Sunday, August 31, 2014

Prediction Run

Boy, was today tough.  Temperature in the mid-to-high seventies, humidity at the point of rain without the relief of rain.  These were the conditions for a twelve-mile prediction run on the Bike and Hike with Shelby.  Sheila, our coach at OneLife Fitness, placed us at the opposite end of the path running toward the Towpath Turtles and gave us strict instructions:

1.  No chit chat.  Nothing beyond, "You ok?"

2.  Run close to race pace for the half marathon, but don't go all out.

This wasn't officially part of our instructions, but I knew rule number 3 was for me:


This is exactly how I look when I know I have to run without music.
Normally, Sunday lsd's (long, slow distances) are fun times.  These are the runs where I get to talk to other runners or just listen to my music and chill.  Today was not one of those times.  I knew what I was in for, so I tried to mentally and physically prepare myself for suffering.

Pre-Run Fuel:  Panera Blueberry Bagel with cream cheese, coffee with Thin Mint Creamer, lots of water

Fuel during Run:  Blackberry GU at miles 4 and 8.  Water.  So much water.

Post-Run Fuel:  1/2 cup 1% milk with a tablespoon of Carnation Instant Breakfast drink, reuben, cantaloupe, and yes, WATER!!!

If you read my posts here and here, you know that I am pursuing a time goal for the Akron Half Marathon.  Today was supposed to be a test of how I might do.  It was also a test of how far I've come after 1) breaking my foot and then coming back, 2) losing 14 pounds (and counting!), and 3) stepping up my training and taking it more seriously.  Here are our splits (copied from my DailyMile post):

Boy, was I miserable. I would have punked out if I wasn't certain that Shelby would tell on me. Thanks for pushing me, Shelby! Here are the splits: 
Mile 1: 10:07 Mile 2: 10:12 Mile 3: 9:13 Mile 4: 9:27 Mile 5: 9:25 
Mile 6: 9:15 Mile 7: 9:28 Mile 8: 9:23 Mile 9: 9:34 Mile 10: 9:28 
Mile 11: 9:53 Mile 12: 10:01

It was very tough to do this run.  I felt really good up until mile 7, and then I just went to a very dark place in my head.  In miles 4 and 5 we passed the Turtles and encouraged them, to which they all replied, "Stop talking!"  Sheila had definitely prepped them.  Around mile 7 I started to break down.  I looked to see that nobody was around to see me talk, and I said to Shelby, "I'm going to have a meltdown as soon as we get to Sheila at the water station."  And at mile 8 I did.  I unleashed a string of every variation of the f-bomb I could come up with as I filled my water bottle.  Sheila calmly listened and then told us to get going since we won't be stopping in the race.  I popped a GU and powered on.  I felt a little better between miles 8 and 10, but after that I felt like I was dying.  My mantras were only getting me so far, and I just wanted to stop and lay down.  I kept telling myself, "You can do anything for 20 minutes; just hold on for 20 more minutes," and so on as I got closer to the end.

Overall, I did twelve miles in 1:55, which is a 9:37/mile.  Here is what I learned from my prediction run:

I am most likely not going to hit the sub-2 hour half marathon goal.  I will, however, definitely PR this race, and it's probable that I will PR it by about seven minutes.  That is enormous progress, and I think I will be happy with that.  Twelve minutes is a long time to cut off a PR, and by the way, so is seven minutes.  I have shown growth this year, especially considering the whole broken foot fiasco.  I am continuing my weight loss journey, and if I keep it up (and the weight down!), I should be able to reach that sub-2 hour half marathon goal in a different race.  

This doesn't mean I'm not going to try for it, though.  You never know when you are going to get lucky.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

To Set or not to Set a Running Goal

I'd like to clarify something about my last post:  But Was It Fun?  I guess I assumed that most people who read this blog know me, but you know what they say about ASSUME.  In my last blog post I talked about losing the fun factor in the Akron Half Marathon because I am pursuing a time goal.  This didn't sit well with some runners, and believe me, it doesn't sit well with me either; that's why I'm still thinking about it.

