Monday, December 30, 2013

Hitting the Reset Button

Feels like a little year-end wrap-up is in order, no?

It's been a pretty big year: Moved to Dallas. Did a bunch of construction/remodeling work in the new house. Picked up my running considerably. Met some great new friends through my DRC running group. Fell out of love with playing goalie. G got promoted to partner. I got laid off. And we just hosted our first Christmas with my family.

Lots of change this year, some of it for the worse but a lot of it for the better. Even though we miss our friends in Houston like crazy, we like Dallas, and I LOVE the weather. So nice to have real winter and know that for every nice running day, I won't have to suffer through 20 yucky, humid days (and that's just in winter!)

And between my great running group and new running friends and lovely weather, I've really accomplished so much more this year than I expected. When I left Houston in late March, I don't think I'd run much more than 5 miles at a time. Needless to say, things got stepped up when I left the suffocating humidity behind:
  • Since April, I've run 444.8 miles in 94 hours and 40 minutes (12.77 mph avg) and burned over 57,000 calories
  • Two half marathons (Tyler Rose in 2:52 and DRC Half in 2:30)
  • Had one race cancelled due to Icemaggedon (Isle du Bois Trail 18k)
  • Ran/rode/hated one duathlon
  • Won 2nd place in the Athena division of the Flagpole 8K
  • Ran two 10ks, a 5M and a 15k, and the 8M turkey trot
  • Longest distance was 13.67 (the overly long Tyler Rose half)
  • Hilliest run totaled 1125 feet of climbing on a 10 miler in Dana Point, CA
I'm very excited that I've managed to not have any significant injuries (though admittedly, the small injuries feel huge in the moment), and that I've managed to stay balanced and not burn out. All this has just been the foundation from which to leap to bigger goals, and the first step of that began this week.

My Christmas present is a massage treatment (4.5+ hours of work), basically with a muscle activation  approach (though a little different). My MT does a few tests to see if certain movements point out pain or imbalances, and then she starts jabbing her fingers into painful places to "reset" those muscle attachments and get them responding to brain signals properly.

I've had two of the three treatments so far. It's one of the more painful things that's been done to me in the name of properly functioning muscles. Fingers stuck under rib cage or pelvic bones, thumbs pressing on muscle attachments. Hooboy! But if you like torture in the name of wellness, or just a really good deep tissue or regular massage, my MT is awesome, funny, sweet, and most of all, knowledgeable and passionate about her work. Check her out.

In two days, I'll do a test run of 6 miles (which is where my flexor/groins start to hurt) to see where we're at. She said other clients who've had this work find their leg turnover much more fluid and easy, less soreness in the groin and hip flexors, and improved speed. I'd be happy with any one of these, much less all three, so I'm very excited (and I think my MT is even more excited) to see how we're doing.

Then my first race of the year is Saturday: DRC Frigid 5k/10k (I'm doing 10k because 5ks suck). Really hoping I can run this with around 10 minute miles, but we'll see. I may be expecting too much. Plus, I've been eating like garbage polishing off all the Christmas food. I'm working to tightening this up throughout this week, but hubs is home all week, so it's tough.

Looking even further ahead, I'm also signed up for:
Jan 21-Mar 13 - RunOn! Speed Training (Tues/Thurs)
Feb. 8 - Hot Chocolate 15k
Mar. 1 - Levee Run 10k
Mar. 23 - Dallas Rock n' Roll 13.1M
Apr. 12 - Possum Kingdom Trail Run 20k

I think I'm also signing up for DRC again just to have someone to run long with on Saturdays, but I'm debating whether to do run/walk again or all run. Leaning toward all run. I'd go in the slowest group 2:30 and I know I can keep that pace. And I can always drop to run/walk if I need a break one week.

So, that's the plan. I have some lofty time goals for the year, but I'd love to make them before summer and get to set all new goals for fall! But with only one half marathon on the docket, it's unlikely. Still, can't hurt to try!

Stay with it, mule!

Monday, December 2, 2013

YMCA Turkey Trot 8 Miler - 2013

I've probably mentioned that the following is my motto:

Buy this here
So, turkey trots are seriously my jam. X-number of miles thinking, "Pie, pie, pie, pie..." and knowing exactly what the prize for this run is.

I was nervous about this race only because of the logistics of having to take DART down to the Convention Center and finding the start. I should have known that with 40,000 people running the 5k and 8 mile routes, I'd just have a giant herd of humanity to follow wherever I needed to be going.

It was surprisingly easy, despite the very crowded train, to figure that part out. Also a surprise was when I exited the train platform and who should be right in front of me but my running pal, Rosie! She has beautiful silver hair and is like 8 feet tall, so she's easy to spot in a crowd, but I certainly didn't expect it to be THAT easy. In fact, since she was running with her family, we'd resigned ourselves to likely not finding each other at all and being okay with that.

