Category Archives: training

Clear Eyes, Full Heart, Can’t Lose…Updated

Three and a half years ago (omg…) I shared a blog post right after VCM about what I wanted to accomplish in running. At the time, I structured it into 18 month Goals, Someday Goals and Pie in the Sky Goals. I was about at the end of my first year of medical school and didn’t know that I would pick General Surgery, move to Asheville, have breast surgery etc. That post continues to sit in my mind, however, because it was a vulnerable position to put myself in. What if I never crossed a single thing off?! Did that make me a failure or mean I had poor insight into my abilities? Would I always wonder what if?

It turns out, that list hasn’t changed much in terms of checking things off. I ran a PR in the marathon the fall after I wrote that. And I just won my first marathon last weekend which prompted me to revisit my list. I’m leaving out the 18 month time frame on my new version and just doing To Do and Pie in the Sky. I tried to come up with a combination of goals that are participation based (on me to complete), time based (again, on me to achieve) and competition based (on me AND other athletes).

To Do:

PR in the 5K, 10K, Half Marathon and Full Marathon (18:44, 38:33, 1:21, 2:54 respectively)

Run a Trail Marathon

Win a National Championship

Run a Beer Mile

Run the Shut In Trail Race

Pie in the Sky:

Olympic Trials Qualifier in the Marathon

Run a US Running Circuit Race

Earn an Elite Bib at one of the US Majors (Boston, New York or Chicago)

Run for the US on a World’s Team

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

 

How I Finally Got Consistent with Strength Training

When I look back over all my notes over all my training cycles for the past decade (I came back to racing in 2007), there is always a note somewhere about being more consistent with strength training and core work. And yet, as the miles climb and workouts get harder, it would drop off and my prerace reflection and post race recap would inevitably mention a need for more strength work the next time around. In many ways, I’m lucky that I’ve gotten away without a serious running injury in that time. It’s not that I do NO strength training, it’s just in fits and starts rather than a consistent, careful approach. As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve done a little core routine every night before bed since college and I think this has made a huge difference for me. Still, I feel the repercussions of my inconsistency during long workouts as my form collapses or late in races when certain muscles fail faster than others.

Anyway, in an effort to prepare for intern year and acknowledge that even more than usual, time will be at a premium for the next five years, I downloaded a free version of the Daily Workouts app for abs and arms. Each of these had a 5, 8 or 10 minute option. Within a couple of days, I was hooked and bought the full app ($10). This added levels 2 and 3 as well as kettle bell, cardio, pilates and exercise ball routines. Since buying this app in April, I haven’t missed a single strength workout. A single one. Through moves and graduations and everything else, I’ve done at least 5 minutes of core daily and 5 to 10 minutes of other strength workouts on the appropriate days.

Here’s why I think this app works for me (I am in no way sponsored, by the way): when I normally did strength workouts, I would plan to do 3 sets of 10 to 12 reps for a variety of exercises focused on a body part. Inevitably, I’d finish a set or two, then open my phone. And answer a text. Or scroll Instagram for a second. Or answer an email. Then I’d half-heartedly go back to lifting. Not only did this take way more time than it needed to, but half the time I wouldn’t finish the workout I’d planned in my head. This app doesn’t allow me to get distracted and it doesn’t allow for excuses either. I have 5 minutes to do arms or abs or glutes, no matter what. Once the app starts, it is counting and showing you the exercises. No exiting to check Instagram, no distractions.

I share this story not only to be as real as I can about a training struggle that I face but also in case others have a similar experience with strength training or schedule restrictions and want another possible solution. As I said, I ended up purchasing the full app but the free version was excellent too, just with ads and more limited range of exercise options.

How do you get your strength training in? Does anyone else use an app or online software?

Running During Intern Year***

***Caveat: This is a plan. The shit may hit the fan a month from now and this may all be a pipe dream. That said, I went into medical school planning for the worst and it never really happened, so I’m doing the same for Residency.

