Sunday, March 17, 2013

A 3 Minute PR

It has been a couple of years since I've been able to say that I set a PR at any distance, but I expected to set one today at the Emerald Nuts Across the Bay 12k. I hadn't run this race in 6 years, so, even running it at goal marathon pace, as I had planned, would get me a new PR.

What I didn't anticipate was how good I would feel out on the course. I ran 88 miles this week, my highest mileage yet, with 13 miles on Friday and 10 yesterday. Obviously, I did not get any sort of taper for this one and that was the plan. Prior to introducing the idea of running this race, I had a 4 x 2 mile workout at goal marathon pace within a 20 miler on my schedule. I asked Coach Hadley if I could run the 12k at GMP instead, tacking on the extra miles to get to 20. I told him I was really good about running workouts within races at the right pace. He said he thought it would be fine.

The pressure to race hard was relieved when I got to the start and saw several of the top female masters runners at the starting line. I knew that my GMP race was not going to match their speed, so I just relaxed and promised myself I would try to enjoy the scenery. This race course is gorgeous. It is a point-to-point course that starts across the Golden Gate from the city of San Francisco, climbs up and across the bridge, winds along the waterfront and finishes at the Aquatic Park near Fisherman's Wharf. The day was spectacular too, with very little wind and bright sunshine.
The elevation profile.

I whizzed along, trying not to brake on the downhill start with a first mile in 6:09. We then started the long slog up and over the bridge for miles 2-3 (~250 feet of climbing). The only mile marker I saw was at mile 6, so my splits are approximate and generated by the computer. I was really happy with how I felt going up the hills given that I haven't done hill work in ages. Mile 2 was 6:52 pace (200 foot climb) and 3 was 6:10. Mile 4 was a screaming downhill and I really made up some time, apparently running 5:24 pace! I worked hard again on not braking the downhills. That is a bad habit I have. I just tried to let my legs roll along underneath me. Hopefully that will pay off for my quad muscles tomorrow too.

Miles 5, 6 and 7 were flat, and I got into a nice steady rhythm running with one of my teammates (5:56, 6:03, 6:03). We picked off several other runners as we motored along. While the hill at the beginning of the race was the longest, the worst one is the final hill. You gain about 100 feet before dropping down to the finish on a crazy steep downhill. This is the part of my race I was most proud of. I show myself running a 5:49 pace for that last up and down bit. I let my legs fly on the last downhill and was completely out of control. Had a small insect crossed my path at any point in that descent, I would have been eating concrete for sure.

My prize! A bag full of nuts!
Surprisingly, I ended up taking the masters prize with this effort. It was an awesome prize! I got a duffle bag full of nuts and nut products! I also got a huge boost in confidence in my fitness level right now. I know I was supposed to run the race at a slower pace, but I will honestly say that the only times I felt like I was working really hard were on the hills. The rest of the time, the pace felt very in control.

I tacked on another 10.5 miles to call it 20 for the day and wrap up a great week of training. One of the best parts about racing in SF is getting to see many of my Impala teammates. We had a really strong showing today. Definitely a great day to be wearing Impala blue!

I'm interested to see how I feel tomorrow after all of that downhill pounding today. I have two more 90 mile weeks to go before my next race, a 10 miler here in Sacramento, and 6 weeks to the marathon. My confidence is much higher for both races after how well today went.

Weekly Recap
88 miles run
8 runs
12k race and new PR
20 mile long run



Monday, March 11, 2013

Recap for week of March 4th

March 4-10
80 miles
4 dog jogs
19 mile long run

Nothing much to report this week except that I had a great workout Wednesday and a not so great one yesterday. I did 6 x 1 mile repeats on Wednesday and decided during my warm up I wanted to try these out on the track. My warm up ended up being quite long as a result. When I finally got there, the two-lane track was occupied by a lot of kids--like 100 of them running in many directions. I decided to run my repeats along the road next to the track and see whether the crowd thinned out after a few. It did and I was able to finish the last 4 on the track. I like the track for both being able to get in a groove and get regular feedback on pace. My splits averaged just under 6:00 pace (see chart). That was about 7-8 seconds per mile faster than the last time I did those in late January.

