Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Whidbey Island Half Marathon Part 2 - Ups and Downs

Finally, I am going to finish my Whidbey race report! To refresh your recollection, this run happened back on April 11. (And it's still April, so there!)

I didn't set any real goals for this half marathon, because I wasn't sure what to expect. The good thing is, I can't be disappointed over not meeting a goal (such as not getting a PR, which I didn't expect, so certainly would not set that as a goal). The (slightly) bad thing is, I also don't have the opportunity to be super-excited about meeting my goals! (But I am happy with the result.)

Goals that I could have set and been excited about reaching:

  • Finish under two hours
  • Average pace less than 9 minute per mile
  • Finish faster than my last half (Nookachamps Half, 1:56:17)
  • Strong finish in the final 5K
  • Really strong finish in the final 1.1 mile

Goals that I would have been disappointed over had I actually set them:

  • PR
  • Every mile under 9 minutes
So, all in all, the positives definitely outweighed the negatives in this race, certainly as far as pace and time accomplishments. As for positives and negatives about the race itself, I'm sure the positives also outweighed the negatives. I'll probably mention them as I go, rather than tallying them upfront. It's not really an election or anything.

We left extremely early on Sunday morning, to make sure we got across Deception Pass Bridge before roads got closed off for the marathon (which was starting half an hour earlier than the half). We did so well that once we were on the island and into Oak Harbor, we stopped at Starbucks so my dad could get coffee (he had left his cup on the kitchen counter at home) and I could make my first bathroom stop.

The starting point of the race was actually just a few blocks from Starbucks, so we were there and parked a good hour before start time. Pretty much the first thing I did was walk down to the starting area to ascertain my destination, then visit the porta-potties (yes, again). There were no lines at this point!

Back at the car, I pinned on my race number and decided that I would go ahead and wear my jacket. I was wearing my Half Fanatics short-sleeved shirt, and there was enough of a nip in the air that I felt I needed the extra layer. The temperature was probably in the low 40's. That's not horribly cold around here, but it's chilly! And I have the ability to run in a jacket even at temperatures others might find too warm. That was good, because once I pinned my number on my jacket I certainly didn't want to take the time to change it.

Then I started out on my warm-up jog. I trotted up and down the streets in the area, including up the hill that would start our race. After about .75 mile I figured I had better take a hiatus to make my final visit to the potties! This time I did have to stand in line, but it wasn't terribly long and it moved quickly enough that I was certain I would get through in time. In fact, I had enough time to do a little more than a quarter mile of additional warm-up before heading to the starting area. I'm not sure that the warm-up run did anything for my legs--although I like to think of it as an opportunity to get my 10-minute-mile out of my system--but it did add another mile to my total distance for the day!

The announcers asked us to self-seed, with (obviously) the faster runners in front. There may have been pace number signs to guide us, I am not sure; if there were, I stood roughly between the 8-minute and 9-minute signs.

When the starting gun (or signal of some kind) went off, we headed uphill (as we had been warned). I don't know if it was the uphill start or what, but my whole body felt achy as I plugged through the early blocks. This was strange to me! Still, without extraordinary effort I finished the first mile in 8:59. Right on pace, generally speaking.

After our first uphill mile, we were rewarded with two downhill miles. My "even effort" pace gave me times of 8:28 and 8:24 in miles 2 and 3! But no worries, I would make up for that later in the race. Miles 4-6 were pretty much flat (8:47, 8:53, 8:52). Somewhere in those early miles we also had a short out-and-back segment (practice for the long out and back to come).

About halfway through the race we ran through Windjammer Park for the first time. I didn't realize that was where we were, of course. And I didn't see my dad on the sidelines either! But he manage to get a good picture of me as I passed.

While the first half of the race was pretty moderate in terrain, the second half was where the hills really kicked in. The first one, and probably biggest (at least according to Garmin, and my pace), dragged me down to 9:30 for mile 7. That was the average pace for the whole mile, so it is entirely possible that I might have been going slower at some point! When the road flattened out a bit, I looked at my pace and saw it still was at 9:30-ish...I felt very discouraged for a moment and thought that this was it, I had burned out and I was not going to get back to a sub-nine again.

But luckily I managed to pull myself together and finish mile 8 in 9:09...even though it was still uphill.

This second half of the race was essentially a big long out and back. For several miles we ran along one side of the road with the faster runners returning opposite to us. Eventually, of course, I reached the turnaround point and then I got to be one of the "faster" runners! (Compared to those I was meeting, that is.) Miles 9 and 10, which I think were past the turnaround, were fairly level and I picked up the pace a tiny bit, to 9:07 and 8:55.

After mile 10 we went into the final 5K and I was excited enough about that to shout "only 5K to go" at a neighboring runner, gesturing "5" with one hand as I accelerated past him. I think he grunted...I'm sure he was very excited.

In half marathons I always plan to put on a big push in the final 5K and I always end up postponing the push to mile 12 or 13. This time I pulled it off (helped by a slight downhil in mile 11!). If I had been "racing" this course harder, I might not have been able to pick it up so easily, but I finished mile 11 in 8:30! Mile 12 was a little slower at 8:43.

Somewhere in these last few miles, as I was watching the slower runners who were still on the "out" portion of the run, I started to see the first marathon runners come through. I figured this out when I saw a very slender, black runner and thought that he certainly didn't look like a slow half marathoner. That's when I realized that he was the lead marathon runner! Several others followed. It must have been awkward for these very fast runners to be comingling with the 11-minute mile half marathon runners!
In mile 13 and the remaining .14 to the finish, I finally found my racing legs. Of course a decent downhill in mile 13 helped! But the final .14 was entirely flat. In fact, the finishing chute was on grass, which I think is a little slow; otherwise I'm sure I would have been sub-8 for that final minute of running. My pace for the final 1.14 miles was 8:01.

My dad was at the finish line as well (actually just before the finish), and caught this picture of me pushing to the finish.

Not crazy about running on grass....


After I turned in my chip and got my medal, we took a quick tour through the finish area. I snagged a whole bunch of snack-size bags of pop chips to take home for work lunches! I also took a scone from the very generous food spread. I think it was provided by Albertson's. I recall there were scones and muffins and maybe cookies, as well as bread or bagels and lots of fruit. I split the scone with my mother when I got back to the car. Although I don't remember the flavor anymore, I do know it was very tasty!

After we got out of the parking lot we left the island and headed to Anacortes for brunch at the Calico Cupboard. I had a veggie omelet and some bites of my dad's cinnamon french toast.

Next year this run will probably be the week before Boston, so I don't know if I will run it. I am not opposed to a gentle half marathon the week before a marathon--it worked well with Seattle and CIM--but those hills are a challenge! (Of course, Seattle had some hard hills as well....) But it's almost a year away, so we shall see, I guess!

Monday, April 26, 2010

The next race

This upcoming Sunday I am running the Bloomsday 12K in Spokane. Today I wrapped up a couple of pre-trip details, reserving airport parking for the weekend, making a dinner reservation for Saturday night. Hotel is long since reserved and airplane tickets have been purchased. My mother and I are leaving Saturday and staying over to Monday. I'm excited!

About ten days ago I mentioned my goal for Bloomsday as being "as close to one hour as possible." Luckily that leaves me plenty of leeway. While I would love to do it in one hour, I don't really think that's a feasible goal for this race at this time. The "problem" with Bloomsday is the long (about a mile?) hill in the second half of the race. No matter how well I run on the rest of the course, I know that hill will slow me down in a way that probably can't be fully made up for in the other miles.

Also, I'm not too sure where my speed is at these days. I feel really good about my training for a marathon pace of around nine minutes per mile (give or take a few seconds). But I think all my tempo and pace work in the marathon pace neighborhood may have detracted from my ability to run faster over short distances. I gauge this by my recent efforts at speedwork which have been successful, but frequently slower than I hoped they would be.

Still, I've been doing speedwork and hill work with the goal of improving my performance at Bloomsday (as well as other upcoming races). Last Wednesday my schedule called for hills, I think six or eight repeats. Instead of doing my usual quarter mile hill intervals, I opted for a longer hill workout, 1.3 miles mostly uphill and then back downhill, repeated twice. I wanted to work on downhill speed as well, while I was at it.

A caveat: My 1.3 mile hill was not all uphill. It starts out pretty flat but inclining upwards, turning into a moderate uphill for about 3/4 mile total, then the next 1/4 mile is downhill; finally, the last .3 is a steeper uphill. All that is reversed on the return.

I will admit right now, I went out too fast in my first segment. For quite some time my Garmin was showing a sub-8 pace on the gentle incline, slowing slightly as the hill increased. My first mile was 8:16, and the additional .31 mile was at 8:55 pace; the average pace for the whole distance was 8:26.

I am certainly happy with that pace, but the problem is that my lungs were screaming and there is no way (I believe) that I could pull off that pace in the middle of a race and still continue to finish the race. I also think that pushing myself so hard on the uphill took away some ability to run as fast as I might have downhill. My average pace for the return trip (mostly downhill except for that quarter mile uphill section) was 8:05.

