Monday, May 31, 2010


Well, May is over - not a terribly exciting month in my running life, but that's kind of to be expected coming down from Boston near the end of April.  Considering I've been pretty lax about number of runs per week/distance/whatever, the numbers are pretty decent for a base building month.

Total Miles: 146.5
Races: 2 [5K & 12K]
Workouts: 0! haha
Longest run distance: 10.6 miles
Weekly Mileage Range: 30.7-36.4

Kiiinda lazy indeed. But I really enjoyed hopping in a couple of random races and seeing what happened - the 5K is definitely a good distance for that.  I'm actually thinking about another one at the end of June - the Heartbreak Hill 5K - mainly because it's at BC, which is, you know, RIGHT by my apartment!  Though running up Heartbreak at 5K pace doesn't exactly sound pleasant, but whatever, we shall see.  I think my lazy time is about to come to an end though, as I'm working up a new marathon training plan that will most likely officially start in July, and I'm hoping to get my base up to a little higher place before then, and maybe start incorporating some light tempo work and hills back into my life.  As I briefly mentioned in my last post, I've also decided for realsies that I'm going to join Greater Boston Track Club!  I think it will be inspiring AND a great training stimulus to be at workouts with such fast ladies, and it sounds like there's a group that is like the "C" group that has goals more similar to mine - so that's fantastic too!  And the singlets are really awesome and I want one....there, I said it. :)

I'm getting back in the swing of the Sunday long run and yesterday I went for a lovely 10 miler down Beacon Street, around the Public Garden and Boston Common and back. It was just....pleasant is really the only word I can think of to describe it.  I sadly may have destroyed my ipod for good on a glorious run in a torrential downpour on Saturday [I was running to work, it was drizzling when I started...aaaand then 15 minutes later it was like a monsoon...I tried to wrap the ipod in a random piece I tore off a garbage bag by Jamaica Pond but alas...I think it's donezillas] and I wasn't really looking forward to doing this "long" run without it, but it turned out to be SO nice. I am working on hitting an EASY pace especially on long runs, and that was the goal on this one - if I came in under 8:00 pace I was going to be grumpy with myself.  So my goal was to run by feel, and if I was breathing hard or my legs were twinging at all, I was probably going too fast.  The result - 8:13 pace!  Pretty much ideal for LSD.  I was really pleased with that, and since I ran in the cooler temperatures after 7 pm, I was only sliiiightly dehydrated by the end.  Speaking of hot weather I had a bunch of friends from my track club in Wisconsin that raced at the Madison half marathon yesterday - it was CRAZY hot and humid and they actually ended up cancelling the full marathon at about the 4 hour mark because the conditions were getting dangerous.  So major props to them for some awesome times & races despite pretty awful conditions...I know for a fact I would crash and burn in a situation like that.

Hmm, well I might not be around this blog as much in June [not that I'm really ever around SUPER often but you know what I mean] because starting tomorrow I will be involved in what I'm pretty sure is going to be Gross Anatomy Hell Month...aka, the beginning of PT school. What should be a semester class in 1 month....exams EVERY Monday....4 1/2 hours of class every day...oh yes, this will be a blast and a half.  I shouldn't be whining because I am excited about starting PT school, truly, but talk about diving right into the deep end.  So if I start suddenly speaking only in muscle'll know why. :)

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Bedford 12K and 3 Things Thursday!

Sooo I raced again last weekend!  Kind of on a whim [when was the last time I signed up for a race day-of?], and despite some knee and Achilles issues that had been bothering me all week, I decided to head up to Bedford, NH with my running buddy Kelly for the Bedford Rotary Memorial 12K. Hello, checking another state off the list AND a new distance? Yes, count me in, even if the race pretty much served as a rude awakening as to the fact that as it turns out you actually DO have to run more than 30 miles a week to succeed at longer races - who would have thought? Hah. 

I was up at 5:30 and out the door in 20 minutes, headed down to Brighton Center where I was supposed to catch a 6:11 bus to Watertown Yard where I was going to meet Kelly....except that bus just decided not to come.  Neither did the one that was supposed to come at 6:20.  Major transportation FAIL!! I also saw a bus blow right by a lady standing at the bus stop on the opposite side of the street, so apparently the drivers of the 57 line were just not on their A game on Saturday morning.  I wound up successfully meeting Kelly and we drove out to Bedford.  Exciting times for me since I have never in my life been to NH!  Haha yes so it was pretty thrilling...the town was gorgeous and the high school track was a sight to behold - nicer for sure than plenty of college tracks I've seen [ahem, Ripon...haha]  Registration was a breeze, and I was OK with not getting a shirt after seeing the extra large size/hilariously awful eagle design on the front.  

