Sunday, April 30, 2017

April Showers bring May Flowers

April in review!

Total mileage for the month:  219 -- in comparison, my 2017 thus far has been:  January - 261, February - 212, and March - 203
  • April 3-9:  48.8 -- this was The Tired Week (the Wash U 10,000 m and subsequent family weekend in St. Louis exhausted me, and then I rolled into another weekend with travel and the Rock the Parkway half)
  • April 10-16:  51.2 -- this was The Lonely Week (my weekday runs were all solo, a rarity)
  • April 17-23:  54.5 -- this was the Sickly Week (bronchitis, ugh)
  • April 24-30: 52.3 -- this was the Recovering/Continuing Antibiotics Week ("ain't nobody got time for that!" re: bronchitis)
  • March 31:  Wash U Invite Distance Carnival 10,000 m in a PR of 37:09 -- technically not April, but when I finished it was less than 2 hours away from being April 1 and the event heavily impacted what I ran during the first weekend of the month, so I'm including it!
  • April 8:  Rock the Parkway Half  Marathon in 1:23:15 for 3rd overall female -- one very windy race, which meant my time wasn't what I wanted, but I was mostly happy with 3rd overall.
  • April 15:  Easter Sun Run "10K" in 39:48 -- course was off, average pace of 6:16 for a solid long tempo and 2nd overall female.
  • April 15:  Easter Sun Run "2 mile" in 12:39 -- course was off, average pace of 6:02 for a solid short tempo and 2nd overall female.
  • April 22:  I missed the Junior League Charity Run 4 mile (a local race slated as a workout) due to bronchitis.
  • April 28:  I missed the MSSU Williams/Laptad 5,000 m because I was still taking antibiotics and a bit weak.  The only reason for running it was to go for a 5K PR, and I'm just not quite dumb enough to try that while not at 100%.  I'm running a local road 5K on May 6, and although it's certified it's powerfully hilly (I'm also not quite dumb enough to try to PR on that course), so I'm not sure exactly when I'll get a crack at my 5K PR, alas.
  • April 5:  2 mile tune-up tempo in 12:11 (6:10/6:01).  I don't think I've ever felt great on a race week 2 mile tempo, and this one was no different!  However, I am also not sure I've felt super great during the first 2 miles of any tempo (I typically hit my stride as the miles go on), so no worries over that.  I did worry that I wasn't recovering the best from my 10,000 m race, which was a legitimate concern since I barely slept the night following the 9:30 p.m. race.  This run was short with a 2 mile warm-up and 2.2 mile cool-down.
  • April 12:   Fartlek of 2 x 4/3/2/1 minute pushes with recoveries equal to next push, with 2 mile warm-up and a cool-down of about 1.6 miles, to 9.2 miles total.  I ran the best splits I ever have on this workout, with the pushes at 5:50, 5:45, 5:36, 5:43, 5:50, 5:48, 5:28, 5:40.  I've been generally keeping all of my fartlek pushes sub-6:00, but have typically had at least one that is barely sub-6:00 in the mix (or barely over 6:00, like the last time I did this exact workout here).
  • April 18:  8 x 0.25 hill repeats, jogging back down the hill for recoveries, with warm-up and cool-down (8.6 miles total).  My splits were super even on these, miraculously because I can't monitor pace at all during this workout so it's all effort-based -- all 1:48-1:49, which seemed super slow for a quarter mile, but when I looked at the last time I ran this workout on the same hill back in November, I found that I'd averaged 1:54 that day, so this was a huge improvement!  It's just a brutal hill -- and I will also note that a quarter mile seems much longer running up a steep hill (only partially because it takes much longer).  I was also a bit sick (the beginning of the bronchitis situation), so I was pleased with this workout.
  • April 27:  3 fast finish miles at the end of an 8 miler (6:24, 6:19, 6:04).  This was during an easier week; originally scheduled that way due to the 5K I was going to race on April 28, but kept easy to ensure I was getting healthy.  When I asked my coach about doing a workout since I wasn't racing, the fast finish miles on this run were his compromise.  Whether or not I felt good or bad on these miles varied by the moment, and they confirmed that my decision not to race was the correct one, as I didn't feel 100% recovered from bronchitis.  We also started the run a bit faster than usual (5 miles at 7:0X), so I think I didn't have as much pep to pick up the final miles as if we'd have run the beginning at 7:15-7:30.
  • Doubles on April 4, 12, 18, and 25 (every Tuesday).
  • Strides on April 7, 20, and 25, and also as part of my warm-up for every race.
Long runs:
  • March 31:  Between my morning shake-out 2 miler, my warm-up, my 10,000 m race, and my cool-down, I did 13.1 miles for the day and that was all I got for a long run the first weekend of the month. 
  • April 8:  The Rock the Parkway half marathon with warm-up and cool-down served as this week's long run, and I ended the day with 17.2 miles.  I also ran 13.2 miles on April 4 (split 9.1 in the morning and 4.1 at lunch).
  • April 15:  The Easter Sun Run 10K, 2 mile, warm-up, recovery jog, and cool-down served as this week's long run, coming in at 14.4 total miles.
  • April 23:  14.5 miles base pace (6:52).  This was the "What??!!" long run.  I was coming off being sick, and had felt weak and puny on my Friday and Saturday runs, so was really just hoping to get the distance in at 7:30-7:45 pace.  I ran with a group for the first 7, and we came through the first mile just under 7:00, and that felt so easy.  Then I pretty much repeated that 14 times, along with Zach who also did the 14, with the exception of a few uphill/up incline miles that were 7:0X; then a couple of 6:4X's towards the end, and the final mile was 6:34 but still felt so easy.  I have no idea how this happened, but I guess I was super well-rested -- I ran short/easy on Friday and Saturday but did not do much of anything else those two days (I finished 3 novels if that tells you anything about my activity level on those days).  I was so thankful for this run and my restored health!
  • April 30:  13.1 miles (7:26) with Missy...cut-back Turn Around Don't Drown long run.  It was actually supposed to be 12 miles, but we encountered a lot of flooding on our route and in the end it was a miracle I made it back to my car only running 1.1 miles over the plan -- at one point I thought I was going to have to do about 16+ miles to get back!  This run was kind of meh -- not bad but not great -- and I'm mostly blaming the rain that felt never-ending!  I also did 13.3 on April 25 (split 10 in the morning and 3.3 in the evening). 
Thoughts and randomness:
  • This was a month of racing!  I had a race scheduled every weekend, albeit some were planned as workouts, but my bout with bronchitis cramped those plans.
  • Four out-of-town races (and other travel-related activities) in three weeks was probably a bit too much, and probably why I got bronchitis.  When I get a little run down, my immune system is the first to go!  I'm taking this as a learning experience and will not schedule that much again -- just as I learned that I need a day off work to recover after big trips to races from the last time I got bronchitis (and stayed healthy using that strategy after my subsequent big race trip).  I think I could do several races in a row just fine (with some as workouts, as was the plan with these) if they were local, but since they all required traveling and entailed a lot of family activities during the trips, that put the nail in the coffin.  I am also blaming the lack of sleep after my night race for the beginning of my downfall!  Plus the last two weekends in March were power-packed with extended family in town and spring break activities, on top of some hard/long training efforts.   Just a bit too much for 5 weekends in a row!
  • Due to all of the races and that darn bronchitis, I only went to bootcamp on April 3, 10, 24, and 28 (I don't go on Fridays when I have weekend races).  I did short strength sessions on my own on April 19 and 22, and also 5-10 minutes of core work here and there, so I don't think I lost anything.
  • Our little training group has exploded recently, and we've had some group runs with 7-8 people!  It's amazing having others to run with, and several men have started coming to what started as the "competitive women's group", and they help me run faster.  One male ran his debut marathon at Bass Pro 2016 in 2:50, which is like a 2:45 on a good course, so I am currently trying to talk him (and, well, everyone else) into training for a December marathon with me.
  • My weekly mileage was a bit lighter this month, but as my coach pointed out I also don't have any marathons for over 7 months (oy!).  This is also relative, though, because less than 18 months ago I peaked at 50 mpw in my training cycle for the Dallas Marathon.  Funny how perspective changes!
  • Many of my base pace runs were a little faster this month, which I think is related to the previous two bullet points.  I don't fall into running 6:5X pace for easy pace on my own, but I realized that when I'm running with someone who does, it's still a very relaxed pace for me most days, especially with lower overall mileage.  However, it's very important to run easy runs truly easy so I need to ensure I don't get caught up in running faster!  Per my coach, my base pace is 7:10-8:00, and most of my running should be between 7:10-7:30.  But I also figure that if I am going to try to run a marathon at 6:17 pace, then 6:50 pace should feel easy.
  • We bought a new scale this month that does body fat and water/hydration measurements.  It turns out it weighs me a bit lighter than our old scale, but the hydration is way off (as in, I wouldn't be alive if it were correct) and I am sure hoping the body fat is also off!  I had high hopes about monitoring body fat percentage for performance reasons (did I really just type that?!), but I guess I need to get the calipers done.
  • It rained A LOT this month.
  • I was officially accepted as a sub-elite at the 2017 California International Marathon, which is where I hope to chase the dream!
This arrived in April -- a pleasant surprise because I'd forgotten about it!
I pulled out my last pair of stored Clifton 1 shoes in April,
& decided I need a Hoka sponsorship to keep up my shoe rotation
Then there was that one group run that everyone showed up to
wearing Cliftons - but it was too early in the morning to stand
in a good photo formation, apparently!
I have never cropped every single professional race photo
until now (full story in my Rock the Parkway post if you
missed it) - see elbow behind me
Not the worst

