Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Things I eat every day

My inspiration for this post came when my trash at work didn't get collected for a few days and I noticed the same food-related trash piling up!  During the work-week, my eating habits are pretty predictable as far as what I eat and the times I eat.  Weekends are a little different based on my family's activities, plus if we eat out it's usually on a weekend.  I currently eat the healthiest I ever have, and I find that I've gotten into a positive cycle with eating well, running hard, craving nutrient-dense foods, etc.  I used to crave sweets, but now I crave foods like peanut butter, cashews, coconut milk, and avocados (I notice the pattern in this is high fat content) - I would not have believed this day would ever happen!

These are the things that not a "normal" day goes by without me eating:
  • Spinach.  I put this in every slow cooker meal, every smoothie, and every omelet I make, and I eat at least one of these every day!
  • Greek yogurt with chia seeds.  This is nearly always my second/third breakfast.  Sometimes I stir in some chocolate peanut butter protein powder when I have vanilla yogurt too.
  • Apples.  They are so portable, and like they say, they keep the doctor away!
  • Seasonal fresh fruit.  We buy whatever fruit is on sale each week, usually price matching Aldi's deals (start doing this if you don't!!), and I eat a ton of it.  Recently this has included mandarins, pears, pineapples, and oranges, and we also have a lot of frozen grapes and blueberries that we've stocked up on during past sales.  We have a second huge freezer in our garage that is extremely helpful in keeping extra food on hand!
  • Hard-boiled eggs.  I usually eat one of these on my drive to work and a second one with my lunch.  Sometimes a third with dinner!
  • Nuts.  Almonds are my top choices, but I also eat a lot of mixed nuts and peanuts, and more recently we've been buying pistachios.
  • Almond milk.  This is always involved in my first breakfast, and also what I put in my coffee.
  • Coffee/tea.  I'm a 1-2 cups a morning person, so I don't have a ton of this, but I do have some daily.
  • Whole grains.  This is kind of a catch-all, but I'll always have whole wheat bread, quinoa, whole wheat cous cous or pasta, and/or brown rice.
  • Beans/legumes.  I put these in every slow cooker meal I make.  I use several varieties:  red lentils, brown lentils, pinto beans, black beans, chick peas, etc.
These are things I eat many days but not quite every day:
  • Fish.  I mainly eat salmon, tilapia, and tuna.
  • Roasted vegetables.  I make these most evenings; it's so easy to coat a baking sheet with olive oil and throw some veggies and seasoning on it, and roasted veggies are so delicious!  If anyone tells me they don't like veggies, I tell them they must try roasted ones.
  • Cottage cheese.  This is a carry-over from my vegetarian days, as it's high in protein.
  • Sweet potatoes.  I love them!  I eat them baked, sauteed, or cut up into "baked fries".  I eat white potatoes quite a bit too, but not as often as sweet.
  • Pretzels.  I crave these sometimes, probably for the salt.
  • Peanut butter.  This is one of my top cravings when I am training hard, and really fills me up!  Sometimes I put it on an apple, sometimes whole grain bread, and sometimes just on a spoon straight from the jar.
  • Electrolyte supplements.  I use nuun (pronounced "noon"), generally before/during/after hard/long workouts or when I've sweat heavily. 
  • Protein bars.  I've been baking homemade protein bars with texturized vegetable protein (TVP), oatmeal, protein powder, and varied mix-ins (nuts and dried fruit usually).  They are held together with a mix of eggs and either canned pumpkin or applesauce, although I made them once without the eggs for a vegan friend and they held together fine with pumpkin alone.  I found a base recipe online when I was trying to figure out how to use some TVP I had, and I've tweaked it several times.  It's really easy, and the bars are very portable.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

The Hardest Workout Ever©, the Sequel

Week of January 23-29, 2017

Mileage: 61.3, with a small fartlek, a set of strides, a double, the Hardest Workout Ever© (not actually copyrighted, but it should be!), a strength workout, and a bootcamp workout.  This was also a solid week of wind resistance training!

Monday -  Cross-training Monday at home (because Jon was out of town) with 40 minutes elliptical and 40 minutes of strength training.

Tuesday - 8.7 miles, including a 4 mile fartlek of 3', 2', 1' with recoveries equal to the next push (6:48 average for all 8.7 miles; pushes were 5:45, 5:37, 5:30, 5:53, 5:53, 5:33, 5:49).  This workout felt so short, and I really wanted to extend it, but I followed the schedule and was conservative due to still recovering from bronchitis (I was on Azithromycin and Prednisone January 21-25) - and also due to having such a hard Saturday workout slated.  And also due to just trying to follow the schedule my coach puts in place for me in general!  It was nice to run sub-6:00 again though!  Danielle and Missy ran with me some on this one, but we were all doing slightly different paces.  Afterwards I did about 5 minutes of calf raises and step-ups, as I forgot them on Monday.

