Friday, October 28, 2016

Race Report: Folsom Blues Breakout Half Marathon

I swear I blinked and this race/entire race experience was over. How the heck did that happen?? I can't even give you like a mile-by-mile account because it was over so fast and I barely remember the details.

As I said in previous posts, I like to run a half all-out 5-6 weeks before a marathon to get a sense of my fitness. So I wanted a race with a nice solid course (not necessarily flat but nothing crazy), high probability of good weather, well-organized, not too big or too small, and reasonably close to home. (At 2-2.5 hours depending on traffic, Folsom is probably right on the edge in terms of what I'm willing to drive to for a non-goal race.) Not breaking the bank ranked pretty high as well.

I'd heard a lot of good things about Lake Natoma Four Bridges Half, but lo & behold, when I looked into it, that event had been taken over and re-routed by Sacramento Running Association and rebranded with a Johnny Cash theme as the "Folsom Blues Breakout" Half & 5K. SRA is the group that runs CIM and a few other well known, well respected races in the Sacramento Area, and they have a reputation for doing solid events "for runners, by runners," so my interest was piqued right away by that. The date was a good fit in terms of building up to CIM, and after investigating the course (gently rolling but net downhill, paved & closed course, reasonably shaded) and seeing that I could get the early bird price of $45 if I registered before March (!), I was sold.


Bib lady ready to go (except for the bib)! If you run this race,
I highly recommend staying at the Lake Natoma Inn maybe 50 yards from the finish.

Unfortunately, race weekend ended up being a little crazy for me. After flying back from Texas on Monday, I felt like I'd never had a chance to really catch my breath. Several late nights and early-morning work calls meant I didn't get a ton of sleep. I spent most of the week feeling like I might be getting sick.

The Stanford game Saturday was scheduled for noon which meant I could actually go, but it also meant getting up early (again) to get ready for tailgating. We also stayed later than we should have, so by the time we got home and I got to Folsom, it was nearly 10 pm. After a desperate late-night dinner trip, I finally laid out my gear, double-checked the schedule for tomorrow, and hit the sack.

I was up at 5am & off to Dick's Sporting Goods two miles away to pick up my bib at 6am (thank you for having race morning pickup!!!!). They loaded the buses at about 6:30am and dropped us off at the start around 7am, where we were treated to a gorgeous sunrise & some spectacular views of the American River and Folsom Dam.

My plan was to run 1.9 easy miles before 7:20, hit the port-a-potties one last time, then jump in the corral. Unfortunately my race brain for some reason thought, "Eh, starting at 7:05 is good." But by the time I stripped down & dropped my bag it was 7:10, and as I started jogging back towards the course, I realized that the potty lines were looking reaaalllllly long. So I figured I better go ahead and jump in one of them. Long story short, people were taking a LONG ass time, the line was barely moving, and I was still several people back when they started herding people towards the corral at 7:20. I finally got my turn but I did NOT get any more time to warm-up, so rather than 1.9 miles, .3 had to do. Not ideal.

I wish I had more to say about the actual race, but it went by so quickly that most of it is a blur. I can tell you that the course was beautiful with lots of pretty fall foliage and a number of nice views of Lake Natoma, the American River, & the various bridges (at least three of which we ran over).


Negro Bar State Park, Mile 3


Approaching Folsom Boulevard Bridge, Mile 3


Relay exchange, ~Mile 6.5

The weather was perfect, and the course as promised was closed, smooth, gently rolling for the most part. It wasn't at all crowded, nor was I ever out running alone (which I hate in races). The event itself was spectacular and I will absolutely drive 2-2.5 hours each way to run it again.


Coming off Hazel Avenue Bridge, Mile 8


Crossing Willow Creek, Mile 11

I can also tell you that I have never had such mixed feelings about a race performance in my life.

The Good:

  • I ran my fastest half marathon in over three and a half years.
      Official: 1:42:46/13.1 miles/7:50 pace
      Garmin: 1:42:44/13.2/7:47 pace

      Overall: 70/1055
      Women: 19/630
      A/G: 4/93

  • I ran remarkably even splits start to finish:

  • In spite of some of the challenges I'll mention below, it was the easiest-feeling half both physically and mentally that I've run since probably my PR at Healdsburg four years ago. I couldn't believe how quickly the miles kept rolling by, and my legs never crashed or gave out, not even on that last beast of a hill. (It was not really a beast. It just felt that way after 100+ minutes of fairly hard running.) Like I said, I feel like I blinked & it was over.

