Tuesday, December 31, 2013

And so ends 2013...

Also known as the year I became a slacker blogger! Okay, don't mean to start on a negative note. Maybe my one resolution for 2014 will be to write more!

I can't remember if I made any 2013 resolutions. Basically I just wanted to live my life well, run, be healthy, nothing super exciting. I hope I didn't plan to run faster. Well, I probably did, because I ended 2012 pretty slow. I was both faster and slower in 2013. All of my 2013 marathons were faster than my slowest 2012 marathons, but my fastest 2013 marathon (NODM - 4:28) was slower than my fastest 2012 marathon (Eugene - 4:21). And I'm pretty sure that my average half marathon time was slower this year. Only one under two hours (Heroes' Half), a couple 2:00 (Whidbey, Portland Rock & Roll) and one 2:02 (Mercer Island).

I did set a goal of running 13 half marathons in 2013. I thought that was such a clever idea--turned out it was a thing. Everyone was doing it. In the end I ran 15. So two don't count (I'm counting them as long runs because in each I ran extra miles before and after to make 20-21 miles).

Here are the half marathons of 2013 (the ones that "don't count" are in parentheses):

January 20, 2013 - Maui Oceanfront Half Marathon - 2:09:50
February 27, 2013 - Birch Bay Half Marathon - 2:08:19
March 24, 2013 - Mercer Island Half Marathon - 2:02:12
(March 30, 2013 - Cupcake Run - 2:06:32)
April 14, 2013 - Whidbey Island Half Marathon - 2:00:31
April 28, 2013 - Heroes' Half Marathon - 1:58:37
(May 12, 2013 - Kirkland Half Marathon - 2:06:56)
May 19, 2013 - Portland Rock &Roll Half Marathon - 2:00:10
June 22, 2013 - Seattle Rock & Roll Half Marathon - 2:09:49
July 27, 2013 - Anacortes Art Dash Half Marathon - 2:04:34
August 10, 2013 - Georgetown to Idaho Springs Half Marathon - 2:21:41
September 29, 2013 - Bellingham Bay Half Marathon - 2:10:14
October 13, 2013 - Biggest Loser Half Marathon Seattle - 2:07:59
October 27, 2013 - Snohomish River Run Half Marathon - 2:12:50
December 1, 2013 - Seattle Half Marathon - 2:13:44

I ran four marathons in 2013.

June 2, 2013 - North Olympic Discovery Marathon - 4:28:19
September 1, 2013 - Kauai Marathon (Hawaii) - 5:09:23
October 20, 2013 - Mount Desert Island Marathon (Maine) - 4:53:38
December 8, 2013 - Tucson Marathon (Arizona) - 4:44:05

I did a bunch of 5Ks and 10Ks, one 5-mile, one 12K, two 15Ks, and one 30K. None of them were PRs. I didn't expect them to be. It's all good. (That really should be one of the phrases of 2013 that is retired in 2014!)

My total mileage for the year is something over 1,850 miles. I'm not sure of the exact number because I lost track of a couple runs with my non-functional Garmin. But that's about right.
One of the reasons I have many unfinished posts is that I want to add pictures and it is such a pain (to get them onto the computer, not to upload them into the blog post). I had several pictures to put in here but...it's too much of a pain. So here is one picture to end the year, the finish of the Kauai Marathon. (It may have been slow, but it was sort of awesome!)
I have some plans for 2014...but that will be for another post.

Happy New Year everyone!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Tucson Marathon - Last Marathon of 2013

On Sunday I ran the Tucson Marathon.* Since I finished before noon, I can legitimately say it was morning. The marathon started at 7 a.m. But I was up at 4 a.m. and got on the bus from the hotel to the start before 5. The drive up took about 45 minutes. Luckily we were allowed to stay on the buses as long as we wanted, which was good because it was cold out! Not bitterly cold like at home, or in other parts of the country where marathons were cancelled due to snow and ice, but it certainly felt cold. I heard later that it was around 40 degrees up at the start, but there was a cold wind that certainly brought the "feels like" temperature much lower.

Which leads me to my primary topics--"What Went Well" and "What Could Have Been Better"!

What Went Well

I dressed appropriately for conditions. This was not as easy to accomplish as you would think. Even when I left home I was unsure how the weather would turn out. At one time they were projecting freezing at starting time and upper 50s by the end. As it turned out, it was probably in the lower 40s throughout. I went with capris, a sleeveless NuuMuu dress (with sunblock on my arms in case I got down to that layer), a light half zip over that (which I bought at the Expo, even though I had one with), a zip-up hoody which was supposed to be a throwaway layer, a running cap, gloves, and a warmer fleece jacket which I left in my drop bag. I started with the hood over my hat (the wind was cold) but was fine when the hood blew off after a couple miles. I took my gloves off for an early bathroom stop and carried them the rest of the way. My throwaway stayed on--comfortably--for 23 miles! At that point I took it off and tied it around my waist to save for future use. I pinned my bib on my fuel belt to accommodate changes of layers. My bare arms were never exposed.

My easy pace was good in the early miles. The beginning miles had downhills which I know helped my speed, but it also had some rollers. I was feeling strong then, though, and it didn't hold me back. I don't feel like I went out too fast. Miles 1-10 were all where I wanted them to be, except for mile 4 with a bathroom break, and one might say mile 6 was too fast but it felt okay, and I was catching the 4:30 pacer (a somewhat temporary endeavor). See--9:53, 10:04, 9:51, 12:23, 9:49, 9:12, 9:46, 10:02, 10:14, 10:18 (BTW, 10:18 is the pace for a 4:30 marathon.

Miles 11-17 were acceptable, given some hilly sections of the course and my "banked time" from the early miles. (Although I suppose you could say I had already used up the banked time with the bathroom stop.) Miles 11, 12, and 13 were out and back on Biosphere Road. Out was largely uphill. This was where the 4:30 pacer passed me, on the out. Although he was ahead of pace because I passed 13.1 at under 2:15, yet never caught up (while running, anyway). 10:44, 10:45, 10:24, 10:33, 10:29, 13:20 (another bathroom stop, ugh), 10:33. By the way, I saw the 4:30 pacer for the final time at that 15-mile bathroom stop--he was coming out of the porta potty I went into. Obviously he was off pace at that point. But I assume he is a naturally fast runner and would make up the time and catch up with his group, who were presumably staying dutifully on pace in his absence.

You could say miles 18-19 weren't bad, compared to what happened after that. 10:48 and 10:49. These miles had my first walk breaks, and I still stayed under 11 minutes. At that point.

I used walk breaks pretty well, and didn't get sucked into long walking spells. Which can totally happen. As in Honolulu. (Although in Honolulu at least I only had one, quick, bathroom stop.) Starting in Mile 18, through 24, I allowed myself one 30 or 60 second walk after the mile marker. Obviously I should have stuck with 30, but I succumbed to a little weakness. I also walked briefly in 2-3 aid stations while getting water. Once I combined this with my other walk, but there were a couple supplemental. The walking did slow me down. I honestly don't know what my splits would have been if I'd plugged through without walking. Miles 20-24 - 11:17, 11:09, 11:32, 12:19, 11:19. Miles 23-26.2 was a deviated course due to road work, and there were some evil hills as well as some hills that would have been easy if it wasn't the end of the marathon! I stopped walking after my break at the beginning of 24 but honestly you can't see the difference. Mile 25 was 11:20 and mile 26 was 10:47 (a bit of attempt to finish strong). I did finish strong in the final .42 mile at a 10:14 pace (back to goal pace, haha).

I used a podcast to get through the deadly middle miles from 15-ish to almost 22. I wasn't going to do this because I do think that I run slightly slower with audio than music, but the distraction value was worth the potential few seconds different. Plus, it made music seem fresh and uplifting when I went back to it at mile 22. I listened to The Marathon Show's latest episode, an interview with Gary Allen and Reno Stirrat, both of whom have run many sub-3 marathons. NOT like me. Gary Allen is also the founder of MDI Marathon.

I fueled...okay. I had a Gu around mile 8-9 and another around 13-14. In the upper miles I started to feel nauseous and didn't want Gu. I did have some Gatorade (just a few sips though). Somewhere after mile 20 I dug out another Gu and ate about half over a couple miles. Then I threw it away. I never felt like I hit the wall but obviously I did slow down.

What Could Have Been Better

Bathroom management. Obviously. I don't want to go into TMI details about what didn't happen before the start and what did in the lengthy stops, but although it was necessary at the time it clearly added several minutes to my time. I only went to the porta potty once before the start--I like to go three times. It was just too cold to spend an hour standing in lines. I stayed on the bus as much as I could. In an almost ideal marathon I would have one bathroom stop of about 90 seconds. I calculate these two totaled about five minutes.

Not fading after mile 18 (or 17). Although I slowed after mile 10, things didn't really get semi-ugly until near mile 20. Not unheard of. But I need to work on that. Especially if I plan to have a goal pace next year that's faster than 10:18, or 10:00, or 9:45....

Not walking. Although the walking was not a bad thing, I've run many marathons without walking at all. Why I have I succumbed to the walk?

