Archive for ‘Marathon’

January 19, 2015

Making Progress

Stress Fracture Update

The big news this week is that I ran… twice!  The first one was supposed to be just a mile, but turned into two, and the second was supposed to be 3.5 and ended up being 2.5 due to freezing rain, but still, I ran!  My foot felt a bit sore for about the first mile or so of each, and again towards the end of both runs, but overall there seemed to be no increased soreness or swelling afterward.  I did notice that my arch felt a bit tight a few hours after, and I think I will probably need to be a bit more diligent about stretching and using the foam roller as I ease back into running.  I’ve been keeping up with the strength, biking, and swimming this week as well, and weirdly, I think I can actually feel my body starting to adapt to the new training.  Everything stays the same for days or weeks, and then suddenly the hand weights that felt heavy last week seem to be lighter, or something will just click mid-swim.  Last week I looked in the mirror and thought that it seemed odd that my arms didn’t really look any different after a month of swimming and weight training, and then two days later I looked like I had taken up a blacksmithing hobby.  (I actually did a little in college and have some lovely candlesticks to show for it…)

Anyway, I’m trying hard to come up with a training plan for the next several weeks that will challenge me without risking reinjury.  My successful runs this weekend gave me enough confidence to sign up for a 4-mile race a month from now, and I’ve decided to try using a slightly modified FIRST plan to train.  I’ll actually be doing the cross-training this time, which should fold nicely into my tri plans, and if all goes well, a fast 4-miler will set me up for faster distance work this spring.  I still need to lay out my full race calendar for the year, but I want to hold off a few more weeks to see what kind of running volume I’m able to handle before I start committing to the spring races that I really want to do.  In related news, I got the email on Thursday for my guaranteed entry to the NYC Marathon, and $227 later I am officially in!  Long Run Buddy is as well, and I’m very excited to have a training partner for the full distance of my long runs this fall.

When do I get to call myself a Triathlete?

Even though I’m holding off on committing to any major (running) races for a few more weeks, I did sign up for two sprint-tri’s in May and June, and suddenly that whole endeavor is getting much more real.  My swim classes started last Tuesday, and I’m so, SO glad I enrolled.  The class is geared to novice (but not absolute beginner) swimmers and is focused on the basics of technique and efficiency.  I’ve always seen myself as a weak swimmer and was nervous that I should have signed up for the beginner class, but I seem to be at least at the average skill level in the group.  A few of my classmates have done the NYC Tri before, so I feel a bit more confident that I’ll be able to get through the swim in the allotted time, not to mention survive a dip in the Hudson.  There are also several veteran runners/first-time triathletes in the class who are signed up for the NYC race, and it will be great to get to know a few other newbies as well.  Last week’s session focused mainly on breathing technique, and in addition to working side lying kicking and one arm drills, our coach referred us to this video, created by sea mammal Michael Phelps’ coach, Bob Bowman.  His explanation is very clear and after a very focused half hour in the pool this weekend I actually did start to feel the bow wave on my head.

This week I hope to start structured training for the 4-miler and settle into a workable training schedule that incorporates multiple swim, bike, run, and strength workouts each week.  I will be doing two-a-days several times a week, but I’m hoping that scheduling more short and varied sessions will keep me healthy while still building fitness and strength.  I’m trying to alternate days so that I minimize doing the same activity back-to-back, but I still have to work out the kinks.  I’m incorporating a lot more strength training that I did last season, and I hope that will help me prepare for a heavier training load and avoid injury.

Here’s the plan this week:

Monday

Weight training – JM No More Trouble Zones

 

Tuesday 

AM

Running – Intervals

6×800 @ 3:38*

RI 90 sec

PM

Swim class

 

Wednesday

AM

Swim – 30 min

PM

Strength – JM Ripped in 30 Week 2

 

Thursday

AM

Running – Tempo

2 mi @ 8:04*

1 mi easy

2 mi @ 8:04*

PM

Optional 30 min bike

 

Friday

AM

Strength – 1 hr with Trainer

 

Saturday

AM

3 mi easy

PM

30 min swim

 

Sunday

AM

Brick:

Cycle

10 min easy

10 min tempo

10 min easy

5 min hard

5 min easy

Long Run – 7 mi @ 8:34* (If all goes well this week)

 

*I should note that these paces are pegged to my last marathon and I have no idea if I’ll be able to handle the speed after 6 weeks off.