Wednesday - 14.7 miles; 10.4 base pace (7:29) with 6 strides at the end in the morning, with the first 8 miles with Missy and Danielle.  We played around with our course on this one to minimize running into the powerful west wind!  4.3 miles at lunch (7:37)...yep, still windy!  This day ended up making me really happy, because I realized that I'm in good shape when I can run 14.7 miles in a day and feel like I didn't do much!  Proceed to marathon!

Thursday - 8.1 miles base pace (7:13) with Danielle.  I felt wonderful on this run, making me hopeful that I was getting back to full strength post-bronchitis.  I also did 10 minutes of core work, mainly plank variations, and attended my first Ozark Mountain Ridge Runners board meeting!  This was a day I was going non-stop from my 5:00 a.m. alarm until I got home from the long meeting at 9:30 p.m., which also meant I didn't get enough sleep (which I felt on Friday morning).

Friday - 3.5 mile shake out (7:25) plus a 45 minute bootcamp.  Jumping lunges never get easier!

Saturday -  20.3 miles total.  This was my second go at the Hardest Workout Ever, so it was less intimidating this time - especially because a note came with it stating, "I really don't want you to over-do it on this workout this time.  Keep to the paces...I'm trusting you to stick precisely to the paces and not get carried away."  Ahem....apparently I got carried away last time I ran it.  Some of my goal pace ranges were 5-10 seconds faster this time, however -- but I'd exceeded some of the ranges as the workout progressed last time, I'm in better shape now, and it was quite warm last time I ran it, so I felt good about hitting this one (despite just finishing that round of antibiotics on Wednesday - I was basically pleading denial about that!).

I didn't have to set an alarm on Saturday morning, as I didn't have any time constraints, and which I was very thankful for!  I woke up a few minutes after 5:00 a.m. thanks to my internal clock, but then went back to sleep until 7:08 a.m., which was pure bliss!  I took my time getting around and with pre-workout fueling, but I didn't want to wait too long to get out because I feared that the already 15+ mph wind would pick up as the day went by (it did).  I ran a lot of loops and out and backs during this workout in order to stay on flat terrain, split up the wind, and practice my fueling (drinking and taking gels while on the run), but since the wind was northwest it wasn't possible to avoid a headwind and keep it to the side like when it's straight north or east.  I also ran this one solo, but it's seriously the shortest 20 miles I've ever run, and I have a much easier time running this workout alone than 20 miles base pace alone.  The different segments split it up, and I was always thinking about hitting my times on the portion I was on, and not about the entire distance.

Here are the stats!

The workout plan:
20 miles total
2 miles warm-up
5 miles at 6:35-6:45
4 miles at 6:30-6:40
3 miles at 6:25-6:35
2 miles at 6:20-6:30
1 mile under 6:20
(with 0.5 mile recovery jogs between tempos)
1 mile cool-down

The actual workout:
20 miles total (6:41 average for all 20 - I did end up running 0.3 more to get back to my house, but I stopped and saved before adding that little jog)
2 miles warm-up
5 miles at 6:36 (6:41, 6:38, 6:31, 6:36, 6:34)
4 miles at 6:28 (6:28, 6:28, 6:31, 6:24)
3 miles at 6:25 (6:27, 6:23, 6:24)
2 miles at 6:19 (6:21, 6:16)
1 mile in 6:08
(with 0.5 mile recovery jogs between tempos)
1 mile cool-down
(average pace for the 15 hard miles was 6:27)

All considering, I was extremely pleased with this workout!  Having done it before went a long way in regards to knowing I could do it; last time before I ran it I worried that I wouldn't be able to hit the paces later in the workout, but this time I approached it more assertively.  The 4 and 5 mile paces felt brisk but sustainable; they had me asking, "Can I maintain 6:3X pace for a marathon?", and when I got to the 3 mile I told myself, "These 6 miles at 6:25/6:20/sub-6:20 should be nothing; you even get two recoveries, and you've done 13.1 straight at 6:12.7 pace!"  I would not call the end of the workout easy by any means, but the bottom of my pace ranges felt do-able throughout.  To be completely honest, beforehand I was hoping to run the final 1 mile push under 6:00, but I'm going to blame my inability to do so on the wind wearing on me throughout the workout and on not being quite 100% post-bronchitis.  By the time I got to that point in the workout, I knew I didn't have that kind of finish left, but I gave it what I had and was happy with that!

