Tuesday, November 29, 2016

The Extras

After she ran Chicago and I ran Praire Fire, my friend Liz shared this link with me, regarding the extras that pros (or "faux pros") do to improve training.  As a full-time working mom, I feel like I am always balancing my training with so many other activities that are higher priorities, but I also think I do a really good job at getting my training in.  My not-so-secret secret is simply 5 a.m.!  Nothing gets in my way with running super early, and I also allot enough time to do a 10-15 minute stretching and foam rolling routine after 95% of my runs (I mainly started doing this because one of my training partners has to be finished a little earlier than I do, so I would end up with a little extra time before I needed to jump in the shower, but then it stuck even on my solo runs).  Fitting in my double run days and strength workouts is trickier, but because I have a very supportive husband and can often do short runs on lunch at work if I need to, I get it done.  I am also a master at multi-tasking!

The blog post linked above reminded me that I'm doing some things well, but can improve on others.  I am pretty good at getting in nutrition within 30-60 minutes following runs, and I think my overall diet and knowledge of nutrition is better than most.  But, I am sure I could improve, so perhaps I should schedule with a nutritionist, preferably one who specializes in working with runners.  Recommendations?  I admit, though, that I don't want to take the time to keep a food log and I suspect this would require that! 

Foam rolling has been a great tool in my arsenal, and like I said I aim to do it daily.  One thing that's helped me maintain that is because Albani loves to roll with me.  And, yes, we have 2 foam rollers at home and I also got one for my birthday that now stays at work!  When I microwave my lunch at work I either roll or plank for a few minutes.
This is how we roll (excuse the mismatched PJs)
Sleep is something I could improve on; I'm not bad, but it's hard to get 8 hours if you're getting up at 4:30 a.m.!  I try to get ready for bed after I tuck Albani in around 8:30 p.m., but I often end up doing something else first and then lay in bed scrolling through social media on my phone or reading a novel for longer than I should (or writing a blog as I am right now!)!  I probably need to make a rule of no smart phone use after I tuck her in...easier said than done, right?  Reading helps me turn off my brain and fall asleep, so I should get her to bed, then lay down and read.  I think I do a little better with this during the cold months, as I can't wait to get under that electric blanket!

The post also inspired me to sign up for a functional movement screening that a local sports medicine clinic offers, which I had on October 28.  I figured that since I want to increase my mileage during Phoenix training, identifying and working on any imbalances proactively should be a priority.  No amount of hard work is helpful if you are injured prior to race day!  The screening was not exactly what I expected, but I came away with some recommended exercises and release moves that I plan to work on a couple of times a week and that I hope will be beneficial!  I had no major issues, but can improve my core strength in some different ways than I already work on, and loosen up the backs of my legs.  I currently go to a strength/plyo bootcamp twice a week, and plan to continue that because it's really helped my strength.

I imagine it would be helpful to have additional testing done on my strength and flexibility, and I would also like to have my body fat percentage tested (every woman's nightmare, right?!).  Regular massages would be nice, but I don't know when I'd fit that in.  Ironically enough, the last time I had a professional massage, which was after the Portland Marathon in 2009, I remember being super busy that day, then laying on the massage table stressing about everything I needed to do and should be doing instead of getting the massage!

Other ideas?  The extras can add to up more than the running part of training I think!

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Thankful every day!

Week of November 21-27, 2016

Mileage: 45.1, with a bootcamp, a set of strides, a Turkey Trot 5K, a double, a strength workout, a short long run, a 3 day work week, and Thanksgiving!  In our world, we are often only thankful for things when we don't have them - whether it's petty things such as cell phone service or the latest fashion or gadget, essentials such as food and warmth, or things that make our lives tick like the special people around us and our health.  I challenge myself to be thankful for the big and little things each day.  It's easy to forget about how much goes right each and every second of our lives.  Who do I think I am that I could for a moment not be extremely grateful when my life is so good that I not only have the opportunity to run for a hobby, but also to blog about that hobby!

My sweet family
The best parents and grandparents
Monday - Back to bootcamp on cross-training Monday (40 minute elliptical warm-up and 45 minutes bootcamp class)!  I felt solid during the workout - even through the side step squats, weighted squats, jump squats sequence - so hopefully I didn't lose much through my race recovery and tapering phases when I laid off the strength training.  I also wasn't sore from the workout, which I was very happy about!

