Thursday, December 31, 2009

Out with the Old, In With the New - 2009 vs 2010 Goals

The key to goal-setting - make them quantifiable, both in magnitude and measured time to achievement! 

But first, let's review.  I set 3 New Year's Resolution Fitness Goals at the beginning of 2009:
  1. STAY ACTIVE - Run at least 3 half marathons - I had completed 3 half marathons in 2008 so my goal was to complete at least as many in 2009.  I ended up finishing 8 half marathons this year.
  2. GET FASTER ON SHORTER DISTANCE - Get to 32 minute PR on the 5K - With a previous PR of 35 1/2 minutes going into 2009, I thought this was ambitious.  I had a phenomenally great run at the Mardi Gras Run in Dallas in January 2009 and suddenly found myself with a 32:19 PR!  In late September, I finished a 5K training run with exactly 32:00 showing on the Garmin GPS.  No 32 minute 5K in a race yet then, but I did PR, even if it was in training!
  3. GET FASTER ON LONGER DISTANCE - Break 2 1/2 hours (PR) on the half marathon - I started 2009 with a PR of 2:54, set at the 2008 Dallas White Rock Half Marathon.  So this was my most aggressive goal - to shave 24 minutes off of my half time.  I ended 2009 sadly not completing this goal.  I PRed 5 of my 8 half marathons this year and as of 12/13/2009, at the Dallas White Rock Half Marathon, have a PR of 2:32:51.  I am not disappointed as I knew what a hard goal this would be and am very proud of the progress I made in one year!
Also, late in the year, end-of-October or early-November, at about 360 miles for the year at the time, I added the goal of hitting 500 miles for the year.  A bad cold in the second half of December seriously derailed that plan and I ended up with around 460.  I'm not disappointed, as it's something to improve upon for next year.  Every 3 months I ran more and more miles, so it's setting up for a good 2010!

On to 2010...  since 2009 was my first time to make goals for my fitness, for next year I am ready to add more goals...  These are only my fitness goals, I will keep my personal goals, well, personal.

I separated my goals into Distance Goals and Speed Goals.  I further limited some goals to only the first half of the year or segmented the process into checkpoints of mid-year and end-of-year.  This allows me to adjust over time while still having a "drop dead date" on some measurable level of progress.

2010 Distance Goals

  • Complete at least 10 half marathons in 2010 aka "10 halfs in '10" - I completed 8 in 2009
  • Run 500 miles by June 30 - I ran about 460 miles total in 2009, but only about 70 were in the first half of the year.  Over the course of the year my weekly mileage did increase.
2010 Speed Goals
  • Complete 3 half marathons in 2 ½ hours or faster - Since I did not reach the 2009 goal of breaking 2 1/2 hours in the half (current PR: 2:32:51), I am not ready to set a new specific PR goal.  Instead I thought the focus should be on improving to the point of somewhat consistently breaking the 2009 goal over several races!
  • Finish a 5K in 31 minutes (10 min/mi pace) or faster by June 30 - current PR is 32 minutes and only accomplished once.  Rather than be unknowingly too aggressive, or, conversely, giving myself way too much time to shave one minute off my 5K time, I chose to choose a reasonable, unintimidating goal - just take one minute off - over a 6 month period.  After which I can reassess and either try to maintain that 31 minute 5K or further improve it.
  • Run a mile in 9:30 by June 30, run a mile in 9:00 by Dec. 31 - Current PR: 9:56. I'm not great at going "all out" on runs so I've added a goal to focus on a harder run for a shorter distance. This is an incremental goal to seek process at six-month intervals.
Next up... I'm trying to finalize my Spring 2010 Race Calendar, so I can start working toward "10 halfs in '10", so I will be posting that shortly!

Just The Facts, Ma'am! 2009 Running Stats Summary

As 2009 closes, I wanted to take a look at how my running went this year, to prepare to herald in 2010!

Runs: 112

Miles Run: 457.2
    Even more significant...
    Miles run in first half of 2009:      180.9
    Miles run in second half of 2009: 276.3

Miles Run on a Treadmill: ZERO!  I ran in the dark, in pouring rain, in near freezing rain, in strong wind, in cold, in the Texas summer heat - this is something I am proud of!

Approx. Number of Hours Run in 2009: 87 hours (estimated as calculation wasn't easily available this year, but will be next year!)

Half Marathons Completed: 8

Races of Other Distances Completed: 7

PRs Set: PRed every distance - PRed at 10 of 15 races run in 2009!
    PRed Half Marathon 5 of the 8 attempts
    PRed 5K once in a race and then once since then in training
    PRed 10K three times
    PRed 15K twice

Number of miles run in training (doesn't count races) in first half of year:        73.9
Number of miles run in training (doesn't count races) in second half of year: 214.9

Wow, I did a much better job of getting out there and training in the second half of the year.  Previously, I would use races as my motivation to go run.

Coming very soon... 2010 Goals and Race Calendar!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Happy happy splits, 10K PR, and a Run-in with a Beagle?!?

I went out at 3 pm with training partner Sarah for our run.  She was thinking 5 miles and I was secretly thinking more.  Sarah had to finish in an hour to leave for an appt, so 2 miles in we talked about turning back at 2 1/2 miles.  But I was feeling really good and really strong and told her I wasn't sure I would turn back at 2 1/2 miles.  So Sarah decided to not cut her time too close for when she needed to finish and headed back a little early, about 2.2 miles into the run.

I continued on the trail we had just started running the other day - they had finally built a bridge across the creek from my neighborhood so we could access this trail.  So much of this trail was new to me.  My miles continued to roll by well.  I didn't have that usual first few miles of uncomfortability.  I was able to just get into the mechanical turnover of my feet at the pace I actually wanted and just kept at that.  I turned around at the trail end, which I found out was right at 3.5 miles into the run - what can I say?  As a mathematician, I just gotta love those nice round numbers.

At 4.5 miles in, I tried to take my GU and managed to choke badly on a gulp of water.  I obviously need to continue practicing this as running through water stations and energy gel breaks is a new technique for me. :-)  I walked for probably about a minute as I struggled to stop coughing and finish my GU with more water.  I ran hard the rest of that mile, in my hopes for good even splits, and managed to finish that mile only 8 seconds slower than the others!

I marked a lap on my Garmin when I got to 6.2 miles so I could check later if it was a PR.  Which it was!  I then wanted to continue what I had been doing my last two runs, of trying to speed up the last half-mile to a mile in the run for a good strong finish. 

But at 6.6 miles in, a woman and her sons were walking a big standard Beagle. They were crossing the residential street on the sidewalks and I came along beside but out past the curb, keeping some distance.  I had seen as I'd approached that the woman even saw me approaching!  Yet just as I'm about to pass, the woman let the retractable leash loose and the beagle whipped over in front of me, stretching the leash as far as it can go.  It's so sudden that I screamed as I struggled to stop super short and then yell "JEEZ!!!" with a giant scowl as the woman grabs the leash to tighten it.  I was so tired and so focused on getting a good time that as she yelled "Sorry", I just kept going.  Plus I was so angry at that moment because I really was within a fraction of a second where I would have somersaulted over that dog in the concrete street there and possibly hurt myself.  Another two tenths of a mile, and I felt bad for not having the time or the energy to tell her that I was sorry I screamed and didn't acknowledge her apology but if she'd been running hard for an hour and twenty minutes, she'd probably understand.  So I kinda hope I run (hmmm, not literally) into her and her family at another time that I'm not in the rush to apologize!

Still managed to finish out the last 0.8 mile with a pace of 10:59 versus my average consistent pace over the whole run of 11:25!

In the end, perfect splits and a 10K PR, even with the choking incident and dog run-in!  And note that I do recognize that some people do not count Personal Records unless it is managed in a race of that particular distance, but I think, if you did it and you know it, and especially if the Garmin Forerunner GPS knows it, I don't care if it's in the middle of a training run versus anything else.  It still happened :-) and I think it's a little harder to do in a training run without the adrenaline of a race day!

Previous 10K PR: 1:11:41
New 10K PR: 1:11:04

Mile 1: 11:27
Mile 2: 11:26
Mile 3: 11:25
Mile 4: 11:28
Mile 5: 11:34
Mile 6: 11:28
Next 0.2 miles to bring it to a 10K distance: 11:28 pace
Last 0.8 miles after that: 10:59 pace

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Miserable Run in the Cold

Today was one of those runs where you spend the entire time questioning why you are doing it.  After an hour walking around the house in tights, jacket over long sleeve shirt over short sleeve shirt, and ear warmers, I finally stopped procrastinating and went out to run.  Why did today have to be the day that the Garmin GPS took FOREVER to locate satellites? 

Weather conditions were 38 degrees with a 5 mph cold north wind.  Overcast skies but it wasn't until I was 1/2 mile in that the near-freezing drizzle started.  I played games with my run to keep me from returning home only a mile into the run.  Instead of the planned 11:15 pace (about 15 sec/mi faster than my current PR pace for 10K/15K/Half Marathon), I did some mild speedwork.  I did a fast mile to start and then 1/2 mile repeats with a 0.1 mi recovery between each half-mile.  My legs felt like lead and I didn't think in this cold that I could focus on mile repeats.

Mile 1 - 10:46
Next 1/2 mi - 10:19
Next 1/2 mi - 11:06
Next 1/2 mi - 11:05

Now off to try to warm up!  Brrr....

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Kicking This Cold

Waiting to get over this cold I've been fighting for about a week.  I'm hitting that time where I want to start running but I'm really trying to let my body get over this first, not an easy thing!  Plan to try out first run back in the next day or two.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

A Mix of Excitement and Crazy

Since PRing at Sunday's Dallas White Rock Half Marathon, I'm at a weird mix of inspired/motivated/excited and crazy/tired/confused.  Right now, it's 80% inspired, 20% crazy.  I did a 2 mile run the day after the race and another 2 miles last night and legs seem to be recovering. 

I think I'll be at 100% motivated within a week, just not there yet.  I plan to create my 2010 New Year's Fitness Resolutions soon (2009 went well for those) and my Spring 2010 race calendar, and this will help.  I'm definitely a runner that flounders a little without a definite plan to implement so it's time to think through that and lock it in.

Houston Half Marathon is January 17 and will be here before we know it!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

A 13 Mile Warmup to a 0.1 Mile Sprint

Today was the Dallas White Rock Half Marathon, my 8th half marathon of the year.  I went in with a PR of 2:36:21, and a goal that I would really like to break 2:30, but 6 1/2 minutes off one's time is a LOT to ask when I wasn't sure I was trained for that much faster.

