Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Taper Madness (Minus the Madness)

Well, I did indeed run that 10K race last weekend, and while it didn't wind up being a Bad Ideas Club Hall of Fame entry, I was hardly burning up the road. I think that maybe *I* was burning up-they started 20 minutes late on an already hot day on the out-and-back route. Though it was the second year this race took place, the location was brand new, and they were starting a 5K simultaneously at the turnaround point for the 10K. The start and finish was also not the location listed in the race information, so it was almost as if this was the inaugural running of the event with all the confusion. By the time we finally started, I was wondering what made me want to do this race the week after the Steamworks Half.

The route was uphill for the first half, and I just focused on a hard but even effort. In the first half-mile, there were two women ahead of me but I was able to get past that second lady before the first mile was up. As we continued uphill, there was some shirtless guy who kept trading places with me-not in a super-competitive way, just more of a "hey, you're going my pace" deal. I was slogging uphill to the turnaround, which was just below the east gate to the Colorado National Monument, and kind of felt relieved that I wasn't climbing in the heat anymore. The first three mile splits were 7:39, 7:44 and 7:58. I kept getting close to the leading female every time she stopped to monkey with her shoelaces (she seemed to be having a lot of shoe trouble), and when she slowed at the water stop, but she kept running back ahead with kick that I just didn't have. Still, I kept her in my sights and tried to stay in position to make a move if I could at some point.

Upon turning downhill, I did something I do not usually do, and asked the guy who was pacing with me what he was shooting for today. He said that it was his first race in about four months, so he was just out there to have fun today. We chattered back and forth a little, which was kind of a nice distraction, and said "hey" to various folks we knew coming up the road as we headed back down. He said that he was running his first Imogene Pass Run in September, and he laughed when I mentioned the love/hate relationship most folks have the first time they complete the event. I saw my buddy Jen running third woman, and shouted out a "looking good" her way.

I could still see that number one lady when the guy said "think you could catch her?" I'm not much of a kicker and wasn't feeling on fire today, but said "hey, never say never-I'll try my best to get her!" She seemed to be possibly tiring a bit as she stopped at the water stop one more time, and I thought I might have a chance. I just went through the water stop but my newfound running buddy grabbed a cup of water and surprisingly handed it my way. I'd half-seriously cracked to my husband about a couple of women at my fall marathon who were being paced by spouses or boyfriends, so I had to laugh at myself a bit here that some dude who was a complete stranger (albeit a cool stranger) was helping and encouraging me through. I accepted the water, took a few sips and then dumped the rest over my head which felt SO good on this hot day with the sun beating down from the cloudless sky. He said something to the effect of "let's get her!" Miles 4 and 5 were 7:43 and 7:37.

I stayed with him a bit longer but then felt like I was fading, and that lady up front was just pulling away. I pushed as hard as I could in the last mile, and my running buddy finally pulled on ahead. I didn't realize until after the fact that I actually did have a really good mile 6-7:16. That girl up front just really hammered it home and I couldn't come close to matching it. Still, I seemed to be in okay shape, given the heat. There was one last turn into the parking lot where we were finishing, and I ran that at a 6:56 pace for what Garmin measured as .18 miles. Finish time-47:10.

This was again somewhere smack in the middle between my personal worst and some of my "above average" non-PR runs, and I was happy with it today. It was almost a minute faster than my pathetic Bolder Boulder run, and with the conditions and uphill first half I thought I hung in there okay.

I nabbed first place in my age group (just one overall male and female winner this year) and won a beautiful bowl from Kenya with an elephant hand-painted on the inside. Last year in the inaugural 5K for this event, I had placed third overall and won an elephant sculpture, so I was kind of digging that I again had an elephant on my hardware this year.

Jen held on to third overall and second in our age group,

and one of the ladies who I had a great time trying to duke it out against a year ago (she won our little duel and finished second in the race then) came in fourth overall and third in our age group. Despite the late start and the heat, it was a great time and I had fun.

I got up 24 hours later and knocked out my last 20-miler before Missoula, and it felt pretty business-as-usual. I had tired legs from Saturday but got through the run just fine. What started to concern me as the day went on, though, was some pain in the pad of my left foot that became more and more excruciating as the day went on. I've really never had foot problems and it was getting to where walking was uncomfortable. I bagged my early morning run on Monday and took Tuesday off. The pain has diminshed with each day, and I did get in a five mile trail run this morning without pain, so I guess things are okay. Oddly, I wasn't all that freaked out about the pain, thinking "Well, I've done the Extreme Taper before and can do it again if I have to." It seems like that won't be necessary, though, so I'm not doing anything different but canning the July 4th 5K I had planned to run.

