Sunday, March 31, 2013

Happy Surprise

Usually, I try to get out for a bike ride as soon as I can on "my" day to ride. It can be a very bad thing when the start time gets put off and off, so I wasn't sure how things would go today.

It's Easter, so the day started with baskets for the kiddos, our household egg hunt (so much fun!), a big family breakfast (I stuck to a veggie scramble and skipped the french toast) and bubbles on the deck while dad put the baby down for her nap. So I didn't get out until 10 am.

So imagine my surprise when I had a great ride. Except for the terrible shape of Williamsburg Blvd, where I was almost certain I would flat, up near Glebe (though it looks like the county is working on it), it was a great ride all around. Quiet roads as it was Easter morning, lots of hills in North Arlington, a finished up on one of the best stretches of the bike trail for tempo work near our house, the section from Falls Church to Vienna.

All kinds of people are out doing epic rides this weekend, I guess, and that makes me a little self-conscious about my modest 2-3 hour weekend rides, but I try to remind myself that I am doing sprints this year, maybe an Oly. I don't need to do epic rides, which is good, because I don't have the time.

But this ride, though out the door from our house on neighborhood roads, this was a great ride.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Shamrock Half Race Report

Last Sunday was my half marathon.

In truth, I was really worried. I ran Wakefield a week before that. About 3.5 miles into that race I tweaked my ankle a smidge. It didn't really slow me down, but I could tell I did something, so imagine how happy I was when I felt great the next day and was able to complete my scheduled 4 miles at lactate threshold pace with no problem. Great!

So things went along as planned and on Wednesday I had my last significant run scheduled. I had the kiddos with me so I dropped them at the gym daycare and did 4 miles at endurance pace on the treadmill. Felt fine, until I stepped off the machine. Hmm, left ankle and foot kind of hurt. By that night, revise that to really really hurt. Add a scratchy throat and overall chill I and ended up spending most of Thursday on the couch with my foot up icing while I drank tea and sucked cough drops.

By the time Sunday morning rolled around I had kicked the cold but I had also skipped all my "tune up" runs and the foot still hurt. I had been playing with the idea that I might not make it through the race and at one point considered not starting, but that didn't seem right after the whole family was down in Virginia Beach for the weekend (though they all raced on Sunday). Plus, I knew I would be angry at myself if I allowed a dns. However, I resigned myself to the possibility of a dnf and went as far as warning my husband that it might happen--though I was reluctant to do so for fear of giving myself permission to go through with it.  

Sunday morning was chilly, low 40s, with a headwind for the first part of the race. I hoped this meant a tailwind home, but with my recent luck with wind, it almost seemed more likely that the wind would shift around as we ran.

I lined up toward the back of the first corral. The 1:45 pace group was right behind me and as that was my goal, it seemed wise to keep them close. They must have been in the second wave, though, since I didn't see them again until a bit later. I reasoned early on that if my foot was going to be the deciding factor on the day, whether it was going to doom me didn't depend on the speed I ran - I was going to pound it at 8 minute miles or at 9 minute miles, so I might as well go for goal pace. I don't know if this reasoning is good, but it suited my purposes.

The course is approximately 3.5 miles out, a 6 mile oblong loop, and 3.5 miles back. There are a couple of long lonely stretches, but the crowd is great in the last 4 miles.

Just a little past the starting line I heard "Kathy!/ Mommy!" and from across two lanes of runners, I saw my little guy on his dad's shoulders. My pink headband might have made me stand out, but I was impressed they saw me. I knew I wouldn't see them until the finishing stretch so from then on, every time I saw a stroller or a bunch of munchkins, I pretended they were mine. 

In the end, the race was mostly a mental test. Though I have decided, that any race in which you are reaching for a goal will be a real mental test. The hardest part of the first 6 or 7 miles was that even when the running was easy I still had the pain from the foot and wasn't really relaxed. I also determined about that far in that I was totally overcompensating on the right side and that quad hurt an unusual amount. I started playing some mental games at about that point ("all that's left is less than a typical track workout and not even as fast!") but by about 8.5 miles I was hurting. I was expecting this level at about mile 10, so it came a bit early. But I was close to goal pace, averaging about 8:02s instead of 7:58s. At a little after 9 miles the 1:45 group caught me but I was able to stay more or less in contact with them as my breathing got more and more labored in the last couple of miles.

I counted down the last couple of miles by equating them to laps around the track and they ticked away. Happily the wind stayed at our backs. Saved me! And, with about 400 m to go, I saw the family. And you better believe I ran over to slap some high 5s.

Final time: 1:46:10

Close but no cigar. But I am happy with that result considering what I had in front of me on race morning.

 And I could walk like a human (rather than a robot)by only Wednesday.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Race Report: BYB Wakefield

The race reports are going to be coming fast and furious now. Well, until next week. Three races all in a row may test my report-writing capabilities.

BYB at Wakefield is a 5.5 mile course that is about half fire road (if you include the prologue on the pavement} and half single track. It is also pretty flat. This means it is the fastest course of the series and the most suited to the road runners. And that means, it is always a challenge for me, even though I seem to go into it every year thinking it is the "easy" one.

Sunday was gorgeous, about 10 degrees warmer than last week at the start and getting warmer. I was worried about the trail conditions after a wet week, but they had dried pretty well with very little standing water.

