Category Archives: race face

Race Report: Swamp Rabbit Urban Ultra 25K

Let’s start with the punchline first…

And now tell the funny story…

I was initially planning to do a half marathon two weeks ago as a fitness test but ended up tweaking my hamstring and getting the Resident Plague and spending that Sunday in a feverish ball asleep for 36 hours. Because I live firmly in the Bible Belt, finding a Sunday race is tough and I work on Saturdays so finding a replacement race was difficult. Thankfully, I am now on a rotation with the world’s most understanding Attendings who are generally entertained by my running escapades and they were okay with me missing last Saturday so I registered for the Swamp Rabbit 25K. When I discussed this with Dave, we were both psyched for the distance because it provided an opportunity to really assess my current marathon fitness. Of note, I MAY have mislead Dave into believing this was a road race because I believed it was. See, the Swamp Rabbit is the 30+ mile greenway in Greenville so I assumed this race used the greenway. I was wrong.

I woke up bright and early on race morning and headed to Greenville. As has been our lot lately, the weather was a bit on the miserable side. Summer has come back with a vengeance and the humidity is oppressive. It was about 70 when I got to the race course with an equal dew point, leading to almost 100% humidity. Thankfully, it was overcast with occasional rain sprinkles. The course was a 10K out and back but the 25K started at the halfway point and since we had to be bussed out there, I didn’t bother warming up until we got out there. I did a short run (on the paved trail) and some drills and we were off at 9 am.

I immediately ended up at the front and although another woman went with me for about a half mile, I spent the remainder of the race alone except for passing 50K runners or seeing other 25K runners on the out and back. The first mile was on pavement and I just tried to settle into a relaxed pace that approximated marathon effort. I came through in 6:58 and thought “perfect!.” And then we took a sharp right turn onto a goat path. Turns out that although the course was BASED on the Swamp Rabbit Trail, it actually included many segments on single track, boardwalks and sand. Whooops. As I sputtered internally, I focused on staying efficient and keeping my effort up while I explored the first 5K back to the Finish Area. We climbed a big grass hill with multiple switch backs, then barreled down the back side on a root filled descent. The remainder of the “back” contained boardwalks, trail, stairs and some pavement and a final grass hill up to the Finish/turnaround. I rolled through and headed onto the “out” section.

The first part of the out actually stays on the Swamp Rabbit Trail, so I tried to use this time to pick up my leg speed and bring my pace down again. We then climbed a long hill followed by a long descent and turned onto the same switchback that we had careened down on the way back. That climb was TOUGH. Roots and switchbacks made keeping momentum tough and although the first time over it wasn’t too bad, the second time was misery. Then it was down the grass hill and back on the Swamp Rabbit to the 10K/where we started.

I took my first gel at the 10K and this was where I realized how hot I was. Since my goals of using this a marathon simulation were a bit shot and I was comfortably in first, I actually stopped and took my gel rather than choking on it. Then I set off again for the return trip. On the pavement, I was happy to see my pace right around 6:50. On the trails, all bets were off. I will admit that as I wound my way through the last trail before the Finish Area, I was internally whining about having to do ANOTHER 10K on the trails. I came through the Finish/15K and stopped again for a sip of water and THE BEST SIP OF COCA COLA EVER. I see why real ultra runners swear by it…By now, I had soaked through my singlet and shorts and was just in survival mode.

The last 10K included a few moments of happiness but mostly a slog where I bribed myself multiple times with the idea of a) laying down and b) finishing the Coke I’d left at the finish. During this last 10K, the sun came out and the conditions went from overcast and humid to just plain brutal. Crossing one of the swamps on a boardwalk, I am pretty sure turtles were moving faster than me. Somehow I persevered and the next thing I knew, I was crossing the last bridge and running up the grass slope to the finish. I crossed in 1:57 and happily found my Coke. I didn’t lay down because I was SO soaked that I never would have gotten the grass off of me.

All in all, I’m very happy with this race even if it wasn’t quite the simulation run that I’d hoped for. My pace averaged out to 7:30 pace on super challenging terrain which makes me feel more confident about what I can do on the road in a month. I’m also happy with my mental game. I could have completely shut down upon finding out the course was a trail race but instead, I worked hard on the paved sections as I could and tried to be efficient on the trail sections without injuring myself or letting my heart rate drop too far. I also had a great time getting to know more of the local Ultra community. Maybe it’s the South but the two ultra “crowd” experiences I’ve had since moving here have been just overwhelmingly welcoming and positive.

