Hot, Humid, and Happy

I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed a hot, humid, super sweaty run like the one I completed this morning. Several times while I ran, I thought “this is why I love running…putting myself out there, seeing what I can do, pushing myself to the limit.”

This run proves that you don’t have to have a perfect run to add a run to the all-time favorites list. Seriously, this run kicked my butt but I absolutely loved it. My clothes have never been so soaked with sweat before. (I lost at least 3 lbs of water weight and that included the 3 bottles full of water, Gatorade and 20 oz coffee that I guzzled before I weighed myself. The water I drank while running.)

It was a good sign when I looked out my bedroom window first thing this morning and saw dry pavement. The forecast called for scattered thunderstorms all day. (It still hasn’t rained.) I am so glad that I did not have to run for over two hours on the treadmill.

Mom and I got out the door a little later than I had planned but that was alright.

We got to the trail and started running. Right away my legs protested a bit to being used so soon after a tough tempo yesterday. I forced myself to ignore them and settle into a decent long run pace.

Mom and I ran together for the first two miles. When she slowed to walk for the first time, I kept going. (In my defense, she told me to. ;)) I didn’t know until later that she wasn’t ever that far behind me.

I knew the day was going to be a scorcher so I took in hydration as soon and as often as I could, usually once a mile.

At the 30 minute mark I slowed to a walk to eat a couple chomps. I learned my lesson in San Francisco. Chewing while running at my goal pace is next to impossible. I’ll probably end up using gels on marathon day.

My first goal of the day was to run all the way to the new end to the trail. I love the new expansion to the Swamp Rabbit. It may not be the most scenic but it was new and enjoyable. The only part of the new section that I didn’t like was a lovely little downhill behind a gas station. When I ran down I mentally groaned knowing that I would have to come back up.

Just a little ways beyond that the trail ended … for now. (That’s what’s on the trail end sign. Love it!) I made the turn around and started the second portion of my run.

That hill? Yeah, it was hard but it didn’t kill me. It actually didn’t seem all that bad.

Soon after that I caught a glimpse of orange up ahead of me. It was Mom. She turned around just before the hill. Smart woman. I put on a little bit more speed than I probably should have to catch up with her.

About a half mile later I caught up with her and ran the rest of the way back to the Duncan Chapel parking lot with her.

Besides my two fuel breaks, I did walk one other time when she slowed to a walk. I wanted to stick with her. On a day like today, it’s so nice to have company on the run. We also made a slightly longer stop than normal at Williams Hardware to fill up our water bottles. (Thank you so much Williams Hardware!)

I felt pretty good throughout this portion, especially considering the weather–75ish degrees with 100% humidity. I didn’t feel drained or dehydrated. I did wonder how I would be able to speed up almost a minute per mile for my fast finish but decided to deal with that when I came to it.

Once we got back to the Duncan Chapel lot near Furman, I was on my own. I had about 15 minutes before I had to pick up the pace. I took my last fuel break with about 3 minutes to go using that minute afterwards to try to pick up the pace.

Word to the wise, 7:40 per mile after almost two hours in super humid summer weather is not for the faint of heart. I didn’t quite make it for the first mile but kept pushing, telling myself to “embrace the suck.” (Yes, I love my new catchphrase. It’s great for those times when you want to quit.)

With 10 minutes to go I did pause to catch my breath, regroup. I needed those few seconds. When I started running again, my new favorite running song (just bought it today!) “Bang! Bang!” started playing. (I’m not a huge fan of the lyrics but the beat is undeniable.) It was just the pick me up that I needed right then. Too bad I didn’t have it on repeat.

When it finished, “Firework” came on and while I like it, the rhythm was all wrong. That was the point where I needed a little external motivation to finish and that song just wasn’t cutting it. With 3.5 minutes to go I stopped again and put “Bang! Bang!” on again. I needed all the motivation I could get to finish. Those last few seconds seemed to take forever!

I finished with a huge smile on my face. Just like that my longest (both in time and distance) run in months was finished and I had conquered it.

Check out the splits (Ignore the 12:45…it was only a partial mile)

Screenshot 2014-08-09 15.13.17

Runs like this help me remember why I love marathons (and marathon training) so much. Bring on TCM!

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Entitlement Syndrome

I know I said that last week’s post was the last that I would write about San Francisco. Remind me to never say something like that again. Something always comes up.

This time it was prompted by an apology that The San Francisco Marathon posted on their Facebook page last Sunday. It surprised me because personally, other than the expo issue I mentioned, I had no problems. If not for the unexpected warmth, it would have been one of my best race experiences period.

What prompted the apology then?

The primary prompt, I assume, was an article posted on sfgate.com that critiqued the race for hydration supply issues, the malfunction runner tracking app, and confusion regarding which woman actually won the first half marathon. I have no problem with the article. The author composed it with the purpose of encouraging the SF Marathon to step up its game and showcase San Francisco properly.

It’s the comments on the apology post that make me cringe. So much entitlement is blatantly obvious.

Many of the complaints came from slower runners. (As a disclaimer, I should mention that I did not encounter these same problems because I started and finished before many other runners.) These complaints focus primarily on the inadequately supplied water stops. However, they also exclude complaints about crowding issues in Golden Gate Park (finish and start area for 1st and 2nd half marathoners respectively), water stations being closed too soon, small half marathon medals and an extraordinarily long line to get into the post-race beer garden.

It was the beer garden complaint that really got me thinking. Some people were bent out of shape that they had to wait in line for something free. They felt entitled to that beer even though they hadn’t bothered to get the “instant access” wristband provided at the expo. (The terminology is mine. I did not partake so I am unfamiliar with the specific terminology.) As a result, the line to get into the beer garden backed up while volunteers verified (id and bib, I think) each runner attempting to enter.

