Sunday, March 25, 2012

Spring! And runners' thoughts turn to Boston Marathon

No, I'm not going to Boston Marathon but I got in a wonderful long run with a gal who was doing her last long run for the Boston marathon this weekend. EC and I trained together for much of the spring of 2011 with the goal of running the Eugene Marathon.  I did the training and opted for a DNS (did not start) for Eugene 2011 and went on to run my own Private Marathon in a solid time for a solo effort.  EC qualified for Boston at the Eugene Marathon and then built on that training and success to get a heckuva lot faster.  I'd watched her get stronger and stronger with the marathon training and realized (with hindsight) that the long runs were breaking me down.  Granted she's 15 years younger but realizing that something isn't working so great for you is an important part of training (and life really).  
She's going to Boston in a few weeks and I am so proud!  I honestly felt like I did the work with her and her upcoming race is mine as well.  I had to seriously ask myself if I'm jealous and I'm not.  She'd had a pretty crazy winter and some nice travel to Europe and her schedule has settled so she's joined group runs the past few weeks.  I tell myself that she's a lot faster than me now (and she is) but I've been able to keep up.  We had a crazy track workout I wrote about last March.  this past Tuesday we had the same workout and I was freaking about it.  EC reminded me that we'd done this before.  And before I knew it, we'd done it again - 3 miles at under 7:30 pace. 

Her last long run with this weekend.  She's not a trail runner so needed some downhill training in preparation for the downhill start of Boston.  We got dropped off at Rattlesnake lake and started up the Iron Horse trail.  Ice and snow forced a turn around at 3 miles and then the downhill started.  I kept my pace moderate so that EC would have an easy pace then for 15 miles.  We chatted and chatted and the miles went quick once we'd both woken up (it was early when we started!). I was feeling great.  
Once down onto the flatter Snoqualmie Valley, we did an out and back of two miles.  I'd stop here (at 15 miles total) and EC would continue 5 miles back uphill to get 20 miles and an excellent training run specifically for Boston.  Those flat 4 miles were tough as the last two were into a strong wind.  I was determined to keep the pace moderate and battled for pace.  Honestly it's probably teh first time i've been able to battle at the end of a long run and I was happy for myself and certainly for EC. She's going to do great!

Happier Ferns in Sun
After 15 yesterday, some cross training working in the yard and a super fun dinner party, I got back out to trails this morning. It was SUNNY! I smiled the whole time as i trotted very easily along on cougar mountain trails for 6.5 miles.  Amazing.  I've not felt so good.  Ever?  Another week at just over 40 miles running and I'm looking forward to the cutback week again. 

Sunday, March 18, 2012

The ferns look cold. 
Winter continues.  We'd been promised a La Nina winter and she was a bit late to develop.  She's been here with a vengence the past few weeks just when I'm trying to run a lot of miles.  My timing can be impeccable!  Every run has been in cold (under 45 degrees) and rain and often with wind and fun chunky bits like snow or sleet.  I have one pair of shoes towards the end of their life which are a lovely shade of dirt and always wet.  I have been tracking tons of mud into the house from my calves which get muddy when i run.  At least the extra light in the evenings has been pleasant when it is not black from storms. 

I expected to be quite sore from the sub 1:50 half last weekend and I was.  However it's a really different sore than a hard 10 miles on trails and even by tuesday I was feeling pretty recovered. I was prepared to take this week as a recovery week and keep my miles low.  I did an easier hill repeat workout Tuesday evening (in snow/sleet/wind) and was surprised that my pace on those short uphill sections was faster than I expected.  My legs were tired but I was still able to move.  

I kept the rest of my miles easy and took an extra rest day early in the week.  After a wet and dreary 10 miles in the rain and on the road yesterday, I was very excited to go out to trails today.  Somehow the weather is never as bad seeming on trails and that was true this morning too.  36 miles for the week is not a cutback week.  I am happy about that and a chance to get back on trails.  My next event is a half marathon on trails at the end of April.  I cannot wait!  The mix of 2 weeks with higher mileage and one week lower with a variety of surfaces is working well for me right now and I'm delighted.  I can only hope the weather gets a bit better!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Lake Sammamish Half Marathon

Cute Finisher's "Medal"
This was a fun race and I'd highly recommend it!