Fueling better. An ongoing problem for me. Although, I will say that in my faster marathons I don't think I fueled any more than this one. I may have made it through three Gu's once or twice...maybe. Never the four I plan for.

Running through discomfort. Not bathroom discomfort, although there is a line there too between when to hold it and when not to. What I am really talking about is making myself hold on when running feels hard. It's great that mikes 1-10 felt easy at goal pace. Goal pace should feel at least sort of easy for as long as possible. But at some point, it's not going to. Somehow, I've got to get better at sucking it up.

What I'm Not Saying Is the Answer

Just running faster. Obviously that would be nice, but I trained for a 4:30 marathon at 10:18 pace (that would be the pace without bathroom stops), and the important thing is maintaining the range of that pace, not trying to run faster. When it's time to run faster I need to train for that.

In the end, I think it went well (enough).

My fastest marathon this year was NODM at 4:28, and my other two were much slower. Kauai was 5:09 and MDI was 4:53. This one? 4:44:05. This was supposed to be an easier course (and overall it was), with a lot of downhill (and it did have, although much was very gradual), but it was NOT easy and with the changes in the last three miles it was quite challenging. So I'm okay with finishing my last marathon of 2013 as my second fastest of the year.

P.S. I've tried to find some significance in the numbers--4:44-- but I can't. OH WAIT! (Honestly this just occurred to me.) This was my 4th marathon of the year, on the 4th anniversary of my first marathon, and I'm in my 49th year, which if you add the number together numerology style to get a single digit, it is 4. Yes, I had to stretch on that one. The first two came easily. So clearly, I was destined to run 4:44 today.

*Yes, I know I haven't blogged since October 8 (two months!). So many unfinished blog posts. Maybe someday I'll finish writing about Kauai, Mount Desert Island, Honolulu 2012....

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

My thoughts on marathon taper

I've just started a two week taper in anticipation of Mount Desert Marathon, coming up on October 20 in Bar Harbor, Maine. I often read about runners who don't like taper, who find it frustrating and difficult to get through.

That's not me. I embrace the taper! Maybe I'm just lazy and welcome an opportunity to cut back on running. But I don't think that's it. (I am lazy, but in other ways!) I actually do get restless on non-running days, or during the real rest period after the marathon is over. But tapering doesn't bother me.

It's not like you give up running during a taper. Just laying around for two or three weeks would truly be a problem and impact your fitness. Taper includes plenty of running, just in gradually decreasing amounts as the marathon date occurs.

Generally speaking, a taper is two or three weeks long. I actually prefer a three-week taper, even though I'm only doing two weeks this time, and did two weeks before Kauai. This is because my training period between Kauai and MDI was less than two months, so I didn't want to spend a great portion of it in taper. I had three months between NODM and Kauai, but somehow the two-week taper worked better for scheduling then too.

This is what a good three week taper looks like to me. (On non-running days, I generally continue to cross-train on the elliptical.)

Three weeks before the marathon - final long run of 20-22 miles. The week after that long run my weekday runs don't change, typically 6-8 miles three times during the week. If I am doing speed work and tempo runs in the training cycle, I would continue with them as well.

Two weeks before the marathon - long run is 13-16 miles. This is a great time to do a half marathon with a two-mile warm-up. You can either run at faster than marathon pace (there's still plenty of time to recover from a strong half marathon effort, as long as it isn't super hard) or practice running at marathon pace. Again the weekday runs would stay at 6-8 miles, though perhaps trend toward the lower end. I think it's fine to do a little speed work or a tempo run as well. I have been known to do a 5K on a Saturday one week before the marathon, if I am not doing a half that weekend.

One week before the marathon - long run is 8-13 miles. I would likely do 10-12 unless I am running a half marathon. I like to do a half marathon at marathon pace (if I didn't do one the prior weekend).

The final week before the marathon - in this last week it is time to reduce both duration and intensity of runs. I might do six miles on Monday, five on Wednesday, and four on Thursday. (Or, given my propensity to overdo, six, six, five.) If I want to do a little speed work I might do a few 400s on Wednesday (but only if I've been doing speedwork regularly). It is really important not to do anything that might cause lingering soreness or injury at this point. So no hill repeats or barreling down hills too fast. It's not a bad idea to do all your easy runs this week at marathon pace.

I like to take two days off running before a big race. That would mean cross-training (sort of easily) on Friday and real rest on Saturday. I am not one who likes to do a shake-out run the day before the marathon. (However, that might change a little this time around.) On occasion (like in Kauai), I did do my last short run just two days before, and then just have the one rest day. That was more of a travel and scheduling fluke than any plan on my part.

This time around I am doing a two-week taper, but my longest run (20 miles) was actually four weeks before the marathon. On Sunday I did my final long-ish run of 18 miles. The rest of my planned taper schedule looks like this....
  • Monday (yesterday) 6.5 miles at marathon pace (average 10:15, miles 3-6.5 were around 10-minute pace).
  • Tuesday - 53 minutes elliptical (I was short on time) and going to hot yoga tonight.
  • Wednesday - I'll do 6-7 miles at a moderate effort, hopefully averaging 10-10:30 pace. I'm also going to test wear my marathon outfit! That will give me time to wash it and pack before leaving for Maine.
  • Thursday - Planning an hour on the elliptical.
  • Friday - 6-7 miles at moderate effort.
  • Saturday - Yoga (not hot) and some time on the elliptical.
  • Sunday - Biggest Loser Half Marathon at marathon pace effort. What does that mean? Don't try too hard! Historically, I almost always try at least moderately hard in a half marathon (results may vary). I really want to work at a pace that I can sustain for further than 13 miles. Slow as that may be.

Next week I'll do about six miles on Monday, fly to Maine on Tuesday, five or six on Wednesday, and then a few (no more than five) on Thursday. Rest on Friday! The switch-up is that I'm doing a two-mile fun run on Saturday morning, en route to a pre-marathon breakfast. This will be my first stab at a shake-out run! Not something I plan to continue, it just worked out that way. Still plenty of time for rest after that. Hopefully with blueberry pancakes in my tummy.

My 18-mile run on Sunday went really well. I was determined to do 18 miles instead of another 20, because I feel like I recover really well from 18-milers and I didn't want to drag myself down so close to marathon date. After two slower warm-up miles I was running around 10-minute pace through mile 10. Then I slowed to 10:30ish for four miles, and finally finished the last four miles back at 10-minute pace. (Average overall 10:20.) At mile 17 my sister drove by on the way to my parents', so I told her to drive ahead a mile and wait for me. I had over-run the distance at the beginning and it was still an extra mile to my parents' house...and I didn't want to run that last unplanned mile.

Then we went to my parents' and ate lots of good brunch food. The end.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Things I've learned about running over the years

I have a few unfinished posts waiting for me, but I keep getting bogged down in finishing them. So I thought I'd do a little free writing instead. I was sitting here reading a blog where the writer said she wasn't worried any more about trying to run PRs and get faster all the time.

Of course it made me think about how I don't foresee any PRs in my near (or perhaps distant) future, either. I think it's one of the myths people like to believe about running...that if you train regularly and try pretty hard you can keep improving and getting PRs. That's not necessarily true. You can run regularly, and do speed work, and not get laid up with an injury, and really try to run fast in races, and still just keep getting slower. Or get a little faster but not as fast as you once were. It's a roller coaster, really.

Some of the other things I've learned (that were a little surprising to me at the time)....

  • You really have to run more than two or three miles before a run becomes enjoyable. Maybe it's just me, but the first two miles of a run are usually slow, awkward, and not fun. That's why I almost always do warm-up runs before a race. My warm-up distances are one (or two) miles for a half marathon, two miles for a 10K or similar distance, and three miles for a 5K. I don't do warm-ups for a marathon, generally, although I suspect it wouldn't hurt. When I was in high school I ran regularly (for off and on stretches of time), but I never did more than two, occasionally three miles at a time. I never liked running back then. But when I started running five or six miles, the endorphins kicked in, and I found out I really did like to run!

  • Never say never. Any time I have said never again it has come back to bite me. For example...I'll never run over a two hour half marathon again. Um, yeah....I've been under and over more times than I can count. (I definitely do not intend to say I'll never run under a two hour half again!)

  • You can run for about three hours before your body starts to break down. Again, at least for me. This is why 18 miles is my favorite long run distance. (Granted it usually takes more than three hours, but it's in the neighborhood.) I'm not saying that 18 miles or three hours doesn't hurt, but it's fairly easy to recover from.

  • You run a lot slower on trails than on roads. That's normal. But if you run on trails a lot, your legs will adapt to that slower trail pace, and it might be hard to recover your road running pace. I'm sure trails build a lot of fitness in many ways, but they do nothing for speed.

  • It's okay to walk. I'm not a run-walk person, generally speaking. If I'm running, I prefer not to walk (although I will stop as needed) and if I am walking, breaking into a run seems like the most impossible, awkward thing. But I have discovered that a judicious use of walking in some races (and especially in trail runs with a lot of difficult, hilly terrain) is not a bad thing. It's best, in my opinion, to put some structure around it (e.g., walk for a minute every mile), so that you don't end up walking and dread starting to run again (e.g., Honolulu Marathon).

