Category Archives: frustration

Race Report: Asheville Half Marathon 2017

Short Version: 1:36:10 for 6th place overall, 1st in Age Group

Easily one of the best parts of the day was running into a friend from graduate school and enjoying post race beers!

Long Version:

One of my running partners used to say “The process is the goal” all the time and while I theoretically appreciated what he meant, I didn’t practically start to appreciate it until this Spring when I had to take a hard look at who I am and who I want to be as a runner. 2016 and early 2017 are probably my least successful 18 months of training and racing since I came back to this a decade ago but improving on that isn’t going to come automatically, so I’ve had to be humble and race even though I’m nowhere near my old form. As challenging as that’s been in some respects, it’s also allowed me to focus on different race outcomes than a PR or a win and the Asheville Half was a perfect example of that.

It was a very early start and they asked us to be at the start line at 6:30, a full half hour before the gun. Thankfully, they just meant in the start area and I was able to do some jogging, drills and strides before the race started. Because I knew the course and knew it had two significant hilly sections, I started conservatively which wasn’t entirely easy because the first two miles of the course are essentially downhill. I didn’t wear a watch but my first mile split was 6:36 and my second was 13:00, so my first two miles were relatively quick for my goals. I just focused on effort, however, and hoped that everything would come out okay.

Right after mile 2, the first hill section starts and winds its way around the community college campus. You go up steep hills only to turn around and go down their backsides. My goal through this section was to float on the uphills and cruise the downhills and just keep my effort and legs intact. The group I was running with passed me here but I let them go because I was dedicated to executing my race plan. Towards the top of the campus, we went around a turn that let me see the field in front of me and I noted two women about 2 minutes up who seemed to have fallen off the front pack.* There was another woman (in bright orange shorts, I might add) just a few steps ahead of me but I sensed that she was in over her head so opted to focus on pulling towards the other two. The first hill section finally ended just after the Mile 5 marker and we got onto Meadow Road/Riverside drive for the 4ish mile flat section that this race features.

As we got onto the flats, I finally found my rhythm and worked at a steady state effort as I pulled forward. I passed orange shorts and her running partner, as well as a few other people from the group who’d passed me in the hills and felt cautiously optimistic. As we approached mile 8, I opened my gel on the first try and took it just before I got to the aid station where I actually slowed to a walk-jog and got a full cup of water with which to wash it down. This move was EXCELLENT. Usually aid stations catch me off guard and I can’t get my gel open or I try to move through quickly and choke on water. I lost maybe 10 seconds here and actually had a great fuel stop.

Shortly after the mile 8 aid station, one of the women in front of me was within striking distance.** She had gone out hard and from the looks of it, was paying for it in a place where she should have been cruising. I set my eyes on her and pulled forward. We passed the mile 9 marker and I knew the biggest hill was coming.

And holy shit was it a hill. I’m no stranger to hills but this was a BEAST to put in a race. It climbs all the way up the back of UNCA’s campus and I would estimate that it’s almost a mile long. It has a brutal curve at the top just when you think you’re done and then almost worse, a screaming downhill that will take your quads off right into another uphill. I passed the woman on the hill but she tried to catch me on the downhill. I didn’t react and just pulled away as we hit the second uphill and never saw her again. Finally, we turned to go down the hill in the front of campus, passed the mile 11 sign and turned onto WT Weaver. The other woman was about a minute ahead of me here but I was pretty sure I was out of real estate to make that up.

My proudest part of the day, however, came on the last two miles on Broadway. This is an insidious f*cker of a hill, climbing just enough that you can’t turn your legs over well. I found my tempo effort and pushed the whole way home. We rolled up Broadway, got a tiny reprieve coming into downtown then I gritted my teeth and pushed up Lexington and made the left onto Walnut. I didn’t have much left for a kick but was thrilled that I actually changed gears and held it for the last two miles rather than falling back, out of fitness.

I finished at a hair over 1:36 and although this is my slowest half marathon time by three minutes, it was also the hardest course I’ve ever encountered and I am really proud of the time. I feel like a totally different runner than I did at Unplugged and had the fitness and mindset to attack the course appropriately. I’m going back into base building phase now but would love to do another flatter half to see where I’m at.