Splits below, although not that useful as my Garmin is atrocious on trails/under tree cover. I saw everything from 5:50 to 12:00 minute pace during the race and although I believe the latter, I’m skeptical about the former…

6:58

7:29

7:33

7:26

7:36

7:09

7:50

7:46

8:00

8:30

8:00

7:38

8:00

8:00

8:08

 

Race Report: Cottonmouth 8 Mile Beer Relay

Hands down, this was some of the most fun I’ve ever had at a race. Will really doesn’t race anymore after three ankle surgeries but I wrangled him into this one because it was a relay race, involved beer and was on trails rather than roads. The basic setup was that there is a two mile trail loop and teams of 1 to 4 had an option to drink a beer before the lap then set off for a 2 minute deduction in total time. The other component was that you had to carry a full beer “baton” for the whole race. There were age graded adjustments built in as well for final results. We did the relay as a two person team; I ran legs 1 and 3 and Will ran legs 2 and 4.

The night before the race, we had the arduous task of choosing our beer. It had to be >5% ABV, it had to be beer based (meaning ciders etc were excluded) and we wanted it to be in a bottle for easy drinking and something we would likely never want to drink again in case we got sick while running. We spent an inordinate amount of time in Ingles and finally settled on New Belgium’s Watermelon Lime Ale, coming in at 5% in bottle form. Our only mistake was not making sure they were twist off tops, which meant that we had to also remember to bring a bottle opener.

We got to Travelers Rest a little before 9 on Sunday morning and had an easy, breezy check in process. The Race Director was delightful and super welcoming, which was a nice change from my last attempt to get involved in the running community here. Will and I set out to preview the course which was marked with big arrow signs and after the first downhill (which, incidentally, was super technical), encountered two arrows that went like this –> <–. Hm. We tried to backtrack from the other side of the loop and still couldn’t make it work. We finished the course preview of the second half, a loop that included a football field and old asphalt track and let the Race Director know that something was up with the first loop. When he went out to check, he found that someone had reversed 5 of his arrows overnight! After he fixed it, we went back out to preview the first half of the course and it had magically turned into a great trail loop!

From the get-go, this race was low key and fun and prerace was no exception. People were hanging out, drinking beers and playing beer pong and corn hole. I didn’t drink before because I was already concerned about my ability to drink two beers and run 4 miles. I was also worried that I’d overload on fluid so despite the fact that it was in the 80s and sunny, I didn’t let myself have water and was PARCHED. My biggest prerace concern was chugging a beer at the start. I’ve never been one to chug anything, in part because of my inability to burp, and I was worried that it would take me 2 minutes to finish my beer and erase the 2 minutes that drinking a beer erased from each lap.

Chose an appropriate singlet for the morning! Cheers!

The start went WAY better than anticipated for me. I got the bottle open without difficulty and managed to drink it in ~25 seconds. I started to run in about 15th place and jogged out of the start area. Our plan was to take the whole race at about tempo effort but try to run intelligently on the course. The first mile was all trail and had sections with very technical footing and a big climb. The second mile was much more runnable and had a football field and lap on the old track, so was a perfect place to make up some time. The first downhill was MISERABLE. I was so full and had a sloshy stomach and desperately needed to burp, which is never my strong point. Since the whole idea was to have fun, I just kept jogging until I finally mercifully burped and felt 100% better. I found my tempo effort and started passing people quickly. When we came out of the woods, I found myself in 3rd place, solidly behind first (the race director who is a beast of a trail runner and beat us by 90 seconds) and about 30 seconds behind second. As we moved onto the faster part of the loop, I worked at closing the gap to second (our main competition) and ultimately got within 15 seconds of him. I finished the first lap in 15:35 and tagged off to Will, who put his beer down much more efficiently than me.

The man, the myth, the legend with better knee drive than I could ever hope for.

Will’s first lap was a beautiful thing. I’ve never seen him race and it was really fun to watch him pick his way over the course. He’s a great trail runner and a heck of a gamer in races and it was incredibly fun to get the chance to cheer for him for a change. The runner from the other team was very, very fast and Will did his best to hang close enough to him to keep us in it. At some point in his loop, Will passed the second runner from the team who had come in first (they were a 3 person team) as well and he came into the exchange zone in second by about 20 seconds.

