Sunday, November 27, 2011

Quick Hits for Marathon Week

don't panicHere we are -- 5 days (FIVE DAYS PEOPLE) until Cal International Marathon. :)

(In case you haven't been playing along at home, here is a list of posts chronicling my journey from someone who swore I would never run a marathon to someone who is now just a few days from doing it:

The Marathon & Me (3/20/11)

Marathon Musings (7/11/11)

Committed. (9/7/11)

Marathon Training, Week 2: In Which I Refuse to Trust Pace Charts (9/9/11)

Marathon Training, Week 3: In Which I Attempt Eating & Drinking On The Run (9/21/11)

Marathon Training, Week 5: In Which Dr. S. Tolerates My Extra-Special Brand of Neurotic (9/30/11)

The Last 16 (10/3/11)

Marathon Training, Week 7: In which I Feel Crappy, but Gain Confidence (10/19/11)

Taking Stock (11/1/11)

Marathon Training, Week 11: In Which I Manage My Expectations (11/21/11)

Clearly a CIM tag is in order.)

I've had a lot of time to deal with all the crazy emotions you might think I'd be experiencing at this point, so I'm actually pretty chill. I've worked out my pacing / fueling / hydration / transportation strategies, planned my wardrobe, managed my expectations, & I'm still excited about running. I'm also excited to hang out & have pre-race dinner with a bunch of fellow run-bloggers who are also either running or spectating CIM. Mad props to Courtney for organizing & putting folks up! :)

What this really means is that I'm pretty much past the point of thinking about any one thing long enough to write a real post on it. Instead, please enjoy a few snappy marathon week quick hits.

Live BF Support...

...being something I'll have at CIM for the first time. I never expect or ask my boyfriend to come to a race, especially a long one and ESPECIALLY an out of town one. He does not pretend for one second to understand how a person could actually enjoy running, and is also about as far from a morning person as you can imagine (particularly on weekends). But I must admit that part of me was kind of thinking of maybe asking if he wouldn't mind going, because I am kind of afraid of the state I'll be in after the race and am not 100% confident in my ability to perform key activities such as making decisions, staying upright, driving a car, or finding the sweat check area without freezing to death and/or passing out. On our way back home from my family's, though, he completely-and-totally-out-of-the-blue asked me if I wanted him to go. This pleases me greatly. :)


...being something I've done more of than I'd planned. Can you over-taper? I have always been a little concerned about the fact that I'd essentially have to start tapering five weeks before CIM because of running the Clarksburg Half on 11/13. In the last four weeks, I've run a grand total of 86 miles, due to traveling, various aches & pains, & general malaise. Despite the fact that I've cut way, way back on mileage, I keep waking up sore & stiff instead of rested & refreshed. Part of me kind of wants to just not run at all between now & Sunday. I'm kind of curious about what the effect of that would be.

water bottleHydration

...being a thing I am trying to accomplish better than I normally do. This week I am determined to carry my liter water bottle around with me & make sure to drain it twice a day, every day. As a friend once put it, ever eloquently & delicately, clear pee = race ready. I am also trying to drink less this week, but hell if I'm giving up wine with dinner. (Okay, I *guess* I can do without it the night before the race.)


...being something I have new ones of. For the last eight weeks or so I've been wear testing a pair that are fine but not spectacular; now that the test is over, I've got a brand-spanking new pair of Brooks Adrenaline GTS 11's in Speedybitch Red (TM).

new shoes

GTS = "Go-To Shoe"

I used to worry about racing or running a long way in relatively new shoes, but after doing it several times, I don't anymore. I would probably not race in a completely new MODEL of shoe that I had NEVER run in before without spending a few weeks making sure it felt right; as I understand it, though, well-fitted, quality running shoes shouldn't require "breaking in." Still, it's nice that I have this week to run in them a little, just to readjust to how they feel compared to the ones I've been running in.


...being something I'm a bit nervous about. It's a rather easy week for me work-wise, so it shouldn't be hard to get plenty of sleep between now and Saturday. What I'm actually worried is getting to sleep at a reasonable hour the night before the race. I almost never do & routinely find myself racing on 3-4 hours of sleep. Part of it is probably nerves, and part of it is probably due to the fact that I normally go to bed around midnight, so my body is not used to going to sleep at nine or ten. Seriously; I can get in bed at 10 and lay there awake for five. Effing. Hours. A relative of mine has recommended just knocking myself out with Ny-Quil, which I'm thinking of experimenting with sometime this week. Then again, I'm pretty much completely and totally resistant to all forms of drugs everywhere so who is to say how that will work out.

carb loadingCarb Loading...

...being something I'm really glad that we as a running community have moved past as such, since eating large amounts of carbs for days at a time makes me feel absolutely sick. Still, I am making a real effort this week to make sure I don't get too hungry & do eat plenty of carbs relative to meat & dairy.

Right: This is how old-school carb loading makes me feel.


...being something I'm skipping this week. I re-learned this lesson the hard way the Monday before Clarksburg Half-Marathon when I decided to "just take it easy" & ended up pulling a hamstring freaking out for the rest of the week over whether or not I'd be healthy enough to run. Not this time. It's Wednesday night on the couch for me. :)

So that's what's on my mind.

Ugh...I guess I'll go try to run now.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Down Time

This week Don & I are with my family in Texas. This is nice because we have been cooked three full Thanksgiving dinners (which is what happens when your family is as fragmented as mine) & I've gotten to spend lots of time with my two nephews, one recently eight & one just born last week.


(Can you tell which is which?)

After our many Thanksgiving dinners, we found this place:

Hall's GroceryMy family are mostly tee-totalers, so we had a hankering for some good beer and / or wine and maybe some cocktails. In general there is not a ton of selection around here as far as these things go, but a little research turned up Hall's Grocery. Yes, it looks more like a backroads gas station than anything else, but it turns out that they have a pretty extensive selection of wine, beer, and spirits. This is apparently *the* place to go for variety, and we were not disappointed.

Among other things, we came home with a bottle of Wild Horse pinot noir (~$25), which we had with Thanksgiving leftovers:

wild horse

(Wild Horse is one of the wineries we occasionally visit when we're down in Paso Robles.)

We got things to make Manhattans, side cars, and margaritas, which were all quite tasty. My nephew requested a virgin margarita, which he apparently enjoyed a lot.

virgin marg

Virgin margarita - juice from 1 lime, a splash of orange juice, & a good drizzle of agave nectar; shake with ice & strain into vessel of choice.

I've been running a little while I'm here, but nothing too strenuous. It's been particularly difficult because there are 3 dogs in my mom's house, and as much as I love them, I become mildly allergic to them when I've been away for a while. This means sneezing, itchy eyes & throat, & yes, you guessed it, asthma.


CooperOther than taking it pre-emptively when I run, I can often go months without needing to use my inhaler. While I've been here I've been using it more like 4-5 times a day. This makes running REALLY difficult.

But I'm not stressing about it too much. <10 days out from CIM, I'm mostly just trying to stay loose & keep the dust off my legs. This leaves a lot of down time, which I've spent catching up on some reading. I recently finished the first two books in Guillermo del Torro's vampire trilogy, The Strain & The Fall. GdT's vampires are not sexy or star-crossed or "vegetarians" and certainly do not sparkle but they will absolutely fuck you up.

I don't have the 3rd book with me, so instead I've started this one:

long dark tea time of the soulFrom The Wikipedia: "The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul is a 1988 humorous fantasy detective novel by Douglas Adams (of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy fame). It is the second book by Adams featuring private detective Dirk Gently, the first being Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency. The title is a phrase which appeared in Adams' novel Life, the Universe and Everything to describe the wretched boredom of immortal being Wowbagger, the Infinitely Prolonged, and is a play on the theological treatise Dark Night of the Soul, by Saint John of the Cross."

I went to update my GoodReads and got sucked into perusing my 'to-read' shelf, which currently contains over 150 books. I love reading, but don't do as much of it these days as I'd like (hence the accumulation of 156 titles on the 'to-read' shelf). Every time I read through the list, I get all excited about like 10 different books.

Because I have nothing much of running significance to share with you right now, I've selected a few titles that I've been meaning to read for the last few weeks / months / years. In order not to overwhelm you, I've limited it to 5 books per category.

(Update: Okay, screw it, I limited to as many as I felt like, because it's my blog & my lists.)

