Tuesday, July 31, 2012

I said I wouldn't, but I did

3.1 miles, 30:15 minutes.

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July - And so it goes

Let me join in the chorus...whatever happened to July? Just a minute ago it was the
4th of July, and now we're staring down the barrel of August.

July can also be known as "the month where good turned into meh." I do feel like I've been writing the same thing in my (slightly less than) weekly posts... June went so well, and then July happened.

June was the month where I started my ultra training and it all seemed to click.  Adding an extra day of running? No problem. Long runs on consecutive days (Saturday and Sunday)? Easy peasy. Throwing in a couple of hilly trail run/races? Slow and steady, but successful. In addition to the slow trail runs and moderate weekday and long runs, I had some good tempo runs and track work, three half marathons under, at, and just over two hours, and a sub-25 minute 5K.

I guess it all had to end somewhere. (Well, it didn't have to end, but it sort of did.)

After a pretty good 10K on July 4 (52 minutes, I was happy enough with that), my legs (and other parts of my body) apparently decided they were done. On July 5 I went out for an "easy" run and my piriformis started screaming. It didn't shut up for probably two full miles, after which it quieted to a sort of whimper for another four miles. Whether it was the discomfort of running or something else, I could barely run under an 11 minute mile. I think I managed to get my average pace under 11 by the end of 6.2 miles, but just barely.

A couple days later, on Saturday, I did a 20-mile trail run at Lord Hill. There were hills. I survived, but it wasn't pretty. Here I am coming through the parking lot at the end of my first 10-mile loop. It's not the most flattering picture.

I followed up with an 11-mile road run on Sunday. Eleven miles at eleven minute pace...good thing I knocked it down from the thirteen miles I originally considered.

I dragged myself back to a 10:30ish pace during the week that followed...and a sort of taper for the Light at the End of the Tunnel Marathon on Sunday, July 15. Maybe it was a good thing that I was feeling less than par because it did force me to back off a little during the week. I think I did my usual three weekday runs but I took Saturday off entirely (except for a short bike ride in town) before the marathon.

And then, the Light at the End of the Tunnel Marathon. The entire marathon is a gentle downhill grade from near the top of Snoqualmie Pass to North Bend. It is known for fast finishes and lots of Boston qualifiers. I would expect it to be right up (or down) my alley. I haven't ruled out running it again (maybe even next year) and actually trying to get a good time.

At beginning, before the tunnel. I am in the hot pink jacket and black shorts. After the tunnel I left my jacket in a drop bag with my head lamp and flashlight.

That said...I thought I could finish around 4:30 with an easy effort. That would be just under 10:30 pace (10:30 would give about 4:35). In the first half I actually was running around 10:30 pace. The first three miles (2.5 of which are in a railway tunnel) averaged just about exactly 10:30. Then I had a few around 10:15, 10:20, but mostly around 10:30. I took a bathroom stop in about mile 10, which was a 12-minute mile (consisted with my 1:30 minute typical marathon bathroom stops). But in the second half, without even really feeling like I was slowing, my pace dropped to 11-minute+, up until the last mile or so.

The mountain scenery along the way was very pretty, and I would have taken some pictures if that wouldn't have made me even slower. I could have sworn that the trail flattened about halfway through, but my Garmin shows even descent. So that excuse is bunk.

In the last couple miles I did make a stronger effort to pick up the pace. I would have finished a little stronger than I did, except that I saw my dad alongside the trail at the finish and grabbed him to cross the finish line with me.

My dad finishing his first marathon!
 His legs were stiff from standing so long waiting so we shuffled across the finish line. I figure that probably added a minute to my time...but we still crossed under 4:50. (My official time was 4:49:24...the chips failed at the start so I might have been a few seconds faster in reality.)

Despite my unimpressive finish time, I thought this was a good marathon to run and at least I didn't knock myself out too much. I took two days off running afterwards (Monday and Tuesday) and was back out on Wednesday with few repercussions. I didn't even have trashed quads from the downhills!

