Sunday, March 28, 2010

Finally, the picture in front of the Benson Hotel

Shamrock Run 15K, Portland, March 14, 2010

Saturday, March 27, 2010

I kinda broke my promise to myself

Remember the other day when I said I planned to run the Birch Bay 30K at an easy pace, 9:30-10 minutes per mile, maybe even slower?

Well...I'll admit now that immediately after I wrote that I started to idly wonder whether I might go just a bit faster, dabble in marathon pace perhaps. As long as it felt relatively comfortable to do so, of course.

And that's exactly what happened. After my first mile was pretty easy at about 9:06, I kind of just kept it up. Actually my splits ranged between 8:45 or so and around 9:15. I will write in more detail (excessively so, no doubt) in my race recap soon.

In short, my final (chip) time for 30K was 2:50:21. Officially that was a 9:09 average pace. My actual distance was 18.82 miles (about .2 mile more than 30K), and my actual average pace for that distance was 9:03. Yowza!

Oh, and I never stopped for the bathroom. I would have if I'd REALLY needed to, but the urge was only mild so I resisted. (In a "normal" long run I would have stopped.) So another successful training step, getting through almost 19 miles without a bathroom stop! (On the road to a potty-free marathon....)
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Friday, March 26, 2010

Friday quickie

I am allowing myself exactly ten minutes to write this. (You, of course, will not know whether or not I succeeded!)

Tomorrow I will finish up week 8 of my spring training schedule. Actually, technically it finishes on Sunday (as I do a Monday-Sunday week), but my long run is tomorrow this week. More on that in a moment.

Wednesday, my speedwork day, the schedule called for a 40 minute tempo run. I considered substituting some kind of track intervals instead, but I didn't really want to go to the track, so I stuck with a progressive style tempo run. (Hang on a moment as I waste some of my allotted minutes pulling up my Garmin splits.) I didn't bother with the 40 minute thing, but pretty much did my whole run progressive style. That allowed me to count even my warm-up mile in the mix. Check out these splits...*

1 - 10:32
2 - .42 mile at 9:37 pace
3 - 9:35
4 - 9:07
5 - 8:59
6 - 8:53
7 - 8:54
8 - 8:29
9 - 7:38
10 - .10 mile at 9:02 pace to finish.

Total distance 8.52 miles, 1:17:11, 9:03 average pace. That also made it a marathon-pace run, (average pace), which is good because my next run was a little bit slower.

I did my Friday run on Thursday because I'm planning for my long run on Saturday. I did my usual three mile warm-up (about 10:30 pace), 4.56 miles with Ann (Arjin running ahead) at about 9:15 average pace (progressing from 9:45 in the first mile to an 8-minute pace in the final half mile, go Ann!), then another mile and a half to finish at Starbucks.

Today I took off from running but I did a long elliptical stint at the Y and spent some extra time doing a few push-ups and my yoga stretches. I felt really loose and good when I finished!

Which is nice because tomorrow morning I am tackling a 30K! I'll let you know how it goes. :)

Gotta move now! Ten minutes over my allotment! Have a great weekend!

*One of the splits is a half-mile because I had to stop for the bathroom and I lost the satellite. I always pause the Garmin for bathroom stops and lights. Otherwise my pace would be all messed up.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Things on my mind Monday

• Ice Baths
I have yet to successfully accomplish an ice bath. I did a mini-ice bath (that is, an ice foot bath) after the Shamrock run a week ago. I had a rectangular ice chest that had melting ice and water in it, and it was conveniently just the right size to plunge in my foot and ankle (which were a little tender after the run). On Saturday after my 17.17 mile long run I felt a little tender in lots of places, and I thought it might be time to take the full plunge, at least my legs. I had some reusable ice cubes (frozen thingies that are meant to go in drinks and not water them down by melting), but first I thought I'd just try the cold water alone. (I also had a hot Starbucks mocha standing by.)

I got in the empty tub and started running the cold water. It only took a few trickles around my legs before I jumped to my feet with a shriek. Ice bath: FAIL. I did however sit on the edge of the tub and let the water fill to ankle deep. I was able to soak my feet and ankles for a few minutes before I became bored and gave up.

Seriously, I don't know how people do this. I think I could manage jumping into a cold pool or body of water after a run, though, if there were one handy on a hot summer day.

• One-Steppers
I read about this in Running Times magazine; I didn't know it was an actual phenomenon. "One-steppers" are people you are supposed to be running with who always stay one step ahead of you, pushing the pace. On the one hand it can have benefits in making you work a little harder; on the other hand it is extremely irritating.

I experience this regularly running with my secretary's son a couple of times a week. Let me point out that the whole reason we are running together is because he wants someone to run with. I am perfectly happy running alone. He is fifteen years younger than me and has very long legs. After a few weeks of running he found out that he can run pretty fast and then the one-stepping began. Sometimes I just about keep up (when I am feeling good). It has gotten lately that he doesn't even bother to stay one step ahead, he just takes off and runs on ahead. Which is fine with me. But extremely irritating.

This morning I was supposed to be doing a recovery run (17.17 miles on Saturday, remember?). I did not feel up to pushing the pace. After the first mile he disappeared into the distance. This despite my average pace of 9:10 per mile (way fast for a recovery run). During the run I am muttering to myself that I don't know why he wants to run with someone when he doesn't run with them at all. But after we're done I do feel slightly pleased that my "slow" pace was pretty quick after all. (By the way, this is after I do three miles before we meet, and a mile or two I may be running slower, but I am also running twice as far.)

I don't know what will happen when Ann starts running with us again this week, though. She may kill him.

