Thursday, December 13, 2012

Plans for 2013

I'll be racing here in March!
After the disappointment of the California International Marathon earlier this month, many of you nice people asked me if the fact that the Boston Marathon qualifier didn't happen meant I'd continue this blog past 40. The answer is still no, for the reasons I outlined in this post. I do plan to continue writing regularly here until my birthday on January 21--but after that I'm closing this shop.

I won't, however, stop trying to qualify for Boston. My hotel at CIM was crawling with runners in their Boston Marathon jackets. On Monday while I was driving to work I saw a guy running down Highway 119 wearing that jacket with the green piping and the unicorn logo. The jacket is everywhere--except in my closet. I really want to hit the streets of Boston--whatever craziness the weather might bring--and be able to say I'm in that rarefied group. Even if it takes me until I'm 50 or beyond, I'm going to keep after it.

So what does that mean going forward?

Right now it means....not doing much. I ran for the first time since CIM on Monday. It was just a 35-minute easy run at a low heart rate. I didn't wear the Garmin. I was just glad, after the cold/cough finally loosened its clutches, to be out there at all. Today I got to run again, this time with some 30-second pick-ups thrown in. The pick-ups felt good. I'd say my legs are fully recovered. Darren is easing me back into things very slowly. It's a good thing, too, because between my cold, the kids' birthday party, Christmas prep and then my son and husband catching the cold after I started feeling better, there's not a lot of spare time or energy around my house right now.


I have signed up for two races!

My next attempt at the BQ will at the Eugene Marathon on April 28. I laugh a little at this choice because Eugene is in Oregon, and it rains a lot in Oregon, and after CIM you might think the last thing I want is another four hours of marathoning in the rain. Truth is, though, it was the wind that killed me at CIM. Rain alone I can handle, and I certainly prefer it to heat and bright sunshine. Plus Darren called the course a "good one for going fast."

Prior to Eugene, I will be running the Canyonlands Half Marathon in Moab, Utah, on March 16. The scenery in the photo above speaks for itself!

I am excited about these two races because I will not be traveling to them alone. Kathy and Cynthia, my two best running buddies, will be toeing the line at both. Kathy's the one who organized the Canyonlands trip, and there will be a bunch of fun ladies there from her running group. In Eugene, meanwhile, Tricia, my fellow CIM 2012 survivor, will be there as well for either the full or the half, and today I found out that Corey will be there, too, gunning for a BQ of her own.

So you see, BQ by 40 may be going away....but I am not quitting the quest. While I won't be keeping a formal blog, I will be writing race reports on these two races, and any others that 2013 brings (if I don't BQ at Eugene, you can bet there will be a fall marathon, too). If you'd be interested in getting those race reports once the blog ends, send me your email address. I'm compiling a mailing list.

Let's hope "'13" proves to be a lucky number next year!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Looking Back at 2012

Miss Zippy put up a few questions to help us running bloggers reflect on the past year. I thought this would be a good way for me to do that, given that most of the next three weeks will continue to be devoted to recovery for me. I do have a plan for the first part of 2013 that I'll share in the next post. For now, though, let's look back!
  • Best race experience? This one was easy for me: the Detroit Half-Marathon. It was not only a personal record at that distance for me, it was my first race since I stopped running to rehab my back. I had enjoyed my training with my new coach, but I had no idea a race like that was possible. On top of that, it was a great weekend getaway with good friends (especially Kathy) and my husband, Dan. It was pretty much perfect. Close second: the Houston Marathon in January. That was also a PR race, a fun trip with Kathy--and it featured all the inspiration you could ask for in the form of the Olympic Trials Marathon the day before our race.
  • Best run? That's easy too: my first run outside since stopping for injury. I ran with Cynthia (more about her below) at what's since become my favorite place for easy runs. Though it was hot and short, it felt amazing. I knew I had emerged from the tunnel.
  • Best new piece of gear? They aren't really new, but I'm going with my Asics arm-warmers. I'd had them for more than a year before I used them in Detroit. They were perfect for that day, allowing me to go light without freezing early in the race. I wore them again in the California International Marathon--same story.
  • Best piece of running advice you received? To hire a coach. Which I did. It's wonderful. I'm really cheap, but hiring Darren De Reuck has been worth the money. He's reassuring after bad runs/races (ahem, CIM, which he told me would be slower than I wanted), and encouraging in just the right way when things go well (he's the one who told me to go much faster than I thought I could in Detroit).
  • Most inspirational runner? I could also say that this person is the best new friend I made in 2012: Cynthia! Though she's not new in the least to endurance sports (can you say mountain biking?), she was new to running when I first met her in late 2011. Now, she's an old hand with many half-marathons, some tough trail races, several speedy 5Ks and much more under her running belt. She often places in her age group (though she's so modest she often discounts it--we all know better). She's also the person who recommended Darren to me. But she's also inspirational because she never gives up, she never stops experimenting (data nerd!), she doesn't let bad news get her down (at least not permanently) and she's a indefatigable supporter of all her friends and family. I'm excited because 2013 will bring at least two destination races with her.
  • If you could sum up your year in a couple of words, what would they be? Peaks and valleys.

