Post San Francisco Round Up

First, I want to give a brief review of the expo and its new location.

I loved the surrounding area, Fort Mason. If you want a spot to take a fabulous picture of Alcatraz and the bay, this is the place to do it. However, inside of the expo was a mess.

At the old location bib and shirt pick up was in an elevated side corridor which then fed down into the main hall. From there it was easy to make a loop and see all the vendors.

This year everything was on the same level with bib and shirt pick up squashed in the back. Getting to it felt like swimming upstream. Trying to make a quick circuit to see all the vendors was also impossible. In my opinion, that does the vendors a disservice because it was so easy for a large percentage of expo attendees to miss vendors. I hope the organizers get this flow issue solved before next year.

Second, I want to talk a bit more about my results.

A few hours after I posted my recap the official results were posted.

My time got even better. 1:42:59.

Though the difference is only three seconds, it bumped me down into the 1:42:xx range. I’m pretty excited about that.

It gets better. I’m still in shock over these numbers.

Overall, I placed in the top 7%. For women, I finished in the top 3% and in my division, the top 3/5%.

I can’t believe it. Talk about a major motivation boost. Those are the kinds of numbers in a big city race that I never thought possible for myself.

That leads to my third point, embrace the suck.

During the race there were times that I doubted my ability and downgrades my performances. After seeing the above results I’m more than ready to embrace the suck.

Too often, when training gets hard, I don’t want to leave my comfort zone. If I stay in that zone. If I stay there, I plateau.

That’s where the mental part of running comes in. That (along with hills) is where I plan to concentrate hardest during the next few weeks before TCM. I may not BQ this time (though I am most certainly going to try) but I know that I will become a better and stronger runner both physically and mentally.

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San Francisco Second Half Marathon 2014 Race Recap

Half Marathon #24
CA Half Marathon #3
San Francisco Second Half Marathon #2

Before I get to the race recap I want to list two big takeaways from this race. First, I (and pretty much everyone else) do not run well in the heat. Two, I need a lot more hill training.

Back to the race…

Mom and I both woke plenty early this morning. That’s what happens when you go to bed on east coast time. (Both of us were asleep by 8:30 PST aka 11:30 EST.) I felt more rested before this this race than I expected.

We took our time heading down to the shuttles and even dashed back up to the hotel room to grab the drop bag and our shirts. (This turned out to be an excellent decision. We were able to put everything in the bag after the race and go pretty much hands free.) I did manage to leave my half-eaten Luna bar back in the room but at least I’d put something in my belly.

I loved riding the shuttle with someone. It helped so much being experienced and not alone.

Once we got to the second half start we had just enough time (with a little leftover) to drop off the sweats bag and make a portopotty stop.

San Francisco Second Half Marathon 2014

I made my way up to corral 2 and once again noticed the lack of corral monitoring in the second half. The guy standing next to me was wearing a corral 4 bib. That minor complaint aside, I couldn’t believe that I was in the corral right behind the elites and sub-seeded athletes.

When we walked down to the start, things got real. Before I knew it, the starter was counting down and we were off.

I settled into a 7:30ish pace quickly and easily and felt really strong. In fact, except for the miles where I stopped to get water (more on that later) all of my mile splits were below 7:35. The mental battle was another story.

I ran without my handheld since I haven’t needed it in a San Francisco half before but today was the exception. For the first time in 4 years, the weather actually felt like summer, not South Carolina summer, but definitely summer. Just my luck.

I realized this early on and decided to take water at every water stop. Definitely the right decision.

I don’t know how I forgot but the hills in Golden Gate Park started messing with my mind. Miles 2-5 of a half marathon are pretty early for that to start happening. I wondered why on earth I was doing this to myself and what I was thinking for trying to push for a BQ in the fall. I didn’t even feel bad at this point which is why all the negative thoughts perplexed me.

This time I won the mental battle. I told myself to shut up and keep running.

Around this time I took my first Gatorade Chews. It took me almost a half mile to finally get them chewed and swallowed. It’s a fact. Chewing is next to impossible at that pace. I decided to forego the rest of the chews. I probably should have taken a couple more or grabbed a gel on Haight but the effort of chewing outweighed the benefits.

By the time I got to Haight and the major downhill I could tell that the heat and hills were getting to me. (I am so thankful for California’s “dry” heat though.) That’s when I started double fisting the water and wishing I had my handheld. (It probably would have been empty by that point though.)

It was also after the downhill at Haight that every little incline felt like a mountain and made me wonder how I could possibly keep pushing.

At the water stop just before mile 10 the 1:40 paces passed me. I’d been in front of them for the whole race. I had already decided to try to stay ahead of them or keep up with them if they did end up passing me so I tried to keep up with them.

