Sunday, December 31, 2017

December in review: I ran the best of times, I ran the worst of times

December 2017 in review!

The title refers to my marathon PR on December 3 followed by the slowest mile I ran all year on December 4.  :-)

Total mileage for the month:  255 --- in comparison:  January - 261, February - 212, March - 203, April - 219, May - 249, June - 205, July - 275, August - 301, September - 271, October - 323, November - 267...that makes 3043 for 2017!)
  • Nov. 27-Dec. 3:  53.6 - 26.2 of this being CIM!
  • Dec.  4-10:  28.6 - recovery week
  • Dec. 11-17:  58.3 - yes, I wanted to go back out for 1.7
  • Dec. 18-24:  70.9 - peak mileage week for Houston
  • Dec. 25-31:  65 - how convenient that 2017 ended at the end of a training week
Ibbetson Christmas card

Races:
  • Dec. 3:  California International Marathon in a new PR of 2:47:14.  I wrote 8 posts about this race (the post linked contains links to the 7 others), so I'm not sure I can add much here, but I'm both beyond thankful and hungry for more.
  • Dec. 16:  Ugly Sweater "5K".  I don't have anything to add about this one either, for different reasons!
I loved racing in Christmas attire, though
(Christmas compression socks were also involved)
Workouts:
  • Dec. 13:  2 progressive fast finish miles on the tail end of a 9 miler, to ease back into some faster running.  I was supposed to drop 10-15 seconds/mile, something like 6:45, 6:30, but I ended up doing 6:36, 6:16.  It felt nice to reintroduce some faster running, and clearly I wasn't 100% recovered 1.5 weeks after the marathon, but recovery seemed to be going smoothly.  The last mile did make me question how I ever ran 26.2 miles at an average pace of only 6 seconds slower than that one, though.
  • Dec. 16:  16.1 miles with 5 x 1:00 pick-ups to marathon goal pace at the beginning of miles 8-12, again, just to ease back into some faster running.  I had a hard time finding 6:17 pace, and these were:  5:55, 6:11, 6:03, 6:02, 6:15.  I hit the sweet spot on pace at the end (the second one appears close but it was uphill), but otherwise I kept going either too slow and then overcompensating, or too fast throughout.
  • Dec. 20:  Flipping fartlek (2.9 warm-up, 6' on, 1' off, 5' on, 2' off, 4' on, 3' off, 3' on, 4' off, 2' on, 5' off, 1' on, 2.5 cool-down for 11 miles total).  When discussing this workout with others who've done it, we always call it the flippin' fartlek and laugh.  It can be a beast, but my chief complaint about it is that the way the pushes and recoveries are inverse makes you run positive mile splits.  My push paces were 5:54, 5:52, 5:41, 5;42, 5:43, 5:41, which I was pleased with (my average pace for all 5.61 miles I covered during the workout was 6:25, with 21:00 total hard and 15:00 total recoveries).  The 6:00 hard/1:00 recovery/5:00 hard sequence is in theory the hardest, but I also like that part a lot because it's almost like a 2 mile repeat!
  • Dec. 23:  18.1 miles with a 5 mile progression (6:42 for all 18.1; progression miles of 6:37, 6:32, 6:37, 6:17, 6:08).  I ended up running a bit different than this workout was written, because I joined a men's group in Wichita while visiting my parents for Christmas.  They were generous enough to oblige on the progression, but it was done on the fly once I realized that we were putting down 6:30s mid-run (they also stopped at 14 miles, so I'm glad we ran it how we did).  I was supposed to do 12 miles steady (7:00ish), then a 5 mile progression of 6:50, 6:40, 6:30, 6:20, 6:10, but ended up doing miles 1-8 steady (between 6:41-6:57, except mile 1 was 7:22), then miles 9-13 progression, then miles 14-18 steady (between 6:35-6:49).  This long run as a whole was the fastest 18 I've ever done in training, so yay (and only twice have I run faster 18's in races, in my 2:47 and 2:49 marathons).  It was also the flattest long run I've done, which was perfect because Houston is pancake flat.
  • Dec. 25:  Short 90"/90" fartlek (2 warm-up, 2 fartlek, 1 cool-down, 1 with 6 x strides).  My coach gave me a little workout for Christmas!  My push paces were 6:08, 5:59, 5:44, 5:44, 5:46.  It took me two of them to fully warm up since it was 20*.  I felt a bit off on this workout due to holiday travel, holiday eating, and sleep deprivation, but it was nice to get in a little run before Christmas morning got too crazy.
  • Dec. 27:  8 x 0.25 hill repeats (3ish warm-up and 3ish cool-down to 10 miles total).  I set a personal record by completing my first ever double digit run in sub-zero conditions (feels like -3*)...this is a PR I wouldn't mind going the rest of my life without improving!  This workout was pretty much a struggle, mentally and physically, the entire way, but I got it done.  My hill repeat splits were the slowest I've ever run on this hill (grade adjusted paces were 6:01-6:28, whereas I usually keep them 5:30-5:45), but I had on about 10 lbs of clothing in addition to the 10 lbs I feel like I gained over Christmas, and I just couldn't move in the conditions (the upside is that I was warm enough the whole time, though!).  I remembered why I take speed work to the treadmill when it gets this cold out.  Although my performance sucked, I was proud of myself for simply doing this one at all -- I am pretty sure normal people would have stayed in bed this morning.  This run also put me over 3,000 miles for 2017.
  • Doubles on Dec. 19 and 21.
  • Strides on Dec. 1, 2, 11, 14, 18, 21, and 25.
  • Bootcamp or full body strength workouts on Dec. 11, 18, and 25 (yes, I managed it on Christmas, albeit a shorter one) -- plus enough additional strength work to get to at least 90 minutes total per week starting back the week of Dec. 11.  During the final 2 weeks of the month I ended up doing 120 min.+ per week because I was focusing on strengthening my weaker glute with daily exercises. Our Dec. 18 bootcamp did a 12 days of Christmas workout, going through the following repeatedly just like the song, and it was one of my favorite bootcamps ever:  1 burpee, 2 walk-outs, 3 push-ups, 4 single-leg dead lifts (on each leg), 5 squats with overhead press, 6 mountain climbers (counting 1 leg only, so really 12), 7 renegade rows (on each arm), 8 lunges (on each leg), 9 single leg balances (dead lifts without weights, on each leg), 10 forward/backwards runs, 11 jumping jacks, 12 consecutive 5 second wall-sits (which was just a 60 second wall-sit, but had to be made into 12 somehow).
  • Favorite workout: The progression run within the 18 miler on Dec. 23 is the clear winner!  The hill repeats on Dec. 27 is the clear last place!
Long Runs:
  • Dec. 16:  16.1 miles including 5 x 1:00 pick-ups to marathon goal pace, described above.
  • Dec. 23:  18.1 miles with 1-8 relaxed, 9-13 progression, 14-18 relaxed, also described above.
  • Dec. 30:  21.1 miles (6:42).  With the race director's permission, I ran the first 21 miles of a small local marathon with a friend who was gunning for his first sub-3:00 (he did it with a 2:58:04!).  This was my fastest 20+ ever in training, and also a cold weather PR because it was feels like 6*.  I have never done a long run when it was quite that cold!  I was so thankful to have someone to run this with, because it's tricky to get out for that many miles in that cold of weather.  I felt good overall but I was sure happy to stop at 21.  It was one of those days where I thought, "Well, on one hand that was super solid, but on the other hand how will I ever run 5 more miles all at 25 sec/mile faster??!"  One thing is for certain:  I don't plan to try for that at 6*!
  • Favorite long run: I was really happy with both the 18 and 21, but I'll go with the 18 because I felt better at the end!
Highlights/thoughts/randomness:
  • I'll be a nuunbassador again in 2018!

