Friday, December 25, 2009

It's Time For Screwing

No no no. Get your mind out of the gutter.

For the first time since I've lived in my fair city, we've been in a freezing and thawing cycle from our big snowstorm two weeks ago without much melting off. It forced my early morning training partner and I to totally call off one of our runs, and as soon as we started seeing a little bit of melting earlier in the week, we got another smaller storm that dropped a few more inches. Running in broad daylight today, I had to keep my eyes peeled on the ever-changing surface under my feet as it changed from damp asphalt to mushy snow to slick, deep ice. I first thought I could ride it out, and wait for the snow and ice to melt, but now I think that for safety's sake, it's time to screw my shoes.

I looked into some Yaktrax in previous years, but the snow would always melt off before I had a chance to think too deeply about it. For you warmer weather folk, these are devices that you strap to your running shoe for better traction while running on slippery or snowy surfaces.

In all fairness, these would probably be great if I lived in a place where an even layer of permafrost or snow was the norm, but I could see these things getting annoying in a hurry where I live. We so rarely get measurable snow, and the dumpage we received earlier in the month has been melting, albeit unevenly. It would probably drive me nuts to have something attached to the outside of my shoe for sections of road and trail where I don't need it at all. Still, I was seriously fearing a broken ankle or other stupid injury in the slickest spots today, so I think it's time to take action.

Screw Shoes are simply your regular running shoes, modified by placing short screws in the bottom of your shoes to provide better traction. You can put them in the shoes in whatever pattern you like, and unless you're using a screw as long as the one in my screw shoes link that says "don't use this!" you don't have to worry about anything poking through and hurting your foot. Unlike the Yaktrax, this method means doesn't add an extra step of having to strap something to your shoe before heading out the door when you might have already been unmotivated for a yucky weather run to begin with. And, if you don't like them or the weather finally goes away-just take them out.

I won't be able to screw my shoes until after tomorrow's long run, but I am looking forward to doing it some time this weekend, and then trying them out soon after. Then, I might be able to run without baby-stepping and feeling super-cautious everywhere I run outdoors.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

"The World Is Full of Bastards, The Number Increasing Rapidly The Further One Gets From Missoula, Montana"

Yeah, yeah, it's an extra-long title, but a lot catchier than "Races in Places that Start With The Letter M."

I seem to have figured out a trend here. When I'm tapering for a race, I buy running gear. Of all kinds. Because, you know, I might need some of that stuff some day. Maybe even use it all at once. Who knows. You can never be too prepared on race day, right?

When I am recovering from a race-and, more particularly, when I'm nearing the end of a recovery period, I sign up for races. Lots of them. Almost as a preventative measure because of some deep-seated fear that I'll lose all motivation and ability to run. If I'm registered for something, it means I need to get out there to train, or I'm just burning money for no good reason. Okay, okay-it's not anything as deep as that. I think I just like to pick new goal races as soon as possible, and keep that motivation level high without a down period of doing nothing in particular. So, without further's what I've been doing with a my bank debit card behind the computer screen:

Beyond the things I've already had on the schedule for awhile, I've recently added the Missoula Marathon. I joked that I am a big sucker who was caught, hook line and sinker, by the "Best Overall" title that Runners World magazine bestowed on the race in an article in the most recent issue covering some of the best marathons in the country. I'd never heard anything one way or another about the race, but when I read the article, so many reasons to do it, and reasons I would like it jumped out at me.

I had been wanting to add a third marathon to the schedule next year to go along with Boston, and the TBD fall marathon depending on how the New York City lottery works out. Missoula is in July, and splits the difference between summer and fall. It's not too big and not too small-my favorite kind of race where you have enough runners that there's kind of a festive environment, and good sized crew running the race, but not so huge that you're getting up at midnight to catch planes, trains and automobiles to the start where you wait sardined with 30,000 friends for hours. I love my long runs here with mountains in the background through our rural city, and, well-Missoula would be an opportunity to run past scenic mountain vistas to the heart of the small downtown of a fun rural city. That's also our idea of a good family vacation for a lot of reasons-we don't have the dough, nor do we have the interest in jetting off to some exotic beach for weeks, but we love loading up the family van and taking off on long weekend adventures. My husband already found a couple of nearby mountain biking routes, and can do a little of that while we're there. It's SO close to Glacier National Park, too-so that would be a fun place to take the family some time while we're there. I don't know if the race is filling at record pace, but after a few hours of talking about it with my better half, I decided I'd better go ahead and register just in case. Cha-CHING...done deal.

The other thing I've got going is this little event down in Moab. The Moab Red Hot 50+K/33K takes place in February, and I had originally signed up for the 33K. The change in elevation is not anywhere near the craziness of the Imogene Pass Run, and there's lots of nice flattish slick rock and dirt trails. Now, my friend Jen has been wanting to do an ultra for awhile. The girl started working on me to do the 50K. HAAAAAAAAAAAIL NOOOOOOOOOOOOO was my initial response, and subsequent response the next few times she brought it up.

She must have stuck some mind control device in my brain, though. By about the twelfth time she brought it up, saying "oh, you know, we just do it as a training exercise-no pressure!" I said "FINE. I will email the race director to see if I can switch divisions." I fully expected the answer to be no. You all know how these deals with races go. No cancellations, transfers, upgrades, downgrades, running backwards, in fuschia and orange striped shorts, or anything else that's different than what's in the strongly worded race rules and regulations. The longer race also costs more, and I knew that would be a pain to figure out how to pay the difference even if he said yes.

So, imagine my surprise when I got a response from the race director. "Sure, you can change to the 50K! I'll switch your name over to that list, but you might not see your name show up on that list until after registration closes. Bring an extra $16 with you on race day, and just find me and give it to me." How's that for low-tech and easy peasy? But, CRAP, I thought-what did I just do? Over the next twenty-four hours, my head was filled with thoughts like "You moron, what did you do that for? That's too far! You're going to get hurt! You're not ready! You're going to ruin Boston-MORON!" Oh, and only after the fact did I notice that it said 50+K (a little less than 34 miles) and not just 50K. Um, how did I miss a major detail like THIS IS A 34 MILE RUN?

After I got done with all that, on the verge of wanting to write him back with the tail between the legs, saying "just kidding," I checked out some slide show photos of the race. It looked REALLY sweet. Not easy (not that anyone would ever call an ultra easy), but there were lots of smiling faces, great views, excellent aid stations, and the route did indeed look somewhat manageable for a first ultra. This was confirmed by a RWOL forumite who ran it last year, and who was thinking of doing it again. Like I said, no huge, steep climbs, but kind of a rolling route for much of the way, going up for awhile but coming back down a bit at the end.

So-nervously, I decided to not chicken out, and really do this thing as a no-pressure day of trying something new that I think could make me a better runner in the long run for getting over my fears. I'm going to carefully bump my mileage up a bit now, make sure I get in some long runs on trails, and make that long run longer than it's been before. I'm kind of scared, for sure-but are we really getting anything out of our running if we never step out of the comfort zone or give things a little push from time to time? That's the story I am telling myself, anyway.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The (Wickedly Cold) Winter (and not so much) Sun 10K Race Report

It was nasty cold (for here, in December, anyway) this past Saturday when I headed down to Moab with several fellow runners for the traditional season-ending 10K race. Normally, we can count on it being slightly warmer down there, and it was-but this is not saying very much when it was five degrees in our fair city when we headed out at 6:30 a.m.

After picking our race packets, we were trying our best to hang out inside the high school and ride the second of two waves of buses to the start, but the race crew shooed all of us out and said they had to have people on the first wave of buses and then come back for the other half. So, we took the first buses up. I was in seventeen layers of warmups (okay, not that much-but it felt like it), not really wanting to remove them, and was not really feeling racey at all which was oddly comforting. When we lined up, though, I was still telling myself I was going to take some chances and see what happened. When the gun went off, there were some amazingly fast ladies-at least a dozen-who were out ahead of me from the very start. I thought, oh, no shot for an age group today with all these people but any kind of PR would be very fulfilling.

I got passed by several people in the first three miles but also passed a that seemed like a wash. I passed a couple more folks in the middle miles but again it seemed like I was being passed by the same number. This was harder than I ever ran the race the first two times I did this "comfortably hard" here at any point. It was just plain hard, and a little part of me was tempted to kind of do that 90% effort where it is a little bit comfortable just to catch a slight breather here or there. The other part of me said go all out for the best PR possible, you can't control results but get a good PR. So that I did, and I tried to give extra kick *just in case* I was close to age grouping and/or had anyone right behind me. Splits looked like:

7:31 (the hilly mile)
last .2 on a 7:02 pace, Garmin time 43:46, official/gun time 43:48. This was a PR of almost 2:30, so I was thrilled with that. I couldn't have picked it up any more today than I did and felt like that is the best fade-fighting I've ever done late in a race. My friend and regular race buddy Jen looked great coming in too. I could see her checking out the time clock and pushing it right to the finish, and it resulted in about a three minute PR for her.

