Miles 9-12
At mile marker 8, Greg began to pull ahead. I thought I might be able to keep up with him the rest of the way or even pass him, but he clearly found a new gear and took off. The race was starting to get hard for me, but I was able to maintain my effort level and stay mentally positive.

Mile 11 had some good downhill but the pavement was really beat up. This meant I couldn't "fly" down the hill as fast as I wanted because I was dodging all the potholes and ridges in the pavement. I think the Nike Vaporfly was a disadvantage here. There was so much "shoe" between my foot and the ground, and I was worried that I would trip and fall if I stepped on uneven ground. I am much less worried about this if I can feel the ground beneath my feet. I don't feel like I have as much control in the Vaporfly as I do in a shoe that's closer to the ground. It was during this mile that I lost sight of Greg.

Unfortunately, I also ended up gaining extra mileage here. My total Garmin mileage ended up being 13.24, and I am sure it was due to all the pavement dodging in mile 11 and having to pull off to the side of the course to get out of the 3:10/1:35 pace group earlier in the race.

With two miles to go, I was dead. I knew I was on track to PR and I just had to hold it together for two more miles. I would do everything in my power to PR, but I didn't know if it would be physically possible given how tired I was. I probably could have done with some extra fuel at around mile 9, but I hadn't planned for that. My limiting factor was not my legs, but overall fatigue and lack of energy.

There was another long hill in mile 12. I knew to expect it, but I didn't remember it being this bad. I felt like I was crawling up the hill, despite my best efforts to push and run fast. I used all the mental tricks I had "Get your ass up that hill, Elizabeth!!!" and I made it, but I slowed down substantially.

Mile 9: 6:53
Mile 10: 6:54
Mile 11: 7:00
Mile 12: 7:15

Mile 13- Finish
After that abysmal 12th mile, I knew I had to rally if I was going to PR. Thankfully, the last mile had a long downhill, and I knew this, and the pavement would be nice and even. Time to fly. I decided to ignore the pain and run with everything I had. This was it! Whether or not I would beat my PR from January 2018 all came down to this moment, to this final mile. I had to be strong.

Mile 13: 6:44
Last 0.24: 6:22 pace

And... that final 0.24 was not all downhill either! I sprinted like a madwoman when I saw the time on the clock tick past 1:32. I wanted a sub-1:32 chip time and I had no idea if I would make it!

Official time: 1:31:55
This is a PR by 29 seconds.

After the Race
Immediately after crossing the finish line I stopped dead in my tracks and felt like I had to vomit. I walked a short way, saw Greg, and I told him I needed to vomit. So I went over to a trash can and threw up. I did this after Columbus 2015 too, but I attributed that to taking two gels. This time I attributed it to too much UCAN. And maybe running a sub 6:30 pace for the last quarter mile.

After vomiting, Greg started telling me all about his race. He ran 1:30:50, which is about a minute slower than his PR. But, his second fastest half marathon so he was happy with that.

We walked through the finish line chute together and I saw a PR gong. I walked toward it and Greg had no idea what I was doing. Based on how I looked at the finish, he assumed I had not PR'ed. And then I banged the PR gong! It felt awesome. I had never noticed this gong before, so it was my first-ever gong. And then Greg asked me if I PR'ed. I told him yes!!!

We continued our walk and passed the results tent. This is where I learned that I placed 3rd in my age group. Wow- this is such a huge race to win an age group award. They told me they would mail it to me.

I placed 3rd in my age group (40-44) out of 681.
I was the 46th overall female out of 5,332.

We made it back to our wonderful hotel, where I took a long bath in the huge tub. Tonight it will be PR Birthday cake. Two layers: the bottom layer for Greg's birthday and the top layer for my PR.

Final Thoughts and Takeaways
I'm happy with my PR and my execution, but I was about a minute off of my time goal. Although I wasn't expecting to do so much weaving, so pace-wise maybe I was more like 30 seconds off of my time goal. I ran an average 6:57 according to my Garmin (7:01 official) and my goal was to be at 6:54 on my Garmin (6:57 official). I always expect my Garmin pace to be faster than the official race pace, so I take my actual goal, and then subtract a few seconds for the purpose of pacing it.

I learned from this race that I need more fuel than Generation UCAN before the race. It's served me well in past half marathons, but I could have really used some extra carbs at mile 9. Greg took his gel at around that point and got a burst of energy. I, on the other hand, started to fade from lack of energy, even though my legs were peppy. This is evidenced by my heart rate getting a little lower in miles 11-12 race instead of higher. I didn't have the energy to maintain the high effort, even though the fitness may have been there. I'm going to continue with my UCAN before the race, but take a smaller portion, and then experiment with the Maurten gel or the Huma gel at mile 9. I might still vomit, but at least I'll have more energy!

When I ran the Richmond Half marathon last November, four weeks out from Rehoboth, I was not happy with my performance (1:34:29), but then I crushed the marathon. And I've had tune-up half marathons go really well, but then I've run crappy marathons shortly after. They are two different races. It's encouraging to know that my fitness is in a great spot, but there are so many other factors that go into a marathon other than fitness.

Most runners see their tune-up race as just that: a tune up. I prefer to view this a half marathon race in its own right, because viewing it as a tune up puts it in the context of something bigger and more important. Who knows how the marathon will go? I am celebrating this PR today!

PR Cake (top layer) + Birthday Cake (bottom layer)