Back in the Saddle… I think

Hi Friends –

Until just now, I had not realized that I haven’t written here in over 7 months. I’m shocked and a little disappointed about that. I AM still running – nothing will stop me from that – and I AM still chasing that brass ring of a BQ and I AM still knocking out states on my 50 states quest… (I now have 19) – however, I had to make some changes in my training.

I was tired. So, so, so very tired.

I was having a hard time keeping with training and although I got faster for a while, I was starting to slow down in races (though not in training) and it was something I complained about right after the Tobacco Road marathon last year. I’ve not done a full marathon since – only half marathons (which, by the way, are no small feat, so I’m not at all diminishing them – I just thought that at this point in the year, I’d have a nice shiny BQ, or at least a PR at the 26.2 distance…).

While attempting to train for a spring marathon, I finally broke down and got a FitBit (all my runner friends were getting really fancy runner watches, but none of them had *all* the things I wanted, so I got a FitBit Charge HR to hold me over until the Garmin 235 has been out for a while) and I noticed a trend: my resting heart rate was higher than I expected… Also, my heart rate jumped really fast when I started a run and took foreeeeeeeevvvvvvvvvveeeeeeerrrr to recover. I had lost fitness ūüė¶ How could I have let that happen? I was a Runnah! Running is supposed to make you fitter, thinner, healthier! I ate well (what all the running blogs told me to eat), I followed training plans (which I blabbed about on this very blog for a couple of years), I did speed intervals, hill workouts, and I ran 30, 40, 50 miles a week… and, yet… I was getting unfit… and fat… and slow… and frustrated!!

Apparently, that was too much. I’m over trained (admitting it is half the battle, friends) and probably have been for at least a year, and (like any other injury), I need to take the time to recover. An active recovery (of course), but a recovery all the same.

While attempting the training for that same spring marathon, and complaining about my lack of energy to a friend, she recommended that I read The Big Book of Endurance Training¬†to help me learn a little more about heart rate training. I’ve found, though, it is teaching me a lot more in the process about just being honest with myself about how I feel and how to be healthy and still reach my goals (they can be complimentary).

Although was¬†not completely finished with the book, I immediately started to implement some of the tactics he discussed. My first shock: my resting heart rate was still really high and getting higher. Okay, I thought, maybe it is the FitBit – it can’t be all that accurate¬†–¬†so I bought a chest strap. To my surprise, the FitBit was really all that accurate – they are usually within a couple beats of each other, for what it is worth. It became clear that I needed to change my strategy and try things a different way to see if I can make my goals a reality.

I’ve been following heart rate training¬†for about 3 weeks now and I am starting to feel a little better. I’m starting to have some energy again and I no longer dread run days. For the most part, I’m sleeping better and I have craved sugar a lot less lately. I follow a schedule when I run¬†2 days, take day off, and then run 2 days. I keep my runs to under 45 minutes for now (except for the long that is once a week) and keep my pace so that it is within a range as outlined in the book. My heart rate is still keeping me pretty slow and I can’t say I’m not frustrated about it (especially when I see friends cruising along at 8:00 paces), but I’ve got my eyes on the prize and I really want to get there the right way. I’ve been walking more and actually warming up and cooling down as appropriate, steps I skipped in the past and shouldn’t have. I am getting faster, but I have a long way to go and I need to be patient (to me, friends, that is the toughest part of training…).

I ran my first half marathon last weekend (the Myrtle Beach Half Marathon) with this strategy and came in at 2:00 on the nose – one of my slower half marathons, but the faster end of my target completion time. My heart rate was¬†just a tad over the target rate set by my heart rate monitor (I train at a lower rate) and I didn’t have to refuel or stop once throughout the entire race. I actually felt good throughout and just after – not even sore muscles. I hope to get that post up soon – and of course there are port-a-potty stories involved – haha.

I am running my second Half Marathon since I started heart rate training¬†in NYC next week. My goal is to finish a tad faster than Myrtle Beach (with fewer Potty moments…) Wish me luck ūüôā

Until next time…

2013 Goals

Happy New Year, my friends!¬†I hope you all had a wonderful New Year’s Celebration!

I woke up this morning excited for the new year and the opportunity to set new goals. I am proud of myself and how I blasted most of my goals for 2012 and I’m really hoping I can continue on this trajectory. Having these goals for 2012 written and¬†publicly¬†announced really helped me stick to them. The only one I didn’t really get to was the biking and tri stuff… I needed a computer before I needed a bike, so I’ll have to wait a bit longer for the bike. I took the tri and biking stuff off the list this year – I don’t have a reasonable expectation for getting to that this year since I’ll probably have some larger expenditures and I want to do more 50-states races this year.

