So on a bit of a whim, I decided to skimp on sleep Friday night (I get home from work close to 1 a.m.) and run a five mile race in the park Saturday morning. I actually thought it was a four mile race, but what's a mile here or there? I've been doing so much long slow stuff that it seemed like a good way to stretch out my legs a little, so I essentially chose to spend $25 on a speed workout.
The race was meaningless from a team points perspective, so I never pushed myself all out, but I was still pleased to end up with a 6:36 average pace, 15th woman and 4th in my age group. I ran 6:27 pace for the 10K I did in December, but that was a team points race and it was also before I got sick. I am much, much better now, but the time off from training and all that excess mucus that's still sticking around must affect the system at least a little bit.
At this point, I'm still planning on running Boston, though I'm a little bummed that my official training phase started off with a few sick weeks. Before the cold or flu or whatever it was struck, I wasn't really all that far off the mileage of my schedule leading up to my sub-3 in Columbus in '06. Now I'm trying to decide whether it's worth the risk of injury to try and get back on that schedule, or whether I should just resign myself to a lighter load and possibly a slower time.
Like last time, I'll start logging a record of my training schedule here, but due to my cold, this cycle will be 16 weeks instead of Columbus' 18.
I was surprised to see that I was already throwing in a couple two-a-days 18 weeks out last time and my typical everyday pace was about 30 seconds faster per mile than what I'm doing now. No worries though, I'm content sticking with what feels comfortable and I'll see how it goes.
9:12 pace, avg hr 157, mid 30's, exact same time as yesterday!
9:00 pace, avg hr 154, upper 30's
7:44 pace, ran home from work (at midnight)
8:38 pace, avg hr 156, low 30's
rest day, skied
3.6 hilly miles
easy pace, C O L D , skied
So it's not like I don't know that frontloading mileage isn't a good idea, but I really didn't want to have to think about getting in my workouts over the weekend and I really didn't want to slack off with the training, so it seemed like my only option. I actually found the more intense workload to be surprisingly doable and I'm being smart and taking this week as an easy one. What also surprised me was how my heart rate indicates that my body wasn't fazed by what I was throwing at it, so that's a very good thing and a concrete sign that my fitness is improving.
Now I just have to figure out when a sensible time is to start injecting a bit of speedwork into my routine. Probably not during this, my "recovery" week, since I'm planning on running a half next weekend and calling that a tempo workout and probably not next week since I'll be asking my body to cope with higher mileage again, but some time after that. It's only January, the marathon is in April, there's still time for all that.
I do think that the skiing worked out to be a nice low-impact cross-training expedition, aside from the stupid snowboarder who slammed into me and left a big bruise on my thigh. I could really feel the stabilizing abdominal muscles on the side of my waist....the psoas, I think? I'd really like to be working more on my core strength, so this was a fun way to get started on that. This month's Runner's World has an article on core training, so I'll have to study that and try to incorporate some of the exercises they suggest. I don't ever want the freakishly non-runner-esque six pack that's sported by Josh Cox on the cover of the issue, but I guess if that was the price I had to pay to run a 2:13 marathon, I might reconsider.
I guess this will have to be considered one of those "learning experiences" we hear so much about, though I suppose it must have some amount of training value to it as well. We'll call it a tempo run, though the effort involved was significantly more than what is generally called for on one of those.
Mile 1: 6:26 Mile 2: 6:40 pace Mile 3: 6:45 pace Mile 5: 6:46 pace Mile 7: 6:53 pace Mile 9: 6:59 pace Mile 13.1: 6:55 pace
As usual, I started out too fast, but I was surprised at how abruptly my pace slowed after the first mile. I was able to maintain the "new" pace pretty well though and I think I actually sped up for the last three or four miles.
If it had been one of those charity runs where you get a dollar for every person you pass, I think I would have been a couple benjamins in the red by the ten mile mark. I was consistently passed by other people up until that point when I was finally able to reverse the trend for the last few miles. I even passed another girl in the last half mile, but for the most part, it was not an intelligently run race.
I skipped running yesterday because my legs were just so sore, but I'm going to get back out there today and see if a really easy ten won't help work out some of those aches and pains. My feet were also really sore after the half which probably means that it's time for new shoes. Once I start upping the mileage it starts to seem like it's always time for new shoes!
4 mile race turned into a fun run (snow) 26:28 unofficial
9:19 pace, avg. HR 141, very slushy/icy
It's nice to look at the data and see that both the average pace numbers and the heart rates are slowly coming down. I'm starting to add in at least one faster paced workout a week and see if I can't get to where the speed comes a little more naturally. I was actually relieved when the team points race was canceled for snow, since I just didn't feel like I had a fast race in me that day, but it worked into the schedule well as a brisk tempo workout. The next race is a 15 in a week and a half and it comes at the end of an easy training week, so who knows, maybe I'll be able to wrangle up a few fast twitch fibers for that one.