The following Saturday I ran a 5-mile race in Snohomish. Last year I PRed at this with a sub-40 time...not so much this year. I don't remember my exact time, but it was about 44 minutes. They did change the course this year, and it was a little longer than last year, and had two wicked hills, so there's that! On Sunday I ran 13.1 miles easy (10:30 pace).

The only notable thing about my three weekday runs is that each one was 7.25 miles long. Not by intent, that's just how much time I had to run on those days.

Finally, this last weekend in July I had an Olympic weekend, staying at my parents' and watching the opening ceremonies Friday night (Rowan Atkinson's bit was my favorite!) and then driving up to Anacortes for my sixth running of the Art Dash Half Marathon. It went...okay...but a little slowly (2:05). (I did do two miles of warm-up before hand, so that made a 15 mile day.) On Sunday I ran eight miles on the rocky beach at my parents' house. It is like a very flat trail run, lots of obstacles, tripping hazards (I fell down twice) and very, very slow. Afterwards my mom made pancakes and bacon, then I borrowed my dad's bike and took a 6-mile bike ride to Starbucks! My mother picked me up afterwards and we went shopping.

My 7.1 mile run this morning put me at 198.62 miles for July (give or take a few hundredths). Yes, I know, only 1.4 miles more to make 200! (I was over 200 in June.) But there is no way I am going to put on running clothes and go out after work for a short run. I forced myself to get out of bed this morning and run so that I wouldn't have to consider running after work. Of course that mileage does not include a half mile walk home from Starbucks after at least a couple runs every week, or two long walks I took, totalling 7.1 miles between them. I'm not counting that walking mileage in my run totals. But it happened.

And so ends July. Welcome August, the month of my birthday, and the final peak month of training before McKenzie River 50K!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Friday quickie

Since it's already been a week since my last post, I feel like I need a quick update before another weekend rolls by.  This will be random.

  • I still would like to write a race recap of the Vancouver Scotiabank Half Marathon. This race happened on June 24...almost a month ago now.
  • I ran a 10K on the 4th of July in just over 52 minutes. This was neither a great nor horrible time. I'm pretty okay with it given my slowness these days (due to long distance and trail training).
  • However, after the 4th my pain in the butt problem really flared up. I had a terrible run on Thursday the 5th...actually I think I already wrote about that.
  • I did a 20-mile trail run at Lord Hill in Snohomish on July 7. It was hard. It probably deserves a recap...we shall see.
  • Then on Sunday I ran 11 miles on the road. That added up to 50K over the weekend (the same as the prior weekend). This too was hard. The road stuff was easy but my legs were like lead.
  • I think the long trail run really slowed me down. I was having a hard time getting even moderate speed over the week and I really felt off all week.
  • Then I ran a marathon on Sunday, the Light at the End of the Tunnel marathon. I am hoping there will be at least one race pic that I can use in a recap post. My running awkwardness continued (though not the butt pain--I could feel it but not badly). This race was a BQ or PR for many, but for me it was a second-to-personal-worst time. However, I'm okay with that. Really.
  • I took Monday and Tuesday off running for a mini-recovery. I am happy to say that by Wednesday and Thursday my legs had some of their mojo back! I wasn't inexplicably slow (though neither was I fast), and most importantly, running felt comfortable again rather than awkward.
  • Tomorrow I am doing a 5-mile race just to see if I can fire up a little speed. However, my registration receipt says that I signed up for the 1-mile race, so they had better agree to switch me in the morning! No way am I doing a 1-miler (not fast enough for that). Plus I spent $30 on registration, that would be a very expensive mile!
Have a great weekend!

Friday, July 13, 2012

When lazy meets overly-ambitious....

It can be a bit of a mess. Unfortunately, this is the story of my life! (At least regarding running, and I fear it may apply in other areas as well.) For example, take this morning....

Alarm goes off at 5:15 a.m. I want to do at least 8 miles today! (Overly ambitious. Spoiler alert--8 miles doesn't happen.)

Hit the snooze button a few times till 6 a.m. (Lazy. But I intentionally set the alarm earlier than necessary to accommodate some snoozing.)

