Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Viva Las Vegas...soon!

In about three days I'll be on my way to Vegas for the Rock 'n' Roll Half Marathon on Sunday. I'm doing the quick and dirty version of a trip (no, not that kind of dirty), flying in on Saturday and out as early as I can on Monday morning. I'm not exactly a Vegas kind of person. Although my dad, who is coming with me, does like a little bit of gambling...hopefully the 48 hours will be fun for him.

I signed up for Vegas on a whim last spring, when they had that one day only pre-registration, probably offering a whopping $10 discount or something. I don't really intend to be someone who follows the Rock 'n' Roll races around the country (would that be a R 'n' R race groupie?), but I am also registered for the Portland version next spring, plus Seattle in the spring as well, once again lured by early registration promotions.

My only reason for doing Vegas (other than a mild interest in running down the Strip at night), is as a warm-up race for Tucson on December 11. I have gotten into the practice of doing a half marathon one or two weeks before each marathon as as a final medium-long run. If it is only one week before, I try to do it at a marathon pace effort. That means I run at a pace I believe I can sustain for a whole marathon (even though that may not turn out to be my actual marathon pace; usually the half marathon is a little faster and I can't resist putting in some extra effort at the end which I certainly would not do at miles 10-13 of a full marathon).

And my planned pace for Vegas? Seriously, I do not know. I figure I will just see what feels good. Maybe that will give me some idea of what to expect in Tucson. I am in corral 6, as I originally gave a projected finish time of 1:55. That was actually the time of several half marathons I ran this last summer, so I wasn't even overreaching or anything. But that's a pace of 8:45, so...I don't think so. I'll be getting passed some a lot, at least if the other people in the corral were realistic in their estimates.

I am in the midst of taper for the Tucson Marathon. I did my last long (20 mile) run on November 19. Last weekend I cranked out a couple of mid-length runs (10 on Thanksgiving and 15 on Saturday), with unplanned full rest days on Friday* and Sunday.** In fact, last week was the first time in a long time I only ran three times during the week*** (Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday), thanks to a combination of recovering from my 20-miler, baaaad weather, and the holiday.

This week I am running on Monday (easy run), today/Wednesday (speed work), and Thursday (easy run planned). I will take Friday and Saturday off running to rest my legs for the race, and then Sunday will be a tempo/pace run of 13.1 miles.

I may have mentioned (many times) how hard it is for me to get out of bed early and get running on these dark mornings...even when they are not particularly cold or wet (worse if they are). Because of that my mid-week runs are a little shorter than I would like them to be...generally starting with 6 instead of 7 or 8. I will also use that as my excuse explanation**** for why I "only" did six 800s this morning at the track.

My speedwork has been this mini-cycle leading up to Tucson. The truth is I have no speed (or very little). So even when I intend to do a tempo or pace run, my splits look a lot like an easy run. (My easy run splits? Are sad.) My last set of 800s were shocking, and frankly a little depressing. Seriously, almost a minute per mile slower than my standard. Well, 30-45 seconds slower, anyway. I can't remember for sure. I've probably blocked the memory.

Hence, I really, really did not want to do it this morning. Still, I forced myself to go to the track after a couple miles of warm-up, telling myself there were lots of reasons this was a good idea.

  • I would only have to run half a mile at a time, and could rest after each one.

  • No matter how slow I was, it would still be faster than marathon pace.

  • No matter how slow I was, I would probably be a little faster than last time. (I hoped that was true. Thankfully, it was.)*****

  • Forcing myself to run so that my lungs wanted to explode would probably be a good cardio activity.

  • Interval training is supposed to be good exercise.

One other factor that I did not account for until I was halfway through the really only produce endorphins when you make your body hurt. So in some way, feeling bad (physically) made me feel good (mentally).

After the first two repeats from hell, I told myself I could stop after four. Then I pushed through two more. By that time, I was verging on being late for work, and had no choice but to stop. Boo hoo, right?

