Sunday, September 26, 2010

Pacing Success

I ran the Heels & Hills & Him half marathon today, but i didn't just run it. I served as a pacer for the 2:40 group. I got there early enough to park and meet up with a couple of folks, including my original Twitter buddy Mark and his family, and my Red Light Runner hockey momma Jennifer.

Our traditional pre-race self-portrait!
About fifteen minutes before the start, I wandered over to find my balloons - it appeared that my 2:40 balloons had popped but I found a set of unmarked balloons and made my way over to the start line. After a group pic of the pacers, many of which were wearing the same knee-high pink striped socks I was,  I set myself between the 2:35 pacers and the 3:00 pacers. There was a group of about six runners that started with me, and before we knew it, the starting gun went off and we were underway. 

We chatted for a bit at the start, and settled into a nice rhythm and a nice pace. After about three miles as we walked the water stop, three of the group took off earlier than we did and ended up getting about four-five minutes ahead of us at the finish. Another couple of girls sped up after about the halfway mark, but I had one girl that stuck with me for the entire race. She had some difficulty around mile 10, which is a usual tough spot for the half distance. She was determined, though, and we ended up finishing strong at 2:39:40. Her family was at the finish and it was really rewarding to have been there for her first half. 

Even though I didn't really do much more than keep an even pace for her to follow, and talk to her during some rough spots, it felt so great to have helped her, and it was a very, very rewarding experience. It reminded me of how much I love to run, and how much I love to help other runners through the tough spots, and how much I enjoy motivating and pushing people to reach their potential and attain their goals. I thought about all my friends that I've paced before now, and how I talk to them to keep their minds off the pain in their feet, or the heat, or the cold and rain, and how much fun it is to see them cross the line and realize, "I did it!" They are the ones who do the work, and who put one foot in front of the other from the start line to the finish line. I'm just the one who gets to see it happen, up close and personal. 

At the finish! Yes, I carried those balloons for 13 miles! 
Here are my splits, from all but the last mile.  I never saw the Mile 13 marker and I forgot to stop my watch at the end, so those are screwed up, but the others are accurate to the mile markers. 

Mile 1 - 11:38 - little bit fast
Mile 2 - 10:47 - way fast, but we were on a downhill here
Mile 3 - 11:56 - right on target - three runners moved up in pace here
Mile 4 - 11:43 - little fast
Mile 5 - 11:49 - right about on target
Mile 6 - 11:35 - little fast
Mile 7 - 11:55 - right on target - turnaround point here - two other runners moved up in front here
Mile 8 - 12:00 - serious uphill here 
Mile 9 - 11:37 - little fast
Mile 10 - 11:31 - little fast, but we wanted to bank time
Mile 11 - 14:16 - for a potty break - by now, Candace was my only pace-ee so I waited for her
Mile 12 - 12:00 - right on time
Mile 13 - 13:?? - never saw the marker - heard rumblings that the course was long 
Mile .1 - ???

Total time was 2:39:40 for my pace-ee and I crossed in 2:39:48.  At mile 12, we were at 2:22, and I know we didn't slow down that much in the last mile, even though it was a serious uphill into the wind. So I'm not sure what happened there, but bottom line, we made it in our goal time, and the others in the group surpassed their goals by an even bigger margin. 

In terms of my results, my time was good for 8th place Athena out of 34. It was a great day!!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

What Next? or, See It, Say It...

So, yes, I have this little race coming up in, oh, 46 days. And my entire existence, for the most part, at least when it comes to running, has been focused on this for the last six months. And I'm excited for it, don't get me wrong. My friends who are coming with me and I are starting to organize logistics for the surrounding days and nights of our extended girls' weekend in the city, and that's making me even more anxious for it to get here. I've talked about my training kicking my butt so that have a stellar outing that day, or at least have no doubt that I have done all the preparation that I could going into the race. But, now is the time, with the race drawing nearer and nearer every day, that I have to start thinking about what comes next. 