The last time I ran this workout I had a really great day, my average pace for the whole shebang was 6:52, and my time of 2:17:22 was at that time the second fastest I'd ever run 20 miles.  But now 2:13:51 is the fastest I've run 20, on a day I wouldn't quantify as really great.  My 20 mile split at Prairie Fire was 2:15:32, and Bass Pro didn't have a 20 mile mat, but would have been a tad slower based on my faster final 10K there (although the 20 mile mark was just before my wrong turn so who really knows).  I was really happy to improve my average pace for the whole 20 by 11 seconds this time.  I also have some comparison stats this time around, which is that I ran 6:44-6:49 pace for my marathons after the 6:52 average I ran in this workout last time...so as you can imagine I am doing the math.  Taken all together, I guess I will publicly say that I hope this means I can manage an average of 6:3X in Phoenix!  I am still deciding on exactly what time I want to shoot for there -- aiming for a PR is a given; provided I stay healthy (which is never guaranteed!), the Phoenix course would get me that even if my fitness was exactly the same as it was in fall 2016 -- and it's nice to have the information from this workout to take into consideration.  I feel very thankful and blessed to have this one in the books!

20 miles at 6:41, the hard way
Splits 1
Splits 2
Sunday - 6.1 miles recovery (7:51), with Amy R.  I surprisingly felt great on this recovery run, and it was nice to have company since I usually run Sundays alone, and sometimes drag my feet about getting out since I'm usually tired from my long run.  Amy said it helped her pick up the pace for her Sunday run, so hopefully this was the start of a mutually beneficial run meeting that we'll continue in the future!

4 weeks!

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

nuunbassador 2017

I'm excited to announce that I was selected as a nuunbassador for 2017!  I discovered nuun in 2016 and was immediately a fan.  Sugary sports drinks with artificial colors and flavors never seemed like the best idea to me, plus toting around several bottles when traveling to races gets cumbersome, so nuun tablets are perfect!  They are all natural, and you just drop one in water and a few minutes later you have a sports drink.  I drink nuun energy (which includes caffeine) before and during hard/long efforts, and nuun active after running and anytime my electrolytes feel "off".  I used to rely primarily on plain water before/during/after running, but I find electrolytes help me recover and perform better (something Ironwoman Missy taught me!).  nuun has recently added some additional products to their arsenal (plus for nuun and nuun vitamins), which I am excited to try!  Something else to pack in my lunch, like I mentioned here, haha!

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Back to life, back to reality, back to the here and now

Week of January 16-22, 2017

Mileage:  64.2, with a set of strides, a double, a 22.5 miler, some additional core/arm strength, and a cold/cough.  I will only have one week with higher mileage before my marathon!  This week also included a short work week, a return flight to Missouri from Arizona (back to reality!), and my local running club's yearly awards banquet.

Monday - 3 mile shake out (8:14) in Phoenix.  "Tired" is a good way to describe this run, as I was feeling Sunday's half marathon on my legs and I got up at 4:20 a.m. (after a night of little sleep) to run this before we left our hotel for an early flight home.  One more run in 55 degrees was much more appealing than doing it later in coldness, plus it was after 5:00 p.m. by the time I got home.  It definitely loosened up my legs and helped with my recovery.  My flight back to Wichita, Kansas followed by a 4.5 hour drive home to Ozark, Missouri - on top of post-race fatigue and not enough sleep - left me ready for bed quite early on Monday night!  At 7:55 p.m. I told Albani that if she wanted to be tucked in before I went to bed, we had better get moving on it!

Tuesday - 8.1 miles base pace (7:25) with Danielle.  I expected to be dragging on this run, and my first couple of miles were a little slower than usual (7:45ish), but I felt fine.  Surprise!  I also did 15 minutes of arm and core strength, since I'd missed bootcamp on Monday (no legs, as I figured that would do more damage than good).

Wednesday - 10.2 mile base pace (7:29) solo.  I was hit hard by a cold overnight, and didn't sleep much due to aches, chills, congestion, a sore throat, and a cough.  My dad got sick on Monday, and about half of the people on our flight on Monday also appeared to be ill, so it was almost inevitable that I'd catch it, being depleted from my Sunday race and lacking sleep.

I had a speed workout scheduled (6 x 1K repeats in 3:40), but there was no way I was going to be able to run anything at sub-6:00 pace with how I felt, and I decided that with my current training goals, getting in my weekly mileage should take precedence over a speed workout (e.g., it would be better to run the Wednesday miles easy and avoid taking any other days off than to try this workout, get sicker, and miss future mileage).  I thought I was being conservative with skipping the workout (2015 and before Sara would have tried to run it anyway), but honestly I probably shouldn't have run this at all, or at least not all 10 miles, because I felt worse after.  I ran at lunch since I felt too bad to do it in the morning, but then I felt too bad to go back to work afterwards, so I also felt guilty about that.

But, after 15 hours of sleep, I improved a great deal!  Being sick/weak/unable to run fast was kind of a bitter pill to swallow coming off a half PR high, but I was also quite thankful this was after the race instead of before, and also not right before my marathon!  Also, coincidentally, the one workout I missed during my last training cycle also came before my 22 miler, and for that one I concluded I did the right thing.