As it turned out, her family was doing different distances and at different paces, so she found me again at the start and we ran the full race together. What a treat! I think I had yet to run a full race with a friend, so that was a turn of events for which I was genuinely thankful!

As for the running, it was a cold morning, in the mid-30s to start, but we warmed up much more quickly than I expected. I'm not sure what I would have done differently though, other than having a non-runner come with me to take my jacket before the start. Still would have had 20 minutes of standing around in the corral freezing. By the second half of the race, I had my jacket off and my long sleeves pulled up to the elbows.

Once we got rolling and warmed up, we kept about a 10:50 pace most of the way doing 3:1 intervals and ended up with a 10:47 average, which is a PR for me for anything over 5 miles.

Despite the 1100 calories I burned in that race, I definitely didn't go to bed with a deficit. Plenty of delicious food... including pie... most certainly made the run worthwhile. And while I was sore after, none of the nagging pains I'd been dealing with made an appearance. The next day, I felt just fine.

Saturday is my last race of the year *sniff* assuming it even makes. Supposed to be some righteous weather (the wet, frozen kind) coming at the end of the week, so I'm worried that a) the race will be postponed because of a wet trail, b) the streets will be too dangerous to even drive the hour north to the trail, c) see b again, because that really worries me.

But it will most likely be fine and maybe we'll get snowed on a little. Trail running with a dusting of snow sounds kinda magical doesn't it? Get on that, Weather Elves...

Monday, November 18, 2013

Will you listen to yourself?

I was up at 4:30 this morning to help my parents with a medical appointment, and I haven't eaten so great today, either, so it figures I'm dragging come mid-afternoon, about the time I really should be gearing up to run to the gym, lift some heavy stuff, and run home.

And man, I just can't do it. Since I'm normally pretty excited to go work out and I've been enjoying the gym, I spent a few more beats thinking about why I'm glued to the couch instead of lacing up my sneakers.

What I realized is that last week was one of my heaviest workout weeks ever. The mileage wasn't crazy, but since most of it was trail miles, which are harder and more intense than road miles, it felt like a lot more.

Saturday: Trail run (5M) (1:45 hr)
Sunday: Hockey (1 hr)
Monday: Run to gym, lift, run home (hilly 3.4M) (1:10 hr)
Tuesday: Trail run (7.3M) (1:53 hr)
Wednesday: Run to gym, workout with trainer, run home (hilly 3.3M) (1:30 hr)
Thursday: Rest
Friday: Trail run (7.9M) (2:22 hr)
Saturday: Rest
Sunday: Hockey (1 hr)

So, well over an hour per day of working out, on average, never mind the half marathon I raced the weekend before. No wonder I'm pooped!

I can tell I'm going to be irritated with myself if I don't do some kind of physical activity today though, so I'm finally going to break out my beloved Pilates for Dummies DVD, which I haven't touched in about 10 years because I lost it somewhere along the way and found it when we moved in March. If that doesn't wear me out, maybe I'll hit up my favorite yoga DVD, too.

My body is just craving a workout where I get to lay on the floor a lot. I'm gonna listen to my body. Please knock if you hear snoring.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Grapevine Lake North Shore Trail

We continued our trail running adventures in preparation for Isle du Bois out a Grapevine Lake and the North Shore trail Friday afternoon. We thought we'd avoid a good bit of bike traffic by going out on a weekday, and given that we still saw a fair bit, I think it was a good move.

We started from Rockledge Park, which costs $5 to enter. It's the parking closest to the freeway and a pretty obvious out and back  path, so it's a good place to start. But as you can see on this map, there are some other options if you want to drive the back roads a bit. And assuming you're not running all 18 miles of the trail (9 out and back), you can explore the trail from a few different directions and never see the same things twice.

I did my first trail run out here and only managed 2 miles before I had to turn around and head back. It was tough and felt very technical. But after Cedar Ridge Preserve, this felt pretty tame and we were able to run a lot of it.

I realized yesterday that the first time I ran it, at some point I got going the wrong way. The trail runs counterclockwise with clear (once you know to look for the clues) western and eastern one-way trails that run fairly close to each other. I think where I screwed up the first time was when you get near a fairly long wooden bridge early in the trail. The bridge is just a few yards ahead of you but the path actually turns down into a rocky ravine.

My guess is, I looked down there and thought, "Surely nobody in their right mind would be expected to run or bike down into that." Obviously my estimation of what looks difficult has changed in the last few weeks. We got it right this time and were taken on a lovely adventure through the woods.

