Monday, February 28, 2011

How important are weekly mileage totals?

One of the beautiful things about reading lots of blogs is that you have lots of measuring sticks to compare yourself by. One of the most significant (for runners) is weekly mileage.

Compared to many of the marathon training runners I read, my weekly mileage is on the low side. During the two months this year so far, I have varied from low/mid-30s to mid-40s. More the 30s in January, and 40s in February (though this last week was about 35-36 miles--I'm calling it a cut-back week).

It's hard to say whether I'll get higher than mid to upper 40s in March, either. My marathon peak number has always been just a little over 50 mpw, and I don't see going higher than that this time around. Unless I can bump up a couple midweek runs from 6-7 miles (currently) to 8-9 miles, I may not hit 50 at all. (The reason these runs have been a little shorter than I would like is not because of lack of ability to run, but rather due to lack of time in the mornings before work.)

Some of the bloggers I read are also training for Boston, and thus are on the same time line as me. Compared to some of them (but not the ones who are truly insane) I am definitely on the low side. My first example is in the 50s right now, and probably heading for the 60s in March. (The second one runs marathons on the treadmill, so there is no comparison! I write this with true admiration and amazement, mind you!)

The reason my mileage is low (and will remain that way, relatively speaking), is that I generally only run four days a week. A fifth running day is an exception, and might occur if I have a short race during the week, or I'm on vacation, and running is my only exercise option.

I'm fairly comfortable with low totals because I believe I pretty much meet my training objectives with each run I do. My first run of the week (Monday or Tuesday) is an easy run, 6-8 miles. On Wednesdays I do speed work, either 800s or other short repeats, or a tempo run, again with a total distance of 6-8 miles. Friday I do a medium long run of 8+ miles, with some of the miles at goal marathon pace.* Then my long run is over the weekend, on Saturday or Sunday, anywhere from 12 to 22 miles, depending on where I am in the training cycle.** Those runs could add up to anywhere from low-30s to mid-40s.

The question is, can a person adequately prepare for a quality marathon performance on less than 50 miles a week of running? Obviously, elite runners and top non-elites run a lot more, probably 80-100 miles a week (which is completely out of reach for most of us!). Other "good" runners might target 50-60. I think it's not unusual to see mid-level runners (like me) in the 40s, and doing just fine.

In the last year or so there was an article (which I have no idea how to find) that said most of us are running way too few miles for our training objectives. The bottom line was that what we might consider marathon training volume is more appropriate to the half marathon distance, and perhaps it's better to run shorter races (half mary, 10K, 5K) than run a marathon on this amount of training.

I thought the author had a good point in that there is no shame in transfering your training efforts to shorter races, if that is your preference. However, I do dispute whether you can run marathons on moderate-mileage training. I believe you can. I also believe it's important to get in a couple of 20+ mile runs; I would be very uncomfortable running 26.2 miles if I hadn't done 20 at least once (preferably more).***

I have no real conclusion to this post. I believe that everyone has a weekly mileage range that works for them. Some can pump out high volume and not get hurt (or over-trained), others manage to run their marathons on what seems like shockingly low mileage (to me), and then those like me are in the happy middle.

This morning: 7.10 miles easy, 10:15 average pace.

*Last Friday I did 11.11 miles, with two warm-up, three at sub-9:30 (actually 9:20s), three around 9:00 (9:02, 9:04, and oops, 9:18), and three as close to 8:30 as I could get (8:45, 8:25, 8:35).
**Yesterday's long run was only ten miles, due to snow on the ground, time limitations, and my decision to make it a cut back week between 20-milers.
***So far I've done 17.5, 19.25, and 20.65. I have three more 20-ish milers on the schedule (one is actually a 30K), and I figure if I somehow miss one I'll still be in good shape.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

ABCs of Me

"Everyone" (that is almost every blog I read) is doing this quiz and I couldn't resist jumping in. "I love quizzes!"* (Potential answer for Q category.) So here goes.

A-Age: 45. I think I am the oldest person I've seen participating in this.
B-Bed size: Full. I have an old house with a switch back staircase and it seemed like a good idea when I moved in and bought the mattress. I'd like to upgrade to a queen but I'm reluctant to spend the money. Also it would require cleaning up my bedroom before I could have it delivered!
C-Chore I hate: Unloading the dishwasher. Taking out the garbage. Pretty much any chore but cooking.
D-Dogs: Don't have any...too hard to care for when I work full time and like to travel. But I have three cats!
E-Essential start to the day: Hitting the snooze button for a few more minutes of sleep! Also, I have to have breakfast every day, but not first thing...I usually run or go to to the Y first.
F-Favorite colors: Pink, green.
G-Gold or silver: Silver.
H-Height: 5'5.5" (5'6" for BMI calculation purposes).
I-Instrument I play: Piano.
J-Job title: Attorney (juvenile court).
K-Kids: Just my clients! I spend my days with teenagers, my nights are child-free.
L-Live: Everett, WA.
M-Mother's name: Anne. With an e. N-Nickname: KT (only at work and with work friends--I don't have a nickname in my family).
O-Overnight hospital stays: Only one time, when I had fibroid removal surgery. I was bummed that I didn't get off the liquid/soft food menu until I was close to being discharged, so I barely got a chance to order from the restaurant-style menu!
P-Pet peeve: Oh, there are so many possibilities...but a major one is drivers who don't look for pedestrians when making right-hand turns.
Q-Quote from a movie: I have so many! "I like you, just as you are." (Bridget Jones's Diary) "Is that blue soup?" (Bridget Jones's Diary) "After all, tomorrow is another day." (Gone with the Wind) "I never want my chicken any other way." (Heartburn) "I love your nose!" (Hearburn) "I don't want to have a baby...can't someone else have it?" (Heartburn) "I am eschewing men, and carbohydrates." (Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason) (Note: I think she said "eschewing" in the trailers, but possibly changed it to "giving up" for the movie...dumbing down for American audiences, perhaps?)
R-Right or left handed? Right.
S-Sibling: One younger sister.
T-Time you wake up: 5:30 with alarm, 6:30-7 without. That doesn't necessarily mean I get up then.
U-Underwear: A few years ago I bought LOTS in a good sale at Macy's and haven't needed to get more since. I fear that when all of my supply wears out (perhaps in a simultaneous fail of all elastic) I won't be able to find any replacements I like.
V-Vegetable you dislike: Can't thing of one. Seriously.
W-What makes you run late? Oh dear. Well...staying in bed too long. Running a little too far. Stopping at Starbucks even though I'm short on time. Refusing to skip breakfast. Enjoying the hot shower a little too long. Watching something on the Today Show. Unexpected clothing fail (many variations on this). Cats' food/water dishes need filling. Persistently underestimating the time it takes to park, walk to the court entrance, get through security. Wearing shoes/boots that set off the metal detector. Sigh.
X-rays I've had: Many dental, once when I sprained my ankle while studying for the bar exam, and both an X-ray and MRI when seeking treatment for my achilles tendon.
Y-Yummy food you make: Well, I think everything I make is yummy. I especially love Kabocha Squash Soup, and Rod is very fond of Pear Upside Down Cake.
Z-Zoo favorite animal: I'm not really a zoo fan, I guess I don't like seeing wild animals outside their natural environment (and I don't particularly want to see them there either!)

So there you go, all about me, alphabetically! Now it's your turn!

*This is from Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason.

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Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Neither hail nor snow...

Nor gloom of morn, nor thunder and lightning, will stay me from the moderately swift completion of my morning rounds! Seven mile recovery run, that is.

Reflective in the darkness!

I can't claim that my weather adventures this morning can compete in any fashion with the extreme cold and snow that runners throughout many parts of the U.S. are still tackling. I am probably not alone in facing a surprise twist in the forecast after winter had seemed to be going away! My Facebook post from earlier in the day says it all: "The rumors of winter's demise have been greatly exaggerated."