I really and truly didn't think I was going to nab an age group award, though. I saw how many ladies were ahead of me and my age group (a ten year group) is always strong, and represented 20% of the entire race last year. So, when they called my name for third I was truly taken by surprise, and I said "I'm shocked!" before going up to collect my cool looking medal with the KoKoPelli engraved on it. I figured there was absolutely no way and was watching to see which ladies in front of me had placed. When I checked the results later at home, I was the 12th female out of 416 total, and the luck of the draw for me this time was that five of the women ahead were 20-29, three were 40-49, and three were 30-39-BUT the overall female champ was in my 30-39 age group so I was "lucky fourth" and slid up into that last age group slot when they pulled her out for her overall win.

Besides that, I picked up my guaranteed entry form for Canyonlands, got a tote/duffel that all "Triple Crown" runners got (if you run Canyonlands, Winter Sun and Other Half in the same year), and got a door prize of pizza and an appetizer from a Moab restaurant. So-I guess my moral of the story is-it paid off to not take breathers or cruise easy anywhere. The next person in my age group was twenty-one seconds back, so I absolutely would have been out of age groups with any letup any time in the race.

Another nice surprise and twist this year was that the Taiko Dan drummers who I love so much from the half marathons in Moab on the 10K course for the first time! I wasn't expecting to see them at the 10K and they are always a pick-me-up, no matter how well or poorly you're running. They were in a residential area near the bike path, and it didn't seem to be the full group of drummers that they have on the highway. The pick-me-up that I got from the drumming was the same, though! And, going back to that female champ whose win allowed me to place in age group-she obliterated the women's course record with a 35:XX run, finishing fifth in the combined male and female results, barely a minute back from the winning man. When she went up to get her award she was holding her baby, and I was duly impressed that someone who is still in the night-waking phase of parenting was also finding a way to make a little time for her own running and training.

That completes my 2009 racing schedule. It's been a lot of fun, and the training time for those races equally so. As I post this, I'm about sixty miles short of 2000 miles for the year, so it's my final goal to make sure I finish out the year and hit that mark. I probably would've said "you're crazy!" if someone had told me five years ago that I'd be running 2000 miles in 2009, but today it seems like a totally normal thing to just get out the door on a regular schedule, and have it all add up. Shoot, there are lots of other runners who put in slightly higher mileage consistently, and they wind up at 3000 or 4000 for the year, so I look forward to that being my "normal" a few years from now. Here's to running toward the new year, setting, and working toward new goals in 2010.

Friday, December 4, 2009

BRRRRRRRRRR And The Interrupting Cow Joke

Wowza, it's cold out there. Now, I can hear the few of you who read this saying "Hey, genius, you live in Colorado," but it's sort of a myth that we're under six feet of snow and freezing our butts off all the time. With a very low relative humidity, it's really pretty darn comfortable here in the winter, coupled with the fact that I'm in the high desert so we normally get the highest temps of the state and lots of sun. This morning, I found myself hashing out race day clothing options with fellow running friend Jen. We'll both be heading over to Moab tomorrow, and hopefully setting some 10K PR's.

I have a history of bad-attitude-itis to start the day before getting to this race. It's a two hour drive, which means an early wake-up call instead of getting to putz around the house and wait for it to warm up before setting foot outdoors. It can get pretty breezy while waiting to start up at the golf course in Moab, and we've got to catch a shuttle up there to begin with. That said, both times that I ran this race ('07 and '08), I woke up right after that starting gun sounded, and that inner drive to race kicked into gear. And, each time, this race resulted in what would become a then-PR. So....I'm trying to stay in "don't care" mode but I kind of have a bug up my butt to not just set a new PR, but blow my current 46:06 PR out of the water. That's from way back in February, and the only other 10K I've run since then was a trail race the next weekend, and the Bolder Boulder in May. That was at a higher altitude, on a hillier course, and a month after my spring marathon when I was recovering slowly and running easy.

Getting back to the cold issue, though-as much as I hate the feeling of standing around in below-freezing temps, and wearing piles of clothes, I seem to have had some of my best race days in that kind of weather. I must admit, too, that it feels great after the first mile. It's why I SO love my wintertime long runs, when the trails become less crowded and I'm not melting off my weight in sweat. So-here's to just a little, itty, bitty, teeny bit of motivation and interest in having a great Winter Sun this year.

Switching gears-BlackBear asked about the "Interrupting Cow" joke. I wish I could find the version that was told on the kids show Yo Gabba Gabba, but I did find a pretty decent YouTube clip here from South Park. Warning-if you have kids or interact with kids regularly, and they don't know this prepared for the joke to never, ever go away if you decide to tell it.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Turkey Trottin' It

We've had a bunch of visits this year from family and friends that have been great. At the same time, though, our family was really looking forward to this Thanksgiving-just the six of us, no traveling and nobody coming to visit either. Sometimes you just need a few days of getting up whenever, hanging out, and doing nothing in particular.

One of the only scheduled activities for the day was the third annual turkey trot, presented by the local firefighters union. I'd planned to do it one way or another, but my seven-year-old begged to do it, and there was no question in my mind that the answer to her request would be an emphatic "yes."

She's the kind of kid that the husband and I used to have nightmares about-literally. You know South Park, and the "you killed Kenny" moment in every episode? Yeah. That's the stuff that would keep us up late at night because she had NO healthy fear of anything, and never thought about consequences to her actions or words. Oh, and she used to hate even having to go out to walk as a family a few years ago, throwing fits and always being too hot, too cold, fill-in-the-blank with an excuse of why she thought it sucked. Some time between her birthday last May, and now, though, she's grown into this more mature kid, thinking before she acts or says something, and willingly putting her energy toward good stuff instead of mayhem and debauchery. We've discovered that while we NEVER would have wanted to get her big sis involved in as much stuff at this age, she's a totally different person and is thriving on a heavier dance schedule, and trying to walk and run whenever possible.

Though I use my treadmill as kind of my last choice, more out of necessity than anything else, she loves getting on that thing. Without fail, she asks to listen to Steve Runner's Phedippidations podcast episode about Kathrine Switzer every single time she gets on the hamster wheel. I don't question it, though-she gets on there, and I just watch as she recites the episode word-for-word, and moves the pace up and down automatically between running and walking breaks. It cracks me up when she's running and rocking out to the "Don't Tell Me What To Do Because I'm a Woman" song-I can't even talk that well on the treadmill, forget the headbanging and singing along. So, you might understand why she got an enthusiastic yes from me on the turkey trot participation question.

This event has grown exponentially each year, with the first year being one of those "we expected 100, and 300 showed up" kind of showings, where they had the unexpectedly (to them, anyway) good problem of trying to figure out how to manage a bigger crowd the next time out. It's no surprise to me that this race has taken off, though. Everyone likes to get out and burn off a few calories on turkey day, it takes place in a popular location for outdoor activity (the riverfront trail/state park where I do a lot of my long runs), and it really shows that the firefighters and other volunteers who help to put on the race have a vested interest in the event being successful. The firefighters are pretty darn fit themselves, and several have family and friend connections with people in the local running community. All of the money raised from the race goes to a fund that supports professional firefighters and their families who have been injured or killed on the job, and when I ran it for the first time last year it was obvious that they really appreciated the good turnout and wanted it to be a good experience for everyone. It's just a formula for success all the way around.

This year, I was not surprised when they informed us in pre-race instructions and announcements that there were 600-700 people there to run. This is pretty big-time in a city of 46,000, and they'd added a few nice touches this year, with firetrucks there pre-race for the kids to tour and sit in. My daughter was bashful about it, but I could see that she had her eye on the truck so I walked over with her to check it out. She got to climb up in the truck and grab a seat while the firefighter pointed things out, and chatted with her about where she went to school, and if this was her first time running the race. When it was time to race, they had the trucks roll slowly down the road to the start, with runners following behind. I positioned us near the back of the starting pack, and we talked about how we didn't want to go out too fast, and would try to keep the walk breaks short. Soon, they sounded the siren on the truck as the "starting gun," and we were off.

The first part of the race goes down a stretch of country road dotted with a few homes here and there, with some animals coming up to the fences to watch the action. We got off to a pretty good start, and my daughter was having fun saying howdy to dogs that would come up to fences to bark at the runners. There were a lot of kids at our spot in the pack, including some little guy who couldn't have been more than four-he kept having wardrobe malfunctions with his shoes, his jacket, his name it. His mom would stop him to adjust things, and then he'd be off like a shot down the road. We came upon a property that had some kind of ugly old ostrich strolling the edge of the property, and naming this guy proved to be a fun activity for us, eventually arriving on the name of Bubba for the old bird.

We hit the end of the first mile, and came up to the fork on the course where strollers and the trail-phobic could go straight ahead, and everyone else could turn off for a nice rolling jaunt around a small pond and through the trees. As we turned onto the trail, I looked at my daughter and said "congratulations, you're now a trail runner!" and she put her hand up for a high-five. I laughed as we rounded the pond, and she asked if we could go look at the water-I said to take a look at it as we ran, because it was still a race, even though we weren't racing other people today.

