Wednesday, May 11, 2011

My Own Private Marathon - The Race

Lesley had asked what my goal pace was and I honestly couldn't say.  EC, my running partner for a lot of long runs and hard tempo runs, had Boston Qualified at Eugene marathon with an astounding 3:38.  That 8:20 pace overall was what Les kept saying I was trained for but I just couldn't fathom it.  8:20 for 26 miles when 8 at 9:15 seemed hard sometimes?

No.  What was my goal?  In all three previous marathons, I'd started out pretty well.  In both sub-4 marathons (in 2006 & 2008), I'd stayed strong until around 15 or 16 and then fell apart.  I'd walked more of those runs than seemed possible.  I had no idea how I'd pulled sub-4s out for those races.  Obviously the Seattle Marathon last fall this was an even bigger disaster.  I started feeling off early and never ever got back to consistent running.  I was barely slogging and felt horribly mentally and physically.

With these experiences behind me, I just wanted to start out comfortably and finish the marathon running.  Honestly it wasn't about a particular time.  I just needed to feel like I was fighting successfully through how you feel at the end of a marathon.

Lesley and I started out.  She on a bike and guiding me onto the trail at the north end of Marymoor Park.  And we discussed pace a bit.  I wasn't sure what pace would feel comfortable but soon was just under 9.  Good enough.  I honestly never looked at my watch again for pace.  I'd check to see distance so I could get a gel or salt as needed but ignored pace.  There was no point.  As long as I felt comfortable for the first half I was good.

5k  27:10 8:48 pace
10k 54:53 8:54 elapsed pace

K traded off with Les on the bike. I wasn't too interested in chatting so K rode along companionably handing over a water bottle or gel as requested.  the rolling hills started in here and I looked forward to them.  Nothing is too steep or too long and just enough to keep it interesting.  There was a fair bit of traffic along the road but this shoulder is wide and painted for both biking and pedestrian lanes.  Cars are used to bike/pedestrian traffic and are very polite.  The miles just seemed to tick off.  Around 8 or 9, I had the first hamstring twinge and got worried.  I knew there would be two longish climbs and decided that if needed, I would walk for a very short bit on those uphills to stretch hips a bit.  I'd seen so many runners dong that at Yakima River Canyon Marathon and honestly would tend to walk shortly in races because of water stops so it made sense.  It did help as did the rolling hills.  I never noticed the hamstring on that side again.

15k 1:22:39  8:57 elapsed pace
20k  1:51:54  9:26 elapsed pace

I'd planned on gels every 4 miles with one electrolyte capsule every 6 miles. Around mile 11 I realized I was starting to feel like I needed another gel and took one earlier at 11.5.  Through the rest of the race, i felt like I was blowing through fuel much faster and jumped to a gel every 3 miles.  Seriously that is a lot of gels!  I am fortunate that they do not bother me at all especially when coupled with the extra salt.

I knew at about mile 12, T would join me for her long run. That was perfect.  T can tell stories of her three adorable kids which just make me laugh.  She is much faster than I so I felt rather badly that I was going so slowly but she kept me moving.  It was still too early to think of the finish and Lesley and T chatting kept me entertained and distracted. It was perfect. I was starting to feel like my low back/hips were getting tight and that really worried me.  I shared that info with coach and she told me some really helpful things.

1.  My form in particular needs some additional tweaking.  I needed to lean forward a bit through the shoulders which would help take some pressure off the low back/hips. Now in that befuddled state, i couldn't quite figure out what she meant.  Eventually I just put my gaze down to closer in front of me and that was enough to give me more of a lean and immediately, my low back felt less tense.  As I got tired later, I could tell I'd bring my head up to a much more upright stance.  This is obviously something to work on!

2.  Change up your gait.  It was flat at this point and that can take a toll as well when running.  No one in Seattle is used to completely flat!  So change up your gait.  Try to take some longer strides.  Take shorter strides, picking your feet up more.  I could do this at first but towards the end, I could not really change my gait at all.  I think this is something to practice when running randomly now.  Change it up!

