Sunday, December 30, 2012

Workout Fail

I consider it a win every time I get out the door right now.  It's dark and cold and lately every run has seemingly been in rain and wind.

And every year I remember how difficult it is to get particular workouts where I am aiming for a particular pace in at this time of year.  It's cold so it takes me much longer to warm up.  I carry a flashlight and can't really monitor my pace too easily as it is just hard to see my watch.  I can go by how pace feels but when I'm cold or it's really windy, that pace feels different. And unless I'm 100% certain of my footing, I have to slow because of poor sidewalks, wet leaves, branches and potholes. 

I'm just fine with the easy miles being slower but I do look forward to the workouts.  I'd found a local high school track is pretty good for these cold and dark workouts early in the morning.  The footing is better than the old dirt track i usually run on and there is enough ambient light so i don't need my flashlight.  And the track is exactly 2 miles away which is perfect for the longer warm up I need.

I made it down to the track and started my workout which was a couple quarter miles, then 2 half miles and then two quarter miles at a top moderate/hard pace.  I did one quarter mile and felt awful.  Stiff and wheezy and barely able to move.  It was raining a bit and just a bit breezy but not bad at all.  What was up?  I didn't know.  After a bit of an internal debate, I realized i wasn't going to do myself any favors by trying to gut through this workout.  It wouldn't work.  I started back for home and barely made it above a slog.

And that was all I could do. Really?  I am planning on running another marathon in 2013? I can barely manage a jog uphill after a failed workout.  Maybe I am overreaching?  Maybe I need some more recovery time from the marathon about three weeks ago?  I debated switching teh workout to the next morning.  I had been looking forward to the rest day and sleep in.  Eh.  No.

I stretched well and just put it aside.  Let the failed workout go.  For whatever reason, it just wasn't my day. 

Three days later, I had my reasons why I'd been feeling so blah.  And the next day I had a great run.  I had to slow myself down and was a minute faster per mile with a lower heart rate.  And I'd had the same sort of issues at Dallas. it is nice to have the confirmation too.  Yep, I'm ready to be done with 2012 and looking forward to 2013.  I'm gearing up for the new year! 

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas!

My mom painted a small portrait of our former cat Legos who died over three years ago.  The painting is just awesome and this photo doesn't quite do it justice. 

The last few weeks of December have gone ever so quick.  Recovery has gone very well from the Dallas Marathon and with all the holiday fun and busyness, i was happy to NOT be running all that much.  I just ran twice the week following.  My feet were pretty sore for quite a few days. I limited running to non-consecutive days the following week and was happy to feel good overall when running.

ouchie toes!
It was also nice not to be running so much because the weather has been awful. Rainy, windy and cold for many days. We had snow one morning too. That means either running in the evening or more likely I take a cross training day (bike on a trainer) or a day off because it is just to dangerous to be out on the streets.  it's at this time of year I have to be most flexible getting in workouts. And sometimes those workouts are not quite what I'd want but anything is better than nothing.

I really did want to take a few weeks off of running and recharge. I'm signed up for a short 2 mile race series this winter and want to focus on building strength with core/weights.  I'm already looking forward to resuming more typical running mileage though.  I'm limiting mileage one more week though as I'd planned and that is a good call as my feet are still feeling a bit sore at time.  I'll be ready for the new year though! 

Monday, December 10, 2012

Dallas Marathon 2012

Waiting for start of Dallas Marathon. Sleeveless in December!
What to do after the DNF at ABQ marathon? Sign up for a marathon of course!  "Of course" is not a given for me though. Did i want to run a marathon? Would I rather chose a spring marathon and train through dark and dreary winter?  What about waiting for a year?  What about now?!

I'd been to Dallas in 2008 and joined a relay team with online running friends and had a fun time.  I'd always wanted to go back.  A and N were willing to let me stay in their extra bedroom and play with their pup, so why not?  I signed up for the Dallas Marathon and felt it was the right decision. 

I'd had very solid training through ABQ with 10k race indicating that my things were going well.  After ABQ i took a week off and then was able to get in two solid long runs and following that with an even faster 10k on a harder course.  I felt very hopeful.  This would be my 4th official marathon (may 2011 was an unofficial marathon) and I'd had hopes of breaking my PR which was from my first marathon in 2006.  I felt going in though i had planned to be conservative after the DNF at ABQ.

1. Dream goal was 3:45 and I'd trained marathon pace under this plus marathon calculators for my 10k pace put me under this time.
2. Conservative Goal 3:55.  I turn 45 next year and this is BQ for me in 2014.  This would not be a PR by a couple minutes but I would be delighted with this nonetheless. 
3. Finish under 4 and run strongly at the end.
4. Finish. 

A and N were so wonderful. I had such a fun time and they were so generous to cart me around.  We woke up Saturday and I did have some positive running in Dallas.  N and I went running 4 miles chatting the whole way while staying out of sight  of Pepper the dog who was running with A.  I felt great and the weather that morning while a touch warm felt pleasant. They dropped me off at the 6th Floor Museum and i got to skip the expo as they picked up my bib for me.
7th Floor (not 6th Floor) view. X marks the spot.

This is a very well done museum about the JFK assassination and very moving. I loved being able to wander about the area and contemplate what had happened that day 49 years ago.  I'd wanted to go ever since I'd heard about the museum in 2008 but had not had time to go.  It is well worth a visit. 

After the museum, we went off to visit with D and her baby N who is just a joy. D and N were able to join us for lunch too which was great!  A had also arranged an dinner with 12 people total.  Very tasty food and fantastic company.  I knew everyone from various running events including new friends from ABQ.

On the plaque outside the Texas School Book Depository.
Sunday dawned right with forecasted expectations unfortunately.  it was 70 degrees with very high humidity.  the sun was not supposed to make an appearance but it would be windy.  I knew from previous experience in Dallas that the wind could really be tough and dry you out.  I pulled back on all goals and just hoped to treat this as a long run.  I'd start out around 9:15 - 9:30 and just hope to hold on realizing I'd be slower the last half as I'd have to be concerned about getting enough water.  I planned on carrying a small 12 oz disposable water bottle and figured i'd fill it on course at the aid stations. 

It was a disaster getting to the marathon start.  Not only did Pepper steal my socks and spirit them upstairs to her bed (haha!), A forgot her bib so N was racing through the streets of their town in a huge hurry (haha! runner nightmare!) and  we ended up being stuck trying to get off the freeway in stopped traffic for almost an hour.  Really I was so not concerned because i was just out there to finish so no biggie. We all needed the bathroom though. N and I were making plans to just jump out while A would just park. Fortunately we ended up getting a prime spot just a block from our corral.  it was so warm that there was no need to check any clothing nor have any throw away clothing.  N and I just parked ourselves on the ground and hung out and chatted. A went back to car for something and then back to portopotty lines.

5k: 29:17 (9:25 pace) The corral went out fast but i controlled my pace and just relaxed. It was so humid that I felt it was very hard to breathe. I've not been in that sort of humidity at those temps in I couldn't remember.  It certainly never feels like this in Seattle.

10k: 58:51 (9:38 pace this 5k) At mile 3 I all of a sudden felt so hot and could feel myself flushing. I figured we might've turned out of the headwind and sure enough as we came to the new bridge, the cross breeze felt so good. I was really glad I was carrying water as the water stops were not announced before and all of a sudden people are darting across to get water.  I did see other friends  E and her husband M in here and that was wonderful!  E trotted with me a bit and promised a refill of water around mile 16 and I knew that would really help me a lot. 

13.1: 2:08:28 (10:05 pace this 6.9 miles) At mile 6, i looked at my heart rate and realized I was very high for my pace like 10k pace high.  N and i had discussed wearing a heart rate monitor or not for this race and at his suggestion I went with it.  I'm glad I did because it was just obvious how much the heat was affecting me.  I slowed down deliberately after mile 6.  I stopped to refill my water container in here and also saw A at the split where half marathoners returned to the finish.  She was focused though and didn't hear me shout. I was warm but not uncomfortable.  Unfortunately I started to feel super achy and my feet were really starting to hurt by mile 10 or so.

