Friday, September 30, 2016

Albani's Running Commentary

Albani is a wealth of knowledge on running for a 9-year-old!  I've enjoyed some of her running-related comments over the years, and I wish I'd kept better track of them, but these are some of the most memorable.

"Does PR stand for 'perfect race'?" - seems contextually appropriate!

A friend who'd watched her asked me if I get up early to run before work, and when I confirmed that I did she told me that Albani had told her, "Mama goes running in the middle of the night."  5:00 a.m. and pitch dark does kind of seem like the middle of the night!

Her 2nd grade teacher emailed me and said congrats on my Bass Pro Marathon win.  I asked Albani how Mrs. Esch knew that I won Bass Pro, and she said, "I told my whole class that we're rich because you won the Bass Pro Marathon."  Oy!

When watching professional track on TV, "I'm not cheering for the Kenyans because a Kenyan beat Mama." That has happened more than once!

When watching the Olympic Trials women's marathon and seeing Amy Cragg and Shalane Flanagan run most of the race together in the lead, and then Shalane fade in the final few miles she said, "That's just like Jamie and Mama at Dallas.  Mama died at the end like Shalane and Jamie won like Amy." This was also very accurate!

Someone she knew was working on completing a 5K and she told them, "That's a short race, it's only 3 miles."  A great way to make friends I'm sure!

She ran a season best mile in training (not a personal best), and started saying that she "ran an SB" that day.

"Ewwwy, ewwwy, you're sweaty!" - after almost every one of my runs! This is also the truth.

"You're going to need to take some rest days until that heals" - when I had a blood blister on my toe.

"I'm resting to get stronger" - before races, referring to tapering!

"Maybe you should run easy today, like only 2 miles" - when I was deciding whether or not to run while sick.

She also knows how far (in miles) race distances such as 5K, 10K, 15K, half marathon, and full marathon are, and she also sure takes a lot of cute running-related photos!

Prairie Fire Sparky Kids mile

Spectating at the St. Louis Frostbite Series half

Dash for Down Syndrome

Medical Mile & 5K - waiting on the awards

After the Cherish Kids "Kids K"

Kids K medal

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Taper starts now!

Weekly Review for September 19-25, 2016

Mileage: 53.7 with 2 speed/strength workouts, 1 set of strides, 1 double, 1 long run, and 2 bootcamps (also 1 extra child for a few days).  Although my mileage decreased a little this week, it wasn't low, and I mainly felt my taper in not having a Friday run and with my long run being significantly shorter. I am NOT one who looks forward to tapering, but with running in the 50s still I didn't yet encounter taper madness.

This week was also school picture week!
Monday - Business as usual with a 30 minute elliptical loosen up and 45 minutes of bootcamp.  My abs were tired, and 1-legged burpees were a challenge, but overall I felt great.  Also, the man who asked about my race on Sunday may not have known quite what he was in for, as I was still excited and spewed details, haha!

Tuesday - 8.1 miles base pace (7:22) with Missy.  For some reason, the farm roads that are usually deserted on our early morning runs were busy-ish on this one!  She made me jump into the ditch twice when there was traffic coming from both directions. I also did 5 minutes of planks.

Wednesday - 10.2 total (7:24) with 2.1 warm-up, 6 x 0.25 hill repeats straight into a 2 mile tempo (6:11, 6:06) off of the 6th repeat, 3.1 cool-down. I've never done this workout before, and although the beginning of the tempo sucked coming off the hill repeat, it was also fun to do something different. The hill I run is so steep that running 7:30 pace up it is HARD (the hill reps are effort-based luckily), and then barely-putting-effort-into-running recoveries going back down are pretty much the same pace. I hope I get to do this workout again sometime so I can compare splits.  I couldn't think of a course where I could run a long hill and then go onto a flat 2 miles for the tempo, plus this hill is just 1.5 miles from my front door, so the tempo was rolling also (although MUCH less so than the big hill I used for repeats).

Thursday - 11 total, with 8 recovery miles (7:52) with 6 strides towards the end a.m. and 3 miles (7:31) late runch. I was in Kansas City for work, staying by Weatherby Lake, and the route I ran in the morning was not ideal for a recovery run the day after hill repeats (or any recovery run really)! I'm used to running hilly routes, but this was different than those around my house - maybe more steeper hills instead of the rolling that I'm used to. I did my strides with recoveries back and forth across the dam (the only flat section around). Runch was done on my drive back to Springfield in Clinton, on the Katy trail. This was the flattest run I've had in awhile! It was nice to break up the drive, but logistics weren't the best (hello changing in the trailhead bathroom!). At work we have started saying that running is my third job; I love all three of my jobs though (and yes, I know how blessed I am to feel that way!)!

Recovery hills?

Friday - Cross-training Friday (a 5-day running week - ensue panic!), with bootcamp strength after a warm up on the elliptical.  Ironically, two things that I was scared of adding - a 6th running day and 2-a-day runs - are now what I'm having a hard time with giving up! But I trust my coach's plan and also know I'll get to do them again in my next build-up since they've been helpful to me. It's also great to know that I can do them and stay healthy.

On Friday afternoon, we had a 6-year-old foster child come to stay with us for a few days.  She lives in a therapeutic foster home with a couple we went through foster parent training with, and although we haven't been fostering recently we still have our license and agreed to watch her for the weekend for her parents to have some time to themselves.  Children placed in Missouri therapeutic foster homes are only allowed to stay with other therapeutic foster parents (no babysitters or family members watching them, etc.), so it's difficult to have a date night or what not.  Anyway, she and Albani enjoyed playing at times, and it sure showed me how grown up Albani is in comparison.  It also showed me how much we are into our routines, as having another child sure threw that off.  I honestly personally struggled with that part of it, but kept reminding myself not to be selfish. We have been given so much and we need to give back!  Albani did tell me repeatedly through the weekend that she doesn't want a sister any longer (for awhile she thought she really wanted one!).

Saturday - Yasssssssssooooooos!  10.6 miles total:  2.2 miles warm-up (7:40), 10 x 800 m on the track with 2:55 recovery jogs, 0.5 cool-down.  My goal time range was 2:55-2:58 for the 800s, and my splits were:  2:56, 2:56, 2:57, 2:57, 2:58, 2:57, 2:58, 2:58, 2:59, 2:59 (my average pace for the whole 800s/recoveries/cool-down that was together on my watch was 6:54).  This was the hardest workout I've done this year - harder on me than the "hardest workout ever" actually - and I think this was because I haven't run much speed work, and because my legs were tired from Friday's bootcamp and not enough sleep this week.  I also honestly think I would have had an easier time running 5 miles straight at 6:05-6:10 pace!  I always had a hard time starting back up after the recovery jogs, and dropping under 6:00 pace is a different ball game.