For 2013, I want to work on my strength overall, my stamina at higher speeds, and swimming. Like in 2012, my plan is to check in with these goals periodically throughout the year, and adjust them as I need to do so. Here’s what I’d like to see happen this year. Nothing crazy, just incrementally better than last year…

  • Half Marathons – in 2012, I did four half marathons. I’d like to do at least 4 from the 41 states I still have left, ideally 5. I have already registered for two that count toward the 50-states goal: one in February in AL (Mercedes Marathon Half) and one in April in MI (Martian Marathon Half). I’m also registered for the second half of the San Francisco Marathon in June. I did the first half of the San Francisco Marathon in 2012, and the friend I did it with registered to do the 2nd half to get the Half it All medal and, since I absolutely loved this race last year, I registered to do the same for 2013. It doesn’t count as one of my 50-states this year, but will be a great experience and I’m looking forward to doing this race again!
  • Other Races – I’d like to continue doing the longer distance races as a whole, and I may add a couple more races this year over what I did last year (only 9 in 2012). A few friends have thrown out the idea of doing a Ragnar Relay in DC in October, so that may take place of one of the Half Marathons. The shortest race distance I did in 2012 was 8k in October, so I may try for at least one 5k to try for a new 5k PR.
  • Running Mileage – In 2012, my recorded mileage was 983 miles, far more than the 775 mile goal I set for 2012. This year, since I’m so close to 1,000 miles now, I’d really like to make that my goal for this year. I had a silent goal of 90 miles a month during 2012, and I surpassed that goal 5 months, one of which was a 100-mile month! Getting to 1,000 miles means an average of a little over 83 miles a month, which is still under that goal of 90-miles a month, so I think I should be able to do it.
  • Average Pace – in 2012 my average pace for all runs (including races of all distances and training runs) amounted to 8:59, shaving a cool 17 seconds off the 9:16 from 2011 and completely blasting the sub 9:15 goal I set for 2012 – a *huge* improvement that I am VERY proud of!! For 2013, I’d like the overall pace for the year to be around 8:55 or less.
  • Overall Duration for Running – in 2012 my overall duration per run was 45:33, most likely due to the faster pace. I would like it to be closer to one hour, though, in 2013. The situation I tend to find myself in, however, is that getting the overall mileage can sometimes depend on splitting runs, so 51:00 might be harder to get for me.
  • Swimming – In 2012, I worked on swimming a lot and got much better at it. For me, swimming improves my running, which improves my swimming, which improves my running – haha. So, the improvement I’ve seen in 2012 has been steep. I don’t expect that level to continue, but I would like to be able to swim 1600m without stopping before the close of the year and, generally speaking, improve my endurance and stamina in the pool. I’m not going to set any pace goals yet as I’m still breaking in to the sport.
  • PRs – I broke my half marathon PR significantly this year (1:51:13 in the Annapolis Half Marathon December 1, 2012). I also broke my 10k PR in the City of Oaks/Old Reliable 10k in November of 2012. In 2013, I’d like to finally break my 5k PR, my 10-mile PR and my 8k PR. I would be very delighted I could also break my 10k and half marathon PRs this year, too (batting eyelashes at the running gods).
  • Weight Training – I’ve been better about this goal, but still not good enough. I’m starting to get into the habit, but I have room for improvement. I’d like to set the goal of establishing the habit so I do it at least 3 times a week and incorporate at least the stretching and core routines I’ve been doing up to this point each time. I’m up to 3 sets of 20 for the crunches, but I’d like the rest of the core exercises, the planks, the push ups and other exercises to be at least that and to make sure that I always do the exercises in pairs so the entire body gets the strength.
  • Mentoring – mentoring got me to this point and I have many, many people to thank for that, but the best way I can think of to repay them is to mentor others. I have someone very special to me that has requested my help in getting him started with running and I plan to get him to finish his first 5k this spring – that is my biggest mentoring goal. Otherwise, I’d like to help and support as many people as I can in their quest to become healthier, recover from injury or illness, and loose weight.
  • This Blog – I got off track with this blog because of work over the summer and I can’t say that won’t happen again. I will make a concerted effort to keep up with it at least for the race reports and quarterly goal check-ins. It doesn’t help that I’m a little anal retentive when it comes to writing… I’m not going to apologize for that or try to “fix” it, so I’ll have to settle with what I think I can manage.

