Tag Archives: half marathon

5 Happy Things (for Friday)

Whoa, whoa…what? A post that isn’t a training recap or a race report?

Remember way back in the day when I would do Friday Favorites religiously every week? Well, somewhere in there I got busier and/or ran out of things to talk about. But since it’s been a little while, and since I’m desperate to help move this Friday along, let’s talk about some things that are making me happy recently. I’ve been in the midst of an upswing in terms of both running and health, and while I’m still proceeding with caution, it’s really been great to break through the clouds and let a little sunshine in. And I mean this both literally and metaphorically. Because…Colorado, obviously.

Colorado

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This really is a beautiful state. When I grew up here, I never really appreciated just how splendid and unique Colorado’s geography really is. When I moved to Washington, I realized that maybe I shouldn’t have taken all those years of being in the sun and near the mountains for granted. Low and behold, here I am again, and I’m trying to take in every beautiful view and day that comes my way. I’m anxious for adventures aplenty this summer, and I’m looking forward to experiencing this beautiful place to the fullest.

New Shoes

I spy...pretty blue running shoes!

I spy…pretty blue running shoes!

So, I’ve had shoe issues since last summer or so. I’ve been able to get by on rotating between a few suitable pairs, but I’ve been missing that running shoe magic. Since the few I’ve been using have been mostly getting the job done, I kind of gave up on my quest for a new shoe. That is…until one came to me. I’d had a few running friends mention to me (and by mention I mean rave about) the Adidas Energy Boost.

At first I was all…Adidas? Really? Pretty sure I wore their sneakers once in 5th grade and that’s because I liked the color. I’d never heard them in running shoe conversations before, so I was skeptical.

(Sidenote: never mind the fact that Adidas is the athletic sponsor of everything at the Boston Marathon…minor detail.)

Nevertheless, after 5 minutes of convincing in the shoe store and an A+ first run in them, I was a changed woman. I love these shoes. Everything about them. The cushion, the weight, the support, etc. They’re a bit of a change from the lower drop shoes I’ve been wearing for the past two years, but I don’t feel at all like my foot strike or stride is compromised. On the contrary, my feet feel way better than they have in a while. Not to mention the fact that these shoes are currently the best-sellers at just about every running store, and allegedly they last up to 700-800 miles. Wins all around, I love these blue beauties.

Moscow Mules

Change out of my running clothes for day-drinking? Nah.

Change out of my running clothes for day-drinking? Nah.

I’m a beer girl all the way. In fact, cocktails are the lowest on my preference list of alcoholic beverages. BUT, that’s changed a little bit recently, all for the sake of this yummy concoction. I know I’m late to the party, and essentially everyone’s known about this drink forever, but it’s still new-to-me and I’m crushing on it hard. Ginger beer, lime, and vodka-y goodness. Additionally, I think the concentration of sugar and carbonation in beer is a little rougher on my stomach than other libations, so this seems to be the safer route nowadays. Pro tip: try it with whiskey.

The November Project

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If you’re a regular Runner’s World reader, you may remember back in December a group called “The November Project” featured on the cover. It took a while for me to connect the dots myself, but the originally Boston-based group of running and fitness buffs has expanded their reach and grown to 17 different “tribes” throughout the country. One of those tribes is in Denver, and thanks to the encouragement and enthusiasm of this girl, I decided to try going a month ago.

Basically, the November Project is a free, twice-a-week group who meet up at local parks, city centers, etc. to get in a workout. I’ve gone four times now, and let’s just say I’m not only drinking the Kool-Aid, I’m close to injecting it into my veins. I love it.

Sorry for the drug joke, but seriously…the November Project is a game changer. I’m planning to do a whole post about it at some point, but essentially this group is exactly the kind of shake-up I’ve needed in my exercise and running routine.

I spy again...shoes!!! Also, I'm still sore from these.

I spy again…shoes!!! Also, I’m still sore from these.

This Weekend

Guess what! My best friend Anna is running HER FIRST MARATHON this fall!!!

(Anna, I’m sorry for telling everyone. This is a safe space, don’t worry.)

Senior year? Junior year? Either way this is a very sober picture. Maybe I should wear my hair curly again?

Senior year? Junior year? Either way this is a very sober picture. Maybe I should wear my hair curly again?

I think that I might be a little more excited about it at this point than she is, but regardless…she’s already killing it in terms of preparation. Case in point: this weekend, she’s signed up to run the Happy Girls Half-Marathon in Bend, OR. Which is all well and good, and then I realized that she was running it alone. As in…driving from Boise to Bend by herself, running the race, and then driving back.

Well that won’t do!

So in what was perhaps the quickest text-based planning session, we orchestrated the best Memorial Day weekend plan ever. This afternoon, I’ll be flying to Boise, tomorrow we’re driving the 5 hours to Bend, Sunday we’re running the race together then enjoying all the wonders (beer) Bend has to offer, and then on Monday I’ll be flying back to Colorado. The best, amiright? I’ll be running the race entirely with Anna, and I couldn’t be more excited about it.

There you have it! Five Friday things. I’m so proud of myself for being so blogging-savvy today.

I hope everyone has a great weekend! Tell me something you like!

Snohomish River Run Half-Marathon Race Recap

A lot of the time, you don’t really know who will show up on race day.

