Blog Archives

Race report: 2016 NODM half marathon

It was hot. I mean really, it was HOT. Hot as in 75 degrees at the start, 79 degrees at the waterfront finish line, and the day topped out at 86 degrees. That’s warmer than our high temperature for the year in about half the years I’ve lived here.

On June 5, 2016 I was up at 3:59 AM, just before my alarm went off. NODM day at last! My local half marathon.

Despite the usual race morning nerves, I managed to choke down some breakfast. My partner CFL and I began our day’s exercise with a brisk 1.2 mile walk downtown to catch the shuttle bus that would take us to the half marathon start.

At the starting line area in a community soccer park, the runners milled around slowly, with many people seeking shady spots at the far edge of the field. No one seemed to be doing any vigorous warm-up exercising. We were already warm enough.

As the 8:30 start time approached, I lined up immediately ahead of the 2:30 pacer. I knew I didn’t have a chance of beating my last year’s PR of 2:10:38, but I was optimistic of finishing in the 2:20 range. I resisted the temptation to line up with the 2:15 group, as I knew I couldn’t keep up with them. I figured as long as I could stay well ahead of the 2:30 group and save a little something for the last three miles, I’d be in good shape.

The gentle uphill in the first half mile got my heart pumping (as it always does) and gave me a good feeling for just how tough things might get later. Still, I settled down quickly, running mile 1 in 10:25 and mile 2 in 10:21. So far so good. But in the middle of mile 3 I was already ready for a walk break. So I walked for a bit and then picked it up on the downhill toward Siebert Creek.

After that I slowed down a lot. I took my time at each water station, making sure to drink all the water in the cup rather than my usual practice of sloshing down a few drops, trying not to choke, and tossing the rest. I walked the steeper and sunnier parts in the next few miles, which are a series of short rolling hills. I was hardly alone in this strategy — a whole tribe of us were running in the shade and the downhills, and walking the sunny sections and the hills. It was HOT!

Somehere in the middle of mile 5, the 2:30 pacer passed me. I let her go.

I trotted/ambled on, making my way slowly through the huge down-and-up at Bagley Creek. I walked much of the the awful dogleg on a blistering hot road (the only place the course leaves the Olympic Discovery Trail) in mile 8. It was HOT! At the water stations they were now giving everyone two cups of water, and like many others I was pouring my second cup over my head.

Finally we reached the big downhill, sailing downward to Morse Creek trestle. I crossed the bridge (4.5 miles to go!) and welcomed the next part, a long, gentle, tree-lined downhill toward the waterfront. The waterfront section of the trail (3.6 miles to go!) is where I do most of my running. I know every little hiccup on the trail here. On race day, this is where my “GO” flag drops and I give it everything I have left.

My legs were ready to go, but my head was occupied with figuring out what a realistic time goal should be at this point. To make my 2:20 goal, I needed to be just under a 10:45 pace at mile 10 and then run like hell to the finish. In actuality, I was down to an average 11:25 pace and there was no way I could make up that much time. I decided that 2:28 was realistic and that if I pushed I could just get there. I knew I wouldn’t be able to summon the mental toughness to do much better than that.

I’d like to say I ran the entire final distance along the waterfront, but did I tell you it was HOT? It was hot. My brain and my legs battled it out! My brain won. I was forced to continue walking the sunny sections. Fortunately, there is not much sun along the north-facing waterfront, so at least my walk breaks were shorter than previously.

Early in mile 12 I passed the 2:30 pacer back. Yay! Soon after, I heard someone right behind me saying they were getting old and it was hard to keep running in the heat. Someone replied, “Well, I’m 60!” Aha! Someone in my age group was right behind me! That was plenty of inspiration to keep pushing.

Mile 12: damn, it was hot. I walked over the bridge at Rayonier (full sun and 13 feet of elevation gain!) and barely trotted to the last water station just on the west side of the bridge.

