Monday, May 26, 2014

31 and 13.1

Well actually, 13.5, but we'll get to that! Covering 2 things in one post might get a little long winded... Sorry! Sort of.

This weekend I celebrated my 31st birthday. I was excited to be carded twice! And the waitress at dinner asked me if I was 'sticking at 29, or actually aging" aging, of course! I'm not just 30 now, but in my thirties. It's not quite as scary as I thought it would be. It's a little silly, but even now, I still like to feel special on my birthday. As a single mom, even with mother's day, a birthday is kind of the one day a year I really like to be all about me. Fortunately, the people in my life indulge me on this one, and it was another great weekend (yes, I take the whole weekend. Sometimes a week.)

I essentially celebrated by consuming 31000 calories. Iced lattes and a park walk with Jessie and our boys in the morning after my short shake out run. Lunch with my mom, sister, brother in law, nephews, and of course kidlet downtown at Rock City Grill where I ate my weight in greek chicken. We shopped a little at the running stores downtown, and I picked up a new Lululemon Pacesetter skirt. These are my go to race bottom... I feel a little silly wearing it casually to run, so they tend to be 'race only' apparel. Never thought I'd be a 'skirt runner' but it's turned out that way. Easier to hide all the sweat and avoid looking like I peed my shorts (I haven't! But it always looks that way. Sweaty girl problems...)
Sister and I at lunch... doing what we do best... eat! And runner's tan plus strapless dress? Maybe not.

I headed to Idaho in the afternoon to go to dinner with the man friend at Satay in Coeur d'Alene and pick up our race packets for the CDA half marathon the next morning. More rich pasta and an amazing Bananas Foster dessert later (and a glass of wine, because when it's your birthday...) I was happily stuffed and slightly worried about the price I might pay the next day for my indulgences. But it was a wonderful birthday.

Race Recap

Sunday I was signed up for the CDA 1/2 marathon. The last time I ran this race the was the day after I turned 25, 6 years ago! It was my 2nd half marathon at the time-and yesterday it was 17. The course was new this year, starting at the new McEuen park near the resort in Coeur d'Alene vs Riverstone where the race has previously begun. This essentially changed the entire course and I knew it would be hillier than before. The course now wove a bit downtown then ran along Coeur d'Alene Lake Drive out to Higgins Point and then back (And a double out and back for the full. Ouch!)

This year I've taken to running races without a watch, and had only loose goals going into this run. I hoped to run around 1:45 which essentially would be around goal marathon pace. My stomach had been questionable all morning and even though I took my usual chewable Children's Pepto, I wasn't confident it would stay calm. I started with my friend & teammate Linda and we ran the first mile together. She dropped back a touch at that point and while I never looked back, I think she was right on my tail the whole race! I know mile 1 was a 7:47 as we wove out of town and had some gradual minor descents. I felt comfortable and settled into the effort, reminding myself to relax when people passed me.

When we hit our first ascent out onto the lake road, I felt comfortable. I'm not a confident hill runner, and I have been avoiding them so I was anxious how I would react mentally and physically, but I maintained effort up the first hill. That basically set the tone for the rest of the climbs. Each time a hill loomed, I fretted a bit about when/where I would begin to walk, and it never came to that. Huge mental triumph for my brain! The miles slid by pretty quickly. Man friend had started much further back than me, so every time a tall guy in a blue shirt crept into vision I checked to see who it was. There were a LOT of blue shirts out yesterday. He caught and passed me around 2 miles into the run, cruising away after a little chat.

I thought about picking up to a more tempo effort around mile 4... which might have coincided with the next daunting (to me) hill. The road is also banked out on the lake, and several miles were uncomfortable just running at that angle. It's ideal for cyclists, but not comfortable for running. As we hit the hill, I focused on one girl ahead of me, my form, the runners coming back down, and before I knew it, the climb was over and I hadn't quit. Down we went! The hills out here are rolling but much bigger than I like to 'roll' on. I never really picked up the effort, just cruised along down a very long decline dreading the return back up it. On my way out, the full marathoners were headed back and if they could truck up, so could I. Shortly before I reached the turnaround, I saw teammate Jackie run back past looking strong. Jackie had lost her son earlier that week, and had decided to run in his honor and seeing her out there was a huge inspiration. I was eager to finish so I could give her a hug. Just behind her was man friend still looking strong.