In the picture: me on the right with Heels and Hills Run Team members Tammy (left) and Tracy (middle), as we wait in the American Airlines Center before the start of the race!

I took what today gave, and the day was very generous!  After two days of marathon expo work, I wasn't feeling very PR-worthy this morning.  Everything was a little sore and stiff.  But the weather was perfect, high 40s with good cloud cover and the humidity didn't bother me whereas usually it's a problem for me.  It was supposed to warm up which caused an attire dilemma - if it was warming up and I was trying to race this all out, then I would probably need to strip down to a sports bra to stay cool after a little while.  But I'd been training with a fuelbelt so I wouldn't lose any time at the aid stations, especially after having trouble getting liquids at NYC Half.  I opted to NOT wear the fuel belt.

There were corrals A to E, and I was in D.  I lined up near the front of the corral on the LEFT side.  There's a hard left turn about 1/3 of a mile into the race and this allowed me to run the tangent well and not run extra distance taking that curve wide in the large crowd.  I was further up than the 2:30 pace group, felt like by a lot.  I hoped to stay a little ahead of them for as long as possible and eventually drop back and try to stay with them.

I actually fell into my pace really well considering it was definitely a harder pace than I had done before and the first 9 miles have some hills throughout.  But the aid stations were a problem - as a race director, I am now in the tail-end of that bell curve of finish times.  A ton of people fall in the 2 hour to 2 1/2 hour finish time range with outliers on either side.  Now that I'm moving to the 2 1/2 mark, at this race I ran into a lot more problems of what felt like understaffed aid stations, scrambling to keep filling cups, dodging people to sprint to the next table to see if maybe a filled cup existed there.  Sigh.  I can tell from my splits I did a good job recovering from each minor delay but it definitely expended energy I later would have needed around mile 9+.  And of course I had chosen not to wear my fuelbelt and it wasn't warming up so I was kind of cursing myself.  Add to it that the spacing of the aid stations didn't work well with the timing when I like to take my GUs and I could notice a definite half to three-quarters mile of tiredness before I could finally reach an aid station to take my GU with.

I loved seeing so many runner friends those first 4-5 miles.  Granted, they were all passing me, but that's okay. :-)  I appreciated the quick encouragement we would give each other in passing.  Funny moment as we came up to the sports photography location around mile 6, and I heard "Adriene taught me how to do this".  I said, over my shoulder, "Adriene Thompson?"  And I hear a "yeah" to turn and see runner friend Paul who was also surprised to see me!  We were both on a series of comments on Facebook with Adriene about smiling pretty for the cameras - so funny how that came together in that moment!

I was pretty strategic through the miles, and I know it paid off.
1) I didn't go out too fast, but got a little carried away in mile 3 with a slightly faster split...oops.
2) I paid attention to the paces of all the folks ahead of me to plan out my best route forward without weaving a ton or getting packed in around runners of different paces. 
3) I had memorized the route so would inch left or right as needed through the whole series of turns to ensure I took all those curves and corners as tight as possible to minimize covering additional unnecessary distance.

Another strategy came into play on mile 7 through 9, which is a one mile out-and-back where you get to pass a ton of people coming towards you from the other direction.  I spent that time focusing on the faces, looking for friends and cheering as I found each one.  It helped me keep my pace consistent and distracted/encouraged me.

Around mile 9, the 2:30 pace group caught up to me.  It was a bit of a mental hit.  I was starting to feel tired and a little distressed and concerned that the wheels would completely fall off before completing 13.1.  I watched the Christmas Tree and Angel (the costumes the lovely Miss Pat and Miss Wendy were wearing as pace leaders) run away from me and I just tried to keep it all together.

The next mile was hard and then we entered the Katy Trail.  At mile 10.5, the Knox-Henderson intersection with the trail, my husband and 2 year old daughter Marissa were stationed.  They were great motivation to keep on the pace target because I knew they were waiting to greet me and I had given them a set time of when to expect me.  When I came up to them, Marissa was zoned out from watching hundreds of strange runners pass by and I called her name three times as I got close up to her stroller before that sudden recognition came over her face.  It was the funniest look - the look of "Oh wait!  This is someone I know, and know WELL!"  She was happy and I gave her a quick kiss on the forehead.  I told my husband Steve I was on PR pace and had to go and he said "The 2:30 group JUST came through so you are doing GREAT!"  I took back off and it was a nice break from the race.  Maybe lost 20 seconds, as noticeable in that mile's split, but enjoyed seeing them.  This is only the second race of mine that my daughter has come to, and only the third one my husband has.  I've only asked them to come out when I need the motivation badly to push hard!

At mile 11, I caught up to Heels and Hills Run Team member Catherine.  She seemed to be slowing down a little - turns out her PR is just a minute faster than mine, 2:35, so she was angling to stay on PR momentum also.  I told her it was time to "run till we puke", and we took turns pushing each other.  We tried to keep our pace up and I quickly stripped down to my sports bra as I heated up immediately.  That turned out to be my second fastest mile of the race, an 11:21!  At mile marker 12, with 1.1 miles left, I told her I didn't want to puke, I didn't want to run, and I wanted to die.  But we kept going.  I faltered a little with an 11:52, but considering I just wanted to walk then, I'll take it.

The last two to three tenths of a mile we were coming out of the woods, the trail descended into the start of the cheering crowd, and I actually found inside me something I hadn't really ever had before - that last infamous "kick".  The sudden sprint where a runner looks like it's the easiest thing they've ever done.  And I can't believe I found it.  I went from an 11:31 average pace to - from 0.28 out to 0.18 out from the finish, I had a 10:22 pace, and then the last 0.18 to the finish I broke out even further with a 10:13 pace!  Passing a few people in those last crucial yards to get to the finish!

I had finished with a PR time of 2:32:55, 3 and a half minutes off my previous PR!  And while I would have loved to break 2:30, I knew that was a lofty goal going into this and one that could wait to be accomplished in the next couple half marathons.

But what's the most significant to me about the event was that last couple tenth of a mile.  I had done a 13 mile hard paced run WARMUP followed by 0.1 mile SPRINT.  And that showed me how much I had grown as a runner, in the ability to push the boundaries and push my comfort zone of my running.  And I'm most proud of that on this racing day!

Total: 13.28 miles on Garmin.  Final finish time on Garmin: 2:32:55 (actual chip time 2:32:51). 11:31 average pace.

Mile 1: 11:23
Mile 2: 11:21
Mile 3: 11:17
Mile 4: 11:30
Mile 5: 11:31
Mile 6: 11:30
Mile 7: 11:34
Mile 8: 11:23
Mile 9: 11:43
Mile 10: 11:56
Mile 11: 11:43
Mile 12: 11:21
Mile 13: 11:52
Next 0.1 on my watch (I mark a lap when my watch hits 13.1 even if the race is not quite finished): 10:22
Last 0.18 of the race: 10:13

Next up:  Work on weekly mileage as the hardest part of my halfs continues to be tired leg muscles, not cardiac or respiratory weaknesses.  Next race is Houston Half Marathon on January 17!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

White Rock Half - MENTAL WARGAMES 3 - Course Review

It's been an interesting couple of days:
  1. Trying to get over a cold I came down with Tuesday
  2. Toddler daughter has a raging double ear infection
  3. Packing up and preparing for two booths worth of stuff at the expo Friday and Saturday (Road Runners Club of America, and Heels and Hills)
So higher level of stress and busyness with no running since my 7 miles on Sunday. At least my legs will be very fresh, hopefully the cold will be totally gone, and my body favors warmer weather which is currently in the forecast.

Today, I reviewed the course map. I enjoy doing this before races - it prepares me for what's ahead, and it gives me something to focus on as I run through the miles.  Especially as I go into this hoping for a PR of a few minutes off my time.

This is only the second year of this course for the Dallas White Rock Half Marathon. I hope someone else may find these thoughts helpful.
  • Start to the left side of the corral/start area.  Why?  Because just a tiny ways into the race, and you take a HARD left turn.  Always run the tangents.  Why run more distance than you have to?  With a huge crowd, you can't cut that corner short if you are on the outside, and taking up the whole road means the outside is a very large curve around the corner!
  • Don't go out too fast, and I am making myself promise I will avoid being a "dodger", veering around other slower runners.  Save my energy, be strategic, pay attention to the paces of the folks in front of me.
  • First two miles are uphill, mostly gradual but one quick big one at Mile 1.75 - about 50 feet rise.  Mile 2 takes you on McKinney Avenue which has brick/concrete/asphalt/TROLLEY TRACKS?!?  Rather than concrete, or bricks (which all shift individually over time and put more stress on your ankles), shoot for running between the trolley tracks which I think I recall seemed the best surface for me.
  • Mile 2.75, enjoy the quick short downhill rounding the bend from Hall St. to Turtle Creek Blvd.  My body doesn't really warm up until mile 3, so muster a "Yeah!  I wanna be here!" inner cry even if in the claustrophobia and manic-ness of the crowd and stiffness still of the legs, I'm not sure at that moment that I really want to be. :-)
  • Mile 3.0, now a mile on Turtle Creek Blvd.  Relax, take deep breaths, enjoy the beautiful landscaping, wide open areas, large shade trees.  Look around and smell the proverbial roses.  Laugh that a year ago, when I was not training routinely, I did this race and yelled out to a runner friend spectating along here, "I don't know what I'm doing here!"  Slight uphill continues.
  • Miles 4 and 5, criss-crossing streets of pretty homes.  Slight uphill continues, about 75 feet rise over 2 miles. 
  • Right before Mile 6.0, you cross Central Expressway a.k.a. Highway 75.  For someone of my slower speed, this is that moment that you realize how spread out the field is.  Mile 9.5 is located just on the other side of the overpass we are all crossing.  As compared to my approx. 11:30 pace, the people I'm seeing on the other side of the road are 9.5 miles in with an average pace of about 7:15 - too awesome!
  • Mile 6.0 is uneventful except for the intersections when you can see runners one street down at mile 9.  Elevation is fairly flat.
  • Mile 7.0 starts a 2 mile out-and-back jaunt.  Don't cheat here anyway, but also because the split chip marker is often in sections of a race like this to catch those who would violate basic racing ethics.  I loved this out-and-back last year as it ended up being two of my best miles.  There's something about running head-on into a crowd of runners in the opposite lane that makes you recheck your posture, gait, and run strong!  I need to track down half marathoners I know who run a pace between 9:15 min/mi, up to 14 min/mi, so I have friendly faces to focus on looking for!  Flat through these two miles.
  • Mile 9.0 to 9.5 - don't trip on a speed hump!  They have them periodically on this street, McCommas Street, so don't zone out!  Here's a pic of the speed hump from Google Street View... Run in the middle of the road as I also seem to recall pretty good banking on both sides - don't run on a slant.
  • Mile 10.0 - enter the Katy Trail.  Mantra - it's all downhill from here.  Don't go crazy - keep the consistent pace, maybe increase a little.  75 feet drop over one mile.
  • Mile 10.5 - band and good spectator spot.  Hubby and baby will be here to cheer me on.  Gather the energy from the crowd because it's about to get a lot lonelier (wish I'd known that last year).
  • Miles 11-13 - At my pace, we're all getting pretty spread out at this point, and the bad part about the Katy Trail usage through here is that there are very few spectator spots.  Mile 12, assess how I'm feeling, see if I can ramp it up.
  • Mile 13.0 to 13.1 - Finish strong!
My personal mantras and preparations for this course.  May not agree with your assessment or personal mantras, but hope this was helpful to some since it helped me!

