Tuesday, May 31, 2011

F'ing hot

The title says it all.  It's hotter than hot here lately, and will be 74 degrees at 6am when I go out to run tomorrow morning, according to weather.com.  74 degrees!  WTF?  It's been ungodly humid, too, and just left me feeling sapped and exhausted.  It was so hot on Monday morning that I went out to run in just my shorts and sports bra, which if you know me is something I pretty much never do.  But it was oddly liberating and I'll probably do it again.

In all the winter training, I had forgotten just how much summer takes out of me.  I really need to get better at just sucking it up in the heat, or I'm in for another summer of disaster races.  We're doing the Father's Day 10k again (if my mom and sister can watch the kiddos) and while I'm sure I won't repeat last year's 1:08 and change disaster, it looks like my long-standing 10k PR is probably not going to fall anytime soon, unless we get an inexplicable cold snap, and I run through a wormhole.  We've got my races leading up to Columbus all planned out, which is both comforting and kind of scary.  I'm back on the horse with the training without too much of a break, but I'm still concerned about how it's going to fit in with our summer vacations and such.  I guess things will figure themselves out as we go.

In the meantime, mentally preparing myself for 10 miles in the freaking heat tomorrow morning.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Marathon mile splits

For those who keep track of these things, here are my Garmin splits from the marathon.  They actually tell the story fairly well.

Mile 1 - 10:35
Mile 2 - 10:25
Mile 3 - 10:14
Miles 4 and 5 - 9:54 I turn to pace leader and say, "Ummm, we're running negative splits!  He's unphased, but it freaks me out
Mile 6 - 10:59 I drop off from the 4:30 pace group
Mile 7 and 8 - 10:46
Mile 9 - 10:39
Mile 10 - 10:13
Mile 11 - 11:44 The half marathoners break off and turn around, which is pretty depressing.  Carson street suddenly looks like a ghost town.
Mile 12 - 13:33 Bathroom break in Oakland at the top of the hill.  I wish I knew how much time I lost on the hill, since I lost *at least* a minute in the porta potty.
Mile 13 and 14 - 10:33 Obviously I did well through Oakland and Shadyside.  If I'd looked at my watch and actually seen the average, it might have encouraged me to keep the pace up a bit more.
Mile 15 - 11:52
Mile 16 - 11:25
Mile 17 - 11:44
Mile 18 - 11:36
Mile 19 - 11:13
Mile 20 and 21 - 11:06
Mile 22 - 12:32 Totally losing steam here.  I think a lot of this was going up Liberty so we could do the final downhill
Mile 23 - 10:43 And Haakan appears!
Mile 24 - 12:06
Mile 25 - 11:20
Mile 26 - 11:10
Final .2 - 8:08 The final sprint.  If I had enough speed to pull this out at the end of a marathon, I could have run the whole thing a bit faster.

So, lessons learned here:

1. Look at the freaking Garmin, stupid!  Seriously.  There are a couple of points where if I had actually paid attention to the splits I was running, I probably could have salvaged things a bit more, definitely come in under 4:50.  What's the point of wearing it if I'm not going to pay attention to the splits?

2. Have a plan.  In anticipation of Columbus, Haakan says to me, "You need a plan.  It's fine to run/walk, but you need to plan for it."  I would rather plan to NOT run/walk, but I clearly need a contingency plan for when I inevitably get tired and need breaks.  If I'd been able to run and then walk through the aid stations (which were every mile after the half marathoners split off), I would have cut minutes off my finish time.

3. Tweak the training.  I'm thinking more hills, more drinking on the fly, and keeping the Garmin running during bathroom breaks so that I can get a sense of how much time I'm actually losing when I have to stop.  I need to check my vanity about the speed of my training runs (which is stupid, since they're not even fast!) and go more for accuracy.

3. Make midcourse corrections.  The minor injury to my knee and the time off it required messed me up.  In retrospect, it might have been smarter to start with the 4:45 group and try to stick with them.  I won't make this mistake again.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

First post!