Tuesday - 7 miles (7:33); 6 base pace then 6 x 20 second strides in the final mile, with Amy and Ashley.  We about blew away on this one, making me realized how fortunate we've been to have very few windy mornings recently.

Wednesday - 6.1 miles base pace (7:42) with Missy.  I tested out my new pair of New Balance Vazee Pace shoes that I got free through the Strava Back Half Challenge on this run.  I've had them for a few weeks now, but I didn't want to try anything new right before or after my marathon or right before my half, so I made myself hold off on trying them (which wasn't easy because they reflect and glow in the dark!).  I've never run in New Balance shoes before, I selected this model based on the recommendation from my local running store, and I liked them a lot on this run!

I mostly run in Hoka One One Cliftons; I never would have tried Hokas had I not had a foot issue in early 2015, but at that time the Cliftons were the only reason I was able to train through that problem. Although that issue is long resolved, I've stuck with them because they've worked for me.  I think their 4 mm drop makes me run more efficiently, and the Vazee Paces also have a 4 mm drop.  I'm going to continue primarily with my Cliftons, but I've been wanting to find a faster shoe for racing that doesn't have the moon shoe look that the Cliftons have - and come on, who races a 5K in Hokas (note my shoes here...yep!)??  I have a pair of Saucony Kinvaras that I've tried to love, but they just feel too stiff and I only wear them on 3-4 mile runs.  So here is hoping the Vazee Pace shoes can serve my racing shoe purpose!  I'll try them next week on a faster run day and see what happens.

I don't buy shoes for looks, but that was a nice bonus with these!
Thursday (Thanksgiving) - 11.3 miles total with 8.2 in the morning (3.1 warm-up, 5K Joplin Turkey Trot in 18:42, 2 cool-down) and 3.3 mile shake out (7:38) in the evening.  I continued my pattern of only running 5Ks in the 18s in holiday themed races that I run on tired legs and without any goals - and I was absolutely thankful for my time on this course with 160 feet of elevation gain.  Full race report here.  Ironically enough, my next 5K is a Christmas themed one!

Friday - 3.2 mile shake out (7:42) and 30 minutes of strength training, both with my sister-in-law.  We run different paces but did the same stretch of road to run "together", then we did strength training in my in-laws' living room with 7 children around.  This further confirmed that one child is the perfect number for me!  She has three under age 5, so I am uber-impressed that she's working out (or making it through the day, really, haha!).

Saturday - 10.1 miles base pace "long run" that I ran a little too fast (7:00), followed by a 1.1 mile cool-down (8:11) that wasn't on my schedule, but that I needed after a fast finish.  I ran this on dirt roads near Big Hill Lake in Southeast Kansas, and my relaxed easy pace hovered around 7:05.  I guess that is just the difference between running pancake flat roads as opposed to the rolling roads of the Ozarks that I usually run (and perhaps also because I got 9 hours of sleep the night before)!  I picked it up a little bit on miles 7-8 (6:55ish) because I really needed to use the bathroom!  I am never eating at El Publeto in Parsons again!  Then miles 9-10 I picked up to 6:40ish pace, which is my Phoenix Marathon goal pace.  It was a really nice run aside from the digestive distress!

Sunday - 6 miles easy (7:40).  My weather app lied to me before this run, claiming that there was no windchill (the wind was 15 mph!), so I was under-dressed, AND El Publeto continued to haunt me, but I got it done.  Thankful for the sub-par runs too!

Friday, November 25, 2016

I found the magic formula for running 5Ks in the 18s

Here it is:
  1. Select a holiday-themed race
  2. Run on tired legs
  3. Set no goals, and in fact plan to run at 10K to half marathon pace
  4. Make sure there is another barrier to running well (e.g., the course has 160 ft elevation gain, you'll be running the whole race alone and finish 5 minutes in front of the second runner, etc.)
We trotted!
I signed up for the Joplin Turkey Trot 5K at the urging of my sister-in-law, as we both ran the race last year and it's the closest Turkey Trot to my in-laws, where we have the huge Ibbetson Thanksgiving.  I registered before I decided to run the White River half marathon, so it wasn't planned that I'd be racing again 5 days after a half, but that's what happened.