Not as crop-able - but at least she looks
like she is working too

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Saga of the sunglasses

I got these sunglasses from a race as a give-away many (10+?) years ago -- long enough ago that I don't even remember what race.  I started racing in them because they were cheapo shades that I could throw off at any point if they annoyed me, without blinking an eye about it.  However, they then become invaluable to me!

They may be cheapo shades, but they are the most comfortable sunglasses I've ever found.  They stay in place and don't bounce or slide.  The ear pieces don't rub.  They aren't too dark or too light.  They're perfect!  I don't care that they look like cheapo shades.  I've worn them through many marathons!

When I was running Yassos before the Mesa-Phoenix marathon, I set these sunglasses by my nuun bottle by the side of the track.  I started the workout just as the sun was coming up and didn't need sunglasses initially, but I knew I would likely need them at some point.  I scooped them up on a recovery jog without stopping, and noticed they were pretty dirty upon putting them on.  So while still running, I wiped them off on my shirt and in the process the frame broke in one spot and the lens popped out and fell onto the track.  I was devastated, and dropped them back by the side of the track, sans one lens, before starting my next repeat.  Then on the next recovery I scooped up the lens that popped out from the track.  In a stroke of genius, I slipped it inside of my gloves that I was shedding and dropped the package by the side of the track, determined that I was going to repair the sunglasses.

And I did!  It just took a little superglue and a little effort.  They lasted through Rock the Parkway, where they got a bit fracture again, and are now barely hanging on.  I'm considering giving up attempting to fix them again, and I bought another pair of running sunglasses that seem to be working okay.  My poor, poor cheapo shades.

Do you have any running gear you don't want to let go of like this?

Friday, April 21, 2017

Racing successfully after traveling isn't impossible!

My friend Liz suggested here that I write a post about how I handle traveling to races, and it took me a bit to figure out exactly what to write.  Prior to two successful racing trips to Phoenix in 2017 for a half marathon and a full marathon, I had three occasions where I felt like traveling to the race contributed to disappointing results.  I learned from my mistakes in those and feel like I have a good formula now!