Course Map PDF from race website with the half marathon's elevation chart:

Course Map laid onto a street map from Dallas News but only marathon elevation chart:

See you at the finish line!  Happy Running!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Know When to Adjust a Goal

I had two upcoming goals:
1) try to hit 500 miles this year (I'm now at 410 miles)
2) try to break 2 1/2 hours in the half marathon SOON. Originally a New Year's Resolution at the beginning of '09, I now think it's a dream deferred for a couple months from me.

I wanted to hit 500 miles to keep my weekly mileage up and stay motivated to get in a few more runs. I was doing great, although it was still a very aggressive goal. Now I'm backing off.

My fibromyalgia has made my muscles slow to adjust to this past week's super cold temps (high 20s to mid 30s). Where were the few weeks of running in the low forties that I was supposed to get first?

I know I'm having trouble because I'm just more sore (than usual) everywhere. And especially in injury prone places like my Achilles and shins.

I ran 2 miles last night. It was in the low 30s. I admit I ran harder than normal because I was cold, but at mile 1.5 my Achilles had tensed up really bad and I had to stop and stretch more for a little while.

With a race next Sunday, areas of muscular weakness, and this cold weather, I just need to scale back a little. I'll keep adding on the mileage but not as high as my original goals. I think keeping up the runs and a few chiropractic adjustments and my body will start to acclimate.

But at the same time, it has me a little depressed for the upcoming White Rock Half. I am personally hoping for weather in the mid-forties at race start. Any colder right now and everything stiffens up! We'll see what the day brings.

Monday, November 30, 2009


How can I tell that I'm running a lot more already than I was a year ago? I only own one pair of running tights. After a cold gusty north wind all during my 5 mile run last night, I went out online to buy more.

Of course the experience keeps me nervous about the weather coming up. A runner friend had referred to the 15 DAY FORECAST already, but it's just so far out that why bother looking? It could change so wildly. While out there buying running tights, I also bought a good pair of Pearl Izumi running gloves with a wind mitt, in case White Rock is literally freezing cold this year.

In the meantime, I'm looking to 2010 as a reminder that this half marathon is part of a step of increasing my weekly mileage to get ready for half marathons every other week through most of the spring. With finishing this year out with 8 halfs, I plan on doing 10 half marathons in '10. Already signed up for Houston (1/17/10). Now it looks like I'll do Miracle Match Half in Waco two weeks later (1/31/10), then maybe Austin Half two weeks after that (2/14/10), then Cowtown Half two weeks after that (2/28/10).

I'm putting together two teams for the Texas Independence Relay the following week (3/5-3/6/10). At still 3 months out, there are only 9 out of 24 original spots still open if anyone wants to come have a ton of fun on a 40 leg, 200-mile weekend running adventure - info here... and then email me for more detailed info if you are interested!

Then Dallas Rock N Roll Half (3/14/10) - only because I was one of the lucky ones who only had to pay $50, I would never advocate $85 or it's about to jump to $110 I think - eek. Big D Half 2010 will be my 4th time to run that race, and that's April 11, 2010.

So 6 halfs before the end of April. Not a bad start to 2010.

In the meantime, leaning towards taking it easy at White Rock and trying to shave a minute or two off my PR, rather than try to take 6 1/2 minutes off. There's so many halfs in the spring to keep pushing that PR line!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Thinking about 7 Half Marathons of 2009, and 1 Yet To Come

So far 7 halfs this year complete and one to go. It's been my best running year yet, but I hope not my best running year ever.

Thought it was a good moment to review 2009 so far...

Starting Point
Came into the year with a PR of 2:54:25 set at the Dallas White Rock Half Marathon December 14, 2008, just before the start of '09.

* PRed at 4 of the 7 half marathons
* Total of 18 minutes, 4 seconds taken off of my time!
* Nasty weather of all sorts (OKC Half was humid and windy and rainy, NYC Half was New York HEAT WAVE, Cowtown Half was super duper cold)

Progress Through 2009
Half #1: 02/15/2009 - Austin Half - 2:50:34 - PR! but horribly sick to my stomach the whole time. Blog entry here...

Half #2: 02/28/2009 - The Cowtown Half - 2:42:40 - PR! but super duper cold, aid station problem, hard surface for my poor feetsies. Blog entry here...

Half #3: 04/05/2009 - Big D Half - 2:42:13 - PR! good race day! Blog entry here...

Half #4: 04/26/2009 - Oklahoma City Memorial Half - 2:55:26 - nasty race day weather. Blog entry here...

Half #5: 05/17/2009 - North Trail Half - 2:48:32 - made some race day mistakes but learned some good lessons. Blog entry here...

Half #6: 08/16/2009 - NYC Half - 2:43:20 - amazing experience but NY heat wave and logistical problems kept me from a PR. As I've stated, it was a good race day personally but not a good day to race. Blog entry here...

Half #7: 11/08/2009 - Fort Worth Half - 2:36:21 - PR! Blog entry here...

One more half for the year and super excited! Two weeks to Dallas White Rock Half Marathon!

White Rock Half - Mental Wargames Part 1

Decisions, decisions... what will the next half marathon (#8 for '09, Dallas White Rock Half Marathon) hold for me?

White Rock Half Marathon 2008 - 2:54:25 (a new PR at that time)
Current PR (Fort Worth Half, 11/8/09) - 2:36:23 - 11:56 pace
Eventual Goal - 2:30:00 - 11:27 pace
Yesterday I ran a new Personal Record at a 15K, an 11:36 pace for 9.3 miles.

Yes, runner friends tell me to not think about it and just run a good race on race day, and yes, I want to run whatever the day gives me. But I do believe that many of the half PRs I've had this year are more about racing smart than they have been about skill level (that is, slow runner skill level). All my mental strategizing typically ends up paying off if the day I am given is otherwise a good racing day (great weather, no tummy problems, aid stations have enough fluids, etc).

So the question I will be considering the next 2 weeks is... is hitting 2:30 feasible at the December 13 White Rock Half Marathon? If not, what's the goal? And I'll be documenting my thoughts as I go. Begin the two week period of MENTAL WARGAMES! :-)

I do have Houston Half Marathon on January 17. And many more half's next year. Which is the better strategy:

1) focus on taking a couple minutes off my PR at White Rock and then a few more minutes off at Houston
Pro: good mental boost from possible success of a PR at White Rock to help mental facilities at Houston
Con: what if the weather sucks at Houston? Houston 2009 was HOT! Not the worst in the world, there will be more halfs, but delayed gratification of goal success for sure.

2) shoot for 2:30 at White Rock.
Compared to my 15K yesterday, that means 8 seconds per mile faster that whole distance and then hold that pace for 3.8 more miles.

Pro: Duh! Hitting a huge goal finish time!
Con: While 8 seconds per mile doesn't feel like much, it might be too draining to maintain and I may find out it was a bad idea by mile 10 or 11, and then I may end up walking the last mile or two.

Yesterday I thought I would go for option 1. Today, I'm reconsidering option 2 because I found out my friend Wendy is one of the 2:30 pace leaders at the race, and a friendly face the whole way doesn't hurt, not one bit. Wendy is one of those people with a realistic yet positive attitude about things - a good person to be around when shooting for the goalposts!

I've asked her if the pace teams will be either a) running faster than the pace needed for 2:30 finish and then walking each aid station thus averaging out to the 2:30 finish time pace, or b) running the pace needed for 2:30 consistently throughout each mile, mile after mile. She said she'll find out at their meeting Wednesday night. This could make the decision for me, because I don't think I could hang with choice (a) there.

Hmmm, there will be many more thoughts to come in the next 2 weeks!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

New PR, 2nd Place in Division, Beautiful Splits, Ran the WHOLE WAY!

This morning I ran the Turkey Run Off 15K put on by the Plano Pacers. I had a couple thoughts / plans for this race, and I was not expecting they would all pay off as well as they did. The end result is that this was a very significant race for me in many ways.

One goal was to practice with a fuel belt. Never really used one before, but I had decided that this would be a good trial run before the White Rock Half in two weeks. As I explained to a faster runner after the race, when you are my pace, the first couple water stations are super duper crowded and then the next 6 aid stations have soaked concrete covered in 10,000 crunched, slippery cups. And after having problems getting water and Gatorade at the NYC Half in August, I thought it would be a good way to make sure I don't lose any time at the race and increase my chances of setting a new Personal Record. This ended up being a wise decision to try out the fuel belt as the third water stop on this course had backed up and left by the time I got there - no bueno.

Another goal was to practice consistent pacing. I had done this at the Fort Worth Half Marathon and it had worked out very well with an end result of an 11:56 pace. Interestingly enough, my 15K PR before today was an 11:50 pace. So my goal was to start at a consistent 11:40 pace if the day felt right and see how I felt as the race progressed.

Finally, since I had the fuel belt, I thought I would try to run the whole race with no walk breaks. I had been pretty thrilled at the Fort Worth Half Marathon on November 8 when I had run the whole race except for walks at every water stop. So this would be my first non-stop 9 miles ever. And I actually was able to do it! (And my hips and thighs are reminding me that I did it as I write this - ouch)

I went out a little too fast, easy to do at any running club race. These smaller races of a couple hundred people, mostly running club members, tend to be a faster crowd. Add to it a short distance option (5K), and you find that most people my pace (11-12 min/mi) choose the 5K rather than the 15K. Slowed it down within a quarter mile, learning to pull it back quicker every race now.

Pretty course through woods and around small ponds, up into a neighborhood. Although we wound all over each other and a few runners ahead of me ended up off course for a short bit, doing some extra steps, because it was a little confusing.