Non-running life events:
  • We vacationed in San Francisco during our trip to California after CIM.  Highlights included Fisherman's Wharf, Muir Woods, the Golden Gate Bridge, Piers 31-39, Lands End Look-Out, Twin Peaks Look-Out, and Alcatraz.  I have never walked to much post-marathon!
  • Christmas, of course.
  • We hosted family in the 2 days after Christmas, for a few Springfield/Branson adventures.  This was a challenge for me because I went back to work on Dec. 27 -- probably a challenge for my husband for the same reason, but it was his idea and his family, haha!  This is probably also related to my crap run before work on Dec. 27.
  •  It was hard to narrow down photos to include below!
Looking out from Pier 39 to Alcatraz
On the beach with a view of the Golden Gate Bridge

Muir Woods
Twin Peaks Look Out
Alcatraz
More gifts than tree at my parents'
Major family Christmas
For our 2018 Christmas card!
Some were more excited about the hats than others
Jon tired of photos before we did
Grandma love
Stockings
Cousin love
Ibbetson Christmas
More cousin love


Saturday, December 30, 2017

Top 5 Running Highlights of 2017

It was pretty easy for me to choose my top 5 of 2017, although some might say I double dipped on #1-3!
  1. Running two marathons in the 2:40s.  It boggles my mind to think that I ran 2:47:14 and 2:49:20 marathons.  Many women have run many more marathons much faster, but I never thought I would do this or anything close!  I thought I was doing good in 2016 with two sub-3:00s.  I haven't run a marathon over 3:00 since 2015 (darn you, 3:01).  My mind hasn't caught up with my body because it seems like some sort of fluke, but on the other hand faster paces have become the new normal...it's hard to explain.  I am extremely thankful for both of these races and even if I don't run another fast marathon for the rest of my life, I ran 2:47 and 2:49!
    2:49
    2:47
  2. PRs.  Thanks to my running club's Runner of the Year competition summary, I realized I ran 8 PRs in 2017.  It's not as good as it sounds, because some were bettering the same distance PR (e.g., 2 marathon PRs, 2 half PRs, track 10K + road 10K) and one was the first time I ever raced the distance so a PR was a given (12K).  My PR races were the Rock 'n' Roll Arizona Half Marathon, the BMO Mesa-Phoenix Marathon, the Big 12 12K, the Wash U Distance Carnival 10,000 m., the Bradleyville Scholarship Run 5K, the Plaza 10K, the Indianapolis Women's Half Marathon, and the California International Marathon.
    Half PR in Indy
  3. Racing trips.  I was blessed to able to travel to several races this year, and that contributed to highlight #2 because I've learned that it's typically better not to run marathons in the Midwest -- our weather is often not conducive to fast racing!  Not to mention that generally races in my immediate area are not competitive and not certified/not the correct distance.  I traveled to Arizona twice (Phoenix/Mesa/Tempe area), Des Moines, Indianapolis, and Sacramento, along with shorter trips to Kansas City and St. Louis.
  4. Exceeding 3,000 miles for the year.  I have only tracked my yearly mileage since 2010, and I've never done it with a yearly goal in mind (this year I just followed my coach's plan and this is where I landed).  I'm confident that I never ran more mileage than this before I began tracking it, because I have never before done mileage like I did during my CIM build, nor have I ever had a year that I didn't have some time off with injuries between 1999 and 2016! (!!!!!)
    • 2017 - 3043
    • 2016 - 2294
    • 2015 - 1942
    • 2014 - 972
    • 2013 - 595
    • 2012 - 1373
    • 2011 - 1539
    • 2010 - 2106
  5. No injuries.  I had a niggle here and there, but never anything I had to miss a single day of running for.  I received ART three times for a hamstring niggle, and also had a little tendon niggle I was able to work through with rolling and eccentric calf raises.  This is HUGE for me and is the first time since my first injury between high school and college (1999) that I have had zero time-off injuries in a year!  Wahoo!  This is clearly linked to all of the other highlights so should probably be #1.
2017 will be hard to top, and maybe I'll never top it and that is okay.  But I'm ready to give it a try - bring on 2018!  God's plan for 2018 is the best plan, which means my main goal should be to trust Him always.
Here's hoping!

