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Dublin Marathon: The Recap

21 Feb

I gave Megan a hug and watched her walk towards the porta-potty line for a minute before moving forward in the corral. The world felt surreal. Hazy, yet with a distinct sharpness around certain shapes; the early morning sun casting shadows that made everything seem both bright and shadowy at the same time. Thoughts swirling in my mind, I felt everything and nothing all at once. I had enough self-awareness to realize what I was about to do and yet all I could focus on was if I had made a mistake by not trying to pee one last time. After all the ups and downs of the past 6 months, I was acutely aware that I should be overcome with emotion or gratitude or nerves but a detached feeling of calm blanketed me instead.

The start was incredibly anticlimactic. I think someone yelled “go!” at the front but I had heard nothing. I looked up, still partially in a fog, and realized a huge mass of runners were already about 200 meters ahead of me. “Ok,” I whispered to myself. “Time to execute.”

The plan was simple. The first 7-8 miles of the course are a gradual uphill – perfect for controlling your pace and ensuring you don’t prance out of the corrals with all the energy of a kid on Christmas morning. 8-minute miles were the goal. “It should feel easy,” my coach promised me. “After that, well … you’ll know. This isn’t your first rodeo. You’ll know what kind of day you’re having and how to run the rest of the race.”

So there it was. 8 easy and then hopefully, giddy the F up. And he was right – 8’s felt so comfortable, even with the mild ascent. The first mile clicked off in 7:57; 7:52 for the second. “Easy…EASY…do not blow this race in the second mile.” Backing off to 8:00, 7:58, then 7:54, 7:53, 7:49. I hit the 10K right around the planned pace and thought of James and Laura tracking me back home. “Alright, you made it this far – they know you’re following the plan and exercising some self-control – now let’s let loose a little.”

Mile 8 brought a short yet somewhat steep downhill – the first noticeable undulation of the race – and I hit it in 7:38. I’ve never been a great downhill runner, though, and sure enough, it was here that I noticed some cramping in my upper quads into my hip flexors.

That was enough to make the mental demons pop in to say hello, and with them, I battled over the next two miles (7:42, 7:38). “Here we go again – your legs HURT! Before mile-freaking-10 of a damn marathon! You’re toast. It’s over. You’re gonna end up dropping around mile 20. This one will end like the others. You’re not strong enough or tough enough for marathons.”

(Have I ever mentioned that I’m pretty hard on myself? Yeah, that.)

A somewhat significant uphill would come somewhere around mile 10.5 and despite a precarious mental state, I mustered enough control over my brain to back off and adjust my effort. 8:05.

A gift came along in the form of two men – a Londoner and a Dubliner – they stuck to me like glue for a few miles, as we chatted and told our backstories. They struggled a bit to keep up, obviously out of breath while talking and in that moment, a glorious realization – I was not breathing hard and my effort was still very much in control. The longer I ran next to them listening to their huffing and puffing, the better I started feeling about my race. (7:44, 7:41)

(Have I ever mentioned that I’m kind of a terrible person? Marathons are hard and sometimes other people’s misery makes me feel better.)

As I hit the half split, I gave the mat a good stomp as I crossed. “Alright, James and Laura know that I’m feeling good. Now it’s really time to get to work.” I put my headphones in, dropped my new friends, and started to see what I had in my legs.

The next few miles were a satisfying grind. My music proved to be too much of a distraction and I ripped out my headphones almost as soon as I had put them in. I wanted to focus. I wanted to feel every minute of the race. No dissociating.

I thought back to the last long run workout in my training – 2 miles up, 8×1 mile @ MP w/1 mile recovery, 2 miles down. I ran this with Laura as my Sherpa on the bike next to me as we looped around Conesus Lake. I ended the day with 20 miles at a 7:40 average and was on cloud 9 – but none of it was easy; I remember that my legs had hurt that day but in a manageable, I-can-push-through-this kind of way. My confidence was building. If I could do it then, I can certainly do it now. 7:43, 7:37, 7:35, 7:34, 7:25, 7:23, 7:25.

Holy shit. I just ran MILE 20 of a marathon in 7:25.

Seconds later, as if it were plucked straight from a Runner’s World article warning new runners about the treachery of the late stages of a marathon, holy shit – I feel like I just ran into a brick wall.

A bit of self-doubt started to reappear. For whatever reason, everything suddenly became VERY. HARD. (Side note: I typically disregard spikes in heart rate data since wrist-based measurement is far from 100% accurate but I do think it’s interesting that right at this point, my Garmin shows my HR jumped about 10bpm and stayed at that elevated level for the rest of the race.) Now I was really working, and now I was feeling bad enough that I started to wonder if I would be able to push myself through this last 10k. 7:30, 7:34. I knew I was slowing and my watch confirmed it, but was it my head that was allowing it to happen or my body that was giving out?

I thought back to the 30K mat I had crossed, which felt like it was years ago and seconds ago all at the same time. “They KNOW you’re going for it. You CAN’T back off. This right here, this is the time to be tough.” 7:25. “See, you’ve still got some fight in your legs, keep pushing. Do not be a baby. Keep going.” 7:30.

As I started to gasp for air, I feared that I gave a little too much too soon. My hips, burning. My quads and calves, empty – as though the muscles had been replaced with jelly. I looked up. Everyone around me looked like death. I started to laugh – why on earth does anyone do this to themselves?

As I assessed the situation, I knew I had to put away the watch. My mental state felt precarious again, as if any pacing feedback – good or bad – could potentially tip me over the edge. I knew I was slowing a bit, but by how much? I couldn’t focus on the finish time, I needed to focus all my energy on making sure that I kept putting one foot in front of the other so that my legs didn’t somehow convince my brain that it was ok to stop.

7:37, 7:40

And then I woke up. That 26 mile split beeping on my watch was a slap across the face, and suddenly I realized that I was going to do this – it was a certainty now – and there was no way I could let myself jog it in to the finish.