In the end, it all came together for a PR of a minute off my 15K time, with final time of 1:49:22. Average pace: 11:36. Good enough for hardware - 2nd place in the Athena division! Of course, first place went to my faster training partner and carpooler Sarah - congratulations, Sarah! I gotta stop going to races that have an Athena division with her because she will ALWAYS beat me. :-)

Look at these beautiful splits:
Mile 1: 11:41
Mile 2: 11:34
Mile 3: 11:35
Mile 4: 11:37
Mile 5: 11:41
Mile 6: 11:40
Mile 7: 11:36
Mile 8: 11:28
Mile 9: 11:41
Next 0.3 miles: 11:15
Last 0.13 miles: 11:24 (lapped my Garmin when I had hit 9.3 miles, total Garmin GPS distance on my watch was 9.43 miles)

Next up: Dallas White Rock Half Marathon on December 13. I would love another new half marathon PR...we'll have to see what happens. I've been adding to my weekly mileage to get some leg strength for the 13.1 miles and I think that's succeeding. With good weather and racing smart, it could be a great race day.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Setting One Goal to Help Hit Another Goal

So my goal of hitting a 2 1/2 hour half marathon was set on New Year's Day 2009, and now we're approaching the end of the year. Of the 24 minute improvement the goal required, I've shaved 17 and a half minutes off my half marathon time. In other words, my half marathon became 11% faster!

2009 Workout History

About 3 weeks ago, and I'm ashamed I never remembered to post this, I reviewed my workouts for the year and decided that I would add a goal. First, here have been my monthly mile totals and resulting weekly average mileage.

Total Miles Weekly Avg Mileage
OCTOBER 2009 - Miles: 29.2, Weekly Avg: 6.6
SEPTEMBER 2009 - Miles: 34.1, Weekly Avg: 7.9
AUGUST 2009 - Miles: 44.3, Weekly Avg: 10.0
JULY 2009 - Miles: 54.4, Weekly Avg: 12.3
JUNE 2009 - Miles: 41.3, Weekly Avg: 9.6
MAY 2009 - Miles: 25.4, Weekly Avg: 5.7
APRIL 2009 - Miles: 29.6, Weekly Avg: 6.9
MARCH 2009 - Miles: 16.7, Weekly Avg: 3.8
FEBRUARY 2009 - Miles: 32.2, Weekly Avg: 8.1
JANUARY 2009 - Miles: 35.7, Weekly Avg: 8.1

I did not train regularly in January through May. Those totals are basically just half marathons or other races I participated in. June through August I established the habit of routine running, about 3 times a week. That was so good for me to do.

After a hard half marathon in New York City in August, I worked more on pace and less on distance in September to change it up. Race directing and then 3 weeks of off-and-on cold virus dropped my mileage significantly for the end of September and all of October.

The Goal

So a few weeks ago I set up the goal to hit 500 miles run this year. It would basically mean I would need to take my weekly avg mileage to 18 miles through the remaining 7-8 weeks of the year. Even at my highest mileage month this year, I had only hit a weekly avg of 12.3 miles. So lofty goal.

But I also recognized at my last half marathon that my legs feel tired late in the race. And how can I get faster on my long distance if I don't have the leg strength or endurance. That weakness is what slows me down by the end of the 13.1 miles.

So this goal is all about getting more miles on my legs.

Current Goal Status

I'm happy to report I've been plugging away, the goal has done the job of keeping me motivated, and I have 110.6 miles left for the year to hit "500 in '09". Hoping this goal will pay off with the intended consequences of helping me stay strong on the half marathon distance and take a few more minutes off my time!

Monday, November 9, 2009

The Most I've Ever Run Over the Course of a Race

This morning was the Fort Worth Half Marathon (half marathon #7 for the year for me). It was also the most I've EVER run in a race (only walk breaks were the aid stations). And in a day where I didn't set out to "race", it yielded great rewards.

I had been repeating the simple mantra I had written out for myself all week - "I Refuse To Psych Myself Out". Simple, huh? I had a laundry list of things that weren't lining it up to be a terrific race for me. Muscle tweaks, low mileage after being sick in October, etc. I was concerned the weather was going to be unbearably humid. So I had my mantra and planned to just "get the mileage in". It was just a 13.1 mile training outing.

The temperature waiting for the start was kinda cool. The breeze made you just a bit TOO cold in a short sleeve shirt just standing around. I was still concerned about hidden humidity that would rear its ugly head a few miles in, and I debated whether or not to just stick with wearing a short sleeve shirt or go with only the sports bra. I decided to keep the shirt on.

We start the race, small group of a couple hundred of us, 20 miler racers mixed in with our half marathon race. I spend the whole race trying to keep a good easy pace, enjoy the scenery, remember to smile and relax through the miles, and never let my heart get beating too fast or get out of breath. I watch my Garmin like a hawk, as I work on all the consistent pacing I've tried to learn the last several months.

I only walked at the water stations, and this is something easy to gloss over, but I keep trying to remind myself after the fact what a big difference that was for me. And how hard that was, especially in the later miles when my brain just wanted me to walk so bad! And I repeated my mantra, because it was so easy as I ran and ran and ran to think that there was no way I could keep that up, that I would fizzle out just 5K from the end, and end up walking all of the last few miles.

By mile 4, the humidity was getting to me, and I found myself down to a hot pink sports bra. The funny point about that is how I never saw any other woman in just a sports bra, until right around Mile 10. A 20-miler racer, fast gal, young 20-something, passed by me quickly, and she was wearing just the sports bra up top. Skinny girl, more of the stereotyped runner physique, lacking a lot of curves, and each vertebrae of her back visible to me. This is NOT what I look like, far from. And I was proud of myself for having the confidence to just do what I needed to do to have a good race day and not worry about how it looked or how I looked in that moment.

The course went on and off sidewalk and crushed limestone trail. I'm still SO not a fan of the trail portions - it's harder on my gait, my pronation, and the cushioning on the balls of my feet. But I think I mentally handled it better than the September race where I had first encountered it because I knew to expect it this time!

Thank you to Steve Lucas and Suzann McLemore, both of which are a similar pace to me and were both doing the half also. It was great leapfrogging with them throughout the race, as both are very friendly and none of us take this so seriously that we can't share a little encouragement with whoever we are passing at the moment. Suzann and I talked about how close we were at each encounter in miles 9 through 12, and it was great to keep the focus on just how far we'd come and then tricking the mind with a nonchalant, "We can do this, it's JUST a 5K left." (not like we've just finished 10 miles at that point, right?)

In the end, I managed to clomp clomp clomp along at pretty even splits, another thing I am very pleased about for the day. And found a kick at the end - taking myself from an average around 11:45 pace to running a 10:47 pace in the last 0.2 miles!!!

Before today: Old PR - 2:42:13 (Big D Half, April 2009)
Today's race: NEW PR - 2:36:23
That's a 6 minute, 50 second improvement! It means I've taken 18 minutes off my half marathon time since the beginning of the year, and I am so much closer to my 2009 New Year's Resolution to get to a 2 1/2 hour half marathon (24 minute improvement needed when I made the goal).

Mile splits:
Mile 1 - 11:29
Mile 2 - 11:40
Mile 3 - 11:50
Mile 4 - 11:59
Mile 5 - 11:28
Mile 6 - 11:46
Mile 7 - 11:47
Mile 8 - 11:43
Mile 9 - 11:39 (new 15K PR: first 0.3 of that mile was 3:31, bringing 15K total to 1:48:51 - 1 min, 30 sec off previous PR)
Mile 10 - 12:01
Mile 11 - 11:37
Mile 12 - 11:53
Mile 13 - 12:10
Mile 13.1 - 11:45
Mile 13.3 - 10:47
Course measured 13.3 on my Garmin.

Next Up
Keep my weekly mileage up for the next month, then...
White Rock Half Marathon - 12/13/2009 (half marathon #8 for the year!)

Thursday, November 5, 2009

I Refuse to Psych Myself Out

I refuse to psych myself out, although this week it would be easy to do.

I have a half marathon scheduled to run on Sunday, November 8, in Fort Worth. I have three things potentially working against me:

1) Lower mileage than I would have liked the last 6 weeks

With race directing late in September and sick for a few weeks in October, my running... well... it's been mostly absent.

Here's my running by week for the last two months and you'll see what I mean:

Aug. 30-Sept. 5: 9.5 mi
Sept. 6-12: 17.0 mi (includes last run of more than 5 miles, a 15K race on Labor Day)
Sept. 13-19: 4.6 mi
Sept. 20-26: 8.0 mi
Sept. 27-Oct. 3: 0.0 mi (race directing, and then got sick immediately after the race with a bad cold)
Oct. 4-10: 9.0 mi (thought I had gotten over the cold)
Oct. 11-17: 0.0 mi (was SO not over that cold and relapsed again badly)
Oct. 18-24: 10.0 mi
Oct. 25-31: 10.2 mi
Nov. 1-7: 6.7 mi so far for the week

So for a half coming up, my mileage has not been ideal the last 6 weeks. And coming off being sick, I wasn't able to build back up the weekly mileage the way I would have liked. There is still time before White Rock on Dec. 13.

2) One of those little physical "tweaks"

Late last week, I developed a knot in one of my shins (referred pain from Achilles and plantar fasciitis problems I constantly fight). I've had a hard time working out getting into the sports chiropractor's office between their packed patient list and my own schedule. I've been best friends with my foam roller for the last week, been icing regularly, stretching extra, and after taking it easy the last two days, it is feeling a little better. I also get to go to the chiropractor tomorrow and hope to get the last bits of that knot broken up and any fluid buildup drained in time for Sunday.

3) Mysterious "off" feeling

The last week I've been having some problems with feeling particularly tired, lethargic, lightheaded when I stand up, a little dizzy at times. Normally I would question my current nutrition or hydration, but I've been thinking about that a lot and at least nothing seems more off than normal (my nutrition and hydration are never ideal). I'm continuing to pay attention to it and am just staying cognizant of that feeling of something just being a little "off" going into Sunday.

But why am I not freaking out? Because I'm not going to put pressure on myself. Of course I would like to have a good race day. But as a wise runner has taught me, I'm just going to take what that day gives me and do the best I can within that day's conditions and given what's been happening. And that's really the best I can do!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Oh, the horror!

It was a dark and stormy night... Yes, it's Halloween week and that's how this story appropriately goes, so why not stick with the theme.

Like a new admittee to the Bellevue psych ward, it was agreed this evening that I am crazy. About 5 pm, my training partner called and said, "I'm not running!" I was surprised and asked, "Why not?"