Lessons learned from the Dallas Marathon 2015:
  • Arrive 2 days prior to the event.  This isn't practical for all races, but for goal races and particularly for marathons, I highly recommend it.   For this one, we made the 7-hour (turned 8.5 hours due to a traffic jam) drive to Dallas on Saturday, with time to check into our hotel, pick up our packets, and eat dinner before it was bedtime before race morning on Sunday.  I think this is even more important if you're flying, as illustrated by my issues with a late flight and missing rental car prior to the Phoenix marathon.
  • Do your final shake out run at your race location.  After sitting in a car or on a plane for hours, loosening up is key.  This is also much easier to do if you arrive 2 days before the event!
Lessons Learned from the Easter Sun Run 2016 and the River Run 10K 2016:
  • Don't ignore cumulative fatigue.  Although these races were only a 4.5-5 hour drive away from me (near where my parents live), I went into both of them tired and without any taper, and traveling was probably the nail in the coffin.  If you're going to travel for a race, even if it's not a goal race, it's probably best not to train through it.  I can get away with one "tired" strike against me; I can pull off a decent performance with one of the following "issues", but not with multiple:  traveling to the event, training through the event, sleep deprivation, travel and/or a hard work week (or both) leading up to the event.
  • Keep with your normal routine pre-travel.  Obviously, traveling to the race is going to change your typical routine, but if you go into that change already frazzled, it's going to make things worse.  This is related to the not ignoring cumulative fatigue strategy.  I believe part of the reason I suffered so much in the River Run 10K was because I'd been out of my usual routine for several days prior to the race, on a work trip to Chicago.  My overall schedule was all out of whack on the trip (including eating and sleeping), and before I could bounce back I was traveling to the race.  That was too much!
 Other Helpful Hints:
  • Compression socks.  Wear them while in the car and/or plane, and any other time really.
  • Loosen up during travel!  If you're on a flight, get up and go to the bathroom and stay up for awhile if you can (I've found I can "accidentally" get blocked by the drink cart in the aisle and "have to" wait it out standing up).  The people sitting by you will just have to deal with it!  If you're driving, stop every 2 hours at minimum and walk around.  You don't want tight hip flexors!
  • Travel size foam roller.  I've generally toted my regular foam roller to races that we drove to, but when we were in Phoenix for the marathon I bought a short one that fit in my suitcase (actually Jon's suitcase; I didn't have as much extra room!) that I can fly with.  It was $25 very well spent!
  • Pack food.  Unless you're really good at this, you're going to eat out some while traveling, but I try to have plenty of familiar snacks with me at all times (always bring extra, because the best way to assure that the rest of your family wants healthy snacks they usually don't favor is to pack only enough for yourself).  This ensures I'm eating enough and that it's healthy fare!  I've packed sweet potatoes to microwave for part of my pre-race meal too; make sure you take these and any other produce out of your suitcase when you go through security if you're flying, or they will get flagged by TSA!
  • White noise.  If you're like me and have trouble sleeping with any noise, and especially unfamiliar noises, this is a lifesaver.  I downloaded an app on my phone and sleep with "air conditioner" white noise playing right by my pillow, in addition to using ear plugs.  Just make sure you plug your phone into the charger if you do this, as it drains the battery and you don't want to miss your pre-race alarm on your phone!
  • Stay on your schedule/routine as much as possible during travel.  This is not the time to change things up, although it's really hard not to!  Try to go to bed at your normal time, but at the same time don't stress about it if you don't make it (due to travel snafus, I was up until 1:00 a.m. Phoenix time, which is 2:00 a.m. Missouri time, two days prior to the Phoenix Marathon...that was extreme considering I usually go to bed around 9:00 p.m.!).  Try to eat at your normal times and to eat familiar foods that you know agree with you (I save the Indian buffet until after the race!).  Do your shake out run at your normal running time, and just do as much as you can that you're used to.  Our bodies definitely get used to what they do day after day.  Use common sense and don't do a ton of sight-seeing before the race; I find I can get away with quite a bit because I'm used to being on my feet all day at work, but try to keep it comparable to what you do every day.
  • Don't stress about what you can't control.  This is very hard for me, but there are so many variables about race day and traveling that are simply completely out of our hands, such as the weather, flight schedules, traffic jams, etc.  Remember that you've been training, sleeping, and eating well for months during your training block, and that a day or two of unexpected events isn't going to break your race.  Control what you can and accept the rest.  The weather will certainly influence your performance; however, no amount of worry about it is going to change anything, so roll with it the best you can and remember that everyone else has to deal with the same conditions
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, have a blast!  I think it's a fact that you perform better with a smile on your face, whatever your location may be.

One additional related tidbit that I learned this week:  Don't run too many out-of-town races in a row.  I got hit with bronchitis this week after running 4 out-of-town races in 3 weekends, and they were only drives of 3.25 hours, 3 hours, and 4.75 hours.  It wasn't only the racing that did me in, as we did a lot of other family activities on all of those trips, I didn't get enough sleep, and I also worked busy weeks between them, but all of that together proved to be too much for me.  I'm annoyed at myself for pushing it, but I'll learn from it and be more conservative next time!

Note on the photo below:  I pride myself in never buying "extras" at races or from races, but they got me with this one!

Successful race after traveling

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Easter Sun Run races: It seemed like a good idea at the time!

The short:

I thought it would be *fun* to race a 10K that started at 8:30 a.m. followed by a 2 mile that started at 10:00 a.m. -- and it was, after some second thoughts between the events!  My hope for the races was that I'd be able to run them at less than all-out efforts, in the midst of 6 weeks of heavy racing, and still win.  The reality turned out to be that I couldn't have come close to winning them even running all-out, but I netted easy 2nd overall female finishes in each race and was able to use them as a workout and take home some cash.  I averaged 6:16 pace for the "10K" and 6:02 pace for the "2 mile."  Since the wind was 30 mph, the temperature was 66-70*, I had a cold, and both courses were off (I unknowingly violated my Certified in '17 pledge, already), I was so thankful that these were not goal races.  I was also so thankful that I chose the Wash U Distance Carnival 10,000 m over the KT Woodman 10,000 m on April 14, because I had ideal weather for my goal 10K on the track, and the weather in Wichita for KT Woodman was not good!  God delights in the details of our lives -- even running -- and I thank Him for all of this, and for the true reason to celebrate Easter.

We celebrate because He lives!
The long:

I originally planned to run the 10,000 m in the KT Woodman track meet at Wichita State on April 14 while visiting my parents for Easter, but to make a long story short, my husband talked me into doing the Easter Sun Run 10K and 2 mile races on April 15 instead, since they offered prize money.  As race-day loomed and I came down with a sore throat and saw the warm and windy forecast, I was very happy that he'd convinced me to make this change to my spring schedule -- April 14 would not have been a good PR-attempt day! 

There is a reason that professionals don't race every weekend; you can't perform at your best in every race when racing that frequently, especially in longer events.  When I stacked my April schedule, I also told my coach which races I was okay with doing as workouts, and this was a workout one.  I planned to run the 10K at about half marathon pace ("long tempo pace"), and then the 2 mile at around 6:00 pace ("short tempo pace"), depending on how I felt and what my competition was like.  Based on past year's times, there was a chance I could win both races with this pace plan.  But, like all plans based on your competition, it all depends on who shows up, and you never know how things will pan out until the race is happening!  I knew I would have to gauge my strategy when the race started, and also that I would not go out any faster than 6:05 in the 10K no matter what.

Best starting line photo ever; 1st female on my left hand side
Both Jon and Albani were quick to point out a lady who looked fast on the starting line of the 10K.  Albani said, "Just try to get second behind the Kenyan, Mama", which made me laugh at yet another thing she said that sounded like Jon (she says exact phrases of his all.the.time.).  But after the gun it quickly became clear that Albani's plan would be my goal; the fast-looking female shot out at a pace I knew I couldn't match even if I went for a 10K PR.  I settled in around my half pace as planned, and after things sorted out, before the mile mark, that put me in second female overall.