Thursday -  11.9 miles base pace; 8.4 miles a.m. (7:29) and 3.5 miles runch (7:43) - I clearly did not do the math on this day, but I had 8 and 3 scheduled, so you know.  I felt about 85% normal for these, and my morning run included 6 strides.  I ran solo again, as I'd had to cancel on Danielle on Wednesday morning (which I HATE to do!) and didn't want to have to do that again if I woke up feeling horrible.  I was going to skip the second run if I wasn't feeling it, but I ended up feeling better on it than I usually do, likely because I didn't run hard on Wednesday like usual.

Friday - 3.3 mile shake out (7:37) and 25 minutes of strength/core work.  I skipped bootcamp in the name of illness recovery, but did some key strength moves to maintain (single leg squats, single leg dead lifts, lunges, several plank variations, rows, overhead presses, etc.).

Saturday - 22.5 miles steady (7:26; final 1.5 miles were sub-7:00 but coach said not to fast finish so I did not push).  I ran the first 15 miles with Amy, with conversation making the miles fly by.  We started at 5:00 a.m. and she finished just as it was getting to be daylight.  The final 7.5 miles alone went by quickly as well!  One of my neighbors driving by flagged me down around 21.5 and I almost had to be rude to get him to stop talking (I think I said, "I'm at mile 21 of a 22 miler and I can't stop" three times), which I felt bad about - but I really didn't want to stop and hate stopping my watch on runs (I also jogged in place while talking to him).  Overall it was a good solid marathon training run, with the exception of two emergency bathroom stops (one is rare for me and I have never had two! - sorry Amy, sorry tree in church parking lot, sorry random field entrance!), and in related news I did not take gels as planned.  Lesson learned to eat less fiber the evening before long runs; I am good about this before races, but I was emphasizing immune-boosting fruits on Friday and that might have done it!  I had some calories before the run, and some water with a nuun active tab during, and I think since it was all relaxed pace I was fine without calories during.  I still had a bit of a cough, and I felt fine on this run but also worried about getting more sick after.

Saturday evening we had the Ozark Mourtain Ridge Runners yearly awards banquet!  Albani and I both came away with some bling, the best of which was first place in the Parent-Child category!  I was elected to serve on the club board in 2017 - a way to help out while obsessing about running, which seems pretty perfect to me!

She is so proud of these!  She is such a blessing!
This was after we got drenched leaving the banquet
Sunday - 5.2 miles recovery (7:55).  I don't look at my watch on recovery runs, but my splits on this one would have sure made a pretty progression run (8:22, 8:15, 8:01, 7:44, 7:24).  As usual on needed recovery runs, I felt sluggish initially and then good at the end.

My last news of the week is that a lot has changed in regards to the Springfield-area women's contingent at the Phoenix Marathon.  I can't remember where I mentioned it in a past post, but all four of us in the "competitive women's group" (or "slow old women's group", depending on the day) were planning to run the marathon.  Missy, Amy, and Ashley were planning on trying for their first sub-3:00s, which I know they all have in them!  Well, now four have become one; it's just me going.  I will miss the other ladies, but I know I will still have an enjoyable trip with Jon.  I will certainly miss us having the same distance for our long runs, but I am thankful to have company for most of the distance still!

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Coming in Hot: Rock 'n' Roll Arizona Half Marathon!

The short:  I executed my race plan, finished in a PR of 1:21:26, snagged a spot in the top 10 women (8th overall), and won my age group!  Official results are here.  I also had an AH-MAZING trip to Arizona with my AH-MAZING dad!

Preparing to either fly or die!
The long:
Even though the big reasons for this trip were to practice making the trek before the Phoenix Marathon in February and for my dad to go to the Barrett-Jackson car auction, I wasn’t going to Arizona for this race to NOT go for a PR.  My workouts told me that I was in PR shape, and after a particularly confidence-inspiring 8 mile tempo run and evaluating the race course, I formulated a race plan.  I wanted to run my first mile in 6:20, keep miles 2-7 around 6:15, maintain even effort on miles 8-9 (meaning slower splits due to the course elevation), then hammer my final 4 miles, banking on 6:10 or faster on them.  That would get me in at about 1:21:58, or 6:15 average pace.  I hoped I could pick up a few seconds here and there so I wasn’t quite so close on the line between 1:21-1:22.  I really wanted a time starting in 1:21, so 1:21:59 was magnificent sounding, but 1:22:01 would have been quite bittersweet!