Those who know me would kindly say that I am goal-driven.  When I have a goal, and I have a goal for every aspect of my life in which I have some control, I do everything I can to hit that goal.  Once I do hit it, I release myself from it. . .until I find a new goal.  In the case of the Akron Half Marathon, my goal is to run it in 1:59:59.  This will be tough for me, and that is why I wrote the post about what it takes to achieve the goal.  I have seen plenty of running bloggers post race recaps in which they talked about "taking it easy" by walking, posting selfies, visiting the port-o-potties, and then I see their overall times, and they are always way faster than me.  Usually around 1:50.  It drives me insane to know that it doesn't come easy for me, and that is one reason why I need to prove to myself that I can do it at least once.  Once I accomplish this goal, I will absolutely be glad to let it go; there is no way I want to top a sub-2 hour half marathon.  I will be happy to enjoy every half-marathon I run for the rest of my life.

I'm still a fairly-new runner; I've only really been running for three years, and that was with time off for the broken foot.  What this means is that when I race a 5k, a 10k, or a half marathon, I have to PR it, or I'm angry with myself.  I know that I will eventually be able to let these goals go, too, but I need to push myself a little more while I can.  There will come a day when I will be able to look at my results in a race and do this:

That day is not today or even tomorrow.

Let's talk about you and your goals.  You don't need to set goals in races.  Maybe your goal is to socialize more by running with a group.  Maybe you want to increase or maintain your fitness level.  Maybe you want to increase your distance or try a new trail or justify those brightly-colored shoes that you couldn't resist.  None of these goals involve a certain time in a race, and nobody says that your goals aren't right.  When I write about my goals, I don't expect anyone else but me to focus on them (except for you, Shelby--you are going to crush this goal).  What I hope is that you are thinking about your own goals and what you intend to do to achieve them.

Today's run:  11.5 miles with the Turtles

Pre-run fuel:  Panera chocolate chip bagel with Panera cream cheese (Yay for change; change is good!), coffee with Thin Mint creamer, 16 oz. water

Fuel during run:  Chocolate Outrage GU, lots and lots of water

Right around mile 9, I started obsessing about food.  As you have read before, I have a difficult time keeping to the right kinds of post-run fuel (especially if there is any kind of pasta in the fridge).  Panera, as a sponsor of the Akron Marathon, has a training menu, and in my mind I was running through all the different foods I would like to eat from it.  This became my focus at mile 10:

Egg and Cheese on Ciabatta.  Hello, Beautiful!

Because I was completely disgusting after my run, I didn't stop at Panera on the way home, but I did make myself an egg and cheese sandwich. Not as good as what you see here, but very satisfying, and not tortellini salad, so I suppose I am improving.

It's a goal.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

But Was It Fun?

Today I ran twelve miles on the Towpath with the Towpath Turtles.  Shelby, Vimarie, and I had a great conversation about our race goals.

Pre-run Fuel:  Panera blueberry bagel, coffee with Thin Mint creamer, lots of water

During run:  GU Blackberry

Post-run Fuel:  1/2 cup milk with two teaspoons Carnation Breakfast drink, pasta with red sauce, zucchini, and a fried egg

This is EXACTLY how I look after running 12 miles in the rain.  I feel terrible that I somehow cut off Shelby and Vimarie, but hey, this is all about me, right?

As I wrote before, we discussed race goals for this year.  All three of us will be running the Natatorium 5k in the beginning of September and the Akron Half Marathon at the end of September.  I am very comfortable with my goal for the Nat: I have a pace in mind that I am sure I can sustain for 3.1 miles, and I have been practicing that pace at least once a week.  5k's are all about suffering: if you enjoy running a 5k, you didn't race it.  I always know that if I want to PR a 5k, I must endure pain and push myself.
This is EXACTLY how I look when I am suffering from a 5k.

 I tell myself that I can endure anything for fewer than thirty minutes.  I am ok with this; it is the half marathon that has me thinking.

As you remember from my race recap of the Perfect 10 Miler, I cut off about thirteen minutes from my previous time running this race.  What was different?  Well, I am mostly back in full training after my foot injury, and I also lost about fourteen pounds.  These are things that I am prepared to do to better my time in a race.  As I ran this race, I realized that if I am serious about my half marathon goal, training and weight loss aren't enough.  I need to cut off about twelve minutes in my half marathon PR, so I know I have some serious work to do, but not just on my body; I need to put my head in the game.  That is, if I intend to run a sub-two hour half marathon, I need to resign myself to the fact that it won't be a fun race.