This bothers me. It bothers me enough that I could take the time to refute each of the complaints that I’ve already listed. That would take too long though and would not help me make my point. The main issue is the rank entitlement.

Almost all of the complaints boil down to a runner feeling entitled to a certain perk, promised or not. Some runners feel entitled to free water, electrolytes and fuel along the course. Some slower runners feel entitled to those same perks even though that means that other people would have to donate when more of their own time. Some runners feel entitled to get their hydration handed to them at water stops instantly in the manner of their personal preference. Some feel entitled to a bigger medal because they’ve “earned” it. Many feel entitled to all this because they spent some of their hard earned money on an entry fee.

Why do people feel this way?

Please don’t get me wrong. I am not maligning all runners or any for that matter. I am speaking from the heart about a culture of complaining that I see creeping into my beloved sport.

I’m also not dismissing the complaints as completely invalid. The SF Marathon dropped the ball on a few things like hydration. That’s where I feel that legitimate constructive criticism, like the original sfgate.com article, should play a huge part. Take, for instance, my own comments on the expo. I wrote and published those in the hopes that the marathon organization might take note and, hopefully, provide a better product next year.

The SF Marathon offers a product. I’ve chosen (and will continue to choose) to buy that product. I know that not everyone feels the same way. I hope that in future, reviews (and Facebook comments and tweets and etc) can be phrased as constructive criticism not complaint. I’ve found that complaining leaves a bitter taste in my mouth.

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Twin Cities Marathon (TCM) Week 1 Training Recap

This week served as a transition/recovery period between the half marathon and the full.

Most of these workouts were super easy. At first I deeply regretted “giving up” a week of training since I have only 10 (now 9) weeks between the two races. As I recovered from last Sunday’s hard effort I realized that this recovery period was critical to effective marathon training. My nose is back to the grindstone for the upcoming week. (My coach even used my new catchphrase “embrace the suck” to describe a couple hard back to back workouts.

Monday rest/travel
I don’t think there’s any way I could have possibly moved my legs in a running fashion Monday. On top of the previous day’s hard effort, a lackluster “night” of sleep on the plane necessitated the rest day.

Tuesday easy run
Coach had walking on the (flexible) plan but I wanted to run again so I took it very easy as in a 10 minute pace on the treadmill to take out the hill factor. My quads felt pretty trashed Monday and had just started to feel better. I had forgotten about how hard on the quads San Francisco is. A good night’s sleep helped considerably.

Wednesday easy run
I ran on the treadmill again to continue to take it easy. I did bump the speed up just a tad and ran about 20 minute longer than Tuesday. I felt great the entire time.

Thursday stationary bike at gym
I felt spectacular through the whole ride and tried to push it to get to 17 miles falling just short with 16.95.

Friday easy run
I felt really good throughout this entire run. The cycling Thursday really helped. After that work out I didn’t feel any lingering soreness. I hate that I had to run on the treadmill again–I don’t mess around with possible thunderstorms–because I’m pretty sure that my left IT band doesn’t like the treadmill. Overall though, the run went well.

Saturday Run2Overcome 10k
Yes, I’m just a bit crazy.

Sunday rest
I enjoyed this rest day. Today (Monday) starts marathon training in earnest.

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Run2Overcome 10k

Race #82
10k #4
Run2Overcome #1

The answer to your question is yes. I am crazy.

I’m not that crazy though. I did not race today, just went out for a run with a few other people all wearing bibs. :) I wanted to get an August race and this was the only one I could find. (They’re understandably hard to come by in August in South Carolina.)

I definitely wanted to race though. It’s a heady feeling running up towards the front of the pack but that’s a feeling for another day. Today I set out just to run with my only goal being to finish under an hour.

We were off just after 7:30 and I settled into a pace that felt fairly easy but not super slow. I also chose to avoid looking at my Garmin so that I wouldn’t know my pace. I like the details but wanted to run based on effort.

Just after the first mile I wondered why on earth I was bothering with this so soon after San Francisco. I should have just run 60 minutes closer to home. Then I remembered my new favorite mantra, “embrace the suck,” slowed my pace just a bit and settled in.

This course was not easy. Downtown Greenville is full of rollers and this course found most, if not all, of them. The hills didn’t feel terrible though. I didn’t push myself to maintain the same pace. Instead I focused on effort and ended up passing more people on the uphills than at any other point in the race.

For some reason, after the halfway point I started thinking of ultramarathons and picturing this race as a “time on my feet” or “race on tired legs” sort of race. It was strangely motivating.

The miles started to tick by and soon I was just over a mile from the finish and still feeling strong. It was about this point that I saw a family from my church volunteering and cheering the runners on. It’s silly but I immediately picked up my pace a bit and tried to smooth out my form. When one of them said “we know this one!” and then cheered, I got a bit of a speed boost. Silly but fun.

After the last hill I knew I had this race in the bag. I knew that this would be a good performance and was really pleased with that.

We entered Cleveland Park and saw the finish line. I had been running a little bit behind another woman contemplating whether I should try to pass her or not. When I crossed the 3 mile marker (there was a 5k with this race as well) I decided to sprint to the finish. I passed her with plenty of time and finished strong.

Run2Overcome 10k splits

How’s that for nearly perfect negative splits?

Now it’s back to the training plan. TCM is in 9 short weeks and I’ve got a lot of work to do.

This race was a great way to get back in the mood for hard work.

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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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