Yesterday (Saturday) I ran the Berry Dairy Days Half Marathon up in Burlington. It was a decent marathon pace run. What's that you say? "But it's a half marathon?" Well, my legs didn't get that memo.
In my efforts to up mileage in preparation for my 50K, I am accepting of the likelihood that speed may suffer. That is, what speed I have. I don't want to lose speed entirely--that is why I keep doing races of various lengths to force myself to push the pace on occasion. Since my last three halfs have been just under two hours, I certainly can't assume that every one I do will be...and yesterday proved that.
The irony is that the last three half marathons (Mercer Island, Whidbey Island, Portland Rock and Roll) have been hilly courses that I think are considered hard. I seem to perform better on hills (as long as they go down as well as up). The Berry Dairy Half was very, very flat.
I picked my parents up early Saturday morning to head north for the run. The weather was not promising. It was a steady drizzle/mist and that did not let up or change until about 11a.m. The race started at 8:30, so...it rained throughout.
I was glad I had put my contacts in. The last time I ran in my glasses in a drizzle, I seriously regretted it. The mist seems to mess up my vision even worse than out and out rain.
We arrived around 7:45 and easily found a place to park about a block or two from the start. I had a rain poncho in the car so I wore that (even during warm-up) to stay dry until the start. I got my bib then sat in the car until 8:10, when I got out to squeeze in a slow mile of warm-up. I also managed two porta potty visits, the second one only a few minutes before the start (that's the way I like it!).
I have to say that as much as I like "the country" and "farmland," they are not my favorite running venue. I feel like the miles pass much faster in a town or city. Whether it's the city blocks or just the wide variety of landmarks to distract me, I seem to run faster and more effectively in an urban race.
As opposed to...long, straight, never ending country roads. That go on and on. Forever. (At least there were no farm smells on this day. Unlike some of the times I've run the Nookachamp Half in January...pungent.)
Well, I lie a little bit. The long roads only lasted for six miles or so. Then we went onto the dike and commenced running on gravel for the next six miles. And mud, in places. (Enhanced by the rain, obviously.)
I did manage to just about maintain a 2-hour pace for the first few miles. I looked at my time at the 5-mile point and if it wasn't 45:45, it was only a few seconds over. In theory, if I just maintained for the next five and then kicked it up a notch in the last 5K, I could break two. It was a reasonable plan....
In theory. However, it did not take into account the whole "running on gravel" part. Anything other than pavement or asphalt is always slowing for me. Even in some fast 10Ks that were partly on gravel, I could tell I was faster on the road.
But that's not the whole reason. Really, my legs didn't want to run faster than a 9:30 pace. Actually several of my splits in the second half were around 9:45, but even when I made an effort to push it, I "sped up" to 9:30. I didn't see another 8 until the final mile.
But when I take my frustration over pace out of the picture, running along the dike was kind of interesting and fun, and certainly it was good training for my trail running (alternative surfaces). I think if it hadn't been so dark and drizzly, I might have felt less discouraged.
We first headed off the road onto the dike somewhere past 6.5 miles. This first stint was only about two miles long...but during the second mile of that the gravel was on top of dirt which was now mud. It seemed to cling to shoes so that eventually I felt like I was running on clumps of clay. I wasn't the only one who felt that, I learned later.
The trail then veered off onto the road for a short bit--enough to stomp and scrape my shoes on the pavement--then back onto another section of gravel dike. I thought that we might turn around at nine miles and double back (leaving two miles to the finish on the road), but no. Instead the trail veered off the dike onto a riverside trail that looked like grass (cross country, anyone?) but had some sort of paving underneath the grass. That was actually better than running on just grass, obviously. Then we passed through a woodsy section where I felt very alone (wondering if I'd gone off course somehow) until we returned to the dike for a couple more miles.
Just before the 12-mile point we finally got back on the road and I vowed to make a strong finish. I finally found my half marathon gear and picked it up to a sub-nine pace for the final mile or so. I closed in on, and passed, several people who were ahead of me. The final mile was a straight shot on Fairhaven Avenue, and as I neared the end I was alone as I ran down the middle of the street. The Berry Dairy Days parade was scheduled to start at 11, so the sidewalks were already peppered with parade spectators, some of whom cheered me as I ran by!
Of course my watch hit 13.1 miles before I hit the finish, so I was anxiously looking ahead to try to see where I would be done. I turned the corner and almost ran past the short finish chute! I jumped back in and ran through, asking "Am I done?" I stopped my watch at 2:03:59. There was no chip timing, so I guess my final time will depend on where they hit the stopwatch.