Between each split I walked and rested for a few moments before going into my next segment. I also had lights along the way that I had to occasionally stop for (pausing Garmin), although I believe that I hit every light green on that first uphill and didn't have to stop at all.

My second uphill was slower on the first mile and a little faster on the final .3 (8:28 and 8:49 pace). The average for the whole distance was 8:31.5 (okay, I didn't want to round up to 8:32).

Finally, on the last downhill I averaged 8:21 overall. A lot slower, yes...the consequences of burning myself out. I don't think I did such a good job at working on a sustainable fast pace (I did better in a similar workout prior to the Shamrock Run) but I think there's also some benefit to putting it out there as hard as I can, even if it's not a realistic pace over the long run. At the very least I gave my heart and lungs a good workout! The entire run, by the way, including a warm-up and recovery portion, was about 10.5 miles.

Friday morning I did my weekend long run of 14 miles at 5:15 a.m.! That is an achievement in itself, let me tell you. My plan was to do some warm-up miles, then three miles at some level of fast; recover for about a mile, then another three miles "fast." I also had to tweak my route to pump it up to 14 miles, which is much further than I usually run just around town.

I won't go into detail about the various backs and forths and arounds and abouts that it took to accomplish my distance goal. I ran about 10K (6.25 miles, actually) for the initial warm-up period. It doesn't take 10K to warm-up (even for me, although I am notoriously slow to get going), but I wanted to do a good bulk of the run before I went into acceleration mode.

So after that 10K portion (we're talking pace in the "more than 10 minute" range), I kicked into my first three mile pick-up. I will characterize these three miles as "marathon pace"--9:16, 9:13, and 8:51. Slower than I'd hoped, but still more than a minute faster per mile than I'd been running beforehand.

Then I did a little more than a mile at recovery pace (about 10-minute pace). The distance was mostly designated with further planning of my route before launching the final "fast" three miles. Those miles--8:49, 8:39, 8:56. I guess marathon pace again, while dipping my toes into the half-marathon pace pond a bit.

I consider myself lucky that I managed that last mile under nine minutes at all, actually. My route planning was a little flawed in that I had no alternative but to go uphill for mile 3 of this segment. I could either turn around and go up Everett Avenue like on Wednesday, or continue on and go up a very steep one-block hill on 23rd, followed by some more gentle inclines off and on. I opted for 23rd and decided to give it my best push as I plowed up it. Unfortunately as I turned onto 23rd I tripped or lost my balance or something and ended up falling hard, partly onto a grassy parking strip but grazing my left knee on the sidewalk. I did manage to stop the Garmin after a few seconds and I lay on the ground swearing and trying to regain my equilibrium before standing up. Iwas wearing long running pants so my major injury was not from the sidewalk but rather from my pants rubbing the skin off my knee. I am not sure if I damaged the pants at all as they already have some micro-holes in that knee from a previous fall!

Finally I took off again and was able to push myself hard up the short hill and through the rest of that mile. I was quite okay with the 8:56 result. After that it took another .63 miles of jogging (though at a 9:34 pace, not too shabby) to finish up my distance (14.01 total). That landed me at Starbucks and I still had enough time to get a mocha and walk home to get ready for work. I did forgo the time it would take to eat breakfast at home, though. After I got showered and dressed (and threw away a few minutes on last minute packing for the weekend), I threw together a waffle sandwich with two lowfat Nutrigrain waffles, peanut butter, and my ubiquitous blackberry jam (actually it is Oregon marionberry jam!).

This morning, Monday, I went out to run conscious of how slowly I had run yesterday (because of the trails, but still). Usually Monday is a recovery day and slow in itself, but I didn't feel like I had anything to recover from. My long run was days before and I didn't think that Sunday's eight-mile trail run had beat me up very much.

So I decided to push myself a little more than on a typical Monday. Unfortunately I had trouble getting out of bed, so I didn't leave home until almost 6:30 (about 15 minutes later than usual). Another reason to go a little faster, though, to make up for time lost lounging in bed!

I started out at 10:13 and picked it up pretty steadily after that. The next half mile was 9:52 pace, then 9:14, 9:24, 9:25, 9:22, 8:52, 8:18, and a final half mile at 9:00 pace. Average pace for entire run was 9:17. Okay for Monday!

I am so glad I went out this morning even though I didn't want to get up, because it was mild and balmy and dry. This afternoon has been muggy, and windy, and now rainy. Not appealing for a run! Allow me to feel a little bit smug. My next run is 800's on Wednesday. The forecast is not good...rain again. I may be running in the mud!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Trail "running" (updated with more pictures!)

We spent the weekend at Sun Mountain Lodge near Winthrop, where I was attending the Defender Conference. Once a year I get the opportunity to take continuing education classes at a mountain resort instead of a boring convention center.

We were especially lucky this year because the North Cascades Highway opened for the summer just about a week ago, cutting at least an hour (maybe more) off the drive over. We were also able to leave at midday instead of 4 or 5 on Friday, so we were actually there by a little past 4:00.

Have I mentioned that I ran 14 miles before work on Friday morning and got to work at 9? I was out the door at 5:15 a.m., about an hour earlier than usual. I wanted to get the week's long run out of the way so it wouldn't be so burdensome on Sunday.

The other part of my grand scheme was that an extra long run on Friday would leave me free to eat a lovely dinner Friday night without concern.

We had no trouble getting a table for dinner in the hotel's lovely dining room, as most of the conference attendees were eating at the group dinner, "enjoying" a taco buffet which was mediocre at best (so I heard later). Suckahs!

Our dinner started with bread from a local bakery and a trio of butters, plain, pesto butter, and a wonder lavendar honey butter (we lapped up every bit of that one). Then an amuse bouche, tuna tartare topped with wasabi avocado. Instead of a salad Rod had roasted pear soup (we'll be working on making something similar this summer), and antelope for his entree (I don't remember anything else about it). They served his soup at the table poured from a small teapot--very cool!

I had a salad with smoked duck, dried cherries, and other tasty bits I can't recall. Then I had a pork porterhouse (very thick pork steak) with some kind of spicy apple sauce (not the same as applesauce), served with apple fritters (YESSS) and and some lovely spring vegetables, including foraged fiddlehead ferns. I ate about 2/3 of the pork and took the rest to use for lunch on Saturday (we had a refrigerator in the room).* I ate ALL of the fritters!

On Saturday I took a midday hiatus from classes (I have plenty of credits, I can give up a few) to go mountain biking with Rod. We rented bikes from the hotel and just went for a couple hours. That was plenty, as we're not the most skilled of bikers! The last trail we went on was actually "not recommended" for bikes (oops) but still it was the best route back to Sun Mountain from where we had ended up down by Patterson Lake. I said "down"--yes, we had to go "up" to Sun Mountain Lodge. I alternated between riding in the moderate sections and pushing the bike in the steepiest, rockiest bits of trail.

Saturday night dinner, Patterson Mountain burger with blue cheese (Rod had cheddar), bacon, and grilled apples. YUM! (I may not have had a real hamburger since we were at Sun Mountain last year!)

I decided to do my Sunday run on the trails, even though I'm not crazy about trail running. The alternative would be to run DOWN the road and then back UP to the hotel. Not appealing. I might end up doing sort of the same thing on trails, but maybe it would be more interesting.

I started by running down the road toward Patterson Lake Cabins (don't mind downhill road running!). Past the cabins I wanted to turn onto a trail called Patterson Mountain. I had a little trouble finding it (per usual for me), but I did...and promptly started going uphill.

Note to self: "mountain" implies uphill.

After a bit I came to the beginning of the Patterson Mountain loop trail (my destination). I opted for the south side of the loop (according to signs). It didn't matter, really; eventually I'd get to he north side.

And I started climbing again. (Yes, I am going up the side of a mountain!) I found that this uphill jogging sometimes dropped my pace to 16-minute miles. When I decided to walk the steepest rockiest parts, it was a 20-minute pace. This all concerned me a little, as I had allowed for a 15-minute average pace in my time estimate to Rod (anticipating hills and stops). But luckily it wasn't all 16-20 minute pace. In the level and downhill sections I dropped to a 12-minute (or faster!) pace. Although I had to walk on some of the downhills too, where they were too steep or technical (I think that's the word trail runners use). Here is the view from one of my highest points.

So yes, after I reached the Summit/Loop sign (I opted not to head for the summit), the trail started heading downward again. (Look, a stile just like on the footpaths in England!)

Sooner than I expected, really, I returned to the beginning of the trail and began to follow another trail that headed back to Patterson Lake Cabins. Here is the view looking down on Patterson Lake, the cabins and somewhere up and to the right is where Sun Mountain Lodge is.
A closer view of Patterson Lake cabins.

That also brought me to the road again. Still not wanting to run up the road, I opted for the Lakeview trail that we had taken with the bikes. The climb really wasn't too extreme--there was only one segment that I chose to walk rather than jog.