I generally have an easy time finding and sitting at half pace, so I just settled in without needing my watch.  I was completely alone in the race after about 1.5 miles, aside from passing a young man around mile 3, who I encouraged to come with me (he did for 200 m or so).  Jon and my dad were out on the course in a spot the race looped by three times, and Jon told me that I had a solid second and could just relax each time I passed them.  I thought, "well, I might as well slow down to 6:30 pace, this wind sucks," and I would think I'd eased up but still be around 6:15 when my watch beeped.  The course mile markers were all over the place, with the 1 mile coming when my Garmin was at 0.9, the 2 mile coming at 2.2, etc. so I disregarded them.  Jon later told me that one race official came running over to another saying, "If you have them follow those cones around that way, it's going to be long."

When we came around mile 4, I noticed that we were turning a different way than the course had turned last year, but there were a lot of cones in the area so I asked the volunteer "Which way?" to ensure I was following the correct path.  We did an extra loop that we had not run last year; I knew exactly the "around that way" the race official was talking about when Jon told me the story above.

Around mile 5
I saw Jon and my dad for the last time around mile 5, and Jon told me, "You can go as slow as you want on the last mile", which was a slight exaggeration but nice to know.  I was in a rhythm and wanted a solid tempo effort, so continued on but didn't push all-out.  I knew that 6:15 pace was a high 38, so I was surprised when I saw the finishing clock in the high 39's as I was coming in.  I then realized that it was the extra loop!  I thought the course was certified, because in 2016 it was and it also read at 6.18 on my conservative Garmin last year (side note: I completely bombed this race last year).  Afterwards I looked at the website to see that it was not noted as certified this year, and then I looked at my Garmin maps from both years to confirm that we did run farther "around that way" this time.  So I already screwed up my Certified in '17 campaign, but we will just say I took Jon's exception for a prize money race!  My official time was 39:48, which was a bummer because it's not a strong time for my running club's Runner of the Year competition, but at the same time I'm just thankful it wasn't a goal race or a day I'd have run a PR.  A fast male won, then the fast female (a WSU alum now living in Iowa) with another male right on her tail (3 minutes ahead of me and why I couldn't see anyone), then me in 4th overall/2nd female overall.

After the race I ate some fruit, drank some nuun energy, and hustled over to watch Albani do the kids' Easter egg hunt.  Then I started running an easy cool-down/warm-up.  I got a horrible side stitch running it, and had to stop and walk when I was running 8:30 pace!  I told my family that I wasn't even going to run the 2 mile if I kept having the cramp.  It went away, then came back again.  I was able to finish my 2 mile jog between races but only with walk breaks!  In the end I decided to line up for the 2 mile since I was entered, and just use it as a cool-down if I still had the cramp, since I needed the mileage anyhow.

Creepy bunny at the egg hunt
I saw the gal who'd won the 10K lined up for the 2 mile, so my goal was to either to get 2nd or to have a nice cool-down if I cramped again.  There were a lot of kids in the race who started out super fast, so most of the first mile was spent passing them.  Luckily, my side ache did not come back and I was able to pursue 2nd.  There were young girls ahead of me for the first mile, but I moved into 2nd shortly after the mile mark and felt fine enough.  I wasn't too surprised when my Garmin beeped 2 miles quite a bit out from the finish line, but again was disappointed my official time of 12:39 wouldn't be helpful for the Runner of the Year competition (Garmin splits at 6:02 average).  I was again 2nd female, with 4 men in front of me.

What I learned/was reminded of from these races:
  • This race is a really fun family event, with the Easter egg hunt, face-painting, playground equipment, and a BBQ for runners and spectators afterward.  My family really enjoyed it and Albani got a bounty of Easter candy!
  • I will never use this 10K as a goal race (nor would I use this 2 mile as a goal race, but I don't think I'd ever have any 2 mile as a goal race).
  • Wichita is always windy.
  • The first races of the season at 66-70* are a challenge, but I'm ready to get heat-adapted.
  • Aside from the physical factors involved in racing often, it's also hard to gear up for races week after week.  I was so thankful I wasn't planning to race these all-out, because I just don't think I could have done it mentally or physically.
  • 4 out-of-town races in 3 weeks was a bit too much and most likely why I got sick.
  • I need to figure out how I compromise my form in the wind and end up with side cramps, because that seems to be when they happen.
  • I love the race environment no matter what!  I greatly enjoyed the morning even though I wasn't hyped up about it!
Double the racing, double the envelopes
I'm glad I did the events, I'm thankful I won some cash, and I'm glad I did them the way I did.  I got yet another side ache on my cool-down that made me stop and walk (what?!).  I blame this on being a bit sick and also the wind, as the only times I've gotten side cramps have been running in windy conditions or when I'm "off" from being sick or depleted.  After the race I got more sick, with a full-blown sore throat, congestion, etc., but with the help of rest and nasal wash I seem to be in the mend.

On one hand, I was happy that 6:16 average pace felt brisk but relaxed for a 10K even in the conditions I had, but then I started thinking -- that's actually my goal marathon pace for December (6:17 is 2:44:5X).  Yikes!!!  I have work to do!

I ran a recovery run with my friend Kim who lives in Wichita on Sunday, and she said that the timing company who did the race has been making all of the races that they do long -- which makes no sense to me, but she said she's run a handful done by them that were long.  Noted!  And back to Certified in '17 and better double-checking on that status!

We went on to have a very blessed Easter with family!  A belated happy Easter to those reading this!

"But He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon Him, and by His Wounds we are healed." -- Isaiah 53:5

Adorable face painting at the race
The impossible task of getting a good family photo

The annual Major Easter egg hunt

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Rock the Parkway Half: When starting line predictions come true, & choosing gratefulness

The short:

I had several pre-race thoughts that came to fruition:
  • "I think I can get 3rd overall, behind Kim and her [an unknown girl I pegged as fast]"
  • "I'm still tired from that 10,000 m last week; I don't think I'm going to have the strongest race"
  • "In this wind, if I can run faster than my second half of the Phoenix Marathon, I'll be doing good"
  • "The slow miles will be: 1-3, 8-9, and 11"
  • "The fast miles will be: 4, 6-7, and 13"
I finished in 1:23:15, good for 3rd overall female in the largest half marathon in the Midwest, and slid in 20 seconds faster than my second half in Phoenix (phew!).  The wind made the race one to run for place and not time -- we had a 20 mph headwind for the second half of the out-and-back race -- and although I'm not thrilled with my time or how the race played out, I am really happy about taking 3rd.  I have mixed feelings about the day, but I also know I did the best I could with all of the factors at play.  I thank God that I'm healthy and get to be out there, and I ran happy the whole way even when I was running on empty!  On to the next!