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Houston Training Journal #2: All that's for certain is that I am crazy

This continues Houston Training Journal #1.

Note:  If you think this sounds like a bunch of me being negative, read through the end -- my positivity returns, I promise!
I got another race photo from Bass Pro that I actually like -
this one was in my running club's Dec. newsletter &
includes my super speedy friend Zach who is often
kind enough to slow down enough to run long runs
& workouts with me

December 19, 2017
I am fully invested in running Houston only if I am 100% healthy and the race day weather is conducive to fast running, which is difficult for me to think about because that means there is a chance I won't run it.  If I can't try for a 2:45 there (which I can't if everything isn't ideal or very close to it), there isn't a reason for us to take the trip or to put my body through a hard 26.2.  Logically I fully believe this, and I also believe that God will lead me in the right direction, but it's hard not knowing while at the same time proceeding as if it's going to happen.  It's making me lack the laser focus that I had for CIM.

My hamstring has put some added stress into the equation.  I never mentioned it before now, I guess because I was just hoping if I didn't acknowledge it, it would go away -- and it always did.  Two days before my 22 miler at the end of October I did deadlifts and tweaked a spot on my left hammy.  It didn't bother me running the 22 miler but I felt it the rest of the day after the run.  I was worried about it, but it never hurt running and got better relatively quickly.  Then in the Bass Pro half marathon, I felt it for a few steps around mile 10.  It was then fine again, until I felt it on the final mile of my fast finish 24 miler in November.  It has never bothered me much while running, but when it's irritated I know how I can make it hurt, which is by doing leg swings, doing high front kicks, or stretching it.  I had one ART session for it right after my 20 x 400 workout in November, mainly as a precaution and along with an ART maintenance session for pre-race prep, and it felt like a million bucks after that.  When it didn't bother me one bit during or after CIM, I thought it must have completely healed during my taper.

However, on December 11 when I did some strides at the end of my run -- my first faster running after CIM -- I felt it.  My coach said not to let it get any worse, and it didn't until I ran 1.66 miles hard at the Ugly Sweater 5K (the perk of calling it in at the turn around was that I didn't run the whole race hard and irritate it more, I guess) followed by a 16 mile long run with some 1:00 pick-ups the day after.  It bothered me after that long run (although not as much as it did after the 22 miler), so I went in for an ART session for it yesterday evening.  The ART helped, and I also got a bonus gait analysis and some exercises to work on because my right glute is weaker than my left.  I also need to work on stretching my hip flexors, which I do daily but I guess not enough.  I do a standing desk at work and that helps them, but I guess also not enough.

Picking back up after CIM to go for Houston was/is a risk, but it is one I wanted to take, especially because I'm tentatively planning for my next marathon after Houston to be in June at Grandma's.  The way the timing aligned will allow me to take a down month after Houston before starting my Grandma's build, and the timing on that couldn't be better since it will be the coldest part of winter (give me 100* over 0* any day -- at least for training...for racing I am not sure).  But if my body says no Houston, I'm going to respect that too, as difficult as that is.  I just know I can't run 2:45 if I'm not 100%, so that makes it easier to acquiesce.  I am planning on Houston, but maybe God isn't planning it for me, and time and time again He shows me that He knows better.  Like I said here, I need to NOT tell God my plans.  We just all know that patience isn't my strong suit!  For now, I'm continuing with my training and I am actually in my peak mileage week for Houston.  I am going to be super diligent about strengthening and stretching, and we will see what God has in store.

December 20, 2017
Well, the good news is that my hammy is doing great!  ART can truly be magical.  The bad news is that I was injured at work.  By nature of my career, I often work with aggressive clients and once in awhile I am on the receiving end of that.  I was diagnosed with a neck strain (just what I need after my problems at CIM, right?!) and lost several clumps of hair.  Otherwise I'm just sore, but sometimes if it's not one thing it's another...