Our plan was to run to Murrell Park, about 3.5 miles out and then head back. It ended up being more like 8 miles even though we never quite got to Murrell Park (it was just through some woods, one of the mountain bikers told us, but we were at 4 miles then, so we headed back). I guess you factor in a little GPS fudging on these things.

I did run out of water, despite a full 4 bottles on my belt, so maybe next time, I'd get to Murrell and refill, as there's supposedly running water there (seasonally available). Good to know for summer, anyway. It's either that or a Camelbak, I guess. Luckily, Rosie brought a couple of bottles of water and I guzzled one without stopping for air as soon as we got to the car. Phew!

Anyway, this is a really lovely trail with moderate challenge and plenty of interest throughout. Unlike Rowlett, which is a mix of quite challenging areas with areas where you could actually look up and enjoy the surroundings and trust your footing, this one only had a few "whoa" spots (including a few water crossings that might be a little intense after a heavy rain) but little opportunity to just take in the surroundings without actually stopping.

Part of the challenge was fallen leaves hiding some footing issues (roots, rocks, lumpy ground), so you had to be ready for a surprise, uneven footfall for 95% of the trail. In that respect, it's a good practice maintaining focus for a long stretch of time.

In the end, we did 7.91 miles in 2:22, averaging about 17 minute miles. This included a bit of walking, particularly at road crossings (there are a few maintenance type roads you cross), and moving out of the way of cyclists, and then chatting up some cyclists to make sure we were headed back on the correct path at the turnaround.

Meanwhile, my foolish error of not putting my calf compression sleeves on after this run bit me at 2 a.m. when I woke up with my calves and feet throbbing. That doesn't happen when I wear those or put them on after long runs (it was too warm to wear them today). Wish I could get full-body compression gear! Just make me into a giant sausage after long runs....

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Rowlett Creek Preserve Trail Review

For our less-technical weekday run, Rosie and I headed northeast to Rowlett, where we were told we'd find smoother, but just as scenic trails to run. Because we're doing shorter, more technical runs on Saturdays, we wanted to log some more miles. In the end, it didn't end up being that many more miles but we ran for nearly 2 hours, which I guess is the equivalent of a long run.

Let me make an aside here that I cannot believe I just said, "Well, I guess 2 hours is a long run." I ran for 2 hours, you guys, and it was no big deal! And we really ran a great deal of it. No run/walk intervals, though trails naturally have you walking some, and a couple of times, my legs were just lead.

Not my photo, this is a red tailed hawk, aka chickenhawk
Anyway, the preserve runs between Rowlett Creek and around a utility easement that's parallel to the creek. The various trail loops meander all over this long narrow area with a few of the more difficult trails that shoot off toward the residential areas (but still appear to be woodsy). You can see DORBA's details on the trail here and a map here. The parking lot tees right into the middle of the preserve, so you have to choose whether to start north or south.

Our route amounted to 7.3 miles and took us about 1:53 to complete running between 15-16 minute miles (including stops to look at the map, gawk at nature, and a few walk breaks... I don't have auto-pause enabled on my Runkeeper).

We headed south first, taking the second trail (#3) as you walk straight past the port-a-potty at the end of the parking lot. It looks like it's going to head down the utility easement, but it turns into the woods on the right and you are on your way. The trails all seem to turn back on themselves here and there, so it's a little disorienting at times, but they're well marked at any forks in the road and maps are posted occasionally so you can get your bearings.

The advice we got, given our goal of fairly easy running, was to avoid trails 7, 14, 13, and 12. Trails are rated from green to blue to black, easiest to hardest, and between the green and blue (we didn't do any black), blue were definitely a little harder, but not significantly. Those ratings are probably more important for mountain bikers, who you'll need to keep an eye/ear out for.

Back to our route: We started with Loops 3, 4, and 5 (5a and 6 are shut down due to DART rail line construction), which took us back to the parking. Part of 5 is a paved utility road. Don't be alarmed. It's not a trap.

We then headed out on on the trail that takes off nearer to the entrance of the parking, over by the pergola thing. Not far down this path, you have to choose between 1a and 1.

Cartoon chickenhawk
1a has a steep river crossing at the very start, but it's not as bad as it looks. Rosie and I both got across unassisted without getting our shoes wet. If it's rained recently, I can't guarantee the same result, however. Just be careful here, but don't be unnecessarily afraid of it. It's worth the nice trail on the other side, where we saw a big ol' chickenhawk hanging out in a tree. Ah say, ah say, Nature!

The trail then goes out into some open farmland for loop 9, which is pretty boring but worth getting through for the nice run back down loops 8 and 1 and back to the parking lot, which I was pretty happy to see.

