Tuesday, February 13, 2024

My Instagram Followers Wrote This Blog Post

I asked my Instagram followers to name one thing they've learned from me. The answers spanned a wide range of topics but mostly fell into the following themes:

  • Consistency/dedication
  • Running form
  • Mindset
  • Faster with age
  • Fueling
  • Wardrobe/dressing for runs
I've highlighted my favorite ones! 

1. Relax while running 
2. Gained some confidence 
3. Beets and beet juice as a performance enhancer
4. Fueling is important! Have a fueling plan and stick to it. Also not to try new fuels for a race.
5. Enjoy the process of making gradual progress
6. How to run!
7. Zebras are awesome!
8. How to fuel for runs an races
9. To listen to your body when there’s pain
10. No matter your experience level, you’re always learning with running.
11. Only one? Goals and mindset. Thought process. And a lot from post race recaps.
12. I need more than 1 pair of shoes each year (running over 1000km a year)
13. Running is running no matter age, speed, weight, form.
14. The body can recover.
15. So much is yet to come.
16. Tips for running form!
17. You’re a musician
18. Take chews with you just in case gels don’t go down. Genuis!
19. What to wear and how to fuel for marathon
20. Resilience and consistency always prevail in leading to accomplishing goals.
21. Consistency and hard work pays off!
22. Your post about mindset going into Richmond, having a great day, etc.
23. Women can be strong and sensitive at the same time.
24. Discipline. 
25. Dedication.
26. Smile at the finish line, stop your watch after.
27. Marathon nutrition
28. How important it is to FUEL during long runs and races!
29. How vital it is to run easy!
30. Smiling
31. Proper form!
32. Train easy to run fast on marathon day.
33. Have a strong mindset.
34. Slow down and find my pace that works for me.
35. Setting my Garmin watch. Very helpful. 
36. To listen to my body.
37. Socks as sleeves and sweater to donate at the beginning of your race!!!
38. Can still have marathon success if the cycle doesn’t go as planned.
39. You are a medical miracle and that your injuries never see to sideline you (outside of the bike accident)
40. How to dress for the weather!
41. You can be fitter in your 40s- you are amazing!
42. Hard work pays off!!
43. Helpful fueling tips!
44. Your face with happiness
45. Way more than one!! Watch setting, dressing for weather, being smart about injuries.
46. Fuel!
47. You can get fitter and faster in your 40s
48. Running pace
49. That the heel bump has an actual medical diagnosis/name
50. Endless motivation!
51. Smile when you run!
52. Consistency is key
53. Not everything goes as planned and that’s ok.
54. Managing race expectations keeping about the fun.
55. To run slower on my easy runs which I hope will translate to more speed down the road.
56. That I have hope of being fast like you one day.
57. No lazy upper body, I kept that in my mind all through my half on Nov. 5th.
58. Zebras are amazing!
59. How to dress as someone that gets overheated easily as well
60. First Place shorts have pockets in the front (have one since a year and never saw these)
61. To relax when I run!
62. That I can continue to get faster as I age
63. Smile to the camera at finish line before stopping the Garmin
64. Don’t let illness or injury stop you, take the break you need and always come back!
65. To listen to your body
66. Never give up on anything and marathons keep you looking 21
67. You can be very fast in your 40s!
68. That age is just a number
69. Don’t wear thongs while running
70. You gave me motivation for my next marathon: Paris 2024
71. Courage
72. Train at a slower pace to run a faster race
73. To fuel during runs
74. Be patient
75. Don’t get discouraged when injury sidelines you. Adjust the training and trust the process.
76. How to dress in different temperatures
77. Retired dancers can run marathons!
78. How to (hopefully) treat and solve the Achilles tendinitis!!
79. Fueling strategy
80. Patience
81. To listen to my body
82. Fast foot turnover
83. That it is possible! 45 to BQ!
84. Zebra Lover
85. Excellent music taste, and your ladder speed day. It’s a favorite of mine now.
86. A lot.
87. Not to give up on your dreams. Keep working, and you can achieve them!
88. That I’m not the only one that hates running in the heat
89. Speeding up the end of some long runs, game changer.
90. Socks as sleeves. That’s an inspired idea.
91. Wait until after the finish line to hit stop on my Garmin. LOL!
92. Slow down on easy runs
93. Strength training pays off
94. Some people really love zebras!
95. Running form!
96. Good running form can look different on different people
97. Variety 
98. Success is not linear and you can still run crazy fast as a master marathoner! 
99. Sooooo so much. One thing that stands out proper fueling. Bonus: smart training = results.
100. Perseverance
101. I have early signs of Haglunds syndrome
102. Slow runs are just as important as speed work
103. Persistence
104. How to dress for cold runs
105. How to smile and run even when you are suffering lol
106. It’s ok to run slowly in training
107. Taking easy runs easy. I love your videos, the way you listen to your body, your singing.
108. Age is just a number
109. Know your boundaries! I’ve learned to listen to my body and let it lead!
110. Preparation
111. Importance of strength training
112. How to use my arms properly
113. I’m not running out of time to be a runner!
114. It’s okay for you to have a running form that isn’t “perfect” according to sites
115. That I can get better as I get older !!
116. Excellent nutrition tips
117. Strength training exercises
118. Tenacity is sexy
119. How to be good at chess
120. That your 20s can be just the beginning of many years of running PRs!
121. It’s doable
122. Running underwear is the bomb
123. This smile more while running
124. How to stay motivated when you don’t want to run any longer!
125. How to keep my arms actively involved while I run.
126. That my Achilles can be fixed. Maybe.
127. Never give up!!
128. You can keep running even with Haglund’s deformity. I have it too!
129. Hip drop
130. Never quit
131. Age doesn’t matter!!! You become stronger because you work hard for it
132. That running form is not the same for everyone, everyone has their own unique style!
133. It’s okay to not hit your goal right away. And not the only one drastically affected by heat.
134. Consistency is key.
135. You can be a badass runner in your 40’s!
136. How to stay positive and not overthink bad workouts/races.
137. Your zebra passion
138. You’re amazing!
139. You have to relax to run fast
140. It’s ok to take a break
141. You keep going. . . after a injury or illness or vacation. You get back out there! Great job!
142. Consistency
143. Fueling strategy
144. Attitude is everything
145. There many things can get better with after, especially our bodies and their abilities
146. To visualize myself while running
147. Running form- time by time during my runs I just remind myself, are you running like Elizabeth? 148. You are amazing. “Everything”.
149. Running is not always easy but keep going!
150. You don’t have to be in your 20’s to improve your pace
151. That running underwear is a controversial topic
152. So many things!! How about fueling strategies
153. Your posture during running and adding strength training in my running schedule
154. Getting older means you have more time to practice to improve your running!! You get BETTER with time
155. Run relaxed! And thumbs up
156. To listen to my body and rest when it’s ill or hurting
157. To smile a lot more when I run! 
158. Your rabbit shorts! Got some and love them!

