Saturday, May 29, 2010

Sunday, May 23, 2010

What's good for you?

You know you have those weaknesses you should address right?

No, I'm talking running related here, but feel free to extrapolate to NRR - non running related.

I've known for some years now that I am really awful going up hard, short little hills.  And yet I don't really do anything to work on the difficulty.  I'm not 100% certain what will help that difficulty but I have some ideas. I've started to try charging up short, steep hills when I find them.  I figure that is the only way.  I also think some general jumping plyometric exercises would be good too.  I've been hesitant to do these as I was (keyword there) so injury prone but I think I could handle it now.  There is this little problem with finding time and trying not to look too silly when out there running though.  I'll admit to that. 

I've been settling for speed work lately.  Meaning, if the schedule calls for a particular distance or number of repeats, I've been easily talking myself into accepting less than what the schedule calls for.  Now, there are very valid reasons to respect that and take it easier at times but I've been guilty of calling it quits early for purely mental reasons.  Probably in the past six weeks, I've been better at both hitting the times and number of repeats which a workout calls for.  Sometimes I have to trick myself into it, but at the end of the day I'm always glad I did it. 

It's that mental side of running which is so tricky and where I've not worked as hard as I should.  I know that.  I've even blogged about it.  I went into Lincoln feeling very unprepared for a long race mentally.  I've not raced a half or a marathon distance in some years.  Even the longest distances I've raced (around 7 miles) happened in the middle of relays.  Relays have a different feel for me.  I will run my best because it is not only myself I'm running for but for my team. 

To prepare adequately for the upcoming Seattle Rock n Roll Half marathon I needed to find a 10k to race.  And I found one at the perfect time for training. 

The Heroes Half is a new event with both a half marathon and a 10k.  The 10k goes around a popular running route of Lake Union.  It's not flat but it's about as close as you can get around here.  It has some very short steep hills which I knew would be a challenge.  Plus it had the added amusement of possibly getting stopped by a bridge going up.  The waterways have priority around here except at certain hours M-F.  This didn't happen fortunately, but that bridge hits just at a point where it would be really nice for a break! 

I'd kept training as scheduled. This meant I biked twice this past week (bike to work month - more on this next week) and hit running workouts.  I had a great track workout on Tuesday and got in my long run for the week on Wednesday.  As much as I try to keep it easy on the bike, commuting home gets me worked up and I often find myself charging uphills trying to (and often succeeding) in catching people on the hills.  Rested, my legs, were not. 

That 5 am wake up for a 7 am start was tough.  I nearly bailed but I really wanted to do this race plus I was looking forward to seeing a lot of friends at the race.  I found the best parking space and got registered for the race and went to warm-up.  I was there early enough that i had no problems with any logistics of the race but I heard from some friends, that there were some issues.  As a first year race, i'd expect there to be glitches and there were. 

I had my own glitch.  I'd forgotten to charge my garmin.  I thought I'd have plenty of juice but bike commuting is about 90 minutes total for the day and the battery just doesn't last as long.  Oh well.  I'd be running this one by feel. 

My plan was originally to go out around 7:50 pace.  I figured I'd have a very quick start, settle down for miles 1-3.  Mile 4 has 3 short steep hills and I'd knew I'd lose time.  After a gradual climb off of University Bridge (if we didn't get stopped because of a sailboat needing the bridge to rise), it was a flat to downhill final mile back to Gasworks. 

I started with Coach Lesley.  She'd give me a split the first quarter of mile and then take off.  She's a very gifted runner and ended up being 2nd female overall.  At about a quarter mile, we were at 7:15 pace.  Ok time to back off and settle into the work and that's what I did.  I'd started with the first wave of runners (projected pace 8:00 and under) and felt like I was at the very back just watching everyone fly off.  Oh well.  I did always have a few people ahead or behind which helped. 

Everything felt pretty good until mile 3.  This is where the whole mental side of running kicked in.  And oh the demons were having their way with me.  There was much grumbling and grousing and "I am never racing again."  But I didn't stop and I didn't slow (well much..).  It was hard to tell with no pacing reference.  I could hear how I was breathing compared to some of the people around me.  I didn't sound any worse than they did which gave me hope. 