One of the benefits (??) of Residency is that we know our schedules way, way, way in advance. It takes an inordinate amount of organization to cover a hospital and our schedules are done almost before we Match. Because my program is new, ours will be a little less set as we work out kinks in coverage but we still have a full year schedule to work from which is amazing from a running perspective. Our schedule is unique because we do three month blocks from the beginning rather than one month blocks. From a professional perspective, this allows us to actually get our feet under us and build proficiency. From a lifestyle perspective, this allows us to adjust to a schedule for a longer period of time and supports more normal sleep cycles. The other big change for this year is that the work hour restrictions, a huge controversy in all residencies but especially in surgery, have been loosened. We still can’t work more than 80 hours a week (averaged over 4 weeks), but we are able to take 24 hour call as interns. I know some people hate call because they have to be up for 24 hours but I find it immensely preferable to night float where you work 7 pm to 7 am for a month at a time. With 24 hour call, you take a big nap when you get home, get a half day off and go to bed early the night before the reset.

From the 40,000 foot view, my schedule looks like this:

  • July, August, September on Acute Care Surgery (Tuesday Call)
  • October, November, December on Pediatric Surgery (Sunday night call)
  • January, February, March on Trauma Surgery (Thursday call)
  • April, May, June on Wound/Ambulatory Surgery (Saturday call)

What this means is that I have a guaranteed post-call day off as well as a weekend day off most weekends. Occasionally, I’ll have both days of the weekend off (known as the “Golden Weekend.”) From a training perspective, this means that I have two and occasionally three days for quality workouts. One of the big hurdles that I’ve already experienced in medical school and expect to experience even more as a resident is a lack of recovery. We work about 12 hours a day and much of that is standing. Even with almost no additional social life, this doesn’t leave a ton of time for quality sleep. Planning for my recovery, then, is almost as important as planning my runs. My general plan is to take my call day as my off day, which will allow me to sleep in a bit. On my post-call day, I’ll aim to be in bed early and on a full day off, sleep in as late as I can even if it means my run happens at a warmer time of day. Finally, I’m working on giving myself permission to take an extra rest day to prioritize sleep if I’m feeling exhausted.

For the first three months of intern year, then, this is the basic mockup of my schedule with strength training in italics and a presumption that my weekend day off will be Sunday which isn’t necessarily true. Because we’re easily the luckiest residents ever, we work 7 am to 7 pm (instead of 5 am to 5 pm), which means I can get my runs in before work without having to get up at 3 am. My hope is to keep my mileage between 50 and 60 miles a week but I will reassess this after the first couple of months and see if 40 to 50 might be more appropriate/improve recovery.

  • Monday: Interval Effort. Short hills or time based interval paced effort. Legs and Core.
  • Tuesday: Call Day. Off.
  • Wednesday: Post-Call Day. Long Run with/without steady state or tempo miles. Legs and Core.
  • Thursday: Recovery run. Arms and core.
  • Friday: Regular run. Core. 
  • Saturday: Regular run with striders. Core. 
  • Sunday: Workout with tempo and turnover work.

One of the biggest challenges for me is going to be being flexible in my training. I get stressed out when I deviate from my schedule or miss a workout but I’m working on accepting that this is a given with my current life. There will certainly be days when I can’t get a run in but there will also be days with surprise opportunities to get an extra mile or even an extra run in. A training cycle isn’t made or broken with one workout or even one week, and I will need to remind myself of this regularly.

I’ll cover my strength training approach in a post for tomorrow (I have a new app and I want to give it appropriate attention) but I’ve recently gotten in a great routine of getting some aspect of strength building in daily and want to continue that trend. Thankfully, this is the easiest piece to keep in my routine. Squats when I brush my teeth, crunches and pushups in the charting room, stairs at work etc…

 

Small News: I Picked a Fall Marathon

I just signed up for the RDC Marathon in November.

Yes, you read that correctly. I’m about to start General Surgery Residency and I registered for a fall marathon. Before you think I’m entirely crazy, let me attempt to explain.