She took a few more walk breaks in mile two, but was pretty much on the same pace as the first mile. I got another chuckle when out of the blue she asks "wouldn't it be cool if we got to go over a log?" About ten seconds later, we rounded a corner and there was a short, steep hill with a couple of steps built with logs. Nice job on the course prediction, kid!

Getting into the third mile, the course rejoined the trotters who took the road route, and it was fairly crowded with walkers now. Though I was impressed that she was actually still in a whine-free zone, I could see that Kaia was getting a little tired so I busted out some song stylings and other diversions. We sang the Barenaked Ladies' "If I Had A Million Dollars," and Kaia recited the dialogue from version on the live album we have-"Oh, oh, the Bryant Street Theatre? It's right up that ladder, lady! Welcome-to the Bryant Street Theatre-have a fruit rollup!" She told her favorite "interrupting cow" knock-knock joke a gazillion times. I don't know how that never gets old. Coming to the end of the third mile, she was starting to run out of gas, but skipping and walking intervals kept it fresh and wacky. Yeah, we were acting ridiculous and I was loving it.

When the third mile began to wind down, Kaia began to get into a little bit of "my legs are mushy! They can't run anymore!" I said "listen-do you hear the crowd at the finish? You're ALMOST there!" No, no, I can't hear them, mom. Okay, fine-let's walk but let's keep moving. I knew that she *could* easily psych herself out about this like she might have a year or two ago, so I just kept playing distraction, knowing that we were SO close to finishing. She'd be thrilled to find out that it was her best 5K ever so long as she didn't just sit down for five minutes. As we approached the three mile marker, I was trying to coax her to run a little, but she was kind of set on briskly walking-so we just did that.

Then, we turned the corner and she could finally see the finish chute. That's about the last I saw of her as she perked up, started kicking, and flew on in to the finish. It was ridiculous the kind of speed she had-I'm definitely pure distance runner and just could not hang side-by-side, so I followed after her the best I could, finishing right behind her. We walked up to my husband and other kids at the end of the chute, where she proudly proclaimed, "I beat mommy!" Haha. She was perma-grinning it as we walked around after the race to talk with other people, repeating the news of her victory to anyone who would listen.

After that, it was home for cooking, eating, hanging out, eating, a little wine, eating, and eating. Yeah, we did eat a lot but I'm pleased to say I kept it somewhat in check, having a good plate of food and taking my time eating, not treating it like an all-you-can-eat buffet with half a dozen trips to refill the plate. Later in the day, my relaxed and idle mind took a trip to a little trail event in Moab in February, and decided that this would be a good race to put on my road-to-Boston schedule. The Red Hot 50K/33K is about two months prior, and while I don't think the 50K would be wise for me then, the 33K seemed like the perfect kind of event to throw in and keep things fresh with training.

I've never done it before, they limit the total field in both races to 350, and it should be one heckuva hill workout. Several fellow runners had mentioned the event over the past few months, so I think that no arm twisting would be required to get commitments from the usual suspects. It's been pretty empowering to progress from craptastic to an almost-average trail runner, so I just want to keep the ball rolling with that work-in-progress.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Rim Rockin' It...Inaugural Edition. A Race Report

This is a race that has existed for I believe sixteen years as a gate-to-gate run across the Colorado National Monument, 22.6 miles. It starts around 4600 feet, climbs about 2000 feet, and descends a little more than that in the second half. The race has been directed by different people over the years, and this year had new race directors, and a brand new distance for the event-a full marathon, with an additional mile starting down the road from the entrance to the Monument, and the rest added on at the end, turning out of the park onto highway, with one last turn into one of our state parks for the new finish line.

I've been a volunteer at this race for the past two years and always joked "better them than me!" with regard to actually running it. This year, though, it just seemed like the time to do it. The start is maybe a mile from my house, I could sleep in my own bed, and it's a beautiful albeit challenging course. So, I signed up this time around, thinking of it as a "fun" marathon where I'd still train hard and run hard, but not hold hard and fast to any time goals.

Fellow runners Jen and Ilana were coming up to run it too (Jen ran the 37K version last year), and we were hearing that a general rule of thumb was to add 20-30 min to your flat marathon time. With that in mind, I was thinking 4:00 was a good and realistic goal, with anything faster than that kind of being icing on the cake. I was in no way, shape or form thinking of a BQ time (3:45:59 or faster for me).

I had sort of winged it for training plans this summer and fall, loosely basing what I was doing off of Pfitz (medium-long run midweek, long run on the weekend, general time on my feet, and substituting a slew of 5K and a few 10K race for formal speed work). Though I ran a 5K and half marathon PR during this time, I really wasn't overly confident about what I was doing for this marathon. After all, it's a whole 'nuther ball of wax, and I was wondering if I'd shot myself in the foot to essentially run on feel from day to day, signing up for races on whims and deciding on long run distances while I was running. I took the "experiment of one" approach, though, and figured I'd never know unless I tried new stuff. It was a VERY enjoyable training cycle, so that was good to me, if nothing else.

The girls got into town Friday night, we had a nice dinner out, and we got up early the next morning. Stepping outside, it was cold and overcast but nothing was coming down. I then spoke the famous last words of "it's cold, but there's no rain or snow!" Yeah, you know what comes next. Cue the snow while my words are still hanging in the air. I'd already been leaning toward tights, long sleeve tech shirt, fleece vest and winter hat but this kind of confirmed what I wanted to do. When my DH dropped us off at the start, the snow was REALLY coming down. There were talks of snowplows clearing the road on the other side of the Monument. It was comical and kind of took the edge of that the weather was so craptastic. As they called us to line up, I made a very last minute decision to leave on the lightweight jacket I was going to shed and send over, and re-pinned my number to my tights just before we started. Soon, we were being counted down, and off we went.

This first mile was a nice warm-up, and just a slight uphill grade before beginning our climb. I had no pace band or chart, and just started running on feel from the get-go. The only bit of advice or number stuck in my head was one of my early morning training partners, who told me that someone my pace wasn't going to want to hit the five mile mark in faster than 50 minutes. Though that was in the back of my head I wasn't closely checking my watch.

Mile 1: 8:46

Okay, time to twist and climb steadily

Mile 2: 9:49
Mile 3: 10:49
Mile 4: 10:56
Mile 5: 10:12

I was pleased to stay in the 10 m/m range through here. This was hard but not HARDER than I was anticipating through here, which was a confidence booster. I also hit that five mile point a few seconds faster than that 50 minute mark my friend mentioned, so it seemed like I was spot on for pacing. The running club was manning the four mile aid station and I got a shout-out from a friend who was working there which was another nice boost.

We're still climbing but it's not as steep for the next few miles. The less steep sections really feel like we're running a flat section after the first five miles, and soon we're evening out somewhat, though we still get good uphill pitches here and there.

Mile 6: 8:32
Mile 7: 9:03
Mile 8: 9:11
Mile 9: 9:33
Mile 10: 7:53

I pass the GOTR aid station here, and again it's an awesome lift that they're all hollering for me. While I LOVE quiet country courses without a lot of people on them, I won't was a great pick-me-up to see those guys. And, regarding the aid stations in general-they were VERY well organized with each one having kind of a "lead" worker hollering at us as soon as they saw us, asking if/what we needed as far as drink, gel, snack, etc. While I would have gladly moved my way over to the tables, all the aid station workers were lining themselves up with us before we got there for perfect drink pass-offs.

Mile 11: 7:56
Mile 12: 8:25
Mile 13: 9:45 (oh, who threw this big hill in here?)

Okay, now we seem to be all the way up. Between about miles 8-16, there had been several men and one woman that seemed to be pacing about the same as me, but as we moved on I seemed to drop most of them. There was a woman who was always a curve ahead on the road that I wasn't making up any ground on but wasn't losing sight of either.

Mile 14: 8:00
Mile 15: 7:44
Mile 16: 7:44

The road twisted and switched back and forth as we moved downhill. I felt excellent through here and just kept going with it. I could still see the next woman up running with the guy she'd been with the whole race. When I had an opportunity to look back at one point through here, I see that there is nobody behind me on the quarter-mile or so stretch. The road is wet and it's still snowing but not heavily.

Mile 17: 8:13
Mile 18: 8:14
Mile 19: 8:24
Mile 20: 7:58

This is the US Bank (title sponsor) aid station. I've got a friend/fellow runner at this aid station too who works for the bank, and again it's great to see a familiar face. The whole route had kind of been the best of both worlds-breathtaking red rock and trees dusted with snow, for a very quiet and peaceful run, with little bursts hooting, hollering and cheering at the aid stations, and waves from drivers in the open lane.

Some guy through here standing on the course tells me "Looking good! Top ten women-definitely!" Normally, I've counted as best I can from the get-go, or from whatever I can see on stretches of roads and know where I stand but I hadn't looked hard or counted at all this time. I wouldn't be able to accurately count anyway on a road that twists like Rim Rock Drive anyway. I didn't know where exactly this meant I was, but it was good to have him tell me that nonetheless. I started thinking about going for it and trying to catch the girl up ahead. I'd been using my Geetah straws through all aid stations and had been picking up seconds here and there from never stopping to walk.