I never really got nervous or entirely processed the fact that I was racing I guess.  Kelly and I went off on a 20 minute warmup and I was feeling kind of crappy, but I was really only mildly concerned.  We got back near the starting area and met up with a whole bunch of GBTC women [who are all fantastic, nice, and FAST as hell...and I think I've finally been convinced to join the club for real, yay].  The start was kind of awkward, there was really no line on the ground or cones or anything as far as I could tell - everyone was just kind of in a big blob, then the gun went off, and we were running.  There was no chip mat at the beginning either, so I had no idea when to start my watch - my guess is 5-10 seconds went by before I went over the "real" start haha.  The start was a pretty big downhill and being me, I went out way faster than was smart for my current fitness and the distance.  My first mile was 6:45 give or take and clearly, I wasn't holding on to that since I'd run a slower average pace for less than half the distance the week before.  And yet I pretty much decided to disregard the fact that I really, really wasn't in shape to go out for a PR, and that I'd run 7.5 miles or more like...TWICE in the past month and a half since Boston...nope, just gonna go for it.  So mile 2 was 7:04, but the problems were already starting.  The course was gorgeous, but the elevation profile posted on the website is also VERY deceiving.  It makes it look basically flat, with one big hill at mile 3 or 4....ummm...that's a giant lie.  Literally, the entire course was rolling hills - not huge hills or anything, but just relentless hills that beat my lazy, reservoir running legs to a pulp. 

Mile 3 was 7:23 or so [you can tell this was an on-the-fly race when I don't even have my splits written down anywhere haha] and that was pretty much the end for me.  I was totally donezillas.  Which was kind of unfortunate because 4.5 miles is a decent way to try to run fast when you kind of blew all of your energy before even the halfway point haha.  The hills were killing me and my legs were shot.  It was really nice in a way though - since this was a 100% no pressure race situation, I didn't really worry about it too much.  It wasn't FUN struggling the last half of the race, and I definitely spent a lot of time wishing it was over, but it wasn't like a feeling of "oh my God, I suck".  Mile 4 was 7:45, mile 5 7:58, yikes.  Right around the 5 mile mark a GBTC woman [confusingly, also named Kelly] came up on me and we ran together for a bit.  She passed me soon after but I tried to at least keep her in my sights - I think she ended up finishing like a minute ahead of me, and I'm confident if I was actually in shape we could have run together for sure. 

More and more hills, it pretty much seemed like the race was never going to end.  12K is kind of a weird distance - I'm probably biased because I went into it not fit for a race of that distance, but it just seemed SO much longer than a 10K. Mile 6 - 7:42....are we done yet? Mile 7 was 8:10ish [clearly I had kind of given up at this point....bad bad Audrey]...but at least now I knew that there was about half a mile to go, and about 400 meters of that were going to be run on the gorgeous, fabulous, track.  As soon as I stepped on the track I was filled with glee - literally, I have not set foot on a track since October.  That's the longest I've gone in 8 years without feeling the bounce of rubber under my running shoes. I got excited and actually managed an acceptable kick.  My finish time was 56:28 - 7:35 pace.  There were adorable little kids handing out Otter Pops at the finish - best. idea. EVER!  

So not an overly thrilling race, but a good experience nonetheless. I can't say I was super jacked about my time, but I do think that I couldn't have expected much more given that I haven't been running any distance that would put me in good shape for anything over maybe 5K since Boston.  I think a small part of me thought that since I ran a solid 5K last weekend, I could run a solid 12K this weekend...but 3.1 miles is MUCH different than 7.5 miles. I think it was a good thing though - definitely a good kick in the butt like...okay, naptime's over...time to get back to racing shape.

OK - that was probably the shortest race report you've ever read on Run Like A Llama! I think I procrastinated so long on writing it because really I didn't have too much to say about the race - I am not in shape really to be "racing" but it was a fun time and I enjoyed it as a workout anyway. :) Now onto the real 3 things of 3 things Thursday. :)

1.  The Bedford 12K was my last race as a 22 year old...this past Tuesday I turned the big 2-3!  Unfortunately I spent a lot of my birthday working, but afterward the BF and I went to the aquarium, strolled by the ocean, and grabbed appetizers and drinks in the North End.   After a somewhat ridiculous experience trying to take the bus to the restaurant we were going to go to for dinner [long story short: restaurant closed at 10, got on the bus at 8:30, somehow missed the stop/stop wasn't announced, ended up at a random orange line station nowhere near the restaurant at 9:30...] we decided to just stick to what we know best and have dinner at Publick House, followed by a couple more drinks at American Craft. [Yes, I live within walking distance of not one, but two excellent beer bars...feel free to be jealous].  Delicious food, fantastic beer, and of course the best company ever - it was a wonderful evening. :)