After a good, long drink I managed to run from there to the finish, although I was pretty slow coming through the little bump (full sun and 7 feet of elevation gain!) at Francis Street. I hit the finish line at 2:27:58.

My brain had managed to get me to the finish line in just under 2:28.

I ended up 8th out of 50 in my age group — and sure enough, 9th place finished just 4 seconds behind me. Yes, it paid to push to the finish! And guess what: if I’d made my original, and entirely unrealistic, goal of 2:20, I’d have just barely finished in 7th place. All things considered, I ran as well as I could have — and as well as I needed to — on that day.

I got in the very long line for food. I just had time to go through it before I walked back to the finish line to watch for CFL.

While I was waiting near the finish, I watched a 30-something female full marathoner nearly collapse. Someone came out to support her, give her a sports drink, hold her while she vomited, and help her to the finish line. It was scary to watch. It was really, REALLY hot out there.

CFL walked in at 3:10:41, which was his fastest of two NODMs and his second fastest ever. He said he actually jogged a little on some of the downhills. He said maybe he’d jog a little more in the future. I am dumbfounded.

After CFL got his food, we headed to the beer garden.

Free beer!

After our free Space Needle IPA from Pike Brewery in Seattle, we walked home and showered. Then we walked back down to Barhop for truly local beer.

 

Even on a sunny day, it’s usually too cool to sit outside at Barhop because there’s always a stiff breeze off the water. Not that day! We enjoyed the view of the harbor and passers-by for a good long time before finally a gentle whiff of a breeze caused us to start thinking about dinner.

So now my 7th NODM — my 14th half marathon — is behind me. All in all, it was a good race and a great day. I’m satisfied with my race. It was really HOT. I find as I get older that making a rational decision not to kill myself out there is actually a good way to go. Stay strong and finish healthy! May there always be more finish lines ahead.

Slow and happy!

It’s race time again!

It’s hard to believe it, but this coming Sunday I will run my 14th half marathon. That race will be my 7th local North Olympic Discovery half marathon. That’s the race that I stood and watched, with tears in my eyes, in 2007 and 2008 before resolving that I, too, would become a runner.

There is something extra special about running a race in one’s own town. I’ve run so many, many miles on the Olympic Discovery Trail, in all kinds of weather, through all sorts of joys and sorrows.

I’ve watched each year’s race mile markers get placed (usually painted) on the trail in the days immediately before the race. Then I’ve watched the numbers fade in the sun over the months after the race, always a reminder of race day and an encouragement to keep a steady progress toward next year. This year’s markers are a little different, and I don’t think they’ll remain in place on the trail after race day.

I’ve seen four different versions of the course, slight variations necessitated by sections of the trail being added, improved, or blocked off for various reasons.

This year, the final half mile to the finish was blocked for a couple of months by a major landslide. The trail here runs along the waterfront beneath a bluff. A house at the top of the bluff caught fire. When firefighters turned their hoses on the blaze, the sudden rush of water caused the bluff behind the house to fail. Rather than risk losing several more houses to the slide, they had no choice but to let the house burn to the ground. Then there was a delay of several weeks while the homeowner and the insurance company worked things out. The slide could not be cleared until all of the debris from the house was knocked down and carried away. As a result, the trail was finally reopened, and the race course was assured, only about five days ago.

While I’m excited to be running yet another NODM, I’m not particularly optimistic for a great performance. My post-marathon bronchitis really took a lot out of me. I basically lost the entire month of April. When I was finally able to run again, I couldn’t go further than a mile or so before I’d have to take a walk break and catch my breath. My cardiovascular fitness was gone.

The last week or so I’ve become able to run a little longer, a little faster. But I’ve had to resign myself to the fact that I’m much slower than I was a year ago at this time. And that’s okay! I have no illusions about a PR; I’m simply going to try to maintain a steady pace and finish healthy and happy

I still get to show off my beautiful trail and my wonderful small town to out-of-town runners. I still get to run up and down those rolling, forested hills, sail down the big hill to the Morse Creek trestle, and then get down to business in those final 3+ miles along the waterfront. Where I’ve been paced by deer, accosted by river otters, serenaded by bellowing harbor seals, and buzzed by the occasional bald eagle.