I've said a couple of times on here that I have started to do some of my runs on trails instead of on pavement. I have to say, this has been the single most revolutionary thing for me and my attitude toward running since I first decided to lace up the shoes and toe the line at my first full back in 2004. Running on trails is so refreshing, so challenging and so invigorating that if I could, I would never run on pavement again. It forces you to focus on where you're stepping, on lifting your feet, and it engages your entire body as you barrel down into ravines and across creeks and jump over fallen logs and such. I feel ALIVE when I run on trails in a way that I've don't when I run through my usual "urban assault" routes that run next to the McDonald's & Starbucks. From a mental standpoint, it restores me in a way I can't begin to explain. It makes me whole. 

I have thought about that a lot in the past few weeks as I start to plan out what my running life looks like after NYCM.  For so long, I thought that this would be the pinnacle of my running career, to complete the New York City Marathon. And now that it's so close to being a reality, I really have to consider my goals and my dreams for running and for my lifestyle. A lot of this ties into what a friend of mine called my "middle-aged crazy" this summer - I feel like I want to really bring a lot of adventure and excitement into my life, but I'm not sure how. If I were a dude, I'd go out and get a sports car, probably. But I'm not, and I'm perfectly happy with my little EBV (Electric Blue Vibe), thank you very much!  But I do have a desire to really stretch myself and really see how I can go to the next level with my running. I will be qualifiying for Marathon Maniacs this year, as well, so that's one accomplishment that if all goes well I can scratch off my list.  And the next logical step is an ultra marathon. At least it is for me!  I still have it in mind to keep going after 50 states, but there is plenty of time for that, and ultras count toward that, so I'd be getting two birds with one stone to start doing some ultras. 

The thing is, I really want to do a trail ultra. And not just a 50K, either.  I really want to do a 50-miler, and probably a stage race like Trans-Rockies (seeing Michelle's video got me super-stoked to do this soon, and meeting her in person made it even more so!), and ultimately, yeah, I could do something longer, I think. But, you gotta start somewhere, right? 

A few weeks ago, I started to "see it" as I tossed around a few ideas with a friend of mine, as we had some conversations and came to the realization that, yeah, a trail ultra was far from a pipe dream and was, in fact, a feasible thing for us to shoot for. It wasn't anything that we couldn't undertake without the same kind of planning and training that we've been doing for a half or a full.  It would just mean more miles and more time. Would that be a challenge? Absolutely, but with the right motivation and the right support system, it is completely do-able. Then after some tweeting with my other super-hero IM / 50-miler bad-ass friend Sarah, she helped seal the deal. 

So, here I go.  I'm about to "Say It." and all that's left then is to put the plan together and follow the plan and turn these goals into reality.  Here is my race schedule for the next six months (this is in addition to the existing road races I detailed in this entry):

  • January 8 - Bandera 50K
  • February 5 - Rocky Raccoon 50-miler (Yes, I know 50-miler is sold out. I'm working on it...where there's a will there's a way type of thing...)
  • February 27 - Cowtown Full 
  • March 19 - Grasslands 50-miler

Wow. It's out there.  I said it.  Out loud. To the internets. Now I gotta Make It Happen. Wheeee!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Survival Mode

Definitely feel like the last week was all about survival mode. But, all in all, I have to call it a success nonetheless, because despite my kid getting his brains scrambled in last weekend's hockey game requiring a ton of doctors visits & follow ups, very late nights for work (think college all-nighters, TWICE) and a long hard look at some of my interpersonal relationships, I was still able to get all my training done this week.

For the first time this training cycle I had to shuffle some things around (ironic, considering that I cut that night's run short after  posting about how I was not going to let things bother me and impact my training!) but ultimately, my log shows that I hit 100% of my training for this week, including my second 20-miler. One of those runs was a painful, tedious slog that sucked my soul out of my body, and one I had to cut short because I was too wrapped up in emotions to just get it done that night.  But I switched days around and by the end of the week, I was all caught up and feeling better about my week. I was feeling pretty damn good about my training, actually, and my week as a whole.