This workout is always a grueling one, but usually the beginning reps feel easy (e.g., 2:58 feels slow on rep 1 but 2:58 feels oh-so-fast on rep 10).  That was not the case for this one - it was hard from the gate!  I fought a lot of doubts during this run, and you can tell I didn't feel wonderful because I didn't get faster as the workout went on. Reps 7-8 felt like I was reaching with all I had to hit my goal times, and by then I felt basically like I should on the final rep of a track workout.  For the final 2 repeats I told myself that this was how the final mile of my marathon was going to feel, and I needed to learn to stay on pace with nothing left.  I squeaked in 2:59s for my final 2 reps, with rep 10 being 2:59.9, so slightly missed my goal range on those 2, but based on how I felt it was a small miracle that I stayed under 3:00.  I ran this same workout before Dallas with my reps all between 2:58-3:01 (I remember feeling much fresher at the beginning of that one), and my goal range then was 2:57-3:00 but I couldn't quite hit the 3:00 on my final two reps (those were the 3:01s, so very similar to this workout's pattern).  I'm glad that I was a bit faster this time.  Although I don't believe in Yassos as a marathon time predictor, they are a good workout and were quite challenging for me!  My legs were hammered when I finished this. I took the kids swimming afterwards but did not swim myself!

Future triathlete
Sunday - 14 mile base pace long run with a fast finish mile (7:21 average, final mile of 6:31).  The day after I have a workout that I don't finish feeling good or that hammers my legs (both of which were the case on Saturday!), my confidence is usually down a bit. I wasn't sure how this run would go, but once I got rolling I felt great! I ran out and back, and usually when I do that I try to come back faster than I go out, even if it's an easy run, to have something to focus on. I looked at my watch at mile 7 and my time was 52:24, then my total time was 1:42:53, so I had a nice negative split (the fast finish mile of course helped that along). I will also say that it's far easier for me to finish a long run with a mile in the 6:30s than to run one 800 m rep at 2:56, haha! This is my last run of any real distance before Prairie Fire - wowzers! Next week I think I top off at 11. 

I have thoroughly enjoyed this training cycle and no matter what happens I am extremely thankful for it. I love training and my hard workouts just as much as I love racing! I am so thankful for the friends I've been able to share my miles with. Missy and I have some spring race plans in the works that I'm excited to share when we finalize them, and I'm uber excited that we will likely be on the same training schedule over the winter (as of yesterday, her tri season is over and she won't be biking much until 2017).

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Coaching for control freaks

Although I think that any runner at any level can benefit from having a coach, there are three types of runners who I think really benefit:  1) those who are new to the sport and don't know about different types of training, 2) those who need someone to keep them accountable to stick to their training schedule and to help motivate them, and 3) those who are super Type A and prone to over-training. 

Can you guess which category that I fall into?  Yes, 3) is the correct answer.

I've never had any trouble getting out the door and putting in the work.  I think that's just because I enjoy running so much, and I enjoy training just as much as racing.  I like to challenge myself and to push, but also to relax and just run.  I've run for so many years that it's simply a part of me.  I feel better physically and mentally when I'm running consistently.  I feel closer to God when I'm running.  Running improves everything else in my life because it somehow makes everything better for me - and it makes me better at my other roles in life (a better mom, wife, Christian, BCBA, teacher, etc...okay, maybe not a better cook!).

When I make my own training schedule, I often push too much too soon and don't prioritize build-ups and recovery.  I race too much.  I don't do periodization like I should.  I keep thinking I should add more and question if I'm doing enough.

Following my schedule from my coach simplifies things.  I just do what is scheduled for that day and doing that I know I've done the correct thing.  No questioning or second-guessing (well, for the most part; I'm still a recovering control freak, right?).  He is excellent at challenging me without letting me over-train.

I used to want to do more hard workouts to improve, but I've actually done better on fewer workouts.  Some runners excel with running a speed workout, a tempo run, and a long run every week (three hard days).  I do better with having just two hard days most weeks and more base running (my base runs and long runs are quite a bit faster than they used to be, though).  This keeps me running consistently instead of needing to take time off for injuries, and with consistency comes improvement.  I also like to race a lot, but I've seen that I race faster when I don't do quite as many events.

For many years, I didn't think I needed a coach.  I knew running and I knew how to train.  I did not lack motivation to train one bit!  A series of random events that I'm now thankful for led me to meet and start training with my current coach, and I've learned that having someone looking at the bigger picture and your long-term development is very helpful no matter how long you've been running.

And maybe, just maybe, giving up control can be a good thing. 

My first major break-through race working with my coach

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Tiger Trot 15K Race Recap

When I planned the Tiger Trot 15K as part of my race schedule, it seemed like the perfect fit. It was a longer race 3 weeks out from my goal marathon so I could gauge my fitness, it offered prize money, and it was part of the Wichita Grand Prix Series that I stumbled into participating in this year. What I didn't think about when I planned this race was the other thing you do about 3 weeks out from your goal marathon, which is your longest long run! I had the same poor timing with my 10K race two weeks ago, and what my coach and I ended up with were two really long runs (22 and 24.3 milers) done on Wednesdays in order to get in both the long runs and races without combining the two (I did not want to make a 10K into a 22 miler or a 15K into a 24 miler, as I feel that both my races and long runs suffer when I do that with such long runs).

Albani's determination (I wanted this to be the featured photo on this post so it's out of order)
Recovering from my 24 miler reminded me that I was human! I was dragging for a couple of days after and questioning whether or not I should even run this race. I had raced a PR 10K on Labor Day - five days after my 22 miler - but this time I had more fatigue on my legs due going into my 24 more tired (due to this 17 mile workout being pushed closer to the 24 than originally planned and to a track workout that I did 2 days after my 10K PR) and with four days between the 24 and 15K.  I wasn't sure how the race would go, but in the end I decided that at worst it would be practice running while tired.  Also, since I’d only run two 15Ks ever, neither of which I was in good shape for, I could technically PR even if I ran marathon goal pace; provided I would still know I'd run faster 15K splits in many halves.

I felt fine on my warm-up on race day, but historically I've had every combination of good/bad warm-up and good/bad race, so this meant nothing. I lined up ready to see what happened, and on the starting line no one was moving up towards the front, and there was only one guy who looked like a serious runner. After the gun sounded, he and I were quickly out front at a pace I knew was conservative (6:30ish), along with the lead cyclist. 