My second beer was not as smooth as my first but I got it down in about 30 seconds and took off again. Unfortunately, the team that we were chasing was much more proficient and he was gone from sight before I finished my beer. This time, I was able to burp almost immediately and pushed my effort to tempo effort from the get-go. Although I couldn’t see my actual competition, there were plenty of people to pass on course which made it very easy to stay focused. Unfortunately, the second lap was MUCH warmer than the first. When we were in the woods, it wasn’t too bad but when we came out into the full sun, woooooweeee it was hot. I worked hard to not give up on the track and through the final field and was happy yet again to find that I had the fitness to start in tempo/interval effort in the final part of the race. I came into the exchange zone in a solid second but quite a ways down from the first team. My lap time was 15:45, which I was happy with now that I had two beers sloshing around.

Will took off after another great beer exchange and I jogged to the corner at the end of the woods loop to await him. The runner for the first team is clearly a trail guy; he hammered the first half of the course and put a lot of distance on Will. When they hit the flats, however, Will started to close the gap again. They ultimately beat us handily but I think Will and I were both super happy with our efforts!

The final rule was that at the finish line, you had to shake up the full beer that had been your baton the whole time and crack it open and spray. I’ve rarely seen Will smile so easily as he did when the finish line official made him do it! I had to duck and run to avoid a full spray of warm, shaken Budweiser.

Good thing we brought a change of clothes!

All in all, it was an awesome experience for us and a decent workout to boot. After the race, we hung around for almost two hours and ate pizza and met lots of runners from the Greenville running community. I connected with a runner (incidentally the guy who ran my leg from the team who beat us) who works at Pace Running, which is a local running store in Travelers Rest that exclusively carries Skechers so it was fun to talk shop a bit. It was such a nice contrast from my first experience to feel welcome and included just by virtue of showing up.

From a race perspective, I’m just so grateful to continue forward progress. My laps were very close in time and our team average pace was 7:45, so my 7:47 and 7:52 didn’t hold us back too badly! Given that my mile pace for the Asheville half was 7:20, I feel very good about this performance on trails, in the hot sun post-beers!

My favorite part of the day, however, was getting to see Will in race mode. We met after his first ankle surgery when he was already in the long, long recovery process and he hasn’t raced much since then. He did one 5K as part of the VCM relay and paced another for one of my athletes but otherwise just runs for fun. Without putting too much of him on the blog without his permission, I’ve always thought that he was nervous about racing again because it might fall short of his prior performances. I think Sunday was a great step for him to realize that you can reinvent yourself and race for fun and still be a “runner.”

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 4.24.17 to 4.30.17

MEDICAL SCHOOL IS OVER!!!!!!! Finished up my last shift in the SICU on Friday and when it was done, wasn’t sure if I was supposed to spike my badge, fist pump through the halls or run out of the building. Med school was never as bad as I expected it to be but I would never, ever want to do it again. Sorry, not running related but good riddance!

Monday: Tested out the ankle with a 30 minute trail run. All good, although I was being a wimp on the more technical portions. Legs after.

Tuesday: Simple treadmill fartlek with 10 by 1 minute on, 1 minute off. On pace was somewhere between MP and tempo.

Wednesday: Got out of the unit early and snuck in a 13 mile long run. Did a couple of miles alternating between regular pace and MP to shake out lazy legs.

Thursday: Rest Day, prorated at 4. Much needed after three days that were harder than easy in a row.

Friday: 7.6 miles easy. 82 degrees out so I felt terrible! Arms afterward.

Saturday: 3 mile shakeout. Ran to the track and back, then a mile of ins/outs.

Sunday: Sleepy Hollow Mountain Race.  Remember the last time I ran a trail race? My only goal for this morning was to use some of my lessons from last year’s Rivah. My biggest goal was to keep both shoes on, which I did! I’ll recap the rest in a Race Report tomorrow but I had a blast, stayed upright and finished somewhere around 1:01:50, although I don’t know what place I was.

Total Miles: 44 miles, 2 strength workouts

Total April Miles: 153

Going up…

Now that school is done and I have a couple of months off, I’m looking forward to getting in some more consistent training. I’ll slowly be increasing my mileage towards 55 and working on fitting three explicit strength workouts in weekly (plus my daily toothbrush squats/core etc). My next race focus is the Asheville Half Marathon. I haven’t honed in on goals yet but as I get back into workouts, I’ll be setting my A, B and C goals. I also spent a lot of time putting all sorts of possible races on my calendar for the next year. Although I don’t have my call schedule, I’m hoping that I can just keep myself in good enough shape to jump in races as I can!