Enjoy :)

Old Classics:

  • One Hundred Years of Solitude, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez - A piece of magical realism that tells the multi-generational story of the Buendía family, whose patriarch founds the town of Macondo, a stand-in for Colombia.
  • To Kill A Mockingbird, by Harper Lee - A Southern Gothic novel & Bildungsroman that explores racial injustice & issues of class, courage, compassion, and gender roles in the Deep South.
  • Stranger in a Strange Land, by Robert A. Heinlein - A science fiction novel that tells the story of a human who comes to Earth in early adulthood after being born on the planet Mars and raised by Martians.
  • East of Eden, by John Steinbeck - Often said to be Steinbeck's greatest work, EoE tells of the story of two families living in the Salinas Valley in the early 20th century.
  • Watership Down, by Richard Adams - A classic heroic fantasy novel recounting the odyssey of a group of anthropomorphised rabbits as they attempt to escape the destruction of their warren to seek a place in which to establish a new home, encountering perils and temptations along the way.

    New Classics:
  • The Glass Bead Game, by Hermann Hesse - A futuristic bildungsroman in which a young boy attempts to master the infinitely complex Glass Bead Game, an abstract synthesis of all arts and sciences.
  • Bullet Park, by John Cheever - A book dealing with the failure of the American Dream focusing on the earnest yet pensive Eliot Nailles, his troubled son Tony, and their predestined fate with the psychotic man who moves to Bullet Park to sacrifice one of them.
  • Gravity’s Rainbow, by Thomas Pynchon - A post-modern novel set primarily in Europe at the end of World War II that centers on the design, production and dispatch of V-2 rockets by the German military, and, in particular, the quest to uncover the secret of a mysterious device to be installed in a rocket with the serial number "00000."
  • We, by Yevgeny Zamyatin - A classic of dystopian science fiction set in 30th century One State, a society where all live for the collective good and individual freedom does not exist. In it, state mathematician D-503 experiences to his shock the most disruptive emotion imaginable: love for another human being.
  • Kallocain, by Karin Boye - A classic Swedish novel envisioning a future of drab terror. Seen through the eyes of idealistic scientist Leo Kall, Kallocain’s depiction of a totalitarian world state is a montage of what the author saw & sensed in 1930s Russia & Germany.

    New(ish) Fiction:
  • Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, by Jonathan Safran Foer - A nine-year-old amateur inventor, jewelry designer, astrophysicist, tambourine player, and pacifist searches New York for the lock that matches a mysterious key left by his father when he was killed in the September 11 attacks.
  • Palimpsest, by Catherynne M. Valente - The story of four travelers in the mythical city of Palimpsest, accessible only during the sleep that follows sex, as they each search for something they've lost.
  • City of Glass, by Paul Auster - A mystery writer assumes a detective's identity and embarks on a bizzare case: he must protect a man from his criminally insane father. As he follows the elusive criminal, he embarks on a mission that takes him to the depths of his own soul.
  • The Diamond Age: Or, A Young Lady's Illustrated Primer, by Neal Stephenson - Set in twenty-first century Shanghai, TDA is the story of what happens when a state-of-the-art interactive device falls in the hands of a street urchin named Nell.
  • Search: A Novel of Forbidden History, by Judith Reeves-Stevens - A geneticist discovers ancient, nonhuman DNA in his genetic makeup that is apparently going to kill him. While he tries to locate its geographic origin in order to save his life, a powerful group of others tries to stop him.
  • Lady Oracle, by Margaret Atwood - The bored wife of a myopic ban-the-bomber takes off overnight as Canada's new superpoet, pens lurid gothics on the sly, attracts a blackmailing reporter, skids cheerfully in and out of menacing plots, hair-raising traps, and passionate trysts, then lands dead and well in Terremoto, Italy.
  • IQ84, by Haruki Murakami - A young Japanese woman begins to notice puzzling discrepancies in the world around her. She realizes she has entered a parallel existence which she calls 1Q84 (Q for ‘question mark.’) Meanwhile, an aspiring writer takes on a ghostwriting project & becomes so wrapped up in it that his own life begins to come unraveled.
  • Dance, Dance, Dance, by Haruki Murakami - As he searches for a mysteriously vanished girlfriend, a man plunges into a wind tunnel of sexual violence and metaphysical dread in which he collides with call girls, plays chaperone to a teen-age psychic, and receives cryptic instructions from a shabby but oracular Sheep Man.
  • Declare, by Tim Powers - A young double agent infiltrating the Soviet spy network in Nazi-occupied Paris finds himself caught up in a secret, even more ruthless war. Two decades later, he is forced to confront again the nightmare that has haunted his adult life: a lethal unfinished operation code-named Declare.
  • The Doomsday Book, by Connie Willis - A history student in 2048 travels back in time to study the 14th century. A crisis strangely linking past and future strands her there as her fellows try desperately to rescue her. In a time of superstition and fear, she finds she has become an unlikely angel of hope during one of history's darkest hours.
  • Gun, With Occasional Music, by Jonathan Lethem - A private detective in near-future Oakland investigates the wife of an affluent doctor. When the doctor turns up dead, he finds himself caught in a crossfire between the Inquisitor's Office and a group of back-room gangsters. A mix of sci-fi, noir, mystery, & humor.
  • Storm Front, by Jim Butcher - A wizard-turned-PI with a wicked sense of humor in need of business consults with Chicago PD on a grisly double murder committed with black magic & soon finds himself the the murderer's new target.

  • The Way We Never Were: American Families & the Nostalgia Trap, by Stephanie Coontz - Examines two centuries of American family life and shatters a series of myths and half-truths that burden modern families with regard to parenting, privacy, love, sexual behavior, gender roles, feminism, & race relations.
  • The Predictioneer’s Game: Using the Logic of Brazen Self-Interest to See & Shape the Future, by Bruce Bueno de Mesquita - BdM uses game theory and its insights into human behavior to predict and even engineer political, financial, and personal events. His forecasts, which have been employed by everyone from the CIA to major business firms, have an amazing 90 percent accuracy rate.
  • How Pleasure Works: The New Science of Why We Like What We Like, by Paul Bloom - Bloom investigates pleasures noble and steamy, lofty and mundane, to reveal that our enjoyment of a given thing is determined not by what we can see and touch but by our beliefs about that thing’s history, origin, and deeper nature.
  • The Belief Instinct: The Psychology of Souls, Destiny, & the Meaning of Life, by Jesse Bering - Bering unveils the psychological underpinnings of our search for a predestined life purpose, our desire to read divine messages into random occurrences, our visions of the afterlife, and our curiosity about how moral & immoral behavior is rewarded or punished in this life.
  • One Perfect Day: The Selling of the American Wedding, by Rebecca Mead - Masterfully mixing investigative journalism and social commentary to explore the workings of the wedding industrial complex in America, Mead skillfully reveals that for better or worse, the way we marry is who we are.
  • At Home: A Short History of Private Life, by Bill Bryson - With wit, charm, & knowledge, Bryson takes us on a tour through his own house, using each room as a jumping off point into the vast history of the domestic artifacts we take for granted & ultimately demonstrating that whatever happens in the world eventually ends up in our home.

    If you are the bookish type & like to share & receive recommendations, you can become my friend on GoodReads. I just became GoodReads friends with Leah from Chasing Atalanta; our book tastes seem to overlap reasonably well, so it's been cool to see what she's been reading / planning to read.

    Happy Holidays, everyone! :)
  • Monday, November 21, 2011

    Marathon Training, Week 11: In Which I Manage My Expectations

    pace love runningPeople who know me reasonably well know that I'm an analyzer. Not really terribly surprising; I like math, and data, and numbers, and studies, and science. I like making plans & following them. I like planning to plan. I like to pre-mortem, post-mortem, assess, re-assess, and evaluate. I *really* don't like uncertainty and error and sometimes my knee-jerk reaction is to interpret statements like "I am just going with the flow" as "I am too lazy/scared/generally incompetent to commit, plan, & execute."

    This has played heavily into the whole marathon training thing. Having never run one before and not really knowing how or what pace was reasonable, I tried to gather as much information as I could in order to come up with a training & race plan that was ambitious but not stupid. In the course of doing that, my expectations and goal pace have been all over the map. Back when I started, I was shooting for eight-minute miles, or about 10 seconds slower per mile than the Runner's World training calculator said I should be able to run, based on my times at other distances. Little by little, though, I've been backing away from that pace, for a couple of reasons.