This is something I’ve learned time and time again, however I tend to forget how true it is until after I’ve finished a race.

Yesterday, I tried to keep it in the front of my mind from the get-go: It may not have been ideal race-preparedness, but that didn’t mean that big things couldn’t happen.

Backing up. Late Friday afternoon, I decided I wanted to try and run below 1:38. This would mean a PR, but in my mind it was more than that; I’ve felt a little stuck in the 1:38-1:41 range in the half-marathon, and I wanted to set the bar higher. It wasn’t going to be the best pre-race set up as I had a wedding to attend on race eve—which I was fully intent on enjoying as much as possible. But, I didn’t want to use that as an excuse for not trying hard at a race I’d been anticipating for a while. So, I didn’t even let myself have the out, and instead just went with it.

Of course, as always, the will to run well can only go so far—which is why when I prepped for the race on Sunday morning, I kept in mind the above mentality that anyone can show up on race day, and all I could do was the best with what the day gave.

Hotel room selfie. Oiselle jersey, Flyte shorts, arm warmers, and Brooks Pure Connects.

Hotel room selfie. Oiselle jersey, Flyte shorts, arm warmers, and Brooks Pure Connects.

So, I showered (new race day routine must-do!), ate a little, hydrated a lot, and attempted to psych myself up. We had stayed in Everett after the wedding as the race was only about 5 minutes away from the guest-designated hotel, so ease of transportation and convenience was definitely on my side. The weather, however, was not.

I opened the curtains of our hotel room after being 100% ready to go and was greeted with the disheartening sight of huge puddles that were filling by the minute from the incessant rain. It had been so long since we had real rainfall in Seattle (somehow) that I hadn’t even considered it could be an issue on race day. It was also still dark and cold, so needless to say…my gun-ho attitude was waning on the drive to the start line.

However, the show must go on, and after retrieving my bib and chip, I did some warm up drills and tried to get in the zone. There were more people doing this race than I’d anticipated, which helped fuel the pre-race energy. Before I knew it, we were all lining up just as the rain subsided a bit. Score! I saw two teammates at the start line as well, Caryn and Erica, who went on to finish as 2nd and 3rd women overall. No big deal, right? After the race director gave some course instructions and wished everyone good luck, we were off!

All I knew about the course was that it was flat, but otherwise I was a little blind in terms of what to expect. It became obvious pretty quick that we were in for a pretty lengthy out-and-back for the majority of the race, which was a little disheartening, but I tried to not think about it. I do like seeing runners pass on the other side, so this would be a plus. Additionally, we were on the course with the 10k runners who had started at a different time, so there were people around pretty consistently.

Flatty flat flat. I don't know what that was...sorry.

Flatty flat flat. I don’t know what that was…sorry.

For the first 3 miles or so, I tried to stick to the loose “plan” I’d put together. I figured if I started off around 7:30s, I could gradually drop down and still have some left for a kick at the end. Not exactly what happened, but not too far off:

Mile 1: 7:19

Mile 2: 7:28 (my attempt to get back to the plan)

Mile 3: 7:20

Eh, okay, a little fast, but I felt in control and that’s what I tried to focus on the most. I was a little oblivious to everything else aside from keeping myself “comfortably uncomfortable.” Once I get below a 7:30 pace, there are very narrow ranges for what feels okay and what feels like too much, so I paid a lot of attention to keeping tabs on my perceived effort.

I was trying to think of the whole endeavor as a 10-mile race followed by a 5k; keep it steady and controlled for 10 miles, and expect it to hurt in the last 3 miles. In this respect, I was very focused on staying in the mile and letting each individual mile be its own mini effort. It seemed to work, and despite being quicker than I’d planned…I was somehow staying incredibly consistent.

Mile 4: 7:22

Mile 5: 7:24

The course was quite flat as expected and wound along a small county highway. It was pretty, but a tad boring, and I was really glad to get to the turnaround around mile 4.7. At this point, I noticed there was a man about a stride and a half behind me, and he stayed either right there or next to me all the way back to the start of the out-and-back. It was incredibly helpful to share the pace with someone. I was running a little scared since I was running so much faster than I’m used to, and even the smallest mental reprieve of matching someone else’s pace was pretty clutch. I think I would have started hurting a lot earlier if it hadn’t been for the tall dude in the all-black compression clothing. Thank you, sir.

Mile 6: 7:16

Mile 7: 7:18

I ripped open a gel around mile 7, and slowly sucked it down for the next few miles. I also started taking water every ~1.5 miles or so, and I think maintaining this consistency was a big help. I was also starting to hurt around this point, too. My legs were getting a little toasty, and the increased pace was burning my lungs a little. It had also started to rain again, which coupled with a small headwind wasn’t making things better. However, I was able to maintain my “stay in the mile” mentality, and as long as I focused on each individual mile—I was able to push the fears of bonking to the back of my mind.

Mile 8: 7:21

Mile 9: 7:16

Tall man and I seemed to be picking it up at the very end of each mile, as we’d be between 7:20-7:25 throughout the mile and then drop in the final .1 or so. But I went with it. I could always feel it when we dropped below 7:20 (crazy just how noticeable it was), but I’d tell myself, “Okay, the next one can be 7:25,” and it somehow was a mental save.

