Victoria half marathon training update

While I’ve been happily biking and hiking my way through this exceptionally glorious Pacific Northwest summer, the days and weeks have flown by! The Victoria half marathon is now only 23 days away. So… how am I doing with my race training?

When I last wrote here, I was struggling. I had lost so much momentum during the weeks I spent recovering from my broken arm that running had lost its “fun” factor for me. On a warm day it was easier and more enjoyable to hop on my bike rather than to go out there and slog through the hot miles on foot.

My very next run after I wrote that somewhat whiny last post was an unexpectedly great one: a perfectly steady, strong 9-miler. It’s basically been like that ever since. Well, not always perfect, but on most days both my endurance and my speed are continuing to improve. I’m coming back!

Over the past couple weeks I’ve been easily maintaining a sub-10 minute pace for several miles at a time. I’ve also been doing some focused speed work over shorter distances. I’ve never really done tempo training, but my current experiments with pushing the pace for short intervals seem to be paying off.

It has helped that the seasons are definitely changing. The leaves are starting to turn and fall; I swished my way through big-leaf maple leaves lying across the trail the other day. We’ve finally had a bit of rain. I actually felt chilled during my first mile yesterday. What a relief!

My goal for Victoria is, of course, the long-elusive sub-2:10:00 — the last of the second set of big hairy audacious running goals that I set for myself back in February 2013. To do that I’ll have to run a 9:55 pace for 13.1 miles. To be safe my watch has to tell me I’m on a 9:53 pace, which leaves room for the inevitable GPS wobble that makes every race measure long.

On a perfect day (and Victoria in October has a way of being charmingly perfect) I think this might be the day when I actually pull off that sub-2:10:00.

But it’s always good to have “B” and “C” goals, right?

That’s easy!

  • “B” goal — 2:12:00 will beat my current half marathon PR of 2:12:01.
  • “C” goal — 2:14:28 will beat my Victoria half marathon PR of 2:14:29.

Tomorrow I’m planning to run 11 miles, which will be my longest training run before I start to think about my taper. I’m aiming to run it at an easy, sustainable, as-close-as-possible-to-10:00 pace.

I’ll have a much better idea of my race prospects after tomorrow. I’m optimistic about Victoria… but we’ll see.

One step at a time!

 

Learning to run again?

Wow, it’s been a while since I have posted here. I had no idea that having to take several weeks off from running while recovering from a broken arm was going to affect my running momentum for months to come.

I last posted here about running a half marathon only nine days after my doctor cleared me to run again. I was slow and I walked a lot, but I managed to finish in 2:33:37, just 21 minutes off my PR. In retrospect, that race was one of my better running days this summer.

I knew long before my accident that I have become a total cool-weather runner. I don’t enjoy running in the heat (I define “heat” as anything over about 60 degrees). I have to carry water. I have to put on sunblock and some of it always ends up in my eyes, making them burn. Sometimes running in the sun makes me dizzy.

I’d much rather run in the rain. Rain keeps me cool and if I want a sip of water, all I have to do is stick out my tongue.

I don’t enjoy running all that much when it’s really cold either. At temperatures below 40 degrees, my feet go numb. It takes me a mile or two or even four before I warm up enough that I can fully feel my feet. But I’d rather run on numb feet than run on a hot day. For me, a cold day is the perfect incentive to run long — if it’s going to take me four miles to warm up, I might as well run at least eight miles. So why not run ten or more? Long runs are easy on a cold day.

So give me temperatures between 40 and 60 degrees with a bit of mist and I am a not-so-slow but very happy runner.

This summer in the Pacific Northwest has been long, hot (by PNW standards), and dry. I’ve tried to get back to my traditional schedule of running three days a week, but more often than not I’ve run twice… or just once… a week. CFL and I have traveled for a total of five weeks this summer. I find it difficult to keep to a running schedule while traveling because we like to do things together, and CFL doesn’t run.

Excuses, excuses! The fact is, this summer has played out as follows: On any given morning, I think, well, I can run or I can ride my bike. Running makes me hot and sweaty. Riding my bike creates a cool breeze and allows me to cover more miles more comfortably. The bike is looking pretty good this summer!