And this is tapering because...I am reducing the length of my weekend runs. My weekday runs are already short enough (6.25 on Monday, 7.07 total today).

I am also modifying my eating patterns in preparation for the two races. Actually I am doing two food tapers, one this week and one next. This week, to help overcome the excesses of a holiday weekend, I am cutting out sweets and cutting back on carbs****** for four days (Monday through Thursday). On Friday, Saturday, and Sunday I will increase the carbs and let up a little on the sugar restriction (though trying to keep calories in check still). Next week, I will repeat the sugar/carb restriction on Monday through Wednesday, and "carb load" a bit on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.

The last time I ran the Las Vegas Half I had a time of 2:07:00 and I thought if I ever did it again I would surely beat that. This year...not so sure. Oh well, we'll see what happens!

*Bought a new car! My first NEW new car ever.
**Planned to go skiing but it was raining at the summit and that was way too ugly to ski in.
***Technically the long run on Sunday was part of that week, but I count Sundays as the end of the week preceding, for running purposes. I guess because I often do long runs on Sundays, and they seem more appropriate at the end of a week rather than the beginning.

****I just love using strikethrough. Sorry.
*****If you are wondering (and I certainly would be)...The previous set of half mile repeats started at 4:26 for the first (slowest) and 4:11 for the last (fastest). Today, 4:16 for the first and 4:03 for the last. Pre-Portland Marathon, all of my half miles were under four minutes, except for a couple at 4:00 or 4:01.
******I haven't cut out carbs, just unnecessary sweet and starchy foods. I have been eating some whole grains, tons of vegetables, some fruit, and protein at every meal. I have not been eating cookies, candy+, cake, pie, or pumpkin spice bagels.
+This is a footnote to the footnote. I will admit to one dark chocolate Hershey's kiss after dinner last night and a dark chocolate macadamia nut candy after my run this morning. Those are the best, by the way. Hawaiaan Host dark chocolate macadamia nuts. Oh yes.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Hey, what's up?

Two weeks since my last post...where has the time gone? Well....

Five days in Maui over Veteran's Day weekend. I backed off on posting because I didn't feel like announcing that my house would be empty for all that time. Then when I got back I thought about posting some pictures but...didn't. I don't have a whole lot of pictures anyway, it was more of just a relax and hang out weekend. I did do some running...Thursday 6.5 miles moderate, Friday 13.1 miles slow and difficult, Sunday 9.3 miles moderately speedy and good! I also have the running route from Lahaina to Kaanapali down cold. Should I ever need to do it again.

Running...I've been doing it. My pace is still definitely slowed from before the Portland Marathon. I hate to keep repeating that, but it really is the benchmark where things changed for me. And I can't quite get back to where I was. I had the most horrendous set of six half-mile repeats at the track a few weeks ago. I don't remember if I could bear mentioning it before, but I haven't done any 800s since then. And am reluctant to even attempt them. My tempo pace (hard effort) is now, yes. That's what I said.

I did my last LONG run before Tucson yesterday. 20.0 miles. And I mean the .0. Not a step further. And it was difficult. Slow and I just felt cruddy and achy the whole while. I was seriously planning my exit strategy from mile 5 onward. But once I got to the turnaround point (at mile 12, the return trip is shorter), I had no choice but finish. Unless I actually called for a ride, which I knew I wouldn't do.

I had way too much mileage on the schedule for Thanksgiving weekend. At the time I did my training schedule for this period I was both optimistic and also a little over-reaching about my need (and ability) to squeeze a lot of training into the eight weeks between marathons. Now I've decided it's better not to kill my self trying to make eight weeks into twelve. I'm still planning longish runs over Thanksgiving but right now I'm thinking about ten on Thursday and fifteen on Saturday.

It doesn't help that this week's weather is forecast to be rainy and rather cold. That leaves me struggling with my pre-Thanksgiving running plans as well. I already ditched a run this morning (6 a.m. is too soon after my late afternoon finish of 20 miles yesterday). I am torn whether to try to squeeze in a few miles this afternoon, or put it off to tomorrow morning instead. At which time it will also be dark, wet and cold. None of the alternatives are very appealing.

