Category Archives: USATF

Race Report: 10,000 Meter FSU Eric Loeschner Invitational

This entire race report could be summed up as round and round it goes. Alternatively, not as bad as expected.

I headed up to the Fitchburg area on Friday night. One of my close friends from medical school lives in Harvard, Mass which is only 20 minutes from FSU so I took the opportunity to visit her (we get pretty far flung during 3rd and 4th year) and have a much calmer race morning. I left for FSU around 8:30 and was onsite by 9 am. They toyed with starting the 10,000 at 10 am instead of 10:15 but one athlete said they wouldn’t be ready so we waited for the 10:15 start. I ran around the campus of Fitchburg State to warm-up, then swapped into my racing flats (wore the GoMeb Speed3) and stripped down to my uniform. It was really chilly and windy when we arrived but by the time we were lining up, it was comfortable when you had a tail wind and just a tiny bit cool with the headwind.

Having never raced a 10,000 meter and since my last track race was 16 years ago, I had almost no idea what to expect from this race other than that the number of laps could lead to some significant monotony. To break this up, I mentally split the race into 4 pieces: 8 laps at marathon effort, 8 laps at tempo effort, 4 laps at high tempo effort then 5 laps at interval effort. The intent was not to pick up my pace throughout the race so much as it was to increase my effort to HOLD my pace. Like last weekend, since I am racing again on May 1st at the Plattsburgh Half, I also didn’t want to go so hard that I’d need a week to recover.

There were about 20 guys on the track and only about 7 women. We lined up behind the guys and we were off. I was hoping we could form a pack to work together through the wind but I led from about 10 meters in. I went through the 400 in 90 seconds, which felt easy but was way too fast for my current fitness so I backed off a bit, going through 800 in 3:08. I felt comfortable and cruised through the first two miles in 6:17 pace. The wind was intermittent. Sometimes it was okay and sometimes we were getting blown around on the back stretch.

As I hit the third and fourth mile, I started to pick up my effort a little bit, running 6:13 and 6:15 for those miles. I had started to lap people which made it easier to stay focused mentally but I was definitely starting to zone out as I ran round and round the track. In the fifth mile, I continued to cruise but found myself unfocused a number of times, lost in thought rather than focusing on my pace. I wanted to know my pace for the last mile so clicked my watch for the 2000 meters of 5 and a hair of 6, clocking in at 6:19. Ooops, definitely paid for my loss of focus. For the last mile, I focused on picking it up and running strong and ran a 6:13 for a total time of 39:10. I’m bummed that I didn’t break 39 but definitely zoned out for a few laps where I could have gotten that time back. I was psyched to have my effort feel spot on for the race and to hold almost exactly the same pace for 6.2 miles. It’s also nice to have an update on what is likely close to my current tempo pace!

After the race, I chatted for a bit with the other All Terrain Runners there for the race. We all stuck out like sore thumbs at a race where the mean age was approximately 20 so it was fun to hang out with my own peers for a bit. I cooled down with Susan who had also been at the Merrimack River Trail Race and we commiserated on how long our legs took to recover after that effort.

All in all, I had a blast trying out the 10,000 and regret that I didn’t run the event earlier! I think it’s a nice combination of endurance and speed and plays right into my wheelhouse. I came into the race thinking I’d never run another one but now I think I’ll look for one later in the summer to see if I can post a better time with some more competition. The All Terrain Series is definitely injecting fun back into my racing and I’m so glad I pushed myself to get into it. I’m also loving the bonus of automatically getting a really good workout in weekly and looking forward to seeing where my fitness is at the Plattsburgh Half in two weeks.

Week In Review 4.11.16 to 4.17.16

Monday am: 20 minutes on the elliptical to start moving things a bit

Monday pm: 3.37 very pathetic miles. Flats and uphills were fine, downhills were a disaster!

Tuesday: 6.87 miles with 4 by 50 meter striders. Feeling mostly better although left quad still a little sore.

Wednesday: 8.6 miles with 5 by 1 minute hard, 1 minute easy, 4 by 30 seconds hard, 30 seconds easy. Endurance legs and core after. Felt really good once I got going but definitely found some residual soreness after!

Thursday: 5.65 easy.