December 21, 2017
This week I've been really questioning whether or not I should run Houston, and last night my doubt hit the highest level.  I woke up this morning questioning this 70 mile week and what I am even doing.  Should I have taken 2 weeks off before easing back in after CIM like a normal person?  When I start not wanting to race and when daily runs start feeling like a "have to" instead of a "can't wait to", I get concerned that I'm over-doing it.  In addition to the hamstring issue (that's now all better) and neck strain (that also seems fine now), my body has recently been out of whack due to:
  • Albani had pinworms, or at least we suspect.  When we called to make her a physician's appointment, they told us to treat her with PinX and then come in if it hadn't cleared up.  The PinX instructions said that everyone in the house should be treated, and it's just a single dose, so although I hate taking medication and had no symptoms, I took it.  This was on Dec. 18.
  • I've never actually gotten sick, but I've felt like I've been fighting something or another off since just after CIM.  My immune system is strong, although less strong post-marathon.  I can just tell when I'm not 100%, with a slight sore throat or minor sniffles.  Some of this could be from running in cold temps too.
  • Holiday junk food is everywhere.  Most of the year I am fine about turning down the crap food that's always at work, and most of it isn't any good anyway (e.g., donuts every Friday, Oreos and chips here and there, etc.), but a large selection of homemade goodies can break my healthy eating patterns.  I don't feel as good running or in daily life when I eat crap, but I guess I find it hard to turn down when I know I won't see those treats again until next Christmas.
  • Stress.  Holidays stress me out.  I wish we could focus more on the true meaning of Christmas and less on the hoopla.  I feel overwhelmed by having so many things to do and by all of the changes in routines.  The stress, busyness, and changes in routines also affect my sleeping.
Anyhow, this morning on my run with my friend Rebecca I confessed out loud for the first time that I was thinking that maybe I shouldn't run Houston.  Maybe it's just too much.  I then said the same to Jon when I returned home, and noted it in my daily run notes on my coaching app.  After that, the weirdest thing happened.  I started feeling like I should run Houston again.  I am clearly going crazy.

December 23, 2017
When I told my husband, my coach, and a friend on Thursday that maybe I shouldn't run Houston, everyone pretty much replied with a similar theme of:  no worries if I didn't want to or if I didn't feel up for it, but maybe I shouldn't decide quite yet.  I felt strangely relieved after mentioning it, and I again wanted to go out for my runs!  I proceeded with my training schedule as if I'd be running Houston, including an 18 mile long run that included a 5 mile progression down to 6:08 today.  My 18 miler ended up being the fastest I've ever done in training, and it felt fantastic (also my ponytail froze and that was fun)!  So maybe I can run Houston.  And for sure I am going crazy.

However, it takes at least some crazy to try for a fast marathon, so perhaps this is to my advantage.  3 weeks until Houston, and I am so thankful that I get to run tomorrow!
Frozen hair/don't care

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

The Ugly Sweater 5K got a little ugly

I thought my last-minute decision to run this race was sensible:
  • The only reason I even looked up races for this weekend was because I was winning my running club's 2017 Runner of the Year competition, but barely.  One of my short race scores was a lot lower than the others because it was from a 2 mile race that was long.  I realized that if I replaced that score with an 18:30ish 5K, I would raise my overall score significantly.  Only the 7 best short distance races count, but I'd only run 7 short races total -- and I'd only done that many because of this competition!
  • It was advertised as a certified course that I knew was flat and out-and-back, because I'd run it before at the Joplin Turkey Trot in 2015.  I even reviewed the course map on the website approximately 100 times to make sure.
  • I've historically run well in holiday-themed 5Ks with no pressure.
  • My family didn't have any other plans for the day, outside of a little preparing for and a lot of resting up for the upcoming holidays.
  • The race offered a half mile that my daughter wanted to run.
  • The temperature was supposed to be fairly warm (around 40*), and although it was very windy, the race was mostly east and west, and the wind was south.
  • It was only a 5K and my coach okayed it.
  • My friend Liz and her extended family were running it, which really sealed the deal because I hadn't seen them since the Joplin Turkey Trot 2016.
I warmed up and watched Albani run the kids half mile, where she came in 3rd girl.  She was pretty pumped to wear one of my ugly sweaters for the race!  She enjoyed the race, she was proud of herself, and I loved watching her.
Perfect form!
As we lined up on the 5K starting line, the announcer told everyone that we wouldn't be running the course that they'd run the year before (the one that was on the website) after all; we would still run an L-shaped out and back, but would turn right instead of left.  I immediately thought, "The course is going to be wrong" -- because pretty much every race in our area that isn't certified is wrong.  I also knew that turning right would mean a hilly route, because I'd run that way warming up for the Turkey Trot 2016.  I wasn't nearly as worried about the hills as I was about the 5K potentially being either 2.8 or 3.5 miles long, making it either ineligible (if short) or not helpful (if long) for my running club's competition score!

For about the first 0.3 mile of the race, another lady was right beside me.  I had dedicated myself to running by feel and without looking at my watch, because I didn't want to get discouraged if I was slower than I thought I should be due to being 2 weeks off of CIM, but like I said, a 6:00 pace 5K would boost my score quite a bit and I felt confident I would do at least that.  The lady dropped off, and then there were 6-8 men in front of me, so I focused on picking them off one at a time.

My watch beeped 1 mile a bit before the 1 mile course marker, but not by enough to worry about.  However, when I started focusing ahead, the turn around sure looked farther than a half mile in the distance.  By the turn around, I'd passed all but two men, and I decided to look at my watch so I would know what the total race distance was going to be, since it was an out-and-back.  My watch read 1.66.  It also read 5:47 on my average pace (after the fact, looking at my splits my first mile was 5:48).