Mile 10: 7:15

Tall man pulled ahead around this point, and we were passing back by the starting area and heading down to a paved path along the river. This is where I think my real mental battle began: It was time for those final 3 miles that I knew would hurt, and it was just me, alone. Since I was near-ish the front, we had all thinned out just enough that you felt like you were running alone, and it didn’t help that the winding river path obscured any forward looking. It was beautiful though, and I welcomed the change of scenery.

This portion was also an out-and-back, and it was a definite fight to get to the turnaround point. The most defeating part was when I saw the “Mile 11” marker when my watch read “11.2” No!!! The mile markers had been so accurate throughout the course, and it was so saddening to not only think I’d have to run further than I thought…but that I’d be logging another long half-marathon course.

Mile 11: 7:13

But, I kept on, and finally the turnaround point appeared. I’d been able to see the top runners coming back by the other way, and I thought I was probably within the top 10 females. There were two women about 100 yards or so ahead of me, but for the first time maybe ever in a race…I didn’t really care. I was already giving everything I had, and I was completely content letting that be enough.

Mile 12: 7:20

I was thrilled when the mile 12 marker appeared right on schedule with my Garmin, and the thought of “only a mile let to go” was so relieving. I was so excited to finish and anxious to see what my finish time would be…because not once during the entire race did I have the energy to try and compute it myself.

Mile 13: 7:21

I was closing in on the girl immediately ahead of me in the last 1/4 mile, but there wasn’t much more I could do at that point. Even my “kick” wasn’t much more than the pace I’d already been maintaining. Regardless, I was elated to see the finish line come into view, and I dug deep into the dregs of energy I had left and strode my way as best I could to the end.

Last .1: 54 seconds (6:43 pace)

There's a smile on that face!

There’s a smile on that face!

I saw the clock ahead reading “1:36:xx” and I was ecstatic. I figured I’d be below 1:38, but this was better than I could have hoped for.

Smiling big, I crossed the finish line, stopped my watch and saw a “1:36:14” flash back.

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Official time: 1:36:11, 9th female overall (<– lucky number alert!), 2nd in age group

How did that happen?!

I was in pretty immediate need of my space blanket and water (and my medal, duh 🙂 ) and gingerly made my way to the finishing chute exit. Despite the plethora of post-race food (hot soup, cheese samples, bagels, etc) I couldn’t even think about getting anything down. I did manage to grab a bowl for BF though, who’d been dutifully waiting in the rain for me to finish.

I wanted at least one photo of the pretty river we'd been running along.

I wanted at least one photo of the pretty river we’d been running along.

After a little bit of meandering, I wanted to skedaddle back to Seattle as soon as possible. There were football games to watch after all! I also felt ridiculously wiped; the kind of fatigue that normally only comes after a sleepless night. Needless to say, you can probably guess how the rest of the day played out 🙂

I’m really, really happy with how this race went. I was glad I was able to stay composed and strong despite the intimidating speeds, and I’m satisfied with the consistent pace—probably the most consistent I’ve ever done. Primarily, it felt great to break through the threshold I’d been dancing around for a while. No, the time isn’t the 1:35:xx I’ve been lusting after, but I can honestly say I left nothing out on the course…which in no way can I be disappointed about. This race gives me the motivation that with a little more time, more training, and more practice, there are big things to come.

No running blogger has ever posted this type of picture ever. But look! Consistency!

No running blogger has ever posted this type of picture ever. But look! Consistency!

Running is a fascinating sport, and it was races like yesterday that keep me wanting to discover the mysteries of running even more.

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I’m tempted to say that this is the end of my racing season for the year, but who really knows. For right now though, I’ll be hibernating for a little while, and I’m definitely looking forward to some rest time.

Thanks all for the good luck texts, tweets, and notes. Your encouragement is invaluable. 

 

The Salty Half-Marathon Race Recap

It seems that the theme of this past summer has carried over into the fall—that theme, being, complete and total race/running spontaneity. I suppose this comes with the territory of not being extra strict with training or having a huge A race on the horizon… two things of which are my typical M.O. 24/7.

My broadly stated goal this fall was the work on speed, and while there is/was a tangible goal time I’m working toward, it’s been fairly loosey goosey around these parts for the past few months.

Which is why, when asked on a Tuesday if I wanted to run a half-marathon (The Salty Half) that following Saturday, it took me all of a few minutes to happily accept. Those who know me wouldn’t think that this was an exceptionally random decision, with the small caveat that I’m running another half this coming weekend, the Snohomish River Run. I couldn’t pass this one up though; not only was it $22 and included the company of these two, the start line was about a half mile from my house.

That said, I knew that I’d have to choose one of the two races to actually race and one to fun run. Since the Salty Half was a last minute decision, less official, and wouldn’t be tapered for whatsoever, I decided to take it easier on this one. Anddd, that actually didn’t end up being the case, but we’ll get to that later.

Saturday morning bright (dark) and early, I trotted down the hill to meet Lindsay and Nicole at the start line. There were just under 100 people running the race, so it was easy and casual—not timing chips or mats. It was super foggy, probably 85-90% humidity, but it was brisk and cold which is always my jam.