I'm leaning more and more towards doing Boston, mostly because I want to see the trials, but also because I'm curious how I'll do on that course with a good training cycle under my belt. It's outrageously expensive to stay in Boston, so the plan now is to take Greyhound up there and slum it out on the end of the T line in Braintree. Do people really pay $600 a night to stay right in Boston? Way to make a girl feel impoverished.
After an easy flight into Louisville, my sweetie met me at the airport and we got ourselves situated at the hotel. There was plenty of time to pick up my race number and check out the small Expo at a leisurely pace. A woman selling acai juice informed us that you now have to eat 54 peaches to get the nutritional value of one 1950's era peach and I discovered that the Columbus marathon promotional photo book features a few neat photos of me in the race two years ago. Oddly, the photo book featuring images from the 2007 race was opened to a page showing a woman Jack knew in the finish chute, the wife of an old colleague of his. Weird coincidence.
We returned to the convention center for the pasta dinner and chatted with three Kenyans before a dorky marathon pace leader took the stage to give obvious race advice for first-time marathoners and our three quiet, serious tablemates quickly departed. One of these guys ended up finishing second, but the others must have dropped out. It's an interesting alternate culture behind the marathon scene, these runners who make a living off of winning and placing in second (or third) tier races. I guess it makes sense for these athletes, if they feel they are unlikely to place, they simply drop out and hold out for another race on another day. In the men's race these anonymous professionals are usually Africans, but in the women's competitions, they are more likely to be Russian. I kept my fingers crossed at this point that I wouldn't be seeing any Russians at the start line.
The morning started off as marathon mornings often do...very, very early. Stumbling in the dark, fumbling with the coffee maker, trying to collect all the essentials with one eye on the clock, scarfing down oatmeal, bodygliding the essential sensitive bits, pinning on the number, grabbing gels, banana, gross carbo-drink concoction, donning a plastic bag poncho and jogging through the dark, wet streets to the long line of groggy, half-awake runners waiting for shuttle buses to the start.
The rain stopped by the time we arrive and the damp chill felt like a weight off my shoulders as the worry of hot weather got checked off my list of race day paranoias. A hot tip from my seatmate on the bus led me to the back door of an elementary school near the start where in-the-know runners gathered to chat and doze on cushioned mats in the small, cozy gymnasium. I sat quietly gathering my thoughts for about half an hour before one of my teammates from New York came up to say hello and I followed her and her friend back outside towards the start.
Most of the runners were participating in the half marathon, so I tried to spot the women with the red full marathon numbers who were most likely to be near me during the race. The elites were assembling up in the front, so I couldn't really see them very well, but I was disappointed to see a few red bibs up there. Last year there wasn't a lot of competition, but I'm not sure if there was money on the line then. This year they were giving out $3K for 1st, $2K for 2nd, $1K for 3rd and $500 for 4th. Win, place, show and "in the money" they called it, appropriately for the Derby Festival Marathon.
I hit up Meghan for some Swahili tips in case I saw our friends from the night before at the starting line, but they never got close enough for me to call out "Mambo Vipi!" and wish them "Bahati njema!". So that's actually one of my gripes with the race, in addition to it being tough to tell who was running the half vs. the full. They also kept us so far back from the "elites" that it was tough for me to tell whether I should be trying to run with them, or to just let them go and focus on my own race.
The smart, rational answer to that last question is of course, that I should never even be considering running anything but my own race and I really did convince myself that I took off at the gun at a nice, sensible, 6:50ish sort of pace. When the first mile clicked by at 6:10, I knew I was up to my old rabbit tricks again and if I had any intentions of going under 3 again, I had better start controlling my pace.
I really did consciously back off after that first mile, but soon after that we entered a hilly park and it became increasingly difficult to gauge what pace I was running. There had been a course elevation map on the website, but I guess the ups and downs of that little red line just didn't look that bad when I studied it at home. While I wouldn't go so far as to say the hills were "brutal", they were decidedly challenging and I did my best to just stay focused on the uphills and relaxed on the downs and ignore whatever the other women around me were doing. I was passed by two women early in these hills and though I could see them in the distance, I managed to remind myself that it's a long race and there would be plenty of time for anyone ahead of me to blow up later.
While I still wasn't running an intelligent 6:40 split race, my own good advice came to fruition not too much farther along. One of the coolest aspects of this course was getting to run around the infield of Churchill Downs. We entered the track just after the 8 mile mark and it was under the twin white spires of that fabled shrine to horse racing that I caught up to my first competitor. Again, I reminded myself, it was SO early in the race, but I felt good, so rather than try and work with this women, I just passed her by and kept on going.
Jack had his bike out on the course and gave me regular updates on what was going on up ahead of me. Sure enough, two speedy Russian women were way out in front, but other than that there were only two other women less than a minute ahead.
The half marathoners split off towards the finish line at mile 12, but there'd only been one woman racing that anywhere near me, so I didn't notice much of a difference in terms of competition. I turned the corner towards the full marathon's halfway point just as I caught up to the third and fourth place women in my race.
