Wednesday, October 18, 2017

CIM Training Journal #5

This continues CIM Training Journals #1, #2, #3, and #4.

October 10, 2017
Here is my official announcement that I am registered for the Chevron Houston Marathon on 1/14/18.  Surprise!  I've had success running two marathons off of one training cycle every time I've tried it, so why not?  I qualified for their Athlete Development Program (basically sub-elite), barely, with a cut-off of 2:50.  The half cut-off time is 1:25, though, which I don't exactly understand, but regardless I applied for a marathon entry and I'm in!  I am currently trying to talk some of the girls I train with into running it as well, so we can make a girls' weekend out of it.

My exact path for Houston won't be decided until after CIM, but it will be one of these:
  • If I don't get a 2:45:00 at CIM but feel it's within the realm of possibility off of this cycle, and Houston weather is conducive to a fast race, I will try again at Houston.
  • If I get the standard at CIM and come away feeling good OR if I don't get the standard and don't think it's within the realm of possibility off of this cycle, I will drop to the half and go for a sub-80 at Houston.
  • If I come away from CIM simply not feeling up for it or the Houston weather is atrocious, I'll skip Houston altogether; but historically I have handled marathons well so I don't anticipate this to be the case.  I could also skip it if I think it's in my better long-term interest not to run it (for example, if after CIM I pick a spring marathon to build to and do a 4 week lay off before rebuilding).
I like knowing I have a Plan B/back-up race option.  So much goes into a marathon cycle, and it's not always possible to have everything come together on race day because so many variables are out of your control (weather being the biggest, but also flight issues, getting sick, just having an off day, etc.).  In the past I've been able to rally and have a stronger second marathon for one reason or another, so why not have this in my back pocket?  It also makes me feel more relaxed about CIM and more comfortable going out conservatively there, both of which are very helpful things.  So -- Houston, hopefully we do not have a problem!


October 12, 2017
I was so inspired by watching and tracking the Chicago Marathon!  21 women there hit the OTQ standard, including 2 who I know!  I was so excited for them and so happy that their hard work paid off (they both paced brilliantly, too).  It also made me so excited to run a marathon, and I started wishing I'd have chosen Chicago instead of CIM so that I could have been out there too and didn't have to wait 8 more weeks (on the other hand, less than 8 weeks, ahh!).

Then (ironically during my highest mileage week yet), I started worrying that I'm not running nearly enough mileage.  Those women killing it in Chicago put in 100-120 mile weeks.  My current mileage is big for me, and I think I'll end up with 7 weeks in the 70s during this build, probably averaging 66-68 mpw for the 12 weeks leading up to the race (comparatively, during my Mesa-Phoenix build I averaged 57.5 mpw in the 12 weeks before).  Prior to those 12 weeks leading up to the race, I had 10 consecutive weeks in the 60s, which I have never done before.  So all good for me -- but such a far cry from triple digits!  I'm trying not to let comparison steal my joy, because I am really happy with my increase in mileage and with how great I've felt and healthy I've been with it, but I'm also worried it's not enough.
Seriously.
Isn't that the mentality of a distance runner though; always wanting more and always wanting to add more to get there?!  I know that I couldn't run 100+ mpw currently (or possibly ever) and stay injury-free, and obviously an essential component to running a PR marathon is making it to the starting line healthy.  Putting things in perspective, I know this training cycle is a helpful step regardless of how I race at CIM.  This marathon build will help my future marathon builds, and I will be able to gradually and intelligently increase my mileage over time if I need to (with my coach's help -- I need him to save me from myself!).  I'd say there is a greater chance that I won't run 2:45:00 at CIM than that I will; however, this cycle helps my pursuit of that big goal either way.  I figure that it's far better to not run a 2:45 off of 65-75 mpw than to not run it off of 100 mpw, because I have room to go up from where I'm at now if I need to.

Also, I trust that what God has in store me is better than what I could dream up for myself, and that brings me great comfort with this goal and everything else in my life!


October 13, 2017
In a recent conversation I had about multiple races coming into the same finish line, the Dallas Marathon came up, because they did an excellent job with dividing the road so that full and half runners had separate sides when the courses merged for the final several miles of the race.  I commented, with slight exaggeration, that I probably would have quit in the last 3 miles of that marathon if I'd had to fight through the seas of half runners that I saw on the other side of the road, because I was on the struggle bus.

My friend commented that she couldn't imagine me struggling during a race.  I then realized that I think the same thing about professional runners and strong runners ahead of me:  that they aren't struggling and that it's easy for them.  Many make it look effortless!  But the truth is that everyone competing at 100% struggles at the end of a race; in fact if you're not struggling to maintain/pick up pace towards the end then you're not at race effort!  Now, the end of a race struggle is a different feeling when you're in shape vs. out of shape, you paced well vs. went out too fast, etc. (I've been on both sides of both of these!), but it's always a push.  I think it's nice to know that it's hard for everyone at the end.  In my good races it's a "hurts so good" type of thing, but I certainly hurt at the end of all of them!  I think that makes us all normal!  If it's truly effortless, you're running too slow, right?!

Thinking about Dallas also made me contemplate that if I aim for a 2:44:50 at CIM and end up struggling to maintain at the end, if I lose 2:00-3:00 (at Dallas I lost about 2:20 in the final 3 miles but was spot on until then), I would run a 2:46:50-2:47:50, which would be a nice PR and time I would be very proud of.  It would just be a much more painful way to run a 2:47 than via a negative split!  If 2:47 is what I'm going to run, I'd much rather do it via 1:24/1:23 halves than the other way around!  It's hard to know exactly how to target your exact maximum marathon pace.  Regardless, I'm looking forward to that end of the race struggle; few painful things are so very rewarding.  I am ready to push to my max and to embrace the temporary pain that will accompany every all-out marathon.


