Thursday, February 28, 2013

10K and a long run

I didn't really mean to get into posting just once a week...and I didn't really intend for each post to be a summary of my weekend running and training. But...that's what I got.

The Northwest weather gave us a little break last weekend, and both Saturday and Sunday were relatively dry and rainless (as much as I can recall). That was a blessing as I had running to do on both days!

Saturday I did the Smelt Run 10K up in LaConner for about the umpteenth time. It went...okay. In the spectrum of my Smelt Run history, my slowest was 2009 at 59:20* (eek, and mind you I had run many faster 10Ks prior to that) and my fastest was 2010, 50:36. This one fell about in the middle, 54:58. About a minute slower than I would have liked under the circumstances. But the wind was really horrible! Really!

At least I looked good in the beginning. Check out that midfoot strike! And yes, my race number was 123.

I always enjoy the Smelt Run in LaConner. You start out running through town and the only hill is a little one in town. Then it is out and back across the flats and it is always windy. This time it was much worse though, at least in the second half! (And usually the out part is worse.)

I do have a couple of complaints about race organization this year. The race is staged at LaConner Middle School, and this year one of the women's bathrooms was closed, so everyone had to line up for what I heard was a single stall bathroom in the gym! It didn't affect me, because I did a warm-up run (about two miles) and made ample use of the free public restrooms in town. But I would have died if I was stuck with waiting for one bathroom.

Also, there was hardly any food after the race! A bowl of pretzels and some oranges and bananas. And all that was almost gone by the time I got to the gym. Granted I finished the race and went to see my parents at the car, so it was more than an hour after the start, but there were still lots of people after me, it's ridiculous that they ran out. Open another bag of pretzels!

Usually we go out to breakfast or lunch after races (this one started at 10 a.m., so I guess it would be lunch), but I didn't really want to stick around any longer. I already spent quite a long time in the gym talking to race friend Becky (who I see at lots of races and is much faster than me, but also one age group older than me), and waiting for the awards. I knew I didn't win anything, but for some reason I stuck around. (That was a little messed up too; they announced the age group awards in a totally random fashion.)

I considered this to be my tempo run for the week--two miles warm-up plus 6.2 at 8:50 pace. (My plan actually called for a 9:44 pace, which was silly, why so slow in a tempo run? I guess that would have been a marathon pace run, actually.)

On Sunday I hit the streets again for my planned long run of 15 miles at 10:29 pace. This went really well. I actually managed to average 10:25 in the first four miles, which sounds like nothing special but that included my warm-up and my mile run up Ingraham Boulevard (hill). After that I picked up the pace for the next six miles (mostly on the Centennial Trail), and all those miles were around 10:00 or faster (at that point my overall average pace was 10:04). Finally, I had 5.5 miles to go and those were all around 10:10-10:15 (though mile 15 was sub-10). Final average pace was 10:07!

I listened to a variety of audio to entertain me during the run....

  • First 1.5 miles (or so) - marathon playlist shuffle on iPhone.
  • 10:05-11:00 a.m. Wait Wait Don't Tell Me, on NPR (KPLU).
  • Sunday jazz on KPLU for about 30 minutes.
  • The last 45 minutes of Running with the Kenyans on my phone. I really enjoyed this book! It's about an English runner who goes to Kenya to train. I listened to about an hour at a time on my phone while taking evening walks, and finished it off on the run.
  • Then back to the marathon playlist shuffle for the rest of the run.

I like listening to audiobooks or radio on long runs and walks, but prefer music when I want to go faster and need a kick.

*In the winter of 2009, January-March, I got really, really slow. But then I made a comeback over the summer and got almost all of my current PRs in the late summer and fall of 2009! So there is always hope for improvement.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Birch Bay Half Marathon

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

The Good: I performed within my expectations.
The Bad: I did not exceed my expectations.
The Ugly: It. Rained. The. Whole. Way. (At least the first 90 minutes; after that, who knows?)