• My eyes are killing me
I tried using my contacts today (after a week's hiatus) because I thought it would be raining out. (It wasn't.) Once again the vision in my left eye is unreasonably fuzzy, even hours later. What in the world is the problem here? Did I somehow open the wrong packet when I changed my lenses a few weeks ago? Also, my eyes are sort of itchy, but that's not unusual with contacts for me. Also, I never wear enough make-up so I look kind of washed out and tired. Most people wear contacts because they say they see better and look better with them. Well, I can't see well at all and I look like crap. Tired crap.

• I'm thinking about a 30K this next weekend
After 17.17 miles on Saturday my next long run step is 18 miles (which I interpret as 18-20 miles, somewhere in that neighborhood). I've been thinking idly about where my route should be, and frankly, all my usual routes seem boring and too short. When I was doing an internet search looking for a potential short race around Easter (non-existent, by the way) (except for one down by Olympia which is too far away), I came across the Birch Bay Road Race, a 5K, 15K, and 30K run up in Blaine. 30K = 18.65 miles. The only downside is the location—Blaine is at least an hour and a half away. That would make for a very early departure time on Saturday morning! Still, it might be a good (though rather expensive) way to get in about 19 miles. The weather forecast (right now) is mild and cloudy, but not rainy (which is good running weather).

If I do decide to do this, I am going to hold myself to these requirements. 1) This is a training run, not a race. That means I will run at a training pace, 9:30-10 minutes per miles would be okay, slower would be fine. 2) I will stop at bathrooms whenever I want to without worrying about "losing time." 3) I will fuel adequately and take breaks to do so, if I need to.

That said, it could be a good time....

• Actually there is another 15K in the area
So, I was wrong about Fairhaven and Portland being the only 15K's around... the Birch Bay Road Race also has a 15K option. Who knew?

Sunday, March 21, 2010


In the spirit of the day, here's my Shamrock Run race report.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again—I've never run a 15K I didn't like!* Sunday's Shamrock Run was no exception. I said on Sunday that I was happy, though not ecstatic, with my 1:19:51 result. I was probably downplaying it a little because I felt obligated to acknowledge that it wasn't a PR time.** It was however, more than two minutes faster than my 2008 Shamrock Run time (1:22:32), and as such was a huge satisfaction!

I was even more pleased later when I saw my amazingly negative splits. Amazingly because they went negative even in the early uphill part of the race, before it turned downhill in the last few miles.

But I'll start at the beginning, rather than the end of the race. After the "marathon" drive down to Portland and checking in to the Benson Hotel, I spent an hour or so on the elliptical trainer in the hotel workout room, then went through 13 Yoga Poses for Runners that I've bookmarked on my BlackBerry. I add some pushups and a few other poses and stretches, including downward facing dog, plank with chaturanga into cobra, and pigeon. I find that this quick sequence of stretches is really helpful for the hips and glutes.

After I returned to our room, we went down to the lobby and had dinner in the Palm Court, which is the lobby bar and restaurant. (We don't venture far....) Afterwards we watched Did You Hear About the Morgans on the hotel pay-per-view. I did fall asleep a little in the middle but that's just me. It was a cute enough fluff movie.

Saturday morning I had to go pick up my race number and chip at the Adidas campus.

I had pre-researched the location and had a bus schedule so I was able to travel there via TriMet. It's about 4.5 miles from downtown so I obviously couldn't walk like I did in the past when packet pick-up was at a local school! I'll admit that although I am accustomed to public transit when I'm in England, at home I go everywhere by either car or foot, so I am a little unused to riding buses a lot. I expect that the Portland transit system gets used a lot more during the week, but on Saturday morning at 9:30 a.m. I found myself thinking (politically incorrectly) that only bums and crazy people ride the bus. (On the way back downtown, however, there were several other runners leaving the Adidas campus by bus.)

As the link to the newspaper article says, the Adidas campus is pretty cool. I wanted to have my picture taken by the giant running shoes, but my camera phone wasn't working at the time. Instead I went in the direction of the people carrying envelopes and tee-shirts and quickly found the gym where numbers and shirts were being distributed. I also was handed a flyer for 50% off everything in the company store. I did pop in there to look around quickly, but there was nothing special I wanted or needed, so I hustled back across the street to catch the next bus instead of waiting another half hour for the next one after that.

Back at the hotel, my mother and I lounged in the hotel lobby while housekeeping made up our room, passing the time until we met my friend Marie for lunch. She led us across the street to Typhoon, a contemporary Thai restaurant in the Hotel Lucia, where we shared several dishes and a pot of exotic green tea (the tea menu is as long as the food menu!). I believe I ate three servings of everything while Marie worked on her first plate! Especially the brown rice, which was especially plump and tasty.

In the afternoon we rested...okay, rested up for dinner. It's not every day you get the chance to lay around in a hotel room, after all! I had brought plenty of reading material, including the newest Runner's World and Running Times, and More magazine. I also started a new book, My Latest Grievance by Eleanor Lipman. LOVE Eleanor Lipman! (Since then I've finished the book and it was wonderful, I highly recommend it!)

For dinner we went over to Pazzo at the Vintage Plaza Hotel. I stayed at the Vintage Plaza when I came down for my first Shamrock Run in 2007. After that I got a better rate at the Benson, and fell in love with the Benson's classic English ambience. I noticed when going into the Vintage Plaza that they have redecorated in the last year or so, and now it is a much more contemporary style hotel. Lovely, but I am happy with the Benson!

