Nov 13

Richmond Week 20: The Big Dance

 

Runner with arms open wideRace week.

Tapering brings out all the feels. So does finding out that someone hit your car over the weekend and neglected to leave a note. So some, okay a lot, of my energy during the week was taken up by dealing with getting my car fixed (the damage turned out to be cosmetic, but it still took time and energy to figure that out and get it repaired).

I had one speed session during my taper–basically this is to remind my legs what it feels like to run fast. It went really well (8x 400), and the rest of the week consisted of short easy runs of 4 miles or less. I did my shakeout 3 on Friday morning early, and returned to my how to hear the telltale chirp of a smoke detector whose battery was dead. Awesome. Especially because it always takes a good 10 minutes to figure out which one is making the sound. I ended up changing all of the batteries and trying to be grateful that the one had died at a reasonable hour this time rather than 3:00 in the morning before I was to leave for Richmond, or after I was already gone for my wonderful petsitter do figure out. Smoke alarms sorted, I packed the car and hit the road.

Side note: no matter how many lists I make, I always forget something. This time, I forgot the two full bottles of electrolytes, I planned to drink in the car. When I realized this, about 60 miles down the road, I had to change my hydration plan. I ha brought a 12 pack of La Croix with me thinking I would have it for after the race. Plot twist! New hydration plan: Kill the 12 pack. I did pretty well–9 of 12 over maybe 6 hours–so I consider that a win.

Due to several (intended) stops and a few delays thanks to construction and accidents on I-85, I got to Richmond about 4:15 (I should have been there by 3:00), and my friend and roommate for the weekend, Liz, got there around 5:00. We got settled into our room and debated dinner. We both had brought lots of snacks, because carb loading, so we decided to stay in and conserve our energy rather wander around downtown Richmond to find food. Instead we turned our attention to the next morning’s weather forecast, which seemed to get colder every time we looked (and we were looking pretty much every 30 seconds  there for while!). After adjusting to the likelihood that the temperature would be too cold for my original race kit earlier in the week (I had originally planned for a warm weather race because it seemed like everyone else I knew had been dealt that card), I thought I knew what I wanted to wear on race day. And then Liz read the “25 degrees that feels like 17 with wind chill” . . . I was hoping for a chilly day. By that I mean, I was hoping for low-40s with no rain and low humidity. I came up with an alternative for my kit in the event that when we woke up, it was still going to feel like the mid-teens, and decided to stop fretting.

The next morning, it was COLD. Not as cold as the prediction called for, but SO MUCH COLDER than anything i had trained in since February. Or maybe even January. In any case, a LONG time. 25 degrees at race time with 6-8 mph wind, which made it feel colder. As my brother would say, “Hoo-wee.”

But I’m getting ahead of myself. I went to bed early. I woke up a bunch of times, a bunch of times, that is, until the time I was supposed to wake up (which almost never happens). I had fallen asleep with headphones on because I had been listening to a Netflix show while I tossed and turned, but I guess I had taken the headphones out at some point. So while I had planned to get up at 5:30 or 5:40 with my alarm, I didn’t actually get up until a little after 6, no alarm. Oops. That threw me off a little bit, but it could have been worse. I got dressed, ate breakfast, had coffee, etc. I wasn’t very hungry–nerves, I guess, but I ate as much as I could, and we got on our way.

The cold was bracing when we stepped outside of the hotel. I was wearing an extra long sleeve shirt and sweatshirt. I also had a throwaway hat and gloves, and I had Hot Hand packets in my gloves. Liz and I basically followed the herd of runners towards the start, and then we split up at the bag drop. After handing over my gear bag (with warm, dry clothes for after), I found a spot in the parking lot and did some warm up stretches. Then it was time to get into the corral. I made a wish. My wish was this: I wished that when I was given the choice to quit or press on, that I would be brave. And then we were off.

The marathon started at 7:45. I crossed the starting line a couple minutes later. I had taken off the sweatshirt and the long sleeve shirt just before the start (and boy was I cold!). I was carrying a bottle with Gu Roctane drink. I had two goals for the first few miles: goal 1 was to finish the bottle by mile 3–that would put me up 220 calories or so and allow me to bypass the fist water stop where it would be the most congested. Goal 2 was to let all of the people pass me and run no faster than 9 minute miles for mile 1 & 2. It’s really hard to let people pass. It goes against every fiber in my being during a race, but my best races have been ones where I have started slowly, let people get ahead of me, and then slowly worked my way up the pack. So that was the plan in Richmond. I was a little bit fast (8:53 and 8:44), but just a little, and I did a good job of letting people pass me by. Including the 3:45 pace group–that was especially hard since I was aiming for a faster time, but I just tried to remind myself that the same thing happening at Big Sur. And at Myrtle Beach. And both times, it worked out well for me. I eventually caught and passed the pace group later. I also remembered the time that I tried to keep up with a pace group–in Los Angeles. No way did I want a repeat of that experience.

After mile 2, I sped up a little bit. I was wearing a pace band tailored to the Richmond course, my goal time, and my preferred strategy (slow start, negative split, fairly even effort, medium fade at the end). I tried to just run the pace per mile that it prescribed, all the while being very mindful of how I felt. My mantras at this point: “All day long” (meaning: I was trying to run a pace that I could sustain all day long). Also,  “Nice and smooth and technically pretty.” (Technically pretty is a phrase that I took away from Coach Matt at BirdCamp). The first couple miles of the course were not pretty. There was construction on the roads, so I was basically looking at the street and the bright orange barrels and cones  along the way, trying not to trip over myself or anything else.

Once we got into mile 3, we started running through neighborhoods. And they were lovely. There were lots of people out cheering for the runners. (Did I mention it was cold?). I had adapted a play list for the race and set it up so that the first 5 or 6 songs were mellow, with the idea that these would help me not to get ahead of myself. The first song, Radiohead’s “Everything in It’s Right Place” was on point, and then the playlist shuffled. I didn’t want it to shuffle, and it was way to early to hear the song that came next, Fatboy Slim’s “Weapon of Choice,” so I paused the music for a while. A very long while.