  • You can run faster in a race than in a training run, no matter how hard you try in the training run. I know, everyone already knows that. But it shocked me, in my early days of running 10Ks and half marathons, how I could take off and go faster than I thought I could. Even though that's abated a little bit--after running so many races, the race-day adrenaline is a little weaker--I can still usually find my git-up-and-go and pull out a decent finish time. (I said decent. Not great.)

  • However, when you get to the marathon, most likely your marathon pace is not going to be all that much faster than your long run pace. I know that contradicts most every training recommendation to run your long runs 1-2 minutes slower than goal race pace. And maybe if you are a super fast talented runner that works. But almost invariably I have found that my marathon pace turns out to be only a little faster than my typical long run pace for that training cycle. (And if the marathon gets ugly, it might even be slower.)
And finally, the most important, and shocking thing I've learned in my seven or so years of adult running....
  • You can run 26.2 miles and live to tell the tale. I know, it shocked me too!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

The good and the (really) bad

Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water....

That's actually a non sequitur. There's no swimming here. Or sharks.

How about, just when you thought it was safe to go back out on the roads? That's not quite right either.

But I did feel like my small running-related woes and worries were decreasing. My dodgy Achilles discomfort had subsided to almost unnoticeable. My non-working Garmin sprang back to life on Friday morning, and was still working for my long run on Saturday. Everything was a go.

I headed out for my 20-miler around 8:30 on Saturday morning. I had really intended to go at 8:00, but Book Club on Friday night kept me out until midnight, and what is a Saturday morning for if not being able to stay in bed a little longer than a workday?

The weather Saturday morning was cloudy and comfortable, not too warm, not too cold. I started with a loop through North Everett. August 3 happened to be "The Mother of All Garage Sales," so I had to dodge various crowds of garage salers along the way. Aside from the obstacles, I felt slow and steady for the first six miles.

Then I headed towards Mukilteo. The road to Mukilteo is hilly. Long rolling hills. That's why I love it. Okay, love it might be an exaggeration, but  I did intentionally select the route for hill training. Between the ups and downs, I was still keeping a pretty steady pace between 10:30 and 10:45. I had hoped that I would get to the Mukilteo Ferry at 13 miles, but it wasn't quite far enough so I took a side trip through Mukilteo to add a little extra distance.

I took a bathroom stop at the ferry, and sat on a bench for a few minutes. Then I had to stand and wait for an entire ferry to load up before crossing the street and heading on my way. I was a little sluggish after the long break, and it's all uphill from the ferry out of town, so I was a lot slower starting my trip back than I had been earlier. Actually it took me about five miles before I got back to my original pacing...which would coincide with finishing the final hill by Forest Park before heading back into downtown Everett.

I stopped for my now traditional rainbow pop at around mile 16.5. There is something so refreshing about frozen fruit-flavored sugar water! I had originally thought of doing 21 miles, but due to lack of time I cut it to 20.20. I had also been using MapMyRun without pausing, and it said 20.65 which included some stuff that wasn't on my Garmin. My Garmin pace for the run was 10:50, and my MapMyRun pace (without ever stopping the timer at all) was 13:19. (I seriously thought it would be slower, especially considering the long stop at the ferry!)

Once I got home I had to hustle because Rod and I were meeting my sister, her kids and my parents at the Stanwood Fair. By now the sun had come out and it was a lovely afternoon. The Stanwood Fair is a small town fair with animals, crafts and food displays, carnival rides, and a pretty good selection of food.

I accompanied Hans on the pony ride. His twin Erik didn't want to go, but changed his mind after watching Hans and then Eva. The pony ride is pretty long and it's more work than you would think trotting around in a circle making sure the toddler doesn't slide off!
 Rod and I with Eva and Hans on the carousel.
 Me, Eva, and Rod on the Tilt-a-Whirl, which is a lot scarier than I expected!
I also accompanied Eva through the House of Mirrors...it was a narcissist's dream.

Then Eva went on some more of the kiddy rides unaccompanied. She had the wristband for unlimited rides...the rest of us had to buy tickets. Carnival rides aren't cheap.

By 7:00 I was ready to eat, and we dragged Eva away from the giant slide to get some food. Since it was late in the day, things were running out...specifically the turkey legs (which is what I had wanted). I got a brat instead, and corn on the cob. Then we were all tired enough to head home.

I think the walking and activity was good for my legs, because they never got really achy. Sunday I rode 22 miles on my bike (not fast).

Sunday night was when the bad started to happen. Actually it had started a few days ago with a slight sore throat that didn't go away. It never turned into a cold either. But on Sunday the sore throat got much worse, and Sunday night I had to sleep sitting up in a chair because when I was lying down I was having too much pain. Swallowing hurt so badly that I would start choking on my saliva because I didn't want to swallow. I was a mess. (Still, no cold.)

Despite the sore throat, I managed to go out for a moderate 6.25 mile run on Monday morning. I was back on MapMyRun because, guess what, my Garmin had died again. That was minor compared to the misery of my sore throat. I decided I would go to the Group Health Urgent Care after work.

Then, rushing into work, I pulled the building door into my foot and ripped off my big toenail. Well, it didn't detach completely but it was excrutiatingly painful and once the pain subsided (which happened quite quickly) I was gushing blood. I limped into the building and one of the guards helped me to a bathroom and called the detention nurse who bandaged me up. After my court calendar I drove down to Group Health and begged to be seen (for the toe and, while they were at it, the sore throat).

All they did for the toe was re-bandage it. As for the throat, they accepted my self-diagnosis of night-time reflux making my throat sore, and gave me a prescription for an acid-blocking med.

I don't know if that is the real cause, but happily, my throat seemed less painful that afternoon and, while it's still somewhat sore, I can swallow and eat without wanting to die. Obviously I was not cured by the medication (yet) as I just got it, but I'll go through the prescription for three weeks and see what happens. I pray that the sore throat will be all gone by the end of this week.

Because that's when I'm going to be in Colorado. My dad and I are leaving on Thursday for Denver, then Idaho Springs, for the Georgetown to Idaho Springs Half Marathon this weekend. Yes, I know it is possible that I will not be running. I have no idea if my toe will be healed enough to run. Well, I know it won't be healed, but the question is whether I can run without much pain and without injuring myself further. If it doesn't seem like a good idea, then Colorado will be just a trip, not a race. I'm considering doing a test run tomorrow. If I can get my shoe on. Today was a rest day. I have also eaten cookies, cake and candy today, even though it is my least moving day ever!

In addition to everything else, yesterday I booked tickets for Tucson in December, for the Tucson Marathon. And...I got trip insurance. Just in case.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

August 1 - One month to the Kaua'i Marathon!

Shall I join in the chorus of, "I can't believe it's already August"? And commiserate that summer is almost over? It has seemed a little fall-like for the last couple days, as it's been cloudy all day and never burned off in the afternoon. In fact, yesterday afternoon we had freak thundershowers. But despite the cloudiness, I haven't felt the bite in the air that says fall to me. It's been warmish and a little humid instead.

Actually, you know we're not even halfway through the summer. Summer ends around September 20. But most of us feel like summer ends informally around Labor Day, probably because the whole "school" thing.

For me, this year Labor Day weekend brings the Kaua'i Marathon! It's on Sunday, September 1, exactly one month from today.

Am I ready? I think so. I've run one 20-miler and have one planned for Saturday. Then I'll do an 18-miler in two weeks (which is two weeks prior to the marathon). I decided not to squeeze in a full 20-miler on that last long run, since two weeks is just a little close to race date. I feel comfortable with 18 miles, as that is the long distance that I seem most able to easily recover from.

I have had a few little glitches--not quite setbacks--that have affected my training and state of mind in the last couple weeks. I have had a persistent discomfort in my left Achilles that is not quite painful, but just enough to concern me. Actually on Saturday, after the Anacortes Art Dash Half Marathon, my Achilles was really sore and painful to the touch. I ended up putting on a compression ankle brace/sock that I had bought for my other leg, and it really helped a lot. I have been pretty proactive with both legs, wearing compression socks and sleeves for the last few days, icing (with cold packs, not actual ice), and applying anti-inflammatory cream pretty regularly. Both legs are a lot better now, and of course, I am starting to slack on the icing and ointment.

On the technical side of things, my brand new (two months old) Garmin Forerunner 610 has gone CRAZY. Crazy in the sense that it won't charge, and has done some other bizarre things that make it unusable. I have called Garmin once and they gave me some things to do to try to resolve it. Up until this morning nothing has worked. I've had it plugged in to charge for two days and the screen remains blank. But this morning, when I was planning to call Garmin again, it suddenly showed 93% charged! WTF??? I left it plugged in to "finish" charging, and we'll see if I have a working watch when I get home today.

Obviously I can't run without my Garmin. Kidding! But just barely...it's hard to feel like I'm really running without constantly monitoring the pace and distance. I have been using the MapMyRun app, which does measure distance and pace based on the total time. But you can't easily pause MapMyRun like a Garmin, so I just keep it running except for major lights where's there's time to stop and start. So my timed pace has been in the 11-minute plus range for the last two days, and I have no idea what it would be if I could pause at all stops. (Or if I could just run steadily without stopping...what a concept!)