After a whole lot of chaos this past week, this is what my Friday-Sunday looked like, and all of these things added up to really renew my spirit, if not totally sap my body!!

  • Quick, relatively easy 5.75 mile run - got back the run I had to cut short Wednesday night
  • Sushi take-out dinner date w the husband
  • 50-minute romp through nearly deserted trails in North Arlington
  • Hour-long full body massage
  • Afternoon of low-stress errands & hanging out w all three of my boys 
  • Saturday evening watching my Longhorns (they ultimately won after I went to bed - whew)
  • Early Sunday long run w Marci & Kris - we ran HARD and blew away our last 20-mile time 
  • Relaxing quiet afternoon at home full of naps with baby cats snuggled up to me
  • Delicious home-made meal & fun family time around the dinner table

Marci, Kris and me after our 20-mile run around Lake Grapevine. We rocked it.
This week was rough, no two ways about it. But it reinforced to me that not only can I get the training done for NYC when life intervenes, but that the training helps keep me centered and grounded.  I can keep myself going when life intervenes because my running is my lifeline, my therapy, and my own personal coping mechanism.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

52 Days

Week 11 of training for NYCM began yesterday. I ran 57 miles last week. Sunday's long run put me at 1000 miles for the year. This is really happening.

I've been in kind of a tumult the last few weeks from a personal standpoint.  I've learned a couple of hard lessons about friendship and loyalty and trust. It's affected my general moods and my home life to some degree, but not my running. I refuse to let anything affect my training and my preparation for this race. If anything, I am now even more determined to have a stellar day and an amazing weekend. And now someone who I thought would be sharing in the excitement of the day will not be. And that's their loss. Not mine.

Because as of right now, I am so ready for this, and I can only see myself getting stronger as the date approaches. The people in my life who genuinely care about me - my family, close friends old and new, virtual friends that I've never met in person but who are amazingly thoughtful and kind and nurturing nonetheless - are standing by me and cheering for me and encouraging me as I do the work, and they will be there for me, in body and in spirit, as I tackle the final 26.2 miles of this journey.

52 Days. BRING IT!

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Quick Thought

A friend of mine is prepping for his second marathon this fall, and had expressed frustration on Facebook at having a bad 14-mile attempt after a couple of weeks of life interfered with his training. I jumped in and asked him if he had been able to get that run back, and asked about his training in general. He asked about mine, and the response I poured out to him was so quick off my brain yet so completely indicative of how I am feeling about my current state that I wanted to capture it here, and not have it lost to the clutter of our FB pages.
My training is awesome so far! I'm having a blast with trail running, trying to run with as many different people as possible and just cranking out miles left and right. So glad the weather is finally cooler - I am OVER the high temps and now feel like it's really fun to run again. I have a crazy number of races where I'm pacing folks or just having fun in the next few months and I'm loving every bit of it! 

I've had challenges keeping up with this blog during the height of this training cycle - cranking out 40 mpw will do that to you, I guess.  But the feeling in that short response above is exactly why I wanted to document my journey to NYCM here - I want to remember later, when it's harder or I'm injured, or just not having a good time with running, what it feels like when it's going well. And right now, despite some minor changes in plans that have had to happen  to accommodate some things here and there, things are going well.  and for that, I am really, really grateful. And even though we're still two months out from the big day, I feel like I'm getting as ready as I can be, and I'm excited for not only November 8, but for the ability to run and to share my passion with so many friends on a daily basis.

Carry on!

Monday, September 06, 2010

20-Mile Long Run

I ran my first 20-miler of this training cycle today.  And I'm not at all concerned about the stats from that run, because they don't really matter.*

What matters is that the company I shared today was awesome. Simply awesome. I have run many 20-milers in my running life. Some have been tortuous, some have been cut short from tweakiness, some have been just OK.  But I simply cannot remember one in which I not only did the full 20 miles, but enjoyed EVERY step of the way.