Although I haven’t been running as much as I’d planned, I have finally gotten back most of the speed that I’d lost during my time off. I hammered out 6.6 miles at a 9:38 pace the other day. But I don’t seem to be running with joy, and that concerns me. I don’t seem to be running with heart. When I get tired, it’s just too easy for me to decide to walk or even stop instead of pushing on.

Near the beginning of this year I looked forward to the Victoria half marathon this October as a realistic chance at another half marathon PR, maybe even the still-elusive 2:10:00. That’s not looking so likely now.

I’ve decided not to worry about it too much. Running is supposed to be fun, right? The fun will return — I’m sure it will! We probably only have a couple of weeks now before the temperature drops back into my comfort zone. Victoria is still seven and a half weeks away. I still have time to get serious about training… right??

 

NODM half marathon 2014 race report

As I stood at the starting line for the North Olympic Discovery half marathon yesterday, I truly had no idea how the race would go for me. My doctor had only cleared me to run nine days earlier, after seven weeks of recovery from my broken arm. I’d run/walked four times in the week prior to the race, with a “long” run of 7 miles and total mileage of just under 19 miles. I was slow and my legs felt a little shaky, but I was running again — and I was determined to run as much as possible on race day!

Back when I was still thinking I’d have to walk the whole race, one of my running friends (who hasn’t run much over the past few months) decided that she’d walk it with me. A few days before the race I asked her if she was up to run/walking with me. I told her I thought I might be able to sustain a 12:00 to 12:30 pace. She sort of freaked out at the thought of running 13.1 miles on NO recent training, but was willing to give it a try. We promised each other that whenever either of us needed a walk break for any reason, we’d walk. We’d take as much time as we needed, and we’d enjoy a sunny day on a beautiful trail.

We started out running really slowly, as we each tested our legs in the early miles. I also tested my left arm — fortunately it seemed to be quite content to go along for the ride. Soon we settled into a comfortable rhythm, running 0.4 mile and then walking 0.1 mile. We did the first mile in 12:14. Then we reeled off several miles at about 11:45. In the hilly middle section we walked up all the hills but still kept ourselves at just under a 12-minute pace.

By the time we hit mile 8 I was getting a little tired. It was a warm day for this part of the world (mid-60s) and I was starting to feel my lack of training. My friend’s left leg was bothering her a little. Neither of us knew for sure how much we might be able to pick up the pace for the final five miles.

Mile 9 is slightly downhill under big trees to the waterfront. We ran that mile in 11:12, feeling good. When we turned west along the waterfront we were hoping for a cool breeze, but it didn’t happen. My left arm was starting to ache quite a bit. I struggled for the next couple of miles but still managed to maintain the 4/1 run/walk interval.

Approaching mile marker 12 I told my friend that I’d try to run from there to the finish. She was running much stronger than I was at that point, but still loyally staying with me. At 12.5 miles I knew I was going to need just one more walk break. Then I gave it everything I still had left, completing mile 13 in 10:47. At that point I told my friend to go ahead. She finished 12 seconds ahead of me.

My time was 2:33:40. My pace was 11:44 — much better than the 12:00 that I’d hoped to do! It was good enough to finish 17th out of 54 in my gender/age group. I was 21 minutes slower than my PR, but I did pretty well for one week of training — and I did set a PR for running with a broken arm! While I couldn’t muster a huge kick for the final miles, I did have a negative first/second half split of over 4 minutes.

After we’d both eaten a bit of food, we returned to the finish line area to wait for my friend CFL, who was walking his first half marathon. He power-walked every step of the way, refusing to break into a jog for even a single stride. He finished in a remarkable 3:10:57!

The three of us celebrated in style at Barhop Brewing, where we sat on the sunny patio and enjoyed the two-for-one beer special for race entrants. By the end of the afternoon I had achieved that rarest of things in the Pacific Northwest — a sunburn!