That should do it for 2013. Nothing crazy, but I do have a few bigger goals in there that I’d like to see happen. Good luck to all of you in 2012!

2012 Race Reports: Tarheel 10-Miler

Race: Tarheel-10 Miler City: Chapel Hill, NC   Date: 4/21/2012

Distance: 10 miles

Weather: nice, yet humid (mid-to-upper 60s), cloudy, at times a little sun.

Course: Around the campus of University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill – an aptly named town… and longer than advertised…

Summary: did not make my goal and was late to start… (sigh).

Pre-Race

After a little hunting around, I finally found (and transferred) the race report from 2 years ago for the one and so far only race I have not finished. As I admitted to a friend recently: I don’t let go of things easily. I wish I did, but I don’t. I acknowledge that I do it. I try to let go, but occasionally I am reminded of things that burn me and it gnaws at me, even when I later succeed. It has been two years and I have even done this particular race successfully since, yet, that damn Fleet Feet 4-Miler from 2010 *still* haunts me. And, unfortunately for me, I took it a little too close to the vest this year. I did well and I enjoyed the run itself, but there were factors about it that reminded me of the Fleet Feet Four Disaster, as I’ve come to call it.

If you’ve read my post from the 2011 Tarheel 10 Miler, you may remember how I referenced the debacle of the “Fleet Feet Four Incident” – everything from almost taking out a pedestrian to ending up lost on the campus with bloodied feet. I rectified that last year: I had a successful run, inside of my goal and I didn’t get lost on the course or on campus (although, last year I was with someone who went to school at UNC and knew his way around, so I just followed him). This year, I wanted to improve even on that. I knew most of the course, because I had done it before. I knew when I could speed up. I knew when I should slow down. I knew better how to pace myself overall, and have practiced and worked hard at it. I felt ready. I even carb and hydration loaded appropriately before.

I was ready. Physically, at least.

I enlisted friends to join me because racing with friends is always more fun. So, luckily for me, a couple of my friends joined me at the race: One a “virtual” friend that I met in person for the first time who lives in a town a few hours away, the other one of my regular run buddies. I knew it was unlikely that we would be running together the entire race, but it was still nice to have the experience of doing the same race, someone to look for on the course, and have some folks to compare notes with after all was said and done.

The three of us are all part of a virtual running group – as I call it – which has yielded many friends for me, and I have raced with several of them in Virginia Beach, New Orleans, Las Vegas, a few locally, including an 8K Green Run, and now this race. All have been wonderful people and it has been a pleasure putting a face and personality with a screen name. For that reason, I was delighted when one of the locals in our virtual group that wasn’t even running the race organized a pre-race dinner to meet our traveling race buddy and get to know him in person. Due to scheduling, only four of us were able to go, but it was great meeting (and probably scaring) my friend that traveled here to run this race as much as it was great reconnecting with a couple of friends I have not seen in a while.

After dinner, I headed back home. It had been a long, stressful week in many ways. Thankfully, my local running buddy that was also running the Tarheel 10-miler (his longest so far) was kind enough to pick up my packet for me the day before, so that was just one less thing to stress about. I came home and prepared my clothes (NCSU Red shirt, of course), set up the coffee maker and crawled into bed, ready for a restful sleep.

Race Day

A restful sleep – for the first time that week – was what I got. I don’t think I moved all night. I woke up and got out of bed at the second alarm – around 5:15 – and went through my usual routine of shower, coffee, hydrate, stretch. Unfortunately, a big dinner the night before with a dash of anxiety and a side of stress means no morning appetite for me, so I didn’t eat at home, though, I brought a banana, just in case. In my usual OCD way, I checked, rechecked and checked one more time all the stuff I had and wanted to bring, made use of indoor plumbing one more time before I left and was out the door and on the road by 6:15, about the same as last year. I was thinking about the most direct route I could find and decided that one of the back highways up to I-40 would be the best way to go – most direct – and there would be no traffic at 6:15 in the morning on a Saturday.

I was right until I got about 2 miles in on Highway 54 in Chapel Hill… which had become a parking lot by the time I got there. ugh. I sat in traffic for about 10 minutes before it occurred to me that my local running buddy was also coming into town and that I should warn him that it was a nightmare. I sent that message at 6:59 – I was there in PLENTY of time to park as the race didn’t start until 7:30. I kept saying to myself: I don’t remember this mess last year, so maybe it’ll move fast.