They do have good food there though! I had a cup of turkey noodle soup, a salad with field greens and pears (cleverly shaved into long strips), and tortelli stuffed with kabocha and butternut squash and served with browned butter (a delicious caramely way to use butter). I tried not too slurp up too much of the butter but it did complement the pasta pillows nicely! My mother had a cup of tomato soup and penne with lamb ragu, which was very hearty. In fact, she carried most of it away in a carton and we ate it for lunch on Sunday. That was to leave room for a little dessert—chocolate gelato and pineapple ginger sorbet. Both yummy!

As everyone knows, Sunday morning was the change to Daylight Savings Time, which is always nice right before a race. We carefully changed all the clocks and set both the clock alarm and a wake-up call. In the morning I also discovered, to my great surprise, that my Garmin changed to Daylight Savings Time by itself. I am quite sure that didn't happen last year!

My wake-up time was 6:00 (5:00 under the old time), which wasn't too bad considering how early some people have to get up for races. It was probably earlier than it needed to be, actually, but I wanted plenty of time to go down to the lobby for a cup of coffee, make and eat my oatmeal, get dressed and ready, plus go out and run around for a bit of warm-up.

The weather was a little bit cooler than I'd expected, in the 30's I think (because it was relatively clear and would get sunny later on), so I double-layered my shirts, with the orange long-sleeved Lucy shirt under a bright green short-sleeved Brooks shirt I'd found (the only green shirt in the running wear universe, I believe—although I later saw lots of green shirts and jackets in the race; I wonder where they bought them?). I put on a jacket for my warm-up and left it behind in the hotel room later.

I started warming up by jogging down in the direction of the race starting area at Waterfront Park. I arrived just in time to watch the start of the 5K race (a little after 8:05 a.m.). Then I headed back toward the hotel so I could get across Broadway before it was flooded with 5K runners. I ran up Broadway for a few blocks to get to a mile, then back to the hotel just in time to see the front-runners arrive (obviously the route was not direct from Waterfront Park to Broadway).

I popped upstairs to shed my jacket, go to the bathroom one more time (nice not to have to rely on the porta-potties), and take out my contacts. They had been giving me problems (not yet resolved, as I haven't tried them again since), in which my left eye refused to focus clearly. I even wondered if I had somehow switched the eyes, except that my right eye seemed okay. I was afraid that it might disorient me while running so I switched to glasses.

The 5K runners were still going by when I returned to street level (there were a lot of runners), although the ones coming by now were definitely the slower ones. I was kind of watching for an opening to get across the street when a young Japanese woman asked me what race this was. I told her it was the 5K and she said oops, she was supposed to have met her friend at the start to run this! I don't know if she overslept or just didn't know the starting time. I saw a gap in the runners so I wished her well, then blended into the group for a moment before I ducked over to the other side. I added another half mile or so of warm-up then joined the crowd at the park waiting for the 15K to start.

Before our race started at 8:40, there was a 3.5 mile walk called the Shamrock Stride heading out at 8:20. As the walkers finally began to dissipate, the pace signs began to appear (just for seeding, not for running) and the 15K runners started to fill in the starting area.

Perhaps foolishly, I placed myself in the group behind the 7-8 minute mile sign. Obviously, that was more aspirational than realistic. After a bit I saw that there was an 8-9 minute mile sign as well (more accurate, let's face it), and I moved back a little so I was about halfway between the two signs. I figured that I wasn't the only one overestimating my abilities, and I didn't think I would be completely humiliated (as I would be if I went in the 6-7 minute group and was left behind entirely).

They were doing an informal wave start, so first they let the 5-6 and 6-7 minute groups go ahead and the rest of us had to wait. Then they let my groups start (7-8 and 8-9), and the others behind had to wait. The delay really wasn't very much, considering that my chip time was only about two minutes slower than my clock time.
The start. That's me in the center of the photo.

The first mile was pretty flat, I think, and took us along Naito Parkway, up Burnside and onto S.W. Broadway past the Benson Hotel. I saw my mother waiting with the camera and waved wildly to make sure she saw me (last time she missed me until I was past her). She did get a great picture and if I had it this would be a good place for it! Unfortunately I haven't borrowed her camera to download it yet. My time for the first mile was 8:32, which is pretty telling as that turned out to be about my average pace for the whole race!

Mile 2 is when the uphill began. I thought it was a fairly gentle climb, but maybe it was more challenging than I thought since my time for that mile was my slowest of the run. Either that or I hadn't figured out how hard to push myself yet. Mile 2 covered the rest of S.W. Broadway. I was a little startled that my time for that mile was 9:19.

My description of the Shamrock Run course, based on my recollection of past races, has always been: Uphill for the first 4.5 miles, then rolling hills for another two miles, then downhill all the way to to the end.

That's pretty accurate, but I noticed in running this year that even the uphill portions had bits that were more level or even downhill. I definitely tried to push myself on those easier segments to make up for slowness on the climbs. I wish I could figure out how to post my Garmin elevation map. It shows the course as a bell curve, climbing steadily (with little, jagged dips) throughout the first half, then descending in the second half.

Despite the ascent as we wove around Terwilliger Boulevard, my splits were gratifyingly negative from mile 2 onward. Mile 3 - 9:04. Mile 4 - 9:01. Mile 5 - 8:34. As I'm hugging the curve in the road, I realized that I was doing a terrible job of running the tangents. The road was closed to traffic (I believe), so why wasn't I running down the center? I tried to improve on that, but it showed in my results—my total race distance was 9.43 miles!

