Sunday, March 30, 2014

Rock CF half review

Sunday was the Rock CF half marathon on Grosse Ile, which was my first real race of the year (I exclude Disney from all consideration of races and times because it was a "fun" run for me, and my hip/leg were in a ton of discomfort). It had been gross and cloudy the past several days, but the forecast looked good for Sunday. It also looked cold for the start, so I had to dress warm, but not too warmly that I would be discarding clothing.

Woke up early and headed to Grosse Ile. The parking lot at the high school closed at 7am and I hadn't even left my house by then, so I went directly to the alternate parking at the airport to take a school bus ride to the start line. That has to be such a hassle for Emily (race director) because there were 100+ people in line and we all wanted to be moved immediately!!! Yet, within an hour it would no longer be an issue. I wound up waiting about 20 minutes and it was so insanely cold!!! While waiting and shivering, the negative thoughts started creeping in. "It's really cold. I can run this one for fun and worry about a PR when it's warmer." STOP! Deep breath! "Negative thoughts get OUT of my head!!! No brain space for that!"

We made it to the high school and I needed a bathroom stop, so I finally made it to the starting line at 8:12 for an 8:15 start. Oops! Kelly and I had planned to run together, but I didn't have time to look for her beforehand, and didn't see her at the start. I figured we'd meet up at some point during the race. We had done the math and to PR, I would need to average a 10:39.

I couldn't see exactly where it started so I edged closer and closer and wound up much closer than I normally do. It was so cold and I was a bit hopped up on RedBull and my legs wanted to move! The first time I looked at my watch was at around 0.3 miles and I was at an 8:44 pace, which is manageable for the short term, but not sustainable for that long and I didn't want to crash and burn at the end. I slowed it down and finished the first in 9:24. I figured the second mile would shake down closer to a 10:30, but that was 9:37, so I started rethinking and went with what felt ok for as long as it felt ok. At least I'd have time banked for when I slowed down.

Four miles, five miles, six miles in, I was still consistently below 10s. The only one above was mile 4 at a 10:03 when I walked for 20 paces to drink water.

Seven miles and I felt great. Eight miles and I started to entertain thoughts that I was definitely going to PR. Nine miles felt great, ten miles and I started to think I wouldn't just PR, but destroy my PR.

The course was around the perimeter of the island and it had nice views of the river, but nothing too spectacular. Mile 10 was fun though because it was at the airport. We ran through the hangar, then out on the runway. Crossed the timing pad at mile 10 and realized there was only a 5k left and I've been consistently doing those sub 30, albeit on a treadmill.

I ran into a headwind in mile 12, which temporarily slowed me down a few seconds, then into a subdivision where the wind stopped, onto the track and I finished a huge PR. One of the absolute greatest feelings in running is KNOWING a PR is happening and savoring those last few steps, wanting to soak it in, but pushing the pace to PR by as many seconds as possible. My final time was 2:08:49, which was an 11:04 improvement over my last half. I've never PRed a full marathon by such a huge margin.

It always feels good to PR, but even more, this race validated my hodgepodge plan and my self-created "run less, run faster" approach. It made me really hopeful for Toledo. Let's tear down another PR :D

At the finish was the PR cymbal, so I crashed that, took a picture with Mom who came to see the finish, then grabbed some homemade cookies - yum!

Driving in, I heard my theme song for this race - Pharrell's Happy - "Because I'm haaaaaaaapy!"

After I got home, I received the following email from my friend Ethel who lives on Grosse Ile:
I thought I saw you today @ West River/Ferry Rd. wearing a hot pink vest with neon green long sleeves and your hair up on top of head.  However, when I got out of my warm car & yelled your name, no one looked.  Even though it was 31 degree, some of the runners were only wearing tank tops @ that point.   

When I got to that spot, fans told me about half of the runners had already passed.  You must have been in that 1st half of runners.  I did wait, watch, & finally slowly drove on opposite side of the road, all the time looking for you.  


Yep, that was me :D I have a soft spot in my heart for races where I set PRs so I'll see you all next year!!! :)
Blue tech shirt for runners, gray cotton for volunteering on Saturday at start line set-up
Shirt backs - A big part of deciding to do this race was the shirt design :D

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Spartan Up! Book preview

I was asked to preview Spartan Up! by Joe DeSena and I'm looking forward to reading the whole book. I received a 20-page preview of what to expect in the book, that will be released on May 13. It wasn't immediately clear if it was a book about sports, or about improvement in one's life. In either case, I'll read the full version, but I couldn't tell from the preview if it was an anthology of stories about people who have done Spartan races, or self-help advice.

