Thursday, July 16, 2015

Marathon training begins, and a quick 5K race report

The transition from "not marathon training" to "marathon training" in the winter always happens so suddenly for me - I'm always training for Boston, so the timeline is the same, and the start of January = the start of marathon training. Done. Fall marathon training, on the other hand, tends to happen more gradually, and this training cycle is no exception. I've been racing a lot for fun this summer, which I think has been great in terms of forcing me to run hard once in awhile, but my weekly mileage hasn't exactly been stellar (an average of about 28 miles/week tends to be the comfy point that I revert to when out of marathon training season). But this week, when I added up my planned mileage and it came mighty close to 50, I realized - holy shit, I'm actually marathon training, AGAIN. Sadly, that means a lot less "racing for fun" type situations and a lot more of what passes for structured training in my book.  But before I reverted back to marathon training, I decided it would be fun to run a random 4th of July 5K. It had actually been 2 years since I raced a 5K (unless you count 5K's with my dog, which I don't. My 25 lb pup's 5K PR is 21:56 though, so it's at least a tempo run) and the last 5K I ran was an extremely ill fated 4th of July race which involved 85 degree temps with ridiculous humidity at the start, along with an extremely hilly course. Needless to say, I picked a different race this time around. Joy and I headed over to Lynnfield, picked up our amazing cotton shirts (another $20 race with an amazingly hideous cotton shirt? Perfect!), warmed up a little, and headed to the start. I immediately picked out a couple of women who looked fast, including one woman who would turn out to be a professional runner for Puma and who went on to run a 17 minute 5K...I mean, whoa. The national anthem was sung (kind of can't get away without that on July 4th) and...we were off!

I can sum up this race pretty briefly in stream of consciousness style:
Mile 1 - "OK, this is kind of hard, but it's not SO bad. There are only like 4 women in front of me, hard to complain about that. Gah, I wish I could pass this woman. I wish it wasn't so humid. 6:20. Hey, keep that up, and you can run a PR!"

Mile 2 - "SWEET BABY JESUS WHY ARE WE RUNNING UPHILL?! Why do I feel like I just jumped in a swimming pool? Why is my breathing SO LOUD? I am going to dump that cup of water on my head. This humidity is stupid. I still can't pass that damn woman. I hate 5K's." 6:49...alright, I'll take that.

Mile 3 - "OH GOD WHY DID I DO A 5K WHAT IS THIS? I sound like I am actively dying! This guy in front of me must be ready to murder me! That woman in the purple shirt is long gone. Whatever, she looked out of my age group anyway. WHY IS IT SO HUMID? I think I'm going to throw up. Why am I still running, up a hill no less?! Wait, is that a downhill. We must be almost to the finish. GO FASTER LEGS! 6:53.

My finish time was 20:44, which I believe is my 2nd best road 5K ever. Yup, ever. I was super OK with that. And I am VERY happy to report that my Garmin measured the course as 3.1 miles, on the dot...nice work, Lynnfield. I like you. I also wound up 1st in my age group, after you took out 1st place future Olympian woman. This cemented this summer as my most winning race season of all time, as I took home some sort of award in all 5 races that I ran! Being able to crack the age group placings really will never get old for me, especially when it comes with a decent performance. But man, 5K's? That is a whole different kind of pain. In a longer race you have all kinds of time to play around with pace and solve your problems. In a 5K? It's go out, try to hold on, and see how little you can die. And given the complete lack of speedwork of any sort in my life recently, I think the amount of death I died after going out in 6:20 really wasn't too bad at all. In fact, this race got me thinking that maybe if I wanted to train specifically for it, I could actually run a 5K PR one of these days.

