Sunday, June 29, 2014

(Farewell) Week in Review

44 Miles
6 Runs
1 Day Off
6 Farewells

This week was difficult on many levels.  Instead of taking some time off to recover from Grandma's Half Marathon, I decided to run every morning from the Dowd YMCA.  This ensured I had a chance to say goodbye to everyone that has helped me achieve my goals over the last six years.  At first it was a chore as I crawled out of bed each morning very early and I questioned why I wasn't sleeping in like a normal person after  a big PR.  But after I set out the door each morning and was greeted by multiple friends giving me a high five, I knew exactly why I had listened to my alarm clock.  All my Charlotte friends are freaking awesome and it took months, if not years, to build these relationships.  So every morning I ran and every morning I knew that Danielle and Billy would be there, and even Michelle most days.  Others joined as they could and I enjoyed my easy recovery runs with these folks.  However, as the week drew closer to my moving day (Friday), I began to wish it was just over.  I felt like I was at this weird transition point where I was no longer a part of Charlotte but I also wasn't a part of Durham yet.  I was ready to say goodbye to my friends here so that I could begin building relationships with those folks in Durham.

And so with that, I watched All My Sons Moving pack up my entire house into a van and unpack it all again in Durham.  Within just 8 hours, I was no longer a part of Charlotte.  The focus for this week wasn't about running, it was about getting in those last final runs with friends before saying farewell.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

2014 Grandma's Half Marathon Recap

Goal #1: PR 1:17:45 5:52 pace = 1:17:01
Goal #2: 1:16:xx 5:50 pace = 1:16:28
Goal #3: 1:15:xx 5:47 pace = 1:15:48 (5:44 pace = 1:15:10)

All 3 Goals
1:14:249th place female, $400

Some stats:
5 minutes and 56 seconds faster than last year's race (28s faster per mile)
3 minutes and 21 seconds faster than my previous PR (16s faster per mile)
Every 5k in 17:34-17:38

Important Splits:  5k @ 17:34, 10k @ 35:09, 10 miles @ 56:46 (new PR by almost 2 minutes)

Mile by mile splits by race markers:
5:36 (16:59) and 5k in 17:35 ish
5:46 (22:45)
5:47 (28:32)
5:29 (34:02) 10k in 35:10 ish
5:40 (39:43)
5:28 (45:22)
11:24 (56:46) with Lemon Drop Hill
5:39 (1:02:25)
5:39 (1:08:05)
6:19 (1:14:24)  last 5k in 17:38

A perfect race rarely happens. They are few and far between, kind of like those important life moments you're "supposed" to cross off your list in the right order: go to college, marry someone special, have a kid. Prior to today, I truly only had experienced a perfect race once: at the 2010 Twin Cities Marathon. Under the tutelage of Coach Mark Hadley, I negative split and ran the fastest miles in the final 10k to qualify for the Olympic Trials Marathon in my debut race. 

Four years later, I am a different runner and, honestly, I am a different person.  I'm married...I've got a different coach Terry Shea.  In terms of running, I've been through a lot: mostly a lot of great moments, interspersed with very few bad moments that have greatly shaped who I am today and the path I'm about to embark on. I'm more serious, a bit tougher, and I know how to dream bigger, but more realistically. 

I'm about to move to a new city for my husband.  I'm about to begin an incredibly challenging executive MBA program while continuing working full time for Bank of America, albeit without my co workers just a cubicle away. I am about to say goodbye to all of my friends and co workers who have been there for me countless times.  

I'm about to change everything I've known for the past six years and it's flipping scary. 

But it's also very good. Change is good. A new start is good. I'm not saying goodbye to my friends, I'm just saying see you soon.  Eventually I'll find a community in Durham and I'll laugh at how big of a deal I thought this was. I will be just fine and that's what I am focusing on over these next few transition weeks and months. 

I keep telling myself all these things, but I'm still dreading Sunday, June 29th because it means it has happened...that my new life chapter has begun but the pages haven't been written yet.  And yet that unknown is exactly what keeps life interesting.  

