Wednesday, July 28, 2010

NYCM Training Week 3 (and El Scorcho!!)

So, week 3 ended with another round of success, in terms of hitting all the workouts on time and at the distance required.  There was also a fun, fun, FUN race to wrap up the week.

The weekday runs this go-round were tough. For whatever reason, I struggled with a lot of the mid-week workouts – whether that was a lack of sleep, general fatigue after Too Hot to Handle, or poor nutrition, I can’t say for sure.  I know the beastly hot weather and a couple of timing issues played into a couple of runs being craptastic.  The first run of the week, on Tuesday morning, was just a disaster. The weather was grossly humid and hot, I nearly tripped, and my legs felt like someone had replaced my feet with bricks. I felt stupid on this run, like I had no business running four miles, much less training for a marathon. My ego definitely took a hit on this one.  But, I did get the mileage in.

Wednesday’s run was the best of the lot – I ended up going out pretty late in the evening, so it was significantly cooler and my route was over familiar streets. I felt strong all throughout, and even though the plan only called for five miles, I felt like doing six, and handled those really capably.  Definitely restored some confidence to me after Tuesday’s run.  But, then, on Thursday, any confidence I had was quickly sucked out of my body and brain by that afternoon’s debacle.  I had planned to pawn skating practice off on my husband since he had thought he would be getting home early that night, so that I could run my park  5k loop near the house, after the sun went down while they were gone. Otherwise, I would have had to wait until we got home from practice, which is sometimes past 9:00 pm.  I just didn’t feel like being out that late that night. But the way things turned out, he actually had a dinner event to attend for work, so I ended up pulling skate duty. Which is fine.  I am a Skatemom – it’s what I do.  But it did call for scrambling in the schedule.  So I decided to maximize time and run during practice, on a route I charted around the rink.  Except the rink is in a kind of sketchy part of town, one that I’m not quite familiar with yet, and the route I mapped had no trees, shade or sidewalks for most of the 5K. And since practice started at 6:45, it was still almost 95 degrees out when I left.  That run quickly turned into a death march – I was sure I’d gone the wrong way because the turnaround (of the 5K route) had not come into view after 20 minutes.  I couldn’t believe I was so slow, but it was just so hot, and I had to pick my way along this very uneven, nearly non-existent shoulder for much of it, and oh, yeah, no shade, so I was dying.  I ended up walking the last ¼ mile back to the rink because I was just so demoralized.

On Friday, I contemplated skipping the run scheduled for that day because I was still so bummed out from the previous night’s outing. Even though I knew it was related to the heat, I felt like I should have been better able to handle the conditions.  I thought maybe I needed to adjust the schedule so I could rest and really prepare for Sunday’s race. But the, about six o’clock that evening, it started to rain. And rain in the summer in North Texas can be absolutely heavenly. So I decided to take advantage of it and rushed out to get a rain run in.  It actually stopped raining halfway to the park, and ended up being more of a humid-air sticky run instead, but I did regain a little bit of my confidence.  And that is always a good feeling.  I had a mile buffer on the log because of stretching out Wednesday’s run, so on Saturday morning, I was able to keep that workout to a quick little two-miler instead of a full 5K. I didn’t take the watch with me, and ended up just doing a short loop around my neighborhood. I didn’t really want to do a whole lot, because I knew I had a long day in store to prepare for that night’s festivities…. El Scorcho!!

El Scorcho is a unique little 50k/25K race held in Fort Worth, alongside the Trinity River on the trails in the park there.  It’s unique in that it’s held on the weekend of the full moon at MIDNIGHT! The course is a 5k loop, so you go as many times as you need to for the distance you signed up for.  I’ve heard about it for a few years, and had always wanted to do it, so when I was deciding what I wanted for Mother’s Day this year, this is what came to mind (crazy, I know – my Mother’s Day gift was a race entry to an endurance run in the middle of the night!).  My training plan had a 15-miler this weekend anyway, so I figured it would be much more fun to run with 500 other people than to slog out a long run on my own. There is a limit of 500 runners total, and there is a tiered entry fee system, so the earlier you sign up, the less it costs. We got a great sleeveless singlet as well as this awesome bumper sticker which is now accessorizing the back end of the Electric Blue Vibe in our packets.