Sunday was the Birch Bay Half Marathon (and Marathon, for those who wanted to double their suffering). Birch Bay is near Blaine (technically perhaps it is part of Blaine), which is a town pretty much right on the U.S. Canada border. It's about an hour and a half north of Marysville, where my parents live, but it's a pretty easy trip because it's a straight shot up I-5 and going north is usually more peaceful than going south. I would much rather drive to Birch Bay than Tacoma, even though they are about the same distance away.

Birch Bay was the February race on my 13 in 2013 half marathon schedule. (Maui was #1 and January, did I write about that yet? Maybe not....) It was also the "long run" on my training schedule for the week. According to the training schedule, I should run 13 miles at 10:14 pace...that definitely gave me a lot of leeway. I figured I could average under a 10-minute pace, though, since I had managed that in Maui (2:09:20-ish).

The weather during the week had been sporadic, but the forecast consistently projected a dry day on Sunday in Birch Bay. Did you hear that? Rain not expected. Ha!

As we drove north through Mount Vernon and Bellingham, we did get quite a bit of rainfall but north of Bellingham it actually appeared to be clearing. We got to Birch Bay before 8 a.m., allowing plenty of time for me to pick up my number, use the bathrooms a number of times, and warm up for a slow mile. At 10 minutes before the 9 a.m. start, I got into a porta-potty line again because I felt like I needed to go, even though I had gone several times already! It must have been the cold weather...I think it was in the upper 30s at that time.

Unfortunately I didn't make it to the front of the line, and at a minute or so before 9 I dropped out of line and headed to the start (a few feet away). I stationed myself sort of in the front third. I knew I wasn't going too fast, but I didn't want to be held back either. I think it was the perfect spot because I never felt delayed or like people were passing me. Of course, there weren't all that many was a good crowd, but no Rock 'n' Roll!

Because it was pretty cold (but not bitterly cold), I wore a half-zip over a base layer top, but started out with an extra jacket. I dropped that at my car when I passed it (about a quarter of a mile in).
The Birch Bay course is pretty flat, except for a major hill in the middle. I think the road starts out at a slight downhill slant, because I was running about a 9-minute pace in the beginning, which I knew wouldn't last. I soon slowed to about 9:45 (which ended up my overall average pace), and the first mile was a quick 9:30. After that I was steady around 9:45 for quite a while. Even though it hadn't been raining when we first began (maybe misting a little), the rain soon picked up to a steady medium-light rain and stayed that way for a long time. About halfway through I started stepping in a few puddles and from then on my feet were wet too.

Despite the grim skies, the course was pleasant. We ran along the water for a good part of the course, off and on at the beginning, middle, and end. After five miles I decided to use one of my little tricks to keep my pace up. I ran comfortably for 3/4 of a mile and then pushed it for the last quarter of the mile. That became a little challenging, though, when we started climbing the big hill at mile six or seven. The course was mostly uphill for more than a mile. I continued with my 3/4 and 1/4 plan but my overall pace was much slower on the hill, of course. That uphill mile was my slowest and the only one that was well over ten minutes (about 10:30 I think).

Happily, we got to go back downhill again as well! For the downhill I worked at pushing the pace most of the way. I needed to make up the 45 second deficit (over my informally planned 9:45 pace). Along the way in the second half I did have several 9:30 miles, which ended up saving my average pace.

At about mile 9.5 we turned back onto Birch Bay Drive and retraced our route back into the park. We entered Birch Bay park with one mile to go. Last year I was doing an 8:30 pace in the last mile, but sadly, not this year. I was working hard with a quarter mile to go! It had stopped raining but the sky was still very dark.
After I crossed the finish line (at 2:08:20), I walked back to my parents at the car. As I walked past the finishing runners I clapped and cheered them on. Hopefully I wasn't too obnoxious! I really shouted at a guy who was just about to finish under 2:10...I watched and he did, even though he looked like he was going to die and couldn't pick up his pace for anything. There were also a couple of young women (who I had passed about two miles before the finish) who just missed the 2:10 time...I really wished they had put on a burst at the end and made it under 2:10! (Not that it matters in the big picture.)