Sucking wind, I pushed it to a 7:17 pace for the last little bit, feeling grateful for the beep that pulled me out of my self-induced death march. I remember looking up, seeing the clock, and realizing I was solidly under 3:25. This was it, it was happening. My secret, scary A goal that I never even expressed to my coach, for fear he’d tell me I couldn’t. We had only been talking about 3:26-3:27 on a good day. But there I was, about to break 3:23. Goosebumps broke out all over my body; a minor wave of nausea came and went. And once again, just as the day had started, the world felt surreal.

 

Dublin Marathon – 3:22:56

Off the Rails

17 Apr

As you might have guessed, my spring marathon plans have taken quite the detour. Detour is putting it nicely. This train is completely off the rails. 

I wouldn’t say training had been going well but I was remaining positive that I’d be able to string together some solid weeks of training and see where that got me on May 3rd. 

Then winter stepped in. 

For anyone living in the Northeast in particular, you know how brutal this winter was. I’m not really going to complain too much about that because there was never any day where I decided not to run or didn’t complete a planned run due to temperatures. I had no problem using the treadmill if need be. My first 20 miler was scheduled on a day where I knew the temperatures were supposed to drop dramatically; I still decided to head outside for it and prepared by packing extra layers in my car in case I needed them later. 

What I didn’t expect was the precipitation. Which started coming down in the form of ice. Do we all see where this is headed?

  

At first I thought it was just a bad bruise – I actually thought I would be able to salvage my 20 miler the next day. Well, here I am 4 weeks later and I still cannot run completely pain free.  Every time I would try to run, I’d end up with intense aching in my shin which would freak me out and lead me to cross train for a few days. At this point now, that pain has disappeared and I mostly just feel very tight (and very out of shape).

So that’s that. I probably should’ve rested completely and maybe I’d be in better shape today – hindsight is always 20/20. It took me about 10 days to realize that the marathon was probably not going to happen, and a few more to mentally come to terms with it. At the end of the day, there was nothing I could do – sometimes, shit happens. 

I was able to struggle bus it through a 5K last weekend with my girls (<– I really hate that phrase but I can’t think of a single other way to say it, someone get me coffee) and ended up not doing too terribly. 

  

21:50, which is not where I wanted to be right now, but it is a time I would’ve killed for just a few years ago. So the only thing I can do at this point is try to safely build my base back up and start making plans for a fun summer racing and training season. 

My only closing sentiment is to deliver a hearty fuck you! to Winter 2014-2015. You sucked, and nobody liked you. The end. 

Walt Disney World Half Marathon Recap – 1:39:39

23 Jan

Initially I had intended for this to be a goal race but as is typically the case for me, life had other plans.  After two months of nursing a knee injury, only to then be walloped with a cold-turned-bronchitis, I was left with total uncertainty as to how this race would go.

The one confidence booster I had was a workout Megan and I did the week prior – 1 mile warmup, 3 @ MP, 2 @ HMP, 2 @ MP.   I hit 8:07, 7:59, 8:01/7:24, 7:23/8:10, 8:06 and felt pretty decent.  The 7:2x paces felt a little aggressive, but I was pleasantly surprised at how easy the 8ish paced miles felt.  Worst case scenario: squeak in under 1:45 and not completely embarrass myself.

Mostly I was excited to bust out of the frozen tundra for a while and enjoy a much needed long weekend with friends.

Megan and I hit the expo on Friday; our seed times put us in the A corral and we both geeked out a little over this.  Feeling fast is not something I’m used to.  We walked around the expo for a bit and then headed out to grab lunch and buy some throwaway clothes – we totally underestimated how cold it actually was in Florida!

walt-disney-half-marathon-expo-bibs

Cheesin’ at the expo. I really dig this quote.

Race morning came sooner than usual but thanks to my old lady ability to fall asleep unreasonably early, I was able to get around 6 hours of sleep.  For those who don’t know, Disney races start at the crack of freaking dawn and because you need enough time to get to the start corrals, it means freakishly early alarms.  Like, 2:45am style alarms.  I don’t know if I’ve ever seen 2:45am sober before.

Race morning routine, same as usual.  Gulp some coffee, eat a Picky Bar, get dressed, stretch out a little, drink water.  We got to Epcot with plenty of time and hung out in the warm car for a bit while some other friends went to get their bibs.  Then we started the trek to the corrals.

It’s actually a fairly long walk to get from the parking area to the starting area, but there are tons of open porta-potties along the way and ample room to warm up once you get there.  Nice logistics, Disney.  +1 for that.

Finally it was time to line up and we geeked out a little more over the A corral business.  Before I knew it, we were off.

disney-half-marathon-race-start

 

The release of each new corral is signified by lighting off fireworks, and it was pretty cool to listen for them as we took off into the night.  Megan and I said goodbye and set off to do our own thing.  It was windy and my plan was to just run by feel until we got to the Magic Kingdom; it should be all tailwind from there.

The first five miles are kind of a blur.  I remember looking around a lot and trying to take it all in.  Then trying not to trip over people.  I wasn’t running very smoothly – I would start picking it up, then get nervous the pace was too aggressive and try to back off.  It took me a while to find my groove but I ended up settling in (7:39, 7:36, 7:34, 7:29, 7:31)

The course then goes by the Contemporary Resort and heads for the Magic Kingdom.  I wouldn’t consider myself a Disney fanatic by any stretch of the imagination, but I do have fond memories of vacationing there as a kid. Honestly, I feel lame for saying this but I got a little emotional running down Main St. and around the castle.  I thought a lot about my family – and my dad in particular – during this mile and I got all goosebumpy and teary eyed.  What a turd.

running-in-the-kingdom

Oooh look, a squirrel

I thought exciting Magic Kingdom would be kind of a let down, but it ended up being the opposite – I felt like the hard part was over and now I could cruise with the tailwind for a little bit.  I remember picking it up a bit because Shake It Off was blasting over some loudspeakers and that song is basically guaranteed to put me in a good mood.  I remember thinking how much fun I was having and just being very grateful.  This is all so uncharacteristic of me, I usually am hating life and mankind and myself and maybe even Taylor Swift by mile 7 of a half.