Turn on the light at 6 a.m. Read a little. Get a piece of toast with almond butter. I should get up by 6:15 or 6:20 to get outside by 6:30. (Overly ambitious? Actually quite reasonable, if it wasn't thwarted by LAZY.)

6:25 - oh, it's getting late. I'll get up at 6:30. (Lazy.)

6:35 - how'd that happen? (Lazy!)

6:45 - leap out of bed! I can still get most of my miles in! (Lazy plus overly ambitious.)

6:55...or 7:00... out the door, start Garmin.

I need to be at work by 9 a.m. So what would be a realistic distance to run, considering I have some stoplights on the way and always have a bathroom stop? Five miles makes sense, right? NO. Because I am OVERLY AMBITIOUS. Six miles is doable, even though I won't be done at 8 a.m....

I can tell you right now, when I plan to do six miles I won't stop until I hit 6.2 or 6.25. And if there's any way to round up to 6.5 or seven miles, I will do it. (Overly ambitious.)

This would all be a lot easier if weren't in the middle of a slump in which my legs refuse to obey my mind and don't really want to run much faster than 11 minute pace. Well, in the last couple days I have managed to average around 10:30 but that is with some effort. My sluggishness is a topic for another post (and I am not attributing it to laziness), but suffice to say that 6-7 miles takes longer to complete at a 10:30+ pace than it does at sub-10 pace. Three or four minutes may not seem like much but it is significant in the tight schedule I have created for myself in the mornings. You would think that the time crunch stress would make me run faster but it's not happening right now.

So how many miles did I complete on this lazy but overly ambitious morning? 7.3.  Never mind that I didn't get to Starbucks until almost 8:30 a.m. Never mind that thunder and lightning started rumbling at about 8:25, and halfway home (walking with coffee) the sky opened up and dumped giant raindrops on me. Never mind that by the time I was in my house I had fifteen minutes until I should have been at work! I got my 7+ miles in. (Never mind that it was significantly less than the 8-10 miles I overly ambitiously had in mind last night.)

How do you get ready and get to work in 15 minutes? Well, you don't. I was embarrassingly late (about 9:15). Still, I got ready in less than 20 minutes. I threw myself in the shower for a one-minute rinse. I didn't wash my hair (it was damp from sweat and even damper from the rain). I blew my hair dry, threw on my clothes, brushed my teeth, grabbed my breakfast and coffee (brought from Starbucks) and drove to work. Luckily it's less than two miles from my house, and I didn't run down any pedestrians on the way.

I have the will to run, I just don't have the will to get myself out of bed early enough. Maybe next week....

Monday, July 9, 2012

Roller coaster

I was hoping to get a picture or two for the Scotiabank Vancouver Half Marathon before writing a race recap, but the link they sent me of "my" picture(s) was someone else. I've actually scanned through all the thumbnails without spotting myself, so I'm kind of giving up on the picture idea. Hopefully I'll get something written in a day or two.

Today I am writing a little bit about the emotional and physical roller coaster of long distance running and training.  I think any kind running can be a bit of a roller coaster--sometimes you love it, sometimes you hate it--but long distances give you so much more opportunity to feel good and bad about yourself! Or just feel good and bad, period.

The month of June was definitely a bit of a high in my training cycle. I went into June with a pretty hardcore training plan. Instead of "just" training for a fall marathon, I am also training for a trail 50K in September. Therefore I began increasing the volume and frequency of my running, from 40-ish miles a week to 50-ish, and five days a week instead of four, including more consecutive days than I usually would.

I also added some trail running where I could. I'm too nervous to run alone on real trails (where I could get lost or worse), so I've signed up for a number of trail "races" in which running, not racing, is my objective. However, since I don't want to get too slow (and I am sloooow on trails), I have continued to do speed work and road races.

It's all gone pretty smoothly so far.  In May and June I've done four regular half marathons, all around two hours, give or take a few minutes. I've also done two decent 10Ks (52-minute range) and a sub-25 minute 5K (all of these are pretty good times, though not PR's, for me). I've done acceptable track speed work and a few tempo runs. From Memorial Day weekend on I've done two 16-mile long runs (one of which included a half marathon), a 19-mile, and an 18-mile.