October 14, 2017
Today I am another long run closer to my goal!  A solid 21.4 miler (6:52 average pace) in the books this morning, solo aside from a 3-4 mile rendezvous with Missy and Rebecca.  I only have 2 more monster long runs standing between me and CIM, a 22 miler and a 24 miler!  I will also have two workout long runs (both 18 miles total I think) and two shorter long runs (during my taper 2 weeks and 1 week before the race).  It's crazy how base long runs at 6:5X have become my new "normal" this training cycle.  I am thankful.  The first time I had a 17 miler come in sub-7:00 I was worried I'd never match that, but now I feel comfortable that I'm in that zone.

Although it didn't work out for me to run much of the 21 miler with anyone, the majority of my runs are with company, which I am extremely grateful for (this week I even had a second run with Amy P. - my first ever company when running from work at lunch!).  God has brought so many amazing people into my life through running!  Running friends quickly become close relationships that are somehow different from other friendships; it's something about covering miles and miles next to someone and chatting away while never actually looking at one another.  No backdrop of a restaurant, bar, event, etc. is ever needed -- just a headlamp and farm roads most days!


October 15, 2017
Wrapping up my biggest week yet at 77.1 miles!  It was pretty much a pure volume week; I ran over 77 miles yet only 5 minutes of it was hard running (5 x 1:00 pick-ups within my long run)...funny.  Workouts are back next week, and one of them is a bear!  Today's recovery 7 miles turned 7.4 (because I thought I needed the 0.4 to hit 77 -- I could have stopped at 7.3) reminded me why I used to take the day after super long runs off; my legs were tired!  I was also thinking that if I had 10 miles today I'd have an 80 mile week, so now I almost know what one of those feels like and of course was tempted to run 10.

It's funny how what used to be huge becomes the new normal, and for me right now that is mileage in the 60s and 70s.  A year ago I would have never believed that I could run this kind of mileage without getting injured.  I work on doing the extras (foam rolling and stretching, proper nutrition and always eating soon after running, strength training, keeping my easy days easy, compression socks), and my coach structures my training far better than I ever did on my own (for both performance and staying healthy).  I truly thank God for every day I run healthy, because there was a time I questioned if I ever consistently would again.  If you are struggling with injuries please don't ever lose hope.  Anytime I am unhappy with my performance, I need to remember how fortunate I am to be able to train and race, period.  There's few things an injured runner hates more than healthy people whining about a few seconds in a race or workout.


October 18, 2017
We officially booked our flight and hotel for CIM!  Only 6 weeks and 5 days left on the countdown!  My husband and parents are joining me on the trip, which is really exciting and also comforting to know that even if I bomb the race I will have a nice trip with my family.  I hope I do not disappoint them, as this has not been the most minor financial investment for any of us...  My sweet mother-in-law will be staying with Albani while we are gone since she has school.  Suggestions on things to do in the Sacramento area aside from the marathon?

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Lazy Healthy Meal Prep

I'm a lazy cook who aims to eat very healthy to best fuel my running.  With a bit of meal prep on Sundays after our weekly trip to the grocery store, I put meals together for the week without much effort.  After waking up between 4:45-5:00 a.m., working 8-10 hours, sometimes running a second run in the evenings, Mom duties, and maintaining a home, I don't have much time or energy to deal with cooking on week days.

On Sundays, I:
  • Make a meal in the crock pot that I then divide up into containers for my lunches each day
  • Cook a big batch of a healthy grain (quinoa, red quinoa, brown rice, whole wheat pasta, whole wheat cous cous)
  • Roast a ton of veggies (whatever is on sale and whatever is ripe in our garden)
  • Cook salmon, tilapia, and/or chicken
  • Hard boil a dozen eggs
  • Often also make protein bars or granola bars, make trail mix, and cut up raw fruits and veggies
  • Ensure I have the following on hand:  fresh and frozen fruit, fresh and frozen veggies, yogurt, cottage cheese, string cheese, several varieties of nuts, peanut butter, whole wheat bread, protein powder, tuna, almond milk, potatoes and sweet potatoes, oatmeal, pretzels, popcorn, tea, coffee
During the week, I nearly always end up cooking more veggies and fish/chicken, but those are as simple as throwing them on a baking dish with seasonings and olive oil, so only take a moment (the key is remembering to put them in 45 minutes before you want to eat...do not wait until finishing that 4 mile shake-out run!).

Here is an example of how a few items can combine for different dinners each evening.  My healthy grain for this week was a huge pot of whole wheat spaghetti (3 standard packages).  My child complains about whole wheat spaghetti but she will eat it!

Night 1:  Whole wheat spaghetti topped with marinara (also homemade and homegrown, but not by me), roasted eggplant, roasted tomatoes, olives, and Italian seasoning

Night 2:  Whole wheat spaghetti with roasted tomatoes, steam-in-the bag asparagus, light olive oil/lemon sauce, and Italian seasonings
Night 3:  Whole wheat spaghetti with roasted tomatoes, olives, steam-in-bag asparagus, and cottage cheese
Night 4:  Whole wheat spaghetti with roasted zucchini squash and yellow squash, garlic, and lemon/garlic roasted salmon
Night 5:  Plain whole wheat spaghetti...the option when you're super exhausted after a 4:45 a.m. alarm, a day in Joplin for work, and a second run.  After eating part of this I found the energy to add some Parmesan.