I had very little plan in terms of race execution. I wanted to save race pace for the next weekend, but I also know myself well enough to know I would want to compete a little. And considering the size of this race…I knew I could probably do fairly well if I tried. So, upon starting, I decided to just feel out the first few miles and settle wherever I felt comfortable. I knew for sure I wanted to go for a fast finish, so the only plan really was to save some for the end.

I settled into a group of two girls and a dude running a ~7:45 pace, which felt super comfortable. We were continually switching spots in the pack, and it was the first time I really understood to concept of “doing the work” in a pace group. I took the lead a few times, but otherwise I decided to just stick with this group so long as the pace felt manageable.

The course circled around Alki beach to Lincoln Park, which is my normal long run 80% of the time. Needless to say, I knew every upcoming turn and divet in the road, which meant I didn’t need to worry about course surprises.

We dropped one of the girls around mile 5, and then it was primarily another gal and me side-by-side, nearly stride-for-stride. She introduced herself, thanked me for the company, and we kept on like that for nearly 3 miles. It was the perfect silent runner agreement: You keep me going, and I’ll keep you going.

The turnaround in Lincoln Park was right at the halfway point (out and back course) and my legs felt good. I admit, I heard the siren sound of the race atmosphere get a little louder, and I started to think about executing a kick.

As we exited Lincoln Park (~5 miles to go), my new friend fell back a bit, and since I felt great, I kept on at the same clip. To go from having lots of fellow-runner support around me to instantly having no one was weird. Crazy how simply having someone to share the miles, fatigue, and pace with can make such a difference.

I was in a bit of a conundrum at this point. I knew I was the current 5th overall female (they were giving out prizes out to 5th place), and I  (obviously) liked the idea of a top-5 finish. I also knew that the girl behind me could be thinking the same thing, and playing an A+ game of letting me take an early lead. I went back and forth or whether I should slow down, speed up, or stay where I was. It was the first time I’ve ever actively thought about placing strategy in a race. Kind of fun! But stressful. I ultimately decided that since the pace I was at felt good, I would stick with it. If she caught me, I’d let her go by, and I’d save the chase for the final few miles.

Between miles 10 and 11, a familiar face strode up beside me; my friend Charles was out for his weekend long run and I filled him in on the spontaneous race decision and my current position. Charles is faster than me, and when he offered to help me ward off the girl behind and nab a top-five finish, I was 100% on board. He told me to tell him what felt pace manageable, and we’d hold that until the end.

And so we ran. I attempted to chat, but he made me save my breath while he distracted me with his own stories. Around 11.5, I started hurting some, but I was determined to keep stride with Charles and finish the race strong.

It was a little hard to determine exactly who around us was running the race and who wasn’t, since it wasn’t a closed course and there were tons of people out, both racers and non-racers. So, when Charles asked if a girl about 200 yards ahead was the 4th place female, I wasn’t sure. He said we could catch her if I wanted, and with a nod, we were on the hunt. Sure enough, once we passed, he verified that she was wearing a bib and I was now in 4th place. There was less than a mile to go now, and I was feeling both anxious to finish and determined to keep on my game face.

I have a fairly instinctual finishing kick, which comes I think from my track days, but also from my ingrained competitiveness. With a half mile or so to go, without even realizing it, we were passing another girl, and Charles turned to me and said the most Robyn-Broker-esque motivation there is: “You’re in third now, and you have to prove it.”

So, with my aching legs and screeching lungs, I officially kicked my “fun run” intentions to the curb, opened my stride, and gutted it out—determined for my first “podium” finish.

(Side note: The nice thing about having a pacer is that they can check and see the progress of the person behind you)

With the finish line in sight, I gave it everything I had, only to be directed into a mini-turnaround and loop to the actual finish line (way to throw off our momentum guys!). Charles took off running on his own, I squawked out a thanks, and ran my way to cinch the 3rd place female spot.

Unofficial finish time: 1:40:06 for 13.2 miles

salty half

Hooray! I was awarded a huge plastic fish with a “Third Place” tag on it as soon as I finished, along with a “Salty Half Marathon” sweat towel. Sweet!

*FYI, the race has self-declared “messed up” the places and timing on their results page, which they promised to fix. Just in case anyone decided to lurk 🙂

After thoughts: Obviously, this wasn’t exactly the relaxed race I intended it to be. Did I shoot myself in the foot though for this upcoming weekend? Not necessarily. Yes, it was a harder effort than I intended, but with the exception of the last three miles, I felt composed and comfortable for the entire race.

This was certainly a small, pick-up race, but I’m glad I was able to actually learn a lot from it. This was a first time for running in a pack, “making a move,” and truly executing a big finishing kick. All of these are valuable training tools, and I feel like they’ll come into play more often now that I have a better feel for them. I was also really encouraged by this race: it was my 5th day of running in a row, my legs were pretty wiped going into it, and yet the 7:35 pace I averaged felt very do-able.

Good things from a small, random race.

I’m excited for this weekend. As has become standard, I’m not sure of my specific goals, other than to log another solid half-marathon. This distance has been really fun to practice recently, and I’m looking forward to seeing how racing 13.1 more often affects my next 26.2 endeavor. On that note: less than 6 months til Boston!!!