Yesterday's long run was a struggle the entire way. These types of runs are inevitable. I was experiencing some belly issues, actually had been all week and had hoped it would be gone by then. The big challenge for me when I'm going into a workout feeling crappy is to get over feeling sorry for myself and get out the door anyway. I did that and I also did the workout within the long run. I wasn't sure what time I'd see when I looked down at my watch at the first 1/2 mile, but I wasn't surprised when it indicated 6:26 pace. That felt about right as my marathon effort that day and that's where I stayed for 6 miles.

I got my Emerald Nuts Across the Bay 12k race bib in the mail last week and decided I shouldn't waste it. As you'll recall I substituted the NorCal 10 miler last weekend for this race, but I've decided to run the 12k at marathon effort/pace within a 20 mile long run. I had 4 x 2 miles @ GMP on my schedule that day anyway, so why not? Coach Hadley agreed it would be fine and a good opportunity to practice taking fluids at that pace. It's a brutal course, but a lot of fun.  

This week my mileage jumps to 90 and I get lots of practice at goal marathon pace!

Run Away Fast!

Monday, March 4, 2013

I raced!

On Saturday, I ran the NorCal John Frank Memorial 10 mile Race. I have run this one before, but it had been about 5 years. I knew the course was a monster, but that's what I was looking for.

This race was a last minute add or rather substitute for a 12k I was planning to do in March. My goals were to have fun, practice racing (suffering) and win the Masters' race. The piece of rock in the photo proves that I accomplished the 3rd goal. I had fun mostly because I had the good fortune to travel with three of my friends (and teammates) to the race.  It's about a five hour round trip, so we had lots of time to catch up and entertain each other. Also, the event is very well organized and they really take care of the runners.

As for the suffering, I did that by running the race pretty hot on the way out and not so hot on the way back. The course is (sort of) an out and back with some pretty good hills in the middle and at the end. I didn't have a goal time, but I did want to put in a good hard effort. The trouble with pacing on this course is that it is both winding and hilly, so you never really get a chance to find a rhythm.

I started off running an honest pace of just over 6:00/mile. When I hit the hills in the first 5 miles, I did not slow down at all. I paid for that later. There were few if any mile markers, so I don't have many splits to show, but I did look down at my watch at the 5 mile marker to see 30:30 or so.  I knew when I saw that split I was going to struggle the second half. I slowed considerably on the hills on the way back, seeing 6:40-7:00 pace as I slogged my way up. I did get a nice rhythm going again from mile 8-9.5 and then climbed the last hill to finish 4th woman, in 1:02:27. I'm not sure whether I would have run much faster had I taken the first half a little easier, but I bet the second half would have felt better!

I was actually happy that I ran the race the way I did. One thing that's been missing from my running lately is practice suffering. There's no better way to practice that then to push yourself at the end of a hard race. It feels wonderful to be strong at the end of a race, but I found that it also feels good to win the mental battle of hanging in there when the last part of a race hurts. I had never realized that before or maybe my attitude has changed. I don't want to do that every race, but I think right now I needed a chance to test myself and prove that I could stick with an effort even after it ceased to be comfortable.

I am really looking forward to the next race, another 10 miler, on my schedule for April 7th. It is a much faster course than the one I just ran. One of my teammates wanted to know how much of a handicap Saturday's course had compared to a flat, fast course. I am happy to be able to answer that question! I looked at race times for faster runners (sub 1:10, sample size ~15) who ran the NorCal 10 miler last year and then the SacTown 10 miler four weeks later and eyeballed how much faster they ran on average (nobody ran faster at NorCal). Some people were only a minute faster while others were 3 and 4 minutes faster. It seemed like the average was around 1:30-2 minutes. So, there you go, Christina.

I have four more weeks of training before this next race and a much faster course to look forward to. My hope is to PR at SacTown which means running around 1:00:30. After this race last weekend, I feel much more confident that my fitness and mental racing toughness will get me there.

Another thing that didn't help me in the race Saturday was that I ran a quality workout on Wednesday night. I wish I could have done it on Tuesday, but I needed an extra day of recovery from my 21 miler the Sunday before. That's another thing that will change for the SacTown race: I will have four days of easy running before it, instead of two. That taper will help a lot!

As for the rest of the stuff I've been up to, I present you with my training log for the last two weeks.