    First, I just don't think I'm there. My core competency definitely lies in the 3 - 13 mile range, which I think has a very different set of demands than the 20+ range. (This was one of my post-Clarksburg reflections -- as long as you've got the endurance for 13 miles, a half-marathon & a 10K are really almost the same race in terms of strategy, preparation, fueling etc.) Those are the distances I know and feel comfortable with and have been gearing my training towards for the last couple of years. On the other hand, I've only been doing marathon-specific training (long runs & MP runs) for about 3 months, which is just not a ton of time to learn a new set of running skills & prepare your body for very different demands than it's used to in terms of racing.

    Second, it's hard to predict how I'll deal with all the rolling hills in the first 13-15 miles. Some of my MP runs through parts of GG Park have been pretty miserable in the uphill sections; for example, last Saturday I ran 8 miles at marathon effort (I wasn't trying to maintain a specific pace), and around mile 3 of a gradual uphill I was running about an 8:30 pace and absolutely hating life. On the other hand, I've sometimes found myself running nearly effortless sub-eight's on some of the gradual downhill sections. I think the CIM hills will be a little more rolling and a little less prolonged, though, so until I'm actually on the course, trying to guess how I'll deal with the terrain is kind of a crapshoot.

    Third, I was hoping to use my Clarksburg time to get a more updated prediction for my marathon pace. Since that time ended up being kind of useless, I'm stuck with the 10Ks I was using back in September, which, while probably not wildly inaccurate, are definitely not as reliable as a more recent time from a longer race would be.

    Finally, the most important thing to me is to have a happy, good race and finish strong. There may be an outside chance of my being able to do that at an eight mile pace, but if I try it & end up being wrong, I'm likely in for an utterly miserable first marathon. And that's something I don't want to risk.

    Don't get me wrong, I'm happy with the training I've done and feel completely confident that I'll be able to finish and with a respectable time. I'm just having to rein in my competitive side a bit and remind myself that no, I actually DON'T know how to race a marathon, and I need to stop thinking about it the way I do distances where I know what I'm doing. So, in the interest of having a happy, fun, low-key, low-pressure first marathon, I've made a new CIM plan.

    My new plan is to run by feel & effort, rather than trying to keep up a specific pace. Partly, I think I need to do this because I'm not familiar with the course and I don't know for sure how I'll deal with the hills in the first half. I think I have a good sense at this point of what (safe) marathon pace should feel like -- long run pace, then push it just a little bit. I'm not committing myself to any numbers, but I would guess that, between the uphills & downhills, that should work out to around 8:15 - 8:20 for the first half if I'm having a good day. (And if I'm having a bad day & it means 9:00 miles, then so be it.) If I'm still strong & comfortable once the course flattens out, I'll feel a little more confident pushing the pace for the last 10-12 miles. If I'm feeling at all uneasy, though, my plan is to invest in the last 10K by backing off until I can get comfortable.

    SMILEI've also promised myself that when I finish (and barring freak medical issues, I really don't see any reason why I shouldn't), I *will* feel proud of myself & happy with my performance. I *will not* mope about my time or pace, regardless of what it is, or over-analyze the entire race & brood about everything I could've-should've-would've done differently. I *will* smile as I cross the finish, even if I have to fake it with every fiber of my being. :)

    Sunday, November 20, 2011

    Week In Review: Nov 14 - 20

    Running ShoesThis is my weekly training journal. Including it in the blog gives me a little extra accountability in the mileage department & helps me stick to my schedule. :)

    2 Weeks to Cal International Marathon


    Where have the weeks gone??

    These three weeks between Clarksburg & CIM were the ones I was most concerned about when I first signed up for the marathon. I knew the biggest thing I'd have to manage was recovering fully from the half whilst still staying focused on the full as I tapered. To that end, I started off the week with 2 days of complete rest.

    Wednesday: 4 miles easy, in the spirit of "reverse taper" (though none of these were at race pace). I kept it easy, but I could definitely tell that I had raced that weekend and wasn't anything like recovered yet. The now-3-month-old strain in my calf was particularly bothersome & referring a bit of pain up the rest of my leg, which was unpleasant, but not bad enough that I had to stop.

    Thursday: 6 miles easy 2 miles easy. I had an errand to run to a store about a mile from home, so I figured I'd split this run into 2 miles to the store & back, then 4 more after swinging back by the house. I had so much pain in my right calf (and all the way up through my leg), though, that I figured it was a better idea to just to quit while I was ahead (ie, not limping) & give my already-shredded calf muscles a little extra time to heal. It's days like this that I wish I had access to some form of no- or low-impact cardio (elliptical, biking, swimming, etc.), because although I think cutting my run short was smart, it would've been nice to get the cardio portion in.

    Saturday: 10 miles (2 wu + 8 @ MP). This was really Friday's run, but my calf was still feeling funny, and I wanted to make sure that I was healthy enough to get this one in. It started out discouragingly difficult ("I wonder if there's still time to sell my bib...") & progressed to quite lovely ("I am totally going to BQ my first time out without even trying."). Kind of weird how that works, huh? (Suspecting reality will be somewhere between these two extremes.)

    Sunday: 10 miles easy Still having an unsettling amount of pain in my right calf and some new & exciting pain in my left knee, so I just stayed home & rested.

    Grand Total: 16 miles

    Bah...I know nothing I'm likely to do at this point will make much difference come Dec. 4, and it *was* a recovery week, but it still made feel a bit nervous to see numbers that low. Hoping there's no such thing as over-tapering...

    Week In Review: Nov 7 - 13

    Running ShoesThis is my weekly training journal. Including it in the blog gives me a little extra accountability in the mileage department & helps me stick to my schedule. :)

    3 Weeks to Cal International Marathon

    Race Week!!

    Wow. I think this is my most belated training journal EVER. As I've mentioned, I've been fighting burnout pretty hard lately, so I haven't been so gung-ho in the last couple of weeks either to run OR write about it. Nevertheless, here is my training journal for the week leading up to Clarksburg Half Marathon (race report here).

    Monday: 6 miles easy. After taking the weekend off, I finally felt like I had a little spring in my step again. I did my usual six-mile loop & kept it slow & easy. Also, on Monday night I went to karate & figured I'd just "take it easy" (stupid stupid stupid). Instead, I pulled my right hamstring. I don't know when it happened, but by later that night I knew something was really wrong, & Tuesday morning I couldn't walk properly. I was Not Pleased.

    Thursday: 5 miles easy. After not running on Tuesday or Wednesday in order to let my hamstring potentially heal, I met up with a group of bloggers at the Ferry Building for a short, easy run along the Embarcadero. I jogged the half mile to the BART station & back, then about four miles with the ladies. Thankfully my hamstring seemed to have gotten over whatever I'd done to it, which was HUGELY reassuring.


    Jana, Katie, Jessica, Alyssa, me, Aron, & Kristen

    It was really nice to have some runny buddies that day -- I had been kind of freaking out about Clarksburg & about my hamstring, & doing a little social running definitely helped me calm down & relax a little. This was also when I found out that Katie & Jessica were running the Clarksburg 20 miler!

    Friday: 4 miles (2 wu + 2 @ HMP) This is my usual workout two days before a race I care about -- 2 easy miles, followed by a dynamic warm up & 2 miles at race pace. My previous week's HMP run was crap, so mentally, I really, really needed these two race pace miles to feel good, which they did. Yes, it was pouring rain, but the pace felt easy, and I didn't have any pain (hamstring, shin splints, or otherwise). Yay!

    Sunday: 14.7 miles (1.6 wu + 13.1 race). So not the race I'd hoped for; if you've read my race report, you know I kept a 7:40 pace for a little more than 6 miles, then had an asthma attack that resulted in stumbling through the last 7 miles in crisis mode at ~8:36 pace. There is no shame in this; I have never in my life run so fast & so far with asthma. Plus, you can only be so upset about freak occurrences like asthma attacks that you can't control. I think I did come out of it with a lot of positive mental benefits, though (see the race report). And I decided that I will ABSOLUTELY be carrying my inhaler for CIM!

    Grand Total: 29.7 miles

    Respectable for a race week & dealing with an injury for 2 days. Recovery is now the name of the game -- CIM in 3 weeks!

    Wednesday, November 16, 2011

    Race Report: Clarksburg Country Run Half Marathon

    CCRI know, I know -- this race was like forever ago at this point & I'm sorry it's taken me so long to get it together & write a race report.