I kept plugging along in good spirits until about mile 10. (7:31, 7:30, 7:33, 7:29, 7:29)

That’s when the wheels started coming off.  We were running back into the wind for a bit and I felt like I couldn’t breathe.  I told myself to not wuss out but not kill myself either.  In retrospect, I think I could’ve pushed myself harder through these miles but in the moment, my inability to take a good deep breath was freaking me out.  Maybe that was justification for being a wimp, or maybe it was smart.  I’m not going to dwell on it too much. (7:43, 7:39)

Finally in the last mile, I could see my Garmin and realized I could squeak in under 1:40.  I also told myself to stop being a little bitch and actually run – there’s only one mile left.  Unfortunately, this seemed to be where the majority of the race photographers were located and daaaaaang do I make some ugly faces while I run.  This bothers me because hey – I’m running a race wearing a skirt for fuck’s sake.  Clearly I’m only doing this for cute race photos.

pain-face

I am screaming on the inside.

Finally I saw the finish line and boom, that was that. (7:29, 7:10 for the last .1)

Megan and I celebrated and cheesed it up a bit in our mutually delirious state.

walt-disney-half-marathon-medals

Hashtag precious.

We headed back to the car to celebrate a bit and revel in the fact that we were done for the weekend.  A few of our friends were running the Goofy and a few were running the full but us?  Yeah, beer us.  Immediately.

race-celebration

Hashtag precious, part 2.

Overall, I was thrilled with the way this race went.  Sure, I’ve got some work to do – but leading up to this, I was running 25 miles per week and most of those miles were 10 minute pace on a treadmill.  This is also the best I’ve ever run so early in the year which leaves me feeling motivated and excited for 2015.

In summary: this was one of the most positive posts I think I have ever written and it made me realize I am feeling very positive in general right now.  So strange, kind of love it.  Hope it sticks around.

walt-disney-half-marathon

Empire State Half Marathon Recap

3 Nov sharkeys-post-race

After two weeks of taper, a disappointing marathon, two weeks of essentially no running, and then 3 weeks of around 30mpw, I was feeling … out of shape.  I’ve gained a little bit of weight, I haven’t really felt sharp or speedy or fresh, everything has been a little blah.  It’s not a great way to feel, for one, but it’s also hard to plan for a spring race schedule and set some goals when you have no idea where your fitness is.

So I decided to race the Empire State Half.  The nice thing about hometown races is that it’s real easy to make a last minute decision to enter, albeit a questionable financial call ($85 for a half that goes through a park that I frequently run in?  Yeah.  That was a bit hard to swallow.)

I had no idea what to expect from this race.  I really thought anything from a 1:35-1:45 was possible depending on how I felt that morning… and then I saw the weather forecast.  40 degrees at the start and 15mph winds gusting to 26mph?  SWEET!  Especially brutal because, as anyone who has ever run/roller bladed/biked/walked at the Onondaga Lake Parkway will tell you (there is nothing to block the wind coming off of the lake and it is fairly miserable to be heading into it for what seems like an eternity).

The one upside?  We’d have a headwind for the first half, not the second.  Therefore my strategy was to run by effort and make it to the turnaround feeling decent – then lay the proverbial hammer down.

I met up with Laura right at the start – we chatted, complained about the weather, and tried to stay warm in the car.  She eventually took off to run a short warm-up; I opted out because my stomach was feeling unstable.  The nice thing about this race is that the parking lot is right next to the start line, so I was able to hang out in my car until just a couple minutes before the gun went off.  I scooted over to the start and quickly found a friend from my running group.  Before I knew it, we were off.

I tried to settle into a comfortable groove; my feet were frozen solid but otherwise, I was feeling ok.  We had a nice little group working as we ran up 370 towards the entrance to the parkway.  I saw my friend Megan cheering around mile 3; it was great to see her and it definitely gave me a little boost.  I knew the hardest wind section was coming up, so I committed to just keeping the pace honest but in control.

empire-state-half-marathon-y-runners

Running buds! Trying to stay calm and focused during the first 5k.

My feet started to thaw out around mile 3, but the sensation was replaced by what felt like the onset of a really bad calf cramp.  I remember thinking that it was like there were icicles in my feet that had gravitated upwards into my calves, causing them to feel cold, stiff, and sore.  I tried to back off a bit and make sure I wasn’t overextending myself by forcing a certain pace into the headwind.  Splits for mile 4 and 5 were a bit slower, but whatever the issue was, it started working itself out and I felt a lot better by mile 6.  (I think if I had actually run a warmup, this wouldn’t have been an issue.  Oh well.)

Somewhere around here I saw Laura on the turnaround – she looked so great!  Super focused and running well.  I knew it was time to buckle down and see what I had left.  I hit the turnaround and just started cruising.

The miles from 6.5 to 10 just flew by.  I felt SO good – I knew I was working but it felt smooth and in control.

I saw Megan again at mile 10 and tossed her my gloves and my GU.  My stomach hadn’t bothered me at all during the race but I was definitely feeling questionable before the start, and decided not to chance it.  I didn’t take any water during the race either, for the same reason. (Typically I’ll take a gel around mile 7 if I think I can handle it – not really sure if this helps or not.)

Right after I ran by the mini cheer squad, I started to feel the hurt.  I just reminded myself that the last 5K of a half should hurt and told myself to keep running honestly, no purposefully back off, and see what happens.  The last stretch on 370 is pretty lonely which didn’t help either –  no spectators and the runners were really spaced out at this point, so I was just humming along by myself.

Finally I made it to the mall and so started the series of turns that would take me to the finish.

empire-state-half-marathon-finish

Oh my god, both of my feet are off the ground. It’s like I’m actually running and not just crapping my pants.

My calves were so, so sore during the last few miles and it felt like I was crawling.  I was trying to ignore my watch because I really didn’t want to know how much I had slowed down.  Once I could see the finish line, I just thew everything I had into it.  Making epic pain train faces like it’s my job.

empire-state-half-marathon-finish-line

What in the actual hell am I doing with my hand?