However, the trail is also a shortcut to the road, and when I reached the top, almost to the lodge, I was only at a little over 6 miles. I wanted 8. That was easily fixed, though. I ran down (only slightly downhill) the wide Sunnyside trail until Garmin pinged 7 miles, then backtracked. I reached the lodge at 8.04 miles, the perfect distance even if not the perfect pace (almost 12 minute per mile average pace!).

That is one reason why I don't prefer trail running. I feel so slow and there's little I can do about it! I really prefer walking/hiking trails. Although, I must say that even with the slow pace, I was able to cover a lot more distance in the time I had than I would walking. I wouldn't mind doing that loop (even to the summit) as a hike sometime. The views are amazing!

It was such a run/walk conglomeration that I don't even know if I feel like I got a workout. I'm sure I did...but I didn't feel very worn out after the run! And Garmin decreased the calories it allowed me per mile thanks to my slow pace. Boo hoo.

While I was out running Rod went to the dining room and had a humongous (and delicious, I hear) breakfast. So I made myself lunch for the road--two almond butter and jam sandwiches on sandwich thins (all of which I brought with me). Before I went out I had a yummy whole grain apricot scone and when I got back a whole grain banana nut muffin--rocking the carbs today! Along with leftover coffee that I had stashed in the fridge. (These whole grain muffins and scones are great, so delicious and only about 250 calories each, much less than other versions! They are QFC brand, made by a company called "Mostly Muffins.")

I am home now (have been for a couple hours anyway) and I am so pleased to have found a replay of the London Marathon on Universal Sports! I was bummed that I forgot to set the DVR before I left. I watched a few minutes when it started at 5; I will watch the rest later on DVR after I fix dinner. Despite my devalued calorie burn, I am hungry!

*What I did with the leftover pork: I had brought some sandwich thins so I made a sandwich with thin-sliced pork and blackberry jam. It works! It would have been nice to have some cheese but I couldn't forage any and as it turned out I didn't miss it.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Dreaming of Boston

Not so much in the way you'd think.

Last night I was watching the Boston Marathon on my DVR. I was watching in bed because why would I want to sit up and watch TV if I can lie down? I was about an hour along and it was sometime after 9:00 and I started falling asleep. I would doze off for a few minutes and then I would wake up and they were still running. I would watch for a while (and I really wanted to watch), then I would drift off again and after a while I would wake up and they would still be running. I remember thinking, in one of my waking periods, that a marathon takes a really long time, and that's just for the elites, who are twice as fast as everyone else!

Eventually, during one of my sleeping periods, the marathon ended and I didn't even know who won until I checked it out today. It didn't quite end there, though. After I went to sleep "officially," I found myself dreaming of the Boston Marathon. Not dreaming of running it though. I was still just watching it.

Of course, I still have the recording on my DVR and if I want to, I can go back and watch parts of it again. Perhaps that sounds ridiculous but I think it would be great to watch closer to next year's marathon, as a course preview (assuming that all goes as planned and I am still running next year).

Later I went on to have another dream which I think may be my key to fame and fortune. Perhaps I shouldn't even mention it in case some entrepreneurial person snaps up my idea...oh, I'll risk it. I dreamed that I invented a mix for making your own granola bars. It was made of rolled oats and powdered peanut butter (like PB2?) and some kind of powdered honey and when you mixed it with water the honey got sticky and held the whole mess together, and you formed it into bars. Probably there were other things like seeds and dried fruit in it as well. I think maybe I have been reading too many food blogs! Okay, maybe the homemade granola bar thing isn't entirely original but my instant, just add water idea surely is!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Amazingly, my legs didn't hurt

I certainly expected achy legs last night. Even Advil does not usually prevent the night-time leg aches that follow a long run, punctuated by sporadic pains in my ankle or achilles tendon. But it was a surprisingly pain-free night, considering the 20.10 miles. I did spend 20 minutes or so with an ice pack on my ankle and calf while I was watching TV. Hard to imagine that made much of a difference though!

And my legs felt unusually good this morning too, even heading out for an 8-mile run. My calf didn't hurt even at the beginning, and my legs didn't even feel heavy...though they didn't feel fast either. It took a surge in the final mile to bring my total pace under 10 minutes average.

I suspect one of the reasons my legs survived the night as well as they did was my slow pace yesterday. Certainly faster runs and races are hard on the stands to reason that slow runs are gentle on the legs. Or gentler, anyway.

This week is a stepped back week in terms of distance. My long run is supposed to be 14 miles. My plan was (and still is) to do it on Friday morning so that it won't be such an impact on the weekend (we're going to a conference at the Sun Mountain Lodge). I'll still run there but something less than 14.

However, I just remember today that I'm covering court on Friday morning. That means I need to be done in time to get to work at 9:00. Yikes! Out the door at 5 a.m.? Ugh. And I was so happy that it was light at 6:15 today. Back to the darkness!

Congratulations to Annie who finished the Boston Marathon today in 4:02:11!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

First 20-miler in 2010

To commemorate that feat I forced myself to add an extra tenth of a mile (see above).

No, I was not running a 35-minute pace!

As you can see (and figure out with a bit of simple math) my average pace was just under 10 minutes, I believe 9:56 to be precise. That's not a completely accurate picture of my run, though. The average is definitely dragged down by some excessively slow miles in the middle section. Oh, those Sunnyside hills! Still, I think it's a perfectly acceptable long run pace. I am trying not to kick myself or compare it to some of my other, faster long runs. (Not to mention other people's.)

I did kick it up in the last mile and did that one in 9:09. It would have been sub-9, I'm sure, except that I didn't decide to pick up the pace until .15 mile along.

I finished at Safeway and do have to congratulate myself at finishing where I wanted to be and neither under nor over distance. Go me! I used one of my free drink coupons for an iced mocha at Starbucks. Then I walked home, SLOWLY.

That run brought me to a total of 49.39 miles for the week. That's pretty high for me, especially in a four-day running week. No, I couldn't dig up another .61 mile! Although if I counted walking--.65 after the run today, .50 after my run on Friday, and 4+ in my afternoon walk on Wednesday--I would be well over 50 miles. My few 50+ mile weeks from last year were, I think, weeks when I ran on five days (one of which was an extra-long run, of course).

At the beginning of the run my sore spots were tweaking. That would be my left, um, cheek (piriformis?) and my right calf/achilles/ankle. That trouble wore off at some point in the run, thankfully. In the end it was just my whole body generally not wanting to run more. But still, those last miles (after I left the hills from hell) were reasonably paced. I do anticipate achy legs tonight, though. Advil is at the ready. I may ice my ankle for a bit in a while. Maybe I'll even take a bath later. It always sounds like a good idea, but when it comes to a choice of getting wet and then drying off, versus just going to bed...bed usually wins.

After I got cleaned up from my run, Rod came back from a muddy trail ride on his Husquvarna bike with his dad. We were both in need of nourishment, so we went to lunch at the local golf course restaurant and had their special, prime rib dip sandwiches! (The dinner special from Friday and Saturday nights was prime rib...coincidence?) It was decadently yummy. Lots of food. I had one half of my sandwich plus about a third of the second half, and gave the rest to Rod.

Yesterday was our last ski day of the season...Stevens closes after today. We had fun skiing, but agreed that we're ready for spring and summer...skiing can take a break. We've been skiing since November--that's a six-month season!

We watched "The Blind Side" last night. That was "my" movie after watching "3:10 to Yuma" (new version) Friday night. We both really enjoyed it, very inspiring but really entertaining as well.

It's been a good weekend. Boston Marathon tomorrow! My DVR is set. Plus I added an extra hour of recording after in case something goes awry with the race scheduling. It would be horrible to miss the last few minutes just because the recorder goes off! (Something that has happened many a time with VCR settings.)

Good luck to all the Boston runners!

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Friday, April 16, 2010

At long last spring

Well, for a few days, anyhow! This picture is actually from Wednesday afternoon, when I went for a walk after work. The weather has finally stopped terrorizing us and been fairly balmy and even sunny at times.

Speaking of Wednesday, on Wednesday morning I did Yasso 800's as called for by my newly revised schedule (biweekly 800's). That meant 7 x 800. After 3.25 miles warmup, I hit the track. The first two were disappointing--I couldn't get under 4:00. But the next one was 3:59 and then I stayed in the mid to low 3:50's until #7. That one was 3:48! Woohoo! About 7:35 pace. I continued my music experiment by shutting off the iPod for the final two. I do seem to be faster without it. But I just don't know if I could get through multiple 800's without music.

This morning I went out late (like 9 a.m., hangs head) for a 12-mile run. I was supposed to do just four miles at marathon pace (easy enough) but I got a wild hair and decided to do a progressive pace run instead. My (highly optimistic) goal was two miles each at 10, 9:30, 9:00, 8:30, and 8:00. Or thereabouts.

