Monday, November 30, 2009

Seattle Half Marathon

After missing this race for the past two years because of injury, I was very happy to sign up for it early (for me) in September when I realized I'd come out of the summer feeling good. I'd had ideas of racing it but over the past few weeks realized I'd be better off doing it as a fun run for a few reasons.

The race in England even with the course difficulty and conditions showed I'm not quite to a good race shape yet. I have the miles but I don't have a lot of solid tempo runs under my belt and I knew I'd lost speed. If I chose to race the Seattle Half, I knew I'd be disappointed with my time and I'd have to take time off of running for taper/recovery. It just felt like a long race right now would be disruptive to my training schedule.

"Fun run" and "race" are often hard words to put together for me. If you start out real easy, the temptation to start blowing by people at the end when you are feeling great is just too tempting. So once I'd decided on my training plan for the week (50 running miles for the week with a track workout and long trail run), I decided it would probably be better if I could find someone slower than I to run with.

Coach Lesley had just the client for me. JCB was looking to race the Seattle half and expected to finish possibly under 2 hours but not necessarily. That would be my perfect easy pace for this hilly course.

I knew what the plan would be because Coach Lesley had sent me instructions about how to handle the course and pacing JCB in particular. It was a very informative and I will save that information to use for my future seattle half marathon plans! Basically the plan was to keep JCB in control the first few miles, use the flats along Lake Washington and keep it steady and strong on the hills through Madison and Interlaken. Once past mile 10, this was where the race would start. JCB herself knew that we were aiming for around a 2 hour half marathon but not the basics of the plan and depending on how the hills felt might be just a bit slower.

Phew! No pressure! I was quite nervous about this the night before and slept poorly. Once I was up the next morning and happy to see good weather, I was ready and looking forward to the whole experience.

Her husband would be driving us and another friend M who'd be pacing with us to the start. Her husband even was able to meet her along the course for gel and moral support which was really a big boost for her. M has been a runner for a long time and it was fun to have his support as well.

JCB's husband knew right where to drop us off with no fuss at all (I'm remembering this for next time!) and before we knew it we'd run into Coach Lesley's gang and posed for a good luck photo! Off to the clothing check and porto potty line and we were walking towards the start just when the marathon walkers started. We really had the easiest time of it.

And we were off! I had taken my garmin off of autolap and planned for manual splits with the mile markers. I hate how the miles get all mixed up in the tunnel.

Downtown and the tunnel.

Planned Actual
1 9:10 9:12 I breathed a huge sigh of relief.
2 9:10 8:48 Oops! I had no idea that I'd lose satellite reception downtown. The first half of this mile is uphill and then a pretty strong downhill. I did slow us down quite a bit on the downhill.
3 9:15 9:06 Better. We would be chatting a bit and start to drift faster.
4 8:50 9:08 In tunnel. I do think we took a water break in here which added time and had not been included in the pacing plan. I was glad to get out of the tunnel. I dislike it!

Lake Washington

5 8:50 9:15 Water stop.
6 8:55 9:01 Gu stop.
7 8:55 9:09

A little slower than planned pace but we had had a couple of faster miles at first and getting in the water was important as it was warmer than expected. JCB might've been a bit overdressed. JCB was still chatty at this point. I did tell her that at the end, I did not expect her to talk and that would be just fine!

Madison and Interlaken

8 9:45 9:39 Seriously, I was amazed by this! I can take hill running lessons from her I think!
9 9:15 9:14 Perfectly run. M & I kept her form in check for the downhill and the uphill which is on this mile. She ran it perfectly and made us tell stories. I made her stop trying to respond to our chatter. She needed her breath for recovery. It was here I was pretty certain she'd make the 2 hour marker.
10 9:30 9:01 Confirmed! A gradual climb, JCB stayed steady and strong. She was working and her breathing showed that. Water stop while the 2 hour pace group caught up.

One Green Lake Unit left

11 9:00 9:05 This is a sneaky tough mile as you cross Roanoke and feel like you must be close but mile 11 has a lot of rolling which is tough at this point in a race.
12/13 whatever's left! 17:49 Missed the mile marker but 8:55 average pace. JCB was hurting in here but kept at it like a trouper. M & I kept up a steady stream of form checks and encouragement. The last little dip under Aurora on Mercer is evil. JCB dug deep and kept at it.