The Meh:

  • I really thought that based on my September 10K & the training I've done since, I had more in me. On Thursday I sent Coach Ashley the course map, elevation profile, & forecast (50s & partly cloudy, no wind) & asked her if she thought 1:39:xx was expecting too much, & she said she thought around 1:40 was not unreasonable.

  • I told her my main concern was how exhausted I was feeling from training & traveling & feeling sort of half-sick all week. She thought that between a short taper & race day adrenaline, I'd freshen up & have a little more zing in the legs come Sunday. That didn't happen, at all. I was so tired, and my legs still felt so beat up & tender from the volume & intensity of training, & it was pretty much lead boots from the get-go. My pace was right where I wanted it for the first few miles, but when it came time to start picking it up, my legs flat-out refused. That 7:40-7:50 range seemed to be all they had to give.

    (I know this might sound kind of strange after I just said it was one of the easiest 13.1's I've run in a while; the best way I can explain it is that the pace I was running did not feel hard and I had no trouble sustaining it all the way to the end, and from a cardio standpoint I think I probably had more to give, but from a muscle/neuro standpoint, I just couldn't get my legs moving any faster. I kept trying, and just nothing.)

  • I had another effing asthma attack around mile 7. Dammit. So that definitely did not help in the ratcheting down the pace department. Something sketchy has been going on with that lately so I'm definitely making an appointment with my allergist while there's still time to do something about it before CIM.

I really hate writing race reports that go, "Oh, it wasn't the time I wanted, but it was actually pretty good **under the circumstances**." That always feels to me a little too much like, "No really, I swear am way faster than that, and here are all the excuses for why I wasn't that fast today." Because real talk, nobody really cares what you can theoretically do under perfect circumstances, they care what you actually do on non-theoretical days that actually happen.

It also feels a little like settling ("I am fine with running a slower time than I think I'm capable of, because if not for x/y/z I am sure I could have and that's good enough"). That said, I was listening to something the other day about the difference between "settling" and finding a way to be satisfied with what is or has been. So, I'm not settling for 1:42. I still want to run another sub-1:40 and (gulp) maybe even one more PR before I run out of days where it's physically possible. But in the mean time, I'm trying to find a way to be satisfied on this day with running my fastest half in 3.5 years on trashed legs while trying not to die of hypoxia.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~LOGISTICAL STUFF~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Location: Folsom, CA

Date: Late October (Oct 23, 2016 this year).

Field Size: 1055 in the half, 259 in the 5K

Deadlines/sellout factor: I don't think either distance fully sold out, but the deadline to register was 10/17. The incentive to sign up early is really all about the early-bird price; I signed up in February, so getting the half for a whopping $45 made me feel a little better about springing for gas & hotel.


Price: From the website:

Lodging:

There were special rates available for runners at several area hotels, as well as shuttle service to the start and back from the finish. I highly recommend staying at the Lake Natoma Inn directly in front of the finish line!

The Expo:

I don't think there was an expo per se, but there was packet pickup at Dick's Sporting Goods two miles from the finish in Folsom 3:00-6:00pm on Friday and 12:00-5:00pm on Saturday. I was VERY happy to learn that race morning packet pickup was also available at Dick's 6:00-6:30am, and parking/shuttle service to the start & back from the finish. This made everything super easy for me even though I didn't get into town until late Saturday night. (Also, there were donuts, bananas, and coffee at Dick's. I love it.)

Staging:

The start was on Folsom Lake Crossing Bridge (aka the "Johnny Cash Bridge") over the American River, which has some spectacular views of both the river and Folsom Dam.

Buses dropped us off near the start, and one of them also served as the sweat check/gear drop and took everything back to the finish for pickup. (Gear drop mostly involved a folding table, a box of trash bags, and a bunch of sharpies, but for the size of this race that worked fine. Bags were organized in piles by bib number at the finish and I found mine easily just minutes after crossing the line.)