November 18, 2014

Brooklyn Marathon Race Report

Brooklyn Marathon

Brooklyn Marathon

Months ago, when I signed up for the Baltimore Marathon, I also searched for a backup option.  This was my I-wake-up-on-race-day-with-a-stomach-flu plan B, and knowing it was there took away some of the added stress of preparing for a big race.  The Brooklyn Marathon was perfect for this, as it was less than a month after my A race, and was practically in my backyard.  The entire distance is run in Prospect Park, and while it sounded monotonous, it also meant that I knew every inch of the course.  I also know that I could easily recruit pacers for moral support.  It wouldn’t be glamorous, but it wasn’t bad for a fall back plan.

I had never envisioned running both races, but after the less than stellar day I had in Baltimore, I found myself thinking about Brooklyn again.  I really wanted another shot at the distance, partly to see if I could improve my time, but mostly to conquer my fear.  I spent so much of the race in Baltimore in such a dark place that I didn’t really want to let the memory fester until a spring race.  Brooklyn seemed like the perfect opportunity to take another shot at 26.2, but I was worried about the possibility of overtraining or injury.  After gauging my recovery for two weeks, I decided to grab a spot knowing that I could defer the registration until next year if I didn’t feel up to it in any way.

I wasn’t quite sure how to manage the build-up taper with only three weekends between races, so I winged it.  I essentially reversed my taper for two weeks, which gave one week of actual workouts, and ran a 15-miler in Prospect last Saturday at half marathon pace.  Monday I started my taper again.  On Saturday the Caveboy and I volunteered at NYRR’s 60k, so I was up at 4 AM and on my feet for about 10 hours, though I did remember to wear my compression socks at least.  I really had no idea what to expect on Sunday.  I had only run 85 miles in the almost-month since Baltimore, and 40 of that had come during my one workout week.  My 15-miler had felt great, but I wasn’t sure if I’d lost any endurance.  I was much more nervous than I would have liked.

Sunday morning I awoke to perfect conditions–overcast skies and 40 degrees with no wind.  I got dressed, then second-guessed all of the gear I had laid out the night before.  I got dressed again.  We headed over to Prospect a little before 8 and I enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere of a race with only 400 people.  At 8:30 we lined up at the start and were off.  The route started with 3 laps of the lower (flatter) half of the course, followed by 6 full laps.  Caveboy had agreed to run the first two lower loops with me and promised to keep me from going out too fast.  Given my uncertainty about the whole endeavor, I had decided that the A goal was to go sub 4-hours, and B was just to beat my time at Baltimore.  More than that, though, I just wanted to have a decent experience.

As nervous as I was at the starting line, the minute I started running, it all just fell away.  Maybe it’s just that running in Prospect Park is my happy place.  I started counting my breaths and steps and locked in a nice relaxed 9-minute pace.  The three flat laps flew by and soon we were climbing The Hill that would start each of the remaining full loops.  The hill–Mount Prospect–is about .4 miles at about 3% grade.  It’s not terrible, but it’s definitely long enough to make you hurt after a few laps.  The loops, while potentially monotonous, actually broke the race into nice digestible chunks, though.  I figured that the first two would be no sweat.  The third would mean I was half done with them, and by the end of the fourth there would only be two left, which seemed manageable.  Long Run Buddy had mercifully agreed to pace me for the final laps, and also promised to make sure I was drinking and taking in nutrition, which had been a problem at Baltimore.

I was resolved to learn from my previous mistakes and keep my speed in check early and on the hills. For the first few laps I aimed for easy 9’s, and deliberately slowed to 9:20-9:30 up the big hill. My legs felt good and I wasn’t really feeling the climbs at all, but I wanted to make sure that my quads weren’t shot by the time I got to laps 5 and 6. I found LRB at the start of the fourth loop and we had a quick discussion of how I was feeling and the strategy going forward. I was walking through the water station before the hill on each lap and had been taking a gu every 4 miles since mile 8. By the start of the fifth lap my legs still felt good, but I was reaching the point of not wanting to eat or drink. In Baltimore I was worried I was one of the unfortunate people who just can’t take in nutrition past mile 20 and I pretty much stopped trying. This time, I kept sipping on my water bottle and was able to put down a gu at 21. It seemed to sit okay and I felt some of the loopiness ebb as the sugar hit my system. I got up the hill on lap 5 with no drama and knew there was only one more climb to go. I still felt strong over the rest of the lap, but was beginning to feel the fatigue creeping up.