I'd signed up for this race two months ago just on a whim.  I figured it would sell out and sure enough it did.  I last ran the race when it was new two years ago. It's a nice course along the East Lake Sammamish Trail.  I'd heard that some of the gravel path had been replaced with asphalt and was glad about that.  I love trails but gravel paths do not count as trails in my trail snobbery book.  I just find gravel irritating after a while.  But how often do you get to do a flat, flat, flat half marathon in the Seattle area?  Never, that's right!  So I was excited to race.

At the finish - notice muddy calves!
Of course, this isn't a goal race and hasn't been.  I had two back to back 40 mile running weeks with a hard trail race in there.  This past week has been a planned cut back week and timed to coincide with PMS symptoms which lay me low for almost a week now.  Yeah, that's a change I don't like so much and means this race was not at a great time for me. Oh well, I didn't really know what i was going to run or race until i lined up and started.

I'd checked weather at the beginning of the week and it had looked great but by the time the race came, not so great.  Breezy and rainy and cool. At the last minute, I grabbed my vest to wear during the race and I was glad I had it.  Evidently my laissez faire attitude towards this race was too much as I forgot to bring my rescue inhaler.  D'oh! The daily inhaler I'm on controls most symptoms though. I was lucky and didn't notice too much during the race.

K dropped me off at Lake Sammamish Park and headed up to Marymoor Park where he planned to do an out and back run. That worked out nicely. the race offers buses but i just remember waiting around forever and getting really cold.  I did a scant mile warm-up and lined up.  The course had been changed from teh last time I did it and it was better.  Instead of an awful out and back in Marymoor Park with traffic at the end of the race, we did a fun back and forth through the large and empty parking lot at Lake Sammamish Park.  This worked much better to string out runners so it was not too crowded and you could see everyone starting.  Fun!  And the distance of the race ended up being correct.  Two years ago, the race was short.

I finally decided as I'm crossing the finish line to just race, not worry about finish time and race for the day even with all the constraints.  This was a good decision.  I checked heart rate during the first couple miles aiming for a top moderate feel which felt easy.  yeah, kind of a strange description but it is the best I can come up with.  you are still working but it feels a lot easier than a 10k.  I did go out faster than I expected and thought I'd probably slow but again, i didn't worry about it. 

With the race sold out at 1300 participants it was a little crowded the first few miles on the narrow trail/sidewalk through Issaquah.  I had someone excuse themselves to pass me and then stop right in front of me.  WTF?!  I expressed my displeasure with a "don't stop then!" and the guy realized his error and apologized.  I nearly ran him over as literally he had just passed me.   I then got into a good rhythm aided by a steady pacer I had my eye on for more than half the race.

I dubbed him "The Tank" but really he'd be more like an Abrams Tank.  He was a short guy but not little.  His upper body and chest were huge and solid muscle.  His legs were skinny and ripped and he was running just like a speedy tank.  It's always nice to have someone going at about your same pace.  The danger is switching off and not paying attention to how you are feeling and either going a bit too fast or too slow but this guy was just right.  I carried a small disposable water bottle so I could skip the first couple of water stops.  At 4 I had a gel (walking) and drank from my water.  At this point I lost contact with The Tank but I could see him up ahead steadily beckoning me on.

Around mile 7, my hip/hamstring started to get a little cranky.  With the cutback week, I often get stiff from not running so much and had a whiff of this late in the week.  Darnit.  And looking at my race report from this event two years ago, it was exactly mile 7 of the race where i had the same issue.  It really makes me wonder if it is the gravel surface that does this?  I don't normally run on that heavy graveled surface and I do notice it irritatingly after a while.  Something to ponder anyway.  I'd ditched my water bottle by mile 6 and was getting thirsty and knew I needed another gel.  As the next aid station came in sight at 7.8 i sucked down my gel while running and then grabbed a cup continuing to run to get out of the way so i could walk a bit and drink it.  Ok, they had teeny tiny little cups with not even an ounce of water in them.  DISAPPOINTED!  i sucked that down and debated going back for more but didn't much to my regret.  Within a quarter mile i started to get a side stitch and I'm sure it was from not enough water with my gel.