Well, if you give a generous interpretation to "thereabouts," I did...okay. Basically I missed each pace by about 15 seconds (until the final FAIL on mile 10). At least I manage to pick up the pace. The first two miles were about 10:15, then two around 9:37, then 9:11 and 9:15, then two at about 8:45, then finally, mile 9 at 8:15 and mile at (oops) 8:30. (Then I did the final two miles slowly. Total 12.25 miles.)

The reason for my effort was because yesterday I had loose lips and mentioned my hope to run the Bloomsday 12K "as close to one hour as possible." One hour would require an average pace of 8 minutes per mile. Gulp. Well, I did say "as close as possible"!

Good luck to all the runners this weekend, particularly the Boston runners on Monday, and especially my friend Annie who is running Boston for the second time and qualified before she got into the 45-year-old age group!

Happy weekend everyone!
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Wednesday, April 14, 2010's not so bad (is it?)

I will admit it—I am a lurker. I have dozens of subscriptions (actually 140) in my Google reader and I read them regularly. A few are blogs that have stopped posting, or post rarely, but still, I can say that I have easily more than 100 blogs that I read.

Obviously, I don't comment on all of them. For one thing, I do most of my reading on my BlackBerry and it's awkward to comment from the elliptical at the Y (though not impossible). Also, I don't always have anything to say! I read, and move on. Sometimes I would like to comment but can't manage it at the time; unfortunately, I rarely go back later.

I do know that I need to comment if I want others to read my blog. So I do make an effort to leave comments when I have something to say (even if it's just congratulations on a good race). I am, I will admit, less inclined to leave comments on blogs with tons of readers...scrolling down to be comment #150* seems like a less productive use of time than commenting on a post with only a handful of comments.

My blogroll is not a completely accurate depiction of my reading list. All the blogs listed are in my Google reader, but there are several listed that are really inactive (if not defunct entirely) and should probably be removed from the blogroll. I don't mind keeping them in the Google reader in case they come back to life. Plus there are the other 100+ blogs I've added to the reader that I have been too lazy to put in the blogroll...some of them are among my current favorites!

In the spirit of being a better member of the blogging community, I have recently begun to "follow" a number of blogs I read. Again, this was something I've been too lazy to do regularly. But after I "followed" a blog just to get an entry into a giveaway, I decided that I'd better do the same for some of the blogs that I have been reading for months or years!

So anyhow, just because I am quiet doesn't mean I am not reading your blog. I am out there.... (cue spooky music....)

*The "healthy living" food bloggers get dozens of comments and more!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Whidbey Island Half Marathon Part 1 - Getting to the beginning

This post has become so long that I have divided it into two parts, part one leading up to the run and part two (which I will finish after I see some pictures), talking about the race itself. So, from the beginning (and before), here goes....

The Whidbey Island Half Marathon story begins a few days before the actual race. Actually, it began over a year ago... or in fact, in 2006 when I decided to run my first half marathon, Whidbey 2007.

I'll be brief with the ancient history. Whidbey 2007 was my first-ever half marathon, and I trained using Hal Higdon's intermediate half marathon training plan. I used the intermediate rather than novice, as I had run lots of 5K's and 10K's and felt I was up to something a little more rigorous. The course that year started in Oak Harbor and finished in Coupeville. It was an amazing success for me. I had a great experience, didn't die, and finished in 1:54:30 chip time, which was my half marathon PR for years after. I still wonder if the course might have been short (no Garmin back then), because it took me a long time to break two hours again and even longer to set a new PR.

The next year I re-registered for Whidbey without a second thought, and this time the course was entirely within Oak Harbor. I thought that it was slightly more difficult than before...the old course had lots of rolling hills but this one had longer uphill stretches. My time, a few seconds over two hours, reflected that.

I signed up for Whidbey in 2009 as well, but the race was scheduled to occur just two weeks after the Bath Half Marathon in England. After my great disappointment in Bath (too slow for words) and my feeling that I was in a running slump, I thought that forcing myself to run Whidbey right after my return from England would be more harmful than helpful to me. I couldn't see myself doing anything but sucking terribly, and I just didn't want that mental anguish. Lucky for me the race organizers agreed to let me defer my entry, so I took a one-year break from Whidbey.

That brings us to this year. Obviously I had to sign up, with the free entry opportunity! Once again it would be a new course, different from the two I had run previously and also different from 2009, I understand. This year the "owner" of the race was the city of Oak Harbor, so I had to go through a little red tape to locate my deferred entry information, but luckily I found my race confirmation from last year and, after some delay, I got my "free" registration for this year's race worked out.

I had no idea what to expect from this half marathon. I have learned the hard way to "never say never," so even though I have been consistently running sub-2 hour halfs since last summer, I know that there is always going to be a supra-2 out there waiting for me. For all I knew, this could be it, though I hoped not.

I certainly did not plan to PR (nor did I), or even exert a PR-level effort. I really just wanted to run a strong effort, preferably under two hours, and continue in my quest to make running sub-9 minute miles over long distances feel easy. Well, comfortable. Well, not horrible, anyway.

Whidbey weekend (the race was on Sunday) was also the weekend that my Book Club was meeting to watch Julie and Julia (and yes, we read the book) and eat food prepared from Mastering the Art of French Cooking Volume 1. (Side note: I read the book a few years ago, and didn't reread it recently. I did enjoy the book, but I do believe that this is one of those books where the movie outshines the book. Probably because of Meryl Streep.*)

So on Friday night, in addition to cooking dinner for Rod and me (a delightful meal—if I do say so myself—of baked chicken, Lundberg's wild blend rice, roasted parsnip oven fries, and sauteed spinach), I was busy chopping vegetables and preparing Julia Child's ratatouille. Seriously, I started at 5:30 p.m. (on both cooking projects), served dinner at 7:30, and around 8:00 resumed ratatouille work. It was probably done at about 9:00.

Saturday morning I had to go up to Oak Harbor to pick up my race packet. I did see on Sunday that they had a small table for race morning pick-up, which would have been a better plan, but that seemed strongly discouraged in the pre-race information. The problem was that Saturday's packet pick-up began at noon, Book Club was at 2:00, and the drive to Oak Harbor turned out to be about an hour and a half each way, plus I had to drive another hour to Gold Bar for Book Club.

Since it took longer than I thought it would to get up to Whidbey, I didn't arrive until 12:15, then it took a while to get in and out, then we had to drive around and figure out where the race started from (time well spent, though). By 2:00 we were on the freeway heading south again but still really far from home. And I had to drop off my mom at her house and pick up the food at mine!

It was an exercise in frustration. However, when I texted the girls about my delay I was told that some of them were still preparing their food, so I should be fine. And in fact, although it was almost 4:00 by the time I arrived (horrible), I got there as food was being put out and didn't miss anything but socializing. I happily accepted a glass of champagne and pomegranate juice, though.

The pièce de résistance of our meal was Pâté de Canard en Croûte (boned duck stuffed with pate and wrapped in pastry), a centerpiece of the book and movie and one of Julia Child's most intimidating-sounding and glamorous dishes. Jennifer G prepared it masterfully! It was beautiful and delicious, and I have to admit the most tempting and exquisite part of it was eating the crispy pastry soaked with duck fat. Please don't judge.

We tempered the rich main course with boiled artichokes (okay, dipped in a variety of buttery or creamy sauces), my ratatouille, a simple potato salad, and a couple of other dishes. I pretty much alternated between pieces of en croûte and artichokes.

Then we sank into couches and chairs to digest and watch the movie. About halfway through the movie, just as my complete fullness had worn off a bit, we paused the movie to bring out dessert, made by Ann—aspic de pommes (scroll down to #68 to see post and picture), which is rum-flavored apple aspic, served with creme anglaise (custard sauce). Sound unimpressive? Well, I wasn't sold on the concept until I took a bit of the delicate sweet apple concoction, swathed in creamy vanilla. We described the sauce as "like melted vanilla ice cream," which perhaps doesn't sound too glamorous, but we also agreed that if you put it in an ice cream maker you would get the best ice cream ever!

I thought at least the dessert would be light, and perhaps it would have been had I not drenched it in enough creme anglaise to clog my arteries for life. As it is, I resumed watching the movie feeling, once again, uncomfortably full. Oh well, it's not like I eat this every day (just, apparently, the day before a big run).

Before driving home, I couldn't resist one more tiny bite of en croûte. I hoped that it counted as carb loading! I was stuffed all the way home.

Once I arrived at my house I packed up all my race gear and laid out my running clothes, and got to bed as soon as I could. After the debacle driving up to Oak Harbor on Saturday, I kept moving up departure time and finally told my parents I would be at their house at 5:15. We had to get to Deception Pass Bridge before 7:00, as the road would be closed for the marathon runners after that! So my alarm was set for 4:00. Yikes!

Next—race day, with pictures!

*Just like The Devil Wears Prada. Which also has Stanley Tucci in it. Coincidence?

Monday, April 12, 2010

Birch Bay Road Race 30K (delayed race report)

On March 27 I ran in the Birch Bay Road Road Race up in Blaine, Washington.