It feels a bit strange to not be totally climbing the walls, going crazy with the taper and I'm not sure if this spells epic disaster, or going the other way and maybe exceeding my own race expectations for a summer marathon with a minimal buildup after Boston recovery. I don't know if it's that I'm not a total novice marathoner anymore and know what to expect, or that I've literally distracted myself from the fact that I'm running a marathon between all the other stuff we've been doing in my house this summer. I haven't even thought about what to wear, which is unusual since I've usually planned this out in a very OCD fashion well in advance. All I know for certain this time is that I WILL definitely be wearing clothes and running shoes. I figure I'll just go with it-I'm sure I'll be freaking out about things soon enough anyway.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The 2010 Steamworks Half Race Report

This was my second trip down for the Steamworks Half in Durango, and I hoped to improve upon last year's run. In 2009, my race included a bus trip to the start with less than 15 minutes to spare, three port-a-potties, a frantic run uphill to barely make the start, and a two mile death march to the finish at altitude after a too-fast start. I used the beautiful 3.5 hour drive in fantastic weather to talk myself into how great the race would be with a few small changes.

I was staying with Ilana again, who is my regular race roomie around this region. With Durango being her hometown, she had just the place in mind for us to grab dinner, and I had the traditional pre-race margarita, rice, beans and enchiladas. Ilana would not be running due to injury down-time, but I knew I would see her volunteering at the finish area. We came back to her place, and after reading a bit from a book in the guest room about mountain biking misadventures, I turned in for the night with a plan to turn around my performance from the previous year.

When I got up in the morning, problem #1, the bus situation was remedied by a ride to the start from Ilana. This time, I had about half an hour to spare, so there would be no mad dash to the start. Alas, there was only one more port-a-potty compared to the year before. I didn't really need to go, though, so I decided to just walk up the road to the start area, find a patch of sun breaking through the trees, and hang out. About fifteen minutes pre-race, I did a very light warmup jog, but decided that I didn't need much more than that because I would need to show a bit of restraint in the first mile anyway. I greeted the only other person from my city to make it down for the race as she walked up the hill. This was her first race in quite awhile, and something about it sparked her interest so she was down there with her husband and two daughters. A minute or two before the start, the race director appeared, counted us down, and it was on.

My "gimme" goal was a race PR (sub-1:46:29), which I imagined would happen barring a complete catastrophe. Even though my half PR is 1:40 and change, I thought that a good stretch goal would be 1:43. I do tend to feel any climb in altitude, it was warm, and this course has a lot of roll to it with a tough uphill finish. If I was bulletproof and feeling no pain, then 1:40 would be my magical pixie dust goal. That said, my plan for the day was to be conservative to start, and even throughout rather than my shorter race "bombs away" style of running that I've used as of late.

First mile felt pretty good. There were maybe a dozen of us ladies who were not the way-out-front few that were in the next group of runners, and we seemed to string out over a short distance.

Mile 1: 7:39

There was a small group of ladies that was initially ahead of me from the start that I did move a bit past in the first mile. I don't know whether they did this independently or were fired up to pass back, but they ran back ahead of me early in the second mile. I let them go because I was sticking to my strategy of giving myself something to work with late in the game, knowing that some people were going to fade from going out too hard at the downhill start.

Mile 2: 7:36
Mile 3: 7:56

Okay, so we were rolling a little bit now, and not pitching downhill dramatically. I feel like I'm decent on uphills-not speedy, but steady and able to put out an even effort without psyching myself out too much. Then I try to take advantage of the free energy on the downhills, and just carry it as far as I can into the next hill. In the next few miles, I tended to pace pretty evenly with a handful of people. There were a few women who had moved way ahead, but for the most part there was not much passing going on here.

Mile 4: 8:05
Mile 5: 7:58
Mile 6: 8:02

I was working really hard but I felt comparatively fantastic to the year before, when I was at that place of just wanting to be shot and put out of my misery. I had been totally annoyed by my handheld water bottle at the 2009 race, so I was alternating between Powerade and water at every aid station this time, and taking ten seconds to walk and drink the whole thing. This served a dual purpose-hydration, obviously, but also bringing my heart rate down a bit. I've felt it racing before when I run in places higher than my city's altitude, and these little breaks actually made me feel much more in control of my race.