Friday: 2 mile morning shakeout.

Saturday: 10,000 meters on the track! 39:10, race report to come but it wasn’t nearly as bad as I’d anticipated. 11 miles for the day.

Sunday: 7 miles really easy at Waveny Park in New Canaan. Beautiful place for a recovery run!

Total Miles: 45

Tricky week to balance recovery and fitness but I think it went okay. I didn’t feel the fatigue from the trail run until about 4 miles into the 10,000 so that was a welcome surprise. Even more exciting is that I’m absolutely loving racing again because everything is so far from my comfort zone, there’s no way to be disappointed!

Back to the grind this week miles-wise, as soon as I’m recovered from Saturday. I’ll be keeping to my tempo/R pace schedule with some fast, quick intervals to work on my efficiency between now and the Plattsburgh half.

Congratulations to all the Boston Marathon runners yesterday! That women’s finish was something else. Ain’t over til it’s over…

Race Report: Merrimack River Trail Race 2016

There aren’t many races that I feel compelled to do every year, but this race was such an exceptional experience, I’m adding it to the list to try to do whenever possible. It was challenging enough to feel like a real accomplishment, fun without gimmick and an experience I’ll be thinking about for a long time.

Short Version: 1:16:20, 12th woman overall.

All smiles post-race. Should have taken a shot of my shoes...yikes.

All smiles post-race. Should have taken a shot of my shoes…yikes.

Long Version:

I got to the race at about 8:00 am and after a quick porto-potty stop, headed out to warm up on the trail and was happy to find that at least the first mile (and thus mile 10) were totally runnable. The first few feet of the course were seriously muddy but then it opened up to dry pine needle or sand trail. I did 2 miles, took my Gu and a couple more sips of coffee then got in line to pee again. This is when I knew the race was going to be a blast. The Race Director, who is clearly a native given that I didn’t hear an “r” uttered all day, started heckling in the porto-potty line that everyone was on a time limit. It cut through the anxiety (although it was a pretty low key crowd) and made me relaxed going into the race. With just a couple minutes to go to the start, I decided to lose my long-sleeve because I was worried about overheating. EXCELLENT call on my part.

I knew the race funneled down to single track quickly, but when I saw the distance between the start line and the trail, I realized it was really quickly. Like 15 feet. I didn’t even bother to position myself near the front and decided I’d just try to get through the start cleanly (fall-wise, mud-wise was a foregone conclusion) and deal with the rest in the first mile. Although we did slow down significantly, I was running free within 30 seconds and didn’t have any trouble with traffic til much later in the race.

Given that I have a 10,000 meter on the track this coming weekend, I tweaked my race plan a bit to make sure that I didn’t totally crush my legs. From my course research, my plan was to tempo effort the first 3 (which were allegedly flat), survive the middle section then tempo effort the last 3. My knowledge of the course profiled was a bit off but I was proud to go through the first two miles in 6:27 and 6:28 and feel in total control. The course got harder in the 3rd mile with some mud and a few bigger hills and my pace dropped to 7:19 while my effort stayed constant. Mile 4 was even harder with hard but manageable climbs and some descents that scared the LIFE out of me. Area of Improvement #1: Learn how to tackle terrifying downhills. Enormous apologies to the guy behind me when I hit the brakes before sliding down the steepest hill I’ve ever attempted to run down. (This would become like the 4th steepest hill I’ve ever run down shortly…) I finished mile 4 in 7:41 and was proud that I was holding my pace. Trail running is fun!

Too soon, Sarah. Mile 5 starts with a bang. And by a bang, I mean a sandy climb called Powerline Hill that necessitates walking and occasionally the use of hands and knees. This is the first time I’ve walked in a race since Junior High and by later in the race, I was kicking myself for ever resisting it. By the time I got to the top of Powerline Hill (incidentally where spectators and cameras were…can’t wait for those photos), I was literally seeing stars and had some moments where I wasn’t sure my legs could go on. Incidentally, I wish I’d had a heart rate monitor on because I’m pretty sure it would have identified my actual max heart rate. I was stumbling over the trail, just trying not to fall down. Of course, what goes up must come down and I started down the other side, just praying I wouldn’t fall down because I was pretty confident I’d never get back up. Just about this time, the lead runners started coming back towards us so we started the game of “get out of the way.” In trying to get out of the way for a group of guys, I rolled my ankle hard enough to make it numb for a couple of miles, which impeded any hope of feeling confident over the terrain. As I made my way towards the turnaround, I realized that it had flattened out again and urged myself to pick it up. Area of Improvement #2: Don’t give up time on easy parts!