First, I need something outside of the hospital for me. Running is an excellent outlet for stress for me but I need something to focus me more than just vague “stay in shape,” so a long race is a great motivator.

Second, I need to dip my foot back in the marathon pool. My last marathon was in 2014 and my last big focus race was the Philly Half in 2015. As I’ve covered, perhaps ad nauseam, Philly and the failure there wounded me more than I can express and it’s been an ugly road back. I’ve self sabotaged races, half assed training and generally faced an enormous amount of fallout from that one race. I’m at a point now where I’ve accepted that I can’t expect to come back at the same place I left in 2015. I haven’t trained at a high level in over a year and have had numerous setbacks in that time. What I can do, however, is start fixing the foundation and looking forward to the Olympic Trials for 2020.

So why a full marathon and not a half? I often joke that for a marathon to go well, God himself needs to come down and anoint you for the perfect day but that you can run a good half marathon with locusts falling from the sky. That’s still true, if you have the perfect training setup. If you don’t, however, you lack the requisite speed to run fast at the half distance. As I’ll detail in an upcoming post, my schedule for the next year is a bit…challenging and will require a ton of flexibility on my part. What it does include, however, is a guaranteed post-call day when I can get my long run in.

Why did I choose a brand new marathon that it unlikely to have a ton of people or crowd support? See above with Philly. I considered trying to get into the elite field of a race but my times are too old and I didn’t want to automatically assign the pressure of being an invited athlete to my comeback. As Abbey said the other day, “just let me run with regular people and drink from paper cups and run fast.” Yes, the ultimate goal is to post a 2017 time that will get me back into invited fields but I don’t need to add pressure for this first big race back.

Right now, I don’t have any hard goals. After all, I have 23 weeks and almost half a surgical intern year between then and now. In my mind, I would really like to break 3 hours but I’ll reevaluate that as I get closer to the race. My other big goal is to have a good training cycle that will help me to put Philly behind me once and for all.

Back To Our Regularly Scheduled Programming

My first selfie as Dr. Waterman Manning!

I won’t even attempt to recap the past few weeks of training (or life), but the very short version is that I graduated (wooohooo!), celebrated with family and friends and managed to get two very anxious doggies back home to North Carolina. We are now getting settled in Asheville and the dogs look like little kids complete with tons of mud, scratches and sunburns. They love the new backyard and are only happy when they are outside. I’m feeling similarly and have spent countless (uncharacteristic) hours just quietly rocking on the porch and dreaming up home improvement projects. I know the storm is coming but for now, I’m enjoying 9 hours of sleep a night and no real “to-dos.”

Hard to describe the bond between classmates but it’s a bit like leaving the best teammates ever.

Running is going well and I must admit that I’m relieved to feel reinvigorated now that I’m in Asheville. It is getting hot and humid here so runs are slowing down but I’m happy to get out the door every day and enjoying slow progress with my fitness. I’ve started the process of exploring running spots around the area and was blown away by Bent Creek and the new sections of the Mountains-to-Sea trail that I’ve discovered so far. I tried to join in on a group run the other night in an attempt to make some friends but it was a pretty horrible experience (still debating if I want to write about it…). Despite that, I’ve had tempo runs, steady state runs and interval workouts that have demonstrated slow but forward progress.

The Asheville half is this coming weekend and the weather looks…not great. As much as I would like to taper down in hopes of having a great peaked result, my training hasn’t been consistent enough to warrant a taper. Instead, I’m going to train normally this week but add a rest day and extra easy day on Friday and use this as a jump off point for summer training in preparation for my fall marathon. My only goal is to have a strong last three miles, which has eluded me lately in half marathons. I haven’t chosen a race yet (waiting on vacation approval) but am excited to think about starting the (long) journey towards my Trials attempt.

Race Report: Sleepy Hollow Mountain Race

1:01:56, 18th Woman.