I am mourning the loss of my fun race time.  Akron Marathon is very special to me.  For ten years the blue line ran by my house, and the kids and I would come out and cheer on the runners.  In 2012, I ran the half marathon, and I loved every minute of it.  Every picture you see of me shows that I am having a ball.

This is EXACTLY how I look when I am having a ball in the Akron Half Marathon, 2012.

I felt the same way running the 2013 Medina Half Marathon.

Ok, I was happy here because I was annoying David.

I realize now that my attitude toward racing has to change.  If I want to accomplish my goal, and it's a lofty one, I need to resign myself to more than discomfort; I need to think about suffering.  This means that I may have to change several factors that contribute to my enjoyment of a race:

1.  I may have to ditch the music.  I can't fathom running 13.1 miles without my race music, but if I intend to run quickly, I may have to pay more attention to my rhythmic breathing.  This is the most problematic adjustment to make for me, so I need to give it some thought.

2.  I need to carry a water bottle instead of walking through the water stops.  I usually hit up at least three stops during a half marathon, and this may be adding more time than I would like.  I like walking through the water stops; it gives me something I can look forward to.  I'm just not sure that it is worth the extra time, though.  Plus, I HATE carrying my water.

3.  I need to think about running with a partner.  I usually like to run my own race, but running with Shelby helped keep me accountable.  If we can find a way to coincide our fueling, we may be able to keep each other going.

4.  Most of all, I need to recognize that if I am having fun DURING the race, I am not working hard enough.  Now I need to tell myself that two hours of suffering won't kill me.

I have talked to several runners about this, and it's like this is the big secret to races.  Nobody ever tells you that if you're serious about a PR, you won't have fun.  I've got a lot of thinking to do.

When (if ever) did you realize that running a race wasn't supposed to be fun?

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Sunday, August 10, 2014

Race Recap: The Perfect 10 Miler

It all began with my innocent question on Facebook:

Are deep fried mac and cheese bites the proper fuel before the Perfect 10 Miler? Hypothetically.

The answers ranged from the funny--a movie clip of a woman on the toilet (which I will not post here), the philosophical (Shouldn't the real question be "Is there ever a time deep fried Mac and cheese bites are a bad idea?"), the empathetic (Pretty sure Hamburger Festival was not ideal.), and the mildly condemnatory (I would say the whole enterprise is flawed, but...).  Do you want to know the answer?  Just wait; I'm getting there.

This morning I woke up at 4:30 am to prepare for the Perfect 10 Miler at Legacy Village in Lyndhurst, Ohio.  I carefully laid out my gear the night before:

I organized this BEFORE I went out for beer and mac and cheese bites. . . er, that is, if I actually DID indulge in mac and cheese bites.  Hypothetically.
I met the other members of The Ohio Runner's Network for a warm up and a picture.

We look so happy to be there before 7am!
So, I have been feeling angsty about this race for several reasons: 1) I had to transfer my bib last year because of the horrible NUT incident, 2) the course changed this year, and I didn't know the area, and 3) I have been trying to figure out what my race pace is for any race longer than five miles (prep for the Akron Half Marathon), and I'm not really good at figuring out my pace by the way I feel.  I had an idea of what I wanted to do, but as usual, my follow-through is kind of lousy.  Let's get to the race review, shall we?

The Good:  

The course began and ended at Legacy Village, which meant that there was plenty of parking.  This is a smaller race than some, but previous years' staging at Brush High School meant that many of us scrambled for parking.  

The bathrooms were REAL bathrooms in the mall.  There was plenty of soap and paper towels!  

The food at the end was plentiful.  I'd like to emphasize this because in the past, there was no more food or water for the runners at the tail end of the race.  There were bananas, bagel pieces, protein bars, and cookies from Eat n Park.  Usually the cookies are the first thing to run out, so I was happy that the race coordinators had supplied many more this year.  In fact, I'm grateful to them because they allowed me to take two cookies on the way out.  My kids love the smiley-face cookies!

The crowd support was minimal, but the people who were out there were fantastic.  My favorite sign said, "Run faster--there's a zombie behind you!!!"  A few people had hoses going, which I really appreciate since it was really hot, even at 7:30 in the morning.

The water stops were at almost every mile along the route, and there were some great volunteers manning those stations.  Many of them were teens, and they served up water and Gatorade with smiles and cheers.

Today Mike earned his SuperFan shirt by taking pictures and cheering for us.