Meal examples with baked salmon and roasted asparagus (just add a potato!):

I was going to use the title "What I ate for lunch every day for a week" and then include this picture 5 times, but I thought that be annoying.  Usually, I eat the same thing for lunch at work five days in a row.  I make different recipes each week, but during the week it makes it pretty brainless to just take a container full of it each day.  The pictured dish is a pumpkin curry prepared in the slow cooker - white beans, veggies, pumpkin puree, coconut milk, cumin, curry powder (I also put plain gelatin in every slow cooker meal I make to promote tendon strength; it is tasteless).  This curry can be served over rice, quinoa, or cous cous, or by itself.
I am pretty organized/routine about food-prep, so it usually goes off without a hitch and doesn't take very long at all.  The only time I struggle is if we are out of town all weekend!  Even then, omelets, baked potatoes with cottage cheese, tuna sandwiches, canned beans/soups, etc. are always super easy.  Peanut butter banana sandwiches are also always winners!

Monday, October 9, 2017

CIM Training Journal #4

This continues CIM Training Journals #1, #2, and #3 .

September 25, 2017
If only rationalizing and "perfect scenario" math would get me a marathon PR!  I felt really good about my 20 mile training run at 6:49 average pace on Sep. 23.  I felt nice and relaxed on all of it except for the 5 x 1:00 pick-ups to 6:00ish pace (so 2:11:15 relaxed running, 5:00 hard).  Although I need to average 32 sec/mile faster for 6.2 miles farther on race day, hopefully I can count on getting 10 sec/mile from ideal weather, 10 sec/mile from a fast course, 10 sec/mile from a taper/being at peak, and the other 2 sec/mile from running with a pace group.  The additional 10K can come from this training run not being a race effort run, and race day being, obviously, a race effort run.  Too bad hypothetical math rarely translates into real-life settings...  I looked up my first 20 miler in my Mesa-Phoenix marathon build, and I averaged 7:21 pace for it (with 4 progressive fast finish miles, meaning more time pushing the pace than my recent 20 had, and in much cooler weather), so in theory I am pretty far ahead of where I was then.  Too bad theory is just theory!  One of my worst marathon-related fears is running slower at CIM than I did in Phoenix.

September 26, 2017
Although 400 m repeats are certainly not a key marathon workout, nailing my 12 x 400 m workout today was a nice confidence boost!  My coach steadily sneaks down my goal split range on these, and it was 1:20-1:22 for this workout (the last time I ran 400s it was 1:21-1:23, and it used to be 1:25-1:28...don't think I haven't caught on!).  These are probably still relatively slow compared to what others running around my race times are doing for 400s, but I just don't have the speed.  I was pretty intimidated by this goal, but decided to try it and see what happened.

Success was what happened -- I ran 8 of them in 1:21, 2 in 1:22, and 2 (including the final rep) in 1:20!  Clearly, being able to nail a 400 m workout in no way translates into a successful marathon, but it showed me that I am improving and that speed comes with mileage.  The last time I ran 400s I had 8, and 4 were 1:21 and 4 were 1:22, so doing 4 more reps faster made me very happy!  I also enjoyed the workout, which is perhaps the biggest victory of all, because typically 400s are my least favorite workout.  This was also my first time back to the track after my failed 1600 m repeat workout on August 22, so I am happy to report that the track and I are back on speaking terms.

September 29, 2017
Tomorrow I'm going to race somewhat rested for the first time in months!  The morning low is 49*, so hopefully I am also going to race in ideal weather conditions for the first time in months (the wind may be the X factor).  I am excited for this checkpoint and to see what 12 consecutive weeks of mileage in the 60s-70s has gotten me, but I am also so very intimidated because what if this race tells me that I am not on track for my marathon goal?  I have learned, though, that I can't pressure or bully myself into being any faster or giving more than I've got on any given day, so I am going to aim to enjoy the race and to do my best, and also to (at least try to) be satisfied with whatever my best is and to thank God for it.  Regardless of what time I run or how I place, I am absolutely thankful for the opportunity to get on the starting line and try.

October 2, 2017
All in all, the Indy Women's Half was a good step.  I am happy to have a new PR that shows my training is working.  I wish I could have run faster (we all know I am chasing a sub-80 in the half), which I know sounds greedy, but the more I think about the race the happier I am with it.

