Saturday, June 13, 2009

Race for the Cure, a Training Plan, and Trying Out Track Work

So here's my attempt to get caught up on what's been going on over the last week or so. Eventually I still want to go back and post some pictures from Hawaii, but that will have to wait.

Last Sunday, June 7, was Seattle's Race for the Cure 5K. Even though I am not crazy about big mob scene races where most people are just participating for fun,* I do have a soft spot for the Race for the Cure because it was the first road race I ever did, back in June 2006. That was before my blogging days, but I did write about it retrospectively more than a year later. Back then I had been running on the treadmill since some time in 2005, and tried outdoor running while I was in England during the spring of 2006. After I came back, I saw the Race for the Cure brochure at Starbucks and, on a whim, signed up. I had no idea what to expect, but I figured I'd probably run about a ten-minute pace. So I was thrilled when my time was actually 29:19! I beat 30 minutes. My average pace was 9:27, which is much faster than I ever believed I would run. I was hooked.

Of course, the Race for the Cure is also a charity race, and that first year I also worked sort of hard on fundraising, raising over $500 to contribute. I am, I must admit, reluctant to ask people for money, so in subsequent years I just made contributions from my mother and myself, and left the active fundraising to others.

While the event itself has grown bigger and more successful every year, its character as a serious 5K has decreased each year. The first year I ran there were pace signs to gather around, so the slower runners and walkers** would not hold up the faster ones. In 2007 and 2008, the pace signs were gone, but results were still recorded and available online.

So imagine my shock on Sunday morning when I weaved (wove?) my way through the registration and check-in crowds, holding my mother by the arm so I wouldn't lose her (a serious possibility, and it would be hard to hear a ringing cell phone in the noisy crowds), and volunteers were handing out the tee shirts and bibs like candy. No check in required. No assigned bib number. No official results.


Okay, my reaction was probably a little inappropriate. No, I did not swear at anyone. But I did say, when given my random-numbered bib, "Why am I even here?" Ummm, something about a charity, perhaps?

Forgive me for my self-centeredness.

But really. No official timing?

After pinning on my (totally meaningless) bib and visiting the restroom (no line!), we headed outside so I could do a half-hearted warm-up. It had taken so long to make our way to the check-in that I only had about 20 minutes before the race (run) actually began at 8:15. But after confirming a meeting spot with my mother for after the run, I set out at a moderate trot to circle around the Safeco Field stadium. I had enough time for two loops, it turned out, and ended up in the starting area with a 1.6 mile warm-up under my belt and less than five minutes until the start of the race. Knowing how much the other people would slow me down (and still caring about my time despite the unofficial nature of the race), I worked my way toward the front section of the crowd.

The gun went off at about 8:16 (a pretty timely start), and it took me about 25 seconds to get to the starting line (all at a walk), where I started my Garmin. I was able to jog at that point, but was still hemmed in by slower people. I had not turned on my ipod in advance (big mistake), and when I pushed the start button on my i-control watch nothing happened. Since the crowd was still slowing me, I tried fumbling with the ipod in its pocket in the back of my pants, but with no luck. So I gave up, not wanting to waste time with that once I was able to get up to speed.

I don't really know how long I was held back, but finally I broke free of the people surrounding me and was able to hit a pace that felt rather speedy but doable. After a bit I heard a guy behind me say to someone, "I won't be able to sustain this pace." So in spite of myself I glanced at my Garmin and saw a pace of about 7:45! I was a bit surprised, though I knew I was moving quickly. I actually looked at the watch a couple more times during that mile, and it still said 7:45, so I think I really was running sub-8 for a good while, although the delay at the beginning slowed my average for the distance. (Mile 1 - 8:20.)

In the second mile we encountered a rather long, moderate hill, and my pace was no longer below 8 minutes. Still, I was moving well. I didn't see the split time on that mile (even though I still couldn't resist looking at the watch all too frequently), but later learned that it had been 8:17.

In the third and final full mile, I think there was another uphill, although happily we also got to run downhill near the end. By this time I could hear my breathing quite loudly, as it was unobscured by ipod music. Maintaining the pace (whatever it was) was more work now. Still, the time for that mile was 8:08 (I'm sure the downhill helped with that!).