The temps were really starting to climb by now, and the unshaded sections of road were kind of uncomfortable. I just tucked the head down and got into "run the mile you're in" mode. This has always worked for me and kept me from overthinking things if I am starting to have a tough time. For the first time, I passed a runner or two who thought they'd have enough to get through on a fast start. I was tired too and experiencing a slight fade, but I was fired up and still felt like I could keep holding on. There was one woman and man who passed me in this section, but that was it through this section.

Mile 7: 8:00
Mile 8: 8:08
Mile 9: 7:57

I'd been following a steady, strong cross-country-runner-looking lady for a bit, and inched closer to her with each step. I took a minute to hang back and decide when to go for it, and moved past with no response. I was starting to feel pretty wiped out but passing people late in the race kept me moving. I started playing "All These Things That I've Done" by The Killers over and over in my head. It's the song in that really cool video here featuring Joan Benoit Samuelson on her way to the first women's gold medal in the marathon.

The "If You Can Hold On, Hold On" lyric just speaks to me and is as good a running mantra as any, along with the repetitive "I've Got Soul But I'm Not A Soldier." I hate to use words like motivational and inspirational flippantly, but that video and song just do it for me.

At this point I'd passed one of those women in that early trio, and had seen another take off ahead early on. I'd been making up ground on the third lady, though, and soon found myself right behind her. She either sensed or heard someone behind her, and yanked one ear bud out of her ear. I did not want to pass until it was the right time for me, though, and held my ground, noticing that she did appear to be tired and fading.

Mile 10: 8:11

Okay, it was time, and I decided to go for it. I passed without looking back and increased my turnover, holding on to this surging pace for as long as I could. This was tough because there was no more downhill on the course.

Mile 11: 8:06

Now I know you can't really hit "the wall" in a half but I was sort of feeling that way now. Still, I trudged on and tried to surge between signs and lightposts, playing the "break it down" game where I mark off the course in small stretches, and try to get from A to B. I just did not want to get passed again by that last lady and was running as if she was right behind me, whether she was or not. I kicked as hard as I could and never turned back or to the side to look for her.

Mile 12: 8:17

Oh, wow, did I feel miserable now, but this is where familiarity was helpful. I was running uphill but starting to recognize those landmarks in the last mile. I ran sign-to-sign, corner-to-corner, and acted like I had a runner right on my tail.

Mile 13: 8:18

In this last section, I needed to cross the street that was open to traffic, and was now just behind a guy who started to cross. I followed behind him, but then he jumped back out of the way at the last section, seeing a car coming down the road. I was already out there and just kind of committed to crossing rather than darting back in front of that driver. Soon I was across and pouring it on to make that last turn, and finish, still having no idea who might be behind me. I hear Ilana shout out at me as I turned to the finish chute and could see the time clock reading 1:42:xx. I charged across the finish line at 1:43:00 on the nose by my Garmin and what would wind up being an official race time of 1:43:01, and collapsed in the shade. I did it....3:29 off the year prior's result, hit my stretch goal on the nose, and ran what I feel was a smart race on the course. This was a shot Ilana caught of me pushing to the finish with that fish-out-of-water contorted breathing face:

After a few minutes of cooling off and rehydrating, my breathing and heart rate settled down. I chatted with Ilana for a bit, and then made a beeline for the athletic club's pool area, where the free massages, food and beer were located. I was one of the first on the list for the rubdown, and in the meantime I hung out and had a black bean burger, potato salad and beer from the title sponsor of the race. As the results came in, I found out that I was 7th out of 104 finishers in the 26-39 age bracket (yes, a strange breakdown, and 1/3 of the 300 person sold-out race). I didn't count the entire list, but I was 10th female overall out of what appeared to be about 200 women in the race. Though this was nowhere near getting into the age group awards, I was pleased nonetheless with how things went down.

As for this week's running, I have been a little sore but not terribly so, and have kept up with all my planned runs for the week. I'm going to try a two week taper for Missoula, with a 10K race this Saturday locally and long run on Sunday. These could be additional entries into the Bad Ideas Club, but it keeps things fresh, fun and unpredictable for me. That's the key these days-mix it up and make sure it's never a drudgery to get out there on the roads and trails.

Friday, June 18, 2010

On The Road Again

Yes, it's time for another road trip. Even though it involves that trip over White Knuckle Pass-er-Red Mountain Pass, I'm excited. I love these opportunities to get a quick 24-36 hours by myself.