The big successes in relation to marathon-training were:
  • Running a half PR without having perfect conditions.  The faster anyone's PRs get, the more we need ideal conditions to beat them.  The circumstances for this race were average -- not bad by any means, but also not perfect (I elaborated plenty on that here).  The circumstances for my previous PR at Rock 'n' Roll Phoenix were pretty much perfect; I even mentioned in that race report that the biggest blessing was not feeling like I needed to list ways in which things could have gone better, which is clearly rare for me (the White River Half was that way too though).  Basically, it's helpful to know that I am in good enough shape to PR without having everything align.  I feel that way about CIM too; that I could run a PR marathon without everything going perfectly (it just would not be a 2:44:59, just as Indy was not a 1:19:59).
  • Pacing evenly by feel.  My splits were all within 11 seconds of each other (within 8 seconds if you throw out the 2 outliers), and I did not use my Garmin to pace after the first 2 miles.  I used it early to ensure I didn't get out too fast, but once I settled into tempo pace I was in the zone. When considered with the wind and elevation, the splits were even more even than this.
  • Grinding it out solo.  A half marathon is a long way to run on your own, but after the lead pack gapped me before the 1 mile I went at it alone the rest of the race, although being able to see and try to pull in another lady during the final 5K was helpful.  This built mental-toughness for the marathon!
  • Holding my own in a competitive field.  Although I was never in the thick of things for the lead in this race, I am happy with my place of 5th among such talented ladies.  I will be around many more talented ladies at CIM.  I did not get intimidated by my competitors, and I also did not get drawn into anyone else's race and stuck to my personal pace plan.  I certainly cannot go out fast at CIM, and plan to go out conservatively and not get drawn into anyone else's pacing.
  • Success with pre-marathon nutrition.  The night before the race I ate my pre-marathon dinner, and the morning of I had half of my pre-marathon breakfast and my pre-race fluids.  I also used the same gel pre-race that I will use before and during my marathon (I took half of the gel right before my warm-up, and the other half about 10 minutes before the gun).  I don't take gels or fluids during halves unless it's hot, because I don't need anything running less than 90 minutes, but in retrospect I should have tried a gel during just to practice running hard with it on my stomach.  There will be opportunities in long run workouts for that though!  All of the nutrition I had set perfectly.
  • I recovered quickly.  My recovery from this race was so good that it made me think I did not run it hard enough.  My easy pace the day after the race was a typical easy day; the day after some other halves I've barely been able to run a few miles 8:30 pace the following day.  I had 6 miles the day after and my easy pace was 7:18.  I had no soreness and my legs didn't feel any different than after any long run or workout.  This may be because I'm used to higher mileage, but maybe I just couldn't quite push as hard running alone.
The not-encouraging component in relation to marathon training was:
  • I did not run a 1:19:59.
 The true miracle:
  • I liked a couple of my race photos, which is harder to come by than a PR.
Focus
October 3, 2017
My husband is researching flights and hotels for CIM, and just sent me a text that said, "Can we cancel the hotel and flights if it's over 60*?"  I don't think any further explanation is needed on my reaction to this question.  I responded with a single emoticon.

October 4, 2017
I had a big confidence boost today, wrapped up in the package of a PR mile repeat workout.  I averaged 5:37.8 for 5 x 1 mile on the road (splits below), which is a better average than I've ever run on any mile repeat workout, including 3 or 4 x 1 mile.  Ironically, the last time I ran mile repeats it was a major hit to my confidence (details under August 26 here - but basically I quit the workout the first time then 2 days later rallied to finish it with 3 x 1 mile a bit slower than my goal times).  Although my fitness has improved some since then, the main difference was today I didn't stress about the workout beforehand and just went out with the goal of doing my best and seeing if I could hit the upper end of the pace range my coach gave me (5:38-5:42).  Last time I convinced myself before that I wouldn't be able to hit my splits.

The slight downside was that I really questioned if I'd pushed hard enough in the Indy Half, since I was able to do this workout 4 days afterward.  I suspect that part of the reason I'm feeling so good this week, though, is because I cut back to 51 miles last week, but maybe I couldn't quite go to that extra level due to running so much of that race solo.  Regardless -- onward and upward!

I couldn't really believe it either
October 5, 2017
I've been been in a good place on my runs lately, which leads me to start worrying that I hope I am not peaking to early!

October 8, 2017
Wrapping this one up one long run closer to my goal (with color coordination from my shorts to my socks to my Garmin - which never happens!).  I watched/tracked the Chicago Marathon today, and I was so excited and inspired I don't know how I am possibly going to wait 8 more weeks to run a marathon myself!  On the other hand, 6.5 more weeks to make fitness gains doesn't seem like enough!  But I suppose waiting until you're completely ready to run a PR marathon is like waiting until you're completely ready to have children; the completely ready day never comes, so you just use the best timing you know how.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Panther Run 5K: A 5K at tempo is a 5K I can get behind!

There is no "the short" and "the long" on this one, because it's all pretty short!  I've lamented tirelessly about how I'm no good at 5Ks, but like with my September 2 5K, running a 5K at tempo pace makes it far more fun!  I decided to run this one because I needed one more short distance race for my running club's 2017 competition, it's a nicely put together local event, and I thought I could win some prize money without full-out racing it.  The weather was disgusting (70s and humid -- which you'd think we'd be through by October -- and a south wind around 15 mph with gusts of up to 30 mph), so I was awfully thankful this wasn't a goal race!
5Ks at tempo may also be the way to get decent professional race photos!
Run happy!  Wish this was a little more clear, but love my expression.
Start
I did a 2 mile warm-up, timed to finish about 5 minutes before the gun, and then got on the line.  My plan was to run about 6:00 pace, but if I had to run harder for the win I would.  For the first bit, there were 2 women out in front of me and several men.  I passed the women within the first quarter mile and many of the men.  I checked my watch and I was at 6:00 exactly - pacing by feel for the win!  I aimed to maintain even effort, and I passed 3 or 4 more men throughout the race.  The third mile was into the wind and I kept thinking "This feels harder than it should; I'm so glad I'm not running an 8 mile tempo today!"  I ended up with 3.16 miles at exactly 6:00 pace (I knew the course would read long, another reason I didn't want to race this one -- most others told me their Garmins had 3.2+).  I also netted the overall female win (4 men finished ahead of me).  Mission accomplished!
Coming into the finish
Pace goal accomplished, precisely, & the Panther Run shirt logo
After I finished, I ran back out on the course to run in my friend Amy in the 15K.  I met her with around a mile left (her race had started 20 minutes before mine) and tried to block the wind for her and also to clear the tangents for her since she was going through slower 10K and 5K runners.  She was 1st overall female in the 15K!  I ended up with a 3.1 mile cool down to finish out my mileage for the day.
Overall winners
Official results are here.  My official time was 19:01, so I clearly should have run a few seconds faster, but the finishing clock was on the 15K so I had no idea.  I'd already broken my streak of running 5Ks in the 18s with my Labor Day weekend 5K that I ran at half marathon pace, so I'll just remember the asterisks by my workout 5Ks!