Just a few changes in elevation.

There were two super shitty things that happened today that I witnessed. *The first was witnessing my very first course cutting. He passed me early on in the race like his pants were on fire. He was young, so I figured maybe he just didn’t know how to pace well. At Mile 4ish, however, there was a hill and turn that doubled back on itself on two sides of the road with a porto-potty between. I caught him just before this and he was struggling. He stepped off to the side of the road and looked around, then went in the porto-potty. When I came back around 45 seconds later, he came out of the porto-potty, looked around again and jumped back in behind me like nothing happened!

**The second one was almost as annoying. USATF is extremely clear that racers cannot have escorts or pacers, especially if they are competing for money. The formerly mentioned woman that I passed at mile 10 was also young but her dad had been biking with her for at least 6 miles. Not biking around the course to cheer, but actively biking right.next.to.her. Mind you, she was in 6th until I passed her so arguably racing for money and she had started the race in the lead pack. This was a totally empty course; the race happened early and there were not that many spectators so having a friend or family member on a bike was a definite advantage. Not to mention, when I was getting close, he was telling her how far back I was. Anyway, having watched this for a bunch of miles, I decided I would be nice but say something because perhaps they didn’t know that this wasn’t allowed. As I caught her, I said “hey bike guy, you may not know this but USATF prohibits bike escorts or pacers.” And he flipped out. “She’s not competing, that only counts if we’re watching paces and we’re not even timing her, this is just for fun!” I responded (mind you, I’m passing her going up a huge hill), “well, we’re in the running for the money so I would argue that we’re competing.” He sputtered away at me and I (okay, this was not my best moment) said “You seem pretty defensive” and moved on. I passed her and as I said, I never saw her again but a few minutes later, he biked away from her and she completely fell apart. I beat her by more than 3 minutes in the last miles. Maybe I’m oversensitive in light of all the cheating scandals but both of these incidents made me so mad. Play by the rules or don’t play at all…

Week in Review: 2.27.17 to 3.5.17

Monday: 10 K of skate skiing at the second part of the State Championships. Kids did AWESOME. Boys ended up third overall and girls were second. Such a fun day and an amazing end (sob) to my coaching career (for now).

Tuesday: Back to reality. 4.5 mile run before work. Legs totally exhausted from skiing. 300 abs at night.

Wednesday: 7 mile fartlek workout with 5 by 30 second hills hard then 4 by 2 minutes at tempo pace.

Thursday: The post call day that just wasn’t. Didn’t leave the hospital until 5 pm and then had to pretend to study for my national shelf exam that was happening Friday morning.

Friday: The niggle of a cold on Thursday turned into a full-blown cold by Friday morning and it.was.gross. I brought a roll of toilet paper to my exam and apologized profusely to my classmates for the 2.5 hours of sneezing, sniffling and nose blowing. 5 miles on the trails behind my house, however, between components of the exam.

Saturday: Down for the count. Couldn’t breathe, think or move. Since Will is gone for the next month, we attempted to have a nice day together but all I could manage was a coffee shop and then sneezing my way through the rest of our errands.

Sunday: Still sick but decided to move (slowly) to try to feel better. 5 miles on the trails again. Didn’t feel great but didn’t feel awful and I’m glad I got out there. Arms afterward.

Total Miles: 27.2

Total February Miles: 137

I am the poster child for burning the candle at both ends right now. I had a few threats of sickness over the past few weeks but was lucky and never fully crashed until Thursday, just in time for my first full weekend off in a while. Compounding this is the fact that tomorrow (Monday) will be my last run for a week because of my Tuesday morning surgery. As I said to Erin Lopez yesterday, this winter has been a total bust for training and only some of it has been in my control. I’m obviously going to play it by ear this week and let pain be my guide but my hope is to be doing light cardio by Thursday with hopes that I can be back to running for next Monday. After that, it’s scramble as best as I can until Unplugged and hope for the best!