We turned off Terwilliger onto Barbour Boulevard about halfway through mile 6 and that's when we started downhill. Some of the downhill was dramatic, some more gentle. I had vowed to give it my all when we hit the downhill, so I was mildly disappointed that my splits were closer to 8:00 than 7:30. Mile 6 - 8:17. Mile 7 - 8:03. Mile 8 - 7:53. Mile 9 - 7:46. The final .43 mile to finish - 7:45 pace. Just before the eight-mile mark we rejoined S.W. Naito Parkway and we were in the final stretch!

At the point where the road turned into S.W. Naito Parkway our course merged with the 8K course and now we were running with the 8K runners. This created an unfortunate cluster because when we met up with the 8K runners the group of runners we encountered were the ones probably running about a 10-minute pace or slower. Our group, however, was (at that time) running an 8-minute or faster pace. What's more, there was a water stop right about then so people were weaving and slowing to get to it. I had to come to a complete stop because of a guy that cut right in front of me (slowly). It was irritating.

About a half mile or so from the finish there were markers dividing the 8K and 15K runners again, so that the 8K runners kept to the left and the 15K runners kept right. I really poured it on to try to finish as fast and hard as possible. I actually don't know why my pace for that final segment wasn't faster than the preceding mile, except that maybe it was because the finish area was flat and the mile before it had been downhill. There was one woman running near or next to me and I kept expecting her to speed up and try to pass me, but I pulled ahead and finished ahead of her without a fight. Maybe she was just burned out.

Because of the delayed start and chip timing, I didn't pay any attention to the finish time on the clock, but instead hit my Garmin as I crossed the blue mats. I was quite excited to see 1:19:51—under 80 minutes! I didn't know that was my goal but it became obvious to me that I would have been crushed if I had been over. My average pace for the entire distance was 8:28 but I think for the official distance it was about 8:34.

I turned in my chip and tried to look around in case my mother had found me, but didn't see her anywhere. So I tried to call her but of course she couldn't hear her phone ringing with all the noise around (music as well as tons of people). Finally on the third or fourth call she answered. She was down in the finish area, but once again, had watched the finishers on the 8K side of the street, and of course had not spotted me.

We arranged to meet at the Pine Street intersection where, in lieu of a finish line picture, she took an "after-race" picture. While I was waiting for my mother I ran into the Japanese girl I had met during the 5K! She told me that the salmon chowder was very good. I opted to pass on the chowder and beer, however, and we headed back to the hotel.

Housekeeping had come while we were at the race, so the room was nicely made up. After a long shower, I made us lunch—leftover pasta and buttered English muffins with string cheese cut up on them, plus an apple and the rest of the pop chips. Possibly a couple of sweet potato oatmeal raisin cookies as well.

Then I rested. After a while, I got up and did my 13 Yoga poses, then headed out to check out freebies. While out and about, I also wandered into Hanna Andersson and bought the only adult outfit they had, and then to Lucy where I got some great stuff, including a rocking green jacket that I only wish I'd had before the race! (No sales tax in Oregon, by the way!) I returned to the hotel with our 2-for-1 Ben & Jerry's treats.

Later, instead of going out to dinner, we ordered room service and watched It's Complicated. What a lovely movie!

I thought I'd also write a bit about Monday's recovery run in Portland but my leg is getting crampy (thanks to my 17.17 mile long run yesterday, perhaps), and I think it's time to go soak in a bath. I'll just say that I squeezed in 7.25 miles (at slower than 10-minute pace), and it seemed like a lot of work to add up those miles. I ran through Waterfront Park and across the river and back over, and ran up and down various stretches to increase the mileage, and finally hit 7.25 at the Starbucks near the hotel. That was good enough. It was almost 11 a.m. by then (I had lounged abed too long), and we had to check out at noon.

Our trip back home was eventful only in an hour or so stop at Target before we crossed the river back into Washington. We also stopped for lunch in Centralia. In all the trip took six hours, which is a long time but understandable given the stops!

All in all, a really great weekend. (Did I mention, I love a 15K?)

*Of course, there are really only two 15K's around, the Shamrock Run in mid-March and the Fairhaven Waterfront 15K (Bellingham) in mid-September. Love 'em both!
**My 15K PR is 1:17:19, from last September's Fairhaven 15K.

Friday, March 19, 2010

St. Patrick's Day is past

And still my Shamrock Run report remains unfinished. I actually started it on Wednesday and have written some during, er, breaks at work. But I haven't had enough time and I'm too tired at night to work on it. But I'm sure I'll finish this weekend.

Running this week has gone on as normal. On Monday, still in Portland, I did 7.25 miles recovery. I'm sure that will come up in the Shamrock Run post.

Wednesday was supposed to be speedwork--but I didn't wanna. Actually hills were on the schedule and I didn't really feel that was necessary so soon after the hills in the 15K and my spontaneous hill run last week. I decided not to substitute in some other kind of speedwork, but instead did eight miles easy. That worked.

Finally, yesterday I moved up my Friday run to Thursday and got up a little extra early to squeeze in ten miles (if I could). Eight of those miles were supposed to be marathon pace...ideally sub-nine but anything below 9:09 would do.

After a 1.5 mile warm-up (shorter than my preference), I endeavored (good word, hmmm?) to kick up my effort to race pace. Well, the effort was there but, for the first couple miles, I was a little lacking in pace. First two miles, 9:25 and 9:13.

It's possible that I would have sped up anyway, but I decided to draw on one of my strategies for boosting a lagging pace. Instead of just trying to run faster, I alternated between running quite hard and running more comfortably from block to block. That helped me hit around nine minutes for the next two miles (9:01, 9:04), on pace!

Then I really did pick up the pace and managed sub-nines the rest of the way...8.51, 8:36 for .37, 8:45, 8:55 for .63, 8:44, and a few more feet at 8:22 pace. Average for 8.05 miles, 8:59!