Between my sensitive legs and my insensitive pacing, I have not even tried to do any speedwork or tempo runs this week. I've also continued to ditch the weekday long runs that I wanted to do. It just doesn't seem wise (either speedwork or too much distance) when I'm trying to coddle my Achilles tendons. On Monday I ran about 6.25 miles at a 10:30 pace (Garmin worked up to 5.6 miles, then died--I assume my pace was about the same for the remaining distance.) On Wednesday I did 7 miles with MapMyRun, and today 6.75. My next run is a long run on Saturday, and who knows whether I'll be using Garmin or MapMyRun? Actually, I am planning to run MapMyRun even if I have a Garmin, just in case the watch dies mid-run. Also, I would like to compare the distance measured my MapMyRun with the Garmin distance.

Even though I said I'm pretty much ready for Kaua'i (although I wouldn't want to run it this weekend), the leg issues and watch issues have made me a little leery about running. It's hard enough to get myself out of bed in the morning, without wondering if I am going to hurt myself running! I've sort of gotten past the edginess that comes from running without my Garmin, but I don't like being unable to monitor my pace. I don't know if it's good or bad that it might be working again. It would be nice to have it on Saturday (and for a half marathon coming the following Saturday), but there's always the fear that it will die again, leaving me watchless at a crucial time! I guess with MapMyRun I have some backup. It would be fine in a race, as I wouldn't pause for stops anyway. I have also been thinking of buying a cheap Timex GPS watch as an additional backup. (The model is called Marathon, so why wouldn't I want it? Haha.)

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Random running update

I can't believe it's been more than two weeks since I've written a post. My computer deficiencies make it less than convenient to just sit down and write a quick post...plus, things like work get in the way!

Since the 4th of July we've had pretty good weather most days. I think there were a few random rainstorms at some point but most of my running has been in sleeveless tops. I always run in the mornings so even on hot days it is comfortable. I've had a few long runs that have extended into the warm mid-morning, but that's not a bad thing...I need to acclimatize for Kauai anyway.

I am currently in week 7 of my 12-week Kauai Marathon training plan. This time around I used a Runners' World Smart Coach customized plan. I tweaked it to suit my schedule and needs, and frankly I've tweaked and modified it so much that I don't consider this training cycle a good test of the effectiveness of the plan. I've followed the basic structure, particularly with the long runs. But the one thing I liked most about the plan is the part I've failed most consistently; that is, weekday long runs. A lot of the weekday runs are supposed to be 8, 9, 10 miles. Despite my good intentions, I have not managed a weekday run longer than eight miles, and most have been 6.2 - 7.5. It's not that I don't have the ability to run the distance, I just cannot get the motivation to get out of bed early enough to add 2-4 miles to my schedule. I thought summer would be the perfect time to do that, but...I am weak.

The last two weeks I have been running both weekend days, with a short race on Saturday (i.e. a tempo run for me) and a long run on Sunday. Back on July 13 I did the Magnuson Run Series 5K. The last time I did this back in May I was just over 25 minutes, and really hoped to break under 25 this time around. But it was not to be. My Garmin was unexpectedly discharged, and so I had no timing to encourage me (I don't know if that would have made a difference). I ended up with 26:55...not horrible I guess, but not great! It's a fun 5K to do though. They also do a 10K and 15K (and sometimes a half marathon), but I had no interest in doing more than one loop! (Although actually, I ran the loop beforehand as a warm-up.)
Afterwards, my parents and I went out to breakfast.
On Sunday, I did an 18 mile long run. This was one of those days where it got hot out before I finished my run. My average pace was 11:03 and really, I didn't care that much. I did appreciate a Rainbow popsicle at mile 16! (I learned this weekend that a popsicle is still good on a run even if it is not too hot out!) (This kind of goes along with the study that says that drinking an iced slushy drink can help improve running performance.)
This last weekend, I upped my race to a 5-miler (with a two mile warm-up). Again, a middling time (44:20) but a decent tempo run at 8:43 per mile. By some fluke of fate, I finished third in my age group.
It was a cloudy, slightly misty morning, perfect running, but after standing around more than an hour waiting for the awards, I was freezing!

The weather stayed cool and cloudy on Sunday morning for my 20-miler. Despite the good conditions, my average pace was exactly the same as the week before, 11:03 per mile. Please don't say that is now my long run pace....

For the last couple weeks, I have been experiencing some discomfort in my left achilles and calf. This is disturbing as it has always been my right leg with the problems (oh, my right ankle is twinging too, but that's normal). I've been trying to baby it by not overdoing too much (never mind the consecutive race/long run weekends). After my 18-miler I did an ice bath, which I think was a good thing, but I was too lazy to do one this week. Last night I put an ice pack on my right leg and a heat pack on my left (because the calf muscle feels tight)...I'll see how that works for a few days. I am not too concerned because it didn't feel any worse in the second ten miles on Sunday than in the first ten.

This Saturday is the Anacortes Art Dash Half Marathon, which I've run six times before (this will be #7). It's a favorite!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

July Clean Eating (personal) Challenge

Now that all the Fourth of July hoopla has come and gone (including much delicious food and desserts), it seems like a good time to rein things in a little bit and stop eating all the food that ever fed. In particular, all the yummy sweets and treats which are my nemesis.

In the big picture, I think I eat pretty clean. I would say about 90-95% of my weekday eating (by volume, not by calories, unfortunately) is good, healthy food. On the weekends the less spectacular foods do tend to increase, but that's not too bad considering that I do my long runs on the weekend and can absorb a few more calories.

Sometimes I fear, though, that my 5-10% of treats just undoes all the good stuff the rest of the time. Like a handful of jelly beans or some sample chunks of garlic French bread from the bakery at QFC will send my body into a frenzy of inflammation and fat storage. (This is all in my head, not based on any real scientific theories or anything!)

I also suspect (probably realistically) that these endless extras are coming between me and my happy weight which is 5-10 pounds away (not to be confused with my elusive goal weight, another 10 pounds further away).

So here's my plan. Through the end of July (perhaps longer, once I establish the habits), on weekdays I am going to stick with whole foods, lots of vegetables and some fruit, healthy proteins (emphasis on salmon and other fish), plain yogurt, some fats such as avocado, olive oil, and possibly light butter or light mayo on occasion (less whole but I'm allowing it), and modest amounts of whole grains.

I am going to limit foods with added sugar (though not scrutinize the ingredients of non-sweet foods too intensely), and eschew candy, cookies, cake, pie, ice cream...all the good stuff. I really don't eat a lot of sweets but I find it hard to resist office treats (when they are available) or bakery samples. And I'm going to avoid white carbs.

I don't drink sweet drinks or alcohol, so that's not a problem, and I've already eliminated diet pop except as a treat on the weekends, so no changes needed there. I drink a lot of Starbucks passion tea (unsweetened), and it would probably be good to drink more water. That will probably be easier now that the weather is warm.

I am not going to stop using cream in my (decaf) coffee. I am not going to stop using a little bit of Splenda (in coffee) and stevia (TruLemonade in my iced tea).

For my after work snack I am going to emphasize protein rather than carbs (e.g. boiled shrimp rather than a pocket thin with almond butter). For now I am going to keep having a Clif Z bar before I work out in the morning (convenience rules), but I may boil some eggs and go that route instead, eventually. For now, I am going to top snacking on almond butter unless it is on an English muffin for a pre-run breakfast.

I would kind of like to go all gangbusters on the weekend too, but it is harder because I spend time with Rod and the food, while generally healthy, tends to be less spartan than my personal choices. Since I'm not on some kind of serious diet, I don't really want to impose my requirements on him too brutally. Also, I do run long mileage on weekends, so I think I need more calories to fuel my runs anyway.

It's about 4:45 now, and I am feeling pretty hungry, so I'll be heading to QFC for some boiled shrimp. Dinner tonight is the same as last night (and already prepped)--baked salmon, Apple Cowboy Slaw made with broccoli slaw and light mayo, and half an ear of corn. I may throw on some asparagus too, as I spent good money on it and need to eat it before it gets old!

In running news, I am working on a recap from Seattle Rock 'n' Roll a few weeks back. Last weekend I ended up doing two long runs, 11 miles on Saturday and 8 on Sunday. That made five running days that week so my mileage was over 40 even though 11 miles was my longest. This morning I only managed 6.5 miles as I couldn't get myself out of bed early enough. L.A.Z.Y. It's nice and really light so early, I wish I had the fortitude to take advantage of it! Maybe Thursday....

Here is the pineapple upside down cake I made on Saturday, which contributed to my ban on sweets.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Happy 4th of July!

I know, it's Independence Day, but 4th of July sounds less stuffy. I ran the Yankee Doodle Dash 10K for the eighth time this morning! I started with 2.25 miles from my house to warm up. (It's actually less than a mile, I took a long route.) It was a perfect running day--cloudy and about 60 at 8:30. Still, despite the ideal conditions, I was slow--55:08--almost three minutes per mile slower than last year. I probably should feel bad, but I don't care too much. I wish I had been faster, but I wasn't. (Today's rationalization--at least I was under 9 minutes per mile.) At least I had a cute outfit! (The shirt says Firecracker and it's from Run Pretty Far.)