Product Review: Soleus Pulse HRM

It’s always awkward to find a product that you are totally disappointed in, especially when it’s a relatively new company. That said, one of the beautiful things about the blog community and the endurance blog community in particular are the availability of candid product reviews. In the time of a bazillion sponsored posts, as uncomfortable as it is to give a product zero starts, it’s also important to keep it (really) real. I (obviously) wasn’t sponsored for this review; I saw an internet special on this watch and sprung for it because I wanted a wrist based HRM.

I had EXTREMELY high hopes for the Soleus Pulse HRM. It has a built in heart rate monitor which meant no futzing around with a heart rate strap; I could just put the watch on and go. I really like training by heartrate for outdoor tempo runs and for recovery runs but the strap is uncomfortable and almost untenable in the winter under a bunch of layers. It also featured a GPS, activity tracker and chrono function, so my hope was this watch could become my all the time watch. Not so much. If I can’t figure out how to return it, I’ll probably throw it out.

Right off the bat, the watch disappointed. First, the face is HUGE. I can’t take too many points off for this because I have tiny wrists but the watch face was much broader than my bones and to tighten the watch such that it could even work as a heart rate monitor, I was at the very last hole on the strap before the face. I’m not overly vain but it wasn’t a watch I wanted to wear around work because it was just so bulky.

Second, you need a PhD to make this thing work. I’m a relatively smart person and actually tech savvy but the startup guide that comes with the watch is all but useless. You have to go on to Soleus’ website to figure out how to configure it. Again, not a deal breaker, but it certainly wasn’t plug and play and the buttons still didn’t make sense after reading the manual. I would have been willing to spend more time getting to know the watch, however, had it actually worked once I figured out how to start it.

On my first run, it took me all of half a mile to realize that the heart rate monitor just didn’t really work. When I was doing hip swings, it was close to what I assume is accurate in the 90s, but when I started to run, it went to 99. And stayed there. The entire run. Occasionally it would flash in the 120s, but it was never over 99 for more than a second. When I would stop running (say, at a red light), it would occasionally pick up a more believable heart rate but as soon as I started running again, it went back to 99. This happened on the second and third (coincidentally the last time I used it…) runs as well. Meh.

Not only does the lauded heart rate monitor flop, the GPS doesn’t even work well. I’ve been running in Burlington for enough years and with enough watches and GMaps Pedometer checks to know the length of my routes. On my second run with the Pulse HRM, I headed out for a known 10.25 mile loop. When I got home, it measured just over 8 miles. That’s more than just a little error and it was a bright, sunny day.

All in all, there is just nothing redeeming I can say about this watch except that thankfully, the web special that I bought it under seems to have wiped out the stock so you can’t make the same mistake as me. Back to my good old fashioned chrono Timex!

 

Week in Review 11.28.16 to 12.4.16

Monday afternoon: 6 mile easy run plus 100 pushups/200 crunches.

Monday evening: Hour spin class with Erin.

Tuesday: Unexpected cross training day. 10 minutes on bike, 10 minutes on elliptical, 10 minutes rowing. Core cross train.

Wednesday: 45 minute bike.

Thursday: 10 mile long run in Kalamazoo.

Friday: 5.5 mile run post-interview. Arm lift.

Saturday: 7.3 mile run.

Sunday: 5.5 mile run with a mile of 100 on, 100 off.

Total Miles 34.3

This week could be better described as ‘doh!’ Just when I was starting to get some momentum and literally within 5 minutes of looking at spring half marathons, I kicked my metal bedframe while putting laundry away and gave myself a huge, swollen foot that couldn’t bear weight. I cross trained for two days then when I was ready to run again on Thursday in Michigan, realized that I’d left my inhaler in Vermont which resigned me to easy, slow running so as to not have a medical emergency some 600 miles from home.

The upside is that I did get some lovely running in while in Michigan and am starting to look forward to some spring events and more importantly, to Trials 2020. The standards were released today. The full marathon window opens September 1st, 2017 and the standard is 2:45, which was the revised standard you may remember me griping about last fall. The half marathon window opens a year later and was dropped to 1:13. In otherwise, big nope on aiming for that standard. That means I need to start working towards the 2:45 (6:17 pace) and come up with a plan that accommodates a potential move across the country AND intern year.