20: 3:29:25 (11:44 pace this 6.9 miles).  As promised, E & M had a fresh bottle of COLD water for me around mile 14.  That was a big boost and felt great. Knowing that I'd be able to easily get more water, I'd use a bit extra to splash on my face. I did not dump water on me though as I was worried about my shoes getting wet.  My feet started hurting more and more and I was really annoyed by this.  Even with the extra water from E&M, I was still grabbing water from aid stations and would walk a bit to make sure i got in salt tabs and fuel hoping that would help the aches. It didn't really. At mile 17 I went into survival mode.  Walk 30 second, run 5 minutes.  if my garmin lapped in that time I'd still have to run 5 minutes.  My "running" at this point slowed to a crawl but it was still vaguely faster than walking.  I'd barely make it to the end of the 5 minutes and my feet would be on fire.  Walking helped and then starting again was excruciating. I could not figure out why my feet hurt so much. 

26.2 4:52:04 (13:29 pace this 6.2 miles). And yes it got worse.  I kept the run/walk timing but i'd run out of water in my bottle and made the mistake of tossing it out. I'd walk through any water station that came along.  and now since i was moving so slowly it just seemed like forever until they came.  E had promised a water refill at mile 22 and i was so happy to see her. I hope i wasn't too grumpy but i wasn't thinking all that clearly.  I'd lost the ability to focus on my audio book and just wanted to be done.  At mile 24 I realized that if was able to get into some semblance of a run and Not Stop for 2 miles, I'd finish under my personal worst from the 2010 Seattle marathon.  I did run the entire last two miles in a blistering 13:00 minute pace (this is from my garmin) and was just so relieved to finish.  I ended up with many blisters on my toes and will lose a couple toenails.  i can only guess that is from the heat and having my feet get all sweaty.  It's not something I've had happen before. 

It really amuses me that i still ended up finishing just a few minutes faster than the average overall women finisher's pace for the marathon. And i was just dead smack middle of my age group.  Tough day and much tougher than I'd ever imagined.  I have a new and very healthy respect for anyone who runs in the summer in Texas!  Done!  N had reassessed his goals and had a very respectable finish just 15 minutes off his goal pace.  D had suffered a lot more because she had not changed her goal pace.  Every race there is a decision to be made and we all make the best decisions we can for where we are on race day.  This race only reminded me that is a very important part of training. 

Overall the weekend itself was just so much fun and I had a great time. I'm really glad I went! The running sucked (except for a fun shakeout run with N on saturday) but it is what it is.  I'm not all that invested in finishing a marathon just to finish either so i don't really see any need for congratulations or anything. yeah, I finished and that was my goal so I am glad i accomplished that.  Next! I don't know what that is yet but that's fine.  Truthfully I just love the training in general and getting to go to races especially races with some GREAT and INSPIRING people are experiences to be treasured. 

runango report posted

Sunday, November 25, 2012


Along Coal Creek Trail

Happy Thanksgiving!

it's one of my favorite holidays. We usually host family for the meal. We've got it down pretty well too so it's not a big deal.  So much so that we were able to go off and do a small little race the morning of Thanksgiving. 

The Magnuson monthly run series sure is convenient.  I'd planned on this 10k but my back was a bit tight earlier in the week.  That meant I held off and registered the day of the race.  usually that is prohibitively expensive but for this race, it's just a normal race fee.  It's a no frills, no chip timed get out there and race sort of an event.  Most run the 5k so just one loop but it's a convenient venue to get a consistent 10k effort for me.  5k?  yeah, with marathon training, i think the 10k distance is a bit better for me.

Lots of rain at the Coal Creek Falls.
K came along just to do a longer mid-week run since it is easy access to a running path. MK a running friend from my work building was there too.  he's a fast master's runner and is always fun to chat with.  It was a lot more crowded than i was expecting.  So with registration and parking, i had scant time to do a 1 mile warm up.  I'd prefer a longer warm up but that would do.

I wasn't sure what pace to expect.  I'd had a long run and then a workout just days before.  My legs felt a bit stiff. and with a "ready, set, " we were off.  This 5k course that I'd run twice is always being tweaked a bit.  There is always Kite Hill and then some gravel/many turn sections.  This time there was a featured grass interlude as they are doing some construction.  No worries.  I felt pretty strong and even passed someone up the hill.  That's a first!  The hairpin turn at the end of mile 3 always feels awful but this time it was better.  maybe i slowed a bit on teh second lap and that was mostly because i was worried about blowing up!  There are many fewer runners who run the second lap so it also becomes a lesson in maintaining focus.  I did better than i have.  

I was delighted to see the clock reading well under 48 minutes as I came through.  MK was cheering for me too which was a nice touch. This course always reads a bit short on my garmin.  It think it is just a 10k and with the multiple turns with that hairpin turns it reads short.  Either way, the well under 48 minutes (47:36 by my watch) astounds me!  It has been since early 2007 since i've run under 48.  Yippee!

Dinner was fabulous and it was nice to visit with everyone.  And then we had friday with pouring rain, a clean house and a lot of leftovers.  That's right.  I never even got dressed for the day.  I knit and relaxed and watch movies.  it's the perfect holiday!

Saturday was pleasantly non rainy and because we had no plans, i was able to go off and get in a longer trail run.  Of course the rain, rain, rain we'd had meant i had to chose my trail carefully.  I didn't want such a bog that i was having to hike about a lot.  There would be no falling or slipping! And the Coal Creek Trail in Newcastle is really good for this.  They've done a lot of work on the trails in the past couple years and it shows with how well drained it is.  Sure there are still some boggy sections but not bad at all.  And i saw a coyote!  Twice!  At first I thought it might be a dog as it was trotting along on the trail behind me (I was stopped quietly enjoying the view and having a gel) but that intelligent considering look was just not dog-like.  I called out to make sure it saw me and to make sure there weren't any humans about with it.  Nope, it was just out for a trail run too.  

RPD at mile 12.
Today was the Seattle Half and Full Marathon.  I was not running it but i had many friends who were doing various events.  I hopped onto the course at mile 9 with RPD to pace him through the final hills of Interlaken.  he was running really strongly and I was excited for him.  I don't think I've ever had a run where I am passing so many people on the uphills.

After 2.9 miles, i turned back wishing him well (stay strong!) and jogged back on course seeing a couple other people out running.  I got back to my car and ate and had some coffee (I'd brought snacks and a thermos of coffee) to wait for TR.  She was running her first marathon and we'd done a lot of training runs together the past couple months.  She's not had a lot of folks cheering her efforts so i thought it would be nice to jump on course with her as well.

Right on schedule she came through and was moving pretty well.  She was quiet and hurting a bit but still maintaining a smile.  She ended up stopping just once to stretch out some verging on cramping hamstrings but got right back to running.  Even though she was hurting you couldn't tell and I was quite inspired by her efforts.

Yep, i'm excited to race in a couple weeks and it was a great weekend to remind myself of all that I am thankful for every day. This was a great way to start a taper. 

Sunday, November 18, 2012

It's that time of year...

Yep, it happens every year about now.  You know what I mean. All of a sudden it is dark and cold and wet outside.  Sometimes it is windy too.  The better days for running re-set standards.  Not raining, only a little breezy and 40 degrees?  Wow, that is good running weather.

I'd planned to be done with marathon training by the end of October but of course my plans were derailed.  I took a week off to regroup and figure out what I wanted to do.  I wanted to run a marathon and soon.  So the past three weeks have been high mileage for me which is 40, and then back to back 50 mile weeks.

And yeah the weather has sucked.  How do I keep it going?  It has helped that I've had someone to run with once or twice a week.  Those miles go much quicker when chatting companionably with someone.  Even better if we are doing a "workout" and are going at a faster pace which requires concentration.  Those are always easier with other people.