I became much more upset than I should have been when I learned that the course was going to be over 3.3 miles.  Keep in mind that my Gamin often reads short -- it had 26.21 at CIM even when I weaved in crowds, 26.10 at BMO Mesa-Phoenix when I wasn't in crowds, and this same pattern at large well-organized races I am confident were certified and the were the correct distance (and it gave me 3.09 on the old Turkey Trot course that was certified that we should have run for this race!).  I knew this race was going to be of no help for my running club's competition score and that my time was going to be nowhere near 18:30.  So I just completely called it in.  I just couldn't bring myself to keep pushing knowing all of that.  This is not my typical attitude, but I think it was related to me not being completely recovered or 100% mentally focused following CIM.  So what happened is that I ran out at 5:47 pace and back at around 6:15 pace (also known as goal marathon pace!), in the end averaging 5:58 pace on my watch.  I didn't lose any places, which is surprising.  Maybe everyone else gave up at the turn-around too!

I won overall female, and kind of laughed ironically as the announcer made a big deal about the first woman coming in fast (Jon caught this on camera below).  The first thing Jon said to me as I walked away from the finish was, "How long was it?"  I guess my time of 19:49 clued him in!  I told him, "We need a refund", after which we actually went and asked for a refund.  Jon was even more mad about it than I was.

I'll compliment the race director, because although I was very kind about it, I was upset and wanted her to know that it really isn't okay to have a race course be the wrong distance, especially when it's advertised as certified.  We wouldn't have driven over an hour to this race had it not been certified.  She looked into the issue and came back and apologized, told us that the volunteers had placed the turn-around cone and aid station 2.5 blocks out too far (making it 5 blocks too long or closer to 3.35 miles), and refunded my entry fee.  It wasn't her fault, and the other 2 races I've done that were put on by the same company were certified and were spot on.  I told her that she could give the second place woman my award since I'd gotten the refund (she offered to still give me the award but Jon told her we didn't want it, gahh).  Based on that, I was removed from the results, so it is truly like this race never happened, right?

I was still upset about it, mainly because I felt like I'd dragged my family to Joplin for a race that didn't serve its purpose.  I was also mad at myself for quitting mid-way; why didn't I keep pushing and go for a Garmin 5K PR?  It didn't go according to my plan.  Jon and I were both upset about it, and when we were complaining on the drive home, Albani said, "Well, I really had fun" and then I felt worse.  She had a wonderful time running and had no idea what her finishing time was - and didn't care.  She loved the ugly sweater, the medal, the donuts, and the time together.  What a lesson that I needed to take from my 10-year-old.
Mother-Daughter Ugly Sweaters
It also hit me:  I need to stop telling God my plan and listen to His.  I've been better about this in my life recently, but after CIM I've been pretty adamant about my upcoming running plans (which would be:  get that 2:45, or else).  I kept pushing for this little 5K with logic, when I had this feeling that maybe we shouldn't go.  The way it all panned out also showed me that I'm taking it all too seriously, which typically makes me run worse anyhow.  I immediately started praying that God would make His plan for my running clear, including His plan for Houston.

Now I feel bad that I was ugly about this race.  Although I do stand behind that "the only thing worse than a 5K is a 5K that's too long", what's a 3.3-3.4 mile 5K in the big scheme of things?  Especially when my daughter had such fun.  Will I really remember my score in my running club's competition on 20 years?  Doubtful.  Will I always remember the first time Albani wore my ugly Christmas sweater?  Guaranteed.
Liz & I rocked Christmas socks too!

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Houston Training Journal #1: Recovery Patience is Hard

This is unlikely to be anywhere nearly as extensive as my CIM series, but here we go!

December 10, 2017
5 weeks until Houston!

When we called Albani the evening after CIM, Jon said, "Mama ran her race this morning", and she asked "Did she make it to the Olympics?" (as shown by this question, she doesn't quite understand the whole Trials process).  Jon told her I was 2 minutes off of qualifying for the Trials.  A few days later she told me, out of the blue, "If I missed it by just 2 minutes, I'd be really mad at myself."  I wondered where she'd learned such an attitude, then laughed, because me a couple of years ago would have been really mad at myself.

2017 me isn't mad at myself at all.  I've learned to give myself grace and to not let comparison steal my joy.  I gave it all I had out there, and you certainly can't get 2 minutes, or any time at all, by being mad.  After Dallas I was terribly mad at myself for quite some time, and then I bullied my body into illness, over-training, and an injury.  Trying for really big goals means that you will probably miss along the way, but those misses are steps, not failures.  Perhaps this is one of the best realizations from CIM going forward.  Even if it takes me 10 tries to get a 2:45, or if I never get it at all, each training cycle and marathon is a step.

"The only failure in chasing your dreams is failing to see how far you've come along the way."
15 days until Christmas!
December 11, 2017
I am SO ANXIOUS to get back to training!  The balance with running two marathons close together is to get fully recovered from the first one yet maintain peak (or re-peak) for the second.  I trust that my coach will get me there, because he has before.  I had a break-through half marathon at White River 6 weeks after I peaked for Prairie Fire (with running a second marathon at Bass Pro in between).  I ran a huge 10K PR 5 weeks after I peaked for Phoenix.  The hard part is accepting that most of the work has already been done.  I am itching to run farther and faster, which I believe says good things about my CIM recovery, but this week is still somewhat recovery-focused and patience is key.  Over-training would kill Houston, so I am following my coach's conservative plan (this does not mean I have not asked him to add mileage, approximately 5 times already, haha!).
December 12, 2017
I was driving home from work today and it hit me:  I am a 2:47 marathoner!  I hadn't thought of it in that phrasing, and it brought me so much joy.  Even though I was 134 seconds short of my Big Dream Goal Time, I ran a 2:47 off of running an average of 65 mpw in my build.  I may very well come up short in Houston again, but maybe eventually I will get the opportunity to find out what I can do off of 80 mpw.  2 years ago I thought 2:59 was my max.  I now think that 2:44:59 is my max, and I'm okay with that!  It's crazy how different paces become the new normal.  I can't really believe that I ran 6:22.7 pace for 26.2 miles; in my mind that is still my 5K pace on a good day!