The port-a-potties were actually on the "race" side of the start line, which I didn't realize until it started getting close to to race time & the organizers started desperately trying to herd the runners out of the potty lines and to the other side of the starting line. The potty lines actually ran the whole width of the course, so they actually couldn't start the race until people cleared out. So, that whole setup seemed a little weird to me. (Though, it could be that they simply can't put them on the other side of the bridge. I don't know enough about how port-a-potties work. All I know is that the lines were concerningly long, and YOU try telling a runner s/he can't hit the potty one more time before running 13.1 miles.)

The finish was right in front of the Lake Natoma Inn, & was pretty well organized and easy to navigate as far as my experience went. The only slight issue I had was finding the bus back to Dick's Sporting Goods, but it was fine once I remembered that I'd seen them on a particular side street that morning.

The Course:

Oh, you guys. This course was very nearly everything I want in a half marathon course. Smooth concrete roads. Closed course. Gently rolling, with nothing particularly steep or particularly long. A handful of aid stations serving something with calories in it. Not too many turns. Lovely fall foliage, with the occasional breathtaking view. Given the location and the date, it's a pretty darn good option if you're looking for a fast race.

(If I'm going to be SUUUPER picky, there were a couple of aid stations that were on the outside of a turn rather than the inside, which meant if you wanted to grab a cup you had to go way off the tangent. Yes, I am anal enough about both tangents and fueling that it bothered me a bit, just because it seemed like it would have been just as easy to put the table on the other side of the road. But we're talking a few seconds here.)

Now, is it a time trial-fast course? Ehhhh probably not really. None of the hills are very big and it is slightly net downhill, but if it's your last chance for meeting some kind of high stakes time trial standard, there are a couple of *slightly* longer uphills that could ruin your day. (For example, the winding approach to the bridge in the Nimbus Dam area that crosses the American River, and that really demoralizing last .2-.4 right before the finish.)

Personally, though, I think I do a little better with some variation in terrain, so I would absolutely 100% consider it a good option if I thought I was ready to PR.

Swag:

Logo tech shirt & finisher medal, plus post-race snacks & a free beer. (I don't know what the beer was because honestly the idea of alcohol after running hard for 1.5+ hours is nauseating to me.)

If you decide to run:

  • It didn't sell out this year, but if you sign up early, you can save yourself some big bucks.
  • Lake Natoma Inn. There is no question here. Just book it, as soon as you think you even *might* want to run FBB.
  • There is race morning bib pickup, but if you go ahead and get your bib the day before AND book the Lake Natoma Inn, you are basically guaranteed the smoothest race day experience possible.
  • Get in the potty lines early.

Overall Assessment:

I LOVED this event so much. A great course, super well organized, and $45 to sign up early? Yes please! Sure, if pressed, I can come up with a couple of TINY, WEE little quibbles, but in terms of the things I actually care about when I really, truly want to run a fast race, FBB scores pretty highly. Yes, it is kind of a drive for a half, but I'm willing to do it occasionally for a great race where I'm looking for a fast time.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

CIM WEEK 12 of 18: Race week cutback, blah dee blah dee blah...


The big story of week 12 was Folsom Blues Breakout Half, my last tune-up race before CIM, which also meant a much-needed mileage cut-back.

When I was scheduling things way back in March this race & my sister's wedding weekend seemed AGES apart (a whole week!!), but reality was very different. I kind of hit the ground running once we got back & felt like I never really got a chance to catch my breath, & several late nights and early morning work calls meant I didn't get as much as sleep as I probably needed.

By Wednesday I was actively starting to feel sick which was not not NOT how I had planned for this race weekend to go! I don't know what I would have done if this was supposed to be another 50+ week.

* * *

Grand Total: 35.5 miles

    * 14.3 easy
    * 8 speed
    * 13.1 race(ish)

Monday 10/17: Rest/fly home from Tejas.

Tuesday 10/18: 2 warm-up, 3 x 800m / 300m jog, 30:00 @ MP, 3 x 800m / 300m jog, 2 cool down = 10 speed/12 total.

    Going into this run, I was NOT feeling particularly excited about it considering a) Sunday's sketchy tempo run and how difficult those not-even-8:00 miles felt, b) it's the second longest track session on my schedule, and c) I was planning to race a half hard just five days later.

    I felt a little better after the warm-up, but I still wanted to save my legs for FBB so tried hard to keep the 800m's in check & within just a few seconds of the assigned 7:00 pace. The 30:00 at marathon felt surprisingly easy (which I did not expect after Sunday), and I actually finished the workout feeling as as if I'd run maybe 4-6 miles easy & not at all like I had just finished 12 on the track. Maybe consistent training, like, works or whatever?