Looking back at it like that, it's been a truly fine year. I never thought I would have said that about a year that featured no BQ, plus four months on the recumbent bike and doing back rehab exercises. But it's really true.

It's my humble hope that 2013 will be another good one. I'm sure there will be more valleys, but I know there will be peaks, too.

Friday, December 7, 2012


My recovery from the California International Marathon has been good and bad.

The good: VERY little muscle soreness. The first 15 minutes after the race were the worst it got. By Wednesday morning my legs felt good again. Darren has been really conservative on the recovery. There's been no running. Only yesterday was I allowed to do a very quick weights and core workout, with some warming up on the stationary bike before. Today was another day off. Tomorrow is a repeat of yesterday. And Sunday is another day off.

I might normally ask him for more, given how good my legs feel, but....

The bad: right after CIM I came down with a nasty cold. I knew it was coming. I'd had a tickle in my throat on the plane last week, and all day Saturday ahead of the race I could feel it coming on. But I knew I'd run anyway, and I didn't want to be making excuses.

Once I got home Monday, though, it hit me like a freight train. I had a fever, a cough, massive snot....the works. Wednesday afternoon I started to feel better. Yesterday I was fever-free finally. And today I actually felt like my old self, with minimal coughing. The snot is still there, but that's abating too.

So I'm saying....forget "no excuses." I'm giving about 15 minutes over my BQ time to the wind, and the other 6 or so minutes to the fact that I was coming down with this beast.

Back on the good news side, my CIM pictures miraculously didn't completely stink. I even bought one shot from the finish line:

I may buy more when they start dropping the prices later on. Some of the ones early on even show me smiling. I guess that's because I didn't yet know what was coming.

It's going to be a busy weekend here. Tomorrow a certain two people who also live in my house are turning six:

This little girl (six laps in the Timberwolf Trot fundraiser run at their school in September).
This little boy (seven Timberwolf Trot laps, more than any other kindergartner!).
They are having a climbing/swimming party. I'm happily planning on not being awake for the actual hour and minutes of their birth (3:30 a.m. and 3:31 a.m. respectively). I will try my best not to contaminate every child in the pool tomorrow with my germs. But I'm definitely planning on a couple of runs down the waterslides.

Unlike last weekend, I will be choosing to be soaked, and unlike last weekend it will be fun.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Race Report: California International Marathon

Somewhere near the Mile 17 marker, I sat inside a port-a-john, listening to the tireless rain tap-swishing on the roof. I had not ducked in there seeking shelter--unfortunately for the first time in six marathons I was in there because I had to be--but getting out of the rain was a nice side effect.

There were numerous "lakes" and "rivers" to run through on this course. Photo via hmgiraffy.
However, even on a bad weather day, a potty is not a place to linger. Plus, there were other runners waiting in line. So I pulled my soaked shorts up, adjusted them in a fruitless effort to get them to stick to me a little less and opened the door, holding it for the next person. The guy who followed me in there? One of the 4-hour pace group leaders. He looked in good spirits, but the sight of him doused what was left of mine. His presence meant I wasn't going to meet my secondary goal of finishing under 4 hours.

But damnit, I thought grimly, I am going to finish.

The race had been a crazy adventure since Tricia and I climbed off of our warm yellow school bus that morning at 6:30 a.m. It was dark, and the rain cascaded down on us in horizontal sheets. Despite her parka, my garbage bags and our hodgepodge of throwaway clothing, we were both soaked in seconds, including our Vaseline-coated feet inside our shoes. We easily found potties and used them, but in my case (ominously) I couldn't "go". Usually I'm good for at least two pre-race trips. Something about that cold and wind had caused my entire digestive mechanism to halt, I think, and that's what I paid for at Mile 17.

We sought shelter inside an open convenience store that was packed with soggy runners in various stages of undress, but soon it was time to say good-bye to each other and venture out again for good. I found the 3:55 pacer as planned, and my spirits lifted a little. I didn't hear the gun go off. As always in a marathon, it was a relief to start running.

The fast guys line up in the rain.

After the gun (photos borrowed from the Sacramento Bee; hopefully my blog is small enough I won't get in trouble for using them)
Once moving, I warmed up quickly and didn't mind being wet any more. In fact, I felt good. The headwind wasn't pleasant, but the first few miles felt like nothing, the rolling hills felt like nothing and I was hanging easily behind the pacer and felt plenty distracted by the conversation of a large group of Canadians who were also sticking with him. They'd shout enthusiastically when their Garmins beeped a kilometer mark. My own Garmin was staying nicely close to the actual mile markers, a testament to the wise moves of the pacer and the few sharp turns on this course. It's true, my pace was was slow by just a bit less than what I'd been warned the day before (they said 30-40 seconds per mile; I was off by about 20-30 at that point). But I had been expecting that.

Even by the halfway mark, I still felt good. I'd managed to take my Shot Bloks every three miles. That's more often than usual, but the pacers had also warned us the day before that running in a headwind requires more fuel and water. I had carried my bottle through 10 miles and ditched it at an aid stop when it was empty, but since then had had no problems grabbing water from volunteers. I was pleased at how my legs felt and how little the hills had bothered me. I wasn't happy or chatty, but I also wasn't grouchy. The rain kept sheeting down, and the wind kept blowing...but it had just become the way it was.