25k 2:21:02 9:24 elapsed pace
30k 2:40:23 9:09 elapsed pace

The best surprise was coming around the south end of the lake and seeing that A & G, good running friends of mine, had come out to cheer.  I was so shocked and touched.  they'd even remembered a cowbell!  Ha!

The miles still ticked along.  We got onto the graveled path which is the east side of lake sammamish.  It really is beautiful and peaceful.  Most of the time there is enough of a bend so you don't see a long stretch ahead of you and that really helps.  A quick check showed that everything was feeling pretty good.  I always think I should feel better at mile 13 or 14 but maybe that is just wishful thinking?  But by mile 16, I knew I was starting to feel my lungs.  Uh oh.  That's no good.  Sure enough, I couldn't take a deep breath.  The rescue inhaler helps with this and I used it around mile 16.5 but I was disappointed that I needed it at all.  The daily inhaler I am on has mostly eliminated rescue inhaler use.  Darnit.  I ended up needing the inhaler again towards mile 23.

discussing this with Coach afterward, she suggested that research she's seen is that dehydration in distance athletes with asthma plays a big roll in symptoms.  If I have gels more often, I will tend to drink more but still no where near the levels they say you should.  Again, something to play with.  All I know is that it started to become harder to move.  I promised myself that at mile 20 I'd get a reward walking break and stretch hips a bit.  Ahhh.  that did feel good.  I think I kept it longer than Lesley would've liked but she wasn't on the bike at that point.  Shh.  Don't tell. I needed to retie my shoe as well.   I walked very shortly a few miles later mostly to use the inhaler and one last hip stretch. 

35k 3:21:15 10:17 elapsed time
40k 3:54:04 10:35 elapsed time

Lesley got off the bike and met us to run for the last couple miles.  That was a treat.  I was fighting for it at that point and fighting hard. Keep moving!  No stopping.  Keep going.  And I did.

26.3 4:08:51 10:33 elapsed time
overall pace 9:30

I had my cheering crew at Marymoor and Lesley had had a finisher's medal made.  I was shocked and surprised by that.  Wow.  What an amazing adventure for me.  Check, check, check.

Start out comfortably and keep moving.  Running.  the last half of the race, I took just 3 or 4 walk breaks which is so much less than any previous marathon.  Most importantly, I never had the really bad lows which have happened in every marathon.  Those lows were hard to recover from previously.  This time I'd get those voices starting up and resolutely focused on something else.  Those last 4 miles, "fighting" became my mantra because that's what I was doing. 

I had someone mention to me that doing the distance this way by myself would be much harder than in a race situation.  Yes and no.  for shorter races, it's true that there is nothing that will get me going harder than a true race environment.  I will push it and use fellow racers, the event and the finish line to get me moving a lot faster than I often believe I can go.  For this type of distance race, I know that if I don't stay with it mentally it really doesn't matter what is going on around me.  I will lose it especially if physically things are falling apart.  Fortunately that was not the case this time!

Being the numbers geek I am, I was also able to look at half pace splits for all of these marathons.  And with all the more successful ones (seattle is out), the difference in pace between the first half and second half is about a minute.  I was just under that for this marathon.  At some point, I'd like to run a true even split marathon.  I believe I'm closer to that now.  I'm not sure what is on tap for running for the year besides some bigger events (Ragnar!) but I am well content with this experience.  it was memorable on so many levels. 

My Own Private Marathon - The Lead up

Yep, that's right.  DNS at Eugene but I was trained up for a marathon and it was shame to let that training go to waste.  There are a couple marathons in the area two weeks later but we had prior engagements one evening (Spokane would require an overnight stay) and i didn't want a hilly marathon (sorry Capitol City).  I honestly felt that if I didn't get in a marathon distance run now, I never would again.