At the aid station I had a minor crisis involving my last gel, cold fingers, and a stuck zipper, which luckily pulled free before I totally lost my composure.  Once I was refueled, LRB yelled “Make this hill your bitch!” and we started the climb.  I had been expecting the last assault on the hill to be excruciating, but my legs felt miraculously good.  At the top I did some quick low-blood-sugar math and told LRB that I thought I needed 9 flats for the last three miles to get it in under 4 hours.  He picked up the pace a bit as we started a downhill stretch and I turned on my ipod for the first time and did my best to shut off my brain.  Over the next mile I started to dissociate a bit.  I could tell I had a good turnover going, but I couldn’t really feel my legs, due to either cold or fatigue.  There was a little uphill at the marker for 25 and suddenly–Whoosh–I had the biggest runner’s high of my life.  We rounded the bottom of the park and in no time we were at the turn off to the finish line on the lower loop.  I hadn’t looked at my watch since the 24th mile marker and had no idea how close I was to 4 hours.  There was another slight climb up to the 26 mile mark, but I wasn’t feeling anything at that point.  One last curve and I saw the finish line up ahead.  LRB dropped off and I kicked as hard as I could.  The gun time read 3:57:44 as I crossed.  My official time clocked in a 3:57:18; I actually managed to negative split it by almost two minutes.

I couldn’t be happier with the experience.  I actually enjoyed running this race, not just finishing it.  I know I could have run it faster, and as I crossed the finish line I realized that I probably still had a few miles left in me.  Even so, I wouldn’t change a thing.  There’s always next time.

~ModC

November 4, 2014

Back of the Pack

The Caveboy and I volunteered at the start corrals on Sunday for the New York Marathon.  I have always been impressed with the organization, attention to detail, and general panache of NYRR’s events.  Having glimpsed the world’s largest marathon from behind the scenes, I am blown away.  I also feel like I got to see another side of New York, from the camaraderie of the runners and volunteers to cheering crowds along the route.  It really was a great experience and as much as I would have liked to have been running (30 mph winds aside), I’m glad I got to see it from the other side first.

Our day started at 3:45 and we were on a bus from Brooklyn to Staten Island by 5 AM.  Once there, we checked in, got our jackets, credentials, and coffee, and met our corral teams and leaders.  The corral system for the marathon works slightly differently than for other races, with a color, gate, and wave number assignment to sort runners into their appropriate pace and start groups.  At first I found this somewhat odd, as runners used to the normal system were confused about why their bib number was higher or lower than their slower/faster friend/family member.  Once things got going, though, I realized that dealing with a single color, letter, and number was MUCH simpler for the international crowd present.

Our job was primarily to ensure our runners were in the right corral, keep them entertained while we held them there for half an hour, and then release the waves to the starting line at the appropriate time.  In the brief periods between waves we tried to clean up the piles of clothing cast off and get it into the Goodwill bins and make sure that there was no trash or clothing on the roadway that might trip up the next group.  The high winds made the latter nearly impossible, but we did manage to keep things running fairly smoothly throughout.  I was again reminded of what nice people runners generally are.  I typically try to avoid small talk with strangers at all costs, but I had a great time chatting about race experiences, shoes, Garmins, and of course the bone-chilling wind.  When I saw someone who looked particularly nervous or grim I did my best to get a smile out of them.

We released the final wave around 11 and we then walked up to the start to cheer the last group off.  Aside from being fun, it was also part of Operation Run Back to Brooklyn.  Due to the bridge closure for the race, the only transportation available back to the city was to the finish line.  The marathon course came within a mile of our apartment, though, so we had worn running clothes in the event that we were able to get home in a more efficient manner.  Credentials out, we followed that last runners onto the bridge, picking up more cast-off clothing along the way, and once we were well past the starting officials, we started jogging.  We were able to blend in with the pack after a few hundred yards and ran the first 7 miles of the course back to Prospect Heights.  The spectators were amazing and I actually felt guilty when people would high five me as I ran by.  The thing that really got me was that we were in the very back of the pack, and people were still lining the course to cheer everyone on like they were the lead group.  Also, New Yorkers know how to do this well.  Right around mile 6 three Brooklynites were handing out tissues to many red-nosed, wind-burned faces.  Everyone was hugely encouraging, and no one inappropriately yelled “You’re almost there!” which is a first in any  race I’ve run longer than a 5K.  I can only imagine what things were like at the finish line.