Whatever happens during the race, it will be a good day! And there is local beer at the finish line. What more could anyone ask for?

One step at a time!

 

That was fun!

It would have been considered perfect race day weather probably anywhere in the country except for here on the Olympic Peninsula. Here, we locals shudder at the idea of running when it’s over 70 degrees.

When I got off the bus and took my place at the starting line for the 13th annual North Olympic Discovery half marathon (coincidentally also my 13th half marathon), the temperature was already in the low 60s. There was neither a cloud in the sky, nor a hint of a breeze. It was going to be a scorcher!

I got through the first couple of miles fine, and actually a bit ahead of my plan. As we hit the first hill just past mile 3, I was talking firmly to myself and instructing myself to slow down and save energy for the hilly miles to come.

Somewhere in mile 4 or 5 my watch must have hiccuped at least once. It lost about a quarter of a mile, although I didn’t realize it at the time. What my watch said was that all of a sudden I was running a lot slower than I expected. I lost (or thought I lost) so much time in those two miles that by the time I got to the really steep hills at mile 7 I was almost 3 minutes behind the elapsed time I’d expected to see at that point. This, combined with the heat itself, was starting to feel very discouraging.

As I came down the big hill in mile 9, however, I could feel that I still had some speed left in me. I picked up the pace. I figured I still had time to pull out a 2:13:something, which would be a respectable time on this warm day.

Rounding the turn toward the waterfront, I felt a hint of cool marine air. I would have appreciated feeling the usual brisk breeze at that location, but there was none. Still, I was feeling all right and I pushed on.

When I reached the official mile 10 marker (at which point my watch said I’d run 9.7-something miles), it finally occurred to me that my watch might be wrong. It finally occurred to me to look at my elapsed time, add another 30-ish minutes, and I’d have a projected finish time. That time was 2:11:something. A PR was very much in sight!

So I ran the last three miles as hard as I could: which turned out to be 9:43, 9:43, and 9:23. I hit the finish line at 2:10:38, which is a new PR by 56 seconds. It is also my first sub-10:00 half marathon — I averaged a 9:59 pace! This is a major, really-big-deal milestone in my running career!

I took 8th place out of 61 in my age group. I was comfortably in the top quartile of all female runners, and in the top third of all runners. I’m very happy with that result!

It took me a while to realize that I’d done it and to enthusiastically congratulate myself. The free beer at the finish line certainly helped.

The beer went down especially well because it was 72 degrees and climbing at the finish line. We sat in the sun and had a few beers. Yesterday’s high turned out to be 82 degrees — not an all-time record for early June but certainly much warmer than normal.

Today I’ve got a few sore muscles, but not bad. I have some serious chafing on my chest from wearing my heart monitor. One of my toenails looks a bit bruised — a first for me. Other than that, I feel great!

Now I plan on taking at least two weeks off from running while I attend to other priorities. In late June I’ll start running again, focusing on long and slow. I’ll also do a lot of bike riding to prepare for a cycling event in early August. I won’t start the serious full marathon training until the second week of August. That gives me two months to prepare for Victoria. At this moment I’m confident I can do that!

The art of the taper

Once again, it’s taper time!

I guess I’ve finally reached the point where I’ve been doing this runner thing long enough that I no longer stress very much about training for a specific event. At distances up to and including a half marathon, I can pretty much be ready to race with only a few weeks of focused training effort. Or it seems that way to me anyway, at the moment.

The North Olympic Discovery Half Marathon (NODM) is now only twelve days away. I’ve done some hill training. I’ve done some speed drills. I’ve done a bunch of medium distance (6-9 miles) tempo runs.

