Monday, November 30, 2015

Schaumburg Turkey Trot HM - Recap

So this Saturday to support my best friend I ran the Schaumburg Turkey Trot Half. You may remember that her first half, the Indy Women's Half, ended up black flagged due to weather. Boo! So this was first HM redux for her. I wasn't too happy because we knew she'd be running somewhere around 3-3:10 and from experience running at the back of the pack, some races are awesome at supporting everyone throughout the race and some are not. All Community Events is a very experienced well organized race, but they're not known for supporting the back of the pack. The Indy Women's Half should have been a great experience for her - this one I was a little more nervous for her. But, it was the only one we could make work for both of us - if she hadn't been able to make it work I would have been running the 5k though, because this race has awesome sweatshirts that I absolutely love.

Race morning came and we got up, ate, and got out the door by 7:50 for a 9:15 race start, The race was close to my house so this should have been plenty, but due to some issues with crazy runners arguing with cops we ended up cutting it close. The race started on time but we didn't end up crossing the start line til 9:22 - but we made it! Like last time, we planned to run our own races and then I'd run to meet her on course.

Going into it I knew I was not in PR shape - my PR is 2:11 and I have had some really slow long runs lately, with my best pace for a long run being 10:55. When I ran that half last year my best pace for long runs was in the 10:30s. I wanted to believe I was slower this year because it was hotter and more humid, but the truth is I never lost the 15lbs I gained when I hurt my knee. Losing weight was easy the first time I tried, but having a menstrual cycle has really complicated weight loss for me and I haven't been able to lose it. With it being said there are 2 seconds per mile per pound difference...yeah. About a 30 second difference for mile and that's pretty much exactly what I've seen in races and training runs.

My first few miles, which are usually my fastest on race day, were in the low 10:30s when there wasn't a water stop and 11ish when there was. (Even when I skipped the water stop, they were so clogged with cups that I slowed way down to avoid slipping, and mostly succeeded...except when I didn't, haha.) Even with the semi steepish bridgey thingamajig we ran in mile 2 I guess I'd just been hoping to do better here.

Mile 1: 10:30
Mile 2: 10:45 
(water stop I avoided)
Mile 3: 10:35
Mile 4: 11:10
(stopped for water, slipped on a cup!) 

My A-goal was a 2:15 which I thought would be doable, but my legs were just not cooperating. I felt like I couldn't get a deep breath either, so I knew I needed to adjust. This was just not going to be a fast race. My C-goal was to be faster than my spring half and my B-goal was to be in the 2:17-2:18 range. To be honest once I got going I thought I wasn't even going to make my C goal; I was trying to run a smart race but I usually die around mile 11-12 and my back half is usually much slower than my front half. With my first 4 miles not having a single mile in the A goal range, and how crowded the course was and how much weaving I had to do to get around people from starting in the back, I legitimately entertained that this might barely be any faster than my first post-baby half last spring, which was 2:24:57.

But right around mile 5 we ran past a little elk preserve with signs that said "do not feed the elk under pain of death". And right after seeing that sign I got to see not just a herd of elk, but one absolutely beautiful animal staring right at us as we ran past:

Right after the elk we hit a big bridge that was super annoying, especially because I knew we'd have to cross it again. But I guess the hillwork I've been adding to the treadmill is worth something (haha) because I ran up the whole thing, where I watched a lot of people stop to walk.

And then shortly after that, we hit the 10k point and then the turnaround (which was right around the halfway point too.) This course is usually a point to point but due to some construction they had to modify it a bit. I hit the 10k point in 1:06:06, about 30 seconds slower than my spring half,  and the halfway point at 1:10:10...which put me on pace for a 2:20:30ish finish if I held pace, which would be a hair better than my spring half, or if I slowed down like I usually did, an even slower finish. Once we turned around we were running into the wind. That sucked. And we had to cross that bridge again in the 8th mile! It was crazy because I was cold, felt like I was crawling, AND I was sweating like crazy. There were times I wished I'd worn a t-shirt. Crazy! And taking a gel slows me down. I do believe after a lot of trial and error that they work better for me than chews and beans but I am so slow getting them into my mouth, geesh!

