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!