Sunday, January 20, 2013

You just never know...

It's been a tough week with running. I'd had a big week of miles last week. I ran my long run using a local race. I ran a couple miles to warm up (ha! it was 24 degrees) and then ran the half marathon pace at my marathon pace. I felt great and was able to maintain even splits even with the hills towards the end. The next day I ran 7 miles for 48 miles total for the week. 

I was tired though.  Was I so tried because I was trying to do too much? Or was a cut back in miles warranted? I realized i'd had 3 building weeks (each week had increased mileage) and figured a rest week WAS in order. And then the weather turned pretty icky and it it all worked out great! 

Freezing fog and iffy conditions forced me to switch workouts around and even run commute in the evening.  It's iffy enough in the morning walking to the bus but the temps have been slightly warmer in the afternoon.  Slightly.  The murk though has been horrific and just really miserable.  EVery day has looked so dismal and been so chilly.  This is me waving in that murk:
No really. :p
The next race of the Winter Grand Prix Series was this weekend and I was really looking forward to it.  Having set a new XC PR last race, I knew that during this series I'd be able to come under 14 minutes flat for 2 miles.  This was my goal overall for the series and I'd last done that in 2009.  Would it happen for this race?

The weather was pretty good.  No wind but just cold. I didn't get over there in time to get in a long warm up like I'd planned but i still had time for just over 2 miles. During that two miles I deliberately listed all the reasons why this race might just be a run.  I'd been so tired this week.  It was cold. I'd been so slow on my runs this week. I still had two more races to nail that goal. I did some strides and switched into fast shoes and just let it all go and relaxed. 

The other goal for this race series was to work on running hard, maintaining focus and not being afraid to have it hurt. And I'd realized last race that I needed the practice with race tactics too. When was the best place to pass people? How was I feeling compared to those around me and could I pass? I thought of all this and again just relaxed before the gun.

Evidently i relaxed too much because i nearly missed the start.  Ha! And we are off! And I realize I LOVE my fast shoes for race pace but hate running warm-up pace in them. My legs felt light and strong adn before I knew it i'd gotten drawn out at 6:15 pace for the first quarter miles.  YIKES!

No panicking!  This is why you are doing these races.  I steadied and expected to slow through the first turn. I was still under 7 flat pace and stayed strong through the long straightaway. I'd learned that last time that to make up the slow turns, i had to keep up the pace when I could.  First mile was 6:50 and I was good.

Really?  Could I hold it?  And this is where i made a mistake.  I was still gradually catching up to people but hadn't been monitoring my pace. I was using others around me to gauge my pace instead of checking in with how i was feeling.  I came out of that same turn and realized I was way slow for the second mile.  My pace was 7:15 for the second lap at 1.4 miles. 

HELL NO!  I wanted that second mile under 7.  I had that long straightaway and made it my mission to go faster. I passed more and more people and saw i'd made it up to 7:05 by the final turn.  Go! I was momentarily distracted by an older guy i'd passed before the final turn came blowing by me like i was standing still.

Really? You are going that fast now?  Geez. Why not try speeding up for the first 1.8 miles instead of blowing out your quads now or pulling a hamstring? Whatever.

I misjudged where the finish line was and didn't get quite the finish I wanted but was delighted by the 13:50 overall time on my watch.  Woohoo!  I'd gotten that last mile under 7 by .06 of a second.  And this is a new PR as well.

I wasn't expecting a good run but went with it.  You just never know!

Sunday, January 6, 2013

A New Year and a new PR!

The New Balance Winter Grand Prix is always entertaining.  There are 6 races total with a mix of 2 mile road races, 1 2 mile track race and 2 3k (1.9 mile) Cross Country races.  I've done the entire series just once in 2007/2008 Winter but have jumped into the races periodically ever since.  The weather can most often be horrible but everyone has a good time.  The races are geared to kids to keep them training in the off season between Cross Country and Track.

For me, they are a great way to practice pushing myself and working on some speed. These races were also the first time I'd ever raced a cross country race or a track race as I'd not run when I was in school.  Today was race #3 in the series and the second and last cross country race.  The first XC race was the week before Dallas Marathon.  I'd wanted to run that one at a faster pace but not race pace. I ended up faster than I thought but at a tempo effort I thought.  Today? I had no idea what to expect for race pace.

I figured I could come under 8 minutes flat but thought I'd be closer to 7:50 pace.  I'd meant to look at what time I'd done this course when i was in very good shape to get a feel for what to aim for pace-wise. I forgot though and that ended up being a good thing! This course is a loop we do twice.  it is mostly on grass with one short steep hill to go up and down. There are sections where we jump small ditches.  it's been rainy and as usual, the grass got really churned up and muddy and slick in a lot of places. This is typical and adds to the fun.