Running with the back of the pack was really enlightening.  I noticed in the corrals was that the slower the waves got, the more fun they were.  Obviously I understand that the more competitive runners are going to be more focused and serious at the start.  Still, everyone is there to run their best race, and I appreciated the generally increased spirit of fun that Waves 3 and 4 seemed to bring to it.  I honestly can’t fathom what it feels like to start a 26.2 mile race knowing that it will be 7 or 8 hours until you finish.  That so many people do it with such enthusiasm and laughter really is inspirational.

October 31, 2014

More Accurate Marathon Time Predictions?

586px-MotherdurgaCrop

Just in time for the New York City Marathon on Sunday, Slate posted this new marathon time predictor yesterday.  The calculator was created by statistician Andrew Vickers, and is based on the reported times across various race distances of 2,500 runners.  I plugged in my most recent half   and 10K, and was given a marathon prediction of 4:09:12, which is only a minute over what I actually ran, and 20 minutes more accurate than the Riegel algorithm predicts.

I have mixed feelings about this.  On one hand, it would seem to indicate that I did not screw the race up nearly as much as I thought I did.  On the other hand, it means I’m much further from running sub-4 than I ever thought.  On the third hand, I really think I could have run much faster on a flatter course.  On the fourth hand, it kind of calls into question the whole approach to appropriate pacing, particularly if most people are relying on the Riegel (or similar) methods.

October 22, 2014

Baltimore Marathon Race Report

Baltimore Marathon Medal    Baltimore Marathon Medal

Going into this race, I felt like I had a pretty good idea of what to expect.  I did my homework.  I ran four 20-milers and a 22.  I ran hills.  I studied the course as much as I could and visualized the race.  The week before, I figured out all of my splits based on the elevation profile.  I was sure I knew was I was in for.  I was completely wrong.

Race morning we arrived at the stadium about an hour and half before gun time.  We parked, located the baggage drop-off, found the bathrooms—real ones!—in Camden Yards, and then I did a few warm-up strides to try to shake off my nerves.  I had slept badly the night before and had gotten maybe 3 hours or so, but still felt alert and ready to go.  With only 2,700 marathoners, there were no formal corral assignments—just signs denoting min/mile paces.  The Caveboy and I positioned ourselves at the back of the 8’s/front of the 9’s, and after the usual prerace fanfare we were off.  I knew that the first three miles were uphill, so I tried to focus on calming my nerves and settling into a nice 9:15-9:20 pace, figuring I’d make it up on the long downhill to come.  From the start, pacing turned out to be a lot more difficult than I’d imagined.  What had looked like a long, slow grade on the elevation profile was in fact continuously rolling terrain.  We’d run up a 30’ rise, hit a very short downhill and lose 15’ of gain, then run up and down again.  We were definitely climing overall, but the short hills were much harder to pace properly than a gradual slope would have been.  The downhills weren’t long enough to really open up, and by the time I’d get a good turnover going I’d realize we were already heading uphill again and I was running a suicidal 8:10.

Elevation as per my Garmin. And yes, Garmins are admittedly wonky.

Elevation as per my Garmin. And yes, Garmins are admittedly wonky, but you get the idea.

We continued in this fashion until we got to the zoo—a recent course addition—which was probably my favorite stretch of the whole thing.  There were more hills there, including some steep and twisty downs, but the course itself was quite pretty.  The sun had come up fully by then, and zookeepers were posted along the route holding a raven, an oriel, and—by the time the Caveboy got there—a baby penguin.  The real challenge through those miles, in addition to the continual hills, was the number of turns.  The pack was still reasonably crowded and the pace would lag on every uphill and turn.  I was having a hard time holding anything close to my 8:50 pace even on the downhills, and starting to get worried.

Finally, the long downhill stretch began, or so I thought.  Again, it turned out to be much more of a rolling net downhill, and I was already starting to struggle with my mind going negative.  As much as I tried to relax, to just let the nervousness be there and not worry about it, I just could not tune out and run.  In retrospect, I think that had a lot more to do with the course than I realized at the time.  Until this race, I really never realized how much I count on being able to lock in a pace and tune out.  At the time, though, I hadn’t quite realized how the terrain was affecting me and instead I further beat myself up for not being able to relax.  By the time we got to the first semi-flat section at the Inner Harbor, I knew I was in trouble.  I was running 9’s and working hard to hold them.  At the water station around 11 I was passed by the 4-hour pace group, and decided to hang with them for a few miles while I figured out the plan.  I was going to a very dark place and I knew I needed to pull it together if I was going to get through the rest of the race.  I stayed with the pace group for five or six miles and just tried to focus on breathing out the side stitch that had been nagging since the start.  The four-hour group was running inexplicably fast—8:30’s it seemed—and I ended up falling behind them at an aid station past the halfway point.  We were back into the hills and the longest climb of the race by that point, and I really didn’t have it in me to surge to catch them again.  To add to the difficulty, it was getting warmer and there was no protection from the sun on the second half of the course.