As we approached the finish I could see the gun time clock just tick over to 2:00. Woohooo! she had done it and looked done in but it didn't matter at all. The grin came out shortly.

We did spot Coach Lesley and crowed the good news. At this point JCB started the "i can't believe it" but it didn't matter at that point because she had done it.

Wow! What a thrill to help someone to a 5 minute PR and sub 2 half marathon on such a tough course. It really hit home some points I've been missing lately in training.

1. Run hard for those hard training runs. I think I've been slacking in this partly because of poor conditions (dark/sloppy).
2. Have a realistic race plan and stick with it.
3. Stay with it mentally when it gets tough. JCB flat out said she'd never have been able to hammer in the last mile unless she'd had help. I doubt that but it is a learning experience to know that you can experience that level of discomfort and pain and still keep running.

I have never had a half marathon go so quickly and this one is actually my second slowest. I'm poor at math and pace calculations even when running easily and that could've hurt us. M seemed to have a very good grasp of where we were pace-wise and it's something I need to develop a better head for.

Watch time 1:59:28!
garmin connect course: click here

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

It's been a great Thanksgiving. We actually did the Turkey Day a week and a half ago when K's parents were up for a visit. That meant today was free to go play and explore a new trail area and then join my mom at her new residence for a very nice Thanksgiving meal. The best part was the no cleaning and no cooking knowing we already have a freezer full of turkey.

I'm thankful for the ability to go run and explore and play.

I'm thankful for family and friends I can hang out and relax with.

I'm thankful for simple things like a comfortable bed,

the sun shining,

and a friendly face.


We miss you Dex.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Last Days Across the Pond.

Holy Cow! were my hamstrings sore from the race. No biggie. We were in England and were going to make the most of our last days in Keswick.

Monday seemed to be fairly decent weatherwise so we thought we'd take advantage and visit the west coast of England. It was an easy drive over to the wee village of St. Bees and before we knew it we were admiring the waves of the Irish Sea. St Bees Head is a stunning red bluff with sheep pasture. the C2C trail starts here and ends on the east coast. We spent a lot of time admiring the stunning rocks on the beach. Each was like a different color of the rainbow. We did come home with our pockets full of rocks!

the next day, the weather seemed much the same and we knew we'd have a chance to get to Catbells. The last time we'd been to this area, we had started this hike but when the weather deteriorated mid-hike had cut it short.

Catbells catches your eye from the lake. When on the water or on the shores of Derwentwater, you can see little figures on the ridge climbing. We drove over to the trailhead (my hamstrings were still sore!) and then started the climb up.

it goes up quick but we had to keep stopping to take photos as teh sun would peak out and make the valley and lakes below sparkle. It's a well cared for and well loved path. There are a couple of sections where you are scrambling straight up rock but it's nothing too terrible. In the rain, I'd not want to climb down however as it would be slippery.

Basically it was breathtaking. At various times, squalls would move through with rain, wind, rainbows and hail. On the back side of the ridge, the wind was so strong and biting that I honestly worried about frostbite if we stayed long. the decent was quad pounding. All too quick we were off the fell and contemplating the last evening in Keswick. I haven't mentioned the local ales at the local pub but they were just as good as I remembered. Yum!

The next morning we were headed to London via a train from Carlisle. The train was very enjoyable and London was a shock after the peaceful quiet of keswick. I'm glad we'd made our focus of the trip non-London!

see ya next time England!

On a sad note, just two weeks post trip Keswick and the entire cumbrian region has been hard hit by devestating and deadly floods. The B&B we stayed at had been flooded in the last flood event in 2005. This event according to all reports is much, much worse.

hike course: garmin connect
photos: click here

Thursday, November 19, 2009

50th Annual Derwentwater 10 - Keswick, Cumbria UK

This was such an amazing experience. I'd gone into the race hoping for a solid and fast (under 8) race. Saturday morning after having run (2.5 miles on dead legs), spent all day walking about on paths and in shops, I hit the bed that evening and realized my feet and legs were aching! Hunh. I'm guessing this is not the best way to set a PR! The forecast for the next day was for heavy showers and wind.

It was a good lesson. You may have ideas of a goal race, but you just never know how circumstances are going to conspire against you. I knew I would just be running this for fun. yes, I'd be working pretty hard for that fun but one way or the other it was going to be memorable.

