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.