If you never did, check out my first ever blog post.  It took me two years longer to get to the Pittsburgh Marathon than I'd intended, but damn it, I did it.  I started this blog so long ago, I forgot that the whole reason was to talk about training for the race I'd grown up watching but never thought I'd get the chance to run.  Kind of makes me a little teary eyed.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Further ruminations on the marathon

I did my first post-marathon run today, and other than the torrential downpour that greeted me just as I got to the park, it wasn't bad.  I only did 3 miles, and I might have run longer if it hadn't been for the rain making my shoe insoles creeping up under my toes.  My middle toes were still feeling kind of squished, and truthfully I'm not sure how long it's going to take for them to return to some kind of normal, which is a little freaky.  The swelling and blisters have gone down, but they're still pretty sore.  Hopefully in another week they'll be feeling more normal.

So I'm thinking a lot about where things kind of went wrong in terms of not hitting my goal time, and I think it comes down to a general aversion I have to pushing myself outside of my comfort zone.  This is something I've probably always been struggling with, but I've noticed it most since I started trying to get back into running shape after Charlie was born.  I have potential to be going much faster than I have been, but I have a hard time maintaining it, for whatever reason.  I need to work more on the speedwork, if for no other reason than to get used to how it feels to not be comfortable and to push myself.  I tend to give up too easily, and I just need to get past that.  I do need to cut myself a break, too, because in the grand scheme of things, I'm not all that experienced of a runner.  Every marathon teaches me more about what I need to do differently in the training, how I need to learn to push myself, all that good stuff.  I'm pleased with how I did Pittsburgh, since I think I did the best I could have done for how I was feeling on the day, but I've got high hopes that Columbus will be even better.

The other big thing I need to do is more stretching and cross training.  My sports medicine doc ( Dr Hottie ) said my IT band is incredibly tight, and that's obviously a recipe for disaster, so I need to get better at doing the things I need to do to make sure to stretch it out.  I also think that adding in a day of spinning or swimming could only do me good.  So my blog readers are going to help to keep me honest and accountable here!  Remind me to stretch, remind me to do something other than just run, and hopefully, I'll do even better in Columbus than I did here in Pittsburgh.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

We Are Victorious! or Second Full Marathon DONE

As usual, I spent the early morning hours before my second full marathon (Pittsburgh, on May 15) standing in the kitchen with Haakan, saying "why are we doing this again?"  He pointed out that this was the reverse of the last time we both did Pittsburgh, when he was running the full and I was running the half.  I pointed out that he'd have to wait a whole lot longer for me to finish than I had waited for him, speed demon that he is, and reminded him again to bring a book.

We got into town, found parking on the North Side, not too far from the finish (getting back to the car was definitely less of an ordeal than getting back to my hotel in Phoenix, where I did my first full marathon, had been - when I had to walk almost a mile to a light rail station, wait, take the light rail, then walk 4 blocks back to my hotel) and started to mosey towards the start.  There was a giant banner hung across the Clemente Bridge (which we'd have to cross at the end) that said "We are victorious" in Greek.  According to legend this is what Pheidippides, the Greek soldier who ran from Marathon to Athens, said as he arrived at his destination.  Then, according to legend, he dropped dead.  So, inspiring words, but I hoped not to exactly replicate Pheidippides' feat.  There were also big banners that said "1/2 mile to go", and I thought about how long that final half mile was going to feel at the end (it also seemed particularly mean to make us run over a bridge at the end, since you don't realize it until you're running over one, but bridges are up hill!).