 

Race Report: Fallen Leaves 5K #3 2016

While this race wasn’t my best time (or even best effort), I will remember it as one of my favorites because I got to race with my girls instead of just cheering them on from the sidelines. I didn’t go into the race well-rested; travel back from Rochester was rough and I ended up being awake for almost 36 hours by the time I went to bed on Friday morning. I barely ran during the week so I decided it would just be an adaptation week and I would go into the race with a positive mindset. Regardless, it wasn’t pouring rain (although it was cold), so it was an upgrade from my past two races.

After an extended warm-up without the girls (diesel engine over here) and then our regular warm-up routine, we revealed our awesome new singlets and started behind a few other high school boys and other area men. One of my favorite things about this race is that you do the first two laps on a kitty litter track so you can calibrate your pace. Our first lap was an 82 and I said out loud to the girls with me “WHOA we need to slow down.” My/our goal was to be around 19 so that was a little hot. We went through the 800 at 3:04, which was a much more appropriate pace.

Squad Up!

Squad Up!**

As we hit the grass, I felt good and stretched out a little to find a rhythm. We made the first sharp turn onto the bike path and I went through the mile at 6:10 on the nose. Another woman caught up to me at this point and although I tried to stay with her, my legs felt more like lead than I’d anticipated. We rolled along the bike path and picked people off, made it around the 180 degree turn and headed back towards the school. These 180 turnarounds KILL me. I came to almost a complete stop and it took me a few seconds to get back into my groove. The woman I was running with got away from me here and I couldn’t make contact with her again.

A little past 2 miles, the wheels a-coming off the bus.

A little past 2 miles, the wheels a-coming off the bus.

I ran my second mile in 6:02 and mentally tried to gear up for the last mile. I felt like I was moving well on the bike path but when we got to the last sharp turn back onto the grass, my form went from collected to…terrible. It had warmed up enough that the grass was soft but wet and slippery and I got the oddest cramp in my forearms and felt like they weren’t moving at all. I just kept my eyes on the people ahead of me and trudged forward. We hit the track for the final 100 meters and I saw the clock ticking towards 19 but couldn’t find any turnover to get there. My third mile was a 6:18 and I crossed at 19:09 as second woman.

A rare decent finishing shot!

A rare decent finishing shot!

The upside? I can still beat my girls and I’m still improving every week! The downside? I’m a little frustrated with my third mile. I think it’s mostly a lack of specific fitness but my turnover is just nonexistent at this point. I’ll get a chance to race again this Thursday and will hope to continue to improve. I’m still waiting to hear what the new course will be for the First Run 5K but am planning on that as my next “goal” 5K.

**We are super lucky to have a parent who is also a professional photographer. He takes HUNDREDS of pictures at every race, shares them for free with our team and this time, I’m one of the lucky beneficiaries. If you are local and need sports, family or senior pictures, I can’t recommend Phil enough.

Race Report: Halloween Hustle 5K 2016

For better or worse, I’m getting good at racing in the pouring rain and high 30s! Saturday morning was gray with moderate drizzle…until I started my warm-up when I got totally soaked. Since this was a Halloween race, I tried to get in the spirit without ruining my stride and had the unfortunate idea to rock a cotton Superman shirt. Red bunhuggers topped off my look and yes onlookers, I was cold.

Me and Pre, prerace. Yes, he always makes that face.

Me and Pre, prerace. Yes, he always makes that face.

I didn’t get back from Asheville until 11 pm and when my alarm went off at 7:30, I almost scrapped the idea but since I was registered and awake, I dragged my butt out of bed and got dressed. I was at the race site by 8:30 and the race went off at 9 am, leaving my with just enough time to jog a couple of miles and do a strider up the sidewalk. Right before the race, I asked Joe was his plans were and he said he was hoping for a 5:40 first mile. This comes into play shortly…

The start was a bit hilarious as the airhorn misfired and we took a step out, then came back to start again. We rolled out in the pouring rain and I was a few steps behind Joe and Adam and with Tim, Francis and Todd. We quickly separated from the rest of the group and headed out into the neighborhood loop. Since I thought Joe was running a 5:40 mile, I settled in behind him and felt super comfortable which probably should have been a sign that something was amiss. There were no mile markers, so I just went on time and assumed that I’d crossed mile 1 around 6 minute pace given where I was off Joe and Adam.