2.  Speaking of birthdays, it's kind of related to my next thing.  I got a fun birthday package from my mom which included not only orange Nike Tempo shorts [the best running shorts ever]....but the WHOLE Boston photo CD!  I was super surprised - I kind of wanted the photo CD since I would rather have the pictures on my computer anyway, but the prices were so crazy I would never have asked. But my mom is amazing and decided to get it for me - definitely a fantastic memento of my first Boston!  Sooo now that I have them all for my own I can share some of them with you :)

Finish Line!  I am shocked - SHOCKED - that I am actually smiling.  That smile says THANK GOD it's over

This one really makes me laugh...what the HELL am I doing with my face? It's funny because I vaguely remember being at this point in the race [somewhere on the endless expanse of Beacon Street] and MAKING this face - scrunching my mouth up and just trying to fight through the pain.  It cracks me up that it was actually captured on film.
Home stretch - note the classic head tilt/grimace look that appears when I'm literally on the verge of collapse :P

15K mark - I was already struggling by this point, and I attempted to make myself look strong/happy for the camera.  Did it work?

This picture kind of makes me laugh as well, because I spent the whole race running on the right side of the road except for like ONE mile at the end.  I think I veered over there because someone was handing out fruit punch Gatorade, which sounded way better than lemon lime at that point. I also was trying to hide because I was dying...don't ask me how moving to the other side of the road accomplishes that haha

I think this one is my favorite.  Making the turn from Hereford onto Boyleston, and I can SEE THE FINISH!

There are a bunch more pictures besides those, but those are just a few highlights.  Very fun & exciting birthday present!

3.  Remember how I haven't really been doing anything worthwhile with my life since moving to Boston? Well my time of rest & relaxation is almost over, because Monday I am starting the 3 year journey towards becoming a doctor of physical therapy!  I am kind of nerdily excited to go back to school, although I'm sure there are going to be points where I just regret the whole thing.  It's weird starting at a school that's NOT Madison too, but it's good to be stepping out of my comfort zone, and obviously I already have an advantage having lived here for the better part of this year - no getting lost in a new city for me!  Mostly I'm just really excited to be starting towards an actual career, as opposed to just a random job.  So basically...exciting times in general. :) 

Monday, May 17, 2010

Short but sweet: Mystic River Herring Run Race Report

5K* run - 21:17 [6:51/mile]
22/282 OA, 4/150 F, 1/58 AG (minus top 2 women)
*long course - see below

As we all know I've been kind of sucked into the siren song of the marathon for the majority of the past year, and have really been neglecting other races in general, but especially my good friend the 5K.  I realized recently that my last 5K race was a YEAR ago and given that my birthday is next week, I figured I had to run at least one 5K at the age of 22...and so I found the Herring Run.  I won't lie, a small part of my reason for doing this particular race (besides the fact that it was cheap and actually accessible by T - it's harder to find a race that meets those criteria than you would think) was that I looked at the results from years past and got the impression that I would actually have a chance to race for place/an AG award - which I've discovered is an incredible rarity in the Boston area.  In Wisconsin virtually every road race I ran (including my first ever 5K, where I ran a high 28 minute time) I was in the age group awards - generally second or 3rd, occasionally first. Mainly because the pool of runners in Wisconsin simply isn't as big, and the really good, younger runners that do exist there aren't running the Shamrock Shuffle, generally. Well then I moved to Boston and found the 'magic' of not only 10 year age groups (instead of 5 year) and a slew of speedy, speedy club runners, and I knew my chances of winning anything ever again were out the window for the forseeable future unless I got a whole lot faster.  So finding a race where I actually had an opportunity to compete for place versus time was definitely a draw for me.

OK well now that I've bored you all with my reasons for running the race, let's talk about the actual race shall we? So first off I'm even more thrilled with this performance than I would have been, since I've discovered in browsing the blog-o-sphere today that the consensus via time comparisons and Garmins was that the course was long - most definitely a 3.2 mile race. I'm not overly surprised since it was a VERY low key race - no chips, mile markers were pieces of paper taped to cones, start line was just 2 cones on the path, etc - but with such a low key race I worried more about the course being short since that kind of negates the goodness of a good time.  So I'm very glad to hear that the race was not only a) not short but b) long. Kind of unfortunate because take off that extra .1 and it puts me at like a 20:30, but I guess I will just have to do that on an accurate course, hmm?

Anyway I woke up race morning and was not really all gung ho about going to race.  I just sort of threw on whatever clothes I could find and wound up wearing my high school track singlet and some random spandex shorts, just another testament to the fact that I was super relaxed about this race and really wasn't thinking about racing at all.  Got on the T, got downtown, switched to the orange line, waited forever, got on the train, got off at Wellington.  It took me a bit to get my bearings but I got over to the race site without too much hassle. I picked up my number and started scoping out the competition.  Girl in the plaid shorts, keep an eye on her, ooh, that red haired chick looks fast...etc. As I said it was kind of weird actually thinking about people to beat instead of just focusing on a specific time, and that was nice - actually being able to RACE other people.  I went off to warm up for a little bit and my knee was acting kind of funny - I think I must have twisted it at work or something - but it calmed down and shortly after I headed down to the start for lack of anything better to do.

