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!