DeSena makes the bold claim that "To reach full potential, you need to UNLEARN every important thing modern society has taught you." For instance, giving up instant gratification in favor of delayed fuller gratification. He further advises that "the Spartan way" spells trouble for your comfort zones, and that readers should embrace three concepts: question your assumptions, less is more, and discipline is everything.

I'm particularly interested in chapter 2 - Confronting the greatest obstacle - your will. I'm learning this winter that I actually can run faster than I ever did before, if I'm willing to embrace the hurt and do the hard work. I'm interested in what he says about this.

Another interesting chapter looks like chapter 8 - Making your limits vanish. DeSena writes: "Distance events force you to focus your mind. In contrast, our society likes to stay distracted, always chasing the next shiny object...We are slaves to our anxious, darting minds and the constant stream of useless mental chitchat...it's just neurological white noise driving you to distraction from what really matters." He then claims: "I'll teach you how to silence yourself so that you can figure out what's going on inside your head. As we recapture control of our mind, we become able to focus for longer periods of time. Once we have removed negative distractions..." Why do I worry he's going to advise exercise without music???

Chapter 10 looks really good too. DeSena says: "The last obstacle you must surmount is the array of preconceived notions jammed in your psyche [ie I'm a "slow" runner]. All too often we spend our waking hours trying to find and stay comfortable [yes!]...We believe that there are things we can do and things that we can't, and we become conditioned to that distinction. It creates our everyday reality and it makes us feel secure, because we think we know what to expect of the world and what to expect of ourselves." I'm particularly interested in reading this chapter and applying it to my running.

Overall I'm looking forward to reading the full book. I like stories of people who engage in incredible activities, like Dean Karnazes's "Ultra Marathon Man," so I hope the personal stories make up a large portion of the book.

You can pre-order Spartan Up! here.

Disclosure:  I was offered a first edition copy of the book in exchange for this review. All opinions are my own and I was not required to give a particular opinion other than an honest one.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The Long Wait

Today is the New York City's lottery, also known as one of the longest days of my life! It's an all day long process that started before 8am and goes until 9pm. I've refreshed my credit card website more times than I can count, hoping for a big fat $255 pending charge, but nothing yet. I saw the lottery odds are 12:1, so not great, but it could be so much worse. I'd love love love to do this race, but if I don't win, I'll be ok with that too. If they don't draw my number, I'll enter Chicago's lottery tomorrow and go through this agonizing wait again in April lol Besides I'd save a ton of money on flight and hotel costs if NY doesn't pick me. Just a few more hours and I'll know either way. Fingers crossed!

Monday, March 24, 2014

Thoughts on a long Saturday run

Disney and the miserable unrelenting winter have conspired to really interfere with training for my spring races. I'm getting the speed work done, but the mileage is nowhere near where Hal wants it. He thought I was doing 19 on Saturday, which was just comical, yet had I started earlier, I could have done it.

The forecast was low 40s and sunny. The reality was mid 30s and 100% cloud cover. Gah! I despise that weather! The only alternative would be running on Sunday, when it was supposed to be in the 20s and I don't like Sunday running. Sigh. I had time so I put on my big girl pants and made myself go.

My goal was to run further than a half, with a pace of 11:30 or faster. It seemed marginally difficult, but manageable. The final distance was 15.1, and I could have gone several more if I had time. I knew Bill was on his way over to watch the Michigan basketball game, so I had to stop where I did. Timewise, my average pace was 11:00, with the slowest time an 11:16.

I feel pretty pleased with this run. It gave me hope that I just might be able to PR this spring. Every other time, if it hurt, I walked or slowed down, but on Saturday, if it hurt, that was too darn bad. It was getting done, regardless of how I felt, and it worked. The second half was 1:27 slower, so that's pretty good. Not a negative split, but I also didn't fall apart at the end.

Hal wants me to do a 20-miler in two weeks. It might happen, or I'll be happy with 17+ if I can control the pace and not fall apart at the end.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

The secret - How to run fast

I've always wanted to run faster. There are fast runners, and there is me, and I desperately wanted to be one of them. I've tried to take an intellectual approach to improving my time. I've read several books on it, when I had a free training session at the Y, I asked Les to make me a faster runner. Every time I've met a really fast runner, I've asked "How do I run that fast?" They always gave me a weird look and said "You just do."

Huh? What kind of advice is that? In order to run fast....you run fast??? Isn't that like the chicken and egg debate? How can I run fast, if my entire goal is to run fast?

I finally get it though, and they were right all along. To run fast, you run fast. For some reason I wanted to wake up one day and go from 10+minute miles to 7-minute miles.

I wouldn't expect or plan to jump from a 2-mile run to a 20-mile run, and speed has to have the same approach. I know to build mileage slowly and I have to build speed the same way. It won't happen all at once. I might focus on sub 11s this year, then consistent 10:30s for the fall. It might be a few years before I can do consistent 8s, and that's ok. Now that I know what I'm doing, my training feels like it's going somewhere.