Mile 1--9:19
Mile 2--8:57
Mile 3--8:39
Mile 4--8:51
Mile 5-- 8:56
Mile 6-- 9:00
Mile 7--9:07
Mile 8--9:01
Mile 9--9:00
 Mile 10--8:47
Mile 11--8:45
Mile 12--8:59
Mile 13--8:51

 Mile 14-- 8:53

It was my stomach that did me in. It started speaking at Mile 15 and by the time I rolled up to the port-a-john line at Mile 17 it was urgent. I think Darren was right when he said I need to work on using sport drink of some kind instead of gels and Bloks. But it was too late for this race.

Mile 15-- 9:00
Mile 16-- 9:06
Mile 17-- 11:36 (there's the stop!)

When I started running again, despite wanting to get as much time between me and the 4-hour pacer as I could before he finished in the bathroom, I never got the early paces back. There may have been a bonk involved as well, right on schedule after Mile 18.

Mile 18-- 9:04
Mile 19-- 9:14
Mile 20-- 9:17

The 4-hour pacer caught me in Mile 20. With him was a woman about my height and weight, but much fresher and happier. I followed behind them as best as I could, listening to them talk. She told him how she was feeling great, had started with the 4:10 pace group and now "just knew" that a sub-4 was possible. Her original goal had been 3:50, but she was really happy with how she'd done. He told her she had been smart to start where she had. And I thought, "That's what I should have done, too. I wasn't conservative enough. I went out too fast."

Mile 21-- 9:05

Sometime between Mile 20 and 21, the rain stopped. I first saw blue sky peeking out when we crossed the bridge over the American River and headed toward downtown Sacramento and the finish line. But instead of feeling heartened by this, I kept thinking how the wind was still there, and I started slowing down again.

Mile 22-- 9:12
Mile 23-- 9:18

With three miles to go, I stopped to walk. My legs felt as though they were done, and I was so so sick of that wind in my face. I watched the smart happy girl and the 4-hour pacer with his red sign recede in the distance ahead of me.

Mile 24--11:40

Mid-way through Mile 25, though, with the crowds thick, I started to shuffle-jog again. I just wanted to be finished.

Mile 25-- 11:08

The park around the California state capitol building, where I knew the finish line stood, appeared on my left.

Mile 26-- 9:57

We rounded one corner, then another to the women's finish line.

Final .2--9:02 pace

I crossed the line, barely raising my eyes to the beautiful state building and the towering Christmas tree in front of it. The sun shone brightly, and soggy but mostly happy runners were everywhere. I drank some chocolate milk, but otherwise all I could think of was getting my drop bag and getting into dry clothes. I did wonder how Tricia had weathered the storm (very well, it turns out), but I also knew she'd understand my impulse to change and then get back to the hotel for my shower. When she got back, and after she got her well-deserved shower, we made our way down to the hotel bar. It was only then that I started to feel better. We had just finished a really hard, really wet and windy marathon. She had a beer, burger and fries, and I had a mimosa, a huge plate of nachos and some sweet potato fries. Man, did that ever taste good!

The final result: 4:06:32, a 9:24 average pace. I was 163rd out of 534 in my 35-39 female age group (top 31%) and 2544 out of 6496 total male and female finishers (top 39%). I was 817th among all women, but I don't have the total number of women in the race yet. It was a "personal worst" among the most recent three of my six marathons, but it was still better than my one-time "personal best" of 4:14 set in New York City in 2005. I guess there's something to be said that my standards have changed.

You've now heard all the things that went wrong. Here are some good things I did:

1. I lowered my expectations for a bad-weather day. Turns out I didn't lower them enough, but at least I knew not to expect to qualify for the Boston Marathon in that wind. I listened to the smart veterans around me. This led to much less disappointment than I might have felt (disappointed though I was anyway).

2. I learned the power of Vaseline. The only spot I chafed in all the wetness was on my neck where my headphones hung out until Mile 18. That's the only spot I didn't lube LIBERALLY with good old petroleum jelly. My feet didn't bug me at all during this race, whereas usually they are blistered in some way. Going foward, Vaseline will be part of all my long runs and long races.

3. I recognized the overall goodness of the CIM course. I'd love to go back and do it again next year because even amid the bad weather I can see why people like it.

4. The strength training I did with Colleen....a godsend. My legs are the least sore they've ever been after a marathon. To the extent that they are sore, my quads and hamstrings are feeling it equally, and it's the "good sore." I've had no trouble with going down stairs or going for short walks. I'm eying other runners I see out and about with envy. I'm going to continue to hit the weights hard going forward. It seems I've not done enough of that ever, for any prior race.

I've traded a few messages back and forth with Darren about a spring marathon. It's uncertain whether that will be the plan, or whether we'll tackle some more half-marathons in the spring and go for another big one in the fall. I'm hoping to try again sooner rather than later, but I will leave the ultimate decision up to Darren. He's smarter than I am with this stuff!