Official race results are here, and you can scroll down to see a finishing video and several pictures (including a screenshot of my splits that I predicted well based on the elevation).

The wind rocked the parkway, I tried to rock it, & I was wearing shorts!
The long:

Rock the Parkway is a large competitive race, and I put it on my spring schedule for that reason.  The timing of it wasn't wonderful, but I could never figure out an ideal mid-March to mid-May schedule that included every event and distance I wanted to include, so eventually I stopped trying to make things perfect and committed to my current plan.  In the week leading up to this race, I struggled with gearing up for race-day, because I was tired all week.  My 10,000 m race on March 31 that was followed by a sleepless night and a power-packed weekend, which rolled straight into a busy work week that concluded with my monthly visit to our Kansas City division, did not leave as much as I would have liked in the reserves.  I didn't get excited about the race until the day before it, which is unlike me.

I'd been eyeing the race morning forecast, and it looked a little warm (50-60*), but good enough.  I didn't look at the wind forecast until I asked my coach a couple of strategy questions about the course and he mentioned that we were supposed to have quite the headwind during the second half of the race.  I'd been wavering back and forth between a couple of time goals for the race, but when I saw the wind speed I decided to throw out time goals and mainly aim to place as high as I could -- always a vague goal since it all depends on who shows up.  I knew a win was out, as my super fast friend/coach's wife Kim was entered and had historically run 1:16s there, but I hoped to nab a top 5 spot to finish in the prize money.  Not pushing for a time goal was disappointing, but I had perfect weather when I ran my half PR so I was under no delusion of having any chance of beating it with a 20+ mph headwind for half the race!

Race morning came, and I was feeling pretty "meh".  I was tired during my warm up, but I've had every combination of good/bad warm up and good/bad race, so I tried to not worry about it as I went through my normal pre-race routines.  I was in the elite starting wave, and either personally knew or knew of most of the other women in the wave.  Based on my knowledge of their recent performances, I thought I had a good chance at 3rd overall, behind Kim and a girl I didn't know but who looked faster than me (through this story she will be called "the brunette", but I will point out that she looked like she was Kenyan to back up why I thought she looked super fast).

I looked tired before the start (Jon says I looked tired all week)
Gun time came, and I went out conservatively per my plan.  I wanted my first mile to be about 6:25, and I came through in 6:23.  As the field sorted out, Kim and the brunette were far in front, and by the 1 mile mark I found myself running side by side in third/fourth with a girl we will call "the blond."  I didn't feel awful but I didn't feel wonderful, and with first and second way in front of me I decided maybe I should do the minimum it took to get third, and I settled in next to the blond.  I didn't look at my splits as we cruised along side by side, but the pace felt conservative and I knew miles 2-3 would be/should be slow since they were all uphill.

I was happy with my newfound goal of running next to the blond until towards the end, and I felt confident that I could outlast her because I knew she'd run 3:00 at Phoenix 6 weeks ago (how was that only 6 weeks ago?!).  I almost breathed a sigh of relief thinking that I could possibly run a 1:25-1:26 and get third, as I just wasn't sure what my legs had to give.

Just as I got comfortable with this plan, it changed; as race plans that depend on other people often do (also why I prefer time and split goals!).  I saw the brunette up ahead of us, and we were gaining rapidly.  I could tell we weren't running that fast, so I was surprised she was coming back to us, and quickly.  I knew mile 4 would be fast with more downhill than up, and around the end of that mile we caught the brunette.  I assumed she must have gone out too fast, because she was running much slower than us as we came up on her and (I thought) went by.  I would later look back at this point as a mistake, but I don't know how I possibly could have avoided it given the knowledge I had at the time; she was probably running 7:30 pace when we came up on her (after starting around 6:00 pace).

I continued on with what I assumed was the blond right on my heels.  I eased up at times thinking she'd come up beside me, as she had been good with running side by side earlier on, but she didn't so I just assumed she was barely holding on.  I could feel someone right on me, and I also kept hearing spectators yell "go ladies" and "2nd and 3rd female", so I knew she was right there.  I tried to work off the men around me, and told myself to stay close to a tall man who I'd been running around so that maybe I could draft off of him when we got into the headwind.
My spectators rocking the parkway
I looked at my watch for the second time in the race when we crossed the 10K mat, to get a vague idea where I was at.  My 10K was 39:20, which I knew was 6:20 pace.  Miles 6-7 are fast, and I tried to enjoy them knowing that 8-9 would be hard due to the elevation and the wind.  For the first time, around mile 8, due to seeing her hair and running form in her shadow, I realized that it was not the blond who was sitting on me, but the brunette who I'd thought was dying around mile 4.  She was the one I'd pegged as fast on the starting line, so then I started to worry.  It was also a surprise because she'd slowed so significantly from her first couple of miles to when I thought I'd passed her.

Mile 8 of this course is hard, and with the headwind it was brutal.  A man ahead of me walked up part of the hill -- not something you see a whole lot from runners doing 6:20 pace!  I started doubting myself, but I also reminded myself of the climbs on the Rock 'n' Roll Arizona course in miles 8-9, and how I didn't feel good on those but was able to re-group afterward for a strong finish.  The race was becoming a mind game for me too, as I realized what the brunette was doing:  she was doing the least she could to get second, and I wasn't sure there was anything I could do about it.

After I survived the climbs in miles 8-9, I knew I needed to do more to try to get her off my tail, because leading is always harder than following.  I tried surging but she went right with me.  I tried slowing down -- at one point I bet I slowed to 8:30 pace -- but she would not go around.  I weaved back and forth across the road.  During the 2016 Olympic triathlon in Rio, Gwen Jorgensen and Nicola Spirig had a similar battle, and I remember watching and thinking how frustrating that must be for the leader.  Now I was living it!  She weaved with me, she sped up with me, she slowed down with me, but she would not come up beside me or go around me.  I'd of course had the "do the least I can to get third" thought early in the race, but I ran beside the blond and did not sit on her like this girl was doing to me.
This was the situation
At this point in the race, we were also battling the intense headwind that would continue through the finish of the out-and-back course.  My mind was bouncing back and forth between my frustration with the brunette and my worries about not having much left.  Every incline felt like a mountain, and I kept telling myself just to get over the next one and I'd get relief.  I gave up on getting the brunette to do anything except sit on me, and I pulled in the tall guy we'd been going back and forth with since around the 10K mark and tried to draft off him.  I couldn't quite find the sweet spot to use him as much of a wind block, though.