I woke up this morning and realized that my arm didn’t hurt at all. Not one bit! I’d almost forgotten what it felt like to wake up to a pain-free shoulder and arm. Running 13.1 miles seems to have loosened it up a little. I do have sore leg muscles, but nothing remarkable.

All things considered, I’m delighted with my race yesterday. I’m eager to get back to regular running, and to start training toward the half marathon PR that I hope to earn in Victoria this October. CFL is not sure whether he’ll do another one, but he’s open to the possibility. :-)

One step at a time!

I’m running again!

Slow Happy Living:

At last…!

Originally posted on Slow Happy Living:

Yesterday, 50 days after I broke my arm, my doctor gave me the okay to start running again. As usual, I walked home from the appointment, taking the long way home via the waterfront trail. I hadn’t walked more than half a mile when I was seized with the desire to run right then and there. It didn’t matter that I was wearing jeans, an old tired pair of shoes, and a warm jacket!

I must have looked silly out there shuffling along dressed like that, like someone trying to run for the very first time. I didn’t care. The first few steps were great! Then my legs suddenly felt like they weighed 500 pounds apiece. Never mind that I have walked, on average, more than 8 miles every day since my injury. I learned yesterday that running and walking use different muscles, and that my running muscles are now seriously out of shape.

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Slow happy race training

It’s been almost six weeks now since I broke my arm while trail running. At first I thought I’d go nuts, not being able to run or ride my bike. I consoled myself with the thought that surely I’d be running again in time for the North Olympic Discovery half marathon on June 1st. I might no longer have the stamina to keep running for miles on end, but surely I’d be running again… right?

Meanwhile, I’d at least walk every day in order to keep the daily activity streak alive. It was tough at first to motivate myself to walk when my arm hurt and I was feeling sorry for myself for not being able to run. But soon, I’d run and ride again!

I started physical therapy three weeks ago. My therapist almost immediately told me that no, it was not realistic to expect to run on June 1.

So what is realistic? I’m registered for a 5K on June 21. Maybe

All right, so I won’t run NODM. Fine — I’ll walk it!

At first I figured I could probably sustain a walking pace in the 17 minute range. 17:10 would get me over the finish line in a tick under 3:45:00. Hey, that’s not so bad! I wouldn’t be the last person out on the half marathon course!

I’m currently seeing my physical therapist twice a week. Her office is two miles from my house. I walk to there, then I walk half a mile to the Olympic Discovery Trail, walk east along the trail for a couple of miles depending on how much time I have on that day, then turn around and walk home. That section of trail is never boring. I’m entertained by eagles, river otters, and a wide variety of waterbirds. Time floats by and soon I’ve done ten or more effortless walking miles.

At some point I started paying attention to my pace again. I realized I was doing 16 minute miles. Then it was 15 minute miles. When I found myself walking a few 14 minute miles now and then I began to rethink this whole idea of walking a half marathon. Yesterday I did two of my 8+ total miles in 13:42 each. I was moving so fast I even felt a touch of runner’s high.

As of today I’m thinking that 13.1 miles of rolling hills at just under an average 15 minute walking pace is an entirely realistic goal. That puts me in the 3:15:00 range. I ran my first half marathon in February 2010 in a lightning-fast 3:10:11. I don’t think I can break that, but if conditions on race day are perfect, I just might have a shot at it.

I didn’t used to think of myself as a competitive person. I missed out on several career opportunities over the years due to lack of assertiveness and reticence about my achievements. I abhor and avoid conflict, often to my detriment.

But put me out on a trail with a GPS watch strapped to my wrist and I become very competitive with myself! How fast can I walk up this hill? How long can I sustain this pace? What if I push just a little harder toward the end of this mile?

We’ll see what happens on race day. But just because I have to walk, that doesn’t mean I have to stroll.

Slow and happy? “Slow” is relative, and “happy” is an attitude. I can do this!

 

So I’m not superhuman

My training for the OAT Run trail half marathon has gone really well. I’ve been running lots of hills and getting in plenty of unpaved trail time. I’ve been delighted by how much stronger and faster I’m becoming on hills — I can run a few miles up a steep trail without having to walk or stop! I can really feel the difference in my hill strength as a result of all the hilly runs and bike rides I’ve been doing.