My struggle with 5Ks has been real (although I felt better about it after I stumbled upon a blog written by an Olympic Trials Marathon qualifier who noted she couldn't seem to race 3 miles at 6:00 pace; however, she ran 26.2 miles at 6:15 pace!).  After a particularly rough 5K in July that I couldn't even finish at half marathon pace in the third mile, I pretty much just gave up ever running a 5K in the 18s (I tried many times in 2015, and nearly always came up with a 19:0X).  Then, I had a good 5K (for me) at the Trick or Trot last month, finishing in 18:46, showing me it wasn't impossible.

After I was already registered for this Turkey Trot, the race organizers posted on Facebook that the course was different than the 2015 course.  This disappointed me, because the 2015 course had been flat and fast (the struggle at that event, though, was 30+ mph winds, and I ran a 19:0X).  Looking at the new course map, I thought it went around a park that was quite hilly, so I mapped the course on mapmyrun, and the site confirmed my assumption and quoted the route as having 164 feet of elevation gain.

So with these factors in combination, in addition to being in a recovery phase, I wrote off worrying about my time in this event.  I wanted to try to repeat my overall win from 2015, however, but said I'd run to win and hope it was faster than the final 5K of my recent half!

On race morning, I tried something new with my warm-up.  I've noticed that I nearly always feel the worst on my first repeat of any speed workout, and I nearly always am able to speed up throughout tempo runs and longer races, so it's like I need some faster running to get going, and more than just strides.  I ran a 3.1 mile warm-up, which is pretty typical, but I threw in a faster mile (6:29).  In the end, I think this was helpful and got me really warmed up; however, at the time I was running it, it actually made me question if I could even run that pace for the 5K!  I guess that is proof that I needed it.  I did everything else as usual, including some plyometrics, leg swings, and pre-start strides.
Starting photo, from the event's Facebook page - where's Sara?
When the gun went off, a high school aged girl took off quickly, and after a quarter mile or so I figured I'd better go cover her since I wanted to try to win, and worried I was going to have to really hammer it if she could maintain her pace.  I pulled up on her and went around her rather quickly a bit before the mile mark, and she was breathing really hard.  I came through the mile in 5:52 due to chasing her and the decline, so then I thought, "Well, it's already 1/3 over, I might as well try to get in the 18s."

Then I saw the men ahead of me turn right and start climbing a mountain.  I soon learned that this was not a course to negative split on!  My second mile was 6:03, which I was happy with considering the major hill.  There were several men around me to work on pulling in, which was nice.  At the mile 2 marker, in my typical 5K fashion, I was split between thinking, "Wow, these things are short; only 1 mile to go!" and "Oh geez, this is way too fast, I have to run another whole mile at this pace??!"  Mile 3 had two major hills, and I ran it in 6:07 (oy - a major positive split!), and then we also had to go up incline and against the wind to the finish, so my final 0.11 was only 5:57 (compared to a 5:19 final 0.1 in my last half, haha!).  But it was good enough for an 18:42 official time and the overall female win, which I was pretty pumped about!  And my little Garmin read 3.11 on the certified course, making me proud (it is crazy that I get super excited every time my Garmin is super close/right on on certified courses?)?  Official results here.

The old course was better
18:42 is actually my fastest 5K as an adult on a certified course!  I ran an 18:18 in 2010, but the accuracy of that course was questionable, so I kind of keep it in mind with an asterisk, and my actual certified course PR is 18:25, run as a teenager.  So, after this race the wheels started turning...could I have run 20 seconds faster on a flat course?  I think I could have - and if I wasn't 5 days off of a hard half perhaps I could go a little faster than that.  So, add a lifetime 5K PR to my ambitions...or maybe don't, because if I plan to try I'll probably run 19:0X!

Another really fun thing about the race was seeing my friend Liz and her entire family (and running a cool-down with her)!  She and her husband, son, daughter, parents, older brother, and younger brother run a ton of races together and always have the best family photos in matching race gear.  For this one they all had adorable turkey hats!  Liz and I used to train some together when we both lived in Southeast Kansas, and in this race she out-sprinted the high school girl who went out too fast and placed second overall female.  She is apparently really good at out-sprinting teenagers, which is pretty impressive (I for one would not want to get into a kick battle with anyone younger than me!), and I thought it was a great showing for us 30-something moms!

Also along those lines, my sister-in-law told me before the race that there was no way she would break 30 minutes, and I told her I knew she could.  She ended up running a 29:01!  Her 3 young children watched the race with her mom, Jon, and Albani.  We loved having our nieces and nephew there!