Wednesday 10/19: Karate. Also, start feeling sick.

Thursday 10/20: 8 easy.

    As I think I've written about every Thursday easy run for the past 11 weeks, I started out feeling sort of tired & crappy, but by the end actually felt pretty good. The cherry on top was plugging all the data into my running economy spreadsheet & seeing that this was actually the most efficient run heart rate-wise I've done since I started tracking the data. (More evidence that consistent training is not complete bullshit? You be the judge!) Didn't see that coming after Sunday!

Friday 10/21: Rest.

    My favorite part of race week! Also highly necessary considering how crappy I was feeling. Basically I came home from work a little early, ate a bowl of cereal, and went to bed.

Saturday 10/22: 2 easy.

    Got up at 7:30am to do my shakeout run & watch Stanford lose an ugly game (boo), headed back to SF, threw my stuff in the car, & got on the road to Folsom.

Sunday 10/23: .3 warm up + 13.1 race = 13.4 total

    Race report coming soon!


* * *

CIM 2016 Week 1 of 18 - It's On

CIM 2016 Week 2 of 18 - Escape From NY (Barely)

CIM 2016 Week 3 of 18 - A Discount Code to Share (+ back on Strava!)

CIM 2016 Week 4 of 18 - 18/day, 47.5/week, 205.5/month.

CIM 2016 Week 5 of 18 - That cutback feeling

CIM 2016 Week 6 of 18 - french toast, trail shoes, & a little race fatigue

CIM 2016 Week 7 of 18 - Big week & feelin' fine!

CIM 2016 Week 8 of 18 - Knee Troubles :(

CIM 2016 Week 9 of 18 - Improvement on the knee front!

CIM 2016 Week 10 of 18 - Train kept a-rollin' (+ free shoes!)

CIM 2016 Week 11 of 18 - Texas Half Marathon #1 (+ my sister's wedding!)

Friday, October 21, 2016

'Race' Report: Honored Hero Half Marathon

Le Setup

Training on the road is always a challenge. It's no big deal to whip out a couple of 5-6 milers when I'm not really training earnestly for something, but right now I am deep in the thicket of goal marathon training, which can often mean trying to squeeze multiple double-digit runs into a trip if I'm going to stick to my plan.

It can be extra challenging because if I'm traveling, almost by definition there is something going on that has to take priority over running, whether it's work or family events or what have you. Obviously there is a financial limit to how many weekends I am willing to pay for "races" where I'm not actually planning to race, but I don't have a lot of great options for long runs when visiting my family and I've really been trying to give it my all this cycle.

Since my long run this week was only 15 miles, I decided to look for a nearby half marathon on the weekend I was in town for my sister's wedding. And, I was in luck! We usually stay in Hurst (in between Ft. Worth and Dallas but slightly closer to Fort Worth), and the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society had a small charity event scheduled for Sunday morning in Trinity Park, just 20 minutes from our hotel. There was a 10K, a half-marathon, and a 20-miler, so after double checking that it wouldn't interfere with any of the wedding events later that day, I signed up.

As I mentioned in last week's training log, my original plan was just to run 1.9 miles before the race, then run the half comfortably to get my 15 miles done for the day. Later, though, I realized that Friday's tempo run was actually a pretty big one, 14 miles with 10 at goal marathon pace, which I was not too keen to do on a treadmill. After some vacillating, I decided I'd rather do 15 easy miles on the treadmill and 14 with 10 at goal pace on an actual race course where I might be a little more motivated.

None of this worked out exactly as planned. Firstly, I just didn't end up having the time on Friday for 15 consecutive miles. I ended up fitting in 10, and even that was at a slightly faster pace than I should really be doing my "easy" runs. Knowing I had the harder workout early Sunday morning, I'd planned on just doing an easy 3-4 on Saturday, but instead I had the leftover 5 as well. So, 7.7 on Saturday it was. (Also later than I'd intended and faster than was probably smart. Oops.)

Le Race Morning

Anyhoo, I got up at 6:30am Sunday morning (so 4:30am Pacific Time), threw my stuff in a bag, grabbed a breakfast sandwich at the nearest Starbucks, & headed into Fort Worth. I got there a little later than I wanted, considering I knew nothing about the staging area or parking and still had to get my bib and run my extra 1.9 miles, and by the time I parked, got my bib, realized I had the wrong bib, and got that sorted out, I only had time for one mile before the race.