The male runner, Scott, made a comment about not getting his Garmin started, which started up a conversation, and he actually remembered me from running in high school (he graduated from an area school the same year as I did), hah. He said he was trying to run 6:15 pace, and I told him I just wanted to be under an hour and was coming off of a 24 miler so probably would try about 6:20 pace. I guess our talking made us speed up, because we hit the mile in 6:13 per my Garmin (about 6:16 for the course mile - our lead cyclist was taking and saying our course mile splits which was nice). The funny thing was that 6:15 felt like 6:30, and also felt like a manageable pace for the distance. I worried a bit about going out too fast, but also I knew that it was either stay with Scott and the cyclist, or run completely by myself, so I elected to stay with them and see what happened. 

Mile 2 came in 6:08 both by my watch and the course splits, and it felt great! I started thinking that maybe this is just what it's like to run on a flat course. Scott and I continued on side by side, and during mile 3 we went back up an incline we had come down during mile 2 (guess that's why 6:08 felt conservative!) for a 6:21 Garmin split (I can't remember that course split read by the cyclist, but they were all relatively close).

Our 3 mile was 18:57 per the course mile markers, which made me a little nervous because that seemed fast for this length of race, but at the same time what we were running felt sustainable. I didn't want to drop off then! Mile 4 came in 6:10 and I kept rolling, but Scott started to fade. Since I was pushing into the lead I didn't worry about running without him since I would get the lead cyclist. The halfway point of the course, 7.5K was marked, and I took a look at my watch to see I was at 29:32, which gave me the idea of possibly running in the 58's! I got excited about that and came through mile 5 in 6:07, feeling good about maintaining for 4.3 more miles.

About halfway into the next mile, we made a turn into a gravel road.  On the starting line, a guy had made a remark about wearing trail shoes for the gravel, and I thought he was talking about a short strip (probably 200 m) of gravel that we ran on to exit the wildlife park area at the beginning and then again to return to it at the end of the race.  That strip of gravel was well-packed and fine, and I didn't notice it at all, so I also thought he was joking.  Once we turned onto this dirt road, I learned that he was not kidding!  The road was rocky with a lot of rivets and no smooth path.  I saw my pace increase from 6:10ish when we made the turn onto the road to a 6:25 sixth mile.  I didn’t feel like I was fading, but the road was just horrible.  I knew that we had over 2 miles straight on it; ironically something I’d found very appealing about this course when looking at the map was the long straights, as I seem to get in my best rhythm on courses that aren’t turning all of the time, but I didn’t know that the longest stretch was on a crappy road.  I just hoped that the road would improve as we continued on it.

Unfortunately, it didn’t improve.  I still felt like I was running well, but my mile 7 Garmin split of 6:44 was really discouraging (this mile also had a bit of an incline, but nothing like I usually train on).  My course split from the lead cyclist was 6:38, so that was a little more palatable but still a significant slow down.  I like to negative split and I’m usually good at doing that in my tempos and most races, but I knew that this road was wrecking my chance at that.  I just kept hoping I’d see the turn off of it soon!

We turned off of the gravel around 7.6, and once we were off I immediately felt 100 times better!  The pavement was so nice!  Since my 8th mile was still mostly on it, my split was again slower (6:31), but I knew that I could drop my pace back down and that I would still be under an hour, although I suspected all dreams of seeing the 58s were out the window.  At least I knew the course would be accurate since it was certified.  I've gotten to where I only want to race on certified courses because most that aren't certified are off, some grossly so (which there is no excuse for, as a Garmin will get you close).

As I passed the final aid station and groups of volunteers directing us where to turn, they were all cheering for me by name.  The best I can figure is that the lead cyclist had called my race number in and somehow my name had been communicated with the volunteers on the course.  It was fun and helped me press on, because I was pretty tired at that point and had been running without another runner for over 4 miles!  Although I was hurting, I knew I had enough in the tank to press on for a solid finish, and when I saw my 9th mile split of 6:16 I felt better about things. 

During the final half mile or so of the course, we entered the parking lot then ran in a back way into the wildlife park.  I'd run this portion of the course on my warm-up so I knew where I was going and that the path was curvy (think zoo paths winding around exhibits).  I also started coming upon 5K runners (the 5K had started about 20 minutes after the 15K, so these were runners coming in at about 40 minutes for the 5K), and the lead cyclist kept announcing that the lead 15K runner was coming through, which I really appreciated.  Some of the 5K runners moved over for me and others didn’t; some actually moved to the wrong side into the tangent and made me run the longer route around the curvy path.  In the final stretch to the finish I had to pretty much go off the path to get around them (see photo below), so I blame all of this for not having a stronger finishing sprint, but perhaps I just didn't have it due to starting more aggressively.  My last bit was at 6:09 pace.

Running almost off the path to the right

As I came down the final stretch, I could see the finishing clock, but it said 42-something so I assumed it was on the 5K time (Jon later told me that it was also counting down instead of up, hah!) so I glanced at my watch to ensure I was going to be under 60.  I could hear my excited family – my parents, Jon, and Albani were all there! – and they are the best cheerleaders.  I was happy to see that I’d finished significantly under an hour with a 59:19 (6:20 pace per Garmin; 6:21 pace per the course). When I thought about that and how it was three 19:46 5K’s back to back, that made me really happy.  Jon also pointed out that not that long ago I was trying to break 40 for the 10K, so this was a huge step!  My Garmin had my 10K in this race at 38:56, which was neat, although it was probably 10ish seconds slower on the actual course so, alas, over 39 (it wasn't marked). I also think based on this that on a good course and good day with a taper, I could run 6:20 pace for a half, and I need to schedule one (ideally I would have run one before my marathon, but scheduling just didn't work with the marathon being in early October).  That seems super intimidating though!

I grabbed a very quick drink, and then my family was trying to figure out where Albani was supposed to go for the start of the kids race in 10 minutes.  I went and asked a volunteer, and we barely saw the overall male finish in 1:00:24 before we were off to a different area for the kids’ start (how do families function without moms, right?).  We got her to the start, then we had to hightail it back to the same finish line for Albani’s finish.  She came from behind to (in my opinion) edge another girl at the finish line!  I got the wonderful finishing picture above of her by hopping over a rope near the line.  The kids race didn’t do timing chips, placings, or competitive awards (they gave everyone medals as they finished), but still in my opinion Albani won the female category – on her birthday too!

Then I took off on my official cool-down before coming back to stretch and eat a bit before the awards started.  I won some cash, which is always nice, and we also got 3 pairs of Feetures socks in the give-aways (all size large, which are best suited for Jon but I can make work; Albani also swears that her pair fits her, haha!).