I've figured out how to check audio books out of the library and I've been listening to those for certain longer runs.  Normally I prefer not to listen to anything.  Listening to music doesn't do much for me but a good, well read book?  Oh yes, that holds my concentration very well but it does not detract from the mindful running I prefer. 

I try to get out to trails for easy recovery runs.  Of course that can only be on the weekend when i'm not working but a trail run is always better in the rain than a road run.  Recovery runs are particular pleasant on trails as I love the better range of movement i get on trails.

I've also added back in a more consistent weight training routine.  I'd normally do some upper body weights, core and hip strength work twice a week generally.  I'd really wanted to look into a more consistent routine and finally decided on the p90x program.  Note: I am not receiving anything for reviewing their product.

Why this program?  Mostly because they had an app for my iphone.  Yes, really.  I didn't want to go to a gym (although I'd looked at some kettlebell programs) nor did i really want a set of dvds.  Our player is so slow to load and truthfully i get bored!  I need to be able to do a program while watching something i want to watch (not an exercise video).

The app lets you track and schedule the program and you can download (for a fee - much less than the dvd set) guided workouts for the program.  I've picked a program (lean) and I'm doing it concurrently with my run schedule.  I generally keep the specific strength workouts for arms/shoulders/abs/legs/back and am for now skipping the other workouts besides Core Synergy.  I don't feel all that comfortable adding in such different cardio workouts on top of the running.  If I am tired or sore from running I have skipped the strength workouts or kept them easy.  It's worked though.  Even in a few weeks I feel stronger especially in upper body.  I wasn't sure about the leg or back work but it turned out I could either modify it or have found those movements useful.

it's a good reminder about one of the reasons I enjoy running. Keep moving!  I'm not getting any younger or stronger by just sitting on the couch! There are so many reasons to strength train in addition to my regular running routine. 

And yep, that helps me get out the door to get in my runs when it is raining, windy, dark and cold.  


Did Not Finish.

Those are hard. I think this one was even harder because it hadn't even crossed my mind that I'd not finish.  I hadn't even though of it as an option.  And yet, at mile 13.75, it was the right thing to do.

So then what?  I went through the thoughts of I am never running again.

Really?  You love running. It makes you relaxed and happy most every day of the week and lets you do super fun things including keeping you fit for walking and gardening.  And now we've watched the East Coast get pounded with Hurricane Sandy and we've seen the drama of the 2012 Election and thinking about this more, it sure is a privilege being able to run daily and in fun events all over the country.

That doesn't mean I won't be trying again and soon.  It just means I needed a bit of time to think about it all.  I took 4 days off from all activity besides a super cool walk in a national monument.  It was the right thing to do.  I needed to want to run again and it took that much time. 

The super cool National Monument? I highly recommend going to the Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument just north of Albuquerque if you ever get a chance. It's a new-ish designation and not a lot of ammenities.  No matter as the scenery more than makes up for it! 

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

And ABQ Marathon?

I'm not sure where to even begin so I'll just lay it out.

DNF at 14.  That means I Did Not Finish and dropped at the 14 mile mark.

Sigh.  I'd trained marathon pace at 8:20 but knew with my lower miles overall that even though that was the correct pace to train at, I'd not be able to run a marathon at that pace.  My plan was to go out at a 8:45 pace for the first half except for mile 12/13 which had a bit more uphill.  I'd hoped to then speed up to 8:35-8:40 or just maintain.

I'd felt pretty terrible through taper but mentally focused on the training I'd hit. I'd managed 6 days of running most weeks and felt great and had solid miles.  I'd had a solid 10k which predicted marathon pace and I'd felt i was holding back a bit on that 10k because of the course. I'd not had any aches or pains. My cycle was finally lining up correctly for a race.

I went in with the idea that I'd just relax and coast and enjoy the first 10 miles.  I knew it would start to feel hard somewhere after that and that was ok.  I was ready.

I went out right on pace (8:45) and then hit the next two miles a bit faster as it was downhill towards the river (8:40).  Once on the river path I was back comfortably at 8:45.  This is ever so slightly uphill for the next 10 miles.  I think i felt good from about mile 4-6. And then I wanted to slow because it was feeling harder.  And I did to 8:50.  That's ok, i told myself.  No need to beat my head about this.  Stay focused and relaxed and smart.

The best part of this race was taht it was an out and back along a bike path with easy access in a lot of places for course support.  We were at this race with a big group of runango marathon online forum friends who were all doing the marathon to get NM checked off their 50 states/50 marathons list.  K was spectating with S who was the wife of a runango runner i've known online for years.  He was running the half as he's recovering from an injury and their daughter was running the full marathon.  There was another spouse out there cheering for his wife who was running the full.  So I'd have my own personal cheering section in a few different places and it was wonderful! 

I'd figured out fueling/hydration needs and decided to carry water in my race vest. This was a wise decision as they had these itty bitty little cups out there with water.  I had fuel in a small handheld carrier and stuck to my plan and felt good about that.

So what happened?  By 10, my pace had slowed more.  I just didn't feel like i could push it at all.  then at 12 a more gradual uphill started.  I'd expected to slow quite a bit here but it felt like i hit a wall.  Uh ok.  K and S were at the 12.8 mark as I'd requested a drop of more fuel here.  I reached the turnaround and came back and walked with K just a bit to use the inhaler again.  I was having a bit of a hard time taking a deep breath although i wasn't wheezy.  I fully expected to stay in the 9 range and that would've been fine.

I left K and S and it was not fine.  My pace was slowing even more even though i was going downhill now.  It felt even harder and everything was starting to ache.  I crossed a main road (the trails cross underneath the roads) and realized that I was going to start having to walk and even hitting 10 minute miles was going to be tough.

Really?  Did i want to finish just to finish even though it was going to turn into a death march for 12 miles?

No.  I've done death marches and really I didn't need another one.  I stopped and texted K that I was done.  And that was it.

Now the rest of the day was great because we went back to the finish to cheer the rest of the runners in and there were some spectacular performances that were just thrilling to be there for.  As a large group we went off to my favorite restaurant on my recommendation and had lots of fun celebrating the victories.  And then we went and did the Tram.  AFter 20 years of visiting ABQ, I finally did this most popular tourist activity.

So what was the problem people kept asking?  Altitude?  ABQ is at 5000 feet.  Uh maybe? Low miles overall?  Maybe? I'm just not mentally cut out to race a marathon?  Probably.

Overall I really enjoyed the Hanson Marathon plan and hope to incorporate those principles into my training going forward.  I've never been able to hit such consistent miles on 6 days of running and feel so good and strong.

What's next?  We are enjoying summer again in Albquerque and I hear winter has hit Seattle.  I'm not really looking forward to a lot of running right now in rain and wind but we shall see.  I need a bit of a break from formal training for sure.  

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Seattle Summer

Touring the Seattle Public Library
What a great end to the summer!  And it was a nice distraction through the last couple weeks of marathon training.  I had long time out-of-town friends visiting and staying with us on consecutive weekends.  Seattle really shone too.  Instead of the fall rains, we had sun and more sun.  Record dry weather for Seattle in fact.  I have no doubt we will lose some plants in the garden as I failed miserably in keeping up with garden watering.  Oh well.  I just consider it a good thing that we'd not planned on planting this fall!
Mischief Distillery

Fun stuff to do in Seattle:
Theo Chocolate Factory Tour - a quick and informative tour of a small batch, organic and fair trade chocolate maker in Fremont.  There are lots and lots of samples!
Fremont Mischief Distillery - a local distillery also in Fremont that offers free wee samples.  yum!
Theo Chocolate!
Tour the Downton Seattle Public Libary.  I happened to have a couple architects handy as we followed the self-guided tour available from the information desk.  I work a couple blocks from this library and visit it at least once a week but this tour still took me to places I hadn't seen.
Top Pot Doughnuts - yum.  They were OUT of a new flavor salted caramel old fashioned.