The Comparison Trap

The other day, one of my girls said, “I’m in a pain hole and I can’t get out!” We spend a lot of time on our team working to push ourselves when you reach that fork in a race where you can either choose to blast through the pain tunnel or stay where it’s safe and (more) comfortable. She excels at getting into the pain tunnel but post-race can be just plain miserable for her; when she crosses the line, that’s all she has and we end up carrying her back to the tent. As much as we giggled about her pain hole comment (and her question about whether she still had arms), I found myself thinking about it this week as I checked my email for the fifteenth time looking for interview invites (for residency), checked an online message board for the interviews others were getting and scrolled through Instagram looking at everyone’s seemingly amazing training and racing posts. I realized that I’m caught in a comparison trap and I can’t get out. 

There’s a saying about never knowing about the rocks that other people carry and I think social media exacerbates this in a way. Despite knowing that social media is highly curated, it’s hard to avoid the creeping sensation that everyone else is running faster, doing more and generally better than you. For me, daily posts by other runners that include phrases like #neverstop #workharder #rundaily don’t inspire me, they discourage me. I’m nowhere near lazy; I’m busy coaching a team, applying to residency, and keeping life going but if I’m not killing my workouts (or even really interested in doing them), I feel like a failure by the time I’ve done my first internet scroll in the morning. I’m not sure what the solution is but I definitely need to start the process of building a ladder or find some teammates to carry me back to the tent to regroup.

How do you react to the comparison trap? Have you tried a social media hiatus? What is it about social media that makes us automatically filter our lives?

Race Report: Rock ‘n’ Roll Chicago Half Marathon

Only a month late…it’s been a really busy month!!

Midtown

Short Version:

Not the day I wanted but not the worst day either. Very clear areas for improvement but also evidence of a solid fitness base. 1:26:48, 20th for women, 99th overall.

Long Version:

I went into this race with a simple goal of a) running faster than I had at Plattsburgh (1:26:44) and b) getting a good sense of my fitness for the fall. In my head, I anticipated being around 1:24 if the weather cooperated. I was 4 seconds slower than Plattsburgh, so not an enormous failure on point A but certainly way off 1:24.

I woke up early on race morning and headed into the city. Because the course looped through downtown, I parked far away from the start in a garage that I knew I could leave from right after the race. I had to drive to Lexington that day and didn’t want to delay that misery! It was warm at 4 am already, around 70, but not as hot as it had been. Since it’s Chicago, there was also a “breeze.” Although wind is becoming my nemesis in racing, I will admit that it helped to keep air moving on a sticky morning.

Prerace was a BREEZE. I’ve done a number of Rock ‘n’ Roll events and sometimes, the logistics don’t work out well (see, Vegas) and I start the race stressed and grumpy. This one was the opposite. I dropped my bag easily, realized I left my Gu in my bag and was able to get it again with no issue. I walked right up to the start line and found a spot with no issue and the race went off without a hitch. Right before the start, I met a brand new post-collegiate runner who was running her first half and had a goal of about 1:25 so we agreed to run together for the first few miles.

O to 5K

As we got rolling, I didn’t feel terrible but I didn’t feel great either. Way too much celebrating with my Chicago classmates and way too little slept left me more tired and dry than I normally would like to be. Lesson 1: No amount of water or Nuun can compensate for a rowdy night at Journal Club.  We rolled through the first mile in about 6:22 and I was cautiously optimistic that things would continue that way. After the snafu at Plattsburgh with mismarked miles, I was wearing my Garmin for this race but all the tunnels and turns quickly made it irrelevant. Lesson 2: Garmin-free racing works better for me in short races. The first 6 miles of the course wind through downtown and although the scenery was great, it was hard to get into any kind of a groove. To add to this, we kept crossing these weird canals that were extremely painful underfoot in flats. Both McKenna and I remarked “I DON’T LIKE THESE!!” as we went over the first one. We went through the 5K in 20:07 (6:28) and I started to feel a bit better while McKenna started to feel worse. We got separated and I rolled on alone.