Just livin' the dream

So now, back to the marathon training situation. I like to marathon train on a very 'general' plan - I plan out my long runs in advance and I have a general idea of the weekly mileage/days of running per week I want to shoot for, but other than that? It's kind of a free for all. I generally try to throw in something resembling a workout most weeks - a lot of times, I'll do the workout recommended by my club coaches, but I'll be the first to admit that that doesn't always happen. Sometimes, my legs just feel good and what was originally planned to be an easy run turns into a tempo. Sometimes I just have no desire to do a workout, and so I don't. It's a little bit haphazard and I'll admit that there are times that I wonder whether I couldn't be better if I had a little more structure to my training life, but this "the only thing planned is the long run" situation got me a 5 minute PR in craptastic weather in Boston a few months ago, so it can't be totally horrible. Every training cycle, I do add a couple of new things/goals into the mix to see if they work. For Boston, that was doing strength training 2x/week, which I hope to continue with throughout the summer. This cycle, I have a couple of goals in mind. The first is higher overall weekly mileage, which should be helped significantly by the fact that I really want to get in a midweek medium long run of 8-12 miles, everrrrry week. The other is that I live ~2 miles away from Fresh Pond, and every Saturday they host very informal races that are either 1 (2.5 miles) or 2 (5 miles) laps of the pond. I really have NO excuse for not going over there and doing some marathon pace running at least every other weekend.

So that's pretty much the situation here. My next race on the schedule is the Falmouth Road Race, which is kind of a big deal around these parts. After missing the deadline last year, I decided this year to apply to run for the Brain Injury Association of MA team (a cause that, as an outpatient physical therapist working mainly with people who have had a brain injury or stroke, is pretty near to my heart) and I got in! So, for the 2-3 people who read this blog, I will shamelessly plug my fundraising page: . Falmouth will also be an insta-PR for me, since it's a totally weird distance of 7 miles. New England tradition + instant PR..can't argue with that!

Friday, July 03, 2015

Lazy Lobster 10 Mile Race Report

Well, the Summer of Racing is almost over (racing a 4th of July 5K tomorrow) and true marathon training is about to begin again. I've certainly been taking my sweet time writing these race reports, so before I run my next race let me tell you about my last one...quite possibly my favorite race of the summer, the Lazy Lobster 10 Mile. We had picked this race 100% due to the name and the fact that it was fairly inexpensive (I think $40 for the 10 mile)...and so, like half of the Sundays before it, I headed down with Joy to another random New England town. It was the same crew as Newport, only THIS time we all actually got to run the race! Fancy that! It poured all the way to Wareham and was supposed to continue throughout the day, which I was fine with - hey, I'd take rain over just humidity ANY day!

The race was an extremely low key sort of affair - the type of race that starts at a local elementary school and doesn't have chip timing - and we got our race packets and put on Louie the Lazy Lobster (yes, there's a mascot) tattoos with no problem. Pretty much immediately on heading out for a warmup we were completely soaked. The rain actually felt great - it was a muggy, high 70s day - and I kept thinking 'I don't mind this at long as it keeps raining'. We made it back to the starting area where everyone was huddled under an awning, and after a few minutes the race got underway. The race was a fundraiser for MyTeam Triumph, which is a Team Hoyt style program where people with disabilities can participate in races with a guide using custom wheelchairs. Pretty cool program, and there were quite a few teams out despite the ridiculous weather! They headed off first and then it was time for the rest of the field. The 5 and 10 miler were starting at the same time, and I started scoping out the women around me who I would be running with (or not). Two of the faster looking girls up front were doing the 5 miler, and there was only 1 other woman doing the 10 mile lining up with us at the front. The horn sounds, and off we go!

