Sunday, June 29, 2008

Slacker Is NOT an appropriate name for this race-Slacker Half Race Report

So, this is a bit of a novel here. Hopefully it will help others who go into a race feeling prepared for, and possibly expecting a PR, but wind up with a completely different experience altogether. I'm trying to view it in hindsight as deposit in the getting tough bank, if nothing else.

It was an all-over-the-place day for me-I went in with such high hopes, seemed to be managing an ITBS issue well enough to run the race without fear of major injury, and REALLY thought I had a shot for a PR and maybe even a top-10 finish in my AG. The race I ran wasn't really just one race from start to finish, was more like several totally different races pieced together to form one.

The Slacker Half Marathon is the highest altitude downhill half in the country, starting at the parking lot at Loveland Ski area, moving through a forest service road/trail for the first four and a half miles, then hitting paved roads and bike trails for most of the remainder of the run to the little town of Georgetown. The name comes from the net downhill, going from 10,800 ft to something like 8400 feet. I figured the altitude and downhill would cancel each other out, and I've been doing good hill and speed workouts recently. I was mentally ready (I thought) to attack on this course.

We rode the bus from Georgetown Lake to the true slackerish form, the buses were a few minutes behind schedule, but nobody seemed to mind. It was a very laid back crowd, and the weather was just beautiful-cooler than where I live, but sunny and crisp. There was definitely a much larger crowd there than the results showed from the year before.

Final instructions were made before we started, and it felt like a little like our local running club's monthly races...he said he'd shout ready set go, and send us off. No guns or trumpets like the Bolder Boulder. I was digging this already.

We started after his call, and I went out like gangbusters (for me), off to an early 7:30 pace. We went down a hill, but then started climbing UP immediately in the forest service road, with some flats and more uphills. I pulled back a bit because I felt a little funny....I'm talking feeling almost like I was having heart palpitations. Slowing down didn't help, though....I was feeling worse and worse by the second, legs feeling like lead, getting passed by TONS of people and on a pace I haven't run since I first started running again.

Around this time, I look down to see how I'm doing and discover my Garmin's decided to stop timing for some reason, and is only giving a pace. Awesome. Ordinarily this wouldn't be something I'd overly stress, but things were already going poorly.

There's one guy from our local run club who appeared behind me....shouted out my name, asked where one of running buddies was who had planned on doing this race. I told her where she was and said "I don't feel so good." He asked if I was okay and I kind of nodded weakly. I'm soon passed by another local guy who had made the trip over for the race. As in...blew past me and I couldn't move faster than a snail's pace. This is a guy I always look for at races because our paces are fairly close-he never blows past me and I never blow past him. I felt sick and off in a nonspecific but intense way.

I was shaky and wierd feeling and had a feeling of NEEDING, not wanting to bow out of the race. As much as I never wanted to walk in this race, I made a split second decision to walk then, mentally and physically regroup, and fight whatever was going on. My best guess-and I know some folks have NO trouble with altitude changes...was that the 6000 ft change in altitude was an issue for ME.

Walked it out for a bit, got to a water station, and drank a full cup. We were now on a downhill section so I tried getting going again at a slower pace. So far so good. I was just fighting to stay in it now so on I trudged.

Arrived to the paved road portion of the race, about 4 1/2 miles in. There were some more gentle downhills, flat sections, and surprisingly, more uphills than you'd expect on a net downhill course. I stuck with stopping to walk through the aid stations and drinking at each one-not something I've done at my other halfs but again I was trying to avoid any sickness issues. The 15 second walks/water break seemed to help.

Midway through the race, I was feeling better and started drawing on people I know who have ever had health or other situations to overcome, as well as the beautiful, beautiful views and weather on the course. It wasn't some awful tragedy that I'd had a bad start to the race, and everyone has crapola races sometimes so I really got in the mindset of running smart and doing the best I could with what was left of the course. My ITB was whispering to me a little but we're not talking pain or something that felt like cause for serious concern.

Things kind of turned for the better for me in this section....five miles later, I caught up with that guy from the local club and passed him....I honestly NEVER thought I'd see him again on the course, and it's not like he wasn't running strong when I caught up to him. This was a nice little morale boost because I knew I wasn't as far gone as I started out.

We came under the highway, four miles to the finish, and then came up on a bike path that runs right along I-70 for a bit then sharply down hill toward Georgetown. I ran this downhill section great...I was proud of myself given that I almost bowed out a few miles in. Someone had warned me, though, to be prepared to get to Georgetown and then have to go UPHILL to the finish.

I thought I was mentally prepared for the finish, and knew I was going to be tired, but couldn't believe how spent I was going uphill again the last mile to the finish. It was gravel and dirt, and I struggled hard to move slowly on it.

This is one thing that's bugging me now...I stopped to walk again in the LAST MILE before the finish. Other people were taking walk breaks too but I should've just stuck it's a slippery slope once you start those walk breaks. Something to improve upon next year. (Did I just say that I'm coming back for this next year?).I passed a woman at half a mile to the finish who was struggling too, and she stopped to walk/power hike again and I saw her cry out in frustration or perhaps pain from something hurting.