Marci, Kris & Mel after two loops. 
I am so blessed to have so many friends to share my running with.  I met up with my favorite girls Kris, Mel and Marci today for our run around White Rock Lake. I originally met them through Twitter, but I believe they have become bona-fide In-Real-Life friends nows. The three of them are training for the Chicago Marathon on 10-10-10, and none had ever run that far before today.  It was a sincere pleasure to be there with them as they crossed that milestone in preparation for their marathon journey.

We had a lot of laughs, outrageous conversation, a few songs, and some pain and frustration along the way - all par for the course in a 20-mile run. They truly made the miles fly by.  This was a long run to remember, and one that I am sure I will recall when things get tough the next time out, as they inevitably do.  I will remember Marci's toughness, Kris's upbeat attitude even as she faced shin pain & self-doubt, and Mel's machine-like speed.

After 20 miles. Yeah, we're hot, sweaty, but smiling & AWESOME all the same!
*But for the record, we did 20 miles in 4:20 moving time. Lots of breaks at the car to refresh, refuel & re-fill our liquids.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Playing catch-up, August numbers, New Runners & Nutrition

Seems like I'm doing a LOT of playing catch-up lately, on this blog and in real life.  I'd really, really wanted to document every week of my training for NYCM on here, and I started off great, but as the demands of running 35+ miles a week grew (at a 10:30+/mile pace), the time for deep thought and introspection shrunk in direct relation.  Throw in the demands of getting two boys back to school and a husband with a full-time job and a 30-mile commute, plus that pesky work thing, and the time just escaped me.

Which is a bummer, because there are so many great and wonderful things going on with my training and my preparations for NYCM and beyond.  So, since we're now at the end of August, let's just do a quick highlight of all the stuff that's gone one since my last entry, and get all caught up and stuff.
  • August was my highest-mileage month ever:  176 miles in 31 days. As someone pointed out, it's nice to have five Sundays in a month so we get five long runs, but still. This is a full 44 miles more than my next-closest mileage month, which was July... before that, June... In the last three months, I've run a total of 439 miles. 
  • My weekly mileage will not go below 40 miles from now until taper for NYCM. This week will be a bit of an anomaly with 36 miles, as I shuffle my 20-miler to Monday on Labor Day, but the following week will make up for it with 57 miles scheduled  - and that DOES include a rest day! Holy cow! Feets don't fail me now!
  • I have run more than 900 miles so far in 2010, and am 100 miles ahead of pace to meet my goal of 1200 miles this year.  Considering that the September schedule calls for another 170 miles, I'm in good shape toward reaching that goal. 
  • I have not missed a single NYCM workout thus far in nine weeks of training and have hit 100% of my scheduled mileage every week, with one notable exception. I cut one run short, but it was an 18-mile day and I instead did 13 miles on trails, which from a time and effort standpoint, was equivalent in my mind. Plus, I've never had an 18-miler so early in my training cycle, and I did an extra run on another day to bring my mileage to 97% for the week so  I was totally fine with it. 
  • I paced my friend Jason as he ran his first half-marathon at the Hottest Half this month.  He first ran a 5k in January of this year, and chose the hardest half in Texas, condition-wise, to become a half-marathoner. He's made phenomenal progress in the past 8 months and is training for his first full at White Rock this year. It's been so much fun to see him become an awesome, hard-core, bad-a$$ runner guy.

