Category Archives: Half Marathon

Race Report: Unplugged Half Marathon 2017

First race of 2017 done!

When I came into 2017, I had planned on making Unplugged a focus event for the spring but then life got in the way and it ended up being a workout/rust buster/engine check. My A goal was to break 1:30, my B goal was to be under 1:32. My (unstated) C goal was to finish and not get injured, which was not a forgone conclusion. I came in at 1:31:54 and felt pretty good, so mission mostly accomplished!

Despite living and training in Burlington for many years, this was my first year really running Unplugged. Until recently, it fell on Boston Marathon weekend and I was either running or going down to spectate or in the midst of VCM training. The race is truly unplugged; no awards, just water on the course, few spectators. All of this sets up for an awesome opportunity to get a good workout in without too much stress.

I was excited to have a chance to get a marker for moving forward for the Asheville Half and a fall full, but I was even more excited to see my dear friend Abbey who is my running buddy/confidante extraordinaire who was coming back to Burlington to race. Warming up with her and standing on the start line was enough to make the whole day worth it. She went on to kick ass and I can’t wait to work towards our next running (and life) goals together.

On race morning, the only piece I was worried about was the weather. The forecast called for snow, rain, windy and high 30s which is a tough temperature to dress for. While the mountains got anywhere from 4 to 9 inches of snow, Burlington was relatively dry but the start was COLD. I warmed up in two pairs of pants and two coats and for the first time ever, planned to race in full tights. Will tried to convince me to do a singlet and arm warmers but since he wasn’t at the start and I was being wimpy, I put a long sleeve on under my singlet which would ultimately turn out to be a big mistake.

The gun went off and we had a mile of out and back. I eased into the race and tried to resist the urge to chase after people. The first mile was distinctly uphill and conversely, when we turned, the second mile was downhill. I tried to stay in control but ended up running 7:03 and 6:49. I’m not sure if this second mile would ultimately bite me in the butt but I did have to remind myself that I didn’t have the fitness to run that whole race in the 6:40s. The first few miles of the race have multiple turns and full circles and it was hard to get into a rhythm. Miles 3, 4 and 5 were 6:50, 6:54 and 6:57. The 6:57 was the mile where I had to strip off my undershirt, a feat I accomplished without losing a step or falling down.

After mile 5, we turned onto the bike path and I was able to cruise a bit. Since the race started at 11, I was pretty hungry by the time we started and took my gel shortly after 6 in hopes that it would stave off a bonk. This seemed to work and Miles 6 and 7 were 7:02 and 7:03. I threw my gloves at another friend at mile 7 and was collected but definitely starting to feel some quad fatigue and quickly shed the idea of pushing the last 3 miles in favor of just staying consistent.

Mile 8 passed quickly in 7:03 and mile 9 was the downhill mile in 6:54. I was starting to get some confidence back after this but when we crossed into Waterfront Park, I came to what felt like a complete stop with stomach cramping and the worst GI distress of my life. I can generally tolerate gels without too much water but since I went into the day a tad dehydrated, I expect it sat like a brick in my stomach. I limped through mile 10 in 7:04 (no WAY was this race worth a GI disaster) and just hoped I could hang on for 3 more miles. Mile 11 passed in 7:07 with waves over the Causeway ala VCM 2013.  At least this time, the wind was at our back! Mile 12 was a mess and I alternated between smooth running and stomach saving pace, ending up with my slowest mile of 7:16. I was able to collect myself and ran mile 13 in 7:06 pace. I failed to stop my watch after crossing so have no idea what the last .1 was but I just tried to stay smooth and didn’t do much of a kick.

Is it easy to be excited about my second slowest half ever? Not really. Am I thrilled for the effort it took to accomplish my B goal? Yes! I have had a tough season of training and to be able to run a 1:32 comfortably off essentially no training is something even I have to begrudgingly be proud of. The best part, however, is that it left me hungry for more. I want to get back to being 10 minutes faster, to chasing that sub 1:20 and my Olympic Trials qualifier. I want to push my fitness forward. Onward and upward!

Week in Review 4.3.17 to 4.9.17

Monday: Kicked my own rear. 1.5 miles at tempo up the UVM Bike Path, 1 mile at T on the track and 2 by 200 all out (ha!) on the track. Did this full body lift and loved it!