And then those horrible short hills came.  And oh it was worse than I expected.  I got dropped by all who were ahead of me and also passed.  I just could not keep up.  I didn't worry about it because what could I do?  Just stay with it and get back onto fluid running once on the flat and downhill.  Three more of these horrible hills and I was cursing!  DAMNIT!  I need to figure out why I suck so badly at these types of hills. 

I wanted to walk.  I wanted to just give up and trot in but I stayed with it.  Keep the form loose.  Make sure the shoulders are relaxed and keep those arms moving.  Don't think about it.  I made some time up climbing the gradual hill up from University Bridge.  Ok that's better.  The downhill back to the Burke-Gilman Trail was nice.  Thank the cop directing traffic at the messy intersection of NE 40th St, The Burke-Gilman and 7th Ave NE and I was back on the Burke-gilman with a mile to go.

This was it.  There were people out just running which I blew by.  Ok that felt good!  There were cyclists out for their ride who gave me a "good job" as I went by.  I could've done without the guy cycling by smoking a cigarette.  OMG.  At that point in the race, I wanted to hurl at that smell.  Stay focused. 

I approached Gas Works park and the finish and I could see Les was coming out to cheer and it looked like CJ was out cheering too.  I'd scouted out the finish of the 10k and knew we'd be directed across the street and onto a gravel bit and then a short downhill section.  Turns out CJ had appointed herself course monitor and volunteer and was giving directions to runners.  It wasn't real clear where half marathoners would go along the course. 

I got some nice cheering coming into the finish and I could see the clock time of about 49:20.  DONE!  I was rather disappointed by my time but knew I'd run hard and pretty well.  I'd battled the demons and taken steps to getting that distance racing mentality back. 

This time is about two minutes off my PR set a number of years ago but it perfectly predicts where i thought I was for a marathon.  I trotted back to where CJ and Les were still cheering and added my cheers too.  And then I realized that I had probably looked pretty good coming into the finish.  A lot of people (both 10k and half'ers) were looking done in. Hunh.  Good to know.   I felt strong overall coming in and working hard but not completely done in. 

I watched quite a few other friends come in and headed home.  I started to feel the effects of the race not too long afterwards. I felt subtly ill and my legs were so sore!  I ate well even though I wasn't all that hungry.  Eventually later in the day I felt more like myself. 

And then the results were posted.  As expected Les had placed high.  And then looking at the top master's female finishers I was second.  Holy cow!  I started giggling uncontrollably.  Me?  Second master's female?  Haha!  I figured I'd place in my age group as there weren't all that many runners in this race but overall? 

amazing.  I was the 38th runner overall (men and women) and now realize why i never saw too many people.  I was about 5th female runner overall too.  And now I can see why I was getting some nice cheers coming into the finish.  There just weren't that many runners in yet. 

the best part?  I went for a nice easy run this morning and felt great.  Legs are a bit tight but not sore like I was expecting.  I can feel the race in chest and upper body muscles.  Yes, i was working hard.  I was racing.

It was good for me. 

Sunday, May 16, 2010

oh yeah, that's why I do this...

Cougar Mountain: Tibbets Creek Trail

The past two weekends, I've been able to get back out onto trails at Cougar Mountain.  This weekend RPD was running in the Cougar Mountain 5 Mile Race and I came along just to run.  Why not run the race?  I wanted to run longer and I wanted to keep it easy and stop to take pictures when the mood struck me.  

I'm leary of running trails by myself but with numerous other runners out there plus someone waiting for me to get back, I was happy to explore some other trails.  It was a wonderful morning.  Sunny and comfortable but not too hot.  I decided to follow the race course for the first mile or so and then branched off to add a different loop.  I realized midway through the loop that it was the opposite way of what I was used to running and that made the scenery look completely different.  