We finally hit flat(ish) paved road again and I could see the time clock off in the distance. As I mentioned, Mister Garmin bailed on me so I had no idea what my time lost walking and slowly running/making up time and ground once I was feeling better ratio was. I truly had no idea if I was even going to finish in under two hours, and was quite overcome with emotion to see that the finish clock was in the 1:52's when I turned for that last tenth of a mile. I pushed on home and finished in a time of 1:53:14-nearly six minutes slower than my half in March, but also about the same amount of time ahead of my first half marathon time last October. I was 39/167 AG, which is the lowest, percentage wise, that I've placed in anything in nine months.

On one hand, that sounds pretty awful to be six minutes off my PR...on the other, I nearly dropped out of the race early on. I'm disappointed that I didn't do better for myself yesterday, but think I did the best I could at salvaging things.

I'm trying hard to fight the urge to question my BQ goal.....I know logically that this is just one race but I'll admit it does make me think a little that I'm kidding myself on it being an attainable goal.

If you look close just above my right knee in the above photos, you can see a red line where I didn't realize until after I'd done a sloppy job putting on the ITB rubbed my leg raw along the edge of it.

My DD also ran yesterday, in the 4-miler. She agreed that it was a tough course and also walked bits of it but finished it in a bit over 40 minutes nonetheless.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

First Day of Pfitz Plan!

Well, second day, really. The first day of training was a rest or cross training day, and it was quite comical to lounge around the house having a beer Sunday night saying look, dear, I'm training for a marathon!

So I hit my bodybuilder gym (which I am REALLY starting to love as a runner....nobody to duke it out with to find a treadmill) for that first run, which was scheduled as 7 miles with 10 x 100m strides. Strides are basically accelerations to the point where you're running as all-out as you can, but are still able to do ten repeats of them within the run. (I had no idea either...last week, I figured that since I was starting the plan soon, I'd better get a good understanding of what they entailed). I wasn't sure how exactly to go about them and just decided I'd run for half an hour at a moderately hard pace and then get going on 'em.

With that first workout completed, here are my thoughts, observations and comments:

1. NO PAIN! Woohoo! I was SO excited about that. Knock on wood but I think the quality workouts on this plan followed by rest days are going to be good for that ITB.

2. Strides are fun.

3. People at the gym turn and stare when they hear a treadmill running fast during those strides, to see if you're going to go flying off the back. Luckily that didn't happen tonight.

4. I now know that our gym's treadmills top out at 8.0, or a 7:30 pace. This was not quite as fast as I wanted to go but given that I'm racing this weekend and am trying to staying healthy, it'll do for now.

So I've got another rest day today. I was running 5 days in a row, Saturday through Wednesday, so at least for now I'm feeling very spoiled about this plan! Whatever gets me to the start of the Marine Corps Marathon healthy, though, is okay by me.

I'm taking a mile off of tomorrow's scheduled 9 miles, since I'm tapering for the Slacker on Saturday during this first week of marathon training, and therefore running 13.1 on a day when my marathon plan dictates 12. Hopefully the running gods will be cool with that, and will allow me to race well. :)

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Cautiously Optimistic

It's a good day! Woohoo!

I was supposed to trail run this morning, but Frank had scheduled an early mountain bike ride so I decided to head to the gym to treadmill run a few easy miles last night instead. As much as the treadmill bores me to tears, it has a couple of, it doesn't punish my body and has a bit of spring to it. Two, I can set it for very specific training paces, stop as soon as I'm done with my needed distance, cool down and go home. It was also a good option for calling it quits if the workout wound up being a painful disaster. On the trails, once I'm up there...I'm up there.

I started my run last night with the gym pretty empty, and immediately had dull pain and achiness on the outside of my knee. My heart sank and I really thought this was a worst case scenario...pain with every run, and no ability to train safely for a marathon. I made myself chill, though, and give it a few minutes, hoping this was just rusty legs after my longest period of rest from running since thyroid surgery.

As I kept going, the latter turned out to be the case. Yippee! The dull pain faded and I went for 5 miles at my easy pace. In the back of my head I had that "just one or two more miles" voice whispering to me...but this wound up being the little scare with the IT band that made me stick to a maximum of 5 miles today.

The only soreness I felt after was the area where I've been using the foam roller-and I think that's good-sore, the kind that's come from never using a foam roller in my life and suddenly using it three times a day to stretch and lengthen the IT band. I'm not kidding myself into thinking that I never have to worry about it again and have been encouraged to use the roller after workout, whether I'm having pain or not. That said, I feel VERY lucky and happy today to be able to run again. The next big test will be seeing how the body holds up at the Slacker Half next weekend.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

My chiropractor rules...and other progress since yesterday

I swear, it's just making me want to jump out of my skin to be on my third unscheduled rest day. I seem to be getting the intended result, IT band pain in day to day activity, and a cautiously optimistic outlook about returning to running in a few days. This is good...I've literally been feeling sick to my stomach thinking about my dream of trying to BQ in October possibly going down the drain.