Early this morning (like 4 a.m. or so) I woke to hear what sounded like two different kinds of precipitation pounding my roof. Heavy rain, a familiar sound...and something else, at the time unknown. I now believe it was hail. By the time I officially woke up at 5:30 I heard only the sound of rain. And in fact, it was probably the sound of leftover rain dripping from the eaves and gutters, as it was not actually raining by the time I left the house at 6:30.

Considering the 20 miles on Sunday and downhill skiing yesterday, my legs felt quite good this morning. By the way, let me insert that I had fewer after-effects from Sunday's run than I have had from any long run ever! Even though I didn't take an ice bath! My only treatment was taking Advil when I finally got around to taking a shower in the mid-afternoon, and then another dose of Advil before bed. Although I felt a little stiff throughout the afternoon, I had absolutely no leg aches and pains during the night, and on Monday (and today) I felt just fine. My quads felt just a little tired after a couple hours of skiing, but they probably would have anyway. Monday night I went to the Y and squeezed in 20 minutes on the elliptical before my yoga class. I love this yoga class because although there is a good amount of difficult core and strength work, we also get some great stretching in. Last night near the end we did two minutes of frog pose, followed by pigeon. Fabulous hip stretches.

Anyhow, back to today. I had run about a mile and a half when the skies opened up and I was pelted with hail! I decided to keep going, as none of the hailstones seemed big enough to cause any injury. This first hail episode didn't last too long, maybe ten or fifteen minutes. I was trotting along when I saw a huge flash of light in the sky. "Is that lightning?" I asked myself. A few minutes later the thunder confirmed that it was, in fact, lightning. It must have been pretty far away, though, as there was a pretty good delay between the lightning and the thunder.

What next, a funnel cloud?

No, in fact what was next was more hail! This time it did not stop very quickly. I am pretty sure it hailed steadily for at least half an hour or more. I took this picture to reflect the scene, but you can't really tell that the streets are covered with ice pellets, rather than light snow as it appears here.
As I was running along I held my hand out and caught some hailstones to photograph for posterity. (You can also see the hail on the sidewalk below.) I also ate a few that I caught in my mouth.
I greatly preferred the hail to rain. Even though my jacket eventually got soaked, my face and glasses did not get wet as they would have in the rain (even with a hat).

By the time I reached downtown, the hail had turned into snow, and continued the rest of my way home.

I think my efforts to outrun the weather paid off, because my average pace for 7.01 miles was 10:30 per mile, which is a little faster than I would normally get for the first morning run of the work week.

I am very glad I made myself get out of bed and didn't allow myself to postpone the run "till afternoon." I don't know what the weather is right now--we had heavy snow in the late morning and sun in the early afternoon--but by the time I finish stuff up and get home I will be happy just to hang out with the cats, take out the garbage (ugh) and have dinner.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Long run Sunday

First 20-miler of the season--20.65 miles in exactly 3 hours 35 minutes. That's a 10:25 average pace, which is a pretty accurate representation of my run. Most of the miles were 10:20 - 10:35, with a few slower (including one that was mostly uphill, 11 minutes), and a fast final mile of about 9 minutes, go me!

Even though I would have been pleased to be done around 15-16 miles, I never suffered. I felt quite good when I finished and I'm sure I could have gone further (though I was happy to stop, as well).

So that brings me to the topic that I have been thinking do I pass the time in a long run? (This is different than in a long race, though.)

As in any run (including races), it helps to break the distance into smaller chunks. My standards are 5-mile segments and 2-mile segments, or sometimes a combination of the two.

I also like to break it up into segments by geography, as opposed to just mileage. These segments can be shorter or longer, but generally speaking longer is better in the beginning, and shorter is good near the end, in the last few miles.

For example, today I had the following segments to run through (I know this will be boring)...start to 64th (less than a mile), up to 67th (more than a mile), to light at Grove, to 88th, to 108th, to high school and roundabout, back to State Street, all the way to the start of the highway, across highway to Everett (2.5 miles +), to the top of the hill by Legion Park, along the waterfront with random signs as landmarks, to Marina Village, around Marina Village (one mile), to the pedestrian bridge that took me back to Grand Avenue, north on Grand to 19th, east to Colby, south on Colby to 23rd, Everett Avenue, Pacific, and 37th, where I turned aound. At this point I had a little more than a mile to get back to my finish point at Starbucks, and I just ran to random landmarks from block to block. Done!

I almost always use my iPod to distract my mind. (Unless it is tragically discharged!) I have been tending to listen to podcasts for parts of longer runs, usually Phedippidations because it's about running and the host, "Steve Runner" has a loud clear voice that is easy to hear over most traffic. I do feel that I run slower with podcasts than I do music, ALTHOUGH last year I once did a fabulous and fast long progression run listening to podcasts up to the last three miles.

I like shows that are about an hour because when you finish one, you've done 5-6 miles! I might listen to two or three episodes, then switch to music for the last few miles. Today I played three podcasts and didn't turn on music till mile 17.

I like to set little goals to make myself run a little further before I do something. For example, if my podcast ends at 4.5 or 5.5, I'll keep running (in silence, I CAN do it) till I finish the next full mile before stopping to adjust my iPod.

I will plan to take Gu or other fuel at a certain mile, but maybe push myself to wait until the NEXT mile before I do it (unless I am feeling weak). Today I had a Gu after nine miles, before heading onto a 2.5-ish-mile highway segment. I felt I needed extra energy to tackle that and didn't want to stop while I was on it...otherwise I might have waited until ten miles. (I didn't eat anything else until I was done, I didn't need it or even think of it!)

Last week I had ShotBloks with me (three bloks per serving) and I spaced them at miles 10, 12, and 14 of a 15 mile run. Gave me something to look forward to!

(This delayed gratification scheme works for music and food, NOT for bathroom stops!)

I think turning on music for the final miles (after listening to talking) really shakes things up and give me extra energy for those difficult miles.

Sometimes my own thoughts help pass the time, and sometimes not thinking does. For example, if I start fretting about work stuff (this usually happens during the week more than weekends), it is very freeing to tell myself that there is nothing I can do about it during this running time. I intentionally set these thoughts aside for an hour or so.

If I am not trying to pay attention to a podcast, I might tell a story in my head. For example, go over the events of a trip to England or Hawaii as if I were describing it to a friend. Or tell my "running story" or "weight loss story" like I was being interviewed for a magazine. Or maybe plan out a future trip, real or imaginary. (Recently I was fixated on the idea of going to Disney World in the rather distant future with my whole family when my niece was old enough to enjoy...of course it would include the Goofy Challenge half and full marathons. I spent some time mentally training my sister to do the half with me. We would do run-walk to make it easier for her and not wear me out too much before the full marathon.)

Sometimes I compose entire blog posts, but unfortunately my brilliant ideas rarely survive the run!

Today, since I was listening to Phedip, I didn't do too much independent thinking. :)

I finished at Starbucks where I bought my reward mocha. I have a bunch of free drink coupons but unfortunately forgot to bring one along. I had contemplated veering past my house to get one but really didn't want to stop at home until I was DONE. So I sacrificed a few bucks.

A lot of times after a LONG run my walk home from Starbucks has been hard, but today I felt great and loose, and was able to walk faster than I usually do after a much shorter morning run! Since then, later in the day, I have stiffened up some and am moving a little more slowly. Hopefully there won't be many aches and pains in the night. I rarely take Advil but I did this afternoon and I probably will at bedtime as well.

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Saturday, February 19, 2011

In the market for a new hairdryer

I need one that will dry my hair within a minute when I point it at my head.

Kidding. Sort of. I am interested in finding a more powerful, faster hairdryer. Although the one I have seemed good when I got it, it seems to take so long to dry my hair these days. There's got to be something better. I have a super-expensive one in my Amazon shopping cart, but I need to reread the reviews of why it's so fabulous before I fork over the big bucks.

Yesterday I had to go to work with slightly damp hair because I just didn't have enough time to dry it all the way. (Made for a nice look the rest of the day. Not.) Of course I know it's my own fault for staying out running (or at the Y) till the last possible moment (and beyond), after which I MUST stop at Starbucks on the way home and I MUST eat a full breakfast before it go to work. All of this leads to bad hair, no makeup (obviously), and being two to ten (ouch) minutes late to work.