In the trail arena I've done two trail half marathons (one of which was the day after my 18-miler), a 5-mile trail run which I sort of actually raced, and a 20-mile trail run this last weekend.

But what goes up, must come down. In the past few weeks I've had a bit of piriformis issues. Mostly feeling a mild discomfort when I am running, which wears off after a few miles. Not a big problem, it's never slowed me down, until now.

After my pretty good 10K on the Fourth of July I went out for a run on the 5th and it was a pain in the butt. Literally. It took about two miles before I could run without feeling like I was lurching. Even worse, it took me all 6.2 miles before I could get my average pace under 11-minutes per mile. This was the first time in a long time when I have done 6.2 miles and not tried to squeeze in a little extra mileage. I just stopped.

I took Friday as a rest day entirely so I could be fresh and not sore for the 20-miler on Saturday. That went as well as could be expected for 20 miles on hilly trails. The good thing (and bad thing) about trail running is that it is totally legit to run slowly and walk. I could feel the piriformis but the only time it was really a problem was at mile 16.5 when I tripped and aggravated it. It was much sorer for the next few miles but backed off by the end.

Then there was Sunday. I had originally planned to run 13 miles but decided to cut it back to 11. This was back on the roads so I should have been back to a moderate pace, right? Not so much. This time I could not even average under 11-minute miles (my overall average was 11:15). This wasn't so much due to any pain (nothing worse than discomfort, really), but just that I had trail legs. Sluggish and leaden.

This has left me shaken enough that I didn't run today (if yesterday was bad, why would today be better?) and I'm nervous about the rest of the week (not to mention the marathon next Sunday). My two fears are 1) an injury/condition that doesn't go away, or gets worse, and 2) that my legs won't lighten up again and a sub-10 (or sub-10:30) pace is long gone. I don't think either fear is exaggerated.

My plan right now is to try an easy run tomorrow. It would help so much if I could do it at a 10-minute pace or faster! Just to show myself I can. If tomorrow is not good (or okay), then I will evaluate my schedule for the rest of the week leading up to Sunday. The marathon is only a long-distance training run for me, not a goal marathon, but I would like to do okay. Just okay is all I ask.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Day 1 - Seattle Rock 'n' Roll Half

The first part of my weekend double was the Seattle Rock 'n' Roll Half Marathon. I signed up for this race a long time ago, before they announced the course was changing. I ran the old course twice and I liked it just fine. The new course is fine too but I wouldn't really call it an improvement. I assume I had some kind of discount rate when I registered...I know that I didn't sign up for the best deal race expo rate, but I'm sure there was some kind of coupon involved.

When I originally planned to run Seattle I intended to be running a marathon in Norway at the end of June (this weekend!). That didn't happen due to difficulty with travel arrangements. Still, I didn't want to take off any work for this race, so I planned to drive to Seattle Friday after work. Technically there's no reason to spend the night in Seattle, but both R 'n' R and the Seattle Marathon seem to have huge traffic issues, so I now prefer to stay near the starting area the night before.

My mother and I took a pre-race trip to Seattle Thursday night so I could go to the Expo. I didn't want to leave it till the last minute Friday. Traffic sucked Thursday night. (Traffic also sucked Friday night.)

The expo was big and fun. Despite my current non-shopping vow, I bought a couple of shirts and a hat in the Brooks section...I think that was all I bought. (Oh wait, there's more....)

I wandered through the rest of the expo for the sole purpose of looking for free food samples. Preferably the kind you can take with you...though I did eat a few things as I was hungry and dinner was a couple hours away (at home). I got a few Think Thin mini bars, which look good but don't have their calories labeled (I think that Think Thin is a misnomer). I also got a bunch of sample size Now Energy Bars, which I really like...80 calories for the minis and they are good. I've eaten a few already...wonder where I could get more in that size? I got two Larabar minis--they had a strict limit.