After the race, our blessed Thanksgiving continued with Jon's extended family as well as my amazing parents (around 50 people total in attendance!).  I challenge myself to be thankful every day, because we have sure been blessed and we have so much, but it is also wonderful to set aside a day where our whole country is especially thankful, and everyone just seems to be nicer to each other.  Anytime any of us complain about anything, we should be required to list five reasons we are grateful!

Wishing you and yours blessings to be thankful for today and always!

Jon wanted me to mention that he took this clock shot while holding our 3-year-old niece

This is my 5K face!  Those gloves were so bulky, but warm.
It's a cutting board!
P.S.  Ironically, my next 5K and final race of 2016 is at the Christmas Mile on December 10.  And I'll be really living on the edge and also racing the 1 mile, as it's the same price to run both, so how can you not?!  My plan is to run both at 10K pace, hahaha!  I have some Christmas themed compression socks that I'm pretty pumped about wearing there.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

In this obsession with the things the world says make us happy

Are we ever satisfied, or are we always searching for the next big thing?

With running you can always strive to improve your personal records.  Whenever you accomplish one goal, there is another one to try to rise to: check one off, then make the next.  There isn’t a ceiling.  It’s usually easier to try to reach higher than to appreciate how far you’ve come.

The attained is not as mythical as the unattained, and doing something can make it less special.  It’s often not as earth-shattering as you imagined, and maybe it doesn't change your world like you’d imagined.  Once you’ve done it, it’s no longer this legendary pie in the sky dream; but something you did.  And after all, it can't be that big of a deal if you actually did it, right?

I’m guilty of wanting more and more with running, and I don’t know if I’ll ever be satisfied with my running accomplishments.  I think I’ll forever be chasing my next PR or standard, although at some point in the not-too-distant future that will mean age-graded times.  Is this a good healthy passion, or is it being greedy?  Sometimes I’m not sure.  How can any of us best balance striving to improve ourselves while at the same time being thankful for what we’ve achieved (none of which we actually deserve!)?

When I set my sights on a sub-3:00 marathon, I thought that if I ran it, I would be content and perhaps even retire from marathons and focus on half marathons; like it was the pinnacle of marathoning for me.  But then I did it, twice, and it doesn’t seem like it’s that big of a deal.  Can't I try to go faster?  Looking at my past patterns of behavior, it should not come as a surprise to me that I’m not content with it, but in all honestly I really thought I would be beforehand.  I guess at one time I thought it was my ceiling, but I don’t think that any more.  
Pretty much sums it up!
I’ve worked a lot this year on not letting comparison steal my joy, and it's something I'm proud to report that I've really improved on.  I'm more joyous and thankful for the accomplishments of others than I ever have been, I know there is room in this world for us all to be our bests, and I want to support others around me towards their goals of being their best (running related and non-running related)!  With this situation it’s not really me thinking about the women out there who are faster than me (although there are a ton and that does cross my mind!), but more me knowing that I have more in me.  I want to be the best I can be.

I’m not sure what I expected would happen when I achieved my sub-3:00 goal, but it seems that I thought something grander would happen than what actually did.  Don’t get me wrong; I celebrated, I was joyous, I had wonderful runner’s highs, I was thankful and felt so blessed, and I treasure the lifelong memories of these races and of the training cycle that led up to them - but at the same time both of my sub-3:00 marathons were cloaked in some disappointments as well.  This was namely my wrong turn at Bass Pro, and a weaker final 10K than I wanted at Prairie Fire (which I believe was due to the illness I had 9 days prior to the race, running so much of the race solo, and the side cramp I had that was possibly due to taking a saltier gel than my usual around mile 19).  But those reasons, along with relatively low mileage for a competitive marathoner, are also why I know I have a faster marathon in me, so I am thankful for that!  If a PR race goes off without a hitch, it’s hard to envision ever running better.

I wrote a draft of this post before I ran my 1:22:37 half marathon PR on Saturday, and I admit that I was thinking a lot of "it's not fair" about not having a race where everything went off without a hitch.  God must have been trying to teach me patience and appreciation, because at White River I felt that I did; that the race couldn't have gone any better.  And I am sure I appreciated that more due to my experience in my marathons!  This was also how I felt about my previous half marathon PR in 2015.  What wonderful blessings to have been given!