I went through the turnaround, was almost caught up to the woman ahead of me when I stepped in serious mud and SQUELSH. Off came my shoe. I had this ridiculous moment where I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to do and literally stood there for about 10 seconds considering my options. Once I got it back on, I took off again but had lost sight of her and let my gap ahead of the next woman essentially close. I also realized that I’d forgotten to hit the split on my watch at the turnaround, so decided to just let it run til the mile 6 marker. At the next river crossing, I jumped into mud and SQUELCH again, as my left shoe ripped off. Area of Improvement #3a and 3b: Tie your shoes tighter than you could ever imagine and learn how to deal with river crossings cause clearly, mud isn’t the answer. My split for those two miles? 18:53. Seriously. It was hard…

The return trip over Powerline Hill and the rest of the big hills in mile 7 was much better as I stopped trying to run them and powerhiked them like everyone else around. SO much more comfortable. It was tricky to navigate around runners still heading out but people were incredibly polite and stayed to the side, although I’m sure my flailing arms and sliding feet encouraged some of that. Again, apologies. Rookie. Area of Improvement #4: Know when to hold em, know when to fold em walking wise. Mile 7 passed in 8:07 and I started to think I might just survive this race. Mile 8 was much more runnable although jumping onto bridges on tired legs was a little more sketchy than on the way out. I went through Mile 8 in 7:51 pace and as we hit the flat sections, picked it up to tempo pace, cruising through Mile 9 in 6:59. My last mile is what really made me so fricken proud of myself. As we hit the last mile (which is definitely the easiest in the course), I shifted gears again and worked on quick turnover (a feat in soaked shoes) and pressing onward while keeping things at high tempo effort and came home in a 6:32 last mile, just a couple seconds slower than I went out. I crossed the finish line in 1:16:20 with just the biggest smile. (This may have actually been in my head, I’m not sure what my face looked like…)

Coming into this race, I had hoped to run around 1:10 but after seeing the course, I realize that I was unprepared from a technical (and likely physical) perspective to do so. My downhill running skills are poor and I didn’t do a good job on the way out of managing my energy. All of that is not to indicate any unhappiness with how yesterday went. I’m brand new to trail racing and I’m thrilled to both have such a good experience and to feel pretty normal today, minus very tired quads. I didn’t think I was particular fit going into this race and although I’m clearly not sharp (see, giving up time on flats), my fitness is actually in a good place and I’m excited for the races ahead.

Splits:

Mile 1 6:27

Mile 2 6:28

Mile 3 7:19

Mile 4 7:41

Mile 5/6 18:53

Mile 7 8:07

Mile 8 7:51

Mile 9 6:59

Mile 10 6:32

 

Week in Review 4.4.16 to 4.10.16

Monday: 3.25 mile recovery run with big arms and core.

Tuesday: 5.5 miles with 10 minutes at tempo pace plus 4 by 30 seconds hard uphill. Still feeling the residual of a lot of hours on the trails. Legs after.

Wednesday: 4.27 miles with striders.

Thursday: 4.4 miles.

Friday: 2 mile progressive shakeout.

Saturday: Merrimack River Trail Race, aka the “Rivah.” Finished 12th for women in 1:16:20, which was momentarily disappointing, but overcome by the realization that I a) had a ton of fun b) executed my race plan and c) smiled for almost the entire (really flipping hard) race.

Sunday: Off Day. My legs are tired from yesterday but nothing appears broken. Given that I have to turn around and race a 10K on Saturday, however, I opted for more rest so I can get a little training in this week around that.

Total Miles: 32.4

This week (well really weekend) was one of the most refreshing ones I’ve had in a while. On Friday night, I drove up to Boston and caught up with my Uncle on the drive. He’s a retired physician and has been an enormous support to me throughout this process so it was great to catch up with him. I stayed with my best friend from college and we got to giggle and catch up all weekend. Then today, I got to catch up with another dear friend on the way back to Norwalk. Medical School is BRUTAL on personal relationships and I am so grateful to have friends who stick by me and to have a few hours to just be a regular person.