After the dust of the initial 400 meters or so had settled, I found myself running in 3rd position, behind Joy and the woman in the sports bra who had been near the front at the start. I felt like I was running pretty comfortably, and my first mile hit at 6:55 which told me I had not gone out like an idiot! Great success! I wasn't feeling AWESOME but I wasn't feeling weird like last week either, so I guess that was a good sign. Somewhere after the first mile I passed Joy and was just bopping along when my freaking shoe came untied! I don't know if that's ever happened to me before...I always double knot my laces but I guess being wet meant that even that wasn't enough. I literally mumbled 'oh for fuck's sake' under my breath as I stopped and tied it, which seemed to take an hour and about 14 attempts (if my Strava graph is any indication, it actually took about 30 seconds). I kept envisioning a bunch of women passing me during this time period but luckily for me that actually didn't happen; one girl running the 5 mile passed me as well as an older dude, but that was it. Mile 2 was actually still a 7:10 despite the 30 second break; I have a suspicion that after I tied my shoe I took off like a sprinting idiot to try to 'catch up', or whatever. Ah well, what can you do.

Weirdly enough, miles 2-5 were the part of this race that sucked for me. Apparently Taylor had been gaining on me as I tied my shoe and soon after she came absolutely blasting past me. I tried to keep up for awhile but it quickly became apparent that she was not slowing down any time soon. Meanwhile, the rain had stopped and now instead of being cool, I felt like I was being suffocated in a blanket of humidity. I was hot, wet, and sticky (file that under the category of 'things that sound dirty but aren't') and I wasn't really enjoying myself. The 10 milers had to do a little lollipop out and back which is one of my least favorite race course features, not to mention there was a tow truck parked across the course whose driver seemed to have no concept/didn't care about the runners having to splash through a huge puddle in order to go around him. Nothing much of note happened in the next few miles. I was slowing down a little bit, but not as aggressively as at Newport - 7:19, 7:20, 7:27. I was very uncomfortable. During mile 4ish the 10 milers were running with slower 5 milers (because of the lollipop, we were ~1 mile ahead on our course) so I felt like I was passing people, which was nice. I missed a water stop because the guy in front of me got water and the volunteer wasn't quite quick enough (understandable, but at the time I was like c'mon, man!) But I wasn't going to go back for it, so I just kept moving forward.

Somewhere between mile 5-6 I took my Gu in the hopes that it would make me feel better, and surely enough, IT DID! I guess I must have been in need of some salt, because within about 5 minutes I went from "please kill me" to "hey, this pace is fine! Nice and relaxed! How lovely!" And - ta da - I actually started picking it up a little bit as well. Nothing dramatic, but 7:19 was an improvement. Taylor was waaaaay up ahead on the road and I knew I had no chance of catching her, but over the next couple of miles I slowly started reeling in sports bra lady, finally passing here somewhere between mile 6 and 7. By this point it had also started raining again, and that was pretty much all I needed to try to keep the gas on for the next few miles. Winning the race was obviously out of my reach, but I wasn't going to argue with second woman, and right now I was in a position to make that happen. I really didn't want to squander that chance by being afraid to be uncomfortable. Now, really, I didn't have a choice because pretty much the entirety of mile 8 was an extremely gradual but nevertheless present incline. That took my confidence down a notch with a 7:31 mile - c'mon man, marathon pace? What are you doing? With only 2 miles to go I knew that I had to try a little harder. Luckily, at that point the skies COMPLETELY opened up and the steady rain turned into an absolute downpour. In one of my favorite moments of any race ever, a shirtless guy about 50 feet in front of me threw his arms out to the sides and his head up to the sky, just basking in it. It was just one of those things - like, 100 people showed up for this race, not many people are willing to run in this kind of crap, but here we are, the lucky ones, to get to be here and to do this - it was great. The rain kept getting heavier and heavier - to the point where I couldn't see the next runner in front of me and giant puddles were forming in the road. I was definitely ready to be done but at the same time I was having a blast running in this ridiculousness. I hadn't even looked at the net time on my watch in ages, and I'm not good enough at math to be able to figure out what kind of time I was aiming for. I was pleasantly surprised to see 1:12 up on the clock as I headed up the last hill and towards the finish chute. At that particular moment, a giant pack of 5 milers wearing tutus were also turning into the chute. Never mind that they had run half the distance, I was not losing any precious seconds to a pack of people. I SPRINTED around them and into the 10 mile chute, finishing in 1:12:41 and second woman overall.
Not me, but this is how hard it was raining about 5 minutes before I finished