I really had not had a good idea of what this road course was like. I'd heard flat with a pretty sizable hill from about 5-7. After riding the boat around derwentwater (the lake that the course would run around), i knew the road was going to be more rolling than I expected. I was right to trust those instincts. Yet the course definitely had more surprises.

The race had a noon start which meant i could pretty much have a normal breakfast at the B&B. That meant cereal, fruit, eggs, toast, coffee, sausage. Good stuff! I passed on the beans and tomatoes for the day. Even though we were eating breakfast at 8:30, partway through the race I was suddenly starved! Another lesson in traveling so far for a race, expect the unexpected with food. I'd be just fine and then all of a sudden voracious. It was hard to plan for that sometimes.

As I walked the mile toward the school and race registration, it was pouring and windy as promised but not too cold (mid-50's). I could see the river was rising and running very fast. With that 15 minute walk, my shoes were already soaked. I figured I was crazy, but then I got to race registration (inside a nice warm school) and saw hoards of other crazy people. I got registered easily and cheaply for day of race. 11 pounds! that's about 17 US dollars which is extremely reasonable for what the race offered.

I went off to change and decide what to wear. I chatted with some fellow women and got asked a lot of questions because of my accent (where are you from, are you here just for the race?) and generally just enjoyed the whole thing. Everybody was moaning and complaining of the weather but ready to run.

I found out once there that the race actually started at the center of town and not at the school. Ok, but it's wet out there! At the last possible moment, I went trotting the half mile to the center of town and huddled in shop fronts trying to stay out of the rain. It was really hopeless.

I knew it would be relatively flat the first few miles so I thought I'd try starting around 8 flat knowing I'd slow with the latter hills. Considering how my legs had felt yesterday, I was really out here just to enjoy the scenery and the experience. the gun went off (I jumped) and we were off through town. It was a bit crowded at first but not bad. I wanted to make sure not to trip or go down on the slippery streets or random road furniture. Soon we were out on the road leading out of town. I got my first laugh out loud moment as I saw a sign on the road warning of badgers. BADGERS! I so wanted to see one. Maybe next time.

After the first mile, the effect of the rain became clear. Quite frequently, we'd run through water which was coursing over the roadway. My shoes and socks were completely soaked and running through that required a different technique to pull your feet out of the water. It was tough running. The road was also not closed. Cars would tuck in with runners until they could get to a place where there was room to move faster. Since I was feeling very confused about what side of the road runners and cars should be on (this is england!) I never quite knew where to expect the cars to go. It was a bit disorienting.

I settled into a good pace and was just enjoying myself. As expected the road started immediate ups and down but not too bad. Once towards mile 4, the rolling became steeper. then we made it around the south part of the lake and suddenly there was a lot more water over the roadways. Seriously it was at least ankle deep in places it seemed. Hard running! there was a water stop at 5 and I did actually walk and had a gel. I was hungry!

then the real hill began. chug, chug, chug on up the hill. the views were good and I just kept at it. Periodically we'd pass groups of fell walkers all wrapped in gortex and many layers. Running was a lot better today. it was warmer and we were going to be done much sooner! Eventually I made it to the top of that hill and was looking forward to using the downhill to my advantage. I'd stopped looking at pace as I knew it would just be discouraging. What a shock to realize the downhill was too steep to run fast! Since my shoes were so soaked, my orthotics started slipping forward as well. I finally got running well again and then we came to a large cattle grate. No way I'm going down for that so slow again and then the road started rolling yet again.

I really think this turned out to be one of the more difficult road courses I've ever run. it was relentless. And towards the end my hamstrings had had enough. With half a mile to go and going along familiar territory, I could not speed up at all. Hamstrings were tight and had been pounded into meek protesting with the hills. Oh well. A gal I'd been chatting with before the race passed me here. I asked her how she was doing. her response? "I'm knackered." and really that summed it up perfectly.

I made the turn towards the finish and started looking for K and K's brother. It was great to see them and I was done. No cool down for me. I was comfortable but knew I'd chill quickly since I was so wet. We walked up to the school so I could go change. And here's where a big difference became aparent. There seemed to be one very large locker room and a smaller women's locker room. Both men and women were chaning in the large locker room. Hunh. You wouldn't see that in the states.