    It's not that I think you all sit on my home page hitting refresh every ten seconds or anything; my bigger concern was that, because I've been so anxious & freaked out intently focused on Clarksburg & so vocal about what I wanted to do there, someone might take my blog silence in the days following the race as a sign that I either didn't survive it or had such a horrific race that I've been wallowing on the couch in my bathrobe for the last three days drowning my sorrows in rocky road & gin.

    No worries. I've just been really busy the last few days, and also waiting for race photos to get posted. (Sorry if I worried you.) Thankfully, I was able to steal a lot of what I needed for this post from the one I wrote about Clarksburg when I first learned about the race. So here you go:

    Location: Clarksburg, CA (close to Sacramento)

    Date: Mid-November (November 13, 2011 this year)

    The Deal: A fundraiser put on by several Clarksburg community groups (Boy Scouts, Fire Fighters, Cub Scouts, The Soccer Club, & Clarksburg Schools) who volunteer to run it. Also, the half marathon is a PA USATF Championship race.

    Price: There are several different events:

    • 20 Mile or Half Marathon - $45.00 til 10/28, $50.00 til 11/12, $55.00 race day
    • Half Marathon Relay (2 people) - $70.00 til 10/28, $75.00 til 11/12, $80.00 race day (per pair)
    • 5K or 10K - $30.00 til 10/28, $35.00 til 11/12, $40.00 race day
    • Kids' Fun Run - $10.00 til 10/28, $15.00 til 11/12, $20.00 race day

    Deadline: Race day registration

    Field Size: This year, there were 511 finishers in the half, & 28 in my age group (down from 53 in 2010.) There were 455 finishers in the 20 miler.

    Sellout Factor: Unlikely, as far as I can tell; PA USATF grand prix aside, it's a small local race with race day registration.

    The Course

    To quote the site, "All courses are USATF certified, flat, paved and scenic past area wineries and farms." Flat? Yes. (The biggest hills on the 20 mile & half mary course are in the ~0.03% grade range.) Paved? Yes, but beware that these two-lane country roads do have a noticeable camber. It didn't bother me or mess with my stride at all, but I've heard that it's bothered other runners enough to turn them off of running it again. Scenic? Um, no. Except for some trees with some pretty fall foliage, there is nothing to see (and sometimes smell) but mile after mile of freshly fertilized empty fields. Technically, they may be wineries, but don't think for a minute that this is going to be like one of those hoity-toity boutique races through Napa or Sonoma.

    The nice thing about the course, though, is the fact that it's an out-and-back with only a few turns -- easy to memorize and easy to run tangents on (my Garmin registered 13.15 miles), if you can mentally tolerate the long stretches of unchanging scenery. (The monotony didn't bother me -- I actually wouldn't mind running it again, but some runners said they were bored out of their minds.)


    Relative to the number of runners, there is not a ton of parking, so I'd carpool or try to arrive early. Packet pickup & race day registration were easy to find & well-organized. There were plenty of port-a-potties, though this was not immediately obvious because they were scattered around different parts of the race area (3 here, 5 there, 2 over there). The races start later than most -- the kids' races started at 8:30, with the 20-miler at 9:00, the half at 9:15, the 10K at 9:30, & the 5K at 9:45 (though everything after the 20 miler ended up getting pushed back 10 minutes, but I don't think anyone cared). I didn't take advantage of them, but it was also nice to know there was a free lunch & showers after the races.

    Based on the weather report, I was expecting low fifties & cloudy, so I'd brought a few different layering options, including arm warmers, gloves, and a headband with ear covers. There had been a chance of rain earlier in the week, so I also wore my rain shell as a warm up jacket. It was chilly when I arrived at 7:45, but started warming up quicker than I'd expected. Completely by chance, Sesa ended up parking directly behind me, so we finally got to meet! We chatted for a bit & then headed over to the start, & on the way ran into Katie & Jessica. S, K, & J were all running the 20 miler as a training run, so their race started at 9:00. We said goodbye at 8:56, I watched them start, then took off on my warm up.

    Jessica, Katie, me, & Sesa after the race. Totally stole this picture from Sesa, btw. ;)

    Which is when I started to realize that in addition to being not terribly cloudy, it was also definitely not low fifties. Over the course of 15 minutes of jogging, I shed one layer after another until I was down to a sports bra & booty shorts & still uncomfortably warm. (I couldn't even tolerate my headband & just wrapped it around my wrist for sweat-wiping.) At the start, two separate women (wearing the long-sleeved finisher shirt & tights) asked me if I wasn't freezing. I was sweating just looking at them.

    The Race

    At 9:25 we were off. I'm happy to say I made it to the start feeling strong, rested, and without any lingering injury pain. In my HMP runs, I've sometimes had a tendency to go out too fast, so my plan for the race was to do my best to run negative splits by staying in the high 7:30s / low 7:40s for the first part of the race. For the first six miles, I was right on track -- 7:41, 7:40, 7:36, 7:38, 7:42, 7:43. Yay! :-D

    Towards the end of mile six, I started to feel some tightness in my chest, which made me nervous. By the time I hit mile seven, there was no denying that I was having a full-blown asthma attack. BOO! >:-(

    I've talked about running through asthma attacks before. Using my inhaler 10-20 minutes before I run virtually always prevents attacks, so I rarely carry it with me. (Seriously - I haven't had an attack during a race since high school.) If I do have an attack, easy/moderate running is doable for a short while but not pretty or fun, and fast running is entirely out of the question. So as soon as I realized what was happening, I knew what it meant for my race. Somewhere in the back of my mind, part of me was crushed and painfully disappointed; the rest of my brain, though, was going into cold-blooded damage control mode.

    Immediately, my "A" goal shifted from "break 1:40" to "avoid an ambulance ride." I still had over six miles to go at that point and was not at all sure that I would even be able to finish. Mentally, I started preparing myself to stop at an aid station and ask a volunteer to call the bus. I have never DNF'd before, so this was not a prospect that appealed to me greatly. Basically, I decided to run until I couldn't.

    The next mental battle I had to fight was walking. I've never wanted so badly to walk. I would tell myself, "When you finish mile 9 you can walk. Okay, that wasn't so bad, you can make it to mile 10. Then you can walk. Okay, now try to get to mile 10.5. See if you can get to 11." In this fashion, I made it all the way to the last water stop around 11.5 without walking. I walked long enough to drain two full cups of water, then started running again. Even then, I wasn't sure I could finish, but I kept telling myself I knew I would anyway.

    (Also, you know all the horribly violent thoughts you have about people shouting "You're almost there!" at mile 9? Try to imagine what that's like when you feel like you're breathing through a coffee straw. That and people at mile 12 entreating you to "Kick it in!" when your primary concern at the moment is avoiding hypoxemia.)

    I don't know how I finished. I don't remember much about the last mile, except attempting over and over again to count to 100 and repeatedly losing my place and starting over. I do remember attempting some sort of kick when I saw the finish line & noticed that my pace as I crossed the mat was 7:19; I'm still not sure how I managed that.

    The most ridiculous part was that, even after all that, I was within a minute of a PR. Granted, my current PR (1:46:10) is old and outdated and I am in far better shape now, but still. It wasn't even as bad as when I ran RNR San Jose last year with three injuries.

    I grabbed my medal & two cups of water from the super-cute cub scouts at the finish (seriously -- I'm so bummed I didn't go back and take a picture of them. They were super cute and so excited to get to hand out medals & water) & stumbled/crawled back to my car like a drunk person & proceeded to suck on my inhaler until I felt human again.

    (Do you like that fake smile, by the way? I had promised myself I would, for once, have a finishing picture where I was smiling, no matter how I felt physically or emotionally. "Woo, only .25 more miles to my drugs!!")

    And really, that was the worse of it -- as soon as I could breathe again, I felt totally fine. (Of course, I then proceeded to have post-race brain damage & lose my keys for half an hour, which caused me to miss Sesa, Katie, & Jess finishing. My keys were in the keyhole of the open trunk. Right above my head. For half an hour.)

    I saw Katie first & we commiserated about our un-fun runs. We also both agreed that in sheer defiance of the laws of nature, the course had somehow managed to have a headwind in pretty much every direction. It was sort of comforting to know that I hadn't been hallucinating that due to lack of oxygen. Although I think that without the asthma attack I definitely would've had a PR and come in very close to 1:40, I'm not 100% convinced I would've broken it. Even though it was probably only around 65°, I was running really hot (it was pretty sunny & most of the course was unshaded) & fighting at least some wind in every direction (!). Yes, I held a good pace for the first few miles & probably could've held it for a while longer, but my heart rate was up near 10K range for a lot of those first six miles, and I was having a little tougher time overall than I've had in most of my pace runs. I think I would've had a strong time, maybe 1:41-1:42ish, but if I'm really honest with myself, I don't know that conditions were right for me to run 1:39 on that particular day.