Letting the pace group go actually helped a bit mentally—I made my peace with not breaking four hours and actually was able to relax a little bit.  The half marathoners joined us at mile 16, and the influx of energy was nice as well.  Though the course was now more crowded, most of the halfers were still running the uphills at a decent pace, so I tried to hang with them and ignore the increasing numbers of marathoners who were now walking.  With about 7 miles left, the side stitch I’d been fighting for most of the race was really starting to hurt, and I worried that if it cramped completely I wouldn’t be able to breathe or finish faster than a walk.  I finally gave in a walked a bit of the next uphill and felt a bit better after that.  The downhills actually hurt it worse than the ups, I think just due to the impact, so I kept trying to keep up a 9:30ish pace for as much of the uphills as I could and then walk fast as briefly as necessary.

Over the next several miles of climb I had never wanted to stop running so badly in my life, but the weird thing was that my legs still felt pretty good and I really wasn’t running all that slowly.  The mental fatigue of the impossible uphill-downhill pacing, not to mention the race nerves had me completely worn out, though.  Miles 20-21 were a mercifully flat loop around Lake Montebello.  A lot of the runners around me groaned when they saw it, mostly because it’s one of the few spots in the race flat enough to actually see a large expanse of the course in front of you.  The two-mile string of runners threading around the lake looked impossibly long, and we all knew that it was only a small portion of the distance still left to run.  I, however, felt nothing but a flat, grim resolve.  Strangely, at no point during the race did I ever think about how many miles were left, or whether I’d be able to run them.  I also never once worried about getting through the ‘unknown’ miles 22-26, which I can’t really explain.  While the nervous part of my brain was running wild during the race, the emotional part seemed completely gone by that point.  I counted every breath the whole way around that lake, and thankfully, had at least two flat miles to lock in a pace and zone out a bit.

After a lot more hills, finally, FINALLY, we hit the last downhill at mile 24.  I tried to pick up the pace as much as I could and managed to hit mid to high 8’s.  By this point, though, so many people were walking that I had to dodge and weave just to maintain steady progress.  The crowds got denser as we neared the stadiums, and finally we were headed for the finish line.  The mile 26 marker must have fallen over; I never saw it.  I just kept grimly running, trying to keep my form and knowing that if I kept it up long enough it would eventually end.  Before the race, I had worried that I’d get so emotional heading to the finish line and that it might be hard to breathe or run hard.  In the end, I felt nothing at all.  For the last half mile, I just kept running, putting one foot in front of the other until it was over.  There was no emotion, no sense of accomplishment, just a muted relief at being able to stop.

My final time was 4:08:43.  I wasn’t as disappointed initially as I might have been since I knew I absolutely could not have prepared better or run harder.  When I checked the results—the bibs had a QR tag that allowed you to get your results within 10 minutes of finishing—I was a little shocked, though.  I had finished in the top quarter of women, the top third overall, and the top 50 in my age group.  When I saw the numbers, I recalibrated a bit and considered that I might possibly have done pretty well.

All in all, I’m still not really sure what to make of it.  The course was not at all what I expected.  Still, the hills really got me mentally more than physically.  I learned a lot, including just how mental this sport really is.  I also learned to scout the course in person well ahead of time.  When I consider the full experience of training and racing, it was totally worth it.  Still, I’m surprised at how flat I felt at the finish.  I will do another marathon, but I’m not sure if it will be in a few months, or a year.  I know I need to let my body recover from what’s been nearly a solid year of racing and training, but I HATE that I can’t run for a few more days.  Part of me can’t imagine doing it all over again, but I’m already reading Running on Air to learn how to breathe more efficiently (and hopefully eliminate those nagging side stitches), and thinking how to train better next time.  Mostly, though, I’m sad that it’s over.  I should probably mention that I’ve gone off coffee for a week while I recover from the race, so this may all be the lack of caffeine talking.