I "discovered" this race when I was doing some random internet searching for upcoming races. I was thinking 5K, 10K. But lo and behold, there was the Birch Bay Road Race, with 5K, 15K, and 30K (18.6 miles) options, conveniently scheduled on a weekend with 18 miles on the long run docket!

It's no coincidence that this race happens in early spring. The race information explains that this race is designed to provide longer distance options for runners training for May and June marathons and half marathons. Perfect for me! (June marathon.)

My original, genuine intention was to run this as a true "long run," at long run pace of 9:30 to 10 minutes per mile. Because of that plan, I didn't feel nearly as stressed out about this as I would normally for a race! But, I also thought that it was possible that I might end up running a little faster with the assistance of the race atmosphere. I was open to that, as long as it didn't mean hurting myself (too much).

This race, although it is organized by a group out of Seattle, has a strong Canadian influence. After all, the location, Blaine, is right on the B.C. border. A lot of Canadians and Canadian running groups participate and, obviously, the distance is measured in kilometers. Or "kilometres." No mile markers at all! That didn't matter to me—I had my Garmin—but if you are used to miles and only see the kilometer markers, it must be frustrating! That's what I heard from another lady after the finish (who apparently doesn't have a Garmin).

Blaine is at least an hour and a half north of where I live, and even though I didn't need to be there super early, I also didn't want to cut it close. Since the race started at 8:30 a.m., I told my parents I would be at their house at about 6:00.

I got there a few minutes past six, and of course there was some additional delay as I made myself a peanut butter and jam sandwich, used the bathroom, and so forth. Still, we were probably on the road by 6:15. I already had a coffee with me so we had no need for additional stops, which was helpful.

The trip was smooth, and we arrived well before 8:00. The one thing I hadn't anticipated have difficulty with, though, was parking. The designated parking lot was full, but we easily found a roadside spot. This was actually a pretty good place to be, as we ran right by it in the beginning of the race, allowing my mother to catch a picture pretty easily.

I did not try to do a warm-up, as I was not treating this as a "real" race. I picked up my race number and used the porta-potty right away. Then I headed back to the car to pin on my bib and get ready to go. I was using my Roadrunner Speed 2-bottle fuel belt, with two extra pockets attached—one with my phone and Gu, the other with a small camera that I had picked up on clearance at Best Buy. I didn't end up taking any pictures, though.

About fifteen minutes before start time I headed back up the the starting area and decided to stand in line again for the porta-potty. The lines were very long by now, but I figured if I didn't get it I would would just go on and stop later if I needed to. But what better way to pass the time than standing in the potty line?

The line moved fast but by the time I was at the front there were only a few minutes left. I jumped into an open stall and did my thing. By the time I came out the lines had dissipated and everyone had headed to the starting area. I jogged over to join them. It was a rather close call but in the end I still had a minute or two to wait before we took off.

We started off downhill to Birch Bay Drive, where we turned left for a four-kilometer out and back. Before I passed my mom's car I started waving my arms wildly to catch her attention. Thus the goofy looking photo!

On the way back Birch Bay Drive turned into Birch Point Road, then Semiahmoo Drive. We stayed on Semiahmoo Drive until we turned onto Semiahoo Parkway. Somewhere on Semiahmoo Drive I saw the sign to warn us we were approaching the photographer. I tried to put a smile on my face (that wasn't hard), but suspected that he wouldn't get a good shot of me due to the cluster of people running around me. There I am tucked behind a few people. The lady in the front is wearing the race shirt. I have a bone to pick with those race shirts. They are gender specific and the women's sizes run incredibly small! I got a large and it barely fits (in my opinion). I don't like my shirts to be too snug. I wish I'd tried it on before I left...but I didn't. I considered trying to contact someone about getting an extra-large, but in the end didn't bother. I have to wear it with my Lucy Perfect Core Pant or Knee-Pant!
These pictures (above and below) were taken just before we got to the turnaround point for the 15K runners. There was a water station there as well as people directing the turn, and probably signs also, but as I passed through the turn I saw a woman ahead of me running along who appeared to be wearing a 15K-colored bib. Sometimes people do change races, so I wasn't sure if she had missed the turn or not, but I called out to her, "hey pink (she was wearing a pink shirt), are you doing the 30K?" She didn't hear me (she was wearing earphones and appeared quite zoned out), so I ran ahead of her and turned back. I asked her, "are you doing 30?" She looked shocked and said "NO!" I said "turn around!" and pointed back, and she wheeled around and took off.

I have done a few races where different distances start out together and then diverge (mostly half and marathons, but also 10K/5K, etc.), and always had a slight fear of missing the turn and running the full marathon "by mistake." I didn't really think that could happen until I heard about this story...and then saw it almost happen up at Birch Bay.
Most of the run was a giant out-and-back. From Semiahmoo Drive we turned onto Semiahmoo Parkway and ran on a paved trail alongside the road to about the ten-mile point. Then we turned around and retraced our steps, running on the roadside in this direction, but back onto a paved trail on Semiahmoo Drive.

The course was made up of a lot of gentle inclines and declines and a few genuine (but not especially steep) hills. I didn't realize we were going slightly uphill for a large portion of the first half until another runner pointed it out to me. The exception to that was in the segment on Semiahmoo Parkway, where the down, and up, and down, and up again was noticeable, although still not drastic enough to slow my pace by more than a few seconds per mile.

After the turnaround around mile 10 I pulled out my first Gu. By luck and a little bit of planning, I was able to eat it in time to toss the package at the next water station. The water stations were plentiful, although I was wearing a fuel belt and didn't need to stop for water.

Although I was monitoring the distance by miles, all the mile markers were in kilometers, which was a little strange to me (except for the 5, 10, 15K and so forth). Mostly I disregarded the kilometer markings, although I must say I was getting excited when I got to 28 and 29!

Amazingly, the race seemed to glide by relatively effortlessly. (Of course, I am finishing writing about this three weeks later!) As usual, I divided it up into my usual categories: Miles 1-5 are warm-up, Miles 6-10 are the "easy" miles, Miles 11-15 are "quality" miles. If I were doing 20+ I would call Miles 16-20 the "endurance" miles. But since I was only doing about 18, the last two or three became the push to the finish.

As for my pace...I began the run saying I was going to run it slowly but secretly wondering if I could do it at marathon pace (based on pace for a sub-4 finish), which is still relatively slow but faster than my "easy run" pace. I thought that might really be possible when I saw my time for the first mile (9:07) and second mile (9:07 again).

I definitely ran this race with "even effort" rather than trying for "even splits." Thus my uphill times were slower than my downhill and flat times, but all of my splits fell within the range of 8:47 to 9:20 per mile. The 9:20 mile was mile 10, and after that my pace picked up again and I finished the last 2.82 miles (the course was long) at sub-nine paces.

I also picked up the pace in the last few miles because I was following another woman who was running a little faster, and my efforts to keep up made me go faster! Ultimately she lost me at the finish, though. I saw her afterwards still running; she said she was finishing a long run (presumably 20+ miles) prior to going to Boston.

I had taken my second Gu around mile 15, again eating it shortly before a water station so I could drop my garbage. Then it was the push to the finish. I think that my final partial mile would have been faster than it was (8:43 pace) had it not been for the nasty surprise as we turned off Birch Bay Drive to head for the finish line. This was a slight deviation from the beginning of the race, so I didn't know what was coming...a steep hill! I said aloud, "Oh dear God!" as I began to chug up the hill. It was a short one, happily, and then I turned and sprinted for the finish. My dad took this pre-finish line picture. And the race photographer took this one (oops, looks like I am losing my pants!)

Finally, after I collected my medal my dad took this nice posed shot. We also established that this is where he should stand if he wants to get an optimal finish line picture next year!
In the end, my chip time was 2:50:21. I was fifth in my age group (out of about 18, I believe), but that didn't win me any prizes. I was mostly happy that I had run an effortless marathon pace race! My official pace for 30K (18.6 miles) was 9:09 per mile, and my actual pace (based on the distance of 18.82 miles) was 9:03.*

I felt good, except for my cramping legs, and for a while that day every time I got out of the car I hobbled like a cripple (and there was a lot of car riding to do). After we left we drove the course for my parents to see it, then headed slightly south again to Bellingham for lunch at the Harris Avenue Cafe. Then we drove south on Chuckanut Drive into Skagit County, and for good measure took a turn around the tulip fields to see what was in bloom! (The tulips were just starting to pop.)

Finally we headed home. By that time it had been a long day, beginning before 6 a.m.!

*My splits for the run: 9:07, 9:07, 8:54, 8:57, 9:17, 9:10, 9:02, 9:16, 9:12, 9:20, 9:08, 9:04, 8:52, 8:50, 9:04, 9:09, 8:47, 8:49, .82 mile at 8:43 pace.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Loco moco for breakfast

I must have been dreaming of loco moco last night, because I woke up itching to make me some. Do you know what loco moco is? It's a Hawaiian dish made of a scoop of rice (white, of course), topped with a hamburger patty, then a fried egg (or two) and doused with gravy. It really is pretty yummy. When we were in Hawaii last year Rod was obsessed with loco moco and had it for lunch several times. I never actually had it in Hawaii because I was obsessed with ono sandwiches, and that's almost all I ever ate. But I did eat a recreation that Rod made at home.