    Schwag: A lovely long-sleeve tech shirt in hunter green, and attractive finisher medals for the half & 20 miler. Racing in the finisher shirt is always a bit sketch in my opinion (though admittedly a minor offense as running faux-paus go), but I thought it was extra weird at this race how many people were running in it given how warm it was.

    (I know it looks kind of gray in this picture, but it really is a beautiful shade of hunter green.)

    So...given that this was supposed to be my re-match race after the death march at RNR SJ last year, you'd probably expect me to be pretty upset about how things went down Sunday. Yes, I'd be lying if I said I wasn't bummed about the asthma, but in spite of that, I'm in a pretty good place about it now. In fact, I'm actually excited about a bunch of things:

    • This is the first half I've gone into feeling completely & totally undaunted by the distance. I could not wait to attack it & wasn't really thinking about it as a "long" race at all, which makes it MUCH less scary to run fast. For that, I have marathon training and all those "real" long runs to thank.
    • Start to finish, I felt completely and totally pain-free -- hips, hamstring, shin splints, tendinitis, calf, and all. That's the first race that's happened at in YEARS. I give a lot of the credit to being diligent about my strength work & also putting a lot of effort into improving my form in the last few months, and also the custom orthotics & the time I've spent running in the air cast that's allowed my tendon to slowly but surely start to heal.
    • When I finished, I felt it a ton in my hamstrings and glutes (not pain, just the sensation of having worked hard) and almost not at all in my quads & lower legs, which means I was probably (and amazingly) in reasonably good form for most of the race.
    • Even though it was warmer than I prefer, my strategy of carrying a 20 oz disposable bottle of diluted Gatorade until it ran out, then just using aid stations worked perfectly. I felt well-fueled & hydrated the whole way, even with the warm weather.
    • I did a good job of pacing myself & staying exactly where I wanted to be, up until I couldn't breathe.
    • I suspect I probably ran good tangents (like I said, 13.15 according to the Garmin).Or it was a short course & I sucked at tangents (though I don't think that's the case because my Garmin was beeping pretty much exactly at or slightly before the mile markers the whole way).
    • In a twisted kind of way, even my asthmatic miles were kind of awesome. I probably pulled off one of the most incredible feats of mental toughness of my entire running career, and at 7 miles at an ~8:36 pace, set a Hurculean PR for running with asthma. (Normally by "I can do some easy running with asthma," I mean maybe 3-4 miles at a 9:15-9:30 pace.)
    • Ironically, this is the first half marathon I've run where I haven't spent the last three miles thinking, "This is insane & I am NEVER doing it again." Nope; the race wasn't even over and I was already plotting revenge.

    So yeah. The only question now is, When is the re-match of the re-match? Because there is still a 1:39:59 half in me just begging to get out. Far from discouraging me, what this ill-fated Clarksburg race actually did was let me get all the crazy-frazzled-anxious-nervous feelings out of the way. It's confirmed for me that, yes, this 1:46 PR business is silly at this point, and (barring freak medical problems) I could probably run a faster half any day of the week. It's given me confidence that 1:40 is within reach, even if it takes me a few races to actually make it happen.

    Right now I'm too focused on CIM to think too much about when & where my next half will be. I know I'll definitely need a good bit of time post-marathon to rest & rejuvenate & generally take some time off mentally from structured training. But come spring 2012, it is ON, bitches!


    Thursday, November 10, 2011

    Is It Over Yet?

    isitoveryet(Editor's Note: So I just re-read this whole post after letting it sit for a little bit. I kind of thought about not posting it, because it sort of makes me sound like a semi-crazy person. Then I decided I might as well, because at least it's honest. I am clearly a little loopy & spastic right now, for which I really, really apologize...I think I'll be a little more sound-of-mind again after Sunday. Again....sorry.)

    I have been kind of a whole weird mess of emotions this week. There are many reasons for this.

    • I am racing my first half marathon in over a year on Sunday.
    • I have set a BAMF goal & been super vocal about it, which adds a lot of pressure because I used to not talk about my running goals to anyone ever, at all. (Sesa introduced me to the phrase BAMF goal, so brace yourself because I plan on using it quite a bit from now on.)
    • My last half marathon race was pretty much a disaster. Theoretically I was chasing the same BAMF goal (see, told you), but kind of knew a good month out from the race that it wasn't going to happen.
    • My taper weeks have been a little more taper-ey than I'd planned, which I know shouldn't make much different for the half Sunday, but it makes me very nervous about CIM.
    • I can't stop being nervous for CIM.
    • My last HMP run attempt was SUPER crappy.
    • My brain is doing that annoying thing where I look back over my approximately seven billion weeks of training & starting picking holes in it & coming up with reasons for why I'm obviously not -really- well-trained for this race, -certainly- not well-trained enough for my crazy BAMF goal.
    • I pulled my right hamstring at karate Monday and haven't been able to run for the last two days (after also not running on Saturday & Sunday in Paso)
    • It's Thursday & I've run a grand total of six miles so far this week due to said hamstring; not being able to run always makes me anxious & melodramatic.
    • Did I mention how I'm super nervous about CIM?
    • It's been a slow week work-wise, meaning I've had more time than usual to stew over all of this.


    So it's probably not terribly surprising that, after a year of being so pumped about kicking ass at this thing, I've been having a hard time this week getting excited about running Sunday. I'm kind of like, "Blah, is it Sunday yet? Is that damned race over yet? I wish Sunday would just get here so I can get it the eff done & not have to think about it anymore."

    I need to get pumped about this race ASAP.

    Reasons Why Clarksburg Half Marathon will be AWESOME:

    Reason #1: The course doesn't look like a map of the freaking London Underground. Races with a lot of turns are hard for me. And they make me nervous. And just forget about running good tangents. This course?

    CCRHM Map

    Hellz yeah. (I also like how you spend just about equal time running in all four directions, because if there's strong wind in any one direction, it'll pretty much balance out.)

    Reason #2: Flat, fast, & paved. I am all about a boring race course. Don't get me wrong, I appreciate a nice view as much as the next girl, and the thrills, chills, & spills of running up & down crazy bridges & multiple 6% grades have their place. But that place is not in my BAMF goal race. Check this out:

    CCRHM El Prof

    The profile may make it look like there are a couple of good hills in there, but once you check the scale, you realize they're more like divets. That big one at the beginning & end (remember it's an out-and-back) is about 17 feet of elevation change over .9 miles (4752 feet), or 17 / 4752 = .003577, or ~0.3% grade. I think my front hallway is steeper than that. Central Valley for the win! (That may be the first time I've ever said/written that....)

    Reason #3: Sweet weather. A November morning race in the Central Valley is hard to beat in terms of running weather. Earlier it looked like we might be in for some rain (which, whatever; I'll take a little rain over heat ANY day), but now they've revised the forecast:

    CCRHM Weather

    The half starts at 9:15, so I'm guessing we'll be somewhere in the low fifties. I think that's pretty much the best you can ever hope for.

    Reason #4: I will be dressed like a bad ass. It is only appropriate for someone pursuing such a BAMF goal. I don't want to give too much away, but I'm just saying. You may want to make sure you check back on Monday or Tuesday of next week to see my sweet race pictures. I plan on looking fast and edgy regardless of how I do time-wise. Here's a little teaser, though...

    Arm Warmers

    I wear arm warmers now. Arm warmers are cool. (Unless it ends up too warm. In which they will not be cool at all & will stay in my bag.)

    Well...I guess that's about it. Feeling a little more pumped. About to head off for a run on the Embarcadero with some Bay Area blogger types; hopefully that will help as well. :)

    Update: It helped a lot. :)

    Tuesday, November 8, 2011

    7 Random Things

    versatile bloggerA few days back the fabulous XLMIC tagged me with The Versatile Blogger Award (very flattering of her, as I have never thought of my blog as particularly versatile!), for which I am to share 7 random facts about myself. This is really good because I feel like I kind of don't want to write about running this week.

    Dilemmas, dilemmas! Do I go inane-random ("I prefer the blue bowls to go in the top rack of the dishwasher and the maroon ones to go in the bottom.")? OCD-random ("When I swim in a lap pool, it makes me itchy to stop at the far end, like dividing by zero.")? Kind of craaaazy-random ("I have an irrational fear of mittens and insist on gloves at all costs.")?