I won’t lie – I was a little disappointed to see the clock at 1:38:xx when I crossed.  I knew I had been running strong for the second half and I was in PR territory.  Unfortunately, I ran the tangents like a moron.  Nothing you can do about that except try to be more aware of it next time.  That disappointment quickly went away when I realized I still ran one of my fastest times on a day when I wasn’t even sure I could manage 8-minute pace.

Net Time: 1:38:24

14/714 females

2/107 age group

empire-state-half-marathon-splits

Pleasantly surprised that my last mile was the fastest, despite feeling like I was crawling.

After the race (which my incredible and amazing friend WON, by the way), we headed over to Sharkey’s to eat, drink and be merry.  The official post race party was supposed to be there – I say supposed to because it seemed like very few runners knew about it.  Which is a shame – not only is this one of my favorite bars, but they had a bunch of free food for the runners and plenty of space to hang out for a beer or two.  Hopefully the race does a better job of advertising this next year!

sharkeys-post-race

Stolen from Laura because I think it’s adorable.

All in all, it was a fabulous day and I’m happy with what I was able to do.  On to the next!

Lehigh Valley Marathon Race Recap

20 Oct

When my friend Megan and I decided to sign up for the Lehigh Valley VIA Marathon earlier this year, I was 100% committed.  That never wavered throughout the entire training cycle.  I never skipped a long run and I never cut a workout short (yes, that is the first time both of those things have been true statements for me).  Not only did I never skip a long run, but I also never once even dreaded a long run – that was a true mental breakthrough.  I trained more consistently and much harder than I ever have before.  I averaged 46mpw through the cycle (small potatoes for most marathoners, but consider I averaged 25mpw prior to Shamrock and 38mpw prior to Wineglass) and hit new paces in workouts that I never would’ve dreamed of last year (long tempos at 7:10-7:15 pace, what the what?!).

On race day?  I ran 4:00:38.

steel-stacks-race-expo

Bib pickup at the Steel Stacks! Looking happy because we haven’t run a miserable ass race yet.

——————

Laura (the most amazing friend and race supporter you could ever hope to have) dropped me off at the start line that morning and I as I hung around stretching and hydrating, I realized I was freezing.  I also made a mental note of how little I would appreciate that irony later on when I was sweating to death and about to keel over.

At the start, Megan and I agreed we were going for it – that was the whole reason, the entire purpose of choosing Lehigh.  It was BQ or bust and we wouldn’t be deterred.  I have no regrets about that.

Unfortunately, even from the start it never felt easy.  First 6 miles: 8:16, 8:12, 8:13, 8:19, 8:07, 8:07.  We saw Laura on the course around this point, and I already knew I was in trouble.  The 8:07s were a little aggressive, but make no mistake – I do not believe this was poor pacing.  Considering the past two marathons where I set out at 8:00 pace, I was really striving to keep it contained in the first few miles.  I was hoping that eventually my legs would just wake up.

They never did.

Temperature at the start was hovering around 64 degrees, the humidity was a brutal 90%.  This became readily apparent once we started running.  Oh to be freezing at the start line once again!

Somewhere around mile 11 or 12, I let Megan go ahead.  I could tell she was feeling a bit better than I was and I needed to start really pulling it back.  Around mile 14, I was struggling to get a pack of SportBeans open so I stopped to walk.  I pulled myself back together and ran all of mile 15 (8:44).  I never saw another 8:xx mile for the rest of the race.

The next 5 miles are just a blur of misery in my brain.  Lots of canal path.  Lots of other people trying to be encouraging as they ran by.  Lots of hating myself and hating marathons.

When I finally saw Laura at mile 20, I just flipped a double bird.  My attitude was shit, my quads were absolutely shot, and my hip felt like it was broken.  In fact, I’m pretty sure I said “my hip is broken” about 729 times between mile 20 and the finish.  I was an absolute delight to be around, I’m sure.  If you’ve ever bonked in a major way at a marathon, you know exactly how this feels.  If you haven’t … well, I’m not nearly a good enough writer to do it justice.  I just hope you never do experience it because your brain can pull some pretty nasty tricks on you.  Some of my lowest lows have come in the last 10 miles of a marathon. (That’s entirely a white privilege/first world problems statement right there, but I hope you get what I’m saying.)

I started pushing a bit once I could see the finish, but pushing at that point was roughly equivalent to hobbling with a desperate expression on my face.  I crossed at just a smidge over 4 hours and was mildly happy to at least have come in under my CIM time.  No personal worst today, I RULE! </sarcasm>

Pretty sure I am legitimately crying here, and they were NOT tears of joy.

Pretty sure I am actually crying here, and they were NOT tears of joy.

I’ll note that Megan, while not having the race she wanted, still managed to PR and come in around 3:48.  She is pretty damn awesome.

————————–

So where does that all leave me?  Blame it on the weather?  Well, as I mentioned earlier, that’s tricky and feels a bit like a scapegoat at this point.

If it’s not weather, it’s misjudging my fitness.  That’s where I get frustrated.  Could I run more miles? Yes – and that’s the goal I’m working towards.  I find it hard to believe, though, that I can run a 3:45 on 25mpw but shooting for 3:35 on 45mpw is so aggressive that I bonk as hard I have.

At this point, the only conclusion I can come to is that the training I have been doing is not working for me.  If you want to change the results, you have to change the training, right?  So in the past few weeks, I have been talking to a few people, researching some things, and trying to figure out a path forward.  I know I will run another marathon again and I know that a BQ will happen eventually.  I just need to figure out how to get myself there.

If it was easy to run a well-executed marathon, well, it just wouldn’t be that fun, would it?

Teal There’s A Cure 5K Race Recap (21:12)

29 Jul

As I alluded to in my last post (approximately 138 years ago in blogging time), I ran a race on the 4th of July.  Based on a few recent workouts (most notably, 4×1 mile repeats at 6:50 pace) I thought I was in pretty good shape to run a PR – but I wasn’t sure how fast I might be, and I wasn’t sure if, once faced with the suckitude that is the 5K, I would be able to pull it off.  I hadn’t raced a 5K since November, and I hadn’t PR’d a race at any distance since the BCCR Pink Ribbon 5K with Hollie and Laura last May.  So I would say I was cautiously confident going in.