Thanks again for all of your buoying comments after the race and all of your encouragement before. Will 2013 be my lucky year? Will marathon number seven (wherever it is) be the One? I don't know, but I'm going to keep trying until some year and some race prove to be the Golden Ticket.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

The CIM Suckfest in Brief

It's a race you've lost, not a relative. Nobody's dead.
--Sybil Gordon (in Chariots of Fire, after Abrahams loses to Liddle and sulks about it)

Official results aren't yet in on the California International Marathon site, but according to the Garmin the bad news is:


I'll have a doozy of a race report for you soon. It features a start line that looked like a refugee camp (if refugees wear trash bags), 26 miles of headwind (I think we had .2 or so where it was more like a sidewind), my first-ever mid-marathon port-a-john stop at Mile 17, 3 1/2 hours of jungle-like rain (nice sun after that, though) and the first race where I had absolutely no desire to hang out at the finish line.

The best parts of the experience were the post-race shower and hanging out with Tricia (now a marathon finisher!!).

I'll close by saying....I'm sorry the BQ by 40 story's last marathon was this one. A lot of you were rooting for me, I know, and I feel like I've let you down. Honestly, I gave it all I had. I can see it's an excellent course on a good day. But today wasn't a good day. Some days, Mom says, are like that.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Revising Expectations

Boys and girls, it's DUMPING outside here in Sacramento. It's supposed to continue to dump, with the worst of the rain and 20-mile-per-hour winds tomorrow between 7:30 and 9 a.m.

Yep, that's right in the middle of the race. And's not going to be a tailwind.

I just went to a meeting with the pace team leaders....and as much as I hate to type it, because I know it makes me look like a quitter.....I have to revise my goal.

Darren said it first. He sent me an email yesterday saying he'd seen the forecast and unfortunately wants me to scale back my goal.

And when I chatted with the very frank and nice 3:45 pace group leader just now, he said the same thing....not just to me, but to everybody. The winds we are looking at tomorrow, he said, will strip us of 38 seconds per mile at minimum. He said he's still going to hit 3:45....but he asked people to help him lead, something he said he doesn't have to do in good years. Those who do run 3:45 in tomorrow's likely weather, he said, are capable of a 3:30.

My training has been good. On a nice day, I'm ready to run a 3:45 and might even be able to do a few minutes faster. But I am not capable of a 3:30, or a 3:30 effort.

I know some of you badasses out there would put all your chips on the table and go for it. But I don't want to end up walking at the end because I went out at the wrong pace for the day. And I don't want to wreck my chances for a better day a couple of months down the road.

Here's what I'm telling myself: Putting on my big-girl panties does not mean deliberately choosing to bonk on the off-chance that everyone around me is wrong about what kind of day it's going to be tomorrow, or wrong about what I am capable of. Putting on my big-girl panties means remembering that I'm lucky to be here at all, remembering what those of you who trained for the New York Marathon this year just dealt with.

So the goal tomorrow is to beat 4 hours. I'm going to run with the 3:55 pace group. If conditions are better than race officials are advising, I will speed up. If I can beat my Houston Marathon personal record from January (3:53:28), it will have been a very good day.

No whining. It's a little over 12 hours until the gun.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

CIM Goals & Race Plan

Maybe I should call this post The Art of Racing in the Rain (apologies to Garth Stein, whose book I haven't yet read).

Yes, it's true: "heavy" rain and 18 mile-per-hour winds. If I'm reading the course map right, we'll be running right into those winds for a good chunk of the course. The race is still five days out. I'm hoping that wind forecast will be revised. You can't do anything about wind except maybe draft off of other runners (and when you do that it's only polite to take a turn being the trailblazer yourself)......or revise your finish time expectations.

Rain, however, I can handle. This being high and dry Colorado, I didn't train in it even once, but I used to run in it all the time in Houston and New York City. Here are the tips I plan to follow on race day:

1) Wear a garbage bag while waiting at the start.
2) Wear a baseball cap to keep water from dripping down my face (thanks, Raina, for this one!).
3) Lube up with Body Glide and (on my feet) Vaseline.
4) Have a friend hold dry socks and shoes somewhere on the course. Lucky for me my old friend Angela is coming from the Bay Area to watch, though she may change her mind when she sees that forecast.
5) Change quickly after finishing into dry clothes.

You can't do anything about the weather except try to make the best of it. Those of you who ran the Boston Marathon earlier this year know that all too well.

My taper runs this week have gone well, including the 4x1 mile at race pace workout I had yesterday. I ran it on the treadmill at a 1% incline with each mile at an 8:27 pace. My heart rate cooperated nicely, staying between 155-163 on all four miles.

That positions me nicely to go with the plan Darren and I discussed on Saturday afternoon. Darren, like my husband Dan and like me, said his only concern is whether I've done enough time on my feet (long runs). Due to my back issue and a September cold, we couldn't ramp up to the point where I could get in a really good number of 3-hour-plus length runs. But on the other hand, I did well in my half-marathon in October, I've felt good during the training since then and I'm feeling healthy and rested. Even my twingy hamstring has cooperated for the last three weeks.

So Darren thinks if all comes together, I can get the Boston qualifying time of 3:44:59 or better.