That left me just a block from home and I should have just stopped and got ready for work. But I really wanted to finish ten I ran twice around the block (10:00 pace) to add the final half mile.

So that's it for weekday running. Sixteen miles on schedule for the weekend...I'm thinking tomorrow will be the day but we shall see.

Have a great weekend! Good luck to the L.A. Marathoners and everyone else racing this weekend!
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Sunday, March 14, 2010

Shamrock Run swag

I did the Shamrock Run 15K in Portland this morning. I'll write a race report eventually (I was pretty happy, though not ecstatic, about my result, 1:19:51, which is NOT BAD for a race that's more than 50% uphill).

But now for the important part--free (or discounted) stuff!

I didn't buy anything at the Adidas Company Store yesterday, even with a 50% discount on everything. But this afternoon I'm walking around the Pearl District, planning to cash in on some of the race-related offers. My first stop (where I am now) was Mr. Jolly's Coffee. The offer--a dozen donuts for 25 cents with a beverage. Cool, yes? I ordered a coffee (they do have good coffee!) and while I was adding cream they brought me my very small bag of donuts. Yes, the donuts are mini! You see one in the picture above. All the better, really. I ate that chocolate one and another plain one, and I'll bring the rest back to the hotel.

I'm not sure what other discounts I'll cash in on; I'm pretty sure there are other stores that will attract me even without freebies. My last stop will be Ben & Jerry's, two-for-one ice cream, and I'll have to hustle back to the hotel (where my mom is) before it melts.

A little later we also plan to hit the hotel lobby bar for a free happy hour appetizer. That's from 3-6.

Okay, better get going, I have a lot to accomplish here! :)

Congratulations to all the other Shamrock runners here and elsewhere! Lots of races going this weekend!
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Friday, March 12, 2010

Driving to Portland is like running a marathon...

We drove to Portland this afternoon. We left Everett at noon and got to Portland at 4 p.m.--a solid four hour effort.

The distance from Everett to Portland is 200 miles, so four hours is a respectable time, if not spectacular. Certainly there are many drivers who could shave minutes, even tens of minutes, off that time. Obviously avoiding traffic congestion and bathroom stops helps facilitate a faster time.

I was satisfied with our middle-of-the-pack finish, though. We stopped twice at rest areas to use the bathrooms and stretch our legs. We didn't get bogged down by traffic much at all, only a slight slowing just coming into Portland near the finish. We were slowed a little by bad weather in southern Washington, though--heavy rain, sleet, and hail! At one point we saw four or five cars off the road in the muddy grass median.

I'll admit that although our Everett to Portland time was four hours, our actual finish time (arrival at the Benson Hotel) was more like 4:30. Still nothing to be ashamed of.

Though certainly not a PR.
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Heading south

In less than an hour my mom and I are leaving to drive to Portland for the Shamrock Run 15K. (So I need to make this quick, I'm not even dressed yet!) The race is on Sunday, so of course we have to stay at the Benson Hotel Friday through Monday.

I haven't done this race for two years (last year I was in England), but I'm looking forward to it. I've had a great time the other two times I ran it. Even though it's a hard route, I was always happy with my results at the time. I am curious to see how it will go this time...I am sure I am faster now than I was in 2008.

Luckily this is a cutback week on my training schedule, so the race (plus warm-up) will satisfy my 10-mile long run on the plan, as well as a tempo/pace run I would have done on Friday (today) otherwise.

Even though I have the race on Sunday, I have actually done a little more running this week than usual. On Monday I did my usual morning run, 9.10 miles with 4.5 in the middle at 9:09 average pace. The miles before and after that segment averaged 10:02 and 9:37 (even those paces a little quick for a typical Monday morning!).

Tuesday is usually an off day for running, but I had in mind a little hill run I wanted to do as a warm-up for Portland. (The race is uphill about four miles, then rolling hills for a mile or two, then downhill to the end.) This long hill doesn't fit into my usual route, so I added an extra run Tuesday after work.

I promised myself I would do no more than six miles max. My final distance was 5.97. After a warm-up from my house (1.32 miles), I got to the bottom of Everett Avenue, which stretched uphill (with one down dip) for more than a mile. My idea was to go up and back down at about 30 seconds slower than race pace. The rationale was that I would run pretty hard, but probably could go faster in an actual pace. I guessed that I might do 9:30 on the uphill and 8:00 on the down.

At the top of Everett Avenue I turned and ran south on Colby for a bit to make my one-way distance about 1.65 miles. This last part was less uphill (just a bit) and more level. At Pacific Avenue I turned around and retraced my steps back down (again, with the short downhill from the first segment now an uphill).

I think that downhill/uphill aberration skewed my pace a little, in that my first half (up) was a little faster than it would have been otherwise, but the return trip was a little slower. My pace on the uphill was 8:43 (a lot faster than expected!) and the downhill was 8:09. Then I jogged the rest of the way home. Hopefully that gave my legs a taste of what will be needed on Sunday!

Wednesday was speed work and let me tell you, I was suffering trying to run twelve hours after my hill run. My legs were not rested. My warm-up, about 4.5 miles, was slow, as expected. Then I did five half-mile intervals at the track (with a short jog in between). My first three were my "slowest ever," each one a little slower than 8:00 pace. I got my act together somehow for the final two, and they were around 7:45 pace each. Better. Total run distance 8.25 miles.