The race starts and ends in Marcellus Park, which is a fairly decent sized park that made for a nice warm-up spot.  I jogged for about 20 minutes and then did a few strides, got in a bathroom line which took longer than expected and had to run fast-ish to get to the start on time.  I am starting to realize I am not so great at time management.

failure_at_everything

Based on previous years results, I thought I might have a shot at a top 3 overall female finish (ok, so cautiously confident also comes with a side of slight delusion …) so I lined up pretty close to the start line.  After the ‘GO!’ the pack took off quite quickly, and after about a quarter-mile, I took note of a 6:11 pace on ye olde Garmin.  I had recognized at least one female speedster at the start; I now knew that these b*tches meant business and I would need to run my own race – this was now about the PR and not overall placing.  After a half a mile or so, I figured myself to be in 6th place.

Between a fast start and a somewhat steep downhill, the first mile clocked in at 6:39 per my watch.  The pace felt tough but maintainable.  Somewhere around 1.3 miles in, I saw another girl up ahead of me.  She looked like she was struggling, which gave me the oomph that I needed.  I held steady on the pedal and passed her with relative ease.

phoebe_running

And then, out of nowhere, I felt like I was losing my motivation.  Shit hurt, there was no one on my heels, and the pack with the rest of the girls was too far ahead of me to realistically try and hunt down.  Mile two clocked in at 6:48.

By this point, I was running entirely by myself.  It was mildly windy.  I would’ve given anything for someone to draft off of for a bit.  I know the 3rd mile of a 5K is not supposed to feel good but I had just completely fallen off my mental game.  This whole mile was a struggle to just keep the split under 7:00 (this was a secondary goal of mine – split everything under 7min/mi pace).  Just managed to squeak it out with a 6:58.

Then, you are back at the entrance to the park.  Typical 5K scenario – finish line should be so close and yet it seems like a much better plan to just pull off to the side and take a nap.

running_is_evil

I managed to sprint out the last bit at 6:22 pace, for a finish time of 21:12.  So yeah, I clearly had a bit more to give in that 3rd mile.  I really need to work on the mental game.

The only thing that made me feel better was looking at the elevation profile once I uploaded my Garmin data. Don’t get me wrong – this is in no way a “hilly” 5K, but the slow, gradual climb corresponds directly to when I felt myself losing steam.  Even though I know I mentally gave up a bit, this at least gives me a small reason as to why it felt so hard to maintain a consistent pace.

teal theres cure 5k elevation profile marcellus

 

In any case, I was able to hang on for 5th female overall and 1st in my age group.  And ran a 32 second PR.  And actually kind of made myself excited to run another 5K and see if I can break 21 minutes – which is a time I wouldn’t have ever thought I’d be in the vicinity of running.

IMG_3084

 

All in all, it was a really fun race and totally probably worth the sobriety the night before.

Buffalo Half Marathon Race Recap – 1:39:30

2 Jun

Pre-Race

Last year, I woke up the morning of this race at 3am and made the 2+ hour drive to Buffalo.  While it wasn’t the worst (or craziest) thing I’ve ever done, as this year’s race day drew closer I was feeling less and less like that was a thing I wanted to do again.  Luckily, Laura was also wanting to avoid a super early wake up and our fabulous friend Britt volunteered to host us for the night prior.  Umm, girls slumber party?  Does not require much arm twisting.

sleepover

I drove to Rochester to meet up with Laura, saw her work and her new adorable apartment, and then we headed to Buffalo.  We arrived without too much incident and headed to the expo.  Typical girl shenanigans followed: carbs, more carbs, meaningless chatter, lots of foam rolling, beer, and wine ice cream.  We stayed up way too late and tried way too hard to get a futon unfolded.  It was everything you could possibly ask for in a pre-race evening.

All the pre-race essentials right here.

All the pre-race essentials right here.

Race Morning

Buffalo was originally my goal race for the spring, but after running well at New Jersey and wanting to turn my focus towards building my base mileage back up since then, I really wasn’t sure what I wanted to do … or what I would even be capable of.  I tapered for NJ and did not do so for Buffalo, so I really had no idea what to expect out of my legs.  I had decided that I wouldn’t start so slow that I might sabotage a PR attempt, but I also wouldn’t push too hard for it if the legs weren’t having it that day.  I wanted to put in an honest effort but not totally destroy myself, if that makes sense.

Britt’s apartment was very close to the start, which was perfect.  Laura and I ran the approximately 1.5 miles with Britt escorting us via bike; I remember my chest feeling very heavy and my breathing felt labored even though we were running ~9 min/mile pace.  Not very comforting.

I tried to shake it off; we met up with Laura’s sister who was running the full, said some good lucks and have funs, and then hustled our butts into the corrals.

Miles 1-3:  7:38, 7:22, 7:17

I find it amusing that my first split in every decent half I’ve ever run has been 7:38.  Apparently this is my magic “sorta hard but don’t go out too fast” pace?

I felt like I was working fairly hard, but I felt like shit during the first two miles of NJ as well so I told myself not to let up too much.  During mile 3, you could see the leaders on the turnaround and I spent my time looking for Laura.  This apparently was a very good distraction, as this ended up being my fastest mile of the race.  Note to self: run more out-and-back courses.

Miles 4-6: 7:30, 7:38, 7:27

WHY AM I SEEING ALL THESE 7:3xs.  WHY ARE THESE MILES TAKING FOREVER.

why-am-i-doing-this

It’s never good when you’re ready to be done at mile 5.  It’s also never good when your stomach is starting to feel a little off and you’re questioning why you didn’t make one last bathroom stop before the start.

Miles 7-8: 7:26, 7:33

The first .35ish miles of this segment was great – it was the last section of Delaware Ave and was relatively close to the finish, so the sidewalks were thick with spectators and hubbub and music and all that fun stuff that makes you forget how much you are NOT feeling this race.