During the race I drank some from my handheld water bottle but I didn't need much since it was so cool and damp (even though I was sweating plenty). Instead of Gu, I had packed two small baggies of Gimbal's Cherry Lovers jelly beans, but I didn't ever take them out because I thought they would have been a mess in the rain. Probably should have just brought the Gu...although I didn't really feel fuel-deprived, so I guess it doesn't matter that much.

Just to touch on "not exceeding my expectations".... You always hope that some magic will strike your legs and you will amazingly run much faster than you thought you would. I find that rarely happens to me these days. To put a positive spin on things, I guess I have a pretty good idea of where my abilities are at, and I've been running for long enough that there aren't a lot of surprises left in me.

After we left the park I decided that we would go to lunch at Calico Cupboard in Anacortes. It might have been more practical to go to the one in Mount Vernon (less off-freeway travel), but I like the Anacortes restaurant. I ordered a giant cinnamon roll which we shared among the three of us, then I had a veggie scramble for lunch.

And so ended the first week of NODM training!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Let the training commence!

(Oh, and Happy Valentine's Day!)

Day one (Monday): Rest day. Well, not quite, cross-training. It seems odd not to run on the first day of the training plan, but my legs are a little tired and achy from running on both Saturday and Sunday and I thought it was best to let up today in order to run better tomorrow. (That's my story and I'm sticking to it.)

Last week I did my marathon training test runs. In the RLRF plan they set forth three "test" runs that you should be able to accomplish in order to train for a given marathon finish time. As with everything in RLRF, they are pretty challenging. Frankly, if I could have done them easily I would expect to be able to run a 4:15 marathon right now, rather than in 16 weeks.

So I planned them into my training last week. And I did them. Not easily, and not 100% successfully, but close enough that I feel pretty encouraged (and hopeful that the four months of training will in fact bring me up to where I want to be). I will say that I picked the easier end of the spectrum in the various options, which were....

Long run. 15-20 miles at 10:09 pace. As I wrote last week, on Saturday (February 2) I did a 16-mile run at 10:12 average pace. A little slower than optimal, but many of the miles were faster as well. Plus I overcame my slow warm-up to bring the average close to 10-minute pace. I'm calling that pretty good.

Speed work. This one was my worst, on many levels. Some would say I just failed. I would say...I didn't completely succeed. Of the various track distance options, I picked the shortest, which was six 800s (half miles) that were supposed to be 3:58 each (just under 8-minute miles). I knew this would be impossible a challenge because when I am at my fastest I can run sub-four-minute half miles but I am definitely not at my fastest right now.

So anyhow, I did a little over two miles of warm-up and then went to the track. I was later than I should have been, of course, and six intervals (with quarter-mile recoveries) just did not seem feasible. I was determined to do at least four, and after the first two I thought I might squeeze in five.

The first two were 4:15 each. Meh. The third one was 4:10. Okay.... I had a good start on the fourth, and thought I might beat the 4:10, but about half way through (that is at a quarter-mile), someone off the track gestured to me. I thought it was a wave, but no...he was telling me to stop. (Did I mention that I was running on the track by the middle school near my house?) So apparently this was some school official and he said I couldn't run on the track because school was in session and it was a "safety issue." He also gave me some B.S. about private property and I am going to research this to see who really owns this track. And let me say that the kids could not even access the track from the school grounds (as it is locked on the school side), you can only get in from the street. Plus the track was half flooded and no classes were going to be out there under those conditions.

But I guess I can see why they would frown on people using the track when school is in session (not really, but I'm trying to be reasonable), and so I'm going to have to really work to get there and finish my track work before school starts. Unless of course they manage to lock it from the street side and keep me out entired. Which would really tick me off.

Anyhow, I ran on to the exit, which put me at .39 miles and I couldn't really bring myself to try to finish the 800s in the street. So I did 3.8 x 800 at a pace slower than the plan called for. (Although based on Yasso 800 standards I was consistent with a 4:15 marathon pace, as "all" my 800s were at 4:15 or faster....) That morning I just ran another mile or so to finish my run with 6.35 miles overall.