December 13, 2017
I got to do my first tiny workout post-CIM this morning (although I did have strides on Dec. 11, so had done a bit of faster running there).  It was just 2 miles progressive fast finish on the tail end of a 9 miler, but it was nice to run faster again and also to inch back towards a midweek long run!  I guess it was also the farthest I've run since CIM.  In the 6 weeks between marathons I'll basically do 2 recovery weeks, 2 training weeks, then 2 taper weeks.

December 14, 2017
I've hit my post-marathon slump.  Usually it hits sooner, so I thought I'd maybe even dodged it this time, but no such luck.  The week after CIM I was riding the high from the race and pumped to run Houston.  We were also vacationing for a few days before returning to work and real life on December 7.  Then I had 4 really long and super busy days at work playing catch up (taking time off at the beginning of the month at my job is a horrible idea, but CIM didn't ask how their date worked in my life schedule).  Yesterday I finally felt like I could breathe at work again.  I think all of that busy-ness delayed the inevitable post-marathon let-down, where I've lost the post-race high and don't yet have hard workouts to get an endorphin boost from.
We've had too many Christmas treats
This week I've been training, but lighter than I've gotten used to; I will end up around 58 miles total with most of it easy paced.  It's a time that is essential for me to have a coach, because on my own accord I would push too much too soon and screw it all up.  I looked at my Strava log today to see that I'll have 4 weeks mileage under 60 (2 weeks taper + 2 weeks recovery), and I don't like that one bit.  Especially because I then just have 2 weeks of real training before 2 weeks of taper for Houston!  I feel like I will be so out of shape, but I've looked back at what I did after other marathons and believe it or not I did not lose all of the fitness from months and months of training by tapering and recovering (shocker, I know -- it's one of those things that's easy to tell other people but hard to believe about yourself).

Jack Daniels, you crazy...but you prove that my strength lies in the marathon

December 17, 2017
Today was my first time to run double digits since CIM and my first long run of this very abbreviated training cycle.  I was a little apprehensive about it because I knew that I wouldn't be completely recovered 2 weeks after a marathon, but I also felt that I needed to feel pretty decent to continue with my goal of pressing on towards Houston.  I got in 16 miles in 41* and light rain -- the saving grace was that there was no wind, but being wet at 41* isn't my favorite.  I am thankful that it went well enough that this post is still titled Houston Training Journal!

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Marathon Day Fueling

I used the exact same fueling plan for my last two marathons, and very close to it for the two before that.  I've never had any stomach or GI issues with this nutrition, and I've always felt like I had enough fuel for the distance.  While I think that marathon nutrition is very individualized and should always be practiced in training, this is what works for me.
  • 3 hours pre-race:  a large baked sweet potato (no skin - the only time I don't eat it) and a nuun energy tab dissolved in about 12 oz water (40 mg caffeine).  I can also do a plain potato, but I like sweet potatoes more, plus they are more nutrient-dense.  Potatoes sit better with me than grains, but in a pinch I'm okay with breads, bagels, Cheerios, oatmeal, and other bland basic carbs.
  • Between 2.5-0.5 hour pre-race:  sip on 12 oz water with a second nuun energy tab.
  • 1.5 hours pre-race:  two scoops of Generation UCAN vanilla flavor mixed in about 8 oz of almond milk.
  • During race:  3 Accel gels (each with 40 mg caffeine), around the 10K, 20K, and 30K marks, but with some variation based on the course aid station placement, because I try to take them with water.  I always carry 4 gels just in case, but haven't taken the fourth recently.  I also take water at each aid station, and at CIM I took nuun on the course because that's what I train with.  I dislike other brands of sports drinks that are often provided in marathons, so I've typically used water only on the courses.
    Gels & nuun energy
That's nuun energy in water, Generation UCAN
powder, & my baked sweet potato

CIM Post-Race Tears & Post-Race Planning

The marathon will humble you even when you have a strong finish, but the ground of the finish chute is extra humbling.  I wasn't quite sure if I wanted to die, celebrate, or wallow.  Another runner helped me to my feet; God bless her for picking up a sweaty stranger from the ground.  She and a volunteer helped me walk, while my husband, who had seen me go down, ran to the side of the chute.  It's all a blur, but I told them I was okay and adamantly and repeatedly refused the med tent and a wheelchair.