However.  You then make a turn onto Niagara which is probably the worst section of the entire race.  This street was part of the old race course, but it used to be mile 1.5ish-2.5ish – early enough where you didn’t care that the street was shitty, the area looked rundown as hell, and there were no people around.  At mile 7 of a bad race, though … I remember purposefully looking for a street sign so I could curse it in an appropriate manner.  I grunted “Niagara Street, you are stealing my fucking soul right now” and some guy passing me gave me a dirty look.  I love making friends during races.

zero-fucks

The other fun thing about this section is that my mild stomach discomfort turned to a very distinct sloshing sensation.  I AM HAVING SO MUCH FUN RIGHT NOW!!

Mile 9: 8:26

Ha.  Ha ha.  Ha ha ha.  The sloshing in my stomach persisted and all my focus went to determining if I could make it to the end or not.  At mile 8.52, a single porta-potty appeared directly to my left and I was immediately so happy to see it, I could swear it was glowing around the edges.  I darted in and tried to make it as quick as possible, but I ended up losing about a minute.  To be honest, I’m pretty frustrated by this only because it continues to be a theme in my races.  I should like, do something to figure out why this happens or something.  Hmm.

Miles 10-13.1: 7:33, 7:29, 7:28, 7:35, 1:06 (7:28 pace)

When I exited the porta-potty, the 1:40 pace group was directly in front of me.  This was probably the saving grace of the rest of my race.  I hopped out in front of them and kept telling myself “do NOT let them pass you.”  I wasn’t sure how my legs would react after the pop-n-squat and I have to admit, I was pleasantly surprised that they didn’t cramp up or start refusing to cooperate.

Pretending Im happy at mile 11.5ish

Pretending I’m happy at mile 11.5-ish

At this point though, the chest-lung-breathing thing that I experienced during the warm-up caught up to me.  Every time I tried to take a deep breath, it hurt my lungs and I felt like I was going to choke.  I just tried to hang tough with whatever I had left, and stick to my mantra of “do not let them pass you.”  It certainly was not the fast finish that I had in me for NJ, but I can’t say I’m disappointed with the overall time.

DONE.  Finally.

DONE. Finally.

Overall: 1:39:30, 45/2110 females, 9/428 age group

 

garmin-splits-buffalo-half

 

I saw Laura and Britt immediately after I finished and I stopped in the chute to complain about my complete inability to breathe properly.  I was happy in a weird way to hear that Laura had experienced the same thing – we both realized it was pretty damn humid outside and neither of us have really had a chance to acclimate to the weather.  Sometimes I wonder if I’m just being a big baby, so when the girls with elite numbers have similar issues, it makes me feel less like I’m just composed entirely of wuss genes.

Here is the medal I got for my wussiness.

Here is the medal I got for my wussiness.

I realize this recap sounds like more complaining than anything else, and honestly, I’m rubbing myself the wrong way even as I type this (heh heh … TWSS).  This was my 3rd fastest half marathon ever, I should be nothing but happy – and again, it’s not really the time itself I’m upset with, more the actual race experience.  It wasn’t pleasant.  That being said, I am definitely grateful that even on a bad day, I can still come in under 1:40.  I finally really feel like “I’m back” after a slow, gradual build up of mileage and fitness over the winter.  I am excited to get back to my weekly routine, get back to speed work, and to not pin a bib on for a while.

New Jersey Half Marathon Race Recap – 1:38:05

30 Apr

A few months ago, Hollie talked me into coming down to New Jersey to visit and run this race.  Actually “talked me into” makes it sound like a lot of effort on her behalf- I’m pretty sure all it took was one Facebook post.  But I digress.

Originally I intended to shoot for about a 1:40 at this race, but after a handful of decent workouts in the past few weeks, I started to wonder if I was in slightly better shape.  Due to that, and to the fact that my fall racing plans impact my plan of making Buffalo my goal race (more on that later), I went into this race thinking that I would race it all out and let the chips fall where they may.

Laying out my race gear usually gets my mind in the game the night before.  I do this for about 2 percent of all my races.

Laying out my race gear usually gets my mind in the game the night before. I do this for about 2 percent of all my races.

Pre-Race:

I was trying to be enthusiastic, but due to poor logistics at the expo and realizing that the half started way earlier than I thought it did, I was sort of stumbling around Hollie’s house like a zombie.  I finally pulled myself together, procured a cup of coffee, and we all hit the road.  On the way there, I distinctly remember telling Laura that my main mission would be to find a porta-potty (foreshadowing! wee, fun!).  I also felt myself starting to get hungry, and ate half of a Picky Bar I found in my car (more foreshadowing! such fun!).

We got somewhat close to the race start at Monmouth Park and then boom!  Huge line of cars.  The volunteers at the expo had warned about this, and I honestly thought we left early enough to avoid the traffic but apparently we underestimated just how bad the congestion would be.  By the time we were able to park and I pinned my bib on, it was 6:30am – leaving only 15 minutes until the start of the race.

Let me spare you the agonizing details and just say that I had a choice to make: stay in line, use the bathroom, and fight through the hordes of walkers or get my butt to my corral and find out how long I could run before an emergency situation popped up.  I chose the corral.

Miles 1-2

As soon as the gun went off for the wheelchair start, I realized I didn’t have my Gu.  Typically this wouldn’t have been a deal breaker, but I woke up so full from the night before that I didn’t eat a real breakfast.  As I mentioned above, I did have half a Picky but I didn’t trust that could fuel me through a PR half marathon attempt.

I stood there waiting for my corral to be released and realized that having to poop and facing the almost certain bonk that was waiting at mile 10ish was probably not going to make for the best race ever.  I decided to run by feel and not force the pace.

I started just behind the 1:40 pace group and tried to hang with them for the first two miles.  I felt like I was working too hard to keep that pace.  I told myself, it’s just not your day.  Hang tough for as long as you can, and readjust your goal to 1:41-1:42.

Miles 3-5

The only thing I remember from this section of the race is the mental struggle to stay positive.  I kept my head down and did my own thing, not looking at my Garmin, and just tried to enjoy myself.  I got ahead of the 1:40 group at some point here, and thought about how funny it would be when they swallowed me back up later in the race.