She replied, "Have you been outside? It's raining, and not that light rain stuff, and it's a cold rain."

I was extra nonchalant. I'd been on 4 months of mental-toughness-and-running-confidence-building training workouts. I'd run in rain a handful of times the last month and a half. No biggie.

6:30 to 7 pm, my husband starts in. "Are you sure you are going out in this?" "Oh, yeah, I'll be fine. I've been running in rain. Plus, it could be like this on a race day - better get used to it."

But it was pouring rain, and hard-blowing wind, all coming in from the North, and it said 46 degree wind chill but there's no way that accounts for how freakishly icy that rain was.

Stepped outside, and, yeah, discovered immediately that cold cold rain. I headed south from the house, not thinking about how this was the easiest direction because of how the rain and wind was coming down. It's just that we're on the north side of an isolated neighborhood so I always head south. My goal was to do 2-3 miles, since it wasn't fun weather. I went one mile south on the main road of the neighborhood, and I'm sure everyone in their cars thought I was crazy. Since I knew I wasn't doing too many miles, I tried to move fast. Finished mile one in 10:33.

I turned around to head north and WHOOSH! Almost took my breath away and I had to look down to keep that icy rain out of my eyes. Miserable. I forced a new goal on myself. Mentally kicking and screaming, I made myself the deal that if I could do the second mile no slower than the time of the first mile plus 15 seconds, I would stop at two miles, otherwise I needed to do a third mile. Heading that mile back north was just horrible. And with every single neighborhood street intersection, I seemed to manage to leap right into the deep puddle hidden there off the curb. Normally my neighborhood is kinda dark anyway, and the street lights give just enough light that I can run, but tonight those puddles were invisible. I was hitting so many of these puddles, soaking myself up to my ankles, that I started laughing each time I hit one, try as I might to avoid them and visually seek them out ahead of time. My legs each felt like I was carrying an extra 100 pounds in my shoes, with the amount of water I was now transporting with them!

About a quarter mile out and I was becoming an obsessed Garmin watcher because my time was not looking good. It was looking like I might have to do that dreaded third mile. I kicked it into high gear and finished mile two in 10:44. 11 seconds slower than the first mile - yes!

Yes, today was "only" two miles to most distance runners, but I felt as proud of the accomplishment of this mentally tough run as I would running a half marathon most days. And while it was 2 miles at 10:38 pace, that was given some nasty weather conditions, and on evaluation at the finish, I felt like it was easily the physical equivalent today of another few miles at my slower goal race pace of 11:30, so it was a good confidence booster. Although I don't feel the need to do this sort of run again for a while, so if the weather could clear up please, yeah, I'd really appreciate it!

Happy Running!

Friday, October 23, 2009

An Upsetting Article in the New York Times

I was really bothered by this article. It brings up the whole "intimidation factor" new runners, slow runners, and walkers have to deal with from some in the sport. I think everyone deserves to celebrate every moment they are getting and staying active and healthy, and that's the spirit and vision behind Heels and Hills, an organization near and dear to be heart.

Read the article here, titled "Plodders Have a Place, But Is It in a Marathon?"

You can read all the comments Heels and Hills fans have had about this article, here on our fan page on Facebook...

Sunday, October 11, 2009

A few days on and now a few days off...

After spending two weeks in the dregs of race preparations and then sick with a horrible cold, I started running again last Monday.

I set my new plan on increasing my weekly mileage some and not so much focus on speed. I felt like my body just needed more miles if I'm going to improve my half marathon time.

So the next three days went like this...
Monday - 2 miles. Avg pace 10:53. Splits: 10:47, 10:59.
Tuesday - 3 miles. Avg pace 10:42. Splits: 10:23, 10:45, 10:57
Wednesday - 4 miles. Avg pace 11:19. Splits: 11:10, 11:17, 11:25, 11:26

Thursday I relapsed back into feeling awfully sick. So I haven't been able to run again. I didn't get a long run in this weekend, so that's a little upsetting. I'm going to wait until I'm feeling good again before I run. I don't want to start back again too early and not give my body the time it needs to rest.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Finally Back After Two Weeks Off

Last run was the one where I achieved my New Year's Resolution of 32 minutes in a 5K. It was also almost two weeks ago. Back on September 22.

I spent the rest of that week neck deep in preparations for the Heels and Hills and Him Half Marathon. And it was a ton of fun to put on this inaugural race on Sept. 27, but a lot of work. I came home from that race completely drained, which is probably why I couldn't tell I was getting sick until it hit me like a freight train the day after the race. Probably also a big reason why the recovery for a bad cold was so long.

Tonight was my first run back. I'm not one of those that itches and tweaks out if I don't run every single day - I don't know if I think my body could take that anyway. I've been doing well to try to do 3 days a week the past 4 months or so. But mid-Saturday, I did finally start to have that itch to want to run. Probably because I had a planned half marathon on October 25.

But I waited until tonight and I'm so glad I did. No sniffles during the run, lungs felt good, a little bit of a cough afterward for a couple minutes, but that was it. 2 miles at a good pace (average 10:53) - mile 1 in 10:47, mile 2 in 10:59.

The main point though - I'm VERY glad I waited to go on this first run back. I see too many Type A runners that get back to it too soon and end up with their sickness limping along for another couple weeks.

Next up - figure out what I'm going to do between now and October 25 and decide if I will indeed do the half marathon race on October 25. I still would like to see if I can PR my half marathon time (2:42) and break 2 1/2 by the end of the year. So how best do I spend my running time to get there? Add to that the extra work of the next 3 weeks of timing 3 races, one each weekend. And then cheering stations for Heels and Hills being planned at events the two following weekends.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

New Year's Resolution Realized

One of my 3 New Year's Resolutions set at the beginning of 2009 was to break 32 minutes in the 5K. Note that I went into this year with a PR of 35 1/2. So I was really challenging myself to take 3 1/2 minutes off just a 3.1 mile course - not an easy task.

Tonight the weather was great. The cold front had come through, and it was in the low 60s. A nice change from my 87 degree, very muggy run the night before. This was my third day in a row to run. Note that I very very rarely run two days in a row. And so that means I never run 3 days in a row. And last night was a speed workout right before the lightning show that a thunderstorm brought with it.

I stayed strong through the run and while I got nervous throughout mile 2, I started saying to myself all through mile 3 that I thought I could at least get closer than I had all summer to that 32 minute goal, so I decided to go for it to get to that glorious total of 3.1.

I had switched again from the time screen to the screen that had distance so would not see my final time the second I finished. I saw 3.10 come up and I hit the start/stop button - the "Timer Stopped" note came up and I slammed to a stop, thought I was dying. I started walking back to the house and I flipped my Garmin GPS one screen over where Time was one of the displayed items. It said "32:00". What?!? I laughed... loudly... in the dark.... in the middle of a bunch of neighbors' houses... for about 2 minutes. And then I cried for about 20 seconds.

When I walked through the door, I showed my husband the time screen first, and then showed him the distance screen. He was so happy for me. We grabbed the camera to take a picture. I don't care if it was a PR or a goal achieved in a race or on a training run - it counts either way because IT HAPPENED. I think it's more awesome that it happened without a finish line, without a physical destination, that's harder mentally in my book, because I'm typically less motivated.

Mile 1 - 10:16
Mile 2 - 10:25
Mile 3 - 10:22
Last 0.1 - 9:40 pace

A 10:20 average, 32 minutes for a 5K distance! Today was a GREAT running day!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Back on the Horse... and an Important Discovery

After an absolutely horrible run yesterday, I needed a good run. And I got one!

Hubby and I reviewed the doppler radar around 7:10. Did I have time to do 3 miles before the thunderstorms got to us? Very important especially because I live in a residential development surrounded by open space and fields. We thought if I got moving right away, I MIGHT have time for 3 miles. We agreed that if it looked like it was getting bad outside especially fast, he and the baby would hop in the car and come and get me. Because I was afraid I could not get 3 miles done if I did small loops right near the house - and definitely not if the run was as bad as the day before.

Ugly weather in this time before the storm - 87 degrees and 61% humidity. Feels more awful after the last couple weeks of cooler or wetter weather to deacclimate from the hot summer weather. When I started running, I could tell in the first tenth of a mile I was feeling pretty good. Over the next 1/3 of a mile, a problem that had been bothering me for weeks suddenly became crystal clear. I had been having bad pain in the middle of my upper back, between the shoulder blades, midway into some of my runs. My chiropractor kept telling me I was probably hunching my shoulders. It never really felt like that while I was running though. Tonight I suddenly felt like I was overbending at the elbow, and when I relaxed my arms in the elbow-area (best I can describe this) and swung my forearms more perpendicularly to my body, it felt a lot better. I'm eager to try this for a longer distance and see if this change in form improves things.

I ended up turning around a little short of a mile from the house because I did start to get really worried about the weather. I could see quite the light storm. Running along the edge of an empty field with a drain basin on my other side, I was getting nervous and just ran hard.

Back at the house, I had done 1.78 miles. It was a fast run for me, but I was really sad it was over. I would have loved to see what I had for a full 5K. I was on pace for my goal for 2009 to break a 32 minute 5K. There will be other days...we'll see what they bring.

Total: 1.78 miles, 10:14 avg pace

1 mi: 9:56 pace
0.05 mi: 45 second walk break
0.73 mi: 10:19 pace

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Remembering Where I am and Where I have been

After my horrendous run this morning, I spent some time reflecting and here's where I finally came to and how I feel so much better.

My problem today was completely tied to my chronic condition (fibromyalgia coupled with groups of doctors diagnosing lumbar facet syndrome and osteoarthritis), no pace would have left me with a smile on my face. Every day I'm doing so much more than the doctors ever expected, and if I have a bad run every once in a while, I'm already winning, because that's way less bad runs than a ton in my condition. Many with fibromyalgia are never this active. Even the pregnancy gave me a lot of problems!

I've been sick since I was 13, but this month celebrates 9 years since I chose to stop taking any and all painkillers, completely managing my condition by mind over pain. Thank you to my running friends for the reminder that it was just one run, which is far more significant to me with what I've outlined. The days when the pain is worse are the days it's harder to remember that. Today's run was given to me today to remind me of how much more active I am than years ago, how much more active than I was ever supposed to be, where I have been, and why I'm where I am now - and why a bad run is still success!

What do you do when your confidence is shattered?

I had the WORST run I have had in many months this morning. I've been having a flareup of my fibromyalgia condition which means every muscle is super tight and super sore (simplest way to explain it). So I did NOT want to run this morning. I slept in until 9 am, then forced myself to put on the running clothes, and made it out the door a little after 9:30.