There are now little breaks in the clouds, and I can see bits and pieces pastoral, snow-dusted farmland. It's kind of a nice little teaser knowing that we're moving closer to the finish.

Mile 21: 7:27
Mile 22: 7:43

I passed one or two more guys in the late miles. I could see that woman ahead getting closer as I rounded one curve, and saw that she'd actually caught another lady, and was running even with them. I knew I might regret it but really started going for it to get past both of them.

Mile 23: 7:15
Mile 24: 7:05

And now I'm past both of them. And we're heading out onto the road. The hard, much harder than I'd anticipated it being, rolling road.

Mile 25: 7:42

And-crap. All of a sudden it happens...the legs just become lead. I'm working harder than I had at any point during the race and my body is just screaming "I'm done! " If I had anything left in my legs I'd be kicking myself for letting my pace venture up into 5K range like that. I thought I was going to have enough to hang on all the way through.

One of the girls I passed now passes me back. I'm REALLY losing momentum and just kind of want to die right now. Unbelievable. 25 miles of feeling really good and now I just want someone to shoot me. Right then I see my husband driving by on the road to come see the finish along with our youngest daughter (my son was sleeping over with a buddy, and oldest daughters had various activities going on too). I suck it up and say "come ON! Don't be a weakling." I fight the shutdown with all I've got.

And then...I see the finish approaching! As Garmins always measure these courses with significant elevation changes in the mountains a little short, I've tricked myself into thinking I've got more to run then I really do. We're in the park, and I can see the woman radioing ahead to the finish with racer numbers. As I turn the last corner, I realize that despite the hard, hard last mile and fade, I was going to make it without resorting to the "walk of shame" and without dozens more people blowing past me.

My Garmin measures .88 of a mile (I just let it autolap whether it was accurate or not....I really didn't feel like thinking too hard about manual laps) as I cross the finish, calling it 7:24 or an 8:27 pace for that last portion of a mile. Total Garmin time 3:41:40, chip time 3:41:39, gun time 3:41:41. Good for fifth woman overall out of seventy six (26 seconds off of fourth), first in my age group, and 27th out of 185 total M/F finishers. Ilana comes in five minutes later, sixth woman overall, and first female masters woman after they took out the one over-40 overall woman. Jen comes in at 4:00, a huge PR and with an upset stomach for most of the race to boot.

While I know I kind of played it wrong there and probably picked up too much speed, emptying out much of my gas tank in miles 23 and 24, I also feel like I can't complain. I didn't have any goals or expectations other than enjoying this beautiful course, and I most certainly did that. The running was rough late in the game, but I'd be lying if I said it didn't feel good to run a BQ time on this course. I'm not even sure that the course was certified in time and I'm not thinking seriously about using it for 2011...but just hitting that mark by surprise was a nice boost.

All in all, I loved this race! Good first year organization, my favorite local specialty pizza place was giving us food and cookies, and drinks, and there was a little beer garden where I enjoyed a nice frosty one post-race. The aid station workers were fabulous, and the road crew people hired to be on the course did a great job keeping traffic moving at a safe pace in the open lane. If I do not get drawn for NYC next year, I will come back to run this again. Heck, just because I'm not smart enough to say no...I might just run it again anyway even if I go to New York City-I really did enjoy it that much. And would like a do-over on the last 1.2.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

You've Got To Trust Your Instincts And Let Go Of Regret

You've got to bet on yourself now star, 'cause that's your best bet.

I know those lyrics are true, but I'm having a hard time mustering up fake confidence for the marathon on Saturday. Yeah, I'm officially in a marathon freak-out mode, a realm I don't remember entering for MCM or Eisenhower. I've spent my last few long runs, though, turning my gaze toward the Colorado National Monument, starting from the Grand Junction side and slowly following over to the Fruita side, and thinking "Oh @$%@, I've paid money and committed to running over that thing." You'd think that familiarity would breed some kind of ease and comfort, but just looking up at it has me all frazzled and twitchy.

As I try to purge those thoughts from head, I'm also doing a desperate "rain rain go away" dance. We live in the high desert here, 360 days of sunshine a year. It was cold and sunny for this race the past two years when I volunteered. So, of course, we're looking at a rain and wet snow this year. Oh joy. I've never worn tights for a marathon, or a jacket of any kind, but I find myself seriously considering that option-and am leaning toward both. In a way, it feels like the price to pay for getting a non-windy, precipitation-free, perfect temperature day for last spring's BQ attempt-and that I shouldn't whine about bad conditions for a "fun" marathon where PR's, BQ's or anything else are non-issues. But now you know the truth-I'm actually a bit of a weather weenie.

On the upside of things-my new pair of OxySox arrived yesterday. I used to baby my original two pairs, hanging them to dry and never running them through the dryer. Somewhere along the way I got impatient, though, and started sending them through the dryer. Bad idea. In the past few weeks, both pairs had holes in the feet and at the ankle-just in time to be extra-special chafey on race day. I think the white pair lost its compression power anyway, as evidenced by the sock around my ankle by the end of my early October 5K. The new pair is super kooshy, and it seems they've resized a bit in my favor, with this pair not seeming as if it was only meant for women with at least size 9 feet. So, I'm digging that.

Another good thing about marathons is getting to carb and salt it up in the couple of days leading up to the race, something that doesn't pain me to do at all. Give this girl an excuse for pasta, or for some tortilla chips, and I won't hesitate to put that stuff in my mouth. Nom nom nom.

So, that's about it. My training's essentially over, and there's nothing useful that can come from playing coulda-woulda-shoulda. I'm going to have to remind myself that despite never feeling comfortable with just winging it with no plan for this race, I've run a half PR and grew a lot between Imogene 08 and 09. Now, I just need to convince myself in the next few days that I can keep riding that wave, come rain or shine.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

A Taper Madness 5K, and a Wildcat Victory

(Hold's that pesky football corner of my brain-we have to let it talk and then it'll go away)

Oh yeah baby. Go Wildcats! My husband and I are getting all itchy to plan a trip to Manhattan next year....not just our every-other-year K-State versus Colorado trip to Boulder. It's been a looong time and watching the game on television just isn't the same.

Okay. Sorry. Back to running and racing.

The race I ran yesterday has always been the most well-attended 5K in our city, and grows exponentially each year as it serves as the season-ending race for our Girls on the Run council, which has been adding schools and cities throughout the rural communities of Western Colorado since its formation ten years ago. When I chatted pre-race with SimonSaysRun (who heads up the program in her county, about an hour down the road) and asked many were registered this year, the number was at over 1100! The course had been switched up pretty dramatically from a year ago, and in my non-expert opinion, they were all positive changes. Lots of room to spread out for a cross country-type start, and sending us out onto a section of closed road mid-race without any two way runner traffic coming face to face and having to weave around one another.

So, despite questioning my own in intelligence for running this a week before my fall marathon, I was also really looking forward to the run. The weather was fantastic-sunny, dry, and about 50 degrees by race time. Honestly, I don't have any major creaks or pains going on lately, so it seemed like a nice day for some speed work. After the typical pre-race chatting with the usual suspects, I headed over and lined up kind of next to/slightly behind the men who would be duking it out for the top slots. The son of one of my early morning running partners lined up with me as well. He's twelve and runs a lot of the 5K's and occasional 10K, and this seemed like a good spot for both of us to get off without getting trampled by any "sprint and stop"-pers. Despite the huge number of runners (for our area), pre-race logistics were good, and we got off more or less on time for the 10 a.m. start.

I stuck with the strategy of go out hard, no holding back, and originally found myself the first woman if front behind the small pack of frontrunning men. This was a bit of a puzzler but I stuck with it. Not even half a mile in, though, a familiar runner comes around the side of me, and on's the 8th grader with whom I had the really fun footrace toward the finish at the 4th of July race I ran this year. She was looking strong and I didn't just concede or anything but the more I tried to hang on to her, the more she pulled away right from the get-go, and it was clear she was just getting faster as I worked to maintain my pace.

Mile 1: 6:49

I'm having a hard time remembering where exactly that first mile ended in relation to hitting the road and going over the bridge, but when I turned to start heading over it I could see back from where I'd just run-WOW, was I impressed with the number of girls who were running at 7-8 minute mile paces. I expected to see girls there, but not the total sea of them moving along at that clip. This really motivated me and I figured if they could push that hard then I should also be trying to pull out all the stops, and tried to turn over the feet quickly as I made it down to the turnaround, and came right back up and over the bridge.

I could see now coming back that there was a good bit of space between me, and the next woman. I'm actually not a big fan of racing like of the things I figured out over the summer is that I really love closely contested 5K races. It's just harder to race when there's not someone right there to race against. I did see lots of people I knew coming over the bridge the other way and got to high-five several of them, which was kind of a nice distraction from going over that stinkin' thing a second time. I knew I'd slowed down a little bit but wasn't crashing and burning either.