The southern portion we did was about 3.25 miles, and north was another 3-ish miles, if you're looking for shorter routes. To be honest, I was plenty tired after just doing the south, but we had more miles to chew up and I'm glad we did. The whole place is just lovely (except for loop 9).

One of these days, I want to take a peek at the trails we skipped. What does a black-rated trail look like?

Anyway, very pleased to have gotten to know this trail. It makes for a great training run because it's not so hard that it wears you out mentally or physically as fast as more technical trails, but it's also never boring (except for loop 9).

And despite the easier terrain, I could definitely feel those little stabilizing muscles around my knees and ankles working overtime. It just wasn't like every. single. footfall. required 100% focus to avoid turning an ankle or slipping. I get really tired on trails where the footing is so unsteady, I can't ever look up to enjoy the beauty around me. Feels like I'd be better off just hiking, and BTW, give me a damn walking stick if I'm going to do that.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Cedar Ridge Preserve Trail Review

I'm very new to trail running, and I'm anal retentive about preparing for runs, so the combination of the two means I've done lots of searching to find info on trails I'm planning to run. Sadly, there's very little out there that's terribly useful.

As such, I'm going to try and describe the trail runs we do, so if you're looking for info on a trail, you have some idea of what's going on.

Here's the map of the trail and here's Audubon Dallas' page on the preserve.

The route we took ended up being right at 5 miles:
  1. Start on Cattail Pond Trail and skip the entrances to Possumhaw Trail (or do this one and tack on ~.5 mile, which I'd probably do next time).
  2. Turn off on Cedar Break Trail and do the whole thing until you run back into Cattail Pond trail.
  3. Take off on Fossil Valley Trail (the one I read was quite hard... more on difficultly later).
  4. At the end of Fossil Valley, take Escarpment Trail. 
  5. Then take the Bluebonnet Trail loop when you get to it, and that pretty much ends back in view of the parking lot.
Cedar Break is a mix of easy and challenging sections, but honestly, if you can do it, you can do Fossil Valley, too. Take a break to enjoy the little lookout at Cattail Pond the Boy Scouts built before heading up Escarpment because that SOB is uphill the whole damn way.

Bluebonnet is pleasant and fairly easy, but in the middle where it cuts back, there's a Trail sign with an arrow pointing back the way you just came, and there are two other directions to go. One is downhill and one is uphill. Take the uphill. The downhill goes down to a residential area and you sure don't want to have to climb back up it to get back on the real trail.

There's another unmarked fork in the road earlier on in this otherwise well-marked route, but I can't remember where exactly (end of Fossil Valley maybe?). If you get to it, go to the right, the more well-traveled path.

Both Rosie and I are in pretty good cardio shape, but we were both shocked by how much huffing and puffing we were doing at various times throughout the run. I felt my quads burning during some of the climbs, so it's a great workout. It was amazing to watch another runner (with a Dallas Fire and Rescue shirt on) bound past us on a rocky, rooty portion that we were walking.

I never fell, but I sure slipped on muddy/wet rocks pretty significantly a few times. My ice skating skills come in handy, I guess. 99% of any step ups or "stair"-like terrain are well-maintained, so you're not really having to scramble up large drop-offs.

Also, if you want the avoid the uphill Escarpment climb, you can do this route in reverse, but hills are good for you, so don't do that. ;)

Anyway, really lovely trail and no bikes. Only hikers and runners (and a few dogs) as far as I could tell, so you don't have to worry about getting creamed around the next corner. Plus a few lake (Joe Pool) views along the way, and a fun lookout tower you can climb up and take pics of valley below:

Happy running!

DRC Half Marathon 2013

Boy was I nervous about this race. Somehow, on Thursday before the race, I aggravated the old hamgroinstring injury that had plagued me during the Tyler half, and it was far worse than it was before Tyler.

After agonizing and fretting and even considered bailing on the race, I foam rolled and alternated ice and heat trying to get blood flowing and relax the muscles around the injury, which I could tell were having sympathy anger.

That helped a bunch, and the night before the race, I taped it all up really well with KT tape and that seemed to help immediately.

Since this was the DRC half, most of my running group was also running. One lives right by the start, so I parked at her house and we walked over to the race to warm up and meet our group. Our pace leader was going to pace 2:35-2:40, but my goal was 2:30, so I knew I could start with them to avoid going out too fast, and then once I'm warm, let my body tell me what it was up for.

After a couple of miles, another runner, Rachel, who was aiming for 2:30 but working through IT band issues, and I started to pull ahead of the group. I kept tabs on our pace, trying to hold us at 11:25-11:30 average running 3:1 intervals.