What made this race extra special for me this year is that I had the chance to meet up and run with a bunch of my Twitter friends, some old and some new!  Not only were we going to be racing together, but a bunch of us were going to be running in neon tutus!  Yep, me, the least girlie-girl anyone knows, in a pink/orange/yellow/teal tutu!!  I can’t explain how that happened, but it turns out that I was one of only two in our group that kept the thing on all night!  Have to give a big shout out to the Tutu Girls (and Lee and Greg, who did not wear tutus, but who were nonetheless a great part of the weekend): 
  • Jennifer, who made the tutus while watching the Bachelor at home in St Louis – we are crazy for running this race at midnight, but she actually TRAVELED to do ti!!;
  • Kris, who I’ve said before is one of my running heroes – for a newbie runner less than a year from when she first put on the sneaks, she is rocking it, and always has the BEST attitude;
  • Mel, who I only met in passing at Cowtown, but who I ran with for the first three laps and who is just a machine – plus her babies are still little, and how she is training for Chicago with all that going on, I have no idea!
  • Sarah, a new friend, who is a 3X IronMan finisher and an ultrarunner and who makes me want to be half as awesome like her when I grow up. 
  • Libby, who is FIVE months pregnant and ran this monstrosity of a race doing intervals to keep her heart rate down – if I could have run like she does during my pregnancies, wow, how awesome that would have been;
  • Isis, she of The Running Couple (yes, them).   I know them!! I’ve met them! I’ve shared meals with them!  I know blogging/Twitter royalty!  And they are both about the most fun, down-to-earth adorable people you can hope to meet (and crazy-fit and –lean, too!)
Timing nutrition for this race was tricky, because how do you fuel for a race that starts at midnight? I ended up eating like I normally would, with a recovery breakfast after the two-miler, then lunch around 1:00ish, a small dinner at 5:00 and then a NAP! I knew I would be tired if I didn’t nap! I woke up around 8:00 and had another small meal then but I didn’t feel like eating too much – after all, I wouldn’t necessarily wake up at 2:00 in the morning to eat if I was going to run at 6:00 AM!  I did grab a granola bar and a banana to eat on the way to the race, so I did have something close to my usual fuel an hour or so out from the starting gun.  I had also been drinking water like my life depended on it all week, especially since the heat had gotten the best of me the last two long runs. I knew it would be cooler out because the sun wouldn’t be a factor, but the humidity would still be there, plus, 15 miles in 85 degrees is no cakewalk.  

I did my usual bottles of half-water/half-Gatorade with a shake of salt, but because we were running loops, I decided to drop them at the Twitter-station Greg and Sarah had set up, so I could take them as I passed each lap. The rest of the time, I would count on the aid stations, which were offering Heed and plain water.  Once we’d gotten all settled, it was time for the 50K distance to start, and then we had a little bit of time before the 25K started.

I ran the first half with Kris and Mel, and even though they had their headphones in and were rocking it out, we did a great job keeping a good even pace that would allow us to not burn out and fade away. It made the miles fly by to be in a pack, and we got a little bit of attention with the tutus and all! By about eight miles in, Kris was starting to fight some with a side stitch and kept urging me to go on, so at the end of the third lap, I went ahead and kept my pace and slipped ahead of her a bit. At that point, I was surprised to come upon Sarah in her tutu and long skirt (she runs 50Ks in a long skirt!!) and we walked/ran a little of the fourth lap together. Since she was doing the 50K she was keeping her pace in the  12s as well, so after a bit, I said goodby to her and accelerated again.