So obviously a faster hairdryer is a necessity. As is better weather so I can force myself to get up earlier. (Of course that would probably mean I run an extra mile or two, rather than allowing extra time to get to work!)

Yesterday (Friday) I ran 10.31 miles with 8.25 at marathon goal pace effort. (Of course, I only had enough time for 8-9 miles....) My average pace including the two warm-up miles (10:52 and 10:13 for those) was 9:33. Pace splits were 9:33, .25 mile at 9:22, 9:23, 9:28, 9:26, 9:30, 9:26, 9:02, and 8:40.

My ideal goal marathon pace would be a little faster than that, but I am happy right now with the 9:30 or so pace. If I can pick it up over the next two months, great, but I would be pleased to be able to sustain this pace as well. (Now, for a half marathon I'd better get back to sub-9 OR ELSE!)

I did my so-called "speed" workout on Wednesday after work. Granted, my average pace was slower than yesterday's, but it was a different type of run, 'kay?

I was lazy on Wednesday morning and the weather was bad. So I allowed myself to stay in bed (and was NOT late to work that day) and postponed my run to either afternoon or Thursday. Fortunately I was able to man up on Wednesday afternoon and got it done.

I didn't get home till after 5:00, or out till about 5:30, so it was already dusk and getting darker. The bummer of this (other than my not liking to run in the dark) was that I could not see my Garmin unless I stopped under a street light. Kind of hard to monitor my pace under those conditions. I would have to run by feel and find out later how I did!

I wanted to do what I call a progressive tempo run. It's a wimpish version of a tempo run because instead of holding a hard pace for a longer period, I start slow and progressively increase the pace throughout. I wanted to start at 10:30 and speed up by about 30 seconds every two miles for eight miles (possibly with a bonus mile at the end).

Here is how I did. Keep in mind I had almost no opportunity to see what my pace was as I was running.

Miles 1-2: 10:43, 10:27
Miles 3-4: 10:08, 10:07
Miles 5-6: 9:42, 9:35
Miles 7-8: 9:02, 9:05
Mile 9: 8:19 (woohoo!)
Plus .53 mile at 9:22 pace. Average pace for 9.53 mile - 9:40. I was especially pleased at how consistent my 10 and 9-minute miles were!

I am really happy with running these days. I am back to the mental place where lay in bed at night and imagine myself running. Yes, I fantasize about running. What, is that weird?
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Runners, Yeah We're Different

This link should take you to a bunch of pretty funny pictures from an old Adidas ad series. You might recognize yourself in some of them (figuratively speaking). (Of course, you would never be wearing that dated running gear!) Hope the link works. (I'm doing it from my BlackBerry, so who knows.)
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Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Guess I REALLY squeaked in under the wire....

I just read the news release about the newly adopted Boston Marathon registration procedure for 2012 and new qualifying times beginning 2011. All I can say is, I'm lucky that I qualified for 2011 and got registered, because from now forward the chance of my qualifying or getting in has decreased immensely!

In case the link doesn't work well (I had trouble opening it myself), here are the deets.

For 2012 (and presumably thereafter), the Boston Marathon will have a two-week rolling registration period. In 2012 the actual qualifying times will remain the same as present. For the first two days of registration (beginning September 12, 2011), only persons who have marathon times that are at least 20 minutes faster than their qualifying time will be allowed to register. Then for the next two days people who have times that are ten minutes faster can register. For the remainder of the first week, people who have run five minutes faster than qualifying time may register.

In the second week of registration, if there are any spots left, anyone who has a qualifying time may register. However, at the end of that week the available spots will be awarded to the fastest applicants in their age and gender pool. Following the two week registration period, if there are still any spots open, any qualified applicant may register, on a first come, first served basis.

Beginning with 2013, the qualifying times will be lowered by five minutes (and 59 seconds, eliminating the 59 second grace period) in every age group. I assume the same registration process will be in effect.

So I think it's fair to say, the Boston Marathon will no longer be an option for 45-year-old-slightly-ahead-of-the-middle-of-the-pack females. Oh well. It was fun while it lasted. I do feel horribly sorry for runners who qualified in the fall of 2010 and opted to hold off to 2012 to enter, as it looks like it will be a lot harder to claim their places!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

In the spirit of Valentine's Day...

Have you read this article? I'm sure you have, it was featured in several blogs when it came out in early February. It's the one about the banker who has basically abandoned his family to devote himself to Ironman training. Okay, that's a little unfair. But really, he comes off as a major jackass.

Other than Mr. IM-Banker, the article is about the effect of endurance training on the rest of one's family. The demands and compromises needed, especially if one partner is a non-athlete. (I suspect if the athlete is the wife/mom, there are a lot more compromises and balancing acts on her part than when the husband/dad is the one spending hours running and such.) I do think that any runner (or other endurance athlete) who reads the article must at least wonder if it it applies to him or her.

Since I am not married and have no children, a lot of these issues don't apply. Most of the time (during the week, anyway) I am free to devote whatever time I want to running and working out. Frankly, the person I most steal time from is myself. This is not a minor thing, though. I am truly aware that in order to spend as much time as I want running (and pursuing other fitness objectives) I...
  • devote a little less time and energy to my job than I could
  • neglect my housework shamefully
  • haven't had a beautiful garden for years
  • get less sleep than I need due to getting up extra early in the morning.
It's also pretty much understood between Rod and me that on most weekends one day is going to be designated to my long run. I try to schedule this to be least inconvenient to him as possible. There are also several weekends throughout the year that are fully booked due to out-of-town races. Occasionally they are ones that he comes with me to, but most of the time he does other stuff.

Luckily, he knows that running makes me happy (and he has interests that make him happy that I tolerate but have no interest in sharing, like motorbikes). He also knows that I am way more willing to eat pizza or a hamburger on a long run day, so he benefits that way. And he has a genuine interest in my running accomplishments, at least to the extent that he would really, really like to see me run a sub-23-minute 5K. He's still waiting for that one....

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Feelin' groovy

If I was on a real computer, I'd insert a groovy YouTube song clip here. What, you don't know that song? You weren't even born in the late sixties?* Bah.

Anyhow, I'm feeling pretty groovy today. At least I was this morning. The storm that's rolling in now makes me feel less so.

But this morning I took another step toward getting my speedy running legs back, with a not-PR-but-not-bad-at-all time of 25:26 in the Valentine's Day Dash 5K at Green Lake. I really think I would have been under 25 (or close) except that the beginning was crowded and slow for a bit. Luckily they had us seed ourself by pace, otherwise it would have been much worse. I heard that there were about 3000 participants.

The course circles Green Lake (which is, fortuitously, about three miles around), part on the road and part on the lake path. It is quite flat. There are a few minor inclines but it's not significant at all.

I arrived before 8 am and got a great parking space near the starting area. That was luckily because it allowed me to easily go back and forth to my car. The race didn't start until 9:30. But with checking in, using the bathroom a few times, and doing an extended warm-up, I didn't spend a whole lot of time just waiting.

I like to do a 3-mile loop around the lake to warm up. But I was a little nervous about taking too much time and getting stuck on the opposite side of the lake when the race was about to start. So I ran about 1.25 miles out, then turned around and came back. This allowed me 15 minutes before the start to stand in the porta potty lines, which I needed even though it was the third time!

I decided to stand in the 8-9 minute pace area, somewhere in the middle. In retrospect, I could have stood in the back of 7-8 and not been out of place...oh well.

(Oh dear, the lights keep flickering and I hear a windy downpour outside. This better pass before my long run tomorrow!)

Despite the change in weather later in the day, it was cool but dry (and not too windy) at the start. The sun even came out a little bit! I wondered if I should have worn my sunglasses...but nah, wasn't an issue.

Even with the seeding, it was crowded and pretty slow at the beginning. Once we all managed to pick up the pace, I saw numbers on my Garmin that I haven't seen in a long time...beginning with sevens. Consistently!