I’m not sure why they were running so fast. When I looked down at my Garmin I saw that they were maintaining a 7 minute pace and I was still behind them. There was no way I could keep up that pace for even a 5k at that point. I decided to drop back to my goal pace and let them go.

The heat was really getting to me and I could feel my pace slacking and my effort level increasing. Shortly after I lost sight of the 1:40 pacers I let go of my sub 1:40 goal. I cannot describe the weight that lifted off my shoulders at that point. My legs protested the pace so much that I slowed to a walk. I needed that minute. It gave me a chance to collect myself and make a new game plan.

I kept pushing looking forward to the next water stop and a chance to walk a little take in some liquids.

I gave myself permission to run at a comfortable pace even if that pace was on the 9 side of 8:30. Turns out…I’m stronger than I think. My slowest split (the mile with the minute of walking) was just 8:17, less than a minute off my goal pace.

We got to AT&T Park (oh how I wish I had a later flight so I could see the Giants play the Dodgers this afternoon!) and I knew we were close to the end. I could keep pushing for 2.2 miles, for 2 miles for 1.5 miles and etc.

I have to admit though, I almost gave myself permission to walk in the last mile. When I got to the mile 12 marker though I scoffed and the idea and kept plugging away.

The cruelest part of the course? The few tenths of a mile on Embarcadero before you can see the finish line. You know that you’re almost there but it’s still so far away.

I didn’t know if I was going to throw a sprint on or not. I didn’t know if I had it in me.

I’m too competitive though. I had to go for it. After all, it was less than a tenth of a mile. I had so much more to gain than lose.

I threw on a sprint and finished strong.

San Francisco Second Half Marathon 2014

Unofficially, that’s a 42 second PR on a race where I ran almost 3 tenths more.

If I had walked during that last mile, I would not have that PR. There’s something to be said for mental toughness.

This PR was hard but so worth it. (I have way too many thoughts about what this race has taught me to fit here. I’ll definitely be writing another post this week.)

Mom came through about 20 minutes later looking strong.

San Francisco Second Half Marathon 2014

Though the heat kept her from another sub 2 hour she still did great!

San Francisco Second Half Marathon 2014

On towards Boston!

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Anticipating an “A” Race

Earlier this year I set out some pretty big goals for myself. I wanted (and still want) PRs in every regular race distance. Out of the five that I listed in that post, only 2 remain, the half and the full. Let’s face it. These two have always been the primary goal.

For each of those I set the goal line significantly farther than a simple PR. That makes it a bit scary even with the massive PRs I’ve achieved recently. I also don’t have “back up” races planned for these. (I maybe able to squeeze in one more half marathon attempt but definitely not another marathon.)

Now, my first big goal race is upon me, less than 48 hours away. Even though it’s been in the back of my mind pretty much constantly this year so far, I haven’t made a race plan. Until now that is.

Come Sunday morning I’ll be lining up in corral 2 in Golden Gate Park ready to tack this course and really race for the first time. (My first two times running the San Francisco half marathons were primarily just to finish.)

According to a pace calculator, I need to maintain a 7:35 average to finish sub 1:40. (For some reason, I had a 7:40 pace in my mind. Five seconds may not seem like much but it threw me for a little loop when I looked it up a few minutes ago.) 7:35 is my pace goal. I know I’ll need to be a little flexible with that on the most significant uphill around miles 3 and 4 but I’m planning to stick as close to that pace on the uphills as I can. If I find myself working too hard, I’ll back off just a tad.

If by the time I get to the final 5k, I still feel good, I’ll work on gradually increasing my speed to as close to 7 as I can get.

For hydration, I’m using my amphipod handheld. A full bottle should be enough, especially since I won’t have to battle South Carolina humidity.

Nutrition is another story. I haven’t had many runs long enough to necessitate it. Plus, only recently did I acquire a pair of shorts with a packet to carry it in. (Stuffing it down my bra worked but that’s not my preferred position.) I’m taking one bag of Gatorade chews and one vanilla bean Gu gel. I guess that will end up being a race day decision.

Now for the most important part, mental preparation. I will not be self-deprecating. My plan is to fill my head with “you can do this” rather than “how on earth will I maintain this pace for 12 more miles?” Trust me. It makes a huge difference.

Here’s to Sunday July 27th and a sub 1:40 half marathon!

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San Francisco Second Half Marathon Week 12 Training Recap

A good word to describe this week would be “excuses.” I could also say that I lost focus a bit. That’s not to say that training was bad; it just wasn’t as good as it could have been. In the harder runs this week, I gave myself an out, excusing myself from pushing past my comfort zone. I’ve learned my lesson. I’ve also stopped giving myself a hard time after the fact. Only a few runs now remain between now and the half marathon on Sunday.