In the end, my season PRs made me very happy, and it felt great to achieve something I worked towards for so long.  In a way I felt like I earned the PRs, but on the other hand I know I didn’t deserve any of it!  But the best gift I have isn’t achieved in any way, which is often very hard for the Type A in me to grasp.  That gift is Heaven, which I could never do anything good enough to earn or deserve!  Now that is a true blessing, and likely the reason why nothing in this world will ever satisfy any of us - it's not intended to.

One of my favorite verses!

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Is this recovery? Is this tapering? I don't know!

Week of November 14-20, 2016

Mileage:  43.5, with a short fine-turning workout, a set of strides, a couple of strength/core workouts, and a PR half marathon race!  This week was part of my recovery phase from the Bass Pro Marathon, but also kind of tapering in preparation for the White River Half, and possibly also easing into Phoenix Marathon training...I think!  One reason I really like having a coach is that I have a plan to follow during weeks like this where I'm not exactly sure what I should be doing because of all of the variables involved.  This makes me not have to constantly second-guess if my runs are correct, or wonder if I am doing enough (plus I typically err on the side of doing too much and hurting myself).  Since my coach found the magic formula to get me two sub-3:00 marathons in 4 weeks and keep me 100% healthy throughout the process, I trust him with this schedule...as a control freak it took me awhile to get there and I still ask a lot of questions (like when do doubles come back and when does my mileage go back up to 50s-60s), though!

I got this awesome office door sign for helping with a thesis!
Monday - Cross-training Monday as usual, with 60 minutes easy elliptical and 30 minutes strength work.  I did minimal leg work (1 set each of forward lunges, single leg squats, single leg dead lifts, and glute bridges), and focused on core and upper body work.  I went back and forth on whether or not to go to bootcamp, and decided that I really didn't have much to gain right now from going (and perhaps had some to lose if it was a heavier leg day or if the instructor had us do a ton of jumping and plyos), and that resting my legs some more as I recover from Bass Pro was the smarter thing to do.  I'll resume bootcamp next week and hope I haven't lost too much strength!

Tuesday - 9 miles total:  4 warm-up, 2 half-ish pace (6:20, 6:18), 1 recovery, 1 5K-ish pace (5:54), 1 cool-down (7:02 average for all 9 together).  Amy, who is also racing the White River half, had a 2 mile tune-up tempo as well, so she ran the first 6 miles of this with me - although, neither of us ran exactly what we had scheduled, as her workout was 2 warm-up, 2 tempo, 2 cool-down, and mine was 6 base pace, 2 tempo, 1 cool-down...oops!  The 2 miles at 6:19 felt brisk but sustainable (I was aiming for 6:20), and the 1 mile at 5:54 felt fast but not like killing myself (I was aiming for sub-6:00).  I could tell I was not 100% recovered from Bass Pro - and how would I be, just 9 days later? - but I hoped that I was in good enough shape to rally for a solid half after 3 more recovery days.

Wednesday - 7.3 miles base pace (7:30), solo and by the light of the moon.  The full moon was so bright it was like the sun was up at 5:45 a.m., and then the sun came up and I felt like I was running late for work!  I also did a 10 minute core workout.

Thursday - 4.5 miles shake plus 4 strides (7:18).  I forgot about the strides until I was almost at mile 4 when my run was supposed to end; I find strides easy to forget because they are tacked onto easy runs I guess.  It was 60 degrees for this run and I also did not need a headlamp - wahoo!  Can it just stay like this all fall and winter, please?!

Friday - Off, which you know means an easy bit on the elliptical to maintain the streak (just 10 minutes plus stretching, because I slept in!).  Friday was also pajama day for Albani's class, but even so I felt odd sending her out into the world like this!

I'm also embarrassed of the mess in the background!
Saturday - White River Half in a PR of 1:22:37 (16.5 total with 2 warm-up and 1.4 cool-down).  Read the details here.  I'm still in happy shock from this race, and it was certainly my strongest performance of 2016!  I hope I wasn't being greedy adding this in, but I am so thankful that I did.

Sunday - 6.1 recovery miles (7:42).  I dragged my feet getting out for this one because it was "feels like" 17 degrees and I knew it was possible that my legs would hate me.  But both of these variables were better than expected and I enjoyed the run!

I'm thankful for another week of health, happiness, and training!  Next week I don't do much, which I know is for the greater good, but wow it's hard not to want to go out and throw down to try to get faster following such a blessed race and season.  Patience, right?!