This plan may have been overly ambitious considering that my current official 10K PR is 38:43 (6:14 pace).  My Garmin told me I ran a 37:39 10K (6:04 pace) during my recent 8 mile tempo, but that’s not a certified course time so doesn’t technically count.  I thought I had 13.1 at 6:15 pace in me, though, and I was going to go for it!  I knew I could play it safe and go for 6:25-6:30 pace, but why?  I told people that I was going to either fly (PR) or die (bonk); I knew I would be unhappy if I didn't try.  I tried not to think about how the White River half, where I ran my now second best half time ever, was more like a 12 mile race since the first mile was all downhill, or about how the White River course was easier than Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona's course.  I put faith in my training and I believed in my ability to perform when I had other women in the mix with me (something I did not have at White River).  I’ve always run better with competition.  That's not to say there wasn't any pre-race panic!
Hotel room pre-race mirror photo
On race morning, everything went smoothly and I had plenty of time for a warm-up jog, a few minutes of uptempo running, drills, strides, and peeing multiple times before the start.  I was able to keep warming up until the last minute and then front-load into the corral, which I really appreciated.  I loathe standing on the starting line waiting for any significant period of time, and Jon always gets worried that I’m going to miss the race start because I stay out to stay moving as long as I can.  In this race all of the other elite runners were doing the same, and the starters let us then called us back in at the last minute.  Kudos on this, Rock 'r' Roll race organizers! 

I was surrounded by women in professional racing kits; half tops and bun huggers.  I suppose the elite men also looked professional, but I wasn’t paying attention to them.  I positioned myself in the back of the elite corral, just in front of the corral 1 runners, and also just a bit behind Neely Spence Gracey.  Some of the other “commoners” were talking to her, but I was too afraid to!  I pretty much just waved to my dad and tried to pretend I did not look like a complete amateur in my mishmashed outfit, also ensuring that any potential doubters could see the elite bib number pinned on my tank.

Where's Sara?
"Hi, Dad!"
And we're off!
Although I was intimidated on the starting line, I wasn't running for place and I was confident that I had the best race plan for me and for the course.  Everyone else could do as they pleased, and I was doing my thing!  We were sent off at the gun along with corral 1, and many people went out blazing fast.  I stayed controlled, aiming for 6:20 pace.  I looked at my Garmin about a half mile in and I was at 6:18 pace – perfect.  I am pretty sure I was last, or certainly near last, of the elite women at that point, but I was confident about sticking to my pace plan.  Sometimes I think it takes more confidence to not go out too fast; and I guarantee that if I had been in that situation when I was in my 20’s I would have run my first mile too fast.  I came through mile 1 in 6:18, and I didn’t even have to look at my watch to know that because the course mile markers all had large clocks on them, which I loved (more kudos, race organizers!)!

I focused on staying in rhythm and around 6:15 pace, which felt brisk but controlled that early.  Around the mile I started slowly picking off other runners.  I focused on the next ponytail in front of me and on reeling her in.  The game was pick a ponytail, move up.  The miles clicked away right around 6:15 pace and I kept playing the game, only slightly foiled by one woman with short hair and no ponytail.  I used the course mile clocks to gauge my pace and didn’t really use my Garmin at all.  The math on 6:15 pace was easy to do for the first 7 miles, and I was always right on or slightly under!  My Garmin usually beeped just slightly after each mile marker, meaning that my Garmin splits were just slightly slower than my course miles (in the end it read 13.09 on a 13.11 mile course, so it was really close overall).

I came through the 10K in 38:42…and since there was an official timing mat there I guess I get to say I ran an official 1-second 10K PR!  That was confidence-boosting, because it was still a controlled effort at that point.  I passed two more women right after the 10K, and I got excited about that because I thought that my friends and family tracking me would see that I’d moved up at least two places between the 10K and the next mat.  I’d moved up a lot between the 5K and 10K mats, but since there had been a man frantically calling out the elite women’s bib numbers at the 5K mat when we passed, I suspected that mat wasn’t working.  In the end, the runner tracking was off and different for everyone who was tracking me, so no one actually knew much (or anything) about my time/place until afterward, and some received incorrect information.  My husband and dad didn't get a single update!

During mile 7 I continued to feel good about meeting my goal, and reminded myself that I was over halfway done!  Mile 8 was all incline, and ended up being into the wind to boot.  I wasn’t close to any ponytails at that point, but focused on a man ahead of me.  I looked at my Garmin during this mile because I could tell I was slowing down, and I was 6:25ish.  This was a hit to my confidence, because 6:25 felt much harder than usual, but I reminded myself that I’d planned for that mile to be slower because it was incline.  Then the race started feeling hard, too hard.  Mile 9 had quite the long hill in it, and I started to worry about my goal time slipping away based on how I was feeling.  I even took a quick shot of sports drink at an aid station hoping for a little boost. 