First and foremost, I am a road runner and spend very little time on trails (although I would like that to change in the coming years as we’re moving to an epic trail running town!). That said, I LOVE playing around in the woods and am wholly entertained by sliding sideways through mud and skittering along cliff edges. Despite moments of frustration yesterday, I had a complete blast getting out of my comfort zone and up some big hills at Sleepy Hollow.

Before I recap, let’s take a flash back to my last trail race and the areas of improvement I identified after that adventure.

  1. Learn how to tackle downhills.
  2. Don’t give up time on the easy parts.
  3. Tie your shoes tightly and learn how to cross rivers/mud.
  4. Know when to hold em, know when to fold em.

Coming into yesterday, my goals were simple: finish, keep both shoes on and try to apply lessons from last year’s Rivah. I actually spend a fair amount of time at Sleepy Hollow in the winter on skis but had literally never seen it without snow until yesterday. That said, I knew it featured some super gnarly singletrack and set a goal of 10 minute pace overall to balance the faster grass sections with the singletrack. Other than that, I didn’t have any plans, hopes or dreams.

The weather was perfect for a trail race with temps in the low 40s with just a touch of drizzle. We were well protected in the woods from wind but I suspect spectating wasn’t a ton of fun. Will and I ran the last 2 mile chunk of the course as a warm-up and although it was technical, it featured an amazing last mile of downhill and flat with good footing so I hatched a plan to use this place to move up if my legs allowed it.

This was the largest Sleepy Hollow Mountain Race (300 runners) ever and since I’m no trail runner, I positioned myself midpack for the start. When the horn sounded, people shot off while I jogged up the first incline. Since I didn’t know what to expect, my plan was to take it easy on the first ascent and see how I did. Even at that easy pace, I was breathing hard by about 5 minutes in. We turned onto a lovely singletrack and since we were still densely packed, this gave me time to calm my breathing and settle in. One of the best parts of this race was that it was either up or down and once you survived a climb, you knew you had a lot of recovery coming. After we crested the first hill, I felt good and started on the downhill. And people started STREAMING by me. Apparently my downhill skills have not really improved since last year…With rocks and roots and mud and leaves, I just wasn’t comfortable sending it and just did my best as what seemed like half the field went by me.

We then hit a long section of flat to downhill packed gravel/grass and I found my tempo effort and went. This awareness was a HUGE improvement from last year and was something I was able to do throughout the race. As we reached the bottom of this trail and the lowest point of the course, the hardest climb (for me) began. It started as a mudslide uphill that was nearly impossible to run, so I stayed to the side of the trail and powerhiked. (Look at all this learning!) Then after another short section of wide gravel/grass , we turned onto a switchback heavy singletrack where you could see so far up the ridgeline that the leaders were visible. Mentally and physically taxing, this was probably the hardest part of the course for me, especially when we hit the mile 3 marker and I realized I wasn’t even half done. Towards the top of this section, we saw Darth Vader and traversed a sketchy little cliff section where I literally grabbed a tree as I second guessed my footing. We went up over the absolute top of the land (another powerwalk hill) and finally headed down towards the start/finish area and the final loop.

This downhill and flat section offered a great opportunity to settle back into tempo effort and I felt strong and in control. Cruising past Will at the beginning of the third loop, I focused on my form with driving knees and turnover and felt super confident in my ability to tackle the third loop. After all, I’d already run it and it wasn’t THAT bad. Ha. As we turned onto the singletrack portion (most of which is at a 28% grade), I found myself struggling to powerwalk, let alone run. The only reason I wasn’t completely devastated was that literally everyone else around my was powerwalking too. Turns out that what might seem easy on a warm-up is a bear after 4.5 miles of racing. When we finally reached the top of that climb, I forced myself back into a jog and carefully watched footing then rejoiced when we hit the gravel/grass road descent. As I’d planned on my warmup, I clicked into tempo pace and started moving towards home. I was able to pass two people and caught up to the woman whom I’d passed on every uphill but who decimated me on the downhills. As we worked up the last hill, I realized I wasn’t sure what the etiquette was for kicking it in at a trail race and felt like maybe, that wasn’t cool. I stayed a couple steps behind her as we finished up and crossed the line at 1:01:56.