This year the start was in the middle of Downtown, as opposed to in the Strip District, where it had been two years prior when we'd last done the race.  This time there were corrals, which were heavily policed, and a lot more organization.  I found the 4:30 pace group, they all tried to calm me down, as I was fighting down nervous tears at this point, the mess of pain and bad emotions that my first marathon had been was totally in my head.  Finally, convinced I wasn't going to sob my way through 26.2 miles, Haakan went up to Corral A (my slow ass was in Corral E) and I chatted with the other hopefuls in my pace group.  Here's me right before I dropped off my gear, looking all excited and freaked out.
Check out my number, yo!
We crossed the start almost 13 minutes after the gun and it became clear to me by like mile 3 that 4:30 was just not going to happen for me.  It just felt harder than it should have at that point.  The pace felt too fast, I felt too winded and too heavy, and I just knew that it wasn't going to be my day for a PR quite that great.  I remember thinking that if I'd been doing a 10k that day, it would have been one of my slowest.  I felt like I was running at my maximum, which isn't really where you want to feel during the early miles of a marathon.  I dropped off from the 4:30 group right behind mile 6 and crossed the 10k mark still in good shape for a 4:30ish finish.  However, I felt myself fading and feeling tired already and I made some midstream goal corrections.  I could finish under 5 hours easy, maybe I could shoot for 4:40 or less instead.  My friend Chelsea, who was doing the half, unexpectedly caught up with me at that point and I managed to keep pace with her for a few minutes until I fell behind and lost her in the crowd. We went back into the West End (which was kind of cool, even though it was all uphill - there were a TON of people out), then out onto Carson Street for my least favorite part of the course.  I HATE that chunk on the road before you get to Station Square.  There's no one out, it's largely uphill, and you're basically running down a highway.  There were a ton of signs and such up, though, so that was cool.  By this point, I'm doing a run/walk, and it was very early in the race to be doing that.  I was just trying to keep my average pace within a certain window, and was pretty successful with that, until I made a pit stop in Oakland, after we crested the hill on Forbes (and that hill sucked every bit as much as I thought it would.  Note to self: more hill work!).  I lost at least 2 minutes waiting for the porta potty, and then using it.  I didn't realize how far behind I'd gotten until I spotted the 4:45 pace group on Fifth Avenue.  We crossed the halfway point at Fifth and Morewood, and I knew that all hope of a sub 4:40 finish was pretty much gone.  Sub 5 hour became the new goal.  I briefly got in front of the 4:45 group, but I lose them as we crested yet another hill (I swear, I felt every single hill in the course).
Look!  I'm not last!
Running down Fifth Avenue was nice, as was running down Penn towards Braddock.  Once we got back into Homewood, I felt like I was running in an unknown territory, since I don't drive back there a whole lot, and it seemed further than it was, I'm sure.  There were A TON of people out along the course, which was pretty neat to see.  There was a lot of music, smelled like a lot of barbecues going on, and a lot of pithy comments to the runners, which was fun.  Once we made the turn onto East Liberty Blvd, I got a second wind because I knew we were really close to my neighborhood, and getting close to the final 10k mark of the race.  At that point, I knew I could finish and finish strong, even if I was over pace.  I strongly considered just turning around with the half marathoners and doing a DNF while I was on the South Side, but by mile 18.5, I was feeling glad I hadn't done that.  "I got this," I kept telling myself.  Mile 19 came and I felt great.  I had settled into a run/walk kind of pattern, and I was ok with that since the primary goal was a better experience than I'd had in Phoenix.  I started seeing neighbors who were cheering me on, and as I passed my street, I just hoped my mom would be out with the kids when I turned the corner.  And she was.  As soon as I saw my mom carrying Charlie, I started to well up with tears, I felt so overwhelmed to see my family.  She ran next to me with Charlie while I told people, "That's my little boy!" until we got up to where my sister was standing with Elliot and Oliver.  When they saw me they started cheering at the tops of their lungs, "Go Mommy!  Run fast, Mommy!" and I about broke down into sobs.  "Those are my kids!" I shouted to anyone who could hear me, and the runners around me smiled.  Elliot was shouting so loudly, we could still hear him two blocks away.
Freaking joy on my face, seeing my kids.
I finished up mile 20 and felt like I was losing steam a bit.  I'd run strong through Highland Park because I knew so many people there, but I was starting to feel pretty much DONE.  Still, I knew once I hit Liberty I'd be close to the end, and get that nice downhill stretch.  There was some fabulous dance music going up at the top of Liberty, and the crowd support was great in Bloomfield.  I started down the hill feeling like I was definitely going to make it, and going to finish strong, when out of nowhere my fabulous husband appears.  He'd finished the half marathon in 1:39 (a finish time of which I can only dream) and had walked 3.5 miles back up the course to meet me and run the final stretch in with me.  He took a little video when he caught up with me.