Tempo. The final test workout was a tempo run with three miles in 26:10 (or five miles at a slightly slower pace or eight miles at a slightly slower pace than that). I decided to do my tempo miles at the Valentine's Day Dash 5K on Saturday. I suppose it wasn't quite kosher to use a race to accomplish tempo miles, but it's not like I was following any rules properly anyway!

So I headed down to Green Lake on Saturday morning (way early to allow for a long warm-up run), got my bib and shirt and took a run around the lake for a 3.1 mile warm-up. I had plenty of time for multiple bathroom stops, and even enough time to drop my jacket at the car and re-pin my bib onto my shirt. I could have run with the jacket on but I got plenty warmed up on the warm-up run and my outfit was cuter without the jacket (even though the jacket was red).

I lined up near the back of the 8-minute mile section because I didn't want to overestimate my abilities. In retrospect I wish I had gone to the front of that section, because the first half mile was a crowded cluster and I was really caught up in a mob of 9-minute milers (many of whom probably also felt they were being held back by the masses). I think if I had been further forward I might have been swept along with some 8-minute milers.... Anyhow, usually in a 5K my first mile is the fastest then I slow down a little. This time my first mile was the slowest, about 8:40. The other two miles were about 8:25 each. So, for purposes of my tempo run, the three-mile total was 25:30...rocked it! My total time for the 5K was 26:20. Not the greatest of 5K times, but not horrible either. By April I am hoping to do a 5K under 25 minutes again.
I really like the race shirt this year! I expect I will be wearing it a lot, for hanging out and stuff.

I started my actual training runs on Tuesday with a tempo run. Usually the first running day of the week would be an easy run, but looking at the schedule for the week to come, I decided it would be better to start with the slightly harder runs earlier in the week, and save my easy run for Friday, as I'm running a half marathon on Sunday. Anyhow, the plan called for two miles easy, two miles at 8:44, two miles easy. I actually started with about 2.25 miles warm-up, then pushed out two miles at 8:44 and 8:38, and finally cruised through the final two miles at about 9:55 and 9:40. My overall average pace was 9:55, which shows you just how slow those warm-up miles were! The tempo miles weren't exactly easy...I can't believe I've run many half marations at 8:44 pace, and a couple at 8:38 or faster!

Today, Thursday (Happy Valentine's Day!), I dressed up in a red jacket and red hat (but not the sparkle skirt) and headed out for "speed work," three one-miles at about 8:15, with one-minute (or so) recovery jogs. I started out slow, as usual--I don't even look at my pace during my warm-up, what's the point?--and turned around at 2.5 miles to start my mile intervals.

My warm-up miles are slightly uphill, so it is true that I get to do some of my faster miles on a slight decline. I'm okay with that, since part of the point of speed work for me is to improve my leg speed, and the easier downhill helps with that. I'll also admit that during each mile I had to stop at some point for an unavoidable stoplight (at a highly trafficked street, so I couldn't just jay-run across). I've always figured that the slight benefit I get from the short break (and I do stop my watch) is offset by the seconds I lose having to get up to speed again. But whatever, I can't help the lights.

Mile 1 - 8:16. Better than I expected, actually. Considering that my 5K on Saturday was about an 8:30 pace, I wasn't sure if I could go below 8:20 (at best).... I jogged about one block for recovery but also stopped and waited for a light.

Mile 2 - 8:13. Great! I was thrilled that I could still maintain the pace. I did another block (.1 mile) of recovery.

Mile 3 - ummm...8:30. Don't know what happened here. This mile involved turning around and heading back about a third of the way along, and yes there was a couple of uphills, but still this was about ten seconds slower than I would have liked (I was prepared to be a little slower because of the change of incline). I will say that this mile involved a section of road where I am always a bit slower than I think I should be based on my effort...I think this is one of those invisible hills, where you have an incline even though it seems flat. In the last quarter mile I felt like I was going to rip my lungs out and puke them I must have been working hard at least for that segment.

I finished by running "easy" back to Starbucks, including a quarter mile sprint down a hill (2:01, I timed it), for a total morning distance of 6.5 miles. I think my overall average pace was about 9:34. Yeah, those first 2.5 miles were really slow.