I did schedule a massage for this evening to try to give some relief to my battered body. That does mean that whatever I decide to do today (run, cross-train, rest?) has to be done before 7:00 so I can get to the massage.

Twenty days to the Tucson Marathon!

Monday, November 7, 2011

The mystery of missing time

That title could apply to so many things. It could apply to my Portland Marathon finishing time (which was missing but then was found). It could apply to weekends which go by so quickly that they are gone before you know it. It could apply to summer, and life, which sometimes seem to disappear like A Wrinkle in Time (a favorite book of mine).

Of course, on the other hand, you also have time which stretches interminably and feels like it takes far more than sixty seconds to complete every minute. That would pretty much apply to the first two miles of any run. Or a football game, in which fifteen minutes (a quarter) can last for 45!

But what I am specifically referring to here is the time it takes me to complete a run. That is, the total amount of time from start to finish, as opposed to the actual length of the run (running time). I have always known this happens. My hour long run that starts at 6:45 and ends at 8 a.m. An eighteen-miler that I do in three hours but return home almost four hours after I left.

I just noticed today that my Garmin data on the computer shows not just the running time, but the total elapsed time from start to finish. I looked at a few days' examples. Today, I ran 6.09 miles in one hour exactly. But my elapsed time was 1:09:20. (Nine minutes extra.) On Saturday, 18 miles in 3:03:01. Elapsed time, 3:38:44!

Obviously, those missing (or extra, depending on how you look at it) minutes are the times when I pause my watch for a bathroom stop, street light, or other random delay that I decide to stop for. It doesn't worry me that I allow myself to stop the clock for these things because it has never prevented me from running a half marathon or marathon straight through without stops (except for a bathroom stop, during which I let the time run, of course).

It is interesting, though. A ten-second variance in pace (from 10:00 to 10:10, say), is a minor blip in my overall time. On Saturday my average pace was 10:09, and my time was 3 hours 3 minutes. If I'd averaged 10:00, my total would be three hours. Hardly a difference, even though it probably would have required quite a lot more effort on my part to make every mile ten seconds faster.

But somehow I managed to fritter away 35 minutes on bathroom stops and other random delays. And almost half my run was on a trail with no stoplights! I recall when things were feeling difficult on Saturday that the five minutes it took to complete a half mile seemed very, very long. But I probably managed to spend two and three minutes at a time just stopping to look around at some random intersection (while checking my phone and drinking some water). And I did that like ten times! (I am attributing the other minutes to my bathroom stops. But really, I probably lingered far too long in the bathrooms too. As gross as park bathrooms and porta potties are.)

When I estimate how long I'm going to be gone for a given run, I always allow an hour for every five miles. I figure that will account for any kind of lagging pace plus random stops and delays. I hate the guilt that comes with saying I'll be back at a certain time and not making it. So I always try to err on the side of allowing too much time. But I rarely have "leftover" time.

As long as this doesn't affect my performance in races, I'm not planning on changing my practices. It's worked so far. And it's not the worst way to pass the time.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Happy Halloween! A little late...

I wrote this on the pre-Halloween weekend then forgot to publish on the day! Oops. So here's a look back at last weekend....

On Saturday I ran a 5K. The last 5K I did was on August 20...more than two months ago. The last time I ran at 5K pace was...I don't know, probably the set of 400s I did the week before Portland. So yeah, at that time I was able to run a sub-8 pace (maybe even sub-7:30) for a quarter mile at a time.

I was somewhat apprehensive about this race. I was also mad at myself for my negative attitude. Every single race that I've done this spring and summer I've gone into optimistically, and though I rarely met my high hopes, I always did just fine.

I decided that if I believed I would fail then I would. So I decided I would switch my outlook to hoping to surprise myself with speedy legs!