If this were a market research project, and I was re-branding myself it would be something along the lines of: "Runner who got faster in her 40s with a positive mindset who listens to her body, fuels and dresses appropriately, loves zebras, and works hard."  I agree with that. 

Feel free to add some more!

Sunday, February 4, 2024

For The Love of Hills 10K

The actual name of the race I ran this morning is "For The Love of It" 10K, but I'm going to assume the "it" refers to "a hilly course".

I knew what I was getting into with this race. This was my third time running this race, and 4th if you count the summertime version on the same course. Even though it's challenging, this course held my PR from 2017 to 2020, so it can be fast if you stay strong on the hills and take advantage on the declines.

In 2017 I ran a time of 41:51. In 2020 I ran a time of 43:43, just coming off an injury. My goal today was to set a course PR and ideally a distance PR (sub 41:17). 

Before the Race
The night before the race I had my traditional salmon with beets and pearled couscous. I slept horribly. I wasn't able to fall asleep until 10:15 and I woke up at 3:15. I was awake from 3:15-4:00, but then slept an additional 30 minutes from 4:00-4:30. That means I only got 5.5 hours of sleep. Lately I have been sleeping really well before races, but for some reason last night was an exception. 

I had a handful of almond butter filled pretzels two hours before race start. We left the house at 6:50 for an 8:00 start time. I already had my bib so I didn't need to worry about getting that. 

When we parked, I spotted my friend Kathy and we warmed up together. I made sure my shoes were tied tightly and that the loops were tucked under the other laces. These are the shoes I wore during the Houston Marathon and the laces had come untied during that race: the adidas Adios Pro 2. I still have not tried version 3 because I have plenty of mileage left on my version 2's. I warmed up for 2.2 miles, which included some strides. I had a caffeinated Maurten gel 10 minutes before race start. 