I was extremely happy about this race, and the course would be pretty perfect if the city would pave the dirt road stretch.  I know the race director and told him exactly that, haha!  He put on a wonderful event though; I would recommend this one for sure.  I feel confident that I could’ve maintained 6:10-6:15 pace on miles 6-8 had they been on the road, which would have put me comfortably in the 58's (next goal!).  It was a good confidence boost to do this so soon after a 24 miler and within a 61 mile week, and in still warm-ish temperatures (high-60s).  I am hoping that marathon morning brings the 40s, which will be a  huge help!

I’m so thankful to have two solid races and PRs under my belt leading up to my marathon.  I’d already mentally adjusted to perhaps not having a great 15K (my non-optimism mentioned here), and I’d made peace with that and wasn’t going to let it jade me, so having it go well really helped me.  Now I need to live in a bubble until then to avoid all germs, injuries, etc.!  I can't believe it's less than 20 days away!

Update: I just found out I ran the sixth fastest 15K ever by a female in Kansas, and the third fastest 15K ever run by a female age 35-39 in the state of Kansas!  See records here.

Kansas state road racing records
A pleasant surprise in my email!
Anyone want to Photoshop in a finishing clock for me?

Garmin shot

We both seem to be in pain!

Enjoying the event

It's possible her mother forgot to pack warm-up pants and she is wearing pajama pants

So cute!

Yet another birthday celebration for this one!

Monday, September 19, 2016


I am blessed with a husband who is super supportive of my running, and who even understands it to some degree, having run 3 marathons and countless shorter races himself.  He comes to all of my races, no matter how early, cold, etc., and is my biggest fan. He is also more of a realist (pessimist!) instead of an optimist about his running as well as about my running, and it's become a running joke for me to tell some of my friends his seemingly pessimistic comments about my runs.  I know he has the best intentions, but at this point it's become so funny that I wanted to document it. 

One of the many MANY races he has spectated
Before I ran my half PR at Waddell and Reed, he said, "That is a horrible course for a good time; you shouldn't even waste your time on this one."  After the race he said "1:24 is so fast.  You may never be able to beat that time."  I mentioned my supportive yet somewhat doubtful spouse in a post about that race here.  So much for working to improve that PR in Jon's book!

The Sunday following an unfortunate Saturday 5K, I ran my final mile of my 18 mile run in 6:49 while keeping it easy, finishing a strong run.  Jon said, "It's kind of sad that you can easily finish 18 with a 6:49 but couldn't run a 5K at 6:05 yesterday." (more details of the runs here).  I can't argue with him too much here, because it was pretty sad, and is now even more sad because I recently finished a 24 miler with a 6:36 mile (whereas my 5K bonk final mile was 6:31!), but some days you just don't have it!

I made a comment that my easy pace was getting faster, so I thought that meant I was getting fitter.  Jon says, "That's just the difference between 68 degrees and 80 degrees in the mornings."  Fail!

After "the hardest workout ever," he said, "That's amazing sug.  You should print those splits out and frame them because you may never do that again."  Clearly I'm getting past my prime!

After my 10K PR, he said, "You are in incredible shape, that was great.  I hope this doesn't mean you're peaking too early.  I hope you can hold that for your marathons."  Da da dum!

I had a great track workout on tired legs this week, hitting or beating all of my challenging splits except for a 200 m at the end.  Jon says, "That's why you can't run a PR 5K."  Again, this one is probably true, but also I'm not sure if anyone runs great 200 m repeats off of marathon training!  

Following this 10 mile tempo + 1 mile throw down, he said that I seemed ready for 15K and half PRs. Then he followed up with, "if you can actually stay healthy. I think you're closer to injured than healthy after this week." I definitely disagreed with him on this point, because although I had a hard week, my coach did very well building me up to it. But in Jon's world, I am broken!

Similar to the previous one, I mentioned that I needed to register for my 15K race on September 18, as I hadn't registered early because there was no price difference until late registration at packet pick-up and on race morning.  He says, "Can you wait until after your 24 miler on Wednesday to make sure you're still in one piece?"

After that final comment, I cut him off on this train of thought!  I'm more of the cautiously optimistic track myself, although I'm not hugely optimistic about my upcoming 15K race since I almost ran a marathon on Wednesday and my legs are feeling it, but I'm going to give it my all!

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Anniversary & Birthday Week, plus a 15K PR!

Week of September 12-18, 2016

Mileage: 61.3, with one super long run, one bootcamp, one set of strides, and one PR race.  We also celebrated one wedding anniversary (Jon and me) and one birthday (Albani's)!

Monday - Cross-training Monday with 30 minutes of elliptical warm-up and 45 minutes of bootcamp.  After no bootcamp last week it was nice to be back - although I really can't believe I'm saying that about squats.

Tuesday- 9 base miles (7:23) on a rolling loop (307 ft elevation gain per Strava).  This was just a nice and normal solo run!  When I finished I thought, "Tomorrow at this point I'll *only* have 15 more miles to go," hah.

Wednesday -  24.3 miles (7:24, fast finish mile 24 in 6:36).  I was pretty excited about this run when I wrote this somewhat scattered post about it!

Thursday - 7 recovery miles (8:03) with 7 strides in the last mile.  I was tired and hungry, but didn't feel as bad as I thought I might (no soreness).  I ran this with Missy, and it was nice to be meeting someone, as I think had I been solo I would have dragged my feet about getting started.  I also did 5 minutes of planks right after this run.

Friday - 3.2 recovery miles (7:52).  It took me 2 miles to feel halfway normal, and my legs were feeling Wednesday's run for sure (more so than on Thursday). Since I recovered so well after my 22 I didn't quite realize that my legs would feel the 24 so much - but using common sense, of course they would. I went into the 22 with more in the tank, so it makes sense that the 24 coming after my hardest training week would be harder to recover from. I've been working on foam rolling and wearing compression socks though! Albani likes to foam roll with me in the morning before we get ready. 

Focusing on recovery while my child puts things on me!
Saturday - 4.2 relaxed (7:33) with Kim. I felt a lot better on this short run than on Friday's, so cheers to recovering! We ran at Sedgwick County Park in Wichita, with 0 ft of elevation gain, haha!

Saturday was also Jon and my wedding anniversary! We celebrated by going to my race packet pick up, then to Tanganyika wildlife park and McDonald's with extended family (this was more for Albani's birthday and because I got a free pass to Tanganyika with my race; McDonald's was 200% for her because I loathe the place).  We were going to go out to dinner together while my parents babysat, but decided to instead stay home (at my parents' house) to rest up before my race and eat food that definitely wouldn't result in food poisoning or tummy troubles.  Yet another reason why Jon is my perfect match - he was perfectly content to do this and go on a date night another time!

