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.