At mile 10 I looked at my watch for the third time in the race, to see my split of about 1:03:40.  In my other recent halves, I've taken on the final 5K with abandon, challenging myself to run around or under 19:00, but all I could think was, "I hope I can pull off a 20:00 final 5K to finish under 1:24".  My legs felt completely empty at that point, and I saw another guy walking uphill (what?!).  I started thinking, "What if I have to drop out?  How pathetic will that be?  And which would be worse, finishing in 1:26 or dropping out?"  I had no idea how far back fourth and fifth place were, but I started worrying not only that the brunette would soon be over-taking me, but also that everyone else was coming for me.  My form fell apart as I battled the wind on dead legs.  In hindsight, I actually ran pretty even splits for the two halves of the race, since my 10K was 6:20 pace and my finishing time was 6:21 pace, but it didn't feel like it!

I cropped this one so it's just me ;-)
Around mile 11, the tall guy who we'd been leap frogging back and forth with said to me something like, "I see what she's doing to you; do you want to draft off me?" and eased right in front of me again.  I said yes and thanked him, but again struggled to find a good drafting spot.  I am so thankful to him because at the very least he took my mind off of quitting for a mile, and it was such a kind gesture!  The brunette was still right there too, and I just wanted her to pass me and get it over with; I knew it was inevitable.

At the mile 12 sign, she did just that.  I willed my legs to pick up and go with her, to sit on her, and the tall man encouraged me, "You can do it, you can go with her", but I didn't have it.  I pushed with all I could, but she pulled further and further away, and step by step I knew it was over.  Spectators were yelling at me to "Go get her, you can catch her!" since we were close, and I kept thinking, "You don't understand, you don't understand what's happening here, she just got me."  The last mile seemed so very long.  I ran a 6:04 final mile (and 5:40 final 0.1), but she ran a 5:48ish last mile to beat me by 16 seconds - she ran 1:22:59 to my 1:23:15.  There was nothing I could do.  So ends my streak of out-kicking 20-somethings!

Clock shot, with 5Kers on the left (the road was divided by cones at least)
Although I was thrilled with third place, obviously I didn't like how it went down.  Kim said that the brunette started with her, so my guess is that she was gunning for the win and when she realized she couldn't hang with Kim she decided to do the least she could do get second (Kim won in 1:18).  I'm assuming the brunette could have run a few minutes faster had she wanted to, but no one was going to have a great time with the headwind so she was content to sit on me.  In hindsight, I thought maybe I should have said something to her, but I didn't want to show weakness.  Once I realized what she was doing, I pretty much knew I was doomed to be passed -- especially considering how drained I felt.  All is fair in racing, and really I guess she ran smarter than I did, but it left a bad taste in my mouth because I wouldn't do that to someone else.  Hindsight is 20/20, but I really thought she was dying when I (barely) passed her, so I am not sure what I could have done except learn from it!

Admittedly, the experience has a tinge of disappointment hanging on it from that piece of it, and also because I feel like if I want to run a 2:45 marathon (which I do!), I should be able to hit a 1:22:30 half even in crappy conditions.  And I guess I should be able to when I get to that fitness point, but I'm under no delusion that I'm to that point right now.  Other elites in the race were 2-5 minutes off their usual times/PRs (the blond would go on to finish in 1:28:58), so being 1:49 off of my PR isn't the end of the world and may actually be normal.  Sometimes I like to think that I'm different and should be able to power through no matter what; but I would never tell any of my friends to expect their best time running half of a race into a 20 mph headwind, so why should I expect that of myself?

So I choose gratefulness!  Gratefulness for third, gratefulness that I did not totally bonk despite racing on tired legs, gratefulness for a half time that only 6 month ago was my dream time, gratefulness for my amazing family members who came to cheer, gratefulness for so many awesome fellow runner friends, and most of all gratefulness that I am healthy enough to travel to races and run 13.1 miles, period.  And a little more perspective:  in 2015 I ran this event as my season goal race, aiming for a 1:26 (at that time my PR was 1:27:17).  We had perfect weather that day, and although I didn't run the course strategically as I should have based on the elevation, I came away with a bittersweet PR of 1:27:08 that was also pretty painful via a positive split.  What I wouldn't have given for a 1:23 that day!  I'm grateful.

Now onto the next!

These girls brightened my day, and Lauriel ran an amazing race!


Splits - please reference these with the elevation chart, haha!

My dad is an amazing race videographer!  The 5K was finishing on the left and the road was divided by cones, which I am also grateful for.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Certified in '17

I'm not sure why it took me so long to realize that pretty much every race course in my area that is not certified is inaccurate, and often grossly so!  Due to this, I have "official" race results all over the board on these courses; my very favorite was the time I raced a mile in 6:08 and a 5K in 14:59 on the very same morning (actual course distances were 1.1ish and 2.5ish)!

I understand that not all races want to pay to certify their courses, but with our current state of technology there is no excuse for courses not being very close.  Hello Garmin, Strava, and Mapmyrun!  I feel like organizers of some events I've done have said, "Okay, it's convenient to start and finish here.  Let's find a loop that is within a half mile of the advertised distance and go with it."  Not okay!  Or "Just put the finishing mat by that electrical outlet there, and have 'em turn around at that telephone poll."  I just don't understand!  I recently saw a 10K race advertised, with the event description containing the phrase "this 6 mile race", and about poked my eye out.  I also recently paced a friend in a half marathon that was about 12.7 miles...even though [wait for it], it was out and back on a trail that is marked accurately every 0.1 of a mile!

I think this conundrum is also bad for less experienced runners who may not understand certified vs. not certified, and also who don't understand that GPS watches aren't 100% accurate either.  I think short courses can set people up for PRs that they may never be able to break (heck, I ran 35:45 "10K" once in addition to that 14:59 "5K" I mentioned above), and long courses may lead to disappointments over not improving when a person really has improved.  If a course isn't certified, you really don't know how far you ran since GPS watches aren't perfect either, and the OCD in me sure hates that.

I've never counted non-certified course times as official PRs, but I've run many races that weren't certified, particularly shorter local events.  However, after several disappointments over solid performances that I couldn't count for much of anything due to inaccurate courses, I decided that I'm done!  "Certified in '17" is the new black.

Disclaimer:  my husband says I need to make exception to this crusade for races that offer prize money, which I consented to considering.

Have you ever run a pathetically inaccurate course?  Did the race director care?