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

North Olympic Discovery Marathon

Part 2 - The Marathon (finally)

I delayed on finishing this because I wanted to wait and see if there were any race photos available other than the finish line (there weren't), and for Rod to forward me the photo he took near the finish (which is much better than the crappy finish line picture).

One of the problems with waiting so long to write about a race, is that the memories which seemed so clear and sharp become fuzzy and distant. I suppose the emotions which were clear and sharp also become more fuzzy and distant, as time passes.

NODM (the full marathon) started in Sequim and finished in Port Angeles. The two towns are about 17 miles apart, but the race organizers managed to make them 26.2 miles apart by adding some zigs and zags. The race started at Carrie Blake Park in Sequim at 9 a.m. The shuttles from Port Angeles started leaving at 6:30 a.m. That meant a long wait at the starting area!

I got on a shuttle at about 6:45. It was a nice, comfortable bus and there were only a few other people on it with me. I guess most people didn't want to leave quite so early. I ate my English muffin (with almond butter and jam) on the bus. We got to Sequim around 7:15.

Luckily the park had a nice conference center with tables and chairs where we could hang out. I staked a claim on a spot (not that it was crowded yet), and headed to the (indoor!) bathroom for my first of many bathroom visits. I swear that every time I went, I immediately felt like I had to pee again. Partly it was nerves, I'm sure, and partly the grande Americano that I had been drinking.

To help pass the time, I listened to two podcasts of Another Mother Runner on my phone. One was new, and then I scrolled back to the archives to find another. This kept me entertained and distracted, and every 15 minutes I would go to the bathroom again.

By 8:30 the place was much more hopping and there was even a small line at the bathroom. I decided to go outside to the porta potties and see what was up. Surprise, the clouds from early had cleared and now it was sunny and a little bit warm! After the porta potty, I decided to take a few loops around the parking lot to warm up my legs. Most of the time I can't bust out more than an 11-minute mile until I've had at least a mile of warm-up. Of course I didn't want to expend too much energy on a pre-marathon warm-up, but a little (maybe a quarter to half a mile) couldn't hurt.

This also did the trick on my insides (not in a bad way) and I headed back to the potties for a final, thorough, visit. When I came out everyone else had already started walking toward the start! (It was down the road a bit.) I hustled to catch up and as I passed the conference center, dropped my throwaway jacket on a table inside. I wouldn't be needing it even for the start.

There was no 4:15 pacer so I decided to keep an eye on the 4:10 pacer as a guide. I've never officically run with a pace group, but I've occasionally followed one just to try to keep on track. The 4:10 pacer would be running 9:32 miles. Maybe a little fast for me. But I could always drop back.

The first mile was a little uphill (I see from my Garmin elevation chart) and it was a little bit of a struggle to keep up with the pacer. I think that's because I wasn't warmed up as much as I would like. But after that I started cruising and, I'll admit, probably went a little too fast at times. (However, I will say that although you shouldn't bank time, I still feel like those fast miles kept my average pace decent even with some really bad miles late in the race!)

After mile one we went downhill again for several miles, and in fact the first half of the race was pretty much all gently rolling hills. My favorite. My splits reflected the rolling nature of the course...
Mile 1 - 9:40
Mile 2 - 9:24
Mile 3 - 8:55 (can you say "oops"?)
Mile 4 - 9:03 (still downhill)
Mile 5 - 9:27
Mile 6 - 9:40
Mile 7 - 9:29
Mile 8 - 9:49
Mile 9 - 9:39
Mile 10 - 10:03
Mile 11 - 9:36
Mile 12 - 9:47
Mile 13 - 10:03

At the half marathon point my time was just a few seconds over 2:05. I was not foolish enough to think I could hold that for a 4:10 finish. I did think that I had a good shot at 4:15 (which was my goal time). Early in the race I had pulled ahead of the 4:10 pacer (not intentionally) and stayed ahead until about mile ten, when she passed me. I tried to keep her in my sight but lost her before the halfway point. She must have been going a little fast because we should have been at the half at around the same time. Just as well she was gaining a little time, because I don't know how anyone could not slow at least a little in the second half.

Despite some slowing, I stayed on a pretty good track through mile 16. This makes sense as the course description calls miles 4-16 "amazing." Somewhere in there we hopped on the North Olympic Discovery Trail. This was very nice, of course, but running on gravel (this was very hard packed dirt with gravel) is not my favorite for speed. I just prefer pavement.

Mile 14 - 10:16
Mile 15 - 10:04
Mile 16 - 10:08

Somewhere in mile 16-17 we experienced the first of two very steep descents to a creek, ran across a bridge, then back up the very steep hill on the other side. The course description advises walking up these hills, and I sure did! Most of the time I prefer running up hills (even a very slow 12-13 mile pace is faster than walking), but these were so steep that the effort to shuffle up was not worth it.

Mile 17 - 10:41
Mile 18 - 10:35
Mile 19 - 10:38
Mile 20 - 11:18 (hill?)

During the first half of the race I was pretty responsible about fueling. In addition to my breakfast on the bus, I ate a banana about an hour before the start. I took a Gu at about mile 7, and another about mile 13.

Then I failed myself. I should have had the next Gu around mile 18 or 19, but I didn't want it. I was just a little nauseous, and instead of Gu-ing I drank a few sips of Gatorade at the aid stations. In retrospect (and I know this!) there aren't enough calories in my small sips of Gatorade to make up for lack of fuel. By the second half of the race I'd probably used up most of my stored glycogen, and for best results I probably should have forced myself to eat some. I don't know for sure that it would have mattered, and I certainly wouldn't want to make myself sick, but it is unquestionable that my pace (and energy) dragged in the second half, and particularly in the last six miles.

In mile 21 I was cruising along and thinking "I feel pretty good" and started to pick up my pace, when I stumbled and fell hard. I got up with a scraped (and later bruised) left shoulder, a scraped but not bloody left knee, and a badly scraped right hand. A woman behind me stopped but I told her I was pretty much fine (as I was).

I ran onward but blood was running from my hand. I had to do something about it. At the aid station which I soon came to, I asked if they had any napkins. They offered a first aid kit but I just wanted something to absorb the bleeding. I rinsed my hand with a cup of water then carried a wad of napkins until just about the end of the race, when I was able to drop them in a garbage. (Two weeks later, my knee is completely healed, the bruise on my shoulder is faded, and I have a couple residual scabs on my hand.)

This wasn't a great incident for morale, especially as I was now starting the most difficult (psychologically) miles of the race. This should have been a better section for me, as the course was going downhill for a few miles. I guess that's what kept my splits okay, if not great.

Mile 21 - 11:57 (the fall)
Mile 22 - 10:41
Mile 23 - 10:42
Mile 24 - 10:41

I had also been walking a little in the aid stations, to make sure I could gulp a little Gatorade. I only walked a few steps from the time I got the Gatorade to when I tossed the cup. This is way different from the Honolulu Marathon, where I started walking at the beginning of each aid station and had a hard time forcing myself to start up again. This was totally under control. It added a few seconds to my splits but nothing crazy.

I would like to say that I got a second wind in the last two miles, but I clearly remember thinking, after mile 24, that two miles to go seemed like a long way. I think that is also when I said I didn't want to do another marathon for a long time. This section of the course was also not very pleasant. It was still on the trail but there was work or something being done and it was edged with cyclone fencing. I just remember it being hot and dusty. Even when we got back along the water (which was truly nice and beautiful), I didn't manage to kickstart my energy. Yeah, a Gu might have been a good idea. If I hit the wall anywhere, it was here.

Mile 25 - 11:17
Mile 26 - 10:55

My finishing kick (.37 miles) was hardly heroic, but at least I did it at a sub-10 pace (9:55). I tried to look like I was having a good time as I passed Rod.
Those people behind me with the stroller were half marathon walkers, okay? Actually I don't know if the stroller was even in the race or just out for an afternoon stroll in the sun. The two other women have half marathon bibs, though.

I crossed the finish line with a time of 4:28:20. So, not my goal time, but still within my secondary (or tertiary, or quadrary) goal of sub-4:30. I had another reason to finish under 4:30, which was our late check-out time of 2:00...I figured if I finished by 1:30 I would have time to take a shower before we left. And I did.

The race assigned everyone a companion to walk with them from the finish line through the chutes. The lady with me kept asking me if I felt okay. I did. I've only felt sick a couple times after a marathon. One was CIM (my PR) and once was Boston. Otherwise I usually feel okay after I stop running. Probably shows I am not trying hard enough....

Anyway, I soon met up with Rod and we walked back to the hotel (easy since the finish was right adjacent to the hote!). I got dressed and we headed for the road and ferry home.

I have pretty good feelings about this race. I thought my time was very decent. Although slower than I had hoped, I had a 10:15 official pace (and 10:11 based on the distance). I only have occasional regrets when I realize I probably will not have the opportunity to improve this time in 2013. The two other marathons I'm planning on are harder courses and of course Kauai will be very warm.

Oh yeah, one more thing--I did not stop for the bathroom once! This is a marathon first for me. Unfortunately, the time lost in my fall and related to that pretty much ate up the bathroom time savings.