Mile 5: 10:26
Mile 6: 10:52 
(skipped water stop but bridge)
Mile 7: 10:30
Mile 8: 11:05
(water stop AND bridge)

The last third of a race is usually my nemesis. I don't know why but no matter how many miles I run or what kinds of workouts I do or how well prepared or how not well prepared I am, the last third of the race I usually die. I start "needing" walk breaks, my heart suddenly won't slow down, blah blah. I do mental math and inevitably bungle it and decide I can't PR and slow down or walk. Well, as much as I am bummed about my pace, I am happy to say I dug deep here and dug for a well of strength I have never been able to tap before. With 5 miles to go I did the math and realized I was still in B-goal and that I could just barely squeak in a 2:19:59 if I fought hard not to fade. It was going to be close though and if I gave in, if I walked the last bridge or the hill I remembered was at 12.5 miles or doubted I was strong enough, I knew I wouldn't make it.

But you know what? I have completed some really hard runs this year. I have run two marathons, finished them while undertrained for one and hurting and emotional in the other, I have completed a 20 that sucked and almost didn't happen and dealt with the ego blow of being a bit fluffier so slower and I did 12 flipping miles on the treadmill and I have a well of mental toughness I don't always remember I can tap during races. I ran the last 5 miles. I picked up the pace slightly. I never stopped, I always pushed. I ran my fastest water stop of the race at mile 10 and my fastest mile of the race at mile 12. I ran even when my goofy watch said I was at 10.38 miles for over 3 minutes. (That was annoying!)

Mile 9: 10:31
Mile 10: 10:47
(skipped water stop)
Mile 11: 10:28
Mile 12: 10:19

And then I was on the last mile and my run numb brain told me I should come in the early 2:19s and that if I walked at all I was going to blow something I'd spent the last 4 miles fighting for. So I didn't stop. Not when my legs got mad or my lungs hated the wind or when that hill half a mile before the finish line had everyone else around me walking. My final time was 2:18:47 - which is over 7 1/2 minutes off my PR, but I feel like in a lot of ways this was a stronger and faster half than I've ever run before. Pace aside, I had a good solid negative split; I only walked a few of the water stops (though as an aside, I was surprised how hard of a time I had getting through them - between the thick clog of cups on the ground each time and people stopping hard and fast in front of me, it took a lot of extra effort to safely navigate them!). I ran up all of the inclines which I usually don't. There were never walk breaks. And I never math'ed myself out of running as hard as I could, which I have done a lot in the past. I may be slower, but I think I'm a better, stronger, smarter runner than I used to be, too.

And my best friend finished - I got to her at mile 12, because I couldn't get my legs into a run so I ended up walking to meet her which meant an extra mile on her own. I felt bad because when I caught up to her I realized she was having a bad asthma attack - and hadn't even realized! She walked the last mile in after I made her use her inhaler and still managed to finish in 2:57, way faster than she had expected. I am super proud of her! (Unfortunately with the asthma attack we didn't get a picture together, but I'm still very happy for her!)

Next up for me is the Hawaii marathon in 2 weeks, which we will be taking very slow. It'll be hot so I am looking at it as more a long scenic run walk with my husband. While I had toyed with the idea of a spring marathon, I think I am going to take some time to curb my mileage and focus on figuring out how to adapt to weight loss with my new hormonal situation - I think if I went back down to my normal weight running at the paces I want wouldn't be so hard. I think shorter runs with some higher intensity cross training might be a better way to kick things up a bit, and hopefully come spring I can take another crack at some speedy goals!

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Fitness Flashback

I've really been loving mapmyrun's new thing lately - I get "fitness flashbacks" emailed to me. The email will have a workout I did a year ago, two years ago, or three years ago so I can remember what I was doing a year ago. It's been neat. and it's surprising how often I remember the details of those runs! You'd think they'd blur together but honestly, I usually look at it and go, "Oh hey, that was the day where I ______!"

And usually the workouts are something like - hey, here's this awesome marathon you ran last year! Check out this time you PR'ed your half!

But today's was different. Today flashed me back 3 years, to the very first time I saw double digits on a run.