Finally, my last run of the week before going into pre-race rest was Thursday morning. I really had no expectations, as my legs were still tired from the previous days' runs. I also had a very hard time getting out of bed! After 2.85 miles warm-up on my own (10:13), I met Arjin at the office and warned him I did not want to run fast, and he could go ahead if he wanted. After a couple of miles he did. I just ignored him and ran at my own pace. I was actually surprised that it came out to be 9:37 for the 4.56 miles. This was the opposite of my bad day a couple of weeks ago--I felt super slow and ended up being faster than I had thought. After I left Arjin at the office I ran home, 1.25 miles at 10:10 pace. Total distance was 8.66, a little shorter than typical because of being late and needing to get ready for work and all that stuff.

This morning I did go to the Y for an hour on the elliptical and a few push-ups and yoga stretches. I am thinking of checking out the workout room at the Benson tonight for a little gentle cardio before dinner. But tomorrow I will really rest my legs, no exercise, just walking as needed.

Now, I have to get dressed, scoop the litter boxes, finish packing our lunch, and just be ready to leave. Gotta run! Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

In my dreams

About a week ago I had a dream that I ran a half marathon at an eight-minute pace. That translates, by the way, to about 1:45 for the half. Yes, I did math in my sleep!

It could happen. Well, it could. Will it? Not so sure about that. It would require me to run the same pace as I can in a good 10K for more than twice the distance. Possible? I think so. Probable? Maybe not.

And actually, a 1:45 half marathon is not at the top of my goal list. I would be more than pleased with a 1:50 half (sometime), and I can worry about 1:48, 1:47, 1:45 if I ever manage to beat 1:50!

Sometimes it's hard for me to believe that I am able of getting out there and running an eight-minute pace even in a 10K,* considering how much work it is to break even nine-minute miles in my non-race runs. But that's where race day adrenaline comes in, I guess. It's kicked in pretty adequately so far.

Last week was a spectacular combination of slow and moderate runs. On Wednesday I decided to do three one-mile laps at some sort of accelerated pace, turns out it was 10K pace, which is okay for that distance, I think. I started off with slow legs in my warm-up, 4.2 miles at around 10:30 pace. When I got to the track I did the three miles (with .25 mile recovery in between) at 8:05, 7:58, and 7:52. I had really hoped that all the miles would be under eight minutes (and closer to 7:30), but c'est la vie.

Friday had just four miles at marathon pace, but in between my three mile warm-up (10:14 average pace) and my three mile finish (9:58 average pace), I squeezed in 5.15 miles at an 8:53 average; all but the first was legitimately under nine minutes (9:17, 8:56, 8:49, 8:51, 8:39 and .15 at 8:03 pace). This was partly thanks to running with Arjin, who can't bring himself to not try and outrun me. It seriously irritates me most of the time but it makes for speedier runs. And I refuse to let him bully me into running too fast too often...I just let him go on ahead.

I did the week's long run on Saturday morning, at the YMCA Invest in Youth Fund Run at Centennial Trail in Snohomish. The run was "open" from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. to run as many 5-mile laps as you wanted. It is supposed to be a fundraiser but it seems to have turned into more of a Marathon Maniac get-together. There are usually a number of people running shorter distances (5, 10, 15 miles), but this year I feel like I may be the only one who stopped before getting into at least the 20's! I had 14 miles on my training plan and I ran 15, which was fine, and plenty for me. I made a $75 donation to the fund, which I thought of as $25 for every 5-mile lap. Last year I did 10 miles and donated $50.

Even though this wasn't a speed race, running in a group of people made me a little faster than I would have been on my own, I think. I finished 15.35 miles in 2:24:36, a 9:24 average pace. This is with me stopping my Garmin when I stopped in the bathroom between laps. The "official" timer didn't stop the clocks for bathroom breaks, of course, and my registered time was about 2:30 (closer to 10 minute average pace).

There are a lot of positive aspects to doing a long run in laps (just over 2.5 miles out, and then back, for each lap). It breaks the distance up into small chunks. After all, 2.5 miles is like nothing, right? And even five miles is just a short run. Easy enough to do that three times around.

But it wasn't quite as easy as I had hoped. The running wasn't that hard; I didn't feel like I was pushing myself at all with a sub-9:30 pace. But I never quite got into the zone where the miles fly by. I was quite aware of every single mile I ran. So it seemed a little more drudging than other runs I've done.

On the other hand, I could tell that I was in a much better running place than when I did it last year. I clearly remember how hard it was to run a ten-minute pace in the first mile last year (this year mile one was 9:21, and easy). I only did ten miles total last year (by design), and I know that as I finished up ten miles today I had no real difficulty sailing into the next five (except generally wanting to be done).

During the first two five-mile laps I was running behind a Marathon Maniac named Jessica, who I identified to myself as "Red Shorts." Keeping her in eyeshot—a little closer here, a little further there—was a great way of pacing myself beyond just watching Garmin. I tried valiantly, in fact, to look at the Garmin as little as possible, as I think Garmin-watching sometimes does make the time pass more slowly.

After ten miles, I ate a Gu; not because I was particularly hungry but just to help teach myself to fuel (some) on long runs. And I figured, a shot of sugar and caffeine wouldn't hurt, and might help make the last five miles go more smoothly!

After that second lap I think I beat Red Shorts Jessica out of the bathroom, because she wasn't ahead of me this time. Later I saw her just a bit behind me, which gave me a different incentive—don't let her pass me! So while the first few miles in my last five were a little slower (than the beginning miles), the final couple miles were speedy!

In the last few miles, I did decide to try to push it a little, just to get done and make a decent showing for myself. So the last mile, and especially the last .12 mile at finish, were quite impressive (to me)!