During the warm up, we noticed that the start line was in a different location than usual. We spoke to a race official at the start line who told us that the track was closed for construction so the race couldn't finish on the track as it usually does. So they moved the start back to correct for this. 

I immediately wondered if that meant the course distance would be wrong. After having run a 7.34 10K in December and a 3.24 5K in January, I was hungry for an accurately measured course! Eyeballing the new start line location, it didn't look far enough away from the original start line location to compensate for not running the track portion at the end. Plus, the track portion is the fastest part and that's definitely NOT the part you want removed from this hilly course. I tried not to think about it too much but at least now I was prepared for an inaccurate distance and not having that super-fast track finish.

After the warm up, I found Greg and handed him my jacket. It was cold but I knew that once I started racing I would be appropriately dressed. It was 30 degrees, sunny, and almost no wind. Thus, it receives a 10 out of 10 on my race weather scale. PERFECT! I wore my favorite CW-X capri tights, a short-sleeved t-shirt, arm sleeves, mittens and sunglasses. 

Miles 1-2
I was familiar with the course profile, but once the race started all I could remember was that mile 3 was fast/downhill and mile 5 was hard/uphill. I had forgotten what the first two miles were. I didn't look at my Garmin all that much, I ran by effort. During these miles I was running behind a pack of 5 men. My goal would be to pick them off one at a time. I quickly established my position as the third female.

Because this course is constantly rolling hills, I didn't remember if miles 1-2 were net uphill or downhill. My splits were 6:44 and 6:43 so I was hoping there were net uphill. These splits were discouraging because I was hoping to average 6:35 or faster and I wasn't sure if I would be able to speed up all that much in future miles. I shifted my mindset from "get a PR" to "just run hard". 

Miles 3-4
Now it was time to start picking off the men and hopefully running faster. I saw my friend Cheryl taking photos which was a pleasant surprise. She hadn't told me she was coming! That was definitely a bright spot in these miles. I wasn't looking at my watch so I wasn't sure how fast I was going, I just tried my best to put forth max effort. 

In doing so, I made my loud grunting/screaming noises. These are somewhat embarrassing, but it's just what happens when I go really hard. As I was passing one of the guys I said "sorry I am so loud!" He replied with "it's really motivating me to push harder, so thank you for that!" Wow- who knew my sighs of pain could be motivating?

I passed about three men during these miles, which helped restore my confidence. My splits were 6:27 and 6:20 for these miles. I was definitely taking advantage of the elevation loss. I think I had expected mile 4 to be uphill, so running a 6:20 was a welcome surprise!

Miles 5-6
I was in the home stretch. I felt like I was slowing down so much. Everything hurt and my energy level had fallen. I definitely didn't look at my watch because I felt like I had slowed WAY down. But I think I always feel this way during mile 5. Mile 5 is the hardest mile of the course and it's soul-sucking for sure! One of the guys was within earshot of me behind me and I was motivated to not let him pass me. I could hear his steps and his breathing. 

I saw Greg and Cheryl during mile 6 but it was hard to muster a smile for them. I was running out of gas. Mile 6 seemed to last forever. Because of the course change, there wasn't as much downhill during this mile as there had been in previous years, so I didn't get the "relief" I had been looking forward to. 

Mile 5 clocked in at 6:46 and mile 6 at 6:38.

The Finish
I gunned it really hard at the end. I guess I had more in me than I realized because I got a sudden burst of energy as I approached the finish line. I could not believe my eyes as I approached the clock: 40:xx! I would be under 41!!!

My official time was 40:31. I was the 3rd female finisher and the 11th overall finisher. In my wildest dreams I could not have imagined a time of 40:31! That's two 5Ks in a row of 20:15 and 20:15! 

But my disbelief was validated when I saw that my Garmin distance was a mere 6.15 miles, not 6.21. Shoot! 

I wasn't sure whether to be happy about my PR or frustrated that it wasn't a real PR. I was 46 seconds faster than my PR, so I have to believe that if the course was extended by 0.05 mile it would still be a PR and still under 41:00. In fact, my goal time was 40:55, which would have lined up perfectly with a slightly longer course.