Saturday, November 19, 2016

White River Half Marathon: Sometimes Being Nuts Pays Off!

Spoiler photo, but I wanted it to be the featured picture
As I mentioned here, I registered for the White River Half Marathon the afternoon following the Bass Pro Marathon, mainly because I'm nuts, but also because I hadn't gotten to run a half this season and this was a fast course that I could trek to on race morning with one of my favorite people.

It was hard to know how to set a goal for this race, since it was 13 days after the Bass Pro Marathon, which came 28 days after the Prairie Fire Marathon.  Again, because I'm nuts, I decided I would try for a half PR as long as I felt okay once I got out conservatively.  Of all of my PRs set prior to this season, I felt that my standing half PR was the strongest and would be by far the most difficult to beat.  I've done halves closely off of fulls before, with my second best half time in 2015 coming 6 days after the Dallas Marathon on a slow course, and the half time that stood as my PR from November 2010 to April 2015 coming at the 2010 Route 66 half marathon 2 weeks after the 2010 Bass Pro Marathon - so this wasn't completely uncharted territory (i.e., I have been nuts for years).

After I ran the Tiger Trot 15K at 6:20 pace in September, I thought that 6:20 pace would be a reasonable pace for me to run for a half in the condition I was in if I was rested, on a good course, with competition, and in ideal temperature.  I ran the Tiger Trot 4 days after a 24 mile training run, I ran alone from mile 4 on in the event with no men or women in front of me, it was 70 degrees for the race, and about 2 miles of the race was run on dirt roads with huge rock chunks which killed my splits on those miles (without those my average would have been more like 6:15).  Also, historically I have been able to run around 25 seconds per mile faster in halves than in fulls run at the same fitness level.

However, I wouldn't consider being 13 days off of a marathon an ideal "rested" state, and I also knew I needed to count myself lucky to have held my peak through Bass Pro, and that it was unlikely I was still holding it.  I had a good enough workout on the Tuesday before the race to know that my legs weren't dead, but it was short enough that I really didn't know how they would respond to racing a half.  My coach told me to go out conservatively and aim to negative split, and this was my exact email response to him about that and the race:  "I'm a big fan of negative splitting. I'm also not sure I could go out too fast even if I wanted to, as it takes me awhile to warm up even if I jog 2-3 miles before, so that won't be an issue! I felt good on my uptempo running today and 6:19 pace felt brisk but sustainable, although I can also tell I'm not 100% recovered from Bass Pro (which I expected and I don't imagine there is any way I could be) - but hoping I'm in good enough shape that I'll be able to rally for a solid half after a few more recovery days. Regardless it will be fun!"  Perhaps I should have included the disclaimer "(unless I completely blow up)" at the end of that!

My friend Amy was also running this race, and when we ran together during the week before the race we discussed race plans and goals, and decided to work together to break 1:24, which was something neither of us had ever done, but both felt like we could if everything came together.  I kept the caveat of "if I feel up to it after I start out conservatively" in there, as I knew it was quite possible my legs would refuse to drop below 6:30 pace - and if it was really reaching to dip into the 6:20s at mile 3-4 I was not going to try it!  I also mentioned that worst case scenario, I would run it at marathon pace, and that would not be anywhere near my slowest half.  I made a pace band targeting a 1:23:50 (6:24 pace) and hoped and prayed for the best, but I didn't have the most confidence in myself and kept looking at old half splits to halfway reassure myself.
On race morning, Missy and I set off on our journey at 4:00 a.m. - another data point supporting that we are both nuts!  Add to that, it didn't seem that bad getting up at 3:50 a.m...just 10 minutes earlier than 4:00 a.m. which I did for several long runs (including 22 and 24.3 milers that I ran before work = more data points for nuts).  I had my Generation Ucan with almond milk and a caffeinated Nuun on the drive down.