My loco moco version (faux loco moco) featured leftover Lundberg Wild Blend Rice from dinner last night. I made the rice with sauteed mushrooms and onions stirred in as well.

So this morning I put some rice mixture in a bowl then topped it with the other components that I scrabbled together. I defrosted some ground turkey from the freezer (conveniently packaged by me in a single serving size), formed it into a patty and cooked it in a small pan. I fried an egg (with an extra splash of egg white) in my cute single egg frying pan. I stacked the patty, then the egg, on top of the rice that I had warmed in the microwave, then instead of gravy I topped it with ketchup and Frank's hot sauce.

Of course it wasn't the same as "real" loco moco but it was very good (and hearty!). I should have taken a picture of my creation but by the time I thought of that all that was left was crumbs and smears of ketchup.

I love breakfast and I always eat a substantial breakfast. In fact that's one of the reasons I am always almost (or a little bit) late for work; I refuse to skip breakfast. (On a rare occasion I will pack up my breakfast and bring it with me, but packing it takes almost as much time as eating it at home!)

Another breakfast that I have been really loving this week (I may have had it twice), is:
  • 2 Nutrigrain lowfat waffles
  • Spread with about a tablespoon (or so) of Justin's Maple Almond Butter (divided between them)
  • Topped with half a small banana, sliced
  • And drizzed with a tablespoon of maple syrup (you could use less, the full tablespoon makes it really decadent)
OH.MY.GOD. Love it.

Now I need to hop into the shower and head up to Oak Harbor to pick up my packet for the race tomorrow. Then Book Club this afternoon (I made Julia Child's Ratatouille—yes, the book is Julie and Julia!).

Have a great day! Don't forget to eat breakfast!

Friday, April 9, 2010

Got that run in

Last night after work I did the run that I skipped Thursday morning due to weather. After the crazy overnight and early morning winds and rain, the sun had come out and shone brightly in blue skies all day. It was still breezy and chilly, but the cool temp was not a problem for running.

It had clouded over just a bit by 5:00, but not enough to deter me. Unlike Monday, I didn't dread the idea of running after work. The workday must have been less debilitating yesterday, or something. Sure, going to the Y and watching TV on the elliptical was appealing, but now I get to do that this norning!

My legs also felt rested enough that I thought they were ready for another run. This way, also, I still have my two non-running rest days to refresh my legs for Whidbey.

So, without much ado, I took off on my usual route around 5:30. Though I felt sluggish, I might have been slightly faster than I usually am in the mornings. The first mile was about 10:15 then I settled into a 9:30- 9:45 pace for a few miles. I had in my mind that I wanted to do at least a mile or two sort of fast (goal half marathon pace?) at the end, but I was playing it by ear.

I decided to pick up the pace after mile 5. Unfortunately three quarters of that first pace mile was uphill! I finished the last quarter on the return down and managed 8:35 for that mile. (Goal HMP is 8:30 or less, though not necessarily for Whidbey. Future halfs.)

I had just enough distance left in my return home to finish 5K. I don't have my Garmin at hand but I think my pace for the final miles plus .1 was under 8:15. Total time for final 5K was 25:56, and my average pace for all of the 8.1 miles was 9:12.

I got home with (just) enough time to head over to the Y for yoga. I took a couple minutes to change out of my dripping shirt to a dry shirt, brush and try to fluff my wet hair, and trade running shoes for slip-ons. Then I hopped in the car and zipped over to the Y. I had considered ending my run at the Y and going directly to yoga, but that would have cut a mile off my distance, forced me to do yoga in wet clothes, and required me to walk home afterwards in the cold and dark wearing my damp clothes. Not a pleasant idea!

So now it is definitely teeny tiny taper time. Onward to Whidbey!
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Thursday, April 8, 2010

Stormy weather

Sometimes you gotta change your plans a little. Last night (this morning) I woke up around 2 a.m. to hear rain pounding on the roof and blowing against the windows so noisily that I peered out the window, Lena Horne-like, to see what was up. I didn't spot any hail or anything but rain and wind, though.

Instead of bursting into song, I was able to get back to sleep despite the disruption, until I woke up again around 5:30 shortly before my alarm. The rain had stopped by that time, I am pretty sure, but the wind was gusting more wildly that ever. I decided that this was not a good morning to head out for a run!

I don't usually run on Thursdays anyway, but was going to substitute in this Thursday for Friday to allow my legs an extra rest day before the half marathon on Sunday. But not only was the weather almost dangerously unfavorable for running (there are a lot of trees along the streets where I run), my legs were still aching in a way that seemed slightly more severe than the usual morning stiffness. Probably the remaining effects of my speedwork efforts on Wednesday morning.

So I decided to go back to my usual Thursday routine of going to the Y, and possibly/probably do my run on Friday morning after all.* That would still leave me a rest and recovery day before Sunday, and I'm not trying for a PR or anything on Sunday, so I probably don't need to be in tip-top shape. Even if I don't go out tomorrow morning (a three day rest?), I'll still be over 30 miles for the week after the race on Sunday, so I'm in good shape that way. I'll probably make the Friday run shorter than usual (6-7 miles instead of 10-12) because I have less free time tomorrow and I really don't want to be too hard on myself two days before a hilly half.

Yesterday, Wednesday, was speedwork day, of course. On Tuesday night I looked at the calendar to see what I had in store and it said "6 x hill." I said, "no, thank you." I decided to change it to 6 x 400 (my hill repeats are a quarter of a mile as well). Then I thought maybe I would do two hills plus 4 x 400, just as a kick start for Sunday.

On Wednesday morning I did a little over five miles warm-up sloooow, which put me at the bottom of the hill on 23rd. My plan was still to do a couple of hill repeats then head to the track. But even before I started I realized that I was cutting the time pretty close, and began to consider just doing the hills instead of taking the extra time to get to the track a half mile away. At some point I had decided to do the downhills as speedwork as well as the uphills. So I would run up as hard as I could, jog another block and back, then run down the hill fast. Then repeat.

At first I was going to do three up and three down (total of six), but quickly decided to tough it out and use the time I had saved by not going to the track to do one more up and down. Each lap four blocks) was .25 mile, so the distance was the same as a track interval. Of course, the uphills were much harder and so even my hardest effort was slower than a track interval. On the downhills I didn't run as hard as I could have (I didn't want to trip and fall), but instead tried to take advantage of gravity to run at a good pace without expending too much energy. I went a little faster on the last one, though.

1 - UP - 2:07 (8:35 pace)
2 - DOWN - 2:00 (8:13 pace)
3 - UP - 2:06 (8:29 pace)
4 - DOWN - 1:57 (7:57 pace)
5 - UP - 2:05 (8:25 pace)
6 - DOWN - 1:58 (8:05 pace)
7 - UP - 2:04 (8:21 pace)
8 - DOWN - 1:55 (7:43 pace)

Although those times don't look especially impressive, I felt it was a good hill workout and my legs have certainly been feeling it. The next hill workout will be Sunday on Whidbey Island!

*Or I might possibly run today after work...after the terrible night and early morning the sun has come out and it has been quite pleasant, though still windy, all day. I'm just not sure, since I really don't like running after work....

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Yes, yes it is.

Asics Gel Kayano 16 in black. I. Am. So. Excited!

Monday, April 5, 2010

Streaming consciousness

Beginning a little before 5 p.m. Monday afternoon....

Why the heck did I plan to go running after work? It's going to rain. It's probably going to freakin' snow. I am so done running in stormy weather. First Friday, then yesterday afternoon, now today, probably. Assuming I actually go. I really don't want to go. I don't think my legs have recovered from yesterday's run yet. My ankle hurts. My calf hurts. I'm too tired to run. How do people run after work anyway? I don't want to run. I hate running, I really do. I'll just get my running clothes out. I'll get my long running pants from the dryer, they'll be better than capris. It's not really cold out but it's so damp, I need my cozy Thermopolis pants. Yeah, that's nice. I'll put on my orange Lucy running shirt. I love my orange Lucy running shirt, it's my favorite. I like my orange Lucy shell jacket too, but I love the shirt more. I'm so into orange. Who would have thought that the pink-loving girl would go orange? I like yellow a lot too, but more for street clothes than running clothes. Yellow and orange, those are spring colors, I'm supposed to be a summer. At least I was in the late seventies. The orange shirt makes me feel a little better, maybe I'll live through this run after all. I'll just put on my Garmin and my other gear. Don't forget the cap, I'll definitely need that in case it rains. I wonder if I could put the hood of my jacket over my cap if it rains? I'll turn on the oven to preheat before I leave. I'll do 5K and then stop back and put the roast in the oven. 5K, 3.1 miles, that's nothing. Anybody can run 5K. Out the door, start the Garmin, gosh I'm slow. It doesn't matter, it's a recovery run. It's misting a little, not really raining though. Not too bad yet, except for my tired legs. There's a mile, two more before my stop at home. I'm still warming up, maybe feeling a little better. Just round the block there, almost home. 5K down. Go to the bathroom, throw the roast in the oven, set the timer, gotta be back before it goes off in 70 minutes. That should be easy, I'm certainly not going seven more miles. How far should I go? At least 5K more. Or four miles, or five. I'll go to 41st and turn around. Then it will be downhill all the way home. It's not raining at all any more, it's really not so bad out here. My legs don't hurt anymore. I should go a little past 41st so I can be sure to get up to seven or eight miles. I'll turn around at that next intersection. Downhill now, I'm feeling pretty good. Still slow compared to other days, but at least I'm running sub-10's. I want to do five miles so my total at home will be 8.1. Think I'll go home and check the roast then go to Starbucks for a coffee refill. Need to run around the block before I stop. Roast temperature still low, lots of time to spare. Need to get my empty Starbucks cup out of my car. I am running to Starbucks carrying a paper cup. I must look like a freak. Good thing it is empty, I would never be able to run and carry a cup of coffee. Obviously, no one could. Don't know what Dean Karnazes was talking about. He must put his coffee in a water bottle. I'll just run around the Starbucks parking lot to bump my mileage up to 8.61. Or 8.65. Okay, I'm done. It never rained at all. I don't hurt anymore. I'm really glad I went after all. I love running.