After the marathon I took four days off running (Monday through Thursday) and then ran again on Friday. I was in Leavenworth for a training, so I ran five miles on the trails Friday morning and 4.5 miles on Saturday. Back in town I did a 10-mile run on Sunday and felt good.

This last Saturday I tested my speed a little by running a 5K in town (the Berry Run). I had hoped to break 25 minutes but it was not to be. They changed the course from last year and threw in a hill! My time was just over 26 minutes. I still squeaked in with a third place in Age Group F40-49. (And yes, there were more than three participants. At least four!)
Gravel again! My nemesis....

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Olympic Peninsula Weekend and North Olympic Discovery Marathon

Part One: The Peninsula and Olympic National Park

This last weekend (May 31-June 2) Rod and I travelled all over the Olympic Peninsula and ended with me running the North Olympic Discovery Marathon. The first half of the weekend (Friday through Saturday afternoon) was Rod's birthday weekend, then from Saturday night on it was all about me and the marathon.

The Olympic Peninsula is in the northwest corner of Washington and it is bordered by the Pacific Ocean on the west, the Strait of Juan de Fuca to the North, and the Olympic Mountains and Olympic National Forest in the center. Much of the area is within the Olympic National Park. The park and surrounding areas include lakes, waterfalls, rivers, mountains, beaches and rain forest...a lot of scenery. The park also has several lodges, one of which we stayed at and three others we visited in our travels.

We left pretty early on Friday morning to make the rather long drive to our first destination, Lake Quinault Lodge. We had to drive south to Olympia and then head west to get on Highway 101. The whole drive took four hours, including a stop for lunch. Luckily there were no major traffic tie-ups on I-5, otherwise it could have taken much longer. We stopped in Aberdeen and had lunch at the Lighthouse Drive-In, which serves home-cooked fast food. I had a turkey club which included fresh roasted turkey on house-made whole wheat bread. If I went back I would just have a turkey sandwich--I didn't need the ham and bacon. I also had fries instead of salad as I was in the midst of my pre-marathon carb-eating regime.

Lake Quinault Lodge is a grand but rustic lodge built in 1926 along the shores of Lake Quinault. We stayed in a lake view room in the main lodge. There are also cabins and other rooms in the outbuildings. Of course I wanted the most traditional lodge experience! We arrived at 1:30 p.m. and our room was ready, so we were able to check in immediately, which was great.
This picture from the website looks very similar to our room. You can see the lawn and lake through the window.

That afternoon we decided to hike/walk the Lakeshore Trail, which starts in front of the lodge and loops about four miles through the forest, along creeks, waterfalls, and through a cedar bog. In addition to many, many trees and mosses, we saw numerous woodsy plants and flowers, including the beautiful (but less delcious than blackberries) salmonberry, which has bright fuschia blossom and golden or red berries. (Pictures from the internet as I didn't think to take any.)

As a (former) trail runner, I would describe the trail as wide single track, mostly runnable (and obviously walkable) with technical portions and some hills. It ends on the road in front of the Lodge.

(These pictures seem a little odd, like they are stretched out for some reason...I had to remove a funhouse-style one of me!)

We made a post-hike stop at the Quinault Mercantile for ice cream bars, then walked around the grounds and down to the beach. During the summer season they have lake tours (by boat) and also rent rowboats, but none of that seemed to be going yet.

 Rainbow chairs on the beach.
The lake side of the Lodge.
For dinner we went to the hotel dining room, the Roosevelt Room, named after Franklin D. Roosevelt's visit in 1937. We had a lovely window seat with a view of the lake. We had already studied the menu a couple times in advance--the actual menu was a little different from the online version so we had to modify our plans a little. We shared a razor clam appetizer (razor clams lightly breaded and fried, I'll admit you have to be a Washingtonian to truly appreciate fried rubber bands!). Rod ordered bison meatloaf, which he enjoyed, and I ordered the only pasta dish on the menu, penne pasta with chicken breast, Andouille sausage, Olympia mushrooms, red onions, garlic, shallots, and a smoked jack cream sauce. I probably should have had the vegetarian version without the chicken and sausage, as to me the mushrooms were the highlight! I haven't had a creamy pasta sauce in a long time, and I'll admit, it was good. We also had salads and then marionberry cobbler for dessert.

Afterwards we went back outside to watch the sunset from the rainbow chairs. Once the sun dropped it became suddenly chilly, and we headed back inside.

Saturday morning we were up early for another light hike before breakfast. This time we did a loop including a portion called Trail of the Giants (the Giants are Douglas firs). The trail was about 3.5 miles total, but we inadvertantly added a half mile by missing the trail start and walking an extra quarter mile down a fire road before we figured out we'd made a mistake. This trail had some significantly muddier and even wet sections, and in one part we had to walk up a creek bed with water running through it. Unlike the other trail, where the hills were rolling throughout, here we did most of our climbing in the first half and then descended on the return.

We got back to the lodge a bit past 9:00 to have the breakfast I'd been looking forward to all week. Rod had an omelet, which was delicious, I'm sure, and I had...drumroll...sweet potato pancakes with hazelnut butter (that is butter with hazelnuts mixed in) and maple syrup, and bacon on the side. Best carb loading breakfast ever! The pancakes were like pumpkin pancakes, not like latke-style potato pancakes. So. Good.

After breakfast we headed out to resume our journey toward Port Angeles for the marathon. The road took us out to the coast where we stopped first at Kalaloch. We walked down to the beach and the ocean's edge. Then on our return we peeked into the resort cabins and visited the Kalaloch Lodge. This is another place we'd like to stay, either in a cabin or the lodge itself. This would be a place to visit in the off-season (when rates are lower), even in winter (if you're a weird Washingtonian that likes to go to the ocean in the winter weather).

Before turning inward from the coast, we stopped also at Ruby Beach for a view and some photos.

Back on the highway, we soon passed through Forks. Yes, that is the location for the Twilight books. Actually many of our sites on this trip included Twilight sights! I really enjoyed reading the books but I'm not a big fangirl, and I certainly didn't want to make this a Twilight trip. I did pick up a brochure in Port Angeles listing all the Twilight locations in the area, however. A lot of the Forks locations were right on the main road as we drove through. Generally speaking, though, Forks seemed like a rather depressed, run down town.

We did not make the detour out to LaPush (where Jacob lived).

Although we had a big breakfast earlier, I did not want to forgo lunch, since that would make me too hungry and prone to overeat at dinner. We had two options for lunch around 2:00--Sol Duc Hot Springs and the Crescent Lake Lodge.

Geographically speaking, Sol Duc was first so we made the 12-mile drive off the main road. This was the only National Parks location that we went to where they required a pass. So we paid $15 to enter the park (which did make our lunch a little more expensive). Sol Duc (which also calls itself Soleduck) is a popular (it seems) hot springs with a lodge and other types of accommodation (cabins, camping, etc.). The dining room was not open for lunch, but the deli had a good menu and you could take your food into the dining room to eat if you want. We chose to do so, as the outside seating was a little breezy and really, it was a little weird being around all the hot spring soakers. We had salmon burgers with aoli and homemade potato chips and it was quite good.

It was amazing how crowded the pools were and how people just kept arriving. Even as we were leaving there were lines of people waiting to pay their entrance fee to the pools.

Our last stop before Port Angeles was Crescent Lake Lodge. Crescent Lake is a huge, beautiful lake (shaped like a crescent). I was quite enchanted by Crescent Lake Lodge and now I really want to go stay there! The Lodge itself is a beautiful New England-like building (although it is a woodsy light grey-green in color, not New England white), and there are also cabins and lodging in other buildings. I would like to stay in a Lodge room, but in my searches for theoretical stays, I have yet to find a date where a Lodge room was available! The dining room menu also looks wonderful. I am mentally planning my visit now...although probably not until next year, as summer is the priciest season (and quite booked up already), and I'm not sure that I would want to stay in the winter. Although...the holidays? Lake Crescent Lodge is also much closer to Port Angeles (about 20 miles away), in case I wanted to do the marathon (or half marathon) again next year....

Somewhat regretfully, we left Lake Crescent for the final journey to Port Angeles. About half an hour later we arrived at the Red Lion Hotel, race headquarters and adjacent to the race finish area (which would be quite convenient for Sunday). Our room had a nice view of the water, and a fridge...which was useful for stashing a pre-purchased coffee for race morning (I like Starbucks Americanos with half and half, hotel room coffee doesn't do it for me). Lucky for me, Safeway with a Starbucks was only a few blocks away, so before dinner I walked up and got my Americano.

I flew through the race expo and got my bib and shirt. The race shirts are long-sleeved half-zip shirts, which is a nice change from the usual. They're ocean blue and have the race logo on the back, and also say "Boston Strong."

We ate dinner at the local Italian restaurant, Bella Italia (also known as the restaurant where Bella and Edward had dinner). I had a great salad with grilled pears and gorgonzola, and a rather spicy puttanesca-like spaghetti. (I took some away and actually I'm going to have it for dinner tonight, Monday, with spaghetti squash.) We also had dessert, a very intense chocolate torte.