This was the first 10 miler for the Towpath Turtles, who are training for the Akron Half Marathon, and they all finished strong, and they looked outstanding!

Here is our medal shot: We are SOOOO happy to be done with it!

The Bad:

The course changed this year; in the past it has been an out-and-back, with one looooong road making up most of it.  I used to complain about that course; now, I think I won't anymore.  The new course had many turns in it (Shelby said she counted seventeen?), and there were HILLS!!!  The hills were in the first two miles, which were also the last two miles.  While I really didn't mind the turns, and I thought the neighborhoods were really nice, finishing on a hill is NOT COOL AT ALL.  

Some of our Turtles lost their way during one of the turns.  I had seen course marshals along the way, but I'm guessing that they left their posts a little too soon.  That isn't very safe, and in this case, it really threw off our Turtles.

The Ugly:

Well, that would be me again.  Don't get me wrong; I PR'd this race.  It's just that I realized a few things in this race, and it was a bit frustrating.

1.  I need to come up with a plan and stick to it.  My original plan had been to run my race, starting at a ten minute mile to warmup, switch to a 9:30 pace, and then try to run the last two miles at 9:15 or faster.  Because the first half-mile of the race was all downhill, I thought it would be stupid to waste that opportunity, so I went out fast.  Again.  Here are my splits:

Mile 1:  9:14
Mile 2:  9:06
Mile 3:  9:14
Mile 4:  9:20
Mile 5:  9:17
Mile 6:  9:46 (fuel with GU)
Mile 7:  9:33  
Mile 8:  9:32
Mile 9:  9:49
Mile 10:  9:41

Ok, now that I'm looking at my splits, I don't feel so bad.  The mile 6 slowdown was because I was fueling.  I do think that everything fell apart after mile 6.  I kept looking at my Garmin and trying to get it together, but my legs wouldn't cooperate.  It could have been worse, but I think I could have done better.  Sheila, my coach from OneLife Fitness, thinks that I am too distracted by music and chitchat.  In fact, she posted this picture on Facebook with an admonition for me:

I am on the left, adjusting my earbud.  Sheila's caption:  Get RID of the distractions, Steph!
I admit that music is important to me during runs; it keeps me from killing people.  For more info about this, read my post about running without music.  There may be a day when I can do a long race without music, and do better, but that day was not today.  As for the chitchat, I am puzzled.  I think I remember that Shelby and I had about three short exchanges in the six-plus miles we ran together.  They were something like this:

A.  Shelby:  Watch out.  Stroller.  Me:  Ugh.  I hope she gets disqualified.

B.  Shelby:  Is that man carrying a shirt or his underwear?  Me:  I feel better believing it's his shirt.

C.  Shelby:  Just relax.  Take it easy.  Me:  Dude, YOU'RE the one who's going fast!  I'm trying to keep up with your pace!!!!

I may have been a little snippy with Shelby.  Sorry.

Anyway. . . 

2.  The course was short!  My Garmin measured it at 9.78.  Now, I know what you are thinking:  Garmins aren't always predictable, blah blah blah.  At least four other runners around me came up with the same distance.  This makes me angry because now I feel like I don't deserve the official pace on the webpage (which I will share in a moment)

3.  This race just messed with my head.  I actually did a lot of smart things:  early bedtime (although I didn't get to sleep early), morning fuel with Panera bagel and coffee (can't break the ritual), plenty of water before, during, and after.  I know I talked about the mac and cheese bites, but really, I had TWO BITES along with a grilled cheese sandwich and a salad.  Ok, and two beers, but I drank a LOT of water with all of that.  Anyway, I've had some stuff on my mind lately, and it didn't allow me to be satisfied with my results.  Peeps, learn from my mistake:  Take your successes when you can.  Be thankful for them.  Keep that attitude of gratitude.  After all, this time last year I was on crutches.

In keeping with my attitude of gratitude, I'd like to thank Sheila for pushing me to try harder, Shelby for coaching me through six miles of this race, and the Towpath Turtles for allowing me to run with them on their long training runs.  This is a great group!

So. . . Are deep fried mac and cheese bites the proper fuel before the Perfect 10 Miler?

Judge for yourself:

Perfect 10 Miler 2012:  1:45:27, 10:32 pace, 46 in age group

Spring Training 10 Mile (March 2014):  1:43:04, 10:18 pace

Perfect 10 Miler 2014:  1:32:34, 9:17 pace, 11 in age group

Major, PR, Baby!