I was apprehensive about a looped course – after all, I loathe loops in my usual training runs. If I have to run a loop, I may as well just accept the fact that I’ll call it good after one loop. Because, I’m right there, at the end. Right? I can’t be the only one who thinks like that!  I end up always having to do long out and backs or I end up cheating myself on the distance. It’s how I’m wired! So the looped course was a concern; I was also slightly concerned about how I would keep track of the loops – a concern I was glad to find out was shared by my Tweeps!  But it was ended up being great, because as we got closer to the end, it was really easy to anticipate what came next and what was ahead in the loop.  Actually, in the last loop, I was actually chanting to myself the following, because I knew that the end was in sight: 

“Turnaround, wet towels, water stop, kitty cats, chupacabra, bridges, truck, finish…”*

I felt really strong at the end, a situation I completely credit Kris and Mel with helping me achieve, since keeping with them in the early loops made me hold back and reserve some energy for the end. I have had challenges in long runs lately with slowing down precariously in the last miles, and I this was not an issue at all this time.  I think the Heed the water stops offered also had a lot to do with it – it kept my electrolytes in check much more effectively than my usual cocktail, and I will be changing to use it on my long runs.  I had my Clif Bloks for fuel and used one of those at each water stop after the second loop, so that kept my energy needs in check. All in all, I felt like it was a really nicely run effort on my part, and part of the reason I had so much fun is that I really had no physical issues or challenges except getting through the miles.

Once I came through the chutes the last time, the race director called me out as “tutu girl” and pointed me toward a volunteer to get my medal.  I immediately went toward the pools of ice water by the Tiki Hut and rubbed cold water on my legs, first to get the salt and grime off them, and secondly to offset any impending soreness.  I then found my way back to Twitter Central, where Greg and his friend Dat (not on Twitter yet) were camped out, recovering from their beastly efforts and cheering. Soon enough, Mel and Kris came through and we were able to sit and enjoy the atmosphere for a bit. We had planned to have pancakes (pancakes are BIG with the Twitter runners, FYI!) but by the time most of us came in, we were wiped out and were just thinking of bath and bed. By about 4:00 am, we decided to pack it in for the day and headed out to the parking lots.  I was so glad to have had so many friends around for this experience, and it surely made the whole event that much more memorable. Big Kudos to Fort Worth Running Company for a very nicely done event, and to the volunteers from the Cowtown Marathon relief station for their great support & ice-cold wet towels!  We definitely have this race on our list for next summer, and some of us may or may not have made the decision out loud to do the 50K distance… 

EDITED TO ADD:  OMG! How did I do that?  I was so focused on the TuTu girls, I left out one of the rock stars of the night! Sergio, another Twitter buddy, became an Ultramarathoner that night by finishing the 50K distance in just about the same time it took me to finish Cowtown full.  We didn't get a chance to meet up beforehand, but he flew by us sometime around lap three, so we know he had a great night! Thankfully, our tutus made us recognizable!  And, I have to give him credit for the photo above of me, Kris & Mel's feet; his wife took that and he sent it on to me.  Congrats, Sergio!!

So, I will definitely call Week 3 of NYCM training an unqualified success!  Good mileage put in, even though some of it wasn’t fun at the time it was being run, great times with neat friends, and a superb racing experience.  Can’t ask for much more!  Except for speed, I guess, but that’s just being greedy!!

*Here is a little more info on my "chant" from the last loop! 
  • “Turnaround…” the first mile of the course was an out & back along the river
  • “Wet towels…” -the Cowtown marathon volunteers were handing out wet paper towels that were like magic at keeping us cool – everyone’s favorite thing!
  • “water stop…” self-explanatory water stop, with a slight uphill beforehand
  • “kitty cats…” three strays had taken up a napping spot along a sidewalk on the trail, even with 500 runners going by them all night!
  • “chupacabra…”  scary part of the trail that was not lit and very wooded along the sides – I imagined a chupacabra jumping out at us, even though a sign earlier warned of Zombies!
  • “Bridges…” a couple of footbridges along the path
  • “Truck…” a pickup truck with some volunteers was parked along a turn back into the park
  • “Finish” 

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Week 3 - NYCM Training - hold, please!!

Eeeep! I'm a week behind - just posted the Week 2 blog entry from last week!

Will work on Week 3 (along with El Scorcho race report) tonight!

Short story, though:  100% on time and under budget!  WOOT!

Week 2 - NYCM Training

Week Two is done, with another successful week of hitting all my workouts "on time and under budget."  OK, I don't know what the under budget part would be, but that's what we say in the Project Management world when things work out like they should.  And for the most part in Week 2, they did.