The race was also an amazing experience. I’ll recap it more in my race report, but I am just overwhelmingly proud of my execution. It wasn’t my best race and I’d hoped to be faster but I did a great job of just running my race plan, putting in a solid performance without risking my race next weekend or the half in May and had a total fricken blast.

As I’ve alluded a couple of times, the 10000 meter component of the All-Terrain Runner series is coming up next Saturday. I didn’t intend to race back to back weekends but finding a 10K on the track is a bit of a feat and I can’t make the only other guaranteed date this Spring so next weekend, I’m heading up to Fitchburg State University to run in a college meet for 27 some odd laps!

All of this means that my week gets shuffled a bit. I need to recover from yesterday, sharpen for Saturday and still keep my eye on May 1st. I’ll do a glorified strider workout tomorrow even though I won’t be fully recovered, another workout on Wednesday (trying out the Greenwich Running Company workout this week) then two easy days, use Saturday as a workout/heavy tempo and long run Sunday.

 

What All Runners Should Demand from Races

Since the Trials last Saturday where athletes like Shalane Flanagan required medical attention and where almost a quarter of the field was unable to finish, there’s been an increasing amount of criticism of race organizers for not providing a safe, top notch event. Patrick Rizzo wrote a blog post, for example, about some of the things he observed over the weekend. Other OTQ runners have chimed in on LetsRun with similar observations and complaints. Some of these complaints are more centered on what kind of an event the Olympic Trials should be; should it be just a way to pick the Olympic Team or should it celebrate the top runners in the United States? I’m inclined towards the latter but perhaps that’s because the Trials are a huge goal of mine. Whether participants got a good swag bag, however, isn’t as critical as whether 300 runners were put in serious danger for the sake of a TV audience and the ever-present agenda of USATF.

Here’s my take:

All runners, whether they are Trials Qualifiers, likely Olympians or likely last in a local race deserve to have a safe race experience. 

It is embarrassing and frankly irresponsible that athletes didn’t have access to cool water for a four mile segment on the course and that when they did, they were given bottles with tops that were almost impossible to open. It is equally irresponsible that the race was held at the heat of the day for a TV audience. Heat stroke is a powerful demon and an athlete who pushes too far in the heat is lucky to only need IV fluids. Similarly, the course in LA featured portions under construction including a tall cone literally in the middle of the road that runners had to circumnavigate. Runners are tired by the end of a marathon; they don’t need to risk breaking an ankle because the course is poorly thought out.

Perhaps what is most appalling is that this race was a big, televised event that was supposed to showcase American distance running and it failed to adapt for weather conditions and protect the athletes when local races with no budgets and few professional runners do this all the time. I can’t recall a local race where there wasn’t enough water and can only think of one race where I felt unsafe because there was no one directing traffic. My hometown Vermont City Marathon, for example, had an extremely hot year a few years back and asked residents of the “Neighborhoods,” a section of the course between 16 and 20 miles to turn on their sprinklers to cool runners. It doesn’t take a huge effort or a ton of lead time to think about what athletes need to be safe and as we consider where to hold the Trials in the future, I hope that we can all stand up for a safe event that celebrates everything the Trials should be. 

Week in Review 2/1/16 to 2/7/16

Monday: 5.25 mile run plus 300 abs. Took a great sliding fall outside and spent the rest of my run covered in mud.

Tuesday: 6 miles with 4 at tempo pace on the treadmill. Felt super comfortable. Legs after.

Wednesday: 6.5 easy outside. Core challenge after.

Thursday: 7.1 mile run.

Friday: Didn’t get good sleep on Thursday night so thought I could run after mid-call but didn’t get home until after 8 so unplanned day off.

Saturday: 5 mile progression run on the treadmill before long call.

The benefit of working early mornings is that you get to see some incredible sunrises.

The benefit of working early mornings is that you get to see some incredible sunrises. Saturday morning’s show.

Sunday: 8 miles on the treadmill plus arms.