So yesterday I set out to do 11 miles on the Adventure Trail. I had planned that this would be my last really long trail run before the race on 4/26.

There was rain in the forecast that hadn’t happened yet. The rain started right about the time I started running. Mud puddles quickly formed. Eventually large sections of the trail began to resemble a small stream. I slowed down and watched my footing more carefully, but I was feeling great so I kept bounding along.

At 10.3 miles I was congratulating myself on my awesomeness. In that brief lapse of focus I stumbled over a rock and went down hard. I got up slowly, marveling at the mud all over myself. The damage seemed to be limited to a few abrasions on my forearms and knees and a small cut on my chin. But my left shoulder was a bit sore.

I ran the last bit back to the car where my friend, who’d ridden the trail on his bike, was waiting for me. By the time I got home my left shoulder was becoming extremely sore. It was all I could do to get out of my wet, muddy clothes and into the shower.

I had a full range of motion in my left arm, so I didn’t think I’d done anything to warrant a trip to the emergency room. However, during the evening my pain-free range of motion got smaller and smaller. There was no swelling or bruising, but eventually I could barely move my left shoulder at all.

So this morning I went to my doctor’s office, where they immediately sent me to the emergency room. The X-rays revealed a “closed fracture of the left proximal humerus.” It’s a small chip at the very top of my arm bone where it meets the shoulder. You can’t put a cast in that spot, so I’m in a sling. I’ll be in that sling for 4-6 weeks. No running. No bike riding. I’m left handed, so I’m currently typing very slowly with my right hand and wondering how I’m going to feed myself.

I am extremely disappointed to miss the trail race and other upcoming planned activities. But I’m trying to be okay with all of this. I sat in the ER waiting room this morning surrounded by overweight people with weak, tired bodies. I’d much rather injure myself in the pursuit of health and vigor than succumb to diseases of inactivity. I will heal. My knees will appreciate a few weeks of rest. I’ll keep up the daily activity with walks around town.

I’m not superhuman, but I’m strong. I’m stubborn and determined, and I love to run. I’ll look forward to running another NODM half marathon in June!

 

 

 

 

I’m back in training mode — yippee!

Gosh, it’s been too long since I last posted here! After my big push to complete 1,000 running miles in 2013, it’s been nice to dial down the intensity just a bit, so there really hasn’t been much running activity to write about.

So far this year I’ve been enjoying the opportunity to simply run — as much or as often as I feel like — with no particular goals in mind. It’s a good time of year to be relatively fallow. January and the first half of February were unusually dry, but very cold. Then in mid-February the rain started, and it essentially hasn’t stopped raining since then. Think I’m exaggerating? In the 37 days since February 10, we’ve had over  8.50 inches of rain (about a third of our annual average), and we’ve had measurable rain on all but 7 of those days.

On a rainy, windy day with the temperature in the mid 40s, I have to talk myself into going out to run. Once I finally get out there, however, it’s usually easier to keep going. Therefore, most of my “casual” runs lately have ended up as 8 to 11 milers. An enduring benefit of my marathon training last year is that I still think of a 9 mile run as sort of a fitness baseline. I can knock it out in an hour and a half, no big deal.

Knowing that, I’ve allowed myself to be casual about training for upcoming spring races. I have no real concerns about my ability to run 13.1 miles on any given day. I’ve racked up over 200 running miles so far this year in this no-stress way.

But suddenly it’s mid-March and my trail half marathon is less than six weeks away! While I know I can go the distance, I have done very little trail running over the past year. I’d like to go out and run the trail on which the race will be held, but due to the stormy weather it has been plagued with downed trees (recently as many as 160 down at one time), to say nothing of mud. I confess… I haven’t run that trail even once this year.

I took this photo during a hike (not a run) on a different trail, but the same principle applies — when a landslide obliterates the trail, it’s a good idea to turn around. It’s hard to tell the scale from the image, but this slide was over 20 feet across.