As I continued on, I realized I'd be hitting the race course just ahead of the leaders of the race unless I hurried.  There was no other way to go except along the access road.  I was here to run trails not access trails.  I stopped at the water stop (mile 3) and asked when I could expect the leaders.  
Scott M (race director) said "oh don't worry about it, you're fast.  You'll be fine."  He must've seen my disbelief and gave me an answer of 10-12 minutes with a "the trails are not closed."  Nice.  I thought I could hoof it quickly on that section which is a good chunk of very runnable downhill and be out of the way.  Off I went.  

I made it to where Mine Shaft Trail hits East Fork Trail and realized the spur of East Fork Trail which has always been blocked since I've been running cougar was opened.  Hunh.  I HAD to see where this went.  Too bad that race leaders would be coming.  Off I went the quarter mile to a Cascade Mtn and Clay Pit overlook.  Short trail but very winding and fun.  And there was another access trail leading off which is NOT on the map.  Hmmm.
So this put me late to get out of the way of the leaders.  The section of trail is a bit wider so I knew that I could move out of the way when needed.  I was looking forward to seeing the leaders flying along.  

And before I knew it, I heard nothing and then a sudden patter of feet behind me.  Holy cow!  Was he quiet.  I moved over quickly and heard a "Thanks!" and then he was gone.  Just one runner.  Where were the rest of them?  

I continued on and after a couple minutes, I heard another runner.  I had time to pull over and look back.  This guy asked "He's far ahead, isn't he?" and I had to say "yes."  I'm sure this was disappointing.  The second place runner replied with a "He is so DAMN fast on the downhill."  

Haha!  It is wonderful to hear that leaders think the same things us mortals think.  I trotted off and chose to do a long downhill route that would loop down to Red Town Trail head and come on back the long hill climb.  I thought I'd be close to see RPD finish.  Of course, i forgot about RPD's great powers of sandbagging so completely missed his finish.  But I was happy to hear that E was running.  i caught her coming in with a big smile.  This was her first trail race.  Congrats to her!  Trail races are not easy as she was quick to exclaim.

What a joy of a day.  There is something so satisfying about a trail run.  Not only am I physically capable of such a thing (never mind I'm sore from the 1:40 time running) but I feel so satisfied in that I can navigate my way through the trails.  I bring water and a bit of running calories.  I have my phone.  I know to stay smart and alert and pay attention.  It's a wonderful way to feel so alive. 

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Happy Birthday Kittens!

 Keswick (facing camera) & York in pause during wrestling.

May 8th is the date of birth written on their records.  We've had the two love bugs for 6 months and can't imagine not having them in our lives. 

Who knew two kittens could make so much noise sleeping?  One snores very loudly and the other will start his you need hearing protection it is so loud purring at the drop of a hat.

We did come home one day and found pairs of my socks all over the living room, dining room and bed.  Yes, my sock drawer had been left open and kittens had helped themselves.

Keswick (black cat) would be happy to be held or in a lap 24/7.  Sorry!  We have to go to work to earn those kibbles that you like so very much.  But whenever we have a lap available, you can bet Kez is taking advantage of it. 

York (marmalade cat)?  Give him his cat dancer and he will keep himself entertained for hours.  Plus he spends lots of time making sure that the squirrels and birds he sees outside are aware that they are under surveillance.  He does know how to relax though. 

Thanks to Bonnie at MEOW for a fabulous fosterage of then named Sarge and Sawyer.  They are everything we could've hoped for in furry family members. 

 Happy Birthday!  Sockeye Salmon season opens very soon and we will celebrate your birthdays in style! 

Monday, May 3, 2010

Lincoln, Nebraska

Running aside, Lincoln was an interesting town to visit.  I'd heard from various northwest folks that the town was all about Football and The Huskers and that was it.  It's a university town for sure.  The university only has about 35,000 students in it and a football stadium which seats 80,000 in a town of 250,000.  You do the math.
After the horrendous flight, we had a couple of days to recover.  We'd planned on doing a bit of easy site seeing.  Our hotel was right in downtown within walking distance of the university and the historic Haymarket District.  It looked very midwestern to me with very wide blocks, wide streets and unfortunately a lot of empty storefronts.  I'm used to busy downtown areas of Seattle, San Francisco and Vancouver.  Vibrant and full of people and shops.  Not here.  it was all student focused and we found that no one walked around at all.  Very bizarre to us. 

