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.