Wednesday, December 30, 2015

2015: You. Were. Awesome.

2015, all in all, has been an absolutely spectacular year for me running wise. I might even go so far as to say it was a breakthrough year. How can I not, with new PRs set in almost every distance including the coup de grace, crushing the sub 3:20 barrier that I've been chasing for 5 years not once, but twice! Aside from some really exciting goal race performances, I also spent a lot of time this year racing for FUN, something I plan on doing much more in the future for fun is really fun! I got back to training with friends and teammates, enjoyed many a fantastic post race beer and brunch with friends, and just generally had a fantastic time running this past year. I think that a big part of why I was so successful this year is because, through all of it, I was genuinely having a really, really great time.

Because I love the numbers, here are some year end stats, awards, and otherwise fun info...

Miles run: 1822 as of 12/30/15 (probable total will be 1828-1829 depending on my run tomorrow)

Races run: 16 [2 marathons, a 30K, a 25K, a half marathon, 2 10 milers, a 10K, 2 5 milers, 2 4 milers, 3 5Ks. Ran the table! This is the most races I've run in a year since college. I love it.]

New races run: 14 [everything except Boston and Cape Ann - I'm somewhat impressed by this number!]

AG/overall awards: 7

RunningAhead gives you some nice analytics on your performance by percentage in races, so just for kicks I plugged that into a spreadsheet and did some comparisons:

Top 10% female finishes: 15 [every race except Boston]

Top 2% female finishes: 9

PRs run: 7 1/2 [4 mile, 5 mile, 10K, 10 mile, half marathon, 30K, marathon] plus a long course 5K that was definitely a post-collegiate best and possibly a PR...the world will never know

Hardest race experience: Cape Ann 25K [Runner up: None. Nothing else even came close to the hell that was that race]

Best race experience: BOSTON 2015. No question. [Runner up: NYC Half]

Biggest surprise race performance: TIE between NYC Half and Winter Classic "5K", both of which were some really strong performances that I had thought were total impossibilities prior to the race.

Best swag: Lazy Lobster 10 Mile - tech shirt, pint glass, bottle opener finisher metal PLUS wooden medal and GPS watch for top 3 woman

Worst race organization: Newport 10M [no parking, half our group missed the start, significantly short course]

Memorable runs:
-First run on the Battle Road which was amazing, aside from the severe dehydration and nearly vomitting up my blueberry sorbet afterwards
-The 20 miler where Dana and I randomly decided to drop a 7:08 mile
-The last long run before Boston where I rode out to Framingham by myself and absolutely crushed a 22 miler
-Every single run done between mid January and February (SNOWMAGGEDDON)
-The track workout where I did the best tempo of my life, then found myself leading a group for short intervals and was too excited to even deal
-Really, all of the pre-marathon track workouts where I suddenly realized I was faster than I used to be

Number of falls taken while running: 7 (4x ice/black ice, 1 sneaky construction plate, 2x on the same frost heave 9 months apart)

To look back at my goals for the year, for the first time EVER I achieved all of my running-related goals for the year!
-Sub 3:20 marathon: CHECK (self explanatory)
-Have a good race at Boston: CHECK (Good does not even begin to describe it. Amazing, more like it)
-Do strength/core work: CHECK (I could still be more consistent with this, but overall I have done a LOT more core/strength work than in past years. This is definitely still an area I'd like to work on in 2016)
-Race more for fun: CHECK! (16 races, at least 10 of which I'd say were "for fun"? Definitely a win.)

It's hard after such a stellar year to even begin to imagine how I could possibly surpass it. And yet, that's always the plan, isn't it? As far as specifics, it's hard to say exactly what I'm hoping for for the coming year, but when I think about it, some themes do emerge:
-Keep building on 2016
-Stay injury free (aka: keep doing core work consistently, don't be an idiot)
-Stop talking about doing a half ironman, and actually do one
-Never stopped being surprised and excited about progress; always strive for more
-PR in the 5K (why the hell not?!)
-Get in sub 3:15 shape for Boston and hope the weather gods cooperate. If they don't, let it go and keep working.
-Run at least one race per month
-Appreciate every run

Honestly, I don't know if there's that much more to say...2015, we killed it. 2016, let's do this!

Sunday, December 06, 2015

Winter Classic "5K" Race Report...what just happened?

This morning, I ran my fastest 5K in 5+ years (possibly ever...more on that later), and I have no idea how I managed to do such a thing. I had zero intention of racing this week, but Joy had texted me earlier in the week that she was off work today and wanted to race...let's be honest this is me we're talking about here, and the thought of doing a 5K while wearing an elf hat was just too much to pass up.  So I found myself donning my Fasttwitches and heading to the line of the Winter Classic 5K with a very modest goal: at least run faster than when I ran the same course a few months ago in the middle of my long run (21:31). This seemed entirely reasonable and I went into the race figuring it would be, for all intents and purposes, a glorified tempo run. That...was not what happened.