Mile 2: 7:03

The last section of the course was physically and mentally the most challenging section as you follow a dirt path for a ways, then run on the grassy field, then start heading slightly uphill on the way to the finish on a combination of grass and concrete path. I noticed my instantaneous streaming pace drop here on the Garmin as I came up a little hill on the path but didn't panic. I refused to get into mega-fade mentality here. I thought of Judy and of Katie when I got to about the 2.6 mile point (usually the toughest point for me mentally) and just said "COME ON! You're here, you're healthy and lucky enough to be able to do this-let's do this right." Though my legs were getting gooey, I managed to slow the fade and kind of regroup late in the third mile.

Mile 3: 7:28

I was really, really happy to see the finish approaching now. There was no 6:00 pace last sprint kick in me as I took two turns to get toward the finish and finally the chute, but kept hanging in there to go as full-out as I had today.

Garmin measured .17 for the last portion of the race, 7:14 pace, 1:14 time for the last split, Finishing time 22:34. Not the most stellar racing day in the world, but if I compare the last race I did over here across the combo of squishy grass, dirt trail and concrete (a 5K back in June) it was a bit of an improvement time-wise. Now that I'm thinking about it the next morning, I don't think racing it with more intensity than Pete Pfitzinger dictates for tuneup races-especially the week before the marathon (which isn't on anyone's training schedule but my own homegrown deal)-would have been wise.

Somehow this was good enough for second overall female, and first in age group. Honestly I wouldn't have expected more than an AG for that time with a race that big but I guess you race the course, and whomever shows up, right? That girl who won finished nearly two minutes ahead when all was said and done, with the third place girl thirty seconds back. Then there were a slew of women and girls who ran in the 23-25 minute range. When I checked the newspaper results today, I discovered that I was actually sandwiched by girls young enough to be my daughters in the overall standings, as third place was twelve years old. Yeah, Granny right here!

They didn't remove overall winners from age group contention, so I wound up taking my age group as well, and going home with two gift cards to a brewpub here that I very much like, but do not usually go out of my way to go to because they're kind of across town. I also chatted with the second place finisher in my age group (finished top-10 overall too). She was second overall at that smaller 5K last week, and kind of new to running and racing in the area. I'd been thinking to myself "I should really train with her sometimes" and she beat me to the punch post-race, saying "We need to run together!"

I don't necessarily get to train with other people regularly due to wacky schedules, but it sounds like hers is as wacky as mine. This looks like a good opportunity to train with a similarly paced runner when our schedules match up, and I'm looking forward to that. We seem to have the same temperament of pushing hard and getting into work mode during races, and switching right back to laid-back and not overly serious once the race is over. So, all in all, a really enjoyable day at the races. Great weather, and really positive logistical changes that made this ever-growing race go off very smoothly yesterday.

Friday, November 6, 2009

The Football Side of My Brain Wants To Say Something Again

Fightin' Manginos, you're going down. And that stupid imaginary bird, too. You owe Bill Snyder (thanks again, Oz, for the video you shared not too long ago) for anyone knowing your name today.'s become very apparent that I lot of my smarter running friends think it's not the best idea in the world to run a 5K the week before a marathon. I never claimed to be smart, though, and with all the talk with various bloggers about trying to figure out the best way to train in each of our experiments of one, it seems like it might not be the stupidest idea in the world for me.

Okay, maybe the jury's still out on that one. I will say, though, that even though 5K's don't really directly relate to marathon training, I seem to be able to bounce back quickly from these deals with no residual soreness. I've also gained confidence from the shorter races, and that does carry over into the longer stuff. There's no staying up late worrying about how I'll run the next day, and I think this comes from just getting out there to run a distance that is most definitely not my favorite. My marathon's also a fun experiment of sorts. I'm not trying to qualify for anything (they may or may not have gotten the course certified in time), we've got an 1800 foot gain and loss on the beautiful but twisty and curvy course, and nobody has any history or experience at pacing it since this race has been 37K since its inception. Plus, I have a free entry into it, and have a hard time passing up that four letter word.

I'll be the first to say it if I wind up finding out next weekend that I was an idiot for racing tomorrow. I'm convinced, though, that if I pay attention to my body and back off if things start going totally south, I can just treat it as one good final speed workout, and do my final 13 miles or so on Sunday without issues. But first-an exciting Saturday of football, chili, beer, and trying to stay two steps of hundreds of sprinting little girls at the start of the biggest 5K in town.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

A Halloween Spooktacular, Meb, and Other Musings

A Spooky Good Time

So, I think I have well established that I am no great lover of speed work, and consequently have spent this "fun marathon" training cycle doing 5K races as my Lazy Mama Speedwork Program (patent NOT pending). To be fair, I do run them all-out, and try to experiment with racing fast and holding pace, so I believe I'm getting something out of it. That said, it's still my least favorite distance because of that world of pain you enter during an all-out effort. So, I was on the fence all last week about the local Catholic school's Halloween morning 5K race. I figured I'd sleep on it and decide in the morning.

Well, I got up on Saturday and didn't really do anything. I was still on the couch at 7:30 that morning, on the fence about going to this race. I really wasn't thinking about it too much in terms of my fall marathon in two weeks-it was just plain old lack of motivation to race a 5K. I finally decided to go ahead and move my butt out the door and head on down to the race.

It looked like there were a good 100 or so participants and lots of kids. I knew from my friend Carl's experience last year that there were lots of "sprint and stop" children who started from the front so I just tried to make sure I wasn't three deep in kids when I lined up. They counted us down, and off we went, right on time.

I immediately got confused because the parking lot has a median, and there were runners on each side of the median coming out to the main road. I just kind of "stayed the course" and stuck with the side that let me run the tangent out of the lot. As we turned onto the road, there was a small pack of guys and I saw one girl up there but didn't notice if there were any other women way up front. Turning into a residential neighborhood and heading down hill, I slowly and steadily made up ground on the girl, and eventually passed her. Coming out of the neighborhood, we had our first hill climb. MEH. This is tough.

Mile 1: 6:46

The second mile had some roll to it, and I could hear foot slaps behind me the entire time. I thought it was that girl and that I was going to run out of steam and get passed. I tried to distance myself from the foot slapping but whoever it was was pretty close behind me.

Mile 2: 6:56

Oh, man. Going into mile three, the footslaps were closer and my legs felt sort of like jelly. I slowed down a little bit and of course right then was when the person behind me passed. Turned out that it was NOT that girl, but rather a 50-something guy that I see at a lot of races-seems like we run near dead-even pace and typically finish close to one another at races. I dug in more to fight the fade, and said come on girl, don't let anyone else pass you. Of course, now is the perfect time to throw in a long steady uphill.

This high school kid stops to walk for a few steps and and shake himself out a little and I get past him but then he gets moving again past me. I crest the hill and can see the course workers off in the distance, pointing people back into the school parking lot.

Mile 3: 7:40 (wow,how's that for a big ugly fade?)

I thought I'd seen the finish down around on the other side of the school, and had in my head that there was a lot more to go than what was left. It was really just a short, slight downhill to the finish chute so I hammered on in at 37.4 seconds for the last .1 (which my Garmin measured spot-on) for a total time of 21:59.

No PR, and I really was not happy at all with that last mile. I know I've been figuring out that I'm better going out hard, because I seem to fade either way but run faster times when I go all-out, but that was just a huge fade in the last mile. Yeah, there was a hill or two but I should have been able to kick it a bit harder. Oh well. I guess I feel a bit validated at the difficulty of that last hill-the high school kid who kept flip-flopping places with me promptly tossed his cookies seconds after I'd come in and stopped my watch, leaving a nice thank-you gift for race volunteers.

They didn't do overalls but they did tell me I was the first woman coming through, and I won my age group with a 10th overall combine placement so it wasn't my worst race ever. I want to work over the winter on not fading so hard in the last mile of 5K's. I feel like I ought to be able to fight that better than I'm doing. Wait...I said I hate 5K's and I hate speed work? I guess I'm not bright enough to leave well enough alone. I did have a good workout suggested to me to fight the fade, so I think I'll try it about every 7-10 days at the college track to see if I can get rid of fade...or decrease my rate of descent for starters.

Meb and NYC

By now, most running fans know that Meb Keflezighi became the first American since Alberto Salazar to win the New York City marathon this weekend, running proudly in his USA singlet to victory after dropping 4-time Boston winner Robert Cheruiyot of Kenya, smiling and waving to spectators and pointing once or twice to the "USA" on his chest. Notice that I said "American"--because that is what he is. I could go on a long rant, but to keep it short, I think the people who have said that he is "not a real American" are idiots. How you like them apples?

Yeah, I'm not really exhibiting any tact myself in saying that, but there's something wrong with people calling Meb less American or not a real American because he came here at age twelve from a war-torn nation, as if the sheer act of being born on American soil would make him more worthy of being called a United States citizen. Meb and has family embody the best of America, in my opinion. They came here, worked hard at education and sport, achieved, and lived their day-to-day lives in this country. He became a naturalized citizen eleven years ago-something that required an active choice, and a test of citizenship. Then, on Sunday, came a major marathon victory in a city that has become a home to people from all over the world, in a country that has been built and made strong by immigrants. Look at this proof that the American Dream is still alive and well, and explain to me how anyone could call him "not a real American":

Meb is a class act, and I hope his grace and composure make the Darren Rovells of the world feel foolish for embracing such shameful and illogical ways of thinking about who is "American enough." (Read his apology here.) It was a great moment, and fitting that someone like Meb who chose to be an American would lead a whopping six men from the United States into the top ten in New York City.