As for the rest of my purchases...I happened by the Run Pretty Far booth and was tempted by their brightly colored fun shirts. I already got a couple up at Whidbey. This time they lured me in with a new "Trail Run" shirt (a variation on "Just Run" which I have) and a sleeveless red, white and blue top that says Firecracker. Obviously I will be wearing it for my Fourth of July 10K!

Then I saw Dave's Killer Bread...oh yum. I had a few bites of what was left (it was almost 7:00 and they were getting ready to shut down). They didn't have any samples left of their cinnamon bread I had tasted at Portland...but they did have loaves for sale. It's called Sin Dawg and it's a dense, fruity bread with a thick cinnamon twist. Like a super healthy cinnamon roll (I'd like to think it's super healthy). Turns out if you bought any three loaves you would get a free bag of bagels! So I got two Sin Dawgs, a Peace Bomb baguette (super seedy whole grain bread, I had slices with almond butter for my pre-race breakfasts), and the free bagels. (I gave most of the stuff to my parents and sister. I kept the Peace Bomb and got part of the Sin Dawg back after the weekend).

Okay, that was a lot about the expo. Hopefully the actual race report will be concise. Probably, since I can never remember race details.

The traffic on the drive home sucked.

I did pack for the weekend on Thursday night so we could leave without delay on Friday. I packed a separate outfit (including shoes) for Saturday and Sunday. Plus extra shirts, hats, pants, socks, etc...more than I would need of everything. Just in case.

On Friday we left Everett around 5. (Traffic, as previously mentioned, sucked.) We were staying at the Mayflower Park Hotel, which is right next to Westlake Center and across from Macy's (which was irrelevant for this trip). We had a little trouble spotting the valet parking, but soon enough we were unloaded and headed up to our room.

My mother and I loved the Mayflower Park. We were so sad that we would be leaving in less than 18 hours! It is a very classic old-fashioned hotel and our room was lovely (and spacious!). To maximize our hotel time (and frankly, because we were too lazy to go out or even down to the hotel restaurant), we ordered room service dinner.

Have you ever noticed that sandwiches and the like are a much better buy on a room service menu than entrees? I was tempted by the turkey club, but I really wanted a burger. So we both got hamburgers with added bacon (they forgot the bacon originally so the waiter ran up a plate--6 delicious pieces and they didn't even charge us--score!). My mom got hers with fries, which we shared, and I had mine with salad. It was all delicious and perfectly fine pre-race food.

Before writing this tonight, I read a ton of other blogs' posts about Seattle R 'n' R, and I was so impressed by their detail. If you want to read some good Seattle posts, go here and check out the list at the end. It includes a number of new-to-me blogs, which I am going to add to my reader!

After you've read those good posts, come back here and finish mine.

Anyhow, even though I was staying near the start, I was up before 5 a.m. to eat breakfast two hours before the race. I had a few slices of Peace Bomb (they're small) with maple almond butter, and coffee from the in room coffee maker. The coffee was good; I wish I had made a note of the brand. (I guess I could contact the hotel to inquire.)

The hotel was less than a mile from the start. Actually, I think it was less than 3/4 of a mile. As I said, it is also right next to Westlake Center, which is where the Monorail stop is. They made a big deal about riding the Monorail to the race, but I don't quite understand the point for such a short distance. Even for the Seattle Marathon I walked from the Westin (same distance), though I did take the bus back in that case.

I wanted to use the trip to the start for my warm-up, so I jogged slowly, weaving around the other walkers (not everyone was taking the Monorail). As soon as I got to the starting area I hopped in a port a potty line. It actually wasn't too long and I moved through quickly. After that I ran around the nearby streets to finish up my mile (actually .9). Another slightly longer wait in the potty line, and then I headed to Corral 6, which was conveniently nearby. My corral started about 7:05. I don't think I could bear being in a corral that started at 7:30 or 8, though I guess you would adjust your arrival time.

Then I ran and finished in 2:00:23. The end.

What? I said I don't remember details. Here's a summary of what I do recall.

