Sunday, March 23, 2014

Rock n' Roll Half Marathon - Dallas 2014

Nothing like a great race to make up for a lousy one. I won't bury the lead: 2:22:14 (and according to Runkeeper, I really ran 13.57, so I totally did 13.1 below my stretch goal of 2:20 -- Woot!)

I ended up running 3/:45 intervals pretty much the whole way. My only mistake was not bringing my ear buds (there was music provided on the course, so I didn't figure I'd need it), but it was a crowded, noisy course and I couldn't always hear the cues to run or walk. Fortunately, I had a pretty good sense for it and was able to fake it pretty accurately when necessary.

I really wanted to try and cut the tangents but man, the course is way too crowded, start to finish, for that. As you can see, you really can add a lot of mileage between that and dodging slower runners. That's the only frustrating thing about run/walk: I'm running a pretty good clip when I run (9:30 min/mile on average), so I'm doing pretty much nothing but passing for 3 minutes. Then *SCREECH* I'm walking for 45 seconds and half of them are passing me again, so I have to wind my way around them all over again.

The course was tough, but tough in the way you'd want a course to be tough. Mostly uphill (with a couple of good downhills) the entire first half, and then pretty much flat/downhill the second half. Or at least that's what I thought looking at the elevation. But really, the downhill/flats don't start until mile 8. So we hit mile 7 and I'm still looking at the crowd ahead of me going uphill. It was not super steep but by then, you're feeling it and my walk breaks were getting longer. It definitely affected me mentally. Lesson learned to be more precise when I look at elevation charts before a race! I think if I'd known it was coming at mile 8, I could have stopped the, "What if it never comes?" negativity in my head.

Does that number seem right? The low elevation was 400 something, peak was 600 something. How did I possibly climb 5000+ feet?
Luckily, 2 things saved me. The first was my beautiful pal Rosie on the side of the course, giving me a hug and cheering me on and generally being her usual encouraging, wonderful self. What a sight for sore eyes and flagging spirits. She'd ridden her bike there, and then rode to another point to see me again. This time, I was already pumped up from an encounter I'd just had, which was "thing that saved me" #2:

I was on a walk break (45 seconds, mind you), and this girl runs past me, turns back to me and says, "Keep at it! Walking only makes it take longer!"

Now, I suspect she thought she was being encouraging or helpful somehow, but I looked her in the eye and said, "I do run/walk. It's fine." Another girl next to me said, "Yeah, me, too." We rolled our eyes at each other in understanding, and the offending girl smiled sheepishly and plodded on.

And a few seconds later, my run prompt sounded and I passed her and never saw her again. But I did see my run/walk friend again, who said, "I guess we left our 'runner' friend behind." Hahahaha!

So, thank you, judgy girl, for lighting a fire under me for the last few miles. If all else failed, I knew I'd still won because I was beating you. xoxo

As far as the race organization and whatnot, it was good. My only beef is that the exit from the post-race festival led you to a parking lot at the opposite end of Fair Park from where the train comes. So I added two miles, during which I called my husband and cried in frustration, as well as stopping twice just to sit down and rest for a minute. But that's my fault for being too out of it to be aware of my surroundings. A sign would have been nice though. Like a really big sign.

It was pretty funny though watching everybody walk to their cars. It was like the Walking Dead... a huge crowd just sort of lurching slowly along.

One more note on my interval strategy: LOVED it. More to the point, the :45 second walk break instead of 1 minute felt great. It was enough to recover, except in a few hilly parts, without feeling like I was leaving any speed on the table unnecessarily. Like, I think :30 would be too little to properly recover and sustain that run pace the full distance.

I also ran the downhills regardless of intervals. There were a few good ones where I knew I could steal some time without putting much extra energy in, so I just kept going through the walk intervals.

What this race does is show me that if I can find a less crowded race so I can cut the tangents and keep the distance down, or a flatter race where the hills don't suck so much energy out of me, I can get that sub 2:20 officially.

But I'll worry about that later, in the fall, most likely. For now,  it's only 3 weeks until the Possum Kingdom 20k, which I have no time aspirations for, other than probably to get it over with at some point. Really looking forward to that and getting back on the trails a bit for something different.

All in all, very happy with my race today. Really couldn't have expected better from any aspect of it. I'm feeling very grounded in my running now. I'm healthier than I've been (THANK YOU, ERIN!!), and while I'm stiff today, I know a good night of rest and I'll be much better tomorrow. I definitely feel better than I expected to after that pace.

The best part? I've done very little other than eat and sit around. And we're going out for milkshakes in a bit. :) Yay running!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Speed Class Wrap-Up

After 8 weeks of training, we had our end of training 5k Tuesday night, with the promise of pizza, beer, and a little social time after. It was just a neighborhood route (thankfully the track was taken, so we didn't have to circle that damn thing 12+ lousy times), and maps out about right, so I feel good when I say that I PR'd that sucker!

Finished with a 29:40, which is well above the 8 minute/mile goal pace they somehow calculated for me. I can run about 1/4 mile at that pace and I'm wheezing, so that's clearly way off. But a sub-30 5k has been my goal pretty much since I started running, so it was cool to see that come to fruition.

I learned a lot from this class, but very different things from what I expected to learn. I thought it would be like picking up my current range of paces and shifting them all down together. But I found that my fastest pace didn't improve at all. In fact, between gaining some weight in going back to work and sitting at my desk 50 hours a week and having considerably less time to work out, I feel like my fastest pace actually got slower.

What happened, though, is that my easy and moderate paces have improved, in that they're a little faster and they feel a little easier. And since, as a distance runner, those paces are my bread and butter, I'm okay with that outcome. It's not a huge difference, but I feel stronger in general and I have more trust that I can push myself when I need to. Breathing hard, even for several miles, doesn't scare me like it used to.