I'd have thought that Lincoln had been hard hit with economic woes with all the empty storefronts but turns out they have some of the lowest unemployment in the nation.  The Haymarket district was more what I was expecting.  This is centered around the train station and was an area which has undergone revitalization recently.  It's fully of boutique shops and restaurants and cool old buildings.  May 1st, the weekly farmer's market opened for the year and we had to go.

That was more like it.  it was a gorgeous morning and everybody was cheerful.  We got the best "chocolate Persian baklava" and also picked up a couple jars of strawberry/rhubarb preserves.  The woman selling the preserves to us made sure to tell us that we could bring back the jelly jars for 50 cents apiece.  She was quite surprised to hear we were from Seattle and would not be returning them. 

My other goal based on what people had said of nebraska was to have steak.   Friday night (race was sunday) was going to be the day to hit that.  K unfortunately was still feeling a bit off from the flight the evening before and just had a bite of mine.  We went to Lazlo's in the Haymarket and I had the best steak I'd ever eaten.  Oh it just melted in my mouth.  The Empyrean oatmeal Stout was pretty good too. 

I loved hearing the sounds of the trains going by in the night.  That reminded me of when we lived in Pasadena.  We were both amazed at just how wide open the sky is.  we've both always lived in an area which is ringed with mountains.  You could see forever in the flat open country. 

The I do not want to tough it out Lincoln marathon - aka The half marathon Report

Lincoln Capital Building with "The Sower"
(not the "Guy with Back Spasms" as K first thought.)

It was very comfortable for me at 45 degrees and cool breeze at the start.  I was concerned about the sun and the breeze and planned for more electrolytes.  I did not feel that I had BQ pace (8:45) pace in me and planned to go out at 9:00 flat.  If i ended up right around my previous marathon times (3:53 & 3:57), I'd be happy.

I saw K at mile 1 and gave a big smile.  At that point I still had my toss away shirt and probably could’ve ditched it at that point but held onto it another half mile.  The sun wasn't up so it did feel cool.  Water stops were about every 2.5 miles and they had these cups with lids and straws.  That was awesome!  I am poor at getting in liquids and will walk if necessary to make sure i get them in but this made it very easy.  I never had to walk to drink on this course.

By mile 5, I’d taken a gel and an electrolyte and knew I needed to take in fluids at each station and keep up the electrolytes.  I was already feeling warm.  Pacing, I hit the first 10k at 55:54 which is 8:59.7 pace.  I hit exactly what I had aimed for each mile and congratulated myself for going out smartly.  I could tell that was better than a lot of half marathoners who were already starting to walk in places. 

Around mile 7, my hip flexors got all tight.  WTF.  I'd never had any problems with that before.  Then I realized my hip/hamstring was starting to twinge.  So I do what I usually do and try to change my stride up and take in more fluids.  About this time I realized I couldn’t turn my head to look to my left side.  More WTF.  Over the course of the couple days in Lincoln, we'd done a fair bit of walking and the hotel bed was making my low back a bit tight.  But honestly, it didn't seem that bad. 

We headed up a mild hill around mile 8.  I kept it easy and saw people walking once they were to the top.  The incline and more fluids had settled my hip/hamstring but now I was starting to feel really hot (i felt flushed) and was really looking for the next water stop.  It’s only mile 9 for freakin’ sake. 

Mile 10-12 is a long straight away where I had a bunch of time to contemplate how I was feeling.  I wasn’t taxed (heart rate was low enough) and was on pace but I was having all sorts of nagging twinges and just getting warmer and warmer.  I knew K would be at mile 12 and I was really looking forward to seeing him.

