Monday, November 30, 2009

White Rock Half - MENTAL WARGAMES DAY 2

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.

Stats
* 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!