Last Saturday I did what I call my “dress rehearsal” for NODM — I ran essentially the last 11 miles of the course, give or take a short dogleg. I ran it at race pace (it actually would have been PR pace) and I finished feeling really, really strong. At the time I wondered whether I might have overdone it, but I came out of it feeling just fine. I was helped immensely by absolutely perfect weather — overcast, calm, and 55 degrees — which definitely contributed to how easy it felt. I doubt I’ll be as lucky weather-wise on race day, but I’ll have the always-helpful adrenalin factor to help carry me through.

So now I’m contentedly welcoming the taper. Over the next week and a half, I’ll run shorter distances with less intensity. I’ll try to limit my other activities, or at least try not to go all-out (as I write this, I’m looking forward to an e…a…s…y……. 15-20 miles on my bike this afternoon). I’ll try to eat well and get lots of sleep. I’ll try not to stress out when the scale tells me I’ve gained a pound or three: it’s all that glycogen and water I’ll be storing in my muscles!

I’ve generally taken a rather scientific approach to my running — the thoughtfully designed training plan, the carefully logged miles, the focus on the numbers — but I’m coming to see that there’s an art to it as well. Sometimes, when I don’t feel like running, the best thing to do is take a few days off. When I’m fed up with pushing the pace, it’s okay to slow down. My baseline fitness is now good enough that I can give myself those little breaks and still be ready on race day.

There’s an art to this running thing, a beauty and grace that I’m finally beginning to grasp. The other activities (cycling and hiking and walking almost everywhere I go around town) that also occupy my time and interest these days have helped show me this. It all has to do with living an active and healthy life. It’s not just about what happens on race day. It’s how I feel the next day, the next month, the next year. It’s getting out of bed every morning, feeling alive and eager to be out there and moving in the world.

It’s the overall, constant rhythm of activity that matters.

Slow and happy!

Easing into training season

It’s April!

I guess that means I’d better get serious about training again. Since the beginning of the year I’ve been content to run a bit less, with less intention. Although we’ve had an extremely mild winter, I’m generally less than enthusiastic about running when my hands and feet are sure to go numb for the first 3 or more miles. I confess that my weekly mileage has been down… a lot… so far this year. Whereas I usually aim for 17-25 miles a week (and I can train quite adequately for a half marathon on that mileage), I’ve been doing more like 8-12.

But it’s April! So it’s time to get serious again.

The other day I passed the one-year anniversary of breaking my arm while trail running. Although I hiked on many miles of steep, challenging trails last summer, I’ve kept my vow to resist running on a rugged, rocky, root-filled, hilly trail ever again. I’ve recognized that it’s not for me. My habitual semi-shuffling gait is not well suited for avoiding obstacles on uneven trails, and I’m not likely to change my running style enough to warrant risking my life out there.

Fortunately I have many beautiful places to run while staying on pavement. I’m good with that.

But now it’s suddenly just nine weeks before our local half marathon. It’s time to get busy!

My primary goal for this year’s NODM on June 7 is, of course, to arrive at the finish line safely and in good health. Beyond that, I’d like to beat my current PR for this race, which I set two years ago, of 2:13:25. On this rather hilly course I’m not likely to set an all-time PR, but a race PR would be nice, and feels quite doable.

I’ve recently invested in some new running gear that has been really helpful. A couple months back, I decided to try running with a heart monitor again to see what I might learn about my progress as a runner. I used one for a while, maybe four years ago, but stopped using it because the big numbers I kept seeing were scary! I almost convinced myself I was going to have a heart attack out there, even though I was actually feeling just fine.

Well, when I strapped on the heart monitor again I was delighted to see how much progress I’ve made! I know enough about myself as a runner now that I know what it feels like when I’m pushing hard rather than just moseying along. The heart monitor provided validation of those feelings. I still habitually tick along on the high side of what the charts say I should be doing at my age, but the numbers are lower and less variable than they used to be. The fact that I can run along for miles with a steady heart rate of 150+, and still comfortably carry on a conversation most of the time, actually means that I’ve got a very healthy heart. I should celebrate those numbers, not fear them!