The man who I had passed during the race came up to me afterwards and thanked me for my motivating painful groans! He said that when I was making those noises, it made him realize he had more effort to give and so he pushed harder. Contrast this to a 5K I ran a few years ago when a man approached me afterwards to tell me that my noises distracted him and made him pull a calf muscle! I always considered my noises annoying, and they probably are to most, but they don't cause calf strains. And at best they do demonstrate an extreme amount of exertion! 

I re-united with Greg, Cheryl and Kathy after the race and we chatted for awhile before the awards started. Overall it was a great morning!

Final Thoughts and Key Takeaways
With my last three races having slightly-off (or majorly off) distances, it has re-affirmed my belief in the PERSONAL Record. This is not the olympics. I am not a professional runner. My personal records are whatever I know to be my best performances.

I often use the example of the Boston Marathon 2018 in the wind/rain/hills (3:26) vs my PR in perfect weather on a flat course (3:15). Clearly my time should be faster on the flat course in perfect weather. But I see my Boston Marathon performance as superior. The crazy conditions (with many elites dropping out) and the challenging course required much more discipline with pacing, physical fitness, and mental strength.

Even though I would be hard pressed to consider myself a 40:31 10K runner, I definitely see myself as a sub-41:00 10K runner and that is still a PR. 

In 2020, I ran this race in a time of 43:43 coming off an injury. I then proceeded to run a time of 1:31:56 at the Newport News One City Half Marathon (four weeks later). I am running One City again this year, so I believe myself to be on track for my sub 1:30:00 goal, provided the weather conditions are favorable.

Other stats and notes:

  • According to Strava, I ran a 20:07 5K in the middle of this race. Probably miles 2, 3, and 4. 
  • Comparing this race to my 2017 course PR, every mile was faster!
  • I think my recent increase in fitness can be somewhat credited to my Achilles tendinitis/bursitis being mostly cured. It has resulted in more ankle mobility so I can stride longer.
  • My Illiacus muscle (lower abdomen, above groin, near hip) has been painful/spasming lately and it was silent during the race but I felt it tighten up afterwards. I'm going to PT regularly to keep this in check.
  • In January I bought a new grand piano and I spent more hours playing the piano than running last month. You can see me play the piano on my YouTube channel. 
Up next is the One City half marathon in four week. I need my illiacus muscle to stay calm, good weather, and no illness! If all of those things happen I could potentially run a sub 1:30. 

Thanks for the photo, Cheryl

Tuesday, January 2, 2024

New Year's Day 5K: Workout or Race?

Yesterday morning I ran the New Year New Day 5K in Ashburn, VA. This race was a last-minute decision for me. I was pretty sure I was NOT going to run a New Year's race because I had done two 10Ks in December-- one of which I didn't blog about because there wasn't too much to say!

But as I was putting together my training plan I realized that I had speed work on tap for Monday, and that also happened to be New Year's Day. Whenever I can run my speed workout in a race, I do it! I like being in the race environment and seeing my friends. The fact that my friend Cheryl would be the official race photographer sealed the deal. 

I registered for the race on Friday and decided it would be my tempo run for the week. On Saturday, I ran my longest run since the marathon: 11.7 miles. It was supposed to be 12 but I arrived back home at 11.7 and my legs were pretty tired from Thursday's strength training session. 

On Sunday I did a 3-mile recovery run and my legs were still sore! If I had not registered for the race, I would have likely pushed my speed work to Tuesday. The soreness didn't bode well for fast running on Monday. Anyway, I ended up with 1,566 miles for the year in 2023. Much lower than my typical 2000-2500, but that was by design. And the spring "down season" seemed to work in my favor come fall!

Before the Race
Because I was viewing this as a workout, I didn't pay attention to what I ate the day before the race. And on race morning I didn't have my typical urge to go to the bathroom. The whole thing was super casual. The race started at 10:00am which meant I needed to eat more than I typically would before a 5K.

I had a Maurten Solid + a handful of almond butter pretzels at 8:00. 

As soon as Greg and I arrived at the race site, my body got the message that it was "go time" and so I was able to clear out my digestive system. Sorry if this is TMI, but it's an important part of pre-race prep!

Warm up with Greg in background
I had not studied the course in advance. I had run this race in the past - but it had been on a differentcourse. They moved the race to a new location this year. My friend Cheryl had sent me the map in advance and I could tell that the race started downhill, flattened out and then finished uphill.

I was pleasantly surprised to run into my friend Lisa when I was picking up my bib! She also had registered for the race on Friday. 