Similarly, before the Grandmas Half Marathon this weekend, the chapter hadn't been written yet. I had a vague idea of what could likely happen, but I didn't know for sure. 

I never do.  

There are so many uncontrollables in races of this distance. You could have bathroom issues.  There could be a headwind, intense heat or torrential downpours.  You could get injured.  Or, you could just have a really bad day for no real good reason. 

Yet you can't focus on the things you can't control. Just like I can't change the fact that I am moving to Durham, I can control my outlook on what's to come and focus on the positive. And so I did the same for this race. I focused on what I could control: my attitude. 

I knew I had put in the work necessary to achieve a nice PR. I knew I was physically and mentally prepared to run 1:15. But I didn't know that I could run 1:14. Frankly, I thought running low-1:15  would be best case scenario and most realistic. I don't even know if Coach T-Bone knew!  Today, I surprised myself. 

And it's fan-freaking-tastic to surprise yourself!

Granted, things didn't go exactly smoothly leading up to the race. Southwest lost Michelle's luggage and so on Friday we embarked on a grand tour to go to (1) Target for clothes, (2) Gear Running for Newton shoes and (3) Lululemon for a race outfit. It literally was going to be a tour of the entire Twin Cities metropolitan area. Selfishly,  I was probably more stressed than Michelle because I was anxious to get on the road to Duluth because I'm an anal-retentive selfish friend. Miraculously, Michelle got a call from Southwest right before we checked out at Target...the first leg of our grand tour. I let out an internal sigh of relief. Problem solved and everyone happy, (mainly me because Michelle and Eric didn't give a crap about our arrival time to Duluth) we hopped in the car, sped to baggage claim and retrieved Michelle's coveted luggage. 

When we arrived in Duluth, it was 40 degrees...a whole 50 degrees cooler than it had been in Charlotte.  A shock to my system, I was glad packed my jeans last minute.  As uncomfortable as the temperature was to casually walk around in, it was perfect racing weather.    

Things got a little hectic the morning of the race.  A throbbing headache was threatening to tear away all motivation as I stepped off the shuttle that dropped us off just a mere 30 minutes before the start.  I was a little nervous and anxious as I walked through a sea of 5,000 runners to make it to the elite area, but I kept my emotions in check and reminded myself about how prepared I was.  I also remembered what Meagan had told me about her breakthrough performance at ATM - how the quick pace just felt right and wasn't even hard.  I prepared myself for that feeling and it was my inspiration for the day. After a short warmup with Alex Cadicamo, I finally stepped up to the start line feeling mentally prepared to kill it. 

Five rows back from the start line, the bull horn went off and my legs began moving at what felt like a pedestrian pace.  I positioned myself behind a group of about four women and forced myself not to look at my Garmin for pace quite yet. After about 1000 meters, I finally decided to look and was surprised to find 5:34 pace because it felt that easy and natural.  That was the story for the next 11.5 miles.  I wasn't even breathing hard and was entirely relaxed.  I tried to count the number of women in front of me and lost count after 15, so I decided to forget about place for the moment.

Up until mile five, I was either leading our small pack of women or tucking in behind some helpful guys that had the same goal as me.  There was one minor hitch in my race plan, when I got a bad ab cramp in the middle of my stomach. It wasn't a side stitch.  Rather it felt like the exact same cramp I got just 10 days ago in a workout.  A guy sped past me as I tried to ignore the pain and so I tucked in behind him so I wouldn't falter.  This strategy worked and by the 10k mark, the feeling passed.  After I hit the halfway point, I started  passing women.  Four girls down and I thought maybe I had a chance of being in the top ten, but I still didn't know for sure. 

At mile 9, Lemon Drop Hill came and went as if it wasn't really there.  I didn't feel like I had slowed much and I passed another girl here which gave me some extra speed.  My body still wasn't going into survival mode and my legs were still carrying my body downhill as if they had a mind of their own.  The climax of the race - that moment when I knew I was going to run really, really fast for me - was when I finally looked at the cumulative time on my Timex watch at the 10 miler marker.  

It said 56:46.  

