Saturday was the Inspiring Hope 10K (and 5K Run and Walk), a benefit run for the Susan B. Komen 3-day walk. My friend Donna is on the Kindred Spirits team, and their group leader organized this event to help fund their efforts. Penny did a great job of setting up a really top-notch race, with timing chips even!
I headed to Mukilteo bright and early Saturday morning. It really was bright—our much delayed spring had finally made an appearance! I decided to go sleeveless for the first time this year, and wore my NuuMuu running dress over my favorite black capris. (I put a jacket on but left it at the clothes drop a few minutes before the race started.)
As I approached the weekend earlier in the week I knew I had a running dilemma to resolve. I expected that this would be my peak week in marathon training, and I kind of wanted to top 50 miles (which I know is a low number for marathon training anyway). But with my runs earlier in the week of 8+ on Tuesday, 10+ on Thursday, and 22 planned for Sunday, a 10K plus warm-up would still leave me shy of 50. I had thought about doing another run on Wednesday or Friday to increase overall mileage, but decided (wisely I think) that it wasn't worth trashing my legs just to add a random few extra miles. So that left me either being satisfied with 48-49, or adding more on either Sunday or Saturday.
Adding more on Sunday didn't seem practical (22 is plenty!) so I decided to do a two-mile warm-up for the 10K, then two more afterwards (total 10.2 on Saturday). I always like to do at least 1.8 miles in 10K warm-up anyway. And that went quite smoothly. As warm-ups do, generally. The two miles after—well, I can say right now that I am not a big fan of running more miles after a race, regardless of how short or long the race is. My motivation to run after the strain of running hard is, to say the least, low! (But I got it in.)
As for the race. Even though we had timing chips, I lined up pretty much right at the front to avoid any congestion delays. Obviously this was nothing like Bloomsday...participants numbered in the hundreds (or at least a hundred), not tens of thousands. But the course description said that it would be "single-file" in places, and I wanted to avoid getting stuck behind slower people. Faster people could feel free to pass me!
The race started with a verbal countdown, and at "go" I took off at a good clip. This was really a test in pushing myself, as I hadn't had a great opportunity to do that in Bloomsday. It is possible that I went too fast in the first mile (as my Garmin showed low 7's at some points), but I am thankful for my mile 1 split of 7:43 as it made up for a bit of lagging later on!
In the next couple miles I think I hit my comfortable pace, at 8:08 and 8:09. Still not my goal pace of eight minutes, but I think there has to be real magic to make that happen, and although I felt good on Saturday, it wasn't quite magical. For a while I was following right behind a tall guy with long legs who I thought was a good pacer for close to eight-minute miles, but eventually he seemed to be slowing and I was forced to pass him and go on.
The course was great in many ways. It was almost entirely flat. In fact, it was flat in that way that it seems to be going slightly downhill in both directions! I think it's an optical illusion, but even on the out and back portion, I never felt that we were going back "up" any incline that we had come "down" before.
Slightly before the 3-mile point we turned around and I wondered how we were going to squeeze in the entire 10K if we were already turning back! But although we retraced our steps to some extent, the second "half" changed course enough to make the entire distance exactly 6.2 miles. During that second half a couple of especially speedy people whizzed past me (around the 3-mile point), and I can recall overtaking and passing at least three people, two males and one female. Other than that, everyone ahead of me and just behind me pretty much held their places throughout.
Somewhere during the out and back portion we had to go up a few stairs (about four) and then back down them on the return. I think the "down" was more delaying than the "up", because I was careful not to trip on the way down. So I might have lost a couple seconds in my pace there.
My low points (as far as pace) were miles 4 and 5, 8:20 and 8:21 respectively. I don't know exactly what happened. I think the "down" stairs were in mile 4, so that may have played a part. Or (and/or) maybe I was just getting tired! I thought I was going to pick up the pace in mile 5, but obviously that didn't happen.