Seattle Public Library Koolhaas
Of course we wandered through Pike Street Market and had some samples at Beecher's Cheese.  We also grilled some salmon at home.  Those are just a given.

I'd not known the friends were going to visit and had signed up for the Alderdash.  This was a running/walking event (not timed so not a race) on Bainbridge Island which supported the wonderful IslandWood program.  IslandWood takes kids and puts them into a spectacular outdoor learning center "designed to provide exceptional learning experiences and inspire lifelong environmental and community stewardship."  

Having run the trails over on Bainbridge Island last year, I knew this would be a fun event on a gorgeous course.  it would require a short ferry ride from Seattle to Bainbrige but really that would be a fun thing for out of state visitors.  The friend is not a runner but she was game to walk a 10k and her husband is a casual runner who'd enjoy it as well.  Woohoo!  

This event did not disappoint!  It was a beautiful morning for a ferry ride. With four of us, we brought our car but the event was providing a shuttle service to and from the ferry terminal.  It was a very well organized event with some really nice touches.  The friends who have never done any sort of running event were all impressed.  We had to inform them that this was not the norm!  

We got off running right on time.  And down we went.  I knew it would be hilly and this 10k course did not disappoint.  We roamed a bit around on the ADA accessible trails within the IslandWood campus.  I had wanted to run at a moderate pace and get a good workout in if I was feeling good.  I was feeling great and pushed the first downhill miles knowing I could then settle back and finish strongly.
The view down from the Canopy Tower

The course then went out onto roads, down to a gravelled waterfront trail with view of the Winslow Ferry terminal and then back up.  Wow.  There was one short but steep hill which was really surprising.  It was straight up!  It was a long hill back up to the finish.  This course had nice water stops along the way and was well marked.  I finished and immediately turned around to jog back to my friend who was walking.  They had a wonderful lunch available.

We also got a map of the trails and went to explore IslandWood's Canopy Tower and Pedestrian Bridge.  The tower is worth climbing if you ever get a chance. Basically we all agreed that we'd all love to come here for a week of school! 

We stopped quickly in Winslow to wander about a bit and window shop and then were back in Seattle by late afternoon. This was the first annual Alderdash adn I am already looking forward to next year.  

The friends returned to DC on Tuesday and I completed my last marathon paced workout before the marathon this morning.  Despite sleeping horribly I had a very hard time slowing myself down to marathon pace.  I think this is a good sign! I feel ready and really curious to see how this all plays out. 

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Ticking along

I feel a bit more confident to mention what my goal race is this fall.  I've been training for the Duke City Marathon on October 21st in Albuquerque, NM. 

I know.  I've said I hadn't planned on doing another marathon.  I think the long runs take a toll on me. However, this past year I have managed to increase my weekly mileage to 40 miles per week with no run longer than 12-14 miles. 

This plan has agreed with me and I've felt stronger and very solid.  The hip issues which have been such a problem in the past have dissipated (I do some basic maintenance which helps). I know I've stayed on top of low iron issues. I'd planned on trying for a master's half marathon PR but that stupid trip and fall derailed that plan in Vancouver in June.

Why Albququerque?  K was raised there and I've visited once a year since I was in college.  I've always wanted to do a race there even with the altitude.  This year, a whole bunch of running friends are running the full marathon there in their quest to run a marathon in every state.  I could run the half there and had initially planned on that.  then I started looking more at the Hanson Marathon Plans where there is no long run over 16 miles and at the course (flat!) and thought some more.

Hmm.  I put the Hanson Marathon Plan all into a excel spreadsheet (let me know if you want it!) so I could better see how the miles play out in this plan.  And it seemed right for me and at the right time.  The plan is interesting. 

If I were a first time marathoner, there is no way I'd do this plan.  I would feel the NEED to run 18 or 20 miles.  I've run 3 marathons total and some longer trail races so I know I can cover the distance and the time.  The plan appeals to me too in that weekends are spent on back to back runs of moderate distances.  I like that a lot instead of planning for 28-22 miles and having to take a rest day before and after to protect myself because I'm concerned about injury. has of course been helping me modify this plan and helping me set paces too.  It's been very enjoyable overall and has helped my focus and strength.  that 10k a couple weeks ago definitely proved that.  Only the race will tell however. 

I am trying not to think of altitude.  There is nothing I can do about that!  And the other nice thing is that Duke City does allow for change of events with just a fee if I need to change to the half distance for whatever reason.  I am excited about the marathon and feel like everything is going really well.

It all reminds me not to take it for granted though.  Last year at this time, I'd planned on my first 50k but life got in the way.  Someone I knew and thought was a really neat person died suddenly of a stroke at work.  I ended up with a weird virus in the days before the race and I ended up DNFing the full 50k but finishing (unofficially) the 25k.  This year?  The race was cancelled because of widespread fires and smoke in the Cle Elum area. 

Dear friends are visiting in consecutive weekends coming up.  I can't wait to see them and have fun exploring Seattle.  I'll still get the training in (easier since I won't have a long run) and I like the distractions. 

The heater kicked on for the first time of the season this morning.  I guess it's Fall! 

Monday, September 10, 2012

Remind me again.

It's true.  I have to keep reminding myself of the hard workouts that I am hitting.  The mental side of running is as much a part of running as the physical.  I've been doing the training.  I'm hitting my workouts and it shows.  The Lake Union 10k a few weeks ago went great!  I felt so much stronger overall.

The goal event is in six weeks. One more 10k would be helpful to practice pacing and mental focus before heavier training takes hold.  The Iron Girl Seattle 10k is a nice event and I do actually like that it's a women's only event.  It's a very big event though.  Over 1500 do just the 5k and just over 500 participate in the 10k.  It's a 5k course that the 10k-ers run twice and everyone starts at the same time.

I know what this means.  it means those doing the 10k are going to hit a lot of 5k traffic.  I'd heard this from a faster runner last year as she was super frustrated with trying to maintain pace.  I need the 10k effort though so I signed up for the longer distance.  It ended up being an easier running week and I felt very ready for the race.

My goal?  It was the same as the Lake Union 10k. AT that race, i'd wanted to be under 7:50 pace but was pretty sure that I was more in 7:40 overall pace shape.  The hills there scared me though so I was happy to come in under 7:50.  And I did. My garmin pace showed 7:46.  Race pace results show 7:48 because the course is always a bit longer than GPS measuring.

I did my longer warm-up with some strides and fought my way towards the front of the line up.  And ran into JCB which was a nice surprise.  She was doing the 5k and I expected to pull away quickly but she's been less than 100% since a tough Ragnar Relay and ran a steady PR (and AG placing!).  I felt like I was lined up too far back though as I got into some traffic and had a hard time getting onto pace.  Finally after a half mile, I was where I wanted.  first mile: 7:43

I could see JCB swinging farther out on the course to avoid traffic.  I was really trying to maintain the shortest course line I could for the first lap as I knew I'd hit traffic the second.  I felt great overall.  The weather was perfect.  Mile 2 & 3:  7:36, 7:40.

And it was interesting in mile 3 to listen to the runners around me who were mostly going to be finished. They were breathing hard like they were at the end of a 5k.  I still felt very comfortable.  yes, I was working but comfortable.  I'd kept drifting to a faster pace and would slow it back down to the 7:40 and tried to remain focused and calm.

I was afraid of falling apart.  I reminded myself of the 10k a few weeks ago which was harder.  I reminded myself of the hill repeat workout that had been followed by a track workout. I've done the work.  I am putting in the miles and getting the training done and I know I'm faster and stronger and recovering better.

The 5k finishers turned towards the finish line and I went along my lonely way.  There were women scattered ahead of me.  I worried about hitting a headwind but then welcomed it once it came as it helped keep me cool.  I passed the area where friends would be cheering if they were in town.  Instead they were a thousand miles away cheering for friends at IM Wisconsin and I thought happy thoughts for all those participating and supporting that event.  7:35.  Eeks.  Two more miles.  Would I hold it?  Better slow down.