Until conditions improve on my race trail, I’m improvising a training plan. I’m focusing on running hills, and throwing in bits and piece of local off-pavement trails whenever I can. Fortunately my immediate neighborhood is very hilly, so I don’t have to go far to do that sort of training. The other day I ran almost three miles straight up the road from my house, climbing over 850 feet, and then dove into the forest to return via a trail that was not TOO muddy. Now my plan is to adopt that route as one of my regular weekly runs, adding to the mileage and incorporating more of the trail as I go. Eventually I’ll get out there on that race trail — for sure I’ll get out there on race day!

So I’m optimistic about my upcoming race, and not stressing out about it — much. It’s my first trail half marathon, so it’s a guaranteed PR, right? I know I’ll be a couple of minutes per mile slower on dirt/mud/rocks/roots than I am on pavement. So I expect to amble in somewhere around the 2:45 mark, stuffed chock-full of wonderful endorphins. Then I’ll hoist my post-race beer with heartiness and glee.

What could possibly go wrong?

One step at a time!

1000+ miles

It took me all the way down to the wire, but with my run this morning I hit 1,001.14 miles for 2013. Now I plan to welcome 2014 with a few days of rest from running (but not from biking or walking). In a week or so, I’ll be doing my annual trip down to Santa Barbara, where I always make sure to spend some time running barefoot on the beach.

2013 was a very big year for me in terms of running goals — two half marathons, my first full marathon, a big 10K PR, and the very elusive 1000 miles. I don’t expect to run so many miles in 2014, but that’s because I have other big goals — a lot more cycling and hiking!

I can’t wait to get started! How about you? Happy New Year!

Finally an OFFICIAL sub-60 10K

The Port Angeles Rain Deer Run was only a “fun run” but I took it seriously. There was an official starting line. There was a starter, who sent us off with a wailing siren. There were course workers. There was a clock at the finish, and I watched the seconds tick as I approached the finish line. Best of all, there were gender/age class medals, and I earned one!

Since we all seem to be obsessed this week with taking “selfies,” I couldn’t resist posing for my iPhone before the start. As one of the first 50 registered runners, I was given antlers when I checked in. I proudly perched them on top of my Santa hat.

There were maybe 100 runners in all, about two-thirds of whom were running or walking the 5K. Some of the costumes were really clever… a whole family in Santa suits, several people in footed one-piece jammies, a couple of women in red tutus, and a really stunning angel. I was fairly low-key in my green shirt, red vest, Santa hat, and two jingle bells (one around my neck and the other tied to my left shoe).

As I looked around at the start, I didn’t see many runners who appeared to be in my age group, so I thought maybe I’d have a chance at a medal. The weather was perfect — around 45 degrees and calm. Rain was in the forecast but hadn’t materialized.

The siren blared and off we went! At first I was distracted by the sound of my bells, and I worried that I might annoy runners around me. I had to grab at my antlers a couple of times to reassure myself that they weren’t going to fall off. Then I forgot about all that stuff and just ran.

It was a little crowded at first. The 5Kers and 10Kers all started together, and there were lots of young children doing the 5K. I found myself behind two little boys who would run as fast as they could and then screech to a slow walk. Once I finally got past them on the narrow trail, I had clear sailing. At the 1.55 mile mark all the 5Kers turned around, and then for a while I couldn’t see anyone ahead of or behind me.

Soon I started to see 10Kers coming back from our turnaround point, and I counted them as they came. To my delight I discovered that I was about 10th overall at the 3.1 mile turnaround point. My watch read 29:45 — I was comfortably on pace and ready to pick up the tempo! Only one person had passed me up to that point, but right after the turnaround I passed her back and passed another person. I was all alone again.

Then about a mile and a half from the finish I saw another runner in the distance. Ever so gradually I gained on her. Right about the six mile mark I was close enough that she noticed me. She started to sprint and I thought, maybe I should just let her go. Then she eased off and I gained again. She sprinted another few steps and slowed down again. As I came up alongside of her, I threw her a big smile and said, “let’s race!” I pulled ahead of her and didn’t see her again.