So that's my goal: 3:44:59

Here's how he wants me to execute:

1) Run about an 8:30 pace for the first half. That would put me through the half-marathon mark at 1:51:30. A little slower is OK, but he absolutely does not want to see anything faster.
2) After the halfway point, I'm allowed to pick up the pace if I'm feeling good. He thinks 8:20 to 8:25 miles at this point would be safe, but NOTHING faster than 8:20. I'm to hold these paces through Mile 22 if possible.
3) After Mile 22, if I've been able to hold the pace, I can either speed up more if I'm still feeling good OR slow down a tad if I'm feeling tight or tired. If I do slow down, he thinks I should still try to maintain 8:40s in order to make my time goal.
4) I'm not to worry about my heart rate, though I do plan to have the strap on (liberally lubed with Body Glide) so I can analyze it later.

 Here are some additional things I plan to do:

1) Start with the 3:45 pace group. As long as they are not running faster than 8:30/mile, I'll stick with them through around 15 miles. If they're a little slower (like 8:34 or so), it's probably to my advantage. Slower at the beginning is good.
2) Wear my pace bands from Races2Remember in case the pace group doesn't work out (maybe because they are going too fast). These will save me from trying to do math with an increasingly addled brain.
3) Turn on the tunes at Mile 18. This really helped with "the Wall" in Houston and I hung on to it as as reward for getting through the earlier miles according to plan.
4) Carry a bottle for the first few miles at least so that I don't have to scrum at crowded aid stations. Ditch the bottle when things spread out and it starts to bug me to have it in my hand.
5) Stick to my trusty Shot Bloks with water every 4 miles or so for fuel. (Darren thinks I need to learn to love sports drink, but we agree we'll save that task for the next marathon.)

I'm rooming with Tricia, and am very excited for her to finish her first marathon, which I think she'll do in style. There will also be numerous other bloggers there. I'm excited to meet Amanda, Margot, XLMIC and others.

And I'm VERY excited to see Angela. I've known her since first grade. Her whole family is an inspiration and not just in running (though they excel at that). She's mentioned in my first post on this blog. It would be an honor if I could qualify for Boston with her there.

Getting back to the issue of the wind....I will be unhappy if it doesn't turn out to be the perfect day. I'll be disappointed if I don't meet my goal for this race. But I'm determined that ONLY something like weather, which is totally beyond my control, will keep me from it this time. Damnit, all you can do is try. In marathons, even on perfect days, you NEVER know.

As the author I mentioned at the beginning of this post put it: "There is no dishonor in losing the race. There is only dishonor in not racing because you are afraid to lose."

I'll see you guys on the other side!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

One Week to Go

I have one week to go until the California International Marathon. In one week, in fact, I will be finished with it, for better or worse.

Last "Long" Run: Yesterday I did my last long run, 90 minutes with a harder 1/2 hour thrown in in the middle. It was a lousy run as confidence-boosters go. I managed to stay at what I have been hoping will be race pace (8:30/mile) for about the first 15 minutes of the "harder" part. After that, my heart rate, which was supposed to stay between 155-165, began to wig out on me, and I had to slow down. The final 30 minutes, in which I was supposed to stay below 150, actually required some walking to do that. I don't think I can blame the Garmin this time. I think my body just wasn't having it. Soon after, I had to find a bathroom pronto. Let's hope neither of these things (slowing down and gut issues) happen next Sunday. Maybe I can blame two days of Thanksgiving food??? :^)

Heart rate training can be a real heart-breaker (no pun intended) because there's no way to avoid the bluntness of it on bad days. When you start to exceed requirements, you just have to slow down, or there's no point in doing it at all.

That said, it's not the first time I've had a bad run a week before a marathon. Does this happen to anyone else?

Conversation with Dan:

I bored my husband even more than usual about CIM this weekend, but I figure he has only a few more days of putting up with it. On Friday night over some two-handed bridge, I asked him if he thought I could do it (meaning qualify for Boston). Dan is always honest with me. He's a scientist, very rational and practical, and while he's also very kind, he wasn't going to be all sunshine and sparkles if he really didn't think it possible.

So I was happy when this is what he had to say on the subject: "The only question for me is your endurance. Did you do enough long runs? You clearly have the speed."

So he didn't say NO (and the long run issue is the one on my mind, too). Which is encouraging!

Menu Planning:
I'm normally a huge scatterbrain when it comes to meal-planning, but not this week. Here's what's for dinner in my house through Thursday:

Tonight: Pasta w/ Dan's tomato sauce and mushrooms
Monday: Leftover pasta (last speed workout Tuesday morning--4x1 miles at marathon pace--requires bland food)
Tuesday: Egg, chili and cheese burrito (recovering from said hard workout while working late)
Wednesday: Chicken, green salad and green beans
Thursday: Pasta w/ Dan's tomato sauce (again; hey, don't stray from what works, right?)

Pace Bands:

I've ordered pace bands from Races2Remember. They are for 3:50 (which would be a PR but not a BQ), 3:45 (the Golden Threshold and my A goal) and 3:40 (the Moonshot)

How I'm Feeling:

Yesterday afternoon I sat down with Darren for a half hour to talk about the race and our plan for it. That plan is not final, because some of it depends on how Tuesday's 4x1 mile workout goes, so I'll be including the details of the conversation in my goals post later this week.