My first mile was about 8:02. I am sure if I'd been able to take off without delay, I would have had about 7:45.

I would like to say I kept up the sub-8 pace, but I did not. The next mile found my pace flickering between about 7:45 and 8:15...maybe a little more toward the latter than the former. I felt pretty good though, and part of the slowing happened when I got behind people going a little slower than me and I couldn't pass immediately. During the second half of mile 1 and at least half of mile 2 we were on the lake path, which is not narrow but is lesas roomy than the road. Plus non-racing walkers and runners were still using the right hand lane on the path.

I found myself passing a few people and yes, getting passed as well. Nothing dramatic either way. The only passer I remember specifically was a man with a dog. I thought, "I can't get passed by the dog!" but of course I could. In fact I'm sure the dog could EASILY outrun me--he was barely loping along. But that would not be the last time I saw them....

I was so happy that I was running a near 8-minute pace with ease. (Not that I could necessarily have run any faster, though!) Mile 2 was about 8:06. When we got into the third mile, though, it began to require significantly more effort to sustain the pace. I told myself, only ten more .1 mile segments (well, 11 to the finish), and started picking out landmark to run to. Along the way I passed the man and the of them had begun to lag a bit. It could have been the dog...after all, dogs are better at short sprints than distances. Mile 3 - 8:08.

When I passed the 3-mile sign (the mile-markers were in hearts, how cute), I dug deep to pick up the pace for the final stretch. I don't think I dug deep enough, because the last segment (.16 mile on my watch) was at a 7:57 pace. I could have been a little faster. (And I wasn't near the puke threshhold...a clear sign that I had more to give. That I didn't give.)

Not 27 seconds faster, though, and that's what it would have taken to finish under 25 minutes. My final chip time was 25:26, 1:36 slower than my PR, but I think it was my second fastest time in this particular 5K (last year was 24-something).

And it was SO much faster than I had feared it could be (almost two minutes faster than my disastrous Halloween 5K in Monroe last fall). It really boosts my confidence and makes me feel like my comeback efforts are working. I genuinely believe that the next 5K I run could be under 25 minutes!**

After I finished I stood around the finish area for a bit and spotted my HS and FB friend, super-runner Annie V, finish with her newbie runner boyfriend. Their time was 26-something, which is great. I hate how fast boys (men) can be even when they're not accomplished runners! Annie herself is spectacular, she did the New York marathon last fall in 3:45!

After a long chat (I was in my post-run hyper state), they went on their way and I forced myself to do 1.5 miles to push my total for the day over seven miles (7.26 to be exact). That was at an 11-minute pace...I am useless at running after a race, no matter how long or short.

By the time I finished that, the stalls and vendors had started to pack up to leave and all I scored was a bottle of water. Plus the wind had come up dramatically and things were getting blown around and knocked over! The kiddy race was just about to start and I felt sorry the weather was so bad. Hopefully the kids wouldn't get blown away!

I headed back to my car and decided to stop at Starbucks for another Americano and a scone. I really debated on the scone since it had more calories than the 5K burned...but I decided not to be obsessive and go ahead with the scone. I enjoyed it.

I am so thankful that the weather was good for the run because it has been dreadful the rest of the day! I am optimistic about tomorrow, app shows a sun icon! I really don't want to do 14-15 miles in a windstorm.

*Lest you think I am REALLY old, I was just barely born when Simon & Garfunkel did Feelin' Groovy, but obviously it was around into the groovin' seventies as well.
**Although, a caveat, the next 5K I might run is the day after a 30K, so anything could happen!
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Friday, February 11, 2011

On my way back

This morning I felt more like my old self than I have during any run yet this year. I'm not there yet, but I can feel the possibility. It's a good feeling.

As usual, I couldn't force myself out of bed until I absolutely had to get up, and thus had the luxury of running in daylight instead of darkness. It's not great for my work schedule but it is sure nice for me! The weather was cloudy and quite cool. No rain at all.

My Fridays typically call for 8-10 miles with some pace work. I've been doing eight or nine miles so far this year. This morning I didn't have pace miles technically on the schedule but I figured it wouldn't hurt to push my legs a little.

After two rather uphill warm-up miles, I started back down several miles of gradual descent (with some flat and uphill portions). I have done this a couple times for the pace work because I think the easy downhill primes my legs to move faster. I am generally able to maintain the same average pace even when it's no longer downhill. I'm also aware that the hilly courses that I am going to be running this spring (Portland, Whidbey, Boston) have downhills as well as uphills, and I need to work on being strong on the downhill and taking advantage of it.

My first five marathon pace miles were all around 9:30 (three of them on the dot). Mile six* was a little slower, 9:44, but then I picked it up again and finished the next mile in 8:53. By the final mile I felt like I was really flying. I did have about a quarter mile of downhill to start it, and originally I was only going to go to 9.3 overall, but I felt so powerful that I ran around the QFC block three times to add almost three quarters of a mile (and this was on the flat). Total time for my final mile -- 8:14! Can you imagine?

I messed up a little then by forgetting to shut off my Garmin before going into QFC and Starbucks. While shopping for lunch and getting coffee I added .15 mile in just under 18 minutes. Yup, that screwed with my average pace all right.

Luckily I have a calculator, and by subtracting that .15 mile, I figured that my overall average pace was 9:35, and my average for the eight MP miles was 9:19.

This makes me very happy.

*Mile 8 of the entire run.

Maui Vacation and Half Marathon recap

A few days weeks ago we returned from our eight day trip to Maui. This was my first long visit to Maui. We spent a long day in the airport last year due to a flight delay, and I spent a couple days at the Hyatt Regency with college friends about 25 years ago, but all my other Hawaii trips have been to Oahu (in college) and Kona. Rod spent a lot of time on Maui with his family and working during summers in college, but he hadn't been there for 25 years either.

For me, this was a half marathon trip plus vacation. For Rod, it was a trip back to his past. I would say "his youth," but that makes us sound so old!

We stayed at the Outrigger Aina Nalu in Lahaina. It's a condominium hotel (the units are individually owned but you rent them like hotel rooms), located just a couple of blocks off Front Street in Lahaina. It's not on the beach, obviously, but it's just a short walk to a nice beach, and the hotel has two really great pool areas. We had a one-bedroom unit with a kitchen, which was great. The only downside I found (other than not having a view of the ocean), was that our first-floor unit faced the parking lot, which meant that we didn't really open the blinds, and the rooms were always artificially lit (thus somewhat dim). We did open the blinds on the last day, and it really wasn't that bad having the parking lot out there, so if I stayed again I would probably keep the blinds open more. Or, perhaps, try to get a unit that faced the pool! (I suspect that we got a better rate with the type of room we chose.)

We had decided to stay in Lahaina because the half marathon started and ended there, but also it seemed more interesting than one of the big resorts. We could get around town by walking (although we did go on car trips to the rest of the island on many days), and we're not really big resort people. Well, Rod isn't, anyway. I might be able to be a resort person (depending on the resort and the amenities), but I'm not too into the expensive rates at the nicer resorts.

We arrived on Sunday afternoon, picked up our car (upgraded to a Lincoln Town Car, which thrilled Rod) and headed for Lahaina. By the time we got checked in and settled into our room, it was around 5 p.m. and we were starving. We'd had a ham sandwich on the flight for lunch and nothing else since then.

We decided to go eat at Aloha Mixed Plate, a casual restaurant that specializes in local food, which had been recommended by Mary from my office. We knew it was at the north end of Lahaina, but since we just arrived (and Rod's memory of the geography was not as good as he thought it was after 25 years), we didn't realize quite how far away it was. We decided to take the scenic route by walking there via Front Street.

And off we went. I had changed my clothes when we arrived and was now wearing sandals instead of my running shoes, which I'd worn on the plane. I would have been better off keeping the running shoes on!