We lined up and I took stock of the women around me.  There were about 8 of us in the front 3 rows or so and I figured I wanted to be ideally in the top half of that.  The whistle blew and we were off - immediately, 6 of said women were out in front of me.  Crap! Am I running fast enough? How fast am I running? How do I run a 5K again? I literally didn't know what was going on haha.  Sooo I did the only thing I knew how to do - pick a girl, reel her in, pass her.  I closed on grey tank top girl fast, then came on to coral combo and Boston 2000 shirt running together.  Once I got past those two, I knew I was in 4th or 5th position - plaid shorts was up ahead but she was already too far away for me to make a play at passing her. So the new goal was to hold position.  I came through mile 1 in 6:28 and pretty much immediately knew I was getting a road PR today.  My biggest concern had really been that I wasn't going to remember how to run fast and go through the first mile in like 7:15.  Clearly that wasn't going to be a problem, though I knew there was no way in hell I was holding on to 6:28.  Maintain, maintain, maintain.  I felt kind of sick to my stomach, but breathing and legs were okay.  The course was basically flat, a couple little rises and one point where we had to go up and over a bridge, but nothing major.  It was really pretty, running through parks and paths near the Mystic River, lots of shade, really nice stuff.

Near the 2 mile, there was a turnaround where you could see the leaders coming around the bend.  I made the turn, passing a guy in the process, and looked back to assess the competition situation.  Coral outfit was maybe 15 seconds back, with Boston shirt about 5 back from her.  OK....they are probably in as much pain as you are....hold on, one more mile.  A guy near the turn called out "4th woman" to me - so there it was, I was exactly where I thought/wanted to be, now I just needed to stay there. Mile 2 was 6:59 [given that the race was long I'm not 100% sure if all the mile splits are exactly accurate but whatever, we'll go with it] and I was like gaaah, if you go over 7 you're not going to be happy, it's almost over.  I had forgotten the suffering that is the last mile of a 5K.  But at the same time my mind is like - hello? One mile? That's like...nothing.  There was a pack of 3 men directly in front of me and I tried to hang onto them.  I was feeling more and more like vomming on the side of the path and ohh man I wanted this to be over.  We got up onto the bridge and the slight little rise felt like a mountain, ahh, but downhill on the other side.  I passed a man going over and now I finally knew where we were, maybe 1000 to go.  I willed myself to pick it up but my legs weren't having it, okay, hold pace it is.  I couldn't hear footsteps or breathing or anything behind me, so I was pretty confident I was clear of the duo I'd been trying to stay ahead of.  We passed the "3 mile" - 6:58, woo hoo, I didn't slow down!!! Down to the finish line, trying to kick, feeling like it had better be over soon or I'm going to puke on someone. And finally...I was coming to the finish, I saw 21:10 on the clock, knew this was going to be a road PR for sure, slammed my watch, DONE!  I had 21:15 on my watch, 21:17 was the official - with no chip timing what are ya gonna do? I congratulated the 3rd place woman who was coming out of the chute on the other side, then on my way out high fived 5th place (coral) and 6th (Boston). I guess the finishing order was pretty much determined after half a mile haha.

I was incredibly thirsty, and my stomach still wasn't happy, but when I was offered chili I took it for some reason.  Seriously, these Massachusetts races win at life in terms of post-race food. This was the smallest race I've been to in awhile, and there was a full spread of fruit, granola bars, vitamin water, coffee, chili, cookies, bagels...fantastic.  The chili was actually really delicious although it seemed kind of strange to be eating it at 9:30 in the morning.  I sort of meandered around for awhile, cheering for the incoming runners, eating some's sort of weird racing alone because you don't really have anyone to talk to while you're waiting around for things. That's fine by me when I'm being hardcore and really focusing on the race but sometimes you just need someone to chatter and be ridiculous with.  I was also RIDICULOUSLY tired...I actually considered going and taking a nap in the grass while waiting for awards buuut I didn't.  Finally it was awards time - the winning girl looked like she was in high school and ran 19 high, 2nd place was 20:08 or so, 3rd was 20:20.  Since the top 3 overall go out of the running for AG awards, I got to be AG champ! Yippee!! No medals, but something even better - a table full of gift cards to pick from! [and propane tanks and raspberry].  So I am excited about my $50 gift card to a pizza place in the North End, and I think the BF is too [he was like, you should win races more often! haha]