Last night I made my contribution to Valentine's Day by baking a festive cherry pie. I had some extra pie crust and cherries so I also made two mini-pies for my parents.

Yeah, not a food photographer, but hopefully they will taste good! I used the best-ever piecrust recipe from the Anjou Bakery (I always make extra pie crust to accommodate deeper pie crusts and my inability to make the pie crust cover as much area as it should.) Also, I should add that this pie crust is pretty hard to handle because it has so much butter...but it patches easily when it tears and cracks. I usually do a regular rolled-out top but had fun with the cut-out hearts! (The recipe as-is, with marionberries, is obviously great as well.)

For the filling I used sweet cherries (from the freezer, obviously) and two recipes which are essentially the same. One is from Smitten Kitchen and the other is from Simply Recipes. They both use significantly less sugar than a traditional pie recipe...I used about 3/4 cup sugar for six cups of cherries. I also like homemade cooked cherry pie filling (made with sour pie cherries), is so much more delicious than canned pie filling! (I tried to find a recipe to link to but couldn't find one where you cooked the cherries...mine is bookmarked on my iPad but that's at home.) My number one tip for all cherry pies is to be sure to put a little almond extract in your cherry mixture. It makes all the difference!

With that, I will just wish everyone a sweet, happy Valentine's Day!

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Monday, February 4, 2013

Foiled by the internets

I was just in the process of trying to write a quick blog post about the Maui Oceanfront Half Marathon, but I was not able to post my (rather expensively purchased) race photos, despite a couple of different efforts. What's up with that? I guess I'll try again tomorrow.

This is the last week before "real" marathon training begins. In preparation, I had a couple of good runs over the weekend. I had deliberately limited my running to two days last week, so that I could run both Saturday and Sunday and take advantage of slightly better whether and more time (without the interference of work!).

On Saturday we were supposed to get sun but instead had heavy fog in the morning that never really fully burned off. Still, it didn't rain. I started out at 7:30 a.m. to do 15-16 miles. About half a mile along, I couldn't remember for sure whether I locked my car door. I was (pretty) sure I did, but I kept picturing the scenario if someone opened the car and took my I doubled back to check. It was locked, of course. The extra mile meant a 16-miler for sure.

My goal was to have an average pace of about 10:09 overall. That was pretty ambitious, but I got close! 10:12 in the end, with a very slow warm-up mile (11:18) and a mile up Ingraham (11:01) that doomed my average. I did the first five miles as warm-up...11:18, two at 10:30, 11:01, then 10:40 (that was the end of Ingraham and some rolling hills on Getchell).

I listened to music for the first five miles, then switched to an audiobook when I got to Centennial Trail (Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake by Anna Quindlen). On the trail I did five miles alternating half a mile easy, then half a mile harder. I didn't hit the splits button at the half mile point, but each mile after the first was about 9:40 overall. Once I got off the trail and back on roads I changed to 3/4 mile easy, 1/4 harder. All those miles were about 10:10 or faster. My final full mile was 9:52, which was after I switched back to music on my phone. The total distance was 16.5 miles.

I followed up on Sunday with 10 miles. I really wanted to do 9 miles under 90 minutes, but ended up adding an extra mile and doing 10 miles in 98 minutes. This time my two warm-up miles were faster, 10:40 and 10:15 (or so), then I did mile 3 fast enough to get under 30 minutes for the first three miles (which hasn't happened for quite a while!). Then all I had to do was stay under 10-minute miles for the rest of the distance. Not quite easy-peasy, but it happened!

This left me with just over 39 miles for the week. If I had known in advance maybe I would have done another .7 miles...but maybe not.

We went to my parents' house for the Super Bowl. The food wasn't super crazy but I ate too much. I couldn't stay out of the chips during the game--I was craving salt and carbs! Dinner was a delicious healthy fish stew in a tomato based broth, with yummy brown & serve bread (ate too much of that too). Later we had marionberry pie and coconut cream pie for dessert...I had a little piece of each (as did pretty much everyone).

I'm really excited that I have leftover fish stew for dinner tonight. Luckily I didn't take any of the bread! Or pie!