I was glad to get this one in for my final short distance race in my running club's 2017 competition.  I would like to race a 5K all-out and rested at some point, but it just doesn't fit very well with marathon training, so I think I'll wait and try one on the track in the spring.  I had a really solid mile repeat workout on Wednesday that made me hopeful that I can break 18:00 in the 5K (5 x 1 mile, average 5:37, which was a workout PR).  I know that would not have happened in the Panther Run no matter what, with the weather, course, and my fatigue level, so I am glad I followed the tempo plan, and will be even more glad about it on tomorrow's long run!
Danielle rocked her first postpartum 15K!
Photobombed
Awards

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Indy Women's Half: Thankful, but not satisfied

The Short:
I ran a bright, shiny new half marathon PR of 1:20:50 under circumstances that were not nearly as ideal as those I had for my previous PR of 1:21:26.  I walked away from this race feeling like I'd nailed one of my best workouts ever, but not exactly like I'd raced or PRed (you'll have to read The Long for an explanation of why).  However, the more I analyze this race the happier I become with it.  I placed 5th overall, netted some cash, and best of all enjoyed an amazing weekend trip to Indianapolis with my parents. 

Official results can be found here.
Sunny clock shot courtesy of my mama

The Long:
I looked at a lot of fall halves trying to find the "perfect" goal race before deciding that none were.  The major things I was looking for were: A) fitting into my schedule (marathon training and non-running), B) likelihood of good weather, C) straight course/minimal turns, D) flat course, E) competitive field, and F) within driving distance.  The Indianapolis Women's Half fit the bill on 5 of the 6, only missing requirement C), but the more courses I looked at the more I realized how hard it is to find one as nice as the White River half (which, alas, does not meet requirement A) this year since it is only 2 weeks before my goal marathon).

So I landed on Indy, and was accepted as an elite entrant and honored as one of the "5 Women to Watch" in the race.  The race organizers were amazing and I was fortunate to be a part of this event.  The race was on a Saturday, so I made the trip to Indy on Friday with my parents.  Since I won't pull Albani out of school for a race, she and Jon weren't able to come.  I treasure my time with my parents so greatly, which also meant that even if I bombed the race, it would be worth going to!  I never got nervous for this race, and I think that was big part of why.

From the event program
Expo fun
More expo fun
I was quite excited for this checkpoint in my marathon training cycle.  After 10 consecutive weeks of mileage in the 60s plus 2 weeks with mileage in the 70s, I had a 50 mile week the week of this race.  While I may not have been completely rested since I ran 20 miles one week before the event, I was the most rested I'd been in months, and I also had the opportunity to race in NOT 70-80* with 100% humidity for the first time in months!  I felt like a new woman!
Feeling like a new woman in the hotel room pre-race
Based on the "5 Women to Watch" and a handful of other elite entrants, I expected to have several woman right around my pace.  I lined up on the starting line feeling very relaxed and ready to give it a go.  I kept reminding myself to trust my training and to trust God, and to go get what I'd trained for!  Nothing is ever guaranteed in these long races, but fretting about it never helps.  I planned to aim to keep my pace at 6:05-6:10.
I'm looking weird on the starting line as per usual
At the gun, a lead pack eased out, and a check of my Garmin around a quarter of a mile in showed 6:05 pace as I settled in right behind the leaders. For a brief moment, I thought, "Perfect!  Maybe this will be the 6:05 pace pack!  Couldn't be better!"  After that brief moment, I could feel 5 of the girls accelerating (the 2 others who were not accelerating were 2 I expected to drop off before the mile at 6:05 pace).  I couldn't decide; should I risk going through the first mile in 5:55-6:00 for the benefit of running with the pack, or should I stick to my plan?  I let them go and stuck to my pace.  I knew that if they could maintain sub-6:00 pace, I could not compete with them, and if that was too fast for them, they would come back.
When 6:05 pace was briefly happening
The 5 quickly pulled away from me, and at the mile I gauged them as over 20 seconds ahead of me (I later spoke to one who said they went through in 5:45).  I came through the mile in 6:08, right where I wanted to be, but so alone.  I felt antsy during mile 2, and really had to hold myself back because I wanted to chase the leaders, and kept questioning my decision about not going with them.  However, the gap grew and I settled into complete no man's (no woman's?) land.  Somehow I could feel that no one was close behind me.  With the turns on the course, I simply couldn't see anyone.  I had to start paying attention to the course markings/signs, which the event did a really good job with (including course marshals at all turns), but which just takes extra work.

In regards to the course markings, in many places the cones on the road were set up in a way that did not allow you to run the tangents on turns and curves.  When a course is certified, it is measured on the tangents of the road, but I noticed early on that many of the tangents were blocked.  I knew I was not running the shortest route, but I didn't want to risk disqualification by going outside of the cones (and in some places the tangent was occupied by an aid station in the road, which I clearly could not go through).  I was frustrated about this early on because I knew I was picking up extra distance, and there was nothing I could do about it.  We all know I dislike anything out of my control!

Between miles 4-5, I picked up a cyclist escort.  I believe there were 10 cyclists, for the prize money positions, but I am not sure why they didn't pick up with the runners until that far into the race.  I sure needed my guy earlier!  Having him was a great help in regards to navigating the course, but I think the cyclists were probably told not to aid the runners (as they should be), so it wasn't helpful pacing-wise.  I was extremely thankful to have him to keep me on course though - no more thinking about markings and signs!