Overall, I am EXTREMELY pleased with this race.  Between taper, Boston, and recovery, I haven't done any form of speedwork in 6 weeks, and my highest mileage week in the month since Boston has been 30, so to come out and run a road PR [which would have been an even bigger PR had the course not been long] is a pretty sweet deal.  What is crazy to me is that assuming that the course WAS long, so assuming I actually ran 20:30-20:40 for the actual distance of 3.1 miles...that makes me think that if I actually did some speedwork I could ACTUALLY PR in the 5K this summer...not just a road PR, but an honest to goodness fastest time I've ever run on a track or a road or a golf course or whatever PR.  I was talking with the BF and he said "well, I guess you were wrong, I guess marathon training didn't make you slower after all".  I was thinking about it and I think that marathon training didn't make me faster, but it didn't make me slower either - so that's a gain of zero. BUT - it made me STRONGER - and that really made the difference.

So a fantastic race, gorgeous day, road PR, AG win....what more could I want? Let's just say I'm definitely going to need to race more this summer...possibly as early as next weekend [yes, I may have been talked into a 12K in New Hampshire. More details soon! :)]

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Competition, discovery, joy

So I had an incredible weekend of running.  Not in the sense of "oh HELL yes I nailed that workout/race", but I had 3 runs in a row that were all like gifts given to me to remind me of how much I love running. It's easy for me to get caught up in times and races and analysis, but when it all comes down to it I wouldn't be a runner if I didn't love the sport...and sometimes that sport gives back when you least expect it.  3 days, 3 reasons to love running...

Friday - Competition
Most of my run Friday wasn't great - it was hot and I was dehydrated and my legs felt like sandbags.  I had set out on the run with the intention of purposely taking it EASY, only to find that on this particular day "easy" felt remarkably difficult.  So I slogged around the reservoir and finally, happily, made the turn onto Beacon Street towards home.  I was briefly caught at a stoplight with a girl wearing blue Asics - who I have weirdly seen on the train and out running multiple times in the last two weeks.  Well - when I heard her footsteps behind me shortly after crossing the street, something just clicked - I was not going to let this girl pass me! Probably unnecessary on an easy run, but I hadn't felt that competitive spark in so long that I just had to roll with it.  I picked up the pace just slightly and focused on running strong, and strangely enough once I started thinking to myself "I am strong and I will not let this girl pass me", I FELT strong.  The sandbag feeling evaporated and I coasted down the street with ease.  And beat the girl to my turn onto Washington. In the back of my mind I was laughing at myself - like, oookay crazy, what was the point of THAT?  But it was a gleeful sort of laughter.  Because why not? Why not beat the girl down Beacon Street or pass the guy on the reservoir who is clearly not cool with a girl being faster than him, or try to lead a set of intervals at a track workout?  I love to compete, that's why.  And while I realize that no one wins a workout, if you can't race every weekend you have to find other ways to keep that competitive spark alive. As I've said before, I don't run to not be fat or because it's good for my health [wonderful benefits, yes, but not the point] - I run to be fast, to compete, to win.  So remembering that reason in the middle of a stupid, hot, pointless run was a good thing indeed.

Saturday - Discovery
Saturday I worked a double and had planned on running to work until the clouds opened up and I decided that if I was going to spend 13 hours of my day working with dogs, I sure as hell wasn't going to do it soaking wet.  So I just had to hope that I would finish up shift #1 early enough to get in a run before shift #2 [in the world of bathing dogs, the end time is different every day - it all depends on how many, how hairy, and how cooperative. Several uncooperative huskies means you are in for a very long day.]  Thankfully my prayers were answered and at 3:30 I headed out with one goal in mind: trails.  I knew there was an "urban wild" near my work that I had run past several times but never thought to go in, mainly because during marathon training knowing exact miles and times and paces was not something I would ever be willing to give up.  But I'm not in marathon training right now and I wanted to run in the woods, damnit.  So off I went. And oh my was absolutely heaven. There were paths covered in pine needles...hills and valleys and random side trails splitting off every which way....a stream...a waterfall...a other words, it was amazing.

In Once A Runner [or maybe it's Again To Carthage] Cassidy thinks something like "doing this thing you occasionally come to a rare overlook".  I ran up this hill and came to the top of this ridge overlooking this pond - the water was perfectly still, the sky a hazy gray reflecting on the surface, a couple of ducks calmly cruising nearby - this random oasis in the middle of a forest in the middle of the city.  And I just felt so appreciative of the beauty and the fact that doing this thing I love could bring me to an incredible place like this.  And for once I couldn't care less about the time or the pace, I was just enjoying the freedom of running through the forest, scampering around rocks, flying down hills, leaping fallen was phenomenal.  I returned to work in an absolutely giddy mood as my co-workers looked at my damp, sweaty, muddy self in awe. ["Are you...serious? You just worked all morning, then went on like, a 10 mile jog, and now you're coming back to work again? How do you do that??" - direct quote from a groomer lol] And I felt like I had this wonderful secret place that only I knew about, that I had DISCOVERED!  And I had no clue how far/fast I had run and I didn't care, and it was amazing.  I always like taking the time to stop and look at interesting/pretty things I have the opportunity to see while running - sunset at the reservoir, cool buildings/houses, whatever - but in the middle of the city finding this oasis of trails! forests! nature! was pretty much a magical experience.