I skipped the first aid station because I had my own bottle to drink. I was also a little worried because aid stations pass out cups of water and sports drink (in this case, Powerade). It was 25 degrees outside. You don’t have to be a scientist to know that water plus 25 degrees can equal ice. Luckily the pavement wasn’t cold enough for the roads to get slippery, but it was a factor I was thinking about early on in the race.

Once I sped up to my marathon pace, I was very consistent (yay me!) until mile 7 or so. We ran over the first splits mat at the 10K mark, and I thought about my friends and family who would be getting an automatic text message from the race telling them that I had made it to the 10K mark. I sent them “Hi!,” “I’m doing this!,” and an “It’s going well,” vibes, which made me smile. Mile 7 was a lovely downhill mile that turned into the first of two bridge crossings. It was beautiful. And it was windy, and so cold (Did I mention it was cold?), but really beautiful. I tried to relax my shoulders and my neck, and I made sure to look at the surroundings as much as I could.

As we came off the bridge, we turned on to a road that ran alongside the river and was also amazingly beautiful with sunshine and river views and lovely autumn leaves. This was the one part of the race that didn’t have many people (though there were a few), but it was so scenic that it really didn’t matter. During the river mile, I thought a lot about my friends who are dealing with injuries. I thought about how lucky I was to be there, doing the thing that I had been training for all year. I was almost overwhelmed with gratitude to be healthy and to have such support from my friends and my team, some of whom had made the trip to Richmond even though they couldn’t run their races. Then I had to pull myself back from that line of thought because mile 8-9 is way too early to be running from the heart. I needed to keep that card in my pocket for later on.

The course wound away from the river and back into residential Richmond. There were certain areas of spectators called party zones that were really crowded. I made a point of high-fiving any kids I saw, especially the girls, because Oiselle and Converse. I’m a strong believer in Girl Power. I can’t say enough about how impressed I am by all the people who were out there cheering. It was great!

I hit the half way mark really close to target, and I still felt good. My fueling strategy, which was to Gu every 3-4 miles (that’s a lot compared to most runners, I guess, but it worked for me in Paris, and it’s not like I couldn’t use the calories, especially given the cold–Did I mention it was cold?). I was determined not to bonk because I hadn’t taken in enough calories. Marathons are not diet plans! I knew that the second half was going to be harder, so I kept telling myself to keep doing what I was doing, to hold back and keep drinking fluids and eating my gels. I had started to listen to music somewhere after the halfway mark mostly because I was no longer worried about it carrying me away to the land of “Too Fast.”

Mile 15 brought The Bridge. I had been warned about The Bridge. It’s uphill (though not terribly so), and long, and very exposed so if there’s any wind, it will be especially noticeable. My plan was to keep my gloves and throwaway hat through at least the end of The Bridge. The Bridge was really long. And it was windy. But it was also really beautiful, and after I had crossed it, it was still cold enough for me to keep the hat and gloves. Around mile 17, I noticed Bart Yasso (a really famous marathoner who usually comes to town for race weekend to cheer for runners), so I ran over to him, and we high-fived–little kids and Bart Yasso high-fives–this was fun!

I just kept humming along. I was starting to get a little tired, but I still felt pretty good. And then at one point, it occurred to me that if I had signed up for the half-marathon instead of the full, that I’d be finished by now. I really like half-marathons. Why am I doing this? This is so much harder. And then I told myself to STFU, that I’m doing this. That I have ten miles left. But I also started to think that I had to go to the bathroom. And I remembered a conversation from camp: what would you do if faced with the bathroom or BQ decision? Was I going to be faced with a bathroom or BQ decision? I spent mile 18 pondering. I didn’t think it would come to that, but if it did, I was going for the BQ*. Yes, I actually thought about that.

I crossed the 20 mile mark, and I saw that I had a very comfortable margin (I needed to finish in 3:55 to BQ) to hit my goal, so I decided to stop at the porta-let. This was going to be either a very good decision or a really bad one because my legs would appreciate the break or they would cramp like crazy. They appreciated it. It too me a little less than 2 minutes, but I felt about a million times better when I hit the road again. Onward.

From mile 20, I was running to get to my team at the Oiselle Cowbell Corner. I wasn’t exactly sure where it was, but I knew that I would find it somewhere around mile 24. At this point, I was getting really tired. My legs, what I could feel of them, were getting sore. I wanted to back off. I wanted to slow down. I thought about walking. I kept telling myself, “Just keep going.” “What will you say if your friends ask you whether you eased up?–You will say NO. HELL NO, so KEEP GOING.” “How will you feel if you don’t give it your all? How did you feel in Los Angeles when you walked the aid stations? What is worse? Tired legs now? Or knowing that you let yourself quit? BE BRAVE. GET UGLY.” I started to look for landmarks to run to–I’m going to keep going at this pace until I hit the stop light, and then the next one, and the next one. I thought about how I’m supposed to be tired–I’ve run 23 miles! I thought, just hold on. Just keep going. Just get to your team. I didn’t know who would be there, but I knew that they would be wonderful. I kept going.

I came down a block somewhere after mile 24, and there it was. A Yeti! My tribe! My people! I heard them recognize me and start yelling my name and going crazy with the cowbells, and I started gesturing frantically at them that I loved them and that my heart was full and I don’t even know what else–I think there may have been some ugly crying because I was so, so happy to see them and to still be running pretty well and to know that I was almost to the finish, and that my dream was right there in front of me. Now I let myself feel it all and though my pace had slowed a bit, I was running as strong as I could. As I was leaving them behind, I saw two more friends, who got right in my face and yelled ERIN!! And on I went, flying from such energy and joy!

Just a little farther down the road, I passed the 25 mile mark, and then the “One Mile Left” sign, and this part of the course was flat or slightly downhill. And then the drop: the last .2 or maybe .3 of the course is a screaming downhill, which I had also been warned about. My friend described it as an “Ass Over Teakettle kind of downhill,” and that about summed it up. My legs were trashed by then, but you couldn’t help but run fast(er) because the grade was just inevitable and yet, the finish line which had to be right there somewhere wasn’t yet in view because the road curved around and was lined with crowds of spectators cheering and cowbelling and generally going nuts. I finally saw the finish line and the clock: 3:42:50–and I charged the line as best I could to try to make it under 3:43. My official time is 3:42:54–with a pit stop. I did it. I beat my marathon PR by a little over 9 minutes, and I qualified for Boston with a 12 minute cushion.

