Sunday, July 21, 2013

Drunken race report

One of my prizes for 3rd place!
Okay, so maybe I'm not completely drunk, but I have enjoyed a bit of wine and beer today, because it is my birthday after all. I turned 46 today and that has made all the difference in how I feel about the race I ran. The thing is: I race pretty darn fast for a freakin' 46 year old. That was confirmed when they announced my result at the awards ceremony and mentioned it was my 46th birthday. The gasps from the crowd were audible and the cheers were overwhelming. I think, because I'm surrounded by other masters that are so amazing on a consistent enough basis, I forget how remarkable it is to place as high as I do in races at my age. I really, really tried to soak it in despite my general disappointment in my race performance.

The stats: 3rd place female, 18th overall with a time of 1:25:29.

I did not go into this race thinking it would be a stinker. I had two very bad, short, training runs leading up to the race, but that is pretty much par for the course. In fact, sometimes it seems as though the worse I feel in the couple of days leading up to a race, the better I preform on race day. Bottom line: I did not let the heavy-legged feeling I had the last two days bring me down.

We stayed in Sonoma last night and that was great. No crazy early morning wake up call, just the usual 5 a.m. I will report one thing that was out of whack, though I have been enduring this for a couple of months. I have been retaining water like a mofo. For those of you who have suffered from this, you know it can lead to some really awful feelings during workouts and races. I have been retaining between 3-5 pounds of water weight and generally experiencing miserable GI issues for the past few months. More on that later, but just know that I woke feeling like I had a camelbak installed around my middle. Since this has been how I have felt for the past two months, I didn't feel like it was particularly strange, so I am hesitant to use it as an excuse.

The race start was not ideal. The busses were packed and we arrived later than we wanted to the start area. The portable toilets had 30-40 minute lines with only 20 minutes to the start, so I went in search of farm worker portables with success. The line was much shorter for these!

I jogged back to the start and after a few minutes we were off. The course starts with a brutal uphill right away. Supposedly, then it runs downhill for a couple of miles before flattening out. However, those next few miles were definitely rolling pretty nicely. It was in those first few miles that I realized my breathing was labored far more than it should be for the paces I was doing. I was patient and just tried to run by effort. I ordered myself not to look at my Garmin until mile 6. At mile 6, I was running somewhere around 6:25 pace. And, I was breathing hard!

I then did something I've never done in a race before: I shut off my watch. I didn't want to know the details any more. I didn't want my expectations interfering with my experience. I wanted to enjoy this long run through a beautiful countryside on my birthday. I slowed to an effort I knew I could hold, and I just crossed my fingers that the 4th place woman wouldn't catch up to me. Several men caught me and passed me, but no women did.

I feel really ambivalent about how I ran this race. I know that I couldn't have pushed myself harder without risking dropping out. Mentally, I held my shit together, I think. I could have broken down at mile 6, but I made the decision that enjoying the race and finishing were higher priorities. The story I was concocting while in the race wasn't nearly as positive as the one I'm telling now. I guess I've run enough races to know that perspective changes after a race is over.

What I thought about the last 7 miles of this race was what I should do next week. Should I start marathon training for my first attempt at an OTQ in Chicago? Should I go with Plan B and run CIM? I feel like I am leaning pretty hard towards punting to CIM and right now is the time to make that decision. There are a lot of benefits to going that direction: I am currently leading the Pacific Association Masters Long Race Series and CIM is on the list of focus races. So are two other races that I couldn't do if I ran Chicago. I know several runners shooting for the OTQ at CIM. It's in my backyard, literally. Chicago requires financing to get there though the payoff for placing well in the masters' race is very lucrative. I also have this history with Chicago and therefore a certain magical feeling about the place.

Tough decisions ahead for me. Coach Hadley and I are in discussions about this currently, but no decisions have been made.

So, here I sit. Typing away at my keyboard with some seriously droopy eyelids. All in all, it's been a great day. The Genius has treated me well and I got to hang out with some of my Impala Racing Team peeps today in a beautiful place.            

Just look at that handsome couple!

The birthday girls: Michelle and Jaymee. We both turned 21 today! Just in time to enjoy some yummy champaign cocktails!
Thanks to everyone for sending me good wishes on my birthday. It really has been a great day!

Monday, July 15, 2013

I just need a 12 mile warm up

I have been neglecting my blog lately, and I apologize to those of you who have been waiting to hear how my 5000m race on the track went two Sundays ago. Bottom line: it sucked in a major way. I tried to search for some little crumb of positive that came from driving 2 hours each way to run a 19:00 5k, but you know what? There isn't one and there doesn't have to be. I didn't feel good from the very beginning of the race, and it just didn't get any better. So there you go.