Total Miles: 38

Really happy with this week of training. I added a couple new races to the coming months including a return to the half marathon in May and had an awesome tempo run on Tuesday that made me feel like I was getting back to normal. Starting a new clerkship isn’t easy and Medicine is a 6 day a week schedule but I don’t have to be in until 7 and get out early afternoon on some days, which is definitely a recipe for better running.

Now that the snowshoe race for the All Terrain series got changed to the Northeast Snowshoe Championships in March, I need to get my spring training schedule ironed out. Ultimately I’d like to put in a decent performance at the half in Plattsburgh but I also need to have serviceable performances at the trail run in April and the mountain run in July. Given that this is a bit out of my usual comfort zone, Will and I are doing some research to figure out how to get me ready for these events. As that gets ironed out, I’ll share what we’ve learned on here.

It’s My Body and I’ll Billboard If I Want To

As my post on Thursday alluded, it’s a rough time for endurance sports. Perhaps some of this comes from the insanity associated with chasing after and keeping sponsorships, most of which have performance requirements tied to them. When you have to perform to pay the bills, it’s not a huge leap to see why people might be willing to bend or outright break the rules.

That’s why I find this letter by Nick Symmonds incredibly timely. As he says, major contracts are few and far between (and increasingly a thing of the past). As such, many of us cobble together sponsorships to support our running. When we race, we want to acknowledge the companies who support us. We want to make sure everyone knows which products we believe in and count on. As the rules are now, however, my body isn’t my body at USATF events. The Nuun tattoo I wear to thank that company isn’t allowed. If I want to recognize a sponsor in addition to my team, I essentially have to rely on pre and post race gear to get the word out. It’s not that this doesn’t work: I spent 2 hours after the Craft Brew race answering questions about Nuun thanks to my trucker cap and tattoo. But it would be nice to have my singlet adorned with the logos of the companies that got me there.

In nordic skiing, for example, athlete uniforms reflect all of their sponsors. This year, for example, the US women have white uniforms that have nordic related sponsors like Craft Performance, Fischer and Rossignol next to non-nordic specific sponsors like Visa and Subaru. The other nice feature of the U.S. Ski Team is that although there are team specific sponsors (Craft, L.L. Bean and others), athletes can also personalize their uniforms and hats with other sponsors, such as their boot maker or fuel company.

I’m not saying I want to look like a NASCAR rig. I neither have that many sponsors nor the intention of making my quads a billboard. What I am saying (and what Symmonds is saying) is that athletes should have the opportunity to recognize all their sponsors on their race gear without penalty and that companies should have their logo readily visible on the athletes they so graciously sponsor.

What do you think the solution is? Should USATF be able to dictate what athletes put on their bodies? Where do we draw the line on bodies as billboards?

Shake It Up

I’m not someone who does well without a plan or a goal in any aspect of my life and running is no exception to this. While I don’t always have my eye on the next goal, I can’t go very long without another goal on the horizon to get me through workouts. This particular tendency has created an issue recently because I just don’t know what’s on the horizon. I have some idea of what my 4th year will look like now (and man, the summer does NOT look pretty), but it’s hard to pick a race when I’m surviving day to day.

Recently I’ve had the itch to get some races on the calendar and decided that instead of doing my usual marathon or half marathon, I’d totally shake it up. This capitalizes on my current crazy schedule where mileage isn’t a reality and gives me something new to dig into. A couple of years ago, USATF NE came up with the All Terrain Runner series that gave runners the opportunity to show off their skills across a variety of terrains and distances. I’d toyed with doing it last year but because the events are so different, it really doesn’t work with a year where you have traditional goal races. This year, however, it’s the perfect fit for me.

It all kicks off next weekend with a 7K snowshoe race (provided we get more snow…this winter sucks). I spend a lot of time on the snow and even a fair amount of time on snowshoes but I’ve never tried to run, which guarantees an entertaining time next Sunday. I’d like to get out and practice running over the next week but may have to head to the back of Mansfield for a chance at snow.

I’m also signed up for the trail and mountain components and plan to race the outdoor 10,000 and road 5 miler. We’ll see about the cross country and ultra component. The trail race is a USATF NE Championship and the mountain race (Loon) is the US National Championship, so that adds some extra motivation!

What out-of-your-comfort-zone races have you done? Bets on how many times I fall in a 7K?