Et Cetera

So, speaking of New York City....this gal has decided to throw her name in the hat at the ridiculously early opening of the 2010 New York City Marathon lottery. I'd been thinking about it as a race to do at some point in time, but initially thought I'd wait until I had a guaranteed entry half-marathon time of 1:37 or faster.

Well, I've got a cousin in New York City, and other friends living in the area who know I run and keep nudging me to run the Big Apple. Couple that with some things looking up in the employment stability department, and just realizing that you never know when your time is going to be up-it wound up being the perfect time to just go ahead and do it. As another fellow runner entering the lottery pointed out, if we're not drawn, we have our first strike in their "three times and you're in" system. If I'm not drawn, I still have lots of time to work toward a guaranteed entry qualifying time anyway.

So, I ponied up $11 for the privilege of giving the marathon my name and information (and spent about ten minutes checking the "no" box on multiple pages of special offers and sales on the application) and officially declared my desire to run the NYC marathon next year. I'm darn excited about it. I don't even want to think about it because there's no guarantee of getting one of those 40,000-odd slots when there were more than 100,000 applicants last year, but I think I'd be living my own personal dream to run Boston and New York City in the same year. If I don't get in, that's okay, but the possibility of getting in and waiting to find out is all part of the enjoyment of running for me.

And, in other fall marathon is in less than two weeks! *GULP* Let me try to pretend I have no idea it's coming up, and that I'm feeling awesome and confident about the race. Nothing left to do but taper, show up at the starting line, and see what happens in my first running of an inaugural event.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

I Hate That This Happens....

One of our most admired members of the Womens BQ group and Masters, Judy, has been at her daughter Katie's side for much of the past 14 months during her battle with leukemia. I'm going to copy and paste the news she shared this morning, along with her request for those who want to do something to honor Katie:

Katie died peacefully yesterday evening. She fought her leukemia with quiet dignity, and touched the lives of many with her strength and grace. She gave us the gift of allowing us to love her and care for her at home for her last days. She is my hero.

There is a void in the world and in our hearts. Charlie and my daughter Julia have each other and Julia's fiance; our hearts ache for Katie's DBF, who had planned to marry Katie.

To honor Katie and save lives, please join the bone marrow registry and donate blood if you are eligible. Also, please support the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society by donating via gettin older's TnT site.

Thank you, my dear BQ ladies , for all of your support. You have helped me so much throughout our ordeal. I thank each of you who has run in honor of Katie and with Katie in your hearts.

Thank you, thank you.


Judy is greatly respected and loved by her fellow runner friends, and it's just a terrible thing to see your friend go through. Like many others, I've always wanted to sign up for the bone marrow registry but just hadn't done it yet-until today. It's free to sign up and only takes a few minutes-so I would encourage any of you reading this to sign up and spread the word. You could save somebody's life by taking a few minutes to fill out the online paperwork, completing the test once you receive the kit, and sending it back (postage paid). You can access the registry here or copy and paste the following link:

And, again, please pass this link on to anyone you might know who would like to join the registry. Thanks.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

This Guy Has The BEST Race Photos Ever

Right here

I randomly found this guy's photos when I was checking out my own, and going through the lost and found to see if there were any more. They're awesome so I thought I'd share them here.

Not only did he run in the plaid shirt, plaid tie and outdoorsman/camping-type shorts, he had to have come through pretty fast because the lady in the first few shots is from my city, and was the fourth female overall/masters champion. That's what running SHOULD be all about-ENJOYING your hard work and training, and not just having tunnel vision on checking off training runs or pursuing PR's without joy. I hope his enthusiasm makes you smile like the guy right behind him in the last photo.

And, I must say....he caught some big air! Wow. I'm just getting better these days at lifting the knees, and not falling on my face.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Other Half Race Report

Or, alternately titled..Forget More Cowbell...It's All About the Drums!

Background: So, this was my very first half marathon two years ago. It was the culmination of an unlikely spur-of-the-moment decision I'd made after exactly one 5K to join a group of runners training for this race while fundraising for Girls on the Run. I had a terrific time on the beautiful course two years prior, going from "just finish" as my goal to eventually arriving at a sub-2:00 stretch goal, which I squeaked in on in 2007 with a 1:58:XX finish time. I was extremely bummed last year that I had to miss the race, but it was just too close to my fall marathon, where I was trying to BQ. I was SO happy this time around that I had four weeks between this race and my fall marathon. There's something special about this race that I just can't put into words.

Pre-Race: I started out the week before the race getting really sick. I was ticked and frustrated, and wondered if my race was going down the drain before I had a chance to run it. I was also a little unsure about how I'd do with my superstretch goal of 1:39, stretch of 1:42 and gimme to set a new PR (sub 1:46, basically). I have been doing a freewheeling plan all summer and fall of my own, not necessarily focusing on certain types of runs and speed work, but focusing on what I felt were weaker points for me as they related to my fall races. I spent time on trails to improve trail form for Imogene and work on hills.

I also worked on stuff that would come up in this race and would be helpful to practice. Kind of my "signature run" for the late summer and early fall was one in which I'd start at my house, run downhill to our river trail at about marathon pace or faster, spend some time down there, and then run the almost two miles back uphill to my house, trying to hold pace all the way back. It seemed like a good run to do considering that The Other Half doesn't start getting rolly and hilly until seven miles into the race. Here's what the race profile looks like:

That said, I wasn't feeling exceptionally confident and was wondering if I'd been wrong to just follow a "whatever I feel like doing" plan.

Race weekend: I showed up in Moab late on Saturday and met up with Ilana and Suzanne, and two of Suzanne's colleagues who were all staying with me Saturday night. After everyone had picked up their stuff and brought stuff into the hotel room, Ilana tailed me up to the parking lot near the finish to leave my car, and then we came back for dinner with all the ladies at Miguel's in downtown Moab. I always do Mexican for pre-race dinners, and Ilana and I got our pre-race margaritas too.

We learned that our hotel was being a stickler for no late checkouts, so after dinner we carefully laid out or stuff and kind of set things up so we'd be ready to check out at 6 a.m.

Race Day: We got up to what seemed like perfect weather for a race, scored some coffee, had some nibbles of food, and checked out of the hotel before heading to catch the bus. I had a slightly tight stomach but it wasn't sick so I wasn't too worried. None of us had much sleep beyond a few hours to start off the night-after that it was kind of the "kid on Christmas morning" deal where we all seemed to be laying there with our eyes closed.

We took the long bus ride to the start, and then alternately spent time in front of the fire pits and waiting in line for the port-a-potties. Just before the race start time, the sun started climbing over the red cliffs...just enough to make it cool and not frigid pre-race. After we ditched our warm-ups and sent them with the sweats truck, Ilana and I lined up kind of at the dividing point between the 7 and 8-minute mile signs. This was a gun timed only race-no chips-but we were pretty near the starting line so this seemed like a good spot. A few of the women who play the drums on the course were in the back of the truck at the start, drumming with anticipation of the starting gun. Right on schedule at 8:30, the gun fired, and we were off.

It seems that for these middle- to longer-distance events, I've had no happy mediums with how I've felt-it's either feeling good and not struggling, or just feeling yucky from the get-go. Today, I felt great as we started, and Ilana and I were even chatting intermittently. I knew pretty early that I shouldn't hold myself back unnecessarily, and that I ought to just take that "free energy" in the first half of the race.

Mile 1: 7:47

I continued to feel good through the next few miles. My breathing was under control (and, I noticed, more in control than some of the other women just a bit ahead of me) and I was relaxed.

Mile 2: 7:40

I kind of fumbled and dropped a Gatorade pass from the course volunteer-she gasped and thought she'd dropped it on me and I said "no, MY bad...I dropped it" and she'd already grabbed another one for me. Did I mention that these course volunteers are awesome?

Mile 3: 7:36

Going into mile 4...HELLO sun in the face! I was thankful for my hat and glasses and just kind of looked down at the asphalt. It was BRIGHT out there.

Mile 4: 7:28

Around here, it marked the beginning the first time I've done any real "testing" in a longer race. There were several women ahead of me, and their body language and breathing seemed off to me. I decided to push and creep up a bit to see how they were doing, and test the waters without necessarily planning to go well ahead of my pace just to get by them now. There were a few that I caught up to, and they in turn pushed harder. I had a feeling that if I just stayed consistent, some of them seemed like they were going to lose the early momentum on the hills, so I didn't kill myself trying to pass them at this point.

Mile 5: 7:40

Mile 6: 7:38

I got to the almost-halfway point feeling like I might be in that sweet spot on pace where I wouldn't blow up and have a huge positive split for the last few miles. I've done that in each of the last three halves I've run...and REALLY badly in June. It was ugly. The only time I didn't do this was at my very first half-this same race, two years ago. In that case, I was too conservative for the first seven miles and negative splitted in a fashion that showed I should have been out faster.