Coach Hadley may have summed it up best by saying that I must just need a 12 mile warm up given that I ran a workout within my long run the weekend before with the last 3 miles faster than I raced this 5k. So, basically I'm not dwelling on the race. Sometimes you have a bad race. The sun still came up the next morning and nobody took away my birthday.

Since that race, I've had some good workouts. I ran 5 x 1 mile repeats on the bike trail Wednesday morning. I averaged 6:01 for the set which is a 5-7 second improvement over the last time I did the workout. And, I think the last time I did the workout I spent a lot more time lollygagging between repeats (though I wasn't supposed to). The most brilliant thing about that workout was that I ran it with friends! This is something that I have needed for a while--a posse of runners to meet up with so I can get my hind quarters out the door for workouts. It also helps to push me during the workout and keeps me honest. I love that I have so many fast ladies in the area to run with and that they are willing to do some of my workouts! I'm looking forward to 12 x 400m with the group Wednesday.

Yesterday, I had my first 20 mile day of the cycle. I ran 5 miles in the morning with my puppies and then jumped on the treadmill for 15 in the evening. My disdain for the treadmill has oddly turned into excitement. I seem to run so well on the thing and it has some distinct advantages for me right now:

  1. It is helping me to learn to negative split and really push my effort at the end of workouts. For whatever reason, I have had trouble lately starting out too fast on the roads in my workouts and have been positively splitting or taking a longer rest period during the workout than prescribed.
  2. I can see how my heart rate is affected by increased/decreased pace and recovery. What else is there to focus on?
  3. Mentally, this is much tougher for me than running on a trail or road. It takes so much mental effort to stay on the treadmill for 15 miles. I always feel like I have accomplished something monumental when I'm done.
  4. It's cool inside the gym. It's not outside.
There are also some distinct disadvantages:
  1. I feel like I'm cheating. I never believe the paces I see on the treadmill. Even adjusting for lack of wind resistance by upping the incline, I still won't believe it is the same or even close to the same.
  2. I don't race on the treadmill. It is an ideal environment, so what I can do on the treadmill doesn't necessarily equate to paces I can run on the roads in a "real world" environment.
  3. It engages musculature differently. We use less of our hamstrings when running on a treadmill since the whirring belt helps finish our stride for us.
  4. It. Is. Boring.  
This treadmill workout had a 5 mile warm up, 5 mile tempo, and 5 mile cool down. I ran the first 5 at a steadily decreasing pace from 8:00 down to 6:45. I took the opportunity to listen to a book I am currently fascinated by, Top Dog, by Bronson and Merryman. This book is really helping me understand how our brains work especially related to competitive situations. I am developing curriculum for a runner-specific mind training program right now, and this book (along with all of the citations it's packed with) is really helping shape it. This stuff fascinates me to no end! I've been surprised numerous times in reading the book how out of date the common thinking is about how our minds work in training and competition.

At 5 miles in, I stopped the mill and switched to some power music for the next 5 mile tempo section. I started out conservatively with a 6:15-6:20* pace (*Take all paces with a grain of salt. I cite them only for comparative purposes) first mile. The last time I did this workout a month or so ago, I ran the 5 miles at 6:29 pace. I was pretty sure I would run faster than that! I was itching to increase the pace right off the bat, but I was patient. I'm sure that made a huge difference. I cranked down the next two miles until I was around 6:03. Mile 4 was 6:00 pace and I let myself crank the pace down for the last mile every minute until I was running 5:18 pace for the last minute. My heart rate got up to 90% of max which is right in the middle of the typical tempo range according to Daniels.

The last 5 miles were the hardest for me mentally. I was dreading them actually. I switched back to my audiobook and set my mind to focus on the task at hand. I started this section at 7:30 pace and ended it at 6:30 pace. I ran it faster and faster because I wanted to finish it! I was tired by the end, but I don't feel like I overdid it.

I have a race coming up. It's a half marathon. I am tapering for it. I have no idea what I will run there. I know now, after reading Top Dog, that just "thinking positively" about it will likely lead to a poor performance. Instead, I have realistic expectations that I could have a very good day if I feel good and everything lines up, including some planets. I've run the race a couple of times before, so I know what to expect. The weather may be warm but not miserable. So, the external factors appear to be lining up. Now, we'll just have to see how the physical and mental pieces fall in place. I have had some good workouts that tell me I am fairly fit, though not in top shape. I also just ran a 19:00 5k, so there you go.

I promise to write a race report right after the half marathon regardless of how it goes! I will likely be drunk since I'll be running from Napa to Sonoma and staying the night in Sonoma. It should be entertaining if nothing else.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

RAF gets a face lift

I've spent a bit of time freshening up this blog site. A spiffy new logo, tagline and overall look. Seems much happier to me. Let me know what you think!

In the mean time, I'm continuing to train and race like a she devil. I will run my first 5k in a long time tomorrow on the track. It should be a lung-opening experience. I'll post the deets after she's done.