The 2-hour drive down flew by, and we arrived at the race site to park, pick up our packets, and warm up.  It was 34 degrees with a wind chill of 28, and since we really haven’t had any cold weather yet this year it felt horribly cold!  We complained about the cold and questioned how we ran in much colder conditions throughout last winter for most of our 2 warm-up miles (the obvious answer is by being nuts).  I decided to wear my thickest mittens (I had 4 different options for gloves/mittens, as I knew I’d run in shorts and short sleeves and be fine as long as my hands were warm).  About 10 minutes before race start, I shed my warm-up pants and jacket, and headed to the starting line, where Missy and I proceeded to huddle together for warmth while waiting for the gun!  I had on my pace band on targeting a 1:23:50 finish time, but I was thinking more about just running hard to get warm than anything.  I didn’t feel pressured or anything, and had no nerves leading up to this race – just ready go out and see what happened.  I think I also felt like I had a good excuse if I ran poorly ("Oh, my legs just didn't have it after those two marathons.")

After a nice prayer and the National Anthem, we were off!  The first mile of the race is downhill, so it would be easy to go out super fast, but I wanted to be conservative and was planning a 6:25.  Amy and I ran together, and a lot of people went out crazy fast.  We came through the mile in 6:24, but it felt like about 7:30 pace.  I commented to Amy that this was really like a 12-mile race because of that downhill first mile.

My goal was to keep my first 4 miles between 6:25-6:30, then if I felt good gradually speed up slightly to the turnaround at mile 7, then try to drop to a little faster from 7 to 10, and then push with all I had for the final 5K.  Miles 2 and 3 came by just as planned, and one thing I love about an out-and-back course like this is that you don’t lose time not running the tangents, you don’t lose rhythm turning, and your Garmin is pretty close to the course mile markers.  My Garmin splits and course splits were awfully close, which also eliminated the need for my pace band.

As we passed mile 3, Amy told me that she was going to maintain the pace we were at and didn’t feel good enough to speed up with me.  I encouraged her that she wouldn’t even notice dropping a few seconds a mile, but I could feel her backing off.  I set my sights on a man ahead of us and pressed on.  I pulled up with him around mile 4, and he and I came through mile 5 a bit faster than I’d planned that early (6:11), but it was a conversational pace.  I made myself back off a little, telling myself that I could speed up at the turnaround if I was still feeling so good, but mile 6 was 6:16 so also a little faster than I wanted that early.  I hoped I wasn’t dooming myself, but it was sure nice to have someone to run with and this pace felt sustainable.  We picked up two other men who'd been in front of us between then and the turn around.  They were all pushing, and I intentionally pulled back during mile 7 because I didn’t want to go too hard too early and in anticipation of dropping at the turnaround, and they all slowed a little with me too for a 6:22.

I felt fantastic at the turnaround, and thought to myself, “only 6 more miles!”  I challenged myself to finish the final 6 at 6:15 pace, and I thought I had a chance.  My math wasn’t the best, but I was thinking that if I could maintain that pace I could run a 1:22:5X.  When I made my pace band for 1:23:50 (6:24 pace), I also made one for 1:22:57 (6:20 pace), but then didn’t print the faster one because I thought that was too aggressive.  At mile 7 I was wishing I had!  I ended up not using the pace band I had on at all, but instead doing the math in my head at each mile marker on the course (which is never a safe bet during oxygen deprivation!).

When I sped up at the turnaround, one of the men stayed with me but the other two didn’t.  The one who did (man in red) was running right behind me right on me, making me do the work.  For several miles, we could see other runners who were going out while we were coming back on the course, as miles 7-13 were miles 2-7 in reverse.  There were a lot of runners I knew in the race, so it was very fun to hear them saying my name and to encourage them.  Several told me that I was first female as well.  Around mile 8, which was 6:17, I took off those thick mittens I had to have, and held them the rest of the way because they are my favorite mittens (my favorite thick gloves were lost at Bass Pro and I was not making that mistake again!)!

At mile 9 (which was 6:12), I was feeling pretty good about a strong finish, but I thought it was going to be really close between a high 1:22 and a 1:23.  I told myself that I could do 4 miles at 6:15, and that if I didn’t make it in the 1:22s, it wasn’t going to be for lack of trying.  The man in red continued to pace off of me.  I slowed up a little bit at a couple of points to try to get him to come up beside me, but he wouldn’t, and I didn’t want to break my rhythm too much.  We were reeling in another man, which helped, and having man in red right behind me was better than running alone but I still wanted him to come up beside me or even let me draft off him for a bit.  I knew that if he stayed with me to the end that he would out-kick me, being a male, and if he had been female I would have likely run a little more strategically.