Miles 6-10

At this point, I caught up to a handful of girls and one guy who was cracking the cheesiest jokes as loud as he could.  I stayed with him for a mile or two and honestly – he was the biggest difference in my mental game.  I was laughing out loud and joking back with him.  It was genuinely fun, and for once, my race photos actually reflect that I might actually like this silly running thing.

Dare I say ... Im enjoying myself??

Dare I say … I’m enjoying myself??

I eventually broke away from the funny guy and realized that I wasn’t feeling nearly as bad as I thought I would.  My lead-legs were gone, and my stomach – thought a bit uncomfortable – was not entirely revolting.  I was still worried about my lack of fuel, and was disappointed to have not seen gels being handed out on the course.  I told myself to keep ignoring the Garmin and keep the pace steady.

Miles 11-12

think it was around mile 11 where I saw the best cheerleaders!  I was so totally in a zone at this point that when spectators started popping up with more frequency on the course, it didn’t really phase me.  All of a sudden though, I thought I heard a familiar voice – and sure enough, Laura and Danielle!  I was so happy to see them; I wasn’t sure if I was actually going to see anyone out on the course because the rushed start led to somewhat uncertain logistics.

wave-hi

 

Seeing the girls put a spring in my step, all the way until the final turn onto the boardwalk.

At this point, it felt like you should be almost done, but my watch only read 11.8 miles.  The wind – although not terrible at around 12MPH – was now a direct headwind.  For some reason, I was still afraid I was going to bonk and told myself to just stay in the comfortable pace zone.  I think I was mostly just traumatized from previous terrible boardwalk finishes at races in Virginia Beach.

Miles 13-Finish

When I passed the mile 12 marker, I finally had the guts to look at my watch.  That was the first point I realized that I was close to a PR.  I was having a hard time figuring out how that was possible, but I knew with only a little over a mile left, it was time to push.

Somehow, even in the last mile of a race, on the  boardwalk, into the wind, I was still all smiles.  I don't even know who I am anymore.

Somehow, even in the last mile of a race, on the boardwalk, into the wind, I was still all smiles. I don’t even know who I am anymore.

When I finally saw the finish line, I knew it was going to be close, and I just tried to sprint as hard as I could. Unfortunately, I came up a little short.

This is my aw crap what the fuck face.

This is my “aw crap what the fuck” face.

My “aw crap” moment only lasted for about a second.  Even though I was 20 seconds shy of a PR, I honestly never expected to have this kind of race on that day.  I wasn’t sure that I could pull it off even if everything went smoothly pre-race, and obviously, not everything did.  To have run by feel for the majority of the race, while having fun, and turn in my second fastest half ever?  I’ll call that a success any day of the week.

nj-half-marathon-splits

Syracuse Half Marathon Race Recap

4 Apr

I will first of all admit that I was not highly enthused for this race.  Coming off a week of being sick (strep throat, a lot of fun) and then leaving for a week of work travel (which was actually about as fun as a work trip can get), my head was not really in “let’s go run hard” mode.  Waking up to discover single-degree temps and fairly heavy snow killed whatever inkling of excitement I had left.

Thankfully, I knew Laura was coming out to race and I figured it’d look real bad if she came all the way from Rochester to run and I bailed.  I’m pretty sure that’s an unforgivable offense, actually.  So I adjusted my planned wardrobe, brewed a cup of coffee, and headed out the door.

Photo shamelessly stolen from Laura.  My wardrobe was Running Snowsuit, aka wearing-four-layers-of-shirts-and-a-jacket.

Photo shamelessly stolen from Laura. My wardrobe was Running Snowsuit, aka wearing-four-layers-of-shirts-and-a-jacket.

The snow stopped by race start, but it snowed enough to cover the streets and there wasn’t enough time for the sun or DPW trucks to do anything about it.  Spoiler alert: running on snowy, icy streets sucks.

Going into this race, I was hoping to pull off a 1:45 with a moderate effort.  I met up with some friends from my running group at the start; they planned to run 8:15s and see how it felt after a few miles so I decided to tag along.  The only real hill in this race is in mile 2, so I knew I wanted to back off that pace if necessary to avoid killing myself at you know … mile freaking 2 of a half marathon.

Miles 1-6: 8:09, 8:31, 8:02, 8:01, 7:56, 8:04

The pace felt real easy during these miles; the most frustrating part was running in the snow and slush.  Not a single step I took felt stable and I was entirely convinced I was going to bite it.  Part of the problem here was that the road conditions made it tough to follow the actual course – the lead runners were largely running in any tire tracks in the road (I presume that was their intent, at least), and so, the mid-packers followed.  It was the best shot at not slipping, but it also was setting everyone up for terrible tangents as we were all running outside of the cones.

Race leader coming down a slippery hill.

Race leader coming down a slippery hill.

(source)
((also a great article about the race, go check it out))

 

Miles 7-10: 7:41, 7:53, 7:41, 7:51

My tangents were bad enough by this point that I tried to start manually lapping my watch.  This makes interpreting my splits kind of goofy so stay with me here.  Just after mile 6 we made the turn on to Court St and I got really annoyed at the wind, and annoyed with the snow, and decided I wanted to be done sooner rather than later.  I didn’t want to kill it because it was still early, but I needed to feel more like I was moving.  I held pace with a couple of girls who might have been on a college team?  Or a running club, possibly.  They were wearing matching jackets with a logo and had a coach on the course who ran with them a few steps, but I can’t for the life of me remember what the logo said.  ANYWAY, they were running a fairly steady pace for a bit until they started taking selfies and then would lag and surge.  I don’t really need to inject my commentary here.  It suffices to say that I was frustrated by this.

Miles 11-13.1: 8:06, 7:46, 7:45, 7:00

Mile 11.  Good ol’ mile 11.  This section of the course covers part of the Creekwalk in downtown Syracuse.  On a nice day, it’s a gorgeous place to run.  On a day where it is ~15 degrees and has been snowing?  It’s essentially a death trap.