After stripping off wet clothes and shoes, it was so nice to put on dry items. I'd forgotten to bring a plastic bag for the drippy things and bundled it all up as best I could. Hot tea and biscuits (cookies) were being served and it tasted pretty good. I wanted to see the awards ceremondy which was held in the school auditorium. I knew I'd not place as I'd been too slow but was curious as to how the field had held up with the awful conditions.

this is a local race. There were over 400 finishers yet most of the runners were from local running clubs. They started the awards by introducing Ron Hill. Wow! I had spent the day before drooling over some of his running specific clothing for sale in the shops. He's a former winner of the Boston marathon and quite a legend in England. He was there! He ran the course and he presented awards.

I expected the typical US awards ceremony where they give out prizes for the top 3, mention the AG and master's winners and that's it. No. This was the Awards Ceremony. Winners were announced through the 20th place runner for both men and women. Each age group was announced through the 3rd place and masters' runners got the full deal too. Most took away some little prize or ribbon. (not sure, couldn't see) And most amazingly, everyone seemed to have stayed to watch and cheer and congratulate. Runners supporting runners and it was nice to see.

all in all, this was a very memorable experience and I'm really glad I got to do it. I'd love to return to run the trail (fell) races which take place in the area. We also learned a fair bit about trail shoes in the local shops adn I'll be looking for those shoes once back stateside.

And a t-shirt? Nope. I got a cool little fridge magnet. I'm very pleased.

course: garmin connect
race site: keswick ac
results: click here (found out from this site that some races were canceled or altered because of bad conditions on race day)
Magnet: (sorry about the bad picture - it's dark here lately...)

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

On to Keswick

We've been to Keswick in the northern end of the Lake District of England twice before. We had to go back yet again and this time we were staying for longer and I was going to do a 10 mile race.

The Lake District is just beautiful. it's a National Park of England and a relatively small area (34 miles across). Unlike national parks in this country, people live within the borders of the park and in fact, there are some pretty good sized towns within the park. That's partly what is so appealing to me about this area. I would go out the door of our B&B to run and within a mile, I could be on footpaths climbing up the side of the local fells and taking in the spectacular scenery. It's a well loved area of England and very much full of English tourists and Germans.

We were going at a time when the weather was going to be similar to Seattle. you know, iffy. And that was going to be fine. We made it to our B&B pretty easily and went out to a local Jennings pub for the famous Snecklifter. We were a bit disappointed to find that the favorite pub had gone a bit upscale but at least the Snecklifter was just as delicious as remembered.

What to do after that? Well, I had to go for a short run. Sure it was dark and it was raining but after a day spend doing the museum walk and a long car drive, I knew I'd feel better. It really was pouring. I had packed my running flashlight and definitely needed it as I wanted to run along the Kewsick Railway Trail which was just a block from our B&B. The trail ended up being a bit more potholed than I expected and that was hard to see in the dark. Within minutes my shoes were soaked!

Unexpectedly, fireworks were going off nearby for some town Halloween celebration. the fireworks would light up the surrounding fells and made for an interesting running experience. I thought to turn around and go see where the fireworks were but I could tell as I headed back towards town that the grand finale was wrapping up. Sure enough, I hit walking crowds coming back from watching the fireworks and decided I was done running. I just hoped my shoes would dry in time for the next run!

The next day in Keswick dawned clearer and warmer than we had expected. I went for another short run along the River Greta walkway (legs were dead!) and we headed into town. Keswick is my kind of shopping! All sorts of outdoor stores. We all had a good time looking around and finally decided we needed to take advantage of the weather. An easy walk to Friar's Crag along Derwentwater's shores was perfect. It was so pleasant out with such beautiful views.

why does Keswick appeal to me so much when I have incredible opportunities for the outdoors here with the Cascades in my backyard? There is just a sense of history in the hills. This area had been settled for a millennium and it looks so very English yet at the same time, there is the very real Wild still calling from the fells. the local rescue group, Keswick Mountain Rescue Team is very prominent within the town.

After all that walking, we were ready for a sit and hopped on the Keswick launch to do an easy hour circuit of the lake. It was gorgeous! We'd never done this before and I'm glad we did. A peaceful and scenic view of the lake even though it got a little cold at times!

Photos: click here

Next: The 50th Annual Derwentwater 1o

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Finally! Vacation....