As all of these things were flooding my brain, I stopped my watch. I kept moving through the finishers’ chute. I think I was kind of crying. I collected my medal and my blanket and my finishers’ cup. I was given a bottle of water, but I couldn’t open it. I kept walking and got in line to claim my gear bag with my dry clothes. Once my bag was acquired, I found a rock to sit on. I took my phone out of airplane mode, and it immediately began to chirp and vibrate with messages from my parents and my brother and my friends who had been getting text alerts over the course of the race. I tried to text them back, but my fingers were very cold, and I couldn’t type very well. I became aware that I was starting to get very cold, and I knew that I needed to eat something, so I collected myself, and I went into a port-let to change.

I then went to the finish area to get food (cold pizza ftw!) and to check out the “free gift for Boston Qualifiers,” which was royal blue a Koozy (coozi?) with Anthem Richmond Marathon BOSTON QUALIFIER in gold. Pretty sweet. And I was especially glad that it was small because between the medal, which felt like it weighed a ton, the cup, the blanket, and my gear bag, which held wet clothes, a bagel, the bottle of water I couldn’t open, a bottle of Powerade that I also couldn’t open, and my phone, I was kind of a mess.

I made my way back to the finish against the crowds and walked back up the course to find the Oiselle Cheer Squad, cheering for those who were still running as I went. It felt good to get moving again, and still in a fog, I almost walked right past my teammates, and would have had I not happened to look up and recognize one of my friends. It was so great to share the day with them and to also cheer for other runners as they passed us.

The rest of the weekend is kind of a blur, but it involved a Oiselle Happy Hour with old and new friends, legs up the wall, Kara Goucher fangirling and more. I think back to July 2014, when I was trying to decide whether or not to sign up for the Flock, as the Volée was known as the time. I was really unsure, but my partner-at-the-time encouraged me to try it, so I did. It’s one of the best decisions I’ve made. This weekend is just one of the many occasions that has reaffirmed that truth over the last 3+ years. In the beginning, I figured that if nothing else, I’d at least get some discounts on my favorite brand of running clothing. In hindsight, the discounts are cool, but they’re by far the LEAST important element of this team for me. I’m so proud to wear my singlet and represent our team at races and to the running community. To me, it represents friendship and support and so many strong and amazing women of all paces and ages and professions lifting each other up and cheering each other on. I’m so glad that I could share this weekend with them both those who were there and those who sent me good luck and congratulations from afar.

Head up, wings out!

[Photo by my awesome teammate Caitlin Kovakowski]

 

*BQ = Boston Qualifier.

From the Boston Athletic Association website: To qualify for the Boston Marathon, athletes must meet time standards which correspond to age and gender. For the 2019 Boston Marathon, qualifying times must be run on or after Saturday, September 16, 2017. The qualifying times below are based upon each athlete’s age on the date of the 2019 Boston Marathon (April 15, 2019). Achieving one’s qualifying standard does not guarantee entry into the event, but simply the opportunity to submit for registration. In recent years, not all qualifiers who submit an entry have been accepted due to field size restrictions. If total amount of submissions surpass the allotted field size for qualified athletes, then those who are the fastest among the pool of applicants in their age and gender group will be accepted.

For the 2018 Boston Marathon, runners had to run a little over 3 minutes faster than the qualifier time, so I would have had to run 3:51:45 or so.

TMI ALERT: The Bathroom or BQ conundrum is this: if you had to choose between not qualifying for Boston and shitting yourself, which would you choose?

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

Nov 06

Richmond Week 19: Taper Madness

19 in white against green

Tapering. Yes.

34.8 miles this week. After the last several weeks of 50+ miles, this week was a piece of cake, at least when it came to the legs.

As for the rest, it was in like a lamb and out like a lion (Yes, I know it’s usually the other way around). Sometimes, I’m fine. Sometimes, I feel like a walking nerve ending. My emotional state has started to vacillate wildly from “I LOVE YOU MAN” to wanting to light things on fire–both literally and figuratively. I don’t trust my reactions to even the most basic of things–the calibration is off and I’m over-reacting to things sometimes in major ways. But these responses don’t always register as overreactions at the time. I know that I don’t usually get moved almost to tears while listening to Sibelius 2. Or the Marriage of Figaro. I don’t even like Mozart. I don’t usually ugly-cry while watching sports on TV, even marathons.

I’m also not sleeping well. I wake after a couple hours and can’t fall back asleep for a long time, and when I finally do, it’s not restful sleep. I’m tossing and turning a lot. On the upside, my sleep patterns have been erratic for the better part of the last year, so I know I function. But it doesn’t help with my emotional fugue-state this week.

But my runs, if short, were solid. The easy runs were 4 or 5 miles. I had one strength workout that consisted of two miles to warm-up, then 2 at MP-10, 1 recovery, 2 more at MP-10, and 2 to cool down. Felt really good. And then the last down digit run: 2 warm up, 8 at MP (8:23), and 2 to cool down. Again, it went well. Two days off this week, and a mere 4 today. I felt good. Even with more days of 90%+ humidity, I felt good.

So mostly now it’s a matter of not falling too behind in my classes and the grading. Also, I need to be careful not to trip over myself and sprain an ankle or cause myself other kinds of random injuries.

 

 

 

 

[Creative Commons licensed made by Flickr user Eva the Weaver]

SaveSave

SaveSave

Oct 29

Richmond Week 18: Or, Taper Week 1

The number 17 painted in yellow against a blue and white background

Here I was thinking that this was week 17, and I’ve thought that all week long. But it’s actually been week 18. Counting has never been my strong suit . . .