I passed EO's 81 year old mom walking the 5k with a police escort at the water station just after mile 4.  I didn't realize this was EO's mom at the time but nonetheless, I was really happy to see her out there.  How awesome! My mom and I walked this event a few years ago together.  My mom placed first in her age group (F 75-79) and beat out EO's mom then.  What a hoot! 

And even though I started having to dodge traffic and groups of kids and moms and those still very new to these types of events, I was happy to see so many girls and women out there.  7:43

One more mile and the crowds got thicker.  The street is closed in one direction for this race.  For the first lap, I'd run right on the curb and cut the corners to maintain the shortest line.  This last mile, I swung way out onto the other lane of traffic to avoid all the walkers.   I knew this would happen so I didn't get frustrated. I just maintained my pace and kept focused.  i'd occasionally hear a mom tell a kid to move over a bit to make room for the faster runners and gave a silent nod of thanks.

I wished I'd been able to wear one of my colorful running skirts for this event.  i think those girls would've liked to have seen such cute running wear! 7:40

And with that I saw the final turn to the finish.  I hoped the curb and dodged around 5k finishers onto the grass and pelted in.  Woohoo!  My garmin had 48:06 and showed an average pace of 7:39. I was delighted as this was 15 seconds or so faster than the Lake Union 10k and had really felt so much easier.  All the other CoachLesley athletes had had good runs as well.

I was really bummed to see that the official results had me at 48:03!  Dangit!  If i had known, I could've made up those 3 seconds and come in under 48 minutes.  So close!  I know the last couple of miles cost me some time with traffic.  Truthfully, the other hold up was my mind.  I kept drifting faster but slowed it down because I jsut wasn't sure if I was faster than 7:40 overall pace.  Remind me again.  I'm doing the work, hitting those workouts and good things will come. 

I believe in the training I just have to keep reminding myself of it!

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Revisiting & The end of Summer

Llandover Woods
There are a couple posts I'd like to revisit.

Recovery:  I think I forgot to mention the most important part of recovery for me.  Sleep!  Mess with my sleep and I notice.  That happened this previous week.  It was a super busy and stressful week at work and I just couldn't sleep that well thinking about getting everything done.  And I'd be up early most days to run and also because the cat-assisted alarm clock (two of them!) were quite active.

I'm pretty lucky in that I don't think I need as much sleep as the average person.  I do fine with 6 hours but do like to sleep a little longer on the weekends (7 hours).  I have always been a freakishly light sleeper and I wake multiple times during the night and consider this normal.  I can usually tell when training is taking a heavy toll because I sleep a lot sounder and longer and love it!

By the end of the day on Friday, I felt physically ill I was so tired.  It does not particularly affect me at work.  I don't really feel sleepy and I'm lucky in that my job is such that if I do feel sleepy sitting at my desk, I can always get up and go take care of other responsibilities.  That really helps.  I take short snoozes on the bus commute home if needed.  One full night of solid sleep is enough to make the difference.  With that, I can easily get right back on training and other life business.  If i have multiple days of not sleeping well, it becomes more important to me to rearrange my running schedule so I run in the afternoon (run commute is perfect for this) and can sleep in in the morning before work.

Weight:  Oh yes, the other part of training is eating enough but not too much.  How am I doing in changing my diet and possibly seeing my weight (or more likely body fat) drop?  Great! And it happened without much fuss actually. I noticed that right before Ragnar Relay that I was at a low for body weight (by about 2-3 pounds only) and more noticeably a lower body fat percentage. 

Remember I'm using a particular scale which may give consistent body fat percentage results over time but may not be accurate (ie my real laboratory measured body fat %) and that is just fine.  it's more the trend of reducing that I was looking for and I achieved.  The 2% drop I managed is noticeable to me.  I feel much more muscled and stronger.

I was still looking to improve the diet though.  Work is a typical office.  It seems that there are snacky items everywhere, all the time.  I know because I do a lot of the ordering for the office.  I'm always looking for "healthy" alternatives.  I'm sorry.  I do not think whole grain baked chips are really a good healthy snack and neither are those "healthy" granola bar.  It's still processed food beyond all recognition.  I know. it's easy!  I've lost my taste for them truthfully.  I'm lucky in that work does do fresh fruit at work a couple times a week.  I would often have a piece of fruit and some nuts.  Too many nuts.  They are so tasty and it's hard to stop at just a serving.  and breakfast was becoming a challenge.  I love eggs so i'd have those probably 5 times a week.  No problem.  But what to have on those other days.  Oatmeal?  Love it but honestly I am sick of it and it doesn't last.  A couple hours later, I am starving.

Smoothies!  That's what I've been trying.  It's a great way to use up a fair bit of the fruit which doesn't get eaten at work (i cut up the too ripe fruit and stick it in the freezer so it doesn't go to waste) and a good way to get some random veggies in as well.  I've been experimenting with a plain yogurt base but also really enjoy almond milk. Add in a fresh banana (or frozen banana if they were getting too ripe) and whatever fresh or frozen fruit (Trader Joe's has some great fruit for this) plus almond butter for healthy fats.  I like some spinach or arugula (boatloads in the garden right now) or celery and it's an easy, tasty meal which I really look forward to for breakfast.

I just have a stick blender which does the trick well enough.  I also make some batches of this and freeze and take to work for a snack.  Fun and endless possibilities and particularly nice after longer runs on the weekends.  After a big post-run breakfast of pancakes, eggs, coffee and fruit, I always need to eat again soon but nothing appeals.  Smoothies appeal.

After setting a master's 10k PR, I was able to run 45 miles the week after and that is amazing to me.  Recovery seems to be working pretty well!  With the Labor Day Holiday, Summer seems like it is ending.  The temps are cooler in the morning and it is so much darker in the morning and evening.
"South Loop" is the only loop in Llandover Woods
There are lots of things to look forward to in the fall though so that is just fine. Summer has been great.  It's been fantastic watching everyone achieve their summer racing goals and beyond! 

I had a reminder of that this weekend while on a group run.  I was marking a course that I probably learned as one of my first in-city runs many years ago.  When I was looking at a map just to make sure where I was going as there are different possibilities for both starting and ending to add on miles, I noticed a little park up on one section that I'd never seen before.

After some googling, I found the Llandover Woods Greenspace. It's a small forested area with a small loop trail which goes straight down and straight up.  Deeply forested and deeply peaceful, it was a lovely addition to a city run.  The trail is a solid gravel path and in good condition.  There is a pretty impressive set of stairs which would probably be slippery when wet. I'd run this loop counter clockwise because of that.  I look forward to seeing this woodsy oasis throughout the year. 

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Lake Union 10k 2012

And just when we didn't think we'd get one, Summer arrived for a couple weeks.  Finally we had to get the fans and cats in the house flopped about as flat as can be.  Gardening slows at this point as the plants mostly slow in growth.  I have to stay on top of watering and I finally removed the snap pea plants.  Wow, those were the best!  I felt like i was saying goodbye to a friend when i yanked them out.  Sadly, the green beans aren't doing as well.  Something is gnawing at them and some of the leaves are looking a bit disgruntled.  With the hot weather though, they seem to have bounced back. 

Of course, late summer is also when my birthday hits.  I took advantage of the good weather to take a random day off from work and give myself a b-day present of running on trails.  A couple friends were able to join me and it was a perfect way to celebrate.  This was a planned long run for the week (on a thursday) so i could still get in miles and do a local 10k which I like very much. 

The Lake Union 10k is in it's 4th year.  I skipped last year but otherwise have run every year.  It's a well known course around Lake Union which means it is mostly flat except for some bridge approaches and a last mean little but extremely steep hill in mile 5.  Training has been great of late and I've been hitting some excellent workouts so I was really looking forward to seeing how this would go.