After walking a three quarters of a mile or so up Front Street, we left the most commercial "downtown" area and began walking along a more residential part of the road. For a while we didn't even have a sidewalk and we were just walking on the dirt shoulder. Since we didn't know how far we were going, this seemed a little weird (although I would end up running along it many times in days to come). We did encounter other walkers periodically. After about a mile, we passed the "Jesus Coming Soon" church, crossed a bridge of some sort, and I fortunately spotted the Aloha Mixed Plate sign in the not-too-far distance. We also got a sidewalk back there.

We crossed the street and got seated in Aloha Mixed Plate. As I mentioned, we were ravenous. We both ordered the Ali'i Plate, which was the biggest combination on the menu. Here's the menu description: Includes a traditional Lau Lau--Pork with Hawaiian Salt wrapped in Taro Leaves then Ti leaves then cooked in an underground oven called an imu; Kalua Pua'a (pork) & Cabbage, Lomi Lomi Salmon, Poi, Macaroni Salad, Rice and Haupia for dessert. (Haupia is a coconut pudding.) Rod ate everything but I took soon of the Lau Lau and Kalua Pork to go. I am so glad I ordered this big plate though, otherwise I might never have tried Lau Lau which I now love!

On Monday I did my first morning run in Hawaii (of this trip). With the two hour time difference getting up at 6 a.m. should be easy (equivalent to 8 at home), but I was lazy and by the time I actually did get up and ready to go out it was 8 a.m. It was also dark at 6:00, and I was so unfamiliar with the area that I was leery of heading out in the dark. Over the week, as I grew familiar with the area and patterns of darkness, I learned that it was light at 7 a.m., and light enough at 6:45. However, I still needed to get up at 6-6:15 in order to get myself in order to go out...sunscreen application alone took several minutes!

I ran in Hawaii a total of six times. Monday the 17th (6.7 miles), Tuesday (8.52 miles), Thursday (6.02 miles), Friday (8.25 miles), Sunday (the half marathon, 13.17 miles), and Monday the 24th (6.06 miles). Basically I ran the same route each time, north on Front Street to the north end of Lahaina, onto the highway for a bit, then onto the trail that follows the highway north toward Kaanapali. On Tuesday I ran onto the grounds of the Hyatt Regency and around there for a bit before tracing my way back. On the day we left, I ran south through Lahaina to the highway, then north to the highway on the other end, and back...the total distance of that was probably around five miles, but I did some doubling back to end up with my 6.06 miles. Almost every morning I ended up at Starbucks (about a third of a mile from the hotel) where I got myself an iced Americano and occasionally did some shopping at the Foodland grocery store as well.

Views from Haleakala

The trip to Molokai

Lahaina Harbor
The back side of the Pioneer Inn.

Rod on the boat.

Cracking macadamia nuts at Purdy's Macadamia Nut Farm.

Statue of Father Damien at one of his churches.

Sightseeing-wise, I think we managed a fair balance of driving and going around the island, with beach, pool, and relaxation time. We drove up to the summit of Haleakala (Monday), took a boat with van tour to Molokai (Wednesday), and drove the road to Hana (Thursday), where we had lunch at the Hotel Hana (apparently the restaurant is called Ka'uiki, which I didn't know until I looked at the website just now).

During lunch we had the entertaining/irritating experience of listening to the occupants of the neighboring table chatting with their neighboring table.... We learned that the gentleman was a Scotsman who now lives in Bermuda, but can afford to take lengthy vacations in Hawaii. His dining companion/possible girlfriend lives on Maui where she has a B&B. Although neither of them looked underfed, they chose to share the fish sandwich for their lunch (for goodness sake, who splits a fish sandwich). They did, however, indulge in a mai tai (her), and glass of wine (him). He was loudly surprised (and expressed this to the waitress) at the bar bill where he learned that the mai tai cost $15 and the glass of wine was $24! (Apparently they must have ordered the drinks without looking at a menu?)

Later, before we left, I was amused to hear the occupant of another nearby table apparently explaining that he was vegan... (and I quote) "no eggs, meat, or dairy." So the waitress asked (and I am not joking about this): "Do you eat chicken?"

Rod and I were quite easy compared to the others. We both ordered the Maui beef cheese burger, and only caused a little confusion by requesting tartar sauce for our fries. And we both ate it all.

Beach with big waves (don't remember the name).

On the way back, before our return to Lahaina, we stopped to visit and view the Iao Needle, near Wailuku. In fact, the Needle is 3.1 miles from Wailuku, and "back in the day" Rod ran a 10K to and from the Needle! We drove there. And then walked the lookout trail to view the scenery.

On Friday we did a little tour of some spots south of Lahaina. We took a walk on Makena Beach, drove through Wailea, and had lunch at Stella Blues Cafe in Kihei (a Jerry Garcia themed restaurant...Rod had the Jerry Burger).

Saturday was all Lahaina day (and the day before the half marathon!). Packet pick-up began at 10 a.m. at the Pioneer Inn, so I walked over there a little before 10. There was already a short line, so I was lucky to be early. Part of the reason the line grew long was that everyone seemed to be taking a while to get their numbers and try on the shirts.

When I got to the front I asked for a ladies' large shirt. They had switched from all unisex shirts to having ladies' sizes, and I usually get a large because I don't want it to be too close fitting or too short-sleeved. I am one of the few women who actually prefer the unisex shirts, I think. I popped the shirt on over my clothes and it seemed fine. Later I wondered if I should have tried a medium, because it is pretty big. For while I was sort of unhappy about the shirt, but I've worn it to the Y a few times and it's fine. I also spent $10 on a hat, which I am really happy with. It's white with blue lettering and a honu (turtle) logo. The blue stitching matched my designated shirt for the race perfectly, so I wore it in the half marathon. I actually like the hat a lot more than the shirt.

A few minutes after ten Rod met me and we walked around the art show which was under the Banyan Tree. Then we headed over to the beach which was actually near or part of Kamehameha Iki Park (the start and finish of the half marathon). We liked the slightly more south part of the beach which is in front of Lahaina Shores Resort and a new shopping center that is the home of two restaurants we visited, I'O and Pacific'O (we ate lunch at Pacific'O on Saturday and Monday, and dinner at I'O on Sunday).

After sunbathing and swimming for a while (I religiously applied 30 sunscreen the first half of the week, and 15 thereafter, and I never burned--or tanned much), we ate lunch at Pacific'O then walked back to the hotel. Later that afternoon we relocated to the hotel pool, where I had my bathroom adventure. We intended this to be a quiet, relaxing day, and it was. For dinner we picked up take-out pasta from Penne Pasta Cafe, conveniently located only about a block from the hotel. The menu had lots of yummy sounding options, but I went with the same thing I had ordered earlier in the week, whole wheat spaghetti with roasted eggplant and tomatoes. This time I added in some leftover filet mignon that I had from Friday night's dinner at Ruth's Chris Steak House. (I know it's a chain--albeit a fancy one--but we had a $25 coupon and with that our dinner was just very, very expensive, rather than very, very, very expensive! They cook a great steak. And we had an Oysters Rockefeller appetizer that was delish!)

We ate a lot of good food over the week, including a home-cooked meal on Tuesday night. We might have had more dinners in the hotel, but the options for eating out were so tempting. On Tuesday Rod cooked some fish we bought at the store, with sauteed mango and onion on the side, plus steamed blue sweet potato and a watercress salad. The fish was colloquially called butter fish. The pieces were quite small, which disappointed me at first, but when I looked up the fish I was grateful for that. It was so delicious (literally tasted buttery) but I learned that it could cause some possible negative side effects! It turns out the proper name is escolar or sometimes walu. It is a very high oil fish and the type of oil is not easily digested. In fact, it sometimes causes gastrointestinal problems, especially if too much is consumed. The recommended portion is less than six ounces. Ours were 3-4 ounces, so that's good. Rod broiled it, which drained off some of the oils, which also may be helpful. As it turned out, neither of us had any problems at all, but just to be safe, I decided not to try it again prior to the race.

And that brings me to Sunday morning. Race day. The race started at 6:45, so I figured we should leave the hotel at 6:15-6:20 in order to get over there around 6:30. I bagged the idea of doing a warm-up because that never seems to work when I am traveling with Rod. I told him that he didn't need to get up and come to the start but he said he would.