Finally I got my act together and got over to the park early enough to get in a good long warm-up.  It really does take me about 3 miles now to feel warmed up. I think that is a combination of the cold weather (40 degrees) and age unfortunately.  I ran 4 miles and in the last mile finally felt able to pick it up a bit to do some strides (short bursts of faster running).  I'd had a really nice core/strength workout thursday evening and was still sore and a bit stiff from that.

I trotted back to my car and changed into my lightweight shoes and met up with a friend who is also doing the series. We chatted and soon it was Ready, Set, AIRHORN! Race on!

The friend who i was starting next to is slower over overall than I am right now.  However I realized I was pretty slow to start. I really had a hard time getting going on the slightly uphill and very mucky grassy section and could barely stay with her through the start.  Finally I got my legs moving and started passing people.  I stayed strong on the uphill and downhill and worked on passing more people on the flat straightaway.  This was new and I kept telling myself that the goal for these races was to push myself and take some chances.

I love seeing the mix of people running in this race.  There are a bunch of little kids all the way to grandparents.  I was pretty amused to see a little girl probably 10 or 11 do a fine job of clearing phlegm by spitting a loogie.  She's much better at it than i am! Ha!  

I hit the hill the second time and stayed even with the women around me.  That is new! I used to always get dropped on uphills.  I did get passed by two guys on the uphill but once up on the crest and on the downhill, I passed the women and the men.  Aha!  Trail running really has some benefits. I am a really good downhill runner.  Once off the hill, i made it my mission to catch up to a group of women that were running a fair bit ahead of me. 

Half a mile to go and I got within a yard of the last woman!  Marathon training and that endurance training thing certainly does have it's benefits.  Had the race been a a bit longer, i'd have caught them! I was really surprised to see the time was 14:30 and my pace was faster than I expected (7:45). I was really happy with this and had felt great. I'd raced. I'd taken some chances and pushed myself.

I got home and looked up previous times on this course and realized my last best time I'd run this race was 14:50 in January 2008.  Wow!  A 5 year PR goes down without much fuss.  Had I looked up that time beforehand I might have aimed for a slower pace.

And 20 seconds is a huge difference!  So what is different?  The course is the same. The weather was probably better than usual. It was cool and a bit rainy but without huge winds that can sometimes plague this course (it is right on a lake front). As this course is on grass, it can get super muddy and slick but that is typical. I remember being very surprised by that the first time I did this race but now I expect it.

What has changed is that I finally have correctly functioning glutes! Snort. I was very aware of this change when i was powering up the hill keeping up with those around me.  That never used to happen.  I've also been able to run up (albeit slowly) all the various hills when out trail running.  It has been some years since I've been able to do that (if ever).  Progress!  

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

It's the New Year!

And there was fun planned.  Ever been to a yurt

I have!  A friend owns property just outside a small town just east of the Cascade mountains about a two hour drive from Seattle with a yurt.  The yurt is really hard to describe to anyone who hasn't been there.  Think of it as a more open small cabin with thick canvas walls.  This one does not have running water nor a bathroom besides an outhouse.  It does have a small kitchen set up and a wood burning stove which is used to heat the whole yurt.  It is large and airy inside with a loft structure built inside.

I joined a couple other couples for a stayover to welcome in the new year.  We brought food to heat up and wine and games to play.  The road to the yurt is not drivable with snow so that meant we'd have to hike our gear up the .8 mile.

Snowshoes!  I got to try snowshoes and it was super fun.  I did a trip to and from the car twice and marveled at what a fun workout that was.  People run in those?  Wow.  that is impressive.  We hunkered down for the night and had a great time chatting, drinking, eating and playing a board game.  No electricity and just candle light really does change what sort of pass times are available.

Frankly i prefer celebrating an East Coast New Year's celebration (ie at 9:00 PM west coast time) but we made it to 2013 and enjoyed watching the fireworks going off in the small valley below us.  It was just beautiful.  The wood burning stove needs to be tended and added to around the clock, so no one slept all that well but still.  It was warm and quiet and we had no need to hop up immediately with plans.

After a leisurely breakfast, we kitted up to go snowshoeing again.  The area this yurt is in was affected by fires the previous summer and we wanted to see the area which had been more affected. It had been foggy on our hillside but as we snowshoed up to the top of the hill (rather steep in places), the fog lifted and we even got a bit of sun.  Gorgeous.

Snowshoeing must certainly burn a lot of calories because after just an easy hour of it, I was ready for a second breakfast.  We headed back to the yurt for more food and got ready to leave.  it was just a quick mountain getaway and a great, memorable way to bring in the 2013!

2012 had a lot to offer.  I hit a new running mileage high for the year.  1817 which is just a 100 miles over the previous high in 2010.  Even better I did this with no unplanned breaks because of injury.  I had some fantastic races with Ragnar and approached my 10k pr from 5 years ago.  Even better? I can't wait to see what 2013 will bring.