 

October 16, 2014

Taper Thoughts

This week I’ve been trying to fight off the taper madness by focusing on why I’m doing the marathon, and why now.  I entered my first half over six years ago, and honestly never felt temped to enter a full until a few years ago.  I know plenty of people who ran their first marathon in their first year of running.  I’m always impressed with the courage and dedication that it takes, and I’m not in any way knocking it.  It’s just that the marathon has always had mythic proportions in my mind.  The 1984 Olympic women’s race is one of the first sporting events I ever remember watching, and the image of Joanie charging into the stadium (and later, Gabriela Andersen staggering around the track) stuck with me.  My mom explained to me how far they’d run in terms of a frequent car trip we’d take, and to this day, when I picture myself running a marathon, it’s along that stretch of road in Central Pennsylvania.  I’ve always had a huge respect for the event and the distance, and I never wanted to do one ‘just to finish.’  It may seem silly, particularly for a middle-of-the-pack runner, but it was important to me to be able to truly race the marathon and honor the tradition in some small way.

Three years ago I entered the lottery for New York, got in, trained, got hurt, and had to withdraw.  I entered the lottery every year after that and have not gotten in, but there are hundreds of other marathons I could have done instead.  I just never felt like I was quite ready or that it was the right time.  Some of it, I’m sure, was the fear of injury and what happened last time.  Partly I just wasn’t enjoying racing all that much.  I hadn’t broken two hours in a half marathon in two years.  I was kind of making peace with it and was reluctantly accepting that 9+ minute miles were my limit.  This year, though, something shifted.  Before I had even signed up for any races, I decided to go back to training with the FIRST plan.  It’s rigorous, regimented, and not something one really does for fun.  For the first time in ages, though, I was getting faster.  I signed up for and ran the Chanukah Chalf last November, broke two hours, and nearly PR’ed it in 40 mph wind gusts.  That spurred me to enter another one shortly thereafter to see if I could get the PR in better conditions.  I did, and started slowly chipping seconds and minutes off my times all winter and spring.  When the snow started melting, I knew it was time.  I lotteried for New York and the day I got the rejection, I signed up for Baltimore.  I’ve been officially training for the marathon since June, but I feel like the whole year has led up to this race.  I’m nervous.  I’m excited.  I’m already a little sad that it’s going to be over soon.

October 14, 2014

Taper Jitters

Marathon Taper Legs

I’m one week into my taper now and staying reasonably sane, although I do keep thinking of those Restless Leg Syndrome commercials from the early 2000’s.  (What ever happened to that, anyway?)  Last week I ran a somewhat normal workouts, though at about half my usual mileage.  I did a 10-miler Sunday at race pace, and this morning I had one last interval session (4×400’s).  That will probably be it until the race, with the possible exception of some quick strides on Friday just to stretch the legs out.  I’ve been trying to bank some extra sleep this week as well, though the kitten seems to have other ideas at 5:30 in the morning.

Predictably, the jitters have set in, but I’m trying to face them head-on this time, rather than letting myself become the victim of my nerves.  The problem with anxiety is that it tends to put you in a circular bind that’s difficult to escape.  Aside from the feelings of panic and negative self-talk it can induce, anxiety also tightens muscles, quickens the breath and heart rate, and interferes with fine motor coordination—basically working against every aspect of athletic performance.  Of course, knowing this, my biggest pre-race fear is that I’ll get nervous and it will compromise my race; it truly is the fear of fear itself that gets me.

Yesterday I could feel the pangs of anxiety creeping up and I decided it was time to take the bull by the horns.  I’ve worked my ass off this season, and I’ve earned my place at that starting line.  I know I’ll be nervous.  There’s no point wasting energy wondering if it will happen; I need to just accept it as a given.  But it’s also a given that when I look around at the starting line at all the other runners, they’ll all be nervous, too.  Even the pro’s get nervous.  (Kara Goucher famously discussed her pre-race nerves in a Runner’s World interview, and Shalane Flanagan, who races as though she is completely fearless, discusses the issue here.)  Knowing that it’s not just me always helps.  I also realized that if everyone is nervous and some people are still  managing to race well—maybe even better—with the nerves, then it’s really up to me how I handle it.  Instead of looking at it as me against a force I can’t control, I need to take charge of how I channel my energy.  Of course, that’s always easier said than done.

Preparedness is always a good first step, so I started by making a detailed, day-by-day list of everything that needs to happen this week.  I’ve been working on my packing list for weeks, but there are a million other details to race day and it’s easy to feel overwhelmed.  There is nothing worse than realizing you don’t have cash for parking or that you don’t know where baggage drop is when you’re trying to get to the starting line.  Any stress I can eliminate through good planning is a major victory.  I keep reminding myself that physically, I’ve done everything I can.  I’ve run every workout, hit every pace, and despite the nerves, my body has delivered every time I’ve pushed it this season.  I have to trust my training and know that it will this time, too.