And let me tell you, that one mile did not inspire confidence.

First, it was not hot as Texas goes (maybe 75F at 8am), but it was about 80% humidity. The word that comes to mind in terms of the weather is 'swampy.' After just a few minutes of easy jogging I was practically dripping.

On top of this, my legs just felt heavy & didn't want to turn over. I ran that warm-up mile in maybe 10:14 and when I thought about the prospect of ratcheting down to 8:00-8:15 I didn't know whether to laugh or cry.


Warming up on the front of the course

On the other hand, my rallying cry these last few weeks has been "BRING THE ADVERSITY!" because, let's face it, if you can't figure out how to pick it up when you feel like crap, you might as well pack it in now because ain't no one gonna feel fresh and spunky at mile 22. So I just decided I'd put in the effort, work hard, and do the best I could, and if I couldn't get those low 8's happening today for 10 miles in a row, it wouldn't be for lack of trying.

"Maybe once the race starts you'll perk up," I kept telling myself. "Maybe you'll feel better once you're out on the course with everyone."

Le Race

Lolololol. No. No I did not. In fact I spent most of those first three easy miles reflecting on how badly I wanted to be just about anywhere but out here doing this. Basically I lacked focus and my head was elsewhere, and I think that always makes things harder.

And then, of course, there was the gravel. I have definitely, definitely lost my shit before in races due to #surprisegravel, so I tried really hard to have a good attitude about it this time: "ADVERSITY! BRING THE ADVERSITY!" "Maybe it's only for a few miles..." etc. It wasn't the entire course, but it was a lot of it, and since there was literally nothing I could do I kind of just sighed inwardly & tried to make the best of it. (If I were to run this course again, I would definitely wear trail shoes because there were also some chewed up places on the concrete.)

    Mile 1 - 9:19
    Mile 2 - 9:16
    Mile 3 - 9:07

I'd already decided that when I hit mile four I wouldn't try to instantaneously jump to 8:00 miles but instead just gradually speed up and see how easy or hard it felt. Thankfully, for the first couple of miles, it didn't feel all that hard. Then again, my GPS had been acting kind of funny all morning, so I'd started doing manual laps rather than letting it auto-lap. Which means either the GPS went REALLY crazy or mile 4 was super short.

    Mile 4 - 7:24
    Mile 5 - 8:01

(FWIW GPS thinks "mile" 4 was actually .92, ie 8:06 pace, which makes more sense. I'm not great at pacing but generally I'm not THAT bad.)

Once I sped up to low 8's, I started passing a lot of people, but as I headed into that last mile before the turnaround the trail curved around and I found myself running into what must have been at least a 20mph headwind. Like, I nearly lost my hat and couldn't keep my eyes open and felt like I was barely moving forward. Suddenly I went from feeling mostly okay running low 8's to barely holding on to mid-8's. I tried telling myself, "Hey, that means you'll have an awesome tail wind once you turn around!" But it sure didn't feel like it, and I didn't feel any better. Suddenly my legs just felt completely fried and I had no idea how I was going to keep this up.

    Mile 6 - 8:15
    Mile 7 - 8:29
    Mile 8 - 7:59
    Mile 9 - 8:18

After mile 8 I thought, "Woohoo, maybe I can still do this!," but then somewhere in mile 9 there was a very short but very, very steep uphill (there were a handful of these up and down along the course), and it was like somehow that just broke me. I powered up the hill as soon as I crested the top my legs turned to Jello. Cardiovascularly I didn't feel like I was working that hard (and my HR monitor agrees) but my legs felt D-O-N-E, which was depressing.

The rest of the trip back was more or less a slow implosion. It wasn't that hot but the humidity was so bad that I felt overheated. There was intermittent heavy wind ("Cooling wind!" I tried to tell myself. "A nice cooling wind!") and more and more I felt like I just couldn't move the thick heavy air in and out of my lungs effectively. In the last few miles I actually started to feel really light-headed and have trouble running in a straight line. I felt really hot but also like I was shivering, and once or twice nearly had a heart attack because for just a second I could swear I could see ostriches chasing me out of the corner of my eye.