All in all, I’m so happy with the way this turned out. I wanted to get a solid effort in, have some fun in my last race in Vermont for a while and see if I could apply what I’d learned from my last trail race. I did a great job of keeping both shoes on, powerwalking when appropriate and running fast where it was possible. My downhills, however, still leave a lot to be desired. There’s always next time!

 

Hello Asheville

I’m about a week away from moving to Asheville and I should be packing. Instead, I’m researching places to run, races to jump into and ways to find new running friends in Asheville. Sigh. Can’t teach an old (running) dog new tricks. My schedule for the next few years will be much less predictable than it is now, so my basic approach is to try to identify every possible race in the area, write them in my calendar then register as I know my schedule! Will this lead to top performances in every race?  Of course not. What it will accomplish, however, is a general fitness base that can hopefully parlay into a few outstanding performances a year.

Luckily for me, Asheville is a well developed running town and there are lots of group runs and races to get involved in. I joined the Asheville Track Club last night so that I can be a part of the 2017 Grand Prix (although I won’t be able to get 10 races in to be eligible for overall awards this year) and I’m considering connecting with the Asheville Running Collective which seems like an Asheville version of Olde Bones. I was also excited to find the Carolina Runner blog, which is an amazing resource of events all over the area.

When I get to Asheville next week, my first order of business after unpacking is to get an Annual Pass to the Biltmore, where there are 22+ miles of relatively flat trails to train on. Also on my list is a membership to the North Carolina Arboretum (10 miles of trails) and exploring the Bent Creek Trails.  I’m also looking forward to exploring more of the Mountains to Sea trail and to finding my daily routes from the new house!

Here’s to new adventures!

Weeks in Review: 4.10.17 to 4.23.17

When time is short, write up two weeks of training at once!

4/10/17 to 4/16/17

Monday: 5 mile recovery run. Feeling Unplugged now!

Tuesday: 7 mile run at the crack of dawn.

Wednesday: Planned off day.*

Thursday: Fartlek workout, 5 miles.

Friday: 2.5 mile early morning run.

Saturday: 12 mile long run.

Sunday: 4 mile trail run, most of which was spent sideways in mud.**

Total Miles: 35.5

4/17/17 to 4/23/17

Monday: 4.5 mile run plus striders.

Tuesday: 7.5 mile fartlek. 2 by mile uphill at t pace. 5 by 45 seconds hard uphill.

Wednesday: 2.5 mile early am run.

Thursday: Planned off day. Arm routine. 

Friday: 2.25 shake out run with 4 by minute at tempo pace, 2 by 30 seconds at interval pace.

Saturday: Off. Ankle. ***

Sunday: Off. Ankle.***

Total Miles 20.5

1 decent week, 1 not so decent week. I have 1 (how?!!?!??!) week of medical school left now and am so excited for a few weeks where all I have to do is pack, move and train.

* As I mentioned on my Instagram earlier this week, I have decided to schedule an off day every week. My recovery has been really poor over the past year and as much as I want to pretend my life is set up for optimal training, it’s not and I have to do what I can to maximize my training impact. As such, I’ll be taking a day off each week instead of a day every other week.

** This run was absurdly muddy and my ankles were sore after which I think set me up for an ankle twist later in the week.

*** I wear clogs in the SICU and usually, they + compression socks are the most comfortable thing going. On Friday, however, I was a little overzealous when wandering around in them and tweaked my ankle. It didn’t swell too badly but was sore bearing weight on Friday night so I decided to forego the Rollin Irish Half Marathon and rest instead.

The weather is beautiful, I’m ready to train again and I’m so looking forward to getting back in a groove and looking forward to the Asheville Half!

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 ultimately bit 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 had multiple turns and full circles through neighborhoods 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!