Once I saw Jon, I burst into tears.  I was in so much pain, and I was so relieved to have finished and to PR, yet I was also upset that it all came crashing down at the end.  I'd envisioned a strong finish to this race many, many times, but I couldn't pull it off.  It was a mental trip to finally be confident that I could accomplish my big 2:45 dream, only to be punched in the gut (actually, in the neck) and come up 2:14 short.  I held onto the side of the chute and cried, while Jon again tried to get me to go with a medic.  I was able to gather myself and walk out of the chute holding onto the side.
I was coherent enough to know I'd want this
The neck pain subsided enough that I had a photo taken and picked up my gear bag to change into dry and warm clothing.  Walking from the gear check we ran into Courtney Frerichs, who I'd met in November in my neighboring town where she is from.  Fingers crossed that she can join our running group for some easy runs when she is visiting her parents for Christmas!
I was shocked she wasn't much taller as
a steeple-chaser (I'm 5'7")
I then managed to change and we began walking to the car.  A volunteer had given me a banana in the finishing chute, but I hadn't picked up any other food due to the state I was in.  I asked Jon for my banana to eat while we were walking to the car, since I'd handed it to him when I was exiting the finish chute, and he told me he ate it!  I'd recovered enough to laugh at the irony that he thought he needed it more than me.  Then neither he nor my parents could remember where they'd parked, so we were walking for what felt like hours, and I had to stop at a CVS and buy food.  I think the excessive amount of walking helped my recovery though.  My phone said I walked 8 miles between the lost car debacle and our afternoon/evening on Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco, giving me a PR of covering 35 miles on foot in a day!

Although I'd be lying if I said I wasn't disappointed with missing the 2:45, I am still thrilled with this race.  I lowered my PR on a course that was "fast but not easy" (I completely understand that descriptor now!).  Strava does the nifty grade adjusted pace calculations that I often rave about, and it said that my 2:49:20 performance at Phoenix grade-adjusted to 6:39 pace (actual pace was 6:27.5), whereas my 2:47:14 performance at CIM grade-adjusted to 6:22 pace (actual pace was 6:22.7).  This is because Phoenix has greater net downhill and less climbing than CIM, and means that grade-adjusted I took off 17 seconds/mile, making the 5 more seconds/mile I need feel less intimidating.  I am really glad I didn't look at the Phoenix GAP before CIM or I probably wouldn't have had the confidence to try for the pace I did!  I am not sure what the difference in cadence means, but I think it's a positive thing.
CIM elevation profile & GAP

Phoenix elevation profile & GAP
I strongly believe that you will always run a faster marathon with a negative split, so I probably could have gotten a minute or so more out of this one if I had stayed at 6:20ish instead of dropping to 6:15ish.  My halves were 1:22:57/1:24:17, so not ideal but also not the worst.  The BPPV came into play, but there is no way to know if it would have hit me no matter what towards the end of the race, or if it hit me because of how much I was pushing, or if I even would have run any better without it.  You have to run within what you have each race day.  Regardless, I'm still glad I took the risk and went for the 2:45.  My body has now traveled about 22.5 miles at the pace I need it to go for 26.2, and I hope it will build back up stronger in order to give it a go. 

Annnnnd, I am going to give it a go again sooner rather than later!  I knew that after CIM I would have a strong feeling one way or another about whether or not I should run Houston on January 14, six weeks later.  I knew that the scenario that would direct me to run Houston would be not getting the 2:45 at CIM but feeling like it was possible off of this training cycle, and I now feel that it is within the realm of possibility.  It will take everything going perfectly, and I have to get completely over the BPPV (last night was the first night I slept flat instead of at 45* in weeks), but why not try?  I've historically run a little better in the second marathon when I've done two off of one training cycle before, I came away from CIM completely healthy and I'm recovering well, I trust my coach will find the magic formula to give me the best chance at it, and I'll pray for the strength and wisdom to try!  After all, taking no chances means wasting your dreams.
Houston here I come!
Additional links:

  • There is a great article about the race here.
  • Another article about the race and the record number of OTQs it produced is here (there were more women under 2:45 in this race than at the 2016 Olympic Trials!).
  • My results are here.
  • Results in what is possibly a more user-friend format are here.

Well, I came close age-graded (which I feel like just makes me old!)
Bye, Sacramento!
Race swag
I loved that Sara Hall won!  My dad said she gave a finish line
speech about giving all of the glory to God.

CIM Miles 22.5-26.2: The beginning of the end

Around mile 22.5 is where my short-lived 2:45:00 dream for this race began unraveling.  My neck began spasming, which is something I've never experienced before.  My legs were still intact, so initially I didn't worry and kept pressing.  I needed 3.5 more miles around 6:15 to make my big dream come true.

The neck pain quickly worsened, and I felt like my neck was being pulled backwards, like a puppet on a string.  I tried to pull my head forward, to tilt it down or to the sides, but I couldn't.  It quickly progressed to where I couldn't see the road due to my neck angle, plus I became dizzy, and my peripheral vision was off.  I looked downwards towards my nose and focused on the head of a runner in front of me.  My mantra morphed into, "Just get to to finish, just get in, just follow her in" over and over.