All that was left for the day was to put out all my race gear and clothing, and try to get some sleep. The marathon didn't actually start until 9 a.m., but I planned to leave the hotel around 6:30 to catch the shuttle to the start.

Next...the Marathon.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Bloomsday (aka Spa Weekend)

It's been almost a month now, but the first weekend in May my parents and I took off for Spokane for the annual Lilac Bloomsday 12K run. I have run this one six times now! It's "only" 12K (7.46 miles), but it is one of the biggest road races in the country and I've always enjoyed the junket to Spokane.

My parents and I drove over on Saturday morning. Along the way we stopped to enjoy the view at Wild Horses Monument near Vantage.
Beautiful view of the Columbia River from the roadside stop.
The Wild Horses are metal sculptures along a bluff. There is a trail to hike up to the top, which I would love to do, but didn't want to take the time that day. We are a little bit poky in our travel anyways, so I wanted to keep us on the road to Spokane without too many delays.

We picked up Subway sandwiches in Ellensburg for lunch along the way.

We arrived in Spokane sometime in the mid-afternoon, and before going to the hotel, parked down near the Convention Center to go to the Expo. Usually I would walk over from the hotel, but it's about three quarters of mile away and my dad has knee issues, so we drove instead.

I love the Bloomsday expo. They seem to have great vendors with lots of fun stuff to look at (and tons of food). One of my favorite (non-healthy) displays is the Franz bakery display (they make bread and stuff, you know). They had big platters of donut holes and Mother's pink and white iced animal cookies. I didn't have any donut holes. But I may or may not have filled a bag with handfuls of cookies (gleaned on numerous walk-bys), which we enjoyed as treats throughout the weekend.

I also like to visit the Nuu-Muu display. Once again, I bought a new Nuu-Muu (running dress) which will appear in the race photos below. I have a few already...about half acquired at various Bloomsday visits. I also bought three pairs of Teva Mush flip flops...one for me, one for my sister, and another pair for me that I ended up giving to my mom because she thought they were so comfortable, even though she doesn't like flip flops!

(Excuse me while I now go to Amazon and buy a few more pairs of Teva Mush flip flops in colors that I could not get at Bloomsday. I like the wedge style best but I will also get the flat ones, in the interest of exploring new patterns and colors. I have a flip flop problem which is now approaching the magnitude of my running shoe problem, except that the flip flops cost a fraction of what running shoes do...so I could get 4-5 pairs for the price of one pair of running shoes!)

I probably also bought a few more things at the expo that I can no longer recall...since it's been a month. (I now remember...I got a mini Nuu Muu matching mine to give to my niece Eva (turning 4), and a shirt from Run Pretty Far that I am currently planning to wear in the Kauai Marathon in September.)

Then we drove over to the Davenport Hotel and checked in. The Davenport is a grand old luxury hotel in downtown Spokane. It is possible that I keep coming back to Spokane just so I can stay there...and eat their soft peanut brittle (they usually give you samples for the room).

We decided, after much discussion, that instead of going out to dinner, I would go over to Cafe Europa and order pizza to bring back to the hotel. I wanted to preserve my parents' legs and strength to make sure they could go meet me for breakfast after the race on Sunday. I ordered two medium-sized pizzas (which was almost double what we really needed, we had a lot of leftovers in the ice chest). One was some sort of veggie combo, and the other was barbecue chicken, both on whole wheat crust. I also got two of their spectacular desserts which we divided up three ways.

On Sunday morning I got up pretty early and went down to the lobby to get coffee at the espresso stand. Then I made my pre-race breakfast--whole wheat English muffin with almond butter, chia seeds and jam. The race started at 9 a.m. so I ate at 7.

Typically the Bloomsday morning starts out pretty cold, then warms up a little or a lot as the morning goes on. I brought along a throwaway jacket which I had bought at Goodwill (every once in a while I go there to buy a few shirts for races). It's a real tradition at Bloomsday for runners to toss their throwaways into the trees along the starting area. I just drop mine along the road, though.

However, this morning it was already warm enough at around 8 a.m. that after going out for a mile of warm-up, I dropped my jacket with my dad in the hotel lobby. I was already feeling comfortable in my sleeveless outfit. The race started at 9...I expected my wave (yellow) to cross the start line around 9:05 and to finish by 10:15. Mine was about the fourth wave...first was the elites, and then Corporate cup, and then brown. Brown were runners that had qualified for a fast start. I would have to run Bloomsday in under an hour or a 10K in about 47 minutes to qualify for that wave. I would like to think it could happen someday but...maybe not.
The yellow wave is made up of runners who qualified with a range from about 8-something pace to 9:30-9:45 pace ( I am generalizing broadly here). In any case it is a pretty broad range with runners that would be fast (from my perspective) to slow (also from my perspective). Combine that with a narrow running area for the first mile and you have a prescription for congestion.

After my first warm-up mile and a bathroom break in the hotel, I did another 1.4 miles and then found my way into the yellow corral. I worked my way up to about the middle and later wished I'd gone a little more forward.

Pretty soon the wheelchairs took off and then the first wave, and we were shuffling toward the starting line. When we crossed the start line I started running but it was pretty slowly because of the crowds around me. I know I could have been going faster but I tried not to get too worked up about it or put too much effort into weaving (or elbow anyone). As in the past, the more anxious runners were jumping up onto the sidewalk (which is not allowed) to try to get ahead. There was a very hyper boy near me (about 13 I would think) who kept saying, "I can't go, I can't go" and eventually pushed his way onto the sidewalk.

The crowd stayed thick for about the first mile and a half. This was sort of unfortunate because the second mile starts with a long downhill which could be pretty fast if you had the chance. It did thin enough to move freely by the time we started up hill number 1 (at mile 1.5). Everyone talks about Doomsday Hill (which I will get to), but there are several hills between miles 1.5 and 3.5. At mile 3.5 you do get a mile of downhill, though, which is why my Doomsday mile is never as slow as you would expect (the first half is down, before you go up up up).

So I was trotting along at a reasonable pace, not as fast as I would have liked but not slow enough to hate myself either. Mile 1 - 9:15 (definitely impacted by congestion). Mile 2 - 8:53 (sounds good enough but this was partly downhill--I think I was still impacted a little by the congestion). Mile 3 - 9:09 (uphill). Mile 4 - 8:55. Mile 5 - 9:09 (this was half downhill and half up Doomsday Hill).

So, the famous Doomsday Hill. My Garmin elevation map shows uphill for almost 1.5 miles, but the official "Doomsday Hill" must be must less than that. The race course has a mat at the "start" and "finish" of Doomsday Hill, which must be significantly less than half a mile long as my recorded time up Doomsday was 4:11. I can assure you I was not running an 8 minute pace at any point on Doomsday.

As far as the horror of Doomsday, it's really not that bad. As I said earlier, if you are timing yourself with a watch, you have a long downhill prior to Doomsday, so if you are really on fire (I was not), your split for the Doomsday mile does not look any different than any other mile. My trouble has always been with the mile after Doomsday, which has the tail end of Doomsday at the beginning but then I always have trouble getting back on pace even after the hill flattens out. This would explain my slowest mile of the race, Mile 6 at 9:30.

Speaking of being on fire...it was warm. I don't know what the temperature was at 9:30 a.m.--it probably wasn't too horribly warm yet--but even if it was just in the 60s that was a lot warmer than I'd been running in for many months. I really started to feel the heat going up Doomsday. The two miles afterwards were pretty unrelenting too.

I am pretty sure these two pictures are from Doomsday Hill. The woman ahead of me looks like she's wearing a swimsuit--fitting for the warm weather, I guess!

I had some difficulty getting my mojo back after Doomsday Hill, and it kind of sucks that my last two miles were pretty mediocre. After Mile 6 at 9:30, I was back to 9:09 for Mile 7. The last half mile (supposed to be .46 but was .54 for me) I did at 9:02 pace. I did cross the finish line with a smile on my face. Happy to be done, for sure!
My final official time was 1:08:47. That was a pace of 9:13 (though a 9:08 pace for 7.54 miles on my watch). This was not my slowest Bloomsday. But it was far, far from my fastest (which was about four minutes faster, in 2011, two weeks after the Boston Marathon). Oh well. It was hot.

I called my parents and we met at Madeline's for breakfast. Along the way I ran another tenth of a mile so that my total running mileage for the day was over ten miles.
Here I am with my dad.
A fuzzy shot of my whole wheat huckleberry pancakes with maple butter. And a side of bacon. Obviously.
Back at the hotel I had appointments for a massage and a pedicure at the Davenport spa. I don't know how long it's been since I had fresh paint on my toenails! Now (still!) they are Pillar Box Red (the polish has all English names for the colors).

Later we had the early bird dinner (whatever they call it) at the hotel restaurant. I had salmon. Tasty.

I call this weekend a spa weekend not just because of my afternoon of treatments, or because of the luxurious hotel and all the fabulous food. (But all that counts, of course!)

I think of this weekend as a Spa weekend because it was my first major cutback week since my marathon training began at the beginning of February. The last time my "long run" on a weekend was ten miles, was on February 3! Obviously I have had cutback weeks where the long runs are less long. But I have not had a weekend run under fourteen miles since mid-February. Here are my weekend runs from February 3 though Bloomsday (rounding down to half miles): 10, 12, 14, 15.5, 18, 20, 14, 15, 21.5, 19, 14, 22, 17, and Bloomsday 10.