The first mile rolls uphill but each hill is followed by either a downhill or a flat for recovery, making it a great course to move on. Tim and I separated from Francis and Todd but worked together for the rest of the race, a needed boost in the pouring rain. Once we got to the top of the hills, we picked up the pace and started to hammer down the hills and float on the flats. I focused on keeping Adam in sight until we took a series of tight course turns and there weren’t any straight stretches to get back in contact. Around this time, I also stepped in a river running down the street and soaked myself up to my shins.

For the second two miles (again, no markers, so I was just guessing on time), I just focused on pressing the pace. When I got to 12 minutes, I picked it up again and worked on convincing myself that I had the fitness to do so. Unlike last week, I found it a lot easier to find that next gear and hold it. My only big mistake was that I didn’t know the course so I wasn’t sure when we were getting near the final turn. Tim did, however, and shot by me with 200 meters to go. I crossed the line at 19:22, very happy to no longer need to drag my cotton shirt along with me!

After the race, I was a tiny bit disappointed that my time wasn’t faster but then found out our splits from Tim. Mile 1 was 6:39, Mile 2 was 6:06 and Mile 3 was 5:49. Turns out, Joe had decided to run the first mile on heartrate and ran a 6:16 instead of a 5:40. We all gave him considerable grief about this! The upside is that I felt so good in the second two miles and was able to push hard. I do think I could have had a similar progression with a slightly faster first mile so that’s a lesson for me to be attuned to BOTH my perceived effort and what others are doing.

Not a lot of female company out there.

Not a lot of female company out there.

Overall, I was happy with a race well executed in crummy conditions and feel like I’m starting to remember how to race again. I also cannot recommend the course enough. It is a certified 5K course and has an awesome combination of hills, downhills and straightaways. I would LOVE to race it again when a) I’m in better shape and b) the weather is a little more favorable because I think it is definitely a PR course.

Race Report: Victory 5K

Also known as, find a starting point. 

To be blunt, running has just not been that fun lately. My schedule is totally unpredictable and I kept trying to find ways to fit a marathon training schedule around TAing, coaching and traveling for a bazillion interviews literally across the country. It just wasn’t working. I didn’t want to run, let alone do a workout and most days, I just wanted to pitch my running shoes across the room. I let go of the idea of a winter marathon a few weeks ago but then found myself in a new predicament: aimless running. With no goal race, what was the point of going out the door to run? After a couple of weeks with no goal, it became evident that I needed something to focus on and I decided to jump back in with a surprise 5K last weekend.

I went in with no goal; I just wanted to go through the motions and get a starting point. I also wanted to support Karen Newman, the beneficiary of the Victory 5K. Karen was one of my first athletic heroes when I started racing again. She would dominate local races with her Olympic singlet on and I remember just being in awe that I got to share the road with someone of her talent. She has recently been battling a return of her breast cancer and the race was a fundraiser to help defray some of her healthcare costs.

Saturday morning was a great day for ducks in Antarctica. It was a chilly 40 degrees and during our warm-up, it started POURING and gusting. We got warm enough while we were jogging around but when I stepped outside for the start, my singlet was instantly glued to me. In fact, I had a few moments during the race where my shorts were so soaked, I wasn’t sure I was wearing any.

The start went off and I just tried to remember how to race. The first mile is essentially downhill and I aimed for a pace that was a click above tempo. During this mile, the rain was dumping down and I mentally kicked myself for not wearing a hat as water was streaming down my face. I went through the first mile in 6:06 (18:57 pace) and although I knew it was above my fitness, hoped that I could still hang on for a respectable finish. The second mile is half slight uphill and half slight downhill on gravel; the turnaround is in the middle of this mile. Although the footing wasn’t too bad, the turnaround was ridiculously tight and I came to a complete stop as I tried to figure out how to turn without falling. On the first part of the return trip, the puddles had started to accumulate and it was getting slippery. I went through Mile 2 at approximately 12:30 (19:31 pace) and realized I needed to stay focused to not totally fall off. The last mile wasn’t as bad as the last mile usually is in a 5K, probably because I was just running on aerobic fitness and not actually redlining. I worked on reeling in the guy ahead of me and just tried to stay upright in the puddles. I rounded the corner for home and pushed it in in 19:28 (6:15 pace).

My initial reaction was to be frustrated (19:28 is slower than my half marathon pace when I’m in decent shape) but I followed that up by being happy that I got through my first race back and cared enough to be frustrated! The nice thing about the 5K is that I can try it again this coming weekend. The Halloween Hustle is all on pavement (I think), so I’m hoping to improve on my time and keep turning my wheels over. My ultimate goal from this training cycle is to break 18 minutes at the First Run 5K (provided we don’t have a massive snowstorm or Arctic blast).