It was 76 degrees and 88% humidity, but you couldn't have convinced me that it wasn't the same 95 degree weather from a month ago. I guess the last couple weeks of cooler weather and rain had de-acclimated me from the heat. I had walked out the door without a purpose for the run, whether the purpose is in the pace, the method, or the distance. I decided to just try to do a few miles at an "easy" pace. But my legs were SO heavy and each movement was painful, and today it felt like nothing was easy. I had to use a 1 to 10 scale assessment of my cardio and respiratory difficulty during the run to decide what was easy. Because my muscles were just not having it. My legs were dead, I negative self-talked the entire time, I was just miserable.

I could have stopped at 2 and felt like, "Well, a year ago I would have just not even gone out for this run." But I kept changing my route on the fly so that I couldn't be back to the house until right around 3 miles. I did 3.1 miles at 11:21 avg pace.

My confidence has been shattered after 3.1 miles of bad self-talk. You hope you can run long enough to think yourself out of that bad place in your mind but I couldn't today. I have a few running goals for the year and right now they all seem unachievable.

While Heels and Hills and Him Half Marathon next Sunday is a small race compared to some I've tackled in the past (1300 versus 4500 of the DRC Half) and this is a low-key event, there's still lots of little details to handle in the next week. But inbetween the work I have to complete today, I'm going to find some time to think about my goals for this fall and how I'm going to achieve them or alter their timeframe, and I think that reflective time will hopefully help restore a lot of the confidence I felt like I lost today.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Run in Bad Weather = Great Day to Do Speed Work

Yesterday's run was thwarted when my husband had to work late. This morning's attempt at getting that run was thwarted when my toddler (who just started school a week ago) was crying a ton and having a horrible day so I went to pick her up from school early to have some extra mommy comfort time.

So tonight I was determined to get the run in. But husband wasn't home at a great time then I had to get the dinner I'd made out on the table, give Marissa a bath, and get her to bed. Somehow managed to still make it out the door about 7:40.

In the hour before the run, I didn't look up the weather and I didn't look out the window. I didn't want to know what it was like outside. I didn't want any excuse to cancel the run.

Stepping outside it was a steady rain. I thought, "This won't be so bad." Then I notice the wind. The first half of the run most of its at my back and there's still a little light outside. I had decided to do mega-speedwork and try something I hadn't done before. Shoot for 9:30 pace for 3 minutes then recovery walk for 1 minute and then repeat. Try to do this at least three times.

I'm staying on track, better than 9:30, and then I hit the turnaround and thought "This was a really really bad idea." The wind has really picked up and it's right in my face on the way back. It's gotten dark. At times I can't see anything. It feels like icicles stinging my face, like I'm being attacked the entire time. With the headwind and how heavy my feet feel after sloshing through heavy puddles, I feel like I'm running through oatmeal. I can't seem to stay on 9:30 pace or read my watch half the time so I give myself a little allowance against the 9:30 goal with the whole "oatmeal running" "severe weather" thing.

I finish and come through the front door of my house looking like a drowned rat. And I'm really happy with what I did. AND I need to learn where the setting is to turn on the little indiglo light on my Garmin GPS so that it stays on, because I can't imagine my form was great having to constantly hit the light button to check pace or how close I was to the next start or finish of an interval.

Weather check right after the run...
69 degrees

1.44 miles total in 15 minutes = 10:26 pace

1st interval - 3 minutes - 9:32 pace
1 minute walk break (17:16 pace)
2nd interval - 3 minutes - 9:18 pace
1 minute walk break (17:01 pace)
3rd interval - 3 minutes - 9:41 pace
1 minute walk break (14:16 pace)
4th interval - 3 minutes - 9:56 pace

Monday, September 14, 2009

Now There's a Real Runner

I ran three miles Saturday, and a 5K race on Sunday. Both times in pretty good rain. For some reason, humidity is just a killer for me. Many think the rain is refreshing, but I am just sweltering in any of my normal running clothes. Hence, within the first half mile of both runs I was down to my sports bra with my shirt tucked into the top of my shorts on one corner, flapping off to the side of me as I ran.

It's so funny to run in my neighborhood passed by cars during my Thursday and Saturday runs in pouring rain. Here I am, a kinda chunky girl, in a sports bra, in pouring rain, running through the streets. And my neighborhood's main street has those little reflector bumps separating the two lanes. And as a car passes by you hear "bump bump bump bump" for just a second as someone is obviously looking at the pedestrian on the sidewalk they are passing and swerves a little into the other lane. I notice that on runs in the neighborhood with friends even in nice weather. Everyone's just a little nosy and curious. You know there's a moment of "Hey, is that a neighbor I know?" And in just a sports bra and shorts, I think you just LOOK like a more serious runner, so the other common reaction happens from them of "Wow, there's a real runner, out in the pouring rain like it's nothing!" In the car, they don't know if you are going 6 min/mi or 14 min/mi, they don't know if you are miserable or enjoying the weather - they just know they aren't out in that rain and wind and you are. And most of them would NEVER be out in that.

So as I hear that "bump bump bump" in the road, I smile. Because that's when you know, whatever your finish time or pace in today's run, today you are ONE STEP AHEAD of so many out there.

Monday, September 7, 2009

A Test of Will, Not a Test of Speed

Today's race day was not given to me for a test of speed as I originally had thought when I planned to run this 15K race - it was given to me today as a test of will.

As the Road Runners Club of America (RRCA) North Texas State Rep, I was headed to today's Fort Worth Runners Club (FWRC) Labor Day Run anyway because the 15K was chosen as the 2009 RRCA Texas 15K Championship so one of my duties is to go as an RRCA ambassador to the race and then present the awards the RRCA supplies for the championship. I was lucky enough to be able to go there the night before and stay in a hotel a mile from the race site - made life so much easier. Pals Paula and Sarah came along, all of us signing up for the 15K.

I wanted to run strong this morning, I wanted to reach for a PR (current is 1:50, an 11:50 pace). But just days before, I had the chiropractor's assistant break down a ton of knots I had in my upper thigh for the past two years (since Marissa was born). And I was in a ton of pain Saturday and covered in bad bruises. I talked to the chiropractor and kept doing all the right things he confirmed I had been doing - a little running to help move fluid, ice, tons of water, etc.

And after several back-to-back days of small runs, my legs were just hurting some in the places they normally feel tweaked, on top of the massively sore upper legs.

But the piece de resistance was getting 3/4 of the way to Fort Worth to suddenly realize I hadn't packed my Garmin GPS. Slight panic! There's not a run I had done in the 6 months of owning at Garmin where I hadn't had it with me - I had definitely become hooked. And I was worried my body didn't know the right pace to go because I had been doing speedwork non-stop for the last three weeks.

The morning started in the mid-70s with 88% humidity and no breeze. It was definitely going to be a hot day. I spent time before the race "mantra-ing" myself up - just see what I have today, break the crutch of the Garmin, my body knows the pace, etc.

After we start, I'm doing okay, but nervous. I have a tendency to go out fast and use the Garmin typically to make myself slow down.

The first couple miles are uneventful except for the terrain change! We move to what's either a small gravel trail or crushed decomposed granite trail - you can tell I don't run any trails. I always hear people say they prefer that to concrete or asphalt, but I'm feeling like it's about 10% of the way to running in sand - each leg pushoff is a little harder, I'm raising my legs just a little higher, that sort of thing. Plus with no pads in the balls of my feet (those disappeared back in 2005), I have problems generally with uneven terrain - I'm feeling every little pebble and it's making my feet hurt.

The aid stations along the entire 15K route have WARM water, the gatorade doesn't seem very diluted, and there are no portalets the whole way. Mile 3 was where I came up with the day's NEW mantra explained at the beginning of this post - "today's race was given to me not as a test of speed, but as a test of will." I would repeat that phrase about 50 more times on the route. Around mile 4, you can see people coming back, but, while we are running along the river, those coming back are running up the levee. And what enters my mind - somehow we have to get all the way up there!

Mile 5 I'm starting to feel pretty miserable. You're running right by everyone faster than you at this point of the partially out-and-back style course. I can tell I'm getting in a crabby mood. I'm normally quite the cheerleader during a race and will cheer on anyone I know...but today something's definitely off, and I'm thinking, "I'm tired and I am not wasting my energy on boosting up other people today! Besides would most of these people cheer for me if I didn't cheer first?" Like I said, I was just in a bad place. But not but 10 seconds later, Jill Norman passes me (and notices me first as I'm in that bad place where I'm not even looking to see if there's someone I know) and yells "Go Libby!" I smile and return a "Go Jill!" and then I'm all better. Thank you, Jill, for snapping me out of it!

At the turnaround they have iced towels. Oh man, that felt so good. It was just SUCH a hot morning. I'm now on the "back" section of this "out-and-back" portion around Mile 6, and I realize there's hardly anyone behind me! Okay, I know at an 11:30 to 12:00 pace I'm not Carl Lewis, but I know a lot of people that I'm faster than. Well, none of them came to this race. I end up 1257th place out of 1294 according to the results website (although I think they are including the 5K in that, which isn't really fair)

Mile 6 is where I started getting a little lightheaded and dizzy and had to alternate running and walking the rest of the way. There's a girl I had seen throughout the race, but in miles 5-7, we leapfrogged each other a lot. As I finished Mile 7, I decided that I wasn't going to let her beat me, and I got in front of her and every time I heard feet on gravel behind me, it got me to stop whatever walk break I was or to run a little faster. It was a good psychological game to play since I didn't have my Garmin, and it worked.

I was pretty proud of the last 1.3 where I felt like I ran a lot of it and at a decent pace. I finished with a 1:53:35, a 12:08 pace, and also 3 1/2 minutes from a PR.

I went to the awards area and presented the RRCA awards, and then we all headed home. No PRs for anyone today, but a good running day to learn a few lessons, at least for me.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Being Reflective

I've played around with tracking my paces for each run in DailyMile and RaceNation and they're hidden in the Garmin. So I finally installed the Garmin CD so I could download my runs.

I really wanted to see how my pace per mile in the initial 8 weeks of summer training was differing from my current goals.

Here's a comparison of mile paces before and after NYC Half. Since NYC Half, my goal has become to reset my natural pace to sub-11 minute per mile pace (probably a 30-50 second pace improvement per mile!).

Post-NYC Half runs:

Note none of these runs are mile repeats, meaning unlike my speedwork prior to NYC Half, everything is run continuously, no 1 minute walk breaks between miles to recover.