I got up at 5:00 so that I could eat some breakfast a couple of hours beforehand. I had pre-made a PB&J sandwich using bread that I had bought at the Molokai Kanemitsu Bakery. I had never heard of Molokai bread before, but our guide on Molokai stopped there in case anyone wanted to buy the famous bread. I hopped out and ran in because I knew I would want some bread for carb-loading. (I ended up having bread and butter with my pasta both times as well.) I kind of expected the bread to be sweet like the Hawaiian bread you can buy in the grocery store, but it was just a fairly typical (in my opinion) nice white bread. Good, though.

I was able to linger over my breakfast for a while before going through my dressing routine. Sunscreen, clothes, fuel belt with nuun (I didn't want to carry a water bottle but wanted to be well hydrated), Garmin, iPod, money in case I need a taxi (or something). Then we headed out in the darkness toward Kamehameha Iki Park.

The race director told us to seed ourselves from the fastest to walkers, so I situated myself in the middle of the pack. I knew I wasn't going to be as fast as I have been in the past, but I didn't want to sell myself short by going too far back either. There were no chips for timing, but the crowd wasn't so big that it would make much of a difference.

In fact, I crossed the start line only eleven seconds after the start. My goal for this race was to run strong and enjoy myself. I definitely wanted to feel better than I did during and after the Nookachamps Half Marathon the week before! I am pretty certain in retrospect that I was not well-fueled for that one. This time I know I had eaten well in the days before the race! And as for carb loading...can you say "rice with (almost) every meal"?

My casual goal was to try to stay close to 9:30 miles. I was fairly close to that. In mile 1 we ran south along Front Street and up to the highway. That was a little slow due to the lag at the beginning and a little bit of crowding...9:46. When we got onto the highway (where the whole race was run, except the very beginning and end), I was pleasantly surprised that the wide shoulder allowed us to run quite easily without crowding or interfering with traffic. I wasn't even bothered by the cars racing by on the highway.

The course was mostly flat, in my opinion. I think there were portions of the road that inclined up or downhill, but it was gradual enough that I felt good even on the "ups." In fact, there was a long portion where I felt we were running downhill, but on the return, it did not seem to be fact, it felt downhill as well. It's one of those running optical illusions! (The full marathon route had some long hills, though!)

Although I was carrying nuun, I did take water or sports drink at many of the water stations (though not the first one). I expect that slowed me a little but I was really leery of dehydration. Even though the heat didn't really bother me, I was sweating like a fountain, especially in the second half when it did warm up a little. I also used the sports drink as fuel. I was carrying a couple of Gu packets but didn't use them. It didn't appeal to me and I didn't feel like I needed extra fuel. Apparently the days of carb-loading were serving me well!

The first half (of the half marathon) went well, pretty much on track with my goals. 9:46, 9:31, 9:23, 9:31, 9:20, 9:31. By the time I got to mile 5, maybe even sooner, we were encountering the fast runners on their way back. This narrowed our running path a little bit but not badly.

I blew a little time at the halfway point turnaround by fumbling at the water station and just not making a quick turn. I think that explains why mile 7 was a little slower, 9:40. (Still feeling good, though!)

While I had kept a fairly neutral expression on my face during the first half, I intentionally smiled throughout the return trip. I wanted to look cheerful for the oncoming runners and, really, I was happy! Every once in a while I shouted encouragements, mostly to women. "Nice job, ladies!" "Good work!" "Keep it up!" Etc. We also had our names on our bibs, so I got some random cheers from kind bystanders. I thought that there was a photographer on the course (in fact, I think there was a sign to that effect, unless I'm confusing it with another race), and I did smile for someone with a camera. But the only official race pics were from the finish line.

At some point in this second half I was passed by one of the superfast marathon runners (the marathon started an hour before the half). I know this because he put his hand on my back and pushed me out of his way. I felt a combination of bad and irritated by this. I was certainly not blocking traffic; I was running solo and the guy nearest to me was just behind me. Obviously there were also other runners going the opposite direction and running space was a bit limited. Hopefully the guy was just letting me know he was passing and not implying that I was in his way or something!

There was a little bit of incline on the return trip, and I intentionally took mile 10 easy with the idea of pouring it on in the final 5K. Miles 8-10 - 9:36, 9:40, 9:45. Usually what happens in that circumstance is that I plan to kick up the pace in the last three miles, but end up waiting till the last two instead.

But then I encountered an unexpected situation which put a crimp in my plans. The 5K version of this race started at mile 10 of the half marathon (going north to Lahaina) and it happened to start just before I got there. That meant that I ran right into the back of the pack up 5K-ers. Almost literally. I had to maneuver around the walkers, then past the slower runners. What was really a little more difficult was when I got to the 9:45 to 10-minute pace runners. They are harder to pass because it is so easy just to fall into that pace! In fact, I did mile 11-12 at 9:45 and 9:52 (I should have been under 9:30, easily).

I did pick it up a little in mile 13 (9:37). This is where we were heading back into Lahaina for the final stretch. I passed by a woman who was walking up the slight hill toward Lahaina and shouted something encouraging. I felt a little foolish when she blasted past me shortly afterward. But then I passed her walking again...apparently her burst of energy was short-lived.

My final .17 was at 9:05 pace and I crossed the finish line with a big smile on my face (as the pictures show). It wasn't one of my faster races, but it wasn't one of my slowest either. I felt good the whole way through, and it gave me encouragement about getting my speed back as we approach spring.

My official finish time was 2:06:32. Very acceptable, even if not everything I could hope for (in an ideal universe). What seemed crazy to me was that I was 13th (of 45) in my age group! (40-49). I wouldn't have expected to even be in the top half with that time. Only nine women in my age group finished under two hours. The woman who finished about 20 seconds behind me was from Oak Harbor, WA (home of the Whidbey Island Marathon and Half). Her name is Laney Rathbun...maybe she'll see this in a Google search of her name. :) I also scoured the race results a bit to see if I could spot the name of a guy in a Canada shirt who was near me at that time. He had been ahead and behind me at various spots, and I was curious to see if I had passed me in the end (I didn't recall that) or finished behind me. But there were way too many Canadians running to figure it out.

Rod found me a few minutes after I finished. I was walking around breathing hard (and still smiling). I was also sweating like a horse and my nose was just pouring fluid (snot). I kept wiping my nose with my arm (gross, but my whole body was dripping anyway), until Rod gave me his handkerchief. After the second time I deposited a liter of liquid into it, he declined to take it back.
We didn't hang around the finish area too long. I assume there was some post race food, but I didn't see it. We walked back to the hotel and I fixed a light post-race breakfast to hold us until we went to lunch. I sliced and toasted the remaining Molokai bread, and I had mine with Justin's Chocolate Hazelnut Butter. (Rod doesn't like that, for some crazy reason, and he had honey.) I also finished off the fruit salad I had made the night before with a papaya and apple bananas. I'd been eating a banana with breakfast every day, and I think the potassium from the bananas and papaya helped fend off cramping. It was delicious fruit salad, anyway. I made a dressing of sorts with passion fruit (gleaned, literally, during our trip to Molokai) mixed with some honey.

After I showered and dressed we drove partway up and around the north end of the island before going to lunch. This may have been my favorite drive of the trip. The scenery was amazing but the road was easier (and less trafficked) than the road to Hana. There were also better spots to pull over for pictures (which can't be discounted when you are a tourist!). We could have gone a lot further than we did, but there was this little matter of lunch, so we turned around when we found a good spot.