Tuesday: 4 mile recovery run in the torrential rain. Quite miserable.

Wednesday: 2 miles easy plus round robin lift.

Thursday: Off day. Didn’t totally intend to do an actual off day but exhausted from my first week back in the ICU.

Friday: 3 mile shakeout run with 5 by 1 at MP, 5 by 1 at T Pace.

Saturday: 2 mile warmup then Half Unplugged at Steady State pace. Finished in 1:31:54. Super happy with my ability to do my workout and not overdo it despite two early miles that were probably too aggressive.

Sunday: 5.25 mile recovery run in 60 degree weather. Amazing!

Total Miles: 37.6

Quite pleased with this week. I started up in the SICU again this week (read, dead legs from all day standings) and still managed to get some reasonable training in including a huge workout yesterday at Unplugged. It was mentally challenging not to press as hard as I could but I was really happy to get a controlled tough effort in and am especially happy today as I’m tired but not trashed.

What I’m most excited about, however, is that I am much more interested in training again! I don’t know if it’s the weather or getting something like Unplugged under my belt, but I’m ready to get back into workouts and start the improvement cycle.

One thing I did differently this week was run after work. I have to be in by 5:30 and with our current schedules, it’s hard to go to bed early enough to get good sleep in time to get up at 3:30. Even with compression on, my legs were miserable but at least I got some runs done in the light! For this week, I’m going to try am workouts and see if it’s better.

One thing I didn’t do well at this week was hydration. It’s hard to drink enough water in the ICU because we can’t have water on our work stations and we spend a lot of time running around trying to keep critically ill patients safe. Every day this week, I would come home completely parched and realize that the only water I’d had was in my coffee. I need to prioritize drinking more water this week so I’m not so miserable by 6 pm.

 

Week in Review 3.27.17 to 4.2.17

What?! A real week of training?

Monday: 5 hilly miles in Asheville. Made a dog friend on my run who followed me for 2 miles. His name was Finn and he was a sweet old guy who loved to run. Happy to reunite him with his dad, however!

Tuesday: 6.4 miles with striders. Super slushy out.

Wednesday: Humbling 7 mile progression run. Legs after.

Thursday: 6.2 mile recovery run. As I thought for 90% of this run, getting back in shape is the pits!

Friday: 4.5 mile run.

Saturday: Another snowstorm! 12 miles on the treadmill. Mind numbing but happy to get a longer run in.

Sunday: 3.4 miles plus this arm workout which was a killer. I can barely type.

Total Miles: 44.5

This week was humbling with a capital H. Almost every run (except my long run thank goodness) felt like a total slog and I spent most of the week being grumpy about being out of shape. That said, I am beyond grateful to be able to run and lift almost at a normal level (and for friends who reassure me that my out of shape isn’t that bad). I was also extremely diligent about my pre-run mobility drills and glute activation exercises, so it’s not surprising that I was sore and tired all week.

The week ahead has the Unplugged Half Marathon and I am looking forward to it! As I’ve said, I’m going to treat it like a workout. My plan is to warm up, ease into the first 2 miles then run at steady state pace until Mile 10. At Mile 10, I’ll try to pick it up if I can. I will be wearing my Garmin to make sure I don’t get over excited and to get a sense of where my fitness is. In my dream world, I would come in under 1:30. In a more realistic world, I’d like to be under 1:32 and feel like I executed a great workout and felt comfortable cruising along.

For the rest of the week, things will be as normal. I start in the SICU tomorrow morning (my last requirement EVER in medical school) and will be back to running at an inhumane hour until I figure out what my schedule looks like.

Spring 2017 Racing Schedule

For many reasons, the last year has not been an optimal one for targeting races. From away rotations to interview travel to surgery, it’s been a whole lot of two steps forward, one step back. On top of that, I didn’t know where we were moving in May, so it was difficult to aim forward at any race. Now that I know we’re heading to Asheville however, I’m ready to plan!

I’m still not able to run a ton without discomfort so I had to adjust Unplugged from a goal race to a workout. I hate running races as workouts. First, I think it’s a cop out that people use. Second, I think that even if you’re not using it as a pre-made excuse, it’s difficult to execute your workout plan and not get caught up in the race. That being said, I’m going to try to make Unplugged a valuable workout although I haven’t decided if I’ll do a progression run or a steady state run.