Once I started up the hill, I saw a bike coming down and realized that it was Neely Spency Gracey running with the lead cyclist!  I didn’t think the out and back on the hill was long enough that I would see her, but once I did I knew I would see all of the women in front of me, so I started counting.  When I got to the hair pin turn at the top of the hill, I knew I was in 10th or 11th female position (there was one runner I wasn’t sure on the gender of, but now I know that was a guy with a ponytail).  I wasn’t too far behind two of the women, and my competitive juices were flowing and I decided I was going to gun for a top 10 finish.  Then I turned around and saw that there were 5-6 women quite close behind me; certainly within striking distance if I didn’t finish strong.  My thoughts vacillated between, “I’m going to catch those two and get in the top 10” to “Everyone is going to pass me because I’m dying!”.  

However, once I turned around and started coming down the hill, I felt much better.  Before the race I’d thought of miles 8-9 as an “investment”, because we climbed around 120 ft in them (compared to about 50 ft total in miles 1-7), but then we got to come back down that elevation in the final 4 miles.  When I passed the 15K marker in 58:33, I smiled because that was an unofficial 15K PR for me (no course mat though, boo).  I passed one woman who I could tell was hurting much more than me, and came through mile 10 in 5:58, for a 10 mile split around 1:02:35 (another unofficial PR - there was a mat there but it apparently wasn’t working either!).  I was ready to roll for the final 5K!  Keeping my final 5K at or under 6:10 pace felt at the same time very intimidating and like something I could do.  If I missed it, it sure wasn't going to be due to lack of trying!

I kept working on pulling in the next lady, who had on a Oiselle racing kit.  She was coming back to me, and I was keeping my pace under 6:10.  I came through mile 11 in 6:05 and pressed on.  It was hard, but I knew I could do 2 more miles at that pace.  Around 11.5, I pulled up on and passed Oiselle girl.  I passed in a manner to convey that she was not going with me, and she did not try.  I told her "nice work" as I went by.  I couldn’t see any more ponytails at that point, so I focused on a man in a white singlet and on keeping my pace down to the end.

When I saw my mile 12 time, I knew I would finish in the 1:21s even if I ran a 6:30 last mile, but I sure wasn’t going to let myself do that!  I gunned for a sub-6:00 final mile, and my one regret of this race is that I couldn’t find 3 more seconds to do that; my final mile was 6:02 (I never looked at my watch during it, though, so didn’t know how close I was until reviewing my splits afterward).  For most of the mile, the finish line seemed so close yet so far.  We took a turn onto the final stretch with probably around 0.2 left, and I could see the mile 13 sign and the finish.  I sprinted with all I had, knowing I had a PR and top 10 finish coming.  My Garmin said my final 0.1 was at 5:13 pace.  I could hear my dad cheering, “Go Sara!!!!”, and after I ran over a chip mat on the home stretch, the announcer said my full name (pronounced correctly!), hometown, and that I was coming in for a top 10 female finish.  I was absolutely glowing inside.  I for once remembered to run through the finish line before stopping my watch (to get a good finishing photo), although my dad got so excited that he didn’t get any finishing pictures and ended up taking a video of the ground instead of my finish, haha!

The only picture of me racing, coming down final stretch (I'm on the left behind two men)
I teared up walking into the finish shoot!  I didn’t know my official time yet, but I’d stopped my Garmin at 1:21:29 so I knew it was a bit under that.  I also didn’t know if I had been 8th or 9th female, but I knew I’d netted a top 10 finish, which I sure didn’t think was possible beforehand.  I had my professional photo taken with my finishers medal, then continued through the finish shoot, grabbing one of everything (water, sports drink, protein recovery drink, banana, granola bar, pretzels – some of this I had to stuff under my tank top straps – surely looking like a pro there, haha!).  I was very eager to find my dad!  I got to the family meeting area before him, and put my drinks/food on the ground by the letter “I” sign while waiting for him.  When I saw him, he was running towards me in excitement!  I think he may have been even more excited about my PR and place than I was!

Like a kid at Christmas!
After sharing excitement with my dad and a brief phone call to Jon (which was mainly me telling him I couldn’t hear anything over the band and would call him again soon, but that I finished in 1:21:2X and in 8th or 9th female), I found my dad a place to sit farther away from the band and went out for my cool-down on a dirt path I conveniently found after a porta-potty stop.  It ran right along the river, and on it I ran into Neely Spence Gracey and second place female Maor Tiyouri running their cool-down in the opposite direction!  In my post-1:21 I-conquered-the-world high, I was no longer timid.  I told them, “Nice race, ladies!” and Neely said, “You too!”

I have a pretty bad case of “never satisfied syndrome”, so it’s rare I have a race that I don’t want to put “buts” or “*”s with, but this was one.  I don’t think I could have done anything better, and I put my mind to getting a 1:21 and I did it!  I do feel like there are factors that show I can go faster in the future --  the course was not flat, it was 55 degrees, I was in a 55 mile training week, and I have room to increase my mileage – so I have hope this was not the end all be all, but this was my best race performance at any distance up to this point hands down.