Around mile 9, the path narrows a bit, so Rachel got behind me and she was having to stop and stretch occasionally to keep her IT band from getting so angry. It wasn't long before I didn't see her around me anymore, and around the same time, I remembered that courses were never 13.1 on the nose. If you're lucky they're 13.2 or 13.3, but Tyler was 13.6 and I'd done my pace calculation for 13.1.

I was feeling good, other than my usual hip flexor tightness, so I decided I needed to run as fast as I comfortably could while keeping enough energy to finish strong. I had time to make up if I wanted to make sure I hit 2:30 since I had no idea how long the course really was.

You can see by my splits where I had this realization between miles 9 and 10. And where, between 12 and 13, I started to feel a little woozy and had to back off my pace a little. But once the finish line was in sight, I put everything I had into the "sprint" to the end. I just had this feeling if I didn't, I wouldn't make my time, and if I was just seconds from hitting 2:30, I was going to be really, really disappointed to left anything in the tank.

So, I ran and ran. Of course, we were in the third "slow people" corral, so the gun time was well off, but I thought my Runkeeper time was probably pretty accurate and it was 2:30:45. Ended up with my chip time being 2:30:34, so I'm calling that mission accomplished. But imagine if I hadn't stepped up the pace! Man, I'd be SO disappointed to have come so close and not gone for it. It was well worth pounding through the finish with my mouth agape from sucking wind and looking anything but victorious. Who cares? I made my goal time!

There were 5 things I cared about after the race:
  1. WATER: In fact, I breathlessly said, "Thank you. Where's water?" to the girl handing me my medal. "Right behind us." "Perfect."
  2. FOOD: Oh man, the line for the food tent was so long and I was hurting and couldn't imagine standing still in line for as long as it looked like it would take. 
  3. BEER: Dammit, the line for the beer area was even longer than the food line.
  4. MASSAGE: Ah! A short line! That 10 minutes felt really luxurious. It wasn't so much massage as skilled, gentle stretching, which felt amazing. Well worth missing beer and food for. 
  5. FRIENDS: I saw one of my running group folks while I was in line for massage, and then found the one whose house I parked at just as I got off the massage table. Unfortunately didn't see Rosie (who ran 2:08 for Pete's sake! I heard her yelling for me as I crossed the finish but was too focused to acknowledge her in the moment, but I think she left by the time I got done with massage) or anybody else, but you win some and lose some. 
We walked back to my friend's house and I headed home to an ice bath hubs had drawn for me. Yowza. I have no idea if it helped, though. I still had my usual 2 days of recovery before I even wanted to think about running, and my first run on Wednesday to the gym and back (1.7 miles each way) was not great, but not due to soreness. I was just excited to run and went too fast at the start. And then doing dumbbell squats at the gym didn't help my run back. Plus it's big rolling hills between here and there. Blah blah blah.

As you can see from my splits and the elevation changes, the DRC course was quite flat, so it's a great PR course, with hills only in the middle where you're still feeling good. Good course support and nice familiar terrain since we train on those very streets. But next time, I'd check a bag with chocolate milk and a banana so I wouldn't have to wait in line for sustenance.

Up next is the Turkey Trot 8M on Thanksgiving and then the Isle du Bois 18k trail run on Dec. 6. Rosie and I are running trails on Tuesday (smooth/flat) and Saturdays (technical) until that race and did our first at Cedar Ridge Preserve on Saturday. It was really lovely and took 1:45 to run/hike the 5 miles of trail we pieced together. What a totally different experience trail running is and how much more fun it is with a friend! I feel very fortunate to have found a like-minded runner to have adventures with.

I want to get back to doing MWF at the gym and probably doing very easy runs there (weather permitting) on Monday and Wednesday. Then doing speed work on Thursdays. Very much looking forward to this month of training. Lots of diversity in the cards!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The Restlessness

It's always after an easy-feeling, pleasant run that I feel this restlessness. This itch to improve, to figure out the next thing and how to get there. I've spent the last hour and half looking at advanced half marathon training plans and hunting down a nearby school track to do speed work.

After spending Sunday sulking about my duathlon times, I feel back on the wagon. Screw the bike. Hockey is my cross-training, so I don't really need it. Running is my jam, baby. Let's do this thing.

