Sunday, September 18, 2011


On today's 20-miler I had a breakthrough moment. Well, maybe not a "moment" per se - maybe series of moments, but all at once psychological, physical, emotional and motivating. I changed as a runner.

Yes, that sounds dramatic. (I mean, if the shoe fits...) And yes, we've (we being us runners) all had good runs, even good 20-milers, before. But this run was different than that. It's true that many outside forces (the nice cool fall weather, the finally dry trails) helped eliminate sometimes challenging variables. Still - something about today's run was different. For whatever reason, I felt like I belonged out there more than ever before.

I could tell you about the pace I ran, the things I thought, the people I passed, and the new flavor of Gu chomps I...chomped. But instead, I'll just keep this post brief and leave it at that.

I had my most inspiring, encouraging, and refreshing run ever during a 20-miler - the first run of that length for this training cycle, falling at the end of my first 50-mile week of this cycle.

I am pleased. Sub-4 hours, here I come.


Training Summary:

Week 12 of 19-week training cycle

1-35 (long run: 12 miler - two weeks after Grandma's Marathon)
2-28 (long run: 14 miler)
3-45 (long run: 16 miler)
4-39 ((long run: 18 miler)
5-28 (12 miler - bailed due to heat)
6-45 (long run: 18 miler)
7-7 (no comment)
8-27 (long run: 15 miler)
9-41 (long run: 17 miler)
10-46 (long run: 18 miler)
11-41 (half marathon PR!)
12-50 (long run: 20 miler)

Looking back at this, I see my coach seems to have an obsession with the 18-mile distance. Now, in her defense, a lot of this schedule has been shifted around/altered due to my hamstring struggles and logistical challenges from moving. We've really just played it by ear and adapted. The overall consistency, though, going back to my training pre-Grandma's, is definitely paying off.

My guess is that I have 4 weeks of solid training left, followed by a 3-week taper. I only get my training schedule from Wendy on a week to week basis, so I will have to just wait and see!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Back On Track With Another PR

Today I ran the Parks Half Marathon for the third time. This is a great, point-to-point, local race on a great route made all the better by excellent organization. I know my pal Vivian Adkins, who has run every single one since the race's inception (this was the 6th year, which Vivian unfortunately had to miss as she is making a BQ attempt in a full marathon), would agree with me that this is just a great event.

As of a couple of weeks ago I had no idea what we would use this race for - or what to expect from it. My running was crummy, I wasn't enjoying it, my hamstrings were screaming and me, and I was just burnt out. But things started to take a turn about a week or so ago and I began thinking that maybe I could really use this one to test my fitness.

There are 8 weeks to go until it was a great time for such a test.

The race starts in Rockville, Maryland and ends in downtown Bethesda, Maryland - very close to where I live. It's kinda hard to see, but here is the course map:

Because I don't have a car, and metro doesn't open early enough, I had to take a taxi to the start. That was fine because once I finished I had a quick bus ride home while everyone else was shlepping back to metro to ride back up to their cars in Rockville. It worked out well.

I had a bit of frustration this morning when I realized that my Garmin was completely dead. Oops. I quickly got it on the charging cradle and called the cab company and asked if they could give me an extra 15 minutes. They obliged. Thankfully the 30 minutes I had it plugged in was enough. Not that I was completely wedded to my splits or time for this race, but we did have a bit of a plan, and my biggest fear was going out too fast. The first 2 miles of this race start with some pretty long downhills and it's easy to get carried away (which I may have anyway).

Our goal (mine and Wendy's, of course) was to see if I could maintain 8:45 pace - giving myself a couple of miles in the beginning to ease into it so as not to completely piss off my already irritable hamstrings. Well, the slower start went completely out the window with those downhills. I had forgotten that the course started this way and once I was on them, I wanted to take advantage. I have very strong quads and I don't worry about shredding them on hills like some people I pretty much just charged down them. They weren't steep, but they were long, and, well, it felt good. After those first couple miles we headed into the park, onto the narrow paved trails that we would be on for the rest of the race.

This race has lots of hills, both up and down, but other than a couple of doosies, most of them are short lived and even kinda fun. Here is the elevation profile:

We've had major rain and flooding here for the past week, so we knew the trails would be messy in some spots. And they were. We definitely had to dodge some major mud slicks and puddles...but overall the terrain was pretty good, all things considered. I basically just charged along, trying to stay around 8:45 pace...