5K to 10K

Right around here, I had a momentary panic that this would be my first DNF as my right foot went completely numb. After years of running with a numb left foot and a few episodes of numbness in my right foot lately, there are few things that make me worry more and although I can usually tough out a workout, 10 miles seemed like a long way to push. Once we got onto the straighter section of the course, however, my foot started to feel better and I went through the 10K in 40:42 (6:33). The wind was pretty tough heading south and although I tried to connect with other runners, I had a similar situation developing as I did at Plattsburgh where I just felt…gearless. I was happy cruising along but couldn’t seem to find another comfortable pace. Women were flying by me and I couldn’t do much more than just watch them go.

10K to 15K

As it sometimes goes in a race, my best miles were right before my worst. Towards the south-most part of the course, we turned onto a newly paved out and back and it just felt like heaven. I was floating along, could see the remainder of the women’s field and had a fleeting (silly rabbit…) thought that I might be able to close the last 3 miles quickly. I went through 8.9 miles in 58:13 (6:32). As we turned back onto the main road and made the turn towards home, however, that fleeting thought quickly faded.

South Part of the Race Course

15K to Finish

We connected with the Lakefront Path and started dodging 10K runners and in a final insult to my focus/stride, went through the MOST bizarre race feature I’ve ever experienced: a long tunnel that was blacked out with flashing strobe lights. I’m sure some people thought it was fun, but for me, I couldn’t see my footing and slowed to a jog as I tried not to trip over a) my feet and b) 10K runners. By the time we came out of the tunnel, I was all but done. I tried to gear up and felt like I was crawling. The finish had a great, long straightaway that would have been great for a strong finish but I didn’t have much strong left. I crossed in 1:26:48, which means my last few miles were barely under 7 minute pace. Yikes.

After the finish, I waited for McKenna to finish and we went for a brief cooldown. By the time I got back to my car, the skies opened up with an epic Midwestern thunderstorm and I headed south to Lexington through scary driving conditions.

Thoughts:

The good news is that I am apparently quite comfortable at 6:38 pace as I’ve landed there in almost all my races and workouts lately. This suggests good general fitness and a solid base from which to begin fall training. The bad news is that I am lacking any top gears, which makes sense since most of my training has been unstructured at best. As I said in my training week review yesterday, these last two rotations have been my priority (as they should be), but I’m looking forward to the opportunity to tighten down on my training and incorporate more interval work as I go into the fall. Lesson 3: Speedwork really does make you faster…or at least keeps you from slowing down in the end of a race. 

As always, I am enormously thankful for the support, both official and unofficial, that allows me to continue to run through the various adventures of my life. In this case, the Competitor Group comped my entry for this race (I’m starting to think it’s a curse; anytime they are gracious enough to do this, I race poorly…), Skechers supports me with shoes and gear and Nuun covers my hydration.

Week in Review 7.11.16 to 7.17.16

This week has been an utter whirlwind. Finished in Chicago, ran a half, drove to Charlotte, got stuck in an airport for 14 hours and finally got back to Vermont. 

Monday: 2 by mile at T pace (6:25, 6:24) then 4 x 200 hard. Sweltering heat, the kind that makes the lines on the track blur. 6.1 miles.

Tuesday: 4 mile recovery run. Arms and core after.

Wednesday: Off Day.

Thursday: Quick interval workout of 2 by 400, 2 by 200. Super humid and hot but good prep for Sunday. 5 miles.

Friday: 4 miles easy.

Saturday: 2.5 miles easy.

Sunday: RockNRoll Chicago Half Marathon. 1:26:48 and 16 miles total on the day.

Total Miles: 37.6

I’ll write a full race report soon (probably next week after I get to Asheville and get through this next set of boards) but RockNRoll was not quite what I wanted it to be. It did serve as a good fitness test and will certainly propel me forward but it was frustrating to yet again find myself totally comfortable in the 6:30s with no real ability to pick it up from there.

The next two weeks will be pretty low-key from a training perspective for a few reasons. First, I need a small break from running and to evaluate what pieces of my training need to change. My reaction to a crappy race is always the same: one half of me wants to quit and never run again and the other half is angry and just wants to hammer harder. It’s fine to hammer but I need to take some time to figure out how to hammer smarter. Second, I have another set of medical boards next weekend that crept up on me. This test isn’t quite as big as Step 1 but it’s not one that I can blow off either so I’m spending most of my time studying for that and just keeping active for maintenance. Finally, I’m starting up in Asheville on Sunday and as it always is in a new place, it’s hard to know how the schedule will work.