Week in Review 1.18.15 to 1.24.15

Monday: 5.25 miles with 3 by 5 minutes at tempo. Legs afterward.

Tuesday: 4.2 mile recovery run. Arms after.

Wednesday: Off day.

Thursday: 6.3 mile progression run with hip core afterward.

Friday: Full workday plus our biggest MMU Pursuit ever! Lots of running around the course but no real run. Up for 22 hours…

Saturday: 9.5 mile long run. Flipping freezing out!!

Sunday: 7 miles with 10 by (1 minute hard, 1 minute easy) on the track. The hard sections were about 5:30 pace which I was psyched about. Legs after.

Total Miles: 32.2

Another solid week! I didn’t intend to take two days off but with the Pursuit on Friday, there was a ton of administrative work to do that meant I was up later than I wanted to be on a couple of occasions. Despite that, I fit in three quality efforts, plenty of strength work and another > 30 mile week. I also did much better on bringing my own food for the week which made me feel a lot better than eating cafeteria food (even if our cafeteria food at UVMMC is pretty amazing).

I’m at the end of the Surgery clerkship tunnel, with the oral boards and national shelf coming up at the end of this week. I should then have another hour in the morning which is just awesome. Hoping to push my mileage up towards the 40s as that happens. Also trying to figure out my racing schedule for February and leaning towards getting both my 3K indoor race in and the 7K snowshoe race as part of the All Terrain Runner series. I haven’t done this series before but with lots of different events that I would otherwise not enter, it seems like a great idea for a year where I don’t have the optimal training schedule.

Weeks in Review 11.30.15 to 12.13.15

Holy sh*t the transition back to real life has been tough!

11/30/15 to 12/6/15

Monday: The beginning of heinously early running. 5.7 miles plus striders.

Tuesday: 6.3 miles.

Wednesday: 6.1 miles of muddy, messy running with the dogs. Collection of new strength exercises for 20 minutes after.

Thursday: Just strength in the basement.

Friday: 5.25 mile fartlek run with the dogs.

Saturday: 5 mile run.

Sunday: Exhausted and out of time before my last night on.

Total Miles: 28.4 

This week was about the most abrupt way to return to the wards: I was on nights, Will left for Connecticut and I started the surgery clerkship. Running is actually easier for me when I’m on nights because it’s still light out when I try to run but everything else about nights is generally chaos. The good news was that my legs really started to feel great in the middle of the week, even with standing in the OR for hours on end. I also got to try a lot of new strength routines, which was fun.

12/7/15 to 12/13/15

Monday: 7.5 mile “long” run post-call.

Tuesday: 4.3 mile run and striders.

Wednesday: Off. Totally wiped from flipping shifts.

Thursday: 5.9 mile run.

Friday: 5.7 mile run plus striders.

Saturday: 8 mile workout. 3 by 4 minutes at T pace, 4 by 200. Legs afterward. Definitely clunky but was moving really fast (for me).

Sunday: 8.5 mile “long” run with Erin.

Total Miles: 40

I flipped back to days this week which left me drooling-level tired by Wednesday night. Because of my schedule, I just got up early and got my run done. It’s miserable when the alarm goes off at 3:45 am but it’s so nice to have my run done and not be stressing about when I’m going to get out of the hospital on the other end of the day. I am just trying to keep it simple right now- 45 minutes as many days I can, an hour on days that I’m off with workouts that include tempo and R pace as possible. I was so excited about my workout this week; even though I haven’t done much lately, I averaged 7:08 for the whole run on Saturday, which means I was moving pretty well during the uptempo sections.

Despite feeling really proud that I got my runs in this week, I was pretty devastated (and angry) to hear the news that they changed the Olympic Trials standards yesterday. The half marathon standard didn’t change but the full marathon time was dropped back to 2:45 again. Had I known this was afoot, I might have considered running the full at Philly or even gearing up for an early January marathon. For reference, that means the half entry standard is now 87% age graded while the full standard is 84%. Sarah-luck at its best. I also feel horrible for the women who were aiming for the OTQ, had a slightly off day and ran 2:45 and change, thinking they were 2+ off the standard. I understand where USATF is coming from but the timing downright stinks.