Oh well.  I did the breathing tricks to settle the side stitch and switched out my gait a bit to settle the hip.  I was slowing and that was fine.  I knew it was going to get hard and hard was here. The Tank was still in sight but much farther away and I just concentrated on keeping my form solid.  I reminded myself that I'd worked hard to get to this point and don't give up now.  Another aid station at mile 10 and I took TWO cups and drank both happily. 

With walking at the aid station, slowing for hip and side stitch issues, I'd lost sight of The Tank.  It was with a bit of a shock as I came up on him walking around mile 11.  Bummer and I was disappointed for him but now my fight was continuing.  Finally we came to the new section of pavement instead of gravel and it felt so much better.  Seriously I was bummed that they hadn't replaced longer sections with pavement!  Patience, Grasshopper.  they are working on that in stages according to the parks website. The turn into Marymoor Park put us directly into the wind and that last mile was tough.  Finally finished!

I was happy to have made it under 1:50 - 1:49:34 by my watch as I wasn't really looking at pace at all.  I ran a couple minutes faster at a half last summer on a hilly course but that was a goal race.  This one?  Not so much and this bodes well for just continuing to play with training going forward.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Those miles aren't going to run themselves

I was pretty sore in the days post-Lord Hill 10 miler but racing downhill will do that so I wasn't too worried about it.  Nothing was too terrible though.  My outer quads were sore which is from stabilizing on those downhills and the muddy conditions and I'm sure I looked a bit funny coming down stairs at work and on escalators downtown for a couple days.  My calves were really tight probably from that ridiculous hill we went up.  They were burning on that climb.  I now have new standards for hills too as an added bonus! 

Still, I had a goal of getting another week of high mileage (for me).  I needed to take a couple off of running just to take a break from the pounding.  How do you get in 40 miles when you don't run longer than 12 miles for your long run and you take two days off from running?  For me this means, I have to add in one double a week where I run both in the morning and afternoon and every run is about 5-6 miles except for that longer run on the weekend.  Since I was sore, I usually decide to skip any faster paced workouts and that was this true this week as well as a precaution.

My run thursday am was tough.  I was tired from the miles and the recovery from the race.  I planned on 6 miles and finally it wasn't raining but it was cold and windy.  Generally on early morning runs (I'm usually running by 5:45 am), the first mile is very slow as I warm up and wake up and after that I tend to increase pace to a more typical pace for me.  This day, it was incredibly hard to get out of bed.  I got up though and out and after that first warm-up mile, I did another at the slow, slow pace.  Hmmm.

Yes, tired.  40 miles.  I really wanted it for the week but should I?  I took stock as I slogged along for another mile.  Is anything hurting?  No.  Is my heart rate up for the slow pace I'm running meaning I'm showing some stress?  No.  Would it be better to run after work?  Definitely NO! as I wanted the evening free. Could I bump this run to another day?  No for various reasons.  I'd gotten up and out early enough that even going the very slow pace, I still had time to complete my 6 miles and get a bit of time for a stretch before going to work. 

These miles aren't going to run themselves.  That was my mantra those last three miles and it was good to complete that run.  I had a day off the next day and really enjoyed my hilly, challenging new 12 mile loop on saturday and a goodly paced easy 6 mile run on Sunday.  40 miles.  done.  Next week is a cutback week and I'm signed up for a half marathon on the weekend. 

Racing or not for that half marathon will be a game day decision.  Truthfully, I'm learning almost any workout is a game day decision and it's always a good reminder for me to take stock of how I'm feeling for any given workout.