    Well, I could. But then I remembered that I am relatively new to all this & all of you, and you probably don't actually know that many non-creepy / bizarre things about me that don't involve running. So I decided to try to come across as an at least somewhat function & semi-normal person.

    Without further ado, 7 (semi-)random facts:

    stanford vs osu1) I played polo for Stanford in grad school. I've ridden horses pretty much all my life. In high school I worked for an equitherapy barn, and in college I managed the barn at a Girl Scout horse camp in Southern California. When I went to Stanford for grad school, I wanted to get into lessons again but it was stupid expensive. Polo was comparatively cheap, so I did that instead. I picked it up reasonably quickly & ended up working with the team for several years after I graduated, giving riding lessons & helping teach people to play.

    2) When I was a full-time teacher, I had summer jobs. My two coolest summer jobs where when I worked for Ballistic Missile Defense in 2007 and the US Navy's Nuclear Weapons Security division in 2009, both at Lockheed-Martin Space Systems as part of a summer fellowship program for math & science teachers.

    Now, you are crazy if you think they let us take any pictures there EVER. (Seriously...there were areas I worked in on occasion where I couldn't bring in my freaking cell phone.) But, they did sometimes take us on cool field trips, where a vetted photographer would take pictures, & once the pictures were cleared by security, they sent them to us. This is when we toured the NASA Ames Research Center in Sunnyvale & got to play in the shuttle flight simulator, which was kind of cool.

    nasa ames

    3) When I was in high school, I could bench press 110 pounds. As part of track & field, we had strength training twice a week at seven a.m., which included a lot of weight lifting. I was also doing gymnastics during this time & doing a shit ton of push ups & pull ups on the side, so I could bench press a lot more than most of the other girls and was the first freshman girl to get to 100. We got awesome "100 Club" T-shirts to wear and I was super bummed when I found out I had to give it back at the end of the year. And that someone else had probably spent last year lifting weights in it, too. Ew.

    wine4) In case it didn't come across in my pre-Paso blog (it may have gotten buried in all the burnout whining), I am a hopeless oenophile. I don't know that I would say I am an "aficionado" or a "connoisseur," but I do like me some good wine & I've gotten very picky about what I like.

    Now, this is not to say that I am a snob about wine -- I couldn't give two craps about the price tag on a bottle or where it's from as long as it's tasty. I'm happy as a clam enjoying a well-done value red blend with pizza or BBQ, and I've tasted Napa cab priced in triple digits that I wouldn't recommend to anyone. (BTW, if you're ever going tasting in Napa / Sonoma or down in Paso, let me know & I am happy to tell you about all my favorite spots!)

    5) I'm a 2nd degree brown belt in Isshin-ryu karate. I started studying back in '02 in college, then took a couple of years off while I was in grad school, then went back to it. Now I practice twice a week, which is where Don & I met when I first started going to the Berkeley dojo back in '05.

    kusanku sai

    6) I don't care for chocolate that much. I feel like people are always kind of shocked by that and I'm not sure why. ("Really???!!?!? How can you not like chocolate!?!??!!") I mean no one would have that reaction if you said you didn't like peanut butter or almonds or something. It's not that I hate chocolate or won't eat things that have chocolate in them. I just don't crave it very often (maybe twice a year), and I will ALWAYS choose the fruity / creamy / baking spiced dessert over the chocolatey one. Don says that this is one of the many reasons why I am not a real girl and only play one when I have to wear heels.


    Now this is the type of dessert I could get behind.

    7) In addition to getting my math degree from Oberlin College, I also studied music composition & vocal performance at Oberlin Conservatory across the street. I'd pretty much grown up singing & playing piano and guitar, but I didn't start really studying seriously until high school. I started out doing mostly classical / operatic works & competing in regional & state-wide solo, ensemble, & choral competitions, & then added composition when the creative side got the better of me. (Eventually composition became my main focus & performing was more of something I did on the side.) Although I haven't done much classical stuff since leaving school, I had a little folk/rock band for a little while early in my adult life, but at this point most of my singing is limited to car trips & I can't even tell you the last time I wrote something (probably back in the folk/rock era). I can't tell you how much it hurts my soul, day in & day out, not to have a piano in the house. Sometimes I think running kind of fills that void. Kind of.

    I couldn't find any music-related pictures from college at all, which is only a little surprising as that was back in the pre-digital years. But here is a picture of the Conservatory and a practice room much like the ones where I typically spent approximately 2-4 hours a day for five years.

    oberlin con

    practice room

    I hope no one is offended if I don't tag folks, mainly because I know lots of people have been already and I don't necessarily know who, as I am relatively knew to this whole crazy blogging world. I might tag you and then find out you'd already been tagged back in the Pleistocene Epoch, and how embarrassing would that be for both of us?!? (Hint: Pretty darned embarrassing.) But I certainly have no beef with random factoids, so if you have some random factoids you really want to share, feel free to share them & be all like, "SF Road Warrior tagged me to do this." I will totally back you up.

    Monday, November 7, 2011

    Week In Review: Oct 31 - Nov 6

    Running ShoesThis is my weekly training journal. Including it in the blog gives me a little extra accountability in the mileage department & helps me stick to my schedule. :)

    1 Week to Clarksburg Half Marathon

    4 Weeks to Cal International Marathon

    I'm writing this after returning from my super-relaxing weekend of wine tasting in Paso Robles. As always, we had a fantastic time, drank a lot of delicious wine (and brought way, WAY too much of it home with us), and had a *spectacular* dinner Saturday night at an Italian place called Il Cortile. Seriously. If you go to Paso, that is where you need to eat dinner. Just be sure to make a reservation.

    Thinking of doing a separate Paso post for all you wine-o's out there, but first, let me get this training journal up.

    My original goal was to manage around 40 miles this week, which would mean averaging 10 miles a day Tuesday through Friday (since I wasn't planning on running in Paso). That didn't end up quite happening, but it wasn't because I got lazy or wimped out or anything. This was one of those weeks when I absolutely could've run more, but decided that the smart thing to do was run a little less. (I talked about it some in my pre-Paso weekend post already.)

    Tuesday: 10 miles easy 6 miles easy. How much did I not feel like running today, physically or mentally? (Hint: A whole effing lot.) I know it's a bad day when I don't just get it in at the first (maybe second) opportunity. On Tuesday, I procrastinated for something in the neighborhood of eight hours before I finally changed into running clothes & forced myself, one foot in front of the other, out the door.

    Most of the time ten easy miles is no biggie, but two miles in, I was exhausted & my legs felt like lead. I decided this wasn't so weird, since I'd just run 20 on Sunday for the first time since approximately the Pleistocene Epoch and probably wasn't completely recovered, and if I could get in eight, that would be okay. Two miles later, all I could think about was getting to the end of the run. Finally I decided six miles would have to be good enough, because that was going to take everything I had.

    Shake it off, shake it off, I told myself; maybe you just needed an easy day after the long run.

    Wednesday: 8 miles (2 wu + 6 @ HMP). 8 miles (2 wu + 3 @ HMP + 3 easy). Another day of procrastinating for as long as humanly possible (ie, it was dark by the time I finally ran). I still felt pretty busted & couldn't imagine running at HM pace, but sometimes I start off feeling that way & then after a couple of warm up miles, I feel a lot better. Not today. I felt shitty for the entire 2 mile warm up, but decided I'd give the HMP miles a shot & just see what I could do.

    A week before, I'd done this workout at a 7:30 pace with an average heart rate of 184 bpm (ie, less effort than normal), in the heat. Today, I wanted to die after a mile and a half, managing barely a sub-eight pace. Through some miracle I made it through two miles & managed to pick up the pace a little, but I felt terrible. Soon I was telling myself, It’s a taper week, so just get through four miles. You can make it through four. Well, no I couldn’t. It took everything I had to get through a third mile. Average 7:45 / mile. I had to walk a quarter mile before I could even jog again. Still, I did jog again, and if nothing else, got in the same number of miles. Not exactly confidence-building, eleven days out from a race.

    Still, I think it speaks to how far I've come as a runner that I didn't completely fall apart emotionally at this point & instead was like, "Okay, body. It's been a year / cycle / month of lots of miles & hard work. Maybe it's just time to back off a little & just make sure I'm rested & sharp on the 13th." I even decided to be a little proactive & spend Thursday resting, rather than going out & having another shitty run.