I couldn't help but let a huge smile spread across my entire face.  At the same time, a tingling sensation passed through my entire body because it was in that moment that I knew.  I knew that I was going to achieve a big goal that had eluded me for the past two years.  At the same moment, a spectator spotted me and informed me that I was in 9th place.  I told myself: You've so got this.  

I kept expecting the slow, painful death march to the finish to come, but it never really did.  The worst I felt was in the last mile but not because my body was dying, but more because I was so annoyed with the sharp turns and the change in momentum they caused.  Since I had seen my 10 mile split, I knew that I was going to break 1:15 by a fair amount and stopped caring as much to kick it in and hurt the most.  And so you'll see that basically I ran a completely even race, with most of my 5k splits ranging from 17:34-17:38 at the slowest.  In the final straightaway to the finish, I broke into a smile again because damnit was I going to look happy as I crossed that finish line.  

After I crossed the finish line, it was somewhat anti-climatic.  I didn't know anyone in the chute and I didn't have anyone there to cheer me in.  And then I saw Billy, Alice's dad, who had convinced a group of fans next to him to cheer me in to the finish line while he took a sweet video of my final strides.  After I gave him a quick hug of thanks, I scanned the chute to find any women I may know.  When I didn't, I grabbed my bag and fished out my phone with frozen hands and called my coach.  Terry was the first person I wanted to talk to.  Not my husband, not my parents, but my coach.  I couldn't have done this without his guidance (and also probably not without Laurie's help on all my workouts).  We had a quick chat before I met Alex to cool down back to the hotel.  

As I settled into my warm hotel room, I thought about how drastically different this race experience was than the previous two here had been.  In fact, my average time at this race from the past two years had been 1:19:04 (1:17:50 in '12 and 1:20:19 in '13). Both of those years, I never noticed the downhill miles and I only noticed the seemingly uphill miles or the sharp turns. This year it felt like a whole new race course.  I saw downhills that I didn't even know existed before.  I charged up a hill that I previously had thought was a mountain.  It's all about attitude, I swear!

I spent the rest of the morning tracking my marathon friends - Michelle, Eric and Alice - before heading down to the 25 mile marker to give them some final cheers of encouragement. This weekend was a great way to spend an intimate weekend with some close friends before making the final move to Durham.  At the very least, I know that I'll always have people to call upon for a quick getaway weekend for a fun race trip.  And for that, I'm grateful!

Below are my raw notes that I wrote after the race on my iPad so I wouldn't forget.  For those that may care (but mainly for my own record):
Mile 1 (5:36) - snuck in behind a solid pack of women. 
Mile 2 (5:45) - tried to count how many women were ahead of me and in my pack. By my own estimations, I was in 15th or higher.  I couldn't help but notice the small headwind. It was annoying. Tried to tuck into a girl in front of me. 
Mile 3 (5:36) - another fast mile but coach terry had told me miles 1,3 and 6 were fast
Mile 4 (5:46) - the pack of girls had tucked in behind me or fallen off. A man pulled along side to help me do the work and I asked him what he was aiming for. He said mid -:15. I said me too. He said we are ahead. I reassured him that miles 1 and 3 are fast so it was okay. I never saw him again.  
Mile 5 (5;47) - intense stomach / ab cramp, similar to one I got in a workout toe weeks ago.  At this point all the ladies from the pack had fallen back so some guys passed by me and I tucked in with them so I wouldn't lose my chance of a pr because of a stomach cramp. No matter what I was going to make my mind believe it wasn't there. 
Mile 6 (5:29) - 10k 34:10 obviously the stomach cramp went away and I was rolling down the hill with the guys. I tucked in behind them with another flanked by my side. It was fun.  One of the guys asked when we were going to catch the people ahed of us and I said soon.  He said we are maintaining pace. I said they will come back to us
Mile 7 (5:40) - started passing more women here. Women who I've looked up to and thing I could never beat. 
Mile 8 (5:38) - passed two more girls and encouraged them to come with me 
Mile 9-10 (11:24) - lemon drop hill was mile 9 and I didn't even notice the split. I didn't even feel bad yet. A man barreled past me and I told myself that didn't mean I was slowing down.  At mile 10, I finally paid attention to my cumulative time and saw 56:46 and got a huge tingling sensation all across my body and my face erupted into a ginormous smile because I just KNEW it was going to happen today and that no matter what I was going to break 1:15.  I had just broken my 10 miler PR en route to a half marathon by almost two minutes. I also still wasn't hurting yet and I was finally noticing that this course can be fast. All the downhills seemed to be placed there just for me.  Such a contrast to the prior years where my average time was 1:19. The course didn't seem fast then but not suddenly it did. 
Mile 11 - 5:39 still rolling with some guys. Not many had passed me and I just tucked in.  A man who sounded like a monster pulled alongside me and annoyed the crap out of me with his outrageous breathing noises. 
Mile 12 - 539 at 11.5 I started to hurt but not bad enough that I was going to slow down. 