Then I was in the final tenth. I tried hard to put on a push for the last yards—I heard an announcer say, "that woman has good running form," and I'm sure it was me, as I was pretty much alone in the immediate area—but my average pace for the final .13 miles was just 7:51, not too much faster than my average pace.

When I crossed the finish line I stopped the Garmin and it read 25:45. The time on the clock was 26:10, but I see no need to acknowledge that, since they wouldn't even give us official finish times. So I'm sticking with the Garmin time.

I was pretty elated. This was the first time I'd finished under 26 minutes in the Race for the Cure. Even though I was 41 seconds above my 5K PR (and 46 seconds above my sub-25 goal), it was still my fourth best time for a 5K (and I've done lots of them). More importantly, it was really a good comeback after my huge winter slump. 8:14 pace (for 3.13 miles)! Almost a full minute per mile faster than my last 5K in February, and let's not even talk about the longer races this winter.

I found my mother, who had been watching from the sidelines and attempting to take pictures. She has never yet succeeded in getting a picture of me running the Race for the Cure, and this year seemed no different. Except, on closer (very close) inspection, I found this one.

I'm the barely visible person in pink right by the hot dog stand.

Then we took some post-race photos.

The traditional pink ballon shot.
The finish line is in the background here.
Me and my mom.

After the photography we were ready to go, but I still wanted to run another mile or two to get my mileage up for the day (especially considering we were about to go out for breakfast). I walked my mother back in the direction of the car, then took off for another loop or two around my warm-up route. I ended up doing a little over two miles, enough to put my mileage for the day to about 6.8 miles. Very good.

Finally, we had our post-race breakfast at the Sunflour Cafe. Sunday, June 7 happened to be the day after the end of my sugar free 30 days. Actually, 30 days ended a couple days earlier, but June 6 made it a full month, so I designated June 7 as my day off, before starting another month. (I'm probably going to end this one on July 4, though, so I can have a little bit of fun over the holiday weekend.) Not to go crazy or anything, but I wanted to have a cinnamon roll for breakfast. (This is partly why I wanted to do more than 3.1 miles beforehand!)

So I ordered a sensible side of two poached eggs and two strips of bacon (for protein), and a cinnamon roll, which happened to be a big, gooey, whole wheat confection of deliciousness. It was actually a lot bigger than the cinnamon rolls the Sunflour Cafe had the last time I was there. From my Livestrong calorie counter I have estimated that cinnamon rolls have about 100 calories per ounce (ouch!), so I hefted this baby to try to gauge its size (perhaps I should carry a scale with me)... I'm afraid it was about 8-12 ounces. But I gave about a third of it to my mother.

Well, that was the end of the Race for the Cure tale. Now onto the training plan. I've decided to (probably) run the Anacortes Half Marathon on August 1, so earlier this week I spent several hours putting together a training plan.

I used Hal Higdon's Advanced Half Marathon plan as a template, starting partway in because I only have eight or nine weeks to go (as calculated from the beginning of June). Except that he has you running at least five days a week, and I don't want to run on more than four days most weeks (I'm happy to cross-train on the other days). I'm sure there are other plans based on a four-day schedule, but it seemed too complicated to start shopping around now. Also, the short runs in Higdon's plan are much shorter than I am accustomed to, and I see no reason to decrease my running!

So obviously there was a lot of tinkering going on. Basically my plan consists of this.

Monday - Easy 6 mile run (give or take on distance). Strength training if possible (may not be possible, but I am trying to remember to do push-ups on the days I am at the Y, anyway).

Tuesday - Cross-train. Mostly this will probably be the elliptical at the Y, but I'm not excluding bicycling, walking, kayaking, and other summery activities.

Wednesday - 6 miles including speed work (the type of speed work varies by week, I'm pretty much following what Higdon calls for).

Thursday - Cross-train.

Friday - 8 miles (or so), tempo or pace run. To me Higdon's descriptions of tempo and pace runs are very similar; in each you gradually increase your pace until you are running at a faster pace, perhaps close to race pace, for a period of time. I'm not sure if it will be too hard on me to do this type of run every week, so I am open to easing up on some weeks. Although really, almost every run I do is a progressive run, whether I am trying or not.

Saturday - Cross-train.