I congratulated Taylor, who had come in about a minute ahead of me, and then turned to see Dana coming in - she had passed sports bra lady, and GBTC went 1-2-3...woo! Since we are typically the "b-team" of our squad when it comes to Grand Prix races it was kind of exciting to be able to get some top prizes. Sports bra lady was next, followed shortly by Joy - all in all, a pretty impressive showing! We headed out to cooldown and cheer on a new member of our crew before heading back to FINALLY change into dry clothes. I also drank a bottle of apple/cranberry juice that pretty much tasted like it had been sent straight down from heaven...good call on the juice, race management, good call. 

Essential post race selfie with Joy, with our Louie tattoos hahaha

After drying off we headed back outside (into yet more rain) and huddled under the food tent waiting for awards - because we ALL won awards! I was completely shocked to get not only a medal, but a GPS watch for being 2nd overall woman (top 3 M/F got them). I mean, guys! This is not a big race - I was beyond pumped. For me, the excitement of managing to place in the top 3 women overall isn't diminished at all by the fact that the race was smaller. It's all about who shows up! Being able to be in a position where it's possible to take home some awards, even if it's only in smaller races, is such a cool thing, and I never want to make that less meaningful by thinking "oh, well if it were a bigger race, I wouldn't have won anything". 

Favorites with our winnings

The one and ONLY disappointing thing about the day was that after the race, we went to this random little BBQ place in Carver (which was completely amazing - I got a hot dog WITH PULLED PORK ON IT. What is my life.) But the sad part that was I was somehow so tired and distracted and not thinking that I left my favorite running had (pictured above) at the restaurant! Wahhhhh! What's funny is I got that hat from pretty much the worst race of my life, a 6K in which I sprained my ankle, fell, and ran a completely embarassing time. But you know what, I LOVED that hat! Oh well - at least it got some redemption during today's race. As a sidenote, I just looked up the race and discovered IT DOESN'T EVEN EXIST ANYMORE! So I will never be able to find another 6K hat. Oh well. Anyway, the BBQ was delicious, and Joy and I finished off the day after getting back to Boston with a flight at Aeronaut Brewery...because really, what is summer racing without beer afterward?

All in all, it was a really fabulous day. I ran fairly well; I am clearly not in racing shape and I think these 10 milers have been a really good kick in the pants to be like ' can't just do easy 5 milers every day and expect to run well..." Despite that, it wasn't a BAD performance at all - hey, it's a PR - and while I think that in peak shape I could definitely run a 10 miler in sub-7 pace, I can't complain too much about 7:16. Also, the race itself was just SO GREAT - what a breath of fresh air after the clusterfuck of two weeks ago. I seriously think small races are the way to go - they care about the runners, not about having some gigantic event. The course was actually the right distance (THANK YOU), we got men/women specific tech shirts as well as finisher pint glasses, medals with glitter and a bottle opener on them, and then wooden medals for AG awards as well as the GPS watches for top 3. I think that's the most swag I've taken home from any race, EVER, let alone a tiny little 10 miler. The proceeds all went to a good cause, and it was really just a great experience. My only negative would possibly be the traffic control out on the course - there wasn't really signage saying "hey, race going on!" or a lane of cones or anything, so I don't feel like cars had a great awareness of the fact that they might have to move over for a second. That being said, the roads where the race was run were REALLY quiet, so there wasn't necessarily enough traffic to warrant closing the roads or anything. The course was pretty enjoyable - basically your quintessential rural New England race through quiet roads and trees, rolling hills, but nothing too insane. I definitely plan to make this one a yearly summer tradition!

Lazy Lobster 10M
1:12:41 (7:16 pace) actual PR
8/118 OA, 2/68 F