It didn’t.

Eventually, at a little after 7:20, I did get to 15-501 and then onto the south side of campus where I eventually parked in one of what I later found out were *several* S11 parking lots on campus. I rushed out of the car, still swallowing the banana that I crammed into my mouth and hoping that I put my car key in the right slot of my pink “luggage” that I carried with me and ran up to the start.

As an aside – in addition to admitting I can’t let go of things easily, I also admitted that my sense of direction, sense of elevation and sense of distance (though this one is improving) are – let’s be charitable – lacking. so… I have no idea exactly how far it was from my car to the start, but it took me over 10 minutes because I ran through the gates of Kenan Stadium at 7:33, according to my Garmin. And, my friends, I ran most of that – up a hill (warm up, you know).

After running through the gates, I ran (literally) into the bathroom and cut a girl off for the next available stall – I feel bad about it now, but my frenzied logic was that I was late and she didn’t even have a bib on. I emptied the tank, washed up, and literally ran out of the bathroom and down the stairs of Kenan Stadium. To this moment, I cannot tell you how I did not fall and bust my ass doing that, but (thankfully for me) grace prevailed and I was on my way. I rounded the corner, got my Garmin ready and ran across the start line – shouting a well known expletive starting with the letter F as I started because my Garmin didn’t lock and I paused it accidentally. Once I got it started, I looked up and there was my local running buddy! yay! I ran up beside him and, because he’s a lot like me in personality, I figured he was stressing out as much as I was. We chatted for the first two miles, then he had to make a pit stop, so I told him I’d see him at the finish and went on.

I did not have time to prepare for the use of music, so I didn’t have any this race, which turned out to be a good thing, I think. It made me more aware of my running, and of the course. I got past the three mile marker and then I zoned out, just enveloped in all kinds of thoughts about the stresses of the week, letting all my worries – temporarily at least – seep out of my pores as I started picking up the pace a little. However… I started to notice, shortly after I split from my local race buddy, that my Garmin was over on distance by .25 of a mile. Hm… Maybe a small blip that will sort out once we get farther out in the course.

Because I was running a faster pace than most of the people I encountered at this point in the race, I was passing folks a lot. It wasn’t terribly crowded, so passing wasn’t as annoying as it can tend to be up front – lemonade, my friends. This also gave me an opportunity to seek out a few NCSU fans – emphasis on “few” at this point in the race. I did pass one girl in NCSU stuff who looked like she might actually still be in college who was walking – I gave her the wolf and a ‘you got this’ and made her smile which made me feel good. Then I passed her. A lot of the spectators were calling out the Duke fans, and just ignoring me. haha. That’s Tobacco Road Rivalry for you…

Then, I got to Franklin Street. This is the scene of my failure 2 years ago, and despite my successful passage of it last year, it still haunted me. I don’t remember Franklin Street’s hills as much last year, but this year, I felt them. It made me push harder on them, though, to pass the spot where I gave up two years ago. As a result (and not of any surprise to me) those were my two fastest miles (it is between mile markers 4 and 5 on the route so the anxiety leading to four and the exhilaration of coming out of it on 5).

Once I passed that spot, though, I started to relax a little and actually enjoy the run. I let the sound of my race partners’ shoes be my music and I focused on preparing myself mentally for the hill I knew I had ahead. I went through the first neighborhood, looking for my virtual running buddy as I went in (I didn’t see him) and then looking for my local running buddy as I left (I didn’t see him either). Then, on to the second neighborhood – where I looked for my virtual buddy going in (didn’t see him) and my local running buddy as I left (I did see him and cheered him on!). Excited that I knew he was doing well, I moved on to Laurel Hill Road… still over on mileage, though, by as much as 1/3 of a mile at this point. HHHmmm…

My friends… I didn’t have time to worry about the mileage though… I had a hill to think about. I have discussed this road before. At this time last year, this might have been the toughest hill I’ve run. Here’s what I wrote last year:

Thank God, THANK GOD, we drove it the night before. I had dreams about this hill and I had anxiety about it the entire first 8 1/2 miles of the race. I even thought at one point that ignorance might have been bliss for me – not knowing what was ahead so I didn’t have to dread it… that is until I got to the bottom of it I looked up it. Had I been blissfully ignorant of it, I might have thought that it was a shorter or less steep hill (it curved so you really can’t see how long or steep from the bottom) and taken it way too fast and had to stop or hurt myself. But… when I got to it and looked up, knowing what I knew, I found it daunting, for sure, but I knew how long it was and I said to myself “just slow down – you only have 1 1/2 miles to go and you’re on target for time” and I took it. It was very tough – very steep at the start (you should see the elevation charts for it) and then it fakes you out with a “flat” part only to be followed by yet another steep (maybe even steeper than the first – who knows, I was so out of it by this point) hill behind a curve. Just mean. I have never, ever, ever been so happy to see a smaller hill in my life as I was when I climbed the hill right after (yes, I said right after) this hill. This is going down in my books as one of the tougher runs I’ve done.

Since then, I’ve run on California, Filbert, Hyde, and Lombard Streets in San Fransisco – and could hardly walk the next day – so I felt like I was ready for what Laurel Hill had to give to me because, to me, in comparison, this hill was but a bump in the road.

My friends… I’m sad to report that it was still daunting to me and I let my ego get the better of me. I took that hill way too fast at the start… I even had the same kind of pep talk with myself about it “just slow down, you can do this”. I can, if I had listened to myself. As my parents unfortunately are aware, I don’t listen to anybody… including myself. Because I thought I was ahead of the game and I had the time, I ended up trying to keep my pace at 9 minutes and burned out about half way up. I did walk twice – though it was just yards each time – but the walking at all was a little bit of a blow to my ego and I got annoyed about it. How could this hill hurt me this year when it didn’t last year? How could I be so good at pacing myself the whole damn race just to blow it here?

SIGH.

I knew as I rounded the corner of the pseudo crest of the hill (I knew it wasn’t the end of the torture because I hadn’t yet seen the final split mat for the Laurel Hill Split) that I wasn’t going to beat my time from the previous year and was upset about it. I knew I wouldn’t beat my time because I knew I was carrying around an extra .25 mile and it pissed me off because my pace was actually lower than last year throughout – .25 mile might not seem like a big deal, but it really is. At a 9 minute pace (close to what I was doing, just under that, but for round numbers to make the math easier) that’s an extra 2:15 – not insignificant. When my goal is to shave off 00:30, an extra 2:15 worth of mileage means I have to run much, much faster and I just didn’t have it, especially after getting my ass handed to me by Laurel Hill Road.

I felt deflated.

I perked up a bit as I rounded the corner to the stadium and could hear the band playing and people cheering – I finished with a gun time of 1:41:48 (after a 13 minute late start, can’t complain about that too much…) a chip AND Garmin time of 1:30:04 (that hardly ever happens to me), though, Garmin had a distance of 10.28, so something between was actual.

My out of town race buddy finished first, then me, then my local race buddy, who completed his longest race yet and inside his goal! We got food, water and compared notes on the race and then headed home… when I got lost on campus looking for my car. Again. (sigh).

Learnings

As far as training goes, 90 mile months have worked well for me. Other than the incident on Laurel Hill, I felt really good the vast majority of this race. I have been working on my core, and I can tell it is starting to pay off. The one key thing I need to learn now is how to work within, while trying to gradually stretch, my limits – and to keep doing what I’ve had success doing in the last couple of months.

Otherwise, I could stand a geography lesson for the town of Chapel Hill, the campus of UNC specifically. I am *sick* of losing my car and my way around that campus, especially when there are no restrooms… grr.

Next year. Just wait. Next year…

Fourteen… Times Two

Happy Easter Eve, my friends!

As I sit here reflecting on the Lenten season, as we are taught to do, I am mostly thinking about how grateful I am. Grateful for my beautiful boys. Grateful for a wonderful father and sister who love me unconditionally and have been there for me in tough times. Those tough times that, at least in some ways, made me a bit of a stronger person. Grateful for friends who have been patient with me through the tough times I’ve had the last couple of years… and have listened (or at least feigned interest) in my constant blathering about running and the 50 states goal (part of the reason I started this blog…I know you guys are listening – and I’m grateful for that). I’m also grateful for the gift I’ve been given to run. To be healthy enough to run. To have the ability that, although I work hard at it, seems to fit me naturally.

I just *knew* my disproportionally long legs would be a benefit to me one day.