The first few miles were through downtown Seattle, although on Second Avenue rather than Fifth like the Seattle Marathon. (I'm not going to compare it to Seattle mile by mile...because I can't remember that well. Bottom line, it is similar to the Seattle Marathon but not the same.) Apparently the first mile was somewhat uphill. I didn't really notice but my time (9:21) and Garmin map indicate this was the case. Then we cruised downhill to mile 5, except for an uphill from about 2-2.5.

I was trying to run at a reasonable half marathon pace without exerting too hard. My splits for the first five miles: 9:21, 8:43, 9:00, 8:53, 8:56.

At Dearborn Street we headed east. Somewhere in there we came to mile 6 and the most evil hill on the course (well, maybe second most evil). It was short but oh so steep. I can't believe it is just a tiny blip on my elevation map. The worst was not the up, though, but the down on the other side...so steep that I couldn't fly down like I usually would. Instead I just sort of staggered down.

Then, though, we cruised through a couple miles of flatness on Rainier Avenue South. Running on Rainier Avenue reminded me of the old days after law school when my friend Jenifer lived in the Genesee Park area and I used to drive down Rainier all the time visiting her.

From Rainier we cut over to Lake Washington Boulevard and ran along the lake for a ways. This part of the course ran parallel to the marathon course, though none of the marathon runners were that far along. I saw a marker for marathon mile 13 and said to a woman running by me, "This is where we thank God we aren't running the full!"

Then we headed into the I-90 tunnel in mile 8. I know it was mile 8 because everyone's blog says so. I believe it because that was my slowest mile. It's possible that the loss of satellite in the tunnel may have messed up my time, but I also think that the short hill into the tunnel plus the sheer ugliness of the tunnel may have taken away my will to live run.* That mile was 10:11, but the ones after seemed normal, so there doesn't appear to be Garmin adjustment going on.

Once out of the tunnel, I pushed myself a bit to put on a strong effort back into downtown and towards the Alaskan Way viaduct. Miles 6-10: 9:26, 9:07, 10:11, 8:53, 8:52.

I always think I am going to put on a big push in the last 5K but usually I don't manage in mile 11; maybe 12...or 13. Thanks to some uphills, I kept it slow in 11 (9:21), though managed to pick it up in 12 (9:06). Then in mile 13, the course gifted us with a sweet downhill cruise (and another tunnel in the freeway express lane, but it was short). I dug out my end of race kick and did mile 13 in 8:20!

I should mention that after mile 10 I figured that if I did the last 5K just under 9-minute pace, I could finish under two hours. Obviously miles 11 and 12 were not, but I theoretically made it up in mile 13. I should have cruised in just sub-2. But. Two things happened. One was the typical race distance overage. This one ended up 13.24 for me. Should have been okay, given how fast I was going. But. Again but. There was a final evil hill. About a quarter mile long. That, despite my efforts to power up, dropped me to a 9:08 pace, which was not fast enough to bring me across the finish line under two hours.

My Garmin said 2:00:28. When I called my mother, she said the text message updates gave my finish time as 2:00:23. Bummer.

Not too big a bummer though. I was surprisingly okay with it. Bemused, maybe.

Now I needed to hustle back to the hotel so we could head to Vancouver. The finish line was sort of on the opposite side of Seattle Center, and therefore a bit further distance back to the hotel. Plus I sort of wandered around making my way out of the crowd. (On the good side, I didn't have to cross through the race course to get out of there.) And my legs were a little tired from my finishing kick.

But I stumbled my way back to the hotel and even managed to stop at Starbucks for coffee and tea and two spinach, feta and egg wraps. I had hoped to check out by 11:00 but we ended up leaving around 11:30.

Next stop, Vancouver B.C. **

*Yes, I am doing a run called the Tunnel Marathon in three weeks (two weeks by the time this gets posted). Never mind that.
**Okay, technically next stop my house to feed my cat and drop off my sweaty laundry. Then Subway to pick up lunch for the road trip. Then my parents' house to pick up my dad. Then Vancouver BC.

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