Sunday, February 17, 2013

Keep it fun.

Fast shoes and 6x used racing bib!
It's hard training through winter. This winter has been pretty mild overall but still that dark and wet and cold gets to me. I like to keep a spring race in focus but it's important to keep running fun during winter.  Usually that means I try to get out to trails but this year, I chose to run in the 2 mile Super Jock and Jill/New Balance Winter Grand Prix series.

fun?  Really?

Oh yes. It's been super fun!  Racing 2 miles is over before you know it and you recover quickly. I'd run a 3-4 miles before and 1-2 after and get a decent amount of miles in. I kept a midweek run of 8-10 miles a couple times a week to maintain mileage. I did no other speedwork besides the race fearing injury if I did.  Sometimes those mid-week runs were pretty dang slow and it didn't matter.

My goals for the series were to work on taking some chances in a race, going out hard and not being afraid of it and maintaining focus.  It took a couple races to get the hang of this and to understand how these races went. With a lot of fast kids, the field went out fast but those around me would really slow in the middle. if i were using just passing people as a guide, I'd slow too much.

The last race of the series was this weekend.  So that made three races in a row for the past three weekends. Fortunately this past week was a rest week and I cut my miles, took a couple days off from running and just generally lollygagged about.  Yeah right.

The trick with this race is that it is the chase race.  Those who are expected to be slower overall start first and those expected to be fastest start last. You chase those ahead of you and it is does make for an odd race.

I did my usual 3-4 mile warm up with some drills and strides.  We had to get to the start a bit earlier to line up according to our seed time.  This was based on previous road race finish times.  I've only been getting faster and faster. And as a result had moved up from 4th to 2nd in my age group.  With this race, i had a chance to win my age group.  I lined up and the other women in my age group were all seeded to start about 10 seconds ahead of me.

Turns out, they all knew each other and were really curious about me as I'd gotten so much faster.  It was really fun to meet them all and also explain the marathon I'd run between the first and second races of this series.  "Ohhhhh," yes, they all understood that.  In fact they understood it so well that we all exchanged email addresses.  Hey! Possible running partners!

And as the clock ticked down to my assigned start time, I went! And started a race all by myself with people ahead and behind.  It was very strange. I knew I was aiming for between 6:50-6:55 pace overall but I also didn't want to pass the women ahead of me too early. Since I didn't start with the crowd, it took me a bit longer to get up to speed. It was windy that morning and i used the tail wind for the first half mile and got a bit faster than goal pace.  I took the turn and headed into the head wind and did start passing the first people who had started ahead of me.

In a typical race, if it were windy, I'd try to tuck in behind someone to block the wind.  With this race, no way! The goal was to pass anyone ahead.  First mile 6:55. This was a little slow but felt right. And here I felt i could finally start to pass the women who'd started ahead of me.  It took a bit to work towards them. And just like I thought, passing one gal spurned her on to passing me back.  We battled back and forth for half a mile.  We hit much more traffic of those ahead and I took the shortest route over the gravelly area of road.  Trail running pays off again.  Everyone was avoiding that area because it is a bit tougher to run on.

We made the final turn and were still almost right next to each other.  This was it and finally i found some fast twitch muscles. Woohoo I finished ahead (a few seconds?), had run my own damn race and also PR'd again at the road distance.  13:45.

Yay! Eventually results were announced and I'd tied for first in my age group.  It was NOT the gal I'd battled with at the finish but another gal who'd finished behind me who tied.  I'd done my part though. I finished ahead of all of them, run my race and PRd. It can't get any better than that.

This has been a break through series for me. It propelled me to a breaking a long time 5k PR and got me very excited about what is to come this year.


Sunday, February 10, 2013


Didja hear it?  That was an old, old PR going down this weekend! 

And I cherry picked it.  After last week's 30 second PR on the track with 2 miles at 6:45, I knew i could run a 5k PR.  The issue? 

I am tired!  this was the third week at higher mileage for me on 6 days of running per week. I'm at that time of the month. I raced last week. Did I mention I am tired?  So tired that i fell asleep on my lunch break one day this week at work. 

Last week, I ran two miles at 6:45.  The Valentine's Day Dash 5k is a flat course with a speedy field.  If I planned it right, I could break that 7 year old PR.  Yes that 5k PR is from 2006.  I don't even consider it a true PR because I am pretty sure the course was short. The course was marked in kilometers and I even walked in the last mile.  I finished that 2006 race in 22:30 and although it was a PR, mentally i always attached a little asterisk to it.  Technical PR but probably not a true 5k.  I'd never come under 23 minutes again until 2011 and just did that by 10 seconds. I considered that my master's PR and have been proud of it. 

However, remember that 6:45 pace.  If I ran 3 miles at 7:05 - 7:10, I'd still come in to a PR time.  20 seconds should feel significantly easier. I could do that, right?  Did I mention that I was tired? 

The other goal was to run even splits.  It has been very challenging for me to do that with the 2 mile races.  I've always gone out fast and slowed the second mile. Even splits would prove to me that my chosen pace was a solid effort for me but a safe effort.  I could do this. 

And I DID!  Woohoo!  It was a bit chilly with maybe a hint of a breeze.  It's a big field for this race. I've learned with the 2-mile race series that I really do need a long warm up so I got in almost 4 miles before the race.  I got to the start line with about 10 minutes to go and lined up just right. 