(There were no ostriches. Which is good, because the only thing in a race worse than #surprisegravel is probably #surpriseostriches. Also HOLY TAN LINES BATMAN.)

    Mile 10 - 8:29
    Mile 11 - 8:26
    Mile 12 - 8:32

This is the first time in a while I can actively remember worrying about whether I would physically be able to finish a race. I remember feeling really relieved when I got within a couple of miles of the finish, because I knew that if I did pass out or something, someone would probably find me before something really terrible happened. In that last mile I felt completely, utterly awful in a way I only remember feeling at the end of my worst marathons. At one point I remember repeating to myself, "Just don't throw up, just don't throw up, just don't throw up." (I in fact did NOT throw up, so #smallvictories.)

And then, as I got closer and closer to the finish line, I realized that it was at the top of a VERY steep, not-all-that-short hill, like steep enough that I wasn't sure I could run it.

"oh fucking hell," I may have muttered to myself, weaving around the turn like a drunk giraffe. (But I did not walk it!)

    Mile 13 - 9:02
    Mile .3 - 2:36 (8:40 pace)

The last tenth was actually .3 by my watch. I stumbled through the finish with barely enough hand-eye coordination intact to take my medal and a water bottle and then sort of half-slid, half-rolled my way down the very steep hill back to the staging area where I became quite vexed at the lack of seating areas or shade of any kind. On the plus side, they DID have plenty of ice-cold water bottles, and I am not kidding that I guzzled two and poured two more over every part of my body. God, I felt awful.

So, if you do all the math (going by my watch), I ran those last 10.12 miles at ~8:20 average pace. Not the pace I'd planned on, but not actually as far off as I'd thought at the time. According to all the pace calculators my marathon pace is "supposed" to be something like 7:50 or 7:55 and I do like the way 8:00 pace looks on my watch, but seeing as 26.2 is not my forte, I'll still be over the moon if I can run CIM at even ~8:10 pace.

Le Analysis

I don't really know why I felt just SO awful and low 8's felt SO hard, but if I had to guess, some top candidates might be:

  • I've run over 100 miles in the last 2 weeks.
  • Crazy (ie normal for Texas) humidity
  • Crazy wind in some stretches
  • Gravel (NEMESIS die in a fire)
  • General travel exhaustion/stress (not eating & sleeping normally, more time on my feet, etc.)
  • My expectations are just too high

Honestly, though, it's all speculation and who ever knows why you feel great one day & terrible the next. I could wring my hands about it and drive myself crazy trying to figure it out, but I feel like it's probably a lot more productive to just get on with the rest of training. It was what it was (a super tough workout!), and all I can do at CIM is run the best race I can on that day, whatever the circumstances turn out to be.

(Also: Two days later, I ran nearly 4 miles at 7:58ish pace between sets of 800m's with no trouble at all. So that was moderately reassuring.)


Three states down, 47 to go!

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~LOGISTICAL STUFF~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Location: Trinity Park, Ft. Worth, TX

Date: Mid-October (Oct 16, 2016 this year).

Price: From the website:

Deadlines/sellout factor: This was a small, local charity race run by the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, so selling out is probably not an issue. There was also race day registration.

Field Size: I'll update this part once they post results, but I don't think it could have been more than 50 people in each distance.

The Expo: I don't think there was an expo really, but there was packet pickup available 10:30am-6pm on both Friday and Saturday at Luke's Locker, a local running store in Ft. Worth. Since that wasn't an option for me I was super happy there was race day pickup.

Staging:

The race was staged in Trinity Park roughly at the corner of W. 7th and Strayton Dr, basically at the Fort Worth Police & Firefighters Memorial (a nice brick building that provides a little shade). It was super easy to get to and there was plenty of parking along Strayton. (I think I had to walk less than a quarter mile from where I parked.)


Start/finish


Staging area down the hill. (You can see a crowd of people gathering at the start/finish for the 20 miler up on the ridge in the background.)

Bib & T-shirt pick up areas were set up in the shaded area of the memorial, and several port-a-potties were just a short distance a way. There were only five or six, but they seemed sufficient for the number of people present. The only downside was that the start/finish was up on a nearby ridge, so you had to climb up or down a very steep hill to go between the two. (This was fine before the race, but getting back down on post-race legs was, um, an adventure.)