The other thing I've learned is that I hate doing all run. Hate. It. And if I hated it but it made me measurably faster, I might be willing to suck it up. But it doesn't. I guarantee I'll run a faster half marathon Sunday doing 3/.45 intervals than if I tried to do all run. And I'll enjoy it more and finish feeling victorious rather than beaten down.

So, there you have it: My principle takeaway from 8 weeks of all-run speed training is that I'm going back to run/walk. Ha.

Seriously though, that Levee Run 10k was so shitty. I can definitely take some positives away from it, but the negatives, along with what I've learned about myself through this speed class, actually made me re-evaluate what I'm doing, what my goals are, what's best for me long term.

I realized that the fastest I ever want to run is what I think of as my "I'm free!" run. I have no idea what pace you'd call it, but it's my "running feels good and I'm not going to think about form or pace or anything. I'm just going to gallop along like a little kid." It's not so much a pace as a state of mind that's not beholden to timers and PRs and goals.

It's just running because it's fun and feels primal and epic.

I'm genuinely excited about Rock and Roll Half on Sunday. The weather is supposed to be perfect, I don't have any injuries, I feel like my head's in the right place. I'm just ready to have a great time and get back to having fun out there. And then eating ALL THE THINGS afterward.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Trinity River Levee Run 10k - 2014

Some races come into your life to make you love racing, and others are there to teach you some lessons. Levee Run was one of those lesson teachers, and since I've never learned anything the easy way, I'm not gonna lie... it sucked. And I PRd. But it still sucked.

I was SO jacked for this race. I'd been doing my speed class and getting stronger. I'd been continuing to get work done to fix my janky body, reducing pain and increasing efficiency. There was an Athena division, so I actually had bling to race for. I was feeling GOOD.

And then, from the starting gun, I fucked it all up. Ran a SUB-9:00 mile for mile 1 (with an uphill start, too boot). Way WAY too fast! I knew I was doing it while I did it, but I thought, "You've worked hard! You can handle this for six miles!"

Uh, no you can't, princess. I was struggling hard, even with a walk through the first water stop at (inexplicably) mile 1, I resumed that pace and finished mile 2 right around 18:00. Another 9 minute mile. This time, without a noisy water stop, I could hear my pace and said, "Whoa nelly!" and took my foot off the gas. But it was too late. I'd burned so much fuel on that start, I ended up having to take walk breaks to recover enough to keep going.

I probably took 3-4 walk breaks, including water stops, and I honestly felt like I was crawling at times. Which is actually the good part, because when I finally worked up the nerve to look at my splits, they were really quite respectable for feeling like a crawl.

You can see where mile 3, I struggled a bit more as I tried to recover. And then again for mile 5.

BUT, for a "struggling" pace, with walk breaks, 10:30ish isn't terrible for me. It makes me realize that if I can pace myself better (and I can, I just got excited and overconfident... normally I'm a consistent pacer), I can "comfortably uncomfortably" run 9:30-9:45 for a 10k distance. And I also know that I can run around 9 for a 5k. I definitely could have kept that pace up for another mile, but I would have been completely spent at the end.

It was very surreal to be in the throes of "OMG I fucked up that race so badly, I'm so disappointed in myself, that was awful, how many times did I think, 'I'm never running again after this!'"  and then to have Runkeeper show this:

Um. Yay? I knew I could have done better and this PR was just an eyelash over my last PR, and it was SUCH an unpleasant run, it was just like, "Yuck. PR, shmee are."

I spent the rest of the day just exhausted to the bone. We went to a Stars game and thankfully that woke/cheered me up a bit. But it's still a blur the rest of that day. It's amazing how hard 10ks are. I think that's why I like them so much. You can really just wring yourself out in that hour (or less, hopefully, next time) and feel like you've accomplished something.

As for the race itself, I cannot recommend it. Other than going over the bridge, there is nothing to look at. It goes mostly through the warehouse part of the design district. *yawn* The big white bridge is the highlight, and it was so foggy you couldn't see it. Plus they bussed in all these people to cheer on the bridge since it was near the start and finish, but I was struggling so badly, it was mostly just an annoyance to have cowbells and screaming when I just wanted to finish and crawl in a hole.

It's well organized with some good booths and apparently beer after, but the route just can't make up for it. Maybe it would be better as a 5k.

Despite my exhaustion, I came out the other end fairly unscathed. My calves both hurt after, and still do today, but I've been dynamically stretching them to get those muscles to loosen up and they don't feel any worse this morning after a hard tempo (ladder drill) speed class last night.

This weekend, I have a crazy running schedule. Since my half marathon is well before it's supposed to be in our training schedule, but I don't want to overtrain, I'm stealing from ultra marathoners and doing a longer "tired leg" run of 6 miles on Sunday after 9 miles (including 4 at HM pace) on Saturday. At least, that's the plan.

But the next weekend I'll taper with just the Greenville Dash 5k with my coworkers, which I don't think I'll be able to race that due to the crowds and craziness (which, if I'd known, I don't think I'd have bothered to sign up... too early out of bed for a 5k that I can't PR). And then the weekend after that is Rock and Roll! And then a couple of trail runs before Possum Kingdom! Amazing how my dance card fills up with training!

Fortunately, only one more week of speed class. It's been fantastic, but starting that AND a very busy new job (working 11 hour days lately), has been a lot. I feel like I have zero free time. In fact,even this is stolen time, as I woke up at 2:30 (not on purpose) and decided to try to get some trim painting done that I've been working on since last Friday, but decided to update the blog instead. I think I'll go grab a few more winks before I have to go back to the office. :)

Happy running!