Somewhere around mile 5 my stomach had started to get shifty, and every bathroom I passed I had a long debate of 'do I stop here!?' but they were all more easily accessed by the return path, whereas on the way out, I would have had to veer way out of my way to get to one. I talked myself into waiting for the next one each time but I was uncomfortable and had backed off my pace a little to keep from an embarrassing situation. From the turnaround I headed back up the long climb with 2 other girls nearby. I focused on staying with them, and we worked together up the hill. Out of nowhere another teammate, Lindsay, popped up alongside me. She was out spectating and showed up at the perfect time to talk me up the hill. I suppose the fact that we were chatting away meant I was running comfortably without too much effort. We made it up this long climb, down the next descent and I finally had to stop at a bathroom. I jumped off the course around 8.5 and into a porta potty. I don't know if this helped or hurt because the concern of ruining my new skirt was gone, but a nausea set in that hung on for the rest of the run. Every 10 minutes or so I would 'brake' and run slower until the sickly urges and waves of nausea subsided, then pick up again.

After 10.5 I was really feeling sketchy and finally took a walk break around 11 as we turned back into town. It was frustrating to have to do that, but it wasn't worth humiliation (is it ever!?). Linda passed me around this point, looking really strong. I began running again, hoping to catch her and run it in together, but I would make a few minutes progress and have to back off again... nothing like the walk/run when you don't want to to bring on fatigue. My calves started tightening up and I was ready to be done. I just kept trotting along through the LONGEST LAST MILE and finally saw the park, and my excited sister cheering at mile marker 13 while I made sad puppy faces at her. As I passed that mile marker though, I could see what should have been .1 up ahead of me. And the runners were.. turning a corner. I knew where we started and where we would finish but it was SO FAR. I've run a lot of .1s in my life, and this was the longest ever. I saw Lindsay again who urged me to kick it up down the gradual descent after the corner but I shook my head and told her 'I don't want to have an accident!' Unfortunately, there isn't a runner out there who can't relate to the feeling of not wanting to crap your pants running. I finished without much of a kick in 1:49.21. I found man friend along the finish chute who informed me his garmin showed a course distance of 13.5. I know we runners all assume the Garmin dictates reality, and I rarely every complain about the course being long or short based on a Garmin... in this case I think it was justified. Just knowing how far I ran from 13 to the finish, it was clearly more than .1. Several other runners confirmed the same extra .4 on their watches. Thanks for the extra mileage?!

I am pretty happy with how this run went down. I calculated my pace later with the extra distance and minus the bathroom break, I ran close to an 8 min pace. I felt strong the whole way and didn't feel fatigue until double digit miles. It set me up to feel confident in my next training cycle and goals. The nausea hung on for most of the day, but at least I know that was in my control! And the food was worth it. Well... maybe.

We left the race and after getting my Starbucks (required) and cleaning up, man friend took me to Fleet Feet to get new running shoes for my birthday! That boy remembered the way to my heart! I may not ever want to buy 'normal shoes' like most girls, but running shoes? Brooks are my Manolos. All in all, it was a pretty great birthday weekend, and I am excited for this next year!
"Do you want to get new shoes for your b-day?" DO I! 

What are the best running related gifts you've gotten?

Anyone else out there racing with naked wrists? 

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Goal setting without numbers

A couple weeks before the 'official' start of my next training cycle seems like the ideal time to really think about what goals I have for the next 4+ months of running. There are the obvious time oriented goals. It's almost impossible to approach marathon training without some ideas of what kind of time you'd like to run. It's the simplest form of measuring progress. So of course, those exist. But this isn't about that, because there are things I want to accomplish in this cycle that go deeper than the clock at the finish line. 

Respect the easy day

This seems like it should be the easiest one to accomplish. Just... slow down, right? But it takes a lot of courage to trust that running slower will help me run faster. So far, I've failed at this on almost every easy run. I make the mistake of going medium hard all the time. I push on the hard days, but then... I push a little on the easy days. I think "yep, 8:00 should be my 'easy pace' and 8:20s should feel like a walk". Note to self: easy pace and goal marathon pace should not be the same. I know people who are masters of the easy pace, and race phenomenally. I've been on this plateau of race times/training paces for a while. While I've made some progress, it's obvious I have nothing to lose by running slower than the pace I think "should" be my easy pace. This includes running without a watch and focusing on a pace that someone could probably walk and keep up with, or getting on the treadmill to force an easy pace. 
My super speedy sister: master of the easy pace/fast race
Be proud of myself