Lunch was back at Aloha Mixed Plate! I had been waiting all this time to indulge in my own Loco Moco plate (Rod had it the visit before). Loco moco is two scoops of rice (white, of course), topped with two thick ground beef patties, two fried eggs, and brown gravy. Okay, you don't need to have two of everything, but that's how they do it at Aloha Mixed Plate. Plus a scoop of macaroni salad. I'll admit, I ate everything but half of one of the beef patties!
For our final afternoon in Maui we went back to the pool to lounge and swim. (I didn't go into the bathroom this time.) For dinner we walked over to I'O for a lovely farm grown meal. I had "O’o Farm Beets - Roasted heirloom beets in our farm pesto with feta cheese, macadamia nuts, and raisins"; and "Road to Hana - Grilled fresh catch with seasonal fruit, greens & rice with a passion fruit dressing and a basil yogurt accent." The fish was ono, which is usually my favorite, but it didn't taste quite as good to me this time as usual. (I am thinking that maybe January is not as good a time of year for ono as May was.) I also had a rather decadent caramel chocolate dessert. The food was lovely and the ambience was sublime!

On Monday morning I squeezed in my final run in Lahaina. I also stopped and ordered a couple of pineapples to be sent to my office. This was kind of silly because it cost a lot, but Ann had requested it so I did it. I noticed in QFC at home that you can buy pineapples for just a few dollars each. Oh well.

We made good use of our final morning by walking around to some of the historic sites on the Lahaina Trail. We'd been past a lot of them already, of course, but we went into the Baldwin Home museum, and also into the grounds of the (old) Lahaina Prison (which we'd walked past many times on our path to and from the hotel). Then, after loading the car and checking out, we walked back to Pacific'O for a final beachside lunch (we'd gotten a discount coupon after our dinner at I'O).

That was pretty much the end of our Maui trip. The airport wait wasn't unbearably long (unlike our interminable Maui layover last year which got us our travel vouchers for this trip), and the flight went as well as a long-haul flight can be expected to. I did watch the in-flight movie, Life as We Know It, and it passed the time. We got into Seattle around 11:30 p.m., and I finally got home around 1 a.m.

Luckily both Rod and I had Tuesday off work to recover! After all, you need to rest up after your vacation!

In conclusion (if you've lasted this far), here are my final thoughts about the Maui Oceanfront Half (and Marathon).

Would I run this one again? Yes, definitely, if I had the opportunity. But since it is very much a destination race and requires a major trip, I don't know the likelihood of taking a vacation in Maui at this time of year again. (Not that a vacation in Maui is a big sacrifice!) It's not a race that you can just drop into at the last minute. Probably. (Actually you could, if you had a last-minute opportunity to go to Maui for a weekend. They do have day of race registration and I don't think it sells out.)

Would I do the full marathon instead of the half next time? Well, probably not. Frankly, the only reason I can see to do the full in this case is to say you did it. And because all the race gear says "marathon" not "half." But honestly, the half marathon has it all over the full in this case. Consider....

  • The half marathon is an out and back from Lahaina. The full is point to point, Wailea to Lahaina, so requires transportation or shuttle either in the beginning or end (and I have no idea whether there's somewhere to stay near the beginning so that you can walk to the start).

  • The half marathon is pretty much flat, with some gradual inclines and declines. The full has some long hills.

  • The half is also shaded by trees in many sections, while the full has long, open stretches in the hot, hot sun.

  • The half marathon starts at 6:45, which is not too horribly early but is early enough to finish before the heat of the day. The full starts an hour earlier (5:45 is early), but would still take at least an additional hour to finish, maybe longer if it didn't go well, and by then it gets hot!

  • And (as always), you can walk away from the half marathon feeling good (pretty good) and not be crippled for the rest of your trip!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

And even though it's hard...

It's still worth it! Right? RIGHT?

I neglected to add yesterday that I did complete a fairly successful speed work run. I warmed up with 3.1 miles slowly, taking me to the track where I did six half-mile intervals (with about .2 mile recovery in between). I'm still not back to where I was last summer with the 800s, but I'm getting closer! The paces were 8:25, 8:18, 8:09, 8:12, 8:04, and 8:02. Oh so close to the coveted sub-4-minute half mile! That made me happy. The fact that I was able to speed up throughout tells me that I am improving on getting my legs back, though not there yet. When my 800s are where I want them to be they are much closer to one another in pace and time.

I have also upgraded the quality of my elliptical cross-training at the Y. I read a blog/Running Times article that suggested doing elliptical work at 180 RPM. Are you KIDDING ME? There is no way I could go that fast. Even if I reduced the resistance a ton. I don't think anyone could. (Let me know if you do it!) However, I have been doing intervals by alternating one minute at 13 resistance and 100+ RPM, with a minute at 14 and whatever RPM that turns out to be. Once I am warmed up the fast minutes are about 100-120 RPM and the slower are 80-90. The bonus is I burn calories a lot more quickly, my heart rate finally has gotten up to a training range, and I sweat like a horse. (That has to be good, right?)

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Running is hard

Yeah, duh, right? No one ever said running was easy. Even though we go for "easy runs" all the time. Sure, some runs are easier than others, and sometimes you hit a sweet spot where everything evens out and it feels easy for a while. But count on it, there will be times when running is just plain hard. Most of the time, really.

Hard part #1. Getting out there. Getting out of bed, getting away from work, making yourself run after work, no matter what time of day it is and what the weather conditions are, inertia is way easier than forcing yourself out the door.

Hard part #2. It hurts! Sluggish body, tired legs, getting moving is always a challenge.

Hard part #3. It's long! This is a kind of crazy mental thing. In my experience, no matter what distance you plan to run, it seems like a long way. Yes, nineteen miles is really long, but even six miles, even three miles seem like an interminable distance when you first start your run. That first mile or two? The longest miles ever.

Hard part #4. Speed is even harder. As much work as it is to go for a run at all, forcing your body out of its comfort zone hurts in a bigger way.

Now that I've done the negative Nancy thing, here is the upside of all these downers....

Better part #1. Once you actually put your clothes on and walk out the door, you are extremely likely to finish your run!

Better part #2. The initial pain does go away after you get going and warmed up. Really. It does.

Better part #3. Once you get halfway through your designated mileage, it gets easier because you have already finished more than you have left! Furthermore, even if the first couple miles seem to be really long, the further you go, the more quickly the miles will tick away. It's a strange truth. Even though you may be running at a slower pace, six miles out of a half marathon seem to pass much more smoothly than the six miles of a 10K. And in a marathon, the first 13.1 miles seem really easy. I think your brain strikes some kind of deal with your body to make this work.

Better part #4. The pain of running fast(er) some of the time makes a slower pace (whether in recovery intervals or separate runs) seem a lot easier! (And maybe your slower pace will become a little less slow...that's what I'm shooting for!)

And finally, even though running may sometimes seem hard for every minute you are doing it, the way you feel after you are finished is worth it all. At the very least, you have the sweet relief of stopping. And with some luck, you will also feel a glow of energy and well-being that will stick with you even after you've showered off the sweat and moved on to the rest of your day.

Happy Wednesday!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

19.28 miles on Super Sunday

Not nineteen and a quarter, that's nineteen.point.two.eight. And don't you forget it.

I ran from Rod's house to my parents' (for the Super Bowl), a distance that's technically about five miles. It took a bit of work to make it almost four times further!

(The picture is from the Tulalip Casino, about 13 miles into the run. The greyness pretty accurately reflects the misty weather of the entire run!)

I ran south a little, then east about a mile, then north for a longish ways, then south again, then north (again), then south, then west for about 5K, then I was done. My average pace was exactly 10:30, with about 1/3 of the miles slower and 1/3 faster, and the rest just about right on.

The first two miles were a little rough, as I had a stitch in my left shoulder blade area. It wasn't horrible or anything, but I kept thinking of all those articles about signs of heart attacks in women which I persistently avoid reading (so as not to bring on psychosomatic heart attack symptoms). But after a few more miles it pretty much disappeared and obviously I made it through without having some sort of cardiac event.

I had planned to do 18.5 miles, but secretly hoped for 19. I did enough little extra bits to make up the extra half mile plus, although I'll admit that by mile 16 I was seriously hoping that I hadn't made a mistake and set myself up for more than 19!