Here are my splits for each run, by mile. In between the full miles which occurred in five-mile segments, there is a .12 overage which I am not including in these splits. (Except the one at the end.)

Miles 1-5: 9:21, 9:30, 9:25, 9:20, 9:18.
Miles 6-10: 9:28, 9:37, 9:29, 9:19, 9:17.
Miles 11-15: 9:37, 9:35, 9:38, 9:18, 9:02. Plus .12 at 8:23 pace.

I was not tempted to go on and run another five miles! :)

My next task for the day was to pick up a "Triple Chocolate Ganache Cake" to bring to the Bar Association Legal Services benefit auction on Saturday night. (The cake was part of the dessert auction.) I had "purchased" a certificate for the cake at the Juvenile Court VOA fundraiser auction last year, then redeemed it (from the probation counselor who was making it) to re-donate to the Bar Auction. Lisa, the cake baker, lives in Snohomish only a few miles from my run site. Perfect.

I actually finished the run earlier than I had projected, so I sat in my car for a while before heading over to Lisa's house. I still arrived before she was quite ready, so I watched as she decorated the top of the cake with flowers. What she did (this is a clever trick) was fold drinking straws in half and secure them with cellophane tape, then use the straws to hold a little water to keep the flowers fresh while they were stuck in the cake for the rest of the day. It worked well!

I brought the cake home and had myself a low-key afternoon before getting dressed for the auction. (We were leaving at 4:00, so I only had a few hours on my hands.) I ate lunch, of course. Otherwise I would have been ravenous and crazy (more so than usual) by dinner time at the auction!

As it was, I was still anxious for dinner to be served—I think it was around 6:30 or 7:00. Being my usual hungry self, I quickly downed my teeny tiny starter salad (a hollowed out chunk of cucumber stuffed with a few lettuce leaves—artsy but very minimalist) and finished all the food on my dinner plate (salmon and filet of beef, mash potatoes in some kind of fancy shape, and two or three tiny token vegetables). Yes, others tastefully left behind some meat, or fish, or potatoes...I think it is admirable that I restrained myself from grabbing their leftovers! Oh yes, I also ate a small roll with butter. I think it is so stingy that they didn't bring around another bread basket!

Keep in mind, I may have eaten back five or so of my miles during the afternoon, but there were still a lot more miles begging to be fed! And although I had eaten a perfectly reasonable dinner, by anyone's account, I still felt undernourished.

Luckily, it was time for the dessert auction! Also luckily, Ann is very interested in chocolate desserts and decided we should have one, no wait, two, for our two tables. She took over the bidding and we ended up (after a slight bidding war with a judge) with Lisa's Triple Chocolate Ganache Cake and another Chocolate Ganache Cake which was actually rather similar, but robed in chocolate "lace" and topped with raspberries.

After all the desserts were distributed to the table, hotel staff took them away to cut and serve them (luckily they brought them back eventually too). We all got very tasteful and appropriate pieces of our table's cakes. Here's Ann and her boyfriend Pete with a cake, before the cutting.
The other cake went to our other table and I didn't get a "before" shot, but here it is "after"!

Once the cakes were returned to our tables, several of us had seconds. I chose a piece of the Triple Chocolate Ganache Cake (at the other table) for my second serving. After eating that, I can honestly say (and did in fact say, to Rod), that now I felt like my fifteen miles were worthwhile. (I also no longer felt the craving for more fuel!)

The dress I wore to the auction was a little knit dress (by Tribal) that I had bought in Blue Hill, Maine, when I went to Maine for the Half Marathon in September 2008. This was the first time I'd worn it. I wore it with very high-heeled, pointy toe pumps, which surprisingly didn't bother me at all despite all the running over two days (more than a marathon distance, put together). Rod is wearing the camel-hair blazer I gave him for Christmas (which I searched high and low for, to find the only camel-hair blazer in the greater Seattle area). And yes, we are wearing our dorky name tags.

On Sunday we went skiing and this time I did feel the running in my legs. Mostly it was in my right calf, which I think was tired because my achilles tendon and ankle were a little roughed up from the running. In the morning we did a couple of black diamond runs, in somewhat soft snow, which put a lot of stress on my legs. In fact, riding up on one of the longer chair rides, I could barely stand the dangling of my leg; it just seemed to ache. Later on, though, we switched back to some runs that seemed easier in comparison, and I didn't hurt anymore. We skiied through the morning, had lunch, then headed home.

A good weekend!

*My sub-eight pace was in my 10K PR, back in November. My average pace was slower in the Smelt Run recently, but I am considering it an eight-minute pace effort, with slower miles due to the wind. This is only for purposes of assessing my capabilities, not giving myself extra credit!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Smelt Run 2010

Saturday morning I picked up my parents and drove up to LaConner for my first 10K in 2010, the Skagit Symphony Smelt Run. This is the fourth time I have run this 10K. Last year I managed to achieve my personal worst time in a 10K ever (go, me!) and this year my time (while not a PR*), was about nine minutes faster. My time was about 50:36 (that's what my watch shows). Actual time may be about one second faster (official results not yet posted).

As is not uncommon at this time of year, the weather was pretty crappy. It was raining on the drive up, and sporadically once we arrived. However, the rain stopped before the actual run began! I have almost never had to do a race actually in the rain.

I started out with my warm-up wearing a jacket, but after I ran a mile or two I was plenty warm enough (it was quite balmy) and I left the jacket at the car before the race began. I had been jogging around town hoping to get at least 1.8 miles warm-up, maybe two miles. At 1.89, just minutes before the start, I decided I wanted another bathroom stop before the run. I dashed into the school building and luckily found an open restroom quickly. I was the last person in there, and I literally ran down the hallway to get to the starting area. It seemed like a very close call, but in the end there were still several minutes of announcements before the start.