So I spent some money and bought a new heart monitor that, in conjunction with my watch, tells me a lot of really interesting things like how far my feet come off the ground (not nearly far enough to consider trail running) and how long my feet stay on the ground (a rather leisurely amount of time). With this data I’ve figured out that the best way for me to get faster is to focus on cadence and simply turn over my feet a bit faster. I can do that!

After upgrading the heart monitor, of course I could not resist upgrading the watch. I’m now the proud owner of a Fenix 3, Garmin’s latest multi-sport GPS watch. While in the past I’ve worn a GPS watch only while actually running or cycling or hiking, this one is also an activity and sleep tracker. Hence I’ve taken to wearing it 24/7.

It’s not exactly a fashion statement on my wrist. It’s huge!

But it does get the job done. When the danged thing buzzes and tells me to move, I get up and walk around the house.

I’m about to go out for a 9 mile run. I’ll put some big numbers on the step counter, and try to put some smallish numbers on the average pace screen.

Tomorrow I’ll ride my bike. I’m trying to alternate running and biking days so that I’m doing lots of both. As the days get longer and warmer I’ll start mixing in hiking days. But from now through June 7, running is my top priority.

After June 7, cycling and hiking will take top billing. I have a major cycling event coming up in early August. After that I’ll get serious about training for the marathon I’m going to run on October 11.

What about you? What are your running plans for 2015? Has your training kicked into high gear yet?

Wrapping up 2014, planning for 2015

After I broke my arm while trail running last April, I stopped worrying about my running mileage goals for 2014. I knew I wasn’t going to set any annual distance records. I was happy simply to run again after having to take seven weeks off! I was thrilled to run a slow half marathon only nine days after being cleared to run again. Then I was elated in October to run another half marathon and set a new PR.

That was enough, with respect to specific running goals for the year. I spent the rest of 2014 running for pure enjoyment. I ran when I felt like it. When I didn’t feel like running, I walked or rode my bike… a few miles every day without fail.

I did my now-traditional long run on Christmas day, and logged 11 miles. I briefly toyed with the idea of running a half marathon just for fun, but decided I didn’t want to raise the bar too high for next year.

I finished 2014 with 670.04 total running miles. My average distance was 7.2 miles. I still enjoy going long and slow most of all. I figure, why even bother to go out and run if you’re only going 3 or 4 miles?

I’m already looking forward to training for another full marathon next year! I’ll run my local half marathon in June, and then focus on training for the full in October. Currently I’m only thinking about those two races, but I may toss in another half or perhaps a 10K or two somewhere along the way.

I’m currently anticipating that I’ll run about 900 miles in 2015. In addition to that, I expect to cycle about 1,500 miles and put in lots of hiking and walking miles.

I’ve also added light weight training to my routine. I’m finally starting to get some real strength back in my left arm. By summer I hope to show you one of those awesome bike ride finish photos of me holding my bike high over my head!

What about you? Did you achieve your running goals for 2014? What are your running or other activity/fitness goals for 2015?

Are you finding that the focus of your goals changes from time to time? It doesn’t always have to be a specific number of miles or a certain race. Sometimes it’s just about going out and doing as much as you can do, one step at a time.

Here’s to a happy and healthy 2015!

Another half marathon PR? I did that! Safe and sound!

I went to Victoria with, shall we say, a bigger than usual focus on a goal. My last few weeks of training and preparation had gone so well that I wasn’t simply looking forward to running another race. I figured that I had a realistic chance at finishing faster than 2:12:01 and finally setting another PR a year and a half after that previous great day.

I really didn’t want to screw up my chances, so I planned every last detail — what I would wear on race day, exactly what and when I would eat, the precise times I needed to hit at the end of every mile. Okay, I went a little around the bend into obsessive-compulsive territory. The Victoria half marathon had become a Really Big Deal for me.