This was a Halloween 5K, although it was politically correctly called "Fall Classic.". Puh-leeze. People wore costumes. Not me, though...I wasn't feeling quite sure enough about myself to draw attention with a costume. (I wanted to be speedy in Ninja black. I did add a festive orange Roadrunners cap, though.)

The race didn't start until 10, so I had my parents pick me up at 8:30 and we got to Monroe around 9:00. That allowed me plenty of time to pick up my number, cute long-sleeve shirt and goody bag (stuffed with lots of food samples). After a couple of bathroom visits, I did a loop around Lake Tye which amounted to a 2.1 mile warm-up. Then I stood in line for one more shot at the bathroom. Happily I got to the front of the line and over to the starting area with more than five minutes to spare.

After some announcements, we were off. I took off running as I hard as I reasonably could. It felt incredibly awkward at first. Luckily after a bit I found my legs (some) and settled in around an eight-minute pace (slightly slower than that in the end, but I did see sevens flashing on my watch occasionally, which was cheering).

I didn't spend much time trying to pass people (I'm sure I did some, and was passed as well), but I did have one pace setter with whom I ran neck and neck throughout the race. She was a young lady about 10-11 years old dressed as a blue fairy...very cute. In the end I did manage to finish a little ahead of her, but she was great!

I don't have my exact splits, but my overall average was 8:15 and I think each mile was in that vicinity, give or take. My time on the clock when I crossed the finish line was 25:50 (although the race results got mixed up and they listed me as 25:58). Not good enough to place in my age group (I was fifth). I was happy enough as I had decided I would be pleased with anything 25!

By the time I finished my sister had arrived with her hub and three kids (a two-year-old and three-month-old twins). Here are some pictures taken by my mom and sister....

On the course, about mile 2.

Just after crossing the finish line. With a smile on my face.

That's my dad at the right.

Beet red face.

Yes, I am a dork. Actually I was just surprised to see my sister there (already).

Those two little boys do not belong to us (the twins are in the stroller, perhaps the boys are their future selves); nor does the man to the left.

With my niece Eva.

Pretending to cross a finish line. We kind of ticked off the time keeper but really, we were in the 1.6 mile lane and it was 45 minutes on the clock. No one was still finishing this distance.

After leaving we went to the Cabbage Patch in Snohomish for a late breakfast. I ate three scones (they were just like Fisher Fair scones, OMG) and an egg white veggie scramble (to counterbalance the scones). Eva chose to sit with me but was reluctant to smile for the camera.

Note my iPhone in her hand--that made her happy!

On Sunday morning I took off to do my longest long run yet in this mini training cycle--16 miles (I hoped). I am trying to work on downhill running for Tucson and this run did incorporate several miles of downhill grade (although pretty gradual).

The weather seemed horribly dark and dreary but once I got out it really wasn't bad. It didn't even rain at all. After about two miles I got to go up a long, increasingly steep hill. It was exactly one mile to the intersection at the top and I did it in 10:37. I thought I was slower, so that wasn't bad. The next mile had a couple of rolling hills and a stretch of no shoulder roadway which was kind of scary.

Then I got to the Centennial Trail and the next five miles were railroad grade downhill. At some point I started to appreciate the pretty fall foliage. It really looked much nicer than this photo.

You can kind of see it's downhill though.

Running on the trail is pleasant and safe from cars, but I kind of prefer running in town. Even though it was downhill my pace was just under ten minutes per mile. I would have thought I'd be faster. I felt like I was faster when I got back out on the road dodging cars, but it stayed pretty much the same.

I hit the Armar trailhead at nine miles. I hoped the return trip through town would be shorter....and it was. I had to add a couple of little detours to make a full sixteen. As I approached the end, I put on a final burst of speed, which gave me a total time of two hours 40 minutes, and an exact pace of 10:00 per mile.

Post-Halloween addendum: On Monday morning I decided four consecutive running days was too much, and postponed my run to Tuesday. But then Monday's weather was quite sunny and nice, so I left work at 4:00 and squeezed in a 6.1 mile run before the trick-or-treaters arrived!

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