Wedding day memories

Giraffe feeding

Feeding birds

The camel ride was my favorite!
Rhino feeding


The only bright side of McDonald's was this adorable picture
Sunday - 13.5 total with 2.4 warm-up (7:33), 15K Tiger Trot (6:20), and 1.8 cool-down (8:10). I'm going to write a full race report on this one, but I was ecstatic to run under an hour with a 59:19! The only downside was that about 2.5 miles of the race were on awful rocky dirt roads and I slowed significantly on that part of the course; without that I would have easily been in the 58's. This was a certified course so also a real PR for me, and I felt great (I wasn't at all confident that I would coming off of a 24 miler during a 61 mile week)!

Albani ran the kids half mile at this event and had a photo finish for the win (coming from behind!)!  My new favorite picture for sure - and also proud because I took this one myself not too long after I'd finished my race. She has been fast finishing her training runs and it is clearly paying off. 

She can kick!
Sunday was also Albani's actual birthday! She ended up with two weekends of celebrating, with her swim party last weekend and family celebrations this weekend. I think she is a little spoiled, but very very loved. 

Celebrating at my parents' house
Finally, I've been into this song this week.  How can you listen to this and not speed up?  And by listen to, I mainly mean singing the lyrics in my head, as I only run with music on my solo easy runs, which I don't have too many of fortunately.

I'm officially 3 weeks out from my marathon, meaning that my mileage and long run distances are going to be decreasing so a little panic might ensue, haha!

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

I ran 24.3 miles this morning!

This was a new before work distance PR - one I doubt I will ever beat!  My title for this run on Strava was "Achieving a new level of crazy".  In the final miles, I heard "Holler Back Girl" by Gwen Stefani, and the lyric "This sh*t is bananas, B-A-N-A-N-A-S" made me laugh out loud, because it pretty much was nuts to run this on a Wednesday morning!

This run was scheduled as 24 miles, and I wanted it to take 3 hours so my body had run for 3 hours before marathon day.  7:30 pace exactly is 3 hours exactly for 24 miles, so I planned to stay right around that pace and did for the most part.  I was feeling good towards the end so picked it up some without really meaning to - and I certainly couldn't have done that 7:19, 7:18, 7:17, 7:16 thing on miles 20-23 had I tried!  I'd decided beforehand that if I felt strong at the end I would try to run the final mile at goal marathon pace (6:50), and I ended up bringing it in a little faster with a 6:36, so felt good about that.  I ended up running 24.3 to get to 3 hours.

New levels of crazy!


My legs weren't as fresh on this one as they had been on my 22 miler two weeks ago, and I expected that because last week was intense (whereas my week before my 22 miler was all base pace mileage due to having a cold), but overall I have no complaints about this one.  24 miles is serious stuff - and the farthest I've ever run in training

Missy ran with me for most of miles 2.5-12.5, which I really appreciated and which really broke up the distance.  We looped by my house at mile 8 and I grabbed my Osmo and Accel gel that I'd set on top of my mailbox while on the run (no watch stopping).  I drank the small bottle of Osmo and took half the gel while running around my neighborhood loop, then dropped the bottle and stuck the other half of the gel in my sports bra.  I also picked up my headphones off my mailbox when I dropped the bottle since Missy was going to leave me soon after.  I later grabbed a bottle of water Missy left me in a church parking lot around mile 15, and drank it with the rest of the gel between 15-17, then dropped the bottle back in the parking lot (I picked up the bottle and gel wrapper trash on my drive to work, along with my headlamp that I also dropped in the parking lot around 15!).  So overall I didn't have a whole lot of fuel or fluids, but I feel like I can stomach more and probably don't need a TON more since it was 68-70 degrees on this run and will hopefully be cooler for my marathon!  I had Generation Ucan mixed with almond milk about 40 minutes before I started, and I always eat something substantial right before bed, which seems to help with my morning runs (most of which are fasted). 

The run was on one of the flattest routes I can run from my house, but had 630 feet elevation gain.  So Prairie Fire will feel really flat!  I was pretty tempted to run 1.9 more miles to get in 26.2 just to say I did it, but I knew my coach would say that was a horrible idea, so I didn't.  I'm 3.5 weeks out from my goal race, and all of my really long runs are in the books now.  It's getting real!

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

My answer to pumpkin spice everything... pumpkin curry!  I'm not into pumpkin spice lattes and the like, but all of the pumpkin talk I've been hearing reminded me of this curry recipe I love.  At one time I actually followed a recipe to make it, but now I make it from memory.  It's super easy to throw everything into the crock pot, and also super healthy.

The "recipe" I made:
  • 1 lb. dry white beans (this is 1 typical package or about 3 cups).  The original recipe I followed used tofu, but I like the white beans better as the protein, plus you don't have to do anything to them ahead of time as you ideally would with the tofu.  This would also be good with chickpeas I think.
  • 1-2 bags of frozen spinach
  • 1 bag of frozen carrots
  • 1 bag of frozen onions
  • 2 cans of tomatoes
  • 1 can of pumpkin
  • 1 can of coconut milk (full fat has far better flavor, and it's healthy fat!)
  • Big spoonful of minced garlic
  • Sprinkle in cumin, garlic salt, and a very generous portion of curry powder.  Seriously, don't hold back on the curry powder!
  • 3 can fulls of water (I just use the cans from the pumpkin, etc. so I get the extra in the crock pot too)
You could easily substitute fresh veggies for any of the veggies (or use different veggies if you'd like), but that makes cooking more effortful!  The prep time on this as listed is seriously about 3 minutes, which makes it right up my alley.

Cook all of this on low in the crock pot overnight (at least 8 hours); it can go longer if needed or you could probably cook it on high for 6 hours.  Just make sure the dry beans are completely cooked!

Serve over brown rice, cous cous, or quinoa, OR if you're lazy like me you can put the grain in at the end when the dish is cooked.  I added whole wheat cous cous, which cooks super fast, and you may need a bit more water if there isn't any left when you add the grain.  I like to top this with nutritional yeast for some extra flavor and an immune system boost!

I am no food photographer

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Key Week: Envigorated, Not Exhausted

Week in review for September 5-11, 2016

Mileage:  61.2, with 7 days of running (the only week that will happen, 2 days were super short though), 1 race, 1 track workout, 1 double, 1 tempo+ workout in a long run, and 1.25 strength workouts.  This was my highest week of volume and intensity of this training cycle - meaning that most of the hay is in the barn for Prairie Fire at this point!  I have some more key runs (e.g., a 24 miler, a Yasso 800 workout, a 15K race), but nothing this big all in one week.