At mile 10 (6:19), I looked at my watch and figured that all I needed to do to run a solid 1:23 was run a 20 minute final 5K (6:26ish pace), which I felt extremely confident about doing.  I was thinking that I needed to run 6:10 pace for the final 5K to get in the 1:22s, though, and I wasn’t quite sure I quite had that (in retrospect, at all of the mile marks I was counting on the final 0.1 taking me 1:00, but actually I only needed to allot 40 seconds at most for it, but that is where my math went wrong).  I pressed on, again telling myself that I was going to give 110% and I was feeling so blessed to be on PR pace.  The funny thing about this course is that I thought it was decline from miles 2-7 and I was worried about coming back up it.  Then miles 7-13 also felt like decline, which is physically impossible since we ran the same road in opposite directions.  I guess I am so used to running hills that flat seems like decline!  But, seriously, run this course; it feels like decline in both directions (the opposite of the Frisco trail, which feels like incline in both directions!)!

Mile 11 was 6:14 and mile 12 was 6:11.  At mile 12, my poor math skills told me that I needed to run a 6:08 final mile to get a 1:22:5X.  I told myself that I could do it.  The man in red went around me at the mile 12 sign, and I told myself to hang on him, but I couldn’t.  I started worrying I was slowing, but I looked down at my watch to see that I was running 6:14 pace for the beginning of the mile.  I told myself I needed to get on him; that he was 1:22:5X, but I just couldn’t quite do it.  My pace dropped to around 6:10, and I kept telling myself I had to get it down a little more and also have a fantastic finishing sprint to get in the 1:22s (at this point, I was still counting the final 0.1 as taking 1:00) – so imagine my surprise when I saw the clock and that I had time to spare!  It did make for a 5:19 pace final 0.1 for me, though.  I cruised through in 1:22:37 officially!  The man in red must have run a 5:55 final mile if not better, as my 6:11 put me what felt like eons behind him.  He thanked me when I finished, and told me that he’d have never run as fast as he did without me, so in the end I was glad I was able to help someone, and also glad he was not a female. 

I was in shock!  I teared up a bit with happiness.  I thought that 1:23:5X would be a reach all-considering, and I’d completely ruled out 1:22:5X.  How had I just run a 1:22:37?!  Certainly not by my strength alone.  God has blessed me so greatly this season.  I’ve tended to find something wrong with each PR race – some reason that I could’ve gone faster and knew I could do better (too hot, too hilly, rocky dirt roads, no competition, stomach bug 9 days before, running alone, side cramp at 20, wrong turn, etc.).  But possibly the biggest blessing about this race is that I don’t feel that way at all.  I feel that everything went as well as it possibly could have; nothing could have been better nor do I feel I could've gone faster at my present fitness.  The course was fantastic, the weather was great, I paced well, I finished strong but not with too much left, etc.  I’m not sure this is a PR I can ever beat...although, I’m already planning to run this same race again next year (if I can shave off 3 seconds/mile that would give me a 1:21:58, right?)!  I'm feeling so blessed that my final real race of 2016 was my best performance of 2016, and I just can't stop smiling about it.

Amy and Missy were close behind me, notching second and third female positions.  Poor Missy was congested and sick, or I know she would have PRed (she was very close at Bass Pro, and this course was much faster).  Then, the idiots we are, Missy and I ran a cool-down back up the hill that was mile 1 to the post-race food and awards (they had a shuttle for people who weren't nuts).  Another blessing of the day was a fantastic girls’ trip!  We had some coffee and delicious homemade soup while waiting for the awards.  The announcer at the awards ceremony called my time "smokin' fast", which made me grin.  He also commented that we must have "some training group!" when Missy and I went up for our awards and also picked up Amy's (since she had to leave before the awards), telling him that we trained together.

Official results are posted here.  I have to note that the pace they have listed for me is incorrect; it should be 6:18 pace - that's not just per my Garmin but confirmed with calculators such as this one, which is my favorite.  Not to be nitpicky, but those 3 seconds per mile matter a lot to me!  Official race photos are coming!   

2016 racing is now complete.  I have a couple of strictly for fun/because I need more short races for ROTY, a Turkey Trot 5K and a Christmas mile and 5K, but those are not goal events, and it’s quite possible that I’ll run the Turkey Trot 5K in 5 days at the same pace I ran my final 5K in at White River!  

 I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me - Philippians 4:13 


The best friends help you with your compression socks when your fingers are too cold to function!


Awards ceremony