Run #8 - Sep. 2 - 2.5 mi - 11:00, 10:56, 10:42 (pace for last 0.5)
Run #7 - Aug. 31 - 3 mi - 11:00, 10:59, 10:31
Run #6 - Aug. 30 - 2 mi - 10:48, 11:00
Run #5 - Aug. 29 - 1.8 mi - 10:26, 10:15 (0.8 mi)- 3K leg-Plano Pacers Relay
Run #4 - Aug. 27 - 2 mi - 10:56, 10:46
Run #3 - Aug. 25 - 2 mi - 10:54, 10:52
Run #2 - Aug. 23 - 3 mi - 10:57, 10:52, 11:00
Run #1 - Aug. 19 - 2 mi - 11:01, 11:03 ( at this first run since NYC Half, I didn't force myself to hit right on 11's, but could have. I'm counting it in the streak! )

Pre-NYC Half Marathon on August 16:
Note the speedwork listed as mile repeats included 1 to 1 1/2 minute recovery walk breaks between each mile. Everything not mile repeats is definitely at that 11:30-ish range!

Aug. 13 - 2 mi - 12:16, 12:15
Aug. 11 - 3 mi - 11:29, 11:25, 11:28
Aug. 2 - 10.35 mi - 11:45, 12:27, 12:14, 12:46, 12:34, 12:57, 13:02, 11:50, 12:46, 18:26, 18:52
Jul. 29 - 2.4 mi - 10:03, 10:25, 10:13 (mile repeats)
Jul. 28 - 3 mi - 10:54, 10:48, 10:44 (mile repeats)
Jul. 25 - 5.28 mi - walking Heels and Hills mini-event race course, course marking
Jul. 23 - 3 mi - 11:18, 12:08, 11:48 (recovery week)
Jul. 21 - 3 mi - 12:04, 12:23, 12:30 (recovery week)
Jul. 18 - 9.3 mi - 11:19, 11:36, 11:43, 11:08, 11:28, 17:47, 11:21, 11:19, 11:30, 10:49
Jul. 16 - 3 mi - 10:42, 10:40, 10:45 (mile repeats)
Jul. 14 - 3 mi - 11:15, 11:37, 12:56
Jul. 12 - 4 mi - 11:22, 11:20, 13:04, 13:19
Jul. 11 - 6.2 mi - 11:37 avg pace (Garmin was misbehaving)
Jul. 8 - 3 mi - 11:24, 11:30, 11:25
Jul. 5 - 3 mi - 10:37, 10:46, 10:49 (mile repeats)
Jul. 4 - 6.2 mi - 11:39 avg pace (grrr.Garmin problems. Grrr)
Jun. 30 - 3 mi - 11:36, 11:48, 11:28
Jun. 27 - 3 mi - 10:47, 10:49, 10:35 (mile repeats)
Jun. 24 - 3 mi - 10:35, 10:55, 11:24
Jun. 22 - 3 mi - 10:37, 10:38, 11:11
Jun. 20 - 6.1 mi - 11:35, 11:23, 11:22, 10:59, 11:15, 32:04
Jun. 17 - 3 mi - 10:56, 11:23, 12:10
Jun. 15 - 2 mi - 9:58, 11:39
Jun. 14 - 5 mi - 11:22, 11:51, 11:06, 11:11, 12:12
Jun. 11 - 4 mi - 10:55, 11:43, 12:11, 12:39
Jun. 8 - 2 mi - 10:06, 10:58
Jun. 7 - 5 mi - 11:29, 11:33, 14:04, 11:22, 11:15
Jun. 3 - 2.2 mi

Monday, August 31, 2009

5th and 6th runs sub-11:00 min per mi

Busy weekend, continuing my goal of running only 11 minutes per mile or faster, but at low mileage before I start picking up more miles are this newer speed...

Friday night I remembered that the Plano Pacers running club was having their Dog Days 3x3K Relay race the next morning. I called up my training partner Sarah and suggested we do this race. Relays are normally not well-attended so our chances for an all-female team were good of there only being 3 in our divisions so we would win a medal or trophy. Yeah, that's exactly my thinking - it's easy to win if no one shows up. At my running pace, that's the only way you get a trophy. :-)

So Sarah thought it sounded fun, and I posted on Facebook that she and I would be out there the next morning. Jamie comments that she hadn't realized that race was tomorrow and was sad to miss out by realizing too late. I invited her to be our third leg! Crazy thing was that I had run this race last year and talked to Jamie while I was there. We had a mutual friend so I had met her a couple times, but exactly a year ago, I still barely knew her. And now we're such closer friends, it's so neat to be able to measure that growth in friendship!

So Team Heels and Hills descended on the race Saturday morning in our matching hot pink shirts!

I was first leg, 3K each leg. I raced hard and completed my leg at a 10:22 avg pace (10:26 for the first mile, and then a 10:15 pace for the last 0.8 miles of that leg).

Well everyone ran hard and when the awards happened, they announced third place first, and it wasn't us. We immediately said to each other, "Oh, there must have been more teams than we thought. I guess we came in 4th." Then they announced 2nd place and it was Team Heels and Hills! We were over the moon with our second place medals! Such a fun morning.

It was capped off with a random run-in for some more of the great Heels and Hills Lucky 13 Run Team members (of which Sarah and Jamie are both on the team). We were leaving, and I heard someone yell my name. Who would believe there was Brandie and Catherine, both on the Run Team!?! Catherine and Brandie had happened to run into each other on the running path, and, while they had never met before, recognized each other from the Run Team pics on the Heels and Hills website. It felt so great as everyone met each other to see 4 of the greatest ambassadors of Heels and Hills' vision together in one place!

Sunday morning, I didn't want to run. I was tired, kinda sore, and my water bottle holder was soaking in the sink, still being cleaned. I had slept in a little, it was about 8:20 am. I complained the whole way but slowly got my running clothes on. Good move, because once the clothes were on, my chances of not going out the door was only about 10%. I knew if I lingered, I might not go. I was sick and tired of the pre-run bagel and, with off-and-on stomach problems when I run, I thought it might not be a bad morning to try no food and see how it felt. I also didn't grab any water beforehand.

It was nice out, high 60 degrees. I definitely felt like no water and no food is not a good combination for me - I just felt drained of all energy. Lesson learned. It was worth a try to see how I reacted. I did 2 miles, 10:48 and 11:00.

My 6th run with 11 min miles or faster! Now to slowly start adding a little mileage to each run. But I am definitely feeling for the short distance like my body is being reset to accept the 11 min pace as my "natural" one.

Saturday, Aug. 29 - 3K leg of a relay race: 10:26, 10:15 (0.8 miles for that 10:15 pace)
Sunday, Aug. 30 - 2 miles: 10:48, 11:00

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Resetting My Pace In the Next Couple Weeks

Reminder going into this: 11:30 is half marathon goal pace, half marathon PR is 12:23 pace, speed work has been done the last two months at 10:45ish pace as mile repeats with minute walk breaks.

Tonight was my 4th run since the NYC Half Marathon Aug. 16. It was ALSO the 4th run at an 11 minute per mile pace or faster.

It started out as my inability to take it slow and recover. So I thought, after racing the half marathon, I would cut back on miles per week, but keep up a very "purposeful pace".

In reality, looking at my best running, this is mild speedwork I've been doing. Bad Libby! Not so good at easy runs, recovery runs.

After three runs like that, complaining a lot of the way, I realized that this pace didn't feel that bad, and I wasn't having to work as hard as I thought I would to hold it, that mechanically it didn't feel so hard or awkward as I expected.

So for tonight I thought I would again keep my miles low and work on that pace. With a few sprinkles hitting Sarah and me as we headed out, I thought, "Finally, some rain, weather that would feel a little less hot, on our run." But no, sprinkles stopped seconds later and, aside from an occasional mild breeze, it was a steamy humid run.

We did 2 miles. 10:56, 10:46. Yay for negative splits!

"The Plan" for right now: Do 3 miles Saturday at 11 min/mi or faster, do 2 miles Sunday at 11 min/mi or faster.

"The Goal" for right now: Keep with this sub-11 pace, and slowly start adding back miles next week. I'm actually feeling like in a couple weeks, my more "natural" pace will feel like 11 min/mi, rather than 11:30-12:00 min/mi.

We'll see, all plans and goals subject to change. :-)

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Speed / Recovery the week after NYC Half?

Sunday, Aug. 16 - NYC Half - missed PR by a minute - finish at 12:28 pace

Past 8 weeks of training before the race was basically 11:30s for long runs and goal half marathon pace, 10:45-10:50s for speed work.

All the next week my back was in bad shape - felt very out of alignment.

Tuesday, Aug. 19 - 2 miles - done at a purposeful pace - 11:01, 11:03My legs felt SO sluggish.

Sunday, Aug. 23 - 3 miles - purposeful pace for first 3 - 10:57, 10:52, 11:00
+ 0.56 miles casual pace later that morning

Shins were hurting a little. Was able to get my back adjusted at the Hottest Half (thankful my chiropractor was the one helping at the race).

Tuesday, Aug. 25 - 2 miles - purposeful pace - 10:54, 10:52

7 miles in the last week all at 11:03 or under pace! Yay!
Chiropractor appointment tomorrow to get the shins treated and still having nagging tightness in upper back.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

A Great Race Personally, but Not A Great Day to Race

Sunday morning, August 16, 2009, I ran the New York City Half Marathon along with 15,000 others. New York City was having a HEAT WAVE. At the race start, it was 77 degrees and 74% humidity and it only got hotter from there. Along with logistical problems on the part of the race, this made for a bad day to be racing!

Course map link
Elevation Chart link

A Casual Start to the Morning’s Race

The race started at 7 am and was a corral start, which you have to be in by 6:30. The group of us included co-Race Director of Heels and Hills and H&H founder Paula Robertson, Paula’s friend Michelle Gooch from Baton Rouge, and Matt and Sarah Hendrickson (Sarah’s a Heels and Hills Lucky 13 Run Team member and good friend). We left the hotel at 5 am, made it the few stops on the subway, and entered the corral by 5:45ish. The corrals were color-coded and sectioned off in 1000s. There were a ton of portalets and the corrals were spacious for the number of people per section, so there was a nice leisurely mood to the morning. We all sat there sweating under a canopy of trees in Central Park, waiting for the start.

I spotted actress Diane Neal who was also in our corral. She’s the redhead who plays Assistant District Attorney Casey Novak on Law & Order: SVU. I saw her a couple times on the course, and it turns out she finished just a minute after me. Pics of the actress at the race here...