I was pretty happy to see him, especially when he began running in next to me, since it had  been getting a little lonely there without my iPod and I was wondering how I was going to spot him at the finish line.  Clearly I was pretty pleased to have someone to run with.
What a flattering angle.
We went down Liberty into the Strip, running until it flattened out and my piriformis muscles started to cramp up on me.  We did a lot of run/walk then, but I knew we were in the home stretch and I was going to come in under 5 hours easily.  The last two miles really were some of the hardest physically, and I walked a lot more than I would have liked, but mentally, I just felt good.  I was going to finish, I wasn't miserable, and it was going to be good.  Ignore the pissed off look on my face here, I was actually pretty pleased!
What you looking at, punk?
As we got to the final bridge, Haakan said "Ok, I'll see you at the finish!" and took off down the sidewalk to let me do the final mile myself.  It was HARD.  I was so tired by that point and that bridge at the end was just plain mean, as I'd thought it would be.  Seriously, why put a freaking hill in the last mile?  I know we're the city of bridges and all, but c'mon!
That half mile felt freaking LONG!
Crossing the finish line, I really did pour on the last bit of speed that I had.  I finished in 4:51:56, almost 20 minutes better than my finish in Phoenix, but more than 20 minutes over my goal time.  Still, given that I felt so tired so early on, I feel like I ran the best race that I could have for how I felt that day.  I don't even think starting out slower would have helped.
Gotta PhotoShop that time clock, that is NOT my chip time!
Haakan has pointed out that I'm barely a year post baby, and it took me a while to get under 30 for the 5k and under 1 hour for the 10k, so this finish time isn't that far outside of the realm of where I have been.  Could I have finished faster?  Given ideal conditions and an ideal physical state, I probably could have gotten much closer to 4:30.  But the knee injury kind of got me off track, as did having to take a longer taper than I wanted, thanks to being out of town.  And I can't discount the joys of being a woman of childbearing age, which definitely played a part in how I was feeling on Sunday.  There are lots of variables and moving pieces, but like I said, I think I did the best I could have done for that day and the circumstances I was handed.
Me and my bling.
I felt physically pretty good through the whole race, so I wasn't prepared for the absolute horror show that was my feet when I took my socks off.  I knew I would have some blistering because I could feel it on the bottoms of my big toes, and when you're running that far in wet conditions, some blisters are to be expected, but the big purple nasties were beyond what I thought I was dealing with because they just didn't hurt that badly.  I also had giant purple blisters under my toenails on my middle toes on both feet, and a blister at the end of my pinky toe on the right foot.  The blisters under my toenails freak me out, and I may have to admit that I've sacrificed them to the marathon gods.  I never thought I could have something like that that didn't just hurt like hell!  The blisters I had during Phoenix look like little nothings compared to these babies (I'll spare you a picture, but maybe I should have taken one because they were horrifying).

So, to paraphrase, it was the best of times, it was the worst of times, but I guess most marathons are.  I'm sure I'll post more ruminations on it as time goes on, but for now I'm just really pleased to have survived it, to have set a new PR (which I will hopefully be taking down in Columbus in October), and to have exorcised the demons of my first marathon in Phoenix.  Since my official race photos aren't up yet, I'll leave you with a picture of the beautiful flowers my sister got for me.  Love you, Jess!
Yay, pretties!

Coming soon, Pittsburgh Marathon race report!

I'm waiting on a few more photos, but rest assured I'm working on a race report for the Pittsburgh Marathon I completed on Sunday May 15!  Without giving too much away, this was a much more positive experience than my first marathon (the report for which I don't think I ever posted - gotta dig that out of the old laptop!) and all the gory details will be up once the photos come online!

Monday, May 9, 2011

2011 Race for the Cure - another Runniversary!

Props to my fabulous mom for getting up at the crack of dawn on Mother's Day to watch my kiddos so the hubby and I could run the Race for the Cure.  In all honesty, this isn't my favorite race.  It's hilly, congested, and generally disappointing in terms of finish time.  But I do it every year because it's a good cause (though I definitely want to know how much money the Komen Foundation actually nets with these events, because they are SO expensive to put on) and because it was the first race I ever did.  Four years ago, I decided to get my fat ass off the couch and start doing something to feel better about myself, and the Race for the Cure was my goal race.  Memories... Like the corners of my mind....

Anyway, I managed a 27:18 finish, which is almost a 2 minute PR for this course, so I'm not in the least disappointed with how it went down.  The Mr Speedy-Pants that I married finished under 21 minutes, so he ought to be happy, too (if I ever finish a 5k that fast, I'll probably have the finish time tattooed somewhere visible on my body).  I was going to try to stay with him for the first bit of the race, but I pretty much lost him immediately as he took off like he was dodging enemy fire or something.  It was pretty entertaining to watch.  I realized that I really do need to do some more hill work and some speed work once I get this marathon squared away (5 days and some hours - eeeeek!), since I still should have been able to finish this race faster.  But all in good time, right?

I hope all the moms out there had a fabulous Mother's Day!  Mine was busy (my middle son turns 4 today, so we had his birthday party on Mother's Day), but I wouldn't have it any other way!