This has been quite the week on the homefront, with my brain trying to re-learn a new summer schedule for the kids. The single upside to the Tired Daddy working a reduced number of hours for most of 2009 into 2010 was that he was available to help get them places, but with the project he'll be working until the end of the year, that isn't an option anymore. Don't get me wrong-it's a thrill to not be worrying about work hours and paying bills. It's just meant a LOT of time in the car playing musical kids, and occasionally having to rely on other folks to help out a little, which is something I don't like to have to do. Still-we made it through the first week of summer so it should just get easier from here on out with the routine.

In training news, it's been a bizarro week or two for weather. Two weeks ago, I had the epic hot weather run when I decided to cut the route short as the temperature climbed rapidly. This past weekend was one of only two weekends before Missoula when I would be able to get in a 20-miler. So, naturally, the forecast was for rain with thunder and lightning all weekend. Remember, this is the land of 360 days of sunshine a year. It's dry in the winter and even drier in the summer. When I awoke on Saturday, it was lightly raining but there was no thunder or lightning so I decided to go for it outside.

Things were fantastic for the first six miles. The temperature was about 59 degrees and the light rain was just plain refreshing. I could've gone on forever like this. I decided to mix it up from the beginning, and ran my first loop in reverse. This meant that about 2/3 of the way through the 9-mile loop, I'd descend from a residential neighborhood down a paved path, cross a bridge and meet a path that has both paved and gravel sections around some lakes. I've been over that bridge a million times in all conditions, both up and downhill. Never a slip, fall or skid. Well, I guess I was due for something. I was running one second, and then BAM. Down I went. Hard. It stung, and practically brought tears to my eyes. I was totally rattled.

To make matters worse, I landed at the feet of my early morning training partner's parents, who were out for a walk. Nothing like slamming down hard like that for an audience. They asked if I was okay as I got up to run again and I assured them that I was fine. But yeah-wow. I've fallen on dirt and gravelly trails before and honestly just bounced, rolled and moved along without much incident. My butt, hip, and back of my right thigh just killed. I knew nothing was broken or seriously injured but it was just that deep, painful soreness with every step. Knowing that it would only hurt worse on Sunday, though, I resolved to get through it on Saturday. That was not to be. It started pouring rain about another mile in, and then the thunder and lightning began. Game over. I hurried back to the trailhead with a little over nine miles completed, and headed home feeling kind of sorry for myself.

The next day, the weather forecast was more of the same, and I just HAD to get this run in. To further complicate things, this project my husband's on right now involves work on some weekends, and this Sunday was one of those days. This meant my option was wait until 4 in the afternoon for a 20 mile long run outdoors and hope the weather cooperated, or take care of business on the mill of dread. Option number two actually didn't sound terrible this time. In a stroke of good luck, the older kids had been invited over to activities with various friends, so I just waited for the small fry to go down for her nap before hitting the hamster wheel midday. A little over three miles later, I finally had my 20-miler on the books. It was a hard run in the late miles but one that felt SO good to finish knowing I could have talked myself into bailing anytime between the leg/butt soreness, and the run the day before.

I've taken this week sort of easy running-wise, doing a bit of a mini-taper for the half. I do think they were quality runs, though, heading up and down the hilly trails in my area. I'm not feeling sore anymore at the site of the fall, so maybe things are coming together just in time to have a suck-free race. I'm going to do something I do not usually do, and practice some slight restraint early on. From there I hope to gradually pick up the pace for a strong finish and course PR. This running thing is all one big experiment, so there's no time like the present to change things up and see what happens.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

In The Summertime....

It's hot. Yep, you're welcome for that tipoff, sayeth Captain Obvious. If you feel like it, enjoy a little summertime ditty above called, well, Summertime.

In other news, I'm done with the whirlwind end-of-school year/year-end dance performance week or two, and broke up that insanity with two nice running related events. The first was the 2010 Bolder Boulder. I had great visions of running this all-out, taking two minutes off of my time from last year (47:30), and wanting to break into the top 15 for my age. In true "Meet The Fockers" style, they honor all the way down to 15th place in each individual age with a medal marking your place..well beyond the ninth place ribbon. It gives people who are capable of placing at local road races the chance to take home some hardware in this 50,000 person event.

I had a great time pre-race hanging out with my friends Rachel and Liz.

Rachel was there working for Dr. Oz (yes, of that TV show-and she is a rock star at her job), who was going to be running the race. Liz was just there for the hang and hosting us this time, with an injury that was preventing her from participating. The weather up in Boulder was a lot warmer than it had been for my previous two Memorial Day runs, but I figured I'd just go out hard and try to hang on.