Last week, my long run goal was to stay below 11:30 every mile. Slow? Absolutely, but it was a speed I could maintain indefinitely if I was paying attention and not just putzing along. I can't run any more "garbage miles," those done merely to log miles. Ain't got time for that. I need to have a speed focus for every run, whether it's race pace, or 10k pace, or a PR for a specific distance, etc. I need to be cognizant and pay attention to more than just the distance.

Running fast also means setting aside the easy way, and knowing it's going to hurt and be uncomfortable, but I have to do it anyway! Easy doesn't do it - hard work gets the results I seek. When I'm on the treadmill running at a 7:30 pace for a minute or two and it hurts and my knees feel wobbly, and lungs are screaming to quit, I plaster a big smile on my face and silently sing along with HaleStorm's "I miss the misery." That'll surely be my theme song when I quit running - a few lyrics taken completely out of context that will echo my thoughts when I'm done running: "I love the way that it hurts!...I miss the feeling of pains in my chest!...I miss the misery!"

Thursday, March 13, 2014

The other side of the race


Randy from Running Fit sends an email every Wednesday with running tips, and obviously advertising the races they host. One intrigued me, but I didn't necessarily want to run it because it was a 5k and I'm pretty cheap with my money, so I asked Bill if he wanted to volunteer together at the Shamrocks and Shenanigans race in Ann Arbor. He lives there so it was really convenient, and Running Fit offers a great incentive that most races don't - a $30 voucher toward a future race they host.

He decided he wanted to run it, but I stuck with my plan to volunteer and it was nice. They gave me a long sleeve cotton shirt in the same design as the runners' tech shirt, the voucher, and whatever snacks were still at the finish after all the runners went through the food line. Running Fit often gives buttons specific to the race and I didn't get one, but I found one in the parking lot after the race :)

The actual work was easy enough. When I signed up, all that was available was working as a course marshal. I was paired with Lance and we were responsible for the intersection of Main St. and E. Davis. We dragged the barricades across the road, then directed cars to go south, or directly across to W. Davis. Once the race started, I supported the timing clock at mile 2 because the clock and the base weren't securely fastened. 

I made a poster for Bill, but after he passed me, I dropped the poster and held out my hand to offer high 5s. I told runners they were at mile 2 and it was downhill, they were 10-12 minutes from the finish, they were 65 percent done. When I saw a few people in shorts, I asked them where were their pants? I reminded them there was beer at the finish line, etc. It was pleasant :)

It was a nice change to be at the race, but not running. I didn't have to worry about eating and hydrating, or warming up. It was cold and hilly, and of no importance to me. I'll absolutely volunteer again for Running Fit :)
After all the posters he's made for me, I finally got to make one for Bill. I wanted to appeal to his love of math, so I wrote Bill is less than 30:00, knowing he wanted to break 30 minutes for his time. Lance said "so Bill is greater than 30?" Noooooo!!! Crap!!!! There was a pen in the car so I hastily scribbled out the > sign and wrote the correct <. He said that in computer talk <> means "is not equal to" so that's what I went with :) The kids btw are my cat and a stuffed dog I bought in Europe - I'm NOT secretly announcing a pregnancy!!!!!! lol 

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Friday, March 7, 2014

A happy lunch time surprise

I spent all morning testing a few of my students, then drove to a different school for the afternoon. When I got outside - nice weather!!!! It's sunny AND above freezing! Whee!!! We haven't had this combination since, ummm... November? I see two more students then its run time and these few hours cant go fast enough. I'll get to run outside, for exactly the third time all year. My legs are itching to get going, especially because I know I'll only run until sunset, so the whole run will be against the clock. Please let this be the new norm, and not a one-day fluke!

Thursday, March 6, 2014

A risky decision

It's Thursday which has become "10k PR day."

Today and every day I'm obsessed with watching the forecast, even though the meteorologists constantly lie to us, get our hopes up, then laugh as we get sucker punched with more &*$%# winter. Once again they're claiming it'll be in the upper 30s on Friday, but snow on Saturday.

I'm supposed to run 18 miles on Saturday but it sure as hell is NOT happening on a dreadmill. It makes sense to move my Saturday run to Friday. I'll be done working early enough that I can run a few solid hours in the daylight and it just makes sense to shift it a day.

To make it happen, though, I have to forego today's run because I don't want to start an 18-miler on tired legs. If Friday is the same nasty crap we've gotten all winter, I'm going to be really upset because I'm giving up a solid run today to ensure I'm fresh for tomorrow. In the grand scheme, 6 miles won't make or break my training, but if Friday is nasty sh-- weather, then I've completely wasted a good opportunity to run today.