I write this tonight as I close out my first week of April, meeting the goal I set for myself of attaining at least 22.5 miles. Yes, I set a big goal for the month: 90 miles again. I had overcome a slight setback in the beginning of March (physically, at least) that had me worried about setting that goal – partly the reason I set the audacious goal in the first place (some call that tenacity…). Another part of setting that goal was that, when I find something that works, I tend to stick to it until it no longer works. 90-mile months worked once for me feeling alright after the dreaded mile 10.5 (my personal bonk point) as did running 14 miles as my last long before that half. Because worked before, let’s see if it works again… so yesterday I set out to do another 14-mile run. I’ve only hit that distance once before in January and I really didn’t want that to be a fluke. I had friends with me then – cheering me on, encouraging me not to quit, making me slow down so I didn’t burn out too quickly (as I have tendency to do). But, with the Easter season upon us, all my usual running friends were busy readying for their Easter celebrations. I was alone for this trip. I had to make it to 14 on my own.

I picked one of my favorite trails that was one of the flatter places I could think of for this run. Sick of my own library of music (which happens occasionally), I was delighted to discover that my local library actually “loans” out MP3 files of audio books (by the way, I’ve made quite a long wish list to keep me entertained on these drives and long runs for the 50 states quest), so I downloaded a book about Ann Boleyn and set out on my trip. It was a perfect day for a long run, especially considering the weather the last few weeks. The first 7 miles seemed easy, but I was going too fast. After I stopped to take fuel, I tried to focus on pace, but, on occasion when the book got interesting, I lost my focus. I can see from my splits where I was concentrating on it and where I was not because the splits are all over the place for that period in the run. Ironically, last three miles felt much easier to me than miles 7 through 10.5.

I finished the 14.

I finished the 14 strong, in fact, just under my goal pace of 9:30, shaving off about 8 minutes from the last time I did 14 miles.

I was sore, a little, but by this morning, mostly recovered from that run. I’m also grateful for that, as quick recoveries from longs are relatively new to me.

Regardless of the apparent recovery, I didn’t intend to run today. I could barely sleep last night so I was pretty tired and I moved a bunch of stuff around the house… not to mention that I was just kind of in a bad mood. I thought a good spin ride would be what I should do – nothing hard, something to just shake out a little of the left over lactic acid build up. It was not to be… due to maintenance on other equipment at the gym, I ended up running tonight because treadmills were all that were free. Normally, I roll my eyes at the mere thought of being “relegated” to the treadmill, but tonight, I saw it as an opportunity to run uber flat and controlled pace for exactly 40 minutes, so I took advantage. Maybe I was just pissy enough that a good run is what I needed… dunno. I ended up with another 4.22 tonight, bringing my total week to 26.9.

I am happy to announce that my attitude has officially changed ūüôā

Happy Easter to all of you and your families. Bless you!

2011 Race Reports: Tarheel 10-Miler

Race: Tarheel-10 Miler City: Chapel Hill, NC   Date: 4/9/2011

Distance: 10 miles / 4 miles – I did the 10 mile race (first at this distance!)

Weather: awesome. Cool-ish (lower 60s), cloudy, at times a little light mist, but no actual rain.

Course: streets, and hilly… ohhhh, so hilly. Good practice for UT and OR races, maybe???

Summary: The Tarheel-10 Miler and I are back on speaking terms. Oh, and I beat my goal… I think.

Pre-Race

Many of you were not around for the disaster that was the Fleet Feet 4-miler for me last year, so feel free to look back to the archive to see why this was *such* a big deal to me. I quit that race last year. I’m not a quitter, usually, so it has bugged me to no end since then. This year, I wanted redemption – plus 6 miles – so I registered for the 10-miler instead. I got what I was after and so much more: the additional¬† 6 miles, a nasty hill, and a Running Buddy waiting for me at the end to congratulate (and thank) me.

The night before the race, I went to pick up the packet in the Franklin Hotel as they were having an “expo”. I was anxious about this race for a while, because of last year, so I wanted to pick up my packet the day before. I wanted to be on the start line on time. I wanted to make sure I had time to walk the mile+ from my car to start. I wanted to make sure I didn’t get pulled over by a cop for blowing through a pedestrian cross-walk. Met the Running Buddy that I’ve been training with over the last couple of months at the “expo” and we got our bibs and shirts. Unfortunately, it wasn’t much of an expo – I guess they called it that because Fleet Feet (the sponsor of the 4 mile race) was there selling a boat load of last year’s shoes and some stickers. We didn’t get a bag, AND the t-shirts were the same as last year… sheesh. One big improvement, though, is the tag. Loved the tagging system this year – if I did have to quit, I wouldn’t have had to get lost through campus again to return it as was the case last year. Thankfully, that wasn’t an issue this year, but it was a relief nonetheless.