This is EXACTLY how I look when I'm happy about a PR.

I think it was the mac and cheese bites.

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Sunday, August 3, 2014

Rain-Running in the Canal. . . Fulton, that Is

Today I ran with Michael and Joy on the Towpath in Canal Fulton.  Of course, it rained.  I blame Michael; he and Joy blame me.  Joy seems to be blameless in this circumstance, so I think Michael and I should call a truce and toss her in the canal.

This is EXACTLY how I look when running in the rain.  As you can see, I am two happy kids.

Just kidding.  This is really how I look in the rain.  What am I doing here?  Protecting a doll?  By the way, the caption for this pic is "Defeated by Rain."

Canal Fulton is such a cute town; I've never seen it when everything is open, but there are at least two ice cream shops, which is a win in my book.  The woods are really green and pretty, and I love hearing the bullfrogs in the canal as we run by.

Canal Fulton
As we ran (in the rain), I saw horseshoe prints in the mud because there are still canal horses that move barges along the river.  I've never seen this, but I hope to some day.

Canal Horses Moving a Barge

Michael and Joy are super-fast, so I knew I had to be on my A-game today.  Unfortunately, it was difficult to be on my A-game after several bottles of wine over a hot card game the previous night and only five hours of sleep.  It seems that this may be a good time to discuss night-before-run fuel, but first let's run over the other stats:

Pre-run Fuel:  Panera blueberry bagel, cream cheese, hazelnut coffee with Thin Mints creamer

Mid-run Fuel: Mandarin Orange GU, lots of water

Post-run Lunch:  Asian veggie burger with cheese and spinach, sliced cucumbers, raw sugar snap peas (Ahem.  Please note that I got it right this time!)

Ok, let's talk about the night before a run or a race.  You're supposed to carb-load, right?  Right. . .and wrong.  Everybody is different, and every body has different needs.  There are loads of articles on carb-loading (see what I did there?) in Runners World, but here is one answer from Jenny Hadfield about the need for carb-loading.  Go ahead and read it.  Browse a little if you want; I'll wait.

What I get from some light research on the topic is that someone who has my body type (I'm not exactly skinny.  Let's say that I am zaftig.  Go ahead; look it up.  I'll wait.)  probably doesn't need to cram down the carbs the week before the race.  This doesn't mean that I don't enjoy a nice plate of pasta before my long run; it just means that I don't necessarily have to eat that pasta for more than a day as long as I am in balance during the week.

The most important thing to consider about eating the night before the long run or a race is to figure out ahead of time what reactions you have the next day to the food you've eaten.  If you are like me (Hi!  Zaftig girl here!), you have a stomach of iron.  There are very few foods that give me a bad reaction the next day, even if I race.  Well, chili.  I can't eat chili the night before a race.  Wanna know why?  No?  Ok.

Oddly enough, I usually do end up eating some type of pasta on Saturday nights, the night before my long runs or most of my races.  VERY oddly, it's not the good type of pasta; it's usually carbonara or fettucine alfredo with lots of vegetables.  (Zaftig, remember?)  I think it's because by that point in the week, I don't really want any meat, and I know I'll want a steak the next day.  I do try to practice portion control, and I definitely try to eat more vegetables than creamy pasta.  Some days are better than others.

I didn't make this, but I do put lots of vegetables in my fettucine.

Last night I had pasta with red sauce and a huge meatball at my brother's house.  Not bad, right?  Salad to go with it, so I'm still doing well, right?  How about the chocolate cream pie?  No?  How about the wine we had with dinner and while we played cards?  This, as you can see, is where I could have had a problem.  Indulging in a glass of wine (or two) with dinner the night before a long run or race probably won't kill your experience, but it probably won't improve it either.

"A bottle of red, a bottle of white/ It all depends upon your appetite"

Since today wasn't a race, I'm not going to beat myself up over it, but next week is the Perfect 10-Miler, and I intend to use it as a test run to see if I've made any improvements in my training for the Akron Half Marathon.  This means that I should limit the vino.  It also means I should get plenty of sleep this week and next Saturday night, which I think will be the topic of a post after my race recap next week.

Stay tuned for the Perfect 10-Miler, Peeps!

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