Or you know, maybe I'll climb Mt Everest. I think they would be equally possible for me to accomplish. To be positive about a negative, I am amazing at beating myself up. Anyone who has run with me, supported me, or talked to me post race knows... I am hard on myself (understatement?!). I focus on the mistakes, the flaws, the failures. Even with my PRs, I am vaguely enthusiastic and then nitpick the reasons why I wasn't faster. But a bad race? A missed goal? Look out, I will cry, sulk, and tear myself down. This isn't fun for the people around me, who have to listen while I flip out over the fact that I am not having the breakthroughs I am working for, and it's not fun for me either. I am minimizing my achievements based on a time. The great races will come. Every run is making me stronger, even if it's imperfect. I ran in a 5k last month, on impulse. It wasn't a PR, but it was close, and I was so proud of that run because I had begun to believe I couldn't get there again. It was a big moment of being proud (ecstatic!) about an outcome that didn't require a 5 minute PR to make it worth celebrating. 
Nobody should look this disappointed at the finish line of the marathon! Come on!

Negative Self Talk... Stop it. 

This might sound like the last goal, but this is more about what happens in my head in the midst of the battle. Just yesterday during my speedwork I was running my 2 mile tempo at half marathon goal pace. I'd already run 1 mi at 5k pace and I was exactly on the pace I planned. But it was hard. I was hot. I was struggling, and constantly had to refocus and push myself back onto pace. In the last half mile it started to really spiral... "this is hard. there is no way I can run a half marathon at this pace, I can't even survive 2 miles at this pace. My expectations are too high. I'll just have to be okay with never reaching that goal". The same thing happens in races. "This is hard, those people are cruising, it looks so easy for them, I am dying. I sound like a gorilla. I feel like a manatee on land. My legs weigh 500lbs each." I focus easily on everything that feels bad. I tell myself I am not strong, this isn't my day, or simply "I'm not good enough". When I want to walk, and I ask myself that standard "do you want to throw away X miles of hard work and give up here?" .... "Yes, who cares, let's walk". I've made some baby steps here-my recent half marathon PR was a huge breakthrough mentally. It was a rare instance of managing the negative, turning it around and finding ways to talk myself into pushing more. It's a constant battle that, just like the physical training, needs to be worked on regularly. I can't expect to show up on race day and suddenly have a mental toughness that I haven't cultivated over the preceding months and miles. 
One of the few times mantras worked to keep me from quitting/walking/giving up! Progress!

Comparison is the thief of joy

Runners provide an incredible network of support and encouragement. That's a given, but there is also the problem of comparing to others. That can't be just me, right?? It's the downside to reading blogs, interacting on any kind of social media, heck, it happens in real life even. I am responsible for being the best runner I can be. But it is sooo easy to fall into a trap of "but they do their runs that fast, I have to do that too if I want to accomplish the same time goal they have. They are light years ahead of me... I can't run a 3:XX marathon because I am not near them!" It's not about that. Take encouragement, be inspired... but realize that every runner is different, and our journeys, what works for us isn't the same as what works for the next athlete. I want to focus on my own accomplishments and progress so that when I reach the starting line, I trust my training. I don't want to be thinking about how I didn't do workouts I read about, or hit paces other people did. I want to run the race knowing I trained the best for myself. 


I read runfargirl's recap of her incredible SugarLoaf marathon... and what resonated with me was her paragraph about how her goal was to finish feeling triumphant. I emailed that paragraph to a few friends, just thinking "YES! This!" I have time goals obviously, and running the race and PR I know I am capable of should equal a BQ. What runner doesn't want that? Of course I do. But it is not the reason I signed up for my next marathon. When people ask if a BQ is my goal, my response is a "...weeelllll yes... but..." because all I want really is to run the race I know I am capable of. I want to do justice to the 4+ months of training that goes into it. To celebrate the strength I built over so many miles. I know my dreams are within reach because the training has been there the last few times. The race just hasn't clicked yet. I trust what I can do for an entire training cycle as evidence that I will get the chance to finish a triumphant marathon. But these pieces will be large parts of the puzzle over the next several months as I prepare my body, mind and heart to be ready! 

I can't wait!