We’ll start off the recap with something that I’m excited about: as of today, 28 October 2017, I’ve run the year (In layman’s terms, that means I’ve run 2017 miles in 2017). Technically, I have run OVER the year, having hit 2025 this morning! I’ve been trying to run the year for the last three years, but I’ve always come up short due to injuries, sometimes it’s been a little bit short, sometimes not so little. It hasn’t been my primary goal, just something that I thought would be cool (or what passes for cool when you’re a big nerd like I am), but to have hit the mark in late October feels pretty good, particularly because it snuck up on me this time around. I hadn’t been looking at that part of my Strava profile. I will be cutting way back over the next month or two, first to taper and then to recover from the marathon. My coach assigns me a full two weeks of rest after running a marathon, and then I will make my way back slowly. I had promised myself that I wouldn’t rush things after Richmond simply to hit a specific number–injury just isn’t worth it–and now it’s all house money!

This week was a slightly lighter week in training, and thanks to the magical taper, the next two weeks will be even lighter still. I had TWO days off instead of the usual Wednesday only, and most of my runs were a little shorter to boot.

Monday morning was (supposed to be) booked solid with a work commitment from 8:30-11, and then a bunch of other things, so I was up early and running in the dark, which I haven’t done very often this year. I don’t mind running in the dark, actually, especially since I have some sweet reflective gear to wear, but I could have used a bit more sleep. Especially since the work commitment ended up being a lot less hectic than I had anticipated (thank you, rainy day).

Instead of 12x 400, this week, I only had 8x 400. That felt weird; it felt weird in a good way, but weird nevertheless.

The only “normal” workout I had this week was Thursday’s tempo run. I felt good, so I threw in some hills by looping around Duncan Park instead of staying on the Mary Black Rail Trail. It was a bit more challenging, but a little spicy is just how I like it.

After Friday off, my teammate Jenny and I went to Greenville really early on Saturday morning (where “really early” means leaving at 7am) to run an easy 5 miles before cheering for our teammates who were running the Spinx RunFest 10K and 13.1. Our easy 5 mile loop got a bit less easy because we got a little bit lost and because we were trying to make sure that we got to our cheer spot in time so we didn’t miss anyone! We made it and cowbelled up a storm for about an hour until our final teammate came cruising through on her way to a shiny new Personal Best! Then we went to our favorite Biscuit Head for brunch. The weather was a bit dreary and it even drizzled a bit, but that’s actually great race weather–so much better than last year when it was hot and sunny!

Today was my last long run until Richmond. I have one more 12 mile workout this week (the same tempo run as this past Thursday), but this week was 44 total miles, next week will be 34, and then it’s 19 leading up to race day. What that means is that I’ll probably have the proverbial ants in the pants next week as the big day approaches. I’m trying to stay on an even keel, but I’ve been working towards this goal for a very long time and taper madness is real thing.

Now I’m trying to get my house in order, mentally speaking. I know that the biggest challenge I will face on race day is a psychological one. I’ve started to make my packing lists and started to set aside things I want to pack. I’ve been breaking in my dancing shoes. I just bought my Maclin pacing spreadsheet. If you are a marathon runner and you don’t know Greg Maclin’s spreadsheets, check them out. I can’t remember who turned me on to him back in the Big Sur days, but they’re fantastic. You can specify even pace or even effort, positive, neutral, or negative split, and more. It takes the guess work out of pacing and planning, and you can print out wrist bands or pace cards to carry with you during the race.

So yeah, I’m starting to get a little antsy. But hey–2025! Accumulated over 10 months in 4 countries (the US, Cuba, Canada, and the Netherlands), in several cities: Spartanburg, Santa Clara, Trinidad, Havana, Phoenix, Columbia, Hilton Head, Charleston, Asheville, Victoria, Ocean City, Pittsburgh, Charlotte, Amsterdam, Williamsport, and Myrtle Beach. Only 10 of these miles were treadmill miles. Some of them were run in the rain. A few in the snow. Many, many of them were run in ridiculous humidity and very warm temperatures. And just today (Sunday), it was cold enough that I wore gloves (with shorts and a tee-shirt, but still–gloves!)

 

[Creative Commons licensed image by Flickr user Leo Reynolds]

SaveSave

SaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

Oct 23

Richmond Week 17: Take it to the Limit, One More Time

Bird with wings spread on post in lakeWeek 16. This was the last of the heavy-lifting weeks of this training cycle. I ran 63 miles, some of them fast. I’m not sure why this image came up when I searched for “16,” but it spoke to me. I’m not sure whether this bird is about to take off or just settling in upon landing. I kind of like both versions, and I’m kind of in both places: settling in for a landing after 16 weeks of increasingly intensive training, and about to take off for flight. Not right away–I’ve got some time still–but soon: 19 days.

The week started with 8 recovery miles after 18 on the Sunday before. I felt okay. Then a return to the 400. I hadn’t done 400s since that day at the beach, the “Death By 400 Workout.” I thought that this time would be easier. I was right, not only because I wasn’t running in the 80 degree mornings of July this time (I still had a full dose of humidity, but it was much cooler), but also because since then, I’ve completed a solid block of training. I did the two mile warm-up and went to my usual 400s spot. I thought about my BirdCamp friends Uli, Allison, Stephanie, Cecelia, and Jaqueline (we did a few 400s together as part of the interval workout), and I imagined running with them the way that we ran in Boone a few weeks ago. The workout was really good. It was just hard enough to be a challenge, but I had no trouble completing the circuit.

On Wednesday, I enjoyed my day off–I’m really enjoying my days off right now!

Thursday threw me for a bit of a loop, but that’s because when I looked at Thursday’s plan earlier in the week, I somehow looked at the wrong Thursday. Instead of 12 miles with 8 at marathon pace, which I have on the docket for THIS Thursday, I had 6 mile repeats at marathon pace minus 10 seconds. And that was fine. It was just a surprise on Thursday morning because I had been anticipating something else.

Friday was another 8 in the morning, a quick shower, and then I drove to Myrtle Beach for the weekend, where I would be running the Myrtle Beach Mini on Sunday.