Here's how it plays out:
  • I have the DRC Half on Sunday, Nov. 3. I'm setting a 2:30 goal. It's a stretch goal, so it isn't one of those "pout if I don't get it" goals, but it's my goal. This is a mostly flat, very familiar course and if I can average 10:30 run intervals and 14:00 walk intervals doing 3:1 intervals, I can reach this goal. I was doing 9:30 run intervals and 14:00 walk intervals on the 15k when I got hurt. If I can dial that back a smidge, avoid angering the hamstring, and not have to stop to pee or anything, then I can do it.
  • Our DRC training runs through the Dallas Marathon on Sunday, Dec. 7, but since I already had 2 road halfs scheduled and the Dallas is crazy expensive, I decided to sign up for the Isle du Bois 18k trail run on Dec. 6. 
  • Trail running is a different animal, so I need to train up for it, which means moving long runs on Saturdays to the trails. Maybe not all of them but probably 3 of the 4 post-DRC Half. Rosie is doing IDB with me, so I'll have some good company.

And that's it for 2013. Well, the 8M Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving, but that's kind of a throwaway, shits and giggles, earn-your-pie race. (FYI, last year I did the Houston Turkey Trot 5k and it was an all out, exhausting effort to run that. I think the most I'd done was 4 miles and this year I'm shrugging at 8 miles. How amazing is that??)

So, the point is, I'm all out of races after Dec. 6! And that's only like a month away! Ack! Then what???

I'd considered seriously signing up for the New Years Eve half in Allen, but now I'm thinking to skip that and start a new half marathon training program. That would give me a few light weeks while allowing me to start integrating legitimate speed work without the pressure of another race on the near horizon.

I hate to not run with a group but I really don't know of a group that will have the timing (not waiting until mid January to start) and elements I want (real speed and hill work while still letting me do run/walk for the long distances).

What's more, the RunOn Speed Training class starts on Jan. 21 and I'd love to do that, but it would conflict with DRC Tuesday runs, so that's money wasted.

So, I think I'm going to have to strike out on my own (and maybe try and bring some folks with me).

I'm considering Hal Higdon's Intermediate or Advanced Half Marathon program. If I did the Advanced, I'd have to shove the whole week back a day to put the long run on Saturday and make Sunday a rest day and put weight training on Tue/Thu/Fri.

Or if I did Intermediate, I'd have to replace some speed days with hill days. After all that work I did for Tyler, I'm not letting my climbing muscles shrivel up.

Anyway, it's 1:30 a.m. and I may read this with a clearer mind in the morning and think I've lost my marbles, so I better post this now as evidence of what The Restlessness does to a girl on a runner's high. It's dangerous stuff. I love it.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Esprit de She Duathlon - Dallas - 2013

I debated for weeks on whether to do this race. The challenge was intriguing: 5k run/18m bike/5k run.

For one, I'm not much of a short distance runner. I honestly think I'd need to run at least a mile before a 5k in which I actually wanted to do well. For two, I'm not a cyclist. I have a bike, I can ride it okay, but I don't particularly enjoy it. I can run hills and feel like Wonder Woman, just chewing them up, but on a bike? Ugh. I just feel like gravity is conspiring against me. Biking hills hits my "Uncle!" button way faster than just about anything.

But the description said the course was fast and flat, and I had a friend from Houston racing it, so I said, "What the hell. YOLO, right?"

In the last couple of months, I added a bike day to my training each week, and then started adding runs after those and even a bike/run/bike/run interval day to prepare for this race. I felt like I'd done as much as I could given my other training goals, and would fare pretty well.

But earlier in the week, I joined the Community Recreation Center up the street and started my weight training program. Wednesday's workout included deadlifts, and either I did them wrong or used too heavy a weight, but the lifts just wrecked my hamstrings. And if you recall, I already had a gimpy hamstring from three weeks earlier. Doh!

Fortunately, it was the OTHER hamstring muscles that got goobered up by the deadlifts and not the one that was hurt before (the more medial one). Then on Thursday, I did a pretty hard stride run that I knew at the time might come back to bite me. But it felt so good, I couldn't help myself. And indeed, by Saturday morning, my hammies were talking to me with every step, much less every running step, and my legs felt anything but fresh.

And from the first half mile of the 5k, I knew it wasn't going to be a day of stellar times. After researching pace strategies for duathlons, I decided going comfortably hard for the first 5k and just muddling through the second 5k with whatever was left was my strategy. The second one was going to suck regardless, so make up time where you can.

The first 5k was still in the range of 11 minute miles, which isn't all that great for me by any means. AND, that "flat and fast" promise? Uh uh. One portion was on a trail that was flat and fast but the rest of it was rolling hills and I just didn't have my hill chewing teeth that day. I guess I can chew hills over long distances because the walk breaks that I use to stay fresh become less consequential time-wise yet more valuable energy-wise the longer I go, but for short distances, I just don't know how to manage it.