As soon as I spotted him a couple blocks away (he is easy for me to spot) I knew I was to a point where it might not make sense to run the whole distance.  I pulled up to him and he was ready to run with me a bit.  Ah, i was just fine to walk (first time i did during the race since it was easy to drink water with the straw) and his response to my “I might drop at the half” was “great!  If that’s what will be best.”  He didn't even seem phased by this was a really reassuring response.  I still wasn’t sure.  We walked a couple blocks while I (probably) whined a bit. 

There was another mile or so to go before I had the choice to turn into the stadium and finish with the half marathoners or continue on.  I debated turning this into a long run and dropping at 16 or so.  Did I want to make it to 16 or 18 and then start the slow death march in?  My hip/hamstring certainly weren’t going to get better and I was worried about the heat. 

Almost without question, my feet turned into the stadium and I finished with the half marathoners.  I didn’t speed up at all just trotted in.  Skipped the food and went to go get my bag.  A friend spotted me and expressed her surprise on my walk of shame (that's what it felt like at that point) and I’d told her that the half was enough.  I was done.  

That is fucking far to come for a half marathon, god dammit.  Sorry, but this was all I was thinking.  I had gotten a half medal but stuffed it into my bag, called K (who'd walked back over to mile 16 in case I was going to continue running) and arranged to meet back at the hotel for breakfast as I was really hungry at this point.  And I started walking back to the hotel (about a half of a mile away). Along the way a half marathoner asked me what kind of shorts I was wearing (race ready with lots of pockets :-D) and I explained.  We chatted about how our races had gone and I had to say, not well since I’d planned on the full.  And he summed it up pretty well for me:  sometime’s it is just not your day.  

And yes that was true.  It wasn’t my day for various reasons. I didn’t feel the need to gut it out and just finish.  It is far to come for a half marathon but the memories are already dear.  It’s not likely I’ll ever be in Nebraska again yet I’ll remember:

Best steak I’ve ever had!

Best chocolate Persian baklava from the farmer’s market at Historic haymarket district.  I’m hoping the strawberry/rhubarb preserves we got will be just as delicious.  Sorry to the preserves seller.  We will not be returning the jelly jars for 50 cents.

Worst flight ever!  I have never been on such a bumpy, turbulent, storm ridden flight (there was a tornado to the south in fact).  And K has never been so sick.

I got to meet a long time internet running friend (nebrunner) whom i'd never met in person.  She was kind enough to give us a course tour of Lincoln, hosted an after the race bbq at her house and just generally was as kind and generous and funny in person as I expected.   And I got to hear all about Lincoln’s med tent from another forumite (certifiable) and meet his wife for the first time.  I'll be running with certifiable again in the Reach the Beach relay this september.  

Both Certifiable and  nebrunner had had tough races.  Certifiable ended up in the med tent severely dehydrated.  He still nailed his BQ though.  He's a stud.  Nebrunner crashed and burned with severe cramping.  She lives in Lincoln and loves running in heat but was not acclimated.  She had many other friends running this race and found out that other local runners bailed on the full marathon because of the heat. 

I’d been a bit weepy about things after the race if I thought about it.  It is so disappointing.   I know it was the only decision I could've made.  We arrived back to Seattle and it was 50 degrees and raining.  The 70 degrees and sunny had felt like summer to us (I got tanned too).  I'd planned for heat and adjusted pace but still was not prepared for that sort of sunny heat for so long.  Nebrunner also said the second part of the course (changed from years' previous) was totally exposed and baking in areas.   

I’m obviously not going to need the recovery from this 13 mile run and that makes me happy. Even though I’ve put in the work, I don’t feel the desire to do a marathon at this point.  Really, it’s only getting warmer now and I will never be a good warm weather marathoner.   And my low back/hip flexors feels quite off right now with further travel.  Nothing is actively hurting but i do not want to irritate things.  I’d planned on more biking and working on training for a 5k and I think that seems like a good plan at this point. 

Weather can be a toss up, but overall the Lincoln event is a good one!  I’d really recommend it to anyone. 

report as originally posted