Saturday’s 8 were on the beach. As I commented on Strava, beach miles are hard miles. It was lovely. I got up early so that I could watch the sunrise, and it didn’t disappoint. But the sand was very soft; even at the tide line, it was very soft. I saw a number of monarch butterflies washed up on the beach–never more than one or two at a time, but I probably saw 7 or 8 in total. They were beautiful and sad. I also found a couple of conch shells, mostly in tact. So when I found the first one around mile 2, I picked it up and carried it with me. It fit in my hand surprisingly well, so it kinda looked like I was wearing a knuckle guard of some kind. I found another one around mile 5, and it was also really cool, and it fit surprisingly well in my other hand (and these wouldn’t have fit the opposite hands–I tried), so I carried it too. For 3 miles, I ran on the beach with conch shells, one in each hand. They got a little bit awkward at the very end, but I brought them back to my room, rinsed them out and ended up bringing them home with me. They’re pretty great. Even if I’m the only one who thinks so.

I went to the outlets later on and then spent the rest of the afternoon and evening taking it easy. I walked on the beach during the dusk time, which was beautiful and melancholy.

And then I went to bed early, because I had a 4AM wake-up for the race the next day.

It was still stupidly humid–like 93% at the start and a bit warmer than would have been ideal (63 degrees, which would have been okay if it were more dry . . .) My warm up was uneventful; I jogged around the parking lot. I felt a bit self-conscious in my crop top (my Oiselle team sports bra) and spandex since I didn’t see anyone else was wearing racing kits (and I wasn’t racing this half; it was a training run), but with the humidity, it was going to be too warm for anything else. My plan was to run the first 3 easy, to practice letting the crowd around me pass me by, to stay calm and steady and concentrate on my breathing amidst the chaos. Nice and smooth. I saw one of my Volée friends at the start (I didn’t know she would be there). She was running with her partner, so we said a quick hi before the start, and then the race began.

I had lined up just behind the 9 minute pacer. I figured that my easy pace would probably be a little slower than that, and then I’d go on ahead once it was time for the marathon pace miles. I was surprised to fall a good bit behind the pacer almost immediately, but I keep my effort easy and was surprised to see that I was a little under 9 minute pace myself. So I let the pace group go.

Soon enough, it was time to pick up the pace. Even when I went from a 9 minute pace to 8:23, it took me a couple of miles to get around that pace group (which means that they were still going too fast). The course was mostly flat, and the sunrise, was lovely. The aid stations were spaced out well, and the volunteers were great–special shout out to the kids around mile 7 who had the “WATER!” “GATORADE!” rally cry going on! There was a lovely section of beachfront with a totally lovely view. And then we hit the hotel strand, which meant that we were going close to the finish. I was running mostly by myself for the last few miles–I mean, I was running by myself the whole time, but there were more people around earlier. By mile 10, there were fewer people near me, and for a while around mile 11, I was alone. So there’s potential for a great race photo, since there was nobody else around. But then, I’m in my kit, which might look okay, and might not by mile 11. Who knows. Guess we’ll find out. Or at least I’ll find out.

The last mile of the race is a bit nasty. It’s still flat, but we run past the finish line for about a half mile before looping back around. The final half mile is a winding bike path on the beach. I could have done with out the twists and turns, and I did my best to split the difference. I was still mostly alone by then. I had sped up a bit for the final three miles, and I still felt pretty good–good enough to talk to the photographer and various spectators who were cheering me on. I passed a couple of guys in the final stretch and just about caught the last one at the finish line. I would have taken him too had I another 10 or 12 feet. Update: according to the photos at the finish, I did catch him just before crossing the finish line!

I finished in 1:49:36. I wasn’t trying to PR, and this wouldn’t have been the day for it with the humidity, but it was good enough for 5th in my age group. I ran my cool down, which was less fun since I was running a mile out and back into the course, and I saw some struggles. I also felt a bit like a heel running in the “wrong” direction, and then turning around and running back but not with the racers. I picked up my medal, which is huge and kinda heavy. I got a banana and a bagel half. I got my drop bag, and put on a long sleeve shirt since I was soaking wet and starting to get a chill. I decided to check out the beer garden, but in order to gain entry, I had to flash the female volunteer since by bib was pinned to my crop still. I’m glad that I went in though–Sam Adams! I only had one (we could have 2) since I had to drive home and I was pretty dehydrated. Plus, by the time I was finished with the one, the line was really long, and it was 10 AM. I was supposed to check out of the hotel by 11. I decided to walk back to the hotel on the beach, which was lovely. It was a beautiful, sunny day, and the surf was cool but not cold. I got back to the hotel, stood in the surf for a few minutes as a sort of not-so-icy ice bath, and then I went up to my room. I took a quick shower and checked out of the hotel. Suddenly, I was starving, so I stopped and got food before beginning the drive back.

All in all, it was a good week. It was an intense week. And now the taper begins.

[Creative Commons licensed image by Flickr user Juarez Espindola]

SaveSaveSaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

Oct 15

Richmond Week 16: Friday the 13th & #ThisIs45

cake with many lit birthday candles

One more heavy week and then we start to cut back a little. This week was intense, and that’s a good thing, I think. After Sunday’s twofer in what I can only describe as The Suck that is summer-weather in October, it didn’t really get easier.

Monday’s run was mercifully short–“only” 6 miles, but the humidity continued unrelenting, and even though I enjoyed being on the Cottonwood Trail, the humidity really made things hard. I sweat a lot in general, and in those conditions, it’s so much more. I went to Panera afterwards, and I ordered breakfast before I left the trail so that I didn’t time out (Panera stops serving their breakfast menu at 10:30, and it was a little after 10:00 when I was done). I got to Panera and went into the bathroom to change. I got out of the wet tank and sports bra, and when I went to change out of my shorts, I realized that I had forgotten to pack pants. Oops. Worse, the shorts I was wearing were completely soaked. And they were purple. Spandex. And I had an appointment to go to which meant I was going in sweaty, purple spandex. Winning. But that was the right call. I needed to eat more than I needed to preserve my dignity. Pretty sure my dignity is an illusion at this point anyway.

Tuesday was a strength work out: 2 up, 3 miles at mp -10, 1 mile recovery, 3 more at mp -10, 2 down. Because the humidity was still close to 100%, I slowed it down a little bit for the first 3, and then went for it the second time. I did not program paces into my watch this time, so I was trying to run by feel and find my pace. I kind of did it. The first 3 miles were 8:21, 8:20, 8:13 (I was aiming for around 8:20), and then the second one was 8:11, 7:55, 7:57 (I was aiming for 8:13).