The week started off with a rest day, which I felt I really needed after the debacle of last week's long run. The heat just sucked the life out of me, and the chills & goosebumps I had after mile 9 of my 12-miler really shook me up, so I am going to have to experiment with salt tabs or electrolytes like Endurolytes or something more than a shake of salt in my water/gatorade mix bottles. I did take the opportunity to reintroduce myself to my foam roller, which I feel like I'm going to be doing a lot of in the next few months. It really did help to work out some of the kinks I develop in my upper back and shoulders when my form goes to heck in the later miles.

The Tuesday through Thursday runs were all five-milers, which is an interesting schedule.  Uusally, my plans have involved a longer Wednesday run, and shorter distances on T/Th, but this new plan from the NYRR club called for 5/5/5 midweek.  So I went with it.  Tuesdays' run was fine, except I forgot to fuel and so was feeling a little energy-sapped halfway through.

Wednesday's run was in the evening, with my RLR peeps, and it was beastly hot.  We did the first two miles of our first 5K loop in about 21 minutes, which is a speedy pace for us, especially at that time of the day.  But a couple of our folks had lingering injury issues which forced us to slow down the last mile of the 5K so that we ended up with 35-minute time for the first loop.  After we sat on the concrete and recovered for a bit, we made adjustments to the second loop so that we did a couple of out-n-backs in the shade for two miles.  That worked out much better than usual route, and we were able to speed up and finish with a 19:30 for those last two.

Thursday's run was on the same route as the Tuesday run, and this biggest challenge there was that I ran it about 10 hours after I finished the Wednesday night run.  That was a tough one, but I had refueled after Wednesday adequately, and remembered to fuel up before the morning outing, so at least I had something in the tanks to draw from for that one.  I didn't take splits on this one, but I felt pretty strong, which pleasantly surprised me.

Saturday's run was a nice leisurely five-miler around my neighborhood, ending up at a new breakfast place to meet my friend.  She usually meets me for our Saturday morning walks, but she needed a break from the exercise, but not the camaraderie, so we skipped the walk and just did the meetup & breakfast!  I indulged in some delicious pancakes and then pretty much spent the rest of the day in a deep vegetative coma.  Part of my exhaustion was that we had been up at 3:30 to take my older son to the airport for his Scout trek, so that alone wore me out.

Sunday was a race day, and by race, I mean a training run with full support from a Race Director and the support you get from seeing friends and fellow runners out on the same course with you.  The name of the race was Too Hot to Handle, and let me tell you, it was. No lie. We got a late start, so it was closer to 8:00 by the time we got going, and even though we ran along a course that bordered the lake, enough of it was in the direct sun to make it pretty brutal. The shaded parts of the course were great, and we did get a little cooling breeze off the lake, but by and large, the overarching feeling I got was that it was just HOT.  I had no expectations of this race, except to use it as a supported training run, and hopefully see some of my Twitter peeps.  I might have checked previous results to see where the Athena finishers came in, but up until the day before the race, I also thought I was going to be pacing a friend at his speed, so I put any thoughts of placement out of my mind by race morning. He ended up not being able to run, but I still had expected to just use it as a training run, and not really race.  Another of my fellow RLRs signed up for the shorter distance, so we met halfway between our homes for the early drive in.

I could tell when I walked out of the house that it was going to be beastly. The humidity was thick and it was already 84 degrees at 5:30 am. yeesh. We got to the race site in good time, and lucked into a great parking spot about a tenth of a mile from the start/finish line - it was perfect, so we could pick up packets, go back to the car and dump everything, then wander back to the start line and not feel wiped out. We saw @SeeKrisRun beforehand (she's hard to miss - she's tall and radiates AWESOME!!) and then decided to get into the monstrous porta-potty line. We had 45 minutes to spare before the start, and even though we cut it close, we did manage to get through it before the start time; as a bonus, we found another RLR about ten people in front of us in line and had time to chat since we were just standing around anyway!  gotta love it!