(My first of two celebrity sightings of the trip as it turned out – I walked right by Jimmy Fallon by Central Park on Monday and was proud I played it totally cool, like it was nothing, but admit I was a little starstruck since I never see celebrities.)

As all the runners waited for the start, we all cheered and applauded as they read off names of those elite athletes participating, like Paula Radcliffe, Deena Kastor, and Ryan Hall. The gun went off and we all casually stood there. I have to say I loved this crowd. Everyone was just so leisurely about the whole thing. We quietly, politely walked along, in an orderly fashion. The bib range signs from the original corrals gave us some clue how close we were to the start line. We see bib range 1000-1999 and people start jogging. Everyone jogs for about 30 seconds and then it’s like one collective “oops” giggle erupts from the crowd and we all walk again. Right before the start line and the running begins again. We cross the start line about 8 ½ minutes after the gun start and I start my Garmin GPS’s timer.

The Hard Topic of Race Pace

My PR is at a 12:23 pace for 2:42:13 total. And my New Year’s Resolution for 2009 was to go from my PR at the start of 2009 (2:54 set at White Rock in December) and shave off 24 minutes to break 2 ½ hours in the half in ONE YEAR. I started the summer having taken off 12 minutes from my half marathon time, with PRs set throughout the spring, culminating in the 2:42:13 time at the Big D Half Marathon at the beginning of April. After 2 months of hard training in the Texas summer heat, while I didn’t plan to break 2 ½ at this race (take off the remaining 12 minutes needed to get this goal), I did want to see if I was stronger, and how that 11:30ish pace needed to break 2 ½ hours would feel. So I started the race with the plan to run 11:30 as long as I could and then just pull it back a little, and don’t go from all to nothing like I have sometimes when it’s late in the race and I’m tired and sore.

The First Half of the Course Described

You spend the first half of the race circling through the middle of Central Park. Interestingly enough, the curvy path through the park loops around back to the start corral at mile 6 and then you find yourself repeating the course for mile 6 to 7.5 before breaking out onto the streets of New York. Through Central Park, it’s quiet, not many spectators. Inside this loop, through breaks in the trees, you can see there’s another running path, and this seems to be where the weekend warriors, casual runners, and training program runners are. It’s also more humid here in the shade, and it’s a sweaty crew of runners. Central Park is also non-stop rolling hills along this curving road, and this tires the legs after 7.5 straight miles of it.

Something’s Wrong at the Aid Stations!

1.5 miles in and I reach the first aid station. I hear volunteers yelling “No Gatorade” at the first tables. Everyone’s going from one empty table to the next. Wow, yeah, NO GATORADE! Then we hit the water tables. A row of empty tables. I get down to the end to a volunteer who is grabbing cups out of a sleeve and dunking his hand (note: no glove) into the trash can of water and shoving his hand out to have that water cup disappear into the throng. Everyone, me included, is a mix of polite and “I was here first”. Most of us are semi-queued up and wait until our outstretched hand is the one that’s next and grabs a cup. When a new hand inappropriately pops their hand in from the side, that person is quickly elbowed out of the way, the way is closed to them, at least until those ahead have gotten their cup. It’s mass chaos, but on recollection, it seems like a mostly quiet chaos…

…until at Mile 2.9. Where we hit the next aid station. Again, NO GATORADE. The same thing happens with the water at this aid station. Except the panic is somewhat setting in, with this New York heat wave we all find ourselves racing in. And runners are wary after the problem at the first aid station, and many are running BEHIND the tables to where the garbage cans filled with water are, and are scrambling to find cups they can dunk in the water. Yes, this means hundreds of dirty runner hands as they swipe a cup into that water. Uck. You can actually see people looking around and I have a moment where I recall this story from Chicago – people using other runner’s discarded cups as a cup to get their beverage because there are no more cups. And everyone looks just on the verge of doing that. I’m able to wait for a volunteer to fill a cup and shove it in my hand. The runners are disgruntled. Some are freaking out - “How can this be happening? How can they be so short on water and Gatorade?” one girl asks her friend. I muster up as many confident feelings as I can, telling myself that this is a fluke, that it will be remedied in another mile and a half when I reach the aid station. I do all I can not to think about the option that this will happen at the next aid station… and the next… and the next….

Mile 4.5 aid station is a little better – I manage to get water from a pile at a table, and while they look short on cups, they at least have SOME, so no wait.
At Mile 5.5, it’s aid station time again. This time there is Gatorade, although I have to wait for a volunteer to pour it – but OH, that’s a bright lime color! I take a sip and it’s pure sugar in my mouth. I’ve worked and orchestrated enough aid stations that 2 and 2 immediately come together to make 4. I realize that somewhere with the volunteers, there’s been a huge communication gap. The volunteers are pouring the 1 Gallon Gatorade Endurance Formula concentrate into the cups. The normal mix is like 5 gallons water to 1 gallon concentrate! If they aren’t diluting it, of course they don’t probably have enough for everyone, and no wonder there was no Gatorade at the first two aid stations!

This aid station is still suffering from water supply problems. But luckily I’m able to come across a table with a half sleeve of cups and a couple pitchers of water. So here I am in a race pouring myself water from a pitcher – what is wrong with this picture?!?

So Let’s Review:

Mile 1 - 11:21 (great start)
Mile 2 - 12:16 (major problems at aid station at mile 1.5)
Mile 3 - 12:09 (still problems at aid station at mile 2.9)
Mile 4 - 11:30 (great mile)
Mile 5 - 12:46 (pouring my own water and waiting for Gatorade at aid station at mile 4.5)
Mile 6 - 12:09

A LONG Half Marathon Course… Is that actually possible?

While the aid station problems have me coming to grips with the fact my pace this race day will just not be what I want, I have another issue I’m noticing. With such a big race, I’m trying to be good and conserve energy and not weave through the crowd very much. And the course for the first 7.5 miles is non-stop curving roads, first left, then right, then left, etc. And it’s a banked road, sloping down on each side. I’m aware that courses are marked and certified on the assumption that everyone “runs the tangents” i.e. they take the shortest path, so they cut the curve as close as possible. With 15,000 other runners and a sloping road, you find it’s safest and easiest on the feet to just stay towards the center of the road, regardless of the curve. So obviously not the shortest path, with no curve-cutting happening. So around mile 3, I’m starting to notice the discrepancy on my Garmin. A tenth at first, and then another tenth at the next mile, and so on. By the time we come out from the first 7.5 miles of Central Park, I’m seeing a difference at the mile 8 mile marker of about 0.4 miles. With a direct route for the rest of the race, the discrepancy didn’t really grow, and I ended the race 0.45 miles longer than the actual measured course.

Note the actual measured course is CORRECT and I don’t want anyone to think I’m implying it’s not – it is very hard to always exactly match the course measurement, but this is a curvy course with a large crowd that makes it even harder to get close to the official course measurements!

Entertaining But Over Too Quickly

Miles 7.5 to mile 9 took you straight through Midtown Manhattan, with all the hubbub and flashing billboards and most importantly Times Square! We ran straight down 7th Avenue, which is a HUGE street you realize when you are on it. After almost no spectators in Central Park, there were a lot more people out cheering in this area, with a big quarantined cheering zone at one point too. Times Square was the location of a spectator and runner sing-a-long and it was as awesome as I had hoped it would be. A jumbotron with the words to the song on the screen, music blaring, broadway performers with microphones on a stage leading the whole shebang, and spectators, runners, and ME belting out Joan Jett & the Blackhearts “I Love Rock N Roll” at the top of my lungs. It was a very nice moment, you couldn’t help but smile big. But seconds later it was over! I wished I could have had that moment every mile, or at least had it least for more than 20-30 seconds!

During this the Garmin was definitely having issues with all the tall buildings, and it really freaked me out. All of a sudden my pace is varying from 7-9 minutes per mile (not possible), so it just made it very hard to not run too hard in this nice flat section of terrain with such great crowd support.

So Let’s Review:

Mile 7 - 11:51
Mile 8 - 12:05
Mile 9 - 8:37 (huh? Garmin had issues with the tall buildings)

And Then It Got Really Hot

At Mile 9 you’ve reached the west edge of Manhattan, and you turn and run down West Highway – a straight flat stretch on concrete the rest of the way. No scenery to speak of, just a wide road with the hope of shade behind spatterings of buildings and clusters of trees in the highway’s medians. And when you weren’t in the shade, it had become very very hot.

My nervous stomach all throughout the morning began to strongly dislike this heat. And what had been nagging upset stomach caused me to finally be forced to take a portalet break at Mile 12. I had really hoped to finish without having to stop, and unfortunately know that it’s one more little thing that kept me from a PR.

I spent the last mile getting close to that feeling that I was going to pass out. The last 5 miles or so, each water stop included a half cup of water on top of the head and half cup of water down the front of the shirt. The last few miles they were great at having firehoses out every mile or so as their makeshift “misting station” and I tried to take full advantage. And thank goodness, they had resolved the aid station problems at this point and I had no problem refueling at each one.

So Let’s Review:

Mile 10 - 12:43
Mile 11 - 13:17 (started feeling really sick to my stomach, and it was getting so hot)
Mile 12 - 13:52 (portalet stop)
Mile 13 - 12:06
Mile 13.1 - 11:29 pace
Mile 13:55 - 12:16 pace

Finale … or Maybe Just Finally

I crossed the finish line at 2:43:20. Not below the 2:42:13 PR I would have liked, but with heat, humidity, aid station problems, stomach issues, and a crowd of 15000, this was not the day to have even tried to go out for a PR.

And I have to say that this truly was the first half marathon I RACED, not just RAN. Over the next 20 minutes after the finish, I kept finding myself tearing up. I had proven to myself that I was way stronger than I thought I was. I had pushed through in all those conditions, I had ignored all those excuses to slow down, I had run during those last handful of miles as I passed a lot of people walking, and I had come within a minute of a new Personal Record.

I am so excited to test out this newfound strength at my next half marathon race, hopefully with more optimal conditions to not just PR, but to get even closer to that 2009 New Year’s Resolution to break 2 ½ hours!

Splits Summary

Mile 1 - 11:21
Mile 2 - 12:16
Mile 3 - 12:09
Mile 4 - 11:30
Mile 5 - 12:46
Mile 6 - 12:09
Mile 7 - 11:51
Mile 8 - 12:05
Mile 9 - 8:37
Mile 10 - 12:43
Mile 11 - 13:17
Mile 12 - 13:52
Mile 13 - 12:06
Mile 13.1 - 11:29 pace
Mile 13:55 - 12:16 pace