    Friday: 12 miles (2 wu + 10 @ MP) 10 miles (2 wu + 8 @ MP) I wasn't super-stoked to run Friday (still pretty tired), but I knew I needed to get a solid MP run before going away for the weekend. I didn't feel great for the 2 warm up miles & went back & forth in my head at least a dozen times about whether to try the whole thing, do 6 easy miles & call it good, do the full distance but not worry about the pace, do a short MP run, etc. Finally, I decided I wouldn't be too draconian about the pace & would instead try to run "comfortably fast," and if I started feeling really bad, I'd turn around.

    "Comfortably fast" started out around 8:20 - 8:30, but I was surprised & pleased to see that after a mile or two, I was running pretty comfortably in the 8:10 - 8:15 range, which is what I'd call my "conservative" marathon pace. (By the way, my new plan is to run with the 3:40 pace group, 8:12 / mile, for at least the first half.) I knew that there was a convenient turnaround point coming up that makes a nice ten mile loop, so I decided to do my best to keep running at that pace & complete that. By the end, I felt like I could've run two more MP miles & finished the workout on my schedule, but given how crappy I'd been feeling & that my priority was not doing anything to jeopardize Clarksburg, I decided it was a better idea to just stick with 10.

    Saturday & Sunday: Rest / sleep / drink / eat / regrow soul

    Grand Total: 24 miles

    No, it's not 40, but it's what I think I needed this week. I think I have a very good shot at breaking 1:40 at Clarksburg next Sunday, but only if I show up rested, refreshed, & focused. This week, I'm hoping to get in a couple of short easy runs, a shorter version of my usual 9-10 mile MP runs, & a few HMP miles a couple days before the race, just to remind my legs that they can run fast.

    Friday, November 4, 2011

    A Much-Needed Weekend Off

    Tapering has come at just the right time for me. The first weekend in November is coming up, which is one of my favorite weekends of the year.

    My boyfriend has been a member of a spectacular winery in Paso Robles called Turley Cellars for years and years. If you like big, bold, spicy California reds, this may be your winery. They do a lot of different zins, and also some tasty grenache, a blended white, and the occasional petite sirah (not to mention an out of this world red table wine for $10-12 per bottle, which is better than plenty of $30 bottles I've had -- it's the one I used in the stew).

    Every year on the first weekend in April and November, they throw a big release party at the winery with good food, live music, and tastings of old & new releases. Last year there were even raptors (apparently some wineries use them in their vineyards for pest control). They'll ship the wine if you want, but given how close we are, we instead use it as an excuse to get a hotel room & spend the weekend wine tasting.

    turley sign with gourds

    turley vineyard

    turley tasting room

    turley patio

    I know lots of people who do whatever they have to to get their running in, even out of town and/or on vacation. They get up extra-early, google the local trails, or scout treadmill availability at their hotel. Hey, I've done it.

    Turley weekend is sacred to me, though. Turley weekend is about relaxing and being lazy, sleeping in, indulging in delicious food, scouting out new tasty wineries, and dressing up a little to try to fit in with the wine wives at Turley. (Seriously - you've never seen as many ridiculous rocks & designer handbags this far out in rural California.) It's about turning off my phone & ignoring my e-mail. It's about quarantining our weekend from everything else in our lives that's remotely stressful or taxing. So this weekend, there will be no running whatsoever. None. Zilch. Nada.

    in the vines at wild horse
    See how relaxed I look? :)

    Turley weekend comes at an even more auspicious time this year, because friends....I am dealing with some serious training burnout.

    I rallied hardcore last week & got in one more solid, high-mileage week, and was so relieved to complete my last long run & officially start my taper. I took Monday off to make sure I was recovered enough to get through all my quality workouts this week.

    And then it was Tuesday. And it was time to run.

    And I Could.

    Well; that's not completely true. After procrastinating for around 8 hours, I did set off on an easy ten miler. (Originally, I'd wanted to get in around 40 miles this week; since I was only planning on running four days, I upped the mileage on my easy days a bit.) Two miles in, I was exhausted & my legs felt like lead. Well, you did just run 20 miles two days ago, so if you can get through eight, that'll be okay, I told myself. Two miles later, all I could think about was getting to the end of the run. I kept up a reasonable 8:50 pace, but it felt super hard. Finally I decided six miles would have to do (and was incredibly happy when it was over).

    On Wednesday, I had a half marathon pace run scheduled. At a minimum, this normally means a two-mile warm-up & then six miles in the 7:30 - 7:40 range. I jogged my two miles, then picked up the pace. Last week, I did this workout at a 7:30 pace with an average heart rate of 184 bpm (ie, less effort than normal). Today, I wanted to die after a mile and a half, managing barely a sub-eight pace. Through some miracle I made it through two miles & managed to pick up the pace a little, but I felt terrible. Soon I was telling myself, It's a taper week, so just get through four miles. You can make it through four. Well, no I couldn't. It took everything I had to get through a third mile. Average 7:45 / mile. I had to walk a quarter mile before I could even jog again.

    That shook me up a little. Not exactly confidence-building, eleven days out from a race. The more I thought about how I've been feeling lately, though, the more things started sounding familiar. And I remembered why.

    When I got home I googled "symptoms running overtraining." This brought up only about a billion different pages, all with slightly different lists, but most of them overlap a reasonable amount. Here's a constellation pulled from a few different pages:

  • Decreased Physical Performance. I had a good week last week, but Tuesday and Wednesday were both pretty bad (though I'm sure part of it has to do with the longer-term recovery from the 20-miler, especially since I don't run that far on a regular basis).
  • Heavy Legs. Somewhat while running, but I've noticed it more just walking. For example, one of my contracting jobs is a five-block walk from home, and I've had a couple of days where my legs have felt like lead.
  • Increased Perceived Exertion. See above. Definitely happening.
  • Loss of Enthusiasm for Running. Check. I've had a couple of days where I've been completely emotionally unable to face running at all, and a couple more where I've only gotten the work done by the rational part of my brain beating the emotional part into submission, dragging it caveman-style out the door, and practically flogging it the whole way. Those were not happy runs, even if I did get them done. On Tuesday and Wednesday I put them off until the last possible minute, until I reached the "if you don't do it now, you're not doing it at all" part of the evening.
  • Change in Sleep Patterns. Check. Haven't been sleeping well recently.
  • Loss of Appetite. Maybe a little. I have a pretty strong appetite, so suddenly having a semi-normal appetite is kind of like loss of appetite.
  • Frequent Colds / Illness. Thankfully, I can say no to that one.
  • Elevated Resting Heart Rate. I don't think so. It hasn't been elevated on my runs either -- in fact, I've more often been having the problem of feeling like I'm running quite hard, when both my pace and heart rate suggest otherwise. As if no matter how hard I try to run, I can't get my heart rate to rise.

    I don't actually think I'm overtraining at this point the way super-knowledgeable running experts would define it; all this stuff is too recent & hasn't gone on long enough for that (most things I read define "overtraining" as something that isn't fixed with 3-5 days of complete rest), and is also probably not really intense enough. Still, it is enough for me to notice that something is off. That if I didn't have the half coming up in a little over a week and tried to put in two more 50-60 miles weeks of marathon training, I might be starting down that path.

    It makes sense. Other than the occasional cut-back week, I've been building mileage non-stop for eleven months now. I've raced five times this year and will run twice more before 2012. (That's a lot for me -- until now I've never raced more than four times in a single year post-college.) While the outcomes have been mostly positive, I've spent a lot of emotional energy dealing with injuries and almost-injuries. I'm mentally tired. My body is tired. I've been training harder, in terms of both volume & intensity, than I've been physically capable of in nearly two years. In all honesty, I'd kind of be surprised to reach this point and not feel a bit of burnout.

    The upshot? I think it's clear that if the race was this weekend, I'd probably turn in a rather lackluster performance. Not terrible, but not the race that I've been (re-)training for since January. At this point, the hay is in the barn; if I'm going to run the best 13 miles I'm capable of in Clarksburg on 11/13, I need to make sure I give my body plenty of time to rest and recover over the next week and two days. Yes, it makes me a little nervous for the marathon, but the 1:40 half has always been the top priority, and if reaching that goal means a mediocre performance at CIM, then so be it.

    While it will be nice to have a physical micro-break, I think the mental benefits of spending the weekend away will be just as important to dialing in during that last week before the race and making sure I'm sharp, fresh, and excited to race.