Note:  You can find USATF certified courses in your area here, and generally race websites will indicate their course is certified if it is.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Wash U Invite Distance Carnival 10,000 m: Having some crazy in you goes a long way towards accomplishing your goals

The short crazy:
I raced 25 laps around a track at a time that I am usually in bed, unattached in a large collegiate meet, for the sake of a fast, accurate 10K with competition!  I came away with a new 10K PR of 37:09, and an 8th place finish in a field of 41 entrants who were just over half my age.  My 1600 m splits were 5:59, 5:54, 5:56, 5:57, 5:57, 5:57 (every lap was 1:28-1:30, most were 1:29), then a final 400 m lap of 1:26.  While I would have loved to have dipped into the 36s, I guess I am not quite there because I don't know what I could've done to find those 10 extra seconds in this one, but you bet I will do some more work and try again!

Official results are here.
I'm in blue passing on the straight as a smart track racer would
The long crazy:
The 10K has always been a tricky distance for me to navigate!  I haven't raced as many 10Ks as I have half marathons or 5Ks, or even full marathons, and I feel like I still have a lot to learn about it.  It's such a different pace zone than a half or a 5K; fast but not too fast.  When I first set my sights on breaking 40:00 in the 10K, it seemed to take me forever to get there; then the same thing happened when I set my sights on breaking 39:00.  My previous PR of 38:43 was run in the last 10K I did, on a hilly course in Arkansas on Labor Day 2016 in heat and humidity, and the number of times I subsequently ran faster unofficially in longer races and tempo runs was becoming quite laughable -- a total of at least 6, including 2 half marathons.  Since I'd never broken 38:00 officially or even been close, I figured why not try to break 37:00 this season, hah.  After struggling to find any fast certified 10K courses where I would for sure have competition and that were within a 3 hour drive, I decided that I wanted to run a 10,000 m on the track in a collegiate meet.  Then finding a collegiate meet with a 10,000 m was also no easy task, but I eventually found three (Wash U Invite in St. Louis, KT Woodman in Wichita, and KU Relays in Lawrence), and selected Wash U because the date worked the best with my other spring race plans.

The downside to this whole plan was that the race started at 9:30 p.m.!  Although, to be fair, when I initially put it on my schedule I expected it to begin between 7:30-8:00 p.m.; then on the finalized schedule that went out a few days before the meet it was bumped back due to having more heats of the 5K than originally planned, and due to putting the mens 10K before the womens instead of after as initially scheduled (apparently no one wants to stay around and watch the 10Ks so they put them at the end).  I usually go to bed at 9:00 p.m., and I run all of my hard workouts in the morning, so I was unsure about the late gun time.  I also am never sure what to do all day prior to an evening race, and to some degree I feel like the whole day is wasted because I'm mainly sitting around thinking about the race.  I am never sure how active/inactive to be, and I also worry about eating either too much or too little.  I felt like I hit a good routine before a 5:00 p.m. 5K I did in the fall, but this one being 4.5 hours later meant an additional meal and 4.5 more hours to fill! 

I did a super easy 2 mile shake out run on Friday morning before a big breakfast.  I took the day off work, after initially only scheduling a half day off but then deciding if I was driving 3 hours to race 25 laps on the track at 9:30 p.m. against girls half my age, I might as well use 4 more hours of vacation time to eliminate any possible work stress for the day (note: this did not work 100%, as I got phone calls and emails marked "not urgent" from my team, after asking them to only contact me with urgent matters...[sigh]).  But on the other hand, I did put on sweats after my run and mostly laid around until Albani got home from school and we left for St. Louis.  I also made a list of what I was going to eat for the day and at what times; not that I necessarily knew that it was the correct plan, but it felt better having some plan over none -- and now I'm glad I did it because it hit that fine line of enough but not too much, and I will follow it exactly before any future late races!

When I checked in, the officials asked what college I was with, and I about died; later my thought was "The University of Old Enough to be Your Mother", but at the time my response was "I'm unattached."  When I started my warm-up, I forgot about the late hour and did what I always do.  As the men's 10,000 was finishing and the start time loomed, I looked around at all the young girls doing strides and drills across the infield, and simultaneously wondered what I'd gotten myself into and felt ready to go make this PR attempt happen!  I felt confident that, baring disaster, I would PR, but I wasn't sure if that would mean 36:50 or 37:50.

There were 32 girls in my heat (those with seed times over 40:00 got to run on Saturday morning, which I was so jealous of), and we lined up on two different starting lines to spread out.  You can't see the second line in the photo below, but they were farther up and had to run the first curve in lanes 5-8 before cutting in.  We were lined up and also given numbers based on our seed times going in; I was 9th based on my estimated performance from my longer distance race times, so was 9th over on the starting line.
The gun went off, and most girls on my line got out quick and then we merged with the girls who'd started at the other line, many of whom also got out quick.  My #1 goal at that point was to NOT get out quick, and I soon realized that I was towards the back in the pack and also boxed in.  I glanced at my 200 m split to ensure I wasn't going out too slowly, and I was exactly where I wanted to be at 0:45.  I passed a few people on the straight between the 300 and 400 m marks.  I was aiming for a first 1600 m. of 6:00, so when I came through the first 400 m in 90 I was perfect.

Throughout the first 6 laps, I passed a lot of girls who went out too fast as they settled into pace.  The pack also spread out, which was a relief because I hate being boxed in and also wanted to stick to the inside of lane 1 as much as possible.  My laps were all 89-90, and I came through my first 1600 m in 5:59.  The pace felt easy at that point, and I was pretty excited that I could run under 6:00 for a 1600 m and not be breathing hard!  I kept my gaze straight ahead, maintained laser focus, and aimed to pass on the straights and not the curves as I moved up in the field.  After about 6 laps I settled in behind two girls, the ones in front in the photo below wearing red and green.  I kept my eyes on them and also tried to use the taller as a wind block on the back stretch when I could feel the wind in my face.  I came through the second 1600 m in 5:54, with my laps all 88-89.  The girl in green was named Sara also, so it was almost as if I had a cheering squad in her coach and team during the time I ran right behind her!
Probably around lap 5

I stayed with the two girls through the third 1600 m. (5:56) and the 5K mark, with all of my laps consistent.  The scoreboard display showed the time of day; I wished it had showed the race time so I would have gotten my 5K split, but I estimated it at 18:34 from my splits.  I manually lapped my 1600 m splits on my watch so I couldn't look at my total time without switching screens, which I didn't want to mess with.  I can't remember exactly when I passed the two girls, but I did it on a straight sometime around mile 4 when they began slowing.  I didn't want to go around them, because it put me running alone, but I also didn't want to stay and slow down (they went on to finish in 37:25 and beyond, so I needed to go).  By that point, I was also lapping girls, and I was right on my goal pace and cranking out 89 second laps like it was my job.  My 4th 1600 m. was 5:57.
Running solo
I told myself to stay right where I was at pace-wise, and my 88-90 second laps kept flowing, but they were getting significantly harder, and I also missed having someone to run right on.  I was passing women, but most of the time I didn't know if I was lapping them or catching them.  I tried to pass on the straights as much as I could, but had to swing wide on the turns several times to avoid slowing down.  I never had any idea what place I was in; in addition to the lapping situation it was also difficult to track my competitors because there weren't that many distinguishing features among them -- they were all young girls wearing singlets and spandex!  Normally in a race you can mark when you pass the tall guy, or the girl in the visor, the high school boy or grey haired gentleman, etc...but in my straight ahead focus it seemed almost like everyone in this race was the same, with most uniforms even being some combination of black, white, red, and/or green.  The only position I knew for sure was the leader, because she lapped me -- when this first occurred I thought she was someone passing me and thought I should try to stay with her, but she was running significantly faster and then I heard the announcer announce her position and put 2 and 2 together...she went on to break 35 and set a new stadium record - wow!