As in the Seattle Marathon, the middle miles were the hardest--miles 14, 15, 16--when I was wondering when this was ever going to end! But amazingly, I found a second wind after mile 17 and felt much stronger again. In fact, my final full mile was my fastest (10:10) without my even making a concerted effort to pick up the pace.

I arrived at my parents' house at exactly 2 pm, and just as my mom arrived with groceries and the mocha I'd requested. Hurrah! Thank goodness for long runs on days that include chips and onion dip (made with full fat sour cream, Rod did NOT have my permission to do that!), plus Papa Murphy's pizza (with salad) for dinner. And homemade ice cream sundaes for dessert. I do like to eat pizza and ice cream on long run days!

Due to the midday timing of this run, I put off my Monday morning run to Tuesday. Then this morning I put it off till later. I didn't bag it, though. I took the opportunity of a sunny but cool afternoon to squeeze in 7.07 miles between court and a meeting. I definitely run faster when it's not dark and early! Average pace today was 9:47.

Now my big challenge is to get out there tomorrow morning on time. Afternoon runs are great but I can't squeeze them into a workday TOO often. And waiting till after work is no better than morning. Unless it's absolutely necessary.
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Thursday, February 3, 2011

Oprah's Vegan Experiment

Last night I watched the DVR of Oprah's vegan show. As you may know, or have read elsewhere, Oprah and a bunch of her staff and crew spent a week being vegan and the episode featuring this aired a couple days ago. I have read a couple of blogs discussing this, so I decided to watch for myself last night (as opposed to so many other shows I record, which just sit in my DVR until they are deleted).

I actually did a ten-day vegan experiment myself two years ago. I wrote a great post about it here (please read, it's very good!). (My posts were much more interesting back then, I really need to kick it up!) My reasons for dabbling in veganism were basically diet-related, as an effort to clean up my diet and purge my treat-addiction after the holiday season. (Most "treats" have animal products in the form of eggs, dairy, etc.) I did find that it was much easier to shun a cookie because it was made with eggs or butter, than to resist the sweet temptation simply for diet reasons.

Of course, the reason most vegans choose to be so (I assume) is because of the perceived cruelty in raising and slaughtering animals for food. On the show, Lisa Ling visited a meat producer where the cattle are presumably slaughtered "humanely"; even so, it is somewhat disturbing to think about.

Oprah's primary guest was the rather amazing Michael Pollan, author, food activist, and omnivore. I was impressed enough to order several of his books immediately. (Hopefully none of them are already in my "purchased, not yet read" stacks!) Michael Pollan is not a vegetarian, he says he eats meat a couple times a week, but he is a big advocate of knowing where your food comes from.

It was entertaining to watch scenes of various vegan participants try to reform their eating habits. Oprah had Kathy Freston, vegan author (who happens to have a book just coming out) advising them on ideas. Perhaps unfortunately, she did so by showing them "substitutes" for many of the animal products they would otherwise eat, particularly cheese and meats. In my (numbered) vegan days, I was happy simply using non-animal foods rather than going to fake cheese and meat, which are never going to taste as good as the real thing!

For example, one dish they made was pasta with a sauce including ground-up vegan sausage. Seriously? It is so easy to make a wonderful pasta sauce with no meat at all. You can buy a jar of great non-meat pasta sauce! When I make pasta I often don't use any meat. Sometimes I put beans in for protein. But I mostly like to use lots of vegetables, especially eggplant and mushrooms (both of which provide a very "meaty" texture).

I think the reason I could never seriously entertain a long-term vegan diet is that I honestly don't believe eating animal products is a bad thing. Even if you remove all meat (because of the slaughtering issue), eggs and dairy do not require harming animals. You can make efforts to buy products where the producers are housed in more humane situations (though I know it is hard to know what is really happening in the hen house).

I am also addicted to fish and seafood, and I'm sorry, I will never accept that it is cruel to kill a fish or a shrimp. I think having grown up living on the water (and my family has some roots in the fishing business), I just can't believe that fish have feelings. However, I think there is a big issue with sustainable fishing that I hope I am sensitive to in my shopping.

And finally, there is honey. The idea that you should not eat honey because it comes from bees... well, that's just a little too much for me to swallow. (Or should I say, "that really stings....")

I have no criticism of vegans for their beliefs, but I do feel that it would be very difficult--for me or anyone--to embrace a lifestyle that eliminates entire categories of food. I prefer to view food in a more friendly manner. Other than a very few foods that I just don't like (and it's hard to even think of one), I don't think there's any kind of food that I would completely rule out eating on some occasion. There are a number of foods I rarely eat, but I might, under the right circumstances. (Confession: last week I ate a handful of pork rinds. And they were tasty! But I don't intend to eat them regularly.)

I enjoyed the Oprah episode, and I look forward to reading Michael Pollan's books. I even added Kathy Freston's book to my Amazon order, because I don't mind reading about other perspectives. I also believe, though I will never be vegan, that I will continue to eat a wide variety of foods (mostly plants, actually) and some of them will be, by chance, vegan-friendly. Some of them will not.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Tempo run today

To bad it's not Tuesday, "Tempo Tuesday" has a real ring to it...but I'm not changing my training schedule now!

So this morning was a tempo run, and it turned out pretty much as I expected--okay. Not great, not horrible. (To clarify, my performance was "okay" but I actually had a very good run overall.) I had written it on my schedule as 45 minutes tempo, but I really didn't like that designation because the slower I ran, the shorter the distance would be. I prefer to designate by distance instead of time. Maybe I should go ahead and modify the rest of my training schedule. Right now it's just written in pencil anyway. Chances that I will do a typed version at this point? Not great. I'm liking the eraser option, anyway.

So I changed my plan to 5-6 miles tempo, after a two-mile warm-up. I would have prefered to do the full six miles, but time did not allow and I ended up with two miles warm-up, followed by 5.77 miles tempo effort. (I designate something as "effort" when I am trying hard but not really achieving the pace I would like.)

After my two miles of warm-up my tempo paces were 9:23, 9:21 (.28 mile), 9:15, 9:19, 9:20, 9:18, 8:46 (.5 mile). I know, this is barely faster than my paces for my 5.5 miles at marathon goal pace effort last Friday. Well, you don't know that because I don't think I wrote a post about it, but it is true. However, those paces were between 9:15 and 9:30, and as these were between 8:46 (barely) and 9:21 I was clearly a little faster this morning. Plus those miles were done mid-morning, when I am always stronger, and this was very early, partly in the dark, on just-out-of-bed legs. So I am giving myself credit.

And look how much room for improvement this gives me! Hopefully soon I can get the tempo pace miles under 9 minutes overall, and of course the better tempo pace is sub-8:30. Oodles of opportunities there.

I will say I felt good this morning. My legs didn't feel tired or achy at all, and even my ankle and heel didn't bother me in the beginning. (I did feel a little heel tenderness when I picked up the pace, but it wasn't bad.) If I had just kept going at a comfortable (10:30) pace, it would have been a bed of roses kind of run.

However, it was a hard work kind of run and I felt not just good but GOOD when I finished! Nothing like the feeling after you make your body work beyond its comfort zone.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Race Report is done but...

I haven't added the pictures. So a little more time is needed.

On Sunday I did the longest run of this training cycle so far, 17.5 miles. Hilly! I am intentionally trying to do a lot of hills to help prepare me for Boston. I feel good about it but my legs are still sore today (probably it's second-day DOMS). I postponed my Monday run to this morning, and thanks to my inability to get myself out of bed, was limited to 6.5 miles.

Tomorrow I have a tempo run on the schedule. All part of the effort to regain my speed. I'm not sure if there is much difference right now between my tempo runs and my marathon-pace-effort runs, though. I guess we'll see how it goes.

It should be cold but clear in the morning. I kind of like it a little colder (meaning around freezing, just) because I can comfortably wear the warmer running clothes without getting overheated like I do when it feels cold to start (40s) but really isn't that cold at all.

My next LONG run is Sunday (before the Super Bowl). It's supposed to be 18 but I'm thinking 18.5...19 would be great but that might not be practical. I've already mapped my 18.5 mile route.