Monday easy run
This run felt pretty good considering the hard workout Sunday. Part of me wondered if the relative ease of the run is due to not going quite hard enough Sunday. It’s more likely because I ran fairly slowly and not for very long. I managed to negative split the run but only because it was so short I was done before I really got warmed up.

Tuesday short intervals
My legs felt really sluggish when I first started running. Thankfully I had 20 minutes to warm up. I had hoped to use the track but apparently even though they say that it’s still open for public use, the gates are locked. I will be really, really sad if I’m not able to use it again. I ended up running the intervals on the treadmill. The one thing I like about treadmill intervals is the fact that running them at prescribed pace is a bit easier. (The treadmill does the mental work for me.) The intervals themselves were rather hard, just as they should be. I did pause during two different recovery intervals but otherwise managed to complete the intervals as prescribed.

Wednesday easy run
I definitely took it easy on this run since it was the fourth day in a row of running and the day after a tough speedwork session. My legs definitely felt the work that I’ve put them through. Towards the end I entertained thoughts of trying to get a bit more mileage but forced myself to keep taking it easy.

Thursday stationary bike + NTC abs
The ride went well though I definitely missed (and still do) riding outside on Hilton Head’s trails.
Since I was a bit on the sleepy side I chose the abs workout I’ve done most often. I tried to pick it up a notch but think that I need to start changing it up soon to get the most benefit.

Friday tempo plus short intervals
I ran inside because it was pouring when I woke up. My legs were sluggish at first. I’m wondering if it’s the shoes because I get a similar feeling at the start of every run with the CloudRacers. The tempo part was tough as it should be. I did take two breaks so that I could drink some water without choking. I had planned to take 3, one every 5 minutes but found that I didn’t need to. I probably didn’t really need to take the two that I did. I finished off the run with some short intervals and absolutely loved them. I felt really strong through those.

Saturday progression run
I ran inside thanks to steady rain. The first half of the run was at easy pace. I probably could have gone just a tad faster through that section but I’m okay with what I ran in that first part. According to my training plan I was supposed to run 7:35 for the last 4ish miles. After halfway I increased the speed every quarter mile which worked but didn’t get me to the target speed as soon as I thought it would. Once I got to the target speed which ended up being 7:41 because the next point up on the treadmill would be “too fast” I immediately told myself that there was no way that I would be able to finish 20 more minutes at that speed. I did finish the 20 minutes but that was with the help of two pauses at each of the next two miles to drink some water. Those pauses were longer than I’d like but I got back on and finished it. I had hoped to be mentally stronger on this last “long run” before San Francisco next week. This was a good run. I just need to keep telling myself that.

Sunday rest
I’m trying really hard to be a good little runner and rest on my rest day. There’s no sense in putting in extra works just because.

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Training on Vacation

I’ve been running regularly for nearly 4 years now. (That seems so long and short at the same time. That’s for another post though.) That means that last week was the fourth summer vacation that included setting my alarm (albeit later than normal) so that I could start my day with a workout, usually running.

Vacation running this time around was a bit different. This year, vacation week coincided with a peak training week. In the past it’s usually been part either of a recovery cycle or an early base building period.

Going into last week I determined jar I would still complete all my runs as prescribed and in the BQ-bound mindset.

It is far too easy to get sucked into vacation mode though. While last week’s training wasn’t lazy, “vacation mode” definitely affected all the other aspects of training. Let me explain.

Looking back I know exactly where I went wrong. Two key things (beyond the simple vacation mindset) made all the difference. Eating and drinking.

Even though I know it’s critical to stay hydrated, especially in severely hot and humid weather, I couldn’t bring myself to drink more. When I’m out of my regimented work routine I tend to forget about it. I did drink plenty of diet Dr. Pepper but that’s not saying much.

I also ate all the junk food we had, or pretty close to it. I got out of my normal routine and didn’t make the effort to try to come up with something at least remotely healthy for lunch. The amount of sugar I ate… Well, I’ll leave it there.

To sum up this rambling reflection, I learned (or rather relearned) that there’s much more to getting faster than running alone. I have extra motivation now to clean up my diet and extend my water drinking habit to the weekend.

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San Francisco Second Half Marathon Week 11 Race Recap

Most of this week’s runs happened while on vacation. I think that no matter how hard one tries to keep out the vacation mindset while training, it’s impossible to do. I lost focus just a bit and it showed on the runs where I had to really push it for a particular pace. (I have ideas/plans for a separate post about this which will hopefully come later this week.)

This week also included long (for me) rides Monday through Thursday but I won’t recap those.

So…how did these runs turn out?

Monday easy run with strides
Once again, I was sluggish to start but I think that’s to be expected in this kind of humidity. After I got going though I felt great. It’s so weird too because usually humidity (especially as much as we have) usually drains me and leaves me feeling dissatisfied with my run. That’s definitely not the case lately! I may have been dripping with sweat but I absolutely loved this run and couldn’t wait for more!