But right now, a day after the conversation on another beautiful day in Colorado, I'm feeling pretty optimistic, even with the way yesterday's run went. I'm not going to say "I know I will BQ." I'm not an "if you believe it, it will come" person. But if it's a good weather day in Sacramento, if I approach the marathon with the proper humility and concentration, if I execute the plan Darren laid out for me, and if I can find the zone I ran in in Detroit, I think I CAN BQ. And after the year I've had, that's such an exhilarating mindset to be in!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Kicking My Bootie

THIS is tapering???? says Terzah the Tortoise. :^)
I may be tapering, but today you could have fooled me.

My alarm woke me at 4:30 so I could get to the gym when it opened at 5 for my Tuesday speed workout.

This was only the third time this entire cycle (including the lead-up to the Detroit half-marathon) that I've gotten on a treadmill. The weather has been amazing, warm and calm and clear. It's been fantastic to train outside so late in the year. But today marked the second week I've done the Tuesday workout on the treadmill. I typically have to get up earlier on Tuesday than any other day. I like running in the dark, but only when I can let my mind wander and the miles flow by at a comfortable pace.

And Tuesday paces.....aren't comfortable. Darren's had me doing increasingly faster-paced workouts--and it was getting hard (by myself, in the dark, groping to light up the Garmin to see my heart rate and pace) to push my legs to the point where the heart rate stayed above 170 or higher as long as he had asked. So I asked him if I could do these inside, and he said yes, provided I keep the incline at 1%.

Here's what he had me doing between 5:30 and 6:45 a.m. today:

After a warm-up and some strides:
2 miles at HR 160-165 (two min active rest)
then 3 x 1/2 mile at HR 170-175 (two min active rest after each)
then another 2 miles at HR 160-165 (two min active rest)
then 3 x 1/2 mile at HR 170-175

This is how that translated into pace:
1st 2 mile--paces between 8:00-and 8:47
1/2 mile--6:58-7:30 pace
1/2 mile--7:05--7:30 pace
1/2 mile--7:05-7:30 pace
2nd 2 mile (the disappointing one; legs felt like rubber)--huge range between 8:27 and 9:30; I was able to ramp back down to 8:47 in the 2nd mile and still keep HR at or under 165, but just barely
1/2 mile--6:58--7:24
1/2 mile--6:58--7:24
1/2 mile--6:53 (!)--7:12 (happy with these; not sure why they stayed fast when the 2 mile preceding them was so slow, but I'll take it)

The total with the warm-up and cool-down came to about 9 miles. I was proud of myself...and pretty much ready to crawl back into bed.

BUT it was time to meet Colleen for the last of our four pre-California International Marathon weight sessions.

Another blogger with a hamstring issue emailed me last week to ask what Colleen is having me do to keep my own occasional right-hammy flare-up under control, so I thought I'd share that here. The answer is: a lot of hamstring-strengthening exercises and a lot of glute exercises. And by "a lot" I mean A LOT more than I've ever done before.

Today, for example, we did hamstring curls on a special bench designed for that purpose, raising the weight with two legs, then lowering it with one. We also did two sets of hamstring curls on a Swiss ball (with a small weighted ball between my knees to bring my adductors into the game). We also did balancing lunges with my back leg dangling from a rope loop. We also did bridges and clam shells for the glutes, and side walking with my ankles bound up in one of those rubber band ropes. There were also upper-body exercises and calf strengtheners.

Between all of those, we did LOTS of core--side planks, crunches on and off the ball, curl-ups on an angled bench...You've probably done or at least seen most of what we do. It's just that with Colleen, I do much more of it.

Finally, throughout the workout (not just at the end), we stretch, especially those hamstrings (though we do it gently).

Colleen has had hamstring issues a lot of her career, too, and she said that whenever she slacks off the hamstring exercises her issues return. When her hamstring is sore, she says, she eases into the work, maybe lifting only ten pounds with the "bad" side--but weight training is part of what she does. Always.

That's a good lesson for me. I've always found weight training dull, and even when I've been faithful about it, I've never trained as hard as I have with Colleen. It's been an eye opener.

So after getting my bootie kicked twice, first by a world-class coach and then by a world-class runner (who is a fantastic personal trainer; I recommend her to all my Colorado running friends), I went to the dentist, squeezed in an hour nap....and then went to work.

Taper ain't never been like this before!

Saturday, November 17, 2012

A Virtual Race and a Long Run


Laura at Mommy Run Fast is co-hosting a virtual race to raise money for the Red Cross's efforts on behalf of Hurricane Sandy victims (it runs through December 1, so you can still sign up; click the bib image above for more information). Dan and I had been looking to donate anyway to a hurricane-related cause, and I had a speedier one-hour run on the books this week, so I thought I'd make a "race" of it.

Yesterday's run was a "steady state" run, in which I was to start out with 15 minutes at a very easy heart rate (145 beats per minute), ramp up to 15 minutes at 150-155 bpm, then to 15 minutes at 155-160 and finish with 15 minutes at 160-165. I figured I could do at least 10K in that period of time, so that's what I'm calling my virtual race.