Week in Review 10.17.16 to 10.23.16

Monday: 3 mile run with the dogs and a mini-lift at 4:30 am before TA extravaganza.

Tuesday: 7.5 mile run with the team with 8 by 400 at various speeds on grass. Hip core after.

Wednesday: 6 mile trail run. Amazing fall day out.

Thursday am: 5 miles with 10 minutes at T pace effort.

Thursday pm: 2 miles easy with the team.

Friday: 5.5 miles easy with 4 by 100 meter striders.

Saturday: Decided I had to pull the bandaid off and find out where I am. Victory 5K in the pouring rain and 40 degree weather, 19:28. Not pretty but not that ugly either. 7.1 miles for the day.

Sunday: Skied for 90 minutes in the am!!! 4.5 mile run and Body Pump in the evening.

Total Miles: 40.8

In a moment of realism, I decided that trying to train for a half or full marathon is lunacy right now. I’m traveling all over this fall for interviews and it just sets me up for frustration and failure to be trying to fit 70 miles a week of training in. What I do have time for, however, are a bunch of 5Ks and 10Ks and to try to regain some speed. Despite having almost no real workouts on my legs, I hopped in a 5K this weekend and was happy to run a 19:28. It felt easy, probably because I come with one gear right now, but I’m happy to have a starting place. I’ll race every weekend over the next four weeks and then focus in on the New Years Day 5K, which I’ve won the past two years. It’s hard to watch everyone else run goal fall races but it’s a huge relief to have a realistic training plan for my schedule right now.

I’ve also decided to scrap my 9 day cycle for now. Although I think it’s ultimately the right fit for me, it is not the right fit for my life right now where my schedule is different from week to week. I also want to be able to explore all of these new cities that I’m visiting and not be tied to a workout or distance when I’m there. For example, I’m headed back to Asheville on Thursday (yay!!) and am looking forward to doing an easy hour and change of one of my favorite loops now that the weather has calmed down. Friday morning, interviews start early so I’ll probably just squeeze something easy in on the treadmill.

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.

Self Conscious

I had a bizarre experience last Saturday during the 10,000 that has been bothering me since. I didn’t include it in my race report because it was such a positive experience overall that I didn’t want to taint it by telling this story but since I can’t shake it, here it is.

I was maybe 6 laps into the race, feeling incredible because I was clicking off laps effortlessly and feeling strong. As I rounded the curve towards the home straight, someone yelled out “Number 21, open up your stride!!” At first, I thought perhaps I misremembered the number stuck to me and shook it off. When I came around on the next lap, however, a coach in red started screaming again “Number 21, your STRIDE!!!! OPEN UP YOUR STRIDE!!” She was standing in the bleachers screaming at me and I.was.mortified.

First of all, I have a lot of residual embarrassment and fear of being yelled at by coaches from my high school experience so it was a miracle that I even signed up for a race on the track where there is nowhere to hide for close to 40 minutes. I won’t lie that I was extremely self-conscious as I stepped on the track with the lowest female hip number in my spandex at 32 years old next to 18 and 19 year olds. The fact that a stranger, someone who doesn’t know me, coach me or have any stake in my performance felt that it was appropriate to scream at me for my form hurt me more than I can ever explain. I turned and shrugged my arms at her, my feeble attempt to say “f*ck off” and finished my race without incident but it chewed at me for the remainder of the race. I thought about finding her afterward to give her a piece of my mind, both as a coach and an athlete, but decided it wasn’t a battle worth fighting.

Since then, I haven’t been able to go for a run without feeling self conscious about my form. Are those drivers looking at me, wondering why I run so oddly? Do I look ridiculous doing speed work? Why do I even bother to try to run competitively with such bad form?

Here’s the thing: I DO shuffle. Part of that is because I have been running marathons for years and the shuffle comes with the territory. Part of it is because I stand all day long, often in weird positions and my back and hips are ridiculously tight. Part of it is that I don’t do enough dynamic work. But my shuffle also works to my advantage. I have a high cadence and I land on my midfoot, which means my impact is virtually nil. I’m quiet and efficient when I run. I know I could use more knee drive. Most of us could. What I don’t need more of, however, is self consciousness about how I look when I’m running. 

Has this ever happened to you in a race? Would you have confronted her? What’s your body/running hangup?