So I had the crazy idea just to run my own marathon.  I knew the course I'd do.  The run/ride around Lake Sammamish is 22 miles and I really love the run which I've done in sections over the years.  the first 12 miles are rolling which is good and nothing is too steep.  And as I most recently ran the East Lake Trail as part of the Lake Samammish Half last fall, I knew that section was flat.  I'd need some help though to manage water and supplies.  cue coach Lesley and K. 

Taper went pretty well.  As we are in the middle of Bike to Work month, I've started biking again which was a nice alternative to running.  I'd last done a 20 miler at Yakima River Marathon the first of April and then a 15 miler about 3 weeks out.  I'd had some good tempo racing at the Earth Day 10k and the Top Pot 5k.  Hip and back issues were minimal as I've been good about keeping on top of things.

overall however, I never felt all that much faster on just my easy pace. I'd still go out and slog 9:15 or so which is what I'm always doing my easy runs at.  Honestly I'd hoped to get out of that 9:15 rut and see a bit more speed on easy runs.  I know those runs are easier as heart rate was much lower for pace but there was never any oomph.  Oh sure, I could crank out a good tempo run, track work and even marathon pace with no problems. But the no added easy speed worried me.  I did have my annual doc appointment (which comes every two years for me since I have so few issues!) and got iron results back.

My ferritin levels tested at 15 ng/ml.  That was non-fasting blood work and I'd had prime rib the day before.  Ha!  That is considered normal but since the range is 13-150(!), 15 is obviously low.  and now that I've been reading more about this(here and here with low ferritin levels), runners should have a range of 20-30 and women distance runners should be higher.  Me with my very short, heavy cycle?  Yeah, that's probably too low.  So i went right out to get those nasty, nasty iron supplements.  I can't add any more beef into my diet 'cause I already eat some weekly.  So this is good to know.  does it explain some of the running issues?  I have no idea. 

I arranged for some days off from work and Lesley offered Tad as a pacer for the latter section of miles.  I jumped on that knowing having someone to run with would really help.  K offered to do bike support and as it happened, Lesley had her mountain bike ready for bike support too.  The weather was perfect!  No rain and it was in the high 40's at the start.  There was maybe a bit of a slight breeze but it was negligible.  I wore shorts which I've not worn since last fall.  Sadly I couldn't remember which shorts wouldn't chafe on a longer run and did have some problems with that.  I started with arm warmers, gloves and headband but gradually was able to shed these as I warmed up.  Ready!

Sunday, May 8, 2011


 Forget-me-Nots in the garden.

Finally Spring has come to the Northwest.  Oh it's still pretty wet and has been chilly but overall, temps are warmer and everything is blooming. 

Aaah Choo!  Yes, allergies are up but it's worth it. 

As usual, I feel like I'm being pulled in a bazillion directions.  There is much to do in the yard.  Our much neglected backyard is crying out for some work too.  Oy.  That's  a lot of yard.  I spent some hours removing the plants lost to hard winter frosts and weeding.  The front is looking better and I've seen what has survived and have some ideas about moving things about.  We got some plants at the annual Olympic View Elementary Plant sale as well. 

I've been knitting quite a bit.  Fun stuff and quite rewarding.  I like the brain stretch that it provides when figuring out something in a pattern or a technique.

We've had an initial meeting with an iron worker about getting some wrought iron for our front porch.  It's pretty exciting to see what the possibilities can be.  any time I bike or run or drive or ride a bus in Seattle, I am looking at wrought iron porch possibilities.  We've got some ideas now and just need to finalize them. 

There are still the small-ish projects going on in the house.  Stair and railing painting, picture railing in the bedroom and I fully understand the need for spring cleaning.  Where did all the dust and cat fur come from?  I'm looking at you Kes and York! 

Well we know what they think of that! 

It's bike to work month and I'm on a team at work.  it has been fun to get back on my bike.  Marathon training sure is good for bike conditioning.  It's not been much of a big deal commuting.  As usual, I turn into some sort of polka-dotted mountain climbing fool when on my bike and MUST PASS people climbing the various hills around here.  I honestly don't know what comes over me but it sure is fun.  I really do try to keep it easy. 

And running?  Stay tuned.