Wednesday was my day off. I am more and more glad about these days as the training cycle wears on.

Thursday was a tempo run at marathon pace: 2 up, 8 at MP, 2 down. Average pace was 8:15 (aimed for 8:23). I again did not program a pace into my watch for this and tried to just run by feel.

I flipped Friday and Saturday. Friday was my birthday, and I was really excited about the fact that it fell on a Friday since I was born on Friday the 13th. It was still stupid humid, but I enjoyed those miles around Duncan Park. Saturday was a meet up with my Volée SC teammates. We met in Greenville and though the temperatures were better, the humidity wasn’t. We ran 5 together, and then I ran one more solo. It was pretty great to have company for some miles, especially in the wake of Birdcamp.

Sunday was long run day. 18. Still crazy humid, but nor crazy hot. I felt good but not great. I felt like I can definitely finish my marathon in a few weeks, but I am also ready for this cycle to be over. I think 20 weeks is probably a little too long for me going forward. But I’m doing it, and I’m mostly feeling good, though I am ready for the fall weather to return. I had more success with the ice bath this weekend. 6 bags. Could probably have used a 7th, but I just would have nowhere to put it unless I waited to buy it until after my run. Next weekend, I’ll be at the beach, and that means one thing: ice machine!  (assuming that there’s time before I have to check out. Otherwise it means another thing: Atlantic Ocean (which might or might not be cold this time of year–I have no idea).

Next week, I have my dress rehearsal half marathon in Myrtle Beach. I thought that there would be other people I know running this race. A week out, I think it’s just me. That’s ok. There are worse fates than a weekend at the beach. I will have my team with me in Richmond, and that’s going to be great, whatever happens over those 26 miles.

61.4 this week. Woof.

 

[[Creative Commons licensed image by Flickr user The Shifted Librarian]

Oct 08

Richmond Week 15: Now My Heart Is Full

Running down gravel driveway arms out wide

Bird camp week. That meant that my training plan needed to be a bit more flexible because the GPS is less accurate in the North Carolina mountains, and we were a lot higher in elevation than I’m used to in Spartanburg.

The week started off with eight easy recovery miles on the heels of the 18 miler from last Sunday, and this was awesome because I got to run a bit of it with a friend who I work with and rarely see these days. Tuesday saw me jumping into a 12 mile progression run, which I was supposed to run on Thursday, but since Thursday was Birdcamp, things got moved around. I knew that if this workout was going to happen, it needed to happen early in the week The progression run went really well, and I was able to hit all of my paces. Not only that but I felt pretty good too!

And then it was camp time.

When I went to camp last year, I was in a complete free fall, emotionally. I don’t think that I realized it at the time, but in retrospect, that weekend was the cusp of cataclysmic change. I was trying not to be injured (I was injured). I was trying not to be unhappy (I was unhappy). I was trying not to be terrified (I was terrified). I was trying to be present and engaged with my team (I wasn’t able to be fully present and engaged with my team).

What a difference a year makes.

When I learned that there would be another October camp this fall, I was determined to come back and have a better experience. Last year, I wasn’t really able to run, and the running that I did do was uncomfortable at best. That kind of sucks when you’re at a running camp. But even more, I regretted not being able to get to know everyone as well as I might have otherwise because I was distracted and stressed out and unable to devote the energy and attention to getting to know new people. In short, I wanted a do-over.

And what a do-over it was! I had such a fantastic weekend with my Oiselle Volée teammates, some of whom I have known for years and others whom I just met this weekend: women from all over the United States, women of different ages and paces, women from different walks of life. What I love about the Volée is that it doesn’t matter what differences there are between us, we all love running and are committed to supporting fellow women who also love running. We ran–a lot. We ate–a lot. We laughed–a lot. We did Pilates and core work, and now my abs hurt–a lot. We shared our stories and learned from each other. We also learned from the awesome coaches and athletes at ZAP Fitness. We obsessed about our favorite flystyle and got to see some of the fall and winter gear. All in all, it was one of the best weekends I’ve had in a long time.

One of the highlights was the gait analysis. Mine was TERRIBLE last year. I basically looked like I was folded over in half while I was running; my hips were uneven and unstable, and my entire lower body’s kinetic chain was a complete disaster. I came home last year committed to two things:

  1. Not running for 4 weeks to let my shins heal.
  2. In that time, to strengthen my core to hopefully prevent the shin issues (and other potential issues that come from a weak core) from recurring.

I was very curious what the analysis would reveal this time around.

Guys! Guess what! There is noticeable improvement. For real! I’m not saying that my running form is now perfect–it’s not–but it’s SO MUCH BETTER than it was a year ago! I’m so pleased and encouraged by this progress, and I’m fired up to continue to strengthen my core (and myself). I can’t tell you how happy I was to see that there is progress. So much of the work that I had been doing has resulted in incremental changes that are very hard to see on a day to day basis, but when given the opportunity to look at the difference over the course of a year–WOW. It was pretty amazing, And I realized that it wasn’t just my core and my running form that are stronger. I am stronger. I am happier. There’s still room to grow, opportunities for improvement, but this weekend was a gift that allowed me to see that I’ve come a long way in the last twelve months. For that, I’m grateful.

The Run-down:

Monday: Easy 8

Tuesday: 12 mile Progression–2 warm up, 8 miles each a bit faster ending up at half-marathon pace; 2 cool down

Wed: OFF

Thurs: 5 miles at 3500 feet, climbing to 3760. Easy pace.

Friday: 9 miles at 3500 feet, climbing to 3950. Easy pace; also 3 mile hike, and Pilates.