I’m one of those runners who almost always runs to music. I run in beautiful places and I do love the sights and sounds of nature, so I keep the volume really low. Still, there is something about a running anthem that helps me to gather courage and keep going at times when I might otherwise feel like stopping to take a photo or maybe walking for a while.

My usual running playlist contains about 130 songs, which is about 7.5 hours worth of music. I put my iPhone on shuffle and let it serve me up songs randomly; whatever comes up is usually good enough.

For this race I got the idea of creating a custom playlist that I would let play through in order. I timed the order of the 37 songs as closely as I could to my planned pace of about 10 minutes per mile through mile 10, and then as fast as possible.

I planned to go over the starting line to the opening notes of the theme from the movie Chariots of Fire. I know, really hokey, but the song always gets me pumped. For the first few miles I’d be listening to music about relaxing and enjoying the day, designed to keep me from going out too fast. Then at certain key points I’d hear very specific songs that would cue me to think about this thing or do that other thing. For example, I put “Run-Around” by Blues Traveler at the point where the course turns back toward the finish. I’d hear “Eight Miles High” by the Who at the 8-mile mark. From that point on I had songs that were designed to help me get down to work and seriously pick up the pace. Finally, I planned to finish to two iterations of “Safe and Sound” by Capital Cities. The phrase “safe and sound” is sort of a running mantra for me.

I timed the whole thing so that if I could get to the finish line before “Safe and Sound” ended for the second time I should have my PR by 15 to 30 seconds. I added one more song after that so that if I faded (or miscalculated the song lengths!), I wouldn’t have to finish in silence.

I had a lot of fun assembling the playlist, and doing that project helped me quell the pre-race jitters as well.

Before dawn on race day, CFL and I walked the mile from our motel to Victoria’s Inner Harbor where the race would start and end in front of the Parliament building. The sun was just beginning to rise as we lined up with nearly 4,000 other runners. I lined up with the “2:15” crowd and CFL, who was walking, went back toward the rear.

After the horn went off at 7:30 it took me about three minutes to reach the starting line through the crowd. I queued up my music as I crossed the mat and off I went.

The weather was perfect — low 50s and calm with a light cloud cover. My feet did not go numb in the first mile as they usually do. Everything looked good!

The first couple of miles went exactly as planned. Then I noticed that the course, which I always think of as flat, is actually quite hilly. Victoria fools me that way every time! By the time I hit mile 4 I was working harder than I wanted to and was still a couple seconds over the magic 10:00 minute pace. I was regretting that last taster at the brewpub the night before.

There was some downhill in mile 5 so I made up all that time with a 9:36 mile. I then managed to get myself settled down over the next few miles. My GPS watch was telling me I was on pace, and the fact that I was hearing the right songs at the right time confirmed my watch data and gave me that extra bit of confidence.

At most of the aid stations I was only taking splashes of water, and choking on most of that. One of these years I’ll master the art of drinking on the run, but I’m not there yet. I eventually got rather warm and thirsty so I decided to walk through an aid station at mile 10 and take a few full swallows. That was my first walk break.

At mile 11 I had one song backfire on me. The opening notes of Joe Cocker’s “High Time We Went” caused my mind to scream, “Oh no we’re not going!” I placated myself with another, very short walk break. But I was just under a 10 minute pace at that moment and that PR was not yet out of reach! After a few long deep breaths I decided to ignore that part of my mind and get back to work.

I ran mile 12 in 9:29, carried forward gallantly by David Bowie’s “Heroes.” I started mile 13 right on schedule to a reprise of “Chariots of Fire.” Then when “Safe and Sound” came up for the first time I knew I had exactly 6 and a half minutes to get to the finish line.

I got there with at least 10 seconds to spare. I passed several people right at the finish. I finished in  2:11:42 — a PR by 19 seconds! It was a negative split by almost two minutes. I placed 67th out of 173 in my age/gender group, which is my highest-place finish at Victoria and a Really Big Deal for me.