My 5th 1600 m. was 5:57, and the race was getting really hard!  I told myself, "Only 5 more laps, you can stay under 6:00 for only 5 short laps; you finished a marathon with a 6:10 mile after all!"  I wasn't completely confident in my ability to keep it under 6:00, and the shorter but still long race that is the 10K was such a different feeling than the half or full marathon.  Dipping under 6:00 for 6.2 miles is so different than running 13.1 at 6:12!  It's amazing what a difference 14 seconds in pace makes.
Probably with 5-6 laps to go
I didn't think I was going to die, but I worried slightly that I was going to finish with a 6:05ish mile.  But I pushed with all I had and stayed in my 89 lap rhythm.  My 6th 1600 m was 5:57, and I sure welcomed the bell lap!  I knew only 400 m stood between me and my PR!  At some point during the final mile, I passed a girl who stayed fairly close behind me.  I didn't realize that I hadn't pulled out more until she came up beside me with about 150 m to go.  My initial thought in my haze of fatigue was, "I don't care, place doesn't matter" and I was going to let her go.  Then I saw a second girl trying to come around both of us in lane 3.  My initial thought was quickly replaced with, "Nope!  I am doing whatever it takes to beat them!" and I sprinted with all I had through the finish.  The photo below was taken maybe 10 meters before the line, and I edged them by 0.2 and 0.4 seconds, respectively.  How on earth I keep out-sprinting 20-something girls who have more speed than me is beyond me (I guarantee they would beat me in any track workout; same with my recent 12K), but I am crediting marathon training stamina and marathon grit!  Looking back on the situation it's also somewhat humorous -- all that fighting just for 8th place (and at the time I thought I was farther back than that)!  But I scored 1 point for team unattached, haha!
Final push
I stopped my watch at 37:09 and simultaneously celebrated and resisted the urge to drop to the ground at the finish line (several girls did, so there would have been no shame!).  The whole experience was almost surreal, under the bright stadium lights.  This was one of the first 10Ks I felt that I executed really, really well (my previous 10K PR was also run well, but it being on a hilly course in the summer didn't do me any favors on my time or allow a mile split comparison there).  I was really proud of my consistent splits, as I ran 24 laps all between 88-90, then my final lap in 86.  My 5Ks were pretty much identical:  18:34 and 18:35.  It's difficult for me to believe that I averaged under 6:00 pace (5:58.7 to be exact!) for 6.2 my mind when I stop and think about it, I can't actually run 1 mile under 6:00, nor can I run 5Ks in the 18s. 

Before the race, I had my sights on gunning for a 36:5X, but I was 100% satisfied with my 37:09, mainly because I ran so evenly and intelligently, and what I did on this track was truly my max on that day.  A 36:58 is 5:57 pace, and in this race I made the mistake of counting 1600 m splits as mile splits, but really they are a tad shorter (about 2 seconds at the pace I was doing).  I was thinking I needed to average 5:57 for my 1600 splits (which I did!), but really I would have needed to average 5:55 per 1600, and I didn't realize this until after the fact.  I think this was a blessing in disguise though, because I think the pace I did was perfect for me that day.  I was close enough that I know I can get under 37 with a little more work and maybe changing some other factors.  My coach mentioned that all of the turns on the track put additional stress on your body, which I never thought about before -- which is also why he doesn't have me run much track work; I always thought that was just because I race on the road so should train on the road.  A straight road course could make the difference, or maybe a track 10K where I didn't swing wide multiple times to lap people.  Perhaps also racing at a "normal" time instead of after my bedtime!  I almost laughed when I saw the clock on the score board reading after 10:00 during the race.  "What was I thinking?!"

I loved racing on the track though!  I've already started looking for a 5,000 m I can run on it before the end of the season.  Why not do some crazy things, right?

Did you know that a 10K is exactly 6.21 miles?! Shocked & amazed that my Garmin was exactly on on the track

1600 m splits
It's amazing to think about, but long ago I planned that I'd run my first collegiate 10,000 m in the year 2000 at age 19; God planned that I'd do it in 2017 with Jon and Albani in the stands.  As always, His plans are better!

The race was the start to a fun family weekend in St Louis!  We also went to the Gateway Arch (although the elevators to the top were closed for renovations) and the amazing St Louis Zoo.  Here are some pictures from our adventures!  Did I mention that I got less than 2 hours of sleep on Friday night?!  I pretty much knew that was what I'd be in for after a late race, but let me tell you how exhausted I was at the end of the day Saturday!  I also ran an easy recovery run at 7:30 a.m. on Saturday morning (after finishing Friday's cool-down at 10:45 p.m.!), and let me tell you that was not the smartest idea I've ever had -- but it was still better than trying to do it after 9:00 p.m. on Saturday, which was when we got home and would have been the only other option!
I love watching them together!
Gateway Arch

Seeing how the sea lions feel
Elephants, kind of
Walk under Sea Lion Sound (my favorite area!)
This is exactly how we all felt at the end of the day; at least we were hydrated!
I found symbolism in our hotel room number - 2:44:59 or bust!
ALSO, big shout outs to:
  • My training partner Missy who ran a PR half marathon of 1:26:31 on a tough course in Bentonville on April 1 -- that PR is going down as soon as she runs a course that is not all uphill for the final 2 miles, though!
  • My friend Liz who ran awesome at the Aquarium Run half on April 1 and who is just getting started with her best distance times!
  • Another friend also named Liz who was a big part of my inspiration to try a college meet, as she has rocked several without hesitation!
  • My friend Casey who told me about the Wash U Invite and encouraged me to get out of my comfort zone and run in a college meet. 
  • My friends Jamie and Amy who will both toe the line at the Boston Marathon in less than 2 weeks, after working super hard this training block (i.e., big PRs coming!).
I am so blessed to know so many amazing women!