And since this race recap is void of any pictures whatsoever (sorry…) here is a picture of Jasper with my fish prize. He is not too impressed.

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Thanks Lindsay for the race idea and Nicole for submitting to peer pressure 🙂

Bellingham Bay Half-Marathon Race Recap

Lots of things to say about yesterday’s race. For a quick minute in there, I was disappointed that I was (spoiler) only 20 seconds off my PR. I was also disappointed for an instant that my watch (along with those of several around me) read a long course and not a true 13.1. However, after those thoughts subsided and I thought back on the race that I’d run, I landed in the spot I am today: both very pleased and very encouraged.

I went into this race with some trepidation about the conditions (blustery and rainy) but also with a lot of gusto to run a good race. Relatively speaking, I hadn’t raced in a while, and I was ready to see what my legs could do. I rested all day Saturday (a new approach for me), hydrated well, slept well, and treated the run like a real race.

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Low and behold, race morning comes, and the drive up to Bellingham was…ominous. It was pouring, windy, and the perfect conditions for sleeping in and hot coffee…not running 13.1 miles in spandex and a tank top. But I kept my spirits high, and after an easy bib pick-up and some dynamic stretching, I forgot about the weather and tried to get in the zone. Spotting some fellow Oiselle teammates helped kindle my excitement, and I felt proud to be wearing the same singlet as such fast women.

Before I knew it, the countdown was on, and boom…we were running a half marathon. Tried and true to the start of any race, I a) felt incredible and b) knew I was going too fast. A look down at my watch about a half mile in would verify that my 7:00 “easy” pace was certainly not the way to start off a distance race, so I tried to tug back. Ugh, why is this always so hard? Every time I swear to myself I’ll follow the rules and hold back at the start, and every time I cross a start line I abandon all those good intentions. But, I forgave myself, let a faster mile 1 clock in, and prepared to reel in the reigns.

I felt so good during these first few miles. Like, better than I’ve felt running in a long long time. Isn’t that what we hope to feel during races? Anyway, I alternated between sharing paces with others, pulling back when they surged, and going ahead when they fell behind. Generally, it just felt great to be racing, and I let that mindset and momentum carry me through the early miles:

Mile 1: 7:14

Mile 2: 7:22

Mile 3: 7:23

In terms of pacing for this race, my goal was to stick to 7:30s for the first half and open it up if I could during the second half. So, once I reentered the 7:20s, I considered it okay and just went with it. I also knew that there was an incline coming up in mile 4 which would get things back in line.

That incline came and I already knew that my legs were in for a hard race, should I keep this pace up. My breathing sped up and my HR surged a little, reminding me that I was—in fact—racing. But, per usual after a hill reclines to a flat grade, my legs started turning over again and invited the steady downhill that would come in the next few miles.

Mile 4: 7:47

I knew that miles 5-7 were on a downhill, and I’d planned ahead of time to use those miles to my advantage. What I hadn’t considered, though, was that these miles would also change the direction of the course directly into the forecasted wind. These miles were also pretty exposed, which made the wind even more difficult to avoid, but nonetheless…I tried to gun it a little.

Mile 5: 7:18

Mile 6: 7:06

Mile 7: 7:01

There was a bit in there where my watch read 6:xx, which both horrified and exhilarated me. I’d never seen a pace in the 6s during a half marathon, and it was a definite confidence booster to see that pop up.

The course flattened out after this, and the headwind seemed to take a turn directly into our faces. I tore open my gel around this point too and held it for the next few miles, taking drags from it whenever I felt steady. We reentered downtown Bellingham, and there were a few twisty inclines that definitely slowed me down and reminded me of the miles I’d already logged. My energy started waning a little around miles 9-10, and looking back on the elevation profile of the course, it’s obvious that those mini hills took their toll.

Mile 8: 7:34

Mile 9: 7:45

Mile 10: 7:40

We were on a dirt path along the bay at this point, which was warmly welcomed after all the pavement pounding. Although my watch had been a little off the whole race, it was really off once I got to mile 10, which was a little discouraging. My miles were beeping at least 2/10 of a mile before the mile markers, and a fellow racer confirmed that her Garmin was at the same distance as mine. Admittedly, I fumed about this for a bit, considering I thought a PR was within reach should the course be 13.1, but I put that thought out of my mind and tried to just run the race I was running and enjoy it as much as I could.

Once I got to mile 10.5 or so, I resolved to kick it up in the last 5k, and that mind shift seemed to give me a bit of a second wind as well. I was hurting, but not done yet, and I wanted to finish strong. There was a STEEP boat ramp during mile 11 that felt like I was walking, which took a lot of self-talk to get up and over especially with another hilly ~1.5 miles to go afterward.

Mile 11: 7:17

Mile 12: 7:58

Alas, up I went, and we turned into the homestretch. Something I really like about this race is that it’s an essentially straight shot to this finish, and it seemed like everyone around me was pulling out everything they had to fire their final canons. I’d been leap-frogging with a few men the whole race, and all of us were straightening up and putting on our best race faces during this final stretch. Lots of fun.

However, things were hurting. This last mile was consistently up and down hill, and I was definitely feeling all the changing elevation, despite how minimal it actually was. When my watch beeped “13” I was nowhere near the mile marker, so I made a mental note to check “my” half marathon time in another .1 miles.