Memorial where bib/shirt pickup was staged

The Course:

The course started and finished on hard-packed dirt up on kind of a ridge. The dirt part was very brief and also very easy to run on. Most of the course followed a kind of bike/jogging trail through Trinity Park, which was roughly half pavement and half gravel. You can tell that it's almost completely flat, but because it alternated between up on a ridge and down below the ridge, there were a handful of very brief but quite steep ups and downs along the course getting between the two. I don't know whether this is always the case or not but it was VERY windy on this particular day when I was up on the ridge.

It wasn't crazy hot and sunny, but it is worth noting that the course is mostly exposed, so if it happens to be hot and sunny, things could get pretty uncomfortable pretty quickly (Texas). On the other hand, I thought there were plenty of aid stations, all stocked with water and Gatorade and even gels at some, also with plenty of enthusiastic volunteers (which was nice as I became less and less mentally functional).

(Also, I can't not say it; that last .1/.3/whatever where you had to run back up the big hill to the start/finish was a BITCH.)

Swag:

Logo T-shirt & finisher medal, plus post-race snacks. (As I've mentioned before I have a basement full of race shirts I don't need, and since I definitely did not need anything extra to take home in my luggage, I skipped the shirt.) I left the medal at my mom's house, but you can see it in the picture above. Also plenty of ice cold water and fruit at the finish.

If you decide to run:

  • There is gravel and some chewed up pavement so personally I'd wear trail shoes (but that's also because my "normal" running shoes tend to be on the thinner, less cushioned side, so if yours have a nice thick skin maybe you'll be fine).
  • The handful of short steep ups and downs are not a big deal but nice to know about in advance.
  • Be prepared for strong winds on the portions that are up on the ridge.
  • Parking was fine, but I would still try to arrive more than half an hour beforehand because otherwise you might be walking like half a mile.
  • It's Texas in October so weather-wise, WHO KNOWS??? Though, maybe if I still lived there, the humidity would have bothered me less.

Overall Assessment:

This was a well-organized event as far as my experience went with lots of enthusiastic volunteers in the staging area as well as out on the course. Personally, I don't think *I* would run it again because of the gravel on the course, but that's my personal issue. I was just grateful that this event was happening near me at all so that I didn't have to do this terrible horrible no-good workout on a hotel treadmill, so THANKS LLS!!

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

CIM WEEK 11 of 18: Texas Half Marathon #1 (+ my sister's wedding!)


Cool western fonts are the best.

This big news this week, of course, was OMG MY LITTLE SISTER GETTING MARRIED!!!! Of course there were a ton of professional pictures taken, but I managed to snap a few decent ones with my phone.


Mom putting on the finishing touches


Reception


Littler sister/MOH giving the toast



First dance w/ Dad

WHAT THE WHAT.

We flew in on Thursday & I pretty much went immediately from the airport to the bachelorette party & didn't get back to the hotel until nearly 3:00am. The rest of the weekend was similarly jam-packed with various wedding-related events and responsibilities. It was so much fun and super exciting and of course ridiculous amounts of weeping and sniffling occurred Sunday afternoon and evening before and during the actual wedding. We flew home Monday afternoon, completely exhausted, and I've barely been a functional person since.

Of course, all this meant that any running (or sleeping) kind of had to be shoe-horned in around the festivities however time allowed. I know I was making jokes last week about the luxury of cutting back from 57 miles to "merely" 50ish, but it turns out that, oh right, 50 is still a fairly high number for me under the best of circumstances! So, I'm sort of amazed I actually managed to do it. (Because obviously the top priority was still wedding stuff and there was no way I was going to worry about miles at the expense of being a good sister/bridesmaid.)

And, though I was exhausted come Monday morning, I have to say that I feel a lot better than I expected, especially given how that half marathon on Sunday went down (race report here).

* * *

Grand Total: 50 miles

    * 34.7 easy
    * 5.3 speed
    * 10 race pace(ish)

Monday 10/10: Karate. Guys, my strength work game lately has gotten so weak. SO WEAK!!

Tuesday 10/11: 2 warm-up, 6 x 200m / 200m jog, 20:00 @ MP + 0:30, 6 x 200m / 200m jog, 2 cool down = 5.3 speed/9.3 total.