I called it my "Accidental 10 miler" because I had meant to run 9. My first planned 10 was supposed to be the week after, at the Perfect 10 10 miler. But I got lost. At that time, I didn't my neighborhood paths very well and I got turned around and PANIC LOST. I ended up on a road I hadn't seen before and it took an entire mile to get back on track. I still didn't believe I could eat or drink on a run, because I was convinced I was a special snowflake whose stomach just "couldn't" do it. I was lost and so afraid I was going to make a total idiot of myself.

But I did it. My pace was 13:46 and I think I was walking 5, running 2 at that point. That was a rockstar pace for me back then. I was so proud when I finished that run. I'm still proud I finished that run! It gave me confidence that I could finish my first long distance race. It gave me confidence that I didn't have limits I couldn't push.

Looking back, it makes me realize just how far I've come. If you had told me that day that I'd go on to run 3 marathons and a 50k in the next few years, I would have laughed. But I did it!

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Chicago Monster Dash 10k - recap

This is my first post in a while - mostly because in what is apparently going to be a post-marathon tradition, I've been hella sick and not running much. My daughter brought home a nasty bug and I've been down for the count - I wasn't able to run for almost 2 weeks and for the first week of that really couldn't do much of anything. I added walking a few miles a day in the second week but even that left me a little breathless. I added running back in this week and was a little bummed to be struggling to run what should have been easy paces, especially with the cooler weather. But I had a bib for the 10k Monster Dash and I had wanted to PR...I figured I would anyway because my PR is really old. But with being sick I knew my primary goal of a sub-60 10k was probably out. My previous PR was 1:11:02, set at the Tryon Farm Trails 10k, and it was an insane course filled with obstacles. My A-goal was sub-60, B-goal 1:02 or better, C goal 1:08 or better, and D goal PR.

From the course of my 10k PR set in May 2014. I don't do many 10ks!

When yesterday dawned it was .. pouring, and chilly. Mid-40s is great for running unless it's a downpour, and then it's cold. But the weather report said the rain would break for a few hours, so while it would be cool it should have been good running weather and okay spectating weather too - since the race wasn't in the city my family was coming too because I won't do Chicago by myself. Well sadly - the weather report lied and my family was soaked to the bone!

But, we got to the race on time. I had gotten a bib from my running group because one of the ladies in the Lake/McHenry Moms Run This Town chapter had an injury and couldn't use it. So, we filled out the transfer form and I dropped it off race morning, and then had a whopping two minutes to spare before the race started because our Metra train was running 15 minutes late. I definitely set a PR for fastest portopotty use ever, and props to Team Ortho for having potties a plenty...usually there are lines but I am happy to say there wasn't one. WHEW!

Thank goodness for plentiful port-o-potties!

After the fastest portopotty use ever, I jumped into the crowd waiting to start. I had no idea where to line up because there were zero pace markers. Which uh...was not helpful, and I remember thinking it was odd, but I think the weather did a number on the amount of volunteers for the race because this was not the first place the race would have some issues. The gun went off on time (the half had started at 9, then the 10k at 9:20 and the 5k at 9:40 - actually a very very good system, worked really well here to prevent some extra course congestion) and we were off. We ran around Grant Park before circling back to go north for a bit. I quickly figured out I had started wayyyyy too far back or some people had started wayyyy too far up because I spent a lot of the first mile dodging. Dodging was less than fun because in Grant Park the sidewalks are hugely broken and I saw a lot of people trip and fall. Yikes! For the first mile it mostly drizzled. I wanted to be conservative so wasn't checking my watch - I knew I was definitely not back up to optimal and while a 9:30 pace would get me my sub-60, I was pretty sure my lungs didn't have that in me yet. When the first mile clicked in at 10:26 I knew I was right - that pace felt comfortably hard and while that is usually a pretty easy pace for me to maintain, today I didn't have too much more in me. It was what it was and I was happy to be out there. Oddly enough, the first mile marker came up at .9 miles. That had me thinking back to the lack of pace markers for the start - and I got glared at by a couple runners around me for saying out loud "That can't be right!" Hah!