I went straight from busy, fun and exhausting relay/vacation on the east coast into crazy deadlines at work. The 10/15 deadline passed and then had to catch up with all the other bits at work so I'd be ready for our next trip to England! Even though I am not supposed to work overtime, I worked at least an hour extra every day in a desperate attempt to catch up. Add in 40 miles of running a week and getting ready for our trip, well, I was ready to get on that plane!

We'd gotten a huge deal on airfare to London and bought tickets way back in the beginning of this year. Finally the time to fly to England had arrived and I couldn't wait to go back to visit some of my favorite areas. After arriving in London around noon local time, we took the Tube to King's Cross Station to wait for our train trip to York, England. Since I cannot sleep on airplanes and then want to stay mostly awake once landed in England, it makes for a very long day. Surprisingly it went better than the last time. I did a better job of pushing fluids and eating enough throughout the flight.

the train ride to York was uneventful and we remembered how to do the 10 minute walk to our B&B. We stayed at this place the last time we were in England (2004) and were happy to be back. It's a very convenient location and the hosts are so nice. York was pretty well booked so we were unable to get separate rooms for my husband and i and my brother-in-law (Ke) who was traveling with us. B&B en-suite (with bathroom) rooms in England are always space challenged and this room was no exception. The bathroom was particularly tight. I honestly could barely undress or dress in the bathroom to get into the shower! Oh well. that's just the way it is. The room was clean, the beds were comfy enough and I love the assortment of teas/coffees and biscuits which are always in the room.

After 10 hours of sleep, I felt almost human! And I had to go for a run. York has great signed bike and public foot paths including a lovely wide path which runs along the river Ouse. First thing, i got up and went to run 6 miles. I thought I'd better include a bit of faster paced miles and I did with no troubles. York Run

It was really a perfect morning. Clear and still with just a hint of fog in places. People were out walking their dogs and greeted me with a singsongy "mornin' luv." Yep. I was in Yorkshire! The path was mostly flat and went over some cattle grates. That should've been a clue. I was on a well traveled path when I came across a bunch of cows standing on the path. It had at one point been a railroad based on how it was built up and steeply dropped off the sides. This meant I couldnt' go around the cows as it was too steep. So I stopped and politely started talking to the cows and asking them to move. I can't quite remember if I've ever been so close to a cow before except ones that are penned. They are huge! Do they kick? I really wanted to touch one but thought I better not.

They blinked their peaceful eyes at me and gradually moved off the path, one at a time. Aren't herd animals nice? Back to the B&B for the traditional english breakfast. Cereal, oj, toast with the BEST lemon marmalade (I had to bring a jar home), sausage, bacon (like ham really), two eggs (often hardboiled but they will often scramble them on request), tomatoes, beans, mushrooms (EWWWW!) plus coffee. Oh yes. We eat well in England. We eat all meat and bread but it is tasty.

Next we walked back to the train station to pick up the rental car. The rental agent was pretty funny and we had a good chat about what we were planning on doing. she had a lot of Harry Potter lore to share too and I was delighted. Yes, K my husband is brave enough to drive in England. He does a great job too. We went directly off to Pickering to ride the North Yorkshire Moor Railway. Stunning is the only way to describe that.

The English do love their trains. I think it must be because they have such a long history with them and they are still a major means on transportation about the country. It's a historical railway just for tourists and we really had a good time. The countryside was beautiful, all the little stations we went through were so cute. We got off in Grosmont Station to go and look at the train sheds. It was very interesting wandering through this area as this is where they restore old steam trains and have a lot of them parked about. I was also impressed by the big pile of coal.

Eventually they brought out a locomotive star, the LNER Class A4 4498 Sir Nigel Gresley. Everyone stopped what they were doing to watch this locomotive and once it had pulled into the station (it would be the locomotive used to pull us back to Pickering), it had crowds of people all about taking photos. Seriously sexy and beautiful locomotive.

We got back to Pickering later than we had wished and realized we were not going to have time to drive to Whitby and see the east coast of England. It would get dark too early and we really didn't want to be driving back into York in the dark. We returned to York and promptly got extremely lost anyway. Eventually we made it and went wandering around the quiet streets of York and found The Shambles so Ke could see the crazy medieval street. And we ate at a pub, of course!

the next day, we decided we had to do the National Railway Museum in York. Again, did I mention the British love their trains? What an impressive and informative display. I'm glad we went. We had just enough time to wander around the York Minster and be impressed all over again by the scale of it all.

Soon enough it was time to drive to our next destination. See you next time York!

More Photos