But we got it over (we being me and Rosie, my friend from the DRC running group) and headed to the bike transition. My first few strides on the bike felt SO good. My quads were still pretty fresh despite the hills and it felt great to use new muscles, so I just flew through the first few miles. And indeed most of the bike route was flat. However, there was a STRONG headwind for nearly half the out and back loop, which we did twice. Every American flag on the route was standing straight out parallel to the road we were on. So, into the wind FELT like riding uphill, and blessedly, the other direction was very fast and easy thanks to the tail wind.

However, as the bike route went on, you did finally hit a hill. Of course, going down it was amazing. I just hunched down, tried to reduce my wind drag, and coasted. On the way back, though, into the wind and up a pretty steep hill was pretty bad. The second loop around, it was straight up AWFUL. We all agreed that that was the worst part of the race.

The second worst part of the race was a hill on the second half of run that neither of us even remembered being there on the first 5k. There were some longhorns in a field and that's all we remembered from the first 5k. The second 5k, I didn't even see the longhorns because I was cursing that hill! My legs were so miserable by the second 5k that pain didn't matter anymore. My legs were just tired and I knew my overall time wasn't going to be anything to brag about, so I didn't grind as hard as I could have. I have a half marathon next weekend and didn't want to blow a hammy or something else stupid on this race.

So I walked some of each of those hills on the second 5k. The cycling just sapped my spirit and my climbing muscles (moreso my spirit, I'd say) and I just couldn't find the will to get to the top.

I'm always happy to see a finish line, but usually in a "woo! I did it!" way. This time it was in a "Woo! It's over!" way. I did my best but my best was disappointing to me on this day.

I was very proud of my friends, however, who rocked it. Rosie beat me by a good margin, and my Houston friend won first in her age group! So proud of my girls and very inspired by their success.

Some items of note from this race:
  • Very nice free 15 minute shoulder massages afterward. My shoulders were up to my ears on that bike ride, so that was a great perk that probably saved me from a raging tension headache later in the day. Also some really tasty food and drinks, even though we never made it to the bubbly bar. Also, nice cycling jerseys instead of tech shirts and very pretty medals. A very good swag race.
  • The bike route ended up stopping a line of cars half a mile long. Lots of irate drivers, a few shouting encouragement, and one guy... well, he made the most of his time and pulled out his flute (not a euphemism, a real silver flute) and started playing it with the window down while he waiting in our little traffic jam. Bravo!
  • The lady on the second 5k who panted and moaned like she was having an orgasm (or working on it) the entire time I was in earshot. Now, I know you must think I'm exaggerating, but I'm serious. If you heard these noises on the other side of a door, you would assume someone was being very well serviced in there. It was unbelievable! I don't know if she was in pain or couldn't help it or what but it did at least serve to make me turn on the jets to get away from it. It was very disconcerting!
Today (Sunday) I have two hockey games this evening but am so worn down that I'm basically hiding under the covers until I can't any more. But I am still looking forward to the DRC half on Sunday. Should be plenty of time to taper, rest, and get my legs back under me. Luckily I'm not very sore today. Just drained.

Overall, I'd do it again, but I'd do more hill work on my bike and work on my 5k to prepare and I'd taper better so my legs were fresher. In the end, though, I enjoy straight road running much more. Way less complicated, I can just zone out and go, and it's easier to gauge my competition, which is what drives me later in the long runs.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Tyler Rose Half Marathon 2013

So, it might not have been the smartest idea ever to choose, as my first half marathon, the one that makes all the runners in the North Texas area go, "Whoa... HILLS."

But I think I've made it pretty clear by now that I'm just winging it and if it looks like I did something quite smart, I mostly just got lucky. For example, mid-October weather is highly unpredictable weather in north Texas. So, to sign up for the Tyler Rose is to potentially sign up to run non-stop hills in super-humid 80 degree weather.

This very real threat smacked me in the face the morning before the race when I opened my back door in Dallas to let the dogs out. Warm and oppressively humid. Houston humid. I first thought about my poor running group doing 11 training miles that morning, and then thought, "Oh crap, this better blow out by tomorrow."

It was humid and yucky and drizzly all the rest of the day. I kept checking the weather hoping this was the ugly end of a cold front blowing through, but the 5 weather apps on my phone refused to budge off lows in the mid 60s and highs in the high 70s with nearly 100% humidity for Sunday.

"Run? On THESE hills, Doctor?" - Rose Tyler
What have I done?

Fortunately, Saturday's warmth abated, cloud cover kept the sun from being a factor, and the light mist in the air kept me from overheating, despite the sweat dripping off my fingertips as I ran. I might not have felt smart for signing up, but at least I didn't feel dumb for it either.