Sunday - Joy
And finally we reach the coup de grace of the weekend, my Sunday run.  Which was just a beautiful experience [and gosh, are you guys sick of my blathering over 3 fairly run of the mill runs yet? Lol] Anyway I wasn't really that excited about the run, I'd been kind of a bum all day, but I headed out anyway. It was pretty cool actually and windy, so in my mind basically perfect for a run.  I was headed to to my usual reservoir loop but instead kept heading straight on, out onto the Newton Hills.  Ahh, those Newton Hills.  Things look entirely different when the crowds are gone, the runners are gone, the Gatorade stations and music and signs are gone, and it's just you and the darkness and the road. And for me going back there after the disaster that was my last experience on those hills - well, it was about time I exorcised those demons.  Anyway, let's just say the magic fairy dust was back...because this run was absolute, pure, joy.  I felt like I was flying. And the whole time I was thinking to myself - yes, THIS is what it's supposed to feel like. It may not have felt this way on race day, but it can feel this way. And it will again.  I cruised up Heartbreak with nothing weighing me down, nothing holding me back, all of the memories of the pain and struggle replaced with joy.  No one saw me crest the top of the hill and throw a victory fist into the air. But it was, in its own small way, a victory.  And maybe sometimes that's the way it's meant to be - that those purest, most perfect moments of running aren't on the racecourse with fans cheering, thousands of other runners at your side.  They are the moments when it is just you, transcending a bad race, a bad day at work, all of the problems that weigh on your mind - you break free. All that's left is the pure, wonderful joy of running.

I know that in these descriptions, I tend to make running out to be so much more than is necessary - like it's some kind of amazing spiritual experience or something.  But for me, sometimes, it truly is.  Running gives me something that I find nowhere else in my life, something I can hardly explain.  And runs like these just serve as a reminder of the reasons why.  And no matter how many tough races I endure, whatever else life throws my way....if I go back to the road, I'll never forget those reasons.

And on a final non-philosophical rambling note, I'm racing a 5K this Sunday!! What do you get when you cross a hard marathon and a month of lazy recovery runs with a 5K where I might have a shot at running for some hardware [depending on who shows up this year, of course]?  Guess we'll find out soon enough...=)

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Boston Analysis: What went wrong/right

OK, I know you all are probably sick to death of hearing about Boston from me. But what's the saying - that like, in a relationship that breaks up it takes a week for every year you were together to get over it? Or something to that effect? Well I think it's the same thing in running.  A 5K is like that stupid fling you had where it clearly was just for fun and you can find another guy the next week. [uh..not that I've ever been in that situation haha]. You can race it every week if you want, and while it definitely takes a certain type of effort to train for a a good 5K, chances are if you're in good base shape to start and tack on a few weeks of speed and sharpening, you'll be ready to go.  A marathon is different.  A marathon is like a long, tumultuous relationship that has its ups and downs but the people in it are truly in love...and then when it ends, they're left picking up the pieces for a good long while afterward. You invest a lot more in every aspect of the training and the race, just the straight up time-commitment to running is longer, and you can't just race a marathon every weekend. [unless you are one of those people who does/can...I am not]

So anyway, I am still kind of trying to wrap my mind around the race. This isn't a post to whine about my time or how bad the race was - it is what it is and I know that under the circumstances I did damn well and I'm too far out to still be wallowing in my sorrows about a race that didn't live up to my expectations.  No, this is more of an analysis trying to figure out WHY the circumstances were...well...the circumstances. Obviously all you can really do with training and racing is try different things and just see what happens.  So here are my thoughts on what I did wrong and what I did right.

Thing I Did Right: Training Plan [in general]
I really don't think my training was the problem here. I know I was in the best shape of my life going into Boston as evidenced by my huge HM PR just 4 weeks out from the race. I thought the Hudson program was a great mix of things - his philosophy is to keep up ALL aspects of fitness throughout all aspects of training, so there's always plenty of different workouts to keep things interesting. I pretty much followed his level 2 marathon program to a T this past time, his philosophy is actually that at some point you are kind of able to coach yourself so I am thinking I might tweak things a little more this time around - but I do like the general makeup of his program.