In mile 6, though, I dug deep and found another gear, and pulled that one back to 8:11. I was gearing up for the big finish, when, approaching the final intersection, I had to stop because a car ignored the race volunteer's gesture to wait. Yes, I had to come to a stop in the final push of a 10K race! Not only did I lose a few seconds in the stop, I had pick my pace up again to restart. I felt a little frustrated. My last .2 mile was at 7:59 pace, and I think it would have been a little faster if not for the unplanned and unnecessary stop.**
As I pounded toward the finish line, I saw the clock click over to 50 minutes and I knew that I wasn't going to break 50, much less my PR time of 49:20.*** Still, at least I beat my last 10K back in February (just barely). My chip time in Mukilteo turned out to be 50:25 (average pace 8:08) and the Smelt Run was 50:36.****
After getting a drink of water I set out to finish my remaining two miles. I jogged out toward the 5K course, where walkers were coming in, and about a quarter of a mile along ran into my friend Donna. I stopped my watch and walked back in with her and her husband. Some things are a little more important than just logging mileage!
Once we finished (again) though, I resolutely turned my watch back on and jogged out another 3/4 mile, then back to the parking lot, and around the corner until I clicked off two miles. I felt so sluggish, but I averaged about a 10-minute pace for the bonus miles, which is real running, not just padding my stats!
I still had a bit of time to wait for the awards ceremony, though. It was supposed to be at 10:45 (I finished the race before 10), and of course it took longer than that for the results to be fully compiled. I had a chance to check the finishers' lists, though, and confirmed that I had won my age group, officially. In reality I was the third female 40-49, but the first two were first and second women overall, so they got bumped out of the age group award category, leaving room for me! I do feel a bit sorry for the second place female, though, because the female winner got flowers, and I got an age group winner certificate, but the second placer (who beat me by like four minutes and was within seconds of the winner), just got recognition but no tangible award. Doesn't seem fair, really!
Finally, after all the festivities were done, I headed back to Everett, stopping a couple of times for groceries, strawberries (for Mother's Day), and a little treat to celebrate my run.
On Sunday morning it was early up again to tackle my 22-mile run! Like the last 22-mile run, I headed south to the Burke-Gilman Trail for a flat out-and-back route. That last one was November 8, 2009, almost exactly six months ago! It was a little warmer today (though not yet hot, and even when the temperature got into the 60's, it was shady and breezy in many areas on the trail), and I headed out in a sleeveless shirt and sunscreen, plus my Roadrunner/Nathan Speed 2 fuel belt loaded with Nuun, Gu, and all my other odds and ends.
I hope I can justifiably say that I was a little more sluggish than last year's comparable run because of the 10K efforts. I would blame the weather but really, it was pretty perfect. Still, I managed to squeak in with a 9:52 average pace, which is right in the middle (even slightly toward the faster end) of the recommended long run pace for a sub-4 hour marathon. (The recommended long run pace is 9:38-10:38 per mile. I squeezed right in there as none of my miles were slower than 10:38 and none were faster than 9:38, except for my single "fast finish" mile 22.)
I reminded myself that the first five miles are warm-up. Regardless of actual pace, the difficulty of those first few miles is that each mile seems to last an eternity. It's not even worth thinking about the 15+ to come, because in that way lies madness. All I can do is keep telling myself that the first five miles are warm-up. (10:00, 9:47, 9:44, 9:46, 10:09.) In the middle of mile 5 I took a much needed bathroom stop at Matthews Beach Park. I drank a bit of coffee and I desperately needed to pee! Matthews Beach Park is down a steep hill, and to return to the trail I had to go back up. Hence 10:09 in mile 5.
Miles 6-10 are supposed to be the easy miles. Were they easy? Well...they weren't awful. (9:57, 9:50, 9:54, 9:42.) I took another bathroom stop partway through mile 8 at Metropolitan Market. I decided to do that because I was pretty sure it would be a long time before I saw another bathroom!
My plan was to go between 11 and 12 miles before I turned around and headed back. The reason I was going more than 11 was because I had made the extra jaunt off the trail to Matthews Beach, and I didn't want to run short at the end. At mile 11 I decided to go half a mile more then turn around. That was the longest.half.mile.ever. Plus I was running on sunny sidewalks at that point so the conditions were as harsh as they were going to get during this run. I told myself that not only was I going to turn around at 11.5, I was going to eat a Gu after I finished mile 12. I actually went a bit further before I stopped, because I wanted to find a shady spot to hover in while I ate my Gu. I huddled under some tree branches while I savored my Espresso Love Gu.