Week in Review 5.16.16 to 5.22.16

Monday: 7 miles of recovery on the treadmill plus arms.

Tuesday: 9.15 miles with a workout. Warmed up, strides, drills, mindfulness then 6 by 400 (84, 83, 84, 84, 85, 82) and 4 by 200 hard. Legs afterward.

Wednesday: 4.5 miles on the trails.

Thursday: Off day, prorated at 7 miles.

Friday: 8.5 mile run through the Intervale. Legs feeling really punky.

Saturday: 5.2 mile fartlek run with drills plus a mile of 100 meter ins and outs followed by a mile of 400 at T, 400 jog. Drove to and from Boston for the Red Sox game which was a blast but hard on my back and legs.

Sunday: 8 mile run in the rain.

Total Miles: 49.4

The Good: I had an AWESOME workout on Tuesday, not only because I ran paces that were faster than I expected but because I felt great doing it and got myself into a good mindset before the workout.

The Ugly: I’m trying to do too much right now and getting ready to be gone for 8 weeks has buried me in to dos. On top of that, we had tickets to the Red Sox (a great thing!) and I didn’t set my weekend up well to get my long run in. For this coming week, I need to do a better job of making sure I’m set up to get my runs in!

In an attempt to take some things off my plate before I leave for Chicago, I’ve decided not to run Freihofer’s. The race alone would be great but since I have to travel and stay overnight, it adds a huge amount of stress and uses up another weekend when I could be prepping for Step 2 and polishing my residency application. I may look for another race that weekend and will certainly be looking for races in Chicago and Asheville as I continue my 2016 goal of building race experience.

A Small Victory in a Big Battle

Thanks to Ryan for sending me this article this morning!

The old adage goes that where there’s smoke, there’s fire and the training group out of Hebron, Kentucky epitomizes this. People have speculated that the group is dirty for YEARS, led by Mikhaylova who operates as their manager. The Hebron group shows up at small regional races with modest cash prizes (and as Ryan pointed out, the exact same races that I tend to frequent) and almost always walk away with a pay day.

The part about this article that saddens me, however, is that these athletes seem a lot like pawns in a bigger scheme. Distance running is a way out in Kenya and these athletes are just trying to make a better life for their families with the skills and talents they have. Yes, we are all responsible for what goes into our bodies but I can’t help but feel some empathy for these runners who show up here to make a living in one of the hardest ways possible, racing back to back days on the weekends, living in someone’s home only to be disgraced when they are found to be doping.

Nonetheless, it’s encouraging to see U.S Anti-Doping starting to attack this cancer at many levels. Here’s hoping 2016 is a cleaner, more positive year for all of us!

Salt In the Wound

For the last few weeks, I felt like I was finally moving beyond Philly. People had stopped asking about my training, the Olympic Trials came and went and I survived and I had a few good weeks of training. Then yesterday happened. The rest of my classmates are full, official 4th years while I’m making up the rotations I missed while I was training this fall. I was doing 4th year electives while I was “off” but I have to make up those clerkships before graduation and I opted to do them right off the bat. As such, I’m now surrounded by 3rd years who don’t know me or my story and who assume that I failed the Boards or otherwise floundered in third year and have to repeat a clerkship. I guess I could let them assume that and maybe so doing would ultimately be less painful, but I have had to have the following conversation multiple times in the past day.

“You’re a 2017, right? Why are you in this rotation?”

“I took the fall off to train for the Olympic Trials.”

“Cool, did you make it?”

“No, that’s not really how the United States system works. I needed to qualify for a chance to compete but I didn’t make the standard.” Awkward silence….

I’m facing a similar issue with writing my personal statement. My advisor is the Program Director here and she has encouraged me to demonstrate that I’m both a team player and have the ability to persevere, which is best done in my case via my running career. How do I demonstrate that perseverance when I feel like I failed at my big, bold move? How do I articulate that although I didn’t reach my A through E goals, I did achieve a lot of amazing things? How do I get over my shame enough to represent myself well?

Huge leap of faith, huge way to fall…