Posts tagged ‘baltimore marathon’

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.

 

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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.

September 24, 2014

A Very Long Run and My Paleo Power Smoothie

Sunday I had another 20-miler on the schedule and decided to reverse my usual route to avoid getting caught in the climate change march.  Perhaps to underscore the theme of the demonstration, the weather had turned unseasonably muggy and I was eager to get an early start.  

My run started with a loop of Central Park, then south along the Hudson River Greenway, over the Brooklyn Bridge, and up to Prospect Park. The uphill climb from the bridge was a bit of a slog, but when I got to Prospect I felt like a new person. I was at 17 miles at that point, and I decided to run the full loop and finished on the uphill, just for added fun. I was about 2 miles from home when I finished, but my legs still felt pretty good and I decided to keep running the rest of the way. I have to say that cutting the ‘unknown’ mileage on race day from 6 miles to 4 seems huge psychologically. We’re T minus four weeks to Baltimore, and I think I’m actually more excited than scared.

Now for the smoothie that fueled all those miles… My go-to recipe has evolved and over the years I’ve tweaked it to really optimize for long run fueling. The basis is black cherries, which have amazing anti-inflammatory properties.  The anthocyanins they contain protect connective tissue and may actually be more effective than aspirin as a pain reliever.  A few years ago I started using peach instead of banana for a little sweetness, as it’s lower in sugar and also high in potassium.  I recently replaced whey protein with gelatin, which has been getting lots of play in paleo circles recently.   In addition to providing about 6g protein per tablespoon, gelatin also protects joints and aids digestion.  The ginger root has been my latest tweak, both for its anti-inflammatory properties as well as its stomach-settling abilities.  For the liquid component I usually go with almond milk, but depending on your run pace and ability to digest fat on a run, you can swap in coconut milk.

I know there are a million paleo smoothie ideas out there, but I think this is worth adding to the mix:

Modernist Cavegirl’s Paleo Long Run Smoothie

1/3 – 1/2 cup frozen black cherries

1/3 -1/2 cup frozen blueberries

1/4 of one frozen peach, sliced

1/4 cup full-fat yogurt (if you abstain from dairy, throw in more peach for texture)

1 tbsp gelatin

~1/4″ – 1/2″ grated ginger root (I keep it in the freezer)

1/2 – 3/4 cup coconut or almond milk

Throw the ingredients through ginger root into a blender with about half of the coconut or almond milk.  Slowly blend, adding more liquid until desired consistency is reached.

 

 

September 17, 2014

26 and Change

Old Crotan Aqueduct Trail

 

Unlike most things in adulthood that I look forward to, this weekend actually exceeded my expectations.  Saturday the Caveboy, Long Run Buddy, and I met up at Grand Central and headed north on MetroNorth to Tarrytown.  It was a beautiful day for a trail run, and though the leaves haven’t really started to change yet, it definitely felt like fall was in the air.  Running southward, as we were, the trail is slightly down hill and it made for a perfect easy run to just put on the cruise control and enjoy the scenery.  The Old Crotan Aqueduct trail is now part of the state park system and is wooded for most of the section we ran, but there were a few clearings that overlook the Hudson as well.  After just about 8 miles we reached the northern end of Yonkers and turned off the trail at the Greystone train station on MetroNorth.  One the way back I stopped at NYRR headquarters at 89th St. and I picked up my Tune-Up race number in the hopes of buying myself a little extra time and sleep in the morning.  The race started at 7 AM at the northern end of Central Park, so a few extra minutes of sleep was a precious commodity on Sunday.  I was up at 4:30, at the park before 6:30, and still had to rush to my corral thanks to extra long lines at the porta potties.

 

My approach for the Tune-Up was to really use it as a dry run for the marathon and approximate as many conditions of race day as I could.  I planned to run at goal pace, wear my race day gear, and not to carry my own fluids and test out how I did with Gatorade.  I’ve written before about my struggle with pre-race anxiety, and I fully expected to feel the pressure to perform on Sunday in all its shaky, stomach-churning splendor.  I slept surprisingly well the night before, but I told myself that I wouldn’t try to talk myself out of any anxiety I felt before the Tune-Up, as I knew it would be there on marathon day, too.  At the starting line I did feel some jitters, but they were mostly physical and not the Plague of Doubts that I’ve struggled with in the past.  Mentally I was actually incredibly calm and clear on what needed to be done.  I would simply go run around Central Park three times at an 8:50 pace.  No drama.

 

My legs did feel a little tight and nervous for the first few miles of the race, but I figured that was to be expected and so it didn’t concern me.  The course started just before the Harlem Hills, so each loop began with a short downhill followed by the longest climb of the circuit.  I spent the first lap finding my pace, trying not to charge the hills too much, and making mental notes about where the aid stations were located.  As I passed the starting line for the second time, I really settled in and relaxed.  I figured that if I could turn in a solid second loop, even if I got tired, I could take the third lap one hill and mile at a time and just focus on holding my pace.  The amazing thing was, I wasn’t getting tired. The hills just came and went.  It wasn’t that it was effortless, it was just unencumbered by worry, second-guessing, and emotional baggage.  It was actually fun. The last lap felt no harder than the first miraculously, and I finished right on target at 8:51 pace.

 

I think the biggest factor, though, may actually have been my attitude about pre-race nerves this time.  I didn’t fight it and actually welcomed it as a training tool.  I’ve always read that the secret to beating anxiety is just to accept it will be there and do whatever you want anyway.  It’s much more easily said than done, but I think I actually did it this time.