Miles 11-15 are what I call the quality miles. That is where a mid-length run turns into a long run. The trick is to keep running at a similar level as the first 10. Did I succeed at that? Well, mostly. (9:48, 9:46, 9:44, 9:46, 10:00.)
From the quality miles I headed directly into the "endurance" miles (16-20), otherwise known as "the miles where things really started to suck." Actually they sucked most in miles 16 and 17, according to my splits. Mile 16 is divided into two halves, because I took my longest bathroom break back at Metropolitan Market halfway through that mile. The first half, pre-break, was at 10:07 pace.
After stopping in the bathroom and then refilling my water/nuun bottles and drinking some plain water, I hovered for a few minutes in the Metropolitan Market bakery section looking for some small treat I could buy. The problem was that most of the cookies that were for sale individually were huge. I just wanted one little cookie. I finally settled on a dark chocolate covered graham cracker with sea salt. I thought the salt was a nice touch during a run! I figure that the treat had no more than 200 calories, similar to two Gu packets.
I wasn't concerned that my long break would interfere with my ability to run without stopping during the marathon (for some reason it doesn't) but I did fear (correctly) that it would be hard to get going when I started up again. In fact, the second half of mile 16 was at 10:52 pace (ouch). The two halves together added up to 10:30 for the entire mile.
During these miles 16-20 I did a lot of my running on the dirt path that was running parallel to to the paved trail. I know a lot of people prefer that because it seems easier on the body, but usually I don't care. At this point, though, I was taking whatever breaks I could get. I felt like running on dirt (even though it was packed) might make me a little slower, but did I really care about that? I did not. And actually, once I got out of miles 16 and 17, my pace seemed to go back to the same vicinity as before. (10:30, 10:09, 9:49, 9:48, 9:52.)
After I finish the warm-up, easy, quality, and endurance miles, I am left with the remaining miles. The character of those miles can vary widely. Six months ago I finished the last two amazingly fast. This time I didn't think I had that in me. Mile 21 barely squeaked in under 10 minutes (9:57). After I finished mile 21 I paused again at a bench and did some leg stretches. This felt amazingly good! I don't know if it was just the opportunity to rest (again), or the stretching was actually helping. But I started up determined to finish strong. I had already done about .06 of mile 22, but I picked up the pace for the remaining .94 mile and did the mile in a respectable 9:05. It helps a little that there are tons of markers on the trail in this area that I can use as landmarks to run between.
So, 22 miles done...but wait. Where was the finish? I wasn't back to my starting point yet. I considered just walking the rest of the way, but instead I geared myself up (yet again) and jogged in the remaining .41 mile (as it turned out to be) at a respectable 9:42 pace. That took me to the stoplight on Bothell Way and yes, I walked across the street.
I went directly to Starbucks where I got an iced mocha and what may be the best post-run lunch/snack ever, the Power Protein Plate. Okay, maybe I was a little delirious from my run, but this met every need I was having at that moment. A mini whole wheat bagel with Justin's Honey Peanut Butter, a hard-boiled egg, a little bit of cheddar cheese, and a few apple slices and grapes. 370 calories of replenishment.
Then I walked back to my car, which was a lot further away than I had thought! I drove home, showered and dressed, and headed out to the Mother's Day festivities and a lot more eating.
So, 2/3 of my 20+ mile runs down. The final one will be just 20 miles, and I'll probably do it on Friday May 21. Fun fun fun!
Oh yeah, regarding the tired legs. Monday morning is supposed to be a recovery run, but I put it off this morning until, probably, this afternoon. Not the best idea, because I really don't like running after work, but I really thought I needed to put at least 24 hours in between the 22 miles and the next run! So we'll see how things go this afternoon....
*With the marathon approaching in a month, there is no wiggle room left for moving things around!
**Although I guess it was necessary to keep from being hit by a car!
***Fowl Fun Run 10K in Mount Vernon last November.
****Under much less favorable conditions than this one, but oh well!