At around 8 miles I ended up running with a woman and she and I would push each other for the rest of the race. It was wonderful. I think each of us went through mini bad patches but, without saying we were doing so or really talking much at all, we pulled each other along. It stayed this way until the end - where she was able to pull away from me and beat me by a second or two...darnit! But really, I am so grateful I had her, especially in the last 3 miles...where there was one huge hill and we both committed to charging up it together. She truly helped me stay strong and thanks Katherine, whoever you are!

The whole race I knew I was working harder than I ever have in a half marathon. But I just decided that I would much rather crash and burn than wonder what it might have been like had I just gone for it. This wasn't a goal race of any who cares? So I just kept at it.

In the end I of course wished I had pushed harder in certain spots - but really, I can't complain. I have been eating crap and not really taking great care of myself for the past few weeks since my move, so I am pretty proud of myself for just going after it and coming up with (what I think is) a huge PR.

My previous PR was 2:02:32. Today I ran 1:54:55.

Given this, and considering I wasn't tapered, my hamstrings are just starting to come around, I had a couple of bad and almost nonexistent weeks of training, and I haven't been particularly great with my nutrition...the thoughts of going sub-4 at NYC are back.

There's clearly more work to do - but it seems like I might actually be back on track. I feel particularly hopeful because my legs felt absolutely fine afterwards - better than they have after some shorter, slower training runs. For that, I am pleased.

My Garmin is not speaking to my computer, apparently, but here are my splits: (Mid-race I wished I had turned off autolap, like I did in the those tangents can be disheartening!)

Official Chip Time and Pace
1:54:55 (8:46 pace)

Watch Time and Splits
0.25-(1:33/6:12 pace)
Total: 1:54:58 (8:41 pace - for 13.25 miles)

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Negligent Blogger

Well, it's been almost a month since I last wrote. The last post mentioned the problems I was having (with my hamstring pain and lost motivation) and those problems continued up until a week or so ago.

I didn't run as much as I was supposed to and I didn't enjoy the running I was doing. I was in a rut.

There was a lot going on, too. I finished up my summer job, had tons of interviews for next summer, was in my cousin's wedding, moved from Minneapolis to Duluth and then back to my condo in Maryland, and even squeezed in a short camping trip. It was all good stuff. 100% great, really. I just hated running. Well, that's not entirely true. I still loved running in theory - I just didn't, and couldn't get myself to, enjoy doing it. It hurt and I was tired of hurting all the time. I was tired of hurting while sitting in interviews in heels and a suit. I was tired of hurting while ON the runs. I just reached a point where I'd had enough.

And I told Wendy that was the case. She pushed me to keep going, suggesting that my (sub-4) goal might not be possible if I didn't suck it up, but I didn't care. I didn't. And I finally told her: "No." Not doing it.

Anyway, I won't recount all of the awful runs I had that were responsible for this negative attitude - but I am writing today because I finally feel like I am back on track and enjoying it again. My hamstrings are still giving me some problems, but they are cooperating a bit more (and I am putting up with them a bit more).

So here is what we've done:

19-Week Training Plan, mileage completed to date:

7-7 (tipping point!)

I ran 46 miles this week and felt better than I have in weeks. I ran a great pace run yesterday, Saturday (10 miles total, 6 below theoretical race pace) and followed that up with a slow 18 today. It felt good to be working hard again, even if it was really hard work. I liked it. Whew.

Next weekend is the Parks Half Marathon. I love this race and have run it twice before. It will be a good test of my fitness and will help me and Wendy plan more realistically about what I should shoot for in New York. I've thought about my goal a lot, but every time I try to make a decision (I just want a PR! 4:15 would be great! etc.) I realize I honestly just don't know what I am capable of and right now we should leave it at that.

I have also thought a lot about the nature, title, and purpose of this blog and this adventure. I can't help but believe more and more that, as running goes, this body of mine is truly meant for sprinting. I am starting to believe the thesis I had before I started this thing and think that perhaps my long-held belief is right - I am a sprinter. That doesn't mean I can't run long; clearly I do. But I have (unfortunately?) regressed back to a place where I do think there are some real limits on what I can accomplish in races like the marathon. Have I pushed to that limit? No. Am I doing so now? No, not really. But perhaps the injury problems, and the pain, and the seeming inability to keep the mileage high for very long is, in many ways, the result of my anatomy. We'll see.

Fast-Twitch Follies? Perhaps.