 I knew when I signed up for the race, I had two main challenges: First is that my longest training run had been 10.5 miles. I was throwing this race in a little ahead of where we were on the schedule. Second, those hills. I read race reports, I asked people who'd run it. I said, "So, what kind of hills were they? Long slow hills? Short steep hills? LONG, STEEP HILLS??"

All the kinds of hills, they said. Okay. I live in a hilly neighborhood with all the kinds of hills, and our training runs included hills (both on our Tuesday night runs where we did a few hill repeat workouts, and on our long runs around White Rock Lake neighborhoods). I figured the best I could do was devote all my Thursday runs to hill work in my own neighborhood. So that's what I did. Dutifully, every Thursday, 3-5 miles of hills.

I didn't know if I'd done enough, but at least I could sleep easy and know that I did as much as I could for where I'm at in my training.

The DRC 15k Loop club race the Saturday before threw another challenge my way, when my overzealous speed, thanks to my determination to beat the pants off the girl in the Pujols shirt, led to me pulling my hamstring. PUJOLS! (I beat her soundly, BTW, so it was worth every painful step.)

So, now I'm running:
  • My first half marathon
  • It's super hilly
  • I'm slightly injured
  • It's humid, and
  • I'm nowhere close to finishing my half marathon training.
I wasn't sure what my goals were for the race other than to just get through it, but as race day came within reach, it clarified for me.

Three main things:
  1. No racing; run training pace and enjoy the journey. Even if Pujols himself lopes past me. Do. Not. Chase.
  2. Don't make the injury worse.
  3. Finish strong and smiling.
I had a time of 2:45 in my head as respectable, but given all the unknowns, I just couldn't tie any goals to time. I had to listen to my body and do what I needed to do (even if that meant stopping at a port-a-potty midway so I could run a more comfortable race... man, I hate stopping and I hate port-a-potties).

So, when Runkeeper kept telling me at nearly every mile marker that I was clocking an average pace of exactly 12:33, I knew I was meeting goal #1. That's a little faster than my group training pace, but my instinct during races is closer to 11 and I'd had easily beat that into submission. Happy.

I felt my hamstring maybe once the whole race. I'd put KT tape on it and between that and taking it easy and running my natural stride (not too short, not too long), it was a non-issue. Happy.

The final mile and change of the race has two big uphills. As I was approaching the 12 mile marker, my phone gave me the ol' "7% battery" warning. Shit. I was NOT losing this race data! So I decided to ditch my 2:1 intervals and run it in. I felt great and knew I had this final push in me so long as my hamstring stayed quiet.

And so, I ran. And I felt strong. And entered the rose garden and there were my parents cheering me in and the guy announcing my name and the photographers and the finish arch and the people handing out medals and bottles of water and the astroturf or grass or whatever the green under me was, was so soft on my tired feet. I finished strong and smiling. Happy.

I'll admit to a tinge of disappointment in my time, but when you factor in the 5 minute potty stop (3 women ahead of me), I really wasn't that far off the mark with my 2:53 finish.

Once I gathered myself and thought about the race with some clarity, the one goal I was afraid to set was the one I met and am most proud of: Conquering those hills.

Because I never once thought how bad the hills were. I think maybe one time, a fairly short hill was steep enough that I had to swing my arms a little higher to keep my steady pace up it. I passed people by the dozens on those hills, especially late in the race, especially that last mile, when people who'd passed me miles ago were now slowed to a waddle up these final ascents. 

I was READY for those hills. I whooped those hills. I finished saying, "What hills?" and meant it without an ounce of false bravado. I really thought, "What is the fuss?" And yet in the days after the race, I see tons of, "OMG that course nearly killed me!"

I'm here to tell you, there's nothing to be scared of on this course if you've put your work in. And for what it's worth, I'd characterize most of the hilliness as longer slopes of moderate incline but not much break from the ups and downs either. Do your work and you'll eat those hills for breakfast.

After sweatyhugging my parents, I drank my chocolate milk, ate a banana nut muffin I'd brought (apparently you had to walk up stairs to get to the post race pizza, so no thanks) and hit the road for Dallas. My hip flexors are my achilles heel at the moment (just started working on fixing that) so they were screaming when I got home. I took a nice long nap and then went and played hockey that night.

Not surprisingly, the lingering soreness the next couple of days was in my quads. I worked most of it out of my right (dominant) leg at hockey getting up off the ice, but my left was sore for 2 days after that. Go figure. I really don't understand how the human body works sometimes.

But add playing hockey to the list of victories that day. I honestly thought I would make a mess of it, but we actually ended up winning the game and my stiff legs didn't snap off like I was worried they might.

All in all, I'd call my first half marathon a raging success. Maybe not on the clock but in every other way, from training to mental strength, it was an amazingly rewarding day.