Thankfully, the packet pickup was pretty uneventful: no cops (incidentally without a driver’s license),¬† getting lost or almost mowing down pedestrians. The most exciting thing was the spice on our pasta. We got our bibs and shirts and then went for a pasta dinner and drove the course to see what we were to expect. I think I must have scared him a little about the hills because I intentionally picked the nastiest hills I could find in Raleigh for our long trainer runs that he often complained about (he’s a much better hill runner than me, but I guess nobody really likes hills…). We got to Laurel Hill, though, and we both went silent. I don’t think either of us expected that. As we drove up it, we got a little salty about the <expletive> hill at the end of the race. Were they crazy?

We went our separate ways, I ran a few errands and went home to lay out all my stuff, plug in all my toys and go to bed. I’m always like a kid at Christmas the night before a run – I can barely sleep. My mind was just racing – especially about that last hill – Laurel Hill Drive. It seemed to go on forever, and I swear, it was the side of a mountain. I actually dreamed about climbing mountains once I finally did get to sleep – haha.

Race Day

My alarm went off around 5:30, and my first groggy thought was “I thought today was Saturday – why did I set my alarm?”… So, I hit snooze. Then it went off again and I suddenly remembered:¬† “Oh, right! the race!” and jumped out of bed. That’s the first time that ever happened. And, hopefully the last. Just goes to show, though, in spite of the dreams about mountain climbing, I slept like a rock!

I got dressed, did my hair, gathered all my gadgets, made my coffee and Almond Butter toast and went out the door. I was on the road by 6:15. Chapel Hill is a good 45 minute drive from my house, so I was right on schedule with getting there and parked in time to meet Running Buddy by 7.  At exactly 7, I pulled into a spot and found Running Buddy. We started on our 1+ mile walk to the start line.

We finally got to the start line and decided to make one last pit stop before start. Since I was the veteran, he was looking to me to point him in the direction of the porta-potties – yet, none to be found! The start line wasn’t in the same place, so we wondered around a bit and noticed people coming and going from Kenan Stadium. Nice! A real potty (happy tear). So happy. We took care of business with only seconds to spare and filed into the back of the pack.

The race starts and we are completely in the back – I mean, behind the end of the corral – so we walked a bit (which is why I don’t think the time I’ve seen so far is right – it felt like it was a good minute before we crossed the start mat). We crossed the mat, and then we were off. The crowd was pretty thick at the start – especially since we were at the back, it took us a full 2 miles for the crowd to finally thin – just in time for the first big hill. So, the split times for the first 3 miles were all over 9:00mm, and my goal for the entire race was 90 min or overall average pace of 9:00mm splits all around. I had some work to do, but this hill wasn’t helping!

Running Buddy and I stayed together for a good portion of the next couple of miles, but as I mentioned before, he’s a great hill runner and, while I’m getting better, he just smokes me after about 6 or 7 miles. He finally pulled ahead of me at around 5 1/2 miles. I had him in sight until about mile 7¬† 1/4 or so, which I’m pretty proud of. For miles 4 – 8 1/2, my split times were 8:30 – 8:40 range, which I was very, very happy about.

The route was very scenic – Chapel Hill is a beautiful town. It took us through the campus, up the main thoroughfare (Franklin Street) and through a couple of really beautiful neighborhoods, the last of which was Laurel Hill Road. Now… ok. I’m constantly complaining about hills. I will no longer complain about the puny little hills I have to regularly run in Downtown Raleigh now because they are nothing compared to this. And the event planners knew it. They actually timed a split just for this hill. Mat at the bottom, and another on the top. Called it the “Laurel Hill Challenge” and were handing out prizes to top times in each age bracket. The bottom of the hill was at about 8 1/2 mile marker, the top of it at about 9 1/2, give or take (followed by even more hills). That one mile went from an elevation of 280 ft to 480!!! In one mile! That hurts just to write it. Thank God, THANK GOD, we drove it the night before. I had dreams about this hill and I had anxiety about it the entire first 8 1/2 miles of the race. I even thought at one point that ignorance might have been bliss for me – not knowing what was ahead so I didn’t have to dread it… that is until I got to the bottom of it I looked up it. Had I been blissfully ignorant of it, I might have thought that it was a shorter or less steep hill (it curved so you really can’t see how long or steep from the bottom) and taken it way too fast and had to stop or hurt myself. But… when I got to it and looked up, knowing what I knew, I found it daunting, for sure, but I knew how long it was and I said to myself “just slow down – you only have 1 1/2 miles to go and you’re on target for time” and I took it. It was very tough – very steep at the start (you should see the elevation charts for it) and then it fakes you out with a “flat” part only to be followed by yet another steep (maybe even steeper than the first – who knows, I was so out of it by this point) hill behind a curve. Just mean. I have never, ever, ever been so happy to see a smaller hill in my life as I was when I climbed the hill right after (yes, I said right after) this hill. This is going down in my books as one of the tougher runs I’ve done.