I HATE HATE HATE winter. Go away already!!!!!!!!!

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Hey square, expand your mind!

I've always believed there are fast runners and there are slow runners and I'm definitely a slow runner. I've always been jealous of people who can run 6-minute miles. Heck, I'm jealous of long consistent 8-minute miles. I can barely hang on for two at that pace, and only on a treadmill.

But as I was slogging my way through 2 hours on the hamster wheel on Saturday, a light bulb flashed over my head and opened my mind. I'm slow because I LET MYSELF be slow. Really fast runners are often a lot lighter than me, but they're often generally shorter than me, and while I theoretically could lose 40 pounds, I wouldn't have any strength left to run, and I sure can't become 5-6 inches shorter. Aside from that, however, they are no different than me. They have the same muscular and skeletal systems, the same heart and lungs.

The only difference is that fast running comes easier to some people, but that doesn't preclude the rest of us from achieving it through hard work. It might never feel natural or easy, but even slow running doesn't feel "good."

For 34 years I've given myself permission to be slow. Hal said to log the miles and not worry about the pace, so I always did just that and never tried harder, never even considered it until this winter. 15 marathons later, I still never saw myself as a "runner." I always viewed myself as "someone who runs." Hey square! Expand your mind!!!

Granted it's easier to force myself to run faster on the machine, and it's definitely tons harder to run fast than to run slow, but it's completely within my power. My body has always been able, it's been my mind limiting me. For far too long my running theme song has been "Slow Ride... Take it Easy." I need a new theme song!!! Any suggestions?

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Going nowhere fast

I was a total crankypants when I woke up on Saturday. The forecast was cloudy, but 37 degrees. Obviously the reality was nowhere close to that. The gross 100% cloud cover was there, but the temperature was hovering around 16 and I was not a happy camper. Not only did I have a long run on a day that I sure didn't want to be outside, but with snow on the radar, Bill didn't want to drive over, and I don't drive my car any further than I can walk home because it's on its last last last leg.

I had breakfast and lunch, and two Clif granola bars with peanut butter. At that point, I HAD to exercise because I had eaten so much. It was twilight at 4pm, so I went back to the gym and it sucked!

Ok it wasn't that bad. I would have definitely preferred to be outside doing natural running, but thankfully Nita had posted a link to Bart Yasso's treadmill workouts.

For the first hour, I did option 1:
1. 10K-pace interval run: Warm up at an easy pace for 12 minutes. Then run for five minutes at your goal 10K pace. Do this five times with two minutes of recovery at an easy pace in between. Cool down for 10 minutes at an easy pace.
 I ran the 10k pace segments at 6.3, and the recovery segments at 5.7, which is marathon pace. He said to cool down for 10 minutes, but I decided I wanted to hit 6 miles, so I progressed the speed until I got there. Final distance: 6.04, pace 9:56.
Something that really grosses me out on treadmills is how much I sweat and the subsequent feeling of a soaked shirt on my skin. Knowing this, I planned ahead and packed a second shirt and headband. I got off the treadmill, changed, refilled my water bottle, ate a few Tootsie Rolls (What kind of gym has candy on the desk? Isn't that counter-productive?) and tried to forget about the last hour.
For the second hour, I did this:
Bart also has some tips for tackling a long run on the treadmill. “A long run on the treadmill is a perfect time to teach your body to run negative splits,” he says.Bart suggests breaking up a long run into four segments. For example, on a 16-mile long run, run miles 1-4 at 2 minutes slower than your goal marathon pace. For miles 5-8 run 90 seconds slower than marathon pace, miles 9-12 run one minute slower than marathon pace, and finish with miles 13-16 at 30 seconds slower than marathon pace.
My plan was to divide the run in 15-minute segments of 5.4, 5.5, 5.6 and 5.7, but starting at 5.4 felt too fast, so I started at an easy 5.0 and increased the pace every five minutes. At 30 minutes, I started increasing every 3 minutes. It got done. Final distance: 5.5, pace 10:54.

Each of the runs was a negative split, but combined, I was slower the second hour. My overall pace was 10:23, which is faster than my marathon pace. It was a good workout, but sheesh!, will this winter never end???? At least give us a break for a few days!!!!!
Hal said to do 17 miles, but I was not in the mood for three hours on the hamster wheel. At this point, I should probably change my spring fulls to halfs, but I don't want to pay the change fee. I think a realistic approach is to set PRs at the Rock CF half, and the 5K and 10K at the Cincinnati Flying Pig, and worry about a marathon PR for a fall race. Hopefully by October this damn ice will melt and we'll break above freezing.