I made the incredibly stupid mistake of trying to pass a girl, stepped on a 3″ sheet of ice, and did a wildly elegant one-footed slide/hop type move while yelling “shit.  oh shit!  SHIT! I am sorry, I am so sorry!!”  I thought I was going down, and even worse, I thought I was going to take that poor girl with me.  Somehow, I recovered my balance but I slowwwwwwed down like crazy after that.  It didn’t get any better – the entire Creekwalk was sheer ice.  I yelled “shit!” a few more times and chatted with the runners around me about how we were all probably going to break our legs.  I’m sure they appreciated it.

This section kind of took the spring out of my step and I started to let myself get negative.  Somewhere around the mile 12 marker, I saw one of the coaches of our running group who shouted some encouraging words which was honestly the boost I needed to not limp it on in to the finish.

Catching flies?  No but really, why is my mouth hanging open?  Also it's probably time for a haircut, that is one out-of-control ponytail.

Despite photographic evidence to the contrary, I did not run this race stoned. Also it’s probably time for a haircut … that is one out-of-control ponytail.

 

I had 1:45:22 for 13.24 miles, 7:57 pace.  I’m pulling the annoying blogger move and giving you Garmin stats because I knowingly ran the tangents terribly.  (Although, to be fair, I thought I’d see more along the lines of 13.4 on my watch by the end.  But it makes me feel better, so deal with it.)

Afterwards, I met up with Laura and some of my other friends and we ate, chatted, and complained about the race.  Ha.  I think everyone was a lot slower this year than last year (I didn’t run last year, so I don’t have a personal data point) and the general consensus is that your time was probably good for at least 2-4 minutes faster, if not more, on a day with better conditions.

Now, I know that everyone out there is running the same race – I am again pulling another annoying blogger move to make myself feel better because I was S.O.R.E. the next few days.  So I’ll give myself an A for meeting my goal time-ish, and a B for the effort – it was more than a moderate effort to achieve that time, but I like to think it was equivalent to a 1:42ish on a better day. syracuse-half-marathon-medal

All that complaining aside, it was a fun day and anytime I get to see one of my good friends at a race is A+ in my book!  And I had no regrets about not rolling back over and going to bed that morning … isn’t that how it always goes?

Lake Effect Half Marathon Race Recap

5 Mar

Better late than never, right?

I won’t lie – I was way more excited about getting to see Hollie and Laura again, to meet Britt, and to hang out with the rest of my local running buds than I was to actually run this thing.  Back when I registered, I thought I’d be mid-marathon training and possibly in shape to go for a PR, assuming weather played along.  The thought of running a slow (for me) half as my first race of the season didn’t exactly have my panties in a twist with pre-race nerves and enthusiasm.

However, once it was actually Sunday morning, all of those being-way-too-hard-on-myself thoughts disappeared and I was ready to just have fun.

lake-effect-half-marathon-bib-medal

The weather was perfect: about 35 degrees and sunny, with only a slight breeze coming off of the lake. I should’ve adjusted my wardrobe accordingly as I started to overheat in the second half of the race, but live and learn, I suppose.

The course is a double out and back which would typically drive me nuts (especially since I do about 50% of my long runs in the park where the race is held, so it’s even less of an exciting scene for me).  What saves this race is the fact that I knew probably 30% or so of the people running it, and I had a blast awkwardly cheering for people as they passed by.

A couple of friends from my running group wanted to run 8:24s and since that perfectly aligned with my hoped-for pace, I joined in with them from the get-go.  It was nice to run and chat; between the cheering, we told a bunch of embarrassing stories, I bragged on my friends a bit, all the good stuff.  The first 5 miles flew by almost perfectly on pace, albeit with a bit of weaving and dodging during the first crowded mile.

It was a lot of surging and pulling back from miles 6-10.  My friend and I were feeling good, but we were being cautious about not blowing it too soon.

Around mile 11, I started feeling somewhat fatigued.  Not awful, just tired.  I let my friend go – he was ready to push, and I know he wanted to get as much under 1:50 as he could.  At some point I caught up to and kept pace with a very friendly woman for a bit.  It’s always kind of nice when you sync up with someone when you’re not feeling great – it keeps you both in it and for me at least, keeps my head from going totally negative.  Eventually she fell off the pace again, and I just kept pushing forward.

I kicked it in for the last .1, feeling ready to be done.  As soon as I crossed the finish, I realized how much I had left in the tank and was happy that I had run a truly honest effort – not easy, but not an all-out race – and had accomplished my hopeful time goal to match that type of effort.

lake-effect-half-marathon-garmin-splits

Obviously, this is where the fun really began.  I was 99% sure Hollie had pulled out the win since the last time I saw her, she had a decent lead on the second place female.  What I didn’t realize is that she killed it with an almost PR, and that Laura actually did pull out a PR even though she raced a 10k the day before.  After we caught up with each other, we changed quickly and waited for Britt who wasn’t too far behind me.  I was happy to see how well she did, especially given the bumpy road she’s been through over the past several months!

Super creeper pic of Hollie getting her 1st place award.  Laura and I creeped along like paparazzi weirdos.

Super creeper pic of Hollie getting her 1st place award. Laura and I creeped along like paparazzi weirdos.

We drank coffee and chatted while waiting for the awards, then headed downtown for Blues Brunch at Empire Brewing Co.  The lesson we learned there is: don’t be a shitty waitress when your table is full of starving runners because low blood sugar makes people crazy.  Service aside, the food was great, the Bloody Mary I had was even better, and hanging out with friends after a race is probably the most fun ever.  So.  Good day!

So happy I can't even open my eyes.

So happy I can’t even open my eyes.

I’m sure there are highlights I am forgetting (worst blogger ever award) but I have to say that this race was exactly what I needed to give my motivation a little oomph, but also to break up a long, cold, somewhat boring winter.  I can’t wait until the next time I get to see these guys again (Syracuse Half -> NJ Half -> Buffalo Half !!!) and I know my chance to race hard and shoot for PRs will be coming soon as well.