Thing I Did Wrong: Race Pace Training
When I look back at my log, I see almost zero runs done at between 7:55-8:05 pace.  That right there is/was my GMP.  I think in my mind I figured that if I was running FASTER than that all the time, then that should be easy, right? But I think knowing how to run a pace requires a certain amount of time spent running AT that pace, and I think more GMP work will definitely be key in my future training...which leads me to...

Thing I Did Wrong: Run Too Fast, All The Time
Someone needs to pound it through my head that my easy days need to be EASY. Seriously.  There are zero reasons for running marathon/GMP or faster on a long run [unless there's specifically a segment that's supposed to be done at that pace for the sake of a workout].  This especially applies to long runs; I think my super fast 23 miler 3 weeks before the race might have completely done me in. I am a speedster at heart and it's hard for me to see slow paces...but there is a time and a place for everything, and I am not absorbing my hard training as well as I could be when I'm running too hard on my easy/recovery runs.

Thing That I Kind of Did Wrong: Stomach Issues
I followed the exact same plan for nutrition during the race as Baystate - or so I thought.  But there were 2 key differences that I think may have messed up my stomach.  One was the caffienated Gu Chomps I ate before the race.  This sounds like such a small, stupid thing, but I was not planning on having any caffeine until my Gu at mile 6.  Combined with the nerves, I think that really started my stomach off on the wrong foot.  Another issue was hydration - I think that I did a relatively good job of staying hydrated, but it actually became a problem because my stomach just couldn't handle the fluids.  This really is partially my fault because I didn't TRAIN with fuel - I had one Gu and some water on each of my 22-23 mile runs...I think maybe some fruit snacks on my 20 miler...bottom line, need to get my stomach used to what I'm going to be taking in during the race.

Thing That I Have No Idea How To Fix: Peaking Too Early
I said this in my last post, but I think it's pretty much beyond doubt that I peaked somewhere in late March/early April. I was flying through workouts and long runs and ran a great race...and then something was different.  I will confess that even in the early stages of taper my legs didn't feel right. Not really sure how to fix this one.

Thing I Might Change: Taper
I think the last week of my taper was a little too drastic.  I did it because it was the same thing I did before Baystate, but what worked for me when I was running a lot fewer miles and nearly killed myself to hit 60 is not the same as what works when I was consistently running high 50s-low 60s for like 8-10 weeks straight. I still feel like a relatively drastic taper is my style, but maybe 3-4 milers instead of 1-2 next time around.

Thing I Did Wrong: Psyching Myself Out
I have an issue with choking. There's a quote: "Big races which are anticipated almost to the point of dread are where great things can be accomplished".  Well, for me, big races which have been anticipated almost to the point of dread are where I will inevitably crash and burn, fall apart, or just fail. At Baystate I was so proud of myself for actually running the race I wanted, when I wanted - and you know why? I had zero expectations for that race - it's your first marathon, finish.  Finish under 4 hours, ideally. I think I started thinking about a BQ around mile 14. It was always there in the back of my mind but I never really made it a big deal.  Same thing with the New Bedford Half - I kind of vaguely knew I wanted to break 1:40 but it was just a tune up race, and hey, I like racing, why not?  And look what happens -a  4 minute PR.  And then we have Boston. And we have my training going amazingly, and suddenly I'm looking at wanting to run 3:30.  And as soon as it became clear that that wasn't happening [early, EARLY in the race] - I completely fell apart mentally.  I won't deny that there are so many mental games that go on with the marathon and I just absolutely didn't have it.  If I had said "hey, it's Boston, just enjoy it" or even "hey, just shoot for a PR, sub-3:39"...I would have gone out less ridiculously, and likely could have ended up with a better time.  I did everything that everyone says NOT to do in this race because I was so stubbornly set on this time goal. The mental game is definitely something I need to work on especially in the longer distances, and I definitely thing it came back to bite me in the ass at Boston.  Yes, I want to set high but realistic goals for myself, but completely screwing myself up mentally over them is really not going to help me have the race of my dreams. there are my thoughts. In all seriousness, I had a good experience at Boston.  I'm thankful that there were moments in the race - the thrill of walking to the start like, random drunk men dressed up as women, the giant window at 7.8 with the sign that said "check your form", high fiving little kids, Wellesley, the spectacular spectators who always seemed to have a cup of non-lemonlime Gatorade or a FREEZY POP when I needed it most, making that turn onto Boylston - where I was able to think how amazing that it was that this was The Boston Marathon.  I think I just regret that my first experience there was not the magical one that I was hoping for [apparently, the 26,000 other people did steal my "magical fairy dust" that I experienced so many times out on the course alone] and that I wasn't able to simply ENJOY the experience as much as I wanted.  I was so worried about racing, then so in pain, and so frustrated about having 'failed', that I was caught up in my own mind and body to get everything out of it that I wanted.  You know what's lucky though? I live half a mile off the marathon course.  I run on at least part of it almost every single day.  And next year and the year after, somehow or another, I will hopefully make that trek from Hopkinton to Boston once again - learning from all of the mistakes of my first time and running the race I know I can.