    On the one hand, this was kind of a "recovery" speed workout after Sunday's fast finish 20, which I needed--I was tired and my legs were definitely feeling sluggish. But add to that the fact that the workout was a 200m sandwich (the last workout I did before my knee gave out) and the track was closed for a field hockey game--meaning I had to do the 200m's on the concrete Upper Track of Doom--I was not not NOT feeling excited about this workout. In fact I was kind of terrified.

    In any case I got through the whole thing with only a little discomfort (running the curves DEFINITELY irritates the right knee a bit) with nearly all the 200m's between :41 & :44 (5:30-6:11). The concrete track isn't marked so I had to do them by a combination of GPS & landmarks, so there's probably not much point in comparing them to when I've run 200m's on the track. But, the last time I ran them up on the concrete like this, I was running them in :44-:49 (6:11-6:36), AND I hadn't just run a fast(ish) finish 20 miler.

    So that's something to feel good about, I guess?

Wednesday 10/12: Rest.

    I thought about trying to get a few easy miles out of the way after work but my legs were giving me some serious yellow flags so I didn't bother. I was glad we'd cancelled karate for the night because I barely managed to get myself packed. #woefulwednesdays

Thursday 10/13: 8 easy.

    Since I didn't do anything on Wednesday, I got up early to squeeze this one in before our flight to Texas. In the grand tradition of Thursday runs, I started this one with next to zero enthusiasm but it got a bit easier as it went on. It was hotter than I'd hoped it would be that early, but I finished feeling kinda-sorta 60-40 okay. (No knee troubles, which, let's be honest, is the main thing these days.)

    For the bachelorette party, we started at Painting With a Twist (where you bring your own booze & drink while you paint), & then had a pole dancing class.


Sisters



It turns out pole dancing is shockingly fun!


The woman who looks like she knows what she's doing was the teacher.

Friday 10/14: 15 long 10 easy.

    Originally my plan had been to use the half marathon on Sunday for my 15 mile cut-back "long" run. (It's hilarious to me at this point in marathon training that 15 miles ever qualifies as "long." I feel like at this point I don't even have to be *conscious* to jog 15 easy miles.)

    But, that was before I realized that Friday's scheduled tempo run was 14 miles with 10 at goal marathon pace. Since all my Texas running besides the race would have to be done on a treadmill, I decided I'd rather zone out on a treadmill for 2+ hours than run 10 race pace miles on one, so I swapped the days, intending to do 15 easy on Friday and the 14 with 10 at race pace on Sunday. But it turned out I didn't really have the time for that on Friday, so I just did what I could & pushed the rest to Saturday.


The carrot: Delicious post-dinner cocktails at Proper in Fort Worth.

Saturday 10/15: 7.7 easy.

    I'd been hoping to do just a quick 3-4 easy shakeout on Saturday, but running out of time the day before meant those leftover miles got pushed over. Part of me wondered if maybe I should have just let them go & spent the extra 40-50 minutes off my feet before my big workout Sunday, but what's done is done.


Rehearsal dinner Saturday evening

Sunday 10/16: 1 warm up + 13.1 race + .9 treadmill = 10 tempo-ish/15 total + WEDDING!!!!


    I'll write more about this [***update race report here***] but let's just say those race pace miles did not exactly go as planned, but under the circumstances I wasn't terribly surprised. Essentially I ended up filing this day and really the entire week under "Eh, you worked hard and got the miles in, and it was what it was." So, I'm more or less at peace with it.

Next Sunday is my last tune-up race before CIM--Folsom Blues Breakout Half in Folsom. I'd like a nice fast race, obviously, but mainly I'm just hoping it goes better than Oakland Half did before Eugene!

* * *

CIM 2016 Week 1 of 18 - It's On

CIM 2016 Week 2 of 18 - Escape From NY (Barely)

CIM 2016 Week 3 of 18 - A Discount Code to Share (+ back on Strava!)

CIM 2016 Week 4 of 18 - 18/day, 47.5/week, 205.5/month.

CIM 2016 Week 5 of 18 - That cutback feeling

CIM 2016 Week 6 of 18 - french toast, trail shoes, & a little race fatigue

CIM 2016 Week 7 of 18 - Big week & feelin' fine!

CIM 2016 Week 8 of 18 - Knee Troubles :(

CIM 2016 Week 9 of 18 - Improvement on the knee front!

CIM 2016 Week 10 of 18 - Train kept a-rollin' (+ free shoes!)