Well, I got up on race morning and it was just not to be as far as a magical pixie dust day, or even a middle-of-the-road day. I had a good first mile split at 7:14, but then it was all downhill from there. Or, should I say, uphill with a gazillion twists and turns. And I just couldn't hang. It was bright and sunny but I'm not going to make excuses-my PR in the 5K, after all, came on a blazing hot day when I was pretty much running directly into the sun. I managed a strong finish once we made the final turn going up to run into the stadium and onto Folsom Field, but in the end I ran it 31 seconds SLOWER than in 2009. Yep, running friends-48:01. It was one of the worst races I've run in awhile. I joked with Liz that I'm always trying to age group but that this was a day when I knew I wouldn't, and didn't deserve it anyway with that sub-par performance. Still-Boulder is a great place to be if you're going to have a terrible race, and oddly enough, I love that alone time in the car, playing my music and enjoying the mountains for four hours each way.

Part two of my running-related interruptions to year-end mayhem was registering for the Imogene Pass Run for the third time, getting on the computer at the stroke of midnight on June 1st. I had it all planned out that I would get home from the race early Monday afternoon, enjoy the afternoon and evening with my family, get the kids to bed, go out for a late anniversary dinner with my husband, and then hop online to take care of business.

Well, I must be OLD. I was so tired by the time we got home from dinner that I could not keep my eyes open. I wound up setting my alarm for 11:55 and hit the hay around 10pm. I was amazed that when I registered a few minutes after midnight, there were already 100 people who had gotten in before me! The race wound up closing out by early evening and there had been thoughts that it could close very early in the day, so I was glad I did go ahead and take care of business as soon as the race opened. I progressed from 4:41 to 4:14 last year at Imogene. This is the year when I intend to go sub-4, and show that you CAN learn and improve on the trails.

There are many of our local usual suspects returning to run Imogene, and some new folks as well, including the husband of our dance studio owner. He's big into cross country skiing and just really good with altitude stuff, and between a fellow friend/XC-ski rival and my suggestion that he think about it, he took the plunge. He keeps saying he's "not a runner" but I think he's going to do very well. So, I already know that's going to be fun to follow his training and see how it all pans out in the end. Just from asking around, it sounds like there are a number of people interested in training runs up the Ouray side this summer, so I am going to take advantage of that if it works with my schedule.

Oh, and back to that summertime/heat thing. Yeah. When I do stupid things, I'll admit it. Last Sunday, I just couldn't drag myself out of bed at 5 or 6 a.m. after the Saturday night dance performance (which was GREAT-no dancer/parent drama, and a ton of dances from youngest to oldest classes that really took things up a notch). I got out the door slightly before 8 a.m. and thought "oh, I'll just deal with the heat. Suck it up."

This was all well and good for ten miles. It was 70 when I started but I was in the shady area of the riverfront trail for much of my run. I swapped water bottles at my starting location, and then headed out in another direction. The temperature was really climbing now, and despite good hydration, nutrition, electrolyte intake and proper clothing, I was starting to feel crappy. I never get crampy in the legs but really started to feel it around 12 or 13 miles. I started to get on the verge of feeling sick, and made a quick decision to cut off a section that would have made it a 17 mile run, turn it into a 16-er and avoid winding up in the ER. I checked the temperature at the car that I actually had to sit in with the AC at full blast in order to cool down (this was a first), guzzled water, and saw that the car thermometer read 92 degrees! Geez. No wonder I felt sick. 92 and and not a cloud in the sky. Needless to say, I won't be doing that again. No matter how tired I am, I will be out the door at 5:30 AM this Saturday. It's not worth risking major heat-related medical event just to get another hour of sleep.

And, with that-it's on to the Tired Mama Running Second Annual Summer Racing Series. We have the same plethora of local and regional events available this year, and I'm looking forward to doing it again. First stop-Durango. I'll be running the sold-out Steamworks Half Marathon again-and this time I am going to scout out the first buses out of the parking lot. If I can just get to the start with more than five minutes to spare, I think I'll only improve off of last year's effort.

One final note...that terrible race I ran in Boulder? What a difference a year makes! I finished in 16th last year for 35-year-olds, but squeaked in at 14th out of 566 this year! I guess others were liking the heat and sun even less than me. In a few weeks, I should see the arrival of my 14th place medal, which is sure to be a source of amusement in my home. Happy running, all.