Mile 13: 7:12

Eventually, the finish line came into view, and I dug out my final dregs of speed as much as I could—I’ll be damned if that clock changes to 1:39!

photo

Final .32 miles: 6:37

Official finish time: 1:38:47, 16th woman overall

After a momentary feeling of being punched in the gut, I pulled it together, got my medal and space blanket and regaled on what just happened: Was that the fastest I’ve ever run before?

Technically, no. My official half-marathon PR is 22 seconds faster than that. But, in reality…it actually might be.

I am certainly not someone to play the, “But my watch said xx:xx!” card. I believe we all run the same course, the same race, no matter what, and the numbers we clock individually are secondary. But, .2 miles off is significant enough that I’m inclined to look at my pace according to the distance I logged rather than a 13.1 distance. Furthermore, in the case that I ran 13.32 miles in 1:38:47, I ran a 7:24 pace, which is easily faster than I’ve ever run a half marathon before. Take it or leave it, I realize this is a controversial topic, but I’m having a hard time ignoring that figure.

Despite the could-haves and maybes of the off-distance, I certainly had miles during this race that were both unexpected and mini personal-record breaking. The fact that 6.32 miles were under 7:20s is incredibly encouraging, and it brightens my hopes for a 1:35:xx in the (hopefully) not-so-distant future.

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I also felt like I was able to handle discomfort during this race much better than I’ve been able to before. One of my goals going into it was to keep my head on and not let the pain shadow my confidence. I tried to keep this in the front of my mind during those tougher miles, and I’m happy that I feel like I was able to stay comfortable being uncomfortable. There were some bleak minutes, certainly, but it felt like my resolve to push through was able to suppress those dark voices—which is something I’ve definitely struggled with in the past.

So, all in all, it was a great race. I’m happy that the rain held off (mostly), and despite the comprised conditions, I ran the best race I could. I have high hopes for what’s to come, and a little more gusto in my motivation to start training a little harder. The half-marathon is a fun and tough distance, and I’m excited to see what the next two this year have in store.

And a huge congrats to the other ladies who ran this race! In case I needed a spoonful of humble stew, the other 4 gals I ran with finish in 3, 4, 5, and 7th. Yes, really. Speedy ladies! Super impressive.

Happy Monday all!

Making a Plan, Changing the Plan

Bad blogger here, poking out from my cocoon of silence…

Hey peeps! Guess what? It’s race week! A race I’ve been anticipating for a while…meaning I’ve already had some nerves and goals running through my head.

As I said last week, I rearranged my sky-high hopes for this race and settled on a “we’ll see” approach. Which is what I was/am still planning on. Essentially, my mission has become:

Race the damn race. Don’t just cruise—get a little uncomfortable. Stay in control, run smart, but make it hurt if I can.

Simplistic. Anddd there might be a few pace numbers thrown in there too. But I won’t bore you with those.

I did determine some good ole fashioned A, B, and C goals. So without further ado…

A) PR: I think this is possible if I have a really good day. Ideal conditions, happy legs, etc. A sub-7:30 pace average (what I’d need for a PR) shockingly isn’t as scary as it used to be, which in and of itself is encouraging. Even so, it would take some luck smart racing.

B) Sub-1:40: I became a member of this club on only one occasion, and I feel like it would be nice to affirm my status a little more considering I tend to feel like a poser with my “fluke” 1:38 PR sometimes. No, I don’t feel like I need to prove anything to anyone…except for maybe myself. It would just be nice to feel those race paces again.

C) Keep my head on. This is better than another “sub xx:xx” goal, right? Here’s the deal: I feel like I’m a good racer, but I don’t necessarily feel like I’ve mastered overcoming the mental hurdles that come with tough conditions. Sure, I can press onward, but I feel like I have a tendency to completely count myself out as soon as I feel fatigued. This is especially true in workouts. I’d really like to use this race as an opportunity to keep my game face on straight…or something like that. Having other people to chase after tends to help with this, so I’m excited to execute some playful competition in the name of building confidence.

So, all that’s well and good. But! Of course….but.

Now, I’m not one to whine and complain about race-day conditions. For the most part, I accept them as they are since I know there’s nothing I can do about them. We’ll all have to run in the same weather, right? Right.

But when a race I’ve been looking forward to and anticipating a strong performance at looks like this, my evil eye tends to come out:

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Rain doesn’t really phase me. I’m used to the rain, I’ve raced in the rain, whatever with the rain. But rain + wind? Gross. Talk about my least ideal running/living conditions. And 20 mph isn’t a joke…that will make a difference.

So, I suppose for right now I’m trying to accept that some adjustments may need to happen. Goal adjustments, pace adjustments, etc. All in the name of Mother Nature…that saucy little minx. Am I completely discounting those goals above? Absolutely not. Do I think this adds another important variable to consider? Certainly. We’ll see, friends. Expect a very soggy finish line photo, with a side of yummy thigh chafing.

But, no matter the circumstances, I’m excited to run my 9th ( <—lucky number alert!) half-marathon this Sunday. The same half-marathon, in fact, that I ran as my first half 3 years ago. Crazy! This will also be my first official race as a Oiselle team member, clad in the singlet and everything. Let’s hope those new wings know how to sail in the wind!