So with all pre-race business done, we headed to the start, putting ourselves far back in the pretty big crowd.  and we waited. and waited. and waited. Apparently, there was some delay while they checked on the hydration stations, whatever that means. Meanwhile, the already hot day?  Getting hotter. They finally started us off about 20 minutes late, and when you add in the extra five minutes it took us to get to the start, I didn't start running until nearly 8:00.  I would normally be home kicking up my soggy heels by that time for a summer run, so it was already ominous that we hadn't even started yet.  But, it is what it is, right?

So, I took off, again, with no expectations of how I would do placement-wise or pace-wise, just wanting to run smart and finish strongly.  The first three miles were great - I felt good, and found it pretty easy to get into a groove, once I managed to stay on the proper route (I may have gone a few feet toward the 5K turnoff before looking up and realizing I was going the wrong way!).  The second three miles were good, too, although I did start to slow down some by then, mostly because I stopped to take a couple of Clif Bloks and then to stop and strip off my outer shirt at the turnaround. I also had to stop and dry off my iPod, because it wasn't responsive with the moisture on it. I also saw Libby in these middle miles - she wasn't running, but was doing a great job supporting all the runners with cheers & taking lots of pics, like this one! Thanks, Libby!

Mile 8 was tough. A large stretch of it was on unshaded paths, and I started getting the chilled feeling I had during my long run the week before. I had to slow down to a walk and recover until the feeling passed. I picked out a point a few hundred feet in front of me and determined that I would walk until I hit that spot and then start running again, even if it was at a much slower pace. And that's what I did, even though about three minutes before I was feeling great. The feeling just came over me really quickly.  I took another few sips of my gatorade/water mix and when I started running again, I was able to keep it up through the end.  It helped that I knew I was getting close, and also that I hit some more shady spots on the course.  By then, I knew that any chance of Athena placement was out of the question - they'd averaged 10:30s the year before, and that walking stretch had increased my pace well beyond that.  But I finished strongly, actually feeling really good by the last mile. My legs were solid, and my breathing was fine, it was just that little blip of feeling chilled & having goosebumps threw me off - that's a very disconcerting feeling when it's 90+ degrees outside.

As I pulled under the overpass to the finish line, I saw my friend Jennifer looking cool as a cucumber and waiting for me. She rocked the 5K with a 10/mile pace, which was awesome. We found some water, warm watermelon that still tasted really, really good, and then wandered around looking for some shade.  I found my friend Kris again, and we took a couple of sweaty-post-run pics for twitter. But, by then, I was done and ready to go home. It had been a long morning!  But overall, I felt like I did a great job with it, all things considered, and it was a fun race and a good route, even if it was Too Hot to Handle!!

Splits are below for posterity - I did these manually with the mile markers since I didn't charge the Garmin:
Mile 1:  10:29 - went out too fast in first 1/2 mlie, purposely pulled it back, did an OK job adjusting
Mile 2:  10:32 - settled into good groove by now
Mile 3: 10:34 - ready and waiting for all sprinklers at this point
Mile 4: 10:42 - still feeling strong, but feeling heat now
Mile 5: 11:14 - slowed down to fit with Clif Bloks package - forgot to open them beforehand
Mile 6: 10:45 - stopped at turnaround to take off top layer
Mile 7: 11:22 - starting to feel slow
Mile 8: 12:40 - we're walking, we're walking... may have sent a few texts in here... =)
Mile 9: 10:56 - feeling stronger, in the shade again, getting final kick in
Last stretch:  3:36 - felt really good for last stretch & finished strongly.

Oh, and BONUS:  When I got home and checked results, I had won 2nd place Athena after all!  WOOT!  How 'bout that?!  Truly made my afternoon!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Week 1 - NYCM Training

Week One is in the books as 100% hit mileage-wise.  Sunday's long run was a little less than ideal, as I had some heat stress symptoms about 9 miles into my 12-miler.  I had to slow down and walk some, so my splits were atrocious for the last half. I also went out too fast, which has been an issue for me for a while, so I know I need to focus on that for future long runs. But, I did complete all my runs, and I didn't have to do any juggling of the schedule, so I consider Week One a success.

I continue to drop a few ounces here and there, and a couple of friends commented the other day that I look like I've lost weight, so I'll take that. From here on out, I have no fewer than 30 miles each week, and by mid-August, I'll be hitting 40+ mileage weeks until October. I need to continue to be thoughtful and conscientious about what I put in my mouth and I think I'll be OK nutrition-wise.   