Jack got an awesome video shot of the three of us running in a tight pack and never have I so much felt like an elite. Woman #3 was a petite, sturdy Latino chick and #4 was a black women who I don't think was actually African, but for the purposes of my little professional running fantasy, I made her one.
Apparently the woman I passed in Churchill Downs was right behind us at this point too, so for about a mile or two, we had an intense little race going on there.
One might think it a wee bit imprudent to bring down your half PR by more than a minute during the middle of a marathon, but since the actual half point wasn't marked, I guess I can argue that I didn't technically commit this little racing faux pas.
By the time we entered the second hilly park section of the race around mile 15, the little pack had dissolved and the I found myself in a Texan sandwich with the Latino girl (Debbie, I gathered, from her supporters) and the non-African, Patricia, about 10 seconds ahead and behind me.
The park hills kicked my tired ass pretty thoroughly at this point as this is when my splits really started to degrade, but I must not have been alone in this boat as by the time we exited the park Patricia was no where to be seen and Debbie was smack dab in front of me.
Although I was unaware of it, there was another little drama going on at the same time amidst the runner support crews. I started the race with two energy gels in hand, but somewhere around the 10 mile point, Jack had handed me another one. I saw a van stop up ahead of us when we were back in the woods and a man ran out and set out a bottle of red gatorade looking stuff on the curb for Debbie to pick up. Apparently it was NOT what she was looking for at that point and I heard her ask him, where's the Gu?"
Feeling charitable and flush with the camaraderie of competition, I told her that I'd packed an extra and she could have it the next time Jack rode by. She thanked me and said that would be really cool.
When Jack DID come by next to hand me my little packet, I asked for the last one as well and he stopped to get that. It seemed like forever before he finally pulled up next to me again and told me that he'd been told that he couldn't give me any more energy gels or else I might be disqualified. No biggie, I told him, since it was for Debbie (now about 5-10 seconds ahead of me) anyway, so he took off and gave it to her.
We're really not sure who complained about me getting help on the course, but we figured that if it was Debbie's person, this ought to keep him happy. Jack only cheered from that point on, so I think that issue isn't likely to come up again. If they'd actually had energy gels on the course, I wouldn't have asked him to have them ready for me and if I'd thought it was illegal for him to give them to me, I would have just carried four of them from the beginning.
It was around mile 20 that I started hearing spectators telling me that I was the fifth woman, which surprised me since Jack's reports had me thinking that it was the two Russians, Debbie, then me. I remembered seeing a very stocky, masculine woman go by me early in the race, but I thought at the time that she was in the half. Now I started to wonder if she actually was up ahead of me and perhaps Jack had just mistaken her for a man. I was a little bummed to hear it, but it gave me the juice to go after Debbie one more time in hopes of scoring that fourth place moolah.
The last section of the race took us over the Ohio River for a quick loop in Indiana and it gave me a chance to check out my competition on their return trip into Kentucky. I was hurting pretty badly at this point (maybe should have held on to that extra energy gel...?), but the wind on the bridge was refreshing and the riverboats below were playing music that echoed across the water in a way that was both uplifting and soothing. I saw the masculine woman fly by with her long, curly hair and earrings and a couple of minutes later the two Russians followed. Damn, I WAS fifth, and Debbie was starting to gain some ground.
By the time I started back up the slope of the bridge towards the finish, I was really ready to be done. My legs were feeling terribly beat up and I'd just run out of steam. Debbie had a good half a minute lead and I resigned myself to just concentrating on my form and finding satisfaction in an almost guaranteed PR. The 25 mile mark was just beyond the Louisville foot of the bridge and I kept telling myself, "one mile. one mile is NOTHING."
I underestimated the challenge of running that last mile while trying to weave in and out of the crowds completing their 3-hour HALF marathon races, but I can't imagine that really slowed me down that much. It just seemed like poor planning on the race organizers part and they really should be embarrassed that the men's marathon winner didn't even get to break the finish tape because they didn't see him coming amidst all the finishing half marathoners!
As soon as I crossed the line, I saw Debbie up ahead of me, puking her poor heart out. I gave her a second to compose herself and then teased her about THIS being the way she showed her appreciation for that Gu I gave her. She laughed, sort of, and then gave me a quick hug before getting back to her puking. Hey, if someone's got to beat you, at least you can take some comfort in knowing they had to HURT to do it!
And finally, to finish up, although I was totally happy finishing out of the money and getting a PR, it turns out that Jack actually KNEW the "masculine looking woman" out in front and HE is from St. Louis. No wonder she was so masculine looking! He just happens to have longish, curly hair and an earring, and chose to wear a snug fitting triathlon-looking top that managed to confuse me and apparently a bunch of the spectators. So I DID finish fourth after all and while the winnings don't actually cover my race expenses, it's still a hugely gratifying thing to be recognized in such a tangible way.
And not only that....after getting ice-bathed and cleaned up, Jack and I went BACK to Churchill Downs and bet on the winner of the featured opening day race, so good job Macho Again!