This week's training schedule

I'm making some modifications to my usual training plan this week to accommodate my upcoming half marathon on Sunday (not to mention my tired legs this morning).

I woke up at the usual godawful early hour for my Monday morning run. The person I've been running with on Monday mornings has a changed work schedule, so for once I had no real obligation to get myself out of bed. Throw in darkness, rain, and only about fourteen hours' hiatus since I finished my long run yesterday, and the idea of bagging—I mean rescheduling—this morning's run was exceedingly tempting. I seriously considered putting off the run until afternoon when, at least, it would be daylight and, perhaps, it might be better weather.

But before I had begun to consider not running, I had already run downstairs and grabbed my pre-run snack, a small carrot muffin that I had baked for Easter weekend. Since I had fueled, I felt like I had to do something.

Enter the compromise: Go to the Y this morning and run in the afternoon. While I would still have to get out of bed to go to the Y, it would be light, dry, and warm, and I could watch the morning news and Today Show while I pedaled on the elliptical. Plus the low-impact of the elliptical would give my legs a little more opportunity to recover before pounding the roads again.

So, done. Now I just have to get myself out there after work! (And right now apparently it is pouring out, I am praying for a precipitation reprieve later!)

Tomorrow is the first Tuesday since my Tuesday night yoga class has been cancelled. Now I need to figure out what to do with myself Tuesday nights. I really do want to start lifting weights, but I'm not sure I'm quite ready for that step. For this week I'll probably just do cardio and some yoga stretching on my own.

Wednesday should be speed work as usual. Wednesday night is a rest night (no Y for me).

On Thursday morning I am moving my Friday morning run up, so that I have an extra pre-race rest day (of sorts). No need to do any marathon-pace miles, though, I'll get enough of that on Sunday. Just a garden-variety run. Yoga on Thursday night.

Friday—early morning elliptical at the Y, then a jam-packed morning at the salon. First a massage, then a haircut and foil! Busy busy! Gotta have good hair for the half marathon, right?

Saturday—true rest day. But full all the same! I have to race up to Oak Harbor (about an hour away) to pick up my race packet as soon as the expo opens at noon. Then race back home and on to a friend's house in Gold Bar (about an hour away in the other direction) for Book Club meeting and lunch.

Sunday—Whidbey Island Half Marathon. This will be my third time running (I skipped last year), and each year the course has changed. So, once again, I have no idea what to expect. Except for hills. I expect hills.

So, here is the carrot muffin recipe that I made this weekend. I used a Food Network recipe and made a few modifications. I also used organic multicolored carrots for fun, and they did add some interesting flecks of color (mostly the purple ones) although it was a little more subtle than I would have liked.

Healthy Carrot Muffins

3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
2/3 cup dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons wheat germ
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
Pinch fine salt
2 large eggs
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups grated carrots (or a little more is fine)
1/2 cup canned crushed pineapple, drained

Scant 1/2 cup sweetened grated coconut (I used 3/4 cup for a double recipe)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line at least 12 small muffin cups with paper liners. You might need a few more.

Whisk together flours with the brown sugar, wheat germ, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In another bowl lightly whisk the egg, then whisk in the vegetable oil, and vanilla extract.

Fold the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients with a rubber spatula. Stir in the carrots, pineapple, and coconut just until evenly moist; the batter will be very thick. Divide the batter evenly among the muffin cups. I filled the muffin cups about half full. Bake until golden and a toothpick inserted in the centers comes out clean, about 30 minutes. (It may take less time for smaller muffins.)

Serve as is or glaze lightly with powdered sugar mixed with milk or other liquid (I used unsweetened almond milk).

Like a drowned rat

That title would be way more effective if I actually had a picture to go with it. I actually contemplated taking a picture at the end of my run on Friday morning when I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror during a midpoint bathroom break, but by the time I finished I was just so glad to be done that photography didn't even enter my mind. All I wanted was 1) a hot mocha and 2) a hot shower. I got both, although the shower was delayed by a dismal half mile walk home after picking up the mocha. By that time I had cooled off from the running and I was completely soaked to the skin and it was still rainy and windy, so by the time I got home I felt like hypothermia was a real possibility!

But that's the end of the story. Here's the beginning.

Friday is my typical day for a slightly longer run (thanks to a flexible work schedule) and usually includes a number of marathon pace miles on my training plan. This morning neither of the people that I often run with on Fridays was able to go, which was actually good for me because I could go on my own time (meaning a little later in the morning) and at my own pace.

Thursday would have been a decent day for running, weather-wise, but Friday was horrible. I knew it was supposed to be stormy, but I actually could not hear any wind or rain from my bedroom (usually I hear rain on the roof or dripping from the eaves), so I didn't know exactly what to expect until I left. I did promise my mom that I wouldn't go out until after daylight in case I had to avoid blowing tree branches and such dangers. (Staying in bed longer was not a sacrifice to me!)

Around 7:00 I ate a double fiber English muffin* with maple almond butter and a trickle of maple syrup. Naturally I had to let that digest a little, so I lounged in bed some more until almost 8:00. It's kind of ironic that I think about running all the time, but when it comes time to get up and go, it's pretty much the last thing I want to do!

I put on long running pants and a lightweight shirt and the somewhat rain resistant jacket I wear when the weather is bad. In reality, it does absolutely nothing to fend off the rain! I geared myself up with Garmin and ipod and a bottle of nuun, and tucked a Gu in my pocket in case of emergency (I didn't use it).

When I first headed outside I thought the rain and wind were both light, but by the first traffic light (.20 miles from my house) I could already see my jacket soaking through. Yeah, it was raining all right. It wasn't pouring or anything, but it was a steady persistent rainfall that kept up throughout my run.

The schedule called for nine miles at marathon pace. I decided to do two miles warm-up and then see how things went from there. The warm-up miles averaged out to exactly a ten-minute pace, although in reality I started out slower and picked it up as I went.

Because of the weather conditions, I really couldn't monitor my Garmin and pace at all. It was just too hard to push up my wet sleeve (I was trying to keep the Garmin as protected as possible) and squint at the watch. I glanced at it occasionally but really had no perspective on my average pace.

I was able to look at it periodically to determine my mileage, however (somehow that's a lot easier to grasp in a quick glance). Since I had restarted the timer after the first two miles, it was a little depressing to look at the distance after I'd been running for quite a while (overall) and see numbers like 2.5, 3.5, 4.5! (I always seemed to check about halfway through the miles.)

My route du jour (and typical running route) took me south along Grand Avenue through Grand Avenue Park. This includes a couple of uphill stretches, and I did try to push my pace a little bit running uphill. I figured that I was probably doing about 9:15 to 9:30 pace. I was pretty surprised later when I checked my splits—I was actually running at my intended pace! Mile 1 - 9:02. Mile 2 - 9:09.

The next portion of my route goes south on Colby. I often tend to lag a bit in the northern part of Colby (don't really know why), so I decided to give myself a boost by running harder every other block. This apparently did help to keep the pace up a bit. Mile 3 - 9:10 (my slowest mile). Mile 4 - 9:00.

By the time I got downtown I was in a pretty good groove. The obnoxious wind was coming from the east, and the businesses along the street were very effective in blocking it. Without the wind to combat, I felt free and easy. Mile 5 - 8:52. Mile 6 - 9:00.

I'm not quite sure that I'm properly tracking the mileage with my locations right now, but it hardly matters, does it? After I turned around at 41st and Colby, I got to run back down some of the uphill sections that I had already done, and that kept me at a good pace even when I turned east on Everett Avenue and began running directly into the wind. I kept going east until the road turned into East Grand Avenue, where I turned northward. Mile 7 - 8:55. Mile 8 - 8:51.