What type of workouts?  I've been adding in back to back longer runs on the weekend (at a much slower pace) and enjoying the chance to just relax and get some miles.  During the week, I've had speed and moderate paced workouts.  The last speed workout I did was probably the hardest workout I've ever completed. 

8 x 2:00 hard hill repeats with a jog back down and then I went to the track to run 4 x 400s at a slightly faster pace than I've been doing them.  And really I tried to quit.  My back was tightening up and i was worried about tweaking things.  But with some encouragement, I kept at it and finished the workout hitting every thing just right. I was still thinking of this workout days later.

Why?  I'll admit I've been afraid to push things the past couple years.  I'm afraid of getting injured and being tired.  Tired? Of course I'm tired, I'm adding mileage and still keeping in quality workouts but that is ok.  It's ok to be tired and have your body adapt to the training.  The difference is that I'm not having any injury issues.  I'm tired but I recover quick and really look forward to the next challenge.

So Thursday's long trail run left me rather tired.  And that was ok.  I did my normal warm up and lined up fairly close to the front.  Even though this race is now starting on the road instead of the trail, I thought it would still be a bit crowded.  Good call!  I thought I was in shape to get close to 48 flat.  I planned to go out around 7:50.

That 7:40 mile went quick!  And I was actively slowing myself down and feeling good.  In previous years, I've thought at the 5k mark that it would be much better to do just a 5k but not this year.  I hit the short uphill section towards teh University Bridge and was still feeling strong.  I was pretty nervous about the very short and very steep section of road that came at you around mile 5.  These sorts of hills have been the bane of my running.  Remember those hill repeats you hit!  Remember that track workout you completed AFTER those hill repeats.  Keep your form.  Keep engaged. 

And I did. I didn't lose any ground to any of the people around me.  And I was trying to convince myself that it was just a very short section.  Obviously I had tried to forget it because there was one section that was very short but then you turned the corner and EEK it climbed again.  Then a fairly steep down and then right back up.  No worries.  I had this. 

I came across a great little video of Pacific Northwest Ballet practice the other day.  If you've never seen professional ballet up close, then you may not be aware of what atheletes those dancers are.  I've been lucky to see studio rehearsal and have seen the sweat flying off of bodies, the legs and arms shaking and the panting like they've just run a um 10k! And then they are in costume, under hot lights making those dance moves look easy and effortless.

There are some great quotes in here. 

"When fatigue sets in, think efficiency."  A straight line and keep that form as efficient as possible.  What is efficient for me is using those glute muscles effectively.  And I worked on keeping that happening.  I tend to want to swing my left arm across my body as I get tired.  I kept is moving straight.  I tend to sit back a bit and my gaze goes up which leads to some back problems.  Keep the gaze down and moving forward!  Honestly this applies at work too.  Get it done as efficiently as possible. 

"Remember, your body it's a dictatorship; there is a no democracy.  There is no vote. No one gets a vote. It's your way.  But you have to enforce that."  I started telling myself "this is not a democracy" and "NO voting" the last couple miles of this race.  I WOULD keep moving and I WOULD stay focused and I WOULD move!  And it worked. 

Woohoo!  That's a Master's PR on not so fresh legs.  I think I can approach under 48 on the right day.  I ended up with an Age Group win becasue those who were faster than I in my age group ended up winning either the overall or master's division.  I will happily take medaling up!  

And did I mention this race has tasty pancakes with a wonderful cooked raspberry spread?  Awesome! 

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Relay Recovery Orange Ogres finish strong!

The first time I did a relay such as this one, I have never been so sore after the event.  Why? I hadn't been running much because of injury, I didn't understand or know how to eat or drink during the relay and I'm pretty sure I was clueless about things that can help speed recovery.  All of those things (plus just years more running at a higher level) means I have been amazed at how easy recovery has been from this year's event.

I've been at a consistent high mileage (for me) for a couple of months with no injury issues besides the occasional tweak here and there. I get how I have to bring and then eat foods which appeal to me at odd times even when I don't really feel like it. I have extra food too and generally people bring enough extra snacky items to share.  This is much better than when i had a PBJ sandwich which I could barely choke down and then promptly lost in the van the first year I ran a relay such as this.  Yep, experience counts on so many levels!

And I'd had some excellent running in this event.  17 miles total @ 8:06 pace overall. I'd had a very sucessful third leg too.  I knew what I wanted for pace going into my third leg but from experience I didn't expect to be able to hit any faster for the harder effort. I was really surprised to see a sub-8 pace overall for my last leg.  I honestly felt like I was working hard yet just maintaining and I was delighted to be going faster than I thought!  Generally at the end of races when I am pushing the pace, it feels extra hard and my legs will  not move.  I hope that this new experience will translate to other goal events!

As an aside, the last leg is also where I had the best laugh.  Our other driver of Van 2 (GVB) had taken to shouting "faster, faster, faster" at a couple of our runners as we were passing them in the van.  It was purely in fun jest, or course and accompanied with much cheering.  I started running and they must've piled into the van because not too long afterwards I got cheered and GVB yelled "faster, faster, faster!" at me as they went past.  It did make me laugh because at that point I was still warming up on the uphill first mile.  But the van got stuck at a long wait for a left-hand turn onto a busy highway.  Aha!  I could see them stuck there with a line of cars and was delighted as I caught up, climbed the hill and could yell, "faster, faster, faster GVB!"  Relays are just full of fun moments like these.  

Anyway, the funny thing is that I really do much, much less aided recovery now than I used to.  No ice baths, no icing of anything unless it's an obvious tweak like a rolled ankle.  I do make sure to eat well after most runs.  Since i never have any problem eating directly after a harder effort though this is not the issue for me that it can be for others.   The interesting thing is that recent research is showing that aided recovery in the form of ice baths or anti-inflammatories may be counter productive. 

How so?  Your bodies response to hard efforts is inflammation which triggers the body's mechanism for healing and repair which makes the muscles stronger.  Take out that inflammation and the body's adaption to the hard workout is lessened.  See here:  article

Of course there are instances with aided recovery would be useful.  I wore compression socks in-between each of my legs at the relay.  In that instance, i needed to run hard again almost immediately and my lower legs feel better after wearing them. 

I recovered quickly enough that I was pretty seriously considering jumping into a half marathon this weekend.  However the timing of my cycle has been so uneven of late, I decided against running that this weekend. Good call as Seattle hit record breaking temps!  I'm happy to be back up to my usual 40 mile running weeks and looking forward to a 10k in a couple weeks.  Meanwhile I am totally enjoying the heat.  I know it won't last. 

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Ragnar Northwest Passage 2012 - The Runner's Edition Orange Ogres Van 2!
Remember this is a 12 person team divided 6 people into two rental vans.  Every one in the first van runs once and hands off to the next van who then all run once.  The van that is "off" or not running goes to the next major van exchange and rests waiting for the other van to finish their legs.  Everyone runs three times over the course of 200 miles and usually over 24 hours. 

By Thursday, all I wanted to do was run.  As captain, I think I have even more anticipation with this event than for a just running solo event.   I've been planning it and discussing it and sending out emails about it and answering questions about it and just thinking about it for what seems like months.  Once both vans are checked in, my stress and anxiousness disappears and the rest of the world seems to vanish.  all that matters is getting from Point A to Point B.  Most of the time this happens with driving the van but three times I will run that distance.

And really, people don't seem to realize this, but the running is the easy part. What is more challenging is dealing with eating different foods at odd times. There are limited opportunities to buy food along the course so you have to plan on being self-sufficient.  You have to manage drinking enough liquids and dealing with portopotties and being awake for over 24 hours.  And then you have to run as well as you are able?  it's really easy to run that first leg too fast.  How well you run that last leg almost 24 hours later depends a lot on how well you are able to refuel and recover after your first and second legs.