After that, however, I’ll be gearing up for the Asheville Half in June. What better way to kick off life in my new city!! This is a hilly half and I expect it to be warm, so I’ll be adjusting my training to prepare for the hills and hope that I’ll have enough time to adjust to the heat.

April 8th: Unplugged Half Marathon

April 22nd: Rollin Irish Half Marathon (super hill, muddy race)

April 20th: Sleepy Hollow Mountain Race (Trail 10K)

June 3rd: Asheville Half Marathon

After Asheville, my first task is to adjust to a new town and build a good base and coming up with a training plan that allows me to get good workouts in AND be an intern.

Week in Review: 2.6.17 to 2.12.17

Monday: First day back in the hospital. 6 mile early morning workout with 10 by 1 on, 1 off.

Tuesday: 3.25 easy run in the early morning snow.

Wednesday: 5 mile treadmill hill run.

Thursday: 7 mile progression run, starting at 6.1 and ending at 9.1.

Friday: Post-call, prorated off day. 4 miles.

Saturday: Nordic skied in the morning, downhill in the afternoon.

Sunday: 6 mile run plus arms and core.

Total Miles: 31.3

First week back on service! The good news is that I did a good job of getting up and getting my run done. The bad news is that I didn’t get a lot of lifting in and I missed my long run this week. I had intended to do it on Friday when I was post-call because I expected to be done around 1 but didn’t leave the hospital until 5. I coached on Saturday and I am back at work today. I got up early to fit a run in but felt miserable so just did an easy run and lifted.

We’re heading into a big storm cycle today which is going to be GREAT for skiing and snowshoeing but less good for running. I’ll be on the treadmill for my workouts this week but hoping to get outside for my easy runs and hopefully by next weekend, there will be enough clear roads for a long run.

In general, it’s working well for me to have workouts scheduled without prescribed mileage because it changes my perspective to be grateful for any effort. I am of course frustrated that I can’t seem to string together any real training but I’m working on being grateful for the running I can get in.

Finally, I got to try my new Lumo Run  this week and will admit to being a little nervous to see what it said but my initial run was very positive. The pace was off because I was on the treadmill but all of my markers looked good except for braking. I’m so excited to see how this project goes and how I can tweak my running form.

Treadmill Workout: Stamina Progression Run

I LOVE this run for a winter workout on the treadmill where I need to build fitness AND not go nuts on the treadmill. This is a 7 mile version but you can extend as you want by adding to cooldown or adding another mile progression segment. If you’re short on time, you can always just do a continuous progression with a short cool-down but that’s a different workout purpose.

The goal of this workout is to progress throughout your run, ending at what should be your tempo pace. It should never be over-the-top difficult, but should feel like you’re cruising smoothly through most of the workout and working pretty hard by the last mile. For each segment, you speed up through most of the segment then finish out the mile at the top speed for that segment. When the next minute comes around, you start progressing again. By doing this, you’re getting a little extra time in each zone but not as focused on holding tempo pace/effort continuously.

Right now, I start at 6.0 and go to 9.0, then cool down for a mile at 7.0. (10:00, 6:40 and 8:34 paces respectively). Pick whatever pace is very easy to start that gets you into your tempo range by the end! The example below is based on my paces, adjust as needed.

Mile 1: Starting at 6.0, increase speed by 0.1 each minute until 6.5. Finish the mile at 6.5. (Warmup)

Mile 2: Starting at 6.5, increase speed by 0.1 each minute until 7.0. Finish the mile at 7.0

Mile 3: Starting at 7.0, increase speed by 0.1 each minute until 7.5. Finish the mile at 7.5. (By now, you should be warmed up. Good time for a stretch break if you take them)

Mile 4: Starting at 7.5, increase speed by 0.1 each minute until 8.0. Finish the mile at 8.0.

Mile 5: Starting at 8.0, increase speed by 0.1 each minute until 8.5. Finish the mile at 8.5.

Mile 6: Starting at 8.5, increase speed by 0.1 each minute until 9.0. Finish the mile at 9.0.

Mile 7: Easy mile at 7.0 pace.

