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!).