Saturday: Speed workout: warm-up; 2(800, 400, 400, 400, 400). I loved this. I never get to do speedwork with other people. Thank you #TeamDialedIn

Sun: 3.2 mile prediction run. I predicted 29:13 for myself. My goal was to run that time or slower. I ran more than 90 seconds slower. YES. The the #GRVR 2017. Two more hours. I had aimed for 15 miles before I started. Also before I realized it would be almost 100% humidity with temperatures in the upper 80s. I still might have gotten to 15, but I forgot to restart my Garmin after a pit stop and lost over a mile on my watch. For the Virtual Run to count, I needed to clock 2 hours on my GPS. so I clocked it even though it meant that I actually ran more than 2 hours.Total mileage of the day was 17.6, which I’m happy with given everything that I’ve done this week.

 

 

[Photo of author taken by Allie Bigelow]

SaveSave

Oct 01

Richmond Week 14: Wheels Up

plane landing on runway at sunset surrounded by power lines

I can’t tell you how relieved I am this evening. I have finally had a really good week of running, my first in a while. Maybe my first since Victoria in June.

Let me clarify: I’ve had some “Not Terrible” weeks since June, but summer in South Carolina renders much else pretty much impossible. Amsterdam was a good week, but it was counterbalanced with treadmlll miles plus the ass-kicking of jet lag. The rest of the summer was hard because it was hot and humid. After a few weeks, the body acclimates to hot and humid, but that simply means that hot & humid suck less, not that they’re pleasant.

This week was a good week. A really good week. My hip, which has been bothering me a good bit the last couple of weeks seems to have turned a corner. I’m not sure when, and I’m not sure how, but I’m really relieved. It still gets a little tight from time to time, but nothing like it was three weeks ago.

It also didn’t hurt that today was the first day that really felt like fall. It was 50 degrees this morning. 50. It was also really windy, but I was so glad to be cold for a change that I really didn’t care about the wind even when it was full on in my face. I ran 18 miles today, and today was the first time a long time–like since January 2015–that running 18 miles felt fine. I felt like I could keep going if I wanted or needed too. I felt, again, for the first time this training cycle, like this marathon that I’ve been training for since July might actually happen. And not only might it actually happen, but it might actually go well. My goal might not be so crazy after all. As I said, it felt like turning a corner.

That was a corner that I needed to turn. I didn’t know how very much I needed it until it had happened. My confidence has been foundering these last several weeks. I haven’t talked about it, but I was starting to wonder whether the marathon might be a bad idea, whether my goal time was ridiculous. Whether I would even make it to the end of the training cycle and be able to line up at the start. Even when my long runs weren’t utterly terrible and demoralizing, they were hard. Much harder than I remember from previous training cycles.

I’ve tried to remind myself that the training program I’m following is really hard. Hansons’ plans aren’t for the weak at heart. Even the beginner plan isn’t really intended for a true novice. My plan is not a beginner plan. I’ve been working with my coach for almost 3 years now, and I trust her. I knew that the plan we put together would stretch me past my comfort zone. I knew that it would be a challenge. I knew that I would eventually be running 60 mile weeks and trying to tackle some difficult workouts. I knew that 20 weeks is on the longer side of training cycles. I knew that starting all of this in July would suck. I knew that while the temperatures would get better once the semester was underway, I would also be much busier. I knew that qualifying for Boston is a ridiculously hard thing to do (and it got harder this year with the cutoff to get into the race being more than 3 minutes faster than the qualifying time). I knew all of these things intellectually. I also knew that my coach thought that I could handle it, and I thought that maybe I could handle it too. I knew that I wanted to try.

But there’s knowing, and then there’s knowing.

For the record, I know that too, but I’m learning it again these twenty weeks leading up to Richmond, and as is typical, I’m learning it the hard way.

But this was a really good week. I made it out to the Cottonwood trail a couple times, which is good for my joints generally but also seemed to be good for my hip in particular. I hit my paces on the Tuesday & Thursday hard workouts and didn’t feel like dying afterwards. And today. Today, I ran 18 miles and felt really good pretty much the whole time, even with the wind, even with the hills. It helped that I did better with fueling today. I’m sure that it also didn’t hurt that the Ragweed seems to finally be dying down, and not a second too soon.

I tried to take an ice bath today after my run. For the record, all of the ice in my freezer, plus another bag from the grocery store, plus a whole lot of too-old frozen salmon filets didn’t really work for an ice bath. It was chilly, and hopefully that was not a complete waste of 15 minutes, but it was nowhere near icy. I will try this again next week, minus the salmon and with a second bag of ice. Possibly a third.

The run down for the week:

M: easy 6 Cottonwood

T: 3x 2 miles at 8:13/mile with 2 warm up and 2 cool down

W: Off

T: 8 miles at 8:23/mile with 2 warm up and 2 cool down

F: 6 cottonwood

S: 6 Duncan Park

Sun: 18 Pretty much everywhere in Spartanburg.

Total: 60.

So it’s wheels up for the next 41 day. Now is not the time to flinch.

[Creative Commons licensed image by Flickr user Glenn Beltz]

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

Sep 25

Richmond Week 13: Working My Way Back

Number 13 in black against concrete surrounded by red brick

Are we there yet?

No. But we’re getting there. Week 13 out of 20, and this week was a pretty good one. My hip is still cranky, but it’s a little bit better than it was. I found a couple of stretches in yoga class that seem to get into the spot that is at the heart of the problem.

But the downside is that the ragweed is in full bloom. Does ragweed bloom? I don’t know, actually, but the ragweed is in high production mode, whatever the mechanism, and it’s got me popping pills–sinus Tylenol and prescription Imitrex like there’s no tomorrow. Sunday night’s headache was so bad that not only did it make me hurl (sorry if that’s TMI), but it also put me to bed at 9:30pm even though I was pretty sure that going to bed that early would bring on insomnia later on. I did wake up briefly at 11:30, and again around 3:00, but I had no problems falling back asleep. But the point of all of this is that it’s headache season, and I really hate headache season. Sunday’s headache was especially bad.

I’ve been able to make it to the Cottonwood trail a few times a week for the last couple weeks, which is helpful. The softer surface is welcome on my legs, which are feeling the effects of training, and the last few times that I’ve been there, I’ve gotten a glimpse of the Great Blue Heron who lives there. Great Blue Herons are my most favorite bird.