Normally on this route I would turn onto 23rd and head for QFC/Starbucks, completing a 10 mile loop. But considering that I had used up two of my miles in warm-up, I needed at least 11 total. So I kept running north on East Grand Avenue until I got to the Triangle Market, around 15th street. I did that after about eight miles. Then I only had one mile left to complete my nine pace miles! I pushed it hard. Mile 9 - 8:48. Total time for nine miles - 1:20:54. Average pace - 8:59 (thanks to some generous rounding down by Garmin).

Whew! Done (with that). It was about half a mile back to QFC, but I did a bit extra so that I could complete a full mile for a total of twelve. Considering that I felt done, 9:50 for that final recovery mile was perfectly acceptable, I think.

I popped into QFC to buy some sushi for my lunch and then got a mocha at Starbucks. The delay allowed me to cool down and by the time I went back outside (into the wind and rain, again) I immediately got chilled! When I finally stumbled through my front door it took a long, hot shower to ward off the impending hypothermia. (I'm exaggerating, but just barely!)

After the shower I indulged in breakfast #2--AB&J waffle sandwich. Yum! Two Nutrigrain lowfat waffles, one smeared with a tablespoon of almond butter** and the other with a little strawberry jam, slapped together sandwich style. Typically I like open-faced sandwiches and stuff--makes your sandwich fixings go further--but there is something nice about a sandwich you can hold in your hand. And when the "bread" is a waffle, so much the better!

I was really quite surprised that I managed to pull off the MP run under those horrible conditions, and that so many of the individual miles were under nine minutes. It makes me feel quite optimistic about maintaining my desired pace in the next marathon, even if I don't go much faster in the upcoming halfs!

*I eat a lot of fibery foods. Is anyone surprised that I also make a lot of bathroom stops? I try to restrain myself with the fiber before races, though.
**Yes, this was my second helping of almond butter for the day. But since I just had a tablespoon each time, I figure I still had one "serving," just divided between two meals!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Gu substitute, Easter version!

Sixteen miles on the schedule for Easter! The plan--run eleven miles to my parents' house then five on the beach. I ended up getting in twelve on the way which meant only four on the beach. I was more than happy to keep the beach portion to four, by the time I got down there.

After our horrible weather all week, I was delighted to see blue skies and sunshine first thing Easter morning. Happy for me as well as everyone else hoping for a nice Easter Sunday!

It was a little blustery but pleasant when I left home late in the morning. I was quickly warm in my light jacket and after about three miles I slipped it off and tied it around my waist. I was wearing my bright orange Lucy top and the jacket was a featherweight Lucy shell, also orange! I wanted to be very bright and visible in traffic. One disadvantage to the tissue thin jacket was that the hood catches the wind and blows around in a rather irritating manner. Before I just took the jacket off, I shoved the hood inside the back to keep it from flopping around.

My least favorite part of running to my parents' house is the 2-3 mile highway between Everett and Marysville. Although the shoulder is really wide and the bridges have pedestrian walkways, I just don't like the cars zooming past me. I think I even ran a little faster than I planned to in order to get past that!

About seven miles along (I was in Marysville by then) I decided to stop at Albertsons before starting the final stretch out to my folks'. I had been thinking of Cadbury creme eggs and determined that one of those would be the ideal treat to help fuel my run. After all, if you can eat candy after (or during) a long run, when can you?

I zipped into the store and the first thing I ran into was a plate of cookie samples. Good thing, because my creme eggs were nowhere to be found. I wasted far too much time looking. Finally I gave up and went on my way. I called my mom to complain, though, and while I was finishing my run she drove into town to another store and got me my egg!

Around nine or ten miles I was starting to feel a little tired. I started counting down to eleven...even if I wasn't quite done by then I knew I would be close.

In fact, I was over 11.5 miles by the time I neared my parents' house. I ran up the road then was going to stop at 11.75. But then I thought, I can make 12! So I went back into the road and did another quarter mile. In retrospect I am so glad I did, as I BARELY survived the four miles left on the beach! I probably averaged about a 9:30 pace over the twelve miles.

My mom got back with the creme eggs just moments after I arrived. Maybe it wasn't super smart to eat one before I finished my run, but I did and it was yummy.

Then it was time to go to the beach. I hadn't run on the beach since, probably, September or maybe October. A long time, anyway.

Beach running is a lot of work and SLOW, even when the sand is smooth (not rocky) and fairly firm. My two miles "out" were a lot harder than my road miles. I think they were about a 10:30 pace. And that was with the wind at my back, even pushing me at times!

I was tired and unenthused enough to turn around promptly at two miles. None of that "running a little further" stuff today.

And a good thing I did, too. Because on the way back I was running right into the wind. And it was no breeze! Every step was a struggle. In a way it was easier on my legs because I was running SO SLOW. But after a while even my legs were tired of it.

To keep myself going I was literally running from log to log, rock to rock. Any landmark that I could pick off! Every half mile I let myself stop for a second before plunging forward again. It was way harder and more awful than the last few miles of a marathon! But I totally got how some people feel when they're having a rough time in a marathon. I have never wanted to stop so much.

Finally, in the last half mile I knew I was going to make it as I staggered through the last few feet. I think I even went a hair more than four miles!

Before climbing the 120 steps to the house, I tried to stretch out my glutes and hamstrings and other achy bits. It could be a painful night. :(

Back at the house I fixed myself PB&J sandwich on wheat bread and took it with me downstairs to shower and dress. Shortly after Rod arrived and we all had a pleasant afternoon and a great dinner (salmon, fingerling potatoes, coleslaw, roasted broccoli, asparagus, and lots of delicious fresh fruit) (and a yummy apple cream pie for dessert).

Now I am at home in bed eating up my leftover running calories with part of a dark chocolate bunny and two mini-Cadbury eggs. Mmmm.

Hope everyone had a lovely Easter!
Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T

Thursday, April 1, 2010

April Fool's Day

Last year I posted an April Fool's joke saying that I was doing the Boston Marathon. This year, it's actually true (that is, I am doing it in April 2011 if all continues to go well and they don't retroactively change the qualifying standards). I am hoping that by this time next year I don't consider those plans a bad April Fool's joke! :)

Other April Fool's jokes on me... the weather has decided to play one by being relatively nice (even sunbreaks) and dry today, a non-running day, but turning to stormy wind and rain tomorrow. When I have nine marathon-pace miles on the schedule (which means about 10-12 miles total, most likely). I'll do the distance, but if I can't sustain the pace I'll write it off thanks to the 18 marathon-pace miles from last weekend, which should be enough to cover both last week and this. Don'tcha think?

Yesterday I finished off the month of March with speedwork. I started out with about three and a half miles warm-up (my Garmin total was more but I think the satellites were playing an early April Fool's joke as they gave me credit for more than 1.6 miles in a stretch that has never been more than 1.52 miles).

Then to the track. On schedule: six 800's (or half miles, for me). I try to do them at 10K pace (or better), and also like to think of them as a stab at Yasso 800's. My training schedule only goes up to 8 x 800 (doing them every third week). Bart Yasso works up to ten, increasing by one every week. I don't want to do them every week, but if I tweaked my schedule* to almost every other week, I wonder if I could get to ten (at least ten days before the marathon as recommended, of course)....

Anyhow, yesterday's half-mile repeats were pretty successful for me. I started out a little slower than I would like, picked up to a respectable pace, and finished blazingly fast (for me) on the final one. I jogged a quarter of a mile in between each and forced myself to stick with that (often I do a shorter recovery to save time). (Time is something to keep in mind as the number of repeats increase, obviously—ten 800's with a quarter mile recovery would eat up 7.25 miles, not including warm-up and final recovery!)

1 - .49 at 4:01 (8:11 pace)
2 - .50 at 3:53 (7:56 pace)
3 - .50 at 3:55 (7:53 pace)
4 - .50 at 3:54 (7:53 pace)
5 - .49 at 3:56 (7:58 pace)
6 - .50 at 3:46 (7:34 pace)

For the last one I decided to turn off my iPod. Yes, I am sure no "serious runner" would ever do track repeats with music but I always do. (Need it be said? Not a "serious runner.") But you know how sometimes in the car with the radio, or at home with the TV, you turn it off and suddenly there is blessed silence? I decided to dispense with the noise and see how that affected my speed running (for a short distance).

Now, my final repeat is almost always faster (probably because I am so happy to be finishing), so this is certainly not a scientific test. When I was running I couldn't really tell whether I was running faster or slower than before. I could feel the effort, which made it seem slower in a way. I could also hear myself breathing (out) breath (out) for every four running step. One, two, three, four, breathe. (Apparently the breathing in happens on its own.)

But considering the relative pace of my other five laps (and they were all fairly consistent), the last one was quite significantly faster. 5K pace rather than 10K, really. Interesting.

*Is it weird that I get a little rush at the idea of working on my training schedule? Not executing it, mind you, just writing things in the little boxes....