Here I am in the first block of the race, wearing my photo-friendly orange top! I love it. This may be the first time my mother has ever quickly spotted me in a crowd. In the picture, I have just tossed my gloves to my parents on the sidewalk.

The race started by running into and through LaConner. At the end of Morris Street the 5K runners turned right and the 10K group went left. We ran down First Street and veered around the outskirts of town, going up and down a couple of short but steep hills along the way. My first mile was good, 7:55.

When we re-connected with Morris Street we turned right out of town and onto the flats. Very quickly we encountered the famous Skagit wind. Well, it's famous to me and anyone who has run this 10K. Despite a pretty hard effort on my part, the wind was slowing me down. Mile 2 - 8:14, Mile 3 - 8:23.

We turned around and started tracing our way back around 3.75 miles. Now the wind was sort of at our backs (though not especially pushing us along), and I was able to pick up the pace. I also immediately felt a lot hotter, as the wind was no longer cooling me! Mile 4 - 8:17. I vowed to try to get the remaining miles under eight minutes each.

I used my old trick of running with a hard effort from mailbox to mailbox (they're not very close up in the farmlands). Mile 5 - 7:56. In the last mile I ran out of mailboxes, but I picked other landmarks to shoot for. Mile 6 - 7:58.

The last portion was back in town, and of course this is where you want to go all out to try to finish as fast as possible. I had two goals—finish under 50 minutes if possible (I could tell from my watch that it was possible), and catch up with the woman in the 2010 Seattle Marathon shirt (which, obviously, I recognized), who was just ahead of me and had been for much of the race. (There had been another woman who was running neck and neck with me for part of the last couple miles, but somewhere in mile 6 she pulled ahead and was never seen again.)

The Seattle Marathon lady looked like she was running so easy, not even trying too hard, and I thought surely with a strong effort I could catch her. In the last few blocks, on the street with the finish in it, I poured it on as hard as I could. I saw my parents as I passed by. Here I am in that last stretch—maybe I don't look like I'm running too hard, but I was!

After I passed by my folks, there was only a short distance left to go. But then I felt myself getting dizzy and nauseous. I put my hand to my mouth as if it would prevent me from puking if I really needed to! I could also see the clock had turned to 50 minutes. I let up on my pace just a little bit till the lightheadedness passed. I may have been hyperventilating from breathing so hard! Obviously, any chance of passing Seattle Marathon woman was lost. (In this picture, I thought it was funny that the old guy was wearing a jacket the same color as my shirt. We also matched the reflective vests of the course volunteers, and one other guy that was running. Luckily he was quite a ways behind me, so he didn't show up in the pictures by mistake. That has happened in the past!)
I crossed the finish line at approximately 50:35 (I noted the clock time but now I can't remember exactly) and punched my Garmin at 50:36.** I ran ahead to congratulate Seattle Marathon woman. When she turned around she was quite red and sweaty, so apparently hadn't been running so effortlessly after all! Thank goodness. We chatted about pace and times and age groups for a few seconds. She asked me if I was in the 50+ group (yikes, did I look that bad?) and I thoughtless replied, "no, thank goodness!" (Well, she deserved it for that!) She's in her late fifties (and yes, she beat me), and lamented how it is harder to be in the upper end of the age group with all the "younger" ones coming in. Yeah, I get that! My position in the 40+ group has been seriously compromised by all the 39-year-old fasties turning 40!

My dad came and met me after the finish.

We walked back to meet my mother.

We were going to have brunch/lunch at the Calico Cupboard in LaConner, but the street was so crowded (there was a Smelt Derby in addition to the race) that we couldn't park near the restaurant. I decided we should go to the Calico Cupboard in Anacortes instead.

So that's what we did. I ordered us a giant cinnamon roll to share, and I had fish (salmon) tacos. Yum.

In case you are wondering, I am not really disappointed that I didn't beat my PR time. For one thing, I don't see how I (or anyone) could expect to PR in every race. I am quite happy that I was in the 50-minute range, which is more than two minutes faster than any other 10K I've done (except for my PR). I would like to get another 10K PR sometime, of course. I kind of have my sights set on the July 4 Yankee Doodle Dash. That is if I'm not too beat up from the Newport Marathon and Seattle Rock & Roll Half Marathon beforehand. I have a time goal in mind... but I think I'll save it for now.

*My 10K PR of 49:20, from the 2009 Fowl Fun Run, is exactly ten minutes faster than my "personal worst" time of 59:20!

**My pace for the last .24 mile was about 7:40. Not fast enough to make me sick—don't know what was going on there!

Monday, March 1, 2010

I must go to London, immediately!

The U.S. - U.K. exchange rate dipped below $1.50 (to £1) for the first time since I was over there a year ago. At that time it was down in the $1.40's (yeah!) but over the winter it's been hovering at $1.60 and above. Today, £1 = $1.499, and it has been a steady drop through the $1.50's in the last few weeks.*

All this is making me wish I had thrown my name into the lottery last summer for the London Marathon on April 25. My plan is to try to get in for 2012 (planning on Boston in 2011), but that's a long way off and who knows what the exchange rate will be then! (Not to mention, there's no guarantee I'll get in anyway.)

So if anyone knows of an extra entry to the London Marathon going a-wanting, let me know!

Yeah, I'm 90% kidding.... (but if you can hook me up, pass it on, 'kay?)

*Yes, I do monitor the exchange rate daily. Doesn't everyone?