I hit the finish line at 58:04. That was good enough to take home a third-place gender/age group medal. As it turned out, that runner I’d passed at the end was in my G/A group, and I’d barely nosed her out of a medal. And yes, there were several more people in our G/A group behind the two of us. I’m not so slow.

To make it an even sweeter semi-victory, I won one of the many very generous prizes donated by local businesses. I took home a $25 Costco gift card (which entirely covered the cost of my entry fee) and a three-month membership to a local fitness club. Hmmm…. I’ve been thinking about doing a little weight training in 2014. I might actually put that membership to use!

When I got home and downloaded the data from my GPS, I was amazed to see that my 9:20 overall pace was not just a 10K PR, but the fastest I have ever completed any distance. I have run lots of individual miles (usually the last mile) during longer runs at a faster pace, but I’ve never completed a run at a faster overall pace.

It was a good day! CFL and I walked down the street to our local brewpub, where I enjoyed their special 3rd anniversary beer, a bourbon-aged pale ale. Then it was home, where a warm shower greeted me and a blog softly called to me, “write, write…..”

And here I am! Proudly telling you about a wonderful run on a beautiful day and another PR on the books. Hurrah!

Chasing the miles

Way back before the beginning of the year, I set myself a very modest running mileage goal of 730 miles for 2013. When I set that goal, I hadn’t yet decided to train for and run a full marathon, although as I recall the idea was already floating around in my head somewhere.

I blew by the 730 mile mark on September 18. By the time I finished the marathon on October 13, my year-to-date mileage stood at 820.

I told myself I’d give myself a break and stop worrying about weekly mileage between marathon day and the end of 2103.

Oh, the stories we tell ourselves… the promises we make and then break…

Try though I might to give myself a break, it wasn’t long before I was running three to five days a week again, and doing the math in my head. Is 1,000 miles possible? Is it reasonable?

On November 27 I hit 902 miles, and another 98 miles before year-end seemed not only possible but easy.

Then the cold weather hit.

I haven’t run anywhere but on my treadmill since November 27.

Okay, I admit it, I’m a cold weather wimp! We’ve only had a half inch or so of snow so far. But when the temperature doesn’t rise above freezing for a week or more, I just don’t feel like going out there and running in the real world. So the treadmill has become my new best running friend.

The problem, as we runners all know, is that the treadmill is BORING. It’s not only boring, but it can get quite warm even in a relatively cool room, as there’s not a whisper of a breeze to wick away the sweat. What’s more, the motion on a treadmill is more relentlessly repetitive (read: harder on the knees) than real-world running, as it’s more difficult to vary pace and terrain on a treadmill.  I simply can’t manage more than 4-5 miles at a stretch on the treadmill.

So I tried running more frequently to offset the reduced mileage on each run. It didn’t take long, however, for me to realize that a “run streak” (daily running of at least a mile per day) wasn’t going to work well for me. It’s that knee thing again. My knees honestly need a day to recover from a run. I can manage running two days in a row now and then, but three days in a row are too many.

Now it’s December 9 and I’m standing at 933 miles. Our streak of unusually cold, dry weather is about to end. The forecast calls for at least five straight days of rain with high temperatures in the mid 40s. Yippee! I can’t wait to get out there and slosh around on the trail again soon. Another 67 miles in the last 22 days of the year? I can do that!

This coming Saturday I’m registered for a local “Reindeer Run” 10K race. It will be only my second 10K race ever; the first one was my very first race way back in May 2009. I hope my Santa hat and jingle bells won’t weigh me down too much, because I’d really love to officially run a sub-60 10K. But no matter how slowly I may splash around and jingle in the rain, I’ll be edging ever closer to that magical 1,000 mile mark for 2013!

I’m going to chase those miles right up to New Year’s Eve if I have to.

I’ve decided that for 2014 I’ll again set a modest running goal… 900 miles. That will leave plenty of room for all the bike riding and hiking I plan to do! With a metric century (62 mile) bike ride or two in the planning works, I have a feeling that my really big mileage numbers are going to be earned on two wheels next year.

Tell me… did you set any running goals for 2013? How are you doing? Or… what are your fitness goals for 2014?

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