Tuesday long (2 mile) intervals
This was a tough run. I knew that Monday when my legs were a bit sore that afternoon. (I thought then that it was because of the bike ride itself but now I believe it to be because I used a bike that was a bit too short for me. A simple switch to the other bike kept it from happening again.) My legs did not want to cooperate when I started. As the 20 minutes of the warm up waned, I wondered how I was going to be able to get in 3 2 mile intervals completed at a 7:40 pace. I managed to complete the first set as prescribed but felt a bit like death warmed over. I wasn’t ready to throw in the towel so I altered the plan. This was my third day in a row of running. The temps were in the mid to upper 70s and combined with significant humidity. I walked on the recovery intervals. I also changed up the remaining two intervals and made them mile intervals rather than two mile intervals. I even gave myself permission to run a little slower than 7:40. I managed to take myself up on that offer only twice. All the other miles were just under a 7:40 pace. This may not have been my favorite speedwork session but as I kept reminding myself, it’s training in the bank.

Wednesday EASY run
Coach put “easy” in all caps on the training plan so I figured it was important. I definitely took it easy today (no miles above 9:30) and enjoyed the run.

Thursday easy ride
I took it easy today. This was my actual workout instead of just an addition. I had a pretty intense tempo run coming up and wanted to make sure not to wear myself out on a ride the day before.

Friday AT tempo
It was supposed to be 45 minutes at a 7:40 pace. I didn’t quite make it but I’m okay with that. The humidity was practically off the charts. While I didn’t quite make the 7:40 pace (came close with splits of 7:41, 7:53, 7:49, 7:42, 7:48 and 7:34) I felt much stronger than I did on Tuesday’s long intervals. (I felt like I was about to die to keep up that pace on those miles.) Granted, I did stop three times at street crossings and once at the turn around point so it wasn’t an uninterrupted tempo run but I got it done.

Saturday rest – travel
I would have much rather gotten my long run in on Saturday but it wouldn’t have worked. Instead I had a lazy morning and a long day of travel home.

Sunday long run with half marathon pace intervals
I’m a little disappointed in my paces. I didn’t hit 7:40 on any of them: 8:01, 8:04, 7:57, 7:46, 7:57, 8:02, 7:47, 7:53. I should have figured out how much of a mile I would cover in 6 minutes at a 7:40 pace because the pace on my Garmin kept fluctuating more than 40 seconds every time I looked at it. (My only guess as to why it did this today after not doing anything like it down at Hilton Head is a satellite thing. Maybe my Garmin was being wonky after traveling several hundred miles. It’s more likely to be user error though.) I should have known that my pace was too slow (closer to 8 than 7:40) based on effort because it didn’t feel quite as hard as I thought it would/should. The hills nearly did me in after a week without any. I did manage to complete my last interval at the prescribed 90% effort which, thankfully, was faster than a 7:40 pace. I could “blame” the Garmin or the hills or the heat/humidity but I just didn’t push myself quite as hard as I needed to on this run. Two weeks until San Francisco. I’m rededicating myself to making each workout count.

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A Running Lab Rat

(Whoops…this post has taken a bit longer to get up than I expected.)

Two weeks ago I had the opportunity to run on a treadmill while hooked up to an oxygen measuring machine and get my fingers pricked every few minutes. Despite what that sounds like, it really was an opportunity. Instead of detailing the events in chronological order, I’ll share some of the lessons I learned.

One, the mask, while not quite as intimidating as I imagined, takes quite a bit of time to get used to, even just a little. If you ever have the opportunity to wear one of these masks be prepared for a slightly claustrophobic sensation as well as the odd sensation of sweat dripping and clinging to your nose.

Two, I am addicted to knowing the exact distance I’ve run. I assumed that the treadmill would keep tracking the total distance through the whole workout but that turned out not to be the case. I then figured that the equipment would have some sort of total. Nope. It’s almost two weeks later and I still don’t know. (Side note: the trouble I had with my Garmin shutting off during my cool down run led directly to the purchase of the 220. I need to know how much distance I’ve traveled.)

Three, I am a wimp when it comes to hills. When I finished the next to last interval, the one at max speed, I should have known that another identical interval was too good to be true. Twenty seconds later (or something like that…the details are fuzzy) they bumped up the incline. Before the interval ended, they bumped up the incline twice more. I was begging (silently because I wasn’t supposed to talk) for it to be over. I made it but it wasn’t pretty. The study director said my heart rate got up over 200 bpm. I have no trouble believing him.

I had hoped to close this entry with a little bit of the actual data but that hasn’t been sent. All in all, participating in this study has been pretty fun. I just hope that eventually I’ll get to see the data.

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