Okay, we're now building up to the large hill that comes around mile 8. It slows me down a bit but not much. I was right on my instinct that I could pass some folks moving into the second half.

Mile 7: 7:51

As we climb the big hill, nobody passed me, but I passed a few runners-both men and women. My heart rate got a little wacky feeling through here and my legs were a bit fatigued.

Mile 8: 8:15

I decided I needed a fifteen-second physical and mental reset, and when I grabbed some Gatorade at the 8-mile aid station, I walked briskly, allowing that heart rate to calm down a bit and to drink everything in that cup. It was really all I needed, and I felt like I had nipped bad stuff in the bud. I was back in the zone again.

The rolling hills kept coming, and I got into a rhythm on them, trying to build up momentum uphill and keep it going downhill with no braking. The Imogene race, and general trail running I've been doing really helped here because I wasn't afraid of getting so out of control that I'd trip and fall. I kept intermittently passing runners through the hills.

Mile 9: 7:43

Okay-now I was getting excited to know there were only a few miles left, and I wasn't feeling like I'd wasted all my energy before I really needed it. We still had more hills coming, and I was tiring and slowing some in spots but I would shake out my arms and try to consciously do things to stay loose.

Mile 10: 8:05

Now I can start to hear the distant drums of the women who sit at the top of the last hill. It's a beautiful sound and just keeps me going, and turns attention away from any aches and fatigue trying to set in at this point.

Mile 11: 7:39

Here we go....up that last hill. I know it's the last one, yet my mind thinks the same way it did two years ago and kind of gets tricked into thinking there's one more after. I approach the drumming ladies, wave, smile and clap for them. They are awesome, and one of my many favorite things about this race.

Mile 12: 7:46

Okay. For a first in a half marathon, I felt like I had it in me to absolutely cut loose in that final 1.1. Just a short way back, there had been a woman wearing a shirt with a message on the back that just clicked big-time. It said REST LATER and even though I probably could have just kept up status quo, and told myself that I was working as hard as I could, I thought "YES!" and knew that there was no other choice but killing it until I crossed the finish line.

I turned my legs over as fast as I possibly could, getting as much push off the ground as I could muster, and kind of mentally pretended I was racing a 5K. I continued passing people as turned into Sorrel River Ranch for THE longest finish chute I've ever seen at a race. I passed three women and a few men within the stretch of about two tenths of a mile, fully expecting a response as I continued to accelerate, but was surprised that there was no response.

Mile 13: 6:59

Okay, this is it! I could see the time clock, still ticking in the 1:40:XX range. If I'd known better when I first saw the time clock I would've realized that there was no way I was going to make it before it switched over to 1:41:xx, but thank goodness my running math is terrible. It gave me even more incentive to throttle through to the finish.

Last .16 as measured by Garmin: :59, or a 6:14 pace, and I slapped my Garmin off at exactly the same time the official results had me: 1:41:06. A new PR in the half marathon by more than five minutes. I kind of flopped and staggered out of the chute, and had someone ask if I was okay. I assured them that I was okay, and just needed to find a spot to stand and collect myself for a few minutes, which I did as I brough my breathing back down from the deep breathless gasps I was making as I crossed the finish (MAN, I do NOT want to see the photos they took at the finish line. I KNOW they are going to be ugly!)

I did not reach my my super-stretch goal, but honestly, I set each of my goals pretty aggressively so I was thrilled. I never hit 60 miles per week like I wanted to this training cycle, but I think consistently getting around 50 miles per week with work specific to my weak points and specific to the courses I'd be racing did more good than I thought. I'm thinking that with continued tackling of my weak spots, AND increasing mileage of the winter, I might be looking at a possibility of hitting that NYC marathon guaranteed entry qualifying standard at a spring half marathon.

My final placements were 74/1517 overall, 8/181 age group, 20/1027 women. (There are some slight corrections and changes here from when I first viewed the results in total numbers, but my position's stayed the same.)

This was also almost an 18 minute race PR from my time two years ago, but let's put huge asterisks on that. It was my first half marathon, I'd been averaging 15-25 miles per week then, and had topped out at about 30 miles training then.

I feel really good about this. I don't know if I can knock off a huge chunk of time again in the spring, but it certainly motivates me to be just outside of those regional ladies.

Ilana and Suzanne had great races too, with Ilana finishing third out of her age group, but due to overalls and Masters winners coming out, she won her division, and got a very swanky KoKoPelli trophy. As I continued to bump into and chat with other running acquaintances, it seemed that everyone had a good time out there, with race goals met by many. This is not a huge surprise-we had perfect weather conditions, and the race crew in Moab is just second-to-none, so there were no course problems to contend with.

Where does this leave me? Well, for one, more comfortable with the idea of just running and spending time on my feet and not needing to be a stickler to a cookie cutter training plan. I've been doing things that I think will benefit me, strengthen my weaker points, and help sharpen my racing skills. I know that more mileage would be beneficial to me, so I'm going to make some choices this winter with scheduling that'll make it easier to get in more miles. My "5k's as speed work" plan really wasn't as bad an idea as I thought, and I'm going to keep entering them, but I'm also going to get back into regular speed work sessions during the week. Will I do them exactly as Pete Pfitzinger dictates? Not sure. I may compare the 18/55 and 18/70 plans, and hit a happy medium between the two. The downhill/river trail/uphill route paid clear dividends this weekend, so I'm going to keep working that route.

I also learned that if you get sick-an extreme taper is okay. I was itching to run most of the week, and I know Ilana was too as she'd been sick and trying to rest up too. Both of us resisted the urge to run more than we should when we were sick, and trusted that we'd done enough leading up to race day. I am so glad I didn't throw in extra miles here and there just for the sake of keeping up mileage that week. I might not have been healthy and recovered the way I was for race day.

So, that's everything! Two days after the fact, I am feeling pretty good-surprisingly good. So, we'll resume a normal running week, and then get right back into a taper for my fall marathon.

Friday, October 16, 2009

I'm Officially Official

Because I am a total nerd about being a first-timer getting ready to run Boston next spring, I just have to share my celebratory moment this Friday. The vague note on the BAA website that entry lists would be posted "in mid-October" has caused me to check it three and four times a day starting about a week ago. I know, pathetic, right? Well, this has been a week in which I got REALLY darn sick Monday night (my son's class was missing half its students and the teacher that day, and another school closed Thursday and Friday this week due to widespread illness) and have spent the rest of the week literally running behind, and trying to rest and recover before the last half marathon I'll be able to run for about six months. I'm tired. I've been pretty grouchy, to be honest. So-when I did my random check a little while ago, I geeked out to find that the search mechanism had replaced the "check back in mid-October" message. I entered my vitals, and whoosh, up popped all my information.

Of course, it was sort of anticlimactic, because I noted that the BAA had made a giant sucking sound from my bank account about two weeks ago, but it was still fun to see it there in print. Right now, I appear to be the only person from my city entered, but we've got a guy locally who finished top-500 last year, and does well at everything from 5K's, to the Leadville Trail 100, so I am betting he'll be back again.

In taper madness weather watching for Moab this weekend, I'm liking the Sunday forecast a little less. We've gone from cool and shady to low of 52, high of 80, and mostly sunny. It was mostly sunny at the Canyonlands Half and 5-miler last March. When my daughter and I finished the 5-miler and went back to watch the half, it wasn't pretty watching the half runners coming in in the 80 degree weather, so I'll have to do a little dance for the weather gods, and hope they like it enough to drop the temps and bring in a few clouds.

So, this is it.....last night at home before heading out for the first of me two "big" fall races! EEK! I'm going to keep pumping the fluids for the next day, try to sleep well tonight, and hope that by Sunday morning, I've kicked the remnants of this crud to the curb. I've found new and different ways to screw up half marathons each time I've race one, and I don't want to mess up another one by way of illness.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

When I Grow Up...

I want to be like Ruth Frith. And for the record, Mister Conan O'Brien, she threw the shotput much further than an inch.

I love that according to this profile, she watches the throws of the young whippersnappers in the 80-year-old age group, and tries to beat whatever they're doing. Not sure about her no veggie thing, but love most of her other straightforward and B.S.-Free thoughts and opinions. A childhood free of junk food, and being given the chance to pursue athletic activities was indeed the best possible foundation to become the butt-kicking grandma she is today.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Mostly clear. Highs 65 to 75. Lows in the 40s.

Yeah, baby. I am beginning to weather-stalk, and building mojo for next Sunday. Never mind that it's almost always nice in Moab. But first...tales of things not going smoothly in the week leading up to the big race.

First, let's start with my totally awesome wardrobe malfunctions this weekend. No, no Janet Jackson action. I literally could not find the clothes I wanted to run in Saturday....or my gels, or my new Clif Shot Roks that I knew I'd spotted somewhere in the house over the past week-but could not locate for the life of me. It was one of those cram-packed days when I couldn't wait to start, though, so I just sucked it up and headed out. Instead of going out appropriately dressed for a 6:30 a.m. start, I was freezing my butt off for about the first five miles with no gloves and a handheld water bottle doing the equivalent of brain freeze to my hand and arm. My knees were cold in my shorts-thank goodness for my Magic Rollergirl Socks to keep the calves warm!