Here's how it ended up:

Overall: 6.35 miles; 1 hour 6 seconds; avg pace 9:28; avg HR 152

Mile 1: 12:03, avg HR 136 (Garmin was wigging out as usual during the first mile; I'm not sure how accurate the pace or the heart rate is for this mile)
Mile 2: 9:09, avg HR 144
Mile 3: 9:21, avg HR 154
Mile 4: 8:46, avg HR 160
Mile 5: 9:01, avg HR163
Mile 6: 8:49; avg HR 164
Last .35: 8:33 pace, avg HR 163

It wasn't my fastest 10K, but I nailed the workout and felt fantastic. Plus Darren was happy with it, which makes me happy. Thanks for hosting the virtual race, Laura!

Today I followed that up with a 2 hour 15 minute long run, this time all at an easy heart rate (below 150). I ran it slowly, but I returned to the tough course in Boulder where I ran long two weeks ago, so the terrain made up for the pace.

This was my last long run of the cycle. Darren has already posted next week's workouts, and the "long" run next Saturday is only 90 minutes. There's a tough speed workout on Tuesday, but I can truly say now that I am tapering.

Two weeks to the California International Marathon.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Three (W) Things Thursday

I don't usually do Three Things Thursdays or Wordless Wednesdays, but it sort of works today. It's another excuse to do a post in bullet points, at least!

1. Weight: I've been worried about it, in the manner of someone who has a big race in just over two weeks and can't seem to stop eating. My sweet tooth has become a fang. So has my savory tooth (chicken and dumplings.....mmmmmmmm........) I'm still controlling the sweet tooth except on Sundays, though I did have some pumpkin pie at my daughter's class Thanksgiving lunch today. I love pumpkin pie. Not exercising such control over the savory tooth......except to hold off on dairy before speed workouts and long runs......

I'm less worried today because the number on the scale registered 125.4. I haven't seen a 5 for that third number since before my kids were born. So it's actually OK that I'm hungry lately.

Bring on the pumpkin pie (mostly on Sundays, of course, and I know this free pass will be over after the California International Marathon...but still.....bring it on).

What's your favorite holiday dessert?

2. Watch: I got a new strap for the Garmin and since then it's worked just fine. I'm being much more faithful about rinsing it out after EVERY run, and hand-washing it with soap after every five runs.

I'm still worried about its accuracy (maybe taper worries are setting in before I even taper). So yesterday I experimented with wearing the strap above my instead of below my "girls" (guys have an advantage here; bras and breasts....tricky for heart-rate monitors). It worked OK, but I think during a longer run it would chafe, so today I went back to the usual position.

If you heart-rate train, how do you position your strap? (Interested in hearing from gals AND guys on this one.....)

3. Weak Points: Thanks to two massages I can't really afford from the excellent Kate, one visit to Dr. Hansen the chiropractor, plus Colleen's perfect exercises, my right hamstring has subsided and is feeling completely normal. My back, like a child that's been ignored too long, has been bugging me a bit the last few days. But some good Pilates stretches and time on the foam roller placate it, and it hasn't interfered with any runs. It's also still at its worst in the morning right after I roll out of bed. Running loosens it up.

One of the massages revealed that my right calf is also VERY tight. I'm now paying it more attention with the Stick and roller as well. Boy, do I hate having my calves massaged! It makes me want to kick like an unbroken colt.

What sore spots do you hate to have worked on?

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Not Tapering Yet.....

We are three weeks out from the California International Marathon. But I'm not in taper mode yet.

Yesterday I completed what I'm guessing will be my longest long run of the cycle, a three-hour beast with two 30-minute sections at tempo heart rate embedded in the middle. It was cold and windy, but I've run in worse. I finished the first two hours, including the first 30-minute tempo section, just as directed. Unfortunately, at the beginning of the second tempo 30, my gut decided to speak to me, and rather than see if I could get through it without stopping, I ducked into a handy outhouse and dealt with it.

Upon leaving the outhouse, I launched into tempo pace again as quickly as I could....only to develop a painful side stitch. Suddenly the mild headwind, which hadn't really bugged me before, seemed gale force, and I felt I was huffing and puffing. Once the stitch worked itself out, and I turned out of the wind, the pace came back. But I was already halfway through the allotted time and my heart rate hadn't once reached the level it was supposed to for that section (164-168 beats per minute). By the end, I finally got it up to 166. But I felt like I'd failed on that tempo section, and the paces were 20 to 30 seconds slower than the race pace I'm hoping for at CIM (8:30/mile). Overall, I give myself a B-minus for this run.

In the afternoon, the next week's workouts arrived from Darren. He made no comment on my long run, positive or negative. What I did notice is that this coming week will still be hard work. Saturday's long run is 2 hours and 15 minutes, all of it easy this time. But the day before is a 1-hour progression run, and I have a hard "sustained" session on Tuesday that represents no decrease in distance or intensity from the ones I've done for the last three weeks. As has been the case for weeks now, I'll run every day but Sunday.

I'm glad about this. The two-week taper worked much better for me for both the Top of Utah and Houston Marathons last year. And this cycle, which has featured less-than-optimum amounts of time to build up for 26.2, I feel I need all the real workouts I can get (without tiring myself out too much, of course).

How long do you like your marathon taper to be: two or three weeks? If you're running CIM (or another race coming up soon), do you feel like the hay is in the barn or that you still have work to do?