Who’s racing this weekend? Does weather affect your race-day hype? 

 

Playing Catch-Up: Running, pets, and Boston

Hello! Long time no talk. How is everyone?

It’s so exciting that fall racing season is in full swing—it’s been fun to hear about everyone’s super long runs, tapering, and race results! I’ll admit I’m a tad jealous that I’m not doing a fall marathon (ahem, Chicago), however it’s made scheduling more relaxed and gets me even more excited for whatever’s next.

For now I thought I’d just give some updates—on running and otherwise.

Lately, I’ve been running between 40-50 miles a week, and recently it’s been closer to 50. It’s been fun, and feels surprisingly manageable. A year ago this would have been really high mileage for me, but it’s starting to feel a little more “normal” I guess you could say. I feel like I’m developing a really good base, and by alternating between speed, long runs, cut back weeks, and easy runs, I’m hoping that my base will be really strong by the time I gear up for my next marathon.

This is what a typical week has looked like lately:

M: rest, always

T: ~10 miles, no watch

W: ~8 miles, some kind of speed work, mostly tempos, and Maximum Sculpt class

T: ~8 miles easy

F: 6 miles slow and Maximum Sculpt class

S: 14-18 mile long run. I did do one random 20 miler last weekend, but otherwise I’m normally around 16

S: cross-training, normally swimming

My Wednesdays are Fridays almost always look the same, but otherwise things float around a lot. I’m starting to switch my long run days to Sunday for the fall/winter because the only thing better than finishing a long run is finishing a long run and laying on the couch watching football for the rest of the day.

Football season=Sunday long runs

So, despite the “not training” higher mileage, I do have some method to my madness—in the form of fall half marathons where allegedly, I’ll be testing my fitness.

Full disclosure/honesty: I’m 99% sure I’m not ready to run The Big Goal Time at the Bellingham Bay Half, which is two weeks from now. I could ramble away on a variety of excuses, but instead I’ll just take ownership and admit that I haven’t put in the amount of work necessary. Yes, I’ve been running and I’ve been diligent about workouts and miles, but I never feel like I jacked things up to the level I need to be at. It might have been fear, laziness, burnout, etc—but whatever the reason, the result is that I’m not feeling prepared to attempt a 1:35 half marathon in two weeks.

However, I do feel like the work I have done could be worth something, and I think I’ll use Bellingham as a fitness test and benchmark race as opposed to an A race. There is the chance of a PR (my current is 1:38:25), although I won’t be all that disappointed if I don’t break that either.

Do I want to be in shape to gut out 7:15 miles at Bellingham? Absolutely. Do I feel guilty for not being there yet? Not really. And here’s why:

I spent the summer having an incredible time running spur-of-the-moment races, spending hours in a van and on the road in two ultra relays, and generally living a life that didn’t revolve around A-race training. And it was fantastic! I don’t regret it for a minute. It was so good for my hyper-competitive self to take a break from the grind and live life a little less strictly. However, my summer didn’t come without some hard work—and in fact it left me more exhausted than I anticipated.

So, I suppose what I’m trying to say is that while I don’t feel ready for a 1:35 just yet, I do feel like with a little more time I’ll get there. I have a few more half-marathon plans up my sleeve this fall, and in no way have I discounted those as opportunities for fast races. I’m also secretly hoping that as the temperatures drop, all my hot weather training will have miraculously made me faster without changing anything else. 🙂 Point blank, my goal to get faster and to be a better runner hasn’t changed one bit, it’s just taking a little more time in the short-term than I originally hoped for.

In other news…

In case you haven’t seen on my social media posting spree:

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We got a kitten!!!

His name is Jasper, he’s 11 weeks and 5 days old, and he’s perfect.

He’s completely stolen our hearts, and every day I love him even more. I’m also a paranoid kitten owner, and I’m chronically afraid that something’s going to choke him, electrocute him, or that he’s ill with some rare kitty cancer. This definitely bodes well for how I’ll be with a baby.

Nevertheless, he’s a happy, healthy, curious little kitty and makes my day brighter.

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He is also very helpful at drawer organization.

He is also very helpful at drawer organization.

And lastly…

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Stay tuned folks! Boston registration is still open for all us “barely there” qualifiers, and this morning at exactly 7:08 AM, my registration was sent in. I’m guessing we won’t hear until the end of the week, but I do know that if space does fill up…every second counts. Let’s hope that my -2:54 minutes helps me!

I do have my hopes up, admittedly, but even if I don’t get in, it felt so incredible to even have the chance to register. Two years after I ran my first marathon, I never imagined I could be on the Boston Athletic Association website hitting “submit” to my very own application. It was awesome, and I can only imagine what it will be like to actually run the race, whenever that may be.

That’s all for now! I think it’s safe to assume most people are as excited as I am about the upcoming crunchy leaves and cooler weather. And as much as I scoff at all the “scarves!” and “boots!” and “OMG PSL!!!” yammer, I have to admit that fall is seriously my jam, and I plan on soaking it up to the fullest.

Happy Monday!

So about that half-marathon goal…

Remember that big, scary goal I wrote about a while back? The one I was over-the-moon ecstatic and horrified to starting working toward?