This is where having run multiple times at these events is really helpful.  I know my legs won't feel like moving but they will.  I know I won't feel like eating in the middle of the night but I will.  I know I will lose some key piece of equipment in the van but it'll be ok.  I know I will spend hours chatting and laughing with my van mates and just having a great time.  And then I get ready to run and focus and run my best because my team is counting on me to get from Point A to Point B as fast as I am able on race day.  Really, i find the whole process just delightful.

Get Ready: K was in Van 1 and they met at our house very early Friday am.  With minimal fuss, the van was loaded and they were off.  I pretended to go back to sleep.  After an hour I gave up and was ready to go!  I had a good breakfast, made some more coffee, cooked my pancakes which i'd have as a post run meal in the middle of the night and just waited to go.  Of course it was dreadful out!  Seattle had thunderstorms and heavy showers in mid-July! Fortunately the thunderstorms stayed south but I knew Van 1 would have some running in rain. I checked to make sure i knew exactly where my body glide was!  Off I went to the Van 2 meet up spot.  Although I'd been in email and phone contact with all these people, i still hadn't met some of them in person.  Without fuss, everyone was loaded and we were on our way chatting away.  Of course i was super anxious at this point.  Where is Van 1 on the course and would we be in time?!  I badgered Van 1 via text to give me updates about when runners took off and breathed a sigh of relief as their times starting were matching the detailed spreadsheet I'd updated to keep track of expected running times.

The Meetup:  Check in and decorate that van and get the first runner in our van ready to go.  It's really fun at the first major exchange as everyone is excited.  Another friend of mine was captaining another team and we happened to see each other.  Fun stuff!  Soon enough we found our other van and knew we had 10 minutes or so to go until we expected their last runner.  What did he look like and what was he wearing?  Who knew?!  And our first runner was off.  This team ended up being fantastic.  We had 6 runners new to this type of event and one of them had never even raced in a running event before.  But I knew from talking to him that he'd be a fast runner although should not handle a lot of mileage.  Sure enough, he came in overall as our fastest runner.  Although we were an "open" team (meaning at least one person is under 30 years old), more than half of us were over 40 and 3 were over 50.  There were relay veterans like myself and 4 returning members from last year.  It was a nice mix.

Run #1: I was runner #11 (5th runner in Van 2).  This was a new position for me.  I've been in Van 1 and Van 2 but generally earlier in the running rotation.  I did enjoy running later in the rotation and it worked well for the team too.  This leg was 6.8 miles with a large climb for over a mile in the middle.  After the downhill, i'd have 2.5 miles of perfectly flat roads on the Skagit Flats.  I started running at 4:46 pm after our team had an 8:30 am start.  It was much cooler than expected (mid-60s) but it was 100% humidity and I knew I'd feel that.  i decided to carry a small water bottle.  I filled it up and then promptly lost it in the van.  Dangit!  Fortunately I was able to borrow another smaller one.  And right on time, runner 10 was in passing another runner (roadkill!) just before the finish.  I'd hoped to hit this at 8:15 pace and went out much quicker as it was downhill.  Immediately though I was passed by one guy and dangit, a young gal.  I settled into pace and was surprised to see that i was running faster than I thought.  I expected to slow on the big hill and sure enough I did of course.  My goal was just to stay strong on the hill and not blow up.  Evidently that young gal had gone out too hard.  She was walking on the hill and I passed her back. Once towards the top of the hill, i took some water and uh oh, immediately I started feeling a side stitch.  I slowed down, started the deep breathing tricks and dug my fingers into my side.  Over almost a quarter of a mile I tried this with no luck and it just got worse and worse.  Finally I had to stop to walk and completely dig into my side while breathing deeply in and out.  And miraculously, I found exactly the area which was cramping up. It released under pressure and I started running again on pace.  Just like that!  Van 2 was of course passing me here and must've been concerned.  I'd been passing people here and there and enjoyed the downhill.  The flat farmland is very pretty and I concentrated on maintaining my form.  I finally snuck a look at my overall pace and was shocked to see that I was just under 8:15.  Excellent!  Done!  I was just under 56 minutes for 8:12 pace by my garmin.

The Interlude:  There were some major changes to the course this year.  Runner #7 and #12 had some extremely long legs and a lot of total mileage.  Instead of having the vans run basically even mileage (100 miles each), Van 2 was running 20 more miles.  it had been harder to fill the team too knowing that I needed a couple runners who could handle longer legs and more mileage.  I could do one of the legs as I had consistent 40 mile per weeks of running for a couple months now but I'd be better as a mid-distance runner on the team. This change meant that Van 2 had much less downtime as well and consequently made it tougher on everyone in the van to get any rest especially the drivers.  I really hope this gets changed for next year!  I hadn't realized what a difference this would make.  I personally do not expect to sleep at all on the relay as I am the lightest sleeper ever however the entire van was flagging as we got towards the end of our rotation.  We finished our last leg and headed towards La Connor to wait for the first van.  It was around 9 pm and a little early to be sleeping even though I'd been up since forever.  I rolled out my sleeping bag on a hillside overlooking the valley and just relaxed.  Nope, i didn't sleep but just lying still with no cares really helps.  And unlike last year I was NOT getting a cold and I made sure to have some caffeine after our rest times.  I knew we'd expect our next runner to go out before mid-night and surprisingly i had no trouble getting up and moving about ready to go.

Run #2: The humidity remained although it did cool further during the night hours.  I never really needed to get out the warm clothing though which honestly was nice.  Van 2 was in good spirits and getting the runs done.  There are some sections of this course where you need to be alert and aware of drivers and we did have some concerns with alerts on course about erratic drivers.  Scary!  And I am glad that the race organizers were quick to put out the word.  Really, I saw so many police out on the course and was very glad of that.   The really big change to teh course happened with my second running leg.  Typically runner #12 had run across Deception Pass and we'd med the other van in Deception Pass State Park.  I'd always hated this transition area.  You'd stumble around in the pitch black in the woods and there were very limited facilities.  This year, as runner #11 I'd run across the pass and continue on to a new exchange.  EVen the starting exchange was different.  There was no room to do a warm up and we had little time.  And I was off.  There had been no runners ahead of me so it seemed like i was running alone in the pitch black for miles.  Eventually I did catch up to others (passed around 9 people) and was only passed by 2 guys one of whom shouted "nice pace" at me as he went by.  I was wearing a strand of battery-powered lights and got a lot of compliments about this.  Plus it just added a light source and since it was so dark and foggy, i was grateful.  This leg ended up being a bit more challenging than I expected.  It was overall downhill but had some good climbs and rolled a bit more than I expected.  And the road and bridge was super narrow and has some very large curbs.  I did really slow in places to make sure I didn't trip.  And I admit that I stopped to look around over the bridge and admire the faint hint of sunrise in the east.  Honestly this was a thrilling and exhilerating run and I was grinning the last few miles.  I did not carry water and I probably should've but after the side stitch episode i was a bit concerned about that.  I could feel my hamstrings and calves starting to tighten up and i started to get really thirsty.  I knew the bridge was at 4.2 miles and then the finish wouldn't be for another 2.3 miles.  6.5 miles in 52:54 for 8:09 pace at 3:54 am.  Yahoo!  I'd hoped to maintain that 8:15 pace and I did even with some safety checks and admiring the view.

The Interlude:  This is the rest period where I have the best chance of getting some sleep. We made our way to Coupeville and it was raining when we got there.  Harumph.  No sleeping outside with that.  The gym was far away and I know lying on a hard gym floor does no good things for my back or hips so everyone just stayed in the van.  I didn't quite sleep but I did doze for a bit.  And they had some good coffee and real bathrooms!  I had the rest of my pasta and some pancakes and actually felt ok.  Van 1 came in and were that wonderful mix of delighted to be done and super tired.  Off they went to the finish to wait for the last legs.