  • Oh yeah, Hottest Half. They weren't kidding. Ran out of water on the course, people dropping from the heat, cyclists running us over on the paths. Wow. Read more here - I don't have the energy to go into it again. Suffice it to say I will NOT be doing this race next year. 
  • I continue to love to run with as many different people as possible, as much as possible. We're trying to get the Red Light Runners up and going again after the summer break - a few of us have met sporadically for Wednesday night runs throughout the heat even! Among the highlights of August was running with my girls Mel and Kris as they extended their limits and ran their first 18-miler in preparation for Chicago on 10/10/10.  There's something about running with friends that make the miles fly, and I love running with as many different people as I can! I'll get to run with them again, and Marci, too, as we go for 20 miles this weekend! WOOT!
  • I've discovered trail running. Yeah. Thanks to Sarah, who is amongst the most awesome, amazing, genuine people I have ever met, I ventured out on the trails out at the Oak Cliff Nature Preserve. We did 13 miles of up and down, over and across rocks, tree roots, ravines, inclines, grass, all kinds of stuff. It was beyond awesome. And I got hooked. Big-time. It's such a different type of experience than a road workout. Expect much more to come on this front!
  • I've just set up two more friends on walking/running plans for their first races. One friend is working on her first 5k next month and another is gearing up for his first full in November. It is so much fun to share the knowledge I've gleaned over the past seven years with friends old and new, and to do what I can to bring more people to an active lifestyle.  
  • I definitely have a plan in place for Marathon Maniacs, and will be doing the Tyler Marathon on 10/10 as a supported training run, then NYC, then White Rock in December. 
  • I've kinda gone nuts with the race entries lately! Besides the marathons above (neither of which I've signed up for yet - gotta wait for the right time in the pay cycle!), I'm also doing these races (see the full list on my sidebar in the Daily Mile widget, too!)

    • Spur On Run for the Kids - another friend of mine will be running his first 10K, so I'll be pacing him to a strong finish at this one
    • Heels & Hills & Him  - I'm pacing! If you want to come in at 2:40 for this half, stick with me & I'll get you there!
    • Chupacabra Night Trail race - Need I say more? This was one that I signed up for automatically, just because it sounded so cool!! and the shirt? I NEED that shirt!
    • Rockledge Rumble - 15k - the 30k and 50k are more hard-core, but I didn't feel confident enough to sign up for that distance on trails so soon after NYC, so this is just a get-your-feet-wet race on trails for me, but I'm pumped for it!
    • New Year's Day Half-Marathon - this is a new race my friend Libby is directing - couldn't pass up the chance for a medal that read 1/1/11, now could I? 

The biggest thing is that I spent a month working very closely with a nutritionist, on both timing and content of all of my meals.  She spent a lot of time talking to me about my goals and doing all the standard measurements and stuff before we got started.  The most enlightening thing about working with her is that she told me that my "goal" weight, that I had so agonized over for months and years, is actually quite unrealistic for my body composition. So we recalibrated expectations and I have to say that I've been pleased so far with the results. I got four weeks of meal plans, complete with grocery lists, meals and snacks timed and coordinated to my specific workouts for each week, and she took my weekly feedback and weight loss into account when setting up the next week's plan.

Over the course of four weeks, I lost a total of about four pounds, which isn't a whole lot, but it is right in line with what we had expected, and more than I've been able to lose on my own. What's made most of an impact is not drastic weight loss, however, but the change in how I view food and my cravings for sugar and sweets. Plus, by following her plans for myself, the entire family has learned to eat better, and we've cut our eating out from about three-four times a week to once, on Sunday lunch (that's my "Enjoy this Meal" reward meal for the mongo calorie burn off my slow long runs). So those two results alone have made it worthwhile.  When you factor in that you can actually see some muscles in my legs (FINALLY - AFTER SIX YEARS) and that my clothes is fitting so much better, I'm thrilled.  I will be using her plans to work my own daily intake for the next month, and then follow up with her again as I get ready for taper into NYC, just to make sure that I am as fine-tuned as I can be going into that race.

Whew.  That was a lot for one month, huh?  I guess it might be better if I just keep up with this week to week, huh?  At least you wouldn't need a giant cup of coffee to get through it!!  I'll try to do better for September, but we shall see! Peace out!