The speed and tempo workouts were pretty good. I managed to hit my paces in both and not overdo it too much. I did misread the assignment for the mile repeats though, and I only did 5 instead of 6. But in the grand scheme of things, one less mile isn’t going to matter. And the scary long run went pretty well. I was really nervous about this one since the last time I had a long run with tempo miles sandwiched in, it was a disaster (or I was a disaster), and then I learned, the night before, that instead of 16 total miles with 8 at tempo, I was to run 16 total miles with 10 at tempo. And my Garmin decided not to cooperate (as it turns out, I set the repeats to 1 meter instead of 1 mile, so that was my fault), so I had to find the pace myself. That’s probably a good thing though it was annoying at the time.

The run down:

M: Easy 8.

T: 6x 800 for 8 total

W: OFF

R: 5x 1 mile for 11 total (should have been 12)

F: easy 6

S: easy 6

Sun: 3 easy, 10 at marathon pace, 3 easy = 16

all in all: 55, so on we go.

[Creative Commons licensed image by Flickr user Leo Reynolds]

Sep 17

Richmond Week 12: Two Steps Back, One Step Forward.

pygmy hedgehog from behind

Week 12. It was a bit of a rough week, but I think it ended up okay. I hope it did.

I took a few days off after my long run in Williamsport. I was worried about my hip, which has been getting cranky from time to time at the end of hard workouts, and it got cranky again last weekend.

So after talking to my coach, we decided that I wouldn’t run at all until Thursday, and then I would go easy for a few days and see how I felt. I felt okay, so today, I picked up the Progression Run that I was supposed to do on Thursday in place of my long run today. I was kind of nervous about it, but like the rest of the week, it was okay. My hip is a bit tight tonight, but just a bit. So I will proceed with caution. I will continue to be vigilant about warming up before my runs. I will continue to roll it out and do the core & hip work. And I will cross my fingers that this was a wake up call rather than yet another set-back.

The Details:

M: Off

T: Off

W: Off

Th: easy 5

F: Easy 6

Sat: Easy 6

Sun: Progression 12. (A progression run is one where after the warm up, each mile is run a little faster than the one before it. My first mile was too fast, but after that, I did a really good job staying in the windows: 9:12, 9:15, 9:06, 8:46, 8:32, 8:23, 8:13, 8:01).

Total: Just under 30 miles for the week.

 

[Creative Commons licensed image by Flickr user Denis Defreyne]

Sep 09

Warming Up. And Melting Down. Or Richmond Week 11.

river sceneI usually try to post positive things about my running. But today sucked. And it sucked hard.

I’m in Pennsylvania this weekend for a wedding. I was supposed to run an easy 6 today and a hard 16 tomorrow, but since tomorrow is a travel day, I swapped. This isn’t the first time, and it should have been fine. I can’t tell you why it wasn’t.

Well, that’s not exactly true. I can tell you that I haven’t been sleeping all that well since school has started back. Part of this is the readjustment of routine. Part of this is stress from other things going on. Part of it this week was travel. In addition, my nutrition was off yesterday (see: travel). Part of it was that I’m in a place I don’t know, and I was a bit keyed up about where I would go to run 16 miles.

I found a route: a really nice paved trail that is actually really close to my hotel, but for some reason, Goggle decided I should go the long way, and by long way, I mean that instead of jumping on the trail a couple blocks from the hotel, it took me two miles away to the far end parking area. Even though I was on foot. Whatever, I had extra miles to burn, so I don’t really mind this part. But those two miles sucked. I felt terrible. My brain felt foggy. My skin felt clammy, and I was sweating a lot though it wasn’t warm out. I felt dizzy, and that sometimes happens early on, but it usually passes quickly. It didn’t pass quickly this time. By the time I got to the parking lot, I was a mess, both physically and emotionally. I couldn’t concentrate on my audiobook; I couldn’t stop sweating, and I started to panic. I found a place to sit down, and I turned off my watch. I thought about texting one of my running friends, but I couldn’t figure out what to even say. Something was clearly wrong with me, but I couldn’t begin to describe what it was. And did I mention that I was two miles away from my hotel at this point?

Running is usually the thing that makes me feel better. And this morning, when it was suddenly a thing that was making me feel worse, I freaked out. It was obviously that the hard 16 wasn’t going to happen this morning. So I had a decision to make: do I call it and walk back to the hotel? Or do I try to salvage something of the morning?

I decided to try to salvage the morning. I told myself that if I still felt terrible after a mile, I could stop. I took a gel, found a playlist, and collected myself with several deep breaths. I tried to be appreciative of the cool temperatures. I tried to appreciate the sunshine. I tried to feel gratitude for the fact that I could be out there on that trail on this day with nothing more to worry about than a dizzy spell. I thought about my friends who are dealing with more serious issues. I thought about what some of my running heroes might do. I remembered a recent post by Devon Yanko, who described a similar moment in a recent race, and though to myself, I guess this is my version of a plot twist. I found that if I kept going the trail opened up to a lovely view of the Susquehanna river, and that there was a loop of about 4 miles that I could do. I decided to try to run that loop three times. I stopped to take a few pictures along the way. But most of them had my finger in them (see below), and I had no idea until a few minutes ago.

greenery with finger

I did those three loops, and I made it back to my hotel where I crumpled into a mess on the floor of my hotel room. I took a really long hot shower and took full advantage of the shower beer. I still don’t feel great, but I feel somewhat better. My left IT band hates me, but I can deal with that.

I’m trying not to be to hard on myself for not getting the hard workout done. The workout that I did was its own kind of hard. I’m profoundly grateful for the three women who I saw this morning on the path and who smiled and waved at me. I doubt they could see how much I was struggling inside, but those small gestures were huge to me

I’m taking a few days off. Part of this is travel and the coming high wind advisory. But most of it is because there’s clearly something wrong. My hip is tight and sore. This discomfort isn’t terrible, but it’s also not nothing and has been progressing over the last couple of weeks. I’m trying to be smart and tell myself that a few days off now is better than more later. This would be much easier if I were giving advice to someone else. I give great advice to other people when they’re in these situations. But I’m going to rest for a couple of days, let things blow over both literally and figuratively, and I’ll see where I am on Thursday.

SaveSave

SaveSave