I finished feeling safe and sound, but I’m quite sore today — more so than I usually am after a half marathon. I really did put it all out there in the last couple of miles. I’m not sure I could have done it if it weren’t for that silly playlist. I think it actually helped me to maintain my commitment to myself in those late miles when I was getting very tired.

As for CFL? He took a leisurely stroll on a beautiful course, finished in 3:21, and told me in great detail about the sights he’d seen along the way — things I’d mostly missed while in my tunnel-vision running world. He had a great day too.

We’ll be back to do it again next year!

 

Learning to love the taper

The Victoria half marathon is now only seven days away, which means that I’m well into taper mode. My last few weeks of training have gone well enough. My longest long run was a solid and steady 11-miler back on September 20 (V minus 22 days) followed on 9/30 (V-12) by a very brisk 9-miler.

I have mostly focused my recent training on pacing. I’m feeling very strong (for some odd reason!!) so I’m having to fight the urge to go out too quickly, which always only results in tiring too much in the later miles. To train for my race strategy, I’ve practiced staying steady on pace during the first half and then making each mile in the second half just a little quicker. For the most part I’ve been successful doing that.

Over this past week my focus has turned to rehearsing for race day itself. I confess that now that I’m no longer working, I’ve developed a very casual attitude toward mornings… as in, I don’t do them at all! I’ve never been a morning person, but these days if I’m out of bed before 8:00, that’s early. But the race will start at 7:30!

So for my last two runs, I have set the alarm and made myself get up. On Friday, I had it set for 5:40 and managed to talk myself into getting up at 7:00.

This morning I set the alarm for 5:30 and I was up at 5:40. What an improvement — hurrah!

Unfortunately I can’t simply wake up, go out the door, and run. There is food to consider, and there are morning rituals. My goal for this week’s running has been to duplicate as many aspects of race day as possible.

I know from experience that if I’m up three hours before the start of the race, and if I’ve finished eating two hours before, my stomach will usually allow me to run without too many complaints. I also know from experience that a banana or two along with a slice or two of bread and a cup of coffee will usually work well for me on race day, provided I’ve eaten well (three cheers for pasta!) the night before. So — despite the fact that I really don’t like bananas at all — I’m eating bananas.

The other good thing about bananas is that I can usually find them in Victoria. Running this race means international travel — albeit only 20+ miles across the strait. I’ve learned what foods I can and cannot bring with me into Canada. I’ve never had any problem bringing a few slices of bread, but fruit? Yogurt? I’m not even gonna try. But there’s a little deli restaurant along the way from the ferry dock to the motel, and I’ve never failed to find a bowl of bananas there. They might cost me a dollar or more apiece, but I’m reasonably confident that I’ll find them there.

I plan on running just one more time between now and next Sunday. I’ll set my alarm for 4:30 on Wednesday. I’ll eat a danged banana or two and then I’ll go out and run 4 or 5 easy miles starting at 7:30, just moments after sunrise.

I was thinking about this whole taper thing while I was running this morning. I was thinking about how nice it is that I don’t freak out about it anymore. I no longer talk about “taper terror.” It’s not that I’ve become blase, but simply that I now know what to expect. I know I’m going to be anxious. I expect to gain a pound or two. I’ll have nightmares and butterflies and at some point I’ll become convinced that I’m going to fall apart. Or not. Whatever. On race morning I’ll be an insufferable basket of nerves, but I’ll somehow get myself to the starting line and I’ll run.

I’ve done this. I know how it works. I know I can do it. The nerves and the spreadsheet obsession are simply parts of the process for me.

Within the next week, I’ll pass two life milestones. One is a birthday — my 59th — and the other is the 6th anniversary of the day I first stepped onto my new treadmill and pronounced myself a “runner.” I put those two numbers together and marvel at the fact that I’ve been running for more than 10% of my life. Given that, I guess it’s about time I figured out a few of the tricks of the trade, right?

This morning I took some time after finishing to look around and enjoy the beautiful morning that I wouldn’t have otherwise seen.

 

It was worth getting up for! I could learn to love this.

One step at a time!

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??