The last 1/2 mile was a complete blur – I kept thinking I was closer to the finish than I was, but when I finally did see the flags for the finish line, I booked it and sprinted in. This is probably the first race in my memory where I didn’t even think or worry about busting my ass during a sprint. The only thing I thought about was “these girls all look like they’re in my age group – I’m totally not coming in behind them” (they weren’t – I’m a poor judge of age after about 5 miles – haha).

Gun time says I was 1:31:32, but Garmin Time says 1:29:47 – I split the difference, I still got pretty close to my goal.

Learnings

ah, yes, always something to learn… I need to learn how to take hills better and how to be faster on them. I need to work on my overall fitness level so that I don’t average a heart rate of 92% for 90 minutes – that can’t be good. I need to get an overall heart-rate¬† based Vo2 max fitness test done (just need to break down and pay for it) so I have a better idea of where am and what I’m training toward, especially if I want to make it through 47 more half marathons. I did have some hydration issues at the end – still can’t seem to get that formula right, although, the coconut water I brought with me did stave off any tummy and/or hydration issues I had in the past, so maybe that’s starting to work and I just needed to bring more and/or drink more from the onset. I also should try other options like GELs or GUs. I have time this summer to work on those things without a long race to distract me.

Overall, a wonderful, wonderful race and I highly recommend it… and look forward to running it next year (and getting my mug on the JumboTron inside Kenan Stadium!).

Not Built in a Day

Swimming. ugh.

You all know I’m a runner. As I get older, I’m more and more convinced that my body was just designed for running because it seems like other sports are just not as easy as running was. Not to say that it has always been easy to run, just that building up to where I am now seemed like it was a lot more enjoyable.

but… I love a challenge.

Not 26.2 kind of challenge, mind you – 13.1 is hard enough on my body as it is… no no no… I want to tri.

And, yes, I stink at swimming.

I know, I know – we all do… I’ve done homework that I hope to test out this week, but I wanted to share with you all some of my thoughts over the course of the last couple of weeks as I psyched myself into the pool one more time to see if maybe, just maybe, today was the day I’d hit 800m. (not yet, by the way) or stroke without a board (ok, only for about 50m).

So… Rome wasn’t built in a day. It is pretty easy to loose your confidence when swimming next to a guy who seems like he graduated second after Michael Phelps from “awesome swimmers school”. I had that exact experience a couple of weeks ago (my last time in the pool, but that had nothing to do with my inability to return to the pool) and had to keep reminding myself:

This guy didn’t start out this good.

It is way too easy to forget that sometimes. Working up to be decent in a new sport when you have almost mastered another one can be kind of frustrating… so, I’ve done my homework – watched lots of videos and read lots of articles and will try again.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

Gotta run…

Anticipation… is getting the better of me

I’m so excited right now, I’m finding it hard to find a place to put all this energy.

A week from today, I’ll have hopefully finished my 3rd half marathon in as many states. I think of this as a true test as to whether or not this was just an insane idea, or if it is really a super-long-term (some might argue insane) goal. I hope it is the latter.

My only goal for next week is to finish under 2 hours as I did for the previous two races. I’d like a Personal Record (PR), but I’m also realistic – I was injured during part of my training and I have missed a lot of training runs recently due to work and life stuff… my goal this year is to be a lot more disciplined about making my training runs and cross-training workouts. Oh, and to do Yoga. So far, I’m not doing so great with it, so I have some work to do.

Regardless…

I’m excited about this time next week. If nothing else, I’ll have the experience of traveling to a new city and running with about 20k of like-minded folks, and that makes me happy.

I’m sure this will come up again this week, so my apologies in advance for being as giddy as a 12-year old at a Jonas Brother’s concert.