Between about 5.5 and 7.5, the course doubled back on itself, so I could see the runners ahead of and behind me.  The leading 4 ladies were still pretty closely bunched when I saw them, significantly ahead of me (about 1:30).  There had been 5 women ahead of me when I lost sight of them, but one of them was in the 5K (I hadn't been able to see the 5K turn off, but confirmed the 5K winner from the bib number in the photo above).  At the time I thought maybe someone dropped out or stopped in a porta-potty, but regardless I knew I was in 5th at that point, with little chance of moving up.  As I turned the other direction, I saw that 6th was farther behind me than I was trailing the leaders, so I also had little chance of being caught.  I checked my watch at the 6.55 mile mat, and I was at 40:23, which was about what I wanted (the online results have the 6.55 splits wrong for everyone).

I pressed on, feeling solid at the pace I was at and happy with my splits, and also really channeling those long tempos that I'd done solo.  I kept thinking, "This is just like that 8 mile tempo, only 5 miles farther" -- which I am really not sure was the most encouraging mantra I could have invented, haha!  I've really been working on pacing by feel, and after the first 2 miles when I used my Garmin to ensure I didn't go out too fast, I only looked at it when it beeped mile splits.  I believe all of my tempo runs have really helped me pace consistently.  My pace felt like exactly what I could maintain for a half marathon, but at the same time it's intimidating to try something you've never done before so I hoped that the wheels didn't fall off before 13.1!  I tried to focus on trusting -- trusting my training and trusting God -- but I kept coming back to, "It's just like those 8 mile tempos, just 5 miles longer."  Hah.

Around mile 9.5, for the first time since about mile 1 I could see someone ahead of me!  I realized that one lady had fallen off the lead group and even though she was still uber-far ahead of me, I was gaining.  I told myself to give it my all to finish strong and to pull her in.  I looked at my total time when I passed the mile 10 marker, and when I saw 1:01:35 (a huge unofficial 10 mile PR), I knew that it wasn't my day to break 1:20 because I knew I couldn't close with an 18:24 5K, but I also felt confident that I would PR.

I worked on pulling in #4 throughout the final 5K.  Mile 11 felt great, and then the final 2 miles were into the wind.  I truly believe that I maintained a 6:00-6:05 effort on those 2 miles, but when you're running into a 14 mph wind, that does not translate into 6:00-6:05 splits.  Although this was a tough time to encounter the wind, I am thankful that much of the course had fantastic wind block, because the main other time I felt it was at the beginning of the race (which makes sense, since we started and finished in the same area).  Also, for what it's worth, Strava gave me a grade adjusted pace of 6:02 for mile 13.

I was happy to see the mile 12 sign, and I knew I could gut out one more mile, but I was sure ready to finish!  As we turned onto the final stretch, the finish seemed so reachable yet so far.  I gained a lot of ground on #4, but not enough (she went on to finish in 1:20:40), and it was apparent I wasn't going to catch her by the long final stretch.  It was a mental battle between easing off since I couldn't pass her, and going with all I had left to get the best PR I could.  My kick was a far cry from my best (5:59 pace), but it was what I could do mentally and physically at that point, and that final half mile or so was the most prominent incline of the race (still very minor, but I could feel it!).  I crossed in 5th in a new PR of 1:20:50.  My dad's video of the finish is here, and the announcer even pronounced my last name correctly!
Splits
I guess I called it quite well when I noted here that I felt ready for a half PR but not ready for a 1:19!  Although I'm very thankful for this race, I could also identify key factors that, if different, would have led to a faster time:  A) less wind, B) people to run with, and C) being allowed to run the tangents.  My Garmin read 13.19 at the end of this race, and in my last 3 half marathons it has read 13.10, 13.09, and 13.08, and it almost always reads slightly under on certified courses (it read 26.10 in my last marathon and 6.15 in a recent 10K).  Whenever someone says their Garmin was right and the certified course was wrong, I am the first to say that, nope, your Garmin is wrong and the course is right; but we were not allowed to run the shortest route on the road, which is how courses are certified, and I think that cost me about 30 seconds.  The course was right, we just didn't run the shortest route that it was measured on.  My pace on my Garmin was 6:07.X (must have been 6:07.9+ because Garmin Connect rounded up to 6:08), and per the course was 6:09.96 (no, I am not rounding up to 6:10, bahaha!), so not a huge difference, but when you're chipping away at your PR, every second counts!  A 1:19:59 takes 6:06.07 pace.  Fun fact:  my last 8 mile tempo was 6:07 pace, so this pretty much was just like that 8 mile tempo, just 5 more miles!
One of these distances is not like the others...
However, I've decided to let these factors boost my confidence that I can run faster.  When I ran a 1:21 in Arizona, I wasn't sure if it was something I could top because everything aligned so nicely for that one; I am very pleased to beat that time when things did not align as well.  The lower you work down your PRs, the more you really need that White Unicorn of race day conditions to improve them.  I got a bit spoiled because I actually had those conditions for not one, but for three winter/spring races (Arizona Rock 'n' Roll half, BMO Mesa-Phoenix full, and the Wash U Distance Carnival 10,000 m).  Maybe I can find them again at CIM, God-willing!  When I told my coach about the race, he said, "You need to see what you can do on a straight course", and I look forward to doing just that.

I've also been thinking, we often discuss trusting God when things go wrong, but it's just as important when things go right!  Throughout the race, I kept reminding myself to trust Him, and to relax and just remember that whatever He had in store for me that day was far better than anything I could have planned myself.  Luckily, things went right in the form of a new PR, but regardless I trust Him and I trust the process.