Run 3: It was during our first runner's leg that the sun finally made an appearance.  This was great but I knew it would get warm and humid.  Still, it was better than rain. My last leg was my shortest too.  Just 3.8 rolling miles.  It got warm quick and I ditched the idea of wearing a tutu because I wanted to run in just my running bra and skirt.  Tutu = chafing if no shirt. My goal was to run strongly and at least maintain the 8:10-8:15 pace I'd run for the first two legs. I secretly hoped to be closer to 8 flat.  I was worried I'd run too hard though for those legs and would really slow on this last leg.  I did easy jogging laps around the parking lot waiting for our runner.  And off I went. I expected legs to feel terrible but they honestly were not bad.  I didn't look at pace and just focused on staying focused and not too hard so I'd finish warming up on the gradual uphill first mile.  There were much fewer runners out but I could see some ahead and knew I'd be able to pass some and I made that my goal.  I got a lot of cheering from other vans heading towards the finish and event friendly honks from other cars out on the road.  I was feeling better than I thought and finally snuck a look at my pace after a couple of miles.  Dang!  Under 8!  I couldn't believe it as that was faster than I felt I was running.  Just keep at it.  Soon enough I came to the next exchange handed off to our last runner and i was done!  3.8 miles (but 3.7 on my garmin) in 29:20 starting at 12:53 PM.

The Finish:  We piled quickly into the van and headed towards the finish to meet up with Van 1.  Here is where experience helped.  Bring the wallet, water for myself, water for our last runner and the safety flags to turn in.  Last year I hadn't thought of any of this and had to keep tromping back to and from the van.  Everyone had a blast in Van 1 and right on schedule our last runner was in and we were done!  The official time is 29:33 and we were 68th out of 177 mixed open teams. We had to get the vans back to SeaTac so there wasn't a lot of hanging out at the finish.  And just like that, Ragnar was done and I'd never had one moment of questioning my sanity.  Yep, it was a great weekend!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Ragnar Northwest Passage Relay 2012 - The Captain's Log

This was my second time captaining a 12 person team at Ragnar Northwest Passage.  It does get easier, really.  I had a better idea of when to aim for finish recruiting runners, when to start sending out informational  emails to keep teammates invested and interested (if they wanted the info) and much less stress overall.

I'll admit it though.  I still get to the evening before the race and I'm still not certain that everyone is going to show up the next day.  I needn't have worried with this group.

12 Runners.  We brought the last one on in mid-June. He'd never even run in any race before but regularly ran trails at a park with very steep technical trails. He'd not have the mileage to handle a lot of distance but I sensed he'd have speed and a lot of it.  I had two marathoners/ultra runners who although weren't in what they considered their best shape would still be able to pound out a lot of miles (more on this later in the runner's version).  I had 4 total (including yours truly) returning runners.  All were in better shape than last year and had last year's event  experience to draw upon and I could draw on their experience to help me.  I had one fellow athlete who was coming off of great success at a half iron event last month.  He'd recruited his sister (who had the experience of previous marathons even though she'd not been running as much lately) and a friend who had solid running experiences.  Another athlete had joined the training group after initial team recruitment had started.  When I found out her goal event was in June, I jumped at the chance to ask her on to the team and she said yes! One gal had signed up last year but then immediately had to pull out because of a stress fracture.  She was back this year and excited to finally participate in an overnight relay.  It's always an interesting mix of how people get onto a team such as this.  I fully expected to have to replace a runner because of injury or illness or life circumstances.  I held my breath until the very day and they all came with great attitudes and great running.

2 Vans. I've heard some horror stories of not having vans available from rental agencies.  Until we are driving back home with two working rental vans, I am fearful. Last year there was a huge delay in picking up one van enough that we had a rental discounted by half because of pain and suffering. That delay directly cut into valuable sleep time last year and it wasn't worth the discount.  No such problems this year and I was better able to remind myself of what to check with the vans.  Note: take out all that weird stuff they have tucked into a compartment.  We need all of the space!

Tons of Supplies.  Or at least it seems like it.  Each van gets a cooler with two bags of ice and a large water cooler which I fill from our tap and place on tap of the cooler in the van.  It eliminates the need to bring lots of containers of water.  People can still bring their beverages of choice (no, not just beer) and have easy access to water. Each van also has a bin of shared use items such as a first aid kit, extra gels/electrolytes, tp, sunscreen, bug spray and of course some fun items like orange tutus.  I know that if i lose something in the van, i can go get something similar out of the shared use bin. It all fits into the van with a bit of cramming.  All sleeping gear can get squished into the under seat storage until needed later. Within one transition, of course, it looks like a whirlwind has hit and it never fails that if you need something it'll be at the bottom of the pile.  But people tend to sit in the same seats for the entire relay, people can keep track of their stuff well enough.

The attitudes. I find the more prepared I am in warning people what to expect and having them pack and prepare appropriately, everyone else can relax and focus on running and enjoying the experience. I expect everyone including myself to be out of it and less than coherent at times during the event but that's it.  No crankiness or whining ever seems to come up.  Everyone knew that this wasn't an easy event and there would be challenges and of course, they rose to those challenges.

The weather. That was something this year. Thundershowers with lightning on Friday morning in Seattle the day of the race.  It was a lot cooler and wetter than I've ever experienced.  The cool was better for running but the wet had some challenges.  Next year, add some ointments (vasoline or A&D)  into the first aid kit for chafing and even some larger plastic bags for keeping the rain off for when standing about.

One Captain and a strong Van Captain.  Last year I'd needed some guidance with pulling this all off. Coach Lesley was that guidance.  This year I was solo as many of her athletes and herself were in Chelan for the multisport weekend which is Chelanman.  This worked as I could take full control and responsibility.  Those athletes which work with her still contacted their coach, of course but I felt more connected to the team.  I'd also been able to arrange an easy get together with about half the team to go over some safety issues, how relays work and what to expect.  It was really nice to meet most of the team before we all climbed into vans together!

No Volunteers.  Ragnar requires local teams to provide three volunteers or pay a differential. This year, I paid to waive the volunteer requirement right before the deadline.  Next year this will just be a given and it's going to happen much earlier.  As much fun as it was to see our friends on course last year, it was just easier to fulfill this requirement with cash and it is one less thing I have to coordinate and stress about.

And we were ready. I'd held it all together really well and was amazed at how much less stressful it had been to pull it all together. And then it was Thursday afternoon and the butterflies came and punched me down.  I could not sleep as usual the night before the event.  I was ready to get on the road and just wanted to run!

Monday, July 9, 2012

A Sunny Attitude

It's amazing and the biggest secret to living in Seattle.  Just when you think you can't take clouds and rain anymore, we sneak into the second half of July and Summer, it is HERE! And it is glorious.  the rest of the country has been complaining of ridiculous heat for months and finally, we have perfect weather. 

And everyone seems to be smiling and giddy with the light.  I end up not sleeping all that well during this time of year.  It's too light and the clues to be sleepy just aren't there. I want to run and bike and work in the yard and just enjoy sitting outside on the deck. 

All of a sudden the yard is out of control and I easily fill up our yard waste container in a couple hours.  I've been harvesting handfuls of snap peas off our plants and raspberries are copious.  The blueberries are almost ripe and I'm contemplating reseeding arugula, chard and kale for fall crops.

The running attitude is doing pretty well too.  Scotiabank Half definitely did not play out like I'd hoped.  But there was a real difference in my attitude with this one.  By mile 8 and 9, I was ready and knew I'd be able to keep racing.  Unfortunately my body had some different ideas.  That is different than half marathons lately.  I'd get to mile 6 or 7 and think "i can't do this" or my mind would just sort of check out and the legs would follow.

I had a really nice very hilly 11 mile easy run this past Saturday.  Sunday I was planning for some more moderate miles again over some hills.  I'll admit that I was a bit nervous about running another 6 miles at faster than just "slog." But I got out there and had no problems hitting the intended pace and felt great! My legs were tired but it didn't matter.  I think that if i'd gone out there to just run a few miles, my attitude of grumpy, tired and sloggy would've slowed me down and made getting in the intended mileage a challenge.  Attitude. Yep, it's all about attitude sometimes.