Monday - 10.3 miles total with the Run for a Child's Hunger 10K and a new 10K PR of 38:43.  This is my third mention of this race (also here and here), so I will stop boring everyone with it, but I was very pumped about it!

Tuesday - 3.2 mile shake out (7:34) and 40 minutes of strength training in my driveway since I didn't do a Monday bootcamp (in my driveway so I didn't wake up my family with plyos and such in the house).  I felt surprisingly fresh on the run, but of course it was also super short.  I'm at the heaviest point in my training, and my coach told me to really focus on recovery, so I have been vigilant about stretching, foam rolling, and getting nutrition quickly after workouts.  I've also been wearing compression socks quite a bit, particularly when sleeping and on recent car rides, so I think it is all helping.  Having many weeks of mileage on my legs is also helping!

Back to work & school Tuesday!
Wednesday - 10.5 miles total; 2.5 warm-up with strides (7:24), 6 miles of track work/recoveries, and 2 miles of slogging a cool-down (8:23).  Also a little cross-training during my warm-up and cool-down with moving the football-related equipment out of lane 1 on the track, then putting it back where I found it (don't they know what a track is really for?!).  I was a little intimidated by this workout since it was only my second time on the track in 2016, it seemed really fast, and it came 2 days after a race.  When Jon wished me luck on it on Tuesday evening I told him I didn't even care if I hit my splits because I'd performed when it mattered in my race, so this was secondary, but of course I wanted to do my best.

My workout was:
1600 m. - goal 6:00, actual 5:55.9 (800 m recovery)
1200 m. - goal 4:27, actual 4:25 (800 m recovery)
1000 m. - goal 3:41, actual 3:40 (800 m recovery)
800 m - goal 2:55, actual 2:55 (400 m recovery)
600 m - goal 2:11, actual 2:10 (400 m recovery)
400 m - goal 1:25, actual 1:25 (400 m recovery)
200 m - goal 37, actual 39.9 (recovery until I hit 6 miles and cleared my watch to start my cool-down)

I was very excited that I hit or beat my goal times (which were challenging and faster than I would have given myself) on everything but the 200 m - and there really was never any hope for that one anyhow, haha!  The best part is that the mile felt brisk but not SUPER I could run a 5K at that pace on the track.  The track is SO flat - hah!  The lesson learned for the day was that I should not have done lunges and squats on Tuesday!  I was a little sore when I started this workout and really felt them towards the end as I got faster on fatigued legs, and then my cool-down was a bit of a death march.  I'd run a couple of 1000s earlier this season on the track in 3:44 and 3:45 (when my goal was 3:40), and at the time my coach said we would try one again sometime to gauge my improvement, so I was really happy to hit 3:40 this time!  Amazing how much speed comes with mileage, because I haven't been running any track work.  Now that race day is getting close, I'm in my final phase of training and sharpening my leg turnover.

Thursday - 10.3 base miles with 7.2 a.m. (8:06) and 3.1 p.m. (7:31).  I ran with Missy in the morning and we were both ready for a slow run, having done a hot long run (her) and track work (me) the day prior.  I also did 10 minutes of core work (mostly plank variations) in my driveway after finishing this run, because we finished early, and I was also thinking I shouldn't go to bootcamp on Friday since my quads were a bit sore from my race + lunge matrixes + track workout situation (definitely made a mistake on the decision to do lunges on Tuesday!). 

Right before my second run I ran a half mile with Albani, and I thought it would help me warm up, but it actually made it harder to get moving (she was running about 10:30 pace which was also very uncomfortable to me). I didn't count that half mile in my mileage, but if I somehow came up short for the week I figured I could bring it back, hah!

Friday - 3.2 miles (7:52). My schedule said this was supposed to be "very relaxed", which I interpreted to mean slower than usual. I ate too much too late on Thursday night, which sometimes second runs after long days at work cause to happen, so it was easy to go short and slower!  And I skipped bootcamp for the sake of Saturdays' run.

Saturday - 17 miles with 3.6 warm-up (8:17), 10 tempo (6:25), 1 recovery (7:35), 1 throw down (5:53), 2 cool-down (8:17).  Details here.  This was an important workout so I was happy to have it in the books!
Saturday we also had a birthday party for Albani! Her actual birthday is September 18, but we will be out of town next weekend so she got to start celebrating a little early. The swim party was a hit!

Getting ready to blow out the candles
Part of the group before the second swim; that's her "boyfriend" on the left
She got a few signs through the building
Sunday - 6.5 base pace (7:27).  It was gorgeous for this run - 49 degrees, sunny, and no wind!  So I kind of wished I'd run Saturday's workout on Sunday (it went back and forth between the two days, but ended up on Saturday in order to give myself another day of recovery before my 24 miler coming on Wednesday).  I ran the middle 4 or so with Casey.  I started off slower than my usual base pace (8:12 first mile), but once I started rolling I felt better than expected, plus running with Casey always makes me run faster on easy days.  It was a wonderful way to finish off a blessed week!

I'm glad to have this hard week down, and even happier that I've come away from it feeling good.  Props to my coach, because had I tried to do this on my own accord and without his build-up, I'd probably be injured by now instead of envigorated!

10 Tempo + 1 Hammer = Nailed It

Yesterday I ran the workout I missed on August 27 (lamenting about that here) due to a cold.  I was really happy to have the opportunity to make this one up so to speak; initially my schedule was 17 base miles on this date so it fit alright, just made this week harder and of course made this workout harder since it was on tired legs.

But, I was very happy with how this workout ended up!  My 3.6 mile warm-up was slower than usual (8:17), which made me concerned that I was feeling this week's mileage and intensity, but I think it was mostly because Missy's dog who ran with us was being a bit crazy.  Missy and I ran our warm-up together, and then did our own things, so I was solo for my workout.  I was a big weirdo and set up a card table next to the trail we were running on as my "aid station" in order to practice during race fueling on this run.  I had small Fuel Belt bottles of mixed Osmo (electrolytes, a little carbs, mostly water) and Accel gels that I could grab while on the run.  My goal was to do all of my fueling on the run and without stopping my watch so I could get used to doing it when running hard.  I managed to do this, but I will say that picking gels and bottles (laying on their sides, a mistake) up off a table is not as easy as having someone hand them to you!  I just picked nutrition up twice - around miles 3.5 and 6.5 (each time did half a bottle of the Osmo mix and half a gel).  My regret of the day was not taking a picture of the "aid station"!