The thing that has really helped me calm to down and focus, though, was kind of unexpected.  On a whim, I googled “athlete inspirational video” and watched a few.  (And just for fun, I also looked for this.)  Attitude is everything, and maybe a good pep talk at the start line is just what I need.

 

Clear Eyes, Full Hearts!

-ModC

October 10, 2014

Let’s Go O’s!

The ALCS kicks off tonight, and, for the purposes of this race, I’m now officially an Orioles fan.  (I promise this is just a meaningless fling, Red Sox.)  Caveboy and I received emails from the Baltimore Marathon race director yesterday detailing the various race contingencies, particularly if the series goes to Game 6, and I’m now rooting for a quick and successful O’s sweep.  There really should have been a flow chart, but the main points boiled down to this: As designed, the course starts and finishes at Camden Yards, so to accommodate stadium activity (regardless of the ALCS outcome), all race activities on Saturday will be moved an hour earlier.  I’m fine–actually happy–about that.  The cooler the course is, the better.  Things start to get tricky with a Baltimore Game 6 scenario, though.  The stadium could potentially be in use, so the finish will be rerouted away from Camden Yards and will close 6 hours after the start.  My heart goes out to anyone who is now faced with coming in close to the cutoff time.  Additionally, the Expo on Friday will be seriously limited.  There will be zero expo parking, and runners are “strongly encouraged” to pick up their race packets on Thursday or early Friday morning.  I realize this race is largely run by locals, but Caveboy and I are not leaving New York until early Friday morning.  It’s not that big of a deal, but I do like a leisurely Expo before the race…it’s one of those pre-race rituals that helps me calm my nerves a bit.   I look forward to the camaraderie with the other runners, and it’s fun to geek out over high performance socks with like-minded people.  The Expo always makes me feel like we’re all in this together.  I have a feeling this one will be in and out and leave nagging worries like whether my chip timer is fully functional.  I don’t like feeling rushed on race weekend, particularly in critical matters like whether to spend $13 on a sparkly headband.

None of this is earth-shaking of course, and it seems like race direction is on the ball.  Personally, though, I’m still hoping for some speedy Orioles dominance and very celebratory finish line.

-ModC

October 6, 2014

Fast

Last week was the final push of my overload month before the taper.  I had strength training Monday, intervals Tuesday, easy run Wednesday, tempo Thursday, and an easy run Friday, followed by the Yom Kippur fast on Saturday.  It took until Thursday for the soreness from the strength training to finally subside, and by Friday I was pretty wrung out and facing  26 hours without food or drink.  To top it off, I had my final 20-miler scheduled for Sunday, which gave me about 10 hours to fuel up and rehydrate.  Oh, and I needed to get a good night’s sleep in there, too.

I’m beginning to think that Paleo might be the answer to Jewish dietary laws, though… It’s easy to find dairy-free meat recipes, Passover is no sweat, and it turns out that being fat-adapted makes fasting much easier.  Friday post run I made sure I hydrated thoroughly, and I made us some Bulletproof herbal tea after dinner to kick up the fat-burning.  I got through it without too much difficulty this year, and as soon as it ended I started pounding water.  Sunday morning I felt surprisingly good, and it was time to get down to business, as I had a tight schedule to keep.

Grete’s Great Gallop – Race Report

I had signed up for Grete’s Great Gallop in Central Park, which started at 9, but I needed to get in another 7 make it a 20-miler.  I wanted it to be as continuous a run as possible, so I had worked out some fine-tuned logistics with Long Run Buddy.  Caveboy and I took the train into lower Manhattan, then started running up Hudson River Greenway toward Central Park.  I was hoping to hold a 9 minute pace for the duration, and getting to the corral on time put some pressure on holding pace.  LRB was also racing the Gallop, and had kindly agreed to pick up our numbers and shirts and handle the bag check.  I arrived at the park about 10 minutes before the start with three quarters of a mile left to run.  After a couple of out-and backs near the start I met LRB at our corral just as the Star Spangled Banner ended.  I was fastening the last pin on my number as our group shuffled toward the line, and we were off.