I think that the easy weekend was a good kick-off for my final month of pre-marathon training, and really freshened me up to have a good 20-miler at the Kirkland half marathon. (My last three long runs have been 20, 14, and 10. Next one - 26.2.)

After dinner Sunday night I took a walk along the river, from Riverside Park in downtown, to Gonzaga, across the river and back along the opposite side. After the warm day, I could really smell the lilacs in the air. I walked about 3.1 miles from and back to the hotel.

We drove home on Monday (I had taken the day off work). We ate leftover pizza for lunch along the way, and I had the final half of our original subs for dinner at home that night (we had been vigilant about ice in the cooler). So along with the extravagance of the weekend, a touch of frugality.

I always say that if I really put effort into Bloomsday as a stand-alone race, maybe I could do really well with the combination of downhills and uphills. I would like that... on the other hand, it does come right in the midst of marathon season, either right after a marathon (like Eugene last year, Boston before), or sandwiched between weekends of long training runs. I still have that dream of a one-hour Bloomsday...but would be really happy with a 1:03 or 1:02 Bloomsday as well. (Sub-8:30 pace...I should be able to do that!) Maybe next year....

Monday, May 13, 2013

Let the taper begin!

Yesterday (Sunday) I did my final long-long run and now I am dialing back for three weeks in preparation for the North Olympic Discovery Marathon on June 2. I feel like I pretty much adequately completed nailed my runs this weekend (in a training-for-marathon sense), so I felt inspired to write about it immediately instead of putting it off to some distant future time.

I know, I know...what about Bloomsday last weekend? And that Heroes' Half Marathon the Sunday before? (Not to mention the Maui Oceanfront Half Marathon back in January...and have I not published my Honolulu Marathon post yet?)

Anyhow...this weekend I made the somewhat dubious decision to do a 10K race on Saturday and my last 20-mile run on Sunday. I had signed up for the 10K months ago, and the 20-miler just happened to fall on the following day, considering that it was exactly three weeks to the marathon. I didn't want to drop the 10K, so I decided to do it as my tempo run for the week. That worked well for scheduling as we were driving back from Spokane on Monday. I did my easy run on Tuesday, speed work on Thursday, the tempo run on Saturday, and the long run on Sunday.

The speed work on Thursday was 10x400 meters, or in my world, ten quarter-mile intervals at the track, hopefully at two minutes each or less (8:00 pace or faster). Speed work has been my nemesis...it is almost impossible for me to do it at the prescribed pace, especially since most of my speed work in the last few months has been on the road instead of the track.

This Thursday I forced myself to get up just barely early enough to get to the track and finish before school started and I got kicked off the track. I did 2.5 miles of warm-up, then ten trips around at as close to .25 mile as possible. I did about 60-90 seconds jogging recovery between each one, but there was also a little standing around recovery as well. The paces for my ten splits? 7:55, 8:06, 8:00, 7:57, 7:54, 7:53, 8:05, 8:01, 7:57, 7:49.

Friday was a rest day from running. I cross-trained with the elliptical in the morning, but thanks to work I didn't have time to walk in the afternoon (which I've been doing a few days a week). I don't know if it was due to not walking or just blind luck, but Friday night I didn't have any soreness in my ankle and Achilles at all! I got up and went to the bathroom without even limping!

Saturday morning I headed to Mukilteo for the Inspiring Hope 10K (benefitting Susan G. Komen). Since it didn't start too early (9 a.m.) and Mukilteo is really close, I didn't have to get up too early and I still got there around 8:15, with plenty of time to use the bathroom a couple times and do a 1.8 mile warm-up (so I'd have 8 miles total, you know).

I've done this 10K twice before (I think). My first one was really fast, last year was about two minutes slower, and this year was a couple minutes slower still. So that sort of sucks. But knowing that I wasn't going to be fast, my only goal was to be under 55 minutes. And I did that (54:37-ish). That's about an 8:50 pace, which is fine for a tempo run. I am telling myself that it is fine.

A couple of people that I didn't know recognized me from the past races. I think it is because I always wear one of my fancy Nuu Muu running dresses!

I ran across last year's finish line picture...I think it is funny because I am running all out and a 5K walker is strolling across the finish line ahead of me.
On Sunday I had a 20-mile run on my plate. A few weeks ago I decided to sign up for the Kirkland Half Marathon to run in conjunction with my 20 miles. I felt under pressure since my 22-miler was quite a bit slower than expected, to meet my training goals for this final big run. I thought that running a half marathon "easy" would help me do that.

I also wanted to get out of the neighborhood for my long run. All of my long runs in the last few months over 15 miles have been a variation on the same route...around Jennings Park, up Ingraham Boulevard (a one-mile hill!), onto the Centennial Trail, and back into town or out to my parents' house. It's a good route because it's easy to customize for distance, but I wanted a change. And I didn't want to run up Ingraham yet again.

My plan work but it did backfire a bit as the Kirkland Half Marathon was as hilly as six Ingraham hills. I have just been studying the elevation chart from my Garmin data and the course included about six miles of uphill terrain, in chunks of about 1.5 mile, .5 mile, 1.5 mile, 1.25 mile. Granted the rest was either downhill or flat (there was a two-mile stretch near the end that was mostly flat), but those hills are wearing. Some sections were moderate and some were steepish.

In order to turn this into a 20-mile run, and get back in time for the round of Mother's Day festivities, I headed to Kirkland at 5:30 a.m. on Sunday and arrived around 6:15. I got a spot in the special "Subaru owners' lot," which was really convenient to everything (the regular lot was fine too, just more crowded), and hurried across the street to get my bib and chip.

My plan was to run five miles pre-race, then the 13.1, and finish off with two miles after the finish. More specifically I wanted to do two miles warm-up, three miles at around 10:00 miles, then do the half marathon at marathon goal pace (9:30-9:45 pace). I also wanted to do the two miles after at 10:00 pace, but I knew that would be a challenge, and since it was only two miles, I wasn't that worried about it. (I ended up averaging about 10:20 pace for the last two.)

I started the warm-up with a three-quarter mile hill. Just a foretaste of the feast to come, I guess. That mile took almost twelve minutes...then I settled in with a 10:23, 9:59, and 9:44. After four miles I stopped at my car because the slightly humid 60-degree weather was a little warm for my long-sleeved shirt. At my car, in the parking lot, I changed into a short-sleeved shirt. Then after a quick final bathroom stop, I finished my last mile (10:05), and headed for the start line. I was surprised that my legs didn't feel at all tired from Saturday's run. Of course, I wasn't trying to run a 9-minute mile or anything, so maybe that made a difference.

After a 5-10 minute wait, we were off! As I said, the hills started and never stopped. Still, I managed to hit marathon pace without too much effort. I wanted it to feel easy...as much as possible. If it was too hard I wouldn't be able to plan on doing it for a whole marathon!

Maintaining pretty even effort (I think), my splits reflect the hilliness of the course, both up and down. Overall...9:40, 9:44, 9:05, 10:03, 9:38, 9:55, 10:02, 9:16, 9:29, 9:33, 10:21, 10:04, 9:30 (last bit at 9:09 pace). I fueled with a Gu after four miles (plus the five miles before the start) and another Gu around ten miles. I think for a 20-mile run I could have had three Gu's, but since I wasn't racing it I felt I could go a little light on fueling. I also drank an Americano with caffeine on my way to the race. I have given up most caffeine and only use it on race days. I wasn't originally going to have it yesterday, but then I decided with getting up so early and running so far, I needed the caffeine boost.

I felt tired about halfway through the half marathon, but hung in there and really appreciated those downhill "rests." I was really happy to get through the entire 18 miles pretty strong, and I don't feel like my pace flagged any more than would be expected on the hills.

My post-race two miles were hard to force myself into. There is such a strong mental urge to quit after you cross the finish line! (Finish time: 2:06:56.) I walked through the finish area and then started running immediately (though I stopped at my car to drop my medal). I ran through the park and up another hill for three quarters of a mile, then back. The final half mile seemed impossible. But I pushed myself out there for another quarter mile, then finished up by running a fun quarter mile on a long horseshoe shaped dock.

Back at the car someone kindly took a picture of me with my Subaru.

Then I hurried out of there (stopping at Starbucks for a post-race Spinach and Feta wrap and iced tea). It was Mother's Day and we had places to be!

This morning I ran for the third consecutive day in a row (unusual for me). I wanted to keep on schedule so I can have two non-running days at the end of the week before Portland Rock 'n' Roll. My legs were definitely tired today. After two slow warm-up miles, I did five more at 9:48-10:04 pace. Tomorrow is a non-running day, and I expect I'll be feeling those hills in my legs by then!

Oh, by the way, my training pace for the 20-mile run was supposed to be 9:59. My average pace for the entire 20 was 9:58--right on track! (My half-marathon pace was 9:43.) I would have liked my marathon practice pace to be just a little faster, but hopefully the NODM course will be less dramatically hilly than Kirkland (they say it is not very hilly, we shall see, I guess!).