I couldn't believe it!  I ran in control and felt strong and didn't freak out that i was running fast miles. At mile 2, i had to give myself a stern talking to about not squandering the hard work I'd put in.  One more mile.  I worked hard for that last mile, made the turn towards the finish and was delighted to see the clock just ticking over to 22.  Could I have run 3 seconds faster? No, not today and not when i was so tired. I could another day though.

What has been the deciding factor in all these PRs lately?  I"m pretty sure a big factor is increased strength and consistent weight training.  The higher mileage has helped maintain weight but I am actually heavier now than i was.  Why is that?  I am a lot stronger and have more muscle.  The body fat scale i have confirms that. The readings are consistently higher for muscle mass. It's not a lot but makes a difference. I still look like i have noodle arms but those noodle arms are strong! 

I completed a 90 day p90x lean program and probably only hit about half the workouts.  I skipped all cardio workouts and got in maybe half of the strength workouts (I've been aiming for two a week).  But those workouts forced me to do strength moves I've not done before and the sessions got easier.  No i still cannot do a pull up but i am willing to try especially when I can run faster and stronger than ever before.  

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Another race, another PR!

I'm amazed! Race #5 in the Winter Grand Prix Series is on the track.


I've only ever raced once before on the track.  It was this race in 2009.  I was nervous then and I was nervous now.  they divide the field into heats and you self-seed into a heat based on your expected finish time.  The goal is to have people fairly close together so that can eliminate the need to count laps for the scorers/timekeepers.  So you have to be honest about your pace.  I worried about having an off day and being really slow.  I worried about seeding into a faster heat and going out way too fast.  I worried about counting laps.


In the end, i just showed up and did my warm-up as usual.  That was three very slow miles on the roads around the high school.  I came back to the track and met up with K (who was coming for moral support, cheering and curiosity).  He'd hold my warm-up clothes and had been enjoying watching the faster heats.  I did a final bit of warm-up on the in field with some drills etc and tried not to run into any other runner who was doing the same thing.  We were all watching the earlier heat.

I'd felt really stiff and blah when warming up.  This is the second week at higher mileage for me and my legs aren't exactly feeling fresh.  Once properly warmed up though, i felt better, looser and more relaxed.  Those drills help!  High knees, butt kicks, short sprints, grapevine (why is it called this?) all got my legs and hips moving well.

The announcer called us to the start after we'd checked in with the clerk and without any fuss, we were off with the start of a gun.

What was my plan?  My goal for this series was push myself, go out harder, make it hurt and see what was possible.  I'd run the last race at 13:50 (6:55 pace overall) and knew I could be faster on the track.  The surface is better, it's easier to pace and there are not the tough turns that there are on the road course.  So, i aimed to go out fast and settle into a 6:45 first mile.  I'd then use my expeience with these races to make sure i stayed at my goal pace while using feedback from how i was feeling to maintain pace.  There are a lot of little kids in these races.  They go out fast and fade in the middle.  My goal was to stay in the game and stay focused on my race.

It was a big heat.  The largest according to the announcer as the overall time was supposed to be 12:16-14:00 minutes.  It seemed like a lot of people as we made for the first turn and i worried about if anyone was wearing spikes and if there would be contact.  No worries.  Everyone sorted themselves out quickly.  It was crowded for the first turn but then almost immediately we started stringing out.  I, as expected, was towards the very back.  I think i did the first lap in about 1:37.  That is as fast as i'd normally do 400s at the track for training so i kind of snorted to myself about that and told myself firmly not to freak out!  

No worries, i knew i'd settle into pace for the next three laps.  There were a couple guys running ahead of me and i made sure to stick with them.  They seemed to be going steadily and I knew the contact would help.  We were really getting spread out.  First mile - 6:39!

And here is where I started passing people.  The fifth lap, i kept just under 7.  It was a bit slow but if I hadn't monitored my pace with my watch, I'd have been slower.  I passed a kid here and there.  One of the guys was slowing.  I passed him.  Each lap, there was a lap counter (not sure what this person would be called) who was holding up a number of which lap we were on.  This was helpful.

Three laps.  That is less than 6 minutes.  You can do anything for 6 minutes.  There were a lot of parents and other interested parties calling out to the runners.  "Relax"  "Stay in contact." "Lengthen your stride."  None of these admonishments were directed to me but i took them in and used them.  Two laps.  Pass another kid. He stayed with me then. One lap and the winner of the heat came in just then.

Two hundred meters! Take the turn and GO! And the 44 year old legs who have run 50 miles for the week don't exactly have a lot of pep.  They don't have many fast twitch fibers in the best of times so I got passed by the kid and an older guy.  It didn't matter.  I could see the clock from 100 meters back and it was just at 13 minutes.  GO!

13:29 by my watch.  A 20 second PR from the last race and an unbelievable overall pace of 6:45.  I never, ever thought I'd see that sort of speed.  I'm not exactly getting younger.

I bounced over to K who was just as bouncy and grinning just as much as I was.  Mission accomplished.  Take a chance, go for it and push hard.  You may just surprise yourself.

The 13 easy miles this morning was pretty slow but it didn't matter.  I am still marveling about that race.

Coming up: some changes I've made the past year which i think have helped.