"God is within her; she will not fail." - Psalms 46:5
Awards ceremony
My sweet dad
My sweet mom
One of these things does not belong (that would be ME!), w/ podcast affiliated runners & the race director
I got to post-race brunch with my dear friend Briony who was in Indy from Kansas!
Bling
Results
The trip home
Now it's back to marathon training!  Less than 9 weeks until CIM!

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Septemberness

September 2017 in review!

Total mileage for the month:  271.0 (in comparison:  January - 261, February - 212, March - 203, April - 219, May - 249, June - 205, July - 275, August - 301).  Having a cut-back week reduced my total mileage by about 20, running 3 races within 8 days reduced it a bit, and September being a 30 day month reduced it by about 10, but I expect to be back over 300 in October!
  • August 28-Sep. 3:  62.5
  • Sep. 4-10:  63.7
  • Sep. 11-17:  71.5 - after 10 consecutive weeks in the 60s, I made it to the 70s, wahoo!
  • Sep. 18-24: - 71.3 - the 70s, wahoo the sequel!
  • Sep. 25-Oct. 1: - 51.6 - what is this tapering thing?
Mother-daughter photo on Albani's Sep. 18 birthday
Races:
  • Sep. 2:  Stars and Stripes 5K as a GMP/GHMP gauge in 19:26 for 1st overall person
  • Sep. 4:  Run for a Child 10K in gross weather in 38:18 for 1st overall female
  • Sep. 10:  Plaza 10K in 37:30 for a 10K road PR on a rolling course in warm, humid conditions, for 1st in age group 35-39 and 8th overall female
  • Sep. 30:  Indianapolis Women's Half Marathon in 1:20:50 for a half PR, 5th overall, and 2nd in age group 35-39; I was elated to lower my half PR under conditions that were not nearly as conducive to a fast time as when I ran my previous PR of 1:21:26.
  • Favorite race:  The Indy Women's half, because I love the half distance.  I really liked the Plaza 10K too, but the 10K is too short/fast for me to love as much!
Workouts:
  • Sep. 13:  2 x 4 mile tempo with 1 mile easy between (2 miles warm up and 2 miles cool down), with a goal pace range of 6:00-6:10.  My splits were:  6:02, 6:06, 6:00, 5:59 (recovery), 6:06, 6:03, 6:07, 6:08 - so averages of 6:02 for the first tempo, 6:06 for the second tempo, and 6:04 for all of the tempo miles in combination.  Going into this one I suspected I would feel my September 10 race/long run combo on my legs, but I thought that could also be good for me because I need to learn to keep pace on tired legs.  I felt good enough on the first 4 mile tempo and got into a groove; I think it would have been easier for me to have run 8 miles straight at tempo instead of running this workout, because getting re-started after my recovery mile was pretty challenging.  I started my second tempo around 6:20 pace so ended up having to fight a bit for my mile 1 split, then mile 2 felt great, then I again fought to keep miles 3-4 under 6:10.  I was glad I won that fight, but it wasn't an easy one!  Ideally I would have liked to run the second repeat faster than the first, but it was hard to gauge what exactly I had to give, plus I ran solo, which always makes any given pace a bit harder.  I walked away plenty happy considering my fatigue going into this one.  I didn't expect this to be a PR workout coming so soon off the Plaza 10K, but since this was my first time running this workout it was anyway, hah.
  • Sep. 19:  8 x 0.25 mile hill repeats (jog back down for recoveries, 2.3 warm up, 2.X cool down for 9.1 total).  This was an interesting workout, because it was extremely foggy and I could barely see 10 feet in front of me.  Basically it was all about lying to myself about how close I was to to top of the hill!  I ended up averaging 1:47.6, beating my previous best average of 1:49.1 (described on April 18 here) -- and comparatively in November 2016 I averaged 1:54, so although 1:47 seems quite slow for a quarter mile, it is nowhere near as slow as 1:54 and I am progressing on this hill.  I also had one split that was 1:43, which was my first time running under 7:00 pace for a repeat on this beast.  You know you've picked a good repeat hill when your pace running up it at cardiac arrest is pretty much the same pace you hit practically falling down it at no effort on your recovery jogs.  This workout was done solo.
  • Sep. 23:  20 mile long run with pick-ups, see description in long runs below.
  • Sep. 26:  12 x 400 m with 2:00 recoveries between reps, and 3:00 recoveries between sets of 4 reps (2.1 warm up, 1.7 cool down for 10 total, because I jogged 400 m x 9 in the time between reps and 600 m x 2 between sets, all of which ended up being slightly less than the full 2-3 minutes, but I do not do well with stopping so I just forfeited the additional 10-15 seconds of rest and started when I got to the line).  I would typically choose a 12 mile tempo run over 12 fast 400s, and my goal split range was 1:20-1:22, which is the fastest I've ever had, so I was pretty intimidated by this workout.  But I nailed it!  My splits were 82, 81, 81, 81, 80, 81, 81, 81, 81, 81, 82, 80.  Once I found pace at 81, I stayed there almost like clockwork, and these felt fast and hard, but also very good and do-able!  I was really excited to hit this one, because in my mind I am still running 400s at 88.  This was my best 400 m workout as an adult, and although I ran faster in high school back when I actually had speed, I don't know if I ever did 12 reps (typically I did 8 then).  Back in March I ran 8 x 400 m with 4 in 1:22 and 4 in 1:21, so doing 12 faster showed progress.  It goes to show that speed really does come with mileage, and the hill repeats the previous week probably helped too.  Daniel was kind enough to run this with me and to run in the outside of lane 1, and having him there was probably instrumental to my success with this workout.
  • Doubles on Sep. 12, 14, 19, and 20.  I didn't have any during the weeks before my important races (Plaza 10K and Indy Half), which felt odd but made sense.