The race also served its purpose of boosting my confidence for the Phoenix full marathon on February 25.  It showed me that my fitness is there, and also eased my fears about performing off of traveling (I expect to take it easier the day before the marathon as well, as the day before this race we gallivanted all around the Barrett-Jackson car auction and the Desert Botanical Gardens).  I haven’t recently run a full marathon consistent with what my half performances indicate I should be able to run.  Before I got my half time down to under 1:25, my half and full performances were always almost spot on by this calculator, and often my full would actually be a little faster than my half predicted, while my shorter races would be a little slower.  I believe that is in part because I haven’t ever run a fast marathon course, but maybe also in part because I didn't believe I could (also I may need more mileage).  But my chance is coming!  I have a big goal, and some might call it overly ambitious, but so was my goal of running a half at the same pace as my 10K PR - and as it worked out, I ran my half faster than that.  A big part of accomplishing a goal is believing you can, and I really think I have it in me – and if not at Phoenix, at the next one.  Here’s to controlling the controllable, and to accepting the uncontrollable that race day brings.  Here’s to 5.5 more weeks of miles and of avoiding the treadmill!  Here’s to God who makes it all possible!  He delights in the details of our lives, and gives us victories like this that we certainly don’t deserve.

If your goals don’t scare you, they aren’t big enough.  Seriously, not long ago my average pace in this half (6:12.7) was my 5K pace in a really good 5K.  I'm just a normal person, with a full-time job and a family, and if I can do this so can you.  Set a lofty goal and chase it!

How else will it come true?
Garmin splits

I made it!


Monday, January 16, 2017

Cold, Hot, Cold, HOT!

Week of January 9-15, 2017

Mileage:  54.7, with a tiny tempo, a double, two sets of strides, a bootcamp, a flight to Arizona, and a PR half marathon!

Monday -  Cross-training Monday was bootcamp (50 min.) with an elliptical warm-up (40 min.).  My recovery from last week's 20 miler was better than my recovery from my previous two long runs, which I was very thankful for and accredit to not being depleted going into the long run this time.  I felt great on this workout!

Tuesday - 10.4 windy miles (7:25).  It was 50 degrees for this run (hot-ish), which I really appreciated!  The wind was blowing at 26 mph, but I'll take these conditions over the "feels like" 4-6 degrees I was running in last week any day.  I ran with Missy and Danielle for most of this, and we mostly ran east and west; I only had 1.3 miles directly into the south wind.

Wednesday - 12.3 windy miles; 8.1 a.m. (7:04 average for all; tiny 2 mile tempo in 12:15 via 6:08/6:07) and 4.2 at lunch (7:51).  It was again hot-ish (47 degrees a.m. & 66 degrees at lunch) but super windy!  I did my tempo miles with the wind to my back, haha!  That did, however, take me off my normal tempo course, a pretty flat loop that primarily runs north and south, and put me on a hillier route so I'm not even sure it helped.  My coach told me not to run any faster than 6:10 on the tempo, so I was kind of trying to run 6:09s; pushing the envelope as usual, without trashing my legs.  As usual, the way I felt on the 2 mile tempo was a mix of confidence-destroying and confidence-boosting.  I usually need at least 2 miles to really get into a tempo, as displayed in how I negative split every good tempo I run (such as this 8 miler, this 6 miler, and this 4 miler during my current training cycle).  So on these little taper tempos, the first mile is often a lot of "There is no way I can run this pace for a half marathon and possibly not even for 2 miles" in my head, but then by the end of mile 2 I'm thinking, "Okay, this is brisk but sustainable."  I walked away from the tempo confident that I should NOT start at 6:10 pace in my half, but I never planned to anyway, as I figured my first mile should be about 6:20, followed by a slew of 6:15s.

Thursday - 7.2 miles (7:16) with Danielle.  It was 59 degrees when we started and 40 degrees when we finished - and very windy!  I was glad I checked the hourly forecast in advance so I knew it would drop and started in long sleeves and carrying gloves.  7 seemed pretty short!

Friday - 4.2 mile shake out with 4 strides (7:34) from my parents' house in a 10 degree windchill (cold!), plus a flight from Wichita, Kansas to Phoenix, Arizona with my dad!

Arizona (hot)!
Kansas (cold!)
Saturday - 2.4 mile shake out with 4 strides (7:25).  As expected, mile 1 was sluggish (8:00ish) and mile 2 was "okay, maybe I am ready to race" (7:00ish)!