I warmed up for about two miles and had my Maurten gel. I timed the gel for a 10:00am start and then learned that the 10K start was 10:00, and the 5K start was 10:10. Oh well! This allowed me to get in more of a warm up anyway.

It was 41 degrees with 10-15 mph winds and overcast. The wind and the lack of sunlight made it feel closer to 31 degrees. I give this an 8 out of 10 on my race weather scale. Everything was ideal except for the headwind during the first half of the race. And it was also damp feeling (it started to wet-snow shortly after we finished!) When I took my jacket off after the warm up I was very, very cold! 

Mile 1: We started running and I decided to go with whatever I felt like doing. No target pace, no target effort - just go with the flow and run hard. I think there must have been a high school boy's cross country team at this race because there was a pack of about 15 guys ahead of me. One woman surged way ahead of me but aside from here, there were no other women ahead of me. 

The first mile was downhill so I took it fast, but the headwind was also a factor. I think the headwind negated the advantage of the downhill. But that just meant the final uphill would like have a tailwind - so it was the ideal setup of wind and hills. I didn't look at my Garmin much and it clocked in at 6:32 for mile 1. 

Mile 2: During this mile I started passing other runners - both 5K and 10K runners. The 10K had started 10 minutes prior so I was beginning to catch up with the walkers. As for the other 5K runners, it was fun to pick off the high school boys one by one as I cruised through mile 2. I don't really remember the elevation here but it seemed to be gently rolling hills - nothing too challenging. We still had a headwind and I was dying to turn out of that wind! My split was 6:36.

13-yr old boy vs. 45-yr old woman
Mile 3: This mile was all about passing people. There was a teenage boy (13-year old) in a bright orange/red outfit ahead of me and I followed him through the crowd of 10K runners. The 10K runners were all very encouraging as we ran past them. As I caught up to the boy in red, he surged until I caught up with him again and then he surged. I could tell he did not want me passing him. I was glad I was there to push him! My split was 6:28. This mile was net uphill, but it was the fastest mile because the headwind was gone and I guess I finally warmed up!

The final 0.26: When my watch beeped for 3 miles, the finish line was nowhere in sight. I really hoped the course wouldn't be too much longer than a 5K! I was now ahead of the 13-year old and riding the tails of a 16-year old - but he surged and didn't let me pass him. 

Finally I crossed the finish line in 21:11, second place female. Here is a video of me crossing the finish line.

After the Race
Surprisingly, I was not totally dead after this and immediately was able to start my cool down. Usually I need like 5-10 minutes to recover after a 5K. So I jogged back onto the sidewalk of the course and found Lisa and ran in with her. 

Then I found Greg and we had THE BEST EVER post-race food. In all my years of racing, I have never encountered something so amazing. Hot Belgian waffles on a stick, and you could choose a drizzle flavor and a crunch topping. And there were so many options. 

I chose dark chocolate drizzle with Oreo. Greg chose apple cinnamon drizzle with sea salt. I normally never want food for at least an hour after I race, but I was so excited about this waffle. We later found Lisa and her husband and the four of us hung out for a while until the awards ceremony started. 

My award was a glass, a stainless steel water bottle and $20 off any of the Loudon County races in 2024. It was a wonderful way to spend New Year's Day and I am so glad I did this race!

Final Thoughts and Key Takeaways
I am really loving this "chill" attitude towards racing. It's making me run so fast without me even trying that hard. 

  • I definitely didn't feel like I was racing this at 5K effort, given how great I felt at the finish line. 
  • Maybe I was racing it at full effort but my carefree mindset masked the effort.
  • Maybe if I did race a 5K all-out right now I would be much faster?
  • The course was not certified, so instead of looking at this as a time of 21:11, I am looking at my average pace of 6:32. 
  • According to Strava, my 5K time during this race was 20:17, which would be tied for my 4th fastest ever 5K. 
  • It was interesting the wind negated the advantage/disadvantage of the uphill/downhill. So the first downhill headwind mile was slower than the last uphill tailwind mile.
  • Considering I ran nearly 12 miles two days prior, this was a strong performance!
  • If they do this race next year, I hope they get the course certified and continue to have the waffles.
As I go into 2024, I'm going to focus on enjoying races and being "present" in them as opposed to in my head with the Garmin and the pace I'm looking at. If I run by feel, I can trust that my body will do what it can!
Finish Line

Lisa and me