It was kind of an odd run, because I didn't feel wonderful but I didn't feel bad.  It seemed to take me about 4 tempo miles to really get warmed up and into a rhythm.  At the beginning I had to focus to stay at pace and not drift to 6:40 pace, and I never had points where I had to hold back from running too fast early (which is usually the sign of a good day).  I'd run an 8 mile tempo on this same course at 6:24 pace so I was hoping to be around that pace on this run, but halfway in I wasn't sure I could be much under 6:30 (my goal pace range was 6:20-6:30).  But the miles went by pretty quickly and when I hit mile 8 I told myself it was like mile 11 of a half marathon and then my pace really dropped.  For some reason this technique works really well for me to pick it up at the end of long tempo runs; I guess because I'm running about half pace and when I frame it like that I know I have more to give towards the end.  My final 2 miles of the tempo were 6:13 and 6:09, giving me 10 miles in 1:04:02.  Geez, I should've run my first mile 3 seconds faster!  Overall I probably could have started a bit faster, but you know what they say about hindsight.  Strava told me that this was my second fastest 10 mile run ever (my fastest being in my PR half).  I ran 2 solid 10 mile tempos late 2015 and early 2016 in 1:04:12 and 1:04:52 on this same course, so I kind of hoped this one would be more under those times than it was, but those tempos were run very fresh and the faster one without the "bonus" hard mile I had after this one, and also in cooler temps (it was 68 degrees with 12-15 mph wind, and light rain started towards the end, so not bad but not 45 and sunny with no wind), so I hope it evens out to show I'm more fit now.

After my watch beeped 10, I rolled right into my recovery mile (I did stop for about 5 seconds to get a sip of Osmo during the recovery when I passed the "aid station") and got ready for my hard "hammer" mile at the end.  My goal pace from my coach for this mile was 6:08-6:12, but I wanted to run it faster than the final mile of my 10, so I pushed from the gate.  I looked at my watch about 0.3 in to see that I was averaging 5:56 pace for the beginning of the mile at that point, so I thought I would try to get under 6:00.  I was really happy to finish the mile in 5:53, and I think that's actually the fastest mile I've run this season (clearly I haven't done much speed work - but seriously I don't know how much faster I could run a mile even if I was fresh!).  Glad to have this workout in the bank, and it also showed me that I need to race a half (my half PR of 1:24:31 is 6:27 pace, although on a course harder than I ran today).

Then, funny thing, my 1.4 mile cool-down ended up being exactly the same pace as my warm-up (8:17).  I couldn't have done that if I tried!

Splits for the 12 workout miles

Strava "best times"

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

10K with a side of PR

It's been my goal to run a 10K in the 38s for about 10 months.  I missed my 10K goal race, due to a funeral, when I was in top shape last fall.  Shortly after missing it I ran a 10K time trial and a huge unofficial PR, but it didn't really count despite making me feel a lot better at the time (see this post).  I had a few races where I was close (39:1X) and felt that if a variable out of my control had been different I would have made it (i.e., not having to run really wide turns around or weave through masses of slower 5K runners, cooler weather, etc.), but bottom line was that it didn't happen.

I'd run the Run for a Child's Hunger 10K  in Rogers, Arkansas in 2015 and really liked it, plus one of my best friends lives in the area, so we incorporated it into our Labor Day weekend plans.  My husband and I were discussing my race strategy on our drive down to Arkansas the day before the event.  Since I knew the course and what I'd run there last year (40:22), when he asked about trying for the 38s I said no way.  I told him the 38s were going to take a flatter course, a cooler day, and better rest.  I felt like I could probably run a minute faster than last year, or 10 seconds per mile, so was hoping for 39:20-39:30, but noted I would really would be happy with anything in the 39s considering I didn't taper for the race and we'd been running around on our family getaway for the two days preceding it.  I was hoping to place in the top 3 women and win some cash, but that always depends on who shows up!  Historically the race has always had really fast winning times (35-36s for the top 1-3 women), but there isn't a whole lot of depth in the field.

On race morning, I did my usual warm-up and couldn't quite gauge how I felt, but I wasn't worked up or stressed about it.  I planned to give all I had that day, and that's all I or anyone can do!  There was a delay in starting the race due to a cow on the course (hahahaha! - also right up my alley after my recent experience of helping chase a cow back into a pasture during a 15 mile run, which I don't think I posted about yet), so I spent some extra time looking around me on the starting line.  I saw one female who I kind of knew indirectly who is a pro triathlete and who had beat me at this race last year.  I knew she would be way out ahead of me, as she probably runs in the 36s on a bad day.  I saw another female who looked fast and had on what I thought was a Saucony Hurricanes uniform, making her a pro runner (I later confirmed this via Google here - I promise I am not a stalker!).  They were both talking to another lady who looked very fit, so I felt that my chance at prize money was dwindling!  I did some extra jogging during the start delay, including running out to Jon to tell him about the competition situation.

I only take decent running pics on my warm-ups
My plan for the race was to start conservatively.  The first 1.3ish mile is nearly all uphill, so I planned to run it around 6:25-6:30, knowing I would make up some time in the last 0.7ish that was mostly downhill.  This is a wonderful perk of having run courses before, because I knew that last year I was dying and still made up time in the last mile, haha!  I got out nice and relaxed at 6:25 pace exactly and found myself in 5th female right away.  The three fast ladies I’d been eyeing on the starting line took off probably around 5:45 pace so they gapped me quickly.  I moved into 4th female less than a half mile in, and kind of figured that was where I was going to stay.

Elevation chart

Around 1.25 or so, the course turned, and I could see ponytails bobbing in the distance as the women ahead of me turned.  I saw two women together but then the third woman had lost quite a bit of ground on them.  Once I came around the turn, I kept my focus on her and decided that I was going to make it my mission to pull her in over the next 5 miles.  I seemed to be gaining slightly, and although she had a substantial lead on me, it was clear she’d gone out too fast whereas I’d gone out conservatively, and I knew my first mile would be by far my slowest baring disaster.  Focusing on her gave me a mission and took my focus off my watch, and I missed my mile 2 split completely.  I was also trying to look at course splits vs. Garmin splits to ensure I was on pace per the course miles vs. my Garmin miles, but I missed both of the splits there.  I'd come really close to forgetting my Garmin at the hotel (what Jon said would have been a "terrible tragedy", but what I thought might have actually been a blessing in disguise had I done it), so I just figured I wasn't meant to focus on my watch during the race, which typically works out better for me anyhow.

Between miles 2-3, I continued to reel her in.  I started game-planning in my head.  Should I pull up on her and sit for a while, then try to go with a mile or 2 left?  I didn’t want to pound it too early, and I also knew that I was at an advantage looking ahead to her, whereas she didn’t know I was coming from behind, so it was possible that she would pick it up when I got closer.  She looked younger than me so I knew that I wouldn't want to leave it to a sprint finish either.  I wasn’t sure where I was at time-wise since I’d missed my split, but I also wanted to ensure I ran in the 39s so I didn’t want to run so strategically for 3rd that I slowed my pace too much.