 

~ModC
August 20, 2014

Run for the Hills

Last week’s schedule went like this:

Monday: Rest
Tuesday: Intervals – 4×1200 @ 7:13 pace
Wednesday: Easy – 3 @ 9:30ish (should have been 10’s)
Thursday: Tempo – 10 @ 8:47
Friday: Rest
Saturday: Easy – 4 @ 9:30ish (should have been 10’s)
Sunday: Long – 15 @ 8:59 (9:07 was goal)

 

The intervals were good, I had a lovely run to work on Wednesday, and Thursday I had to fit in a 10-miler.  I ended up running in the general direction of work, ditching my backpack along the way at the gym, and then running another 3.5 out and back to get to 10.  Around mile 5 I passed my long-run buddy going the other direction to his office, which is the sort of thing that makes me love the small town that is the New York running community.

 

As of this weekend, I am officially 8 weeks out from the marathon, which still feels like a long time.  Once I factor in the Dirt Dash, the Bronx 10-miler, and the taper, though, there’s really only five long runs left.  I’ve been trying to do a training assessment every few weeks to make adjustments, and my current consideration is whether to add more hill training.  I’ve been reading race reviews for Baltimore on Marathonguide.com, and the word “hilly” keeps coming up.  That in itself wouldn’t really concern me so much, but the fact that one person described it as “worse than San Franciso” does.  I ran the SF first half (i.e. the hilly part) twice, and it was brutal.  That kind of scared me straight and, being a numbers person, I decided to do a comparison with hard data.

 

Comparison.csv

According to Map My Run, the Baltimore course only has 536 feet of accumulated gain.  The SF first half has 1,052 feet, and the 20-miler route I’ve been running in New York has 852.  That seemed generally encouraging, but when I actually overlayed the elevation profiles, Baltimore does look a lot worse than my long run.  I also know that I’m much better at rolling hills than long, slow climbs, and I think it’s time to remedy that.

My general plan at the moment is to start substituting hill workouts for some of my interval days. To be honest, I’m not particularly jazzed about it.  I love the track, and although I feel like I’ve made my peace with hills this season, I am nothing close to a fan.  I do, however, want to be as prepared for this race as I possibly can be, and that means addressing my weaknesses.  Like a grown-up.  There’s also the added bonus that in addition to building climbing strength, reducing the punishment of track repeats should allow me to increase my weekly mileage a bit over the coming weeks, too.  I know it’s win-win, but I’m still kind of grumpy about it.

This morning I headed to my local hill of choice–Columbia Heights, which runs from DUMBO up to Brooklyn Heights.  The stretch I used is about a tenth of a mile long at 3% grade, so nothing crazy, but it was enough to make my quads burn.  I had an easy 2 mile warm up through Brooklyn Bridge Park, then did 6 repeats at what I’m guessing was about a 8:40 pace, and then 2 miles back home.  Ideally, I also need to find a long, slow climb I can run fartleks on as well, but I may have to make do on the treadmill for that.  I’m sure that will be just as much fun as it sounds.

This week goes thusly:
Monday: Rest
Tuesday: Hill Repeats
Wednesday: Easy – 5? @ 10:00
Thursday: Tempo – 1 mi easy, 5 @ 8:47, 1 mi easy
Friday: Rest
Saturday: Easy – 5? @ 10:00
Sunday: Long – 16? @ 9:07

Also on the to-do list: Learn to love hills.

August 11, 2014

Relentless Forward Progress

You know those days when you feel light and fast and like you could run forever?  Sunday was not one of those days.  Last weekend I got really lucky with the weather for my long run, but this Sunday was hot, bright, and cloudless.  I prepared for my third 20-miler as well as I could–I hydrated and beet-loaded, filled my water bottle halfway and froze it, and got to bed early on Saturday.

The route was a variation on the usual Brooklyn to Central Park run.  I skipped Prospect this week and ran straight to the Brooklyn Bridge and up to Central Park, picking up my friend along the way.  From the north end of the park we peeled off to Morningside Park, enjoyed* the hills of Morningside Heights, cut across Columbia’s campus, and ran south along Riverside Park.  It was a beautiful day and a lovely route, but I really had to work for this one.  I probably started off a little too fast given the heat, but I think this was mostly just a case of having an off day.  Despite the struggle, I was happy that I was able to pull it together mentally enough to get through it.  I keep reminding myself that having a lackluster 20-miler is still something of an uptown problem, especially compared to a few years back when I was trying to fight through and IT band injury.

Sunday also marked the end of what I’m thinking of as my first major training block for the marathon.  Next week’s long run is only 15, and then I’m debating whether or not to squeeze in another  20 before the half marathon on Labor Day weekend.  From there on, I’m taking advantage of the NYRR fall race calendar to spice up my long runs.  As it stands right now, starting in September I’ll have a race every other weekend until the marathon.  That is not to say that I’ll actually be racing them, but I thought that it might help dispel some of the pre-race anxiety to make the starting line feel a little more routine.  It also gives me the chance to practice race day fueling and decide if I’m going to carry any of my own hydration for the marathon. It’s going to require some creativity to get the distances on my schedule in some cases, but I can always keep running after the finish line.

*By ‘enjoyed’ I mean, tried to convince myself that the burning in my quads was a unique gift from the universe, to be treasured and savored.