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!

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