The heat is also a huge factor, and I have to be very, very disciplined about getting out in the mornings for these runs, because even then it's a steambath, but it is more tolerable early in the mornings. There are just no excuses. None. for the next 17 weeks, I have to find a way to Make It Happen. Just like I did this week. Overall, I hit my runs, and I hit them on the correct day. That was pretty remarkable considering we had the holiday in there, along with some family issues that resulted in an unplanned two-day road trip and a total of 16 hours driving across Texas at the end of the week. Through a tropical depression.  But I made sure to get my runs in, and did my damnedest to make sure I hit them at the right intensity & pace. So, I just need to rinse & repeat, 17 times.

Monday, July 05, 2010

Ready, Set... GO!

So, today was the start of my official New York City Marathon training plan. And like many plans, it starts with a rest day, so I felt off all day, like I should be doing something productive, instead of, well, resting. I did have a rather intense and intermittently painful/enjoyable session with my foam roller this morning, working out some of the kinks from yesterday's long run. But beyond that, I didn't run and I sure felt like I didn't really start anything today.

But, tomorrow, it starts in earnest.  I'm using the Basic Marathoner plan from the ING New York City marathon site, and it calls for three 20-mile runs and one 22-miler.  I've never done more than one 20-miler in preparation before, and maybe that's been the problem. Even though I've finished eight marathons in the past six years, I've never really had an easy race, and I've crashed and burned about mile 18-19 more than once. So this year, I am taking a much more aggressive tact and working with a plan that demands more miles from the outset, and more miles in the midst of it, and more miles on the long runs.

The streak in June was designed to build up my legs, and build up my confidence. It was intended to remind me of the times of day that I run best (either early morning or late at night - early evening does NOT work for me), and to remind me that I really do enjoy running. That's why I very often did not run with a watch or even an iPod for much of June. I was not so interested in split times and paces as I was with getting the miles in and rebuilding my brain, rewiring me as a distance runner.

Now, I have the plan in place, and it's been adapted to allow for Sunday long runs, so that I can continue to meet my BFFs for our weekly therapy walks on Saturdays.  It's been adapted a bit to allow for the races that I'm running this summer (a 15K in a few weeks will require a run-off of a couple of miles afterward, then a 15-miler at midnight, and a half-marathon in mid-August), but I am bound and determined to hit 100% of my workouts for this training cycle. I know that is probably not going to happen, and I'm not going to beat myself up if it doesn't happen, but that is definitely going to be the goal, each and every week.

Do I have a time goal for this race? Of course I do. Is it realistic? I'm not sure. Yet. I'll know better once I've gotten some of those 20-milers under my belt whether it's a realistic goal or not. I know that at my half-marathon PR pace, hell, even at my worst half-marathon pace, that I am capable of finishing a marathon in under five hours. I have not done it yet. But for this race, I am really less concerned with the time on the clock (LIES!!) than I am with having a good time during the race. I want to have fun during this race. I want to enjoy the scenery and the sounds and the entire atmosphere of one of the biggest races in the world in one of the most amazing cities in the world.  I don't want to spend any of this race sitting on the curb crying. I don't want to start this race injured and mentally shaken up so that I don't perform to my best. I want to have the experience of a lifetime at this race, and soak it all up and have it be the most fun that I've ever had at a marathon. Is that too high of an expectation?  Probably. But when you hear runners talk about NYC, it may not be. And when I think about the time that I've spent in NYC, and the runs that I've done in Central Park, along the reservoir at dusk, I don't think that it is too high an expectation. I'm working to create a memory here, a memory that I've waited four years for. Hell, I've waited 40 years for this, I just didn't know it until recently.

So, am I excited about the next 18 weeks?  Oh, yes. Yes, I am. Am I scared? Even more so. I'm scared I'll get hurt, or get sick, or do something stupid again (like try to learn to skate and blow out my knee in the process... not that I'm contemplating learning to skate anytime soon... yes, I am... but, yeah.).  But more than anything, I am READY for the next 18 weeks, and those 18 weeks, well, they started today.