Sunday, April 15, 2012

Learning My Limits

Today I ran the Big D Half Marathon...for the sixth time! It was my first half marathon (2005). It was my first half marathon after my first baby was born (2008). It was a PR race (2009). It was the first half marathon I ran pregnant (2010). It was a hot and humid half marathon (2011, and 2010 also for that matter). So the race has a special meaning for me, but the race director is also a friend.
In order, left to right: 2005, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012.
This was a beat-me-up week. My coach loaded me down with workouts I think to see what I was capable of. Coming off a 31 mile weekend with a new 25K trail race PR in it, I immediately jumped into:

  • Monday: 1 hour strength training with my trainer, Donnie
  • Tuesday: 200m and 400m speedwork repeats adding up to 5 miles
  • Wednesday: 3 miles, then 1 hour strength training with my trainer, then took my gumby legs out for another 5 miles
  • Thursday: stood 9 hours supervising Big D Marathon packet pickup (my 4th year to do this for the race director) and then 4.3 miles of 1000m speedwork repeats
  • Friday: stood 9 hours supervising Big D Marathon packet pickup - I never eat or drink well during these busy few days of packet pickup
  • Saturday: pushed back and told my coach I needed sleep over the run assigned. He agreed, but I still had 8 hours on feet at packet pickup. I went straight from packet pickup to Steve's company outing at the Dr. Pepper Ballpark, where dinner was BBQ, a hot dog, and nachos. Not my usual hydration or nutrition leading up to a race where you are trying to PR.
Sunday, I was exhausted and still sore. Packet pickup involves a lot of bending and kneeling and moving boxes and a whole lot of standing. Add 17.3 midweek miles when I normally do about 11-12, and I felt like a bus ran me over. My coach had told me Friday that he thought I was capable of a fast pace and said to try for 11:00-11:15 min/mi pace and so when it came to a PR "go for it." But then go do 7 miles at whatever pace I could muster after this PR attempt half marathon. Yeah, I was shocked at this assignment.

My pre-baby PR, when I ran and raced half marathons all the time, was 2:26:17 (11:06 pace), set in February 2010 at Cowtown Half right before I got pregnant. My post-baby PR was a 2:44. I came back from Sophie's birth and the C-section to work on getting base miles and then on running marathons and 50Ks, not on racing half marathons. 
Hanging out with friends before the race. Left to right: Cheryl, me, Elaine, and Sharon
Saturday I came to understand what I think coach's goals were with Sunday's assignment. I wasn't tapering, I wasn't eating right, I was beating up my body pretty royally with weights and speedwork and standing. 
He was assigning me basically 13.1 miles of speedwork. You don't do crazy prep for speedwork, you do that for a goal race to PR at. Wrapping my head around that different perspective helped a lot. Coach wanted to see what was the limit he could push me to.
We start the race, and I like where I am in the corral. Around the 9-10 minute-mile folks. It's 70 degrees out and about 85% humidity. While others were freaking out about the potential severe weather in the forecast, I was just dreading the humidity if we didn't have rain. It is my kryptonite. I was sweating a half-mile into the race.

I kept it VERY conservative the first two miles and reminded myself that it would probably keep me from an actual PR but it was better than combusting early on the course. 11:47 for mile 1, 11:34 for mile 2.

I can run this course in my sleep after doing it 5 times previously. I know every hill, where to just chug along and where to push for the downhill. That comfortability allows me to ignore my usual strict consistent pacing and try to hold the goal paces on the flats and let the up- and downhills be what they will. The early miles are hilly - people think only of the miles 7-8 with Lakewood for the hills and forget these - mile 3 is 11:10, mile 4 has a big downhill that I use to my advantage as my quads are stronger than my hamstrings and I hit 10:39 on this mile. I've never had a 10:XX on a mile in a half marathon. That tells me a lot.

I'm sick to my stomach at this point and it only gets worse through the race. Humidity isn't helping that. Aid stations are running very low of supplies and struggling to get more cups filled and out to the runners. That costs a little time at basically EVER aid station. Mile 5 is 11:28, mile 6 is 11:19. We're on the west side of White Rock Lake. It is now starting to rain. It's so lovely. It helps my pace in mile 6 and the next mile. Mile 7 11:13. 

My stomach is really turning over and over in my torso, mile 8 12:12. I run into Kristen on the course, she grabs me, and we run along Swiss Avenue. Mile 9 is an 11:05. Yippee! Mile 10 I tell her I can't talk or I will die. Mile 10 is a 10:56. Mile 11 going down Haskell Avenue now is 11:11. 

Mile 12, it stops raining, and it's steamy again, and my stomach is filing for emancipation from my body. I run an 11:59 as I recover late in the mile when the rain starts up again and I come along Melissa out there who is rocking a PR pace (previous PR was high 2:30).

Mile 13, I tell Melissa to leave me and go for it. I struggle to keep a pace and manage an 11:39. The last 0.2 mi I do have a kick to give into the finish, where they don't say my name because a few of the top men and women in the marathon are finishing at the same time. :-( The last 0.2 mi  on the Garmin is a 9:33 pace!

I'm done. 2:30:35! I have set a huge post-baby PR, and am only 4 minutes from a new pre-baby PR for a woman who took this on as speedwork and not a goal race! I walk around for a while trying to get my stomach to settle before I head home.

On the way home, I am just cold and chilled to the bone. I have a couple uncomfy chafing spots. I take a hot bath and starting nodding off in it. I head to bed for 2 hours. The 7 miles coach wanted did not happen.

BUT, with a finish of an 11:23 pace, I think coach now knows what I'm made of, and I kinda do too. I was able to stay in a high Zone 2 and low Zone 3 heart rate for 2 1/2 hours and not die. I was able to do some good miles at a good speed for a beat-up body (great fatigue training). And now I know on a good day training as if it was a goal race, I should be able to one day defeat my pre-baby PR! I hope he forgives the 7 miles I didn't run in favor of achieving pretty close to his goal paces for the half!

Next up: Oz Marathon in Olathe, Kansas on Saturday - yes, this Saturday! Then, May 6 I'll be running the NJ Marathon!


  1. Congrats on getting so close to your PR on tired legs! You are a machine, lady! :)

  2. Congrats on another Big D race! You are getting to be soooo fast :)

  3. Wow!! Way to go out there! Geez all your workouts and all that standing! Impressive, Libby!