I saw my chiropractor yesterday, and I think that indirectly helped a great deal. Unlike other chiros I've seen who seem to always want to sell you on regular adjustments, he has only recommended multiple treatments once-when I first came in after several years since my last chiro visit. Otherwise, he's not in the business of selling, and leaves it to me to come in when I feel I need it.

Anyway...I started with that awesome, awesome electrotherapy before my adjustment. Definitely THE best part of the visit. AHHHHHH. Then in for my regular adjustment, and this morning I definitely feel less bunged up than I was. Though he's not a PT, my chiro's supportive of my running and has always given pretty rock solid advice, and he was digging my foam roller/stretching therapy, and recommended waiting until Thursday for an easy run. I was antsy to get out there earlier, but I think he's probably right.

So, all in all, I'm very hopeful that Thursday goes well. I'm planning to trail run on the "usual" 4.25 mile loop. Of any type of running, trail surfaces should be the kindest to my body, and it's just beautiful up there. I'll take it slow, enjoy the view and stop to walk if needed. No sense being stubborn and putting myself out of the game for months!

Monday, June 16, 2008


Well, I think I'm battling the beginning of IT band syndrome. GAH. And I've had such a great 18 months of injury free running.

I'm trying to be smart about it, not living in denial, trying to run through pain or push myself into serious long term injury. After ending my run Saturday with actual pain between my right hip and outer part of right knee, I wound up taking an unscheduled rest day on Sunday, and will take one today as well. I was instructed by several runners who have suffered from ITBS to get thee to the store for a foam roller, and religiously roll several times a day for a few minutes at a time on it between the knee and hip. So, I was at Target bright and early for one.

The GOOD news there is that the thing really does work-it was exquisite pain the first time I rolled on it. It hurt a little less the next two times, and my first time rolling on it this morning. I'm also icing the heck out of that area, and ordered an ITB strap. I've heard that the strap is a mixed bag but I figure it cannot we'll give it a try.

I HATE the thought of taking time off from running...especially two weeks before my next half. I've watched plenty of other runners, though, get out there before they should, and they get hurt for the long term. As much as I hate have to sit and baby the knee, that's what I'm going to do. I want to be healthy for Imogene in September...and healthy for MCM in October.

In other awesome news, our homebuyer backed out at the last second and we're wishing a pox upon her family. Okay, not really. It thoroughly pisses me off, though. She sounds like quite the head case. I will laugh if she winds up paying more for another house with actual foundation issues, and not our standard GJ house built on crappy soils with minimal settling and no damage. Frank's talking semi-seriously about going to REI for a job application-it just BLOWS that we're still covering two mortgages and these buyers are playing such head games with sellers now.

Oh was bad, tomorrow will be better, right?

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Heavily Made-up Runner Dancing

No, no photos of this yet. :P

It's end-of-the-year performance day today with the studio, so in a little bit, my two oldest daughters and I get to shellac our hair into impenetrable helmets and coat our face in a heavy layer of stage makeup just so we look normal from the audience in the darkened theatre. It's probably weird to mention ballet on this blog, but since last year's show was sort of a breakthrough for getting out of my comfort zone and learning to train and compete, it's worth mentioning that I'm back again this year with nowhere near the performance anxiety and stress I had the first year. After four years in the class without ever dancing in the show, I'd never planned to do it but a chance spur-of-the-moment accepted challenge to new classmate to dance in the show kind of brought me into the gig. And the rest is history.

Alexis dances in a buttload of dances today-first year she's needed her own garment bag for all her stuff. Kaia also has two dances, and I'm happy to say that we've progressed well beyond sliding around on the floor and licking things like when she was "that kid" in the preschool ballet classes.

I was going to run this morning-just something short-but Frank recommended against it, and knowing he's probably right I'm going to skip it and do a nice long run tomorrow at o dark thirty. My dance is this very trippy thing set to American in Paris and I spend a lot of my time doing this very stylized walk on my tip toes leaning forward, running, or doing other off-balance things-just what you'd expect from our wacky class that is neither a super-serious group of expertly trained dancers, nor underachievers who never want to progress beyond a bare minimum of basic steps. I do want to look good and not tired/sore in a bit of dance performance taper madness keeping the legs rested for today's two shows. Oh well, it'll all be worth it if it keeps me from falling on my butt!

Oh, and random running related note from the Bolder Boulder....Alexis didn't finish in her goal of sub 1:00 on that tough course, but that's okay....she ran strong the whole time, ran negative splits from miles 3 to the finish (many adults go out too fast and aren't able to do that on that course), and was 5th in her age division! Pretty cool....and seeing Deena Kastor in the elite race, though it was not really her day, was just awesome. Well worth the night before in the sardine can hotel room. to (hopefully not) break a leg!