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Guest Post: Kyria's Tips for CIM!

Many of you know Kyria, author of TravelSpot. I discovered her earlier this year and liked her immediately. Not only is she a fast runner (and a smart one), she is a big fan of libraries and a voracious reader. Over the last few weeks, she's sent me lots of good information about my upcoming race, the California International Marathon. Since I know many others who also are running it, I asked Kyria if she'd share that advice here in a guest post and she agreed! Thank you, Kyria!

As you know, Terzah is training for the CIM, which is not only in my neck of the woods, but was my first marathon ever last year! I had a a great time doing it and Terzah asked me to share with her readers (many of who are doing the CIM as well) some of the things I learned while running this race last year. So here are 10 things I learned about the CIM. I hope that they help!

1. How to Dress: At the beginning, it was about 32 degrees, but it warmed up to about 60 later on. The arm sleeves are going to be your best friends. That and a Goodwill or throwaway sweatshirt!

2. Spectators: Tell them to NOT spectate at Manzanita Ave or Loehmann's Plaza. It is a mess; it is where EVERYONE else is; it is where the relay changes over. Let me reiterate: it is a mess.

Avoid the: Carmichael Relay Exchange (Fair Oaks/Manzanita)

Avoid the: Loehmann's Plaza relay exchange (Fair Oaks / Howe)

3. Hotel: The Sheraton is the host hotel and it is worth it to stay there. They are right downtown, so you can walk around Sacramento really easily, and going to the expo and the race are a breeze! Also, getting back to the hotel after the race will be really easy!

4. Buses: The hotel buses are not only heated, but you can sit in the bus until the race starts!

5. Course: This course DOES have a net downhill, but beware! There are gentle rolling hills along the way; I think the climb is around 200 feet and the decline is around 500 ft, making it a net decline of around 300 feet.

6. Pacers: I did not use the pacers, except at the very end when the 4:10 pacer was about to pass me so I kicked it up a notch! The woman who was doing it was very encouraging. I would recommend using them if you can!

7. Post Race Meal: We had brunch at Bernardos. It was delicious! If you have a group, you can reserve their back room too, which means no wait!

8. Personal Pacers: My dad likes to run the last half mile with me sometimes when he comes to my races. In this one, that may get you disqualified! I don't know what would happen if the person paced you in the middle of the race, but I am not sure I would chance it!

9. Water: I usually carry water with me, but in this race, I really didn't need it. They had 17 aid stations and 3 different Gu stops!

10. Touristy Things & FOOD: This is not race related, but I lived in Sacramento for a few years, so thought I would throw out a few extras for all you visitors! When you are not prepping for the race and relaxing, you should go to: Old Town Sacramento, The American River Bike Trail, Sutter's Fort, Discovery Park. You should eat at: 58 Degrees and Holding (wine bar), Ernestos (Mexican), Frank Fats (Chinese), and Jack's Urban Eats (salads, meat, soup, sandwiches).

Good luck to everyone running and have fun! You can read more about the race in my Pros and Cons post or my CIM Recap! If you have any questions, don't hesitate to ask!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

A Hilly Long Run

Unlike the Top of Utah Marathon, which features straight downhill running for the entire first half, the California International Marathon is much more of a rolling course despite a net downhill. So I know I need to practice running up after running down and vice versa.

Colleen had told me last July that a good long run for CIM training can be had by starting at a trailhead in North Boulder, running on the level gravel path along the foothills and past Wonderland Lake (see picture above; the trail is along those hills on the far edge), hooking into a ritzy North Boulder neighborhood along 4th Street where the ups and downs are marked, turning west and running up Boulder Canyon....and then running back down the canyon, through the neighborhood and back to the trailhead. You can tack extra miles and time on by continuing on the Boulder Creek Path, too, so this can be as long a long run as your training plan calls for.

Mine called for a 2.5-hour progression run. I didn't think I'd need the extra Creek Path distance, so I ended up having to tack an extra loop on at the end for the last 25 minutes, but that wasn't a problem. Here's what the elevation change looked like:


I think I did OK on the "progression" run part of this also, though the watch went haywire on me again early in the run (see the spiky part below starting about 10 minutes in). Unlike last week, I just ignored it, keeping an eye on total time and pace, and trying to ramp it up at the prescribed intervals. When I looked at them afterwards, the heart rates were a bit high, but I did pretty well on that front too:

Next weekend's long run is a different animal. It's a 3-hour outing with 2x30 minutes at a heart rate of 162-168 (approximately race pace heart rates). So I'm going to get a new strap. This race is too important to me to mess around with the equipment--and fortunately there are good deals online for Garmin straps. Darren also wants me to do these intervals on a flat course this time--so no trip to Boulder next weekend. That's OK. I'm proud to have tackled this tough course once. And I do feel I can handle ups after downs, and downs after ups.

One interesting note: Darren gives me only a week's worth of workouts at a time. I've been surprised at how happy I am with this. Normally I'm a huge planner who likes to know what's coming (even in novels I read ahead!). But seeing only one week ahead helps me concentrate on the task at hand without fretting about whatever tough runs are further out.

The exception, of course, is the race itself. I know exactly what's coming on December 2 at 7 a.m.