  • Strides on Sep. 7, 21, 28, and pre-race on Sep. 2, 4, 10, and 30.
  • Bootcamp (full body strength workouts) on Sep. 11, 18, and 25, plus enough additional strength work here and there to get to a minimum of 90 minutes total per week (except for the week of Sep. 4-10 when I only did 30 minutes total all week due to running 3 races in 8 days).
  • Favorite workout:  I can hardly believe this, but because I'm counting the 20 miler as my favorite long run, I am choosing the 12 x 400 m workout.  I felt confident throughout and hit my splits.  I like the 2 x 4 mile tempo workout better on paper, but that day I was fatigued and did not feel as confident about maintaining pace, plus it was hot and humid for the tempo workout and "only" 68* with a 62* dew point for the track workout.
Long Runs:
  • Sep. 4:  14.3 miles via 3.1 warm-up, Run for a Child 10K, and 5 miles cool-down.  I nearly died of starvation on this cool-down.
  • Sep. 10:  16 miles via 3.2 warm-up, the Plaza 10K, and 6.6 miles cool-down.  This is what you end up with when you run shorter races during marathon training!  I learned from my mistake on Labor Day and took half a gel between the race and the cool-down.  I took the other half right before starting my warm-up to practice running hard with it on my stomach, and I'm sure the carbs and caffeine didn't hurt, despite being unnecessary for a 10K.
  • Sep. 17:  17.2 miles (6:52) done on Sunday so I could run 15 miles of it with Jessi instead of all of it solo.  Although it generally works best with my non-running life to do my long runs on Saturdays, there is something to be said for sleeping in and running short on Saturday after a tiring work week!  I felt fantastic on this run and it was the best relaxed long run I've ever done.  After running the final 5 miles in 6:3X while talking non-stop, I started thinking that maybe, just maybe, I can actually race 26.2 at 6:17 at peak on an absolute perfect day; but at the least it was great to feel that I could have gone on to run a sub-3:00 marathon (which requires 6:51.9 average pace) on our rolling farm roads (517 ft of gain) on a relaxed training run in 70 degree weather.
  • Sep. 23:  20 miles (6:49) - my first 20 of this cycle!  This was mostly a relaxed run, but I had 5 x 1:00 pick-ups to 6:00-6:10 pace at the beginning of each mile during the final 5 miles (so 5:00 total of hard running).  I ran 6 solo, then picked up Jessi and ran 14 with her.  I was hoping to average sub-7:00 for this run, so I was pretty pumped with where I ended up, especially since it was 68*, the dew point was also 68* (i.e., 100% humidity), and our course had 560 ft elevation gain.  My long runs have been big confidence boosters because I am doing them at least 20 seconds/mile faster than I was before BMO Mesa-Phoenix, and my goal marathon pace for CIM is 10 second faster than I ran at Phoenix, so the math there seems promising.  This was also what might be my last fasted long run, because once I start going over 20 or doing more intensity during my long runs, I will eat my marathon day breakfast and use at least one gel of the same type I will use during the race.  I drank 16 oz of water with nuun during this run, while on the run (i.e., grab a bottle, drink it while running an out and back, then drop it with no watch stopping, like I will in the race).  This run replaced the week before as the best relaxed long run I've ever done (minus the 6:00 pace pick-ups; those were not relaxed but the other 2:11 of this 2:16 run was), and I felt the same way about it as I did the week before.  A year ago I could not have run 20 miles at this pace or even close, on this course and while talking and without being rested (this was my October 2016 marathon pace), so I really appreciate the progress.
  • Sep. 30:  18.2 miles, with 3 warm-up, the Indy Women's Half, and 2 cool-down.  I didn't really feel like I ran 18 miles total, so that was also good!
  • Favorite long run:  Although I loved them all, the clear choice is the 20 miler, because it was 20 miles that went awesomely!  Plus I took the long runs that included races out of this vote, which really narrowed the options, haha!
  • I had midweek 11-13 mile runs every Wednesday except for Sep. 27.  The Sep. 13 one was a workout, as described above, but the others were base runs.
Highlights/thoughts/randomness:
  • This was definitely a month of racing!  The only one I got to run rested was the Indy Women's Half, but so goes focused marathon training, and CIM is of course the big goal!  My "encouraging" husband reminded me that I was actually not completely rested since I ran 20 miles one week before the race, but I don't think it really hurt me (yes, he said this prior to the race!).  It was amazing how light a 50 mile week felt prior to the race; mileage in the 60s-70s is officially my new normal.
  • Just keep running...no days off in September again (my last day off was June 19).
  • We watched the Breaking2 documentary, which was a great reminder to challenge your limits!  I have it saved and protected on my DVR.
Non-running life events:
  • Jon and I celebrated on wedding anniversary on Sep. 17!
  • Albani turned 10 on Sep. 18!
  • As of Sep. 13, I have been at my current job for 7 years, also meaning I have lived in Missouri for over 7 years. Time flies!
Labor Day fun
Grandpa & Grandma sent her a ruble from their trip to Russia

Birthday party #1

I ran, lifted, & bought donuts before she woke up

Opening gifts, with Bandit's supervision

This is from the 9.17 mile run Jon & I did on our Sep. 17 wedding day!

My favorite photo with my bridesmaids

Happy wedding day memories

I must return to this race in 2018 to complete this collage

Professional photo I didn't have when I wrote my race recap

My thrifty race crop find - these are $9.96 at Walmart!