I walked back to the car, where my mother was waiting but my dad was not. I headed back to the finish and found him standing on the corner across from the finish, still watching for me to come in!
Before we left, he took my picture. It doesn't really show how wet I was...and I should have had a separate shot of the muddy backs of my legs! I look quite clean here.
Then we left and headed to the Calico Cupboard in Mt. Vernon, where I changed into dry clothes and ate a big breakfast burrito. Yum.
A final note...before the race I warned my mother not to expect me under two hours, because I'd heard about the gravel trails. When I got to the car she was surprised to see me so soon. Apparently to her, "over two hours" meant more than a few minutes over. To me, every one of those almost four minutes was like a stake through my heart. (That may be a little exaggerated, but you know what I mean.) To a lay person, 2:03:59 is hardly different than two hours. It's all a matter of perspective, isn't it?
Eighteen miles. I'm pretty sure that is my long distance sweet spot. Eighteen miles (or thereabouts) seems to be the long run that I can do relatively "easily" with few repercussions afterward. Maybe it is because eighteen miles takes about three hours to run...maybe three hours (or so) is my comfortable run time limit? Let's examine the evidence....
I have done the Birch Bay 30K three times in spring marathon training...each time it has been a happy experience. In 2010 and 2012 my pace foreshadowed my upcoming spring marathon pace (it did not in 2011 because the Boston Marathon course was much harder than the Birch Bay course).
I have a history of 17-19 mile training runs where I have gone out the next day and done a sprightly 6-7 (or more) mile run at a reasonable, sub-10 pace.
Last summer and this spring I did 18-milers on a Friday and followed up on Saturday with a fast 8K-ish race. In July 2011 I PR'd in an 8K at 39:32, and in April I ran the 5+ mile Tulip Run in 42 minutes flat.
I've started noticing that while I am expectedly tired and sore in the afternoon after an 18-miler, I don't usually stay awake that night with achy legs, and seem to feel fine the following day (to the best of my recollection, anyway).
The most recent example was this weekend. I had one of my longest running streaks over the weekend (anything more than two consecutive days is a streak for me). On Friday I ran 7-ish miles at moderate effort. On Saturday I ran 7-ish miles which included a 24:30 5K race (second in AG, it's a small race!). On Sunday I ran 19 miles (oops, had planned on 17-18). Then on Monday I was back out for another 7.5+ miles at moderate effort (sub-10). Today is a non-running day but my legs hardly feel like they need to rest at all! This is kind of a big deal to me because my ankle/achilles/heel has been bothering me lately. After the long run I soaked my foot in a bucket of ice water for 15-20 minutes (allowing it to thaw every few minutes), and perhaps that helped. I really need to be more regular with icing.
The other thing I have noticed is that in the marathons my legs really start to feel the ache after 18 miles. In Boston the downhills really did their thing on my quads over the first three hours or so, and although the Newton hills didn't bother me, the final five miles downhill to the finish were agony. Last fall in Portland, even though the race was great overall, I really started to notice my quads after mile 18.
Coincidence? I think not. Some marathon training plans don't recommend doing a long run of more than three hours. (I'm not going to cite to anything because I'm just drawing on memory here. Highly scholarly research, I know.) I don't follow that rule because as a moderately slow runner, that would really limit me to 18 miles, and I do want to go further, on occasion.
Liking the 18-milers isn't going to keep me from the 20+ mile runs, of course. (And I did notice, in my review of Garmin stats over the last year, that in August 2011 I did a 20-miler at sub-10 pace, then ran 7 miles at 9:20 pace the next day.) In fact, my ultra training has me doing some looong runs this summer. I'm hoping that the extra distance (and hours) doesn't beat me up too much.
Maybe I can make my eighteen mile sweet spot stretch to 20, or 22...we shall see.
With the kids jingle belling running stores selling (shoes and stuff) And everyone telling you be of good cheer, It's the most wonderful time of the year!
It's the hap-happiest season of all! With those holiday greetings And gay happy open track meetings when friends come to 800s call, It's the hap-happiest season of all!
There'll be parties for hosting Marshmallows Split times for toasting posting And caroling out in the snow (or rain).... There'll be scary ghost stories* and tales of the glories Of Christmases PRs from long long ago....
It's the most wonderful time of the year! There'll be much mistletoeing nose blowing And hearts sweat will be glowing When loved ones finish lines are near-- It's the most wonderful time of the year!