The weather could not have been more perfect for a race—it was 50 degrees and sunny at the start with a light, cool breeze.  My goal for the run was to do the 20 under 3 hours, and I was hoping the race atmosphere would keep me focused for a strong finish.  The course was just over two laps of the park, run clockwise (not the normal direction), presumably to emulate the end of the New York Marathon.  Looping that way, the hills are shorter and steeper, and I felt a little sluggish on the climbs for the first lap.  I tried to keep our pace right around 9’s, but like the Bronx run, the crowd and terrain made keeping a steady pace nearly impossible.  Also, LRB and I evidently don’t like getting passed.  Right around the start of lap two we caught the 1:55 pace group leader, who seemed to be running too fast and appeared to have largely lost his pack.  We decided to stick with him for a while, mainly just to outsource the pacing duties.  Maybe it was the psychological relief of knowing that I was ticking off each hill for the last time, but somehow during lap two I felt better and better with every mile.  We ended up passing 1:55 Guy a few minutes later and at that point I stopped checking the Garmin for the rest of the race.  I had a bit of a kick left for the finish, and by my watch it was 2:59:43 for 20.2 miles. I still haven’t come down from the high.

This week it’s on to the taper, and I’m planning to follow the Runners’ World recommendations here. I’ve never tapered for more than a few days for a half marathon, so I’m curious how I’ll handle two weeks.  If only I could apply all that excess energy and enthusiasm to cleaning out my closets.

-ModC

October 1, 2014

Shut Up and Run

Five Borough Series: Bronx 10-Mile

Sunday was the Bronx 10-Miler, and with it I ticked off borough number four on my list.  I planned to run it with Long Run Buddy, and we decided to shoot for an 8:15 pace, which was my distance-adjusted equivalent marathon pace.  Rationally, I knew I should be able to do it, but 8:15’s sounded fast and, truth be told, I was a wee bit concerned about keeping it up.  Sunday was fairly warm and I was coming off a hard week of training with only one rest day before the race.  If there’s been an emergent theme to this season though, it’s that I’m tired of being scared to run fast*.  As I shuffled up to the starting line, I decided that I was not really interested in listening to any more neurotic self doubt.  My new motto was shut up and run.

With almost 10,000 people running down Grand Concourse, the first few miles required the usual NYRR bob-and-weave techniques.  Eventually we found a pack running at our pace and tried to settle in.  The course was shaped like an arrow with very short arms, with the first turn around mile 4 and the return to the vertical leg at mile 5.  About 3 1/2 miles in I heard a wave of applause from the runners ahead, and cheered as the leader (and eventual winner) passed by.  A minute or so later we passed another lone runner, and shortly thereafter, a larger pack that included the first two women.

I wish I could add some interesting local color of the Bronx here, but I really completely failed to take in any of the scenery.  The course was rolling enough that a lot of runners weren’t holding a steady pace, so between the crowd and the grade changes, I was primarily focused on holding my speed and not tripping myself and others.  At the halfway point I was still feeling good and not really registering the uphills too much.  I had been fighting a slight side stitch since the first mile, but I tried to stay relaxed and belly breathe as deeply as possible.

By mile 7 I definitely felt like I was working, though, and that was where the mental game really began.  My brain was making a very good case for slowing down–I had Marathon Hell Week coming up, it was hot, who was I to think I was fast enough to run 10 miles at 8:15 pace, and why did I really need to pass these people, anyway?  As all of this was running through my mind, though, I noticed that my legs seemed strangely unaffected.  I was holding pace just fine, nothing hurt, and my breath was even and controlled.  Sure, I would preferred to have the whole thing be over at that point, but it was really going perfectly well.  I repeated “Shut up and run” to myself, pulled it together, and enjoyed a few blissful minutes of brain silence.  I wasn’t in the Zone exactly, but I did feel a bit like my body was doing what it already knew how to do and I was free to experience the ride without the incessant chatter from upstairs.

It was up and down a few more small hills, and then I was in the chute before I knew it with a good crowd cheering us in.  I tried to pick off a few more people as I approached the finish line, and then it was over.  As soon as I was clear of the runners coming in behind me, I checked my watch. My average split was 8:14–right on target.  I’d like to say that I’m over the race and pace anxiety and I now fully trust my fitness and the training.  The reality is, though, I’m already worrying over my last 20-miler this weekend.  I’ll continue to work at building my confidence, and I really want to have the courage to lay it all on the line on race day, Shalane Flanagan-style.  From here on it, the gameplan is shut up and run.

*Yes, I know that 8:15’s aren’t actually fast in the grand scheme of things.