Sunday - Long run, several of which are 3/1 (first 3/4 at long-slow-distance pace, the last quarter at a stepped up pace). My schedule calls for the first one (tomorrow) to be nine miles, but I think I may have originally intended ten miles and just made a mistake. After all, I've done lots of nine-mile runs these last few weeks, including on Friday!*** (Which leads me to consider that Friday could theoretically be the long run for the week, and I could do something easier on Sunday, especially considering that I ran a 5K, plus two miles warm-up, on Saturday. So that option remains open, depending on how I feel on Sunday morning.)

Hill work - That is supposed to be on one of the days that I am not running under my version of the plan. So I am including some hill repeats in a few of my long runs. This may not be ideal, but it works for me, especially since the only days when I will be able to locate an appropriate hill to run on are the weekend days when I do long runs.

Interim races - I've done two 5K's and I'm doing a 10K on the 4th of July. I don't expect to find a 15K to do during this training cycle, though.

Other running (a 5th day after all?) - I've also made note of all the low tides on weekend days during the summer, in case I can work in a beach run now and then. I don't really see how I can make it my long run very easily, since my beach route is about six miles max, so in order to get it to long run distance I would have to do it twice. Much as I love the beach, I'm not thrilled with that concept. Especially as I go so slowly on the beach that it would take forever to go the full distance. I have in the past combined a medium length road run with a beach run to constitute a long run, and that's a possibility, I guess. Otherwise, I think that a beach run might just have to be a bonus run, a variation of cross-training. If I can include kayaking, so much the better. Or, best of all, if I rode my bike to my parents' house, ran on the beach, then went kayaking, I could have my own type of triathlon! I would really love to do this... it's just scheduling and time that would be tricky.

Rest days - I pretty much consider my cross-training days to be rest days, and I don't have a lot of completely exercise-free days scheduled. I do have July 5th marked as a rest day--no long run that day--as I'm running a 10K on the 4th. I would be surprised if the 5th didn't including something like bike riding or walking on the beach, anyway, but I'm promising myself not to run.

So, finally, that brings me to my final topic, my first stab at track work!

On Wednesday I ran about five miles for warm up (at about 9:45 pace, mostly), then went to the "track" at North Middle School for speed work. It's definitely not a regulation track; it's about .3 miles total and circles the perimeter of the sports field. On Tuesday night I was taking my sister's dog Nissa for a walk, so we went down to the field with my Garmin to measure out a quarter mile. My repeats are supposed to be 400's, technically, but I had no idea how to measure 400 meters, whereas a quarter mile was easy. Luckily, too, the beginning and end of the quarter mile distance were at easily memorable spots. I could use the extra distance to rest between laps.

I had originally put "8 x 400" on my plan, but due to the five-mile run beforehand, the amount of time I had available before needing to get ready for work, and the difficulty of the quarter mile sprints, I changed the number to "6 x quarter mile." Good enough.

I was to do the repeats at 5K pace, which I interpreted as two minutes for a quarter mile (8-minute miles). My times were 1:58.xx, 1:57.70, 1:56:72, 1:56.35, 1:56:06. A little faster than 8-minute pace.**** I probably could have forced myself to do two more, but instead, after number 6, I jogged around one more time (at an "easy" 9-minute pace) and then jogged the rest of the way home.

Next week I'm supposed to do 800's. Guess I'll have to get over there to measure out half a mile!

*And slow things down by walking, chatting with friends, dressing up in crazy outfits, etc.

**Because this is a 5K run, and there is a separate 5K walk as part of the event, there really should not be any walkers at all, and certainly not in the first mile. And yet there are.

***This was one where I was not trying for a tempo run, since I had the 5K on the schedule for Saturday. I was mostly sticking around an easy 9:30-ish pace, but in the last full mile my legs suddenly had a mind of their own and look what happened...
1 - 9:37
2 - Half mile at 9:39 pace
3 - 9:19
4 - 9:26
5 - 9:30
6 - 9:14
7 - 9:28
8 - 9:01
9 - 8:15 (warming up for the 5K, I guess)
10 - Half mile at 9:10 pace

****Which is good, since as of today my 5K pace is 7:50!


Amy@RunnersLounge said...

Thanks for sharing your race story and good luck on your upcoming half marathon in August.

We are just getting ready to kick off a 20 week half marathon series in the Lounge this week. Join us if you would like some extra company or support!


applecrumbles said...

I forgot to check your location but there is a 15K called the Boilermaker in Utica, NY in July.