This is my last word on Boston 2010.  As you might be able to tell I've been sitting on this post for awhile, I just haven't had the words. It's been long enough since the 'breakup' that I can look back and smile at the good times - the 23 mile run in a pouring, wind whipping rainstorm, the mile repeats at faster than I thought possible, the best half marathon race of my life, and so many incredible runs in between - and forget about the bad.  It's time to get back out there and start anew - remembering what's brought me to this point and believing - don't stop believin' :) -  that I can only go further from here.

Monday, May 03, 2010

April Recap and What's Next?

It feels like it's been a really long time since I've posted, and I guess it kind of has - truthfully I haven't had much to say.  I have been running a decent amount since Boston, but nothing really exciting - a whole bunch of 4.5-6 mile runs with one 7.5 miler yesterday, as I decided I needed to get back into the pattern of a Sunday "long" run. But I figured doing an April training recap was as good of a reason as any to post!

April's mileage was way down from March & February, mostly due to the fact that it pretty much went through the cycle of taper...race...recover...start slow.  Still, I wound up with 156.5 miles, which I'd say is fairly respectable.  The stats:
April 2010
Total miles: 156.5
Days off: 7
Races: 1
Workouts: 3

I've already been trying to peruse my training to figure out what things I want to change when I start my next marathon training cycle which will begin in July...remember when I said that Boston was going to be my last marathon for awhile? That was a huge lie.  I think it's because the marathon is now my vendetta race, the one I KNOW I'm capable of more in and just haven't been able to show it yet.  The 5K? Sad as it sounds, I got my sub-20 and that was really all I ever could have asked for.  I will happily race 5Ks until the end of time, but something tells me that without a track season, actually training specifically for them isn't going to be a big priority for me.  The 10K in my opinion is just a means to an end to other races...again, it's a fun distance, but not something I could see myself being devoted to training for one peak race. Half marathons get a little trickier, since technically a half COULD in and of itself be a peak race [to be honest, I think I very well might have left my Boston race out on the New Bedford half course].  And now that I've run a solid half that I was actually trained for, I like the distance, I really do.  But I think the fact that I ran such a huge PR in the distance on my way somewhere else would make me less excited if the half itself was the end point.  When it all comes down to it, at the moment, the marathon is the only distance where I'm actually dissatisfied with my PR.  I think my 5K/10K/HM PRs are pretty reflective of my current status as a runner - of course I still want to improve them, but I'm thrilled with what they are even now.  The marathon though...I know I have more to give.  And my mileage-whore personality I don't think will be satisfied with anything less than the high mileage fun times that marathon training requires.

I learned a LOT from training for Boston and from actually following a plan - even though the end race wasn't what I wanted, I really can't say that there's much I'd change about my training. My fitness was high, my workouts were all fantastic.   I do believe that I peaked too early [anyone remember me RAVING about my 23 mile long run in the rain, and then the kickass half marathon race the weekend after? Yeah, I think that might have been my peak...] I'm not really sure what the remedy for that is.  I have been re-reading Hudson's book and he says the main reason for an early peak is too much race-pace running for too long - that that kind of running should really be limited to the 4 weeks of sharpening before the race.  That doesn't seem to be the culprit in my case though, since really my race pace workouts were limited to that time frame. Maybe I needed a less drastic taper...who knows. Running, especially marathon running, is one big grand experiment.

Anyway, the next couple months are going to be pretty much a maintenance phase.  No workouts, just base mileage hopefully staying in the high 30s-40s, and working my long run up to at least 12-13 miles or so. I am actually planning on jumping in a 5K in the next couple of weeks just for fun and because it's been forever since I've raced a 5K.  My current plan is the Mystic River Herring Run - celebrate the return of the herring! Haha.  It's funny, 2 weeks doesn't really seem like a long time post race, but it feels like it's been FOREVER. Like I hardly feel like Boston ever even happened.  So I am a little gung ho now to get out and go have a race that isn't a death march...I think a 5K is a good place to make that happen. :)

Yeah...this is a pretty boring post haha. Seriously, I am just not as interesting when I'm not in training. We did have an exciting water main burst here in Boston that has left the entire city without clean drinking water...actually, the stuff running through our pipes now is partially coming out of my favorite Chestnut Hill Reservoir, which might be a gorgeous place to run, but with all the fish, birds, and muskrats that hang out in there...probably not so awesome to drink.  Yesterday I did an easy 7.5 miles - longest run since the marathon - around the reservoir and it was weird seeing the spots where the water was bubbling and getting sucked out. Apparently things are supposed to be back to normal within 48 hours...I sure hope so!