    Are you overtraining? Take this test to prevent crossing the fine line between training and overtraining.

    PS, I just randomly googled that from Runner's World, so if it sucks or makes no sense, sorry.)

  • Tuesday, November 1, 2011

    Taking Stock

    It's been a long, hard, slog of a year -- one that started off with four months of physical therapy and a constellation of injuries so bad I could barely run at all. Now here I am on the other side of things, after eleven months of continuously and ever-so-gradually re-building mileage, two weeks away from my first half marathon in over a year, and five weeks away from my first marathon. My last long run is in the bag, and I've officially commenced tapering. Seems like a good time to stop & do some reflecting.

    Clarksburg Half Marathon:

    Clarksburg logoI finally (FINALLY!) feel confident that, yes, I'm physically capable of running a 1:40 half marathon. It will not be fun or easy and I will probably want to quit and cry slow down around mile ten, but I think I'm there.

    On 10/27, I ran a strong six miles at an average 7:30 pace with a heart rate of 184 bpm (I've been averaging around 7:37ish & 188 bpm), and felt as if I could've kept going for a while. This did include a few stops at traffic lights and two water fountain stops, but it also included warm weather, rolling hills, a decent headwind for half the way, and a ten mile run the day before. Clarksburg should be basically flat & fairly cool, and I'll be running on fresh legs.

    I had several moments in those early miles (uphill) of looking down at my watch & realizing I was running nearly 10K pace. Disciplining myself to go out a little slower (7:40-42ish) & let the speed come gradually will be key. No matter how good / easy it feels, I want to average no faster than 7:35 / mile for the first 10 miles. The last 5K = anything goes.

    After racing lots of 10Ks this summer and running 6-8 miles on my easy days for the last couple of months, six miles has started to feel quite short & over before I know it. The 10-12 milers that were my long runs earlier in the year have now started to feel more like comfy medium-distance runs. Between that & training for a full three weeks after the half, I'm going into a half for the first time without really thinking of it as a "long" race.

    I've gotten used to running fast in the left air cast. It really does magically get rid of tendonitis pain while it's on. The right calf strain isn't getting better but also not really getting worse. It does tend to hurt for the first few miles, but then the pain goes away.

    Breaking 1:40 will be a close, close thing & will depend on whether or not the stars align. (For the statistics geeks among you, I'm predicting a 95% confidence interval of 4 minutes.) If I eat well, sleep well, all my various body parts behave, the weather is cool, and there's no headwind, I think I'll do it.

    (Nothing like calling your shots to get the blood pumping, eh?)

    California International Marathon:

    CIM logoI'm not totally ready to call this one yet; after all, there are still five weeks to go. But I've learned a lot in the last few months & do have some thoughts.

    I think I've finally gotten 7:59 miles into my bones & my body has started to understand what that pace feels like. I'm starting to settle into some 9-10 mile MP runs & trust that, yes, I CAN hold that pace for a long time.

    My (almost) Yasso 800s a few weeks ago averaged 3:24 each, and although I only did 8 reps instead of 10, I finished feeling like I could've done several more at that pace or faster.

    My 9:00 / mile long runs have been easier than I expected. I feel crappy at the end but my body has always held up, my fueling / hydrating seems to be working, and I'm able to stay positive & optimistic the whole way.

    I'm 100% confident at this point that, provided I sleep, fuel, & hydrate well in the days & hours beforehand, the distance itself won't be an issue unless something bad happens injury-wise.

    All that said, the long runs (especially the 20 miler on Sunday) are forcing me to face certain facts.

    I've had several conversations in the past with new runners about pace charts & calculators (where you look up for your time for a given race distance & then see what times are equivalent at other distances) regarding what those numbers do and don't mean, and how to interpret the results. Ie, just because a 25 minute 5K and a 4 hour marathon line up in the chart does not mean that running a 25 minute 5K makes you capable of a 4 hour marathon. It's just telling you what you could expect to be accomplish, if you work really hard to get into shape for a very different race with very different physical and psychological demands.

    When I first entered my best 10K time from this summer into such a calculator & saw that it lined up with a 3:25 marathon, I sort of blanched a little. That's 7:50 per mile. I wasn't expecting anything near that fast and it kind of terrified me a little. So, I figured I'd just give myself a ten-second-per-mile cushion, train for eight minute miles, & see what happened. I've been shooting for right around 8:00 / mile on my MP runs & around 9:00 / mile on my long runs.

    For my Sunday long run, I decided to do two loops around Golden Gate Park and the Panhandle, plus a little more to get to 20 miles. I figured I would just run at as easy & comfortable a pace as I felt like (as long as I wasn't shuffling or anything) and see how that went.

    The first 12 miles or so were great! I took the first slightly uphill mile to warm up a bit (8:54) and floated effortlessly through the next three downhill miles, surprised to see such low numbers for splits (8:34, 8:09, 8:22). The next three miles were back uphill, and though they were obviously slower, I'd still expected them to be a lot slower than they were, given the fact that I was still shooting for "effortless & floaty" & really didn't push very hard up the hills at all (9:00, 9:09, 8:50). The last two flat-to-slightly-downhill miles to complete my first loop of the park were easy as well (8:35, 8:36). At this point, I was elated. If averaging ~8:41 was this easy at the end of a 50+ mile week, including basically a three-mile hill, surely running eight's or thereabouts at CIM was doable.

    I started the second loop ready to float down those lovely downhill miles again & anticipating the same kinds of numbers I saw the first time around. Alas, although I was running with the same amount of effort, my splits slowly but surely began creeping up (8:49, 8:59, 8:25, 8:37). About halfway through that stretch was when it stopped feeling effortless. Not terrible; just not effortless.

    The second set of uphills really started to test me. I was still making a concerted effort not to push too hard, but it took a lot out of my legs nevertheless. (I was stunned that those splits were as respectable as they were compared to the first lap -- 9:05, 9:07, 9:06). At this point I wanted soooo badly to pick up the pace & just churn out the last few miles. I was afraid that if I did, though, I might end up hitting a wall & unable to make it to twenty, and completing the distance was still my top priority.

    The last two miles of the second loop were tough and slower than I wanted (9:08, 8:49). I knew that the two loops would get me to about 18 and I'd have to maybe make another lap and a half or so around the Panhandle to get up to 20. That was more mentally difficult than anything else. At that point, I was using every psychological trick in the book just to keep my legs moving. It wasn't that they wanted to go any slower, but it became very difficult then to imagine forcing them to go much faster (9:16, 8:46). There's no sound in this world as sweet as that last beep from the Garmin on a long run. Sweet baby Jesus.

    So here's my takeaway from that --

    It's not the speed that's the problem; I honestly do believe that I can maintain an eight-minute-mile for a good, long time. What I think I'm lacking right now is the strength and endurance to keep the cruise control going at that pace for a full marathon. I'm also not convinced that slowing the pace would solve the problem. I kind of think that even if I'd been running 9:30 miles from the very beginning, I would've felt the same way at mile 18, purely because of where my strength & endurance is at.

    Part of me also wonders if it's a time thing. Ie, it's not that I started having a tough time at mile 15; it's that I started having a tough time at 2 hours & 10 minutes. If that's the case, a faster pace might actually work to my advantage, because I'll have gotten farther in those easy 2 hours 10 minutes, leaving fewer miles to suffer through once things inevitably get tough.

    But I guess the real upshot is that, even after running at an average 8:40ish pace for the first 15 miles, I just could not imagine running five eight-minute miles. I mean yes, these were tougher hills than I'm likely to face at CIM and my legs weren't fresh, but still. I still think I've got the ability to run that pace, but two months hasn't been enough time to develop the sheer endurance (shocking).

    So. We'll see what happens in Clarksburg, which will be one additional useful piece of information. We'll see what happens over the next three weeks, which still hold plenty of useable training time & mileage. We'll see what happens once I start cutting back on mileage. But still, I keep coming back to the fact that it's my first freaking marathon, and what I really want more than anything else is to have a good experience and finish strong. Right now, I'm thinking that I have a better chance of meeting that particular goal if I shoot for running with the 3:35 or 3:40 pace group instead of the 3:30 group, then pick it up at the end if I happen to be feeling really good (or, more realistically, like I'm not quite ready to keel over and die yet). Better that than going out overly ambitious & burning myself out halfway.

    No matter what, I want to have a strong, happy last 10K, regardless of the pace. As long as I have a happy, strong, safe race, it will have been a good day. :)