The run itself wasn't all that terrible, though. I logged a bit over fourteen miles for my last long-ish run before The Other Half. It was a very important workout on my unofficial, make-it-up-as-you-go, schedule designed to work for Imogene, then a half, and finally a full. I can't begin to state how awkward I've felt stumbling my way through whatever seems like a good run that day, and hoping it all comes together. Part of me feels like I wasted a whole training cycle screwing around and not being serious, but the other part of me says that I needed to do what I've been doing-logging miles, running on feel, and not overthinking stuff. The 5K a little over a week ago was a decent confidence booster, so I'm not ready to throw my new way of doing things entirely out the window.

In more taper madness news-my kids thought this would be the best week in the world to become succeptible to upper respiratory stuff. My son, not to be outdone and as a way to stand out from his sisters, thought he'd throw in a little nausea to boot. Yay me! Everyone seems to be on the mend now, but that's been an added degree of difficulty to have to be overcautious, sucking down Emergen-C on a regular basis, and repeating "I will not get sick-I will not get sick" over and over .

Much like that itchy feeling one gets when you find out that there was a head lice outbreak at the neighborhood school, I've found myself overanalyzing the teenieset stomach ache, or wondering if that little sniffle means I'll have full blown double pneumonia in a few days. Good times. I know it's all just taper time crazy-think, but I can't seem to turn off the race week hypochondria. Oh well-I'm going to have the cleanest hands in the world with the amount of hand washing going on as I try to resist any evil germs or bacteria that would do me in if I gave them the chance.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Sequel Time Already?

It seems like just yesterday, I was blogging about being able to get in my first evening runs of the spring with a little daylight to illuminate my path, and the lovely aroma of dinner blowing in the wind from the homes above my old faithful river trail haunts. Unbelievably, it's been seven months or so since those final weeks before my spring marathon in Kansas. Now, it's happening all over again-except that the days are getting shorter as I enjoy that fresh air and food smells.

I got in what I believe will be one of my final evening, outdoor mid-week medium-long runs for the season last night, enjoying that short, perfect season for running that we get for a few weeks each spring and each fall. It's that dry Western Colorado air that feels crisp-cold before the run begins, and turns into ideal shorts and short sleeve shirt weather once the body's moving and working up a sweat. Ira Glass, introducing stories of This American Life has been a regular running companion on the iPod as of late, and last night was no different. The miles go by as each story engages me, and it soon I'm nearly finished with my run without ever hitting a lull or wishing I could just get it over with already.

As the moon climbed in the night sky and stars became visible, I realized that I could see just fine. So, instead of running the two miles back to my home from the river trail to finish up my run on the treadmill, I kind of turned it into a mash-up of medium-long run with hill repeat-esque trips up all the cul-de-sacs in my neighborhood, which has a layout very similar to the terraced streets in the movie E.T. When I finally returned home, it was as if I hadn't done any work at all during those ten miles. It was just one of those great runs that once again reminds me why I love to run, and leaves me with a need to take to the roads again very soon.

So, where does this leave me? Did I mention that my fall half-marathon comes up in eleven days, and I'm suddenly finding myself itchy with that madness of taper? It doesn't matter that it's not a full marathon. The symptoms of the madness are the same.

I've already started to check weather forecasts for Moab, and keep reminding myself, thanks to a Running Times column I read last year, that I should really get in to Goodwill to find the funkiest, ugliest, warmest coat possible that nobody else will buy so that I can have something to wear pre-race. Everyone may get a good laugh at me, but I will laugh last when I'm not the Human Popsicle after huddling with the masses around the fire pits at the start for ninety minutes, like we did at this race two years ago.

The next most likely symptom of this madness should be obsession over pacing-and whether I should just go with the flow or formulate a very specific pacing strategy. After using ten year age groups for the first five runnings of The Other Half, the race moves to five year age groups this year. I made the mistake of looking up last year's results and counting down the women in my five year age group (OCD much? That's me!). IF I can run the race of my life-and IF no other woman in my age group runs the race of her life, I have a VERY outside chance to squeak into a placing slot. I've had bad luck with my two aggressive half starts, though, so I'm thinking that taking a chill pill might be the best strategy after all. As last night's run reminded me, sometimes it's just good to give in to all your senses, and let the good running happen without forcing things.

Monday, October 5, 2009

More Tales From The Brink of Nausea-A 5K Race Report

This is a race in which I've participated twice before, held in honor of a cross country runner at a local high school who was killed in a car accident on her way to practice seven years ago. Sounds like something that could be horribly depressing, but it's really a feel-good type of deal-and I'm not routinely a feel-good type of girl. Her family and friends have always been involved, and the high school cross country race that follows the citizen's race is a big home meet for her high school. The entry fees go toward scholarships for student athletes at area high schools, so it's an event where I don't groan too much about shelling out for it.

When I first ran this race two years ago, it was the first race in which I'd ever placed in age group, and last year I paced my daughter. I was just getting started with serious training in 2007, and running less than half of my current mileage with very limited race experience, so it was sort of a question mark day for me this year as far as what to expect.

The weather was pretty fantastic for racing-cold, sunny, no wind. I'd taken the day off yesterday, and had a good mileage week before today so I was feeling optimistic about running, and had already decided I was not going to psych myself out over the inevitable slew of fast women who all seem to turn out for this race. I said hello to Carl and JoAnn from my neighborhood, as well as other usual suspects, got in a brief warm-up, and lined up near the front.

I planned to use the strategy I employed earlier in the summer that seems to work for me of going out as hard as I can, and just push and hang on to that as long as I can. I think I spent two years trying to hold back slightly and then have a big finishing kick in 5K's, and was never able to have much success with that. I seem to actually be kicking harder these days at the finish with the harder starts I've been trying, so the plan was to go with that today and not preoccupy myself with what everyone else was doing. After two failed attempts to get the air horn to sound at the start, our starter just gave us a "Ready-GO!" and off we went.

There was a small pack of men that launched pretty quickly, and what seemed like a short string of us ladies, probably six or seven of us, trying to stay near the front from the get-go. After initially trying to jump out front, there were two women who easily moved ahead of me but I just kept running hard and didn't think much about it. There were a few other ladies who just kind of eased past me, but not blowing by either, as we approached the halfway to the first mile. I stayed relaxed and felt that good burn in the lungs of being about where I should be pace-wise as I finished the first mile.

Mile 1: 6:33

The second mile contains a lot of twists and turns on both paved and rocky/gravel paths. Here, a woman passed me while still on the paved section. As we moved to gravel, though, I could hear her struggling with her breathing and body language didn't look good. A runner just a little bit ahead of me flew past her, and then I moved on ahead as well. This to me is the hardest section of the route. It's fairly flat but has sort of an uphill feel as we wind around the lake and start heading back to finish the first loop on the course, and set out for the shorter second loop.

Coming to the end of the first mile, I see that my husband and kids have arrived to watch. My husband hollers out my name, and the girls yell "Go Mom!" My son, ever the comedian, almost made me bust up laughing when he shouted out encouragement, calling me by my first name. Not now, son-mom is having enough time trying to breathe and put one foot in front of the other.

Mile 2: 6:56

So, OUCH. I am feeling it now. But, I think I'm decent at mentally toughing through that last 1.1 as the body starts to tire. Somewhere along here I think "what is that feeling?" as my compression sock seems to be NOT compressing and sliding down my left calf. I must've accidentally tucked or flipped it funny or something, but I was not about to break my momentum to monkey with it. As we were hitting about the 2.5 mile point I could feel it sliding all the way down to my ankle. Oh well. It can just stay there now. This was all after I talked to a friend pre-race who has an upcoming leg surgery about how great these socks are, and how welll they stay put. Oops.

We make a turn through a wooded, curving section of trail that meets up again with a stretch of parking area, and I charge with all I've got to the three mile point, and last turn toward the finish.

Mile 3: 7:06.

I can see the finish but it looks REALLY far away. Okay-best way to get closer is to run fast to that point, right? :P I pick up the turnover as much as I can on the straight shot in to the finish.

Last .1 (measured .12 on Garmin): :50 seconds, 6:51 pace, final time 21:26 which is more than a four minute PR from the last time I raced this for myself two years ago (I think I felt WORSE during that race too! ). Good enough for 22nd overall, and 1st in the 30-39 AG. I'm not sure but I believe I was 6th out of all the women-I might be off a spot or two, though. My prize was the traditional ceramic banana medal, made by students from the race namesake's high school, with a number one painted on it.

This wasn't a 5K PR for me but I think that was about the third fastest I've run, and on a XC course I'm really pleased with that. I've done SOME speed work this summer and fall but not a ton-mostly just trying to log the miles and spend time on my feet, so I think this was a decent result given that I haven't stuck to strictly regimented training lately.

So that's it! Thanks for reading. I had a lot of fun at this race today and it's giving me confidence for my half in a few weeks.