Right. Well, in case you haven’t noticed, I haven’t done a lot of talking about how the steps toward that goal are going. This is partially because I haven’t had any time. Between working, running, relaying, traveling, and the life in between, my blog-updating time is limited and I’ve had to focus on the current happenings rather than the far-out goals.

So here’s an update on the 1:35:xx half-marathon goal I’m pining for before the end of this year:

I’m not feeling great about it.

It’s not that I don’t want it, and it’s not that I don’t think there’s potential in it. But the commitment and enthusiasm I felt when I initially began this scary endeavor hasn’t really been there recently, and frankly…I’m not surprised.

I don’t think I gave the magnitude of two ultra relays in the same month the credit I should have from the onset. They both required a lot of slow and long miles to prepare for, a week of taper beforehand, and a week of recovery afterward. I suppose I felt like the relays would simply “fit into” my training for my goal half. Instead, it became the other way around; I was trying to fit half-marathon training into preparation and participation in two ultra relays. And let me just tell you…the training regimens for each don’t necessarily fit together.

It’s the same reason why it’s really hard to focus a lot of attention on speed work during the peak weeks of marathon training. You can try and bust out a few tempo miles, but ultimately it’s the mileage count that reigns supreme, and we must abide by the desires of our already fatigued legs.

With that said, after a weekend of running over 35 miles in 24 hours, my legs were not going to be okay with 800 repeats, or goal paces, or anything other than a humble jog for that matter. And that happened to me twice.

Ultimately, I was more concerned with recovering adequately from the relays than checking off every half-marathon specific work out. And IMHO, this was definitely the right way to go. Sure, long term I probably care more about increasing my speed and my half-marathon PR than I do about relays. However, I definitely care more about running injury free above anything else—so it was in the end a matter of maintaining health.

The other part of this whole training-not-training deal (the part I’m more embarrassed to admit) is that the paces are ridiculously intimidating. It feels like I’ve just become mostly-comfortable with the idea of a 7:30 half-marathon pace (my old PR), and all of a sudden I’m supposed to be working on a 7:15. Those numbers, “7-1-5,” have kind of been haunting me, and it’s become obvious that I need to not only up my mental game, but I need to practice this pace to the point where it’s a little less daunting.

With that said, I have been practicing! What’s funny is that I “wrote” this post (in my head, on an easy run) on Monday , and then yesterdays run kind of changed my perspective on the whole “lack of confidence” theme. Which subsequently changed the ending of this post…as you’ll see below.

For me, tempo workouts at goal pace are my favorite way to gain some confidence about a goal race. Before Eugene, I practiced the feel of 8:00 miles so much that I guarantee I could have done them without a watch. So for Bellingham (the next half-marathon on the horizon), I’ve been playing with 7:15. Not a lot, but just enough to where my lungs and legs can start to know how it feels.

On Wednesday, however, it was time to step it up: I set out for 5 tempo miles, sandwiched between a warm-up and a cool down. The goal of those miles was to simulate a race plan (start slower, finish faster) and mimic the pace I would ideally hold for a 1:35:xx finish. I was nervous, I was unsure, but it had to be done:

Here are the results:

8:20 (w/o)

7:19

7:19

7:13

7:13

7:07

8:20 (c/d)

I’m not calling it a game changer, but that one workout gave my self-doubt-filled brain a jolt of inspiration. Maybe, it turns out, this goal isn’t too far-fetched. It might take a little more time and more races than just Bellingham (9/29), but I’m starting to feel a little more like that giddy, speed-hungry girl from a few months ago.

And yes, it really only took one workout. I can’t explain it, but yesterday—those paces that have felt way too fast and way beyond my capabilities felt a little more like mine. Instead of thinking those paces belonged to more experienced, faster runners that weren’t me—I felt like maybe I’m a little more entitled to them than I previously thought.

The goal now is going to be to really embrace that “ownership,” and I know I might need to be patient. From the onset, I had it in my head that Bellingham was going to the *the* race to make that 1:35:xx happen. There’s still a chance, but instead of putting all my eggs in that basket, I’m going to work more toward really getting stronger and more comfortable at those paces than just gutting them out for one race. The ultimate goal is to improve my speed overall, that’s what my goal was for this fall, and while a half-marathon PR is a good tangible step during that process, it’s not the end-all finish line.

The reason I’m not running a fall marathon this year is two-fold: one, I’ve run a marathon during the past four racing seasons, and I want to stave off burnout while resting my legs for a (potential) Boston Marathon run next spring. The second part, however, is to focus less on mileage and focus more on speed. So far, that hasn’t necessarily been the case considering the distance I had to put in for the ultra relays. And that’s fine! I had such a fun time at those relays, and I feel so fortunate I was able to participate in them.

However, it’s time to get back to work. Kind of like school starting again, it’s time to get a little more regimented if I want to get serious about improving my speed. It was hard to say no to a fall marathon this year, even though I knew it would ultimately keep me healthier and keep me moving toward my goal of getting faster.

That said, I don’t want to waste this opportunity. I’m a big believer that our comfort zones are meant to be broken, and our limits are supposed to be tested, and it’s time to practice what I preach.

Fall is here folks, and it’s time for this birdie to put on some big girl wings.