The decision came easy, as I pulled up on her right at the 3 mile mark on the course (which again caused me to miss my mile split), and at the pace I was going even without surging I blew by her.  She had slowed substantially, probably to 7:00+ pace, and there was no way I was going to slow that much – plus I knew that beating her was in the bag if she was hard off enough to slow that much.  I encouraged her as I passed, and said a little prayer for her because I know what it’s like to bonk in races like that and I knew she was in for a tough second half.

The best I can figure, my first 5K was around 19:30.  I prefer not to know my 5K splits during 10K races, because I end up getting intimidated because not too long ago those were really good 5K times for me!  Having passed the female, I looked ahead to the next male and set my sights on pulling him in.  I pretended like he was another female, and also told myself that he was going to finish in 38:50 so if I could pull him in I would too (I do this often in races - pick a man ahead of me who is going to run my dream time and tell myself that I have to catch him to get that time).  I ended up passing him around 4.5, and he was dying so wasn’t any help to pace with.  I looked down at my watch around the time I passed him to see my average pace for that mile was at 6:01 at that time, and couldn’t help but smile.  I knew I could run a solid final 1.5 miles (and then the 0.2 can be done with nothing left in the tank) – especially because I knew I had a nice downhill coming around 5.5.  I knew I had a sub-40 coming, which was my hope for the course.

I then started focusing on another male, but he was significantly ahead of me so I didn't make much progress towards him.  I missed the 5 mile mark also, but I don’t think it was even marked on the course because I’d run my warm-up backwards on the final mile of the course and hadn’t seen it then either.  Based off my Garmin average, I figured that if I could run a 6:10 last mile, I would actually be in the 38s (surprise!)!  But my math is also horrible towards the end of races so I wasn’t quite sure whether that was really correct.  It was tough running by myself, but I pretended it was the end of a solo hard workout and told myself that if I ran a 6:11 mile at the end of an 8 mile tempo, I could do a 6:10 now!  Once we got to the downhill, that sure helped, and then when I took the final turn and could hear the announcer I sprinted with all I had.  Coming down the homestretch, I could see the finishing clock but couldn’t quite tell if it was in the low 38s or low 39s.  I pushed with all I had (my Strava told me that I set a PR for 400 m with a 1:19, haha!), and once I was close enough to see that the clock was in fact in the 38s I really hammered it.  At the end of races I always want the clock to slow down and my legs to speed up!  My Garmin said I ran the last bit at 5:01 pace, so I had a nice kick (especially for me because my raw speed is horrible relative to my endurance!).  I could hear Jon and Albani cheering, and the announcer incorrectly announced that I was the 2nd female (I knew that was only possible if one of the top two had dropped out, and Jon confirmed that I was "definitely 3rd" shortly after).

I stopped my watch at 38:44 and my official chip time was 38:43 (gun time was 38:44; 6:14 average pace - official results), and about started crying from happiness!  I’d wanted in the 38s so badly but did not think this would be the day it would happen!  I was also pretty red-lined, and when the volunteers started telling me they needed my chip instead of reaching down and getting it like they seemed to expect me to, I asked who was going to cut it off, haha!  Then I found my family and began celebrating, and sent a few text updates before taking off on a 2 mile cool-down.  My legs felt pretty trashed on the cool-down but at the same time in my excitement I felt like I could go forever!

Not the most clear picture, but the clock is there!
Official times
My friend Mary rocked the 5K while her daughter watched with Albani
Who doesn't love a huge check?
Albani tells her class that we're rich after I win prize money, bahahaha!
Now that I’ve had time to process the PR and what went into it and into several of my past PRs, I’ve decided that the keys to me running PRs seem to be:

1.      Hilly courses that I've run before.  This one had over 200 feet of elevation gain, but I liked the way it was distributed for the most part.  I felt the uphill between 4.5-5.5, but knowing that the downhill was coming made it do-able.  The uphill in the beginning helped ensure that I went out conservatively.  Overall the course had quite a bit in common with the Waddell and Reed half marathon course, which is where I ran my current half PR.  I feel like sometimes I gain more on the downhills than I lose on the uphills, which is not scientifically what is supposed to happen, but I’m going with it! I also think the hills help me focus on effort instead of pace, since they make pacing uneven. 

2.      Going out conservatively.  Sometimes when I’m attempting PRs I get caught up in not “losing” any time in the first mile.  I don’t go out too fast, but going out a little slow seems to work for me better than going out at pace.  I ran slow first miles in this race, and in my half and full marathon PRs.

3.      Not leading or being in contention for overall female.  I think knowing that I’m not going to win a race because there are women in it who are much faster than me also helps.  In some races there is a balance between running to win (especially when there is prize money) and running for goal times, and it’s more mentally taxing to try to do both.  I knew from the gate that I wouldn’t win this one, so I didn’t worry about that part.  I did hope to place in the top 3, but I never actually worried about that because early on it seemed like it was out of the question, and then after mile 3 it seemed like a sure thing.

4.      Focusing on competition and not time.  I always run best when I don’t look at my watch much, and incidentally when I miss my mile splits.  It’s better for me to zero in on race effort instead of a specific pace, and to focus on catching females or if I have the luxury of running with another person (such as with Jamie during my half and full PRs).  Chasing the girl during the first few miles in this one helped a lot, and then chasing men and focusing on lengthening my lead after that was beneficial.  Sometimes I have a harder time keeping my eyes off my watch than others, and some of that I think is a good day vs a bad day thing (i.e., I look at my watch more when I'm feeling bad and running poorly, therefore not looking at it is just a correlation with good days when PRs are possible).

Sometimes I feel like I know a lot about running and competing – after all, I’ve been doing it for over 24 years! – but other times I feel like I am still learning so much.  I hope to take the concepts that I’ve learned and continue to improve as long as I can.  I am thankful for my health and the experiences, and so thankful to have a family who enjoys going to races with me and also enjoys running themselves.  Hindsight is 20/20, and looking back throughout my running career I sure wish I knew then what I know now, but I am thankful to know it now!  I have certainly learned that I need to work with a coach to reach my potential; I will over-train myself to injury and fatigue because I am too type A to make my own schedule.  I’ve learned the benefits of more total miles but fewer hard miles (no, I should not run speed work and tempos 3-4 times a week!).  I also know that I need to not take myself too seriously, and then good performances will follow.  When I really get worked up for a race, I am more likely to have a poor race.  So here’s to enjoying the blessings instead of stressing!