In the final miles, the marathon will find your weaknesses and rub them in your face.  A tiny rub becomes a blister, a chafe from a seam becomes a bloody wound, a niggle becomes a limp.  My recent issue with benign paroxsymal positional vertigo (BPPV) was my weakness, and it was exposed.  I've crashed in the final miles of a marathon before, but this sensation was unlike anything I have experienced.  We all have to run with what we have in any given race, and this was simply what I had.  The weather, course, and field were conducive to performing at 100% (a rare combination that all runners sure seek!); the BPPV was not.
I received about 12 professional photos illustrating
the posture I ran with for the final 3.5 miles, hahaha!
One thing that was odd is that I was still passing people.  At mile 20 I was in 73rd female position, and I finished in 65th female position.  A handful of people passed me during those final 3.5 miles, and each time I would think, "Sara, that's supposed to be you; you are supposed to be having that strong finish", but I was doing all I could to just get in. 
Splits/position
In retrospect, I feel foolish for in no way considering my health and only thinking about getting to that finish line.  Since I'd had the definitive BPPV diagnosis, I knew what was wrong, and as the name says it is benign, so I like to think that this information was in my head informing my decisions.  I would never want to jeopardize my long-term health for a marathon time; if the choice is between a PR and running for the rest of my life, the choice is always running for the rest of my life.  I didn't think about the options, I just thought about getting in.  I knew my dream was fading away, but I didn't know by how much because I couldn't look down at my watch to see my final 3 splits, and I also knew I could still PR.
This was all I could muster for the finishing shot,
but, hey, I wasn't stopping my watch in it!
I fought with all I had, and I was so relieved to see the mile 26 sign as we turned towards the capital (it was tall so I could see it looking up!).  I was so relieved that I was going to make it in.  I could see the finishing clock up high, and I could tell I was still going to run a significant PR.  I made it over the finishing mat and immediately fell to the ground, something I've never done before.  I've always thought that people are being overly dramatic when they do this, because I always give a race all I have yet manage to stay upright, but this was just different.  I was overcome with so many sensations:  excruciating pain, joy to finish in a PR time, and disappointment that my 2:45 dream actually wasn't possible this day.

My dad's video of the finish is here.

I grabbed this from my finishing video (see the video here)

A PRs a PR
Just to be technical, my average pace was 6:22.7, haha!

CIM Miles 10-22.5: Finding confidence for the first time

It's fascinating to me how that switch flipped around mile 10 and I decided I was going to go for it.  It was awfully reminiscent of the White River half, during which I suddenly thought, "yes, I will run the rest of this race at 6:15 pace."  That was a break-through half for me, and also the race that inspired me to go for the 2:45 full.  After I made this call at CIM, mile 11 was my fastest mile of the race, but it also had the most downhill (thank you Strava GAP!), so I don't think it was too fast, but it was kind of symbolic:  it was Go Time.

As we neared mile 12, the group of men we'd been running with started to speed up even more than we already had been.  I didn't feel comfortable picking it up any more at that point, and I sensed Jamie felt the same way, so we stayed where we were while Kris pressed on with the men.  I continued praying, "God, make us strong and brave.  Help us all to PR.  Help us all get that 2:45:00."  You can read about what a phenomenal race Kris went on to have here -- I was beyond elated for her and think she ran so smart (she ran a half PR in the second half of this race!).  She also did a podcast on I'll Have Another with Lindsey Hein, episode 94 found here.  Kris and Lindsey discuss me briefly at around 1:04:00 in the podcast, which I was super excited about!

Jamie and I pulled up on a group of women just before the half and latched onto them for awhile.  Around this time we were also starting to pass elite women (we were in the sub-elite group), who were identifiable because they had numbers on their backs displaying their ranks going into the race.  I loved being in such a stacked female field because there were always ladies around, and passing the ones with numbers on their backs was particularly confidence-inspiring, because I knew they'd run a 2:46:00 or better marathon or 1:18:00 or better half to get that elite spot.

We passed the half mat in 1:22:57.  I fully believe that if I'm going to run a 2:45, it's going to be via halves of about 1:23/1:22, so this was an ideal first half.  I felt really fresh and I thought "I actually have a chance at this thing!"  6:15 seemed terrifying yet also achievable.  I kept with my mantra, "God, please make us strong and brave."  I don't choose race mantras in advance, because there are so many aspects of every race that you can't predict ahead of time, and I do best when I let mantras develop according to those, but some of my sayings end up better than others.  This one was far superior to my "It's just like an 8 mile tempo run, only 5 miles farther" at the Indy Women's Half!

My family was waiting just after the half, cheering with all they had!  My Dad's video from that point is here.  I took my second gel around this time.
Just after the half
The miles kept clipping off right where I wanted them to be, and they felt brisk but sustainable, each one solidifying that this was what I should be doing.  Each mile that passed I kept thinking that I could actually do this; at mile 18, "I can really do 8 more miles at 6:15 pace, I can!"  We were passing more and more elite numbers, including the woman who was ranked 9th going into the championship race.  As I kept rolling, I would sometimes question, "Will I have enough?" but would quickly reassure myself that I really was going to; I felt great.  I needed God to make me strong and brave, and I would be enough.
After mile 18, and a good representation of
how there were always people to run with
yet it was not crowded
Jamie and I got separated at an aid station, although I'm not exactly sure which mile it was at.  I was just behind her but I knew she wouldn't know I was there, and I didn't want to surge any (those 1:00 pick-ups to sub-6:00 pace during long training runs taught me that doing that could blow me up!).  I prayed for both of us to be strong and brave.

When I hit the mile 20 mat in 2:06:10, I knew if I could maintain 6:15 (for a 38:50 final 10K) through the end I was really going to do it!  I really thought I could.  At Phoenix I'd needed a 39:50 final 10K to get a 2:49 (I ended up running 39:10), and this situation felt so similar because in that moment I really thought I could make it happen.  It is always nice to have more wiggle room time-wise, but for me when running for a time goal like this, I just can't have it or I'll for sure bonk.

I continued to roll and to believe until around mile 22.5...
I couldn't figure out where to include this, but this is the
course elevation.  It is truly a "fast but not easy" course.
The net drop of over 300 feet is nice, but you climb a
significant amount too.