Mile 31.1 - 6:19 in the last moments of the race I stopped caring about trying to kick because I knew that I was going to be sub 1:14:30 so I didn't kick as hard as I should have. 

Sunday, June 15, 2014

(Taper) Week in Review

58 Miles
6 Runs
1 Day off
0 Doubles
2 Workouts

This week can best be summed up with a countdown:

  • 6 Days until Grandma's Half Marathon
  • 12 Days until the movers come
  • 12 Days until my Accounting pre-homework is due
So basically all I've been doing is working, running, packing, and studying.  It's been good to keep busy before the race!

Saturday, June 14, 2014

MLR with 4M Progression

11-13 miles with 4-5 miles at 630m 620, 610, 600 and optional 5th mile at 550 or faster

7.4 mile warmup
4 miles in 24:19 via 6:21, 6:13, 5:56, 5:49
2.1 mile cool down for 13.5 miles total

Just seven days until Grandma's and the hard work is done. One final tempo was checked off the list today and so now all I need to do is get to the starting line! This morning, we had a large group from the Dowd for this one and it was nice to just put in some miles without even thinking about it.  Fortunately, the new guy from Illinois showed up and even though I can't remember if his name is Ryan or Brian, he still worked out with me.  I didn't even have to convince him!   There really isn't much else to report except that the quicker miles didn't even feel that hard.  Fitness is moving in the right direction.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

One Last Tempo with Laurie and Eric

12-14 miles with 7 miles wave tempo starting at 548 (target range 546-555) and alternating with 615-625

3.7 mile warmup
7 mile wave tempo in 41:05 @ 540, 608, 543, 604, 535, 615, 540
2.7 mile cool down for 13.4 miles total

My last big workout before Grandma's Half was a success.  After Saturday's bomb of workout, I needed that!  It was quite possibly my last tempo as a permanent resident of Charlotte and with Laurie, so I'm glad I can leave on a positive note.  At 5:50AM, I warmed up with Michelle and Phill before dropping them off and continuing on my way to get Laurie and Eric.  We decided to do two loops of the 2-Mile Dilworth Speed Loop before heading down to the Sugar Creek Greenway for the remaining miles.

Laurie and I started it off a little quick, but the pace felt reasonable so I went with it.  After that one, Eric told us that we "weren't being disciplined," but he was wrong.  Whenever I go out too hard, I calculate what are the odds that I can continue at that pace or faster and if the odds are in my favor, I continue pushing forward.  Today was one of those days where the odds were good and I ignored Eric.  Oddly enough, I felt pretty terrible on mile 5 because I had a weird breathing issue / stomach cramp that was making it very difficult for me to maintain my composure.  I told myself to just ignore it and it would go away.  Sure enough, it did.  It's these sort of tactics I need to employ in the race should something go terribly wrong.