Sunday - Rock n Roll Arizona half marathon, which yielded a bright shiny new half marathon PR of 1:21:26 (6:13 pace) - HOT!  Results are here.  Race report(s) forthcoming - I only had the energy for this post tonight because it was already written sans photos!  I was thrilled with my result.  I went into the race with a plan and executed it perfectly so I was also proud of that.  The course was not nearly as easy as White River, so improving my time from that race was even sweeter.  I'm savoring the runner's high!  My total mileage for Sunday with warm-up and cool-down was 18.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Pre-Race Panic

I use the term "panic" lightly, because relatively I don't get that nervous, but anytime I have an important race where I'm attempting a PR, I have a lot of anticipation/obsession!  The Arizona Rock n Roll half is on Sunday!

My current thoughts:

"What if 50 degrees is too hot?  I've been training in single digit wind chills!"  This is followed by, "50 degrees is nice!  It will be great!  Plus it's a half and not a full."

"What if the freezing rain in the forecast screws up my flight?  What if I don't even make it to Arizona?!  I'm going to have to run a half marathon time trial on the treadmill while the Midwest is covered in ice!"  This is followed by, "Well, I have no control over the weather or flights, so if that happens I'll run a different race a different day."

"What if traveling messes with me and I bonk in the race?"  I remind myself that, "I ran well in the Portland Marathon in 2009 when I flew out there."  And I try not to think about bonking in the 2016 River Run 10K!

"Will TSA take my Generation Ucan thinking it's cocaine (it's white powder)?"  Then I remember, "I'm sure I can buy some in Arizona if it's confiscated."

"I hope I'm not the slowest elite!"  I remind myself, "The time cut-off was 1:25:00, so there can be women with PRs that are 2:23 slower than mine in this corral; plus not everyone will be in PR shape."

"My outfit is going to look silly; a mishmash of brands among athletes in actual racing kits!" (Note:  the brands I will have on include Nike, Underarmour, Hoka, Pro Compression, and of course Garmin...also potentially throw-away gloves that probably came from Walmart if it is cooler than expected)

"What if my goal time is a stupid idea and I die?"  I then tell myself, "You'll regret not taking the chance and going for it; of course you can go out there and run 6:30s, but why be comfortable?  If it doesn't go well you'll learn from it and try again next time!"

"How did I ever run that 6:06 pace tempo?  Was my Garmin incorrect that day?"  This is followed by, "I ran 6:06 pace for 8 miles in training without being rested, and my Garmin has historically been very close to distances in races so surely it was not grossly inaccurate for that one day only...I can do this or at least be justified in trying."

I have also been reading and re-reading everything on the race website, and also checked and re-checked that I packed everything multiple times!  I'm familiar with the course map and have a course-based pace band with my goal time ready to go.  I am going to go out there and do this with 100% of what I have that day - which we all know is different day-to-day.

My pre-race tiny 2 mile tempo yesterday (Wednesday) functioned as it always does to make me feel simultaneously prepared and unprepared.  My coach told me not to run it any faster than 6:10, so I tried to run it at 6:09 pace, haha!  It ended up being 6:08/6:07, so I was close.  It always takes me a couple of miles to hit my groove on tempos, so it's just hard to gauge much from 2 miles.  The first mile was, "This is way too fast; I can't run this for a half marathon and possibly can't run this for 2 miles."  Then the second mile was, "Okay, this is brisk but sustainable...okay, now I'm done."  It was a good reminder of why I plan to go out conservatively; my first 2 miles of my half will not be at that pace, but I hope my final miles are!

I'm officially listed on the race's runner tracker system (also available on the Rock n Roll race app), and I *think* I've been able to decode some things about the race numbers.  Elite men in the full marathon have numbers starting at 001, and elite women in the full have numbers starting at 101. Elite men in the half start at 201, and elite women in the half start at 301. Other athletes have 4-digit bib numbers that correspond to different corrals.  There are 22 elite women and 19 elite men in the half, and the bib numbers are in order of times that runners are coming in with.  I am number 313, so I appear to be ranked 13 out of 22 based on the PR I am coming in with.  So not last! The bulk of the women are between 1:20-1:25, which means we should have a nice pack!

The top contenders, with stats from very quick Google stalking searches:

Neely Spence Gracey - half PR of 1:09:59, top American at 2016 Boston marathon in 2:35, heavily favored to win this one

Kara Foster - 5K time of 15:54, 10K time of 32:37

Maor Tiyouri - top Israeli female distance runner (which is really cool!), 2:42 marathon

Priscilla Schultz - half time of 1:18

Courtney Olsen - half time of 1:18, full time of 2:45

Allison Delancy - half time of 1:20

Theresa Hailey - half time of 1:20, seems to be a very positive person (I really enjoyed this article that she was mentioned in, as I certainly suffer from "never satisfied syndrome")

I'm honored to share a corral with these ladies, along with several other talented gals!  I may be a little star-struck!  I suppose even if I am the last elite, it would not be the worst thing.  I guess the worst that can happen at this point is getting banned from the elite corral at future Rock n Roll events, haha!