Joy and I warmed up the 4 miles from my apartment to the start, milled around for a bit, and elfed ourselves in preparation for the start. We then crammed into the start corral and immediately found ourselves about 7 rows too far back, behind several small children and people in sweatshirts...oh well. Of course, about 2 minutes before the start my Garmin decided to auto-pause, and there was no time to get the satellites back especially with so many people around, so I made the scary decision to do the race GPS-free. How bad could it be, really? It's just a 5K, and I know the course already - who cares if I have my exact mile splits? (FORESHADOWING)

Yup, I ran one of my fastest races ever wearing a damn elf hat. This is my life.

So then the gun went off, and off we went! I felt like I took the race relatively calmly, and I just tried to relax and get around people, trying to establish a position. It got up to 60 later in the day, but during the race was about 40 which was AWESOME - I spent some time the first mile thinking about how great running in the cold is. There was a master's woman ahead of me who I've seen (and finished just behind) at the last 2 5K's I've done, and I was pleasantly surprised when I passed her right around what I thought was somewhat past the 1 mile mark. I heard someone's Garmin beep and checked my watch - 6:28, OK, not bad! I was somewhat shocked at how GOOD I was feeling running at that pace, so I figured I would try to take advantage of the fact that I wasn't tied to my watch and just run by feel. There was a bit of a breeze as we headed up Mass Ave, which was slightly annoying mainly because I thought it was going to blow my hat off my head. I felt like I was running hard, but not unbearably so. Man, I thought to myself, this is SO much better than the Fall Classic! I can definitely get sub-21! Always nice to be thinking positive thoughts midway through a 5K.

We made a left turn at what I thought was around the 2-mile (apparently there were mile markers on the ground, but I never saw them), and I thought to myself, OK! This is good! 1 more mile! I didn't feel like I had really slowed down at all, which was a pleasant surprise, and I was starting to become convinced that I could get through one more mile at this pace, whatever it was. I looked down at my watch at one point and saw 16:40 - great, like 4 minutes left to run! No big deal! You got this! Well, THAT is where the fun started. We made a turn at what I assumed was close to the 3 mile mark...and I found myself staring down what appeared to be an endless street, still on course. WTF? This was about 20 minutes into the race, and I was suddenly TOTALLY demoralized. How could I possibly be running that slow? It sure didn't feel like I was running over 7 minute pace...I had been consistently passing people and hadn't been passed - I couldn't believe it. I passed the "3" mile mark at 21 something and ran into the finishing chute wondering how I could have possibly managed to run a 22:36 5K. I felt totally dead - a guy finishing near me kept looking at me and I think was trying to get me to hardcore race him to the finish, and I just didn't have anything left. So how in the hell was I supposed to make sense of the fact that I had actually just run my slowest 5K in years?

Well, that's when I started hearing the rumblings of the runners around me, and when people started pulling out their GPS watches, and when my puzzlement over my slowness turned into something different. Because that's when I learned that the course had been long...not just by a little bit, but by almost half a mile! (Official distance was 3.45 - apparently the lead pace car took us too far down the first road - and actually, props to the race director for almost immediately sending out an email about this and changing the distance in the official results). It actually took me a few minutes to grasp the meaning of this: if I had just run 22:36 for 3.5 miles....OH MY GOD WHAT WOULD MY 5K TIME HAVE BEEN??!! I did the math. And the math was like: oh hey, if this had actually been a 5K, and the finish line had been in the right spot, and you didn't have to run an extra half mile where you probably slowed would have been right on the borderline of breaking 20. And let's be honest, if I had KNOWN that that were a possibility, my kick would have been a sight to behold. So for a second, I was a little bit mad that the opportunity to actually be able to put a 19:xx to my name had been taken away by the course screw up. But after that second, I was just straight up excited, because whether or not I officially ran sub 20, I clearly was capable of running sub 20 today. And that? Is completely insane to me. It was just last week that I was bemoaning the fact that I can consistently run 6:50ish 5Ks, but never faster. I've only run under 20:30 one time on the roads, and twice on the track, in my entire life - and all 3 of those times happened during peak training (and all 3 were >5 years ago). I had pretty much completely written off any hope of a 5K PR ever again. So to go out there, off no speed work, in the off season, wearing a stupid jingle bell hat, and do this?? I can't even believe it! This is probably my last race for the year, and I can't think of a better note to end on...proof that I'm faster at EVERY distance that I was 2 years ago, or even back in college, and not just the marathon.  Freaking awesome. And now shooting for a 5K PR is actually back on the table!

I think there might be a lesson here. And that lesson might be, to paraphrase Tom: your watch is only there for your amusement. Stop getting tied to the numbers, and just run how you feel. But in all seriousness...what a race for my damn GPS to die. My running life is many things...but it is never, ever boring. 

Winter Classic "5K" (3.45 miles)
22:36 (6:33 pace)
161/3200 OA, 14/1836 F, 9/832 F19-29