I felt really good about this tempo and it shows that running 5:48 pace or faster for the half in just 10 days is completely within reason.  As Terry told me a couple weeks ago, running sub 5:50s should feel quite manageable in the first hour at Grandma's and the last 15 minutes or so will just have to come from racing tough.  I am ready.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Week in Review

72 Miles
7 Runs
0 Days Off
1 Great Workout
1 Bad Workout
16 Mile Long Run

Just two weeks left until the Grandma's Half Marathon and I feel ready to go...or ready for the taper.  A lot of happening over the next couple of weeks...I'm moving my entire house over two hours away, I'm finishing my pre-MBA homework, and I'm saying goodbye to lots of great friends.  I will focus the next two weeks on the mental prep for this race so that I am as prepared as I can be and so that I can keep the noise out.  I'm so excited.  It will be a great way to spend my last free weekend with some great people - Laurie, Alice, Michelle and Eric.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

2 x 4 Miles Fail

15-16 miles with 2 x 4 miles @ 5:47 pace with 4-5 min rest between

4 mile warmup starting at 545am
4 miles in 540,544,547,548 (downhill first 2 miles)
5 min jog rest for maybe half a mile
2 miles in 550,610 and then I jogged
5.5 miles cool down super slow

I went out too fast today.  I even had the luxury of Bert's company for this, but clearly I was just exhausted.  I wish I could have finished this workout, but it just wasn't in the cards.  After I bailed on the second set, I could barely muster sub-8:00 pace for the cool down, which rarely happens these days.  I had squishy shoes from the ridiculous amount of sweat that had accumulated in my socks and my soles, but I don't think that there needs to be an explanation for a crappy workout.  They happen.  I think this is only my third bad workout in the entire cycle, which is actually pretty great for me.

Just because I didn't finish this workout doesn't mean that I can't run 5:47 pace in two weeks.  It just means that my body is ready for taper and once I give it that, my legs will likely feel fresh and ready to roll. I also absolutely MUST not go out faster than 545 pace at the race. I will not feel good. I race better if I negative split so I want to try my damnedest to do just that. 

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

3 x Broken 1.5 Mile Repeats

3x1.5M with each 800m at a different pace @ 254, 300-307, 240-245 with 3:00 rest.  Option to do one mile of 30s on / off if I feel good

2.7 mile warmup
3 x 1.5 mile with 3 min rest for 5.3 miles in 31:12 minutes for 5:53 pace
2:51, 2:57, 2:37 (3:02 for .4 mile of rest)
2:45, 2:59, 2:39 (3:04 for .4 mile of rest)
2:44, 2:58, 2:36
4.4 mile cool down in 34:00

This workout was awesome! It was really fun to break the 1.5 mile into 3 different segments with different target paces.  It also helped tremendously that at 530AM Laurie, Aaron and Eric joined me.  We did this on the 2 mile speed loop but went on the turnaround at Park Road so we didn't have to do a sharp turn on the faster 800m. This worked out perfectly as the jog back to the start was about 3 minutes exactly. 

We took out the pace too fast on the first 800m and Eric stated frankly after 400m this fact.  Aaron said "okay."  We continued on our way.  I was feeling good and it appeared Laurie was too so I didn't really want to hold back any and I vowed I would hit the same paces (or roughly around them) for the remainder of the workout.  On the last set, Aaron took off with just 400m to go and I already knew we were rather quick. Although I finished last by a couple of meters, I felt really pleased with what I had accomplished.  Granted, it wasn't many miles of work because the focus is on my big workout on Saturday, but these paces were fairly easy to hit.  

I think the average pace without the rest for the 4.5 miles of intervals was 5:34, which is exactly what I ran in the 8k this past weekend.

At this point in my training cycle, I feel like things are just really falling into place. It's nice to be able to run 5:53 pace with 3:00 jog rest for over 5 miles and not feel like it was anything crazy. I felt really strong out there today and knew that even if we went out a little fast in the first 800m that I would be able to run just as fast for the remaining 2 intervals.   Now I just hope I can do the same on Saturday.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Week in Review

82.5 Miles
8 Runs
0 Days Off
1 Workout
8k race in 27:45
16 mile long run easy

I continued the positive progression from my Wednesday workout to my 8k race in Durham on Saturday.  While the win and $500 were quite nice, the best part of the race was meeting lots of new people that I hope to run with in just a couple weeks' time.  I can't believe that there are only three weeks until the Grandma's Half Marathon!