Training Approach for New Bedford

One of my strengths/weaknesses (can you tell I’ve been on the interview trail…) is that I am a hyper-analytical person and I am constantly thinking about how to change a process to make it better. While this is generally a good thing, at times it makes it difficult for me to relax, enjoy and experience. It also makes me attempt to exert control over situations where that is just not feasible. In terms of running, however, it allows me to look over past training cycles and evaluate what worked and what didn’t work.

Two of my most data rich training cycles are my two lead ups to the Philadelphia Half Marathon, one where things went well and I felt amazing and strong through a 1:21:45 half and one where I struggled to a 1:22:25 finish. Some of the differences may have been due to weather and iron deficiency, but one of the biggest things I noticed in my 2015 attempt at Philly was that I a) never felt comfortable and b) had no extra gear to kick up to. At first, I assumed that this was because I hadn’t done enough interval work but as I looked over my training log, the biggest difference was that in 2012, I did a TON of stamina and steady state work and very little frank interval work.

As I’m approaching New Bedford with less time than I had to prepare for the “Phillies” (both week wise and day to day time wise), I’m trying to train smart with the time that I do have. As such, I’m splitting my hard effort days between four major categories: interval, tempo, stamina and steady state. I pair interval and stamina in one week followed by tempo and steady state in the following week. My long runs are easy and one of my easy runs is a hill focused run. The rest are easy peasy.

  • Interval: Still important, just not the main focus of my training cycle. My workouts are time based because I’m almost exclusively on the treadmill due to footing and are either 10 by 1 on, 1 off (emulating 300 meter repeats) or 4 on, 3 off (emulating 1K repeats).
  • Tempo: If you only have time for one workout a week, science and numbers say this is your best bet. I alternate between mile or 5 minute repeats at T pace and continuous tempo. As I get in tuning phase in early March, I’ll add 200 meter repeats after my tempo workouts to tune up my top end speed.
  • Stamina: My FAVORITE kind of run. I do these as progression runs, starting incredibly easy then gearing up until I am at tempo pace. I’ll share my treadmill version of this workout later this week but I love that this workout is challenging but not killer. When the footing is better, I also do these as long hill repeats.
  • Steady State: The ultimate awkward run, this is a continuous run done at approximately marathon effort. It is not as hard as a tempo run but was incredibly helpful for me in preparing for Philly 2012 because I learned how to cruise comfortably.

The other benefit of this approach is that although it sacrifices some specificity for the half marathon, it builds a stronger base for whatever events I jump into for the remainder of the year.

Week in Review 12.5.16 to 12.11.16

Huge travel week for me! Burlington to Charleston to West Virginia to Minneapolis and only one missed flight and one delay.

Monday: 7 miles on the treadmill with 4 by 5 minutes at tempo pace.

Tuesday: 4.5 easy miles with Will.

Wednesday: 5.5 miles in Charleston with striders after.

Thursday: 8 miles on West Ashely Greenway with 1 minute on, 1 minute off.

Friday: 4.25 run on Deckers Creek Trail.

Saturday: 6 mile trail run at Coopers Rock (yes, there’s no apostrophe). Amazing and just what I needed.

Sunday: 7 mile progression run on the treadmill in Minneapolis courtesy of the snowstorm. Arms after.

Total Miles: 42

Bummed to miss my long run today; I was looking forward to exploring Minneapolis’ many bike paths but a snow storm had better ideas. I’ll get 90 less exciting minutes on the treadmlll in tomorrow morning before my interview. On Tuesday, I’m off to Utah and extremely psyched to explore the trails out there, although a bit anxious about the elevation.

I did finally pick a “focus” event for the spring; the New Bedford Half Marathon. Because of the way that event falls, this coming week will actually be an adaptation week before going back to gradually increasing mileage in three week chunks. It’s amazing the difference a focus event makes in terms of my willingness to get out and do workouts or runs. I’m also a bit amazed how much more eager I am to run everywhere but Burlington. I’m sure every city gets boring after a while but after almost 6 years in Burlington, I’m ready to get bored of a new place running wise!

Finally, don’t forget that I have a book giveaway going on for Matt Fitzgerald’s upcoming book The Endurance Diet. Although I’ve been in the negative a lot lately with travel, I’m loving the approach and looking forward to using it as my schedule normalizes again as well.

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.