It's the most wonderful time Yes the most wonderful time Oh the most wonderful time of the year!
Happy Running Day! How did you celebrate? For me, 6.5 miles on legs that were still tired from a trail race last night, and taking advantage of the $20 discount to register for next year's Portland Rock 'n' Roll half marathon.
*This seems a little out of context for a Christmas song....
On June 1st I "officially" kicked off my training for the McKenzie River Trail Run 50K in September and the Twin Cities Marathon in October. I did that by lagging abed so long that I only had time for 6.2 miles before work...oh well. It was within my prescribed 6-8 miles, anyway.
May ended with the Portland Rock 'n' Roll Half Marathon on May 20 (1:59:18, race and trip recap to come--maybe), and a long Memorial Day weekend trip to Kona, Hawaii. I really hope to write a post about Kona as I have a lot to share about the books I read, places we ate, and running in Kona!
But back to June. I have sketched out a plan for the summer that includes long back to back runs on the weekend, quite a few trail runs, and a moderate amount of speed work. I am hoping that I can balance the necessary slowness of looong distance and trail running with enough speed to maintain decent times in my half marathons and eventually, Twin Cities. I am not aiming for any half marathon PRs or a marathon time faster than 4:10-15. Hopefully those modest goals are not overly ambitious.
My plan calls for me to run five days most weeks. That is an increase from my current practice, which has been four days and occasionally five. I have a back-up plan that would allow for four days, if my body resists too much. In addition to two weekend long runs, I will alternate tempo runs and speed work once a week. The other two days will be one easy run and one easy with some marathon pace (9:30ish) miles. I have a few half marathons which will hopefully be around 9-minute pace, and shorter races for bonus speed work.
I want to practice trail running for MRTR. I'm not really comfortable with going out on the trails alone, so I've signed up for (or plan to sign up for) several trail "races." That will provide extra support and the safety of a large(ish) group. Of course I often seem to find myself on my own for trail runs, but at least there are people out there somewhere!
The first one was the Xterra Lord Hill Half Marathon yesterday. Lord Hill is in Monroe, not too far from home, so it's a good destination for me. (I'm signed up for a 20-mile there in a month...gulp). It is very hilly, and the trails are a mix of single track moderately technical, and wider bridle paths or trails.
I intended this solely as a training run...I don't see myself ever racing a trail run! I feel like I met my goal of running easy and averaging about 12-minute miles. I ran (joggged) up almost all the hills (there were a few where my jogging steps weren't much faster than hiking, I admit). I ended up running a good part of the race "with" another woman who was faster than me on the flatter portions, but walked up the hills, where I would overtake her. The last half mile or so was on a gravel road, downhill, and I finally put on my racing legs and barreled downhill to the finish (passing her on the way). My finish time was about 2:41, which is slightly over 12 minutes/mile (guess I shouldn't have made that bathroom stop at the aid station).
I never felt like I was working too hard during the run, which was my intent. But I am a little sore today! My quads in particular, but there is a bit of overall achiness as well. I didn't run today because if I stick with my plan for the upcoming week (includes running on Monday and Tuesday), I would have too many consecutive days.
I used some of my free time this morning to register for the Scotiabank Vancouver (BC) Half Marathon. That's the day after Seattle R 'n' R, so we'll leave Seattle on Saturday and head up to Vancouver. Believe it or not, I don't think I've ever done two half marathons in two day...not official ones, anyway!
But now my task is smoothly done, I can fly, or I can run Quickly to the green earth’s end, . . . And from thence can soar as soon To the corners of the moon. Mortals that would follow me, Love virtue, she alone is free. John Milton
Avid antique shopper and garden lover, runner, walker, skier, and yoga & pilates devotee. Frequent traveller to England. Voracious reader of literary fiction, travel memoirs, self-help books, mysteries, garden & decorating books, and a wide variety of magazines (Runner's World, Oprah, Prevention, More, Glamour, as well as stacks of gossip mags while at the Y). I also have a weakness for contemporary Brit-lit (Bridget Jones and sistren) and sweeping English sagas (e.g. Rosamunde Pilcher novels). English major in my former life. I love sweet peas, David Austin English roses, old houses, antique silver, china and glassware, the Cotswolds, chocolate, scones with jam & clotted cream, and Jane Austen novels. When I grow up (or in my next life) I would like to own a tea room and antiques shop, but for now I just visit as many as I can.