Around 1.25 miles we turned towards the lake to start running south. The second mile clicked in at a steady 10:26. I was a bit disappointed I hadn't sped up a little, but there was a stretch here where we were climbing onto the lakefront and I think the big uphill jag had more to do with that than anything. There was no mile marker for mile 2, which had some people muttering around me and me still pondering the structural oddities of the race. I was also concerned because while I didn't need an aid station, the race website had said there would be 4, which had me figuring about every 1 1/2 miles...Mile three came in at 10:04, which may have been a bit fast, but hey - at least it had a mile marker! The first aid station showed up at 3.5ish miles. I skipped it because unless it's hot I don't usually drink if it's a single digit run and I didn't want to walk if I didn't have to - I've taken walk breaks on every other 10k I've run and I figured today I could run the whole thing even if A goal and B goal were out of reach. We hit a turnaround point shortly there after but it was terribly marked, and I later heard that a lot of people missed it entirely. It didn't help that the course overlapped with the Lakefront 50/50 this year, so there were two races going opposite directions on the lakefront with their own markers.

For mile 4 I tried to tone it down a little bit, thinking with how my chest felt that may have been a bit fast and it popped in at 10:12. I was happy there were only 2 miles left - I could definitely tell I was not healthy / recovered enough to be racing today. Not surprisingly, there was no mile marker here either, and we wouldn't see any the rest of the race except for the 11 mile and the 13 mile for the half. My husband told me later he saw all the mile markers in the race village, on the ground. I can't think why they wouldn't have been set up but it was a bit disconcerting to have a few randomly about. In mile 5 it started pouring, and I started feeling tremendously guilty that my family was out there waiting for me. I was cold, and wet, and I knew they had to be colder and wetter. So much for a break in the rain - it literally never stopped!  I hit mile 5 at 10:03 and felt about done. I reassured myself I didn't need to walk - not 5 miles into a 10k! - but I also found myself internally muttering about a particularly peppy looking runner and grumbling that people could only look peppy 5 miles into a race if it wasn't a 10k. I'm not usually that much of a hater so I just have to laugh at my internal monologue!

And who's a big sourpuss? YOU ARE! Err, I am! Whatever.

The last mile about killed me, I think. I felt like I was crawling. I told myself it was okay to slow down, but not to walk - I had run almost 20 miles at a faster pace than this without walking, there was no reason to walk now! I was sure I slowed down but didn't check my watch. It was still pouring and I felt pretty miserable. Mile 6 at 10:03 and I was amazed I hadn't slowed down but simultaneously bummed I didn't have a sub-10 this race - I had at least one mile in the 9s in both marathons, but not for my 10k. Oh well! As we continued heading north on the lakefront I was about ready for it to just be over. By the time we crossed Lake Shore drive to go under the bridge to the finish line, my watch was way past the 10k mark and if I had had more energy I would have been irritated because I knew that other than some dodge/weave in the beginning I'd done a good job at tangents, way too good to have my watch show almost 2 extra tenths of a mile for a 10k. But whatever, I was done with an official time of 1:04:51, which is a 6:11 PR. Looking back I hit the 10k mark at 1:03:15. When I'm healthier, I'll chase that sub-60 goal again and I'll get's race pace is usually my easy pace. I'll get it!

For me though, I think this will be my last Team Ortho Race. I've run the Polar Dash a few times and it's never well organized. Their Women Rock this year had the cutoff times drastically slashed at the last minute to the point where many friends who signed up could not complete them in time. This race wasn't fully set up, wasn't even close to fully staffed, wasn't well marked at all (and come on - Chicago has races all the time - you can do better!), and the food at the end was bananas and pretzels and chocolate milk. Fine for a 5k, marginal for a 10k, felt bad for the half marathoners. Their swag is great usually, the medals are okay, the races themselves are getting worse and worse. Though they push packet mailing (to the tune of $30 before a race) I can say from experience they wait until the last moment to mail them and not everyone gets them in time, and their packet pickups tend to be really inconvenient. My first half was through Team Ortho and for nostalgia's sake I want to love them, but they're too expensive for the poor experiences they give their runners. Glad to have my PR, but wish I'd done the Muddy Monk trail race instead!