At the start I found myself lined up right next to the woman in my age group who won our group and the overall last week. We wished each other well, then the siren went and I watched her take off like a rocket. I was already pushing myself for a fast start, so I didn't even try to keep up, but I kept her in sight as long as I could.

The race was fairly uneventful: I paced off a teenager for a while, then passed her in the single track (this is the benefit of having those fast roadies out there with us), I had some kind of Pavlovian response to my watch beeping at 3 miles, wondering what I was doing and why I couldn't stick to something shorter, like a 5k, at about 4 miles I found myself wondering how the woman right in front of me was wearing a hat, neckwarmer, gloves, long sleeves and tights and still going so fast when I was starting to heat up in shorts and a t-shirt, I tweaked my ankle in the last mile or so, but it didn't bother me too much (until Wednesday, strangely enough). 

In general, my legs were at their limit for speed somewhere in the 2-3 mile - I am not sure I could have gone faster. But my breathing and cardio was fine until we hit the last uphill and headed down for the final stretch on the fire road. I guess this means my cardio system is in better shape than my running legs? Not sure, but I better not back off the running, what with 3 more of these to do.

In the end I finished 3rd OA with a 2nd in my AG again, a result that I was thrilled with on this course. And the temps had warmed up enough for the cheering crew to enjoy the post-race activities to the utmost (read: munchkins dancing to the race music and eating pizza at 10am).

Next: Shamrock Half in VA Beach...

The Yuengling Shamrock Marathon, Half Marathon, & 8k Run

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Race Report - BYB Hemlock 5

First race of the season was last Sunday with the Backyard Burn 5 Miler at Hemlock Overlook Regional Park. I have been involved with this particular series of trail runs for maybe 8 years now and have had the privilege of doing each race quite a few times. With three long (long!) hills, 2 long rocky sections, and a very narrow bit that never fails to remind me of a terrifying and hairy trail that we hiked on our honeymoon in Hawai'i .....

(not my image - from the Internet) 

.....I am certain this is the hardest race in the series.

Also, the weather is somehow always somewhere on the spectrum of Pretty Awful to just Very Cold. This year we got Quite Cold But Warm Enough To Start To Thaw The Wet Muddy Trail.

So the good news is that the hardest race of the series is over! And the other good news is that I managed a 2nd in my age group and a 3rd overall.

Brief Race Report:
Race starts with a significant downhill on pavement and then gravel road before ducking into the woods for the first time. As always I went too fast on this section, but you really have to if you want to go into the woods in good position. This was all a part of my plan, though, so I knew I would have to dial it back after the prologue.

We went back through the starting area after the prologue loop and I saw my cheering crew but couldn't get over to slap any hands. At this point you duck into the woods and there is about 2 miles of narrow single track ahead. I am pretty confident running downhill on the trails and this has served me well in the past, as it did on Sunday. I made several passes on a steep early downhill that might have saved me some time in the long run.

I also had previewed this section as part of my warm-up, so when we got to the logs crossing the stream, I knew which one wobbled and might drop you into the cold water and which was sturdy. I ended up glad that I had extended my warm-up all the way down there.

There really are three hard hills on the course, so I knew I couldn't red line it early on, but I pushed right up to the limit of uncomfortable. At the bottom of another hill the technical rocky part starts. I know from running this course before that I have a propensity to start getting stressed out at this point if I feel like the people in front of me are being to cautious and slow but that there are very few places to pass. My strategy this time was to pass as much as I could in the flat section leading up to the rocks, to use the rocky part as a little bit of recovery if I was caught behind people, to not stress, and to keep my eyes open for a pass.

In the end this worked out great, as I had positioned myself pretty well and the pace through the rocks mostly suited me. I was able to make one pass by taking a better line but other than that didn't worry.

The other part of the course that I like to go into with a strategy is the second big hill, which continues up through two sharp turns that you can't gauge from below. That is you go up the first section and right where you think it is going to flatten out, it goes up again and then, yeah, one more time. On top of this, the ground was starting to soften up and get muddy, making the uphills feel a little like climbing scree: two steps up, one step back. I decided to steal my dear husband's strategy on that one, which is to run up the bottom until the suffering stops then settle into a fast walk. The worst part of this for me is when it is time to start running again, but this time I know it worked for me. How?

(1) No women passed me on the hill. That's very important.
(2) A few guys passed me, but one of them powered right by near the bottom but by the top I was right with him again. Coming out of the hill right on his tail made me feel like I hadn't lost any time in the long run by walking.

Those were the 2 parts of the race that stood out, except that the last mile of this one is a treacherous one. It starts with narrow windy downhill that feels about 8 inches wide and plunges down about 20 feet on the right to a stream. And this year it was slick and muddy. There is no making up any time when you can't even take full steps. The second half of the last mile is back up that hill and you are feeling it by then. I kept reminding myself that I could push for 800 meters at the track, so I could certainly do it on the race course. By this point I noticed a woman who I had passed early on close behind but took a second to glance at her race number. When I saw the number was red (meaning she was running the 10 mile race), I let her go by with a little relief. I probably should have wanted to beat her too, but I guess I didn't have the will.

I did have the will to sprint the last hill to the finish (just in case), but when I turned around after crossing the line and saw no women in sight, I kind of wondered why...

But it was a good race and I was glad to get on the podium. I would love to finish well in this series this year after a kind of mediocre showing last spring, so I guess I better keep the focus on. This week's race is at Wakefield, which is much flatter, but I think it is going to be very wet, which might make things interesting...